Over the years as Rovio has grown from a struggling Finnish mobile development studio to nearly muscling the WWE (and similar brands) off Wal-Mart store shelves in exchange for everything from Angry Birds T-Shirts to dog toys to band aids and decorative wall decals, leaving many of us have been wondering what's next? Angry Birds Space [$0.99 / $2.99 (HD)] mixed up the formula a bit, and the re-release of Casey's Contraptions re-branded as Amazing Alex [$0.99 / $2.99 (HD)] failed to impress.
Apparently, the key to reinventing the Angry Birds universe is by putting the pigs to work.
Bad Piggies [$0.99 / $0.99 (HD)] sets the stage with a brief comic book-style introduction setting the foundation for the game: The pigs, always anxious to steal the birds' eggs seemingly crafted a masterful plan to do so. Unfortunately, it got sucked into a fan, shredded, and blown across the land. Since pigs in the Angry Birds-iverse seem to lack legs (or feet), you've got to collect these plan scraps by building various contraptions to get your pig from the start of each level to the finish line where the piece of the plan is.
The game starts off slow, introducing the core building mechanic and the hint book. When you get access to a new item to bolt on to one of your contraptions, tapping an icon in the top right corner will show you how to use it. The first instance shows that you need to build a car of sorts that's three wooden boxes wide, with a wheel on each end. So, you drag the parts into a simple to use grid, place your pig inside, hit the checkmark to tell the game you've completed construction, and (hopefully) roll to the bottom of the hill to the finish line.
The rest of the game grows on this, eventually expanding the grid that you can build in as well as all sorts of new components. The next thing you're introduced to is the concept of thrust by adding a bellows you can squeeze to your contraption. Mashing a virtual button sends out a puff of air, which increases your forward momentum. Eventually you'll get access to balloons, propellers, engines, and all sorts of other odds and ends to put together some truly hilarious machines.
Bad Piggies is almost irritatingly accessible as well. If you've played a physics game (or a contraption building game) before, you'll likely already have a firm grasp of the concepts required to succeed in Bad Piggies. Quite a few of the early levels are mind-numbingly basic as the game teaches the player concepts such as attaching a balloon to things will make them float. These levels feel dull, until you realize how the three star system works.
Rovio has ditched the mysterious score requirements of Angry Birds for a much more tangible almost Cut the Rope [$2.99 / $4.99 (HD)] like style star system. Instead of not knowing if you're 10 points off or 10,000 points off from that elusive third star, you're told exactly what you need to do to perfect a level. These objectives vary from basic things like getting to the goal inside of a time limit, or collecting starts that are strewn about a level- Often in out of the way or hard to reach areas. My favorite goals, however, are ones that involve not using what seems to be a vital component for your contraption's construction (For instance, build without using a wheel.) or making it to the end without any damage to your flying machine. These can be very tricky.
The early levels lead you to believe that the real puzzle element in Bad Piggies is in the construction of your pig transportation gizmo. There's even a (remarkably optional) IAP item where the game will build the "perfect" contraption for you. In later levels, especially if you're going for three stars, Bad Piggies is a game of flawless execution and piloting of your machine. If you check out our TA Plays video, you'll see me failing at a level over and over as I fail to release a sandbag at the proper time, give my craft too much (or too little) thrust, don't pop balloons early enough, and a bunch of other things. Even if you "cheat" by looking up the perfect design, or use the IAP, you're hardly negating any of the challenge of the game.
Without obsessing over three star requirements, the included 90 levels in the initial release will likely only take a few hours to complete. Like all Rovio games, a mysterious pack of "coming soon" levels appears, indicating Bad Piggies will likely see the same stream of updates and content additions that the various Angry Birds games have received. But, in my eyes, these levels aren't even the best part of the game. That title goes to the sandbox mode.
In sandbox levels, you're given a massive grid to build in as well as tons of various components. Instead of reaching a finish line, you're challenged with a shockingly long level filled with stars to pick up. I've spectacularly failed at completing any of these to 100%, but it is amazing tweaking your design and managing to barely limp to one more star, rolling down a hill in your almost entirely broken contraption. If there was one thing I could add to Bad Piggies, it'd be the ability to create your own sandbox levels to share with friends. There's so much potential hidden away in something like that, and Rovio has already shown they're more than capable of doing it with Amazing Alex.
Bad Piggies is awesome, and needs to be a part of your iOS game collection just as much as the rest of the Angry Birds series. Rovio nails the same accessibility of the Angry Birds games while taking the franchise in a direction that feels both totally fresh and entirely appropriate. It sucks that Rovio still isn't releasing universal versions of their games, and it's disappointing that the iPhone variety doesn't take advantage of the iPhone 5's wider display, but neither of these things make Bad Piggies any less fun. Definitely pick this one up.