Sometimes, a game will look like it’s the sort of cheap, licensed cash-in that plagues the world of video games so often. At first glance, Angry Birds Star Wars certainly appears to be one of those; however, start playing it and you’ll realize that this is actually licensing done right.
ABSW would have been a massive hit even without the Star Wars license. This is not so much due to the fact that the Angry Birds name is basically a license to print money these days, but more so due to the fact that the game itself just keeps getting better. This iteration is essentially a “greatest hits” of previous Angry Birds gameplay concepts. Like I mentioned, even without SW, it would have been awesome.
However, Rovio took things to another level with their use of the Star Wars licensing. It would have been so easy just to change nothing and slap some SW themed skins onto the existing birds; honestly, I don’t think anyone would have complained. Not satisfied with resting on their laurels and cashing in on a money license, Rovio added even more new gameplay elements to an already full plate (I mean that in a good way).
ABSW follows the plot of Episode IV very loosely. In fact, at the time of this review, there are only 2 worlds: Tatooine and the Death Star. Hoth is locked, as is a world called Path of the Jedi, which appears to be a Dagobah themed world available for an additional purchase.
The game starts off in a familiar manner, yet with a heavy Star Wars flavor. The red birds are Luke Skywalker; at first they are no different than the red birds from every other AB game. You fling them at structures and stormtrooper pigs. Nothing exciting, really. However, a few levels into Tatooine, you run across Obi Wan, represented by the black exploding birds. Here, the black birds don’t explode; rather, they Force Push wherever you tap, destroying anything in front of them.
After a number of levels on Tatooine, things get taken into space where you attain the yellow bird, represented as Han Solo. This is perhaps the more useful bird in the whole game, as it can shoot three blaster bolts wherever you tap. It is completely accurate and will turn out to be a lifesaver at times.
Eventually, even the Luke bird becomes a Jedi and has a lightsaber attack, which destroys any obstacle in its radius. It’s in this evolution that makes ABSW so charming. It’s not just in the Luke character; it’s the gameplay mechanics as well. Even though things start off in a grounded, Angry Birds manner, eventually all the gameplay mechanics that we’ve come to know from Angry Birds Space are there as well. Like I mentioned in the beginning of the review, it almost feels like a “greatest hits” and really has me excited to see where the Angry Birds franchise will go next from a gameplay standpoint.
[quote_right]It’s no longer simply flinging pigs at the correct trajectory; now timing comes into play as well.[/quote_right]Overall, the level design is much more dynamic as well. Throughout the different Angry Birds iterations, we’ve seen levels morph from standard obstacles with wooden structures to obstacles hanging from chains to block the path of your wild bird flinging. Now we have stormtrooper pigs that move about and shoot walls of blaster bolts to ruin your plans, and also TIE fighter pigs that move along a path. It’s no longer simply flinging pigs at the correct trajectory; now timing comes into play as well.
There a couple of things that annoyed me, however. The first is the presence of microtransactions. I’ve been a longtime AB player on Android devices. I’ve always loved the fact that the updates and added levels were always pretty much free. In fact, except for the presence of in-game ads, I’ve always loved the fact that the Droid versions of the game itself were always free as well. However, the microtransaction model rears its head here…even if you pay for either the iOS version or the “HD” ad free version on Android. Path of the Jedi is not free. Neither are the Millennium Falcon attacks, which are this game’s version of the eagles in previous AB games. One could argue that Path of the Jedi is not essential to the game itself, and that the Millennium Falcon attacks are accrued via gameplay as well as a microtransaction so therefore it isn’t vital as well, but it’s always slightly disconcerting to see things already in-game but locked, much like on-disc DLC. Whether or not this is the sort of thing you support or not is your call; just know that it does make an appearance here.
The second gripe has to do with the aforementioned Millennium Falcon attacks. These are tracked via a separate scoring system. If you’re the type that must complete every single side quest (which is essentially what the Millennium Falcon attacks are), then you better be ready to penny up. Even though you can earn those throughout the normal course of gameplay, you’re not going to earn enough to complete all the Falcon scores without buying them.
Overall, Angry Birds Star Wars is utterly fantastic and great fun. I love what Rovio did with the Star Wars license and look forward to eventually playing through the entirety of the original trilogy, Angry Birds style. The game is full of charm and trademark AB humor, and adding additional attacks per bird gives the mighty mobile franchise even more variety.