Apple Arcade Unwrapped: February 4, 2021 – Alba, NUTS, Oceanhorn Chronos Dungeon, Populus Run, Spire Blast, Zombie Rollers 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. It’s been a while since my last roundup, so there’s a lot to cover in this one. I have been including Apple Arcade games in my My Week Unwrapped articles, so my impressions won’t be new for all of these. But still, I want to make sure I give them all proper attention. So here’s the latest in my Apple Arcade coverage.

Alba: A Wildlife Adventure

ustwo games released their nature photography adventure game, Alba, last year and I covered it a few times in my regular roundups. It’s a joyful little game that’s great for players of all ages, as it’s cute but not disgustingly cute. It has you playing as a little girl named Alba who’s visiting her grandparents on an island with a nature reserve that’s in danger of being destroyed for a luxury hotel. So you need to spend the week taking photos of wildlife and getting signatures for your petition to save the reserve. The controls could have been a little better on iPad and I would have liked landscape support on iPad, but otherwise I enjoyed it and even included it in my Game of the Year list for 2020. Definitely play this one if you like relaxing adventure games. I also have more videos here.

NUTS – A Surveillance Mystery

NUTS is one of those game I’d heard about a while back and was very interested in but never expected to come to mobile. Then, thanks to Apple Arcade, not only did we get to play it on iOS, but we got it nearly two weeks earlier than all other platforms. It took a few updates to iron out some issues here and there, so my early gameplay videos don’t reflect the final product. But I have a walkthrough video below that I made this week and should give you a better idea of how the game feels. I also wrote a full review yesterday, so I don’t want to repeat myself. But this game about tracking squirrels in the forest is very much worth your time. I also have a step-by-step guide if you have trouble with any missions or finding any missing achievements.

Oceanhorn: Chronos Dungeon

I was excited about the roguelike pixel are version of Oceanhorn called Chronos Dungeon, where you battle through dungeon floors, trying to get as far as possible. Unfortunately, I bounced off it pretty quickly. I like that you have four playable characters you can switch between at anytime, each with a very different play style. But since you need to be facing the direction you attack, you usually have to move towards enemies while attacking, even if you don’t want to. There were some other odd things going on, too, like not being able to pick up a potion even when my inventory was empty. I also didn’t like how walking into an item in the shop automatically buys it. I couldn’t even see a way to identify the items before buying them. And finally, there are statues on different floors that you get to through hidden passages. But if you don’t have enough coins to buy it, you’re out of luck. There’s no way to go back to that floor once you have more gold, or go back to earlier floors to find more gold. That makes them feel pretty pointless and I never even got to see what they actually do. In essence, I liked the idea of Chronos Dungeon more than actually playing it.

Populus Run

Populus Run is another game that I like the idea of but did not enjoy playing it — or trying to, at least. It’s basically an autorunner where you control a group of people and have to try to keep them from getting killed by giant burgers and donuts. The game is already very difficult due to the fast reflexes it requires, but also because the people move somewhat on their own so you have to correct for that. And finally, there are onscreen buttons instead of gestures. Thankfully, they’re adjustable, so I was able to make them more usable on my iPad. But it still means that part of my brain is preoccupied with making sure my fingers don’t miss the buttons. I might give it another try one day if they find a way to add gesture controls, but otherwise I think I’ve had my fill. It’s a a shame, because I do love the art style and humorous soundtrack.

Spire Blast

I admit that I didn’t have high hopes for Spire Blast thanks to its generic match-three look that resembles a billion other games out there that I steer clear of. I’m especially turned off by the power-up system that doesn’t reward skill, just grinding for coins. It does have one thing that stands out, which is that the blocks are piled up and you’re meant to knock them down. I played through the first 20 levels and I felt like I had enough. I found most of those levels easy enough to 3-star without trying and when I had to replay one, it was usually because the scoring is so unclear or I didn’t get the balls I needed. It doesn’t even tell you how many points you need for each star. I was also annoyed that I couldn’t shut off the repetitive music without shutting the sound effects, too, but that’s since been rectified. I was also going to give it another try today and see if it gets more interesting, but a new bug has made most of the levels impossible to solve. So I’ll try again after another update.

Zombie Rollers: Pinball Heroes

Zombie Rollers: Pinball Heroes is an interesting idea, a roguelike where you use pinball paddles to hit a ball at zombies before they can reach you. There are upgrades and specials you can unlock and it requires some skill and strategy to do well. But I didn’t like the overworld map you use to get between levels. I also couldn’t stand the game’s sense of humor and, to be honest, was turned off by the graphics. It’s not a bad game, but all these little things made it easier to put it down and never pick it up again.

Little Orpheus

And last, but certainly not least, another one of my 2020 GOTY selections, Little Orpheus, got a new chapter recently. It takes place in a city full of hot air balloons, as well as smog. You also get to see more of Laika and ride in a flying mechanical fish! But perhaps the best part of all is the very strong hint that this is not the end and we can expect more chapters to be added. I thought the original game was perfect as is, but I can’t deny how great it is to return to Ivan’s fantastical world. I also want to make time one of these days to replay it and find all the orbs to unlock new costumes and behind-the-scenes footage. Anyway, if you haven’t yet, play the new chapter!

And that’s all the Apple Arcade games I’ve played since my last roundup. It was quiet over the new year, but things have started to ramp up again, so expect to see these a bit more often. Anyway, let me know in the comments section which Apple Arcade games you’ve been playing the most and I’ll see you back here next time with more Apple Arcade impressions.

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