PlayStation Vita AR Games Review Roundup
Just the words “Augmented Reality” causes most gamers to shiver with fear, examples of the medium have either fallen flat on their collective face or have failed to deliver on their promise of interacting with the world around us. Upon the PS Vita’s launch, three free games appeared on the PSN; Fireworks, Table Football and Cliff Diving. All three are to be played with a pack of AR cards that come with the Vita system. Some say that there is no such thing as a free meal, the person offering you the meal may expect one in return, the meal could taste terrible, or you may just be sacrificing your precious time. I’m here to tell you whether this particular augmented meal, is worth your gaming taste buds or some time in your regimented schedule.
Fireworks is the simplest of all the games, there are a few modes here to play which are all built around the same premise, set off fireworks by tapping the Vita’s touch screen. The game allows for 1-3 AR cards to be used, with the more cards you use, the higher your potential score. Each card morphs into a house that is setting off fireworks, no doubt, in celebration of the PS Vita’s release. It looks quite nice and turns your desk into a pretty display of sparkles that resemble Sydney Harbour on the 1st January, but it’s failings are in the gameplay. It’s simple and easy to pick up and play, but it’s so easy that the appeal dies after a minute or two.
The player gets extra points and can build up combos by setting off the fireworks when the crosshairs on the sparkler flashes. But if the fireworks ‘setter-off-er’ misses 3 of the fireworks, that game finishes and the player must start again. Funnily enough, it’s really difficult to “die”, so much so, that on my first go, I became the 437th best Fireworks player in the world with my “groundbreaking” score. It looks relatively nice, but provides minimal challenge.
Do you remember Subbuteo, or is that before your time? Regardless, Table Football, is what Subbutteo was (or is; I’m not that in touch with the Subbuteo movement). A simulation of football, played by flicking little figures on a table. It was boring then and it’s boring now. Firstly, unlike the other two AR games, you need to use all of the cards to set up your stadium and play ball, which to be fair, takes minimal effort. The Vita recognises the pitch, the stands and the scoreboard pretty quickly from your AR cards and the length of the pitch can be altered by moving your cards. Out of all the games, the AR in Table Football is the most jarring, the pitch has a tendency to flicker and sometimes the cards are still visible, which becomes distracting. There are a couple of modes here like; your regular friendly match, 2 player via ad hoc and another PS Vita, or 2 people playing on the one Vita.
There’s also a tournament that resembles a world cup, as all the teams within the game are international squads. In Table Football, the player that has possession of the ball, has 4 turns to pass, shoot or move a player by dragging their finger on the screen. Once the 4 turns have elapsed, control of the game is handed to the opposing team, regardless of whether or not the team who started the move still has possession. Sound like fun? It’s not. It’s tedious, it’s difficult to create a scoring chance in 4 moves or less and the 5 minute games feel like they last an awful lot longer.
It isn’t all doom and gloom however, there is one game in the bunch that stands head and shoulders above the other two, and that’s Cliff Diving. Using just the one AR card, Cliff Diving transports your desk/coffee table/flat surface of some kind, into various themed diving platforms for the Home & Away reject, Diver Dan. The main premise is to perform the most stylized, pin-point dive you can into a hole that gets smaller and smaller as you progress into the game and gain access to new areas. After each dive, you are awarded a certain number of points and cash, these go towards unlocking different diving platforms. There’s also a feature that allows you to create your own custom diving platforms for Dan by using your AR cards.
Before each dive, the player must tap the rear touch pad at timed intervals to boost Diver Dan’s adrenaline to build up his potential area for diving. When Dan runs toward the end of the diving board, there is a ring around his feet that goes from red, to orange, to yellow and finally to green. If you time it correctly, so that you press the X button when the ring is in the green, Dan’s dive begins smoothly. The X button is meant to be held for a bit, and Dan’s diving line comes up on screen, it’s then released and the red-headed daredevil flys! As the game progresses, the dives evolve by adding rings that Dan must dive through via well timed face button presses for extra points. I wasn’t expecting this to be sublime, and it isn’t. However, it is a fun little time passer. It looks the best out of all three games, it plays the best and will give anyone a bit of entertainment for quite some time if they want to perfect their diving skills.