Thursday, July 22, 2010

App O' The Mornin': Angry Birds

I had an experience with some angry birds this weekend. I got too close to a swallow’s nest under my eaves, without realizing that the hatchlings had already turned into fledglings. Also: they didn’t really want to be photographed, and who can blame them? They popped out of their nest like a shot and my head was soon engulfed by four angry, dive-bombing birds.

Lesson learned, although it’s a lesson I should have already learned since I’d spent a few hours in the company of some very angry birds. Rovio’s Angry Birds is a certified hit on iPhone, iTouch, and iPad, blowing away big name competition like Tetris, Splinter Cell, and Call of Duty. It’s had the number 1 spot grasped firmly in its beak for weeks now, and it shows no signs of letting go.

What accounts for the huge success of Angry Birds, which has replaced Doodle Jump and Plants vs. Zombies as the must-have, super-addictive iPhone game?

It’s certainly not the originality of the design. This is “Crush the Castle” … with birds. It’s a simple ballistic puzzle game, in which you use a slingshot to shoot a variety of birds at structures in order to knock them down, thus killing the nefarious green pigs lurking inside.

Why are the pigs green? Why did they steel the birds’ eggs? Why are they living inside of structures made of frozen Jenga blocks?

Why are you even asking? It’s a fun, nutty, endlessly entertaining game that has really caught on with mobile gamers. Part of the appeal lay in its simplicity: find the right angle and use the proper combination of birds to knock down the structure for the most points. It’s an easy pick-up-and-play title with a huge selection of puzzles, and new puzzles are added (for free) with alarming regularity.

But the game’s appeal almost certainly stems from its visual style. After all, “Crush the Castle” wasn’t nearly this big a hit and it offered much the same play. The key is the bright visual style, funny sound effects, and the sight of those angry birds determined to punish the thieving pigs. It’s not a case of style over substance, since there is plenty of substance. But it is a case of style PLUS substance PLUS low price ($1) making for a certified hit. It’s one you should really check out if you have the hardware.


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