Apple Arcade Unwrapped: February 7, 2020 – Doomsday Vault, Kings of the Castle, LEGO Builder’s Journey, No Way Home and More

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 100 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 six new games that I tried and others 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.

Doomsday Vault

I like the general idea of Likeitalot’s Doomsday Vault, which has you exploring a post-apocalyptic world to find seeds so you can bring the plants back to life. My main issue with the game is the fixed camera. You’re meant to explore and find certain objects, but it’s very easy to take one path and miss another simply because you can’t see where they lead. I would have liked to be able to rotate the camera and/or zoom out so I could see more of my environment before heading in a direction. As is, it feels like there’s a lot of unnecessary running back and forth to see if I missed something. Or I can just accept that I missed them and move on. For a game about exploration, I wish it gave us better tools for our adventures. As is, I don’t see myself continuing with it.

Kings of the Castle

I knew before going into Frosty Pop’s Kings of a the Castle that I might regret it, as first-person 3D platformers almost always give me motion sickness. But I decided to try it anyway, in the name of science. For the most part, I got what I expected — lots of nausea. But I wasn’t prepared for how bland the game would be. There’s only two small maps besides the tutorial. You basically just jump around and collect diamonds until you have enough to go through the exit. But here’s the strange part — there are enemies that attack you, poison puddles, spiked mushrooms, and you can even fall in the water. But nothing happens when you get “hurt.” In fact, I’m pretty sure more diamonds just spawn, so it’s easier to complete the level than if you managed to play it safe and not drown. The only thing you’re scored on is the time it takes you to complete the level, so it seems to me like it would make the most sense to just stick to a small area, drown, and collect the same diamonds over and over. There are time trials, but I was too sick after just a few minutes with the game to want to bother even seeing how those differ. This is one of the most pointless game I’ve ever seen and I don’t know why it even exists, much less on Apple Arcade, where Apple personally funds the games. It’s even gotten me wondering why I’m subscribed at all. I don’t know who this game is intended for, but if you have even the slightest inclination towards motion sickness, just stay away.

LEGO Builder’s Journey

I was so excited when LEGO Builder’s Journey released, as it looked like the perfect LEGO game for me. It’s a puzzle game in which you use LEGO pieces to progress and it has a meaningful wordless story about a father and son. Everything about it was basically tailor made for me — except for the godawful camera and controls. In what seems like an attempt oversimplify things, they made the controls rage-inducing. See, the idea with each level is to build a path out of the pieces you’re given so the boy can cross over to his father. You have a limited number of pieces in different shapes, so you have to be creative. And sometimes you have to be fast, too, as there’s quicksand that will sink the boy if you don’t keep him moving. But the first problem is that the camera is fixed to one angle. You can adjust it slightly, but it always snaps back into place after a couple of seconds. So if you want to try and squeeze a piece in somewhere but you can’t get a good view of it — too bad. The other issue is that everything is controlled with one finger. In theory, that sounds great. You pick up a piece with your finger and then hold for a few seconds to place it. Sounds easy, right? But it it actually gets quite frustrating, especially with the levels that require quick placement. If you want to drop a piece you picked up, you either have to swap it with another or two and hold for a few seconds to release it. Otherwise it sticks to your finger. That makes it hard to drag the camera, even the little bit that it allows. I get what they were going for, but I ragequit fairly early on because I just got fed up with the controls and camera. I wish they would improve them, because there’s something special here. I just don’t have the patience to deal with it when there are so many other games vying for my attention. By all means, try it out and see if you can get used to the controls. From my understanding, it’s not a long game, so someone with more patience might be fine with it.

No Way Home

I kept meaning to try SMG Studio’s No Way Home, but pushed it off a bit because I didn’t really think it was my kind of game. Well, I’ve never been so happy to be wrong. It has you flying around in a little ship with your robot companion, shooting at enemies and collecting resources to use to upgrade your ship’s weapons, shield, etc. It feels really nice to fly around, and it’s not too punishing. I haven’t died yet, as I tend to play low-risk, letting my robot sidekick help out if I feel outnumbered. I’m also pleasantly surprised by the voice acting and writing. The script is humorous and the voiceovers elevate it to another level. It makes me want to keep going and see where the story leads. I’ve only played about an hour so far, but I’m looking forward to spending more time with it. If you haven’t tried it yet, I highly recommend doing so. It’s very accessible, even for those who doing usually like these kinds of games. And if you need help, I have a walkthrough in progress here.

Secret Oops!

MixedBag’s Secret Oops! is designed to be played in Augmented Reality (AR), but I’m not a fan of walking around my living room, pointing my phone around a table to see the game board. Since it had an option to play without AR, I figured I’d give it a try. But it only works in portrait mode, and everything is so tiny that it’s impossible to play. My thumb covers half the action and I gave up before I even finished the tutorial. I then tried it in AR mode and couldn’t even figure out what it wanted me to do. There’s probably an audience for this game somewhere, but I’m definitely not it.

Skate City

I’m a big fan of Snowman’s endless skiing games, Alto’s Adventure and Alto’s Odyssey, so I had high hopes for Skate City even if I’m not usually into skateboarding games. And at first I was enjoying it. But in the first area you gain access to, Los Angeles, I fell through the floor on the endless mode. I have it several tries and I fell through in same spot each time. So I figured I’d move on to the challenges instead. For the most part, I did ok. But I found it hard to look up at the top of the screen for instructions on which trick to pull off next while also keeping an eye on any obstacles in my way so I don’t hit them. The challenges vary, though, so I gave it more time. And I started getting frustrated and confused by the controls. You see, there’s a button on the right side that you press to run faster. Otherwise you move pretty slowly. It works fine if you only perform tricks that require swiping on the left side of the screen. But some tricks need you to swipe on the right. Since I only have two thumbs, that means taking my finger off the “run” button. So I’m not really sure what I’m meant to do or if this is common for skateboarding games. I think I would like it better if you ran automatically and then just worried about swipes for tricks. But as is, I feel like I’m only playing with half the tools at my disposal. It’s still worth checking out, but I am very surprised by the game-breaking bug I encountered on endless mode months after release.

Card of Darkness

I finally came back to Zach Gage’s Card of Darkness after a long hiatus. I was quickly reminded why I took a break in the first place. It is not an easy game, and I die many times before I finally succeed in completing a level. But I managed to make some progress and beat the first boss — which I found surprisingly easy. It’s definitely a game that takes some perseverance, but I’m also not sure how much of it is luck. I’ve had some really difficult attempts followed by one that just worked out perfectly. Still, there’s a lot to like here, so I’m going to try and stick with it, even if it takes me a long time. I imagine most people have tried it by now, but if you haven’t you should!

Things That Go Bump

And last, I finally okayed some more of Tinybop’s Things That Go Bump after its recent update. They added extra rooms to the house, as well as new items to equip. I only tried them against the AI, but I’m loving the pepper grinder, which shoots pepper at enemies from afar and also makes you sneeze. It’s both lethal and adorable! I still love the game, but I think next time I’ll try it with a controller on my Apple TV. Having to look at the buttons onscreen distracts me from the action at hand. Anyway, if you haven’t, definitely give this charming game a try.

And that’s everything for this installment of Apple Arcade Unwrapped! Now that new game releases have slowed to about one per week, I probably won’t be writing these roundups too often. But you can subscribe to my YouTube channel to make sure you don’t miss out on any video coverage of Apple Arcade games. Also, make sure to let me know in the comments if there’s a specific game you’d like me to cover. I’ll see you next time!

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