Room Racer AR

Room Racer AR – Game Review (iOS)

Room Racer is an augmented reality racing car game for iOS similar to games like Shell Racers and Lightstream Racer. You can play the game against an AI opponent or against a local friend over Wi-Fi.

About Room Racer

Room Racer AR track selection screen
Room Racer AR track selection screen

Room Racer works with a tap-to-accelerate system as the developer called.  Basically, you need to control the car well by decelerating at the right moment like near corners or accelerating when you see a ramp so you won’t get stuck.

The game also has power-ups which can either work on your car (e.g. acceleration) or interference your opponent (e.g. missile to get your opponent off-road).

Winning matches grants you with paint jobs which you can use for one of the three available cars.

The game also features a simple race track builder, allowing you to build your own track and drive it (accessible via the Custom tab).

Gameplay and AR Experience

Room Racer AR is all about driving. I found the driving experience to be less fun that I expect it to be. It feels less fluid and fun compared to Lightstream Racer. You do have drifts in this game, which of course what makes the driving interesting and fun, but the physics just felt much less fun than Lightstream Racer.

Room Racer AR game
The small track doesn’t leave too much space for speeding up, enjoying acceleration and driving in general.

I am comparing the two because these two games are very similar in a way. Lightstream Racer developer implemented a magnetic racetrack physics, so the driving felt smoother and the drifting looks and felt much better. /In this game, it’s kind of choppy and feels less responsive. In Lightstreamer you had that extra magnet ability that allows you to avoid drifting out of the track and it felt really good, here you don’t.

Room Racer AR track builder
Nice having an option to build my own track and play them as well.

Furthermore, the default tracks are really small. Lightstream Racer was intentionally designed for a large space. The problem with this types of racing game is that you want to enjoy a fast ride, and for that you need space. There are a few ways o achieving this, either having multi-level tracks that circulated in a certain space, dynamic track that the part that you finish disappears and the next one appears as you progress and the last one, is building a very large track.

Playing Room Racer AR in bird's eye view
Playing Room Racer AR in bird’s eye view. This is the last way I want to play this type of game.

There are problems with the first two approaches. The multi-level is not good for AR because you have many blind spots and the second one is not fun because you can only see part of the track which leads to a poor gameplay experience (it works for some games though). Having a large track is also a problem in AR because it requires a large space to spawn the track. Of course, you can offer the user the option to scale it down, but then everything is scaled down, including the car, which then looks tiny and then the whole experience not fun anymore.

Room Racer AR does give you the option to scale the game, which is nice, but still, it doesn’t solve the core issue, which is the short track. In Lightstreamr Racer the car has a good deal of distance to travel, so you enjoy it more. The developer of Lightstreamer also made a 360 mode, where you play while standing in the center of the track, thus having a good view of the entire track in all directions.

Room Racer AR felt therefore much less exciting to play, by that I mean drive the car and making drifts. The good thing is that you can use the track builder to build a large track, but the car still conforms to its original size, which is quite small.

Playing Lightstream Racer AR game in the metro, Seoul
Just for comparison: Playing Lightstream Racer AR game in the metro, Seoul

This is why I found Lightstream Racer to be a fantastic AR game. It doesn’t try to shrink things because the developer understood the impact on the AR gameplay experience.

Another thing that bothered me is that although I personally like having vertical props in game, in this game it was actually not a good fit because it just blocks your view of where the car is. So you get a little track and some part of it is blocked by those huge buildings—not a good idea if you ask me. It leads to the player needing to stand up to view the entire track from above, which this leads to a flat bird’s eye view of the track, again, not something that I want to experience in Augmented Reality.

The overall design of the game is nice, I like the cartoon-style design and added vertical props around the track, the music, and the track design. It all looks pretty good. The UI was also very simple to use, including the track builder.

Let’s check out some gameplay!

How to solve that small track issue?

If you are a game designer/developer and still want the game to be well played in a small space you have a few options (or do them altogether):

  • Build a responsive generated track that adapts to the gameplay space
  • Use loops that allow the user to enjoy longer drive but still maintaining a small space (great use of verticality here, better than just putting trees and houses)
  • Employ different driving mechanics, where the car stays longer on the track with less “breaks” so even if the player drives on a small track, he or she can still feel that feeling of continuous driving and, acceleration. This might also mean redesigning the other gameplay elements to adapt to this new physics.
  • Make the track tack place on a vertical plane in one facet while the other takes place on the floor. It doesn’t have to be totally vertical, maybe an angular one, but it does give you more space to work with.

There are probably other options, but these are a few things that pop up right now.

Conclusion

Room Racer AR felt like a miss, at least for a player like me whom already played similar games and tried Lightstreamer AR.

The driving and drifting felt awkward and quite annoying at times. I wanted to enjoy the drifting as I enjoy it in similar games, but it was just choppy and the small default tracks didn’t leave a lot of space to enjoy speeding up. I needed to stop before I was able to get to a full speed. It’s like I need to release the hold on the acceleration a moment after speeding up, just to avoid drifting off the track.

It’s a type of game that can be played in a mall space, but that particular design also impairs the driving and visual experience.

So all said and done, I was personally disappointed with the game in general. If you enjoy car racing games with drifting and want to play it in AR, want a track builder option or a local multiplayer capability, then you can try it out, but if those other features aren’t a must and you just want a casual single-player AR racer, I think there are better options out there.

You can download Room Racer AR from the App Store here.

P.S. I’m still waiting for a Mario Kart style AR racer, ones without a track, one that takes place in the entire living room floor with a local multiplayer option.