Rovio’s Angry Birds may have started out as an app for iOS, but once success hit, it expanded beyond Apple’s mobile operating system, with versions of the game available across all major platforms – mobile, PC, consoles and more. One of the most diverse entries in the ever-growing catalogue is Angry Birds Friends, the social version of the game played through Facebook.
Now, that same game has been adapted for mobile, and Angry Birds Friends has been released for both iOS and Android. Like the Facebook original, it pits you and your birds against your pals on the social network, but instead of competing across hundreds of levels, you play weekly tournaments. What’s more, in the Facebook original, there were several opportunities to purchase coins to spend on power-ups. Never one to miss a way to make money, Rovio has integrated this here too.
We’ll come back to that thorny subject shortly, but first let’s look at the game. The Angry Birds formula hasn’t changed much in Friends, so at its most basic, you’re still catapulting birds at pigs holed up inside rickety fortresses. However, while in other games you continued working through dozens of stages set in a particular world, in Friends you get six different levels each week to play through. Each is essentially a high score challenge, and the aim is to beat your friends.
Rovio appreciates that your friends may not all play Angry Birds, so has a pair of UI opponents too, but their scores aren’t really challenging and are easy to beat. If you’re hoping to play Angry Birds Friends and don’t have a Facebook account, you’re out of luck, as it requires you to sign in before starting. Like other social games, you can invite your friends to play, send gifts and challenge them to a game. It also syncs with the Facebook version.
It’s here where you’ll know if Friends is going to be for you or not. It really does need you to have a decent haul of Facebook friends, and preferably, for you and them to be playing the game already. If your Facebook friends don’t play games, or don’t care about Angry Birds, then the game’s a bit of a washout. The six levels are completed in 15 minutes or so, and that’s it until the game refreshes the week after. Rovio hopes you’ll be back to increase your score, but this probably won’t happen more than once. The social aspect is key here, and having one or two friends playing doesn’t really cut it.
So, back to those in-app purchases. If you’ve played the original Angry Birds, or one of its sequels such as Angry Birds Rio recently, you’ll be familiar with the power-ups Rovio has introduced. These include a stronger catapult, bird seed to increase your bird’s power, and an earthquake generator, and they’ve all been added in here too. You get a selection of them as standard, but to replenish your stock they must be purchased using Bird Coins. These are earned by winning tournaments, or bulk packs can be bought. The game can be played without using them, but their availability means players will inevitably be tempted, so to win tournaments, you may have to as well. This could see Angry Birds Friends turning into a spending spree.
However, for this to happen you’ve got to be engaged enough to play it on a regular basis. A level a day is fun when it’s the Christmas edition of Seasons and it’s like a advent calendar, but here it just feels restrictive and a bit tedious. Facebook games are played that way, but on iOS it doesn’t really work, and you find yourself going back to one of the other Angry Birds games to get your fix. Ultimately, you can take the game out of Facebook, but you can’t take Facebook out of the game, and this drastically restricts the appeal of Angry Birds Friends.
On the positive side, the graphics, audio and physics are all up to the usual excellent standards, and the app is universal for the iPhone and the iPad. It’s also free to download, so even if you don’t think you’ll play very often, you can give the six levels and the practice stages a go without spending any money. As to whether you continue playing in the future depends on your Facebook account, and if your friends are keen to join in.