Article: "Angry Birds Transformers" review
Title: Angry Birds Transformers
Release: October 2014
Platforms: iOS & Android
Version Reviewed: iOS Version 1.1.18
As far back as June 2014, fans were given the heads up that "Angry Birds Transformers" were on the way. This mash up of two popular brands seemed incongruous at first, but the marketing campaign around the game was strong, relying heavily on showing off the game's "retro" elements. Just check out the "retro" trailer below.
To add to the retro flavor of this game, it was announced that "Transformers: The Movie" composer Vince DiCola would be working on the soundtrack alongside music industry veteran Kenny Meriedeth! You can listen to the soundtrack on Spotify.
Still, I admit I wasn't 100% sold. I thought to myself "Brilliant campaign..." but my only previous experience with the franchise was "Angry Birds Star Wars" and frankly, I got bored of it after about a month. Then I saw a gameplay trailer:
And that settled it. Give me a good side scrolling shooter any day. Mix up transforming, comedy and special powers and I'm sold, and that's exactly what "Angry Birds Transformers" has provided! I was down for this new experience.
The "retro" trailer plays at the beginning of the game and gives us the story. The "Eggbots" have invaded and the Autobirds and Deceptihogs have teamed up to fight them. It seems several pigs have either chosen the side of the Eggbots or been taken over by them, so throughout the game the "Angry Bird versus Hog" dynamic is still present, but now you can play as Deceptihogs as well.
The Eggbots appear to be terraforming the land of the Angry Birds from its jungle paradise state into a Cybertronian one. Trees, houses and more are being turned into metallic buildings and structures and you fight to return them to their natural state. To do this you have to survive each board and blast structures inside the boards to return them to their original form (example: a palm tree is metallic until you blast it back into being wood and leaves).
Several iconic "Angry Birds" characters appear in the game, acting as a Transformers character. Red is Optimus Prime, Chuck is Bumblebee, Hal is Grimlock, Bubbles is Jazz, Terrence is Heatwave, Corporal Pig is Galvatron, Foreman Pig is Lockdown, King Pig is Megatron, Chef Pig is Soundwave and another Chef Pig appears as Starscream. Other characters are likely to appear as well given that the advertising campaign features an Arcee Autobird and there is a "Sentinel Prime" Autobird not shown on the official web site.
It can sometimes be difficult to take two popular licenses and properly combine their elements into a cohesive whole. In my book, "Angry Birds Transformers" has done this brilliantly. Each character appears to be either an Angry Bird or Hog serving as a "Headmaster" of sorts to a Transformers body. A majority of the designs borrow from the Michael Bay films (such as Bumblebee being a sports car and Galvatron being a truck) but other elements come into play too such as Heatwave coming from "Rescue Bots" and Bludgeon being a tank (though to be fair, he's a "redeco" of Megatron).
Other elements have been worked into the game that give it a wonderful retro flair. As you load the game, the status bar has terms under it that clearly reference events from "Transformers" history such as "Crowning Grimlock" (a reference to the Marvel G1 comic where he wore a crown for a while) or "Practicing Universal Greeting" and "Targeting 2006" (a reference to a famous run on the UK Marvel comic books). It also uses the G1 "symbol" flip showing an Autobird symbol flipping to a Deceptihog symbol (it always does it in that order, never the reverse). Both symbols are based on the Autobot and Decepticon symbol respectively and even after weeks of playing the game the silliness of the designs makes me smile.
When you first begin the game, you are presented with a map of a limited area. Other areas are covered in clouds. You can either pay coins earned in each board to clear the clouds or you have to rank up to a certain level for them to open up and reveal new boards.
Early boards take you through tutorials that help you learn the basics of fighting in the game. Essentially you are constantly running through each board (you can't slow down or stop but you can pause the game). As you run along you have to blast fortifications used by the Eggbot Hogs in classic "Angry Birds" configurations. So the physics of "Angry Birds" is still there, just with a shooter dynamic added on top. Blasting is done by tapping the screen wherever you want to shoot. Sometimes your targets are in the distance and a bit small so make sure your screen is nice and clean so it registers your finger taps accurately.
Sometimes you have to transform to vehicle mode to dodge falling towers. Transformation is done by tapping a transformation icon. Your vehicle form only has a limited duration and then you transform back to robot mode, so be careful when you use it.
On many boards, you also get the opportunity to team up with another player, which was an interesting and fun dynamic to add in. When you load the board you choose your partner and you go into battle alone at first. When things get tough, you can call in your partner by tapping an icon with his face on it and he comes in dramatically destroying everything in view, and then the character typically stays with you about ten seconds or so, blasting everything in sight. This has gotten me out of more than a few bad situations so I found it useful. Be warned however, the character needs to "recharge" before you can call upon him again. My favorite part is the end where you are offered the chance to "Thank" or "Not Thank" your teammate. The resulting animations are really cute.
At the end of each board, the game tallies how many Hogs you've taken out and how many coins you've earned. You are given a chance to double these winnings by watching a brief commercial (sometimes it's for another Rovio game, sometimes for Toys R Us). This is absolutely worth it in my book. Generally I make sure I've earned at least 500 coins before doing this as you are limited to how many commercials you can watch in a 24 hour period. This same mechanism is used to prolong the time a "partner" can fight alongside you in the game.
As you progress, you can upgrade your character with new abilities. For instance, Optimus Prime gets a shield that lasts a few seconds. You generally upgrade with coins you acquire on each board, but you can also use "crystals" that you gather over time. Each upgrade takes a certain amount of time. Lower end upgrades may only take fifteen minutes, but higher end ones can take hours.
The game starts you off with some of the basic characters such as Optimus Prime and Bumblebee. Over time you can "save" characters such as Ultra Magnus and Bludgeon by destroying a certain number of Hogs. However, if you want a shortcut to getting these characters, you can purchase the Telepod action figures. Each has a QR Code on the bottom that you can scan into your tablet or phone and the character will be "beamed" into the game! Even better, if your character runs out of armor, you can just "rescan" the character to replenish his armor instead of using coins to do so. It's a smart and neat system of having the toys interact with the game. The Comic-Con trailer (embedded below) gives you a brief look at this feature:
"Angry Birds Transformers" has a pretty exciting combination of challenges and I found some of the "Medium" difficulty boards more difficult than I had expected which made for a fun play experience. It's free to download so I absolutely recommend giving it a try!