Augmented Reality. Shoehorned into to most devices in some fashion these days in a bid to impress the user, although in reality this is all there is to do. More like apps rather than full, engaging experiences. The PlayStation Vita has quite a few itself, some of which are free and some which are almost free, such is the inexpensive tag attached to them. But even at a cheap price, are they worth the cost?
Rather than review each individually, which would in effect be pointless – each would only yield a couple of hundred words at the most – I have grouped them all together for you in one place. Some of these are not really games as such, and serve as mainly a tech demo for the Vita. But I’ll group it and score it anyway. So, you’ll need those six AR cards that came packaged with you Vita that you probably ignored. If you threw them in the bin, fret not for you can download them from here.
What better way to set a party off than with a few fireworks, so it seems apt that it is where we begin. Fireworks is a free application that serves very little purpose. It has no trophies, but it has leaderboards. Using AR cards 1,2 or 3 you create an enviroment akin to a household fiirewords display. the fireworks start setting off and you use the touch screen to detonate the fireworks, and you will accumulate a higher score the closer you get to the optimum detonation. There are 152 different firework types to unlock in total and you will encounter and unlock these along the way in three different play modes.
Tabletop sees you using the cards on a flat surface, infinite uses the cameras and the world around you in a quest to score as highly as you can whilst challenges will have you in three different difficulties attempting to hit the targets. It’s fun for a short while, but you wouldn’t pay for it.
Fun for a little while also applies to Cliff Diving. Creating a diving platform from your AR cards, you attempt to clear and unlock 6 worlds (and a custom one) and complete all of the diving requirements within. Using the X button, Dan the diver will run to the edge of the dive board, upon which you hit the button to alter his trajectory, fall through hoops and all sorts of other silliness. As you progress through these challenges you find yourself needing to increase your adrenaline, and press a different button upon diving too. Or you mess up your diving, leaving Dan with a hefty medical bill. Luckily you earn money from successful dives.
Rounding up the free applications, we have Table Football, which requires all six AR cards. Three of which will make the pitch, two for the stands and number six makes for a nice scoreboard. After you are good to go it runs you through the basics and you will very quickly see that this is an AR version of Subbuteo, in that everything is controlled by flicking, and it all gets quite tactical. Play a pass and move your player sort of thing. Well, it would if it was any good, which it isn’t. Good job it’s free!
The next few aren’t free, but are pretty cheap. And have trophies. Staying with the sporting theme we have Table Ice Hockey. Using cards one, two and three you create a far more aesthetically pleasing recreation of a sports ground which actually places pretty well.
Passing and shooting is pretty good and works well, and you can have a good of punch up too if you irritate the opposition enough. You face off and press on on the face buttons when prompted, then use X to pass and O to shoot whilst using the left stick to skate around. The game is packing 13 trophies, one of which is a well loved ad-hoc one, so if you get this and want the set you will need a friend with the game too.
The matches are quite fun and for the price you can’t really grumble and if you give it a shot, you will find something to entertain you for a short while and a decent and quick approximation of the sport. Not forever though, so seriously EA, can we have a proper Vita NHL title please?
Moving on to something completely different we have Table Top Tanks. Packing 15 solo missions, you use your cards to generate a battlefield around you and then attempt to progress through many different challenges, some of which involve collecting flags, and some which involve the obvious destruction of other tanks. If you imagine some military based Micro Machines, lovingly brought to life via AR on your Vita then you get to blow other things up, you are pretty much there. These challenges progress from simple objectives to multiple ones and will certainly keep you occupied. Once you have done this, you can also play against human players via ad-hoc if you know anyone with the game. It would have been nice to have played it online though.
It’s quite fun, once you get used to the way the tanks handle, and use the left stick to move, the right stick for aiming and you use the shoulders for shooting either machine gun rounds or rockets if you have any. It will fill a few minutes here and there if nothing else!
Rounding us up we have PulzAR. it’s an interesting puzzle game, which uses all six cards. PulzAR requires you to place AR cards down to aid you in powering a missile silo with a been of energy, using reflective mirrors and so on before the clock winds down in order to save the world from a meteor strike. As you progress through five different difficulties, with 5 levels in each one. The game certainly gets quite difficult and challenging but will more than keep you busy.
All of the games suffer with little niggles that go with the territory, the need to keep the Vita in a reasonably restricted position, keeping the AR cards in view andbest played in short blasts, rather than offering you engaging exeriences. You will notice that I haven’t scored the games. There is very little point, seeing as they are either free or a close to it. Table Ice Hockey and Table Top Tanks in particular are worth a little look if you have a spare bit of change, and PulzAR will offer a little challenge to you for a spare 5 minutes here and there, but that’s all they will offer.
GAME NAME: Fireworks, Cliff Diving, Table Football, Table Ice Hockey, Table Tanks, PulzAR
DEVELOPER(S): Studio Liverpool (all except PulzAR) XDev Studio Europe (PulzAR)
PUBLISHER(S): Sony Computer Entertainment Europe
PLATFORM(S): PlayStation Vita
GENRE(S): Action, Sports, War, Puzzle
RELEASE DATE(S): 22nd February 2012 (Fireworks, Cliff Diving, Table Football)
23rd May 2012 (Table Top Tanks) 13th June 2012 (PulzAR) 26th September 2012 (Table Ice Hockey)