Humanity has done a lot of bad things. So many bad things that the entire universe is annoyed with us and has decided to bombard our small blue planet with as many meteors as possible. Well, that’s how I like to think the story goes in PulzAR anyway.
In case you hadn’t guessed from the name, PulzAR uses the Vita’s camera and the Augmented Reality features,blurring the fabric of reality and putting you in charge of Earth’s planetary defences against the universe. If movies have taught us anything, there’s no rock that can’t be blown up with missiles, so that’s what you do in this new puzzle game.
Unfortunately, the genius who designed these life (and by that, I mean all life) saving missiles wasn’t too bright when it came to power supply units, so they can’t be fired unless you use a complex series of mirrors and lasers. By using the Vita’s AR cards to place the mirrors and redirect the laser power around the virtual level into the missile – arming it – you can fire it into space. Moving the mirror is simple enough, you just move the cards around your play area (I’d recommend a large play area if you can – like the Queen’s dining table).
Placing the first card will show the missile silo as well as a power source and all the following cards create a little mirror. Mirrors can be rotated using the analogue sticks or shoulder buttons and, on paper, it seems like a very simple game. In practice, it’s incredibly tedious unless all your conditions are right. It wouldn’t be nearly as annoying as it is were it not for the time limit. I’m trying to save the planet here, but I’d be quite happy to give global destruction the go-ahead if it meant I didn’t have to fiddle with these blasted cards to line up flipping mirrors.
The gameplay gets a bit more complex as splitters and colour filters come into play in the later stages, both multiplying the amount of lasers you need to bounce around your coffee table and adding different power supplies and mirrors that require a laser of corresponding colour. This adds a little bit more depth to the game but, in reality, all it means is that you’re going to be fiddling with those cards even more. However, if you are eventually successful under the pressure of programming a missile guidance system within a time limit, you’ll be able to follow the missile on its trajectory though your ceiling and into asteroids by simply tilting the Vita skyward. It’s a novel but rewarding feature that livens up the gameplay a little.
It’s hard to describe graphics when it comes to AR games, since the background consists entirely of what’s in your living room – if you want to make them more interesting, just move some of your favourite possessions into view (without obstructing the camera’s view of the AR cards of course). The virtual objects are great; simple and colourful, not too eye-popping but very nice to look at. Objects and lasers respond very well to adjustments you make,so the illusion isn’t shattered too easily. The main issue is that PulzAR just lacks a bit of impact – puzzle games are best when they’re addictive and this just isn’t, something I think even a better, more exciting soundtrack could have rectified.
AR technology aside, it’s a puzzle game and if you like puzzles you’ll probably like PulzAR’s unique twist on the genre. There are some genuinely fun times to be had once you push past the initial annoyances and for the low low price of £1.59 you can’t really complain. After I got over its failings, I felt the game was quite enjoyable. You can’t say it makes a great portable game, what with all the fiddling, but it’s worth checking out if you’re still not sold onthe idea of AR cameras being utilised in games.
Gameplay: 3/5 - Simple and gratifying when you bounce those lasers around to find the solution but, all in all, a little one dimensional.
Graphics: 2/5 - Perfectly serviceable, with a great use of the AR camera, nice virtual objects and fun explosions.
Sound: 1/5 - Not memorable in any way.
Longevity: 2/5 - There are trophies – not enough levels though.
Overall: 2.5/5 meteors out of 5
PulzAR is a perfectly competent puzzle game that makes good use of the Vita’s augmented reality tech, however it just lacks any real charm or character. Still, for the low price of £1.59 it’s probably worth a shot if you’re into that sort of thing.
- Adam Radcliffe