Angry Birds Friends is here and I know what you're asking. Do I still fling ticked-off avians at porcine pranksters? Okay, maybe you didn't ask that question exactly. But yes, the basic gameplay is still the same, much as it has been through all of the iterations of Angry Birds that have been released since the first game hit the App Store. Only this time around, Angry Birds is a shared experience that matches you up with your Facebook friends. Rovio--always one step ahead, right? Well, maybe not.
Is it just me, or does it seem like this game should have been released a year or two ago? In large part, that's because it was, at least on Facebook. Angry Birds Friends has been available to play on the social media giant's website for the past year, and like a lot of popular Facebook games, it's getting a port over to mobile platforms.
Seems kind of backwards, right? Also, in an environment where it feels like every other mobile game out there is built around some kind of social media core, or at least has that aspect grafted on to the main body (like some weird appendage), the arrival of Angry Birds Friends feels like something of an afterthought.
Being socially-driven, with lots of microtransaction-supported bells and whistles to tack on to improve your performance, Angry Birds Friends is all about the multiplayer. But does that even work for a game like this?
With recent spin-offs like Angry Birds Star Wars and Bad Piggies, Rovio was pushing the boundaries of its little feathered kingdom, either by altering the core gameplay, or heavily integrating its characters with an established universe. With Angry Birds Friends, it feels like they have taken a few steps back and just figured out a few ways to safely and effectively incorporate social media features into something that you've already spent way too much time doing in the first place.
Okay, that's not completely fair. There are new gameplay elements here. But they are all tied to the same slingshot mechanic that everyone's familiar with. And the new stuff really just amounts to a number of different power-ups that help you advance faster and beat the times of your friends.
At first, these power-ups are free. After a bit, they will be put behind a "Bird Coin" wall, forcing you to purchase that in-game currency in order to effectively level-up and get better accuracy, size-control birds, and other fun stuff. So while the game is free to play, Rovio is counting on the fact that most people will at least but some Bird Coins at some point, if for no other reason than to get rid of the advertisements.
Why Rovio feels like they need to do this is anyone's guess. Though I have noticed a lot of other game developers and publishers ramping up with social titles. Perhaps it's due to the massive success of The Simpsons: Tapped Out. Only in the case of that game, EA and Tapped Out developers have the luxury of dipping into perhaps, outside of maybe Disney, the greatest intellectual property in the world.
With their cartoons and planned theme parks, Rovio certainly has long-term aspirations to reach that type of notoriety, but their stuff still isn't even five years old. So it's not exactly a fair (or accurate) comparison to make just yet.
Taken as a whole, I can safely put this version of Angry Birds at the bottom of the list. There's nothing technically wrong with the game. There's even a few fun gameplay mechanics that Rovio will likely take away and incorporate into future titles. As a whole, it's kind of a bland experience. I can't fault them for seeing more dollar signs available on mobile devices. And with Facebook's recent push to become more mobile-centric, the move makes sense. It just doesn't make, in this case, for that great of a game.