Portable gaming is not new. The first true story-driven portable games came on the GameBoy a quarter century ago. The earliest portable games on platforms like Game & Watch or GameBoy were so primitive that if they had any story at all it was implied. Mario rescues Pauline from Donkey Kong because that is simply what protagonists do– they rescue beautiful girls from big apes.
Today, portable gaming is changing again. Sure, the Nintendo DS and Playstation Portable provide a wealth of fancy games with deep stories, but cellphones and smart phones have ushered in a new era of quick play titles.
Most people think of cellphone games as things akin to Tetris or Breakout, but the advanced hardware seen in more modern devices like iPhone have allowed for games with big stories, or just enough story to get you hooked on some addictive gameplay.
A Simple Set Up
Angry Birds has a basic story. In a world of anomalously common stone, ice, and wood structures, a collective of birds suffers the loss of their clutch of eggs. Their initial shock turns into titular anger when they learn that culprits who’ve absconded with their ova are a band of ne’er-do-well swine who have omlettes in mind for the next generation of birds. The birds then, seething with rage, set off to retaliate.
In any other game, it would be important to note here that this theft creates “tremendous dramatic tension” that “drives the story and the player forward.” That isn’t the case with this game. A few seconds of this game, and the player is hooked.
A Simple Way to Play
The premise here is simple. The pigs hide in structures made of a variety of materials that the player will easily identify as weak, strong, and stronger– ice, wood, and metal. They also hide amongst points-cows like food or tools, and for some reason they roost with big cartoon crates of dynamite.
The birds are on the opposite side of a two-dimensional plane. The player uses his or her finger to draw a bird back on a slingshot and hurl them at the opposing structures, smashing them and hopefully destroying the pigs within. The game then becomes an addictive blend of physics gameplay, strategic decision making, and humor. Physics and points and story aside, it is fun smashing the structures and squishing the pigs. It is as simple as that.
Layers of Media
This simplicity is one of the ways in which Angry Birds truly succeeds as a game. With a basic narrative well in mind, pleasant graphics, very easy and intuitive controls, and humorous twists around every corner, the player is left with little to do other than have fun. Players can simply shoot for destroying pigs and moving on, or focus on getting high scores and unlocking difficult bonus stages.
For fun, we’ve included the trailer to the game below. Using the hallmarks of American animation styles, this nicely animated video tells you everything you need to know about the game in just a few minutes. It is a very elegant, simple design that benefits from this simplicity rather than suffering from it.