‘Forza Street’ is a new spinoff for iOS and Android, from a series known for immersive driving, detailed car simulating, and excellent world design. Forza Street is completely ridiculous because it super simplifies all of that and loads it onto an on-rails racing game for mobile devices. Then you add in extortionate lootbox style slot machine mechanics and there is definitely potential to Forza Street. Unfortunately, that potential seems more aimed in the direction to harm its players than give them a quality experience.
I’ve loved covering Apple Arcade games since the beginning of 2020 when I first reviewed Lego Builder’s Journey. I’m quite proud of the reviews and editorials I’ve been doing this year, and I’m proud of the work Apple Arcade has been doing with their platform – but I think we both have room for improvement. I’ve already talked about how developers and Apple need to be working together more on hyping up their games to the press and the public, so now I would like to talk specifically about game library functionality.
Monomals on Apple Arcade is the sort of game that is so filled with uncommon levels of eclectic fun that I am surprised it hasn’t earned more recognition for the excellence that its developer, Picomy, has created. Monomals plays it cool as we first delve into its world, introducing players to chill platforming with a mostly forgiving extra life system with some happy-go-lucky music playing in the background. This part of the game can be very fun; as we dodge enemies and hazards, we collect coins in our hunt towards each level’s boss. We play as a sentient fishing hook on the hunt for elusive Monomals – music-making fish.
Crossy Road Castle, or Crossy Castle as it sometimes calls itself, is a new release on Apple Arcade as of late February 2020. Created by the developers of the extremely popular and particularly addicting mobile game Crossy Road, I shouldn’t be so very surprised by Crossy Castle’s high quality.
Rayman is a long-time running series that has earned its street cred over the years. I only started playing them as recently as Rayman Legends on Xbox One, but something about the games really caught my attention. Rayman Mini on Apple Arcade made me hopeful that it would be another whimsical adventure full of fun moments. Unfortunately, I was not prepared for Rayman Mini to disappoint and frustrate me as much as it did through its artificial feeling barriers and cheap feeling controls.
Butter Royale, freshly posted to Apple Arcade as of January 24th, is a heck of a surprising game. Perceptive purveyors of the Apple Arcade platform may have noticed a significant battle-royale sized hole in the platform before Butter Royale’s release. Developer Mighty Bear Games has done an excellent job with the game, creating a completely safe environment for younger audiences to enjoy the genre inspiring so many Fortnite-alikes. Butter Royale is certainly a promising new entry to the Apple Arcade platform!
Released on Apple Arcade on January 17th, Kings of the Castle is a solid and enjoyable first-person parkour game. The pitch for Kings of the Castle is straightforward – it’s a multiplayer parkour racing game, like if Mirrors Edge met Mario Kart. Or more accurately, since this is Apple Arcade territory, imagine the ramping speed of Hot Lava with the competitive racing of Sonic Racer. Continue reading →
I recently subscribed to Apple Arcade and have been loving playing through their huge library of indie games. There are a ton of great titles on their platform, but it can be a little frustrating to pitch it to friends. Their argument has been that they could only find a game or two on the library, and then unsubscribed out of boredom.
But here’s the thing – there are over a hundred games on there, almost all of them from established indie game creators with relatively solid reviews. Logically there are more than a couple enjoyable games to spend time with on Apple Arcade, so why aren’t people finding them? I believe this comes down to Apple not promoting their games enough.
To be fair to the tech giant, so many games on the App Store are either sponsored and promoted as advertisements for hugely profitable mobile games, or they have been indie games reliant on word of mouth to really take off. Apple Arcade of course, is in the middle – sure Apple is behind it all, but I feel like the indie developers have been put in charge of their own self-promotion. And honestly, not all indies do exceedingly well at marketing.
An example for my theory comes from my time writing about Dear Reader, one of my favorite games I’ve played through the service so far. The App Store entry for the game was well written and had screenshots and all that potential players need to decide if the game’s worth trying, but outside the App Store the game’s marketing was entirely on the developer’s website. I had to find images for my article on the developer’s presskit page that they had created using a popular website addon.
The fact the developers apparently had to find and create their own tools for marketing tells me that maybe Apple isn’t all that involved. And I just want to know, why the heck not?
I think there are a few things Apple needs to do to help its new Arcade platform flourish. The biggest thing is they need to look outside their own bubble to other successful platforms. We need something like Steam’s Discovery Queue, a tool that shows people games they probably haven’t played yet. Just as important is the need to show players what is coming to the platform.
As of writing this, a game or two is released a week on Apple Arcade, with no real schedule or promotion beforehand. The game LEGO Builder’s Journey released the week before Christmas, and almost no one I talked to had even noticed its existence. This is insanity; it’s a LEGO game, a franchise that myself and many others adore, being minimally marketed and only highlighted as a spot in the new releases section of the store. Apple one hundred percent needs to be telling us about what to expect, what to be excited for, and most importantly, why we should remain subscribed.
I really am admiring the effort Apple has made to support indie games with Apple Arcade. So please, Apple, don’t mess it up.
Lego games are known for being quick to jump into with lots of replayability and a wide range of characters. Lego Builder’s Journey does none of this – offering an emotional journey of puzzle solving and tight visuals to contrast the typical Lego game style. The game is simple – each level presents itself as a diorama, and we must place Lego bricks in the correct place in the right order. Sometimes this means building something cool; in one level we are in the basement of a house and must disassemble furniture and electronics to create a little robot friend. More often though, players are tasked with constructing bridges or walkways for characters to move forwards.
Controlling the game can become frustrating, especially with any of the levels that required precise timing. To move and place blocks, we tap the object, then drag it, then hold a decently long press over the spot we want it to go. I feel like this system needs refinement. If the hold was slightly less long, and dropped bricks would pick up quicker and smoother, the game would vastly improve.
Another complaint I have, while admittedly mild, is I wish the main menu system worked better. As of writing, the level select screen is painfully devoid of information. We see a picture of each level and can scroll through all the completed ones, but there is no way to know anything about the level. Something as simple as a number to match each level would make things so less frustrating when trying to compare levels and the game’s overall length.
Lego Builder’s Journey does an admirable job flipping the Lego franchise on its head to give us a minimalist but satisfying puzzle game. While I doubt that I would ever play through this again after finishing it, I did enjoy the music enough that I could see myself playing the soundtrack some time. I am certainly recommending this one, especially with the hope that the touch controls will be improved sometime soon.
Lego Builder’s Journey is available on Apple Arcade for iOS.
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