With Bad Piggies, Rovio strays further from Angry Birds success

Rovio has been under a little pressure to come up with a gaming title that shows it can win over fans with something not named Angry Birds. This past summer, it released the Amazing Alex, a rebrand of acquired IP Casey’s Contraptions and the title did pretty well, initially, though fell well short of Angry Birds success. Now, it’s out today with Bad Piggies, which takes the viewpoint of the pigs from the Angry Birds games.

The physics-based game requires players to build contraptions and vehicles for the pigs that get them to their beloved eggs. Once the device is built, the player guides it toward a map of the eggs, with physics taking over. The title is available today on the iPhone (s aapl) (99 cents), iPad ($2.99), Android (s goog) (free) and Mac ($4.99).

The game is built in the same art style of Angry Birds and should be familiar to fans of the series. But the title is more like Amazing Alex, which also let users set off physics-based chain reactions and create their own over-engineered devices. That title got off to a strong start but has fallen to #112 on the overall iTunes charts and #58 on the game charts, according to App Annie. Meanwhile, the original Angry Birds, three years old now, is #25 overall  in the iTunes App Store.

Bad Piggies, RovioBad Piggies will likely do better because of its Angry Birds heritage combined with the Rovio brand. But in playing the game this morning, I feel like it will also fall short of Angry Birds success, ultimately.

Angry Birds was pure simplicity when you first played it, but the payoff was visceral. It was so satisfying seeing the birds hurtling toward the pigs and seeing all their elaborate structures come tumbling down in different combinations. And all the unique birds with various capabilities created new game play that kept the title interesting.

Bad Piggies feels more complicated up front with less destructive joy. That’s by design, since you’re building something. But the whole act of putting something together in pretty much only one logical configuration and then pressing go is nowhere near as fun as just letting a bird rip in a slingshot. The results are less satisfying as well. If you deliver the pig to the map, you’re done. It’s a little fun to see if you make it there, but there’s not much variance in how a successful run goes. And there’s no glee in watching a big fortress come down.

This is not an in-depth review since I only played a dozen 20 levels this morning. But the early game play makes me doubt that Rovio will have a long-term success like Angry Birds. I haven’t played Amazing Alex in a long time and I don’t think I’m going to look forward to going back to Bad Piggies in the way that I did with Angry Birds. I could be wrong and this could turn out to be a huge hit over the long haul. That would be great considering Rovio raised $42 million on the premise it would be a hit maker. But increasingly, I’m seeing why Rovio stuck with Angry Birds so long: it’s a recipe that works.