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Seems like everyone I know has been sucked in to Angry Birds at some point. On the train, between meetings, in bed, waiting to pick up kids. Yep, 250 million downloads at last count, according to several sources in the Twitosphere.
@libby_ol: "Little pig, little pig, let me in"
I spent a large part of my Christmas break pooh-poohing various family members and friends who stepped off the world for a short time in order to get to That Next Level. At the time, I peeked over my brother's shoulder and snorted my disgust. Here was a game that was taking him away from some quality family time. Tsk tsk (as Enid Blyton would have said over her ginger beer and potted tongue picnic).
If you haven't played Angry Birds, it can be played on anything with a touch screen plus your fingers, or regular screen plus mouse. The free version has ads that obstruct the big picture and therefore inhibit some people's master strategy, but they do disappear after a time if you're patient. The ads are, however, not necessarily child-friendly: something to be aware of if you have kids who 'borrow' your phone or watch you while you play.
The game goes like this. You catapult birds -- with your finger or with a cursor -- towards constructions of glass, wood and stone, with the odd boulder thrown in for good measure. The goal is to get the green pigs, who sometimes wear crash helmets for extra protection.
The birds are of varying colours and skill-sets (some shoot egg-bombs, some double as time-bombs, for instance), so you have a plethora of bomb-like ammunition at your fingertips. The catch, of course, is that as you progress up the levels, the constructions in which the pigs are holed-up get more and more complex.
One has to employ one's grey matter to find the porcine enemy's Achilles Heel.
The combination and number of birds on your bombarding team also change with each new level, and this poses new challenges when faced with ever more inventive constructions. Mr Yellow Bird, for example, becomes Speedy Gonzales if you tap him, and he can bust through much tougher stuff than Mr Blue Bird, who can multiply mid-air, but can only shatter glass. You can see the dilemma if you have to use Mr Blue Bird first, but you have a mega stone construction looming before you. Yes, one has to employ one's grey matter if one is to utilise one's birds to their best advantage and find the porcine enemy's Achilles Heel.
The question for me is what is it about this game that makes it so popular? I suspect there are a few dynamics at play.
Firstly, it's a simple concept. Get the pigs. With the birds. Your mission is clear.
Secondly, it's funny if you like a spot of slapstick. The birds are goofy -- they tumble through the air on their trajectories, exploding into a pile of feathers on arrival at their destination. The pigs are also pretty ridiculous, with blinky eyes and cheesy grins. They're basically just bright green, disembodied heads that roll around when provoked. @Ms12 gets the giggles often, when this happens.
Thirdly, the graphics are pretty awesome. Again, simple and slick. Comic-book animals and comic-book colours.
Fourthly, some people will get satisfaction from seeing things explode as a result of their canny strategy. Which could be: 1. the Trial-and-Error strategy; 2. the Calculate-Then-Act strategy; 3. the Bomb-'em-Indiscriminately strategy; or 4. the Google-It strategy. Or a combination of all four.
There's a latent allusion to childhood tales from various cultures in this game.
Lastly, the game is portable. As I understand it, most people play on their phone. This means unrestricted access, and I suspect this is the overriding reason for the game's success. You don't have to be tied to a console or having to carry around extra loot in order to play. Let's face it: these days most people carry a phone if they carry nothing else.
Might be a bit of a stretch, but I can't help wondering if there's a latent allusion to childhood tales from various cultures in this game, what with the goal being to break into the pigs' house. You also get to use a sling-shot: and who didn't use one of those as a kid, even if it was just an elastic band?
But where a huffing and puffing wolf outside the door might have shifted the tenor of the game to the sinister, a bunch of puffy birds who really look anything but angry makes for a more palatable pastime. I really want to say, "green ham and eggs" at this point. But then Sam I Am would have to change his name to rhyme with eggs.
With so many different perspectives it can be hard to know where to start - a little like walking into a crowded pub. Sorry about that.
But so far we've not found a way to streamline our review output - there's basically too much of it. So, rather than dilute things for newcomers we have decided to live with the hubbub while helping new readers find the columnists they will enjoy.
Our columnists each focus on a particular perspective and fall into one of the following types of gamers: