Apple Arcade Daily #9 - Word Laces

Whilst surving bullet storms or going on an adventure across the world can be great fun, you sometimes need to step back a bit in life and time the pace down a bit.

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.

  1. Spoiler: it turns out it wasn’t the shortest. I wrote this line first, and then realised I waffled no longer than expected. 
  2. From a beach scene, to a man up a ladder looking at clouds, to a duck in a suit. 

Apple Arcade Daily #8 - Exit The Gungeon

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.

Apple Arcade Daily #7 - Hexaflip

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!

  1. 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. 

Apple Arcade Daily #6 - Oceanhorn 2

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.

Apple Arcade Daily #5 - Super Impossible Road

Merriam Webster defines the world ‘impossible’ as something which is:

Incapable of being or of occurring

With that in mind, the next game I’ve chosen to look at in my daily Apple Arcade daily reviews, could be written up under the Trades Description Act. Not only was the first game not actually impossible, neither is this reimagining of an App Store classic, Super Impossible Road. While it may not really be impossible, it is a bit bloody hard …

Super Impossible Road has been created by Rogue Games Inc. If you check their page on the App Store, you’ll see that Rogue Games are a very prolific developer. They’ve been a staple in the store for some time, so it’s perhaps suitable that they’re part of the initial launch group for Apple Arcade with Super Impossible Road.

While the game does have a loose story1,it really is irrelevant. All you need to know is that Super Impossible Road sees you speeding down a twisting and coiling track set against some very nice looking intergalactic backgrounds. There are, currently, five different game modes to play through, which are:

  • Career – This mode tasks you with taking part in a plethora of different races, involving simply finishing in the best time, crossing X amount of gates etc.
  • Race – This mode includes only offline races against AI opponents.
  • Online Race – This is, you guessed it, races but … online!
  • Time Gate – this is, essentially, a time challenge. You must cross each gate before the time runs out. Each gate will grant a few extra, precious nano-seconds.
  • Classic Mode – This seems to be a survival mode, where you simply have to survive as long as possible.

Super Impossible Road is fairly unique in that the game appears to be equally as playable with touch controls as it is with MFi / Xbox / PS4 game controller support. Xbox controller support is very important to me with this Apple Arcade lineup, so that’s a bit +1 from me.

In each review, so far, I’ve mentioned how impressed I’ve been with the Apple Arcade line up. Super Impossible Road is my first disappointment. The only reason it’s a disappointment, however, is the strength of the competition. Taken in isolation Super Impossible Road is great fun to play, runs well, looks even better and once again the lack of IAPs helps to elevate a title that would definitely have been riddled with them in the past. For me, however, the game is a little too retro and, if I’m being completely honest, boring.

Standards have been set so high, right now, and options are so vast, the Apple Arcade games are going to need to be something special to keep me playing. In a normal world Super Impossible World would be a strong entry into the App Store. As it stands, it’s fairly mediocre. All that being said, it’s presence in the Apple Arcade lineup is welcome and while it’s not a game I will dedicate time to right now, while there are so many to work my way through, I’m sure I’ll spend some time with it in the future.

  1. Something, something future, something, something racing … 
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