Playgruond AR, sandbox physics game

Playground AR Review (ARKit)

Playground AR is a physics sandbox augmented reality iOS game developed by Marc Sureda. Before I move on talking about the game, I just want to mention that this is the first version of the app and the developer is currently working on adding more block and features to the app.

I did get a chance to play with quite a few augmented reality sandbox games. Most of them were quite fun, but something was missing and there was nothing interesting to keep me enjoy them in the long run.

When I played around with Playground AR I figured out what was missing exactly—Physics!

A Physics-based Sandbox AR Game

Playground AR at its core is very similar to other sandbox mobile games that I’ve played. You have a variety of building blocks which you can place on surfaces in the environment, including square blocks, spheres domino blocks, etc. However, Playground AR is physics-oriented and thus it improves over what other sandbox game offers by employing joins items and blocks as well as a white variety of physics-based items like jets, rotating wheels, balloons, bombs, TNT barrels, remote control (RC) toys and more.

I especially liked the joint parts which give you the option create your own unique toy and experiment with different physics-interactions. The moment I laid my hand on this I start enjoying it. I just joined a few blocks, add some jets to the sides, attacked some wheel and it was amazing to see how that little creation of mine comes into life in my living room.

The thing is that you can create some amazing stuff with this app. The developer lands you some building tools and lets you create anything that’s on your mind. You can really build some crazy stuff with this app.

Playground AR app screenshot
Some much fun seeing how my little creation goes crazy with erratic movement on the floor the living room.

The other thing that I liked about Playground AR is how intuitive the controls ares. You can easily rotate objects, attach tools to other building blocks, move objected around, freeze them in the air and so on. It takes just a few minutes to get familiar with the UI and start creating cool stuff. For me, it was also much more fun to see the world and toys that I made moving inside the real environment compared to an on-screen 3D scene.

explosion effect in sandbox game
An explosion effect after I put a bomb directly inside this pack of blocks.

One thing that I really find missing is an option to save the scene. If I already spend a lot of time working on a scene, I want to be sure that I can go back in time to a previous save before I throw some bombs and see how it is destroyed or make sure I can restore the scene if I make any mistake. I’ve seen this option in some other build blocks app like Tayasui Blocks. In Tayasui Blocks you can even share your creation with other users and let them import it and continue building upon it. Tayasui doesn’t employ physics, but it’s a very easy-to-use creation app where you can build a whole new world using blocks like Lego.

AR Experience

Sandbox games play very well in AR. For me, they are more fun to experience in augmented reality (AR) than on normal mode. I personally prefer VR for sandbox games because of the ability to interact with objects in the scene directly using the advanced motion controllers. I’m sure this thing will come to AR as well. I’ve already read about a few advanced technologies that allow natural hand interaction with the 3D scene called ManoMotion. We are definitely getting there, it will just take a bit more time.

Balloons attached to blocks lifting them in the air
What a really nice AR scene to watch. I attached a few balloons to the blocks and they lift them up in the air, so cool!

Playground AR quickly detected the surface and I was able to continue scanning the environment to let the experience take place over a larger space. There is also an option to tell Playground AR to work on an infinite surface space, it’s called “Infinite Floor”. What it does I assume, is that it just creates an extension of the detected surface. So if the car moves, it won’t fall over in the non-scanned area and continue to move like it was one huge big surface. It’s a really nice idea and makes things easier. I didn’t need to scan the entire living room, I scanned just a small section and I could drive the RC car all around the house. Of course, this potion is suitable for flat areas.

Infinite floor feature in Playground AR app
Infinite floor feature in Playground AR app.

I really liked the UI, very simplistic and clean. The 3D objects look nice with some slight color gradation which makes them look more interesting to look at.

I think that the explosion effects should be improved, they look really unconvincing. f we are already playing a sandbox game with realistic physics, it’s essential for the visual effects to be more convincing as well. I would also like to have the UI adapt to landscape orientation as well, not just work in portrait orientation.

Playground AR can also benefit from having social features, like having an option to record videos or saving and sharing creations with other users. It doesn’t have that at the moment. I think this is really an important feature. I think users will really enjoy being able to share their hard work creations and get feedback from the community. Without it, it feels a bit lonely out there. It will be amazing being able to import some crazy creations that other people did and see how they work in your place or integrate them with the scene you’ve already created.

Conclusion

You need to try out Playground AR yourself to feel this experience. I made a gameplay video to let you see what you can do after a few minutes of playing with this game.  There is also an option to capture a photo of the app.

Playground AR is one of the more entertaining ARKit sandbox games that I played recently. The physics items are without a doubt the most interesting and enjoyable parts of the experience. I definitely recommend the developer to add many more of those to the app. The selection of physics-based objects isn’t large, but you can do a lot with that limited amount of items. I can’t imagine what users can do with even more options.

Not being to save the scene is certainly something that the developer should add in a future update. I tried to look for it everywhere, but couldn’t find such option.

Overall, Playground AR is a great ARKit app that I think will be favored by kids and teens. It’s really fun throwing TNT barrels into an area full of blocks, watching blocks flying up with a few balloons attached or putting snooker balls inside a trunk of a car and dropping it from the air to the ground.

There is certainly room for more funny and crazy physics-based items that will encourage users to create some crazy stuff and share their creation on social networks. I enjoyed playing around with Playground AR and showing you what I made with it. Obviously, it’s not too much, but just give me time, I will come up with something really crazy.

Overall, a very good sandbox ARKit game that with more updates can be even better.

Check out the game’s page on iTunes.

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