Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Auto Trader's Goodwood of Festival iOS app hands-on

Any racing fans reading this blog? Well if you are, and are based in Britain, no doubt you would have heard of either Auto Trader and Goodwood Festival of Speed. If you haven't, well Auto Trader is a well known classified magazine specialised in both used and new automobiles sales. Goodwood Festival of Speed is, well, a festival dedicated to the heritage of all things motor racing. It is held annually at the Goodwood House in West Sussex and attracts up to 150,000 car enthusiasts. This year's event will take place from 28th June to 1st July.

So now you know. For the first time ever Auto Trader will be releasing an official Goodwood Festival mobile app with an augmented reality racing game. The free app is available on the iOS platform, though the devs has informed me that they may look into developing an Android version for next year's festival. I went hands-on with the app on both iPad and iPhone at the launch event yesterday in London.
According to Auto Trader, this is the first app developed in the UK to feature an augmented reality racing game and features the iconic Goodwood hill. To play the game, one must first place the camera over specific Auto Trader images called Game Boards, similar to how Sony's EyeToy and select Nintendo 3DS games, located around the event. You can pan the camera around the image to change angles or even zoom levels. Using such Game Boards, one can also unlock new cars by visiting stands of other car manufacturers.

The gameplay is 2D in nature (though the game itself is in 3D, and you can tilt the camera to create a more 3D-look) and plays similarly to those old Micro Machine games. Due to its simplicity, it is an easy game to learn, but difficult to master as well. My best lap was 13 seconds, but I believe someone from Esquire magazine managed an average lap of 11 seconds! For a free game, it actually looks rather good. Visitors of the event will be able to log their best time at the Auto Trader stand in a chance to win prizes including an Alfa Romeo MiTo Quadrifoglio Verde.

In addition to the game, the app actually contains actual useful features such as the latest timetables of events, giving users the ability to create their own bespoke plan. A detailed map of the grounds of Goodwood estate is also included, with user events pinned across it. Events can be filtered.  It also features a handy reminder that one can use to keep track of events they wish to attend and a live Twitter tracker displaying geo-tagged tweets from the event. There is also a neat easter egg, but I will leave it for you to find it.

Unique for a free app, I found the app to be well done. It looks professional, is easy to use and is actually rather useful. It is optimised for the iPhone, but looks good on the iPad as well. I do wish that the app would be made available on none-iOS platforms like Android and Windows Phone, though it has been pointed out to me that the mobile site for Goodwood Festival is actually rather nice as well.

The app is due to hit the App Store in the next couple of days and will be compatible with the iPhone 3GS and iPad 2 upwards.

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