With several mobile titles in Rovio’s Angry Birds series using the winning formula of ‘fling the bird to kill the pig’, I wasn’t sure what I was in for with Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs—an honest-to-goodness game, or a cleverly crafted addiction model sprinkled with just enough fun to keep you mindlessly progressing through endless stages. In short, Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs is the former, and one of the best Angry Birds titles I’ve played to date.
Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs Details:
Publisher: Resolution Games
Developer: Resolution Games
Available On: Steam (Vive, Rift), Viveport (Vive, Rift), Oculus Store (Rift)
Reviewed On: Oculus Rift, HTC Vive
Release Date: February 7th, 2019
Much like the first Angry Birds, which came out for iOS back in 2009, Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs is a game of surprising simplicity—surprising in the sense that it only gives you four types of birds to fire at the topsy-turvy 3D structures laden with enemy pigs, of course doled out in specific order to fit the level at hand.
Thankfully it’s not encumbered with the addictive extras like lootboxes, or pay-to-win consumables that let you bruteforce the level into submission—a plague on modern mobile gaming—so it was refreshing to see that Angry Birds VR is a ‘pure’ Angry Birds experience, offering up only the truly fun bits in the series’ long list of bird-shooting puzzle games.
The First Attempt at a VR Experience – The Sensorama. In the 1950s, a cinematographer by the name of Morton Heilig came up with a unique concept he later developed, known as the Sensorama. Featuring an arcade-style theater cabinet, the sensorama was aimed at stimulating a person’s senses. It featured a stereoscopic 3D display, fans and smell generators, stereo speakers, as well as a vibrating chair. The idea of the Sensorama was to fully immerse a person into a film-like experience. Heilig also went on to create as much as six short movies for his device.
If you’ve ever played Angry Birds before, you’ll immediately understand how each bird works: there’s your standard red, fast yellow, three-shot blue, and the black heavy bomb. They have names, but to me they’re just ammo in my quest to blow out tactically placed TNT boxes, or knock down linchpin structures made of wood/ice/stone.
Playing the game is simple. A bird is automatically loaded into your hand-held slingshot, and all you have to do is pull back with the opposite hand to fire away, activating whatever special ability your cute little ammo may possess in mid-flight. A shooting guide with a few white, arched dots is always present, making this a deceptively easy task. But since we’re talking about a 3D puzzle here, you’ll have to teleport to the provided hot spots to figure out the best vantage point for pig-related carnage.
Just like its mobile forerunners though, the game is essentially an exercise in constantly failing until you get it just right. You might miss a key linchpin that only becomes apparent after multiple tries, or a shot might bounce differently, forcing you to reset for another go—that’s Angry Birds for you, love it or hate it. I just wish difficulty was more progressive, which comes down entirely to level design. I found myself blowing through the last levels at more or less the same clip as I did in some of the first levels, confronted only every so often with more difficult levels randomly interspersed throughout.
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Unfortunately there’s only has two enemy types at this time, standard green piggies, and intermittent large boss pigs that arrive at the end of each stage. And these few boss battles really underline this fail-until-you-win gameplay style. Bosses are typically surrounded by fans that can blow boxes around in a swarm, dealing damage to the giant pig in small increments. If you don’t tip a structure just right, or pop a balloon correctly to send a batch of boxes to the blowers, you’re back to resetting the level and trying again. If the boxes miss the boss for whatever reason and knock each other out of the blowers stream, again, you’ve fallen victim to randomness of the physics-based world before you. There are moments when you feel clever by finding out the best way to destroy any structure, but I found boss battles to be a bit of a letdown.
Angry Birds VR does have its own guardian system that blacks out your view when you walk too close or too far away, although this didn’t stop me from cheating on stages where the structures materialize only a meter away. Most of the time though, it’s far enough away to make it impossible, which should ward off any would-be serial cheaters.
The game features four stages, each with thirteen levels a piece which provided me with a little under three hours of gameplay. There were about a half-dozen levels that I just couldn’t grok though, so if you’re looking for a perfect three-star completion on all levels, you might take longer.
SEGA’s VR Glasses Project That Didn’t Make It. Gaming companies also knew that Virtual Reality was going to become a huge thing in the gaming world. However, while they had the vision, they were lacking the technology we have today. In 1993, at one of the first Consumer Electronics Shows, SEGA announced the Sega VR headset for their Genesis console. The prototype glasses had head tracking, LCD screens in the visor and stereo sound. SEGA’s idea was to release the product for a mere $200 at the time, but technical development issues turned the idea into one of the biggest flops for the infamous gaming company. The product was never released on the market.
As for replay value, there isn’t really enough meat on the bone just yet to justify a second playthrough personally—there’s no special levels to unlock, no extra achievements to pursue, or any other mode that might make the game more difficult at this time. Rovio says there are more levels and gameplay arriving in the coming months, along with support for other VR platforms besides Rift and Vive.
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In a way, Angry Birds VR brought me back to those early days when I’d play the original namesake on my then well-worn iPhone 3G while sitting on the bus, trying incessantly to get the coveted three golden stars by finally figuring out the level’s puzzling structure and destroying those evil little green piggies in the least possible shots. What’s more, Angry Birds VR tapped into the gleefully destructive child inside me, the one buried underneath the tax-paying schlub who now mostly sits in front of a computer all day.
Angry Birds VR’s bright & lovable cartoony world is even better in VR than I’d hoped, injecting you straight into a well-realized environment that seems, for the lack of a better word, flawless. The game’s cutesy soundtrack plays throughout, and never seems to grow old either even after powering through the game in one sitting.
There’s no left-handed option currently, which isn’t a big deal for Vive users since they can simply switch controllers to their dominant hand. Oculus Touch users aren’t so lucky though, since the slingshot is bound to your left hand, forcing you to shoot and aim with your right.
The Sci-Fi Prediction of VR – Pygmalion’s Spectacles. Stanley G. Weinbaum, a well-known science fiction writer from the 1930s, had the vision of what Virtual Reality is and what it may become, even before the official term was coined. In his 1930s short story Pygmalion’s Spectacles, he shares the idea that a wearer of a pair of goggles can experience fictional worlds through holographics, touch, smell and taste. This truly made him a visionary in the field of virtual reality.
As a game that’s light on any real need for room-scale movement and primarily relies on teleportation, it’s an extremely comfortable game. I wouldn’t hesitate from throwing a VR first-timer in, especially one that’s played any of the Angry Birds titles.
Thanks to this, the game can be played entirely while seated.