Angry Birds Trilogy review
"Better with Kinect". As a slogan, it's perfect. So pro-active! So on message! As an actual promise? Microsoft has yet to demonstrate how the addition of its hugely successful yet much maligned motion controller has improved any of the games that have incorporated it. Compatible with Kinect? Sure. Playable with Kinect? Sometimes. But better with Kinect? That's a really short list.
Despite wearing the purple stripe on the front cover, Angry Birds Trilogy won't be joining that list. It's considerably worse with Kinect, its use here apparently stemming from the common misconception that touch-screen controls and motion controls are the same thing. They're not, and Rovio's pocket-sized juggernaut offers ample proof.
Simply keeping your catapult steady is a hassle in itself; zooming in and out to view the whole screen is an infuriating chore; and the prospect of an accidental waggle launching your bird too early hangs like the sword of Damocles over every stage. Angry Birds Trilogy is emphatically not better with Kinect.
Thankfully, you can play it with a normal controller and under those conditions the game is easily the equal of its iOS inspiration - and occasionally improved.
Thumbsticks make aiming even easier than it was on a phone screen, while the need to tap a button to launch gives an additional element of control when fine motor skills are required. Triggers zoom in and out, while the right thumbstick lets you scroll around. Nothing amazing, but it works beautifully all the same.
As the name suggests, you're getting three games for the price of one. The original Angry Birds, its sequel Angry Birds Seasons and the movie tie-in, Angry Birds Rio. The differences are slight - a few new environmental items, such as bouncy rubber rings in Rio - but what this package lacks in variety it makes up for in quantity. Almost all of the updated level packs are included here, meaning there are around 700 stages to work through. It's no exaggeration to say that for the devoted Angry Birds fan, this budget bundle could last as long as a more traditional epic such as Skyrim.
The game benefits from the move to consoles in other areas as well. The HD graphics are genuinely lovely, bright and crisp and packed with character. Played on a large TV, it looks fantastic. The addition of animated cut-scenes rather than static drawings is a nice touch too. It's also surprising what a difference the sound makes. Angry Birds isn't a game you'd expect to pack a visceral punch, but a bass-heavy sound mix means that every bang and crunch feels seriously weighty. Freed from the tinny speakers of the mobile handsets and tablets they once called home, those chubby black bomb-birds will rattle your speakers as thoroughly as a round of Call of Duty.
"Where Angry Birds Trilogy comes up short is in what it adds - or rather, doesn't."
Where Angry Birds Trilogy comes up short is in what it adds - or rather, doesn't. The decision to make the Mighty Eagle power-up a persistent option rather than a finite resource to be earned or purchased is welcome, and will help newcomers past some of the trickier stages. Elsewhere, there's been less attention paid to the ways in which a console could improve the existing experience. Bringing leaderboards to the fore hints at a more competitive approach, but this is still the same old single-player game you're familiar with.
The potential for multiplayer fun with this concept is immense and untapped, yet there's not even an offline local controller-swapping option, let alone any online play. Plenty of other games have found unique ways to fold asynchronous multiplayer into traditional solo games - the wonderfully deep "superscore" system of Pinball FX 2, for example - so the bare-bones approach adopted here makes this compilation feel more like a lazy cash grab than it really is.
Disappointment also follows once you complete all 700 levels. Your reward for this enormous task is a paltry 19 new levels, a feeble and arbitrary number that adds little to the game. The absence of the superior Angry Birds Space, with its more interesting gravity and physics puzzles, is another mystery.
It may simply be the exact same games writ large on your telly, but the contrast is enough to make you look at this ubiquitous series with fresh eyes. What you find is a game that is still instinctively entertaining, the simple tactile act of flinging things to knock other things down the sort of base pleasure that never really grows old. It also retains the maddening quirks and opaque scoring that made the original game such a lightning rod for criticism from the hardcore gaming community.
"As an advertisement for the merits of motion control, it's a gruesome failure... Yet it's still a guilty pleasure and a game worth having around for family gaming time."
You'll suffer from pigs who prove dubiously resilient. You'll grind your teeth as objects and debris fall in ways that just don't make sense. You'll scratch your head as seemingly identical shots result in completely different outcomes for no apparent reason. Fiercely difficult levels are followed by incredibly easy ones in defiance of all logical structure. And very little of it matters as the game tugs you ever onwards on a cushion of easy amusement and childish destruction. It may not be a good game in terms of its structure and systems, but it is a fun game and that's unlikely to change.
All of which leaves Angry Birds Trilogy as a bit of an odd cuckoo in the console nest. As an advertisement for the merits of motion control, it's a gruesome failure. The game isn't likely to win over anyone who hasn't already played it to death elsewhere, nor does it add enough content to convince those players that even a budget-priced console version is a worthy replacement for the 69p apps they already have.
Yet it's still a guilty pleasure and a game worth having around for family gaming time. Angry Birds Trilogy certainly benefits from the more extravagant presentation options that a TV allows, and in bringing Rovio's juggernaut to consoles it has a basic "does what it says on the box" appeal - but there's clearly a lot more that could have been done beyond bluntly porting the levels across.