In many ways Rovio’s Angry Birds franchise really has become the modern equivalent to Nintendo’s Super Mario Bros, at least in several key areas: both made their mark by extending their basic gameplay while offering new levels and costumed variants of familiar characters, each adding new powers and challenges along the way.
And this tradition continues, perhaps more than ever, in Angry Birds Star Wars II, a sequel that transforms George Lucas’ second trilogy of sci-fi/fantasy adventures into the most playable and inventive iteration of Rovio’s ever-popular Angry Birds series.
As the original Angry Birds: Star Wars transformed, appropriately, the Original Trilogy into fowl-flinging craziness Angry Birds Star Wars II centers around the franchise’s prequel trilogy: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, and Revenge of the Sith, though you’ll spend most of your time on Naboo and Tatooine (at least until Rovio issues their expected updates).
On the surface little has changed: you’re still tasked with flinging birds (and even piggies) across 2D levels at collapsible structures in your quest to pop every last pig (and even birds) to gain the most stars and points. If you’ve played any previous Angry Birds game this will be familiar, but as with the previous Star Wars spin-off you’ll fling bird/piggie versions of over 30 familiar characters like Qui-Gon Jinn (complete with Liam Neeson scowl), Obi-Wan Kenobi, and even chapter-specific versions of characters like Anakin Episode One.
The visuals are sharper and more detailed than ever, if that’s possible, and the soundtrack is a veritable grab-bag of Star Wars symphonic fun. The first time I hear the jazzed rendition of “Duel of the Fates” I couldn’t stop grinning… Say what you will about the Angry Birds games and their sequels, but Rovio never fails to impress in the presentation.
Yoda and his wall-bouncing self may be the craziest character in Birds’ history yet. But, funny enough, it’s Jar Jar Binks that gets the best new ability with his grappling hook-style tongue that latches onto objects (including piggies), letting him zip both body and objects around like a champ. Anakin Episode One comes with a pod racer that changes direction by tapping where you’d like to go, dueling out extra damage if you strategize things just right. There’s plenty of lightsaber action, too, and with each new character the game adds adds several new possibilities for maximum carnage and physics-based fun.
You can even go over to the Pork Side (i.e. the Sith), complete with piggie versions of Darth Maul, Jango Fett, Darth Sidious and several others. Going Pork means darker levels and, if you’re so inclined, the added thrill of messing with the ultimate fate of the Galaxy. Pork Side levels are typically darker, with less color and with less optimistic goals (cutting down Qui-Gon in his prime). I know it sounds awful but porcine Count Dooku and Emperor Palpatine are just adorable, even when slaughtering hapless Jawas. Darth Maul, on the other hand, proves he’s just as awesome dual lightsaber-twirling as ever when piggified. Especially when piggified.
Adding even more replay value to the package are branching levels, unlocked by hitting specific targets and items, and even individual Reward Chapters for every character with underwater, reverse-gravity challenges. And yes, there’s plenty of in-app purchase pushes here for the impatient types who can’t be bothered to unlock everything naturally, or those who might need an extra boost (i.e. cheat) to help make those difficult levels a bit easier with some backup.
Perhaps the most celebrated new addition are the Telapods – tiny rubbery figures that are placed on your device’s front-facing camera that let you insert their digital doppelgangers into the game, much like Skylanders and Disney’s Infinity. They’re a bit more low-tech than either of those games (they use itty-bitty QR codes magnified through a plastic stand), but work much the same. It’s worth noting that I struggled to get them working correctly on my iPod Touch (5th Generation) but they performed slick as butter on several iPads and a Galaxy S4 that were handy.
Another great thing about the Telepods is that they’re (mostly) optional, though you’ll need to pop a few in there to ‘unlock’ every character in the game, like the Original Trilogy characters. Still, they’re far cheaper (overall) than anything Activision or Disney is peddling. There are themed sets and packs available, though you’ll likely spend plenty of real-world money snagging all the available characters.
In-app purchases and toys aside, there’s a tremendous amount of value here for the asking price in Angry Birds Star Wars II, and with updates on the way there’s even more to come. It’s also the most playable and often creative Angry Birds yet, perfectly encapsulating everything that’s helped make Rovio’s physics-based franchise the phenomenon it’s become. Angry Birds has never looked or sounded this good, and the game even makes Jar Jar Binks awesome, and that might be its greatest achievement of all.
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