Star Wars has been in the news far more than usual these past weeks, following the sale of Lucasfilm to Disney and the release of Angry Birds Star Wars, the subject of this week’s review. Cementing Rovio’s place at the top of the mobile development tree, the Finnish studio has certainly made the most of its valuable license; one needs only to look at the various trailers and short films, the fan art programs and the inevitable plush toys to see that.
But what about the game? Star Wars is a beloved series, and many fans won’t accept any old rubbish just because it bears the Star Wars name. Take a look at the success Lego has seen with its Lego Star Wars series for proof – high quality, accurately made products often aimed at the collector more than children, and are incredibly popular because of it.
Also, Angry Birds Star Wars isn’t the only Star Wars game available, and neither are the Lego games; so fans aren’t hurting for an opportunity to play their favourite characters.
Taking all the above into account, it’s a good thing that Angry Birds Star Wars is as enjoyable as not only Rovio’s previous Angry Birds games, but it’s also up to the standard expected from an official Star Wars game. It’s helped by Rovio’s creativity and obvious freedom it has been granted by Lucasfilm, as the two universes have been very successfully pulled together.
It follows the basic storyline of the original films too, starting out on Tatooine before heading out into space and attacking the Death Star. Rovio will update the game in the near future with levels from Hoth, then presumably, Endor too. The standard game has 80 levels in all, plus a few bonus levels unlocked by achieving a set amount of stars.
The music is a mixture of Star Wars themes and Angry Birds riffs, the pigs dress up as everything from a Tusken Raider to a Stormtrooper, and the Mighty Eagle has been replaced with the Millennium Falcon. Like we said, Rovio has really made the most of its license.
Make no mistake though, this is an Angry Birds game, and it doesn’t deviate too far from the established rules set out in previous instalments. For instance, birds are still shot from a catapult towards rickety structures, and stars are awarded at the end of each level depending on how much destruction you’ve wreaked. Rather than being solely based on terra firma, the game also incorporates levels built using the physics from Angry Birds Space, so players will need to draw on experience from there too.
The difference is, everything has been given a Star Wars theme. Each bird has become a recognisable Star Wars character – the red bird is Luke, the yellow bird Han Solo and so on – and each has their own special attack. A tap of the screen after firing the Luke bird sees him swipe his lightsaber to destroy anything blocking his way, while Han wields his trusty blaster. This being Star Wars, the Force comes into play too, at the hands of the Obi-Wan bird.
All these powers can be used creatively, as Luke’s lightsaber can deflect laser bolts that the pigs can now shoot, and Han’s blaster can reflect off certain surfaces to get into those hard to reach areas.
While all these new features keep the game fresh and interesting, they do dilute the pureness of the original, and they aren’t always very easy to use. Obi-Wan’s Force Push is a particular pain, and tapping the screen to target Han’s blaster can be frustratingly haphazard.
The level design is as fiendish as we’ve come to expect, and getting three stars on each one will take practice, so there’s plenty of life in the game. Levels do seem to be getting larger though, and playing on the iPhone 4S’s screen makes things very small indeed when you zoom out, which as most will know is essential if you’re to get a good score. It’s always much better on the iPad, but as usual, Rovio wants you to pay for a separate version of the game to find out.
None of this really matters though, as Angry Birds Star Wars is excellent, and it’s sure to please fans of both equally. Just be aware that if you didn’t like Angry Birds before the Star Wars franchise arrived, then there’s nothing here that will change your mind. Everyone else though, will adore it.