Barcode Kingdom Is An RPG That Lets You Scan In Your Own Heroes [Review]

2014-04-08 23_06_19

Back in the early 1990s there was a series of handheld games consoles made by Japan’s Epoch company. Called Barcode Battlers, they let you enter the numbers from real world barcodes to generate characters, monsters, and power-ups, which could be used as part of in-game battles. Novelty aside, they were never much good, but they were certainly popular — and the idea was intriguing enough that the Barcode Battlers are still remembered today.

Barcode Kingdom by Magic Cube
Category: iOS Games
Works With: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch
Price: $0.99

Jump forward thirteen-or-so years, and the rear-facing camera used by iOS devices have proven adept at scanning barcodes and using this to access information.

Perfect timing, then, for a game like Barcode Kingdom to come along. The basic premise is pretty much identical to the Barcode Battler: you scan in barcodes to create warriors, weapons, and other items that you can then use in RPG-style battles like the one depicted above. But is it any good?

Barcode Kingdom Is An RPG That Lets You Scan In Your Own Heroes [Review]

With so many games in the App Store, kudos has to be given to any game that manages to use iOS technology in a way that is original. (Note: it’s not completely original. Barcode Wars uses similar tech.) Barcode Kingdom is certainly fairly unique, though, and that originality is going to ensure that the game gets a certain number of downloads. The possibility of being able to generate characters and items by scanning, quite literally, everything around you is as neat now as it was in 1991 — and kudos to developers Magic Cube for capitalizing. (For those who don’t want to scan things at random, many of the codes for unlocking certain items are already becoming available online.)

All the pieces are in play … [but] the developers haven’t quite cracked the (bar)code yet.

Gimmick aside, the RPG elements of the game are pretty hit and miss. Missions are fairly similar, with a basic structure of a) go somewhere, b) fight some people, and c) use your experience to buy new items or upgrade existing ones. Unlike the barcode concept, this is fairly uninspired stuff — and made far worse by the demands for IAPs, which have ruined many a good iOS game. By making this game both premium and also charging for IAPs, the developers left a sour taste in my mouth, since I’d be happy enough to either pay for the game, or buy IAPs, but not both.

Ultimately, there’s a lot to like about Barcode Kingdom, however. It’s an enjoyable game, built around a fun premise, but which could certainly be improved with several key additions. All the pieces are in play, but as it is, the developers haven’t quite cracked the (bar)code yet.

Apologies for the awful pun.

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Game Name: Barcode Kingdom
The Good: Scanning barcodes to make heroes. What could be cooler than that?
The Bad: IAPs combined with premium pricing make a bad mix. Missions could be more varied.
The Verdict: A great concept, slightly dragged down by execution. Still worth a play.
Buy from: App Store

Cult of Mac rating: 3/5

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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