Fond as I am of bacon, I can't help but pity Rovio's Bad Piggies. These poor pigs just can't seem to catch a break, with their ceaseless pursuit of the Angry Birds' eggs generally resulting in bodily harm.
In Bad Piggies, the pigs remain on the hunt for sustenance: Their chief engineer has devised a foolproof scheme, but mishaps cause his detailed blueprints to be scattered to the wind.
The only logical response, of course, is to build vehicles to recover blueprint segments. If you've already had your fill of Angry Birds, rest easy: Bad Piggies shares its predecessor's colorful environments and love of physics, but it's a wholly new adventure.
Every level begins with a glimpse of a scrap of paper or wood you'll need to fetch, using a vehicle (I use the term loosely) you'll build from spare components. That's enough to earn a single star and unlock the next level, but every stage offers a pair of extra goals. These range from beating a time limit, to building a vehicle without using particular parts.
There's a delightful sort of mania to the piggies' machinations. Wooden crates and wheels serve as basic building blocks for your machines, but you might find yourself using unconventional building materials like carbonated soda bottles as makeshift rockets to leap chasms, or electric fans and balloons to navigate treacherous caverns.
As you build your haphazard contraptions you'll also need to take stock of weight and balance parts (and pigs) evenly across vehicles, as they're comically prone to tipping.
Unlike Angry Birds where you had to earn all three stars in one go, Bad Piggies lets you earn that coveted three star ranking in multiple attempts: You can spend one turn collecting stars, and build an entirely different contraption the second time around to make it to the end of the level in record time. The end result is puzzles that always feel fun, and don't devolve into hours spent mashing the restart button because you mistimed a jump.
Bad Piggies offers a pair of basic modes, with more than 40 stages apiece. In "Ground Hog Day," puzzles center around land vehicles, while "When Pigs Fly" focuses on aeronautics. As you complete levels in each mode you'll earn spare parts for my favorite mode, the Sandbox.
There's a Sandbox for both vehicle modes, and they serve as a sort of final exam: You're offered parts and a map filled with stars, and are left to figure out the best way to collect them all. You can collect these stars at your leisure, so there's no pressure to build a single, perfect contraption and make one perfect run. I found myself returning to the Sandbox time and time again as new parts became available, which enabled me to cover a bit more ground.
Collecting stars unlocks bonus levels, which offer even more stars and spare parts for the Sandbox. There are also skulls scattered across the stages, which will open up yet another bonus stage--you will not be want for puzzles. That said, I really wish the levels weren't so strictly segregated by vehicle themes. Once I'd dabbled with flight, revisiting the Ground Hog Day levels started to feel a little stale as I was unable to slap wings and balloons on absolutely everything. The Sandbox mode clears this up to some extent, but I found myself wishing for a true Sandbox, involving wide open spaces and more room to experiment.
Bad Piggies is $1 to download on your iPhone or iPod touch running iOS 4.0 or later (iPad users will prefer the $3 Bad Piggies HD), but this is a Rovio game: if you're stuck on a particular level, you can spend a few bucks and have the piggies' chief engineer build you a solution. You can get three engineer-solutions for free by liking the app on Facebook, but experimenting is fun, and I really didn't feel pressured to rely on them.
All told, Bad Piggies breaks free of the Angry Birds mold to deliver a fun, well-polished experience that oozes charm and encourages experimentation--what's not to like?