Well played, Rovio.
Bad Piggies is the newly launched title from Rovio Entertainment- the developers of Angry Birds. While I am always willing to acknowledge the immense success of the Angry Birds franchise, I could never quite respect the series from a gameplay perspective. Angry Birds: Space hinted that Rovio would like to break free from their moneymaking goliath, but Bad Piggies couldn’t send a more resounding message. Although it is not a complete creative departure, Bad Piggies provides the element of player agency that Angry Birds lacked.
The game can be likened to Fantastic Contraption, a title that challenged players to create a gadget or vehicle to carry an object across the finish line. Fans of Fantastic Contraption will immediately recognize the similarities to Bad Piggies. In fact, the core elements of Bad Piggies are taken wholesale from Fantastic Contraption, in that players are tasked with creating a vehicle by intelligently mashing parts together with the objective of carrying the piggy across the finish line. However; Bad Piggies features a pared down construction system that naturally lends itself to a much simpler UI.
The simplicity of contraptions does not mean that Bad Piggies is simply ‘Fantastic Contraption, but less.” Instead, the reduction in scope is a welcome revision to what would have otherwise been a complicated game. Bad Piggies even adds to its subgenre by giving player control of various vehicular elements. Players can turn engines on and off, open and close umbrellas that act as dampeners, activate propulsion systems, pop balloons, enable and disable fans, and more. The variety of control means that a player must not only conceive a design that will navigate a level, they must also play an active role during the pig’s travel time.
I found the combination of construction and navigation to be enthralling to say the least. There is nothing more satisfying in Bad Piggies than managing your pig’s vehicle as if it was a staged rocket launch. The levels are tightly designed, and special sandbox levels are included to provide an even larger creative playground.
Bad Piggies neatly avoids many of the pitfalls of Angry Birds. While the three star ranking system is present, the player’s goals are very clearly presented within the level itself. There isn’t any mystery about why a certain design is failing, or how one could better navigate a level. Players don’t even need to obtain all of the stars in a single run, and can develop entirely separate strategies for each objective. These stars can then be used to unlock new levels.
The clear cut relationship between player choice and success was refreshing. Gone are the days of lining up a bird and just hoping that the physics system worked out in one’s favor.
Much like Angry Birds, the physics system in Bad Piggies is at the heart of the game, although I found the physics in Bad Piggies to be much more intuitive. The game would do well to keep a combined listing of all the in-game hints associated with the different vehicle parts, though. I am deep into the game and do not clearly understand the benefits of choosing a specific wheel type. For the most part, though, each vehicle segment and addition in Bad Pigges has a clear use.
The tinkering and freedom within Bad Piggies directly appeals to what I enjoy about the best video games. I love having a variety of potential routes to an objective.
I was not entirely tickled by every aspect of Bad Piggies. The game’s sound is marred by the chuckling and hypersensitive green pig, and the score is mostly hokey. In general, the sound design is a bit over the top and is perhaps geared towards a younger audience that won’t mind. I was also disappointed to see that the game does not contain a library of vehicle component types and their various descriptions. While it is possible to learn by doing, I am still sure that I am misusing the “spring” element by solely using it as a crash cushion. It would be nice to know what the developer’s intent was for each piece before using it within a level. A greater understanding of the materials would only lead to increases in efficiency of design. Load times are also lengthy on the iPhone 4 that I used to test the game.
The word ‘design’ is at the heart of why I love Bad Piggies, I honestly felt in many levels that I was not simply discovering the developers’ solution. Rather, I felt that I had designed my own. The developers placed intelligent limits on the player’s independence, but give the player enough room to feel ownership of their accomplishment.
I encourage everyone to try Bad Piggies; it is a game for all audiences, and one that is as challenging or easy as the player would like it to be.