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Freemium Field Test: Angry Birds 2 is a somewhat muddled return to form

Andrew Hayward | Aug. 12, 2015
Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money).

angrybirds2

Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money). 

Angry Birds 2 is long overdue. Sure, we had Seasons and Rio pretty quickly after the original game, plus Space and Star Wars--and most of those have been updated semi-regularly with additional levels over time. No doubt, Rovio has been pretty generous with those earlier premium entries. But as the market turned to free-to-play games, the company lost sight of what made the franchise great. 

That's how we got middling spinoffs like Angry Birds Go, Angry Birds Fight, and Angry Birds Epic, and even the last couple free-to-play core entries--Star Wars II and Stella--didn't have much punch to them. But Angry Birds 2 is finally here, and while it returns to the classic pull-and-fling formula of the earliest games, it also represents the biggest step forward for the series in some time. Not all of the tweaks are for the better of the game, however. 

The pitch 

In proper sequel fashion, Angry Birds 2 goes big, amplifying many of the core gameplay and presentational elements we know and perhaps love. That's true visually, for sure, with a beautiful new aesthetic that sets the bird-flinging, pig-popping action against watercolor-esque backdrops, and it's paired with expressive animations and vibrant coloring. Rovio has long aspired to be a Disney-like grand creator, and at least with Angry Birds 2, it's nailed that sort of look. 

But the "bigger" approach extends to the gameplay, as well. You'll find 240 levels in the initial free-to-play download, with more promised--and they're now multi-stage missions that often comprise three or four different screens of structures to take down. Enabling that design is a new approach to bird use: You're dealt "bird cards" for the familiar creatures, and you can pick whichever bird you want to use for each new fling. No longer are you bound by the order the birds are lined up. 

Smashing up pigs isn't the only goal anymore, either: The more blocks and beams you destroy along the way, the more extra birds will unlock to finish off the stage. And there's one more twist: The level layouts are semi-randomly generated, so each time you retry a stage, you'll see a different design. Some common elements tend to remain, particularly in stages with a giant boss pig to defeat, but the strategy you figured out by failing the previous attempt may not carry over to the next attempt. 

 

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