Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money).
Angry Birds Space showed that Rovio could do more than simply dress up its tried-and-true series formula with new visual themes, altering the pull-and-fling design in an inspired, entertaining fashion. Sadly, the creative well ran dry shortly after that, and many of the games released since have seemed like half-hearted and desperate attempts to ride the coattails of surging genres.
Kart racer Angry Birds Go took such a hard turn into freemium shenanigans that it ruined any potential fun, Angry Birds Epic charted a head-scratching detour into fantasy role-playing, and Angry Birds Stella Pop was an obvious bubble-popping clone that tried nothing new. And now you can add Angry Birds Fight--a match-three puzzler lacking smarts and lasting appeal--to the increasingly sad pile.
As the title implies, Angry Birds Fight sees the familiar birds and pigs battling it out--only these fights are handled by matching together nearby bird faces on a grid. Pairing three of a kind clears the tiles from your board and adds a small bit of power and defense to your abilities, while matching four or even five faces triggers a special move that can generate a grid-emptying string of combos.
Sadly, there isn't much time to plot out maneuvers: Each round lasts just 45 seconds or less, which means you're expected to find matches at a rapid pace. Taking your time to set up intentional combos isn't really compatible with the game design in Fight. Not that the game really lets you make up your own mind without distraction: It's constantly suggesting next matches on the board without giving you a beat to consider the options. Speed matters much more than strategy here.
That isn't a problem on its own, so much--there's nothing wrong with taking a different angle on a tried-and-true genre design. The real issue I have with Angry Birds Fight is that it all feels like a total crapshoot. Once you finish the puzzling segment, the opposing creatures start pummeling each other automatically--you'll do nothing but watch in these moments--until one of them is defeated. And it's not very clear what's happening: This a stats-based showdown in which the stats aren't all made known, and you can't do anything but await the conclusion.
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