Say whatever else you will about Angry Birds [Free] creators Rovio, they know how to make fun, accessible games that have a lot of personality. There's no question that they've done just that, once again, in Angry Birds Transformers [Free]. It's not terribly deep, but it's enjoyable to play and its sense of humor is in exactly the right place, paying respect to the Transformers license while still gently poking fun at it. I walked away from Optimus and company a while back because sometimes it's not a good idea to revisit your childhood favorites, but playing this game brought back a lot of good memories for me. So, congratulations to Rovio, it's a nice game that uses its admittedly strangely-matched license well, and does so without retreading the default Angry Birds template, as tempting as that likely was.

Unfortunately, Rovio is also rapidly developing another consistent trait, and it's not something I'm all that thrilled about. Paid Angry Birds games aren't doing it like they used to, and attempts to launch new paid apps outside of the franchise haven't gone over too well, either. The big money is in the free-to-play side of the store, and Rovio has picked up sticks and moved over there in earnest, leading with the strongest punches they've got, Angry Birds spin-offs. It's all well and good to get fun games for free, but sooner or later, something has to pay the bills, and that's where things have gone wrong with games like Angry Birds Go! [Free]. It's probably little surprise, then, that Angry Birds Transformers also suffers from its need to make some money. Rovio still hasn't quite gotten the hang of how to balance its monetization techniques, leaving us with a game that might pull you in, but all too soon puts up a paywall high enough to be incredibly discouraging.

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It all starts off fine, at least. You get an amazing opening animation that tells the story, setting a pace the presentation does a nice job of living up to all throughout. It's a really nice-looking game, and the birds and pigs mesh with the Transformers designs better than you might expect. The music and sound effects go right for the G1 feel and hit home perfectly. The basic gameplay is actually a pretty clever twist on the classic knock-em-down Angry Birds set-up. You've still got pigs in structures made of various materials, but rather than fire shots from a static slingshot, you're constantly moving forward, blasting away at the background pigs from the foreground. Some of the pigs will shoot back at you, and sometimes structures will fall into your path, taking away some of your life meter. Each of the characters has a different kind of shot, and they all fit fairly well with how each character performed in other games. The stages all run different lengths, but none of them are longer than a few minutes. After clearing them, you're rewarded with coins and pigs, which can be used to upgrade your characters and unlock new ones.

Your character will shoot wherever you touch, and the press of a button can transform them to help them move faster, which is helpful in the case of falling objects. Eventually you'll unlock other powers for each character, also activated by the press of a virtual button, but you'll have to charge those up with energon first by shooting background objects. It's simple, straightforward, and fun. It doesn't last, sadly. Soon you'll notice some timers on the stage map, indicating when you can challenge that stage again. Perhaps it's when you go to upgrade past the first level on a character and notice it puts them out of commission for increasingly long periods of time. Or maybe it will hit you when you look at the skyrocketing prices of opening up new sets of stages or unlocking new characters. Whatever it is, eventually, you're going to realize that there are a lot of obstructions keeping you from enjoying this simple little run 'n gun.

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Naturally, there's a premium currency you can use to massage some of these issues away, and the game does offer a lot of ways to earn it initially, using a Gameloft-style achievement system that yields the precious material. It spends pretty quickly, but there's not much purpose for it beyond hurrying along timers, so I guess you can use it at your leisure. You'll also sometimes find it around the map after clearing stages. Oddly, the gems and timers are the least of your worries. It's the huge amounts of coins you'll need to open up new stages that will probably be the end of you. Opening up new stages requires you to have a certain accumulated level between all of your characters, which will cost you either coins and time, or just gems. Then, once you've reached the required level, you still have to spend coins to actually explore the area and open up the levels. Cleared levels will generate coins over time that you can harvest, but even with that, the amount of coins you need versus how many you're earning is completely out of proportion. Yet, even if you wanted to go the whale route, you can't, because there's no way to buy coins, and if there's a way to change gems to coins, I couldn't find it.

I wish I could have spent the bulk of this review gushing over the great little bits of fanservice, or the enjoyable progression of building up your team over time, or even the way the game finds a way to retain the essence of the gameplay from the main games while giving it a spin that makes it feel like something new for the series. I would have loved to have written paragraphs about the awesome visual touches like how when you're low on life, the play area is covered with a filter to simulate VHS tracking problems. Instead, I've spent most of yet another review writing about how an otherwise thoughtfully-designed game has botched its attempt to create a sensible free-to-play model and turned into something you'll enjoy for a day or two and then toss in the virtual trashcan. Maybe Rovio will end up tweaking this thing back to a sensible form at some point, because it's really just a problem of numbers right now, but I'm not going to hold my breath.

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If you love Transformers or Angry Birds, or best of all both, you'll probably get an hour or two of fun out of Angry Birds Transformers. Beyond that, you're going to have to have a lot of patience for timers and grinding coins. For some people, that's not a problem, I suppose, but I've got a pretty high threshold for grinding and even I was turned off here. It's a free game, so there's likely little harm in giving it a try just to soak up some of what it does well, but just be prepared going in that the good times will last about as long as Starscream's reign of the Decepticons did.

TouchArcade Rating

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  • Jetjet

    In french : ras le cul de Angry Birds !

    • Stormourner

      tout ce que

  • macplash

    Music is fantastic and the soundtrack on iTunes for 5 bucks is a must have. The game itself is not worth to spend money on, unfortunatelly. Don't get me wrong. Animations are fantastic, transformation from characters to vehicles and back are amazing, I love them. Sound effects are great as well, visual style is nice and graphic is smooth (instead of other games the antialiasing is present and the models look just great on retina display). Probably everything is great except the gameplay and that's the deal breaker, because the point of having a game is to play it, right? Unfortunatelly, this game is a freemium at its worst. The crystals are overpriced, the timers counts in hours, the upgrades are crazy expensive (from level 6 and higher) and the worst of all, the rewards from missions are ridiculous compared to required amount for upgrading or unlocking new characters. I'm not even talking about decreasing the amount of coins (you're getting every couple of hours) from 600 during the NZ soft launch to current 400 for worldwide version. It's a shame. The great potential and top notch presentation hand in hand with poor gameplay and terrible freemium model makes this game a mediocre experience for even a die hard fans of transformers or angry birds. 2/5

    • ineptidude

      I was always capped at 400 during the soft launch.

      • macplash

        I was not. As I added to my previous comment, I started to play this game the 1st day it was soft-launched and the amount of coins was 600 until the upgrade when the game went worldwide. And that's why I mentioned it in the first place.

      • ineptidude

        Weird. I was playing from the very first day that the New Zealand soft launch went live too and each area was only giving me 400 max. Even overnight.

  • RomanReigns

    Idk why 3 star but to be really really honest,this is the first angry birds game that im liking it alot so far..hell,i didnt even cared to download previous versions with same old shite everytime.Graphics ok but IAPs are balanced..didnt came across any paywall so far.At Lvl 27 at the moment.....

    • RomanReigns

      Coins easy to earn and currently have over 120 crystals without spending any...

  • replicanttheory

    My kids like playing this game, but when they set a phone down on the charger and say that they have to wait 4 hours to play again after 10-15 minutes of fun something is wrong... Terribly wrong... As an avid ios gamer the trend here is getting to be too much. I would rather pay for a game up front and enjoy it when and where I want than to deal with timers and crap of this nature. Imagine playing call of duty zombies and being told that you have to wait five minutes to reload or please watch a video or pay $0.99 for a gem pack to reload. Screw that!

  • Taeles

    Psst, flip the game to airplane mode. While playing in airplane mode, every time your staring at nothing but timers go in to your device's settings and under date/time move the clock forward an hour or two. Go back in to the game and walla, timers gone.

    Next time you go back to online mode the game does penalize you by significantly damaging all your bots but the cost of fixing them is easily offset by playing airplane mode for abit, progressing alot and saving up the coin for impending repairs. Haven't seen any other penalties so far for doing this.

    • Design by Adrian

      Walla?

  • Qaerahkaji

    wooow music, effects, everything in this game I like it so much this is fourth upgrade I get it with the first Time I playing
    thanks for everything,

  • Martymcsmartie

    Even watching Wreck-Gar was better than this game. Bah.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      -weep-grah-nah-weep-ninni-bon?

      • Ben Seeberger

        I was close to tears after I downloaded this game, honest enough. I said to myself, I have finally found a game I can let my 3 year-old play while I worked and he'd be perfectly content just transforming for two hours (he would).

        Needless to say, I had to cut my work short by about one and a half hours, before he had somehow (surprising, I know) spent all of his gold on needless upgrades and I sat in amazement staring at timers that told me to play the game in another four hours.

        At least Rovio could have allowed you to replay levels and grind gold, or whatever, just to replay levels without being forced to upgrade them to near impossible difficulties.

  • rewind

    This is a cool, unique game. Unfortunately, these games seem to be primarily judged on their freemium-ness. When you compare this to something like Tiny Tower Vegas, this game obviously deserves a better score. But oh well, freemium games are more successful on the App Store, so it is the right strategy. Perhaps Toucharcade simply isn't the target market.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      I don't know. Judging by how quickly Go! and Stella fell off the charts, and Rovio's current financial state, I'm not sure who *is* the target market.

      • rewind

        Okay, okay, Stella didn't do very well at all, and Go! did alright. But Tiny Tower Vegas (a game that's very light on IAP)... did it even make the Top Free or Top Grossing charts?

    • supervisr

      No, it is a totally wrong strategy, with the sudden increase of 'coins' needed to do anything, people will flee very fast. Now rovio best bet is Plunder Pirates, i see there's hope for that one. For angry bird transformers, i wont be played longer than a week for most ppl

    • paulxl

      I haven't play this until the game stops being a game. A harsh unexpected paywall is the worst you can do in a freemium game.

  • Anova

    I was going to say this review seems a touch harsh, because the game is really well designed and shows a lot of love. But yeah, did hit that pay wall, even having bought a pack of gems. I suppose I could spend the gems on money, but admittedly not the best IAP experience.

  • chuckyboomboom

    When you unlock a transformer, you can keep replaying that level as long as you fail so you can farm coins and pigs. So you can avoid the timers.

  • primalxconvoy

    You forgot to mention the intrusive video and still picture adverts, geo-locking (not available for ios and android in Japan, Transformers' spiritual home), a 99 coin ios price (even though it should be free, like the android version is), the "need" to buy actual toys to "scan" to unlock new charterers, etc.

    As a dedicated Transfan, I uninstalled this shallow, turd of a "game" term minutes after installing it, where it can join the other vapid TF shovel-ware, such as that awful card game and the monotonous TF: Age of Extinction cash-in endless runner.

    • Shaun Musgrave

      Not that I disagree with your overall sentiment, but the intrusive video ads were inserted after this review was published, the absence from the JP Store is at Takara's discretion, and the iOS version is free just like the Android version is. Fair cop on the toy thing, though. I forgot about it because I don't think I've ever even seen the toys in Japan.

  • Richard M

    New upgrades to angry birds transformer is a big ripoff. I have 16 level get hit once or twice you die, sometimes you don't get hit you die. I have 120 million useless bird coins. It's all about money. A ripoff

Angry Birds Transformers Reviewed by Shaun Musgrave on . Rating: 3