It looks like Apple aren’t slowing down with their new Apple Arcade launches quite yet. Just 5 days since the last update Apple has released a further 5 titles onto their subscription service. Judging by the short introduction videos on the App Store, they look to have the same high quality of the previous additions and they bring the total up to 80.
Decoherence - This game looks like a bit of a strategic, competitive arena game featuring robots. What game isn’t made better by the inclusion of robots??
INMOST - At first glance this one looks really interesting. It features a very retro looking graphical style. It’s a ‘story driven puzzle platformer’ which already makes it sound pretty interesting. I’m looking forward to giving this one a go. It’s been developed by Chucklefish, the team behind the amazing Stardew Valley. If that’s not reason enough to jump in I don’t know what is!
Mind Symphony - This one was developed by Rogue Games, a very prolific App Store developer. A lot of their games are very IAP focused, so I’m interested in seeing one of their games without the crippling monetisation.
ShockRods - Car-based deathmatches. ‘Nuff said! The preview video makes it look like a mix between PS1 classic Twisted Metal and Rocket League. ShockRods looks like great fun.
Stella - Stella looks to be a stunning looking 3D / First Person platformer. Of all the new releases this week, this one looks ideal for the Apple TV. Performance on other games I’ve tried has been far from optimal, so I’m keen to give this one a try.
I’m looking forward to jumping into this new selection ASAP. I need to get back to doing some reviews on all of these, but I’m just having too much fun playing them!
For those keeping up, it looks like there are some new additions to Apple Arcade that have sprung up overnight, bringing the current total to 75.
The new additions are:
NIGHTMARE FARM - This looks like an interesting, if not a little strange title. After reading the App Store description it’s a little hard to even see what this ones about, but it’s labelled as a ‘simulation’. You apparently have to visit a farm and give the creatures there food and toys. Fair enough!
Pilgrims - Again, this looks like an artistic and quirky game. It looks like you need to interact with people you meet as you journey across the land and try to make friends and ‘help them complete their little stories’.
Redout: Space Assault - This appears to be a space-based action shooter. From the screenshots it looks pretty good, though the early reviews suggest it may be a bit buggy.
The Bradwell Conspiracy - This one is described as being a ‘highly stylised, narrative-driven experience’, which sounds good to me! The game has an impressive team behind it and looks like the cream of the latest additions crop.
I’m looking forward to diving into this new selection of Apple Arcade games soon.
Since its introduction in iOS 11, Live Photo’s has truly been one of the core iOS features that keeps me in the eco-system. While this may sound a bit strange to some of you, I find it to be a truly invaluable feature of my everyday camera. I like to think of it as parent mode because, to be honest with you, I can’t imagine many people outside of this demographic that would find it as compelling feature as I do. I’ve lost count of the amount of mediocre pictures I’ve taken, only to review the Live Photo later to realise I’ve captured something truly special being said, or a reaction, that would normally be lost to the ether.
I found out about an interesting feature that has become available in iOS 13, a rare enhancement to Live Photo’s that I wanted to share. It seems it’s now possible to select multiple Live Photo’s, that were taken in quick succession, and create a video out of them. Apple shared a short ‘how to’ video explaining the process, on their YouTube channel, which you can see below:
This is a seemingly small feature but, for me at least, it’s a really powerful one. I’ve tried it myself and it works perfectly. It doesn’t do much to make the transition between videos all that smooth, but it’s highly serviceable and something I can see myself using a fair bit. Now that I know it exists …
To me, a sign of a good review is how much reading / watching it makes me want to go and try out the product that’s being reviewed. Prolific YouTuber Christopher Lawley’s recent Brydge Keyboard review was not only fantastically presented, as always, it also really made me want to use the Brydge Keyboard.
If you haven’t seen the video yet, stop what you’re doing and watch it below:
Normally, there would be nothing unusual about a review making me want to try a new product. What struck me about this review, however, was that it didn’t make me want to try a new product. It made me want to try a product that I already owned, and actually really disliked, which is a first, and a testament to how well Chris reviewed the device.
Why I don’t like the Brydge keyboard
One of the major deciding factors for me choosing to use an iPad as my main home computing device1 was the flexibility the form factor afforded me. I work a normal full time day job, and much of my spare time is spent with my wife, young daughter and Toy Poodle. I have very little time to fully dedicate to blogging or podcasting and the like, but when I do get the time, I need to be as flexible on where I do these things as possible. The iPad Pro, paired with the fantastic Apple Smart Folio Keyboard, allows for the most flexible computing exerience I could hope for.
I was excited to get my hands on the Brydge keyboard, and quickly ordered one as soon as it became available. After slotting my iPad Pro into the case I was in awe of just how fantastic it made my beloved iPad look. This admiration, however, was pretty short lived. Whilst sat at a desk, the Brydge keyboard looked perfect. When I needed to move away from the desk, however, things got a little less idyllic. The Brydge keyboard is heavy. There’s no getting around it. Strapping that beast of a keyboard to a 12.9” iPad Pro instantly doubles its weight and, in doing so, reduces it’s flexibility and ease of use by the same proportion. When desktop / laptop fans see the Brydge keyboard in use you’ll often get the tired comment ‘Why don’t you just get a MacBook?’ While the answer to that particular question would be best answered another day, in another post, I did get the feeling that I was just using a heavy, cumbersome laptop, which is most certainly not something I would want, or expect, when using my svelte and portable iPad.
Chris touched on the squisy feeling of the keys and I definitely experienced this. They can also, at times, be fairly unresponsive, especially when compared to the excellent keys and travel of the Smart Folio. I’ve never been that fused about my keyboards, though it seems to be very important to many. Now that I’ve been using the Smart Folio, and it’s predecessors, for so long, however, I have gotten used to the low travel and typing noise. I’ve never understood those people that enjoy a loud clack, clack from their keyboard. I’m not sure if it’s down to the Bluetooth connection, the fact the keys are less accurate if you don’t press them perfectly in the center, or a combination of the two, but I definitely have to type slower, and more precisely when using the Brydge. Things aren’t all bad, however …
Things I do like about the Brydge keyboard
While I’ve been pretty negative about the keyboard so far in this post, there are some areas that really do appeal a great deal about the keyboard.
Firstly, as I’ve already touched on, the device looks absolutely beautiful. I won’t dwell on this point too much, but it really is a great looking accessory to an already tasty looking bit of kit.
While the keys are, indeed, squishy, and they miss keystrokes far more often than I’m comfortable with, the addition of function keys to control volume and adjust brightness, among others, is a great touch and it’s something I wish Apple could somehow squeeze into the Smart Folio moving forward. The keyboard also features backlit keys which, despite being a nice inclusion, was ultimately a bit wasted on me. I’ll very rarely write / use my
iPad in the dark it seems.
Another thing I found myself liking the Brydge keyboard for was using the iPad on the desk in my study. Whilst only in certain situations, I found myself using the Brydge keyboard, when I knew I’d be sitting at my desk for some time, whilst connected to 4K monitor and my Logitech mouse. While this is very close to the MacBook I wanted to avoid, it is nice for the aforementioned specific situations that call for it.
Ultimately, for me, it came down to the particular way I used my iPad. At the time, I was rarely sitting down for any extended period of time at a desk so using the keyboard made little sense. It doesn’t lend itself well to someone that wants to move around a lot, unless you want to develop arms like Popeye from lugging the thing around.
Going full circle back to where this article started, Chris’ video has encouraged me to dust off the Brydge keyboard2 and give it another shot. I’ve written this article using it and, despite the slower than usual typing speed I’ve had to employ, I have to say I’m quite enjoying it. A few months ago, as soon as I got home, my iPhone would be set to charge and my iPad would be my evening companion should I need to do anything. Since getting the new iPad Mini, however, I’ve found I actually am using my iPad Pro in a more static configuration, so I’m presented another opportunity to put it through its paces. I must say I’ve enjoyed my time spent using it to write something a bit different.
This article wasn’t intended to be a review, it started life as just a link post to Chris’ great video. It hasn’t really ended up as a review either, but I would have still liked to have offered up a conclusion to my thoughts on the Brydge keyboard to anyone that had made it this far. As is probably evident from the above, however, I’m still pretty torn. 90% of my time will still be spent with the Smart Keyboard Folio. I just love it. For the rare occasions that I’m strictly desk bound, and equally rare occasions I write anything more than a few hundred words, the Brydge keyboard may well see the light of day.
For those interested, I’m using the 2018 iPad Pro 12.9” in space grey.
I did actually try to return it early on, but the Brydge support team told me there would be a restocking fee to pay and that they would assess the device and send me a refund of whatever amount they thought suitable. Erm, what?
I’m not sure if anyone is interested in following Oprah’s Book Club on Apple TV+ when it launches in November, but for those of you that are, Apple are currently selling the Audiobook of the first book that will be covered, The Water Dancer by Ta-Nehisi Coates for less than the eBook version.
This is a completely non-staged photo of Oprah loving the heck out of this book.
It’s currently £7.99 for the audiobook, versus £9.99 for the eBook.1
To be completely honest with you, it doesn’t sound like a book I’d normally be into. I am, however, an Apple sheep as you may well know, so I’ve picked up the book and will listen to it ahead of the Oprah Book Club launch. I’ve always been kind of interested in a book club idea, but I’ve never done anything about it. Now that I’ve been getting into audiobooks more, given my long commute, it seemed like a fair investment.
Having never taken part in a book club before, I’m not entirely sure what to expect from Oprah’s show, but I’m interested in finding out. Assuming I enjoy the book that is …
This is in the UK of course, as you can guess by the price. I hope, and assume, the same will apply in the US and other places across the world.
Beautiful graphics or a pumping soundtrack usually make for an interesting gaming experience, but in the right situation, something far simpler is called for. It’s this time when quiet, relaxation and simpler time is required that today’s comes into its own. The game is Word Laces, by Australian development studio MiniMega Games.
These micro reviews are always supposed to be short, and my review of Word Laces is likely going to be the shortest so far1. Don’t take that as a reflection on the game, however, because I’ve probably sunk more time into it than any other game that I’ve reviewed so far.
The aim of the game is simple. Each level includes an image in the top half of the screen2 and a collection of letters on the bottom half. You then need to swipe through the collection of letters to form set words that are associated with the image. In the image shown below, for example, you would link together J-A-CK-E-T which will earn you some points and then remove that set of letters from play. You continue this until you have enough letters to move onto the next level / image. It really is that simple …
It’s this simplicity that makes the game so engrossing, however. This isn’t a game you’re going to necessarily veg out with for hours on end, but it is a perfect game to fire up when you have a few minutes whilst waiting in a line, or before bed to give your brain a bit of a tune. It only takes about 4-5 words before you move onto the next image, so even this keeps it fairly fresh and gives it a ‘just one more to’ style that has, if I’m being completely honest, and a little gross, kept me on a toilet for a little longer than I should have.
The design style is very simple, but again this isn’t a bad thing. The game is what it is and it’s not trying to be anything else by employing fancy, distracting graphics. The laces part of the game comes from the fact you’re linking the letters together via the laces of various shoes / boots you unlock as you earn points through completing each level. It’s a slightly odd premise, but again the graphical details really are secondary. Each new show unlocked gives the game a new background theme and lace design. It’s a nice touch, but doesn’t really effect the game one way or another.
The game includes a whopping 1,000 levels currently, along with a ‘daily puzzle’ which could keep you coming back even after finishing all of the main levels. There are also over 50 shoes to unlock. Because this, and all Apple Arcade games, are lacking IAPs you can freely use the help option as much as you want, which will highlight the start of the word you’re trying to find. The fact this is available for use whenever you want is great, and stops you getting stuck and frustrated at any point. This is another win for no IAPs!
Word Laces won’t stretch your Apple devices to their limits and it won’t have you on the edge of your seat. It will, however, keep you just as entertained and is a perfect example of a quick in and out game that I can see myself coming back to a lot over the coming weeks and months.
Spoiler: it turns out it wasn’t the shortest. I wrote this line first, and then realised I waffled no longer than expected.
From a beach scene, to a man up a ladder looking at clouds, to a duck in a suit.
Enter The Gungeon is one of my favourite games I own on the Switch, so when I heard that there was a sequel, of sorts, heading to Apple Arcade I was all in.
The new game, Exit The Gungeon, by developer / producer Devolver Digital, takes what was enjoyable about the original, and creates a new, interesting mobile first experience.
Described as a ‘bullet hell dungeon climber’, the game sees you take on the role of one of four different Gungeoneers. Unlike with the original game it doesn’t seem to make much (any?) difference who you pick. Once your selected your character you need to make your way through each level to, you guessed it, escape the Gungeon. The method of getting your character out is where things get interesting. Exit The Gungeon is the first game I remember playing where the method of control you decide to use makes the game fundamentally different and one method makes it a great game, the other makes it an impossible mess. Let me explain.
I first tried the game using touch controls. Using touch you can swipe to leap forward and back or hold down on the screen to enter a slow motion ’bullet time’ which was a key way of avoiding the hundreds of bullets that are shortly going to come your way. Whilst in this mode your character will auto shoot the myriad of excellently designed enemies that swarm the level. All you really need to focus on is getting near the baddies whilst jumping and diving about avoiding getting hit. While that sounds pretty simplistic, and it is really, it’s great fun and a true challenge.
After enjoying it with touch controls on the iPhone I jumped onto my iPad and wanted to try it with an Xbox controller. What a mistake that was. Whilst in this mode, at least with the default settings, jumping and diving seemingly doesn’t slow the action down making the game near impossible to survive for more than a few minutes at a time. Add to this the fact that your character also doesn’t auto shoot, or even auto aim, and you have an impossibly difficult mess of a game. It’s actually crazy how bad adding a controller to the mix makes the game at that point. If you’re going to play Exit the Gungeon, and you really should, definitely go with touch controls.
Once you master the jumping and rolling mechanism you can have a lot of fun in this game. Whilst things can feel chaotic and it’s difficult to even find a second to glance at your health most of the time, it’s hugely satisfying if you make it through a level. As you play through you’ll pick up and swap between a huge collection of weapons, all pretty unique and battle with an equally vast array of enemies in your mission to escape. The design style is what drew me to the original Enter the Gungeon and it definitely carries over into this version. It’s a real delight to look at and helps you forgive just how painfully hard the game is.
Out of the games I’ve given some decent time to in Apple Arcade, so far, this is definitely one of the best. I’d highly recommend giving it a try. It’s a rare game that works just as well across smaller screens as it does big and with progress getting synced via Game Center you can always keep a copy to hand when you need to let off a little steam.
The last game I reviewed, Oceanhorn 2 is, as mentioned within, best experienced on the biggest screen you can, and ideally with a controller. Now that the weekend is over, I wanted to today look at a game that’s less time consuming and one that works well on the iPhone instead. Something fun for some short, weekday break bursts.
When I’ve seen anyone on Twitter recommending an Apple Arcade game that is good to use on the iPhone, particularly in portrait mode, I’ve seen todays game recommended more often than not. This game is Hexaflip: The Action Puzzler by Rogue Games. I didn’t realise this as I started to write this review, but this is the same developer behind another Apple Arcade game that I reviewed a few days ago, Super Impossible Road. The former title didn’t impress me all that much, as I wrote at the time, but thankfully Hexaflip was a bit more of an engrossing experience.
The aim of the game, which you’d never guess from the name is to … flip a hexagon. Yes, that’s right, you tap on the left hand side of the screen to flip your hexagonal avatar to the left and tap the right to flip to the right. To complete the level you just need to get to the end without dying. Along the way you will come across various obstacles like gaps to fall down, spikes, hammers, lasers and various other nefarious inanimate objects. Breaking up all the danger there are also various blocks that flip you in the direction they indicate, or moving hexagons that transport you around the map.
There are no time limits in each level, so if you wanted to you could crawl your way to the end of each level, as slowly as you like, just to get it done. In order to encourage some speed, and in turn more danger there are 3 gems in each level, with countdown timers that start as you start the level. Once the timer runs down the gems disappear. You’re encouraged to get to the gems as quickly as possible to collect them before they’re lost. If you collect enough over various levels you’ll unlock some skins for your avatar. Seeing as your avatar is just a hexagon, the skins are fairly uninspiring, so it’s not really going to be worth your time to push yourself too hard here. Unless you really like to put different colours on a hexagon … there’s always someone I guess.
On the face of it, Hexaflip is a pretty dull game. The setting is just a bunch of hexagons laying out on a map. It reminds me of Blockbusters which, for those of a certain age, isn’t a good thing. For a reason I cannot explain, however, and despite all of this, it’s actually a really fun, and addictive game. It’s very much a ’just one more go!’ type of game so I can actually see why it’s being recommended by so many people.
The game’s simple, yet good looking1 and fairly addictive. If you’re after something to pick up for quick sessions while you’re trying to pass your time in a queue, or waiting for your Costa coffee order, you can do a lot worse than firing up Hexaflip. Happy flipping!
Well, as good looking as a game like this can look. I’m not sure it’s ‘console quality’ like the App Store listing says, however.
This weeks episode is all about goodies and games. I talk briefly about my initial thoughts after a couple of days with an iPhone 11 Pro Max and Series 5 Apple Watch, then move onto talking about Arcade. Yes, I know, I’ve not spoken about that too much this week have I?
Give it a listen, if you can, because I have a question for you all in there also.
It was, and is, my intention to keep these micro reviews true to their name. To keep them short and sweet, and to simply act as a quick guide to whether or not a particular title is worth your time amongst the fairly crowded Apple Arcade line-up.
A review for the game I want to look at today, Oceanhorn 2, should really just read: ’This game is fantastic and you’d be mad to not play it’, but I guess I should perhaps expand, just a little …
Oceanhorn 2, by Cornfox & Brothers Ltd. is the sequel to one of the best iOS games there has ever been, namely 2013’s Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas. The original game took heavy inspiration from early The Legend of Zelda games, and this sequel has gone full on Breath of the Wild.
If I didn’t know better, Oceanhorn 2 could come across as a complete rip-off of Breath of the Wild, much like some of the older Gameloft classics, but while Oceanhorn 2 does, indeed, borrow very heavily from Breath of the Wild, it’s also extremely put together and designed in its own right.
Much like the Zelda franchise, Oceanhorn 2 plays fast and loose with timelines, and is actually set 1,000 years before the original game. If you’ve played Breath of the Wild, or any Zelda game really, you’ll be instantly familiar with the game-style as soon as you fire it up and you’ll certainly notice the borrowed aspects, from a Link like roll, climb, fighting style, treasure chest opening style, jumping grunt noise, stamina reducing climbing … I really could be here all day with this …
Like I said, however, Oceanhorn 2 isn’t just some Zelda rip-off, it really does stand on it’s own as one of the best games I’ve ever played on an iPad. The graphics, music and general aesthetic are gorgeous, the world is immersive and I can’t wait to get through the entire (15 hour approx.) journey.
Another unique part of Oceanhorn, further setting it apart from The Legend of Zelda franchise, is the team you can form quite early on into the game. You can join forces with Trin and Gen, a pretty cool looking robot, who fight along side you. You can even issue commands to them to help you out with various puzzles which is a really nice touch. The light steam-punk aesthetic of the world is really quite cool as well, from the hero’s unique looking gun, to the robots and, from what I’ve seen in the trailer, motorbike like devices and airplanes.
One of the problems with attempting this, frankly stupid, daily Apple Arcade review challenge I’ve set myself, is that my limited free time is being spread very thinly. Because of this, I’ve not been able to dig through as much of the game as I would have liked, and I’m now going to have to move onto the next game to try out before I can come back to more, but I will certainly be back to it as often as I can until I’ve completed it. The other games I’ve reviewed so far are nice to dip in and out of, but Oceanhorn 2 is definitely one to settle down with a nice cup of tea, dim the lights, fire up the Xbox controller and get adventuring.
If you have an Apple Arcade subscription you owe it to yourself to jump into Oceanhorn 2 with both feet and soak it all in.