OPEN ME!: review

 

Augmented Reality games are rather thin on the ground on the PlayStation Vita, and the one’s that are there are very simplistic, and gimmicky. OPEN ME! is a puzzle game that is another attempt to make use of the Vita’s AR capabilities. Can Sony Japan Studio’s puzzler finally bring a worthwhile AR experience to the Vita, or is it yet another wasted opportunity?

Some of the boxes are nice and simple to solve.

OPEN ME! is a game about opening puzzle boxes of varying complexity. This doesn’t sound very exciting, but there are a lot of imaginative puzzles to solve, and some of them are downright devious. You start out by placing an AR card on the table in front of you, and then when you look at the AR card on the Vita screen, a box magically appears. You are tasked with figuring out how to bypass the box’s locking defences like a modern day Indiana Jones. To do this you need to examine the puzzle from different angles and up close, by moving the Vita around the table, and interacting with the various mechanisms to find a way into the contraption.

Some of the boxes require you to simply push a button, or slide a lever, while some of the more devious offerings have devices like cameras, and traps like rotating blades, that see you trying to solve a sequential code or having to perform multiple gestures (like holding down a button while also flicking a switch). No two boxes are the same, and the game gives you 12 packs of four boxes, meaning you have 48 puzzles to solve. You get graded on your skills at opening the boxes, which depend on how quickly you solve each box, and how deftly you worked out the puzzle. If you complete a box in mere seconds with the minimum of interaction with the box you will score highly, but if you fumble about and waste time, you can expect a low score. You get a lot of satisfaction from finally managing to open a tricky puzzle, although the game doesn’t exactly give you rich rewards for doing so. You can, for instance, expect to receive things like a fried egg(?) as a reward. However the game does encourage replayability, by trying to beat your best time or achieve a higher ranking.

While others are pretty damn devious!

The game also has a co-op mode, with two players having to work together to solve puzzles. Unfortunately you need to have your friend and their Vita in the same room as you, as the game doesn’t support online play. We didn’t get a chance to try this mode out, although the game promises another selection of boxes designed to be opened cooperatively with friends. Another cool feature of the game is an online mode that allows players to create their own puzzle boxes, that can then be sent to friends to test their mettle. The controls are simple and easy to use, and it won’t take long to create your own fiendish puzzle. All you need to do is drag switches and traps into slots on the box. You can also leave a surprise inside the box for your friend, by taking a photo with your Vita and leaving it as a reward.

When you create a puzzle box you are awarded XP. You also gain XP by solving boxes that you are sent, and creating really fiendish boxes that no one can solve. The more XP you earn the more contraptions are opened up to add to your designs. Sony have plans to deliver ultra rare boxes to players in-game, which will give you a hefty chunk of XP if you manage to solve them. They are also planning to release more boxes as DLC on the PSN Store in due course.

Yep, after ripping your hair out for hours, you are rewarded with a fried egg!

There are a couple of problems with the game that come with the AR genre in general. If you play in too light or dark an area then the box will disappear and re-appear, which can cause problems when in the middle of a tricky puzzle that requires you to quickly go from one side of the cube to the other. You also need to make sure that there is a lot of space around you as it can be easy to bump into things if you are in a cramped space. It’s also a game that you obviously can’t play while on the move, and really needs to be played in a nice spacious living room.

OPEN ME! is by far the best AR game we have played on the Vita. The puzzles are challenging and addictive, and there is a wide selection of boxes to solve, that keep you coming back to try and beat your best score. The camera detection is spot on for most of the play time, although lighting conditions can cause problems. The single player contains a wide selection of well designed puzzles that will leave you scratching your head for hours, and with the ability to create and receive new puzzles OPEN ME! has a lot to offer players. The AR genre may be a passing fad, but OPEN ME! just shows what can be done when a good developer gets to grips with the hardware.

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Written by Kevin M

I’ve been addicted to gaming since my parents bought an Atari console way back in the 70’s. I progressed to the iconic Speccy, Amiga, and all the Playstation platforms. Having seen games evolve from single pixel bat and ball, to HD constructed environments, gaming has changed much from my early years. Having defeated the rock hard R-Type on the Speccy, the biggest challenge I’ve faced so far is putting up with the hordes of American teens spouting abuse in the current generation of consoles, noob indeed!

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