Preview: Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs: Hands-on Gameplay

It’s hard to believe that it has been nearly 10 years since Angry Birds hit the App Store on iOS. In 2009, Angry Birds was one of the premier games on the platform. Angry Birds maintained the #1 spot on iOS paid-app charts for many, many months.

Finnish development studio, Rovio Entertainment seemed to have caught lightning in a bottle. Over the last decade, Rovio has continued to develop multiple Angry Birds spin-off games. The studio also developed a proper sequel and helped produced the 2016 feature film. As the 10th anniversary draws closer, it seemed only fitting that Rovio celebrated all things Angry Birds with a new game–– one with a twist! Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs.

Announced today, Rovio has teamed up with virtual reality-focused development studio, Resolution Games to adapt Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs to all ARKit enabled iOS devices. Utilizing the AR support built into the iPhone XS Max, I sat down with Rovio to get a hands-on preview of the upcoming Angry Birds title.

Resolution Games and Rovio developed Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs to stick to the same core foundation that Angry Birds was built on. Now, instead of users slinging birds across a 2D plane, you’ll be firing across a table or desk in front of you.

During the extensive demo, Creative Director at Rovio, Sami Ronkainen guided me through the initial steps. He began scanning various flat surfaces with the iPhone XS Max to build the play area. He humoured me when I asked if the game could be played on any surface–– indoors or out. Ronkainen went on to scan the floor, and a nearby window sill and built a level on various surfaces.

For the purpose and comfort of the demo, Ronkainen stuck to a large dining room table. Afterwards, I was given a brief tutorial. Having played the original Angry Birds, muscle memory began to kick in. Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs follows the same mechanic of flinging birds at the Pig’s structures. However, the biggest hurdle I had was remembering to use all 360-degrees of space around the level.

Starting from level 1-1, completion was as simple as in the original Angry Birds title. Slingshot the standard red bird directly at a Pig or support beams and everything comes crashing down–– easy three stars! As I progressed through the demo, it became more essential to explore all angles in order to complete the level. Standing in one spot, flinging my avian companions was not a viable option. I had to utilize the entire play area.

Crates of TNT could be found if I walked to the opposite side of the level. Reaching slightly higher, or down low would open up creative ways of knocking down the structure. Each level I experienced encouraged me to explore the creative possibilities. As I became more familiar with the act of loading into the next level and inspecting all nooks and crannies, the process became much more natural.

The ‘Golden Egg’ collectibles are back. Like in previous games, they are often hidden out of the player’s sight. In one instance, I was guided by Ronkainen to bring the phone down low to the table to spot a window within the Pig’s structure. Dead-smack in the middle laid the collectible. He offered his advice. Either force your way through the structure, wasting a few birds, or bring the phone up high and shoot to the opening from above. Either way, I could obtain the collectible. However, it was an example of how players can approach each level in a different way.

Scaling the levels based on the amount of space you have in front of you seemed very simple. Although I did not have a chance to do it myself, I was shown that having the phone closer or further away from the surface would dictate how large the Pig’s structures would be. However, the maximum size of a level was not set in stone.

While the Angry Birds model has been going on for quite some time. Reinvigorating the series when modern audiences are attracted to VR and AR tags, has the potential to bring in fresh eyes to Angry Birds.  More apps on iOS are taking the ARKit capabilities and putting it to good use. With each accessible game or app, users are becoming comfortable with Augmented Reality and the potential it holds.

Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs is a free-to-play experience with at least 40 levels available. This will likely get in the hands of someone who has never tried AR tech. I look forward to seeing the reception Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs will gain later this spring when the game officially launches on iOS.