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Cut the Birds: Angry Birds homage, parody, or rip-off?

This iOS game is free, so perhaps it doesn't matter. What does matter is that it's fun--at least for a while--even if not the least bit original.

The ill-fated stars of Cut the Birds look awfully familiar.
The ill-fated stars of Cut the Birds look awfully familiar.
SolverLabs LLC

The App Store is home to countless Angry Birds knockoffs and Fruit Ninja slice-alikes, but rarely has a game so blatantly borrowed from two big hits. Cut the Birds plays exactly like Fruit Ninja, but instead of fileting flying fruit, you're slashing birds--mad-looking birds.

Indeed, there's no mistaking the inspiration for these foul-tempered fowl. Their colors, their shapes, and even their frowny expressions look straight outta Angry Birds. The question is, did developer SolverLabs LLC cross the copyright-infringement line, or does the game constitute a parody?

I'm no lawyer, but to most customer reviewers in the App Store, it screams rip-off. (A few also argued that it screams poor taste, though I'm not sure how this is any worse than flinging birds from a slingshot to their doom.) Time will tell if Apple, Rovio, and/or Halfbrick Studios (owners of the App Store, Angry Birds, and Fruit Ninja, respectively) agree.

The game itself is pure Fruit Ninja lite, with one small twist: the birds aren't merely bobbing through the air; they're headed straight at you. Your job is to slash them in two (by finger-swiping, natch) before they crash into your screen. Each crash creates a "permanent" cracked-screen effect; five crashes and it's game over.

The longer you play, the more birds appear and the faster they come at you. You also get more bombs in the mix. (Gee, where have I seen that before?) There's no bonus system at work here, even if you hack multiple birds with one swipe. Like I said, Fruit Ninja lite. Very lite.

And, yet, Cut the Birds is a fun little game, at least for a while. Plus, it's free, so it's not like SolverLabs is (sorry) cutting into Angry Birds or Fruit Ninja sales. So give it a try and let me know what you think. Do you consider this an homage, a parody, or a rip-off?