Rovio returns with Bad Piggies

Bad Piggies is the long-awaited follow-up to Angry Birds from the hugely successful mobile developer Rovio. The game is available now as a paid download for iOS devices and a free app for Android users.

Bad Piggies casts the player in the role of the titular porcine antiheroes — the main antagonists from Angry Birds — as they attempt to overcome numerous adversities on their quest to steal the birds’ eggs. Unfortunately for them, things regularly do not go to plan, requiring them to construct increasingly elaborate and bizarre machines in an attempt to traverse a range of perilous terrains.

Gameplay in Bad Piggies is completely different to Angry Birds, though still physics-based at its core. Rather than flinging birds at precarious structures in an attempt to knock them down, Bad Piggies tasks players with building vehicles to transport the pigs to their destination while, ideally, collecting as many objects scattered around the level as possible.

Each level gives the player a grid on which to work and a limited number of pieces. These vary from the purely functional (such as wheels to move the vehicle and boxes for the pigs to ride inside) to the interactive (such as sets of bellows which “blow” the vehicle in a particular direction. Once all the pieces have been laid down, the player confirms their design and sets it on its way. At this point, the game’s physics engine start to take effect. Vehicles will roll down hills and their stability is determined by their weight distribution. For example, put a pig in the front of a vehicle as it rolls down a hill and it will probably flip over; put it in the middle and it will have a great deal more stability.

Each level has a “tip” that can be viewed at any time to get a rather vague hint of what to do. As with many other mobile games, Rovio appears to have an aversion to using actual words anywhere in the app, so the entire interface along with the tutorial and hint system is based on graphical representations. This certainly means that bringing the game to other territories is significantly less challenging as there is next to no text to translate, but it also carries the risk of confusing the player as it is not always entirely clear what the various icons and diagrams actually mean.

Bad Piggies is, like Angry Birds, a good looking game with a distinctive, recognizable aesthetic. It makes good use of the Retina display on iOS devices for crisp, clear visuals, and animates smoothly. Background sound is relatively minimalist but features some catchy tunes and audible feedback as the chaos unfolds.

Overall, the game is very good — and the fact that the team didn’t take the easy approach and make it “Angry Birds with pigs” is worthy of praise — but the added complexity coupled with the unnecessarily obtuse interface may put a few people off. The game is also significantly more challenging than Angry Birds, too, which may deter some more casual players.

As a high-profile new title from the creators of Angry Birds, Bad Piggies is likely to enjoy a huge amount of success in the short term, but in this case it’s somewhat more questionable as to whether or not it will become as much of a major cultural phenomenon as its predecessor.

Bad Piggies is currently the No. 1 paid iOS app in the U.S. in both its iPhone and HD iPad incarnations. The Android version does not yet appear to be listed on the Google Play leaderboards, but has apparently been downloaded between 100,000 and 500,000 times to date.