Augmented reality (AR) seems to be in a bit of a quagmire at the moment. Companies like Apple are proclaiming the technology as the next big thing – saying VR is just too confined – whereas the reality is far more mundane, with a few basic apps that are testing the water rather than pushing the boundaries. One title that does look promising comes from indie developer The Pixel Crushers, with its escape room style experience ARia’s Legacy.
Demoed for the first time at the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) 2018, ARia’s Legacy was a short but involved puzzle experience that The Pixel Crushers displayed on an iPad. While the final version will support both iOS and Android devices it was very noticeable how awkward it was playing an AR title using a big device like a tablet. Trying to hold it in place while solving a puzzle proved to be somewhat cumbersome, reducing the intuitive nature of the gameplay.
As you’d expect from an escape room videogame all the puzzles revolved around investigating what was in the room around you – namely various pieces of furniture like wardrobes and cabinets. Opening draws and cupboards looking for keys or objects that seemed out of place. As the experience advanced so did the difficulty and use of AR requiring a decent amount of movement from the player to look around and properly investigate.
When AR shifts from the more familiar table top demonstrations to wider room filled pieces it’s generally considered a decent amount of space is required. ARia’s Legacy (while having plenty of space on the show floor) didn’t seem to need lots of space, so much so that The Pixel Crushers could run two demos side by side. This is an important part to note as the title is being designed for home use and everyone doesn’t necessarily have masses of square feet to play with. Yet the videogame didn’t feel too confined so that you weren’t on top of everything, there was room to manoeuvre.
Graphically ARia’s Legacy does very well for the mobile platforms it’s aimed at. Lines are clean and the detail is suitable enough that any of the puzzles requiring lettering or numbers is decently legible. VRFocus isn’t expecting anything too wondrous in this department due to the processing needed to make everything spatially secure and solid, but moments like several candles providing illumination do work reasonably well.
What’s exciting is the fact The Pixel Crushers have confirmed there will be 50 levels in total with VRFocus experiencing one level of around 6 – 10 minutes in length, so there’s going to be plenty of content on offer in the final release. Plus another feature that could prove beneficial is the co-op mode, but until that becomes available to demo we’ll have to wait and see.
From this first early preview of ARia’s Legacy The Pixel Crushers certainly seem to be on the right track with its first AR title. Controls are easy to use – likely even easier on a smartphone – and the puzzle element was reasonable. So long as the difficulty curve is decent ARia’s Legacy could be one AR experience worth a purchase.