I’m sure that when Rovio announced a few months ago about their upcoming downhill kart racer, Angry Birds Go!, there was a bunch of eyebrows raised and for good reason. Angry Birds Go! is to be the first fully 3D Angry Birds title and the first game to be of a totally different genre (Although I suppose Bad Piggies is also a different genre). Furthermore, with the way Rovio has been on the IAP bandwagon lately the announcement that Angry Birds Go! was to be totally freemium also caused some concern. After playing it for quite some time I will say that Angry Birds Go! is a blast to play and really well done on a technical game aspect, however it is those IAPs and how Rovio decided to monetize it that drags it down greatly.
Lot of Track Variety and Detail
Like I mentioned above, Angry Birds Go! did its research on kart racing and for the most part got all those features perfect. There is a good variety in tracks in different level sets and each track looks amazing, has interesting topography/obstacles and multiple paths. By my count there are probably 11 or so different tracks that you get to play throughout the game. Everything in Angry Birds Go! looks amazing as well. This is the first fully 3D Angry Birds game and they nailed it. Really seems like you’re playing in a television show or playing a Wii title, absolutely flawless. I also like the level of detail that is put into everything from the track designs and their environments to the karts themselves and the menu screens.
Pick Your Racer
Like in any good kart racer game like Mario Kart or Diddy Kong Racing, to be successful you need a cute and cuddly cast of characters. Angry Birds Go! obviously has this with their iconic bird characters like Red, Bomb, Stella and even King Pig is a playable character. Also like in any good kart racer, each character is unique. In Angry Birds Go!’s case each character has a slightly different power which they can use in races to get that extra edge. For instance, Red gets a slight speed boost, Bomb explodes the area around him, Stella floats in an unpoppable bubble, etc. However, the greed of Rovio shines through this interesting dynamic to ruin it. What I mean by this is you can only use your character’s special power once per race. Every time after that costs one gem which is the secondary and harder to obtain currency in Angry Birds Go!. Not that big of a deal but limiting special power use seems unnecessary and makes what could be a great mobile Mario Kart inspired chaotic kart racer into just a colorful relatively boring kart racer.
Bottom of the Barrel Karts
To play in a kart racer you’re going to need a kart to race in, right? Rovio was kind enough to give us a free kart out of a choice of three at the start. This kart is admittedly bottom of the barrel. It has the lowest stats and requires a lot of upgrading to get it up to snuff. If you want a better kart at the beginning or to start any of the other level worlds (you have to buy a new kart for each level pack) then you better pony up some cash. The cheapest payed karts are $2.99 and the most expensive ones are $49.99. Yes….almost $50. Buy the real Mario Kart for that price! Note that if you buy the toy telepods for Angry Birds Go! then they automatically unlock that kart in the game but if you’re not a kid or adult wanting to buy a toy then it’ll come out of pocket for you.
The other issue with the kart system in Angry Birds Go! is that you’re forced to upgrade it to even continue playing. You see, each level has a certain cc requirement and your kart also has a cc value. Your kart’s cc value needs to be at or above a track’s cc value for you even to play it. This means you need to constantly upgrade your kart to raise it’s value to play new levels. This actually sounds worse than it actually is as I found that it was relatively easy to have enough coins to upgrade my kart although it does sort of turn into a minor racing grindfest later on.
Revolving Around In-App Purchases
So again, Angry Birds Go! has got a great foundation to be an amazing kart racer. The tracks are well done, graphics amazing and it controls well as well. If you were to just play a few races you’d think that it was fantastic and a blast. However, if you keep playing you realize that literally every single aspect both big and small in Angry Birds Go! revolves around Rovio’s attempt to get you to buy IAPs or squeeze a buck out of ad revenue. The biggest culprit of this is the energy system that is in place. Each character has an energy bar of five races. Once that goes down you have to wait over 10 minutes to gain one life back. Five races is not much time…maybe four minutes of gameplay yet you’ll have to wait almost an hour to get those five lives back. A 60:4 minute ratio (give or take) is terrible. Now, as you progress through the game you unlock more characters which each have a separate energy bar. This helps the issue quite a bit but still the energy bar is a stifling feature.
Other in-app purchases that you’ll be faced with include things I’ve already mentioned. Buying better karts for absurd amounts of cash, having to spend gems to use powerups in an effort to get you to buy more gems, buying coins to fast track upgrading your kart, etc. Now, you may be saying that these are all optional and not that big of an issue. True, yet they are so intertwined with Angry Birds Go! I have to take them into consideration and when they form a pseudo pay wall then it negatively impacts gameplay. Angry Birds Go! also implores ads which actually come in the form of sponsored powerups. Yes, if your kart breaks down mid-race then call State Farm to repair it, or perhaps give yourself an extra boost that sprays Goldfish crackers everywhere. I really hope this form of product placement powerups doesn’t catch on.
Even though I found all the incessant pushing towards in-app purchases to be annoying I can’t deny that at its core, Angry Birds Go! is a well done game. It controls surprisingly perfectly for a mobile game, the graphics are stunning and feel like you’re playing a live action Angry Birds cartoon, and there is a lot of content in general to play through. You will have to do a lot of grinding if you don’t want to pay and you’ll also have to be content driving the sub-par karts but you can access everything in Angry Birds Go! just by time and grinding. Some people won’t like that and will write it off but if you’re patient then you will find some enjoyment out of Angry Birds Go!