The hardest thing about reviewing Pigs in Trees [99c / HD] is deciding which part to praise first, because there's just so many things I like about it. Launching the app leads into a delightful animated trailer which introduces the family of pigs who reside in a tree and the woodpeckers, who (obviously) like to peck on wood. Did you spot the tension there? (Hint: They both want the tree.) This game from PAN Vision and Tactile Entertainment represents a role reversal from Angry Birds [99c / Lite] as the pigs are the good guys and the aggressive birds are the nasty villains.
Pigs in Trees will easily draw comparisons to Flight Control [99c] or Harbor Master [$1.99], since you use your finger to draw the flight path for a vehicle, from a top-down 2D perspective. In this game, the piggy fighter-pilot is trying to eliminate the noisy incoming woodpeckers, before they reach the pigs tree-nest. One of the thread users described the line drawing controls as "smooth as silk" and that sums up my impression too. It's a pleasure to draw swooping lines and have the plane follow the path, while shooting at the tree-craving woodpeckers. The controls are spot on.
The combo system is clever, because once you lock onto a bird, by terminating your flight path on it, any secondary kills along the way earn combo points. Your combo is highest if you kill the strongest enemy last, which encourages you to choose both your target and approach carefully. Also, although the targeted bird remains targeted even though it's moving, the surrounding birds can move away from your line, so you need to swipe in front of the surrounding birds, as you head towards the target, for maximum accuracy and points. Or, just play casually.
The power-ups are cool as well. When a power-up icon appears, you tap it so it moves into your power-up slots at the bottom of the screen. You can then activate the power-up, when you choose, by tapping that slot, or save it till the end of the level, to refund for extra points. The power-ups include plane repairs, speed bursts and dynamite, but I won't give away the rest of them, as they're fun to reveal, although some are shown in the gameplay trailer:
The woodpeckers have a few tricks too. They come in different varieties, each with different sizes and strengths. Some can only be attacked from the front or back, while others must be approached from the side. There's little birds that drop bombs and others with a shield stuck on their beak! Pigs in Trees does an outstanding job of explaining the various enemies and power-up's by displaying a tutorial message when they first appear, at which point you can scroll back through all the earlier hints, if you need a reminder.
There's currently three campaigns (Summer, Fall and the snow-covered Winter campaign) with the Spring levels "coming soon." That's a total of 45 levels. The campaigns are locked initially and become available once you earn enough medals, based on your scores in each level. Game center provides rankings and 26 achievements.
So let's see: The controls are excellent, the graphics are cute, the sounds great, the game-play is constantly engaging and interesting and it's super enjoyable to play. The only negatives are that it's not universal and, like many games, the iPad version is more expensive, which is a common practice so there's no point dwelling on that.
Pigs in Trees only has one mode, based on a simple concept, but this drawing arcade game is so well delivered, that it deserves to be successful. We're already looking forward to the Spring levels.