Balancar Review – Teetering Above Adequacy

Balancar (stylized as balançAR after the Portuguese word for “balancing” and the Augmented Reality tech) is an iOS/Android game that was originally built during a 30 day Ludum Dare challenge as an experiment to combine AR with the classic formula of Jenga. After a rebranding, developer Mindhelix has now re-released Balancar with a very clean graphical upgrade and an update to its AR engine. The new game is largely changed from its original release.

20140109_233908000_iOSUsing their smartphone, Balancar asks players to prepare a flat, detailed surface in a well-lit room to calibrate the AR point of reference. I found best results when using something coloured, such as the front of a magazine—the more details the better. Once ready, hold the phone steady and move the device (don’t just tilt) slowly in one of the four instructed directions. Again, I found the best results when moving the device upwards. When done correctly, your Balancar tower will appear on the screen and the game is ready.

Touch the screen with one finger to pull a brick and two to place it flat atop the tower to earn points, with higher scores rewarded for more careful removal and placement. Place three bricks on top to advance a level. Patience and carefulness is recommended, as the bricks feel very light at times, and a simple shaky hand may have the tower bouncing through an earthquake. I played on the iPhone 5, so a larger screen may make a difference in sensitivity. Swiping the screen will spin the face of the tower for ease of access, but physically moving the phone around the virtual structure works too. Well, as much as anything in the game works.

When Balancar does work, it’s a lot of fun. There’s something oddly satisfying about picking a brick out of thin air and putting it atop an invisible tower, and at those times, Balancar is some of the most fun I’ve had with AR. But too often Balancar feels like what it is—an experiment. Often the issue would be funny, such as a disproportional tower, or awkward depth perception problems that would have me stretching to place the brick on top, only to drop it a centimeter in front. I couldn’t help but laugh. Once the floor became a sea of bricks, however, it started to get annoying.

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Balancar is an example of an indie experimentation, but one that never really stretches any creative muscles. For $1 it’s not much of an investment, but there’s not much content either. The trial version lacks “multiplayer,” but the mode is merely a divided score counter and remains largely unmissed. Like the game it’s based on, Balancar is infinitely replayable, but it’s up to players to decide to take the time to set it up right , or just leave it in the box.

5

Good Things

  • Augmented Reality is fun

Bad Things

  • Not a lot to it
  • Pain to set up

The Breakdown


Graphics
5
Gameplay
6
Sound Design
4
Lasting Appeal
5




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