SpecTrek, an Augmented Reality Ghost Hunting Game
Jun 20, 2011 2:05 PM –
SpecTrek is a spooky, energetic and fun ghost-hunting game. The idea is to move around your physical environment which has now been invaded by ghouls and zap them in your phone sights! SpecTrek is an augmented reality (AR) game, which uses your phones GPS and camera sights, and superimposes images into your natural environment. AR is a simple idea and very effective but, in my mind, notoriously under-developed capability for your phone. SpecTrek is probably one of the best examples of the genre and was a ADC2 prize winner.
Price: Free, ~$2.85
Tested on: HTC Desire HD
Pros & Cons:
- Brilliant real-world fun.
- Additional fitness aspects to the game.
- Good use of sounds.
- Variety of statistics collected, achievements, awards etc.
- Hidden items to discover.
- Works on most phones.
- Twitter support.
- OpenFeint scoring.
- Game is a little dated now.
I first heard of SpecTrek when it won an ADC2 award, which was quite some time ago now. The basic premise of the game is to use your phone to move around your environment, looking for ghosts and then catching them. First you need to start a game and indicate a time limit, say 15 minutes. The game will then begin and present you with a drop down map of the area and ghost locations. You then, in the time given, race to those locations. When you get close lift the phone up and it will automatically switch to camera view, although now you can see the ghost you are looking for in the cameras sights. Line up the target and capture! The ghost is securely captured and held- onto the next ghost! There aren’t just ghosts to capture either, when the game starts there will be various hidden items that are only uncovered if you get close enough to uncover it. You must then capture the item in the same way that you capture the ghosts.
Gameplay has essentially two modes:
- Radius mode, which you get with your phone horizontal in your hand. This gives you a GPS map overview of your surrounding area and possible ghost locations (in the form of question marks). This mode also gives you a small compass in the bottom corner.
- Scanner mode, with the phone held upright in your hand. The idea of this is for you to be able to view and capture the ghost in your sights. The ghosts look (pretty unconvincingly) like floaty white sheets and you need to move your sights over the ghost and click the little capture button to catch it. Some ghosts are trickier than others so you have to be quick! As soon as you have captured it and high-fived the other members in your party- get going onto the next ghost!
As you progress and complete more games your level increases, making the geographical areas wider and therefore trickier to complete in the time given. There are numerous awards to win and each has a gold, silver and bronze attainment levels.
Sometimes ghosts put themselves into some pretty inconvenient areas. During one game I played a ghost was hidden slap-bang in the middle of a lake- and there was no way I was prepared to dive in! In these circumstances, you can use the Ghost Horn, which scares the ghosts away and moves them somewhere else. Some ghosts are harder to catch than others so you really have to have your wits about you to capture them. Get too close to a ghost and fail to capture it and it will move away, meaning you have to chase after it.
The best place to play SpecTrek is somewhere like an open field or park. Don’t try it in a built up area as inevitably a ghost will be in someone’s house and it looks weird if you are stood right outside pointing your camera phone at them. Be aware of what’s going on around you at all times, I once walked into a deep puddle playing this and had to walk home with a soggy foot.
SpecTrek – Radius Mode
SpecTrek – Radius Mode 2
SpecTrek – Radius Mode with menu
SpecTrek – Scanner view
SpecTrek – Dashboard
SpecTrek – Menu
I think it’s a brilliantly fun game that is great for groups of children/adults. I have a large nature park near to me so it’s cool to head up there with kids, a picnic and some bottles of water and spend a couple of hours romping around catching ghosts. The game gives you plenty of exercise so it’s a great little fitness app too.
The game isn’t addictive in an Angry birds way and you have to make time to use it, so it is in no way a casual game. However with the awards you win, and the constantly building levels and statistics it might be something you go back to again and again. For example, the Ghost Catch award gives you a bronze award when you catch 100 ghosts, a silver one when you hit 250 and a gold award when you capture 1000 ghosts in the game. So, there’s lots to do.
The graphics are quite basic, but it is an augmented reality application so the gameplay area is your own environment. SpecTrek is quite an old game now, so the graphics are relatively basic- but then this also means it works on most handsets.
Accelerometer, Vibration & Sound:
The accelerometer is accurate and depending on how you hold the phone depends on the mode you are in- horizontal puts you in radius mode, vertical puts you in scanner mode. The sounds are basic, but eerie and a nice touch.