Angry Birds Chrome (PC)

Admitting to fellow gamers that you play (much less enjoy playing) Angry Birds is similar to letting your old headbanging friends from high school know that you actually enjoyed Metallica’s self-titled “Black” album. The last Metallica album fans are officially allowed to like is 1988’s bassless “…And Justice For All.” Period. Likewise, no retro or current-gen gamer worth his or her weight in Pokebucks should ever publicly admit to partaking in the virtual flinging of fat, flightless birds.

You know it’s sad but true.

Angry Birds by Rovio Mobile

Despite the fact that “apparently no one” ever bought Angry Birds, more then 12 million copies of Rovio’s Angry Birds have been sold through Apple’s App Store. After testing the waters on other platforms such as Android and Sony’s PSP, Angry Birds has now been ported to Google Chrome.

Besides being a great browser, Google wants people to know that Chrome is also a platform. To simplify things for the laymen, Google offers the following analogy on their Chrome website : “Google Chrome OS is to Chromium OS what Google Chrome browser is to Chromium.” (Well, that’s clear.) There’s also mention of Chrome Web OS, but I’m not sure if that and Chrome OS are two different products or one and the same. The web site goes on to say that Chromium OS is “the open source project,” while Chrome OS is “the Google product that OEMs ship on Chromebooks.” Then there’s just plain Chrome, the web browser that runs on multiple platforms, including (ostensibly) Chrome OS and Chromium. What does all this mean? Hell if I know, but who cares!? They got Angry Birds to run on it.

By visiting Chrome’s web store, users of Google’s Chrome web browser (on any platform, including Windows, MacOS, and Linux) can install Angry Birds Chrome for free. I’ve been using Chrome for a year and didn’t even know there was a web store until yesterday, but according to Google over a million people have installed Angry Birds Chrome in the past week. The point of this story is, if you want to get the word out about your new highly technical platform to a bunch of technical geeks, port Angry Birds to it and … well, here we are.

Installing Angry Birds for Chrome took approximately ten seconds, maybe less. for me. Once completed, a link to the game (as well as the Chrome Web Store) appeared inside Chrome’s default “New Tab” window. Clicking the icon launches the game for me in less than a second, and selecting the “HD” version (bigger than the “SD” option) added five seconds of load time. I used to play cassette-based games on my Commodore 64 that took 30 minutes to load, so you won’t hear me bitching about five seconds.

Angry Birds Chrome appears identical to other versions of the game. If you’re not one of the twelve million people who already owns Angry Birds for their iPhone, the object of the game is to fling flightless birds using a slingshot at green pigs, protected by makeshift barriers. Points are awarded for the each pig killed and each piece of wood, rock, or ice broken. Levels are cleared by popping all the pestiferous pigs, and bonus points are awarded based on the number of remaining birds. Players are awarded one to three stars based on their scores, so clearing each level using the fewest amount of birds quickly becomes the goal. Additional birds with special powers (egg-dropping, exploding, multiplying) are introduced in later levels. While first-time players may be content to hurl their entire nest of birds to smash the enemy’s fortress, more advanced players will work to discover more efficient solutions, as many levels can be defeated with a single strategically-placed shot.

Other than the addition of a few exclusive levels, the only real difference between Angry Birds Chrome and other versions is the mouse. With the iPhone’s touch screen, birds are launched by pulling them back and “releasing” them using your finger. On Sony’s PSP and PlayStation 3, slingshots are aimed using an analog stick. Personally, I didn’t find using my mouse any better or worse than any of those solutions. I had no trouble with accuracy and didn’t seem to shoot any better or any worse than I do using other interfaces. Using a mouse is not the problem with this game.

No, the biggest problem with Angry Birds Chrome is, I can’t poop while I’m playing it. (Actually I could, but that would be disgusting.) Angry Birds is perfectly suited for gaming on the go. For bus rides, morning commutes, boring work telecons and, yes, afternoon trips to the pot, anything that can hold my attention for five minutes (ten, if I eat lunch at Pancho’s Mexican Buffet) is a win. And Angry Birds does that — it holds my attention for five or ten minutes at a time, but not much longer than that. When I’m mobile and the game is competing with boredom, it’s a winner. In the realm of personal computers, Chrome-based or otherwise, it’s competing with big boy games, e-mail, and the web.

As an advertising tool, Angry Birds Chrome is an obvious winner. Not only is it rapidly introducing Google’s Web Store to hundreds of thousands of users, but it’s showing them the quality of games that are possible in a browser. Google’s Chromebook launched this month, and I’m sure the simultaneous release of Angry Birds Chrome is no coincidence. Google is allowing developers to keep 95% of their sales revenue (as opposed to Apple’s current rate of 70%), so the more attention that a casual game such as Angry Birds attracts to the platform, the better for all involved.