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 five 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.
Crossy Road Castle
A few weeks back, Hipster Whale released their Crossy Road spinoff, Crossy Road Castle. It’s a high score chaser, just like the original, with the idea being to last as long as you can. The game still focuses on hopping, but it’s more of a traditional platformer this time. You’re not crossing the street and avoiding cars. Instead, you’re climbing a castle, and on each floor you need to jump across gaps to platforms, avoid spikes, and take out monsters. It features the same cute voxel art style, with some but instead of an isometric view, it’s more 2D. For the most part, it’s made well. I like the rainbow jelly clouds and other cute critters. But after just a short time with it, I was already getting tired of replaying the same rooms over. You see, if you die, you start back at the bottom floor and have to make your way all the way back to wear you were. It’s a roguelike in that respect. But instead of randomly generated rooms, it pulls from a number of pre-designed levels. So you’re unlikely to get the same exact order of rooms each time you play, but you’ll still see rooms you’ve played before. That doesn’t lend itself well to the high score chasing aspect. I think it would have been better as a traditional platformer, where you just make your way to the top and then you’re done. I also don’t like how it takes 100 tokens to earn a new character. The game gives you one free character at the end of your first game, but it’s always the same one. It just fills in the fourth character for multiplayer games. After that, the tokens trickle in and you’d have to play a lot of games just to warn one more spin on the vending machine, Collecting the different animals was one of my favorite parts about Crossy Road, so having it so limited here means I don’t even have something besides the gameplay itself to keep me interested. I’m sure there’s an audience out there for Crossy Road Castle, but I’m not it.
Legend of the Skyfish 2
Crescent Moon Games just published Mother Gaia’s Legend of the Skyfish 2 this weeks. I bounced off the original pretty fast, as I found it a bit frustrating with all the moving spikes and whatnot. But I’ve spent about a half hour with the sequel so far and I’m actually enjoying it quite a bit. Checkpoints are plentiful, and the game looks even better than the original. I took a break after getting destroyed by a mini boss-like monster, but I plan to continue playing. I do want to try it either on my iPhone or with a controller, though, because the buttons aren’t placed very comfortably on iPad. I also wish the map was a bit more helpful, as it’s hard to tell if I’m going on the right direction to reach my quest locations. Overall, it seems to be a pretty nice Zelda-like adventure game, and I’m looking forward to spending more time with it.
Marble It Up: Mayhem!
Marble It Up: Mayhem! has been out for a while now, but I only just booted it up and gave it a try. The gameplay is pretty much as you’d expect it. You roll a marble around tracks, picking up power-ups and collectibles, and trying to get to the exit in record timing. The problem is, it doesn’t feel good to play. There are plenty of similar games out there that do a better job making you feel in control and able to take on challenges. But here, you need to control both the marble and the camera together, and it just doesn’t work. Even after adjusting the camera controls so they’re less sensitive, it’s still awkward to be racing towards a gap and instead of just jumping, you have to jump and adjust the camera. The few levels I played so far weren’t too difficult and checkpoints were plentiful. But I just didn’t enjoy playing it enough to continue. If I were going to play a game like this, Super Impossible Road does a better job in just about every way.
Wonderbelly Games released Rounguard three weeks ago, and it seemed promising so I booted it up right away. It turns out, it’s a game like pachinko combined with RPG and roguelike elements. You choose a warrior, rogue or mage to play as, each with different stats and skills. In each level, you have a number items and enemies on the board — like skeletons and jars. At the start of each level, you point your hero in the direction you want him to go and then tap to release. He then bounces of walls and items, hopefully racking up points before falling to the floor. This already feels too luck-based, but I’m top of that there are spikes at the bottom of the screen. A moving platform slides back and forth, but there’s no way to control it. If you get lucky and hit it, you won’t take damage. If you miss it and fall onto the spikes, you lose some health. I could probably find some enjoyment in the game despite its heavy luck element, but those spikes are a huge turnoff. It would take some math or physics prodigy to figure out the exact spot to shoot your hero so he’ll hit the platform instead of the spikes. Sure, you start off with an ability that can help in a pinch, and you earn new weapons and upgrades as you progress. But none of this made me feel like I was in control. And to make matters worse, the play area is a square, which would be a perfect fit if it was stretched to the full size of my iPad. But instead, it’s letterboxed to fit the dimensions of an iPhone, so there’s empty space at the top and bottom of the screen. But to make it even worse, yours and your enemy’s stats take up huge bars on the sides of the screen. So instead of having my whole iPad to play on, I’m using about a third of it. That makes it feel like a rushed PC port instead of something handcrafted for all iOS devices, as I’ve come to expect with other Apple Arcade games. Again, I’m sure there’s an audience for this game, but there’s too many things getting in the way of my enjoyment for me to want to stick with it.
Sumo Digital released Spyder two weeks ago, and it restored my faith in Apple Arcade. You play as a little robotic spider who’s a secret agent trying to save the world. You have a whole arsenal of tools at your disposal and can, of course, walk on walls and defy gravity. I finished the main campaign last week and wrote a proper review here, so read that rather than having me repeat myself. I also made a walkthrough here if you get stuck. The bottom line is, if you like games about puzzles and exploration, you’ll want to play this right away.
Down in Bermuda
I had a lot of complaints about Down in Bermuda when I first played it, with my biggest issue being the controls. They’ve since updated it with new camera controls that allow you to pinch to zoom and rotate like you would most other games. It certainly feels a lot better, and I made some decent progress. But I got stuck when I couldn’t find the last hidden orb on the island and there’s no way to continue to the next island without it. I’m not a big fan of hidden object games, so the idea of checking and rechecking every inch of the island for that orb is very unappealing. It also causes bad motion sickness, as I’m basically just spinning the camera around and around to see behind things. I think the game could use some sort of hints system that would be part of the puzzle, similar to what Hidden Folks does. It would be much more interesting for me to look for those orbs if it were a treasure hunt instead of pixel hunting. As is, I don’t think my stomach can handle all the camera movement in my search for the missing orb. So I think my journey will sadly end here.
And last, one of my favorite Apple Arcade games, Capybara’s Grindstone, just got its very first content update. It adds a whole new world with fifteen new levels and a boss, as well as some new mechanics. I’ve only played through about a third of it so far, but I’m loving every minute of it. So far, I’ve seen rotating platforms, color-changing monsters, and a level that almost fills completely with vines. I’m still recording my entire playthrough and you can see all my videos here. If you haven’t played Grindstone yet, you really should. And if you canceled your Apple Arcade membership, now’s a good time to resubscribe.
And that’s all the Apple Arcade games I’ve been playing lately. I know it’s been a while since my last roundup, and with the sporadic releases I don’t expect these to go back to being weekly. But I’ll try to let you know if a game releases that I think is worth checking out. Meanwhile, you can still find all my Apple Arcade coverage one this one handy page.