The hell is this, Amateur Hour at the Shit Photography Society?

Give me a break. Have you seen the quality of the Vita's camera?

A poor craftsman blames his tools, sunshine.
Ahem. To be serious for a moment, this is quite a different beast screenshots-wise from pretty much anything else we've done. It was a right pain in the arse, really, and my writer (now apparently photographer on the side) cohort has told me he once had to use his feet to get screenshots from a Wii game, so let us make no mistake, he knows about awkward screenshotting. So, basically, we'd like to apologise in advance if these didn't turn out great, but we really tried our best. Oh, how we tried. To be fair, that's our excuse all the time anyway, but please prepare yourself for the most intense Phot-O-Time in the sad, strange history of Gaming Hell.

You may be wondering what this is doing in the Let's Gaming Tat section of the site.

(Unless you got here from the Vocaloidin': The Video Games page, in which case I've unnecessarily confused you.)

This is, after all, a video game, right?

Well... Nah. This is more like a toy, a gadget, a doodad. But it's a weird one with Miku, so might as well cover it!

As the title implies, Miku Miku Hockey 2.0, developed by SmileBoom and published by Sony themselves, is a hockey game. More specifically, it's an Augmented Reality air hockey game for the PS Vita, starring the most famous virtual idol in the world, Hatsune "Leeks" Miku. You know Augmented Reality, right? Where you can put not-real things on-top of actually-real things and sort-of interact with them, and... Actually, it's probaby best we just go over the basics first, to explain how it works.

First, print out your Miku Miku Hockey Augmented Reality marker card (print not provided by Gaming Hell's long-suffering printer, sadly)...

Lay it on a flat surface like so (audience members optional, provided here for visual flair)...

Load up the game, and presto! Miku appears before your eyes ready to play some Goddamn Air Hockey!

We still have some way to go before talking about the game itself, though, as its release history is a bit different from the norm. The original version- 1.0, presumeably- was a late 2013 release but also a Playstation Plus exclusive title to begin with as reported by Siliconera here. Judging from this trailer for the game, the original version was considerably more basic (which we'll go into more detail about later) but in February 2014, the game was rereleased in its 2.0 form for normal people to buy (with a bonus Snow Miku costume available for early adopters, of which we were not a part) with slightly more robust features but, as we're going to see, there's still not really that much to it. That said, this is an air hockey game slightly less worried about air hockey and more about expanding Miku's skillset beyond 'can sing, occasionally dances' to include mad air hockey skills.

As we were unable to play the Ad-Hoc multiplayer mode (can't imagine why), that brings Miku Miku Hockey 2.0's main play modes down to Spectacle and Practice. If you're thinking Spectacle is the main mode of play, you're kind of right, but it might throw you off guard the first time you play it, because you don't play it. Instead, this is a battle between Miku, controlled by the computer but your avatar in this battle, and Mikudayo, the computer-controlled opponent. The primary aim of Miku Miku Hockey is not to play against Miku, but to train Miku to defeat Mikudayo! While battling in Spectacle Mode will earn you points whether you win or lose, at the start you'll just earn 39 points per match as Mikudayo will crush you. That's what Practice Mode is for, where you fight against Miku yourself and earn far more points to spend in the Tuning Menu to increase Miku's Speed, Stamina, Counter, Curve, Smash and Rally stats so she can compete against the dreaded spectre of augmented reality hockey, Mikudayo. This does involve a bit of grinding in Practice, mind, although it's eased a bit by being granted 100 points every day you play the game, but persevere and you can defeat this enemy... Which unlocks a costume and a ridiculous Big Mode where you need an entire room to play rather than your computer desk.

The actual bit where you play against Miku, Practice Mode, is pretty interesting, although it's definitely not an accurate representation of air hockey as we know it. Rather than the traditional mallets hitting a puck into small goal holes, each player has a Breakout/Arkanoid-style bat, and no matter where, if the puck goes behind your bat, your opponent scores a point. Also similar to Breakout/Arkanoid-style games, the puck starts out slow and gets progressively faster as you rally it between yourselves, increasing the likeliness of someone messing up. As for the controls, the standard are gyroscope-based, and they mostly work well. Move the bat by sliding the Vita to the left or right, make a curve shot by sliding left or right sharply as the ball hits the bat, and make a smash shot (by far the easiest way to score) by pushing the Vita forward as the ball hits. The smash shots are a little tricky but get easier with time, but if you'd rather not fling your Vita about, there's button controls too which are adequate but not as much fun. The one real mark against the app is visibility- the bats and puck are sort-of translucent so you can very easily lose them when the puck starts to speed up, and the score itself is actually to the side so you have to crane your Vita around to see it. Aside from that, it pretty much does what it says- hockey, with Miku.

The secondary aim of the game is to unlock all of the costumes available for Miku, which are neatly tied to the game's Trophies (which include unlocks for silly things like trying every menu option and taking a screenshot, predictably the very first one I got). Miku herself is actually one of the nicer things about the whole package, as while you might've been expecting her Project DIVA model to show up, instead it's Lat-type Miku, one of the most well-known MikuMikuDance models of Miku (as an example, MitchieM's Viva Happy PV uses this model). Well-known enough to get a PVC figure of her, no less (and yes, the glasses variant is unlockable- it's the final one you get, so hop to it). If you're looking for a weird, cute little thing to muck about with, then Miku Miku Hockey does the job pretty well, as Miku has different idle animations on each screen, including one where she just rolls around impatiently. It's aggressively cute!

... But that's all there is to it, really, I've described the whole thing to you. Like I said, this is less of a game and more of a cool little thing to mess around with, and to be fair the SmartAR technology works pretty well (even lighting, in terms of getting the Vita to spot the AR Marker, was less hassle than I was anticipating, as it's only when it's actually in the sun or pitch black that it won't pick it up) but it's a novelty more than anything else, so if you're expecting something more robust than what's been demonstrated, then you're out of luck. I can really see why it was initially offered for free, but at least you know, now, that it's a thing that exists, and the super-curious should at least know what they're in for now. So that's soemthing, right?

And now, it's that time, folks!

Just a couple of miscellaneous notes for you to round things off.

As mentioned, we didn't get to play the original Miku Miku Hockey, so we've had to scrounge around a bit for info on the versions prior to the official 2.0 release. Beyond the initial trailer (which we assume is 1.0), we found actual players playing two different revisions, 1.5 and 1,6, There were quite a few differences from the final with these versions! For a start, the Tuning and Ad-Hoc modes weren't implemented yet, with only Spectacle, Practice and How to Play available, With no Tuning, levelling up Miku was different- rather than use points for specific stats, she would raise them on her own when you played Practice or Spectacle modes, with rankings given as letters instead of numbers. Costumes weren't in here either (only standard Lat Miku) and there were no Curve shots, only Smashes. So, it was even more basic than the proper public release, 1.6 was a tiny bit closer, with Ad-Hoc mode implemented but everytihng else as in 1.0/1.5. Interestingly, the music in the final game is different- 1.0, 1.5 and 1.6 all used Nyanyanyanyanyanyanya! as the main menu song, whereas 2.0 has its own song.

To end, here's the link to the Miku Miku Hockey 2.0 AR Marker for your convenience.

At least I can finally tick 'played hockey with a virtual idol' off my list of things to do now.

I'm all Hockey'd out now. Back to the index for me!