Try and find somebody who’s never played an Angry Birds title, and you’ll find that it’s a tough ask. After launching on mobile devices a few years back, the game has gone from strength to strength, and is now – as we all know – available in a million different varieties, for a million different devices. There’s a movie on the way, as well as all manner of Angry Birds-branded toys, board games, sweets, trading cards, and toenail clippers. Activision’s massively overpriced Angry Birds Trilogy for Xbox 360 was the first crack at seeing exactly how rich the gaming public felt and somehow managed to sell incredibly well, despite the fact that the game cost approximately twenty times the price of buying the same games individually for a mobile device. That worked, so they’re having another go to boost their already-swelled coffers - hence we have Angry Birds: Star Wars as a slightly-less-than-full-price-but-not-by-much retail title.
Let’s get that price out of the way first, or at least address it, given that it could be considered to be the theme of this review. Angry Birds: Star Wars is overpriced. Way overpriced. At the time of writing, Angry Birds Star Wars HD for the iPad costs £1.99. The sequel – Angry Birds Star Wars II – confusingly costs £0.69. Angry Birds Star Wars for Xbox One is £34.99 whether you buy it at retail, or download it from the Xbox Games Store.
So, what do you get for this ludicrous markup? Dancing girls? Ice cream? Sweets? Hugs? A fluffy bunny? Tons and tons of great stuff that rocks you to your core and revolutionises the very notion of what makes a videogame great?
You get some almost-impressively poor Kinect controls that you’ll try to use once and never dare go near again lest you get so annoyed with trying to fine tune your shots that you jump-kick your TV through the wall behind it. You get a co-op mode for up to four players, as well as head-to-head play that can be simulated on the mobile version of the game by saying “you got 20,000 points…my turn now” and then pressing the “retry” button so the second player can have a go at beating your score. You get a few challenge levels – which we think are timed and refreshed via Xbox Live every now and again, but due to the frustrating nature of the mobile-influenced “icons-only” menu system that was designed for people that just punch away happily at anything that appears on screen until something shiny goes on, we’re not sure. You also get the opportunity to collect stickers and bonus content pieces such as illustrations too, although these seem to appear at random given that there’s absolutely nothing to tell you why or how you won them. At times, you’ll finish a level with an incredibly low score, and win one of the three available stickers from that level. At other times, you’ll beat a level and get the full three-star score on your first attempt, with a single shot, only to win nothing. As a result of that, there’s absolutely no way of knowing what you need to do to win the remaining available extras, meaning that truly completing the game is next to impossible. Oh, and you get a handful of extra levels.
They’re hardly compelling reasons to get your wallet out and start peeling off pound notes, if we’re honest.
But naked profiteering aside, it has to be said that at its core, the actual concept of Angry Birds is still undeniably solid. Addictive, intuitive, and beautifully frustrating, the core of the gameplay is as fantastic as it always was. This time around, changes have been made to freshen things up that really do enhance things. Rovio’s takes on the iconic Star Wars characters – each with their own special attacks – are cute, and environmental interference from the likes of planetary gravity fields and enemy lasers that can take out your opponents for you if you give them a bit of a nudge (or redirect their bolts with falling debris) add a new layer to the approach you need to take to a lot of the levels. The challenge can be taxing, and at times can tickle your brain with all the enthusiasm of a young Ken Dodd on amphetamines.
Unless you’re dead set on getting the top “three star” ranking on every one of the 120 or so levels on offer though, you’ll probably not get so much as a whiff of that challenge for the first hour or more. Far too many early levels can simply be blasted through with brute force or dumb luck, only to be forgotten within seconds as you forge ahead to unlock the next world and the next depressingly unamusing set of tiny still images that the development team thinks represents the Star Wars story well. After far too long, you’ll reach a point where clearing away all of the evil pigs within your allotted amount of attacks becomes desperately tricky, but you’ll only know that if you become hopelessly addicted. To be fair, given the game we’re talking about, that’s a distinct possibility - just as it always was with the mobile versions. There are a few annoying bugs to be found, the most serious of which causes the playfield to scroll back to the starting point whilst your shot is still in motion. It can be incredibly infuriating to be waiting for the right time to hit your laser attack on an unsuspecting structure so it careens down and takes out three pigs, only to find that the game has panned you out of view way before it should have. It can be so teeth-grindingly annoying, that if it occurs at the right time, you’ll throw the controller down and vow to never play the game again.
With that said, you might get lucky and never have it cause you a problem. If you're really lucky, you might get tons and tons of gameplay out of Angry Birds: Star Wars as you find hidden nuances that weren’t in the mobile edition and that somehow got past us. At the very least, if you’ve bought it for the full asking price, playing the game will help to pass the time while you’re waiting for those steadfastly uncooperative magic beans to grow.
Even if the game hadn’t already been released at a fraction of the price, there are many flaws to be found in this port of Angry Birds: Star Wars. Problems that can be overlooked in a £2 mobile phone distraction just can’t be ignored here, especially when you consider that for less money, you can pick up Peggle 2 and either Crimson Dragon or Powerstar Golf from the Xbox Games Store, and still have cash left for a couple of movie rentals. When it comes down to it, the developers have sort of tried to add extra value to cover the higher price point, but they’ve unfortunately come up about £30 short in that endeavour. If you really, really have to have the game on a dedicated games console, the Nintendo 3DS version is available for about half the price.