First there was virtual reality. Now, the next frontier for Angry Birds is augmented reality.
Angry Birds VR: Isle of Pigs arrived in February, giving fans of Rovio's bird-flinging, pig-smashing series a whole new way to play. Inside a VR headset, you interact with the series trademark slingshot from a first-person perspective as you physically move around the playing field to line up your shots.
Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs is set to deliver the same experience on a smaller set of screens. The iOS-exclusive (for now) game is a free-to-download release coming sometime in the spring, and it brings that same first-person VR vibe to your iPhone .
This new Isle of Pigs will of course only run on ARKit-enabled iPhones, but that shouldn't be a problem for most users. Apple's support for ARKit goes all the way back to the iPhone 6S, so as long as you have that phone or a newer one, you're fine.
If you haven't played the VR game at all but are familiar with Angry Birds as a series, getting on board with Isle of Pigs shouldn't be hard. You play from a first-person perspective, with your iPhone's screen serving as your slingshot's-eye-view of each level, but the rules are otherwise the same.
Each level is a rickety assemblage of building blocks that you're supposed to smash to pieces using a variety of birds, all of which behave differently once you launch them. The ultimate goal isn't to knock over every piece, but to find and utterly destroy all of the spherical green pigs tucked into the nooks and crannies of each level.
There are secrets to uncover too, as well as a varied arsenal of bird behaviors to master. But each subsequent level's growing complexity never changes your basic mission: delete every pig you can find.
The AR factor means you need a relatively flat and empty IRL surface to stand over. Preferably one that affords you 360 degrees of access, since being able to fully circle the playing field is sometimes the key to finding the most effective path through a level.
I picked up on all of this very quickly during a brief preview session. The first-person perspective feels immediately intuitive, especially if you already understand how the game is played. It's a great feeling to work your way around a level — and I mean literally, walk around it — ducking down or standing up on tiptoes in your hunt for the best angle of attack.
The leap to AR is also freeing for those who might not enjoy the experience of spending extended amounts of time wearing a VR headset. The AR Isle of Pigs is essentially the same game, but by removing the headset from the equation it becomes a much more approachable game for couples and groups of friends to enjoy together.
I'm excited to spend more time playing Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs when it launches for iOS in the spring (pre-orders should be open now in the App Store). And take heart, non-iOS people; there's no news yet, but Rovio did say it's looking at other AR-supported platforms as well.