I am the king of waking up! At least, that’s how I’ve felt a few times after “playing” Wake-up Club for the Vita. The app/game/thing is basically a cellphone alarm clock complete with an array of utterly unlikable jingles that tries to make waking up a social event. I’m surprised no one has done this before but I’m not surprised that this inaugural attempt isn’t the easiest to use.
It sounds great on paper. Set an alarm (with an appreciable array of options for repeat, ring sound, etc.) and Wake-up Club groups you with other real people waking up at the same time. Smack your user icon as quickly as possible once the alarm goes off and then tap others’ icons to pester them with encouraging quips. If you all wake up within five minutes you win. Trophies and stats track fastest times, number of consecutive “wins”, and number of other players encountered and encouraged.
In practice though, the Vita’s quirky firmware makes Wake-up Club cumbersome to use. For starters, Wake-up Club has to be running and it has to be the “active” app when you hit the Power button. Falling asleep in the middle of a game won’t cut it, you have to make a conscious effort to join this club. Then when the alarm goes off you have to tap past a screen asking if you want to launch Wake-up Club before you can continue. The app will sometimes lose its internet connection too and instead of waking up with real people it’ll be a generic ‘Tom’, ‘Mark’, or ‘Barry’. Also out of its control is the always-blinking PS button which I killed with a Light Dims sticker and the questionable battery life of the Vita.
It’s probably not by design but all those issues make Wake-up Club the most effective alarm I’ve ever used. I’m asleep one minute and the next a screen flashes bright, assaults me with its smarmy, new age chime and throws multiple steps at me to shut it up. Halfway through the process I remember that it’s a game and I rush to “win” and start bugging everyone else to get up. It’s like being thrown into a logic puzzle first thing in the morning and I have come to enjoy the manic hilarity of it all.
I expect a much more elegant and engaging offering on iOS or Android any time now. Something that ties into Twitter or Facebook so you can wake up with your favorite aunt or friend sounds pretty awesome. But for free it’s hard to hate the cheeky little innovation of Wake-up Club and it’s good to see clever new things coming from a gaming handheld for a change.