It is no secret that augmented reality has been come a gimmick on portable devices, but it is definitely one worth more of your time. The Vita's augmented reality is actually quite enjoyable, your interest may be slowly peaked at the beginning, but game play can get very enjoyable. Now the AR Games may not become your favorite titles to play, but the few ones that the PlayStation Store has to offer, are brilliantly amazing. This feature is not only implemented in downloadable mini-games, but are features that some retail Vita games, use quite brilliantly.
A reason that the Vita's AR features have been uncredited, is the lack of a pre-installed AR software on the handheld. The 3DS did this well with including their AR software as part of the systems OS, providing for more peoples interest in actually trying out those nifty little cards that came packaged with the system. Now augmented reality may not be a system seller like I said, but people need to learn that this type of software is meant to provide a gaming experience almost strictly built to perform as a time killer.
At launch their were only two retail games that were able to use the Vita's camera to simulate games in a real world setting. The first and most noticeably was Reality Fighters, which used the camera for capturing the setting of your world, and in the Vita have fighters battle it out on what ever your camera was focused on. The most creative use of Reality Fighters was when a player stood at the top of a skyscraper, then used the camera to have the characters battle as giants on the streets, though I am not daring enough to hold my Vita like that over a rooftop. Unfortunately the fighting mechanics for Reality Fighters are not as stellar to those in the Vita version of Mortal Combat. A second game was able to utilize the Vita's camera to provide new experience to game play, which was Little Deviants. Little Deviants though only featured a mini-game that is very similar to other AR games on other platforms. The game had you control a gun, while little robots flew around you world, where you objective was to shoot down the robot minions and save the little deviants.
The best AR games are the downloadable titles from the PSN Store, which features Table Mini-Golf, Table Soccer, Table Ice Hockey, Table Top Tanks, Cliff Diver, Fireworks and PulzAR. These games were built to use the AR Cards packaged with the system, and so these games come with complete customization. My favorite of the bunch is Table Top Tanks. You use the AR Cards to size the battle field, and during customization you can add in real world objects to use a barriers and walls. You can have a TV remote sit in the middle of your table, and have it so your tanks have to go around the object or use it as cover. The other two game that stand out the most are Table Soccer and Table Ice Hockey. These use the AR cards as well, which allow you to size the field and or arena, and chose the positioning and angle of things like scoreboards and bleachers. The games perform like they should, where the games are surprisingly entertaining; don't be surprised if you get hooked into a certain AR Game for an hour or two.
The only downside to these games, is the poor camera quality on the Vita. Let's all admit it, the camera is basically useless, and you should almost always find your self taking pictures and video on your smartphone than on your Vita. Since the actual games are simulated on the Vita's screen, the games will be great looking, but if your not in bright lighting and on a light colored surface, your surroundings will look blurred and grainy, defeating the purpose of AR play. If you can get in the right lighting, the game play can be quite unique. Another hold back is that the camera can be fidgety, and as soon as you get too far away (or in any position that the Vita is incapable of seeing the cards) the Vita stops recognizing them, and will pause the game forcing you to find another angle, which can be hard sometimes.
The augmented reality is definitely a gimmick, there is no doubt about that, but it's one that can be enjoyed if played properly. Most of the the AR games are free, and there is no harm in at least testing out the features if you already haven't. If you have, try giving it another shot in a better setting or at a different camera angle. If you happen to, or have damaged your AR Cards, you can always print off new ones online, and they work the same. It's a feature that has been so far under used, and for some it could provide plenty of fun, so there are reasons the games are there, to play them!