Videogame (2012). Rovio Entertainment (RE). Designed by Jaakko Iisalo. Platforms: Android, iOS, Mac, Win.
The original Angry Birds (2009 RE, iOS; 2010 Android, Phone; 2011 Mac, PS3, PSP, Web, Win, WinPhone) designed by Jaakko Iisalo was created by a small studio in Finland, though its subsequent popularity has enriched its developers to a degree where it no longer seems appropriate to view such sequels as Angry Birds Space as Independent Games. Angry Birds is a two-dimensional puzzle game (> Videogames) in which the player fires flightless birds from slingshots at pigs who have stolen their eggs, solving simple Physics problems to ensure that the birds hit their targets, demolishing themselves, their enemies, and any structures that the swine may be using for shelter. Progress in the game thus depends on successfully catapulting the various types of birds on carefully chosen ballistic trajectories through Earth's gravitational field. In the space-based sequel, however, the pigs are either placed on small planetoids – each of which has its own gravity well – or in empty space, where they float far from the pull of other celestial bodies. These innovations allow the developers to create a variety of novel scenarios, including ones in which the player's projectiles must be set on paths which enter one planetoid's sphere of influence before being slingshot out into another. Angry Birds Space is as highly playable as its original, easy to start but hard to finish, comical and cartoon-like; the eponymous missiles remain endearingly cheerful despite the inescapable knowledge that their every assignment is a suicide mission.
Such games as Angry Birds and its various spinoffs are perhaps best understood as modern equivalents of the vastly popular but not overly complex arcade Videogames of the 1970s and 1980s. Certainly Angry Birds Space contains explicit homages to both Space Invaders (1978) and its block-smashing ancestor Breakout (1976 Atari, Arcade). Angry Birds and its many cousins are cheap and pervasive, running on such widespread computing platforms as the iPhone and iPad. Over a billion copies of games from the franchise have been downloaded to date, one for every seven people on Earth (though only some of those copies were paid for). As with Space Invaders and Missile Command before them, these works have become pop culture icons; Angry Birds Space was launched with the assistance of a demonstration filmed on board the International Space Station. For long-time science fiction readers, the game may have a special significance. The effect, perhaps, is of an artefact recovered from some abandoned 1960s future of universal space travel, something the Jetsons might have used to teach their children the basics of orbital mechanics. [NT]
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