Once upon a time, I was young man in high school where our little computer club got a new PC with a color screen and a floating-point coprocessor. One fun little program I wrote was a simple gravity simulator, where a number of point-size assigned various mass flew around interacting with each other. We used that program and tried to set up initial setting for sizes, speeds, and directions of bodies that would result in some kind of stable system. More often that not, all we managed to create were comets that came in, took a sharp corner around a “star” and disappeared out into the void again. Still, it was great fun. And when I discovered Angry Birds Space it felt like a chance to try that again. Overall, “space” as my son calls it is a great spin on the Angry Birds idea. However, the way it is sold does not make me too happy.
Angry Birds Space is certainly different from previous iterations of the idea. Instead of a flat ground with constant gravity pull, we have space where gravity comes from planets (and in some levels, there is no gravity at all, just free floating objects). Birds will be pulled in by the planets, and trajectories can easily turn into multiple orbits of a planet before crashing down on some pigs or structures.
Rovio has made celestial mechanics game-friendly by simplification and cartoonification. A total gravity simulation across the entire playing area would probably both be too hard to play and also somewhat of a nightmare to implement efficiently. Not to mention the issue that it would limit the level design. Instead,gravity fields have been disconnected from any mass causing them. They are just bubbles that pull things to the center, with a clear outer boundary beyond which nothing happens. We won’t train future space pilots on Angry Birds Space, but it still makes it possible to do quite a few things that look really cool and that feel like you are trying to send a probe to Saturn by taking a sling shot path around Mars…
For example, flying around a planet a few times to hit a pig:
Or, pushing a bird through one gravity field to sling itself into the next:
The use of space also opens up for level design where you fire birds “backwards”to get at the pigs on the other side of the planet:
I managed to get some pigs stuck in a “lagrangian point” between two planets:
On some levels, there is no gravity at all, and you are rather looking for chain-reactions between blocks floating around in space. Unfortunately, space is not space, but rather some kind of viscuous fluid… blocks slow down and stop after a while, in a decidedly non-spacey way. guess that is also to facilitate level design, but I would thought it way cooler if chain reactions could have gone on for as long there was momentum left in any block.
he game theming with sound and graphics is very classic sci-fi, and the soundtrack is actually very amusing (not that I care much about it, since I usually play games with no sound on, waiting for the kids to fall asleep). There are a quite a few special levels (“Golden Eggstroids”) in the game, and the ones I have seen so far have all been takes on classic 1970’s and 1980’s computer games. For example, here is something a bit inspired by Bubble Bobble:
Overall, a brilliant game even if some things are not quite how I would have liked them.
However, for all of this goodness, the way the game is being sold really leaves a bad taste. The main game you buy costs 1 USD (or equivalent). This provides you with quite a few levels, and the levels are being expanded post-release in the great tradition of earlier Angry Birds games. I have been positively surprised by how generous Rovio has been in updating Angry Birds and Angry Birds Seasons over time. But now it seems that someone has decided it is time to get some more cash out of gamers, in ways that I really do not like.
With the “Danger Zone”, we have a whole set of levels that you have to buy in addition to the base game. These are also “in-app” purchases, which means that they only apply to one device. If you have multiple devices (like we do), you have to buy this on each individually. The Mighty Eagle has also become a limited-use purchase, rather than its old unlimited use variant:
I am not saying that the people at Rovio do not deserve their money – they have given me and the world countless hours of entertainment at a very low price – but I would much rather simply pay some five dollars up-front and have all game features unlocked forever, rather than being nickled-and-dimed over time. This subscription or addtional-content model is all the rage in gaming today from what I understand (I have no time to play PC-based games), and it just seems like a way to trick users into parting with more money by doing it in smaller chunks. Totally legal, but it still feels like a bad practice. But then again, it might just be me not liking this particular aspect of the modern economy.