Angry Birds was met with nearly-universal acclaim when it initially hit iOS in December of 2009 and has since become something of a phenomenon. The action puzzler and its various sequels have spread like a plague to various platforms and devices, even streaming boxes like the Roku and social networking website Facebook. The series has even spawned a line of plushies, for crying out loud. Many have wondered when the mania surrounding Angry Birds is going to die down, and with the release of the newest entry in the series, Angry Birds Space, I can offer some insight into that question. And the answer? Not anytime soon.

One Small Step For Bird

I like Angry Birds. It’s not particularly deep, but it’s a fun way to kill time. Though I will admit that after both Seasons and Rio, my interest started to wane. Nevertheless, I was eager to try out Angry Birds Space due to the changes in gameplay. And while those changes aren’t many, the key change to the core gameplay is pretty substantial – the ditching of traditional side-scrolling levels in favor of spherical planets with their own gravitational fields.

Difficulty Gravitating

There’s also a new bird, a square fella with the ability to turn objects into ice, making them easier to smash through. And the yellow bird, the one that darts forward like a missile when you click the mouse button – he’s purple now, and he shoots towards wherever you click.

The rest of the birds are all familiar, but with aesthetic makeovers to better match the sci-fi theme. That said, these changes are all secondary to the new gravitational field mechanic. The field is visible, represented by a pulsating ring around the planet. Once the bird enters the ring, it’s flight path will alter drastically, sending it spiraling towards the planet. Learning to account for the gravitational pull definitely takes time, but not too much time, and once you get the hang of things, it can be truly rewarding.

The difficulty is inconsistent. For the first world or even the first two, the game is surprisingly easy, almost as if the developers underestimated how quickly players would adapt to the new gameplay. There were several levels that I “three-starred” almost entirely by accident; I would send my bird off on a test run to observe its behavior, only to have it get sucked into the pigs and structures, and then have that debris sucked into the remaining pigs.

But once you hit the third world, the challenge ramps up considerably, leading to some truly frustrating levels. I’m not ashamed to say that I looked up guides on a few of the levels in World 3, and to my disappointment, it seemed as if luck played a pretty big factor in completing those levels. You would aim your shot as best you can and then you would be at the mercy of mother nature, hoping that everything tumbled in a direction that benefited you. Thankfully these levels were few.

Bosses, Bonus Levels, and the Best Birds Yet

The boss battles from Rio return in glorious form. Pigs pilot various mechanical monstrosities and destroying them usually involves hurling your birds at floating rocks, which then come crashing down on your enemies.The real highlight of the game, however, are the bonus levels, each of which is fashioned after a different retro videogame. I won’t say which games, as the surprise is a big part of the fun, but each level was a gem in its own right.

I played Angry Birds Space to completion on PC and dabbled in the Android version. As I understand it, the iOS version contains in-app transactions that users are none too pleased about, but these are not present here. Aside from the silly difficulty curve, which is easy enough to look past, Angry Birds Space is not only a terrific game, but the best entry in the series so far. It’s no surprise that it saw ten million downloads in just three days.

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