Is the Force strengthened in the Angry Birds franchise with the introduction of Skylanders-style scannable toys?
Angry Birds Star Wars II (plus Telepods): On the plus side
If there’s a game that defines mobile app success, it’s Angry Birds. It’s made Rovio — and many, many franchisees — a whole lot of money. It became apparent to me quite how much money a few years back when wandering a Shanghai bootleg tech market, noticing that every second object — including the underwear — had an Angry Birds logo on it but I digress. The point is, the Angry Birds machine is huge and hungry, and needs new games.
Just like the Star Wars machine, so the hybrid of the two was pretty inevitable, and that’s what we got back in 2012 with Angry Birds Star Wars. Now it’s time for the sequel, and its new hook — toys.
Angry Birds Star Wars II came out a couple of weeks ago, and Hasbro — who manufacture the Telepod toys — were kind enough to send me the Angry Birds Star Wars Telepods Star Destroyer Set, which includes ten Telepods (5 birds and 5 pigs) and a stacking Star Destroyer that you can fling the birds at with the provided mini-catapult.
Kids do — and probably always will — enjoy setting up and destroying structures, so this isn’t a revolutionary toy. Plus, you know, it’s Star Destroyer shaped. There might just be a few Star Wars fans out there who like that kind of thing.
The core game itself is just classic Angry Birds. There are pigs, there are structures, there’s a catapult. Break things. Get high scores. Unlock new levels, use mysterious powers of the Force in order to break things more efficiently. It’s finely tuned by now, with plenty of challenge if you want three stars for each and every level.
What about the Telepods and their much-hyped scanning ability? This comes down to, of all things, teeny tiny QR codes printed on the unmentionable side of each bird, and a magnifying stand that you plop each bird onto in order to scan them in.
One quick tip here: The box for the Star Destroyer just says “scan them into the app”, but it’s not at all clear where you do that, probably because the toys were released well before the app itself was. You can only do so from within each level, hitting the “T” shaped icon to swap your toy bird in for the suggested bird.
You can only use a Telepod (or purchased in bird, if you don’t want to go down the toy bird route) once per level, to keep things balanced, and you can’t use a Pig in a Bird level, or vice versa. It’s basically an IAP model with physical toys, so it’s very Skylanders (or if you prefer, Disney Infinity) indeed.
Angry Birds Star Wars II (plus Telepods): On the minus side
There’s a lot of Star Wars material out there, but for Angry Birds Star Wars II, Rovio’s opted for the prequel trilogy.
You should be able to work out why that’s a minus. Meesa shouldn’t have to tell you.
Questions of taste aside, this is still just yet more Angry Birds. Even the inclusion of the “Pork Side”, where you play as the pigs doesn’t change that up much. Bad Piggies was an interesting way to tackle the pig story, but in Angry Birds Star Wars II, it’s just pigs hurling themselves at birds for ill-defined reasons instead.
The Telepods can be fiddly to use, depending on the camera and positioning of the device in question. I found I often had to roll them over the camera a few times before they’d get picked up. The Captain Panaka figure seems particularly prone to being fussy about detection.
Angry Birds Star Wars II (plus Telepods): Pricing
Angry Birds Star Wars II itself is a 99c Universal app for iOS or either free (ad-supported) or $1.09 (ad-free) for Android devices. I tested with the iOS version.
The Telepods figures run to a variety of price points, and like the toys for Skylanders or Disney Infinity, they’re not entirely cheap. The Star Destroyer set I tested out costs $69.99; there are cheaper bird-only packs starting at $19.99, but the bigger packs do have some exclusive characters.
There is a small flipside to this, in that the figures become “permanent” upgrades that you can apply once per level endlessly, whereas purchasing them as pure IAP would stack up over time. That’s a flipside that’s only going to apply to the most ardent Angry Birds fan, though.
Angry Birds Star Wars II (plus Telepods): Fat Duck verdict
Angry Birds Star Wars II is a solid entry in the Angry Birds series, but it’s not revolutionary even with the inclusion of scannable toys. If you just want Angry Birds action there’s absolutely no shortage of that at a variety of price points, including free.
The Telepods themselves are quite cute toys, but they’re not cheap toys either. The scanning is only cute for so long, and in a mobile context you’d need to have both the toys and the stand to hand to drop them into your game, which might not always be convenient.
This puts Angry Birds Star Wars II into somewhat niche territory. It’s a good game, but you’ve got to be mostly not mobile on mobile devices, and interested enough to drop serious cash into a franchise that’s already solidly extended out as it is.
I’ll be interested to see what Rovio makes of Angry Birds with the upcoming Angry Birds Go (which, like Angry Birds Star Wars II will use Telepod characters), but for now, this is just more of the same.