Angry Birds Friends (for Android) review

Diehard Angry Birds fans will welcome this more social entry in the franchise. The rest won't find anything attractive enough to pull them in.
Photo of Angry Birds Friends (for Android)

Angry Birds Friends (for Android, free) isn’t a new episode in the avian-destruction-saga, since it debuted on Facebook last year. Instead, this edition is the mobile version of the same game. The main difference between this and other Angry Birds games is weekly tournaments in which you pit your scores against those of your friends. Unfortunately, Angry Birds Friends’ pay-to-win structure dulls the overall experience.

Let Me Put Birds in My Calendar
The gameplay is the same-old, familiar formula. You fling several birds at Pigs’ constructions, in an attempt to snuff out the lives of the grubby, green monsters. There are no new avian creatures at your disposal, but you can now use buffs on every level to make the task easier. Those last either a single level or just for your next bird. You can make a bird tougher to break obstacles more easily, summon a scope that lets you see the aiming trail (which was always active in the previous versions), and cause a “birdquake” to topple the less-sturdy structures. You can resupply your stock of powerups with coins you get in game or purchase them with real money.

Three dollars nets you 440 coins, while ten nets 2,500. You can spend much more, and the coins rewarded scale in your favor. The powerups cost 14 coins each, and can be bought in bundles as well, but you won’t get more by buying more at once. Three-staring a level will earn eight in-game coins, so it’s hardly enough to keep up a stock of five kinds of powerups. You can receive mystery gifts from friends, which give you random amounts of coins – ranging between three to 10.

Each week features six new levels. At the end of the week, Angry Birds Friends adds up  scores from all levels to see who is the best among your Facebook buddies. The social aspect is fun, and the game’s interface lets you easily see who’s on top. New levels keep the game fresh, but the gameplay itself feels a little stale. 

Times Haven’t Changed
Angry Birds’ physics remain unreliable and random. Rather than skill, luck plays a large role in achieving success. Too often, when you think you’ve made an accurate, skillful shot, you’ve flopped—and vice versa. The scoring system is as ridiculous as ever. You earn up to three stars for each level. Each unused birds grants 10,000 points, meaning you usually have to one-bird the level to get three stars. It’s perplexing then, when to you just one bird and get two stars on some occasions–you have to make sure destroy lots of obstacles, but you don’t know how by many points you’ve fallen short of a perfect mark because the game doesn’t tell you.

The novel power system brings more depth, but it also discourages strategy and makes gameplay tedious. My strategy was to beat levels without powerups, but since some enhancements work only on a single bird, it became a trial-and-error process to select the right bird to powerup. Given the game’s physics, this essentially turns into “Angry Birds Roulette.” Some levels can be cleared by just causing the earthquake. You can also resort to summoning a Wingman, a giant bird. In effect, Angry Birds Friends becomes an ugly “pay-to-win” experience. Unless you have generous friends who play as frequently as you, you won’t have enough coins to have powerups available–and if you don’t, you will easily be outplayed. Additionally, now the game requires a constant internet connection.  

You’ll be Angry Instead
Angry Birds Friends is the weakest entry in the saga. The powerups bring some freshness, but they end up transforming the experience into something worse. You may be pulled in by all the traditional Angry Birds elements, and the social aspects will definitely excite you. However, at its core, Angry Birds Friends is an unremarkable entry with a small, weekly level pack for what is now a pay-to-win game.

Specifications
Genre Board/Puzzle
Platform iOS, Android

Verdict
Diehard Angry Birds fans will welcome this more social entry in the franchise. The rest won't find anything attractive enough to pull them in.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc