The majority of augmented reality games and applications on the market are generally poorly executed and would be better off without the gimmick. On any of the handheld systems on the market, there haven’t been many titles to laud as true game changers. Open Me! isn’t going to make a believer out of everyone, but SCE Japan have, at the very least, taken the maligned concept and created a fun puzzler that revolves around those cards you got when you bought your Vita.
In a lit environment, the Vita’s camera will recognise an AR card on a flat surface and, as if by witchcraft, a box will appear on the face of said card. As the name suggests, each box must be opened via touching numerous points on the Vita’s screen, which sounds straightforward and, at the beginning, is. But it doesn’t take long before opening a single clasp turns into de-constructing an Optimus Prime lookalike and then reopening him to claim a prize. Through tapping, sliding or holding all manner of buttons and switches, the stages of Open Me! become this thorough examination as you inspect the challenge before you.
It’s a very simple premise and one that demands you don’t rest on your laurels. Five faces are viewable at all times, but in order to scope out where your fingers must land, you’re expected to get up and move the PS Vita around the virtual box’s perimeter. It’s really engaging to get in close with the camera and scan the puzzle for your next move as there are some real head-scratchers that demand you remain attentive. One puzzle sees magnets labelled with North and South markings that are blocking the lid from being opened. By sliding around these obstructive bars, the goal is reached and it’s on to the next brainbuster. However, when you have repellent poles making life difficult, then you see how intricate the design can be.
There is one problem that can’t be avoided, though. This is a physical AR game where moving around the imaginary box is mandatory and that becomes a problem on the more complex puzzles. One box houses a security camera on the very top and smaller, embedded surveillance devices on the sides. To succeed, you are tasked with holding your fingers over the camera lenses on the box’s sides and then pulling open a lid at the back. When rotating around the cube, it’s only natural that the Vita may be placed too close to any of its faces, which then resets everything – meaning you have to place your digits back where they were. The technology allows itself to fail here, and gives credence to those that believe Open Me! could do the job just as easily by allowing you to control the movement of the box via an analog stick, rather than by moving around.
As detractors would be slow to purchase Open Me!, it’s pricing structure makes it more inviting. Made up of 12 sets containing three to four boxes in each, Open Me! offers over 40 puzzles, but there is the option to buy one pack at only 69p/79c. Alternatively, the entirety of SCE Japan’s title can be bought for £6.49/€7.99, too. That iOS-like scheme of picking up the first set for pocket change is an ingenious way to get people on board.
If you want to bamboozle buddies with your own conundrums, you can do so with Open Me!’s puzzle creation feature. By dragging traps and buttons to different grids on-screen, boxes are formed and can then be sent to anyone on your PSN friends list. If they fail to solve the challenge you put forth, you earn points that can be put to use by upgrading your tools for more extravagant mind-bogglers. Even though the competitive nature between acquaintances is an involving factor of Open Me!, it’s a shame that once I’ve created a five-sided riddle, I’m unable to let the world try and figure it out. Instead, only enabling players to send puzzles to friends isn’t opening up the true potential of the mode (pardon the pun).
VERDICT: AR titles are commonly ugly, inconsistent and generally boring. Sure, Open Me! isn’t thrilling in terms of graphics, but the puzzles here aren’t child’s play and other than a few hiccups that the tech can’t escape, it’s a responsive effort. A more meaty online mode would add a lot, but this can still be declared the best AR game on Sony’s handheld. Now, all you have to do is find those cards…
GOOD. A game that scores 7/10 is worthy of note, but unworthy of fanfare. It does many things well, but only a few of them incredibly well and, despite a handful of good qualities, fresh ideas and solid mechanics, it fails to overwhelm.