The Angry Birds Movie 2 VR: Under Pressure is a game that's more fun than you're probably expecting it to be. This assumption comes from personal experience after expecting the game to be a twist on the Angry Birds formula crammed into a virtual reality chassis and instead finding a movie tie-in which turned out to be a party game perfect for small co-op sessions.
Based on the events of The Angry Birds Movie 2, the gist of the game from developer XR Games involves a team of up to four players controlling characters like Leonard and Red as they pilot a submarine headed towards Eagle Island. On the way are obstacles and treasure to be found, both of which players must deal with in different ways. One person wears whatever VR headset you might be using – we played the physical release of the game on a PSVR setup – while the other players pick up a controller and become members of the crew. It's the headset-wearing captain's job to direct the overall flow of the operation and use a tool called the Magnashot to move objects while the crew loads ammo, deals with hazards, and tosses things around the cabin. Play through a fairly quick story mode and you'll unlock bonus levels along the way, each of which ramp up the difficulty with new obstacles and mechanics to master as you look to ace everything with three stars in typical Angry Birds fashion.
Right from the start, it's clear that Under Pressure is best played with friends. It is a party game after all, and you'll get the most out of it with a crew that's competent enough to make progress while still being willing to laugh at your many upcoming mess-ups. Some of the responsibilities are shared between the captain and the crew – both can fling ammo boxes where they need to be and load treasure into its designating holding area, but it's the crew's job to pick up more volatile objects like torpedos and TNT. Simiarly, any threats found outside of the sub must be dealt with by the Captain, and you won't have any treasure onboard unless the crew is pulling their weight and the captain is reeling in the boxes from outside the sub.
The difficulty starts ramping up after the first few levels when more mechanics like disposing of TNT are introduced, but it's not difficult enough to the point that it squashes co-op experiences. Accidentally blowing something up or grabbing your crew member with the Magnashot by mistake create just as many enjoyable moments as succeeding. If you want to hit three stars on each level, you'll have to fine-tune your actions, but it's again not demanding enough to the point that a party game becomes work.
What was interesting to see was how the distribution of labor feels when taking on either the role of the captain or a crew member. From playing both sides of the relationship, it felt like the captain had much less to while the crew members stayed busy throughout each level. Sure, the Magnashot can be used to launch ammo and treasure into place, but it's much more precise to have a crew member set something where it needs to go lest you risk lobbing something out of place during a time crunch. The duties the captain is left with means they have moments of downtime where they're calling out what they need and reeling in the occasional treasure box while crew members seem like they're constantly running back and forth though. It's not necessarily a flawed system, but between the responsibilities and the fact that they're the one experiencing the VR part of the game, the captain definitely has the best end of the bargain.
If the gameplay described here and seen in the trailer at the top seems reminiscent of games like Overcooked, you're not far off from how Under Pressure feels. Mistakes are just as enjoyable as successes and it's not nearly as enjoyable a game if you're playing solo. A similar system in place means you're controlling both the captain and the crew and spend more of your time juggling jobs by switching back and forth than you are capitalizing on the lighthearted goofiness the game excels at.
For a movie tie-in that looked like it'd be hit or miss from the start, Under Pressure was surprising. It's an easy introduction to virtual reality where the tech is more than just a gimmick, and the incorporation of the cinematics from The Angry Birds Movie 2 is blending of mediums that works well here. Under Pressure is probably a pass for any VR enthusiast who's playing solo, but if you want a game that's easy to pick up for when people are over, Under Pressure belongs in your collection.
Rating: 3 out of 5
The Angry Birds Movie 2 VR: Under Pressure was reviewed on the PlayStation 4 using a physical copy provided by the publisher.