Transformers: Cade's Junkyard

Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard Review (iOS/ARKit)

Transformers were my favorite toys when I was a kid. I remember going to the store and bagging my mother to buy me some of the Decepticons and Autobots to play with. I was so proud to have Optimus Prime but my favorite was Bumblebee. At that time there was also a Transformers series going on the TV as well.

I was so excited when I’ve heard that Paramount released a new Apple ARKit app in conjunction with the release of Transformers: The Last Knight. I was even more thrilled when I’ve read that I can actually be able to play with my favorite Autobot, Bumblebee.

Gameplay

In Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard you control the action of Bumblebee, a popular character from the Transformers franchise.

Upon starting the app, it will ask you to scan an area for flat surfaces and after that, it spawns the virtual junkyard of protagonist Cade Yeager as seen in the movie Transformers: The Last Knight.

After that, you just tap to spawn Bumblebee itself. From that point on you have several interactions available to you. First of all, Bumblebee spawns in its human-like posture. You can use your finger to draw a path on the screen. Bumblebee then will automatically transform itself into a car and drive that path. If there are obstacles in the way, it will bump into them. Some of them might explode or tumble down, and it’s beautiful to watch it happen.

When Bumblebee is in its standing posture you can tap on any area on the screen to tell Bumblebee to shoot in that direction. Objects in the bullets’ path will either tumble down, explode or be thrown into the air.  If you hit an object near Bumblebee, it will hit it with his fist instead of shooting it.

Paramount also added a really cool feature to this sandbox game, allowing users to build their own junkyard by placing different items where they find fit. There is also an ‘Auto Fill’ option that automatically fills an empty area using randomly chosen items from the available items in the game.

There is no points, levels or achievements in this game, it’s was designed as an AR experience with some basic interactions.

Graphics & Visual Effects

The graphics like you probably guess are really good.  The objects in the scene look nice, but I was much more excited about Bumblebee’s 3D character, it’s very detailed with high-res textures that look great even when watching it up close.

Bumblebee detailed 3D model in AR
A very detailed 3D model of Bumblebee. I couldn’t ask for a better 3D model, it looks perfect!

I also liked the explosion effects that happens once an object blows up. Some of the objects require several hits to explode. Some of them will even fly into the air once they get shot. If you really want to see something cool, just put many objects on the scene and make Bumblebee drive right through them. If things go as planned and the car doesn’t stop at one of the obstacles, you get to see a great sequence of explosions taking place one after the other.

I was using this app with my 9.7-inch iPad 2017 and I’ve experienced some frame drops and lags. It usually happens when you put many 3D objects on the scene and it gets worse once the explosions are triggered.

Explosion effects in Transformers: Cade's Junkyard iOS app
Great explosion effects, making the driving and shooting experience much more entertaining and immersive in AR.

Overall, nice graphics and visual effects. By the way, the background music wasn’t interesting, just some subtle background music to compliment the scene, nothing more. It would have been much better with a more exciting music in the background. The sound effects are spot on and correctly match the animation and the different materials in the scene.

AR Experience

Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard reminded me of another game that I’ve played called powARdup. I wonder if the developer of Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard was inspired by it. In that app you can to drive a car and blow up enemies as you drive through them.

Bumblebee in Augmented Reality
I can believe it, it’s my favorite Transformers’ character, Bumblebee,  standing right there in my living room!

This app felt very similar to that and if you’ve read my review of powARdup, you can understand why I love that type of controls so much. inPowARdup you actually control the car by directing the camera to a designated location, whether in the Transformers app you just draw a path and the car follows along. I think it would be better to instead of drawing a path, control it by moving the phone itself.

Lots of destructible 3D objects in AR
You can place many destructible virtual objects and blow everything up, it’s really cool!

I’m sure that Transformers fans will be very excited to get to see Bumblebee in their surrounding physical space.  The thing is that by default, Bumblebee spawns in a comparatively small size. However, there is a beta feature which you can enable in the settings menu, which allows you to scale and choose Bumblebee’s size (actually the entire game scales up, just keep that in mind). You can make it small or scale it to be the size of a three-store building. it’s pretty cool feature and you should definitely try it out. I don’t know why this feature even mentioned as a beta feature. Scaling 3D models in AR is nothing new and almost all apps include a scaling feature in one way or another. Seemed a bit amateurish to do it to be completely honest.

The main benefit of this feature is that it allows you to get to see how Bumblebee looks like in real-life in its real size. According to the official game strategy guide, Bumblebee is 16 feet tall (4.9 meters) when standing. With the app, you get to see and feel how Bumblebee looks like in real life, so its an important feature in my opinion. If I was the developer, I would have included an option so users will have a button that will auto-scale Bumblebee to its actual life-size height instead of playing with the scale meter and trying to figure the exact size out.

Auto Fill feature
You can easily fill the environment with lots of destructible objects using the AutoFill feature.

I also found the scanning procedure to be awkward. It didn’t allow me to scan a larger area and if there is a limit, why doesn’t  the app say it. It does seem that the app does it behind the scene because I was able to place objects behind the visible scanned area grid.

The app also features a video recording button that allows users to record a video of the scene. The problem is that this feature was buggy for me and I wasn’t able to record a video. After the video reaches its recording time limit, the button just stays there and the video isn’t recorded. I’ve waited 3 minutes to see if something changes but nothing happened. I closed the app and then tried to record a video using the iOS 11 built-in screen recording functionality, iOS couldn’t record a video, like the recording feature has already given access to this app. I had to turn off my iPad to make the iOS 11 screen recording work again.

Conclusion

Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard is a really cool and entertaining ARKit sandbox game that will surely be cherished by Transformers fans.

I really like seeing things exploding in Augmented Reality. The last time I did it was when I placed a bomb among other toy pieces in the physics-based sandbox game Playground AR and watched everything blown up into pieces. Shooting is a blast in this game. It’s easy to place lots of destroyable objects in the scene and it’s a blast blowing them all up into pieces with grandiose explosions.

I think Paramount Pictures did an incredible job with Bumblebee’s 3D character design, it just couldn’t look more real, exactly like in the movie.

I actually would have liked if there was an option for having a car ramp so when Bumblebee a drives on, it transforms into a human-like body and lands on the floor and hitting it with a big fist. I just feel that this app would be more entertaining with more pre-animated object interactions in the 3D scene. I also don’t recall hearing Bumblebee’s voice at all. What about a nice hello and waving his hands to the user when it makes its first entrance? Also adding some pre-animated moves would also be really cool in my opinion.

Overall, I think Transformers: Cade’s Junkyard is a good complementary app to the movie Transformers: The Last Knight. I just can’t wait to see what the app for Bumblebee: The Movie would look like (plans for initial release on June 28, 2018). I definitely recommended it for all the Transformers fans out there that have and ARKit-enabled iPhone or iPad devices. This Transformers experience is free-to-play on the App Store so just download it and have fun!

You can download the app from the app store here.

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