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Wouldn’t it be easier to play a first person shooter if you were actually holding the gun? Perhaps combat flight sims would be more realistic if they used a real aeroplane, and RPGs more engaging with physical characters to move around your tablet’s display.

Or, just perhaps, such enhancements are largely redundant in an age when mobile gaming is more than capable of standing on its own two feet with high quality titles that don’t require toys and appendages.

Recently I’ve decided to try and get to the bottom of this. There are several companies making toys and trinkets that can be used with smartphone video games. On the whole, they all use the same limited group of approaches: a gun that you mount your phone on, a device that attaches to your phone, and small figurines that interact with the game you’re playing.

Of the various companies, AppGear is the one that has managed to innovate the most, using all of these ideas in multiple scenarios.

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I recently picked up three AppGear packs: Zombie Burbz Avenue, Foam Fighters Pacific and Elite CommandAR. Below, we’re going to take a look at each, and how the games compare with and without the AppGear toys.

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How The Games Work

We won’t go into the mechanics of how these games operate. Rather, this is an explanation in layman’s terms as to how you use these tools, and their related apps.

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Each box comes with a physical tool (or tools) that can be used to enhance the gaming experience. In addition, you’ll find a QR code that can be used to download the corresponding, free game from Google Play or the iOS App Store.

Note that these games can be played independently of the hardware. Whether the extras are really needed is something that we’ll be looking at for each.

Shooter: Elite CommandAR

Lots of fun and requiring the iPhone 4 or 4th generation iPad touch or Google Android 2.3.3 and later (requiring devices with a rear-facing camera), this is basically a plastic gun with stand for your smartphone to slot in on top and act as a viewfinder. Using AppGear’s “amplified reality” system, characters from Elite CommandAR will sneak into the real world, and the gun features a trigger and secondary buttons to control shields, change and buy new weapons and reload.

There’s even a two-player co-op mode!

How does the game play without the gun? Well, the control mechanism isn’t great but it really depends on what you’re most comfortable with. We’ve recently discussed the issue of touchscreen mobile gaming software controls not being up to scratch Why Touchscreen Controls Are Useless For Retro Gaming & How To Fix It Why Touchscreen Controls Are Useless For Retro Gaming & How To Fix It For far too long have forgotten classics been reduced to curios because touchscreen controls just don't give you the genuine experience of playing them. Rise up and take back your retro gaming experience! Read More , and playing Elite CommandAR with the gun does give you a bit of an advantage. Either way, you’ll still be dizzy after playing it!

Flight Sim: Foam Fighters Pacific

This game is so enjoyable that I bought two boxes! Designed for iPad 2 and iPhone 4 and above, the Android version requires 2.3.3 of above, and a device with an ARMv7 processor or better with minimum resolution of 480×320 (max 1024×800). It’s worth pointing out that some smaller Android devices such as the Xperia E (a low-fi version of the Xperia Z Sony Xperia Z Review and Giveaway Sony Xperia Z Review and Giveaway This post is about a surprise; it's about a comeback, and about how a determined company can listen, learn, and make something beautiful once again. It's about the Sony Xperia Z, a premium, powerful, and... Read More ) cannot play this WWII fighter simulation.

Featuring a range of missions and campaigns, you can play Foam Fighters Pacific as either Allied or Axis forces. Different packs unlock different theaters of war, so you might buy a second pack to play the Battle of Britain, for instance.

You don’t need to play Foam Fighters Pacific with the attached aircraft to really enjoy it. What you do need, however, is to be incredibly gentle. The Foam Fighters are terribly delicate, and would have been better if manufactured from light wood or even cardboard.

RPG/Defense: Zombie Burbz Avenue

Best played on an iPad or Android tablet (despite what the packaging says), the Zombie Burbz titles put you in charge of a group of zombies who just want to be accepted. The aim is to defend your zombies from the human hordes who want them out of town.

This is achieved by positioning your zombie figurines on the tablet screen, moving them around to interact with and control the game.

Zombie Burbz Avenue features unique missions for each of the figures. Although there is a generic course through the game, these story lines can only be unlocked when using the toys. In truth, the differences between these and the standard game are minimal, but perhaps Zombie Burbz Avenue requires its physical components more than the other games.

Unlike the shooters and combat flight sims, however, the Zombie Burbz games are a little tricky to control with and without the figurines, whether multitouch (a key aspect of modern touchscreen technology The Evolution of Touchscreen Technology The Evolution of Touchscreen Technology In the tech space, time moves quickly; a little more than seven years ago, smartphones as we know them did not exist — now, they’re the most profitable tech industry on Earth. Read More ) is disabled or not. There is also an issue with the iOS version where the figure doesn’t seem to register when in contact with the touchscreen – not ideal.

AppGear’s Games Library

For this article I’ve looked at three game types from AppGear, but the company produces several other titles:

Shooters:

  • Elite CommandAR
  • Doctor Who: Cleric Wars

Figurine games:

  • Alien Jailbreak
  • Akodomon
  • Zombie Burbz Avenue
  • Zombie Burbz Diner
  • Zombie Burbz High
  • Zombie Burbz Services

Flight Sims:

  • Foam Fighters Battle of Britain
  • Foam Fighters Europe
  • Foam Fighters Pacific

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Would You Stick A Plane To Your Phone?

These games are more than curios. A few years old now, many can be found cheaply on eBay or even in Toys’R’Us, and they represent an attempt to enhance mobile gaming aqnd bring it back into the real world, an approach that should be appreciated.

What it comes down to, however, is whether you would feel any benefit in playing the games with these physical enhancements, as well as whether you would feel comfortable. After all, mobile gaming is something that can be done inconspicuously in public places such as bus queues and on the train. You probably don’t want to start swinging that gun around in a supermarket, do you?

Ultimately, what these games can do is enhance the overall experience. Think of the old days of buying games, with the box, the disks, the instructions; sometimes there would be a wall chart. This old-school approach is still used with premium releases of console games, and like the record sleeves of old vinyl albums, add something to the purchase that downloading an MP3 just doesn’t have.

Have you tried an AppGear game, or one produced by another company such as Character Options, or Mind Candy’s Moshi Monsters? What do you think of them? Let us know your thoughts in the comments!

  1. William B
    August 26, 2014 at 3:42 am

    I think a system where feeling like you're somewhere but not actually there would be a very profitable industry. Using an Oculus Rift for sight and tactile feedback gloves for touch would enrich the virtual reality realm. Just need smell and surround sound for it also.

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