One of the coolest parts of my job is when I'm asked to review a fun new app in AppUp. And so is the case today. For the last 30 minutes I've been having fun with an exclusive version of Angry Birds from Rovio made available to AppUp stores. I have the early release for testing but from what I understand by the time this blog post goes live Angry Birds will be available in all AppUp center stores. That includes the Intel AppUp Center store as well as the AppUp stores from Best Buy, Best Buy Canada, Future Shop, Dixons, Asus, Croma, HSN, New Egg and TigerDirect etc. (forgive me for any stores not listed as the latest list is ever growing). Thus the first version of Angry Birds for netbooks is exclusively available from Intel's AppUp Center stores. Scoop for AppUp!
If you're a gadget, hipster, smart-phone wielding, nut like me, you've been playing Angry Birds anytime there's a line to wait in, or when you're watching a movie and your spouse gets a phone call, or when you're done with your choice on the menu while others contemplate steak vs a sensible chicken dish. Angry Birds is the greatest excuse to get stuff done early, or wait something out. Because in those moments when the world has to catch up to you, you get to fling birds at those menacing green piggies who stole your precious eggs.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, Angry Birds is a global phenomenon in mobile gaming and the top grossing iPhone app of 2010 according to The Telegraph. So if you're not a smart-phone wielding hipster, you no longer have an excuse not to be part of the Angry Bird craze. You can with a Windows based netbook, laptop or PC for that matter jump in AppUp and start sling-shotting your way to bliss via http://appup.com. Or go to any AppUp stores I mentioned earlier, download AppUp for Windows and have fun.
Angry Birds for AppUp
My testing was done on my massive 17 inch HP laptop with an Intel Core2 vPro processor inside. You cry "foul";-), that I'm not using a netbook? In full disclosure my netbook is reserved for my personal AppUp account. I do not use an test Intel account there. I roll like a regular consumer on my netbook, and I'll be one of the first in the virtual line to have Angry Birds Tuesday. So 17" monster laptop is my playground tonight, but here's the deal with AppUp, all apps are validated on basic netbook hardware, so you know Angry Birds rocks a netbook. But I have to admit, it looks super nice on a 17 inch display. If I had WiDi, I'd go wireless to on my 50" LCD... OK, new game plan, HDMI out to my TV. If time permits I'll let you know how that looks.
Game Play Experience
Overall it’s pretty much an identical game play experience to the iPhone app, with some minor differences. It's snappy, gorgeous, and it sounds amazing thru my laptop speakers. On the netbook version you use a mouse or trackpad instead of touch. There is an open hand icon when the mouse is in hover state, and a closed hand icon when you are clicking or dragging. This visible clue when pulling the slingshot is a nice aid. It allows you to fine tune shots more than just observing the angle of the slingshot band. As I review the app, I realize I am noticing things I never really saw before on my iPhone. I think that is partially due to my larger screen, but probably more because I'm paying attention. The bird puffs of exploding feathers, for instance, have detail I never noticed. The bruised and bandaged but not yet dead pigs also seem to have more detail in the artwork.
Larger screen means more visibility in the game. On many levels I can see the target that I can't see on the iPhone. The previous shot trail is more easily seen, allowing fine tuning of your next shot. Overall the animations and physics seem to have more fluidity. I ran thru 8 levels, and my scores on average are better on the netbook version. Seems that when it comes to Angry Birds, screen size matters.
In terms of features, options, menu etc it’s pretty close to the original. On the netbook the replay level icon has been added to the game space. So you don't need to pause first then replay. If you start off with bad shot, just click the replay icon, then you can start over. Saving a click is nice. There is a Menu button in the Pause menu that gets you back to the Start screen. There are some things not in play on the netbook version. Mighty Eagle app purchase is not an option on this version, as in-app purchases are not yet available in AppUp. Also the leader board and achievements are not available in the main menu. The Golden Eggs are there. I have yet to earn them on the netbook version and am anxious to see the beach balls flinging about on a large screen.
Developer Take -Aways
This is after all a post in the AppUp developer program, so let's look at developer take aways. If you've read my post on building good apps vs applications, you'll notice Rovio hits it out of the park nailing each of my criteria. There's no window here, Rovio did a good job ignoring the windowing concept entirely. The game fills the screen, even on my 1680 x1050 screen. No file, edit, or view menus. Beautiful utility is mastered here, creating a great looking experience that has a focal intuitive experience.
Let's look more specifically at what Angry Birds is doing right. For developers wanting to learn from Angry Birds, I think there is a model here beyond cute animals crashing into stuff. Much of what is working has to do with how I opened this post. The game works in a lot of situations where you can easily and conveniently take time out to play the game. You can have fun in 20 seconds or 2 hours. Angry Birds also works across many consumer interests. The core tasks in the game take about 5 seconds, to pull back a slingshot and knock down some blocks and posts; however satisfaction is had in each incremental improvement of each shot and level passed. This combination of simple repetitive action, that anyone can do, with nearly infinite variations of outcome, is the key. It works as low-brow, sophomoric, pig fort smashing fun. And it also works as a high brow challenge in physics to determine what block to hit at the right angle with the right type of bird to cause the right chain reaction to get the most points.
Angry Birds strikes an interesting balance of repetitive, simple tasks and challenging game play working for the many scenarios and use cases of a mobile user. There is much to learn here, much to emulate, even beyond games. Imagine a financial app that allows you to do simple repetitive tasks to get key bite sized info, but also allows you to easily fine tune a masterful ROI scenario. Make an app like that enjoyable for 20 seconds or 2 hours and make it simple for any age and challenging for any intellect and you have something special.
OK, so here it is on my TV. Connected out to TV on HDMI at 1080p and played with wireless mouse 10 feet away. Awesome! Just some of the fun now that Angry Birds is available on AppUp.