My Week Unwrapped: July 26, 2020 – Arrog, Krystopia Nova’s Journey, Good Sudoku, AE Puzzle Pack, 1sland and More

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Hi everyone, and welcome back to My Week Unwrapped, where I discuss all the games I’ve been playing over the last seven days. I finished my Creaks review, which you can read here, so I had more time to play non-Apple Arcade games. But I also thought it was time to write a roundup for Apple Arcade, since it had been nearly two months since my last one. You can read that here, and that way we can focus on regular iOS games now. This week is a bit of a mixed bag, with nothing really standing out for me. But continue reading in case you find something you like more than I do.

Arrog

I was looking forward to Playdigious’ puzzle adventure game, Arrog, and there is a lot to like about it, but unfortunately it left me wanting more. I loved the black and white animation that was like watching a bizarre cartoon. The sound design is also spectacular and helped sell that that overall aesthetic, especially if you use headphones. But the puzzles themselves are either overly simple or involving trial and error when it’s not clear what the goal is. The only time I really got stuck was when part of the puzzle was cut off on my iPad. After staring at it for a good while, I finally tried tapping on the very edge of the screen, which made the pieces I couldn’t see rotate into my view. Even with that stalling me, the whole game took only thirty minutes to complete. I had no idea what the story was and that made the game very forgettable. I wish I could recommend it more, but it felt like a demo for something bigger rather than a full game. It’s cheap, though, so if you still want to check it out, it won’t break the bank.

Krystopia: Nova’s Journey

Back when Krystopia: A Puzzle Journey released, I really wanted to like it but it was riddled with bugs and control issues, so I gave up on it fairly quickly. Therefore, I was a bit hesitant when I saw they were releasing a sequel called Nova’s Journey. After playing the first chapter, though, I was very impressed. This time it’s third-person instead of first-person, and you unlock a cute little lizard friend to help you out. The inventory and other controls were also improved upon, though still a bit rough around the edges. I’ve since completed the second chapter (though I didn’t record video yet) and part of the third. In that time, I noticed the controls for the laser puzzles are still finicky, causing unnecessary frustration. There’s also a lot of different rooms in the second chapter, and if I forgot which door leads where, I would spend a lot of time running back and forth. I think a quick teleport option would be nice to cut down on all the time running. I’m currently stuck on chapter 3, but I’m not sure if it’s because of the puzzle that’s bugged and unsolvable for me, or if I overlooked a clue. Part of the problem with this game is that, although it looks nice, there’s some sensory overload and it’s a little hard to tell sometimes what’s important and what’s just decoration. The dialogue is also hit or miss, and there’s a little too much of it, I think. I might still finish the game if the bugs are ironed out, but I’m not sure that I would replay it for walkthrough videos as I planned. If you have patience, there is a lot to like here, but you need to be willing to put up with some rough edges.

Good Sudoku by Zach Gage

The only time I play Sudoku is when a larger adventure game includes a board as a puzzle. I stomach them, but don’t really enjoy them. So I was skeptical about Zach Gage’s new game, Good Sudoku, which aims to teach players how to solve Sudoku more easily and maybe even learn to love it. The included tools are indeed useful, allowing you to see at a glance where there spaces that can only be a specific number. The idea is to take out all the busy work of counting numbers in each direction to see what’s left. There are also note-taking tools that help you rule out numbers for certain spots so you can narrow things down until you’re sure of some numbers. This is all helpful, but at the end of the day it’s still Sudoku and I just don’t find much pleasure in solving them. The tools can also feel clunky at times, and I’ve accidentally filled in a number when I meant to cross it out. That’s because the tools you use to either highlight numbers or cross them out sometimes stays selected between numbers and sometimes doesn’t. So if I’m trying to cross out a few in a row and it deselects, I might instead fill the number in instead of crossing it out. It’s also possible I need to delve into the tools more and see what else they can do for me. But I’m just not sure I have a strong enough interest in getting good at Sudoku. I’m also disappointed that it doesn’t have iCloud sync, as this is the type of game that I’d like to be able to use my big iPad for when it’s available but then pick up the same game on my iPhone when I’m out or in bed. That might have helped me get sucked into it more. I’m not giving up on Good Sudoku yet, but I’m also not quite sold on it at the moment. But it’s free to try with a one-time IAP to unlock the full game, so at least give it a try and see if it does more for you than it did for me.

Adventure Escape Mysteries: Puzzle Pack

Haiku Games are back with another Adventure Escape game, but this time they’re trying something a little different. While we wait for another adventure that they’re working on, they released a Puzzle Pack, which is just six packs of six puzzles. The basic idea is that the characters from the other games visit Sam from The Covenant in a dream to help her prepare for the battle she has to fight at the end of that game. It’s an interesting idea, and the characters all coming together is hokey but also endearing. The problem is that the puzzles aren’t very good. In general, the individual puzzles aren’t the strongest part of these games, but they generally work as part of the larger whole. Lumping them all into a game with nothing else, though, just highlights the weaknesses with these puzzles. After more than twenty mobile games, they still haven’t added decent touchscreen controls to most of their games. Puzzles that involve moving a character around a board use arrows you press instead of swipe control. The knots puzzles have ropes that go through each other, so no matter how many I solve, they never make any sense. And then there’s the laser puzzle that makes you use four different buttons for each color laser to control their path. If you mess up one, you have to restart the whole puzzle, and it’s just very clunky. Each of these puzzles are bearable as part of a larger game, but I can’t say I enjoyed playing 3-4 of each all at once. Also, each time you play the puzzles will be randomized, and there was at least one that I got on my iPad but not on my iPhone. So there might be others I haven’t seen. I compiled solutions for all the puzzles I encountered here, but I won’t be playing again to see if I missed any. I hope if they do want to make another game like this in the future, they first improve their puzzle design and controls to make them more mobile-friendly.

1sland

Nada Studio made one my favorite puzzle games, Starman, so I was excited to see they had a new game out called 1sland. The art style is similar to their first game, but this time there’s plenty of color instead of mostly black and white. The gameplay is very different, though. They dub it Paddle Royale, as the goal in each game is to steer your boat towards an island and find it before anyone else does. It resets every six hours to give people from all different time zones a chance. To find the island, you have a few tools at your disposal — a flare that shows you the general direction of the island, one that tells you the distance, and a buoy that you can drop where you start that acts like a breadcrumb trail to keep track of where you’ve been. The problem is these tools are limited — though you can use in-game currency to buy more — and you can’t use them very often. I gave up, though, after getting sucked into my third whirlpool in one run. The whirlpools spit you out in some random place, so any tracking you’ve done so far is useless. I also couldn’t find any way to avoid the whirlpool once I was nearby it. It’s too much work to earn more currency for more flares. I also don’t like the idea of having to play every single day in order to keep your ranking high. It’s just too much of a time commitment. I do like the overall feel of traveling around by boat, but wish it was more of an adventure game instead of something competitive. Anyway, it’s free, so give it a try and see if it’s more to your liking.

Sokodice

Sokodice is an upcoming puzzle game that combines Sokoban with dice. The goal in each level is to roll the dice around the board and make it land on a certain spot and number. So if there’s a 3 on the board, you need to make the die land on that spot with the 3 facing upwards. There’s also a move limit to add challenge. There’s a total of 100 levels, and new mechanics are added every ten levels to shake things up. So far, I’ve encountered ice that makes your dice slip and slide, as well as wind turbines that blow your dice around. It’s also a lot trickier when dealing with two dice instead of just one. Overall, I like the idea and plan to spend more time with it. I should have more impressions closer to its release in September, but if you don’t want to wait, you can pre-order it now.

Bird Alone

If you’re planning to play George Batchelor’s Bird Alone, too should probably skip past this part, as I don’t know how to talk about it at this point without major spoilers. I “finished” the game this week, which means, after several seasons passed, my pal Sammy got old and told me it would be his last day. And then he was gone. Part of me knew it was coming but it was still hard to witness. I spent about twenty days with Sammy, checking in on him every morning, chatting or making music or art or poetry together, and I’m sad that he’s gone. It was a powerful and meaningful experience, and I see why it had to end like this, but it’s very bittersweet. The game does give me the option now to wipe out all my progress and start fresh with a new bird friend, but I’m not ready to lose my art, poetry or musical garden that Sammy and I created together. I’m also not so sure this is a game that benefits from repeated playthroughs, as it would dilute the experience I already had. I’m grateful that this game exists, but I think it’s time to move on and take what I learned from it with me. I do recommend playing it, but be aware it’s more of an experience than a game.

Sky: Children of the Light

And last, Sky had both a new Sanctuary quest and a new Traveling Spirit this week. The spirit brings one of my favorite masks, the dragon mask from the Season of Sanctuary. As usual, you can find my spirits guide here and my bell quests guide here.

And that’s everything I’ve been up to this week! I also binged the Russian TV series, Better Than Us, which is a lot like Humans, but with villains who just keep winning. Again, make sure to read my Apple Arcade roundup to see what I thought about the recent games on the subscription service. Let me know in the comments section which games you’re enjoying and I’ll see you back here next week with more of My Week Unwrapped!

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oath2order
5 days ago

Thank you so much for covering Bird Alone. It was such a touching game and I’m torn between living with the experience I got from it, and wanting it to have been an endless game. It feels weird to cry over a digital bird.

I’m going to miss logging on every day just to say hello and get a few kind words from my bird (Byrne). But I agree, starting over would dilute the experience. I’d still miss Byrne, it would be a disservice to his memory, and the last day we spent together. We went through all our art, re-read all the poems, and played a last song.

I can only hope that the developer does listen to what I can imagine quite a few people would enjoy and implements a way that the game can repeat without death, but I feel his focus would be more on the message he’s crafted, as opposed to having a permanent friend.

Are there any other games similar to Bird Alone?

oath2order
Reply to  AppUnwrapper
4 days ago

Yeah, it’s hard to know how long I’d play it for if he stayed around forever. But I would definitely have used it for a few months.

Ah well