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Apple Arcade in review

Posted by Campbell Bird on October 18th, 2019

This weekend, Apple Arcade will officially be one month old. That means anyone who signed up for the free trial on day one has a decision to make: Stick with the service and shell out $5 a month, or cancel and go about your merry way.

As someone who dove head first into Apple Arcade by playing 35 games since launch (and counting. See their rankings here), I’ve come away ambivalent about the service in its first month. While it is really nice to have a huge, curated list of premium games from a lot of well-known developers, there’s a lot about the service that could be improved. To illustrate this, check out some of my notes I kept while thoroughly testing the service:

I am going to rank every game on Apple Arcade

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 23rd, 2019

Apple Arcade is here, and I’ve been thinking about how best to cover its debut. Writing reviews for each game seems unnecessary, and a lot of the takes on whether the service is worth the money seem a little premature. So, I got to thinking and came up with a really dumb idea: I am going to rank every game on Apple Arcade.

Why? I wouldn’t worry yourself about that too much. Just think of this as the definitive list of which games for the service are best and why.

Here’s how this will go: I’m going to work my way through every Apple Arcade game a handful of games at a time. I’ll analyze each one based on a set of loose criteria and then use that to decide where they fit among their peers. Each game will get a small blurb explaining what the game is, its rank, and additional info about rank changes as necessary.

By the end of this journey, every game on the service will have some handy info that you can use to do all kinds of things, like:


    1. Find the best games to play. And all without dealing with Arcade’s poor organization and layout.
    2. Learn whether the service is right for you. If the top games all seem lame, maybe don't pay for it.
    3. Know which games to avoid. Just because you can play something doesn’t mean you should. Avoid the stinkers.

So, there it is. I’ve said I’m going to do this, so I better go and start doing it. View the list here.

Lots of premium games are going free (sort of). Here's why

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 18th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

You may have seen over the past couple weeks a that a bunch of premium games have suddenly become free. This isn’t a mistake, nor is it some last hurrah before Apple Arcade hits, and it’s important to know that these games aren’t actually becoming free.

What’s happening here is there is a developer called Bending Spoons Apps that is buying up premium games to put them on a service called Playond. Playond seems to be a competitor to Apple Arcade in the sense that it’s taking premium titles, like Fowlst, Crashlands, and MUL.MASH.TAB.BA.GAL.GAL, and putting them behind a $9.99/month paywall. In the course of this transition, the games themselves get updated to be listed as free, but—just like Netflix—you need to log into a subscription account in order to actually play them.

Steam Link Spotlight - The Banner Saga 3

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 5th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Steam Link Spotlight is a new feature where we take a look at PC games that play exceptionally well using the Steam Link app. Our last entry talked about Terry Cavanaugh’s incredible Dicey Dungeons. Read about how it’s a great mobile experience over here.

Steam Link Spotlight - Dicey Dungeons

Posted by Campbell Bird on August 14th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Steam Link Spotlight is a new feature where we take a look at PC games that play exceptionally well with the Steam Link app. In case you missed it, our last entry focused on Faeria, a collectible card game that used to be available on the App Store, but now is PC only. Read more about why it's still a great mobile experience over here.

This week, I want to talk about a new game. A brand new game, in fact. Just yesterday, Terry Cavanagh—the mind behind Super Hexagon and VVVVVV—released Dicey Dungeons, an awesome roguelike, deck-building game that focuses on dice-based combat.

Steam Link Spotlight - Faeria

Posted by Campbell Bird on August 7th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

If you’ve been following 148Apps.com for a while, chances are you’ve seen me talk about Faeria. I reviewed it when it initially came out on iOS, and again when The Adventure Pouch: Oversky came out. I also put the game on my best games of 2017 list.

It may go without saying that I really, really like Faeria. Its mix of turn-based strategy and collectible card-battling is unique, and the game itself is gorgeous. Since its release, I don’t think I’ve played a card game that grabbed me in quite the same way.

Dr. Mario World is yet another disappointment from Nintendo

Posted by Campbell Bird on July 10th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

As soon as I booted up Dr. Mario World, I knew I wasn’t going to have fun with it. Nintendo’s record on phones thus far has been pretty spotty, with things trending downward as of late.

Lo and behold, a few hours later with the game and the only enjoyment I’ve gotten out of it is seeing Bowser in doctor cosplay. Otherwise, the game’s single-player offerings feel like Candy Crush Saga with less satisfying puzzle mechanics and the multiplayer is... a competitive version of that.

It feels like it shouldn’t be so hard to bring a quality version of Dr. Mario to mobile. It’s a falling block puzzler like Tetris or Lumines, and there are solid-to-great versions of those on the App Store already. Instead of just translating Dr. Mario’s mechanics to the small screen though, Dr. Mario World is a slower, clunkier, and less intuitive puzzler than its predecessor.

The Dalaran Heist - How Hearthstone's Latest Expansion Pulled Me Back In

Posted by Campbell Bird on May 20th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarstar :: PERFECTLY (WAR)CRAFTED :: Read Review »

I am someone who wrote Hearthstone off a while ago. It was hard not to try and stick with it. The game has incredible production values and a core of really great talent working on the game continuously to keep it feeling fresh and fun (full disclosure: I have a friend who actively works on Hearthstone). I can appreciate all of that from a distance, but when it came to actually playing the game, I would always bounce off of it.

It took me a while to realize, but the thing that always stuck in my craw about Hearthstone is how disingenuous it often feels. No matter how approachable it looks or fair toward free players it seems, the game is a hardcore collectible card game (CCG). The more that time went on, the easier it was for me to recognize this. From the separation of cards into the two buckets of Standard and Wild formats to single-player expansions like Rastakhan’s Rumble, the game was preoccupied with keeping multiplayer extremely competitive and single-player content extremely challenging. None of these updates spoke to me, a player that felt like occasionally dipping a toe into the game once every couple weeks.

To be fair, Blizzard has very few reasons to prioritize folks like me over their huge pool of dedicated players. I totally get that. But with each passing day, Hearthstone had started feeling less and less relevant to anyone who wasn’t already all the way bought in. That is, until now.

A weird, Flappy Bird spin-off might just be the best mobile fighting game out there

Posted by Campbell Bird on May 6th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Back in 2014—during the height of Flappy Bird ‘s popularity—I would not have believed anyone if they said that five years later there’d be a fighting game released based on it. Here we are now, though: It’s 2019, Flappy Fighter exists, and it also just so happens to be the most competent mobile fighter there is.

Last week, Flappy Fighter dropped on the App Store, and it’s been quickly gaining attention. This is for good reason. The game is an homage to Street Fighter that uses Flappy Bird for its character design, and—within seconds of booting it up—you can tell it’s made with a lot of love and attention to detail.

The Elder Scrolls: Blades gives off a terrible first impression

Posted by Campbell Bird on March 28th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Imagine this: You’re Bethesda Game Studios, one of the biggest names in video games today. You’re renowned for bringing whole worlds to life through entries in the Fallout and Elder Scrolls series, two of the most popular and beloved franchises ever made. Your track record is far from perfect, but that’s mostly because your output is known for being richly detailed and highly complex. People applaud even when you stumble, because the ambition of your projects is so staggering that no one else even dares imitate you.

Then, you decide you want to make a mobile game. What kind of game would it be? Given your huge audience, what statement would you want to make about the possibilities of gaming on the go, knowing that a ton of non-mobile-game-playing eyes will be watching your every move with rapt attention? Certainly not this, right?

Apple Arcade's future depends on how Apple answers a few key questions

Posted by Campbell Bird on March 26th, 2019

Apple made a lot of waves from its special event this week. The announcement of Apple Arcade in particular, a subscription service that will deliver access to over 100 premium games starting this fall, sounds like a potential new step forward for gaming on mobile.

As great as this might sound though, there are lots of things Apple didn’t talk about as it relates to this new service. A lot of what Apple said yesterday may sound exciting, but I have my doubts about the service given what wasn’t covered in their presentation. There’s just too many unknowns, and—given Apple’s track record on games—I’m not sure Apple Arcade will seem all that great when we get the answers.

See below for some of the biggest mysteries looming over the announcement and my thoughts on why their absence has me worried about this service.

What does Dragalia Lost tell us about the future of Nintendo's presence on mobile?

Posted by Harry Slater on February 27th, 2019

You could call Dragalia Lost Nintendo's outlier. It is, to all intents and purposes, a pretty expensive shot in the dark. It's got all of Nintendo's polish and shimmer, but unlike the other big N games we've seen coming to the App Store, this one isn't backed up with a massive license.

The game has already been successful in the territories it's been out in, raking in some massive numbers that Nintendo must be pretty pleased with. And that poses some pretty dramatic questions about the future of Nintendo's mobile business.

The bigger the company, the more it needs to fret about a game making bank - there are loads of people to pay, and material success is going to be way more important than critical praise. Nintendo has often managed to blend both of those things together, but the mobile gaming landscape is very different to the home console one, and Dragalia Lost could well be the a marker as to where Nintendo is going to be heading. In what way? Well, in quite a few.

The Friday Digest - What we loved this week and what we're looking forward to next week in mobile gaming

Posted by Harry Slater on August 24th, 2018

Hi there, and welcome to a new weekly feature here at 148Apps. It's called the Friday Digest, and it's going to keep you up to date will all the important comings and goings in the world of mobile gaming. We're not just looking to the past here, we're looking to the future as well.

We've rounded up the choicest morsels of mobile gaming news from the last seven days from our sister-site Pocket Gamer, picked the best new releases, and chosen the finest sampling of AppSpy's Youtube channel, then put it in one place. This place. The place you're looking at right now. If that wasn't enough, we've picked what we think are the best pieces of content we've posted on 148Apps this week, as well as selecting some of the awesome games we're excited about playing next week.

And we'll be doing the same thing next week, so make sure to keep coming back. Your mobile gaming knowledge is definitely going to be the envy of all of your friends if you do.

The 10 things that have defined the first 10 years of the App Store

Posted by Harry Slater on July 10th, 2018

Can you believe it? The App Store turns ten years old today. Ten years of amazing apps, games, and experiences. There's a collective tear in our eye here at 148Apps. Our little App Store, all grown up and getting ready to head out to big school next year.

So we thought it was high time to look back at the past decade and see how much has changed in the world of mobile gaming, and how far we've all come since the App Store's inception back in 2008. Lordy, that was a long time ago. If you've got your own suggestions about how the ravages of time have deformed us all, stick them in the comments at the bottom of the article.

Microsoft Unviels Windows Phone 8: Great Support For Games, But Not for Current Owners

Posted by Jeff Scott on June 20th, 2012
iPhone App - Designed for iPhone, compatible with iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarblankstar :: TEMPTINGLY FUN :: Read Review »

Earlier this week, Microsoft unveiled their new tablet platform, Surface. Today they revealed not only the next version of their mobile operating system, Windows Phone 8, but also how their whole Windows 8 ecosystem will play together.

Windows Phone 8 adds a lot of features that developers have been hoping for. These features should, in the end, mean better apps. Better multitasking, in-app purchase, and finally, native code apps. This last one is a big deal because it will allow game developers to quickly port games between Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8. It will also give the ability for developers to port iOS games to Windows Phone 8 much quicker.

For example, Fairway Solitaire from Big Fish Games was demoed on screen and according to Patrick Wylie from Big Fish, it took just two weeks to get the title from iOS to Windows Phone 8 for the demo.

In addition to native programming support, some third party game engines like Havoc will be coming to Windows Phone 8. Notably missing was an announcement of Unity support for Windows Phone 8. Unity has quickly become the number one game development engine and it's lack of support for Windows Phone 8 will be an issue.

Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 will share the same core for easier app migration. While it falls short of the hope of a single app that works across all screens, this does mean that developers can quickly port their apps between the different Windows 8 devices. All that will be needed is to take into account the differing input methods and screen sizes.

In the biggest disappointment of the day as revealed by The Verge was that current Windows Phone devices will not be supported in Windows Phone 8. Some current devices will get version 7.8 that will contain many of the user facing features. While on the surface this seems like a big deal, especially since iOS users are used to getting upgrades for 3 years or more, it's not really the same on Android for example. On Android less than 10% of users are given the option to upgrade to the latest OS. What on the surface seems like a PR headache for Microsoft, but it might not matter to end users -- unless they hear there is a new version of their phone that they can't have.

Nokia have been using the tagline 'Smartphone Beta Test is Over' -- well it seems that Windows Phone 7.5 users have been the real beta testers. Expect a backlash from current Nokia Windows Phone users who were sold by that Nokia rhetoric.

In the end, Windows Phone 8 is a huge new release and advances the platform by leaps and bounds. By far the biggest new features are the expanded support for games. Native code and Havoc support are huge as is support for in-app purchasing. These features should lead to greatly expanded game support. It's bad that Microsoft have done yet another 'do-over' by making Windows Phone 8 unavailable to all current users. But something that many users won't even notice. This might not be the release that makes Windows Phone 8 a real force in the mobile world, but it is a step in the right direction.

You may be wondering why we are reporting this on an what is purportedly an iOS site. As the mobile world adapts and matures, we think it's important to keep abreast of the major changes. We will continue to report on those changes from an informed iOS perspective.