Angry Birds, the Pac-Man of our times

Published: July 15, 2011
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Angry Birds has gained so much popularity that its animated TV show is also in the works.

Angry Birds has gained so much popularity that its animated TV show is also in the works. A screenshot from the Angry Birds game. A screenshot from the Angry Birds game. A screenshot from the Angry Birds game. A screenshot from the Angry Birds game.

“It is too hot!” my father sighed, as our waiter jotted down our orders. Having waited for nearly 30 minutes, we were finally seated at Arizona Grill, an insanely popular steakhouse in Karachi, Pakistan. 

My father winced, cupping his ears:

“It is so noisy.”

I glanced at the smiles on the faces of my siblings and my mother, as they all nodded in agreement. While I was enjoying the atmosphere, I had to admit that it was rather uncomfortable.

At half past 10, on a Saturday night, the basement floor of the eatery was overcrowded. The compact hardwood surroundings made it difficult for the elements to escape. To make matters worse, the restaurant’s air-conditioners were also struggling to keep up.

Before rushing off, the waiter said that our order will take ‘twenty minutes,’ barely awaiting an acknowledgement.

I looked at my father, who sat with his arms folded across his chest, his mustache twitching, his forehead creased with discomfort. I wanted the 20 minutes to pass quickly for him, so I pulled out my Android-powered cellphone from my jeans’ front pocket, and tapped the ‘Angry Birds’ launch icon.

I glanced at my mother, who once jokingly said she recognised the Angry Birds loading screen better than she did her own children. My mother asked with an endearing smile:

“Angry Birds?”

She loves Angry Birds. At home, when she isn’t playing it on my sister’s iPod, or my cellphone, she is playing it on her laptop.

I grinned, shaking my head, and then nodded towards my father. Her smile instantly grew warmer.

My father, a brilliant man and highly successful physician, isn’t very fond of technology, not that it is too fond of him either.  It took him years to learn how to check his e-mail without assistance. The last video-game he actually played was Pac-Man, and that too, over two decades ago.

As I handed my phone to father. He asked:

“What’s this?”

Plastered with matching grins, my siblings both looked at him expectantly. We were all curious to see if Angry Birds would pass the ultimate test; our technophobic father.

As he watched the opening cut scene, I explained the storyline to him:

“Well, the birds came back to their nest to find all their eggs stolen. See those green pigs running off in the distance? They stole the eggs. Your job is to teach the pigs a lesson.”

My father, who has a huge collection of pet birds, loves anything with wings (that night he ordered chicken). Being a Muslim male, he (naturally) hates pigs so the narrative spoke to his soul. After I explained the basics to him and he started playing, he was chuckling within seconds, and hooked within minutes, requiring very little assistance as he progressed through the game. By the time our food was ready, he had astonishingly creamed through the first eight levels.

Angry Birds has become a worldwide phenomenon. Released in December 2009, it has been downloaded reportedly 250 million times and is referred to constantly in pop culture. It has become so popular that there is an animated Angry Birds TV show in the works.

Conceptually, Angry Birds is quite innovative. Essentially, it is a physics-based puzzle game, where you must hit all your targets within a limited number of projectile launches, each level.

What Angry Birds really stands out in is its presentation. The projectiles you launch are the game’s protagonists, the birds themselves, while the targets are the game’s villains, the evil pigs. The birds are launched from atop a giant slingshot, with gamers able to control the speed and trajectory of their feathered heroes. As you progress through the game, you unlock more birds to play with, each with hilarious new abilities. The game’s level design is also quite outstanding, with the pigs finding themselves fortified in clever and amusing ways.

Aesthetically speaking, the game is cuter than a baby’s bottom.

The art direction is colorful and cartoonish, with all the game’s characters looking very cute. The characters also ‘sound’ intolerably cute. So cute, in fact, that even the manliest of men have been known to giggle on their first play-through of Angry Birds.

While the attractive presentation and simple concept make Angry Birds an easy game to pick up, the overall depth and variation in gameplay make it a hard title to put down.

The best thing I can say about Angry Birds is that it transcends its genre; not only does it appeal to hardcore gamers like myself, but it makes gamers out of the unlikeliest candidates.

Angry Birds is truly the Pac-Man of our generation.

Angry Birds has been rated ‘E for Everyone’, by the Entertainment Software Rating Board (ESRB)

Noman Ansari

Noman Ansari

The author is the editor-in-chief of IGN Pakistan, and has been reviewing films and writing opinion pieces for The Express Tribune as well as Dawn for five years. He tweets as @Pugnate (twitter.com/Pugnate)

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.