In this post, I am going to review the ARKit game PuzzlAR: World Tour by Bica Studios. It’s the same games that was released for Microsoft HoloLens. I love playing puzzle games and I think this genre really plays well in augmented reality. I’ve spent many hours playing puzzle games this week. It’s am really interested seeing how developers are approaching the development of puzzle games in AR. This is why I was really interested to see what Bica Studios has planned for us in its first Augmented Reality game PuzzlAR World Tour—Let’s find out!
What is PuzzlAR: World Tour?
PuzzlAR is a jugsaw puzzle game in three-dimensional space. Players need to construct a replica of famous landmark piece by piece. As of the time of writing, players can reconstruct the Statue of Liberty, Taj Mahal, and Saint Basil Cathedral. The developer also put a poll asking for players to vote for the next landmark they want to see in the next update.
Each puzzle has can be played in either 6, 12 or 24 pieces.
Each of the puzzles had several objectives in which players will need to complete. Some of the achievements are easy, others are much more difficult. The objectives are arranged in sets of three: Bronze, Silver, and Gold, where gold achievements are the hardest among the three.
Each three set of achievements are the same more or less, one is awarded for level completion, the second if finding the hidden medal in the level and the third is awarded for being able to complete the puzzle under a specific amount of time: for 6 pieces it’s 15 seconds, for 12 pieces is 30 seconds and for 24 pieces it’s 60 seconds.
In order to play St. Basil’s Cathedral Russia, you need to get at least 50% completion of the previous landmark, which is Taj Mahal, India.
There aren’t many puzzles in this game and that something that I was finding quite lacking. After seeing a number of puzzles in AMON, I got a bit disappointed seeing the selection in this game.
Let’s take a look at some gameplay before we move on.
Gameplay Mechanics & Difficulty
The gameplay mechanics are very simple. Pieces of the structure are floating in the air. You need to aim the cursor towards the piece you want to grab, tap and hold and move the iPad or iPhone to the location where the piece has to be placed..
Now the game is very forgiving in that aspect. It’s has a system that snaps the puzzle piece in place as it gets closer to its designated location. Puzzle pieces can even be attached to each other without needing for the first piece to be in place; you can then grab the two pieces together and put it in place. Also, if a piece has to be attached to another piece underneath it, you would still be able to snap it in by just dragging it underneath the other pieces.
This is probably the most important part of the review and you’ll soon understand why. It’s where I explain what made me actually enjoy playing the game.
For me, PuzzlAR: World Tour was a completely different puzzle experience than games like AMON, Splitter Critters or ARise. PuzzlAR, unlike AMON, isn’t based on optical illusions and there is no significance on where you stand relative to the puzzle. I was actually playing it while sitting on the floor. This is not necessarily something bad. This means that you can actually play it comfortably while sitting on the floor. That being said, body movement in AR games is among the things that make playing AR games so engaging. Many developers are building some really cool gameplay mechanics using the location tracking capability available in those ARKit-enabled device.
Now if the PuzzlAR had no achievement, I would have probably finished it in ia few minutes and my impressions of it would be not that good. This is where the achievements come in to play. One of my most enjoyable parts in the game was trying to complete the time-trial achievements. Those achievements where you have a limit time to finish a puzzle.
For example, in each map, you have an achievement for completing the 6-piece puzzle under 15 seconds, 12-piece under 30 seconds and the 24-piece puzzle under 60 seconds.
The first time I tried it I just hated it, I told myself,: “How the hell I am going to solve this 12-piece puzzle in 30 seconds”. I mean, I tried the 6-piece puzzle first and it took me like 38 seconds, so what the hack. I was so frustrated, not because there was something wrong with the game, but because I failed every single time.
I took my iPad and put it in the room, I said that this is enough, this is a torture. After that, I got myself some cold water, looked at my iPad.. and yes, I’ve decided to give it another shot.
I was trying to finish the 12-piece Tag Mahal puzzle under 30 seconds. Just think about it, you have two in half seconds max to put each piece in its place. It’s like one mistake and you fail. The timer will keep going as you play, there is no special mode for it. You can make the timer visible in the settings by the way.
I spent I don’t know how many time on this, always trying to improve and get my timing better. I got better each time. I was sometimes so close to finishing and failed exactly in the last piece. When I finally made it, I was so satisfying, I was so happy, I start taking photos of the game with the in-game photo mode—I was ecstatic.
The time-limit achievement was spot on. I think that maybe the entire game should have been on time limit because this is the part of the game that I actually enjoyed the most. It’s very challenging and the only mode that actually challenged me, and it’s a puzzle game, so it should.
For me, it was like the developer hasn’t really decided what type of game this puzzle game should be. I think that designing this game with a competitive state of mind would make it at least have an identity. Maybe add many more achievements with a scalable difficulty.
I understand that for a first game maybe it is a good idea making a game that everyone can enjoy and not frustrate users with a challenging gameplay experience from the start. This is also were the replay value is lacking. One thing that could have improve it is having global leaderboards where we can see the best timing of each player in each puzzle and for each number of pieces, but there isn’t such thing in the game, nothing that I am aware of.
For me the biggest question is whether players will enjoy playing a puzzle game that challenge them by posing a time limit. The core game is very simple and not that challenging. This is why I had a problem with this game. If it was a difficult puzzle, I would like to have that difficulty made around the puzzle complexity, not having a timer above my had. I want it to be a calming experience not stressful. I think most players will prefer that.
I’m still not sure about making games that require fast hand movement (not body movement) is a good thing, especially in puzzle games. The reason I say it is that I did enjoy moving my hands when I played Catchy Words. I personally prefer the more relaxing puzzle-solving experience.
The AR experience was very good. The game detected the surface quickly, and I was able to spawn the level straight away. You can move the puzzle base around the room and even enlarge it to the size you find fit. This isn’t so obvious by the way, I’ve played some ARKit games where you cannot resize the level. I was able to play on the table, on the floor, while sitting or standing, all that without any significant issues.
The player can also rotate the puzzle pieces while playing. This is a nice feature because sometimes you don’t want to move around the room and just sit down and enjoy playing comfortably on the floor,
What I didn’t like is that every time I started the puzzle I had to reposition the game on a surface all over again. After I finish the puzzle, I need to press the home button, choose the puzzle again and spawn it again. I’ve seen this in many games and it’s really annoying. I wish there was an option to solve this thing.
Overall, very good AR experience.
The visuals in this game are nice but nothing that will pull you out of your sit. I didn’t say it in a bad way. The landscape area looks nice and detailed and I really liked the little cute activities’ animations taking place around the structure. It makes the game look more interesting and more enjoyable to look at. I liked the Poly Art scene reproduction of the famous landmarks, it looks beautiful and fits the game nicely.
I love the vivid colors that paint my living room with beautiful bright colors. By the way, I really liked the fireworks effects that you get to see after you finish a puzzle—this was cool.
The sounds in this game are really nice, each landmark has its own related soundtrack and sound effects.
PuzzlAR: World Tour is a fun casual ARKit puzzle game. What made the difference for me was the time achievement that put me into a real challenge. I think I’ve spent an hour trying to achieve the 12-pieces under 30 seconds and I finally made it. I still haven’t finished all the achievements just yet. If you search for a challenging puzzle, you definitely need to try those achievements out.
The game does lack content. I would have liked to see like 10 landmarks out of the box, rather than only three and now I need to wait for a future update to enjoy new puzzles.
I have to admit, this puzzle game did get me puzzled. I’ve seen more innovative ideas, and solving puzzles with a ‘snap’ assist isn’t that exciting, to be honest. You just drag them to an approximate location and wait to hear the snap sound. There is no need to change your physical location, rotate the pieces or move the piece slowly until the piece is positioned perfectly in place—a puzzle game should be challenging.
The achievements are what made this game worthwhile for me. I do recommend this game for those of you who want to take a fun challenge. I want to see you trying to solve those puzzle under the time restrictions. It’s really challenging and fun, you really have to try this out.
I do hope to see not just new locations, but also much more achievements and a global leaderboard. I want to show off my achievements and see if anybody else in the world was able to do it faster than me.
Overall, a good game. Get it and have fun.
Review score updated on 3.6.2018 based on recent updates.