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Archive for August, 2016

Review of BallStrike for iPhone, iPad, Mac, or Windows PC

BallStrike is an augmented reality fitness game that you can play on your iOS device, Mac, or Windows PC.

The premise of the game is simple. You stand 7 feet from your iPhone, iPad, or computer, standing in front of it (making sure there are no objects between you and the camera).

ball-strike-instructions

Once you allow the app to use your camera you’ll see yourself looking at your own own video image. As a driving soundtrack of techno music plays, balls will appear all over your screen. Your job is to reach down, up, and to the side to physically swipe at them and pop them. As the game progresses, the action gets more and more frenetic. You find yourself waving your arms like a rapper who’s had too much caffeine. For this reason, you definitely want to play this on your own with the shades drawn.

I know what you’re probably thinking–hasn’t this been done before? And the answer is yes, everywhere from games like Playstation Move Fitness to Fruit Ninja for Kinect. And those games had much better graphics than this one. The main differences with this one are–

  1. It’s cheap. Free to start out, and then 99 cents if you want the full version.. You don’t need to buy a Playstation console with Move or an Xbox console with Kinect. You just need an iPhone or an iPad, a PC, or a Mac with a working camera.
  2. It’s responsive. As advanced as the Move and Kinect were, there was always a lag which made fast-moving games like this a bit frustrating at times. With this game, your video image moves in real time, and you’re seeing your own image, so there’s no lag to speak of.
  3. Augmented reality is cool. Granted, this was an early use of AR so it already feels a bit dated.

You wouldn’t think this is particularly good exercise, but after just three rounds I was already starting to get winded and my arms a little sore.

Lighting in your room has to be just right, obviously, or the game will have trouble picking you up. Also, you need to be wearing clothes that contrast with your background. Even then, I still saw my share of “false positives”–balls that would pop without me touching them. But for the most part the game is pretty good–it picks up where your body is and for the most part avoids putting balls on top of it.

As the game progresses it becomes more challenging. “Bombs” will appear in between the balls and you need to avoid hitting them (which is tougher than it sounds). You’ll get points for different combos of moves. Even more features are available if you opt to pay for the full version, which costs only 99 cents.

Once the game is over, you’ll see your score, along with the number of balls you missed and the estimated calories you burned.

Here’s the gameplay as the publisher, FitMaster Productions, shows it:

ballstrike-gameplay

Here’s how it will really probably look in your living room (this is a YouTube video from a kid in Turkey of all places who filmed a whole 7-minute workout).

Overall the game tends to feel a little more like a technical proof-of-concept than a fully polished game. It was certainly fun, but as you can probably see, there was just a bit too much imprecision and visual artifacts throughout.

On the other hand, it unarguably a fantastic workout and a heck of a lot cheaper to use an existing smartphone or PC than buying those systems. And the gaming elements of watching your score pile up and trying to minimize the number of balls you miss certainly helps keep you motivated. It also is unique in that very few other exercise games on your smartphone support a full body workout of your arms, shoulders, core, and legs like this one does.

Game: BallStrike
Publisher: Fit Master Productions
Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Exercise supported: Cardio Boxing
Watch Support? No
Price: Free to try, 99 cents for full version
Download links: iOS, Windows