The ability to shoot missiles from my bedroom is great. PulzAR, the new augmented-reality game for the PlayStation Vita brings a fresh look at the AR-type gaming scheme. Sony Europe has created something that’s a strong step in the right direction for augmented reality, even if having to play with cards is a bit awkward. Is the inconvenience of playing with cards worth the effort, or should Sony Europe stuck with a traditional game scheme?
The premise of the game is simple: asteroids are falling to Earth, and it’s the player’s job to shoot them down. Now, here’s where the AR functionalities come into play. Players light up cards in view of the PS Vita’s camera and place a launch pad, which depends on mirrors to get the beam to a charging point to power the missile launch. Think of it as a simplified Portal game, but with playing cards.
Throughout each mission, PulzAR has stars to collect. Players collect those stars by simply reflecting the energy beam through them in order to count them as collected. It may not be mentally taxing, but it’s much more interesting than connecting the dots, so to speak, with a laser and mirrors. PulzAR isn’t exactly a long game, and replaying it would simply for collecting all of the stars and for getting all of the trophies. The game does have five different collections of missions which move quickly. The combination of speed with ease make this experience last somewhere around an hour or so, but it’s still a very interesting game to try.
Visually, the game looks great, especially since the objects work dependently with a physical object. The laser beam is very vibrant, and the mirrors are responsive to movement. The mirrors can be turned by touching them and then rotating either of the joysticks. One fine point to make in regards to the mirrors is that the mirrors can simply be moved by moving the AR cards in the playing field itself. As I started playing, I assumed that moving them would be an arduous task of deleting their present locations and then replacing them elsewhere. PulzAR eliminates the middleman, and allows players to simply move cards around to accommodate mirror placements on the fly. The music is basic, but a game like this doesn’t really require music that would ultimately be distracting. Sound effects are around the same caliber, but shooting a missile into an asteroid is always rewarding, no matter how it sounds.
What’s great about these AR games is that the AR Cards come bundled with the PS Vita by default, so everyone has the opportunity to try out these games. Surely, games like PulzAR aren’t game changers, but they do show off the ability of the PS Vita in a way that other launched games don’t really do. This was my first use of the AR Cards, and I’ve walked away from it almost eager for more. Without a doubt, a developer could simply make a game where players bounce beams on mirrors and call it good, but the execution of PulzAR made the experience that much more rewarding. There’s just something about physically interacting with a video feed that makes the augmented reality of the PS Vita feel so damn entertaining.