the angry birds slot machine

[edit: apparently i'm not the first person to liken angry birds to slot machines. ah well. in any case, here's an interesting follow-up blog post written by the same person that analyzes the game further.]

despite my less-than-stellar initial foray into iphone gaming one game that i felt i should spend more time with, at least for research purposes, was the mass hit angry birds. there’s an 18-level free edition, aptly titled angry birds free, so it didn’t require any monetary investment, and i wanted to get a closer look at the game that in its various incarnations has apparently been downloaded 400 million times and generates a million bucks a month from in-game advertising. (it’s interesting to compare those numbers to the list of best-selling video game franchises, which has our good friend mario sitting at the top with an estimated 262 million games sold, although of course there’s a big difference between a video game sale and a free or $1 download.)

for those who somehow don’t already know, the game’s concept is extremely similar to wii’s boom blox (which i quite disliked), but in 2 dimensions instead of 3. basically you throw projectiles (in this case, birds) at towers in order to knock them down as well as hit certain targets (pigs). the shift to 2D itself makes the game much simpler and thus more enjoyable, but the ability to quickly and easily restart a level is what really elevates this from a mere “physics puzzler” to a hypnotically addictive experience, particularly when trying to reach high scores and earn the 3-star ranking possible for each level.

the game is well designed (although the sound effects are somewhat annoying) and has a solid physics engine. it’s too casual (i.e. mindless) for my taste, but what really prevents me from enjoying it more is that the balance between requiring “brains” vs “dumb luck” skews far too much in favor of dumb luck, so much so that at times i felt like a glassy-eyed slot machine player in vegas, thinking, “surely this time i’ll hit the jackpot and finish this damn level so i can move onto the next one.” this is especially true since in the majority of levels the only way to earn the highest score is to knock everything down on your first hit. there is definitely a sense of pleasure in finding the weakest part of a structure that, when hit at just the right angle, causes the entire thing to come crashing to the ground, and there’s no doubt that the game is better than boom blox in every way. still, after playing the angry birds slots for a couple of days i’m glad to be free of them and won’t be eager to get back to them anytime soon. and it’s a good thing this edition is only 18 levels and that you don’t have to pay for every play, because otherwise i have a feeling we’d have a lot more people in rehab for gambling, i mean gaming, addiction.

feelin’ lucky? how about some angry birds links?
- angrybirdsnest.com is apparently the best resource for all things angry birds and includes a store, video walkthroughs and the achievements list for angry birds free, as well as guides such as “How to Transfer Angry Birds Progress Between iOS Devices”. i’m also somewhat gratified to see that they consider 4-2 of this edition to be “probably one of the hardest levels in Angry Birds history”.

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October 2011
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