Title: Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs
Developer: Resolution Games
Publisher: Resolution Games
Genre: Casual, Puzzle
Platform: Oculus Quest
Age Rating: Everyone
Release Date: 21-05-2019
Price: £10.99 – Rapid Reviews UK was very kindly provided with a review code for this title.
In the ten years since debuting on the iPhone, Angry Birds has become a global media phenomenon resulting in two feature films, an animated series, and enough plush toys, beach towels, and other merch to sink a small ship (captained by an obnoxious pig, of course.) The original game and its many iterations have been ported to just about every device imaginable. If it has a screen, there’s probably a version of Angry Birds on it and for a good reason.
While not wholly original (the developers cite the flash game Crush the Castle as inspiration) Angry Birds did something remarkable when it thoroughly leveraged the strengths of early smartphones by coupling compelling physics-based 2D gameplay with an intuitive touch-screen slingshot mechanic. This perfect pairing of software and hardware, wrapped in a cute and easily approachable design, made for a killer app that saw billions of units dispensed and permeated our culture.
As robust as the Angry Birds design is, transitioning from two to three dimensions can be challenging for any game, regardless of its past success and doing so in virtual reality can be an order of magnitude more difficult. Imagining how a game or scenario from conventional video games would play out in virtual reality is an easy task in the abstract, but implementing it via 0s and 1s on limited hardware is anything but. This is where the simplicity of the Angry Birds design shows its strength and versatility.
The folks at Revolution Games delivered what I think most of us would have envisioned this game to be: a straight adaptation of the source material. This time around the setting takes place across a succession of islands, and you’re either a giant or the world, and its inhabitants are very small. The game doesn’t clarify which, but it gives you a top-down view of the action, making it easier to discern, which supports you need to target to topple the structures. Warp points placed in various positions around the play-area allow you to move around the formations quickly and are necessary if playing in standing or sitting mode. When playing in Room-Scale mode, the warp points are still present, but if your area is large enough, you can walk around freely and get as close to the structures as you like.
The slingshot functions as expected. You hold it one hand and pull back with the other. Being in 3D, you can now launch the critters straight up in the air and have them fall vertically onto the target. This doesn’t seem to have any advantage over slinging the birds forward, but it’s something you can do, and the range of motion is appreciated. The birds on offer are the same four from the original Angry Birds game but are now modelled after their movie counterparts: the red bird with no abilities, the yellow one that gains velocity, the black one that explodes, and the little blue bird that can split into three. You’re given three per level but still have no choice in which or what order. Birds waiting to be slung turn toward you and wave as you move around, adding to the cuteness factor.
Like previous versions of the game, success is determined by how much of the “buildings” you destroy and how many birds you used to do it. A score of one to three stars is given per level, which moves the game along quickly and extends replayability. The 50+ levels are spread across four environments that differ slightly from one another and offer no function other than background art. This seems like a missed opportunity to me as interactive environments would have only elevated the gameplay. The ‘boss battles’ that take place at the end of each of the four main stages are relatively mundane and not that different from the regular levels that precede them. The entire purpose of a level-boss is to test the player’s cumulative skill and encourage them to continue playing, and I feel like more could have been done here.
I mentioned earlier how Angry Birds used the unique features of early touch-screen devices to amplify its design and that it owes, in part, some of its success to that tailored-made feel. That kind of philosophy is absent from the VR version. There is little in the design that takes advantage of what can be done in virtual reality. For example: in precisely one of the nearly two hundred levels I played I hit an explosives box sending a pig flying through the air toward me, and I instinctively ducked out of the way as it flew past my head. This should happen more frequently and not just with the pigs, but with pieces of the structure as well. End of levels should shower the player with fireworks or confetti or some other type of “wow” moment that utilises the stereoscopy and volume inherent to VR.
That’s not to say that the game is lacking or deficient in any way, it’s not. I would say this is the best version yet, simply by it being in virtual reality. The 3D structures add strategy and complexity to the gameplay, the controls are as intuitive as could be, and the graphics have never looked better. Angry Birds: Isle of Pigs VR is a perfect adaptation of the classic formula, and you will have fun playing it just as you did the original. More so, in fact.
Rapid Reviews Rating
You can purchase Angry Birds: Isle of Pigs VR from the Oculus Store on the following link, https://www.oculus.com/experiences/quest/2718606324833775/