App Review: Angry Birds (Android)

What does it take to make an addictive game? Not much -- just throw in some super simple controls, cute graphics, and basic physics. Rovio Mobile's Angry Birds is one such game that includes all these elements, and today the studio's just released a public Android beta to cater those without an iOS, webOS or Maemo 5 device. In case you're not already familiar with the popular title, the backstory is that a gang of hungry pigs snatched away some eggs from the birds, forcing the feathered creatures to embark on a rescue mission for the sake of their survival. The gameplay on the Android version is just as simple as before: in each level you use a fixed slingshot to fling the birds -- one at a time -- into the forts, in order to kill all the pigs inside. As a secondary challenge, you must also attempt to get a three-star rating depending on the amount of structural material you destroy, so the key is to perfect your shooting angle.

At the beginning you're only given one type of bird that does nothing more than just headbutting, but throughout the game you'll come across six more birds, each possessing one special power: multiply, explode, accelerate, dropping egg bombs, boomerang, and extra strength. Don't worry, the instructions are pretty clear when you first meet these enhanced kamikaze birds -- most involve just a single tap anywhere to trigger their special abilities mid-flight. Once you get the hang of it, you'll soon be wanting to try out all sorts of trajectories to take vengeance on those cheeky green hogs. Seriously, the pigs really do laugh at you when your birds miss them.

While we're not familiar with the Maemo 5 and webOS versions of Angry Birds, we've definitely spent a fair amount of time on the iOS flavor. Sadly, since the latter's still running on a low 480 x 320 resolution, the blurred graphics on the notoriously sharp retina display does no justice to the game. On the other hand, the Android version looks a lot prettier on our Nexus One, Dell Streak and HTC Desire, as it runs on their native resolution of 800 x 480. That said, overall the Android beta didn't feel as well-oiled as its iOS counterpart -- we've noticed the occasional light hiccups while panning across the scene, so here's hoping that this will be fixed in the final release. Regardless of this minor flaw, we'd still highly recommend Android users to check out this free Angry Birds beta in the market -- go grab it while it's hot!