Angry Birds: How to Break into the Leaderboard Top 25

| Ted Landau's User Friendly View

By popular demand (by which I mean me asking my editor), I’m back with another (and likely final) look into the world of Angry Birds top scores. Last time, I offered advice on how to get three-star scores. This time, I “kick it up a notch” — revealing how to get scores so high that they put you near the very top of the Game Center Leaderboard.

If you’re an experienced Angry Birds player, you already know the hard truth. Even if you managed to get a three-star score at every level, it would not get you anywhere near the top of the Leaderboard. Even if you exceeded the scores necessary to attain the higher bar of “Score Addict” achievements, you won’t be seeing your name in the top 25 (or even top 100). If you want to climb that high, here’s how. Get your oxygen masks out; were going to where the air gets really thin.

Let’s start with the three main requirements for getting a top score. This advice is essentially a review of points I covered in my previous “three-star scores” articles. But the advice is worth restating, with a slightly different emphasis now. After that, we’ll take a close look at exactly how this translates into playing specific levels.

Teaser Figure

1. Take the time

Getting a top score takes time. A lot of time. So much time that you may start to wonder why so many far more important tasks aren’t getting done anymore. You may start experiencing eye strain. Your arm may develop a repetitive stress injury. You’ll lose sleep. Your spouse (if divorce proceedings haven’t been filed yet) will throw up his/her arms in despair, lamenting that “you’re still playing that game.” You’ll need to become an Angry Birds addict. In other words, you need to be a bit crazy.

Overall, my view here lines up with the philosophy of the Tom Hanks character in A League of Their Own. When Geena Davis complains that baseball “just got too hard,” he replies: “It’s supposed to be hard. If it wasn’t hard, everyone would do it. The hard… is what makes it great.”

2. Solve the puzzle 

Angry Birds, at its core, is a logic puzzle. There are numerous ways to knock off all the pigs on a given level. There are often several ways to attain a three-star score for the same level. But there is usually only one (occasionally two) ways to get an absolute top score. Your goal is to find that way.

The key to achieving this goal is to realize that it’s not about the pigs. Every puny block matters. A block or two may not seem like much when your score on a level is 132,450. But added up across all levels of a game, getting a few more blocks on each level can make a huge difference. Here’s a hypothetical example: Suppose you clear a level leaving only 8 blocks. This will likely be a great score. But if you could have cleared the level, using the same number of birds, leaving only 4 blocks, that would have given you another 2,000 points (blocks are typically worth 500 points each). If you could get the same improvement at each and every level of a game (original, Seasons, or Rio), you’d be talking about a total increase that should easily be in excess of 100,000 points!

One caution. Before wasting endless hours in pursuit of an impossible to attain score, check how your current high score compares to the top scores others have achieved. One place to do this is at the leaderboards posted at angrybirdsnest.com. This will give you an indication of how much improvement you can hope to see from working further. If you’re already at or very near the top, move on to a different level.

Suppose you find that your top score is 12,000 points lower than what numerous other people have achieved. You want those 12,000 points. What’s your next move? You could check the various walk-throughs posted online, to see how they achieved their scores, but this is not likely to help much. In general, walk-through solutions are far below the maximum attainable score. They typical strive only to result in a three-star score.

Here is where your skill and creativity come in to play. Be open-minded initially. Try a variety of approaches. If nothing seems to be clicking, try something that doesn’t seem likely to work. You may be surprised by the result. Carefully observe the outcome of each shot. Even if you fail in what you hoped to do, you may notice something that gives you an idea as to improve on your next try. Over time, narrow your focus to what has proven to be most successful and you’ll be able to hone your shots to the point where you know exactly what you are trying to accomplish on each shot.

3. Make the shot

Unfortunately, even if you know exactly how to achieve a top score, it doesn’t mean you can do it. At least not easily. If the core of Angry Birds is a logic puzzle, the rest of the game revolves around the precision needed to successfully execute the winning shots.

This is what will take up most of your time — and occasionally drive you to tear your hair out. You will be taking the same shot (or combination of shots) over and over again, hoping to “nail” it just once. This can go on for hours over the course of several days.

Getting a three-star score should be easy by this point (I often get a three-star score the first time I complete a level). Pushing it to the extremes of a top score is something else. You’ll have to master the tiniest nuances of each bird. The exact height of the white bird when you drop the bomb matters. The exact time between when the black bird “ignites” (by touching an object) and when you tap the screen to explode it matters. In the end, almost everything matters.

The author of a worthwhile article titled “10 things that CIOs can learn from Angry Birds” made the same overall point in the following quote:

Achieving a high score in Angry Birds is hard. Most of the time when you clear a level the score is worse than your [current] high score, and many times you don’t even clear the level at all. If you want a high score you have to be patient and accept incremental improvement by applying lessons learned from past attempts. Every once in a while, you change a strategy or accidentally discover a new tactic that results in an exponential improvement in the score, but that is very rare. And then the pattern repeats, re-reaching the high score level is hard, surpassing it even harder.

As implied by the quote, getting a high score is not pure skill. If it were, you could duplicate your high score on almost every try. Instead, it may be weeks, if ever, before you can duplicate a spectacularly high score that it took you three weeks of dedicated effort to first achieve. For better or worse, luck plays a role as well. Admittedly, luck is a moving goalpost. What is luck for me, may be skill for someone with better aim. Still, at some point, luck comes into play.

In this regard, bear in mind that some of the top scores you see online (assuming they are not outright fakes) may be the result of a one-in-a-million lucky shot. Expecting to duplicate that score can be like expecting to win the Lotto because you know someone else who did. Still, you won’t know until you try.

Lights! Camera! Action!

Enough with the theory. Let’s get to the reality. All the following examples are drawn from Angry Birds Seasons HD. Why? Because this is where I spend almost all my Angry Birds time (and where I am currently in a see-saw between #1 and #2 on the Leaderboad). And, because it is the newest section, I’ll focus exclusively on the Easter Eggs levels. My goal here is not merely to show you how to get a top score on the covered levels, but to provide insight as to how to successfully pursue other levels as well.

Easter Eggs Level 4 (minimum 3-star score = 118,000): This is one of those levels where a top score requires a “scorched earth”; you’ll need to destroy almost everything. It’s also one of those wood constructions where, if you hit one block in just the right place at just the right angle with the right force, the majority of the structure will fall. Unfortunately, because of all of the triangular structures, it’s harder to do than it first appears.

Figure 1

Initially, I focused on my first shot (yellow bird) hitting the dead center of the structure on a downward arc (A in Figure 1). My second shot (big red bird) took out almost all of what remained on the right side. That left a single pig on the far left. While I could kill the pig, I could never do so and also destroy enough of the remaining surrounding material to get a top score.

My second approach eventually proved to be a winner. The first shot was an easy one: take out the square block on the far left (B in Figure 1) by sending out the yellow bird on a nearly horizontal arc. Very little gets destroyed by this; it’s just a setup for what’s about to happen. The next shot is the money shot. The red bird should follow almost the same path as the yellow bird. After going through some material, it should land against the back wall of the valley and break up the Y-shaped triangle at the bottom. If all goes perfectly, this will cause everything on the left to collapse and be destroyed (Figure 2). If it doesn’t, you chances for a top score are kaput. Time to start over.

Figure 2

The third and final shot goes into the right-side valley at a moderate angle. This is another difficult shot. Exactly how to shoot it will vary depending upon how much material remains. Generally, I find that if the yellow bird lands more to the left side of the bottom wooden Y, my chances of success are higher. If everything works, the boulders fall and destroy almost everything in their path, leaving you with a great score.

Don’t be fooled. Even though you now know what to do, your chances of success remain low. Think about it: If you need to make two shots in a row that both have a 1 in 100 chance of success, your odds of pulling it off are 1 in 100x100 = 1 in 10,000. That’s why I can’t show a screenshot of me actually getting a new top score. I’d probably have to spend another several weeks before I could even come close to my current high score (139,680). The best I could do while working on this article was 133,690. You can see the result (which is before the 10,000 bonus for one remaining bird was added) in Figure 3.

Figure 3

Easter Eggs Level 5 (minimum 3-star score = 111,000): On this level (Figure 4), it quickly became clear that the path to a top score would require knocking over (and destroying) most of the tall stone tower on the right. Further, I would likely need to do this with just two birds, as the bonus 20,000 points for having two un-shot birds was critical. The problem was there seemed to be no way to get a clear shot at the tower in two birds. Everything I tried left the tower largely intact.

Figure 4

My eventual solution was to hit the glass block at the top on the far left (A in Figure 4), releasing the three blue birds near the last moment. If all went well (which didn’t happen often), this would clear everything in front of the last glass blocks between the birds and the far right tower (Figure 5). My second shot sent the black bird through the single vertical line of 2 glass blocks, allowing it to come in contact with the stone tower. Here the black bird exploded (the precise time and location of the explosion matters a lot). If all goes well (again, a rare event), you can get a score well into the 140,000’s. My best so far is 145,510.

Figure 5

Easter Eggs Level 12 (minimum 3-star score = 83,000): After a brief period of experimentation, I determined that the best place to aim the first shot was at the very front of the wooden structure (A in Figure 6). To do this, I used the boomerang bird without invoking its boomerang power. I sent the bird directly into the two wood sticks at the lower front. If you do this just right, a remaining stick will “roll over” the boomerang bird, followed by the collapse and destruction of much of the tower (Figure 7).

Figure 6

The next shot is harder. Send the white bird horizontally to just in front of the remaining pig (A in Figure 7), dropping the egg bomb at the last moment possible. If it works, the deflated bird makes an arc to the right and explodes the TNT, doing the final bit of damage. Via this approach, I eventually attained a high score of 114,130.

Figure 7

Easter Eggs Level 13 (minimum 3-star score = 82,000): This level may have two potentially successful strategies. The first is to drop the bomb from the white bird onto the front ledge that sits under the back tower (A in Figure 8). This can take down both of the back towers. Unfortunately, on the second shot, the red bird is not sufficiently strong to knock over the remaining front tower. You’ll need the third (yellow) bird for that job. I wasn’t happy with largely wasting the second shot (and never got a top score with this method), so I decided to see what would happen if I reversed things.

Figure 8

In my second approach, I used the white bird to destroy the front tower, dropping the bomb just in front at the bottom-left (B in Figure 8). This is a trickier shot than it may appear. While you can easily bring down the tower (I do so about 80% of the time), the resulting amount of damage varies widely. When the dust clears, I typically have a score somewhere between 28,000 and 37,000 (Figure 9). You’ll want a score of 34,000 or higher here for a chance at a truly top final score.

Figure 9

The second shot is also difficult to carry out. Forcefully send the red bird to the nearer of the remaining towers, just about even with (or a little below) the small pig on top. If this works, the tower will collapse and take the back tower down with it — as well as all the remaining pigs. While replaying the level for this article, I was able to get a new high score of 93,610 (Figure 10 shows the score before the 20,000 point bonus was added; see the Teaser Figure above for the final screen). I have since attained an even higher score (94,390) and believe it is possible to keep going all the way to 100,000. We’ll see.

Figure 10

Easter Eggs Level 18 (minimum 3-star score = 120,000): This level harkens back to the cloud structures in Hogs & Kisses. As with Level 4, a really top score here requires that you destroy everything. Even a stray remaining cloud or two can be the difference between a top score and not. I believe there are multiple paths to success here. The one I prefer is to hit the boulder on the far left with the first (boomerang) bird (A in Figure 11). Again, I do this directly, skipping the boomerang bird’s power to reverse direction. If you hit it just right, the boulder will destroy the cloud to its immediate right (this happens to me only about 10% of the time). This will lead to a cascade of destruction that will vary a good deal from try to try. If you’re especially lucky, you’ll wind up with a position as shown in Figure 12.

Figure 11

Figure 12

The third shot sends the white bird into the middle of the remaining material and dropping its bomb. A good result will look something like Figure 13. The final shot uses the red bird to try to take out whatever remains. The best I could do while replaying the level for this article was 143,080 (Figure 14 shows the score before the 10,000 bonus was added). My current high score is 146,720, but I believe it is possible to get as high as 150,000. [Update: June 17: In fact, I was able to exceed 150,000, barely. My new high score is 150,270. To achieve this, I used the same method described here. I managed to destroy everything except the far right cloud with its TNT and 3 stones.]

Figure 13

Figure 14

Bottom line

To get to the very top of any of the Angry Bird leaderboards, you don’t need a top score at every level. Actually, you don’t need a top score at any level. When I compare my top scores to the ones posted online, I almost never have an absolute top score. Sometimes I am thousands of points behind the top score. But I am always close-to-the-top score, usually somewhere in the top 30, often in the top 10. In other words, for a leaderboard top score, consistency matters. While you don’t need to be at the top anywhere; you do need to be near the top almost everywhere.

Good luck, and remember to take a break to eat and sleep.

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