‘Angry Birds Go!’ review: A colorful 'Mario Kart' rival with free-to-play annoyances (iOS/Android)

by Matt Swider

December 15 2013

Angry Birds has become enough of a household name that it deserves its own colorful kart racing game in the vein of Mario Kart. (Rating: 4 out of 5 stars)

It follows in the racing paths of other series that put wheels on their iconic characters: Crash Bandicoot, Final Fantasy, Sonic the Hedgehog, LEGOs and even Star Wars.

But Angry Birds Go! for iOS and Android is different from all of these kart racing games in that it’s free-to-play. That's not necessarily a bad thing; there's a right way and a wrong way to do free-to-play. Unfortunately all too often it's a pitfall that’s synonymous with “you get what you pay for,” and its implementation in Angry Birds Go! may irk some.

The good news is that it doesn’t cost anything to begin racing as one of the famous red birds that you’ve seen so many times in a slingshot. In fact, that’s how you begin each race. Characters are hoisted up on a wooden platform along with their go kart and you have to fire them onto the 3D racing track below at the same time as everyone else. Firing too soon will cause you to spin out at first, and firing too late puts you behind the green pig pack.

Like any kart racing game, there are a number of different racing modes to play through, starting with Race Challenges, which is Angry Birds Go’s Grand Prix mode. Beating the hungry pack of green pigs will lead you to a time trials mode dubbed Time Boom. Here, a bunch of obstacles get in the way of reaching the finish line within an allotted period of time.

Fruit Splat is one of the more inventive modes. It pretty much combines Fruit Ninja with Angry Birds and kart racing. The trifecta has you intentionally running into melons, strawberries and bananas strewn along the racetrack. Equally fun to play are the difficult boss levels that make it essential to spend your gold coin winnings on go kart upgrade as you progress.

Angry Birds Go! has enough race modes and the right amount of go kart upgrading to keep its casual and serious gaming audiences entertained. It also controls as you’d expect, with either tilting or edge pressing to turn. Acceleration happens automatically. More than the modes and controls, though, what makes this game series perfect for kart racing is the presentation. 

Sure, all of the birds are angry, but they’re both colorful and familiar, which are two words you’d used to describe Super Mario Bros’ first attempt at kart racing 21 years ago (yes, it’s been that long). From the bright, tablet-friendly graphics to the upbeat sounds emitted whenever you slide through tracks through the artfully constructed menus, Angry Birds Go! puts on a good show.

It has the right look, but does it have heart? That depends on how you feel about games like Candy Crush Saga. It doesn’t cost anything to install, but the tactics used to get players to pay money via microtransactions are rather shallow. Free-to-play is a blessing and a curse. Characters suddenly tire out after five kart races, needing 25-minute snoozes between races. Paying is the only way to wake them up any sooner.

There’s also the ability to double the amount of coins you earn or use gems to speed boost a few extra times on racing tracks that you just can’t master on your own. The nagging messages that try to sell you on these “perks” can be ignored, but the waiting period for characters in recovery mode every few races will turn you into something of an Angry Bird yourself.

That shouldn’t discourage you from downloading and playing some Angry Birds Go!. It’s one of the better kart racing games available on tablets right now and it doesn’t cost any money. It just requires time to play and time to idle for no apparent reason. That’s worth slogging through, as Angry Birds Go! is a surprisingly kart-racing-appropriate game featuring little birds with no hands but mean (and angry) wheels.

  • Angry Birds Go!
  • Developer: Rovio
  • Platforms: iOS, Android
  • Price: Free
  • In-app purchases? Yes

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