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Sunday, June 5, 2011

Review: AR! Pirates (iPhone)

Incorporating augmented reality technology, AR! Pirates uses an innovative approach to gaming on the iPhone. For those who don't know, augmented reality gaming involves using your device's camera to utilise your environment as part of the game. Despite having access to this new technology, AR! Pirates is a let-down in almost every other department.

Get off my table top!


The premise is that you need to protect your treasure island from marauding fleets of pirate galleons out to steal your gold. You do this by automatically firing cannonballs in the direction your cross-hairs are facing in an attempt to thwart the invaders. The enemy ships will fire back and can deal enough damage to you to prematurely end the game.

Where the augmented reality component comes into it is that to play this game you need to have three coins with you (or a piece of paper with 3 large dots), arranged in a triangle so that a point is facing away from you. You can change the scale of the level by using bigger dots, for example plates, though this simply means that you have to move around a lot more to access all areas of the level. What's more, you must keep the three coins in view at all times (as they determine where your island is) and you control your cross-hairs by tilting the device. More and more enemy ships will attack you as you progress in the game and you will also have access to power-ups like a fireball or a double-shot which will help you sink the pirates more efficiently.




That all sounds well and good but there are some major downsides to this game. Firstly, you can't play it unless you have the right setup. This is incredibly annoying and means that the game is very inaccessible. There's no way you could play AR! Pirates on the commute to work or as a quick distraction while waiting for the water to boil because you have to have three coins (or equivalent focus points) with you at all times.

Secondly, the gameplay really doesn't go anywhere. It gets repetitive very quickly and doesn't expand or grow in any way. You don't even have the option of shooting when you want to; the game automatically fires the cannonballs at regular intervals. Furthermore, the aiming and shooting lack fluidity and the pirates themselves aren't all that threatening. Sure, there are more enemy ships later on and they might be a little harder to destroy but, in essence, the levels and what you're expected to achieve on them is identical every time. In saying that though, there is one challenge to the game and that is the chance to achieve a three star rating on every stage. This consists of a combination of factors including number of shots fired (which you have no control over!), shots on target and accuracy (which is the percentage of shots on target divided by the number of shots fired...possibly a redundant statistic in this case). This can be quite difficult and may just be enough of a saving grace for some players.

AR: making gamers look like idiots since 2011


Finally, the graphics are very basic and aren't nearly as aesthetic as many other games, the music is appropriate but can be intrusive and grating even at the best of times and there isn't much in the way of replayability. Overall, a poorly executed game that's difficult to play for all the wrong reasons and seems too reliant on the fact that it uses augmented reality as a selling point. Certainly not one that's worth paying any money for in the App Store.

- Dom S




Review: AR! Pirates (iPhone)
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