I’ve long wanted a Mario Kart-esque game for iOS, something I can play that delivers a madcap sense of karting fun without requiring a Nintendo console. So naturally, when I saw Angry Birds Go, the latest arcade thriller in the series that’s arguably the king of arcade thrills, I got really excited. Who can blame me? This looked like Mario Kart, but on my iPhone with characters that my little cousins don’t think are hopelessly outdated (sorry Nintendo).
The question is, though, despite all the hype, what are we really in for? Naturally, I have a few opinions. Read on to find out whether or not Angry Birds Go is worth getting all fast and furious over.
Angry Birds Go is the first big twist we’ve seen on the franchise’s familiar formula — pull, release, and destroy — since they debuted years ago. Naturally, it’s worth explaining a little bit of what it’s about. Believe it or not, the pull and release formula is still built into the game — at the beginning of a race (you had to see this coming), you’ll pull back a slingshot and release it at just the right moment to send your birds flying through the sky.
I think the whole setup is great, and it fits in really well with the series. Naturally, this is a karting game, so you can’t expect anywhere near the speeds of, say, Need For Speed, but you’ll be navigating courses filled with shortcuts, evolving tricks and turns, and little things that’ll have you laughing and cursing all the same time. In other words, the same wacky invention that served Rovio well in the older 2.5D Angry Birds game has translated well into the 3D world too.
While the courses are fun and the downhill racing is great, don’t expect any weapons or power-ups like you would see in the Mario Kart series. Sadly, that wonderful little element is missing here, making the game feel a little bit less intriguing. The focus with Angry Birds Go is definitely on mastering the tracks and building up your cars, so it doesn’t feel that different from some other more serious arcade racers on the platform.
The game will have you go through multiple different race types on a track — a race, time trial, versus mode, fruit splat, and finally a three-round boss battle — before letting you move on to the next course.
A word to the wise, though: the versus mode really has nothing to do with online multiplayer, a somewhat irritating omission in the game. I’d love to play against friends in real time with Angry Birds Go, but it doesn’t look like I have the option. Sadly, that’s another element Mario Kart is going to have over Angry Birds — at least for now. Rovio says there’s lots more to come, but I suspect they mean more courses than they do anything else. Or more in-app purchases.
Speaking of in-app purchases…
The Controversial Elements
There’s certainly no shortage of IAP in this game — they often clutter up the majority of the screen. They’re everywhere, from special karts to kart upgrades and additional boost packs. If you run out of coins in any way, it’s easy to buy more. If you run out of gems, then you can buy more of them too. And yes, the game uses two in-game currencies that have zero similarity to real-world economics, likely in a ploy to get you to purchase more of both with real-world money. It’s a bit of a sham.
In case that’s not going far enough, Angry Birds go has now partnered with a multitude of real-world toy partners that bring you to shopping experiences on the Internet and take you away from the game with a single tap. For most of us, that kind of thing can be irritating, but as soon as your kid sees that Angry Birds-inspired Jenga tower, you can bet their Christmas list is going to be one item longer.
But the game is free to play. This is what free-to-play gets you: an in-app-purchase-filled mess. I don’t always mind in-app purchases, when done tastefully, so long as they don’t detract from my experience. With Angry Birds Go, I was tapping on in-app purchases by accident. I never typed in my Apple ID password to purchase anything — I know better than that — but I’m willing to bet some people won’t. A lot of the time, what looks like game content is actually an in-app purchase, and that’s shameful marketing.
If you’re keeping tally at home now, you’ll realize that Angry Birds Go is busy trying to get you to buy virtual currency, physical products, and connect with your friends on social media — often all at the same time. That’s a lot of shiny TOUCH ME! buttons begging your attention all at once. Not only is it overwhelming, but it’s disrespectful to the user. That’s a big no in my books.
The Bottom Line
Despite the in-app purchases, you’re not going to notice them when you’re actually racing in the game. This makes it a bit of a toss-up for me. I actually enjoy the racing, and the actual gameplay is a fun twist on the genre. But I wouldn’t have minded paying $4.99 for a version of the game with advertising remove. In fact, if there was a $4.99 in-app purchase to get rid of all the in-app purchases and keep them from cluttering up my screens, I’d happily pay for it. Rovio has to make their money, just like any other developer.
But despite the gameplay and my positive rating, this game does come with a caveat to be careful with what you’re purchasing and what your family purchases with your iOS devices. This is the sort of game that will happily suck away your lunch money, often “by accident,” before anybody’s noticed. Consider yourself warned: Angry Birds Go is a lean, green, money-grubbing machine.
Take note, Rovio: I’ll pay you to get rid of ads and I’ll pay you for multiplayer, but that’s as far as I — and any self-respecting gamer — should have to go.
Angry Birds Go is another fun entry in the franchise, but the in-app purchases completely disrespect the user. Not to mention the fact that I'd happily pay for in-game features like multiplayer, and the situation seems exacerbated. Even then, the racing is still worthwhile and begrudgingly entertaining.7