Walking Dead: Our World, Jurassic World Alive, and Pokemon Go: Comparing AR Games
The new Alolan variants, like Raticate, have recently been added to Pokemon Go.
I feel like I've always had an interest in more interactive games. I'm old enough that I grew up spending a lot of time in arcades. I just remember being drawn more to those games that physically simulated other activities--the motorcycle racing games that tilted as you drove, the sports simulation games where you actually kicked or punched or dodged. Shoot, I was a competitive Dance Dance Revolution player in high school (NJ had a huge scene, especially at the shore).
It's no surprise to me that I'm drawn to this growing wave of AR (augmented reality) games that require you to get up and move. Pokemon Go has been my go to excuse to leave the house and take a nice long walk for two years now. Niantic's Pokemon trainer simulator is still the leader in these nerdy AR walk and complete minigames genre, but The Walking Dead: Our World and Jurassic World Alive are new challengers worth taking a closer look at.
Pokemon Go is finally receiving the kind of regular updates it really needed closer to launch. Niantic is introducing new generations and variants of Pokemon on a regular basis. There are also new gameplay modes that add replayability, like sending gifts to your in-game friends or trading Pokemon. The game runs smooth and is, so far, the only AR walking game that can easily be played with one hand while moving. You only need to stop if you're doing a gym battle and that's still the worst gameplay mode; I don't need to spend two minutes bashing my finger against a phone screen to maybe win what's ultimately a game of chance.
The Walking Dead: Our World is the newest game and the one that might have the most potential in the genre. Your immediate surroundings are turned into the zombie apocalypse. You walk around to encounter walkers and rescue survivors in a shooting minigame played in AR or an animated environment. Basically, your finger controls the gun and you have to take out all the zombies.
As you level up, you earn trading cards that give you access to characters from the TV show, like Michonne and Carol. They have their own specialty and help you in combat with surprisingly good AI. You upgrade the cards--characters, weapons, and items--to take on harder missions, rescue more survivors, and start building your own survival complex.
What I like about The Walking Dead: Our World is the range your character can reach. These AR games can be very finnicky about being in the exact radius of where the event needs to happen. Our World has a radius of about a block--significantly larger than Pokemon Go--and you can realistically play this game while walking. You're not going to be out of range of the next mission you want if you walk while firing at the zombies (unless your walk is actually a jog). Even then, there are so many objectives that pop up that you'll always have something else to grab.
The Walking Dead: Our World lets you turn your neighborhood into the zombie apocalypse, battling zombies with help from popular show characters like Michonne.
There are some collaborative elements to the game, but they don't add too much to the experience yet. It's more directly cooperative than the gym system in Pokemon Go. There's just not much of an advantage over leveling up on your own and doing the other missions.
Jurassic World Alive was released a few weeks before The Walking Dead: Our World and is the most novel of these new mobile AR walking games. You are trying to bring dinosaurs back to life by capturing DNA samples from a drone. You fire a dart gun at gigantic dinosaurs just wandering around your neighborhood to create your own version.
I'll be honest: this minigame is terrible. I appreciate trying something new, but the aiming of the dart gun on the drone is way too exacting. You have to hit tiny targets on a large moving creature and get no credit just for striking the dinosaur. The target also shifts after every successful shot. The amount of time you have is poorly defined by a battery meter that doesn't explain what causes the battery to drain or why. Everything requires such precision that you really need two steady hands and intense focus. That means if you want to actually use this game as an exercise aid, you have to stop every time you play this minigame to make it worthwhile.
Jurassic World Alive is also the greediest of the games. The range you can interact with objects is larger than Pokemon Go but smaller than The Walking Dead: Our World. Don't worry. Ludia has a solution for you. For a monthly subscription fee of $9.99 (the VIP package), you can click on objectives that are farther away.
Forget about any other benefits. The game is already ridiculously difficult for a mobile AR game when you're right on top of the dinosaur. The further away you are, the less precise your aim is. The game scales the size of the dinosaur based on your distance. Aside from being cruel, it also makes no sense. Why even have the drone conceit if your distance (not the drone's, yours) impacts how the game plays?
Jurassic World Alive wants you to spend ten bucks a month to have a harder experience on a system that's already more frustrating than difficult. That's brazen. They also straight up call the in-game currency you can purchase "cash" and offer very limited periodic check in rewards unless you buy in game currency or go VIP. It's just greedy.
To put it in perspective, all three games allow you to spend money to gain advantage. Pokemon Go lets you buy in-game currency to purchase more pokeballs and other supplies to help you catch more Pokemon. The Walking Dead: Our World has expansion packs themed after different characters and ways to speed up certain gameplay elements with purchased in-game currency. Both of those games are easily playable without those items. You just might need to walk further to hit more checkpoints to gain supplies or experience with the actual mechanics.
Jurassic World Alive has you aim darts fired from a drone at a moving target on a dinosaur. It's...about as fun as it sounds.
Jurassic World Alive actually takes away from the free experience to pressure you into going VIP. Honestly, I almost gave up on the game before I even unlocked the combat mode. You can only earn the best mode in the game by collecting enough DNA--it's species specific, too--to produce four dinosaurs. The battle mode is actually a solid turn-based RPG battle system. It's just a shame that everything else surrounding this mode is pushing you to buy your way into a better team and experience.
If I had to rank them now, I have to put Pokemon Go on top. It has the largest player base and the most features. The game is far from perfect--it is a free to play mobile game, after all--but the aesthetics and new commitment to regular free updates and events makes it a fun experience.
Close behind is The Walking Dead: Our World. It's a solid mix of deck-building RPG and AR walking game. The Walking Dead universe is rich with great characters and Next Games really leans into the style and tone that makes the TV show so popular.
Jurassic World Alive isn't even close. I'd rather put Niantic's first AR game Inverse in the list before that, and that's a convoluted storytelling AR walking game that is only as entertaining as you find their original story. Shoot, Spirit Camera: The Cursed Memoir is a better mobile AR game than Jurassic World Alive and you have to use the physical instruction manual (containing AR codes) and a 3DS to play.
You can't go wrong with Pokemon Go or The Walking Dead: Our World if you want to dive into one of these AR walking games for the summer. It comes down to what kind of world you want to explore while walking around your own neighborhood. I trade off on playing the two, but I'm also a Pokemon completist and someone who will just hit play on Zombies, Run as background music while working.
Pokemon Go, The Walking Dead: Our World, and Jurassic World Alive are currently available on Android and iOS devices.
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