Pass the Pigs rates well below Monopoly, The Game of Life, and even Parcheesi in the pantheon of family board games, but the quirky little pastime has a devoted following nonetheless. THQ Wireless must have thought it could tap into that vein of nostalgia on the App Store, and developer Universomo did pretty much everything it could to turn Pass the Pigs into something worth buying. Unfortunately, the source material just isn’t strong enough to build a five-buck game around, and it shows.
Pass the Pigs is kind of like Craps for people who don’t understand basic math–namely, small children–and those who love them (their parents). The usual pair of dice is swapped out for two small rubber piggies, which bounce around when tossed and come to rest in a variety of positions: on their backs, sides, hooves, snouts, and so on. Each position awards you a certain number of points, with two exceptions. If the pigs land on their sides in a certain way, you lose all the points you earned that turn, and if they land touching each other, you lose all your points, period; in both cases, your turn is over. So, you can keep tossing and going for more points, knowing that you are risking disaster, or you can pass the pigs and bank your points.
There are two ways to play the game here. The first is a traditional game of Pass the Pigs, against two, three, or four computer or human opponents. Under the normal ruleset, the first player to 100 points wins. The second is an amusing one-player scenario called Pig’s Life, where you guide a pig through his entire life cycle, making tough decisions for him. For instance, do you pony up big bucks to send your daughter to a top medical school, earning her love in the process, or would you rather act miserly and retire to Florida? Before every choice, you get to toss the pigs to earn extra cash or love points to gamble on your decision. The text in this game is really funny, but you’ll have seen most of it after three or four playthroughs.
The game adds a little value with unlockable “hats,” or adorable piggy portraits (pirate piggy, fashion diva piggy…), at the end of every game, as well as hidden achievements and additional rulesets, but it’s not really enough to disguise the fact that you’re really just doing the same simple thing a million times–tossing the pigs. It also doesn’t help that pig-tossing requires next to no skill or player involvement. You can shake up the iPhone or use the touchscreen to make a toss, but there are no real physics, as in MotionX Poker; the only value you are changing is the force of your throw, which dictates how “risky” it is. Pass the Pig has nice, professional production values, from the silly pig portraits to the animated backgrounds. The bluesy music is really cool at first, but it grows stale in a hurry.
Overall, we think Universomo did a bang-up job considering how little it had to work with, but the final result should be in the $1-$2 range, not $5.