Release Date: April 29, 2019Platform: iOSDeveloper: Resolution GamesPublisher: RovioGenre: Augmented reality
2019 marks the 10-year anniversary of Angry Birds, and developer Resolution Games and publisher Rovio hope to find 10 more years of success by translating the franchise’s signature physics-based gameplay to the next generation of gaming devices.
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs is, as the title suggests, an augmented reality version of Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs, which released for VR headsets earlier this year. The game, which is exclusive to iOS (for now), uses Apple’s ARKit technology to display the game’s 40 levels over’ real-world surroundings, allowing players to move around the Pigs’ precarious structures and look for weak points and hidden special items.
In terms of content, the game is essentially the same as its VR counterpart, as both games share the same levels and mechanics. But while ABVR’s puzzles are displayed within an Isle of Pigs-themed environment, you can beam ABAR’s levels onto your kitchen floor, onto your duvet, on a basketball court, or any flat surface your heart desires, so long as there’s about a two-foot distance between your device and the chosen space (you’ll need room to move around).
The AR functionality is initially amusing, as the game projects the cartoonish levels onto the real world. At one point, while peering through the space between two wooden beams on one of the structures, I saw my wife walk by and it startled me, to her delight. But once I started understanding the spatial aspect of the game, I became engaged with the gameplay on a deeper level than I expected. Getting in close and surveying the nooks and crannies of the levels almost always revealed something useful, like a structural weak point or a pig hiding in a hard-to-spot corner. Sometimes, the key to maximum destruction revealed itself when I took a few steps back and took a lap around the structure.
The AR tech works incredibly well. I experienced little to no technical wonkiness, and the levels always appeared to be grounded in my real-world surroundings. The illusion is solid, though at times some of the levels’ cosmetic details, like the occasional palm tree placed off to the side (presumably to remind you of the island theme), obstructed my view when I was trying to place my perfect shot, which was irritating. Other than this minor hiccup, the game runs smoothly.
Levels are completed when you off all of the smarmy pigs scattered about, launching a variety of birds from your trusty slingshot. The yellow birds speed up when you tap them mid-flight, the big black ones explode—it’s the usual Angry Birds cast of characters. As you aim, floating dots predict the trajectory of your shot, which is invaluable now that the franchise has made the jump to three dimensions. The dots don’t feel as precise as they did in the 2-D versions of the game, but they work just fine. As in all Angry Birds games, the more thoroughly you demolish the levels, the more points you earn. And the more points you earn, the more coins you acquire, which allow you to unlock new worlds (as of now, there are four worlds with ten levels each).
Some levels can be challenging to get high marks on, with cleverly hidden weak points forcing you to search for them closely and hit them from the perfect angle and at the right velocity. There’s nothing frustratingly difficult here, which is fine since the gameplay is engaging enough. That being said, I wish there were more levels available, though I’m sure we’ll see more in the coming months. Resolution and Rovio look to be taking the franchise in the right direction, and Angry Birds AR is one of the best showcases of augmented reality I’ve seen yet.
Bernard Boo is a freelance contributor. Read more of his work here.