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I Played Angry Birds in AR and Now I’m Addicted Again

Move over Pokemon Go!, there’s a new augmented reality sensation in town. Mobile game developer Rovio has announced the 19th entry in its popular avian-led series: Angry Birds AR: Isle of Pigs. Now available for pre-order (launching in late spring) on all ARKit-enabled devices, the free new title brings the old-school slingshot mechanics and colorful boards to the real world. I had the opportunity to go hands-on with the new game and it’s even more addictive than the previous entries.

Similar to previous titles, Isle of Pigs pits the titular angry birds against the greedy pigs in an attempt to rescue your stolen eggs. But before you start busting up piggy strongholds, you have to find a suitable space to play. Unlike previous Angry Birds games, you’ll have to do a bit of prep work before you start smashing piggies.

When the game launches, you’ll be prompted to find a 19.7 x 19.7-inch flat surface, which is slightly bigger than an A4 piece of paper. From there, ARKit does its thing and scans the surface, complete with dozens of pig faces outlining your soon-to-be play area, which in my case was a fairly large table. The scan takes about 1-2 seconds, after which it was time to play.

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Isle of Pigs stays true to the Angry Birds that you spent countless hours playing. You get your core five birds (red, white, blue and yellow) a slingshot and 40 levels at launch. However, instead of playing on a 2D plane, the action takes place in 3D, right in front of you. That means I could walk around the table during my demo, holding the iPhone Xs Max, and see different areas of the board sort of like the 3D puzzler, Monument Valley. This adds a new level to gameplay as finding a new perspective can reveal hidden pigs, bombs or other secrets key to nabbing the high score.

It was fun exploring the board before I took my shots. When I leaned in close to a pig, it would make a face to taunt me while the birds would wave. I was particularly impressed by the attention to detail Apple and Rovio put into the game. For instance, the table was bathed in a gentle snowstorm during an ice level. To further drive home the point that I was playing in a winter wonderland, the game added a slight blue tint to the board. They even took the time to make individual snowflakes.

As for the actual gameplay, if you’ve played any Angry Birds title, you’ll be familiar with the slingshot technique. Just line up your shot via the white dots, pull back on the slingshot and let it fly. Each bird retains their iconic powers so tapping on the screen after launching a yellow bird will give it a turbo boost while a blue one will split into three separate fowl.

I won’t be surprised to see all of my friends who own ARKit-enabled products launching birds into the AR ether when the game launches. Rovio is looking to bring the augmented-reality goodness to other AR-friendly platforms, so hopefully, Android users can join in on the fun sooner than later.