I’m going to start this review with a little honesty. I wasn’t going to buy Bad Piggies. I saw the gameplay trailer and the other advertisements for the game, and it looked pretty good — but nothing I couldn’t live without. I played and finished (with 3 stars on every level) the original Angry Birds a couple years ago, and that chewed up a lot of my free time; it was addictive to me in getting all the stars. Since then, after “completing” it, I’ve played it once or twice, but my interest has waned. So a new “Birds” game with lots of apparent similarities wasn’t too appealing to me. But that all changed last weekend.
GAME NAME: Bad Piggies
RELEASE DATE(S): September 27, 2012
Around 8:00 AM last Saturday, my six-year-old son came into my room and woke me up. “Buy this. It’s Angry Birds, but you’re a pig.” What I had heard in my half-asleep head was “mumble mumble mumble… you’re a pig.” That woke me up a bit. “Hey!” I replied, as he shoved my phone in my face. “Buy it! It’s only 99 cents and we like Angry Birds, and this is like that but you build stuff.” I was still sleepy, so to end the torture and get back to sleep, I clicked Install and typed in my iTunes password. Then I was back off to sleep. Here’s the first helpful hint in this review: never, ever, reveal your iTunes password to your kids; they will spend you into the poor house.
Anyway, my son played it until I got up and made him stop for breakfast. I asked him how the game was, and his succinct review was “it’s fun but I don’t know how to get past some of the levels.” After playing it for a few days, that’s the short version of my general review, too. It’s entertaining enough to keep you entertained, but tricky enough to keep you interested.
Of course, since it’s Rovio’s biggest release since Angry Birds, it’s only natural to make comparisons between the two games. It’s got the same style of graphics and cute comical “storyline” à la Angry Birds, which should keep players interested in progressing forward through the levels. The music isn’t anywhere near as addictive as Angry Birds (e.g. an ear-worm), so that’s a huge bonus. The gameplay is different, but the physics-based puzzle aspect is still strong, and just as compelling. All those things are good.
The game is based around the Bad Piggies — you know, the ones that made the birds angry by stealing their eggs. Your job is to help them build vehicles out of specific (and often familiar) building blocks. These include wooden crates (to hold the pigs), wheels (made of wood or metal with differing speeds/resistance), shaken up soda bottles, bellows, fans, TNT, and umbrellas. How you position them is up to you. Once your contraption is designed and built, you launch and try to cross the finish line… without crashing. On the way, you can attempt to collect various rewards. The more rewards you gather, the more stars you’ll receive when you complete the level. And just as in Angry Birds, it’s tough to get them all. The physics-based nature of the challenges brings logic and testing to the forefront of gameplay.
At the beginning of the games, the levels are all pretty easy. There’s nothing too crazy or complicated, and you can usually get two or three stars on your first try merely by looking at the level (with the usual iPhone pinch/unpinch) and guessing at what will work. As the game progresses, the puzzles naturally grow harder and harder. It’s a steady progression at first, but eventually you arrive at levels that are just downright crazy-hard. And if I have one huge complaint about this game, it’s that some levels are just too hard, even for expert Angry Birds fans. Rovio should have seen these issues in their game testing and adjusted them, or at the very least reorder the levels to make the difficulty increase more steadily as the levels progress. Of course, those levels aren’t impossible, but they take way too long to figure out, and I question whether casual gamers will have the patience to experiment and solve it on their own.
The new Sandbox Editor is a cool feature that lets you experiment with all the various building blocks, going through much easier levels. For me, it was fun for a little while, but once you figure stuff out and how they work and react, there’s not much more. But if you’re anything like my six-year-old, you’ll find this as addictive as the rest of the game. Seriously, he’ll play on the sandbox level for hours. Just making strange and useless vehicles and making them crash or fly or tumble. He loves it. This ends up being a great diversion for him when he doesn’t get anywhere on the normal levels. If you’re a parent who likes to use your iPhone or iPad as a pacifier, you’ll love this feature.
So, the question is (as it always is with mobile games), is this game worth the 99 cents I paid for it? Yes, without a doubt. It’s a heck of a deal at 99 cents. Is it a perfect game? No. But it’s fun, challenging, and frustrating, all wrapped up in a cute package — like a pig in a blanket. It’s actually more entertaining than some of the $60 games I play for a few hours and then trade in for $20 bucks. So, even if you’re remotely interested in this game, or you’re a recovering Angry Birds addict, you won’t have wasted your dollar.
After thinking about what a great deal it was for this game to be a dollar, the reason dawned on me, and it also explains the sporadic mega- difficult levels. Rovio will sell you tips and tricks on how to get past those levels. They’ll let you “Hire a Mechanic” in the game to help and his help ain’t cheap, especially if you’re not creative. Invoking Chuck Norris’ free help in Scribblenauts was a much better deal. Ten uses of the Mechanic costs $1.99, which is twice the price of the game! So if you’re no good at Bad Piggies, but love it anyway, you can hire the mechanic 65 times, and it will set you back ten bucks.
So while Bad Piggies will probably sell like bacon-wrapped turkey legs at a Renaissance Faire, the 99 cent buy in may only be the tip of the iceberg. If you have the self-control to avoid the Mechanic, it’s certainly worth the purchase. But if you find yourself buying your way out of tricky situations just to advance farther in the game, Rovio’s famous birds may not be the only ones who end up angry.