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Hands On: Rovio’s Bad Piggies has that addictive Angry Birds magic

Mobile games developer Rovio has created quite the path for itself. The absurdly popular Angry Birds series took players everywhere from tropical islands to outer space, but even that doesn’t capture the astronomical growth that the multimedia company has had. They’ve expanded to a full-blown phenomenon, selling everything from plush toys to tickets to their new European theme park. Now they’re getting back to their roots by creating a spin-off title from the Angry Birds franchise. Bad Piggies takes the villains of the vengeful feathered flyers and makes them the stars.

The goal of Bad Piggies is rather simple: collect pieces of a map that will lead you to your treasure — in this case, bird eggs. In that sense, the game must be a bit of a prequel to the Angry Birds franchise. This game should show what makes the birds so darn angry in the first place. To accomplish the task at hand, players will have to build some basic forms of transportation to bring the bodiless swine to their destination.

Bad Piggies create your vehicle

Players start out each level with a selection of pieces to create a cart that will carry the pigs to a lost piece of the map. The parts players have range from wheels and boxes for basic wheeled carts to spinning fans and shaken up soda bottles that propel the carts forward. Some levels even have balloons and umbrellas to change vertical direction. Once a primitive craft has been built, you have to pilot it across the landscape to reach your goal.

There are three different goals on any given level. One is to finish with your pig intact, which is reasonable enough considering the game isn’t called “Slaughter House.” The second and third objectives vary from time-based challenges, to finishing a level without using the fan or propelling piece of your build, to collecting a star that is off the beaten path. Accomplishing any of the tasks at hand will result in a star reward. 

Bad Piggies driving
Bad Piggies crash and burn

While the gameplay is significantly different than that of Angry Birds and the mode of transportation has changed from slingshot to player-built vehicle, the method of accomplishment through trial and error remains. You’ll want to play through levels multiple times to achieve that elusive three star rating, and every attempted build will give a different result. That’s where the true replay-ability factor lies and it’s something that few do as well as Rovio.

Also similar to Angry Birds is the fact that early levels don’t really have multiple ways of winning. These levels serve as an introduction and have a very clear path to completion. In Bad Piggies, you’ll be given a certain area in which you can build and place pieces. At the start, that area is very limited and only allows for certain types of designs to be made. It expands as the game goes on, opening itself up to unique creations and clever usage of provided parts. This especially is true once one earns enough stars to get into Sandbox mode. All the limitations are dropped here, and players can take control of any part in the game to make some absurd yet awesome creations. That appears to be where the true potential is in this title. Unfortunately, the Sandbox mode is currently quite small in comparison to the fully fleshed out missions of standard play. 

While it’s not entirely fair to do, Bad Piggies will be compared to Angry Birds because it’s from the same developer and is in the same universe. It definitely is not the same game. The pace is slower and requires a bit more thought. When things don’t work properly, it’s also considerably more frustrating than Angry Birds, where one could simply restart and begin firing away again. In a way, it is quite similar to Amazing Alex, Rovio’s other recent non-Birds mobile game launch, which requires a lot more planning. Restarting in Bad Piggies means going back to the drawing board and hoping your pieced together project will function how you imagined. The groundwork of the game is good. Rovio has laid a solid foundation for a title that begs for more levels — especially in Sandbox mode. While there’s a little bit of hand holding in the early going, Bad Piggies thrives when it lets go of the playable tutorial style and lets players and their imagination run wild.

Bad Piggies is available for iPhone/iPod for $1, iPad for $3, Android for free, and Mac for $5.

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