Version Reviewed: 1.0.1
Device Reviewed On: iPad
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They've controlled the seasons, gone to space, and even wielded force powers and light sabers, yet there's one world the Angry Birds have yet to conquer: the social world.
It had to happen eventually, I suppose. Every casual game on Earth is now playable via both mobile and Facebook platforms, and with games like Candy Crush Saga consistently in the top ten 'free' (ie freemium) apps on the App Store, it was only a matter of time until Rovio milked this cash cow just a little further. But have they gone too far this time?
Let's get the biggest question out of the way first. Yes, Angry Birds Friends is free, and yes, it is relatively playable without spending any money - at least for a short while. Many new mechanics have been added to the gameplay, but these are cheats, really, to make the game easier. At first, these new features are free; eventually, players will need to purchase 'bird coins' to keep using things like a laser scope for better accuracy, birds that puff up and deflate, and even birds who lay eggs on unsuspecting piggies. As is always the case with Rovio, all of these features are cleverly animated and executed, but paying for the privilege of using these special powers just doesn't cut it for me.
The other big addition is the social realm, but I was underwhelmed by the implementation of this feature. Rather than having players compete head-to-head (like Words With Friends), players compete in weekly tournaments to see who can take the highest score each week. Other social features include syncing of games between mobile and Facebook versions, and the ability to send friends gifts to use in the game.
All of this seems like a repeat of features that have been seen before in other games. Rather than innovate, Rovio has taken the path of least resistance and created a competent, if uninspired, social version of Angry Birds. Yet, I can't bring myself to openly dislike the game. The controls are spot-on, the animations and sound effects (as always) are clever, and the folks at Rovio, at least in this early release window, are being pretty generous with the in-game currency (bird-coins), giving them away in sufficient amounts where it doesn't feel like I HAVE to spend money to keep playing. Still, when taken altogether, it's a lukewarm experience. No wonder those birds are so angry! They deserve better.