App Review: Wake-Up Club (PS Vita)

Admit it, we all hate getting up in the morning. Whether it’s waking up for work, to go to college, to take the kids to school… for any reason whatsoever, for many of us it can be a real struggle to be motivated in the mornings to even contemplate getting out of bed first thing, let alone actually doing it. It doesn’t matter how loud your alarm clock may be, or even whether you have a “fun” alarm clock – and yes, we’ve all had one of them at one point or another – the temptation is all too easy to ignore the alarms, turn over and just go back to sleep.

Sony decided to try to change all that and turn something as monotonous as an alarm clock into something fun and social and so Wake-Up Club was born. In its most basic sense, Wake-Up Club is an alarm clock app for the PS Vita. You can choose what time you want the alarm to go off, whether you want it to repeat or not and if so, what days of the week (ideal for those who need to get up for work) and choose the type of alarm sound to wake up to. Once you’ve set all of that, you can alter the on-screen clock display using a number of pre-set themes, many of which are inspired by various Playstation games, choosing between an analogue or digital clock and then you’re ready to go… All you need to do then is make sure your Vita is on the clock screen, let it go into automatic standby mode and wait for it to wake you up in the morning.

Sounds pretty basic? Well it would be if that’s all there was to it. However, that’s only a small part to what Wake-Up Club is all about. There are two other functions to the app and one of these is the real reason most people will be downloading it and I’ll come onto that shortly. First, however, is the Countdown Timer. Basically, you can use this to time any activity between 1 second and 99 mins 59 seconds so it’s a useful little addition to have around the house, especially if you are doing anything time-critical. It’s not a vital part of the app, but it could be more useful to younger Vita owners or Students wanting to set themselves target times when doing homework or for anyone who needs to time food while cooking. Anyone else? I’m not too sure of it’s real use to be honest.

The main function of the app is the “Club” itself. Following the same method you would to set a normal alarm, this time you set it as a Wake -Up Club alarm instead. When it comes to the alarm going off on time, this is where the fun starts… You will be placed in a group with 11 other PS Vita owners from anywhere in the world who have their alarms set to go off at exactly the same time as you and it’s a race to see who wakes up first! Once your alarm goes off, your Playstation Network avatar will appear on your screen and you will need to tap it to register that you are awake. Once all 12 people in the “club” have done it, that’s it for the day. If people haven’t woke up, you can send them a gentle nudge by selecting their avatar on your screen (you will be able to tell who has / hasn’t woken up) and they will hear a friendly voice the other end encouraging them to get up.

If the Vita can’t find 12 humans for the group, it will fill in the gaps with AI characters and at the end of the session, your times will be compared against each other and recorded so you can see how well you have done. The records will keep a track of your average wake-up time, how many people you have cheered on to wake up, the number of times you woke up first in your group, how many times you were the last to wake up and more. And as well as all these records, there’s a chance to earn trophies as well… just for getting out of bed!

It may sound incredibly pointless, but as an idea it works brilliantly. It actually manages to do the seemingly impossible and makes getting up in the morning fun! The members who form part of the Wake-Up Club itself seem to be picked completely our of everyone who matches the same alarm clock time as you but at least that way it allows you to have a fresh set of challengers each morning.

There are a range of male and female voices to encourage you to wake up, and if those don’t work there are a range of animal voices as well although the idea of being woken up by a raccoon making noises at me does seem a little strange… well, even more strange than using a games console as an alarm clock! There are plenty of sounds to choose from for the alarms as well including old-fashioned alarm clocks, digital clocks and more. The only thing I felt let this down was the fact that you couldn’t set the software up to use your own music or sound from the Vita’s memory card. Hopefully this is something that could be implemented for a future update.

Visually, this doesn’t need to be overly impressive to work – afterall, who really is too concerned about how impressive a display looks on a regular alarm clock? However, there are a total of 16 themes present with some popular PSN games represented – Gravity Rush, Tokyo Jungle, Escape Plan, MotorStorm RC, Journey, No Heroes Allowed and other themes with many offering analogue and digital options. The clock faces are well animated (with optional sound effects as the second hand moves) and there is a slight recoil effect as the second hand moves as you would see in a physical clock which I thought was a nice touch. As with the sound, there’s no option to use your own background images as of yet, but it’s not a major issue.

When using the regular alarm clock mode, the PS Vita can be used as normal but to use the Wake-Up Club feature you need to be connected to the PlayStation Network and this is my only concern. The first time I used this, overnight my Vita disconnected itself from the Network so the alarm didn’t go off so you need to make sure your network settings are all sorted and that your Vita is connected to the PSN before you go to sleep, otherwise the alarm simply won’t go off!

Like many of the social apps on the PS Vita, this is completely free but if you want to expand it, there is some DLC available for it. While it’s only been available in the EU for a few days at the time of writing this, the first DLC pack is available already containing 8 additional themes and 10 extra alarm sounds… for an astonishingly low price of £0.21 from the PSN Store! I certainly have no qualms about paying that price for extra content and and if that price point continues for additional content then it’s going to keep the app popular!

My initial thoughts about Wake-Up Club were that it was going to be little more than a gimmick app – something with little or no appeal and something that would be deleted from the PS Vita within a few minutes of using it and certainly not anything that would actually be used by more than a handful of people. Instead, and without this sounding over-dramatic, this is an app that has had a genuine impact on my life already. My wife will testify that I’m simply not a morning person. I’ve had alarms go off and then it’s taken me ages to get up out of bed after that or I’ve fell straight back asleep again but since downloading Wake-Up Club I’ve been there itching to compete against gamers all over the world and even my wife wants to join in and wants a Vita as well so she can have her own copy of Wake-Up Club as well. Who would have thought that an alarm clock could be the app that would persuade someone to buy a Vita? But when it’s an alarm clock that turns waking up into something fun and that you look forward to then I’m all for it!

Now let’s see if I can be the first to wake up in my group again in the morning…

Simon Plumbe

At A Glance

  • Title: Wake-Up Club
  • Publisher: Sony Computer Entertainment
  • System: PS Vita
  • Format: PSN Download
  • Cross Buy: No
  • Online Multiplayer: Yes
  • Memory Card Space Needed: 123Mb

 

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