A consistent flow of games and an invasion of plushies onto retail shelves, has made Angry Birds a household name, not only within the mobile universe, but within all of gaming. Although the bird-flinging action has remained (surprisingly) fun after numerous releases, it was only inevitable that the series would take a turn away from the familiar, and make a title out of its comfort zone.
This turn away from the familiar brings us Angry Birds Go, a kart racer that seems like a natural fit and evolution for Rovio and Angry Birds. Although the fit does seem natural, doubt about the transition would also be natural; but Rovio makes a nice transition to the racing genre with a fun, quality karting experience.
As you begin the game, the unavoidable comparison to Mario Kart is going to be made. Yes, Angry Birds Go does borrow some concepts from Nintendo’s impeccable kart racing series, but don’t be deterred. Rovio’s new kart racer delivers a level of competence and polish that allows it to stand on its own merits; and fortunately for those craving a quality iOS karting experience, these merits are numerous.
The first thing you’ll notice is the game’s graphics, which are colorful, crisp and charming. Even as the racing begins, the environment and track elements keep up with the beauty of the birds and karts. Most importantly with these eye-pleasing graphics is that the frame rate while racing remains on point, never a hitch, which helps deliver a nice sense of speed.
Eye-candy in a racing game is always nice, but if the racing is lackluster than pretty visuals are pointless. Again, Rovio delivers. The controls are about good as you could ask for, and the simplicity helps. The acceleration is automated, leaving you only able to steer and use powerups. The steering is smooth, and allows for frustration free navigation of the track. This isn’t to say the racing is mindless; steering and controls are super smooth, but executing a flawless race requires skill. Perfectly drifting around a turn, and avoiding opponents or obstacles will take timing and finesse. Smooth controls and a balanced level of difficulty gives the game a welcome level of fun and reward after victory.
Adding to the pleasing visuals and great controls is a decent amount of content. Angry Birds Go delivers numerous unlockable characters and hundreds of races and challenges. The racing is broken into four categories: Race, Time Boom, Fruit Splat and Versus. Fruit Splat, probably the most enjoyable mode, has you splatting a set amount of fruit before you cross the finish line.
The game really a golden opportunity, though, by not offering a true online experience. Each mode has five races for each track, once the five races are completed a challenge mode is then unlocked. The challenge mode tasks you with completing certain challenges in each game type. These challenges range from drift 25 times in a race to collect 100 coins in a race. Each completed challenges gives you in-game currency and gems. It hasn’t been mentioned yet, but Angry Birds Go! is a free to play title, which means in-app purchases play a role, but fortunately not an overbearing role.
Free-to-play titles and in-app purchases are the norm these days, for better or for worse; put most your fears aside, Angry Birds Go does a fairly good job of not letting the microtransactions ruin an otherwise fun experience. Coins and gems are the currency of the game. The coins allow you to upgrade you kart; upgrades are key, in that they are required to enter certain races and to progress throughout the game.
Gems are used to avoid the timers that make you wait after a certain number of races. In playing I discovered that I earned a enough gems from completing challenges that waiting for a timer never became too much of an issue. Also, the more characters you unlock the less the timers weigh you down. Each character gets five races, and once those races are completed, you have to wait to use that character again. Not the best system, but for a free game with IAPs it could have been much worse.
Although the microtransactions didn’t overly hinder my experience with the game, they do keep Angry Birds Go from being a truly great game. The amount of currency that is required to upgrade your kart increases as the game progress, but the amount of coins earned doesn’t progress at nearly the same rate. Deep into the game I was earning the same amount of coins as I was in the beginning, while the cost of kart upgrades had increased exponentially. This disconnect betweens coins earned and coins needed forced me to redo many races and challenges just to make a necessary handling or acceleration upgrade. I was able to play without making any microtransaction, but the grinding did level my excitement and brought about a degree of burnout.
In the end, Angry Birds Go is an excellent kart racing title. Eye-pleasing visuals, great controls and a nice amount of content makes it more than worthy to bear the Angry Birds name. If quality kart racing is what you crave, then Angry Birds Go should help subside those hankerings.