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Cutting-edge game created in Winnipeg sends players outside to battle aliens

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 29/7/2015 (637 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

If the Nintendo Wii convinced gamers to get up off the couch to play, then the developers of Clandestine: Anomaly ask them to take the next step and go outside.

Clandestine: Anomaly is an innovative mobile sci-fi game created by Winnipeg-based indie developer ZenFri for iOS and Android. If you’re tired of the pedestrian mobile offerings, Clandestine: Anomaly offers a unique gaming experience through its novel use of location-based augmented reality.

As soon as you press "start game," you’re thrown into an intergalactic war — and your neighbourhood has become the key battleground. The story unfolds with impressive cut screens as you learn your phone has been hijacked and converted into a remote alien war room. In a role similar to Wheatley from Portal 2, you’re introduced to Nuncio, who helps orient you in the game world and becomes a trusted companion on your adventure. Your missions require you to learn how to build and deploy weapons to defend yourself from the hordes of leechers bent on Earth’s total annihilation — a theme gleefully reminiscent of battle-school training from Orson Scott Card’s science-fiction classic Ender’s Game.

As hardware and graphics have become more advanced and realistic, developers have been able to use the first-person perspective to completely immerse a player into his or her character’s virtual surroundings. Clandestine: Anomaly achieves this goal by taking you out into the "real world" — within a defined two-square-kilometre gaming area — as you physically enter the battlefield using your smartphone’s camera to get a real-time look at the action and launch special attacks.

The game can be played without the special augmented-reality experience and attacks while sitting around at home, but that would be akin to playing Guitar Hero on mute. To truly experience everything Clandestine: Anomaly has to offer, you must fully commit to the adventure before you. It’s a fantastic moment the first time you lock on and take down a swarm of bad guys approaching over the muddy banks of the Red River, or wherever your game map may take you.

As a core component of the game, the augmented reality is well executed and never feels like a gimmick. However, you can’t help feeling slightly self-conscious pointing your phone’s camera lens at imaginary aliens out in public. To combat that effect, the developers have limited the augmented-reality ability to 20-second bursts — about as long as it takes to snap a selfie. Most importantly, beyond the flashy augmented-reality elements, Clandestine: Anomaly at its core plays really well as a tower-defence strategy game. There are plenty of options for upgrading weapons to fit your strategy, both on defence and offence, and there’s a seek-and-destroy element of tracking down enemy portals that is rewarding and addictive. The game’s learning curve feels just right, and there are no in-app purchase incentives or time-delayed unit builds to slow the pace of play.

An eager player could easily complete the full campaign in an afternoon with a fully charged smartphone and a bike, using the game as a wonderful excuse to go out and enjoy the city’s beautiful summer scenery or as a way to explore cottage country or a summer destination in a unique way. The storyline is condensed but compelling, hinting towards a larger universe of plot to be played out in future releases.

What the ZenFri team has created by harnessing augmented reality as a storytelling tool could potentially turn into the next big thing in mobile gaming, but at the bare minimum, Clandestine: Anomaly is an outstandingly polished, futuristic gaming experience you can carry around in your pocket.

marc.lagace@freepress.mb.ca

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History

Updated on Wednesday, July 29, 2015 at 12:47 PM CDT: Adds video.

July 30, 2015 at 10:21 AM: Tweaks wording in third paragraph.

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