ARise Review: Of Backache and Brilliance

Image Credit: Climax Studios, used under Fair Use Rationale
Image Credit: Climax Studios, used under Fair Use Rationale

With the launch of iOS 11 comes the sweet, cold embrace of Apple ARKit and the many, many applications champing at the bit to be downloaded to your phone or tablet. Visiting the app store today feels like walking down the strip in a seedy part of a town like Amsterdam or Vegas. From every virtual window and door a proposition is whispered. A promise of realistic, spatially-aware augmented reality for just a dollar or two.

As an adherent of the AR/VR cult it’s been pretty difficult not to part with all of my money, but one app’s siren song proved too hard to resist. That app is ARise and it’s a good sign of things to come.

Getting Behind, Around and on Top of the Concept

The fastest way to understand how ARise works is to take a look at this trailer.

Essentially this is a puzzle platformer. The closest cousin on the iOS platform is probably the incredible Monument Valley. I’ve spent far too much time playing Monument Valley, which uses MC Escher-like 2D/3D perspective illusion to help you complete a patch for your character to walk.

ARise has a similar concept, but instead of manipulating images on a screen, you walk around the floating puzzle worlds that are floating around whatever room you’re playing in.

At the time of writing only the first three rooms were available, but more are coming.

ARise: The Experience

If you’ve played pre-ARKit games such as the original release of Pokemon Go, you’ll know that the illusion is pretty quickly broken as soon as you dare to actually move the camera the wrong way.

ARKit games are immediately different. The virtual objects are planted in 3D space relative to the walls and floors. No matter how I stumbled around the ARise levels, the graphics remained perfectly in place. Not even a hint of jumping or jittering. The graphics themselves are crisp and no matter how closely I leaned into them it all stayed highly-detailed. I have to take my hat of to the developer, Climax Studios. They are also responsible for cool titles on Google Daydream, consoles and PC.

There is no tapping or other sort of direct interaction in this game. Your little guy will only walk the predefined path if you look at the world from the right angle, using forced perspective to make gaps join up. This game really demonstrates how solid the AR technology is. I was able to completely forget it was just a projection as I freely moved around it during play.

There is one concession made for playability, if you can’t get around to the other side of the puzzle world, you can rotate it on screen. It’s not as much fun, but in some physical spaces you’ll have no choice.

One thing I’ve never had while playing a mobile game before id backache, but holding up a tablet and leaning, squatting and walking around for an hour as I tried everything on offer sure took its toll.

Is the Game Changed?

Is ARise the best puzzle platformer I’ve played? It’s certainly not bad, but it’s not at the level of Monument Valley either. It is however a solid and fun AR game and proves that Apple is onto something with ARKit. It’s absolutely worth the asking price and if you’re on iOS 11 it gets the thumbs up from me as an instant purchase.

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