This past Friday we took a look at the upcoming Augmented Reality game ARDefender from developer Int13. What sets ARDefender apart from other Augmented Reality games is its use of a special printed image that is placed in the camera's view and is recognized by the software to create a 3D model of a tower inside the game. Int13 was nice enough to promptly send over a preview copy of ARDefender so that we could try it out for ourselves, and after spending some time playing with the game over the weekend, my feelings are largely positive. The game works just as well as was demonstrated in the video from our preview, and beyond being a really interesting piece of technology, ARDefender offers up a pretty fun gameplay experience as well.
The first thing you'll need to do before playing ARDefender is print out the PDF image from their website that creates the tower in the game. After printing and cutting out the square image, you'll place it down on a flat surface where you intend to play. Loading up the game and hitting the play button will bring up the view from the device's camera, and once it recognizes the PDF image it will instantly create a little tower out of thin air.
Gameplay involves using the weapon mounted on top of the tower to fend off waves of enemies as they attack. Touching anywhere on the screen places an aiming reticule at that spot and holding down a button in the lower right corner fires your weapon. There's a regular cannon with unlimited ammunition, and limited missile or laser attacks at your disposal. Occasionally an airplane will drop off a crate full of ammunition for you to collect. The tower has a health gauge in the upper corner and the goal is to keep the tower alive for the duration of each round, which seems to always be 60 seconds. More difficult enemies appear with each round, and if your health gauge runs out the tower crumbles and it's game over.
The first portion of this video shows one round of gameplay in ARDefender, with a few toys I laid out next to the tower just for fun. Then I tried to pan around the tower to give a closer look at the 3D model it consists of. Finally, I printed out the PDF image at four times the size of what the default is, to see if it would give me a larger tower in the game, which it indeed does. It doesn't seem that the game will recognize both towers at once though, but I did find that I preferred playing with the larger tower rather than the smaller one. This will also depend on how far away you plan on being from the surface where the tower is set.
Overall I really liked what I've played of ARDefender so far, despite its fairly simplistic game mechanics. It's hard not to be impressed with how convincingly the tower is created in the real life space where you play the game, in my case a coffee table and kitchen floor. It's worth noting that the game had trouble creating a tower when I tried playing on an uneven surface like carpet, so it seems to require a smooth flat surface for best performance. Also, it's a really bare-bones package. There's no sort of cohesive campaign or storyline to play through, or any type of persistent stats or score tracking. This can easily be rectified with an update down the line, however, and I'd personally love to see some additional downloadable images that give you different styles of towers to play with.
Despite any shortcomings, the game still manages to be pretty fun. ARDefender has already been submitted to the App Store, and we'll take a closer look at the game when it becomes available, hopefully sometime in the next couple of weeks.