Cataloging the Rights Along with the Wrongs: Angry Birds

Charles Mauro provides a detailed analysis of reverse engineering an engaging interface: the Angry Birds game. For those who haven’t heard of it, Angry Birds is a wildly successful iPhone and iPad game.

The post covers:

  • the usefulness of examining existing artifacts that through their success must contain desirable attributes
  • scaffolding training
  • increasing challenge through cognitive manipulations
  • adding “mystery”  through artistic dadaist elements
  • auditory motivation
  • the importance of look-and-feel

I also enjoyed reading some of the well-thought out comments. An example from A.X. Ian:

One thing I would like to add is the superior level reset in Angry Birds. So many games fail to pay attention to the mechanics by which the user would restart the level (i.e. putting random buttons on secondary screens, unnecessary splash objects, etc.). I do not believe that it is an accident that you can quickly cut your losses and start from scratch before your brain is able to calculate the reward/punishment statistics in terms of continuing the game vs. doing something more productive.

Even in restarting the level you’re still performing a motion that does not disturb the flow. On tricky levels where birds must be all accounted for to hit the 3-star score you cannot fumble your opening shot. The pause/restart action becomes just as essential and sees heavy use. The level reset is wonderfully integrated into the game where you perform an L-shape move. It does not take your out of the game or put random screens with tons of options on it (like many others do).

Here’s the level with the pause/restart slide with dropped opacity to show the path of the finger in red arrows.

The final horizontal swipe is not necessary but it keeps you occupied for a split second. From a UX perspective it’s non-obvious to the users, but milliseconds matter and keep them in the game. In sum, it is important for mobile games to have a well-though-out restart function that feels natural and blazingly fast.


Photo credit astroot @


2 thoughts on “Cataloging the Rights Along with the Wrongs: Angry Birds”

  1. Ha! The quick and easy “affordance” 🙂 to reset the level is one of the best aspects of the game. People can easily fail and try again without fear of losing the progress they’ve made, by reverting to an earlier “save point”. This goes for the same in software application design with the number of Undos available by default, and the ability to revert.

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