Bad Piggies launched on Android and iOS today, mashing together the physics-based, build-it-yourself gameplay of Amazing Alex with the highly recognizable green pigs from Rovio’s first smash hit, Angry Birds. Angry Birds is a hard act to follow even by its own creator. Can this pig fly and do Rovio’s heritage justice, or are we just seeing a lot of lipstick?
Audio and graphics
Bad Piggies doesn’t do much to break the look and feel of Angry Birds. The same cartoony cut-outs, goofy sound effects, and lighthearted music are very much in line with what you’d expect. Even most of the user interface elements are in the same spots as before. Between the two collections of stages (one more land-based, the other more airborne) there are cute comic strips that detail what exactly it is the pigs are trying to collect at each finish line.
The biggest eyesore in previous Rovio games have been the giant ads they plaster on the pause screen, but luckily in Bad Piggies they’ve provided a toggle to turn them off. You’ll still see a few banner ads throughout the game, but I’ve yet to see anything so far in the HD version that I would qualify as obnoxious. It would be nice to have a bit more variety in terms of soundtrack and stage graphics, but I didn’t find the overall appeal was ruined by repetitiveness on that front.
Gameplay and controls
Ever level, players are provided with a limited set of parts with which to get your piggie to the finish line. These can range from wheels, to fans, to balloons, to sprints and all sorts of different contraptions. Assembly takes place on a simple grid by dragging and dropping items from the bottom toolbar. During set-up, players can also zoom out to get a feel for the stage’s layout, and pinch-to-zoom while surveying (though that zooming isn't particularly well-implemented). If you need to leave the game or switch levels, Bad Piggies conveniently remembers all of your previous assembly. Once players are ready to go, they control various interactive elements of their vehicle by either tapping directly on the parts or using the corresponding buttons along the bottom of the screen.
Though Bad Piggies is touted as a game where your imagination can run wild, there really aren’t that many different combinations you can employ to make sure you make it through a level. At best, players make small tweaks to the same general design rather than exploring radically new options to complete puzzles. The only real exception there are the bonus objectives, though attaining them also requires a somewhat linear focus. For those itching for a bit more creative freedom, Bad Piggies includes four sandbox stages, which once unlocked allow players to create just about whatever they want in order to pick up special crates littered throughout the level. The only real in-app purchase so far are the piggie mechanics, which can build the perfect contraption for you (though you still have to steer it). They cost $1.99 for ten, $5.99 for 35, and $9.99 for 65. Rovio is willing to throw three freebies your way for liking them on Facebook.
As usual, there’s a three-star rating system. One star is awarded just for getting to the end, another for collecting special crates throughout a level, and a third one for completing a varying requirement, such as not using a particular part, finishing before a certain time, or not destroying your ramshackle vehicle. There are also unique skull collectibles scattered throughout the whole game, which can eventually unlock a top-secret sandbox level.
Though levels have little replay value after you’ve reached three-star status, it will take you a long time to do it with 90 stages to chew through. Bad Piggies strikes a good balance of challenge between the careful, methodical planning in the building phase and the quick reactions and coordination required after take-off. The worst one could say about the game mechanics themselves is that they’re an obvious and borderline unoriginal mash-up of Angry Birds and Amazing Alex, which isn’t even necessarily a bad thing.
- Free with minimal ads and IAP harassment
- Decent challenge
- Little replay value for fully-completed levels
- Brand is starting to get a little stale
The bottom line
The nice thing about Bad Piggies is that it’s entirely free, unlike Rovio’s other big-name titles. There’s no “lite” version, and the in-app purchases are limited to the engineer pigs that will basically beat a level for you. One can imagine in the long run Rovio will charge for new sets of levels, though the game description says we can expect free updates too.
For the time being, Bad Piggies offers some decent noggin-scratching puzzles that should keep players of all ages entertained for quite awhile. Though the Angry Birds franchise is starting to get tired, it’s nice to see the antagonistic swine soaking in some of the limelight. After playing this and Amazing Alex though, it's safe to say Rovio isn't going to ever make anything that will leave as big of an impact on mobile apps and gaming as Angry Birds.