Angry Birds Space: out of this world or crash and burn?

After a considerable amount of anticipation and a marketing campaign that included an educational video from NASA, the latest entry in Rovio’s phenomenally successful Angry Birds series is here. Boasting the biggest change to the game’s formula since its inception, Angry Birds Space shot straight to the top of the App Store charts in a matter of hours following its release yesterday, and has since received a large amount of press coverage from both mainstream and mobile specialist game sites. The game is available now for iOS in separate paid iPhone and iPad format apps, for Android via Google Play in paid and ad-supported versions, via Amazon’s Android Appstore in paid, ad-supported and special Kindle Fire versions, for Mac via Apple’s Mac App Store and for PC via the official website.

The core gameplay of Angry Birds Space is still the same as it ever was.  Players fling the titular Birds at various precariously-balanced structures in order to crush evil green pigs. The big twist on the formula this time is, as the title suggests, space. Rather than simply dealing with gravity working in a single direction, players must now contend with the gravitational pull of various celestial bodies when deciding where to flick their birds.

The addition of multiple planes of gravity gives many levels a much stronger “puzzle” feel than the original games, whose challenges could often be solved by a combination of brute force and trial and error. By comparison, in Angry Birds Space players might find themselves flicking a bird “underneath” a planet in order that it can fly around behind a pig’s defenses to cause massive damage. It’s a subtle change to the game’s mechanics, but it also provides some welcome variety to the gameplay, particularly when combined with the various new superpowered birds in the player’s arsenal.

Unfortunately, the most oft-criticized element of the original games — an inconsistently-applied physics model which sometimes sees pigs inexplicably surviving several tons of masonry falling atop their heads — is still present. Thus, the game is unlikely to convert many of those who did not enjoy the original games for this reason.

That said, there is plenty of content for the astronomical number of people who did enjoy the earlier titles. The base game features 60 levels, with Rovio promising regular free updates for paying customers. There is also an optional $0.99 in-app purchase available known as “Danger Zone,” which promises “30 of the most difficult levels ever.” Mighty Eagles, the paid-for “quick win” items from the earlier games, are also available, though these are now a premium consumable item rather than a one-time purchasable option. To balance this out, progressing through the game’s campaign now allows players to earn Mighty Eagles for free.

The enduring popularity of the Angry Birds brand practically guarantees Angry Birds Space a huge amount of success, and while the space mechanics add a welcome twist to the gameplay, the new game stays mostly true to its roots. In short, it will continue to delight fans and infuriate detractors while continuing to cement Rovio’s reputation as one of the great success stories of the App Store age.

Angry Birds Space and Angry Birds Space HD top the iPhone and iPad paid apps charts respectively. Follow their progress with AppData, our traffic tracking service for iOS and social games and developers.

Publish date: March 23, 2012 © 2020 Adweek, LLC. - All Rights Reserved and NOT FOR REPRINT