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Posts tagged with "Arcade Highlights"

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.”

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Arcade Highlights: Roundguard

Roundguard by Wonderbelly Games is a delightful mashup of genres that I highly recommend. Like a lot of our readers, I’ve been looking for distractions. It’s easy to get sucked into the constant barrage of bad news delivered to our devices, which feeds an unhealthy stress loop. One effective way I’ve broken that cycle is with video games, and the more absorbing and lighthearted, the better.

Roundguard fits the bill perfectly. The game has been universally described as a combination of Peggle and a dungeon-crawler RPG. That’s a strange mix to be sure, but it’s absolutely true, and it works.

The mechanics of Roundguard are simple. You shoot your character out of a medieval-style cannon from the top of the screen at pots, potions, mana, enemies, and other items. When you collide with something, you bounce off pinball-style until eventually you reach the bottom of the screen, which ends your turn. The game requires skill and planning, but also a heavy dose of good luck as your character careens off items in unexpected ways.

Colliding with enemies, including goblins, spiders, and skeletons, causes both of you to take damage. At times, enemies can also poison you or will shoot arrows at you as you bounce around, adding elements of strategy and timing to the mix. Along the way there will be XP to earn, items to collect, abilities to acquire, and difficult boss levels like any good dungeon crawler. Of course, when your health runs out and you die, you have to start from the beginning too.

There’s a lot of depth to Roundguard. Early on, it’s fun to play the game like you would Peggle or an idle tapper game. Along the way, though, Roundguard pulls you in deeper with helpful tips without being overbearing. Before long, I found myself managing my inventory of items and planning my approach to levels in a way that was reminiscent of classic RPGs. It’s a gradual, evolutionary process that keeps the game interesting and engaging.

Source: wonderbellygames.com.

Source: wonderbellygames.com.

I’ve been playing Roundguard on a variety of devices, including my iPhone 11 Pro Max, iPad mini, iPad Pro, and even the Apple TV, and it’s hard to say which I like best. The game features excellent controller support, which I’ve been using with my iPad Pro and Apple TV. Bigger screens add dimension to the fun artwork and sound effects of the game, which gives them the edge over my iPhone. Even so, Roundguard is a truly mobile game at heart, which makes it fun to play in short bursts on the iPhone, where the rich colors really stand out too. As a result, I expect to continue to play across all of my devices, which is seamless because my progress is synced between them.

Facing a Roundguard boss.

Facing a Roundguard boss.

Stepping back, Apple Arcade feels like it is starting to really come into its own with games like Roundguard. The service started out with an extensive catalog of excellent games, but many felt like they were modified free-to-play games or were adaptations of games previously released on other platforms.

In contrast, Roundguard was released on Arcade, Switch, Xbox One, and Steam simultaneously, and it shows. Instead of feeling like it’s been retrofitted for Apple’s platforms, Roundguard was clearly developed with touch in mind from the start. The pace of new releases on Arcade has slowed considerably since its launch, but if that means more games like Roundguard and the recently released Crossy Road Castle, that’s fine by me.

It’s always a good sign when I struggle to finish a game review because every time I launch it to test something, I get sidetracked and wind up playing longer than I intended. That has absolutely been the case with Roundguard. There’s a depth of gameplay, personality, and good humor here that has made it one of my favorite Arcade titles yet. If you subscribe to Apple Arcade, Roundguard is a fun distraction you don’t want to miss.


Arcade Highlights: Pilgrims

Apple Arcade launched with a flurry of fantastic games. Not long after the first wave of titles hit the service, Czech studio Amanita Design turned heads with the unexpected release of Pilgrims, a traditional adventure game that borrows interaction elements from card-based games. The studio’s quirky, signature art style and sound design come together in a short but delightful game that encourages exploration and experimentation.

Amanita has been making iOS games since the earliest days of the App Store. It’s probably best known for Machinarium, which was released in 2009, but it has released a string of artful games that are fan favorites, including CHUCHEL, Samorost 3, and Botanicula.

Pilgrims dropped on Apple Arcade in October and is available on iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and the Mac. I’ve played the game on all four platforms and found that it’s best experienced on the iPad, followed closely by the Mac.

The reasons Pilgrims succeeds so well on the iPad are threefold. First, the game is beautifully illustrated in a hand-drawn style that is reminiscent of a children’s storybook, which a big Retina iPad screen helps bring to life. Second, the iPad’s superior sound system makes it a great way to enjoy the game’s soundtrack, even without headphones. Finally, as I’ll explain in more detail below, Pilgrims relies on a card-based approach to gameplay that lends itself to touch, making direct interaction with the game’s cards and collectibles a natural fit.

The iPhone benefits from the same intimate interaction as the iPad, but the experience is diminished by the smaller screen and the iPhone’s inferior speakers when played without headphones. Pilgrims benefits from the even bigger screens of a Mac and TV, where I found that interacting with the game with a trackpad or mouse felt closer to the iPad’s touch experience than using the Apple TV’s Siri Remote or a game controller.

Pilgrims features a storybook-like feel, good humor, and a fun soundtrack.

Pilgrims features a storybook-like feel, good humor, and a fun soundtrack.

The premise of Pilgrims is simple: you start the game as a traveler who wakes up in his tent. You navigate around a map to various locations by tapping or clicking on them. Along the way, you collect items, interact with other characters, and solve puzzles. As you pass certain milestones, you’re joined by other pilgrims on your travels as you progress to the conclusion of the story.

The characters you befriend and the items you collect are represented by cards at the bottom of the screen. As you travel from point to point, your objectives will be clear: the thief wants potatoes, and the restaurant owner wants wine, for example. To obtain those items and unlock later stages of the game, you need to visit other locations on the map and through trial and error, collect items, trade for others, and interact with characters to advance the story.

Interactions in Pilgrims are primarily accomplished by dragging the cards of items you've collected and travelers you've befriended into each scene.

Interactions in Pilgrims are primarily accomplished by dragging the cards of items you’ve collected and travelers you’ve befriended into each scene.

Interactions are initiated by dragging cards into each scene and then watching how the story unfolds. The scenes are handled with an excellent sense of humor and whimsy that encourages you to experiment. In turn, that lends itself to a leisurely pace and provides a richer experience than doing the minimum necessary to reach the end of the game would suggest. It also makes Pilgrims a fun game to revisit because, although the environment may be familiar, testing different interactions with the characters you meet along the way makes repeat plays fun.

It’s the combination of storytelling and card-based play that makes Pilgrims such a perfect match with the iPad. Playing on a big Mac screen with a good set of speakers is a close second, but sitting back in a comfortable chair and exploring Pilgrims’ world from an iPad can’t be beaten. If you missed this release, which trailed the Apple Arcade launch by a few weeks, be sure to check it out now.

Pilgrims is available as part of Apple Arcade on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac.


Arcade Highlights: Grindstone

When it comes to mobile games, all a new title has to do to draw me in is show a Candy Crush-style grid of objects. There’s something about the simple mechanic of making connections on a grid that’s hard for me to resist. Most of the time, though, I find that while such games can easily grab my interest, many will quickly lose it when I actually start playing. It’s usually just standard match three games that keep my attention, so when I first tried out Grindstone, I didn’t think it would be for me.

Grindstone is an Apple Arcade title from Capy and the creative team behind the excellent Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. It features a familiar grid of objects – in this case monsters to defeat – but rather than rearranging matching monsters in a Candy Crush fashion, you’re tasked with tracing a line from one matching monster to another, determining the order in which you’ll slay them and potentially earn rewards. Monsters have to be adjacent to each other for you to string them together, so essentially you’re completing a connect the dots puzzle each turn with as many monsters destroyed as possible.

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Arcade Highlights: Card of Darkness

Do you like fantasy-themed games? How about Zach Gage’s work – Flipflop Solitaire, Really Bad Chess, Typeshift, SpellTower, etc.? Would a mobile game brought to life by the art of Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward be of interest to you? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then Card of Darkness should be one of the first games you download from Apple Arcade.

If you answered no to all three questions, you should probably play Card of Darkness anyways.

Card of Darkness is a roguelike game where each stage contains a grid of stacked cards, with each stack holding a random mix of monsters to defeat, weapons to equip, and potions and treasure to find. There are also magic spell scrolls that help you more easily navigate what can be a treacherous quest to get from the start of the grid to its end. You don’t have to clear every card stack to complete a level, but you do need to forge an open path to the finish line, and every stack you take even a single card from will need to be finished. As you clear each card stack, more stacks further into the grid will be revealed, slowly reducing the amount of cards that stand between you and the end of the grid.

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