Posted by Mike Mason
Bangers and flash
Fireworks and the great indoors don’t usually make for the most advisable of combinations, but the PlayStation Network holds the answer for those that really need a fix of sparkly light shows and expensive wastes of gunpowder. Better yet, you don’t even have to leave your armchair to play PS Vita’s Fireworks, a free download that makes up a third of the system's augmented reality suite.
As the explosives jet into the sky, your digits — and the touch screen — are key to putting on a magnificent show. Targets enclose around each firework, indicating when they need to be tapped to set off the most impressive eruption. Get it right and you’ll get a perfect rating, a juicy lump of score and a boost to the multiplier meter. Miss one entirely and you’ll see the target loosen and turn orange, sending the firework careening to the floor and taking a life along with it. Fireworks is primarily a high score game, sharing accolades online after each attempt, so if you want to be the best you’re going to have to flex those nimble fingers and keep on firing.
Fireworks is a more substantial offering than Cliff Diving, with three modes to keep dedicated firecrackers occupied for a few hours. Tabletop uses the packed-in AR cards numbered from one to three; the challenge differs depending on which one is chosen, with the lowest numeral providing a slow, easy-going display. Number two bumps things up a bit, but you’ll get the most bang for your buck by throwing down the three, where the fireworks fly at a faster, more frequent rate, screeching around and zooming off-screen. You could even put down all three if you’re up for even more of a challenge — and, as incentive, the point multipliers reach greater heights when you lay all your cards on the table.
Skillful use of multi-touch can help take care of the increased flow of rockets, but for those sneaky ones shooting out of your viewpoint the gyroscopes are the saviour. Vita can be shifted around from side to side to give you the opportunity to blow up 'works from any angle, though this doesn’t work so well with the AR cards, the camera sensitively pausing the action should the cards go out of range. It can happen a bit too often unless you’re in optimal lighting conditions, completely interrupting the flow of play.
There are no such card tricks in the other modes, which forget them altogether and focus on aiming at fireworks in virtual space through motion controls. Here Fireworks ably keeps up with any movements, tracking along with Vita’s positioning. It also performs a neat trick in recognising the edges of all background objects spied by the rear camera, using a filter to paint them neon reds, greens, purples and yellows, filling the rest of the video data in black to give the backgrounds a slick sci-fi look.
Infinite mode continues until you lose all lives in similar fashion to tabletop, only you need to turn the system regularly to catch everything. Challenges also interrupt the action regularly, asking you to avoid certain colours of firework, get a single colour for a limited time, blow up only matching pairs, create links of vivid bursts by tapping a projectile and then tracing along arrows to further ones in a chain, or simply survive a huge outburst. These bring much-needed variety to proceedings, which can grow stale in the steady-paced lower levels of tabletop mode.
Despite its quality, the music doesn’t hold interest very well over long play sessions. The dance-style audio is great, building up with extra layers of instrumentation whenever a new multiplier level is reached, but once you’ve maxed out that meter the music evolves no further, becoming pretty boring.
The best track, a funky and catchy little ditty, can be found in the third mode, Challenge, which separates the distractions from Infinite into their own stages. There are 30 to tackle over three difficulty groups, with bronze, silver and gold medals to be earnt through strong performances. It doesn’t take too long to polish off, but it’s an appreciated extra nonetheless.
Though Fireworks does a far better job of sustaining interest than Cliff Diving, it really doesn’t have as much reason to use augmented reality as Diving Dave’s game does. Any background would have worked with its gameplay, as it uses the video technology little aside the tabletop mode, wherein the AR cards only really act as glorified difficulty switches.
Fireworks contains at least a couple of hours of play, to clear the challenges and have decent goes on all difficulties. In addition, there’s lots of potential for return plays due to the emphasis of high scores and online leaderboards. For no cost, there’s no excuse not to ignite these lights.