Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs released in 2019, bringing the famed franchise into VR for the first time. Since its release, the game has received a wealth of updates and new content. But does the transition to VR bode well for the birds or does it all come crumbling down? Here’s our full Angry Birds VR review.
Angry Birds has been around since 2009, originating as a mobile game that spawned a bunch of sequels, spin-offs, merchandise and even a film series. 10 years on from the original, Resolution Games released the franchise’s first foray into VR with Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs. Initially just featuring 52 levels set across over four worlds, the game has received frequent free content updates over the last two years and become quite a beefy package.
In addition to the original main campaign, there’s now a set of 52 ‘spooky’ levels and a full custom level creation system, with the ability to upload, play and rate levels created by others. If you’re an Angry Birds die-hard who just got a VR headset, there’s a lot to love.
Watch Those Birds, You Dirty Pigs
For a game that originated as a 2D mobile game, the iconic Angry Birds gameplay has translated remarkably well to roomscale VR.
Much of the gameplay is similar, if not identical, in concept to the original game, with some small adjustments to take full advantage of the new medium. It’s a fantastic translation — not only is the core gameplay preserved, but it all works intuitively in virtual reality with little to no explanation needed. If you had never heard of Angry Birds before playing Isle of Pigs, you could be forgiven for thinking the game was an original concept made for VR.
For those who have been living under a rock, here’s the quick version of how almost any Angry Birds games plays out. The evil green pigs have stolen the birds’ eggs. To get them back, you’ll play through short levels that involve slingshotting birds at structures housing the pigs, with the aim of taking out all the pigs before you run out of birds. You can do this by damaging the structure and causing it to collapse, or shooting the pigs themselves. Given your limited number of birds and increasing number of pigs per structure, you’ll often want to go for the former.
The structures are made out of ice, wood and stone, and different types of birds work better against certain materials. The standard red bird is the all-rounder, while the yellow bird is effective against wood, the blue bird against ice and the explosive black bird against stone. The birds also possess power-ups that can be activated with the trigger after they’ve been shot — yellow will speed up and fly completely straight, blue will split into 3 birds heading in slightly different directions, and black can be detonated to cause explosive damage to blocks around it.
You progress to the next level by killing all the pigs, but you’re also given a 3-star rating on your performance. The less birds you use and the more of the structure you destroy, the better.
Shooting Into Roomscale VR
All of this is standard fare for any Angry Birds game. Where Isle of Pigs differs is the subtle changes it makes to enhance the experience in VR. Instead of playing 2D levels where you shoot towards a structure from one angle, Isle of Pigs gives you much more freedom. The levels consist of stunning and creative 3D structures housing the pigs, which can be approached from 2 or more different shooting angles.
There’s no right or wrong approach to the levels, but assessing all angles will often reveal secrets or weaknesses that proves useful. An alternate angle might reveal a hole that exposes a TNT block in a critical position, for example, guaranteeing a higher score.
It’s a perfect change for VR that adds a richness and depth to the strategy of the levels that’s not found in the traditional 2D versions of the game. Plus, it means that the game deftly avoids the need for almost any guardian management while playing. A common design pitfall in VR games is not considering smaller play spaces and the annoyance of constantly managing your guardian while playing, which can hinder full immersion.
By using specified shooting positions, the player almost never has to worry about the outer limits of their guardian or having to recenter it. Had Resolution Games not specified any shooting positions and encouraged players to simply walk around the circular structures of each level, the size of your play space would have an impact on your ability to enjoy the game and become fully immersed. It’s a small but absolutely sublime design choice that eliminates an annoyance prevalent in so many other VR games.
Pigging Out On Content
There’s an incredibly solid amount of content available in Isle of Pigs.
The main campaign is a quaint reintroduction to the traditional Angry Birds mechanics and gameplay. It slowly introduces each bird type as you progress through the four worlds, gradually increasing the difficulty and requiring you to think about levels and structures in new ways.
As a veteran Angry Birds player, I managed to cruise through the main campaign in about an hour with 2 or 3-star ratings on most levels. The difficulty does ramp up as you progress, but it’s definitely still pitched to someone who hasn’t played Angry Birds before, or is getting started with VR in general.
A newcomer would likely find the levels more challenging. Likewise, the target demographic for Angry Birds games has always understandably skewed to the younger side. The difficulty starts to feel appropriate when you take that into consideration as well. Nonetheless, veteran players will want a bit more of a challenge.
The second ‘spooky’ campaign that was added gradually post-launch provides a little more of a challenge. These 52 extra levels aren’t necessarily much more difficult, but they introduce some new mechanics and require you to approach things in new ways. Unlike a lot of the main campaign, there are situations where you can’t just brute force your way through. These levels often rely on one specific creative solution, which you’ll need to discover and perfectly execute in order to progress. In some cases, there’s only one method and you’ll just have to experiment until you find it.
While this does mix up the gameplay and prove more challenging, it’s not always for the better. One of the best parts of the Angry Birds formula is being able to find your own approach and feeling that wonderful ‘a-ha’ moment when you discover a flaw in a structure. Those moments make you feel smart, as if you’ve discovered a loophole in the level, even if it’s likely a carefully designed option by the developers.
This feeling is lost in some of the spooky levels, and it sometimes feels more like a puzzle game than one of strategy. Not all of them are limited in this way, but the ones that are can be a bit frustrating and less compelling. The Angry Birds physics and interaction system is also a bit wonky by nature — a structure will never fall the same way twice, even if you use the exact same method. This can lead to some moments of confusion, unsure if you’ve not found the right solution or if something just went slightly wrong in your execution.
That being said, this is bonus campaign is clearly trying to offer something different from what came before it. Had it been more of the same, I might have felt equally disappointed. It’s still worth playing through and it’s fantastic to have extra content, the levels just have a different pace of play.
Build Your Own Chaos
One of the major post-launch editions to Angry Birds VR was the level editor, allowing you to create and share you own Angry Birds levels. The creation tools are mostly intuitive (but a duplicate attachment like the one in Gadgeteer would be a nice quality-of-life addition to speed up building) and allow you to build crazy structures with pigs abound. You can pick which 3 birds will be used in the level, along with their order, and then test it yourself before uploading the level online for others to play.
You can browse other users’ levels online, with a system in place to rank ‘hot’ levels, based off the post-game thumbs up or down rating users can give a level after finishing it.
My one gripe with the custom level system is the absence of the 3-star rating of your performance found in all ‘official’ Angry Birds levels. It’s an understandable omission — each level in the official campaign probably has the threshold for each star rating calculated manually by the developers, and can’t be done automatically — but it’s nonetheless disappointing. The goal simply becomes to destroy all the pigs, with no motivation to go back and do better on a second attempt.
Angry Birds VR Review – Final Verdict
Angry Birds VR is a truly fantastic, intuitive VR title. For younger VR players or fans of the Angry Birds franchise, it’s an absolute perfect fit. The move to VR works seamlessly, retaining the gameplay from the original series while adding in some new VR twists that give it just enough of an edge to be different.
While I found both campaigns to be pretty easy, I think it’s important to keep the target audience in mind. Angry Birds has always been a franchise for the younger demographic and for them, this is a perfect VR game. It’s got a mix of interesting campaigns, a fun aesthetic, some challenging levels and huge creative potential with the level editor.
The main campaign itself was already a massive win for Resolution Games, but the mountain of additional free content that has been added since release makes this an absolutely fantastic package. This is a VR game that is easy to pick up and hard to put down, even if you’re an absolute beginner. Don’t sleep on it.
For more on how we arrived at this score, see our review guidelines. What did you make of our Angry Birds VR review? Let us know in the comments below!