In case you had been paying attention, The Best Game Site Ever has been a little low on the content over the past few weeks. This has been because of two things, the first is that I’ve been travelling across the majority of the U.S. drinking lots of adult beverages in lots of different drinking establishments. Secondly, my computer was fried during an electrical storm and trying to run a website through an Ipad only gets you so far.
One of the largest setbacks about using an Ipad as your primary source of internet is that it has Angry Birds on it and I’ve spent more time in the past month between the travelling and the lack of a real computer playing Angry Birds than any other game I own. That’s OK though, because Angry Birds is excellent and I’ll tell you why.
One defining feature of some of the best games of all time is that they were easy to play, challenging to beat and difficult to master. There are great games that don’t fit into this category, but many excellent games clearly excel at this concept. Most great games are easy to play: Katamari Damacy, Super Smash Bros., Batman: Arkham City and Castle Crashers. The controls of these games are all fairly basic and intuitive with simple rules that can be picked up easily by new players. This doesn’t necessarily mean that all good games have simple controls, but many of these games need to have a certain amount of intuitiveness that comes from sitting down and having a general idea how that game should feel. This gives the player a basic level of accessibility when they approach the game. Think about the controls in one of the Katamari games, they involve pointing the thumb sticks where you want to go to roll things up. The actual game doesn’t use any buttons at all and a complete novice can push the thumb sticks and collect colorful things while chasing people around.
In Angry Birds, you need to be able to use your finger to fling the birds into the structures surrounding the pigs. The controls are incredibly simplistic and I’ve yet to see someone struggle with the controls. The game has some of the most basic controls I’ve ever encountered and actually touching the screen is much more intuitive for beginners than being handed a controller or mouse.
Think about those games I previously mentioned and how they were challenging to beat. They did take a certain amount of experience, but after a few tries, a fairly competent player could beat the game. In Batman: Arkham City there is an end to the story that you could easily play through while mostly button mashing and taking more damage than any self-respecting Dark Knight should, but it’s an easily attainable goal. In Castle Crashers, you gain experience and your character could become powerful enough to help offset the ineptitude of almost any gamer on the normal difficulty. There are different difficulties in Super Smash Bros. too, but even at the medium difficulty, with some time and practice the game can be completed with some button mashing and jumping.
Angry Birds takes a similar level of understanding. There are a few levels that take some trial and error and a little practice, but with some fortitude, there is very little that can stand in the way of completing the game for most players.
Now think about one of the games I’ve mentioned as being difficult to master. These games have enough depth and finesse that there is a huge difference between a novice and an experienced player. When playing the challenges and challenge campaigns in Batman: Arkham City, there are medals associated with completing the challenges in certain ways, the combat challenges involve combos and variation and the predator maps involve stalking thugs and setting up certain events. In Castle Crashers, there is a combo system that a player needs to utilize to put out a high level of damage that is beyond the capabilities of merely button mashing. In Super Smash Bros. there is strategy, combos, timing and depth that involves split-second reflexes to tell who is the winner. In the Katamari series, there is a certain amount of practice and route planning that goes into nailing a high score.
Angry Birds is set up in a similar fashion, completing each level with three stars takes some real understanding and creative thinking along with a healthy dose of trial and error. After a few attempts at the three star rating, I begin to notice where each piece usually falls and try to have the perfect angle to make the exact shot I want. Several of the levels took me hours to get all the pieces to fall exactly where I needed them to.
Angry Birds is an excellent example of the concept that it’s easy to play, challenging to beat and difficult to master. Not every great game may fall into this category, but when you start thinking about what makes some games excellent it’s usually something pretty close to what I’m talking about. Lot’s of core gamers complain about Angry Birds because it’s so simple and it’s the most popular game of all time, but understanding why it’s popular can be applied to much more complicated games. Angry Birds may appear simplistic and childish, but there is more depth in that free game than there is in many of the $60 games I’ve played in the past few years.
Dan Hoyt has been an avid gamer his entire life. When he’s not playing games, he’s working out by walking his dog, hiking and doing martial arts. He likes to try new kinds of alcohol and discuss politics. He’s a graduate of The University of Kansas and has spent years as a journalist.