Any birdbrain can get behind the wheel of a rickety soapbox racer, but it’ll take a gaming boffin to complete "Angry Birds Go!"
Game developer Rovio’s latest title, out now, pits players against classic characters (Red, Chuck, Stella, King Pig) in wacky races like Fruit Splat, Versus and Race Challenges in the 3D Piggy Island derby. This portable shot of "Mario Kart"-style mischief is suitable for any occasion, from the morning commute to curling up on the couch for an evening session.
Since releasing its first game in 2009, Finland-based Rovio's "Angry Birds" franchise has become a cultural phenomenon, expanding into animations, theme parks, merchandise and a feature film planned for release in 2016. Rovio Entertainment Executive Vice President Jami Laes tells Metro about why the free download is the best on the market and the future of entertainment.
Did you deliberately make this version particularly user-friendly compared to earlier "Angry Birds" games?
As our audience has grown, we want to make the gaming experience as accessible as possible. The game is easy to get into but hard to master and hard to beat. There’s a level of learning required – you have to peel away the game’s layers to progress.
What are those layers?
The core is always the same: the soapbox derby with one character and one kart. But as you progress, you learn about top speed, acceleration and handling and how the characters have different powers. Gamers learn how to utilize their skillsets for the different events: fruit splat, time challenges or boss fights – it’s a tactical and strategic game.
Is this to prolong the game’s shelf life?
Definitely. By providing more diversity and different challenges, we find it’s the best way to keep players engaged and really get into the gaming experience for a longer period of time.
It reminds me of 'Mario Kart' and Sonic. Did you have these games in mind during development?
I mean, we’ve all played "Mario Kart" on the N64 but it’s a very different [user interface] with the tilt and tap controls. It is straightforward downhill soap box racing. We built something for the play patterns and usability of the touchscreen generation rather than imitate something else out there.
Obviously players are going to compare this Angry Birds game to its predecessors. Did you find it difficult to produce something that’s going to live up to the franchise’s past successes?
I don’t think we did. We’re going into a very different direction. It’s a non-slingshot gameplay pattern – but there are similarities in terms of the characters, humor and mayhem, and there’s some physics involved. We felt comfortable producing what we thought is the right game for today’s audience’s gameplay patterns, rather than replicate what we did with angry birds’ earlier slingshot games.
'Candy Crush' is one of the biggest hits at the moment. What has this game got over the current competition?
It’s the best casual racing game out there. It’s the most polished and approachable, with a wide-reaching appeal. Unlike "Candy Crush," we’re not going for middle-aged women. We’re going for tweens and above – the gamer generation.
What’s the future of smartphone games? How is the users’ experience going to evolve?
Multiplayer is coming but we want to make it absolutely perfect so that it really resonates with those players who want to play competitive multiplayer or in leagues. What hasn’t made it big is true social or multiplayer gameplay. There are a lot of genres that could benefit from that synchronous or asynchronous game play. What we’ll see in the future is multiscreen gaming so you can hop from one screen to another, so that you can actually have a meaningful journey or experience. In the future, as consumers become more educated in different gaming genres, we’ll be able to create more diverse mash-ups.