Today I walk up at 2 am and I wanted to keep myself busy until morning. I thought that it might be a good time to download a little AR game to pass the time. I went to the App Store searching for a casual AR game and I came across Ice Cream AR.
What is Ice Cream AR?
Ice Cream AR is a block-stacking augmented reality game. However, instead of using standard square blocks like in almost all other block-stacking games that I’ve tried (e.g. rBlocks AR, Let’s Stack AR, Let’s Build AR), the user needs to stack up ice cream scoops in different flavors.
The player needs to look at customer’s orders and then choose the right cone and ice cream taste in the right order.
The mechanics are very simple, like other block-stacking games. In Ice Cream AR, the player needs to move his device so the dummy placement indicator is centered on top of the cone so the ice cream scoops are balanced on top of each other. If you fail to align them properly, they’ll fall down on the floor making a big mass. Furthermore, missed scoops and failed orders will make you lose money. Satisfying customer’s demands will bring money to the business.
The player can unlock new types of cones and ice cream flavors, like chocolate, lemon, mint, cookies & cream, etc, as he progresses. Fulfilling larger ice creams grants you more money.
The gameplay controls are simple as a standard block stacking game. In some ways, I wished there was an option to actually use a scoop to grab the ice cream myself, to make the game feel more realistic in a way.
The ice cream and cone selection controls are small, appear in the bottom-middle of the screen (why?) and therefore are annoying to use. I mean, this is the last place I would put game buttons if those are the only controls I have in the game. Maybe it isn’t a big issue with the iPhone, but with the iPad, I needed to stretch my fingers and it was quite annoying. Placing the controls on the sides where my thumb can easily reach would be a better place in my opinion.
Furthermore, you need to tap the order reservation to approve it, I didn’t know that at first. The game does have a nice tutorial that teaches you the basics, which is nice. It pops out some notification screens when you finish an order or unlock new items.
The controls are also quite confusing at times. For example, when I click the cone, I see another cone falling down on the left side, sometimes it switches to an ice cream and drops a scoop. The selection of a cone interface isn’t clear and quite confusing.
Ice Cream AR is a physics-based game, and the physics work well, making the ice cream stacking experience feel realistic. It was actually funny watching the ice cream splashing on the floor in my living room.
The AR experience was very annoying. First of all, I tried to play it in a small well-lit room with textured surfaces, and the game always complained about losing tracking of the surface. I guess the reason for that is that you aim the camera forward towards where the coin, so if the surface is a bit elevated, ARKit might lose track of it, but I’m not 100% sure that this was the reason for it.
The developer mentioned “ARKIt and Scenekit APIs, advanced culling techniques make mess hide behind your furniture” when I received the review key. In the game’s description on the app store, it mentioned sophisticated algorithms and powerful physics engine to make the ice cream scoops fall in a realistic way, hide behind objects and make splats that seem realistic in the world.
In my experience, what the game did was to create table-like objects where it detected surfaces and therefore if I moved the camera around, I could see the splats hidden underneath those tables. Other than that, I didn’t notice anything special, to be honest.
Although I liked the ice cream’s splat marks on the floor, during gameplay, I didn’t even pay attention to it. I could easily miss that. I found about it only after readings the game’s description, then I bothered looking down. Maybe adding a prominent sound effect for it could have grabbed my attention looking down at the floor and see all the mass that I did.
I took the game out toe test it in a larger area, and even there it had inconsistent behavior. It wasn’t a huge problem, but it did ruin the flow of the gaming experience at some points.
The overall design looked pretty cheap, including some awful textures for the table. It would be so much nicer to have some sort of a real ice cream serving furnishing. The same goes for the UI, it colorful and more cheerful presentation would make the game look so much better.
I admire the developer for thinking outside of the box and making a block-stacking game using ice cream scoops instead of standard blocks.
Stacking ice cream scoops felt good with the physics nailed just right. However, the game doesn’t feel that rewarding (It would be nice if there was something to do with the money I earn?), the graphics and UI look cheap and doesn’t create a unified and vibrant presentation, as it should be for such a game (I wanted to feel that “Happy Summer Time” look and feel, colorful, happy and cheerful, and I didn’t feel it.
The AR presentation wasn’t exciting, same goes for the gameplay that didn’t feel rewarding. Placing a scoop on top of the other wasn’t challenging at all. You can see that in many other block-stacking games, developers are adding moving blocks and built the gameplay mechanics based on timing. Just stacking blocks on top of the other isn’t that engaging. Making those blocks like ice cream scoops does improve the experience, but it doesn’t really pose any significant challenge, and therefore the game becomes boring after a short period of time.
Overall, an interesting idea for a block-stacking game, execution much less.