Games News Reviews

App Showdown: Angry Birds Alternatives

angry birds alternatives
Some writer’s opinions here notwithstanding, Angry Birds is clearly a gaming phenomenon. While Plants v. Zombies, Peggle, and other app store hits may have their loyal fan base, the avian slingshot game has spawned toys, has been parodied as a Michael Bay film, is being used as inspiration by Ohio union members fighting for their jobs, and copied to death endlessly by app after app after app.

So if you’ve grown tired of the birds, if you’ve finished every level and await thirstily for an update, or if you’re interested in twists on what is clearly destined to go down as a classic, come fly with us.

 

Angry Zombie Launch ($1.99)

Developer Daniel Caldwell clearly counted on cashing in on two trending topics when putting this iPhone game together. Take the basic premise and physics style of Angry Birds and add everyone’s favorite comedy monster du jour and — voila — you have Angry Zombie Launch.
getting started
You’ll Have To Skip This Guy. A Lot.

What are the zombies angry about, you ask. Well, it turns out these evil pumpkins have stolen their brains (the ones the zombies eat, though you’d suspect otherwise from the inane dialogue that leads the game off). And so, launching themselves with a slingshot, they fly through the graveyard air to knock down the wooden and stone structures housing the pumpkins.

duuuuudddde
Dude, You’re Totally Going to Hit That Pumpkin

Put your finger on the slingshot, pull back, adjust for trajectory, and let fly. As is common in these games, a  contrail of your previous shot gives you guidance on how much adjustment you’ll need. Use both fingers to drag the screen back and forth to readjust your shot as targets and launch pad are not in the same viewable area.

dude, you are so dead
Zombies Kicking Pumpkin Butt
Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery, though I suspect the quality of the flattery ought to matter some. Where Angry Birds is slick and responsive, the physics in Angry Zombie Launch are a bit suspect and the app felt less responsive to touch than we’d like. Often we’d fling a zombie and the screen would remain at the launch site, cheating us of a view of the action. Then the app frequently mistook our two finger drag as a zoom gesture and we wasted time readjusting our screen size.
i totally killed that dude, so why's he still alive
You See How We Got that Pumpkin, Right?

Plus the game bogs down at times waiting for slow rolling skulls to come to a rest before allowing us to shoot a second zombie. Then it seems unclear what exactly kills these pumpkins, as we hit several without any noticeable effect. And while we can believe a pig could live after being pegged by a sparrow, the same can’t be said for a pumpkin on the receiving end of a zombie.

Monty Python’s Cow Tossing ($0.99)
Monty Python’s Cow Tossing HD ($2.99)

For the life of us we can’t see why this isn’t just a universal app. Zed Worldwide has put out separate iPad and iPhone/iPod touch versions, though the only difference is larger, sharper graphics and a two buck markup.
iphone version
ipad version
A Little More Room To See What’s Going On
Taking its cue from a famous scene in Monty Python and the Holy Grail where the French forces repel Arthur and his k-nigits by flinging cows and cow parts at them, the game starts with said scene before allowing you to play. Trust us when we say if you love this scene, you will soon come to hate it. There seems no way to stop it from rolling partially before you tap the screen and mercifully tap the stop button that appears. So you will see le vache again and again. And again.
instructions
If You Can’t Figure It Out, They Provide a Helpful Tutorial

Make it through the video reel and you find yourself on the field of battle as the wily Frenchman flinging barnyard animals at the English battering rams. Some of these rams are comically badly designed. Pull back the launcher and let fly. Score a direct hit and mysteriously these animals — upon striking wood or hay bales — explode. Unfortunately, you will often need direct hits against the English soldiers riding these rams. And unlike Zombies or Birds, you seemingly never run out of animals. We tossed ducks, pigs, turkeys, and some other critters, but we never made it to le vache.

when pigs fly
This Pig Will Totally Explode Into Bacon

On the iPad, the broad canvas works out. You can see most of the battle and what you’re doing. The smaller screen of the iPhone, however, blocks much of your view. Put your finger on the launcher and you’re basically done seeing what you’re launching until it’s airborne. Little word balloons dot the air above the characters, but they’re virtually illegible. The controls are responsive if minuscule and hard to operate. Pinch zooming was sketchily responsive.

The HD version was prone to crashing between each level and worse still, Cow Tossing fails to run in multitasking mode. Restart it or pause the game to answer a text or a call and guess what?

Le vache!

le vache
Not This Again…

Ready! Aim! Fire!

We’ve had app showdowns where we’ve been unable to pick a clear winner. For a change of pace, here we struggle to find a clear loser. Both games had significant flaws in operation and lacked the kind of addictive charm demonstrated by the one they mimic. Both apps clearly could use an overhaul, Cow Tossing to take better advantage of space and Zombies to work on being more reactive to touch. In the meantime, we recommend hoping for an Angry Birds Seasons update for Easter or hoping that the sequel from the pigs’ point of view gets here sooner rather than later.