Developer: Optricks Media
Publisher: Special Move Games
Genre: First-person Shooter, Augmented Reality
Price: Free to download, $1.19 to upgrade in game (Buy Here)
AR! Pirates pits you against fleets of enemy ships attempting to steal treasure from your island. Utilising Augmented Reality technology for the iPhone, this game takes both in a virtual game space and physical space. I must admit, I am a big fan of the current wave in Augmented Reality games, and had high hopes for this title.
I admire the basic premise of AR! Pirates, which is a first-person, Augmented Reality shooter with a pirate theme. However the execution in which the game mechanics falls short of impressive. Firstly, in terms of the shooting genre, the cannon fires automatically when the fuse research its end, which really takes away from the level of interactivity common with first-person shooters. Lives are based on how many times you are hit my enemy cannon balls, which is represented just below the use by a decreasing number. The way to avoid getting hit, as well as the means in which shots are aimed, is by tilting the device. This is where the Augmented Reality and the first-person shooter mechanics begin to disagree.
The AR portion of the game is based on the location of three circular objects; these can be drawn on a piece of paper or three coins, as well as a whole bunch of circular items that don’t need to be named here. The circles need to be placed in a triangle with the point facing away from you. Having tried both the coin and circles on paper technique, I can safely say that the coins do tend to work better. Once the game detects the position of the coins, which is a slight pain to set up, an island will appear. Your goal is now to use the cannons to defend this island from enemy ships. The problem with this is, in an attempt to aim and fire cannons at the enemy ships, the island often disappears. This is due to the games dependency of the coins in order to function. The two movements of keeping the coins continuously visible and manoeuvring the device to fire at enemy ships doesn’t marry all too well.
Overall, the level progression is dangerously on the border of tedious. The level’s don’t change in visual complexity or strategic planning, rather there are just more ships, some of which are harder than others. Through out the levels you can get bonuses to help you defeat these more difficult ships, but they are a little fleeting and I hardly noticed their usefulness coming into play. That being said, I am sympathetic to the idea that this game is mostly about utilise Augmented Reality features and trying to demonstrate them within the narrative framework of a pirate game.
While I understand the primary goal of Augmented Reality games is to utilise physical objects and spaces, I felt that the game space in AR! Pirates was a little lacking. Graphically, the game doesn’t offer that much. Both the island and the ships which are attacking it, while they are adequately designed, just lack in flare or complexity. The music and sound effects are appropriate to the theme, but often become a little overwhelming with explosions and screaming. As I said, I have a feeling the lack of complex graphics is due to the fact that the game is intended to illuminate the fact that you are playing in physical space and interacting with physical objects, however I still feel like the game world could have been developed a little bit more.
Overall, I’d say this was an overly ambitious title. I really enjoy the premise of this game, and the use of coins as an Augmented Reality locator is fitting to the theme. My concern is just that the mechanics are a little underdeveloped. I think maybe the game would work better if players were given a locator to print out in order to decrease the chance of irregular set ups and insure a smoother gameplay. While the Augmented Reality technology might be a bit buggy, I still really enjoy this game as a premise, however I feel that in practice it missed it’s mark. Perhaps I just had high hopes for the games use of Augmented Reality technology, but none the less, the game failed to impress me on a large scale.