As apps updated for iOS 11 begin to trickle out onto the App Store, it’s fitting that the first of what will be many reviews on MacStories in the coming days features ARKit, which from all indications is a big hit with developers. Even more fitting though, is that the app reviewed is PCalc by James Thomson. PCalc is an excellent calculator app that was one of Federico’s ‘Must Have’ apps of 2016. It’s available on iOS devices, the Apple Watch, and even the Apple TV. Still, you wouldn’t expect it to incorporate 3D animation or augmented reality, but that is exactly what the latest version of PCalc has tucked away in its settings.
As the summer draws to a close, take one last dip into the pool with Swim Out, a stylish and challenging puzzle game from Lozange Lab that’s available on the iPhone, iPad, and Apple TV.
Swim Out is a turn-based puzzle game that requires you to make your way across a swimming pool to a ladder that takes you to the next puzzle. The playing area is a traditional grid viewed from a top-down perspective, dressed up like a swimming pool, which is a clever touch that gives Swim Out a unique personality. The other design choice I noticed immediately and like a lot is the sounds of people at the pool and the water. The artwork is also excellent with summery blues and reds dominating the puzzles.
The game starts off simply to ease you into the mechanics. Your goal is to maneuver your blue swimmer to the exit ladder without colliding with the red swimmers and other obstacles. As you progress, the obstacles become more complex. Multiple swimmers, people sitting at the edge of the pool, and other hazards appear and get in your way. Run into an obstacle, and you have to start the puzzle over.
As you progress through Swim Out’s 100 levels, objects that help you along the way also appear. For instance, if you grab a beach ball, you can throw it at a red swimmer and freeze them in place for a certain number of turns to allow you to pass by.
Swim Out is a perfect summertime game. It’s easy to learn, you can play for short periods of time, and it’s relaxing to play, while also being challenging. The game does a fantastic job of staying engaging throughout by throwing lots of different obstacles and tools at you, which makes Swim Out an excellent companion for your last few trips to the local pool or beach.
Swim Out is available on the App Store.
Lately, I’ve been on a puzzle kick, and I recently found my next game to play too much: Taps.
In Taps you’re tasked with transforming a grid of 0s into 1s, 2s, 3s, and so on. Of course, you’ll do so through taps, changing tiles in your 6x6 grid to match the one placed above you. Every tile you tap increases its value by one while also increasing the number of the tiles adjacent to it – if you tap a tile in the bottom right corner, it’ll change from 0 to 1, as will the ones above and to the left of it. Below is a demonstration of what this looks like in practice:
Early in the game, you’ll be matching 0s and 1s, but Taps gets tougher as you work your way through its 200 levels. I’ve found that the longer I play, the more time I’ve needed to build out a meaningful strategy before I start attacking my board; too often during the levels, I’ve had to walk back almost all my decisions to make sure I get a 2 in the right place.
Taps is reminiscent of a modern-day Minesweeper, and it’s just as addicting – watching the top board change color as you match its patterns is so satisfying, and the gameplay makes it easy to work through a couple of levels in no time. With standard, advanced, and custom levels to explore, Taps won’t feel completed for many, many hours. And with a timer tracking how long it takes you to complete levels, you can always race yourself to find a faster solution.
Taps came out just a month ago, but I’m surprised it slipped by me for this long. I’ve had a lot of fun playing it in the couple days I’ve had it on both iPad and iPhone, and I’m looking forward to investing more hours over the long weekend.
You can pick up Taps in the App Store for iPad and iPhone for $1.99.
The last update to Ramp Champ added retina graphics – for the iPhone 4. The beloved iOS arcade game sat untouched for nearly four years, until now. An update released yesterday by SocketFace Games adds 64-bit support, ensuring iOS 11 compatibility, along with several other changes including:
- Additional retina graphics
- Updated physics
- Updated sounds and music
- iCloud syncing
- Game Center leaderboards and achievements
- Force Touch icon support
Some classic games will inevitably be lost as a result of the transition to 64-bit apps, but it’s heartening to see some of the very best classics updated in recent weeks.
The update to Ramp Champ is available on the App Store.
Today, Ridiculous Fishing, the classic 8-bit style fishing game from Vlambeer was updated with support for 64-bit chip architectures ensuring that its fans will still be able to play the game when they update to iOS 11. Apps that only support 32-bit chip architectures will be left behind by iOS 11 rendering them unusable on devices running Apple’s latest OS. The switch was first telegraphed by Apple in 2014, so developers have had three years to prepare, but the transition will nonetheless leave some apps behind, many of them games. According to Fast Company, AppFigures estimates that as many as 470,000 apps may no longer work on iOS 11.
At the same time, however, a recent flurry of updates means that some iOS classics will survive, including Ridiculous Fishing. Released in 2010 as a collaboration among Vlambeer, Zach Gage, and Greg Wohlwend, Ridiculous Fishing follows Billy as he fishes with items like guns, chainsaws, and toasters. The game won an Apple Design Award in 2013 and still has a loyal following. In addition to adding 64-bit support, the update adds haptic feedback and two speedrun leaderboards.
Although there will undoubtedly be some apps and games that fall by the wayside in the 64-bit transition, my hope is that early iOS classics like Ridiculous Fishing, Canabalt, and Bumpy Road, which have all received recent 64-bit updates, are discovered by a new generation of iOS users.
When platformers make their way to the App Store, they have a big question to answer: how will the user control the character? Some titles, like Nintendo’s Super Mario Run, offer tap-and-hold controls that assign a single task to the user; others, including the popular port Downwell, elect for software buttons simulating a console-type experience. The vast majority of platformers fall into one of these two categories, either limiting the control of the user or giving up simplicity in favor of pressing the screen in just the right place.
Run Jump Die is the best of both worlds, featuring one-touch controls that are intuitive and smart. It’s a platformer in the vein of retro classics, but with mobile and modern updates that make it feel like it belongs in 2017. The overall game, anchored by the unique control scheme, is a joy to play, showcasing just the right combination of challenge, exploration, and satisfaction.
Square Enix has announced that its role-playing epic, Final Fantasy XV, is coming to iOS this fall. Since the original game was created for powerful consoles like PS4 and Xbox One, it’s requiring a major overhaul in its journey to mobile devices. The mobile game is being branded ‘Pocket Edition’ and brings several significant deviations from the original:
- The graphics and design have been redone to give the game a more playful, cartoony feel.
- While the story for the game is taken from its console counterpart, it will include some gameplay changes.
- The game will be split into ten episodes, all of which will launch at the same time, with the first episode available for free.
While it’s common practice to create mobile spinoffs of popular console games, Final Fantasy XV: Pocket Edition appears unique in that it’s taking a sort of hybrid approach: major pieces of the original game, such as the story, are being directly ported over, while other aspects are changing. We’ll find out this fall how well this approach pays off.
Pigeon Wings is a hyper-fast, racing game with shoot ‘em up elements and a lot of personality. You play as Pigeon, a pigeon-pilot tasked with saving Megalopolis from the evil Duke Dexter. The backstory immediately sets a light-hearted, humorous tone for the game that doesn’t get bogged down in long cut scenes explaining what’s happening. What sets Pigeon Wings apart though, is its tilt control steering system. The controls work flawlessly becoming second nature so quickly that they fade into the background making it easy to get lost in the game’s short races.
You might be tempted to feel confident after the first few levels of Neo Angle, the follow-up game from Blyss developer Dropout Games. After all, you just have to move your triangle to a certain spot on the grid, occasionally picking up small fuel cells along the way. Early on, the most challenging part may be refraining from bobbing your head to the music.