Rovio already brought Angry Birds into virtual reality with Isle of Pigs. But now, the famous fowl with a vendetta have come crashing into your living room, backyard, office break room, or anywhere with a flat surface and a good viewing angle. Made specifically for Apple’s ARKit, Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs gives you a full 360-degree view of the destruction, but as with most augmented reality games, there is a trade-off that might send you back to the regular, 2D battle between birds and their mortal pig enemies.
Setting up the game is easy. Look for any flat surface, such as a floor or a table, and a green grid will appear along with a red or green halo which tells you whether the surface will allow the game to properly map onto whatever you are looking at. A color-changing bar at the bottom specifies the quality of your viewing angle. Once everything is good, simply tap the screen and the titular Isle of Pigs will spawn before you. The birds have come to the pig’s vacation spot looking to cause some damage and I assume, send the message that no place is safe from their wrath. At least, the ensuing chaos is fun and pretty darn adorable.
Gameplay is the same as previous iterations, with familiar birds such as Red, Bomb, Chuck, and Blue. Action is physics-based. You hurl the willing fowl into structures occupied by our little green enemies in order to knock them down, score points, and earn enough coins to unlock additional worlds. As always, you can earn from 1 to 3 stars for each level dependent on how much destruction you caused.
What is new with Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs is the ability to walk around the level in true 360 degrees. You can even lean in or kneel to get close and reveal secrets such as hidden eggs. You will also discover the best way to attack a certain structure that you might not have been able to see otherwise remaining in the same spot.
The downside of playing Angry Birds in AR is doing so becomes quite the production if you want to take full advantage. I tried it at work for a few minutes and I am certain my coworkers wondered exactly why I was circling my desk. However, at home or outside, this might seem less of an issue. I should also mention I was actually able to beat a good number of levels without moving around. But my score suffered because I was not looking for the best approach. Therefore, if you are wanting to simply pull out your phone and play a quick, relaxing game of Angry Birds, it might be best to stick with the more traditional versions.
AR also comes with a few problems, none of which were truly distracting but deserve a mention. The mapping isn’t perfect, obviously. So, if you are in a tight space, or your table is small enough, you’ll notice islands floating in midair, or if you’re close to a wall sometimes the structure appears to partially float in midair as well instead of flat on the ground. If you exit the game and come back in, you’ll notice the visual wobbles a bit. Sometimes this fixes itself. If you move around too much and then come back, you’ll have to manually realign the structure. Thankfully, this is simple. You can select the square at the top of the screen which takes you back to the grid. Using this, you can set your structure back where it should be and resume.
The only actual glitches I noticed were rare, but a handful of times I ran out of birds and the game failed to load the animation that leads into asking if I want to retry the level. A few other times I had birds left, but none flew to my slingshot, leaving me unable to proceed and therefore causing me to have to reload the game. Most frequently I encountered a visual glitch which caused all the shading to suddenly vanish and reappear, or what looks like screen tearing. Most of the time, however, the visuals are bright and clean and reasonably steady for an AR title.
What makes this Angry Birds so unique, however, other than the 360 gameplay, is all the little things Rovio added to make the world feel interactive beyond tossing exploding birds at wood and stone structures. The remaining birds you have in wait for their turn will run and follow you around the structure as you walk. The pigs will wave at you, play, and interact with their environment. The bird readied in your slingshot will turn and give you a thumbs up. The pigs will cower and shake when you aim the slingshot directly at them, something that made me feel more like I was interacting with a living thing, and honestly made me feel a little bad. I mean, not bad enough to not knock them into oblivion, but still kind of empathetic. Leaning down and looking into the world works well most of the time and really does give a sense of actual space. The added bonus of seeing the shadow of your slingshot hovering over the structures gives you a sense of size in comparison to the tiny world.
All in all, Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs is nothing new when it comes to the basic Angry Birds formula, but it works very well in augmented reality. Most of its minor issues stem not from the developer, but from the common problems with current gen AR technology. If you enjoy Angry Birds or have yet to try it, then take this opportunity to step into the ongoing battle in a way you haven’t been able to before. It might not be the first game you turn to when you just want to sit down and take a little break. But, when you have the open space and need something a little more interactive, this is a very good go-to. Grab your slingshot and show those pigs Hell hath no fury like that of an angry bird.
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs is currently available for iPhone 6 and later, all iPad Pro models, iPad 5th and 6th generation, iPad Air, and iPad Mini.