For all the talk about mobile devices ushering in the end of the game console, it’s beyond ironic to have Angry Birds Star Wars as an Xbox One launch game. Yet here it is, a franchise that began life as an iPhone game, alive and well on Microsoft’s next-gen console. The combination of handheld mechanics and hands-free Kinect controls is intriguing, and Angry Birds has never looked better. There’s also a metric ton of content and a surprising amount of level variety. Yet somehow the Angry Birds Star Wars Xbox One experience just doesn’t live up to its price point.
The evolution from hands-on touchscreen controls to Kinect 2 controls on Xbox One is seamless in Angry Birds Star Wars. Frankly, it’s better than I expected. Pulling back one of the Star Wars-themed birds is simply a matter of gripping your fists and pulling your arms to the side, while launching him involves opening your hands and letting ‘er rip. Several birds have special abilities that can be activated by a second hand opening, such as Luke Skywalker’s saber swing, Obi-Wan Kenobi’s Force push and Han Solo’s blaster fire.
Each special ability, like the game as a whole, looks great. Luke’s saber swings leave a light-blue contrail, for instance, while and Obi-Wan’s Force pushes distort the surrounding area ever so slightly for the split second they’re around. One of the nicer graphical elements, though, is what the game doesn’t do. Angry Birds Star Wars never pretends visually to be more than a mobile game even though it’s on Xbox One. Its 2D graphics, though presented in full HD, embrace both dimensions without dabbling in the third. That’s not to say some levels don’t incorporate depth, but it’s more of the gravitational variety than the graphical.
It takes a couple of hours of slinging birds before you really uncover the new level design elements, but Angry Birds Star Wars eventually offers them in spades. In terms of the sheer number of levels, the game feels a lot like one of those “endless runners” on a mobile device. The massive number of levels will keep you playing for literally dozens of hours. That’s the beauty and the bain of the game, in fact: it has hundreds of levels, but it’ll take you hours to load a single new backdrop. Tatooine may be an iconic Star Wars world, but Rovio and Activision really needed to make the Death Star and the other environments unlockable much earlier.
Likewise, the game offers a variety of challenges that you can tackle with the diverse Bird/character types, giving you plenty of ways to strategically attack a level. Yet the game eventually gets tiresome if you try to play it for hours on end, no matter how many new bird types you have. The game is well executed, but it’s not a traditional console game meant to be played in big stretches. Like their mobile counterparts, Angry Birds Star Wars Xbox One owners will soon find that it’s best tackled in chunks, perhaps for five to 10 minutes before turning the console off for the night, or for a quick stretch before dinner.
All of this leads up to a great Angry Birds experience, but nothing more. Although the game offers Kinect controls, the traditional gamepad controls really do seem more efficient, and while the game offers hundreds of levels, you’ll only ever want to play four or five before switching to another game. Put it all together, and Angry Birds Star Wars proves a nice diversion on Xbox One, but not really something that justifies its $50 retail price.
Check the pricing for Angry Birds Star Wars on Amazon.com.
Score: 8 – Very entertaining for the first four hours, but it’s eventually apparent that mobile games may not be best on a dedicated home console.
Platform reviewed: Xbox One. Also available on PlayStation 4