Today we’ll take a look at a colorful and cheerful AR action game called Pest Invasion, developed by Super 77 studio.
I’ve had an eye on this game since I saw the lovely videos Nate Reese (a game developer at Super 77) posted on his Twitter. I love cheerful games that look colorful, humoristic and ones that just please your eyes and invite engagement. Of course, seeing it in a video and playing it are two completely different things. I wanted to see if the gameplay is fun as it looks from the gameplay videos that I’ve seen.
I was lucky to get an early access to the game and try it out before its release and in this review, I will share my experience and opinion about it.
What is “Pest Invasion”?
Pest Invasion is a wave-based action shoot’em up augmented reality game for iOS, developed using ARKit. You need to defend a cute little cupcake from being destroyed by an invasion of creepy little (some are not that small) pests that try to destroy it.
You start with the first cupcake called “Fred Velvet” and unlock more cupcakes as you progress. There are a total of 7 cupcakes (from what I can tell), each one with its own size, health and stats improvement properties, including Weapon Meter capacity and Recharge Rate. I will talk about those stats later on.
As you progress through the game you’ll continue to improve your cupcakes health and stats, which allows you to survive longer throughout those attack waves.
The game features three different difficulties: Easy, Medium and Heck (the hardest). The goal is to try to survive the largest amount of waves. You start with “Easy” mode and unlock the next difficulty modes when you reach a certain wave number.
The game has a competitive aspect, which is associated with the global leaderboard which is available in the game. There are a total of 6 leaderboards: Total XP, Pests Defeated, Highest Combo Chain, Highest Wave Completed (Easy / Medium / Heck). So competitive players will try to break the record in each Highest Wave Completed category (probably focusing on the ‘Heck” which is the hardest) by trying to survive as many waves as possible. As of the time of writing, there are no challenges in the game.
Once you’ve chosen a difficulty level, the game will ask you to define the gameplay area and choose a cupcake. The AR initialization process is simple, attractive and straightforward. You can reposition the gameplay area by tapping on an area where you want the cupcake to be deployed and resize the game level size (radius) using swipe hand gesture.
After the AR initialization process, you go to the weapon selection screen. You have a total of two “Standard” weapons you can select aside from your basic “Sprinx” (sprinkle bombs) default weapon. There is also a “Super” weapon, which is a very powerful ability but it needs to be charged in order to be used. Some “Supers” like the “Candy Cannon can be deployed several times, each deployment takes out part of the total meter.
When you start the game you will have only the default “Sprinx” weapon and you unlock the standard weapon slot quickly as you start playing.
Pest Invasion has a decent amount of weapons you can unlock, including five different standard weapons and three “Super” weapons.
Now let’s move on to the gameplay itself and start with a gameplay video!
The gameplay mechanics are really simple. All it takes is tapping. Pests will start spawning within the gameplay area circle. Some of them will move toward your cupcake and apply damage to it upon an intersection, you need to prevent them from getting to your cupcake. Some pests will attack your unit from far, like throwing bombs at it. To eliminate them, you need to tap on the area where they are at, so your standard weapons will damage them. Each type of enemy has its own unique behavior and health pool.
It might seem easy, just tapping on enemies and getting done with it, but no, the developer wouldn’t make it that simple. There is a weapon recharge meter on the right side of the screen. When you use a weapon, it consumes part of its charge. When that charge reaches zero, you can no longer shoot and need to wait for it to recharge again. It recharges over time.
To make the game more dynamic and entertaining, the developer also added power-ups to the mix. Some pests will drop powerups, like healing for your cupcake, ammo overdrive (literally shoot without limit for a short period of time), and more.
The game also rewards you for combos, which means you get a higher score when making streak kills.
As you progress, you also level up in rank, which allows you to unlock more weapons slots and get cool rewards. I found the best way to rank up fast is by using the ammo overdrive and stacking our those combos which give you a higher XP multiplier.]
As you level up you will obtain reward boxes which allows you to unlock more weapons and improve the overall stats of your cupcakes.
If your cupcake health reaches zero, it’s game over and you’ll need to start from Wave 1 all over again. Upon game over, you get to see your total score, the total number of pests exterminated, invasion time (total survival time), total wave reached and your score record.
In order to survive longer, you’ll need to farm some lower levels until you improve your stats and get weapons that allow you to survive longer through the fight.
I personally think that the cupcakes should have gotten unique abilities, so they also can attack pests and protect themselves instead of just sitting there and doing nothing.
The game has many types of enemies, which is one of the things I liked about it. Before the next wave starts (at a checkpoint) you see the type of enemies you are going to fight again, including the total number of each type. For example, In wave 17 I was facing 31 Super Spiders, 10 Rollmaster enemies, 56 Spiders, 3 Albina Spider, and 1 (annoying) Flea. Some of these enemies are quite small, maybe some are too small. For example, I’ve played the game in the backyard and spawn it quite large, yet it was very hard to spot those tiny Albina Spiders. Maybe that was the point, to make them hard to spot, but I personally prefer having virtual characters that are very much visible, so I won’t need to get close to the ground and search for them, kind of ruin the continuity and immersion of the gameplay, at least that how it was for me.
Speaking of level size, I recommend playing the game in a relatively large size for better immersion, but it is easier to play when it is in relatively small size (not too small where you can’t aim), so you can easily spot enemies coming from behind the cupcake.
The game can be played in a seated or standing position. I enjoyed it better outdoors while standing, but I still enjoyed playing it indoors while sitting on a chair, had no problem with that either.
About the graphics. I really like the character design, the adorable animations, and the cheerful soundtrack. It’s one of those games that you just enjoy bringing to your world. I got excited seeing those adorable, cute and colorful creatures invading my real world. A casual boring morning turned into an exciting and cheerful one the moment I launched the game. I love having that type of exhilarating experience when I play augmented reality games.
Every part of the game is filled with personality, including the weapons, the cupcakes and the enemies. The enemies have their own unique design, kind of more monotonic but they still look funny and cute. you’ll be fighting many types of enemies.
Overall, the graphics are adorable. I did have a little problem with the UI. it took up too much space in my opinion and it did impair the AR experience. I think there is a place to reduce the UI elements’ size a bit.
Overall, beautiful visuals that really help elevate the gameplay entertaining factor – well done.
The game was designed well for AR. It starts with a beautiful and accessible AR surface scan instructions for the user and a standard UI for managing your items.
The game is designed with relatively short gameplay session, with checkpoints and even a pause button that allows users to take a break an reduce hand fatigue occurrences.
As I mentioned earlier, the game can be played comfortably on a table in a seated position or outdoor in a larger environment while standing, it adapts well to either.
My main problem was with the UI which took quite a lot of space, leaving a relatively small window for the AR to shine through. Overall, a good AR experience.
Pest Invasion is a fast-tapping shooter and you will be doing a lot of tapping in most part. I do have a mixed feeling about that. The thing that I have a mixed feeling about this, and I will explain why.
I played the game on the iPad 9.7 and this might be different than playing it on the iPhone, so just keep that in mind.
Pest Invasion isn’t like an FPS game like Space Blastards where you aim at a target and just tap in the same exact position on the screen with your thumb to shoot. Here, you need to tap fast on many places, as the enemies spawn in many different areas and you need to tape on their location in order to target them. This means that you don’t tap the weapon buttons and the projectiles are released at the center of the screen, you need to tap at an exact location on the screen to shoot with the weapon that you’ve previously selected.
The good thing is that it leads to a more stable AR experience because you don’t need to center the device on the target. The bad news is that I had to play it with one hand holding the iPad, and the other hand free to quickly tap the device at certain locations. This wasn’t a good experience because the hand that held the iPad got tired pretty fast, I was holding an iPad with one hand after all. Having said that, the gameplay sessions where relatively short, so it wasn’t that bad.
The alternative is to have those weapons buttons on the right vertically and having a visible crosshair. When you push a certain weapon button, it is released at the center. This is a better design in general for AR, as it doesn’t force the user to hold the device in one hand. Now it might not be an issue with the iPhone, because your fingers could easily cover the entire screen. However, UI/UX wise, maybe it was good to offer an alternative control scheme and let users choose which one they prefer best.
It seems to me that the game was tested on an iPhone and not on an iPad because if it was tested on the iPad, I think that the developer would have discovered this issue. Anyways, this is something that needs to be addressed.
Aside from the that, the tapping action game was lots of fun. The reason for this, at least for me, it because the tapping released projectiles that smashed the enemies, so it felt like I was smashing them with my fingers, kind of. The excellent “smushing” sound effects made it even more satisfying. I didn’t even mention the really entertaining commentating voiceover (reminded me that of Smash Tanks) which I really liked.
Pest Invasion remind me of another AR game that I’ve played called Tibb AR in terms of the tons of finger movement involved as part of the control mechanics. That game also had the problem when I played with the iPad, and I needed to hold the device in one hand. The main difference there was because I was more active physically playing that game, I didn’t feel hand fatigue as much. Probably the blood was pumping fast and made that experience less tiring, even though the gameplay session was much longer than Pest Invasion.
I also think that there is a place for a larger variety of placement weapons, something that will make this game feel more strategic, rather than just ammo-metering management. I think it would be way more fun if it was built with that type of gameplay in mind, something that borrows some elements from a tower defense game. You have many different defense and attack units and you need to place them strategically in the circle to successfully defend your cupcake. But maybe it will make the game less accessible and complicated for some, but I do think a more strategic type of gameplay would be more interesting to play, at least for me.
Another thing that was very much missing is the use of the vertical space. Something similar to Crazy Monsters Strike AR. Why not having some crazy pets flying and attacking from above. The game felt a bit too “flat” and could have been more interesting if there were some flying pests that would give the game more depth and interesting perspective gameplay. A missed opportunity in my opinion.
I would also bring some more creative weapons that can be more fun to watch in AR. For example, a weapon that draws holes in the floor (with a nice crack in the floor hole effect) which makes the enemies fall down screaming With just that idea I can build an entirely new AR game where you need to dig holes in the floor to protect yourself from enemies and watch them falling down and tripping with funny animations – this can be SO COOL! (write this idea down please, it is great for an AR game, I’m telling you).
If you read the review until this point, you understand that there are many things I like about Pest Invasion and there are also things that I didn’t like and some that I would prefer that would have been included in the game.
Sometimes it makes me want to be part of a development team, so I can help enrich the experience, fueled it up with many ideas so it can be even better. Until that happens, all I can do is inspire developers and hope some of my ideas and suggestions will be taken into consideration and can help improve current projects or future ones.
Pest Invasion is an entertaining game in general but it reaches its plateau, high peak, relatively quickly, and from that point on it becomes repetitive, and not in a positive way, progression slows down and the game feels much less rewarding compared to the first hour you played it.
The game does feel rewarding and I like the loot box rewarding system, but the variety of rewards is not extensive or built in a way that is very exciting. There are also no boss fights, at least not something that will make you eager to get to a point where you need to fight against a boss characters, another thing that I felt like it was missing in this game.
No doubt that the presentation of this game is its strongest. The game is easy to pick up and play and you will have a blast playing it, especially in the first hour or so. After that, it all depends on your motivation to continue breaking your own records and try to conquer the global leaderboard. This means farming for better stats, and this means playing some of the waves over and over until you unlock items that can help you progress further. If this doesn’t motivate you to play, you probably won’t find yourself playing this game more than a few hours.
Overall, I sum up my experience as a good one and I do recommend checking this game out. The game has vibrant and lively visuals, it’s amusing, charming, and the gameplay is simple, fun and yet addictive. It’s an arcade game that packs tons of action in a relatively small amount of time, and that action is fun to watch and more importantly, engaging. With all said and done, I do recommend getting it – have fun!
You can download Pest: Invasion from the App Store here. (oh, one last thing, this game requires an ARKit compatible device, keep that in mind, cheers).