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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:

Why your free-to-play racer sucks

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 25th, 2019

It’s been this way for a while now, but playing Hot Wheels Infinite Loop really highlights a big issue with free-to-play mobile racing games: They suck. It doesn’t matter if you’re trying going for realism, cart racing, or arcade nonsense, they’re all bad, and mostly in the same way.


Rush Rally 3's new live events are great

Posted by Campbell Bird on September 10th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarstar :: RACE HOW YOU WANT :: Read Review »

Last week, Rush Rally 3 got updated with live events, and it’s one of the best things to happen to racing games on mobile. Prior to this update, the game already had multiplayer, but live events are more convenient in the sense that it’s somewhat asynchronous.

Instead of having to wait to match with other players in a lobby in order to play with them, live events allow the entire Rush Rally 3 community compete for the best time across six courses. This operates almost exactly like the game’s Career Mode, except you’re competing against human players and the events last a few days.

It’s a really genius move, as it makes sure you’ll basically never run out of Rush Rally 3 to play. There will always be a new event and new times to beat. If you aren’t quite up to snuff on your rally racing skills, you can also choose to frame your times in competition with your facebook friends instead of the global player charts.

In order to access live events, though, it will cost you a little money ($1.99). This seems more than reasonable though, as it adds a tremendous amount of replayability, and the good kind, too. As opposed to free-to-play racers that want you to grind or pay to become competitive, I found Rush Rally 3’s live events something I could immediately hop into and post respectable times, and I look forward to doing so again for the next event.

Come join me! Download Rush Rally 3 and add me as a friend (namestolen) so we can enjoy a great, premium racing experience together.

I can't believe Sky came out after Journey

Posted by Campbell Bird on August 13th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad
Our rating: starstarstarstarhalfstar :: STILL STUNNING :: Read Review »

I play games almost exclusively on mobile, and I’ve been doing so since around the time I started writing for 148Apps. This is why I’m late to the party on Journey. It wasn’t until last week that the game was playable on mobile, and it wasn’t until last night that I played through Journey for the first time now, and I found it just as captivating and impactful as folks did almost a decade ago.

While playing the game though, I couldn’t help but notice how similar Journey was to another game I played recently. Earlier this summer, Thatgamecompany put out a mobile exclusive title, Sky: Children of Light, and it’s almost eerie how similar the games are to each other.

Do Not Feed The Monkeys is one of the most unsettling games I've ever played

Posted by Campbell Bird on July 30th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

I’ve done a lot of messed up stuff in video games. I’ve beat people to death, slaghtered innocent animals, and even committed genocide. In doing all of that though, I’m not sure I’ve felt as uncomfortable as I have while playing Do Not Feed The Monkeys.

A self-described “digital voyeurism simulator,” Do Not Feed The Monkeys is a kind of management sim where you shovel money into a dark web enterprise that hacks into cameras or (referred to as “cages”) that you then have to watch. As you look upon these scenes, you then take notes and try to piece together what you’re looking at. All the while, you have to manage your health and hunger in real time, as well as earn enough money to afford to eat, pay your rent, and buy new “cages.”

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.

Flappy Royale is an incredibly clever take on the Battle Royale genre

Posted by Campbell Bird on July 1st, 2019

I spent the better part of my weekend playing Flappy Royale. I didn’t necessarily want to. I just felt like I had to. It’s a hypnotic experience that’s way too easy to just keep playing.

Flappy Royale is the brainchild of Orta Therox, Em Lazer-Walker, and Zach Gage. It's a very simple idea: Take the the rules of Battle Royale games (e.g. PUBG, Fortnite, Apex Legends) and apply them to Flappy Bird. 100 players play as birds that jump out of a bus. From there, they must fly between as many pipes as possible until one player is deemed the champion.

The game controls pretty much exactly like Flappy Bird did back in 2013. The only real differences are the hopping out of the bus (presumably inspired by the Fortnite Battle Bus) and 99 ghost birds flapping on screen with you, all competing for the number one spot.

This latter element—the ability to see other players play while you do—is the secret sauce that makes Flappy Royale such a tantalizing challenge. You can always see your competition flapping alongside you, and you want beat all of them. If you can’t do that, maybe you settle for getting a top 50 finish before diving in again to see if you can do better.

Although it’s not officially released, anyone can go and download the beta release of the game here. In this early state though, the game is already quite popular. Here are some stats Orta Therox shared about the game over the weekend:





2 million games of Flappy Royale is really impressive, especially considering it populates each of those games with 100 players. Where it starts feeling downright magical is when you consider that all of these matches start pretty much instantly.

The way Flappy Royale eliminates any sort of queue times for matches is ingenious, and probably another big reason for the game’s stickiness. Instead of filling matches with bots or waiting for 100 live players to play a level at once, the game pits you against the ghost data of the last 99 players who played the level before you. In other words, you’re always playing against other people, but you don’t have to wait for them to log in for you to do so.

Right now, Flappy Royale really feels like it has huge potential. It successfully distills the most thrilling aspects of Battle Royale into a really tight mobile package. A lot of this has to do with how quick and easy it is to play ten rounds without blinking, so here’s to hoping the game doesn’t get too bloated with extra features or monetization schemes before it officially releases.

Auto Chess - What is it and which one should you play?

Posted by Campbell Bird on June 25th, 2019

There has been an auto chess explosion on the App Store. Within just a few weeks, three games in this new genre have popped up and are all competing for your attention.

If you’re not sure what auto chess is, welcome to the club. This new genre was born out of a mod for Dota 2, which is a game based on a mod for Warcraft 3. After taking off on PC and having over 300,000 concurrent players daily, it was only natural for it to make the jump to mobile in a big way.

This has a lot to do with the gameplay of auto chess games. If I had to describe it, I’d say auto chess is like a slowed down version of Clash Royale, but with an in-game store that gives you random units to buy instead of using a deck of your own creation. There’s a bit more to it than that, but it’s focus on management and paced-out auto combat makes it relatively well-suited for touchscreens.

I’m sure it’s a kind of game that isn’t for everyone, but if you want to try auto chess out, you want to make sure you’re doing it right. So with that, I decided to check out the current offerings of auto chess on mobile to let you know which one you should be playing:

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.

Steam Link App - Everything You Need to Know

Posted by Campbell Bird on May 16th, 2019
+ Universal App - Designed for iPhone and iPad

Steam Link has finally released for iOS! That’s right, you can play your epic backlog of PC games on the go now. Well… sort of.

While the Steam Link app was announced seemingly ages ago, it only got actual approval for release last night. Check out the video above to see what it looks like in action, and be sure to ignore my amateur Into the Breach skills. For some more detailed written impressions, see below:

Kingdom Rush Vengeance Update Guide 2 - What you need to know about The Frozen Nightmare

Posted by Campbell Bird on May 10th, 2019

Kingdom Rush: Vengeance just got updated once again to add more content to the game. This addition, called The Frozen Nightmare, adds three new levels, five new enemies, two new heroes, and some new achievements.

Overall, it’s not a huge amount of additional content, but it is free, so it’s hard to complain about. In case you’re thinking about whether it’s worth buying or re-downloading Kingdom Rush Vengeance to check out The Frozen Nightmare, here’s everything you need to know about it.

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 best mobile games to celebrate Star Wars Day

Posted by Campbell Bird on May 3rd, 2019

Star Wars Day is coming, and if you want to celebrate appropriately, don’t shout or tweet “May the fourth be with you.” Play some Star Wars games instead. Trust me, everyone will be better served this way.

If you prefer your Star Wars gaming on the go, unfortunately, the pool of “actually good” Star Wars games is pretty slim. But, with this list of the best Star Wars games on the App Store, you can’t go wrong. Check out our picks below:

The best superhero game on mobile

Posted by Campbell Bird on April 4th, 2019

I don't know if you know this, but superheroes are Kind of A Big Deal. Every other week it feels like a new Marvel movie is coming out and the hype train for each release is undeniable. Just look at how the upcoming Avengers: Endgame broke sales records and sales sites at the same time within hours of tickets going on sale earlier this week.

I’m not here to talk movies though. That’s not what this site is about. Alongside releases in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (or MCU, if you're so inclined) are a plethora of the media tie-ins, not the least of which are mobile games, and I’m writing this to tell you that yes, indeed, there’s a fantastic superhero game that trumps all others, and you should all be playing it if you want your superhero fix. The only thing is, it's probably not a game you'd suspect.

There may be some decent Marvel mobile games out there. Heck, some might even be considered “good.” That said, the absolute best superhero game on iOS actually has no affiliation with Marvel, DC, or any other actual comic book publisher. Do you know where I'm going with this?

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?