Put on your captain’s hat (headset) and set sail on a piggy submarine.
The Angry Birds Movie 2 hit theaters nationwide this week, offering both kids and kids-at-heart the chance to join Red, Chuck, and Bomb on another lighthearted adventure, complete with vicious prank wars, high-flying antics, and plenty of pig-based puns.
Here’s the deal: after saving Bird Islands eggs from the nefarious pigs and their leader, King Leonard Mudbeard, Red is revered as a hero by his fellow bird brethren and continues to protect the island from a seemingly-endless prank war against the pigs.
After an enormous ball of ice crashes onto the shores of Pig Island, however, King Mudbeard offers a truce between the warring factions, citing an even greater threat growing on the newly discovered Eagle Island. Fearing for the safety of both islands, the former foes team-up to take down the eagle threat lead by the evil Zeta.
In order to reach this previously unknown Eagle Island, the pigs—masters of engineering and gadgetry—offer to ferry the adorable strike team to the island using their enormous (and when I say enormous, I mean ENORMOUS) piggy submarine.
Set aboard the gargantuan submersible, The Angry Birds Movie 2 VR: Under Pressure offers players the chance to operate and maintain the complex mechanics of the piggy submarine while at the same time navigating a series of underwater threats and obstacles that could sink the adorable craft.
“XR Games’ mission is to make VR games for everyone,” said Richard Boon, Lead Designer, during an interview with VRScout. “The PS4 social screen is very appealing from this perspective. We explored a number of concepts for asymmetric social screen gameplay, some of which were competitive and some co-operative. When the idea of placing the TV players inside a vehicle controlled by the VR player came up – and we learned that there was a submarine in the Angry Birds Movie 2 – the co-operative option won out.”
Centered around asymmetrical cooperative gameplay, The Angry Birds Movie 2 VR: Under Pressure splits players into two groups: one VR player and three controller players. The VR-user views the action from the perspective of the captain and can see out the main viewing port of the submarine. Using the PlayStation 4 controller to operate the Magnashot slingshot, the captain can fire plunger harpoons at piggy treasure scattered throughout the seafloor as well as detonate torpedoes to destroy any underwater rockfalls and giant tentacles that may be blocking their path.
When they’re not busy keeping the submarine safe from any underwater threats or collecting treasure, the captain can also use their slingshot to assist the other crew members in keeping the ship operational by sucking up players and items and firing them in specific locations to save precious time. And these crew members will definitely need the help as they’ll be busy frantically running around the ship storing treasure, resupplying plunger and torpedo cannons, and repairing broken machinery.
In order to accumulate points, every time the captain successfully sucks up treasure, the controller players must properly stack any bronze, silver, and gold treasure found inside in the appropriate storage areas. Sometimes these chests are booby-trapped with time-activated TNT crates. In order to avoid damaging the ship and ending the level early, controller players must pick up and drop the explosives in the submarines garbage disposal, at which point the captain can trigger the device and safely destroy the TNT.
Along with handling treasure and explosives, controller players tasked with managing the ship’s resources and ensuring the captain is always stocked with plungers and torpedos. Various machines located on the deck of the ship, when activated, will produce the materials necessary for this equipment. Controller players must work together in an efficient manner to produce, convert, and organize these supplies, all while repairing any malfunctions that may arise.
As previously stated, the captain can assist controller players in their duties using their Magnashot slingshot. This includes helping organize treasure, producing specific materials, and quickly repositioning players for maximum efficiency. Of course, there are several limitations to the captain’s abilities. VR-users, for instance, are unable to move TNT crates or torpedos, forcing the crew to manually move these items themselves, which can be costly and time-consuming.
The goal of each level is to successfully keep the ship afloat from point A to point B while simultaneously collecting as much treasure as possible. Similar to standard Angry Birds titles, performances are graded on a three-star system. Don’t be fooled by the cartoon style and kid-friendly gameplay, however. The Angry Birds Movie 2 VR: Under Pressure is far from a walk-in-the-park, especially when you begin diving into later levels.
The game does get difficult,” added Boon. “But we usually see a big, instant hike in player competence after they’re past the initial learning period – teams get much more efficient very suddenly.”
“Story Mode trains the players, then subsequent levels challenge them. Challenge mode is even harder. I want teams to play a level a few times in row. Get into its groove. There’s so much scope for short cuts and efficiency tricks, for captain and crew. So many tricks! Players are surprised, going back to earlier levels, how much better they get – and how quickly.”
While we have noticed a rise in VR-based asymmetrical gaming in 2019 (Acron: Attack of the Squirrels, Takelings House Party), we’ve yet to see too many cooperative experiences. The Angry Birds Movie 2 VR: Under Pressure is unique in that sense, creating a VR social experience that forces players to work together rather than against.
“We found competitive games that pit one person against another, resulted in the losing person obviously feeling unhappy. Especially when the winner would rub it in their face!,” said Bobby Thandi, CEO of the developer XR Games. Also, when the difference in skill is too high, then the game isn’t fun for either person. So when making a social VR game, the co-operative version felt like the natural choice.”
“Finally, I personally observed that when a single-player VR game is used in a social situation, the person in VR has become isolated from their family and friends. Whereas by leveraging PlayStation’s social screen technology, we saw a way to make VR a social experience where your family and friends can join in on the fun!”
Playing through seven levels of the experience, I found myself surprisingly engaged no matter what role I happen to find myself in. I also appreciated the focus on cooperation and strategy. While the earlier levels allowed my team and I to work relatively independently of each other, more advanced levels required a serious amount of communication and planning. Who’s managing torpedos? Who’s taking care of TNT disposal? How should we go about organizing treasure? All questions that required thoughtful planning and preparation.
Much like the actual film itself, The Angry Birds Movie 2 VR: Under Pressure is a gaming experience that—while designed specifically for kids—is sure to please many parents and adult gamers as well. Fans of titles such as Overcooked will most likely find an immense amount of satisfaction in the gameplay.
The Angry Birds Movies 2 VR: Under Pressure is available now exclusively on PlayStation 4 for $29.99 via the PlayStation Store. PSVR is required to play.