Hi everyone, and welcome back to my roundups of Apple Arcade games, called Apple Arcade Unwrapped. It’s similar to my weekly roundup called My Week Unwrapped. As I make my way through the Apple Arcade games, I’ll be posting my impressions about the games I played since the previous issue. The idea is to include gameplay videos and blurbs to help my readers decide which games to play first. There are already over 70 games available and I’m only one person, so please bear with me. But as I cover more games, I’ll be linking to that coverage here so you can find it all easily. Today’s roundup includes seven new games that I tried and a few that I’m revisiting. Some are easy to recommend, but others have issues I’ll touch upon. There’s no shortage of good games in the lineup, but hopefully these roundups will help you decide which ones to focus on first.
ChuChu Rocket! Universe
I never played a ChuChu Rocket game before, so I didn’t really have any expectations going into ChuChu Rocket! Universe. It turns out that it’s a little like Lemmings, in that you need to place arrows on the ground to direct adorable ChuChu mice to their rocket ships. Sometimes you have to keep them from walking onto spikes, other times you have to prevent them from bumping into the cat-like KapuKapu that want to eat them. Most levels are relaxed and let you work everything out at your own pace, with the main challenge being to find the solution using the minimum number of arrows. I was really enjoying it and thought I found my new favorite puzzle game. But then I encountered a boss battle, and I can’t continue to the next area without beating it. I was already not thrilled with the time challenge levels that force you to act quickly. But I managed to get through any of them that came up so far. They’re also optional, since you don’t need all stars to progress to the next area. But the boss battle blocks your way and I really don’t have patience for it, as it lasts quite some time. It’s a shame, because I want to play the other puzzles. I wish the there was a way to skip that level, but it looks like I’ll be giving up on the game for now. I do have a walkthrough guide for the rest of the first three constellations if you get stuck, though.
Cricket Through the Ages
Devolver Digital published yet another Apple Arcade game, this time called Cricket Through the Ages. I’m not really sure how to describe this one. It’s a narrated game about cricket with goofy physics. You can play either on your own against the AI or against a friend. I only played solo, and it was entertaining for a little while but I eventually got bored. I think it’s something that probably needs to be played with friends to have any sort of longevity. Still, it’s worth trying until you tire of it. And to spare me from having to explain the game, just watch some of my gameplay video below.
Don’t Bug Me!
There’s a lot to like about Frosty Pop’s streamlined take on a tower defense game, called Don’t Bug Me! The art style is clean and appealing, the levels are bite-sized and perfect for mobile play, and the mechanics are mostly intuitive. Each level has you defending the solar tower, which generates energy to build turrets and walls. You can also use the solar energy to add more solar panels so you’ll generate power faster. The idea is to build turrets and walls to fend off the swarms of mouse-like Martians that are supposed to be bugs, I guess? For the most part, the game works well and is fun to play. But when you’re getting overwhelmed and want to shoot down some enemies manually, you have to switch from top-down to first-person view and then wait for the reticle to slowly move to one of the bugs. Meanwhile, you can’t really see what’s happening with your turrets or build any new ones. I would have liked a way to be able to shoot without having to switch views, as it just wastes precious seconds and makes it harder to manage everything. I don’t even understand the point of that whole viewpoint, since you can’t actually control the reticle. I’m not sure why my bullets can’t just be extra firepower in a pinch while staying in the top-down view. That one aspect of the game may stop me from continuing with it, but I’ll see if the mood strikes to pick it up again. It’s still worth trying to see how you like it yourself.
I played some of William Chyr’s infinite architecture game, Manifold Garden, a few years back at a games conference, but it gave me motion sickness. I was still looking forward to trying it on Apple Arcade, especially since the developer said he added some settings to alleviate those problems. Unfortunately, it’s still making me sick, even with the gravity motions turned off. It’s an interesting puzzle game in which you change gravity in order to climb walls. Early on, you only press buttons and move colored cubes to the correct slots, but I imagine things get more elaborate later. The problem for me is twofold — I have no sense of direction, so it’s easy for me to get lost and turned around, unsure whether I’m going the right way. That leads to move running around, which makes my motion sickness worse. I could probably handle one or the other, but together they’re a deadly combination. I wish I could play it, but unfortunately it’s not worth getting sick over. But if you don’t have that problem, I highly recommend giving it a try.
Pomelo Games’ Outlanders is a relaxing town-builder that’s a great fit for mobile. It plays in portrait mode on iPhone and in landscape mode on iPad, making it comfortable for whatever device you’re on. It also has a simple art style that’s easy on the eyes and intuitive controls. What I really like about it is that, instead of spending hours building a town, each level has specific goals. So you work toward those goals for however in-game days and then move on to a different town with different goals. For instance, the first level asks you to store 40 wood planks over 29 days, with an optional task of housing all your workers. If you feel like things aren’t going so well, it’s easy to restart that level without feeling like you just sunk hours into the game for nothing. At least, that’s how it’s been so far. I’m not sure if levels will get much longer later in the game, but for now it’s a great fit for me. I like how you tell the little people what to do and just have to lightly manage them while they do their work. And since, like all Apple Arcade games, it’s free of ads or mictrotransactions, it feels like a proper premium game, which is rare for this genre. I can definitely see spending more time with Outlanders and would recommend giving it a try.
Redout: Space Assault
34BigThings’ Redout: Space Assault is a space shooter with impressive graphics, the feature that actually made me want to try it. Unfortunately, I gave up on it after only ten minutes. Either I missed something, or the game expects you to know what to do based on other similar games. I understood that I could control my ship using the joystick and that it would automatically shoot. But it didn’t seem to always shoot when I needed it to. I tried using the rocket launcher button, but since the game never explained its use, I just wildly tapped it while trying to avoid enemy fire. It felt like I was doing something wrong, but I couldn’t be sure what. On top of that, the game had some serious frame rate issues, where everything would lag so bad it was basically unplayable. And finally, the story is voice-acted, which I really appreciated, but the dialogue pops up and random times while you’re in middle of playing. This meant I often skipped the dialogue by accident because I was tapping to shoot when it popped up. It’s really bizarre to make it so easy to skip dialogue when you know the player is in middle of a firefight. I also couldn’t find a way to get to the main menu or settings, only the level select screen. So I couldn’t even see if there was a way to change any of these options or read some instructions on how to play. So for now, at least, I’m setting this one aside and wouldn’t recommend it.
Things That Go Bump
I knew absolutely nothing about Tinybop’s Things That Go Bump before booting it up. I liked the look of it from the screenshots, but though it might be some sort of adventure game. Therefore, I was a little confused at first when I took control of a little glowing sprite inside a dark house and it told me to find a body inhabit. I started flying around and….took control of a cell phone charger. Before I knew it, I was equipped with scissors as a weapon and a spring for legs. I was bouncing around and attacking other spirits similarly clothed. It’s basically a whimsical version of battle bots. I had a ton of fun trying on different combinations of household items, from screwdrivers to fly swatters. I mostly played against the AI, but also tried against a random real person and it was a lot of fun. I could definitely see the difference between the bots and the human, as the person played more cautiously. Overall, I had a great time and would highly recommend it to anyone who likes weird and wacky games. I imagine it’s best if you have close friends to play against, but random people should be fun as well.
I’m getting close to the end of Capybara’s Grindstone, as I’m on level 130 of 150. It’s been getting pretty challenging, and occasionally even frustrating. But I’m still enjoying it thoroughly and look forward to each session with it. Since I always play while recording, though, I was surprised when I realized that the game doesn’t save if you take a break mid-level. Considering I’ve spent 20 minutes or so on a single level, that seems like a huge oversight. I hope that’s something they’ll fix in the future. I would also love to see an endless high score mode where you just keep going until you die. I think it would work really well for it, and then I won’t be sad when I run out of content. Anyway, if you haven’t played it yet, what are you waiting for? You can also see my full playthrough here.
Jenny LeClue – Detectivu
Mografi’s mystery adventure game, Jenny LeClue, was the first Apple Arcade game I started, and I finally finished it this week. I enjoyed it quite a bit, though i was disappointed that the 10-hour game ended on a To Be Continued with lots of questions left unanswered. I was expecting a proper conclusion after that long journey, but instead got a rushed and somewhat confusing explanation for the mystery at hand, and a whole bunch of new questions. I still wish it had voice acting, and perhaps could have been a little condensed, considering it wasn’t the full game. It drags on a bit too long for something that has no real ending. I was also disappointed after re-watching the parts of my video of the playable teaser to see so many things that didn’t make it into the game. I still enjoyed it, but it didn’t quite live up to my high expectations, especially with that cliffhanger ending. Will we even get the next part? And will it take another 5-7 years? I don’t think I’d still care by then. I still recommend playing the game, but keep in mind that there’s no real closure.
I also just finished Neo Cab today, and it’s definitely one of my favorite Apple Arcade games. It took me about six hours to complete, and I’m not sure if there’s a quicker route to take or that other players just underestimated how long it took them to finish. Either way, I enjoyed the time I spent talking to my passengers and learning more about this futuristic yet familiar world. The writing is sharp, the characters are each entertaining in their own way, and the story held my attention to the end. I also appreciated all the fourth wall breaking about choices and alternate paths. I didn’t like the ending I got, but I noticed that there are multiple save slots, so I’m going to try and load an older one and see if I can get a different ending. I would also like to talk to other passengers I didn’t get to, but I’m not sure I would start the whole game over in order to do that. Anyway, if you like narrative-heavy choice-based games, give Neo Cab a try.
And that’s all for this installment of Apple Arcade Unwrapped! Remember, you can find all my Apple Arcade coverage at this handy link. Let me know what games you’re enjoying — or not — and I’ll see you back here with more impressions next time!