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Windows 7 App Pick: Angry Birds

Angry Birds (native Windows version)
App type: Game
Publisher: Rovio
Price: $4.99
Download Intel AppUp and Angry Birds for Windows

Angry Birds for Chrome
App type: Game
Publisher: Rovio
Price: FREE
Download Angry Birds for Chrome

Picking Angry Birds is somewhat cheap in that it's a worldwide phenomenon and the chances of me actually educating anyone to this game's existence are, at this point in time, slim. But now that Angry Birds is available on our computing platform of choice in a variety of forms, including one that's free, let's put this behind us: You need Angry Birds, and if you don't have this game yet, the time is now.

Angry Birds--in the event you've been living under the proverbial rock--concerns a group of birds whose eggs have been stolen by a group of evil pigs. So you spend level after level launching different birds, with different capabilities, against the pigs, and do so until you recover the eggs. It sounds silly--heck, it is silly--but there's a reason this game is so popular. And that's that Angry Birds is incredibly addictive, a simple physics puzzler in which you don't just overthrow the pigs on level after increasingly difficult level, but try to do so in the most efficient manner possible.

Angry Birds sprang to life, and achieved its greatest success, on Apple's iPhone and iPod touch. Since then, the game has been ported to every platform imaginable, as have a few sequels, including the best of the lot, Angry Birds Rio, which is being updated with new levels throughout 2011. What's amazing about this isn't so much that Rovio has been milking this franchise for all its worth--I mean, seriously, go for it, guys--but that the play mechanics--which, again, were designed for a multitouch screen--have translated so well to a mouse-based UI on PCs. It's really seamless, and it works just as well.

There are two versions of Angry Birds for the PC, essentially, one of which quietly debuted months ago, though it appears I'm the only one who even noticed this. That first version is a native Windows application, and it's only sold--to my knowledge--through Intel's AppUp store, another PC app virtually no one but me seems to know about. (I first discussed the Intel AppUp store and Angry Birds for Windows back in December on the Windows Weekly podcast.)

The native version of Angry Birds for Windows costs $4.99, which is sort of ludicrous given the age of the app and the fact that various sequels have been available on other platforms for a long time now. It's even more ludicrous given the fact that there's now a free version of Angry Birds available, as noted below. Except for one thing: This paid version of Angry Birds works full-screen, unlike the free version, and it gives you a sweeping panoramic view of the playfield on the widescreen displays that are common today. If you can swallow the price, and don't mind operating within the somewhat complex AppUp system, this version is thus somewhat superior.

The native version of Angry Birds offers a true full screen mode.

But most Windows users will be more interested in free, which is perfectly understandable. The free version of Angry Birds is available through the Chrome web browser, as a web app. But since this is Chrome, the web app version of Angry Birds works exactly like a native app in that it will remember your progress from level to level. And it works offline so you can keep playing while on a plane or other offline situation. And because Chrome supports a taskbar pinning feature similar to IE 9, you can pin Angry Birds to your taskbar (and/or desktop and Start Menu) and access it like a real application.

Angry Birds for Chrome is free.

(You can technically run Angry Birds for Chrome on other modern, HTML 5-capable browsers like IE 9, Firefox 3.6+, and Safari, but I don't recommend this. Depending on how you've configured these browsers and how they support the HTML 5 features that the app uses, it won't be the same perfect, seamless experience. Even if you don't like Chrome for some reason, it's worth installing it for this reason alone, pin the Chrome web app like an app, and then never use the full browser again.)

Attack the pigs and rescue the eggs.

Angry Birds for Chrome is free, which is its biggest selling point, but it also features a small handful of new Chrome-specific (and Chrome-inspired) levels, which is a big deal for Angry Birds completists. And depending on the capabilities of your PC, it can operate in a nice looking HD mode (which is how the native version always works). But the only issue I have with Angry Birds for Chrome is that it's not a full-screen app, no matter how you slice it (Chrome does support an IE-like true full screen mode that's accessed with the F11 key). That is, the playfield is seen in a square, centered box that never occupies the full screen. So even on a widescreen display, the game is square and it never occupies the full height or width of your screen.

Even when pushed to full screen mode, Angry Birds for Chrome doesn't offer up the full screen.

This isn't a huge problem, of course. And I would emphasize again that this thing is free. Free, I say.

Seriously, go get Angry Birds. It is absolutely one of the best games ever made.

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