57° North for Merge Cube – Game Review (iOS)

57° North for Merge Cube is a fantastic AR adventure game for the Merge Cube. It boasts an exciting and interesting narrated storyline. It’s an interactive story,  where each choice you made has its own consequences and has multiple endings. The story is lead by beautiful layered illustrations that further enhance the visual experience. The layers illustrations become 3-dimensional in the palm of your hand with the Merge Cube.

57° North for Merge Cube reminded me of a few other AR experiences that I’ve tried before. The layered painted art reminded me of Paper Lightbox app, and the storytelling brought up some great memories of playing Augmented Stories and The Condor. However, it’s the first time I get to experience a storytelling AR experience on with my Merge Cube, let alone an interactive one.

The Story (No spoilers)

The game tells a story of two cousins who went on a ride with their boat and found themselves on a remote isolated island in Alaska after their ship broke. After a short investigation, they find out that this island isn’t deserted. There are many security cameras in different places on the island.

Before we move on, here is a short gameplay, just 45 seconds, no spoilers.

Of course, I want to keep this review spoiler free so I obviously won’t reveal what happens next.

Each decision has consequences
Each decision has consequences

What I can tell you is that it’s a modern story that touches a little bit of some very current popular technology topics like Machine Learning, AI, Structural Analysis among other topics. I was expecting something like a children’s fantasy story, and instead, I found an exciting story that appeals very much to adults as well and happens in the current present time.

57° North for Merge Cube screenshot
Colorful, lively layers illustrations with nice 3-dimensional effect.

The story is made of several episodes. Some of your decision can lead to the same consequence, while others can have a more significant impact and change the story’s ending. I didn’t measure the time it took me to finish the story, but I think it took me at least 20 minutes to reach the end and as I mentioned, there are various endings (I only discover two, but there might be more), so the replay value is definitely there.

Story on a Cube in AR

I didn’t know what to expect when I first launched the game. I was interested in seeing how fun this Merge Cube’s storytelling experience would be.

Beautiful illustrations. 57° North for Merge Cube
Beautiful illustrations

I the viewing experience is one of a kind. The 3-dimensional effect of the layers illustrations encourages the viewer to rotate the cube. The cube rotation let you better enjoy observing the scene and it some ways it makes it feel more lively although there is no animation involved. As you rotate the Merge Cube, you can observe more details being revealed at the edges of the scene which can’t be seen when holding the cube straight up front.

Wooden cube, 57° North for Merge Cube
Wooden cube, 57° North for Merge Cube

There is also the intelligent idea of triggering an action by rotating the cube to a specific side. For example. when I arrived at that house with the big satellite dish on top I had four options. I can choose an action by rotating the Merge Cube at the appropriate side that represents that action I want to take. This how the story progress, you have a narrated scene and then the game asks you to take an action.

Mighty Coconut, the developer of the game, did an excellent job in making use of the Merge Cube’s bound physical characteristics.

Of course, none of this was really impressive without an exciting storyline. Without revealing anything, I can tell you that the story kept me entirely hooked from start to finish. When I did the first run, I knew I had to go and try it again to see if there is a second ending. I’m still planning to go on the same adventure all over again to see what happens when I make different decisions at certain key points during the game.

I still think that it would be even better if the inner edges weren’t mirrored but revealing an even larger 3D scene, like an AR portal door.  Adding some visual effects around the cube could also enhance the experience, in my opinion, just a thought.

Nice diaphragm animation
Nice diaphragm animation after each action you take when you rotate the cube

Only one side of the cube is active at any given time. The other sides have a very nice high-res wooden texture that looks really nice. I also liked how when I turn the cube to make a decision, it opens up like a camera’s diaphragm.

It was exciting browsing through the story and making decisions by rotating the cube. The main reason I liked it is because I can hold the cube in both hands and it doesn’t require any screen interaction. This creates a better flow of the experience unnecessary hand interactions. This is one of the reasons I liked playing Tiltball because I only needed to rate the Merge Cube, not need to on the screen during the gameplay.

Something is missing

For me what was missing was a better use of the three-dimensional space surrounding the cube. The game just doesn’t make use of that important asset, of being able to overlay 3D content anywhere over or around the cube. Instead, it just uses layers illustrations to create depth on a specific facet of the cube. In some ways, it is like playing an adventure game on a smalle screen. This is why I feel that the developer has missed something here, that could have helped create a better visual experience in Augmented Reality.

Conclusion

57° North for Merge Cube is a fantastic decision-making adventure game excellent thrilling storytelling and professional narration. The story is thrilling and interesting and the multiple endings make the game replayable.

57° North for Merge Cube is a paid Merge Cube app, but it delivers a quite lengthy story-telling experience with replay value that definitely worth its asking price.

I recommend experiencing the game in the evening in a quiet place and let yourself draw yourself into it. Take your time before making each decision, try to think what can the consequences be because it’s just more fun playing with that state of mind that just run through it.

I do think that the developer could have taken better use of the Merge Cube technology to create a more compelling visual experience but overall I really enjoyed the gameplay experience, it was entertaining, gripping and unique—Recommended!

Download 57° North for Merge Cube from the App Store here.