The Angry Birds franchise is already massive, and if you’ve played one of Rovio’s most recent versions of the game, you’ll be painfully aware – thanks to the many adverts – of just how many toys and games you can buy featuring the eponymous birds. Rovio has also treated us to a spin-off game, Bad Piggies, and Amazing Alex, an unsuccessful non-Angry Birds game. The latest title in Rovio’s ongoing Angry Birds collection is Angry Birds Go. So, can it live up to expectations, or has Rovio run out of ideas?
Angry Birds Go is a kart racer, and it’s Rovio’s first game to fully embrace the free-to-play gaming model. If you’re not familiar with this term, it means that the game is indeed free to download and play, but if you want to do well, upgrade your kart, and avoid the annoying cool-down phases, then you’re forced to pay up using in-app purchases.
Kart racing is a genre often used by developers to reinvigorate tired franchises, with varying results. We doubt Rovio sees Angry Birds as needing a revival, so Angry Birds Go must be all about emptying our wallets. There’s nothing new here, with each race netting you gold coins which can be spent on making your kart go faster, handle better, or look more flashy. Gems are used to enter later competitions, but these are in relatively short supply. Not to worry though, these can be purchased with real money.
If you want to know how long you can play for free in Angry Birds Go, we found the entire first stage using the red bird can easily be passed without hitting the Buy button. This takes around an hour, so you have more than enough time to assess whether you want to invest in it further. After this point, birds get “tired,” and must rest before they can be used again. This cool-down mode has also been used to annoying effect in Real Racing 3, and like that game, you can pay up to speed things along.
While Angry Birds Go does require you to spend money, it’s never pushed very hard. It’s there, but if you’ve played a freemium game before, you’ll be expecting Rovio to hold its hand out long before it actually happens. Does this make it OK? Well, it’s certainly less obnoxious, and if Angry Birds Go was an amazing gaming experience, spending a few pounds to keep playing would be perfectly acceptable.
Sadly though, Angry Birds Go isn’t amazing. It’s not even exciting, it’s just average. Like most of Rovio’s games, it looks great., and it’s smooth and fast on the iPhone 5. You shoot your kart from a catapult to begin a race, and there’s a choice of either tilt or touch controls during the race, the latter of which is perfectly acceptable. Acceleration is automatic and the only way to brake is to hit something. Sophisticated it’s not, but it’s exactly what you expect from a kart game.
Each race is held over a single lap, and usually includes a few not-so-secret shortcuts, speed up bonuses and assorted challenges. In addition to simple races, there are time attacks, head-to-heads, and weird fruit splatting levels. By levelling up your kart, you can race other birds with different special abilities, and if you beat them they get added to your team.
None of the races last very long, and they’re not very hard either. It’s easy to pass all the early levels on your first try, and unlike regular Angry Birds games, you never feel like returning to a level just to gain three stars. This is indicative of the game’s problems. It’s just a bit too ordinary, and the gameplay much too safe to inspire devotion. The difficulty level is slanted towards younger players, and it’s cute and colourful enough to appeal. Just keep those in-app purchases under control using iOS’s built-in safeguards.
Angry Birds Go rates alongside Angry Birds Friends as the least interesting game in the ongoing series. If kart games are your thing, there’s nothing much here you won’t have seen before, and it doesn’t come close to the excitement seen in the best examples of the genre. It’s an Angry Birds game only in name, and although it’s charming to look at, it’s not very exciting to play. Save the money you’d spend on upgrading your kart and buy the best Angry Birds games – either the excellent Angry Birds Space or Angry Birds Star Wars – for your iPhone or iPad instead. You’ll definitely have more fun.