PulzAR is an augmented reality (AR) game available for download from the PlayStation Store for the PS Vita. The game sees you re-bounding a series of lasers off mirrors that are referred to as reflectors with the aim of triggering a rocket launch that when launched will destroy the asteroid that is headed on a collision course for Earth. This means you are effectively saving the planet as you solve each of the puzzles as you play through each and every level.
The graphics are not particularly detailed, although they don’t really need to be as this is a puzzle game and is far more dependent upon the gameplay and the value of its replayability. The graphics that are displayed while you are attempting to figure out the puzzle are basic and not very detailed. That doesn’t mean that PulzAR doesn’t have some nice moments of graphical flare though, as your reward for completing the puzzle is to see a count down from three to one, then lift off as a rocket launches from the silo and hurtles towards the asteroid, resulting in a huge explosion and if you fail the level, it will result in a gigantic impact crater in the ground where the silo and reflectors once tasked with saving the Earth previously stood.
The game provides you with five groups of levels with each group containing five levels, totalling to twenty-five levels. The five groups of levels consist of: alpha, beta, gamma, delta and epsilon, which progressively increase in difficulty as the puzzles become harder level by level, although there are no separate difficulty settings. Each level is on a timer ticking down to the asteroid’s impact with Earth, so you have to move quickly; no matter how difficult the puzzle on that level appears to be. Once you have completed a level, you are presented with a breakdown of your score with such information as time left, stars collected and unused objects, along with your total score. You have to acquire a certain number of stars before you can unlock the second, third, fourth and fifth groups of levels. There is also a helpful tutorial that will teach you how to position the AR cards, which AR cards to use, what the AR cards produce when they are in use and the controls.
The controls are rather simplistic and if anything the vast majority of the work is performed by where you strategically place the AR cards with the only other controls being the L and R buttons to cycle through your selection of reflectors, while the left and right sticks are used to move the reflectors to change the path of the laser and the Vita’s motion sensing functionality is used to move the camera angle around while you are trying to figure out the puzzle and so you can also follow the rocket once it has launched all the way through until it has impacted with the asteroid.
PulzAR requires up to six AR cards to be simultaneously positioned directly underneath the Vita. The AR cards can be located anywhere you want them to be enabling you to position the silo outside in your front garden or in your living room with the only restrictions being that the AR cards have to be placed on a flat surface and they have to be used in a well lit environment. I found the syncing process of the AR cards to be just as easy as Table Ice Hockey when using three or four AR cards, but it was particularly when I was required to use five or six AR cards that it became difficult to appropriately position all of the AR cards within the length of my table, although a larger flat surface such as the floor would be more practical for the spacing of the AR cards; it would not be as comfortable as being seated in your chair, so it is a problem either way you look at it. I did find that the lighting of the environment was not an issue and the Vita synced to the AR cards better than I had anticipated with (unless it is just for show) what appears to be a crosshair targeting system and whether it is for show or not; there is no doubt that the syncing of the AR cards is substantially better than Table Top Tanks and at least on par with Table Ice Hockey.
The audio consists of a sci-fi techno soundtrack that really cuts through and brings some sound to a game that would otherwise lack any sound at all until the count down to the rocket launch, the blast from the rocket launch and the resulting impact with the asteroid at the end of each level.
The trophy list includes fifteen trophies with thirteen bronze, one silver and one gold trophy. The difficulty of the trophy list depends upon how easily you are able to figure out the route of the AR cards to complete the puzzle in each of the twenty-five levels and some of them may not necessarily appear to be obvious. There are some easier trophies such as looking up at the asteroid in the sky while playing a level, watching the entire flight of the missile and the impact on the asteroid and completing a level without using all of the AR cards. All of the fifteen trophies are obtainable within a couple of hours with no major sticking point as was the case with the trophy lists for Table Ice Hockey and Table Top Tanks. It is as though they have learned their lesson and decided to not include any trophy that requires ad-hoc multiplayer instead deciding to replace it with posting a score for any completed level to the leaderboards. This makes it considerably easier to 100% the trophy list in comparison with Table Ice Hockey and Table Top Tanks.
The exclusion of ad-hoc only multiplayer is not something that I would consider as a loss to the game at all as it is rare to even get into a game unless you own two PlayStation Vita consoles or know someone that lives nearby that owns a Vita and the game, so it would have been unlikely that anyone would have actually experienced that entire section of the game anyway.
The replayability of PulzAR is focused on attempting to earn a higher score with each time you play a level in order to post your high score on the leaderboards for each of the levels and collecting the maximum of three stars within each level to help in your attempt of climbing the leaderboards with your latest high score. These features have really provided the game with a consistent pick up and play feeling and in turn gives you a reason to play the game beyond a single play through of each level, which means that you will be playing a long time after the initial couple of hours required to 100% PulzAR’s trophy list.
Overall, the lack of ad-hoc multiplayer does not hold PulzAR back, especially considering not many of us would have experienced ad-hoc in the first place; if anything it unleashes a focus on the single player aspect of the game that keeps you coming back for more due to the inclusion of leaderboards and collectable stars and for a game that only costs £1.59 that makes PulzAR a must buy!
At A Glance
- Title: PulzAR
- Publisher: Exient (XDev Studios Europe) and Eiconic
- System: PS Vita
- Format: PSN Download
- Cross Buy: No
- Cross Play: No
- Online Multiplayer: Online Leaderboards
- Memory Card Space Needed: 159Mb