A Quick Look At Vita’s ‘AR Suite’ (Cliff Diving, Table Football and Fireworks)

Augmented Reality already feels a bit dated.  The concept – mapping real world stuff through the camera onto a device – is smart enough, but nobody’s ever really found a way to make it relevant for more than a few minutes, and game developers seem to struggle more than most apart from a few neat diversions like EyePet.

Enter the PS Vita then, with it’s ‘suite’ of AR (Augmented Reality) games that will be free to download from the PlayStation Store when it opens on release day. Each Vita will also come packaged with six little cards with symbols and numbers drawn on them, although ours were printed from a PDF. It doesn’t matter, the shapes are simple enough to work from any printer (and, amusingly, at any size).

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[drop2]So what are the games? Table Football, Cliff Diving and Fireworks are what you’ll be getting at launch. Sadly, none of them are really all that great, though early promise of consistently slick menus and presentation making way for game experiences that are generally just a little bit dull.

I tried Fireworks first, hoping that it might have some echoes of Fantavision, one of the earliest PS2 games. It does, in that it features lots of exploding chemicals, but it doesn’t in that it’s not nearly as good. The idea’s smart enough, the AR cards representing houses that the Vita then draws onto the screen, and each house then proceeds to fire various fireworks up into the ‘sky’ towards you.

The aim of the game is to tap each firework at the apex of its flight (so when it reaches the top, basically) which is helpfully indicated by a little circle that locks into another shape when it’s time to tap. Do it right and you’ll get a ‘perfect’, more points and a boost to your multiplier for chaining taps. With just one AR card it’s depressingly easy, but with two and three it’s worth a shot.

Other modes come into play later, like challenges (these are much better) and the option to unlock new firework types means that at least the pretty graphics change continuously. Moving around with the Vita is good for hitting multiple fireworks, and the AR works well enough given plentiful light. Sadly, though, I couldn’t really bring myself to spend that much time with the game.

Perhaps worse, though, is Cliff Diving.  Again, founded on solid ideas (it eventually evolves into something resembling a rhythm game) and neat use of the AR cards, Cliff Diving sees your tabletop or floor transformed into a pool and a springboard (at least at first) and a slightly flaccid character then jumps off at your command.  Nice idea, at least.

What starts as simple taps of the X button evolves into much more, but some of the controls (like tapping the rear touchpad before a jump to boost morale) seem a bit tacked on. You can create custom jumps, though, by using two cards (one for the higher surface and one below) which ups the amusement level a bit (a toilet’s an easy idea for you) but the appeal won’t last that long.

The biggest disappointment, though, is Table Football. Sure, I’m not the world’s biggest football fan but even I know that this take on the classic game (think Subbuteo) doesn’t really warrant much of your time beyond being a curiosity. For starters, the set up is too fiddly, the fact that you need six cards is fine but the Vita panics when you zoom out much so most of the peripheral bits (like the stands) will be out of view.

And then even when you’ve got a pitch established it can suddenly vanish, leaving awkward vector lines all over the Vita and noises indicating the computer AI has scored even though you can’t see a thing. The controls are fine in principle – swipe to slide players about and aim for goal – but the little guys are often far too small to accurately pick out on the pitch and it quickly becomes frustrating.

I get what Sony have tried to do here, but whilst the technology is no doubt fine (give yourself plenty of light, though) from the brief spell we had with the games they really don’t do the system any justice. They’re free, so definitely download them and give them a try, but don’t expect them to take the place of Uncharted and WipEout for very long. Ultimately these sadly don’t really impress.

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18 Comments

  1. Ah well, they always seemed more like tech demos than anything else.
    Bring on the integration of these kind of features into the big games.

  2. It’s a good concept but i’m still unsure weather it will take off. Maybe ok for a quick dabble in on a quick bus journey, but i cant see them holding gamers attention for too long.
    The cards remind me a little bit of “Barcode Warrior” though. That was a wierd machine :S

    • Did you actually get one? I never did but do remember it.

      • Yeah, i had 2 for when a mate came over. Ready Break had a good barcode if i remeber rightly… which i really dont want to

      • My bad, it was called the “Barcode Battler”

    • I had one. Loved it initally, cutting the barcodes off beans etc. Sweetcorn gave you an awesome warrior i seem to remember.
      Then the novelty wore off and the reality was – This is pants! It would be awesome if someone could create an app that uses an android/iphone barcode reader and you could scan barcodes and battle people. (patent pending) ;)

      • Yeah, it was pretty rubbish. but it goes to show what happens to gimmicks. i bet most people have no idea what it it. I’d fully be up for an app though!

  3. Good start, will be interesting to see where Sony go with this…..

  4. How’s the AR in WipEout 2048? I keep seeing the same AR clip from the game and it looks really cool

    • Wipeout’s been the best AR I’ve seen but I wish they would show more.

    • I haven’t played a lot of WipEout 2048 but I don’t recall any AR at all. It’s conceivable that I just missed it so far though.

      • Not sure if it’s in the game but that’s the opinion I got when I saw a vid of a user putting some cards on a table and the race-craft hovering above it.
        May have been a tech demo?

  5. My hands are famous!

    Table Football really was very difficult just to make it work. Seemed to have a very narrow band where it saw the cards properly but another 4 inches back and it was “Out of range”.

    • Well at least England got beat again, hehe

    • You clearly showed that in the vid, that looked very annoying indeed. Other two games looked like good fun though.

    • Please will you show us the trailers for the games :D?

  6. Your fruit bowl looks well stocked and fresh. Already know you have a better diet than me!

  7. does these have trophy support

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