Augmented reality gaming has never really reached its potential.
Sure, the AR games that came with the 3DS were impressive, but no full game on the system has managed to do any better.
Mobiles have some passable apps that play around with AR, and there are a couple of tablet games on their way that might prove enjoyable (like the one here), but in general the technology is underused.
With Open Me! on Vita, AR may finally be ready to shrug off its gimmicky image. This is effectively The Room, for Vita, with a unique AR twist.
And it's ace.Whipped
It's all deceptively easy to comprehend. First you set up an AR marker on a surface - preferably a coffee table or something you can easily move around. The game then places a locked box upon the marker, and you have to open it by tapping and swiping at its lock. What could be simpler?
As with The Room before it, though, much of the challenge comes from working out how all of the box's various pieces interact. You spend your time looking around and on top of the box, scouring it for openings, tapping away at it for hints as to how you might break in.
Some challenges are brainteasers, such as a Transformers-esque one in which you have to tap various parts of a transforming robot until it creates a box that you can then unlock. Other challenges require great dexterity, such as tappinng a button quickly or pulling at multiple sliding locks at once.
You feel like Indiana Jones, physically moving around and deciphering an ancient puzzle, and when you finally overcome what must surely be the most devilish puzzle ever made you really feel as though you've accomplished something.
Until you play the next one, at which point the head-scratching begins anew.Room for improvement
As if all this weren't enough, you can then create puzzles of your own and send them on to friends, earning points when they fail to complete the tasks you set them in a speedy manner.
These points can be used to purchase more parts for your user-created conundrums. Connecting to the internet also grants access to special boxes that are available for a limited time only.
There are a couple of drawbacks, and - perhaps inevitably - they arise from the AR tech itself. The first is that there's not a lot of atmosphere. One of the great things about The Room is its foreboding tone, and if that's something you're after - or indeed, a plot of any kind - then you're out of luck.
The presentation doesn't come close - in terms of detail - to the iPad classic either, though it's not ugly by any stretch of the imagination.
An even greater fun-dampener is the need to re-scan the AR card every time you play a new level. It's necessary for a smooth experience, I'm sure, but it significantly slows down the process of getting into the game.
Once you are playing, though, it's magical. AR still manages to evoke a sense of wonder, and when combined with the curiosity that stems from the mystery of a locked box, plus the Vita, it makes for a powerful little puzzle game.