Apple’s release of ARKit at WWDC in 2017 completely changed the future of augmented reality (AR) gaming.
Although it was unveiled less than a year ago, app developers have already used ARKit to their advantage by building a plethora of AR apps that deliver exceptional user experiences. There’s no better example than the gaming industry.
Now, the App Store completely separates games from other apps, and you’ll find an entire category dedicated to AR. Given over half a billion users visit the App Store each week, this is a significant shift in focus that puts gaming – AR gaming in particular – firmly in the spotlight.
Incredibly, AR became available to iPhones and iPads after an iOS 11 software upgrade without any new hardware. In other words, it means you don’t necessarily need the latest device to download and enjoy AR apps.
One of our favourite features of ARKit is the technology that allows the camera to recognise flat surfaces, such as the floor or a table. This feature is highlighted in a number of popular games created by Australian developers, so we thought we’d show you some of our favourites.
AR Dragon by PlaySide Studios
Where better to start than the App Store’s most downloaded free ARKit-only game? AR Dragon is the first AR game from PlaySide Studios, a Melbourne-based developer which has rocketed in popularity after releasing this title.
AR Dragon could be considered a cross between Pokémon Go and Tamagotchi: in the game, players look after their own pet dragon by hatching it, training it, feeding it and playing with it. Yes, you have to clean up its poop as well.
AR Dragon is, without a doubt, visually stunning. To play, you use your iPhone or iPad’s camera to find a flat surface before plonking your dragon right there in front of you. The cute animations, sharp graphics and detailed shadows make it an extremely immersive game; the dragon even holds eye contact, so it’s easy to forget it isn’t actually on your coffee table.
This title is simple but effective, and one that can be enjoyed by any age group. With the technological advancements of ARKit, we’re itching to see how PlaySide Studios can expand the game.
Shadows Remain: AR Thriller by Halfbrick Studios
This title joins AR Dragon in the App Store’s top 10 most downloaded free ARKit-only games, and we’re not surprised. Developed by Brisbane-based Halfbrick Studios (the team behind Fruit Ninja and Jetpack Joyride), Shadows Remain will feel quite familiar to anyone who has ever played a “hidden object” or “point and click” game.
Basically, players need to find a flat surface before placing a miniature 3d scene in front of them (picture a dollhouse with an open roof sitting on the coffee table). Using your iPhone or iPad’s camera, you can walk around outside the room’s walls, get up close with props and inspect objects.
A combination of storytelling, cinematic cutscenes and intense ambient sound immerses you in a genuinely unsettling thriller. At the beginning of the game, you’re faced with dimly lit room and some creepy voiceovers hinting that your character’s child has gone missing.
Throw in a television that flickers with a mind of its own and… well, we’ll let you experience it for yourself.
Shadows Remain is addictive, thrilling and engaging and a must for any horror fan. If you’re a little jumpy, don’t worry: the miniature size of the scene in front of you helps dampen some of the scarier moments, and the game focuses more on navigating eerie settings and solving clues than straight-up horror.
We recommend grabbing a pair of decent headphones for this because the sound design is simply exceptional.
Mammoth Mini Golf AR by Ezone
If you’ve had your dose of AR thriller gaming for the day, Mammoth Mini Golf AR dials things back to “chill”. Developed by Ezone, a two-person team based in Perth, Mammoth Mini Golf strikes an excellent balance between AR immersion and simple gameplay.
This title brings mini golf into your lounge room with fun courses themed around mammoths and cavemen.
The first thing we love about this game is how it interacts with the physical environment. Each course actually incorporates the surface in front of you – whether it be carpet, floorboards or anything else – into the design, and even the hole itself looks like its dug into the floor.
The second thing we love about Mammoth Mini Golf is that it enters the world of AR without overcomplicating the controls. You control your shot using a simple, clean interface on your screen, while the AR aspect of the game enhances the overall experience by allowing you to get the best angle every time.
Ezone have been around since the launch of the App Store in 2008 and they pride themselves as being one of the earliest adopters of Apple technology, so we can’t wait to see their next idea come to life.
Let’s Stack! AR by Yuma Soerianto
Last but not least, we have Let’s Stack! AR. This game is the brainchild of Yuma Soerianto, an 11-year-old developer from Melbourne who taught himself how to code at six years of age.
No, that’s not a typo. Techly first spoke to Yuma at WWDC 2017, which he attended through the event’s scholarship program. Incredibly, Yuma has eight apps on the App Store so far and was one of the first Australians to launch an AR game.
Let’s Stack! AR is a simple but charming arcade puzzler that is difficult to put down. Players are tasked with building a tower by stacking blocks, which can be placed on top of one another with a simple tap of the finger.
Because it’s been built using ARKit, players can build the tower anywhere they like, whether it be at home, in a park or at the beach. You can even compare your highest tower real-world landmarks and take photos to share it with other players.
But don’t be fooled by its simplicity – it’s harder than it looks!