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The old saying “You get what you pay for” is usually fairly reliable. But it's not the case with the free game “Angry Birds Go,” for hiding under the tacky adverts and the pushing of paid content is an extremely addictive and well-developed racer.
Known for puzzle games in which you hurl birds at unsuspecting green pigs, Rovio has a new title that transplants the Angry Birds onto a Mario-Kart style cartoon racer complete with obstacles and power ups. But does this rapid change of pace succeed?
Title: "Angry Birds Go"
The Summary: Angry Birds first venture into both free-to-play and racing proves to be a success, if not without a few snags. In-app purchases can be tacky at times, but are never too intrusive, with Rovio avoiding the dreaded pay walls. Combining a solid gameplay base with excellent graphics for a mobile title, “Go” is an addictive little title, that works nicely and manages to be highly addictive.
Availability: iOS, Android, Windows Phone 8 and BlackBerry 10
“Go” is the first Angry Birds game to be entirely free-to-play, with previous titles that cost $1.99 or $2.99 with a scattering of optional in-app purchases sitting on the sidelines. As it is entirely free, “Go” predictably pushes the in-app purchases much harder, and includes some paid advertisements that take away from the experience somewhat. But the result isn’t as jarring as it could be – and Rovio can be applauded for creating a free-to-play game that avoids full blown pay-walls.
At the heart of any successful free-to-play game is a solid game mechanic, and Rovio has done well, combining stunning graphics with simple yet fun gameplay. Rovio have wisely dropped acceleration and braking from this touch-screen title; the player just needs to steer and drift through tracks. Although it’s no Mario Kart killer, it’s pretty good for a free game.
Each track is split into a number of sections including one-on-one races, multiple player races and races against the clock.
Additionally, each character has its own power, from exploding like a bomb to a simple speed boost. Although effects are fairly negligible, it makes unlocking new characters something to look forward to. Meanwhile speed, acceleration and handling are all dealt with through the kart. Karts can be bought and upgraded using in game coins, although some are bought only using real money.
It's kart upgrades that forms the meat of the game, bought by in-game coins won with races. Races require a certain level in order to compete, and this could easily spell repetitive drudgery and grind. However, repeating races introduces new challenges. They can be as mundane as “finish first” or as wild as “finish the race without a kart,” but add a welcome twist to already completed stages.
However, it doesn’t prevent a certain amount of grind from sneaking into the game. While the traditional Angry Birds formula constantly introduced new features and twists at every level, “Angry Birds Go” innovates at a much slower rate. It can leave a sense of dreariness at times that was lacking in previous games.
That being said, I’ve been playing “Angry Birds Go” for a week now, and I’m still playing it at every possible opportunity. Like previous games, “Go” has that hidden hook that keeps drawing you back in, and Rovio has worked out that the best way to make a free-to-play game is to hook players so they keep coming back, making them more inclined to spend money on power ups and game extenders.
Although the game limits you to five lives per bird (a new life is generated every 20 minutes), once you collect a few birds, you will be able to play comfortably for a good 20 minutes without having to spend money, around the same time that five lives on Candy Crush will normally last.
Special gems used to purchase lives are available within game (albeit rarely) as well, so it is possible to store them up for those times you find yourself stuck at the post office with more time on your hands than usual.
Also worth mention are the plastic “Telepod” toys that you can purchased. These work on their own as traditional toys for kids, along with the racing sets that can be bought. However, they also scan into most mobile devices, unlocking new karts and races. It’s a great way of adding a new angle for youngsters.
On that note, parents who hand over their mobile device to Junior should make sure that he doesn’t have the password to the account. Some of the in-app purchases are eye-wateringly high -- one kart costs $50, and one bundle of gems is $100 (with a “best value” sign attached to it).
Rovio’s dabblings in both the free-to-play and karting genres is a great success. Although a few tacky in-app purchases and some repetitiveness tarnish the experience somewhat, the vast majority of the game is a well-designed, highly polished title beaming with character. “Go” and download it!