powARdup ARKit game

powARdup Game Review

The more ARKit apps I play, the more I am amazed by what developers are able to achieve with it. In this post, I am going to review a crazy ARKit arcade blaster augmented reality game called powARdup.

What is PowARdup?

powARdup is a fast-paced augmented reality arcade game where you control a virtual ship and need to protect it from bumping into obstacles and moving enemy units that closely close distance on it.

Your objective is to try to survive as long as you can (I played a lot and I didn’t get to reach any level yet). When the game starts you’ll see a sight in the middle of the screen. You move your iPad or iPhone around the gameplay area and point it to where you want your ship to move.

powARdup gameplay screenshot
Every enemy that comes inside that circle is eliminated immediately. Use it strategically, wait for the enemy to come close before you trigger it.

This ship is kind of an hover-ship, it hovers over the surface just a bit, it has very floaty movement and this is one of the best things that I really liked about the game. I really enjoyed pointing the ship to a specific direction and then seeing it racing and reaching that point like two seconds later. It’s also amazing doing oversteers and seeing the cars spinning around and turn 360-degrees to the other direction. The ship movement mechanic was flawless in AR without any single issue.

Lots of cool looking skins for your ship, powARdup screenshot
Lots of cool-looking skins for your ship, which one you like best? I’ll go with the tiger one!

This mechanics is much better than having buttons for steering and acceleration. When you point the pointer close to the car, the car will move slowly, when you put it further away from the car, the car will accelerate towards that position. Can’t be easier than that and trust me, it works amazingly well and feels like second nature. Even kids can enjoy it without breaking their head over the controls.

The difficulty of the game lies in the ability to steer the ship properly while avoiding getting hit by either the traps or the moving enemy units.

PowARDup also gives you some ways to deal with the threats by spawning different types of power-ups. For example, there is one power-up that creates a large circle around it and eliminates all enemies that are inside or passing through it. Another powerup released missiles that hunt for enemy units. There is one that I liked the most, that once you get it, it creates an electric field at the front of your car that eliminates enemies on contact. Just so you know, you can bump into enemies and eliminate them, if you do this without that powerup, it’s game over. There are no lives in this game if your ship intersects with an enemy unit it’s game over.

Let’s take a look at some gameplay footage before we move on.

The game has two game modes: Classic and The Deep End. You get a score based on your achievements but I didn’t find any leaderboard where I can compare my high score and see my global standing. This is a must feature for a game like that.

I have to admit that after playing some slow-paced action games like Twlilight Pioneers: Dragon ARena, I felt like trying something more fast-paced. powARdup came exactly at the right time I needed it and I glad I found it. In fact, most of the ARKit games that I play were kind of “slow” and I am actually a fan of fast-paced action games, so I really don’t understand how I didn’t came across this game earlier?

AR Experience and Graphics

This game really works well in augmented reality and it’s also very comfortable to play. I was standing the whole time. The experience felt like steering a wireless remote control car. In this game, however, you don’t need to worry about breaking anything, making too much noise or fixing any mechanical issues that your car might have—it’s all virtual.

closeup explosion in the agme powARdup
Amazing visuals, great use of particle system to create the trailing smoke effect and look at the reflections, stunning!

The game has detected the surface really fast.The AR experience was really smooth. To be honest, I wasn’t surprised that it worked so smooth without jittering because the way the game plays, with players moving their iPhone or iPad device slowly and continuously to control the ship. it’s the best way for ARKit to detect flat surfaces.

Ship details, close up image, powARdup
A close look at one of the ships in powARdup.

Regard visuals. powARdup boasts some really cool visuals. The ship skins look amazing, and I really like how the ship looks with the reflections on the floor. I also loved the ship’s design, very curvy and detailed, a perfect fit for this type of floaty gameplay experience. Also worth mentioning are the superb particle effects when the ship moves and rotate,  the beautiful reflections (which can be further enhanced through the menu to match the shininess of your environment), the beautiful explosion effects and the great sound effects the makes everything not just looks great, but sound great as well.

powARdup Supercharged Hot Rod ship skins
bought the Supercharged pack, now I have five amazing looking ships with 20% speed boost, oh yeh!

If you don’t like the basic skin, you can choose from a large variety of skins, all available for free. There are also some really cool Hot Rod inspired ships, but you have to buy the paid Supercharged Pack to get them. Those Hot Rod inspired ships also come with 20% speed boost right from the start, which makes your ship move faster and oversteering feels more satisfying and fun.

The UI itself is really minimalistic, maybe too simplistic. I would like to see better-looking UI, not just a “Score: 53” text for the score and “HS: 960” text for the high score. It just makes the app feel incomplete and in development, not like a fully released game.

The UI part that is on the floor was done really well. When you move the ship around, there are five circular buttons that follow it. When your ship parks on one of them for like three seconds, it triggers an action bound to that particular button.

The Ingenious “Watch Replay” and “Pause” Features

If you look at the menu on the floor, you can see a button there that says “Watch Replay”. I personally wouldn’t bother watching a replay of me playing, but this is really something else, something you don’t want to miss out.

powARdup replay mode paused
check this cool image out, straight from powARdup game replay paused. This is insane!

This “Watch Replay” and “pause” features are just so ingenious. This feature allows you to see the last gameplay session, but the best part is that you can now control the camera yourself and you can move freely within the recorded session. This gives you the option to observe all the cool stuff that you might have missed, like the amazing explosions, the amazing oversteering that you have done and watch that from any angle and any distance that you desire. You can capture some really cool-looking pictures using this mode.

Here is a video showing me directing the camera in the game replay itself,

This is not a pre-recorded video. The game records the entire scene mathematically like where your ship and other objects were positioned at any given point in time.You can also pause the replay and still be able to move around the scene. Pause is also available while you play the game, but obviously, it’s more convenient playing with it while you aren’t in the middle of the game. I really enjoyed stopping the replay in the exact moment an explosion took place, it’s was just a beautiful scene to look at, I felt like inside the Matrix bullet scene.

Now check this “Pause” (Bullet Time like) feature.

I would like to have an option to move forward and backward on the timeline when the replay is paused. I would also like to see a “Photo Mode”, so I can capture the scene without the user interface (UI).

Oh, by the way, when you change the skin of your ship, you’ll see that chosen skin played in the replay itself, pretty cool stuff.

Although it seems like a side feature, for me this Replay feature was a very striking feature. I’ve spent more time on this features than I planned on, I was just totally hooked by it.

Things I would have like to see improved or added

powARdup is one of the most enjoyable and comfortable fast-paced ARKit games I got to play recently. It actually the first time I get to play a game like this in AR. This game was perfectly sewn for ARKit’s surface detection technology.  Having said that, I have some things that I would like to see improved or added in future updates.

I made a short list, many of those things are just things I would have loved to see in the game, but they probably won’t find their way into production:

  • Adding a local co-op would be amazing if the developer ads competitive aspect to the game I’m sold!
  • Highscore along isn’t enough as a progression system. I want to have achievements and option to unlock upgradable items once I finish them.
  • More type of enemies.
  • Pre-defined levels with a something like a boss round would be so cool!
  • Some obstacles which you can drive on, like a ramp, which you can use strategically to evade enemies.
  • Have some unique abilities for the ship. For example, being able to use a burst that can make you float in the air for like two seconds.
  • Global leaderboard
  • More types of power-ups
  • The enemies don’t look that interesting, I would like to see characters with more…mmm.. personality I guess?
  • The game itself looks a bit dark. Maybe the developer did it so to make the explosions pop, but it’s a bit too dark in my opinion and I played it in a very bright place.
  • The UI should be improved, it makes the game looks like an ARKit demo app.

I am just throwing things that are on my mind, maybe the developer comes across my review and he can do something with those ideas. I do this in almost all of my reviews. After all, at the end, I’ll be the one playing those games, and I want them to become the best they can be, well, not just for me, but for all of you guys who love playing augmented reality games.

Conclusion

PowARdup is an amazing ARKit augmented reality game for those who love playing fast-paced but comfortable mobile games. A lot of good thing going on for this game, including its amazingly fun gameplay experience, it’s great visuals and the great game replay and Pause mode among other things.

I’ve got hooked the moment I start steering the ship’s around the living room. The game is very addictive and challenging.

Having said all that, it still feels unpolished and lack of features that could have made it great. I see this in many ARKit games like they are rushed to the market too fast. It seems like many companies are just trying to test the ground and not going full in.

I really want PowARdup to be more than it is right now. I really want to spend many hours on it and become better. I want to have the option to be rewarded for my skill, effort and time that I put into the game, but what the game has right now is just not enough to make me invest in it. The thing is that most of the ARKit games that I’ve played feel exactly like that, it’s not that powARdup is doing something different. It’s just when you see such an amazing game, you really want it to feel like a complete game, less like a demo.

Still, would I recommend the game? Absolutely yes.  This is yet another sensational ARKit game that works so damn good in Augmented Reality. It feels great steering that ship while avoiding obstacles and smashing it against those enemy machines using power-ups. This is really a game that I can spend tons of hours on—Highly Recommended!

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