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14 June 2012 | This 'n' that

Fan fun: Angry Birds theme park, Tampere. Photo: Hildi Hawkins

For anyone who’s not a fan, it can be hard to see what has made the Finnish-born game Angry Birds the number one paid smartphone app in the world.

Catapulting wingless birds at pigs seems an unlikely route to hours of focused fun; but then, the same could seem true, prima facie, of moving a set of unrelated figures around a chequerboard according to some rather arbitrary rules. There are similarities, though – as 10-year-old Sophia said, ‘Angry Birds is a lot like chess – only more fun.’

So, when the most junior members of the Books from Finland editorial team – Max (3), Tia (6) and the above-mentioned Sophia (see their previous review here) – discovered that the world’s first officially sanctioned Angry Birds theme park was opening during their visit to Finland, it was obvious they had to be there for the occasion.

Friday 8 June was a fabulously sunny day for a trip to Tampere, Finland’s second city, and its famous Särkänniemi fun fair,  on a spectacular location between two lakes. Angry Birds Land was packed with the nursery- and primary-aged children it’s intended for.

The challenge for the design team – Rovio, inventors of Angry Birds plus US theme-park designer Bruce Robinson and the Finnish park equipment manufacturer Lappset – was to make Angry Birds as much fun in the real world as it is on screen, and the central element, a huge play frame with slides, climbing walls and swings plus water-spraying Angry Birds (see picture), certainly did the trick for Books from Finland’s little reporters. Just as exciting were a mini rollercoaster, a bicycle merry-go-round and a crazy bus, all set to Angry Birds music, plus a shop selling what proved to be an irresistible range of themed goodies.

Angry Birds Land is just one facet of a massive plan to diversify the brand. Since 2009, when the game first became available, the irascible avians and their porcine victims have made their appearance on lunch boxes, pencil cases, children’s drinks and even, in Russia, on credit cards. A weekly cartoon series is planned, as well as a feature film. The amusement park industry, too, is in Rovio’s sights.

‘Our goal,’ says Harri Koponen, Rovio’s executive vice president, ‘is to motivate the fans, both adults and children, to exercise and enjoy the outdoors’ – assuming they can tear themselves away from their smartphones, that is. If the Tampere Angry Birds Land is successful, more are bound to follow, with one planned to open in Nottingham, England, in the late summer.

If the reactions of our test team are anything to go by, Angry Birds will be taking their place in the real world. ‘Wow’, they said, giving their experience the ultimate accolade of their generation, ‘it was awesome’.

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