Angry Birds 2 sees two sides fighting it out against one another for the dominance of Rovio's once ubiquitous App Store franchise.
On the one hand there's the Rovio we love, Rovio the developer. The polish, the ingenuity, the satisfaction of watching hateful pig structures crumble into motes of dust and glittering gold points.
On the other hand there's Rovio the company. Trying to find the monetisation system that will stick on an App Store that's changed immeasurably since we first twanged a bird at a pig.
And this time round it's Rovio the developer that wins. Just. This is a free to play Angry Birds that lets you play, that's happy to mess around with its form, and that, in the end, is an awful lot of fun.
Beasts of bird-en
The basic template that the franchise has had since it first hit the App Store is still in place here. You're still tossing a variety of differently talented avians in the direction of some pig-structures in order to smash them.
And that core drag-and-release mechanic is still as familiar and simple as it was back in the day. It makes the action puzzling instantly accessible, and all the tapping additions and special spells can't take anything away from that.
Rather than having a select aviary of birds at your disposal for each level, here you've got a small deck of randomly assigned cards based on the characters you've unlocked and the spells you've unlocked.
You can add to your deck by filling up a destruction-meter, and purchase new cards with in-game currency if you've flung everything and there are still pigs rolling about looking smug.
The levels here are different as well. Rather than a single fixed catapult, here you'll traverse across multiple shooters, and you'll need to kill all of the pigs you come across if you want to complete a section.
Fail to complete a level and you'll lose a life. You get five lives, they're on a timer, and they refill reasonably quickly. You can watch videos to add more to your bank as well.
There's the Arena as well, which is an endless set of challenges that see you competing for leaderboard position. It's an interesting social aspect that focuses on upgrading to compete at higher levels.Twangs for the memories
The additions here do make Angry Birds 2 feel like a step forward. And to say it's gorgeous would be an understatement.
The whole game bubbles and ripples with charm and wit, from the gurning portraits you get in the corner when you line up a shot, to the huge explosions that fling pigs and scenery into the screen.
It all makes you want more. You want to live in these vibrant hues, play with these squawking characters for as long as you can. And then you lose a few levels and have to stop.
Angry Birds 2 isn't perfect, but it does manage to capture that elastic playfulness that made the original such an essential download.
Does it earn its place as the first numerical sequel? It's hard to say, and it all depends how you like your energy systems.
But one thing's for sure, in terms of scope, creativity, and sheer quality, the game underneath the hearts and currencies is Rovio the developer at its best.