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Developer Rovio’s Angry Birds franchise is branching out from wholesale pig murder with Angry Birds Go!, a free-to-play go-kart racer out today for Android and iOS devices. Now, the avian heroes and their porcine foes have decided to settle their differences in friendly downhill-driving contests in which the number of watermelons you run over is sometimes more important than how quickly you cross the finish line.
The endless struggle between pigs and birds makes a mostly successful transition to the road, but a few nagging issues hold it back.
What you’ll like
The controls are simple and effective
Angry Birds Go! has two control configurations: touch and tilt. These options control how you maneuver your kart; you either tilt your device or tap the left and right sides of the screen to move in those directions. Since all of the tracks are downhill, and vehicle stats determine their rate of acceleration, all you have to worry about is steering. The controls makes sense, and they’re instantly accessible. I preferred the touch controls because I think tilting my phone makes me look like an idiot, but both options work just fine.
Plenty of activities — and most of them are fun
In Go, you compete in events to earn coins so you can upgrade your kart to compete in more difficult events. It includes four courses with multiple tracks, and each track contains four contests: eight-kart races; versus runs against a single opponent; a time trial mode called Time Boom that has you arbitrarily racing against a bomb’s burning fuse; and Fruit Splat, a sort-of collection game that involves making a run while trying to take out as many fruits scattered along the way as you can.
Most of the events are straight-forward and similar to those found in other racers, but Fruit Splat is a bit confusing. I know that I have to hit the fruit, but the game doesn’t do the best job of communicating exactly how much you have to destroy to “win.” All you have is a meter at the top of the screen that decreases as you go, but does that represent 50? Two hundred? I had runs in which I thought I splatted the hell out of that fruit, but it still wasn’t enough, and the game didn’t help me out at all.
But this is “What you’ll like,” so let me stick with some positives. The tracks have multiple paths to follow, and the game mixes up which of them are available for each event, so one track effectively becomes two or three because of the different configurations available. And since you’ll be spending a lot of time with these roads (more on that later), the variety keeps them from getting old too fast.
What you won’t like
During my time with Go, I ran into several points at which skill was no longer enough. I’d reached the limit of what my current kart could do, so I couldn’t complete any of the available events and progress through the game. This meant that I had to play older modes over to earn coins to buy upgrades. This isn’t such a huge deal except that the game also limits the number of times you can play before your drivers have to take a 10-minute rest so that you can try again.
You can collect jewels during races or by completing activities to get your birds back on the track faster . Or you can just go ahead and buy them with real money; purchases range from $4.99 for 500 gems up to the micro-in-name-only 14,000-gem pack for $99.99. Regardless, any hurdle to continued play in a title that requires this much repetition to progress is going to get annoying really fast. The game also rubs it in by dangling the best karts in front of you. You can only unlock them with in-app purchases, the most expensive of which is $49.99. So while you have plenty of choices for which events you’ll play repeatedly in order to move on, the necessity of doing so gets a little old.
The grinding isn’t Angry Bird’s Go!’s biggest issue, however, because playing fun races repeatedly is really only half of a problem.
What’s more bothersome than this is that Angry Birds Go contains exactly zero quiet moments. It’s always playing music or sound effects or both, and the music is this Spike Jonesian cavalcade of whistles, bells, and horn honks, which is fine except that each event takes about a minute to complete. So every 60 seconds or so, you’re hearing either the annoying success music or the also-annoying failure music before you go back to listening to the grating menu music until you return to the only-slightly-better race music.
And it doesn’t let up during activities because the Angry Birds do not know how to contain themselves while they’re driving. Every one of them fills their runs with excited noises that are varying levels of ear-piercing. I found Stella, the pink bird, especially irksome with her high-pitched squeals and trills, and the only real way I could keep playing was just to mute the game entirely.
Despite some definite annoyances, Angry Birds Go! is an accessible kart racer that offers plenty to do without too many free-to-play shenanigans showing up. It’s not as varied or exciting as a Mario Kart title, but it’ll keep you busy and entertained — especially once you mute those sound effects.
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