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Gaming

Game Review: “Angry Birds VR” Adds a Clever, Interesting Spin to Its Puzzles

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Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs

B

Angry Birds proves it can still be relevant by adding small twists to a tried-and-true physics-based puzzle formula.

The Good
  • Virtual reality slingshot mechanic is satisfying
  • Multiple vantage points adds a clever twist to the puzzles
  • Puzzle solutions require creative thinking
  • Each bird has a special ability, expanding how you can interact with each puzzle
  • Over 50 levels available, with more on the way
The Bad
  • Small variances each time you restart a puzzle due to physics
  • Tracking for Oculus Quest is occasionally glitchy
  • Uninspired repetitive music gets grating after a while

I’m not an Angry Birds fan. It’s not that I dislike the game, but rather I just never got caught up in the hype. I played the first one when it came out and got pretty far, but stopped one day and never went back to it. Since then, there have been all kinds of spin-offs like the RPG version, the racing version, even the pinball version.

But the original Angry Birds physics puzzler never saw any big gameplay shakeups; it’s always been “shoot the bird in a 2D arc at pigs.” And while that’s still true for Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs, the shift to 3D levels and a handheld slingshot provide just enough novelty to make it worth playing.

Disclaimer: My copy of Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs was provided by Resolution Games. However, my opinions in this review are solely my own and have not been influenced by Resolution Games in any way.

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The Good

Unlike the traditional Angry Birds series, which are 2D side-view artillery physics games, Angry Birds VR (I’m going to leave off the “Isle of Pigs” subtitle from now on) introduces the third dimension. You play in the role of a person who uses a slingshot to launch the Angry Bird characters—Red, Chuck, Bomb, and The Blues—at three-dimensional block-based structures, with the goal of knocking the structures down and eliminating the Pigs.

I really enjoy the slingshot mechanic, which has you using both your hands to pull back, aim, and fire the birds—you know, like you would with a real-life slingshot. The birds arc down during flight due to gravity so it’s very much like the original 2D series, except there’s a lot more room for creativity and out-of-the-box thinking due to the extra dimension. In fact, I love that many of the levels have multiple possible solutions. The third dimension really adds a lot.

For more of a challenge, you can disable the trajectory preview

But it’s not just 3D. Angry Birds VR also provides multiple vantage points around the target structure, with different vantage points for each level. Not only does this allow you to view the structure from various angles, but you can also strike the structure in different ways. It’s no longer just about figuring out which block you need to hit and then trying to hit it with the right physics—it’s about looking around, using critical thinking to discern how you can cause a structural chain reaction, figuring out which angle you need to approach it from to make it happen, and executing the slingshot launch to hit the structure precisely how you want to hit it.

There’s one of the vantage points I can move to
Here’s what it looks like from this angle

OK, to be fair, I’m making it sound a lot more involved than it really is. You can totally play Angry Birds VR using a brute-force approach, where you just stand at each vantage point and fire birds at every point of the structure and eventually stumble upon the “right answer.” But for someone like me who was never enthralled by the concept of Angry Birds, I was surprised by how much fun I had with Angry Birds VR. The sense of immersive VR presence made the puzzles a lot more interesting to solve.

I’m not sure if other entries in the Angry Birds franchise had this element, but Angry Birds VR has special abilities for each bird type: Chuck’s speed can be boosted mid-flight, Bomb can explode via trigger detonation, and The Blues can split into three smaller birds mid-flight. These abilities come into play during different levels, forcing you to think differently if you want to solve the level and score a 3-star rating.

Aced it like a pro

Yes, Angry Birds VR does have the usual 3-star rating for each level. With the game split between four worlds and 13 levels per world, you can earn a total of 39 x 4 = 156 stars over the course of the game. It’s easy to get 2 stars on most levels but 3 stars does require some brain power, so there’s a good amount of replayability. It took me about 4 hours to earn 99% of the stars.

The Bad

My complaints about Angry Birds VR are less about the gameplay and more about the quality of the final product. Namely, I think there could have been a little more polish to deliver a cleaner end experience. Note that I played on an Oculus Quest, so it’s possible that these issues don’t occur on other devices.

Different worlds have different blocks with different properties

The main thing that stuck out to me is that the physics engine in Angry Birds VR is subject to “chaos” (as in “chaos theory”). When you restart a level, the structure is recreated to have the same exact starting conditions, but tiny variations in the physics engine can result in different outcomes even when you attempt the same solution.

There were a handful of levels where I knew how to solve the puzzle, yet failed even when I struck the right block from the right angle using the right bird. How did I know it was the correct solution? Well, I restarted the level several times, each time using the same exact shot, hitting the same exact spot, and eventually it did what I wanted it to do. Maybe it wasn’t the correct solution and I just got lucky—that’s totally plausible. Either way, though, I do consider that a flaw. It’s frustrating as a player when you know a solution but the only reason it isn’t working is due to engine quirks.

Aced the entire first world

I also ran into a minor issue with tracking loss: every so often, one of my hands would freeze in-game for a few seconds. Waving that hand’s controller around would eventually bring it back to life, but it’s annoying when you’re trying to make a shot and it freezes at the perfect time, making you miss. Not a big deal since you can just restart the levels, but inconvenient nonetheless. And yes, I made sure it wasn’t an issue with my headset or controller setup (didn’t happen in other games).

Pretty much beat the game

Lastly, while I liked the music in Angry Birds VR, I do wish there was a wider variety of tracks, perhaps a unique set for each world. As with most things played on infinite repeat, they get old and grate after a while.

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The Rest

At $15, I think Angry Birds VR provides enough entertainment to feel like you get your money’s worth—assuming you enjoy physics puzzlers! I will say that I got stuck on several levels before the answer clicked, and there are a handful of levels that I still haven’t 3-starred yet. It’s a great game to have on the back burner for when I’m too tired to swing around a racket or slash away at blocks with sabers.

Buy Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs on Steam
Buy Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs on the Oculus Store (Rift, Quest)
Buy Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs on the Oculus Store (Go, Gear VR)
Buy Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs on the PlayStation Store

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