The day that marks the expansion of the Angry Birds franchise is here as Rovio releases their highly anticipated kart racing game, Angry Bids GO, right on time. Will it live up to the expectations this developer set in their previous titles? Let’s take a quick look.
Soon after you launch Angry Birds GO, the game greets you with a friendly tutorial briefly explaining the mechanics and control types. You can either tilt your device or use the touchscreen controls for steering, either option will provide automatic acceleration (as this is supposed to be a downhill racer) and no brakes. Once you are done playing the tutorial level, you immediately gain access to the first track of the “Seedway” pack and your first racer, Red. Everything else is locked for now.
You are now ready to take on your opponents and start racing. There are 5 events that you can complete on each track. The standard race where you compete against other characters (pigs as well) to finish among the top 3, the time attack mode, the “Fruit Splat” mode where your goal is to splash fruits… the VS mode and finally the “Champion Chase” that unlocks the next character and track. And no, you can’t just skip everything and go straight for the track Champion. Here is why.
Each event has specific requirements involving your current kart CC (engine cubic centimeters), so you need to keep upgrading one of the 4 stats available (speed, acceleration, handling and strength). Upgrades, naturally, require coins, coins you get from all the other events you intended to skip. When you finally purchase all the upgrades necessary to race against Stella (the Champion characters from the first track), you quickly realize that your kart still falls behind. She simply drives faster and there is nothing you can do except purchase some additional speed upgrades. At this point, you begin realizing how linear the gameplay actually is. You only get to do stuff the game tells you to do. You can’t skip a certain part just because you don’t like it, or avoid playing some of the events. Well, you can by spending some cash, but more on that later.
After you manage to beat Stella in 3 separate races, she becomes a playable character and the next track gets unlocked. This is the turning point where the infamous “energy” system gets activated. Each character has 5 points available and starting an event will take away 1, regardless if you win or quite the race. Once you use them all, your bird gets tired and falls asleep, slowly regenerating the bar at ridiculous rate of 1 point per 10 minutes. Now, if you consider the fact that “Red” can’t participate in Track 2 events yet (his kart lacks CC’s), you only get 5 tries to gather enough coins and challenge the next champion, Black which is impossible to accomplish. Rovio mentions “plenty of racetracks” in their description on the Play Store, unfortunately it will take at least couple of months to unlock them all if you don’t intend on spending any real money. The previously mentioned coins can also be acquired by spending diamonds, the premium currency that can be purchased from the in-app-store. Diamonds can also be used to refill your energy bars or get multiple “boosts” while racing.
As Karts can only be upgraded couple of times before you run out of “upgrade slots”, you can purchase more advanced models by visiting the garage store. The first 3 models can be acquired by spending couple of coins, while the rest of them are being sold for $2.99, $9.99 and, get this $49.99. And no, it’s not a typo, the 2 most powerful karts will set you back for 50 bucks. If your pockets are overflowing with cash and you decide to spend some on those upgrades, you can pretty much beat anything in this game. Mind you, the energy bar will still be there.
The gameplay (or the first 2 tracks to be precise), feels and looks nice. Karts are easy to control, but then again, the winning factor is not your driving skill, but the amount of upgrades you previously purchased. The “Fruit Splat” mode feels kind of “out of place” compared with the rest of the events and is not particularly interesting to play as well. The cartoonish graphics are not groundbreaking, but they do look nice especially on devices equipped with a high-res screen.
Angry Birds GO was announced as free to play title and looks like solid, well crafted kart racer ruined by wrong decisions from the finance department. You quickly get bored by the repetitive forced gameplay unless you spend considerable amounts of cash. The kart that sells for $49.99 will eliminate those restrictions, but what’s the point? There will be no more obstacles to conquer, no achievements to collect, no multiplayer mode to challenge your friends. How many events can you complete before you decide to stop playing completely? Furthermore, Rovio decided to implement ads and advertise some of their products as well, including the Telepods figurines that can be purchased separately. If the developers react quickly enough, they can still salvage this game by fixing the restrictive gameplay and removing the energy system completely.