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Arcade Highlights: Crossy Road Castle

Anti-gravity rainbows, cute animal characters, prize machines, co-operative play, and endless tower platforming: if this all sounds like the perfect diversion during a long stay indoors, you’re absolutely right.

Crossy Road Castle is a long-awaited sequel to the original Crossy Road and one of the newest Apple Arcade titles. But don’t let the word ‘sequel’ mislead you – Crossy Road Castle offers an entirely different gaming experience than its predecessor. Think less “crossing the road” and more “climbing an endless tower, one micro-level at a time.”

Gameplay feels much like a Super Mario Bros.-style platformer, but with characters like Unihorse and Mallard replacing the mustached plumbers. If you’re high on the Nintendo nostalgia, there are even stages with barrels to shoot out of, DKC-style.

Anyone who’s played a traditional platforming game on a touch device will likely be concerned about Crossy’s control scheme. Fear not – controls are a complete non-issue here. On iPhone, the on-screen controls are so simple that they work remarkably well: holding down your left thumb moves your character left and right, while tapping with your right thumb jumps. The game supports both portrait and landscape orientations on iPhone, so you can choose whichever is most comfortable for your hands.

If you’re still concerned about the controls, I have yet another reason not to worry: Bluetooth controllers are fully supported. I’ve used an Xbox Wireless Controller while playing on my iPad Pro, and it’s a fantastic experience; Apple TV and Mac are also good platforms for controller use.

Replenishing hearts (left) and winning hats from the prize machine (right).

Replenishing hearts (left) and winning hats from the prize machine (right).

Stages in Crossy’s endless tower start out obscenely easy, then slowly get harder the further you progress, throwing in fun new challenges. When your three hearts run out and you’re ready to begin a new climb, the castle will have mostly the same levels as before, but with a few substitutions and a randomized order, helping keep things fresh. Every 10 stages you have the chance to gain more hearts, and every 30 there’s a boss encounter. Or at least, that’s how things work in the Unihorse Castle, the only tower currently available to climb; new castles will be added in future updates. For now, the aim is to clear as many stages as possible, getting the highest score you can while earning coins that can be redeemed in a prize machine for new characters or hats to adorn existing ones.

A key detail worth mentioning is that up to four people can play Crossy Road Castle cooperatively, climbing a castle together. This works with players who are on the same Wi-Fi network using their own devices, or with multiple people using a single device via game controllers. I played a run with my wife, and it worked really well. It’s easier to go further in a game when you play cooperatively, because you won’t have to start over unless all players lose their hearts; also, when buying more hearts, each heart restores everyone’s health, not just a single player’s.

Crossy Road Castle isn’t a very complex game, but that doesn’t keep it from being fun. While I wish there were more castles available to climb from the start, I’m eager to continue working higher through the Unihorse Castle while waiting expectantly for that new tower to arrive. When you can’t leave your own home, there’s something uniquely appealing about exploring a castle that never ends.

Crossy Road Castle is available to Apple Arcade subscribers on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV.

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