Perhaps we can all agree on something: bird games are getting a little old. I know there were a couple really popular bird games at one point or another, but certain developers have been wielding birds, pigs and rolling hills like they're some sort of winning game talisman. It's cool, guys. We like other animals too.
I'll make an exception from this little tirade for Booyah's Early Bird ($0.99 / HD). Yeah, it stars a (completely adorable) bird. And sure, it may occasionally give you flashbacks to other games with avian stars. But given the game's classic Disneyesque art and solid swipe-controlled platforming, I'd feel like a bit of a monster for telling this little birdie to fly on by.
We all know that the early bird gets the worm, and it's truer here than anywhere. Through deserts, meadows and icy peaks, you'll guide this cheerful bluebird to his morning meal. The worm is easy to find, all nestled away beneath a clearly marked target, but reaching him can be a challenge -- the early bird can't fly very well. To get him from A to B, you'll need to give him a shove with carefully aimed swipes. Quick swipes lead to little hops, and he'll fly his heart out for a long swipe. You'll only have a handful in each level, so conservation is key.
This control method is a bit of a mixed bag. Swiping isn't a precision art, but that's not often a problem. Most of the time you'll have no problem flitting your way over the platforms and through the wind gusts of most levels. Some levels are a bigger pain, requiring you to swipe extremely carefully if you want to get your little bird caught up in all the necessary bouncing, dodging and gusting. With no way to track your previous shots, retrying a tricky level can be a nightmare of trial and error.
Early Bird uses a three-star ranking system to track your progress, basing your end result for each level on a combination of factors. There are the points you earn in the level for things like collecting bugs and landing precisely. Then there are the points you're awarded for finishing with remaining swipes. Finally, a time bonus is added to the rest to come up with your final star rank. I'll take that over the more literal alternative of earning stars for collecting stars -- at least this way, replays require some experimentation.
Lush, cheery cartoon art and music are Early Bird's best features, and you'll get to enjoy them over the course of 72 levels. If you're still hooked, there are plenty of Game Center/OpenFeint achievements to satisfy your inner completionist. Personally, though, the game never rose to the heights of compulsion. I'm satisfied with my time with Early Bird, and it's more than just another also-ran bird game. I just don't know if we'll see it soaring up the charts for long.