Y’know, I don’t know why it’s called Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs when none of the birds look particularly furious. Sure, they maybe look a tad serious but when you bring them up to your face they’ll cheerfully wave at you, ready to achieve their goal of smashing stuff up and probably dying in the process. If I was one of these birds I think I’d be a tad more angry at the prospect of some psychopath using a slingshot to fire me face-first into stuff.
So, if you’re somehow unfamiliar with the Angry Birds franchise let me catch you up; using a slingshot you’ll fire birds at various structures with the goal being to kill the five green pigs living there. Simple. Why are these birds so angry? I don’t know. Why do they have a vendetta against pigs? No idea. There’s probably seem deep Angry Birds lore to be found that details an ancient war raging for thousands of years or something. All I know is that these pigs stand between me and a 3-star rating. The pigs have got to go.
The way it controls is extremely simple; in one hand you have a slingshot, and using the other hand you reach up, pull the trigger to grab the rubber band, pull back and release the trigger to fire. A handy white line will show you exactly where your feathery ammunition will fly.
Really, it’s a puzzle game. You get exactly three birds to topple the structures made of wood, stone, crates and explosives. Since there are five pigs that naturally means you have to get a tad creative with your shots. Find the right points to hit and you can get entire buildings to land on unsuspecting bacon beasts or just wind up blowing them up with handy TNT crates. Instant crispy bacon. Mmmmmmmmmmm.
As you move through the game you’ll encounter new birds. The basic Red does nothing special except hit stuff, but Chuck can accelerate when you tap the trigger a second time which lets him burst through multiple bits of wood and other stuff. You also get a chunky explosive bird, and even one that splits into three birds for some cool trickshots.
You can also teleport to a few other viewpoints on the map to find the best possible angle of attack. With a new perspective you might be able to spot a structural weakness that could lead to a beautiful chain reaction of destruction. That’s where the game’s brilliance lies; nailing all the pigs with a single shot. It’s like Jenga or Dominos, except not vegan friendly.
Unfortunately, Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs doesn’t have any other tricks up its feathery sleeves. This is essentially just standard Angry Birds but in 3D and VR, and while the novelty of just being in VR is still pretty cool to me personally it doesn’t add much to the experience.
The environments are perhaps the prime example of this. You only get four different environments and none of them offer any interactivity or neat visual tricks to help make them more interesting. The first three are fairly flat, uninspiring areas while the fourth introduces a tiny bit more oomph, but not enough. VR offers so much room for neat visual flourishes that not taking advantage is a bloody crime.
Still, I had fun playing it. You can blast through all the levels in about 30-60 minutes, but the appeal comes from replaying levels for the elusive three star rating. Getting the maximum amount of stars means taking out all the pigs in a single shot usually, so it’s a fun challenge. On the harder stages there’s usually a pleasing eureka moment where you figure out exactly what needs to be done with the birds at hand. And if nothing else there’s a lovely warm feeling to be had from watching things topple over or crossing your fingers that the pile of blocks will drop in the right place to crush a pig to death. Jesus christ, video games really are violent.
It’s also worth saying that Rovio are promising more content in the future, although whether this will be free or paid DLC remains to be seen.
I would, though, have liked an option to turn off the white line which shows exactly where my shot was going to go. Being able to toggle this off could have added some extra challenge to the game and helped make the VR feel more immersive.
It’s a polished game, at least. I didn’t encounter any bugs or glitches, no dodgy physics and it ran perfectly fine. Mind you, Angry Birds VR is such a simple game that I’d be shocked if it did have any performance or technical issues.
It’s a little weird that that developer Rovia didn’t choose to launch Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs on mobile VR platforms rather than Oculus Rift and Vive. After all, it doesn’t make much use of the more capable virtual reality experiences Rift and Vive offer, whereas the simple mechanics would make more sense on cheaper mobile devices while reaching a much bigger audience.
Ultimately, it’s a pretty fun little party game. You could bring it out for non-gaming friends to experience VR for the first time, especially since it can be played sitting down. The simple mechanics are easy to grasp, after all, and there’s nothing to motion-heavy that might make for queasy stomachs. This also makes it a solid choice for kids.
In short it’s another shallow virtual reality experience that definitely is not an essential purchase. But if you’re after a party game or something for your kids then it’s a reasonable choice.
2.5 out of 5