With Rovio's plans to open Angry Birds Theme Parks, I think we have seen the second sign of the apocalypse (the first being Farmville billboards by Baltimore metro highways). Nonetheless, Angry Birds Space is about a $1, and of course an Angry Birds game, so I picked it up.
Let's start with the good: The gameplay has advanced itself in a meaningful way without completely losing what made the original so fun. You still fling birds at structures made of glass, rock, and wood housing green pigs, but now in outer space there is varying gravity fields to play with. Planets have red rings around them indicating their gravitational pull, and some levels simply take place floating in zero g space. It is an excellent mechanic, allowing for interesting new strategies and level designs.
There are also some new birds (actually, all the birds have new graphical designs). You still get standard red, the blue bird that splits in three, and thankfully, the bomb bird. Fatty has been replaced with a giant green bird that functions in the same way (although the in-game achievements allude to it being able to "frighten" pigs), and the yellow dive bomber is now purple and targets WHERE you push (since the birds don't have an "arc" in space). This makes purple (yellow) MUCH easier to use, but somewhat less exciting. There is also an ice bird that freezes the blocks he touches, meaning a follow up shot will easily shatter them. Predictable and not really that cool, in my opinion.
The level designs are much improved! The use of gravity is well handled, in both predictable and creative ways. The visual cues are also helpful for measuring its effects. If you want a better idea of how the mechanic works, google the flash game "Gravitee Golf." The birds also have an aiming line now. While this will probably offend some purists, it is a good thing. First, it is necessary with some of the crazy gravity levels. You need some predictablility. Second, it isn't long enough to break the game. What it does is lessen the amount of guessing/estimating required on the throws, allowing you to focus more on the precision and puzzle elements of the levels. It moves the game from the casual "Wow, fling birds and watch things fall!" mindset of the original game, and takes it into the more advanced high score, puzzle solving chase that "Seasons" is aimed towards.
Other improvements include new high score strategies (some levels grant higher scores by using all the birds for complete destruction) and some increased clarity in how high scores and bonuses are handled.
Now, the negatives: First and foremost, the game has not made it perfectly into the new level format. With the original versions, you always knew about where you were aiming, and so flung the birds, the screen panned slightly, you watched the tower fall. Now, with larger levels, the aim device, and multiple gravity fields, I find myself zooming the screen all the way out on every single shot. This results in a loss of detail which is sorely missed. It is unfortunate, but I don't see boxes, birds, and pigs, I instead know the green dot is a pig, the silver shapes are stones (either on large one or a series touching, I can't tell from this far away), and etc.
The other major negatives all concern Rovio's business model. They are a full on "nickel and dime micro-transaction" powerhouse, the likes that should soon rival EA. Level packs are now $1 (all prices USD here), where they used to be free once you purchased the game. There are still iPhone and "HD" tablet versions, each at a separate price. The "Super Eagle" is still there, but now you earn free uses for completing levels, and can purchase PER USE for more, where you used to get unlimited uses for $1. The way it is structured is rough too, since there are unlocks and achievements for getting high Eagle scores on all the levels. The base game has 90 levels, so you would need to purchase the 280 use, $8 pack, since the $3 pack only contains 80 uses. It is really a shame to see them fall down this hole, especially since they must be rolling cash from the first games.
Nonetheless, the negatives don't stand in the way of an otherwise excellent addition to the Angry Birds series. The increased precision and thoughtfulness of the levels, along with the new mechanics, help move this game away from a casual luck fest into a more precise game with some puzzle elements thrown in. I still consider the $1 price tag to put this one squarely in the must have category.