Angry Birds Transformers is the latest release from Rovio, the creators of the successful Angry Birds line. The game is a departure from the slingshot approach of launching birds at blocks in an effort to defeat evil pigs. Instead, you destroy your enemies this time by shooting them down as you run at them.
And in another big change, the birds and pigs have settled their differences in Angry Birds Transformers by teaming up to save Piggy Island from EggSpark, the evil empire that is trying to take over the island. The challenge of completing each level with different characters and never quite knowing what to expect before each battle makes Angry Birds Transformers a delight to play.
With that said, this latest from Rovio is a freemium title. There are countdown timers for various things that make you wait or pay to continue playing. Oddly, they didn't bother me too much, but it's important to note for those who stay away from pay-to-play games.
Introducing Autobirds and Deceptihogs
The usual Angry Birds characters are found throughout the game, but instead of having to rely on primitive wings and stubby legs, they're now using Transformer-like robot bodies. Red is Optimus Prime, Chuck is Bumblebee, Chef Pig is Shockwave, and so on. Each character has its own set of weapons, special powers and vehicle to transform into.
Progressing through the game requires you to upgrade each characters' abilities by spending the coins you've earned by destroying blocks and pigs and completing levels. As each character levels up through upgrades, additional sections of Pig Island are made available to unlock using coins.
As I mentioned, previous Angry Birds' games offered a slingshot to fling a character across the screen in a planned attack on a prearranged stack of blocks. As each character reached its target, blocks were demolished and the enemy was destroyed. At first I was a little put off by the lack of a slingshot in Angry Birds Transformers, but after only a few minutes, I was hooked on the new shoot-'em-up gameplay.
With this Transformers spin-off, you fly into the beginning of a level, jump out of your spaceship, and start running horizontally as you shoot enemies and structures. Tap on the screen to select attack points, and your character will shoot as it automatically runs through the level. Sometimes a single shot eliminates an enemy, while others require successive shots -- all the while you're taking fire from all angles and randomly forced to transform into vehicular form to avoid falling pillars.
Pinpointing exactly where you want your character to aim seemed straightforward at first, but I found out quickly it's going to take some practice. As your character moves across the screen, so does the angle of attack. Often times you'll have to adjust your aim and fire again.
Freemium countdown timers
Sadly, Angry Birds Transformers -- like so many other games -- is a freemium title that has the dreaded countdown timers. Still, they didn't keep me from playing.
Here's how it works: After completing a level, an EggSpark robot slowly walks over and begins putting the level back together. Once it is rebuilt, you can jump back in with another character, but the rebuild process isn't instantaneous. In fact, on more than one occasion during my time playing at the higher levels, I was forced to wait more than an hour for levels to be rebuilt so I could continue playing. There is, however, an option to speed up the process by handing over some of the precious gems you've earned during gameplay. But once you run out of gems, you're forced to wait or pay up with real money by way of in-app purchases to get more gems.
Waiting for levels to rebuild isn't the only timer you're faced with either. Additionally, as you upgrade or rebuild the health of your characters using coins, you're also forced to wait. You have the option to use gems for instant gratification here, too, but eventually you'll run out.
Countdown timers play a big part in the game, especially for those who don't want to pay real money for gems. But even with the countdown timers, I found that if I put the game down for awhile, it wasn't too annoying. Obviously, not all players will agree, but with a game as addictive as this one, I actually liked that it forced me to take breaks.
Defeating a level and forcing the EggSpark to rebuild it results in downtime, but ultimately you'll revisit the same level with a different character. Currently I have six characters unlocked, all of which are in various stages of the upgrade process. As each character is unlocked or upgraded, I'm forced to revisit older levels to test out the new hardware.
Initially, revisiting each level with a new character is nothing short of boring. But as you continue along the upgrade path and unlock new weapons, the difficulty of those levels increases. In no way does this eliminate the monotonous feeling you might experience when revisiting a level, but it helps to make it much more enjoyable.
Whether you can deal with the countdown timers or not, you'll need to go into Angry Birds Transformers with the mindset of taking your time. Gone are the days of mindlessly launching birds across the screen with no end in sight. There's a lot to enjoy here, but it's going to take some patience unless you're willing to spend some cash.
At first I was let down by the lack of the slingshot we've all grown used to in Angry Birds games, but the new running-and-shooting style is a lot of fun too.
The game can feel repetitive at times, but revisiting levels with a new character and different weapons eases the monotony. Just remember to spend your gems wisely, then when you spend 'em all, know you'll just need to patiently wait until it's time for the Autobirds and Deceptihogs to "rollout" once again.