Angry Birds Star Wars. The very thought of these two global entertainment brands coming together was controversial when first announced, with plenty of critics suggesting the Star Wars brand was somehow being sullied by the association with a mobile game series that didn’t exist five years ago.
It was as if these critics hadn’t watched The Phantom Menace, or had blocked out the vision of Darth Vader and Yoda plugging PC World and Vodafone in TV ads. If anything, an association with Angry Birds in 2012 is a step up for Star Wars, given its recent history.
That said, scepticism about such a partnership is understandable: when the world’s biggest entertainment brand ever meets the most popular brand of the mobile apps era, the danger is compromise: a game so hemmed in by brand guidelines that it forgets to be fun.
The alternative, though, is a game that recaptures the thrill several generations of children felt when watching those first three Star Wars films, playing with the toys, or roaring round the garden pretending to be the Millennium Falcon.
Can Angry Birds Star Wars sidestep the compromise and deliver the thrills? Yes it can. This is a treat for Star Wars fans and Angry Birds fans alike.
The game will be available today (8 November) for iOS, Android and Windows Phone devices, as well as Mac, PC and Windows 8 (which I’m assuming means tablets running Microsoft’s new OS too, like the Surface).
Gameplay-wise, it’s a mix of all the previous Angry Birds games to date, including the basic bird-slinging action of the first three games in the series, and the gravity-ruled planetary action of Angry Birds Space.
It’s essentially a Best Of compilation of Angry Birds so far, but with the Star Wars universe wrapped around it, starting with the TIE Fighters on the intro screen. Yes, with the proper sound.
The initial Angry Birds Star Wars download includes 80 levels split equally between two worlds: Tatooine and the Death Star.
A further 40 levels are available in a third world, Dagobah, if you choose to buy it for an in-app purchase of £1.49, but the game also teases an upcoming free update with a fourth world, Hoth. There is also a set of bonus levels starring C-3PO and R2-D2 birds to unlock.
The gameplay is familiar Angry Birds – catapult birds to destroy all the pigs on a level, earning one, two or three stars depending how well you do it.
Within the worlds, you segue smoothly between levels offering the two flavours of Angry Birds (Space and non-Space). For example, the Death Star world starts you in Space, then moves inside, then back out again for a final Death Star trench run.
There are a number of other Star Wars additions. For example, a few levels into Tatooine, the red bird gets a light sabre, which you swing to destructive effect at any point during his flight by tapping the screen. He even has Luke Skywalker hair.
Meanwhile, the yellow bird now shoots lasers – complete with authentic Star Wars sound effects – the black bird can use The Force to send objects shooting off with a tap, and there’s a heavy Chewbacca bird to barrel through obstacles.
The pigs? They dress as stormtroopers, Darth Vader and even get to hop in Tie-Fighters and fire lasers of their own.