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Considering that it was a mash-up of two corporate mega-brands, last year's Angry Birds Star Wars felt surprisingly inspired, with the characters, locales, and iconic imagery of the classic sci-fi franchise really jump-starting the creative engines of the fowl-flinging designers. Not only was it a great Angry Birds game, but it was one of the best Star Wars games released in years, showing a true affinity for the source material through and through.
Angry Birds Star Wars II is again a colorful, pull-and-fling interpretation of the films, this time focusing on the events and characters of the prequel trilogy. But while it's another amusing, well-produced nod to the Star Wars franchise, the quality of the core game experience lacks that inspired edge of its predecessor. In fact, it lacks nearly any edge at all, as the expected puzzle-solving aspect that typically defines Angry Birds is rarely seen throughout. More stages than ever can be cleared with a single and typically obvious opening shot, and while it's entertaining to watch the destruction, such an approach fails to tax the brain to any real extent.
Perhaps it's an unfortunate side effect from needing to create environments that can be ably smashed by more than 30 playable characters, most of which are available as single-use power-ups. While a single playthrough of the 80+ core stages will earn you enough in-game currency to stock your coffers with a few of these dressed-up birds and pigs (which fling just like their avian counterparts), accessing the larger majority will require an ample investment of real cash. Add in the pause screen advertisements for plush toys and unnecessary Telepods toys that interact with your iOS device, and the sequel at times feels more like a fresh opportunity to sell merchandise than a necessary and well-thought-out follow-up.
Even with the simplified stages, Angry Birds Star Wars II has its moments of solid fun within. It's a refined package (as always), the cartoonish interpretations of the franchise are charming, and the vehicle-centric boss stages are definite standouts. And we have to applaud Rovio for finally releasing a premium Angry Birds game as a universal app instead of separate iPhone and iPad versions. But by minimizing the focused, puzzle-centric nature of the game series in favor of a more bombastic, smash-'em-up affair, the movie magic is sadly more muted this time around.
The bottom line. Angry Birds Star Wars II has a glossy and charismatic exterior, but compared to past entries, its appeal feels largely skin deep.
iPad, iPhone, or iPod touch running iOS 4.3 or later
Charming interpretation of the prequel film trilogy. Boss stages are particular highlights. Angry Birds is still solid fun, even when it lacks much challenge.
Stages lean more towards explosive, one-shot solutions instead of requiring much in the way of puzzle-solving skills. Will need to shell out for most of those playable characters. Excessive advertising for merchandise within the app.