If the cult PSOne game Hogs of War tells us anything, it’s that pigs love a good bit of warfare (be it “modern”, or otherwise). MostroGames and Chillingo are bringing back the tradition of porcine carnage, for our enjoyment and delight, with one of the most engrossing mobile games I’ve played in a while.
Kamikaze Pigs is a simple tale of suicidal swines battling each other, although why they do so is a bit of a mystery. What I do know is that this game provides over 40 levels of pork-bellied battling, fighting in various theatres of war and occasionally taking on some big, bacon-y bosses.
Its gameplay is as simple as cooking sausages. In each level, you are presented with a battlefield full of piggies in planes, tanks, choppers and on foot (but sadly, not in blankets), and you’re given one shot to fire at one of these tasty enemies. Once hit, different opponents will react in different ways, usually firing a few shots of their own. The aim is to hit enemies in such a way that their stray bullets hit their allies, creating a chain reaction. A gauge at the bottom of the screen will fill as you kill your enemies, and success is only assured once the gauge is full enough to reach a red flag.
Beyond this flag, there are three stars – bonuses for those who destroy most, if not all, of the enemies on the battleground. Another gauge fills up as your chain of destruction continues and once it’s filled, you can take another shot. There are also three stars in the battlefield itself that can be collected by being damaged (either by your own shots, an enemies, or a downed foe’s). Unlike many other mobile games, where perfection is rarely rewarded, collecting stars will unlock items in the game’s Upgrade Shop. Purchased with the coins you get for vanquishing the porky army, these items will change the behaviour of enemy units, making them more effective at causing larger chain reactions.
Because you’ll need these upgrades to get all of the stars, you’ll always have a reason to replay levels, earning more money and more stars to get even juicier upgrades. Stars will also unlock hidden levels, and the game’s final boss isn’t revealed until you collect every star in the game.
Luckily, this is all incredibly addictive. While you could tackle a few levels over the period of a few minutes, I literally spent hours playing – not because I had to, but because I wanted to. The mechanics are so simple, and the gameplay so rewarding, that while I thought I had only been paying for 10 minutes or so I had actually been playing for well over an hour. Granted, at times it feels like there’s more luck involved with your success than actual skill, but it’s incredibly satisfying when you make some of the trickier shots. It’s like that bit in Big Break, where John Virgo used to make those infeasibly difficult trick shots – only with pigs. I probably spent about six hours playing in total, getting all the Stars and beating the final boss, and I was very satisfied with the length of the game.
As well as the 40+ levels that make up the main game, there’s also a Survival Mode. Here, you face a seemingly infinite number of levels and must earn victory in each one. The more levels you complete, the higher your score and the higher your overall rank. You can log into your Facebook account, where the game will compare scores with your friends. All your upgrades from the main game carry over, while the money you earn in Survival Mode can be used as normal to buy more upgrades. It’s probably a mode you’ll only play if you have friends that own the game (or you want to go for the Achievements for being the top ranking player every week).
There are in-app purchases but, as is standard for Chillingo releases, they’re not required at all and you are never pressured to buy into them. I didn’t even notice they were there until hours into the game.
Kamikaze Pigs features the usual caricatures you expect from most 2D mobile games; they’re well drawn and do the job well (although it would have been nice to see more cutscenes in between missions). Playing on an iPhone, some levels are zoomed out quite a lot, so you can’t really appreciate the in-game art. However, this doesn’t impact the gameplay too much (although some of the Stars are quite close to some elements of the in-game menus, so in rare cases it is possible to accidentally keep pausing the game, instead of shooting a star or enemy). It’s a minor issue that rarely occurred, and isn’t really a problem on the iPad. Accompanying the cartoony visuals are some inoffensive backing tracks that consist of standard military-style loops – think Worms, and you’ll get the idea. They’re also joined by standard explosions and pig noises – the kind of thing you’d expect but nothing that will blow you away.
VERDICT: I came to this game expecting something akin to Angry Birds, something I wouldn’t enjoy. But after six hours of solid play over a day, I realised that Kamikaze Pigs is honestly one of the best mobile games I’ve ever played. Its simplicity and rewarding nature is a cut above most App Store fodder, and I’ve never had so much trouble tearing myself away from my phone. It’s better than BBQ ribs.
SUPERB. This is the mark of greatness, only awarded to games that engage us from start to finish. Titles that score 9/10 will have very few problems or negative issues, and will deliver high quality and value for money across all aspects of their design.