"Angry Birds'" second "Star Wars" crossover game brings us back to the galaxy far, far away—or at least, something like it. This time, "Angry Birds Star Wars II" focuses on the "Star Wars" prequels, episodes I, II and III, which means you'll be playing as avian versions of Qui-Gon Jinn, Padmé Amidala, Captain Panaka and more.
Developer Rovio has made some special modifications this time around: you can also play as the Sith pigs, including Darth Sidious and General Grievous. And in a "Skylanders"-like move, Rovio has also released "Angry Birds Star Wars" toys that can be used to activate in-game bonuses.
As a standalone mobile game and a silly "Star Wars" romp, "Angry Birds Star Wars II" looks and plays great — but if you've played the first "Angry Birds Star Wars," you'll quickly realize that you've been down this road before. Looks like it's true what they say: "Once you start down the Pork path, forever will it dominate your destiny."
Remember that scene in Star Wars Episode IV where Obi-Wan briefly tells Luke that his father was "the best star-pilot in the galaxy" and "a good friend"? Luke later learns there's much more to the story, but at that moment he couldn’t have been more thrilled.
Playing "Angry Birds Star Wars II" feels like that. You get all the paraphernalia of the Star Wars prequels, and none of the pain.
You start off on Naboo playing as a Qui-Gon Jinn bird against piggies dressed as battle droids, all meant to evoke "Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace." Obi-Wan soon joins the game, then within a few levels you'll get the choice of switching to the "pork side"— i.e. playing as the pigs instead of the birds.
The levels here are much more interesting, incorporating some of the gravity physics of "Angry Birds Space" and the first "Angry Birds Star Wars." The playable characters' abilities are also much more interesting: there's Jango Fett, who fires a targeted missile whose recoil alters his flight path, and Emperor Palpatine, who fires Sith lightning that breaks through metal obstacles but leaves wooden ones unscathed. Later you can play as piggified versions of the "Star Wars" villains Darth Maul and General Grievous.
When it comes to gameplay for its explosively popular "Angry Birds" games, Rovio's strategy has been 'if it isn't broken, don't fix it.' The games have introduced some interesting new situations, such as the orbital gravity of "Angry Birds Space" or the diverse character abilities of "Angry Birds Star Wars," but overall the premise is the same: put bird in slingshot, slide finger to aim, release to fire.
Tapping the screen again will activate the particular bird's special ability: Qui-Gon Jinn destroys objects around him with a lightsaber, Obi-Wan Kenobi can aim a short-range Force-push that topples light objects, Yoda bounces off of several surfaces before rolling to a stop.
In terms of gameplay, the biggest problem is one that all the "Angry Birds" games have had: after your bird hits its target, the camera waits a bit for the dust to settle and the points to add up before refocusing on the slingshot for your next move. If you're impatient or just fast at the game, though, you've probably already started prepping your next shot, and that camera shift is going to really mess up your aim and might cause you to unintentionally fire.
Several other supplementary features keep the game varied. An achievement system, for example, lets you earn credits, the in-game currency, when you do a certain amount of damage with a specific character, or collect enough of the bonus crystals scattered across the map.
You can also purchase the credits with real money which is where the game tries to get more out of you than the 99 cents you paid in the first place.
The main use for credits is to get other characters with more varied movesets: Anakin, for example, has a rocket that lets him change direction mid-flight, and Captain Panaka fires a laser pistol. You purchase them like ammo, in groups of five or 10 uses, and they're fun to play, but because they cost credits the game makes it seem like using them is a cheat for struggling players.
"Angry Birds Star Wars II" also sports a new "Skylanders"-like feature that incorporates figurines of the "Angry Birds Star Wars" characters called Telepods. Place the Telepod on the device's camera and it will take a picture of the toy's unique code, which the game translates into added uses of that character in your game.
Rovio didn't provide us with a Telepod to test, but the figures are small plastic figurines a bit bigger than a gumball
The Telepods are a bit bigger than a gumball and are sold in packs in stores or online. For example, the "Jedi vs Sith" pack includes Grievous, Yoda, Darth Maul, Qui-Gon Jinn and teenage Anakin Skywalker for $11.99 (or $9.59 on Amazon).
Or if you want to go whole hog you can splurge on the "Star Destroyer" set, which costs $39.99 and comes with 10 Telepod figures including Padmé and Zam Wesell, as well as a model Star Destroyer spaceship as it appears in the game.
That's a lot of money for a game that originally costs 99 cents. But if "Skylanders'" massive success with this type of gameplay is any indication, kids will love using the Telepods in "Angry Birds Star Wars II." Thankfully, though, the Telepods are not necessary to play and enjoy the game.
In terms of art, if you've seen the first "Angry Birds Star Wars" you know what to expect. The backgrounds and props are cartoonish and of course have been given their own avian or porcine spin, but they're still fairly accurate to the details shown in the "Star Wars" films. Most of these set pieces are recycled throughout the game, which lends the gameplay a sense of consistency but leaves the backgrounds feeling bland and uninspired.
The game is optimized for tablets as well as smartphones, however, so no matter what device you're playing on the graphics appear crisp and finished.
The game's music is a punchier, more upbeat remix of classic "Star Wars" music. The orchestral sounds are still there, but the staccato beats and faster pace remind you that this is a joyride, not a Kessel run.
Sound effects are largely the same as every other "Angry Birds" Game; the characters jibber as they move, and objects crash as they fall.
The one significant addition is Ian McDiarmid, a.k.a. Emperor Palpatine Himself, voicing the Emperor Pig character.
Requirements, Performance and Replayability
With a release date of Sept. 19, the day before the new iPhone 5s and 5c hit shelves, developer Rovio is probably trying to capitalize on the timing to make "Angry Birds Star Wars II" a prime app purchase. However, the game is out on Android and Windows platforms as well.
In terms of replayability, the game made a solid effort to break up the levels with other challenges, such as side quests unlocked by hitting a map hidden in the previous level, or destroying the crystals scattered throughout the levels.
Even after you get through all the stages, everyone from perfectionists to bored commuters can find ways to stay satisfied for quite a while.
We'd recommend "Star Wars Angry Birds II" to just about anyone looking for a new mobile game. Taken on its own, Rovio's latest feels like a solid, even an exemplary mobile game: it's fun, it's easy to learn, and it offers a challenge without being outright difficult. When you put the game next to the others in the "Angry Birds" series, however, it feels like a rehash of the first "Angry Birds Star Wars" even though it focuses on Episodes I, II and III instead of the original trilogy.
"Angry Birds Star Wars II" definitely delivers on what it's selling. Whether you'll like it depends on what you want out of a game. More "Star Wars"? More "Angry Birds"? More mobile puzzle games? Then this one's for you. But if you're looking for something that feels new or different, "Angry Birds Star Wars II" is not the droids you're looking for.
Release Date: 9/18/13
Platforms: iOS, Android, Windows 8