Apple Arcade Roulette #2

By Dick Page 22 Oct 2019 0

Round and round the roulette spins. Here are five more random choices from Apple Arcade's selection. Will we strike gold this time? Or just strike out? If you missed our first batch, as reminder: Apple Arcade is out, and with it over a 100 new games for you to try and explore at your leisure. There's almost too many for us to consider individual reviews, although we know other outlets have gone down that route.

If you want to cut to the chase, read our list of our favourite Apple Arcade games so far.

So, we're running a new feature where we take a randomly selected batch of five games across a spread of genres, and run through some quick reviews so that you can get an idea of what's worth your time, and what isn't. 

Hot Lava (Platformer) (2-Stars)

Normally I love everything Klei comes up with but this was a disappointment. Hot Lava has a pretty obvious premise: remember playing that 'the floor was lava' game when you were a kid? And it has a great theme: you’re pretending to be a character from a sweet 90s Saturday morning cartoon, with all the kitsch and bombast that comes with that genre. But the gameplay itself is just preset obstacle races with instant death when you fall into the lava.

What’s more, this precision 3D platformer does not work with mobile controls. One control option has you using the gyro in the phone to control your view, which is precise, but awkward if you're in a space where you can't move around. The other option is touch only, but doesn't give you easy access to all of your abilities. If you have a controller, give it a try, but it’s not worth the hard drive space otherwise.

Where Cards Fall (Puzzle) (2-Stars)

I guess ‘moody navigation puzzler’ is now a well-established thing, and Where Cards Fall is the latest entry in it. There have been some standouts in this genre, Monument Valley being the most obvious one, that built their deliberate pace around smart and mind-bending puzzle design. However, in this case, Where Cards Fall's slow pace, requisite for ‘atmospheric’ titles, meant that in my brief time with it I barely scratched the surface of the puzzles.

You walk a character through various isometric playing fields, dragging around packs of cards. The cards essentially are platforms that can be collapsed and moved to create paths that the hero can jump through. Lead him to the magic card portal exit and you get to watch an inscrutable vignette. In the time I spent with this game, the hardest part was the fiddly controls—it took a while to figure out that with some care I could control the size of the platforms created by pinching my fingers ever so slowly. The puzzles themselves weren't challenging at all.

Mutazione (Adventure) (4-Stars)

This adventure game’s story is told with a light touch but it’s instantly compelling. Your character, Kai, has immediate motivation, as she attempts to fulfill her grandfather’s dying wish and understand what he had devoted his life to. The setting, too, is immediately intriguing: Mutazione is an island of mutated people and plants, whose characters are quickly and efficiently drawn.

The game starts feeling like a traditional adventure game, but its conversation trees are mostly for flavor (like obvious influence Kentucky Route Zero) and its puzzles all revolve around amateur botany. It’s occasionally awkward to control, especially the lengthy plant encyclopedia that is inexplicably indexless. But for players looking for a unique interactive story, Mutazione should be your first stop on Arcade.

King’s League 2 (Strategy/Management) (3-Stars)

A sport’s management game without sports, King's League puts you in charge of a team of fantasy fighters as they battle their way up the titular league. The story mode is entertaining with well-written (albeit broad) characters and it does a good job introducing the concepts of the game. If you don't want to bother clicking through dialogues, you can also just jump in to creating your own custom team.

You recruit team members from town, choose training styles to mould them, and buy new gear. When you get into a match, most of the battle is handled for you, as your units march forward and bounce off one another. All you do is occasionally activate a special ability, when you have the chance. Because the matches are so simple, the team management is necessarily also simple. King's League definitely has more of a 'mobile game' feel with its simplified gameplay. If that's what you're looking for, though, it might be a good fit.

Shinsekai: Into the Depths (Platformer) (3-Stars)

Capcom takes a break from arcade ports to bring us this Metroidvania set at the bottom of the ocean. This is one of the best-looking games on Arcade and probably they best sounding. Headphones are a must if you want to get the full underwater experience. The game itself is a slow paced platformer with forgiving controls that work pretty well on a touch screen, with a swipe-anywhere stick and tap and drag controls for actions.

In the time I had with it, I saw a lot of potential, but not too much interesting or challenging happening in the first hour or so. The slow pace is also a blessing and a curse: easy to handle with touch controls, but often dragging out basic movement in ways that kill the pace of the game. Your goals are also not entirely clear, which can be a motivation-killer in a wide-open game like this.

Still nothing too amazing this time around. I'm standing by my assessment that Arcade will probably be packed with a lot of good-but-not-great titles that are polished but not innovative. Let's try again next time--hopefully the wheel will land on one of the new games Apple just added!

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