Angry Birds Trilogy review for PS Vita

Platform: PlayStation Vita
Also On: PS3, 360, Wii U, Wii, 3DS
Publisher: Rovio
Developer: Rovio/Housemarque
Medium: Digital
Players: 1
Online: Yes

When it comes to Angry Birds Trilogy for the PS Vita, there are two pretty enormous elephants in the room, along with one slightly smaller one. The biggies, of course, are that a) with over one billion downloads, pretty much everyone in the world with any interest whatsoever in the Angry Birds franchise has, by this point, played at least one of the Trilogy games somewhere, on some platform; and b) in the vast majority of those cases, they obtained the games for prices that ranged from free to 99 cents. Couple that with the fact the Trilogy is a port of a game that came to PS3 (not to mention the 360, Wii, Wii U and 3DS) a year ago, and it’s not unreasonable to wonder what the point of it all is.

As far as price goes…that’s a little difficult to justify, I’ll admit. Even if the Vita version of Angry Birds Trilogy is basically the same as its PS3 counterpart (which also sells for $39.99), considering that the PS3 version was on sale for almost half that price in the PSN Store at the beginning of October, and can generally be had for less if you buy a physical version, it’s kind of a hard pill to swallow. True, the console and handheld versions of the game have some levels not found if you’re playing on a mobile device, but, again — I’ll leave it to you to decide if the promise of a few extra levels (not to mention trophy support) justifies paying about 13 times as much as you’d pay for the games in their original incarnations.

angry birds trilogy 2

Having said that, if the price doesn’t bother you, I think there’s an argument to be made that Angry Birds Trilogy on the Vita is the definitive version of the game (er, games). Admittedly, this requires some buy-in to the idea that three casual games like Angry Birds, Angry Birds Seasons and Angry Birds Rio can even have definitive versions, but the more I think about it, the more it makes sense.

First off, the game looks far better on the Vita than it does on iOS or Android. Rovio (and Housemarque, who helped with the port) clearly put some effort into making the graphics and animation look nice, and their work paid off. The same, of course, could be said for the PS3 version of the game (which I’ll freely admit to buying, along with the 3DS version), but because we’re talking about Sony’s handheld — and its smaller screen — here, a direct comparison to the iOS games is harder to avoid. Thankfully for the Vita, it’s a comparison that works in its favor.

“So what?” I can hear people scoff. “Who plays Angry Birds for the graphics? What about the gameplay?”

angry birds trilogy 1

To that strawman and his/her helpfully worded questions, I say this: the advantage of the Vita version is that the improved graphics are bundled with controls that reflect how the game was meant to be played — on a touchscreen. While all of the other console and handheld Angry Birds ports may have looked nicer than the originals, the controls weren’t nearly as good. Yes, they were adapted to the realities of each platform — sometimes (as in the case of the 3DS) fairly well. But none of those adaptations compare to the feel of playing Angry Birds on a touchscreen, and that’s where the Vita version comes out ahead. Not only that, the Vita has a range of control options that you can’t get anywhere else; people who prefer buttons can play it that way, and people who don’t want their chubby fingers blocking the front touchscreen can just use the back instead.

I imagine, of course, that most people will be cynical about the whole thing. I mean, even before Angry Birds jumped (flew) from the mobile space into the traditional gaming arena, it had more than its share of people who disapproved of it for various reasons. Couple that with the generally negative reaction (at least from “gamers”) towards the aforementioned console and mobile ports, and then add in the whole year later/same price deal and…well, I probably don’t need to say much more. If, however, you can overcome that skepticism and just look at the Angry Birds Trilogy on its merits, you may just find yourself pleasantly surprised.

Grade: A