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Freemium Field Test: Angry Birds 2 is a somewhat muddled return to form

Andrew Hayward | Aug. 12, 2015
Free-to-play games often look appealing, but it's difficult to know at a glance whether the business model is insidious and fun ruining, or reasonable and worth pumping a few bucks into. With Freemium Field Test, we'll take a recent free-to-play iOS game, put it through its paces, and let you know if it's really worth your time (and money).

Between the multi-stage approach and freeform bird selection, Angry Birds 2 truly offers more opportunities to fail. You'll fail because you ran out of birds before finishing every part of the level. You'll fail because the layout changed between tries, effectively presenting a different challenge to tackle. And yes, you'll still fail occasionally and blame a pig or brick that didn't react the way you expected it to. (This is still Angry Birds, after all.) 

But of course, Angry Birds 2 is always there with the option to get out of a bind or refill your lives by spending money and/or watching ads.

The catch 

Angry Birds 2 thankfully isn't too aggressive about its free-to-play elements--a welcome relief for anyone who trudged through the brutal Angry Birds Go in its early days (if it improved, I never went back). But they are there and prevalent, ever tempting you to pump in a few bucks to continue a tricky stage, buy more power-ups, or refill your lives after a particularly bad run.

The energy system gives you a maximum of five lives to work with at any given time, with each requiring 30 minutes to replenish--or you can watch a video ad to gain one back immediately. Otherwise, you can spend 60 gems to get all five lives right away, and the game provides you enough gems upfront to buy a couple refills. Beyond that, gems come a few at a time for completing missions or playing daily, but even several hours of play might not earn you enough for a single refill. 

That premium currency is also used to buy extra birds at the end of a level (for 60 gems), or to purchase power-ups (30 gems apiece) that in most cases can clear an entire screen of pigs with a single use. Luckily, I haven't seen any wait timers between worlds--on the Candy Crush Saga-style map--across the first few dozen levels, and it is possible to play without paying as long as you play in small bursts. Trying to play for long stretches of time could prove very expensive indeed. 

Luckily, the single currency system keeps monetization pretty simple. If you want to skip the waits or toss in a power-up every so often, you can spend a few bucks on a pack--I dropped $6 for 560 gems--and stretch it out a bit through occasional use. Of course, Rovio would love to sell you a $50 pack--that one nets you 5700 gems. 

One last note: Angry Birds 2 does have some eye-roll-inducing advertisement missions that pop up from time to time. One level I encountered was sponsored by Honey Nut Cheerios, and the cartoon bee mascot became a power-up--which I was forced to use if I wanted to keep progressing. It's just like the totally out-of-place Goldfish crackers and State Farm Insurance power-ups from Angry Birds Go, only this level ended with a nice, big photo of a cereal box. A free game is a free game, but awkwardly shoehorning a sponsor into the action comes off as slimy. 


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