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‘Angry Birds 2′: The Birds Are Back (Again)

Mobile game maker Rovio just released Angry Birds 2. You are correct in thinking that is a ridiculous name.

Rovio has released a dozen Angry Birds games, including the original in 2009. There was Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Space. Angry Birds Star Wars and its sequel. We role-played in Angry Birds Epic, and we transformed in Angry Birds Transformers. If you count spin-offs like Angry Birds Stella and Angry Birds Pop!, we’re up to something like 15 Angry Birds games in six years.

So it takes some serious chutzpah to release a game called Angry Birds 2 in 2015 — and Rovio has never been short on chutzpah. Within seconds of topping the App Store charts, Angry Birds was franchised into pop-culture ubiquity. I have an Angry Birds spoon somewhere, I’m sure of it.

But, to Rovio’s credit, this new game actually has some new stuff in it. Here’s what to expect from the first thirteenth sixteenth-ish Angry Birds sequel.

It’s (sort of) free

Nothing screams “2015“ like making your game free-to-play. Angry Birds 2 costs nothing to download, but of course, that’s how they get you.

Fail a level and you lose a heart; lose five hearts and you’ll need to wait a half-hour before you get more. You can use gems to purchase spells that’ll help you take down levels quickly and easily. Surprise, surprise: You can buy those gems with real-world cash. If you fail a level but need just one more fling, you can agree to watch short ads to gain an extra bird. Ads, cash, or time: Nobody flies for free.

It’s (really) pretty

Angry Birds 2 is hands-down the best looking game so far in the series. Its colorful characters burst off the screen, the new backgrounds add a sense of place and improved depth of field, and the quirky story bits are woven neatly into the game’s flow. This new version hasn’t just been cobbled together from old ones.

It’s (a little) new

Angry Birds 2 also introduces a few new features. For example, levels are now broken up into two parts; waste too many birds on the first structure, and you won’t have enough firepower to take down the second one.

Offsetting that is the new ability to choose which bird to fling, rather than tossing them in a set order. Frequent boss fights liven up the action, and the aforementioned spells offer a tempting way out if you’re really stuck on a level. There’s a new Silver bird, too, though it takes a while before you get to fling her.

It’s (very) familiar

Despite such new bits, the basic idea hasn’t changed: You still slingshot birds to topple structures and take out piggies. You still aim for explosive crates. You still use the yellow bird for wood and the blue birds for glass and ice. Cut out the new resources, microtransactions, and slick look, and this is still very much Angry Birds.

It’s (mostly) good

I’ve played the game for a few hours now (counting heart-replenishing wait times) and can safely report back that it’s good. Rovio’s wonderful physics system never really gets the respect it deserves. A few smart tweaks — such as the ability to fast-forward through each shot rather than sitting and waiting for each little chunk of wood to stop rattling around — keeps the game moving along nicely. It’s a legitimately fun mobile game.

But at the same time, Angry Birds 2 can’t quite get out of its own way. Between the gems, the hearts, and the occasional ads, it feels cluttered: There are too many resources, too many pop-up windows, too many confusing rewards. Waiting for lives to replenish is a bummer.

To be honest, I would gladly pay a few bucks for the core game, rather than having to wade through the annoying gates of an ostensibly free one. I guess Rovio would prefer to take my money the slow, painful way, or not at all.

You can decide how much to give yourself by grabbing Angry Birds 2 for iOS or Android devices.

While you’re waiting for more hearts, follow Ben on Twitter.