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Bad Piggies review: Angry Birds follow-up bolts on complexity

Bad Piggies, the follow-up to Angry Birds, is out today. It's sure to sell well to begin with, but will it alienate the casual gamer?

Angry Birds sequel Bad Piggies has pitched up on the iOS, Android and Mac app stores, and Windows too. Rovio's pig-steering puzzler is available in ad-supported regular and HD versions on Google Play for free, whereas iOS users will have to fork out £1.99 for the iPad version and 69p for the iPhone or iPod touch.

The aim of the game is simple -- get the piggies to their destination -- the method, however, is not. No longer will you take aim and fling your way to success with an oversized slingshot. Instead you have to build contraptions, vehicles of sorts, to transport your porcine pal to a checkered flag while collecting as many stars as possible on the way.

When a level starts you're met with a blueprint for your vehicle and a number of items you can use to put it together. The most basic pieces are square boxes your piggy can sit in, and wheels to roll him along. Around these you can stick on things ranging from balloons to rockets to wings to a spring -- which I still haven't worked out a use for yet. 

When you're done building your masterpiece, you press play to set things off. This is where Bad Piggies differs to similar puzzlers since, instead of simply letting the contraption go and watching what happens, you control when you light the rocket, turn on the fan or open the umbrella (you really need to play it for this to make sense) with on-screen buttons.

The game really does stray far from the proven formula of its slingshotting predecessor. But the styling remains the same, along with a strong physical element to its puzzles. The scoring system also feels familiar -- you earn one, two or three stars for each level depending on how well you complete it.

The main difference with Bad Piggies, in my opinion, is it's simply much harder. Angry Birds let the cramped commuter, squished into a packed train with access to only one thumb, play a satisfying game for a few minutes every day -- the joy of the game was in its simplicity and seeing a teetering tower splat your sworn enemy after your last shot.

Bad Piggies, on the other hand, makes you take your time, scan the landscape in detail and plan out what your porkies will need to get them to the end of each level. Trial and error is still a big part of solving levels when you get stuck, but it's certainly less feasible to randomly fling stuff at the screen until you win than in Angry Birds.

If you're really stuck, you can hire a mechanic at the top of the screen who'll build the perfect vehicle for you -- but this comes at a price. Signing up through Facebook gets you your first  three spanner-bearing piggies for free, but from that point on you can pay for 10 more for £1.50, 35 for £4 and 65 for £7. For all that dosh he doesn't even pilot the thing, as the onscreen driving is still down to you.

There are in-app purchases and then there's this. I think Rovio is charging an extremely high price simply for getting unstuck on one of its frustrating levels. Not cool.

The game comes with 90 levels to crash and bang your way through. They are arranged into two offerings: Groundhog Day and When Pigs Fly. The first relies on ground-based vehicles and the second has you using balloons and gliding equipment to fly your egg-loving chums to the finish line.

As you race your way through these levels, you unlock items to be used in a third section called Sandbox. Here you get to make one big car/helicopter/plane thing to scoot around an open level collecting more stars to add to your collection. More levels are promised in the pipeline too.

Overall I think Bad Piggies is a smart addition to a massively successful franchise. It's familiar, but not overly so, and may well find you harrowingly addicted, much like its predecessors. But my worry is that the more casual gamer -- our one-handed commuter friend -- may be put off, reaching the point of no return when they get stuck on a level and won't pay the highwaypig his extortionate mechanic toll.

The game has already demonstrated its popularity -- it only launched yesterday and already it's hit the top spot on the UK and US iOS market. Over on Google Play it has a whopping average rating of 4.7 from over 1,800 users.

Angry Birds Space, the last Rovio title, hit 10 million downloads in less than 72 hours and it will certainly be interesting to see how the little green piggies fare against their feathery foes.

Will we be expecting to see a load more plush piggy toys hitting stores soon, and perhaps some pork-themed playgrounds on the back of Bad Piggies' success? Parade your porcine opinions down in the comments or over on our pork-loving Facebook page.