I am, to put it kindly, not great with visual art. But the beauty of kids’ toys is that nobody expects you to be. So I don’t feel completely awful about my latest creation: a little animal I’ve dubbed Vergethulhu. In addition to being our site’s new mascot pending editorial approval, Vergethulhu is the star of its own video game — just like anything else you make for an app called Play-Doh Touch.
Play-Doh Touch was released last year for iOS and Android devices, and it’s a simple platforming game with an augmented reality element. (The app is free, but in-app purchases unlock different areas.) If you make a shape out of Play-Doh and point your phone or tablet camera at it, the app will find its edges and animate it as a simple game character. This works with any Play-Doh clay, but it’s meant to be used with a $39 set called the Shape to Life Studio, sold in Apple stores. This kit includes a flat stage with a bunch of shape molds, which create special models that the app recognizes.
With the kit, Play-Doh Touch is an interesting twist on Skylanders or Amiibo-style augmented reality gaming. Some of the molded shapes import specific new characters for the game, who unlock different themed worlds. Others are like physical power-ups. The colorful wheels around the platforms are actually molds for things like wings and magic potions. When you import them, you can drag them onto characters to help them navigate the world. None of it is all that hard — after all, this is for kids — but it’s not immediately slapdash-looking, either.
That’s more than you can say for Vergethulhu, sadly. Over the course of its construction, I realized several things:
- I can’t roll Play-Doh evenly
- I barely know how to construct a Penrose triangle from memory
- I’m pretty bad at character design, because I realized at the very end that I wanted it to have legs to animate, so I slapped on some tentacles that logically couldn’t do more than wriggle around pathetically
- The app somehow managed to make that look far better than it deserved
Sorry, Vergethulhu. In hubris I created you, and in ignominy I failed. Fortunately, augmented reality was there to salvage you.