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Phones

Firefighter 360: AR iPhone game sets our office on fire

Firefighter 360 is an augmented-reality game that lights fires all around you and shows the potential -- and the pitfalls -- of AR

Augmented reality (AR), which overlays virtual information on to images of the real world on your phone's screen, has mostly been used for useful stuff such as finding the nearest Tube station. Thankfully, someone's finally come along and used it for setting your house on fire.

Firefighter 360 is an AR game for the iPhone that casts you as a hose-wielding hero. Fires pop up around you and you have to put them down, while re-filling your hose from a nearby fire-engine. Get your bum singed too many times and you're toast.

Like the excellent Doom Resurrection for iPhone, Firefighter 360 uses a combination of tilting the phone and an on-screen button to control the action. Unfortunately, it reveals one of the biggest problems with AR, in its current incarnation.

The game displays the image from the phone's camera, but it can't analyse it or use it, except as a background. That means virtual objects can't be pinned to anything in the real world, so they tend to float around jerkily. The accelerometer just can't provide enough info on the phone's position to keep everything locked down, so things don't really feel present in the real world, and the game isn't much fun.

We think the game also suffers from uninspiring graphics -- and since you have to wing around 360 degrees to fight the blaze all around you, you won't be playing this on the bus unless you want to get sectioned.

Nevertheless, we think AR is has a big future in mobile gaming, and for a paltry 59p from the App Store (iTunes link), Firefighter 360 offers an interesting glimpse of what's in store.