What happens when we die? You think about that, right? I’m sure you have many different theories, everything from a white-robed heaven to surfing waves of energy like a cosmic guppy to infinite nothingness. Well, no offence to whatever your belief is, but I think it’s safe to say that the only thing we know for sure is that we are experiencing this one life right now and when we die – no matter what happens next – this is all over.
What happens when you die in Angry Birds? If you fail to achieve the goal of any level in the game then it’s also all over for you. That is, until you just press the reset button and through the divine glory of the video game gods, you are born again and allowed to attempt that goal all over until you get it just right. But what if that safety net was gone? What if a video game could only be played once, just like life? When you die in the game it’s over forever. I guess then you would put a lot more effort into making every moment of that game count.
That’s the feeling I’m chasing as I approach the final 5 levels in the Angry Birds tribute to the original Star Wars trilogy. Unlike the other games in the Angry Birds series, this particular version has a finite number of levels. When they produced the levels that represented the ending sequence from Return of the Jedi, that was it, they announced that they will not be updating it with any new levels in the future as they tend to do periodically with all their other iterations.
Originally, I wanted to try and cement my personal legacy in the online leaderboards at the Angry Birds Nest website by achieving one of the highest scores in the world on one of the levels in this game. However, that proved to be a frustrating and burdensome task, and quite frankly I love playing Angry Birds and didn’t like what this superficial pursuit was doing to me. I became agitated, delusional and destructive as I re-played the same moments in the game over and over looking for the closest thing to perfection I could find.
Now I no longer feel the need to justify my gamesmanship with some arbitrary score, that quite frankly, could be beaten by someone else as soon as I posted it. I just want to play the game for fun.
So I’ve decided to approach the finale of Angry Birds Star Wars in a new way. Since there are just 5 levels left that I’ve been saving up for the right time to complete, what I’m going to do is give myself 5 attempts on that first level, then 4 on the next, and so on, until I get to the very final level in the whole game and only have one shot to clear it and complete the game. I accept this pressure. I want to know what it’s like to play the game I love the same way that I must live life, with everything on the line every moment.
And here is what happened:
Angry Birds Star Wars – Death Star 2
Just a quick refresher, Angry Birds is the game where you propel cartoon birds vertically across a screen from a slingshot in an attempt to destroy structures and knock down various enemies. The game employs a sophisticated physics engine that gives a very realistic feel to the arch, velocity and gravity of firing the slingshot into these elaborate constructions. On the other hand, different birds have “super-powers” that you can use to your advantage, in this case they are based on elements of classic Star Wars characters, of which I will describe for each level below.
Level 26 – 5 attempts max.
Number of birds given: 3
Characters: Han Solo – Luke Skywalker – Han Solo
The Han Solo bird is yellow and triangular with the power to shoot 3 short last blasts in one straight line while you are in the air. The Luke Skywalker bird will unleash a spinning lightsaber when you tap on the screen, which destroys objects around him in an extended radius.
Result = On my very first try I was able to clear this level, in fact, even after wasting the Luke bird with a miss-fired shot, I was still able to destroy all of the enemies. Absolutely no problem. Loving it!
Score: 76,870 = 1 Star
Level 27 – 4 attempts max.
Number of birds given: 4
Characters: Chewbacca – Chewbacca – Luke Skywalker – Luke Skywalker
The Chewbacca bird is extra large and super strong with the ability to crash through thicker and stronger structures than the other birds.
Result = A complex level with many pigs scattered in various areas, including two structures that push back against the slingshot trajectory with blue waves, and the Darth Vader pig that glows red and protects anything else glowing red with the power of the Force. Therefore I thought I should try to get rid of him first, and after missing with the Chewbacca birds on my first attempt, I just experimented with the last two Luke birds knowing that I wasn’t going to be able to destroy the remaining pigs. With that experience, on my second attempt I was able to clear the level even after miss-firing the second and third birds.
Score: 92,000 = 1 Star
Level 28 – 3 attempts max.
Number of birds given: 4
Characters: Obi-Wan – Obi-Wan – Han Solo – Obi-Wan
The Obi-Wan bird is able to use the power of the Force, so when you approach a structure you don’t just crash into it but you can tap somewhere on the screen and magically push the objects in a specific direction.
Result = The power of the Obi-Wan bird is always very helpful, and if you can toss the right objects in a particular direction than usually you can be successful with him, and even after wasting the first bird here in a useless shot, I was still able to clear the level with only 2 more birds. Everything is going amazingly smooth!
Score: 100,240 = 1 star
Level 29 – 2 attempts max.
Number of birds given: 4
Characters: Han Solo – Han Solo – Han Solo – Han Solo
Result = The trick to this level is being able to time the angle and arch of the Han bird so that you can fire your laser bursts into a very tight crack in the structure at the top corner that if you hit properly will start a chain reaction of falling objects that should clear the level of enemies without any further work. However, these kinds of levels are always very frustrating because it takes many repetitions and practice to be able to get that shot placed just perfectly.
And I wasn’t able to do it on my first attempt, missing with all four birds and thus failing. On my second and final attempt at the level – and technically the whole game, since if I don’t clear it here then I can’t even qualify for the final level – I hit the shot perfectly with my first bird, and most of the objects rained down in the way I expected, except for a few pigs that were protected awkwardly by various stray pieces of structural debris. With my next two birds I was able to eliminate them all but one.
So here I was, down to one bird left and one pig left to eliminate, my career in this game on the line. It was a relatively easy shot that any beginner would even have been able to hit, but you never know when playing this game, one wrong tactile slip of your finger and the angle could be off just slightly enough to screw you over.
So my heart was pounding at that point – I’ll admit it – I felt the butterflies. Then I stepped up and nailed the shot, clearing the level and moving me to the finale.
Score: 137,640 = 1 star
Level 30 = 1 attempt max.
Number of birds given: 6
Characters: Luke – Obi-Wan – Princess Leia – Han Solo – Chewbacca – Rebel Fighter Pilot
This level gives you all of the main characters to use once, that includes the Leia bird who can shoot out a tractor beam across the screen like a grappling hook that will pull objects towards her, and the Pilot bird that will separate into 3 mini birds for a spread shot effect.
Result = I’ve got to admit, some trial and error would have been nice here, as I was unsure what to do when I saw the layout of this boss battle level. Darth Vader was in one spot protected by his red glowing Force energy, and the Emperor pig was on an elevating platform, also protected by a force field of lightning energy. I knew that it wasn’t going to be possible to directly knock into either enemy as they would repel all attacks, even from special powers.
So seeing the various objects hanging above them, I assumed that knocking into these would drop them onto the bad guys and wear them down. So bravely, I sucked it up, feeling incredibly nervous, and shot Luke up high and used his lightsaber to release as much of that debris as possible. And it did fall onto them, earning me points and thus I guessed helping the cause of taking them out. I repeated this process on the ground with the Obi-Wan bird, using the Force to fire as much of the remaining debris in their direction.
Then I made a huge mistake with the Princess Leia bird, I used her pulling power to try and bring the big blue mechanism from the far right side closer to the enemies, thinking it was there for this reason and would somehow push the pigs over as it got closer. Unfortunately, her power wasn’t strong enough to move it very close and that was a waste of a bird.
Then the Han Solo bird that shoots 3 laser blasts was next, and I just quickly fired it right at the Emperor and aimed those lasers in his direction. I watched everything bounce away causing minimal damage.
With the huge Chewbacca bird I knew that this could be the big one, he’s powerful enough to possibly break through their forcefields and at least take one of them down, and when he hit it did seem to cause damage to the Emperor, making him kind of steam up with smoking animation and a changed, worn down appearance.
So, once again I was down to the last bird on my very last attempt. This is exactly what I’d set myself up for, and it had come down to my worst fear and biggest thrill. One bird to either beat the game or fail and put it away forever.
I’ve always found the spread shot birds incredibly weak throughout the Angry Birds series, so I didn’t have much faith in this last shot. Sadly it was all coming down to the most generic bird – they couldn’t give me another Luke or Han, just some random pilot? There was nothing left to crash into or push onto the enemies, there was no real strategy anymore, it was basically just fire away and go for broke, like bowling on a split, rolling for craps, flipping a coin, it was just a blind, luck shot.
And… I pulled back on the slingshot… and… the bird went flying… and… I tapped the screen to initiate the 3-way spread… and… they all crashed into the Emperor bird… and…
They were repelled and the level was over. I failed.
But you know what… I felt good. I wasn’t upset or depressed at all. Whether I’d scored with that shot or not, this was the end regardless. I would have seen either a failure animation or the congratulations credits. That’s all, just a message on the screen and then I’d be moving onto the next thing. The feeling I had of putting it all on the line, having it all hang in the balance on one shot, that was what it was all about and I loved it.
I’ll come back to it again another day, another time, no pressure. But for now, it’s all over. It wasn’t about the points, it wasn’t about proving anything to anyone, it was just the experience, and that’s something I will treasure forever. Thank you Angry Birds… and thank you world!