Logitech PowerShell MFi Controller On Sale for $32.99

The Logitech PowerShell, the first and only truly pocketable MFi controller, is now on sale for the ridiculously low price of $32.99!

While the PowerShell may not be the best MFi controller available for gaming, it is by far the cheapest. And Logitech deserves credit for the build quality of the PowerShell. It may not play as well as the other controllers, due to a terrible d-pad and no analog inputs, but it absolutely FEELS like a quality product. And it’s pocketable - barely.

If you’re a gamer with an iPhone 5, 5S, 5C, or iPod Touch, and you value portability above all else, you should seriously consider picking this up. And If you’re a developer looking to add MFi controller support, this is by far the cheapest way to do it. Get it for this price while you can.

Logitech PowerShell Controller (Amazon Affiliate Link)

Thoughts and Concerns on the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus

What Apple’s latest and greatest flagships mean for gaming

The new iPhone’s are upon us. And with over 4 million people preordering the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, chances are strong that a lot of you are planning on gaming on one of these.

While these new iPhones are undoubtably huge improvements over the iPhone 5 and earlier devices, the story is a little different when compared with the iPhone 5S. Unfortunately, gamers who are expecting a wholesale performance upgrade over last year’s model might be disappointed.

Before I go on, a disclaimer: nobody actually has either of the new iPhones yet. Nobody has benchmarked either of these phones, let alone gamed on them. The following is speculative, based on information from Apple, and from accurate sounding predictions from AnandTech.

With that said, lets examine the potential gaming performance of the new iPhones.

Resolution Determines Performance

Before digging into the specific details of the newer iPhones, understand that in most cases (certainly this one), the single biggest contributor to gaming performance is the number of pixels rendered. Pixels are rendered by the GPU - the graphics engine built in to the computer chip. Importantly, the performance cost associated with rendering additional pixels scales relatively linearly with the performance of the GPU - a GPU with twice the performance can render twice as many pixels at the same cost.

In terms of performance, today’s screens are limited to 60 frames per second - sixty pictures rendered by the GPU and displayed by the screen per second. The more complex the graphics being rendered - think shadows, lighting, textures - the harder it is to create 60 FPS graphics at a given resolution. But conversely, the lower the screen resolution - the fewer pixels the GPU needs to render - the more complex graphics that are possible while maintaining 60 FPS performance.

Ideally, this means that developers would start with the constraints of rendering 60 FPS at whatever the maximum resolution possible is, then implement graphics, shaders, and lighting to stay within those limits. In reality, developers cheat. They often render at reduced frame rates and lower resolutions in order to use more complex shaders and graphics. This is because games are so often sold on screenshots, where resolution and framerate aren’t relevant. It’s also used when games have to run on multiple platforms with a performance discrepancy - the same games on the Xbox One have reduced framerate and/or resolution compared with the PS4, because the GPU in the Xbox is weaker.

But what does this have to do with the new iPhones? Well…

Bigger Phones, More Pixels

Both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus don’t just feature bigger screens than the iPhone 5S; they also feature more pixels in those screens. The iPhone 5S sports a 1136x640 pixel screen, meaning the GPU in it’s A7 processor needs to render 727,040 pixels a total of 60 times per second in order to provide fluid gameplay at full resolution.

Along with it’s larger screen, the iPhone 6 features a 1334x750 pixel screen, translating to about a million pixels - about a quarter more pixels than the screen in the previous iPhone 5S.

The iPhone 6 Plus features a full 1920x1080 (known as 1080p) pixel screen - about 2 million pixels. This beautiful, high-resolution screen looks as good as it does because it packs over twice as many pixels into it’s screen as the already-larger iPhone 6, and almost three times as many as the previously-flagship iPhone 5S!

If we look at these numbers another way, the 1-megapixel screen of the iPhone 6 is about 140% the pixels of the iPhone 5’s screen (727,040*140%=1,017,856 – close enough). That means that the GPU inside the iPhone 6 would need to be 40% more powerful than the one in the iPhone 5S to exhibit the same level of performance while rendering additional pixels.

The iPhone 6 Plus, on the other hand, has even more work to do. It’s 2-megapixel screen is about 275% the pixels of the screen on the iPhone 5S, meaning the GPU would need to be an additional 175% more powerful - an almost 3X increase!

The question now becomes: is the new GPU up to the task?

Enter the A8 GPU

Details about the GPU in Apple’s new A8 processor are currently scarce, though this is likely to change as soon as the new iPhones are out in the wild. What we do have are Apple’s numbers. Apple claims a 50% improvement in GPU performance compared to the A7. Anandtech suggests this improvement is likely due to adding two more cores to the previous 4-core design, and is also likely being a bit under-represented by Apple (real-world improvement will probably be a little greater due to improved components). But lets take that 50% improvement as a starting point.

The smaller iPhone 6 model required about a 40% GPU improvement to perform as well as the iPhone 5S at the new resolution. With it’s 50% performance improvement, the A8 GPU seems more than capable of covering that. Expect games on the iPhone 6 to perform noticeably better than they did on the iPhone 5S.

The iPhone 6 Plus is another story. It required a full 175% performance gain in order to run games as well as the iPhone 5S at full resolution, and the A8 GPU seems woefully underqualified to provide that boost.

Caveats

I’d like to make a few things very clear. People who know a lot about GPU design are probably mashing their heads into their keyboards right now at all the oversimplifications I’ve made, and I don’t blame them. The fact is, resolution scaling is not entirely linear - most GPUs have optimizations allowing them to reach higher resolutions without needing a strictly corresponding performance increase. Also, I’ve oversimplified some of the numbers anyways. Also, most importantly, none of this is based on any real-world testing of the new iPhones. Until people actually dissect these new devices, this is all wild conjecture, and should be taken as such.

What This Means for Gaming

As many caveats as there are, we can still make a few ballpark-estimates from this data:

  • The iPhone 6 will perform better than the iPhone 5S, but the improvement won’t be massive.
  • The iPhone 6 Plus will run worse than both the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 5S - perhaps as much as half the performance as the regular iPhone 6.

Luckily for gamers, developers already have experience dealing with this type of situation. Almost identical problems are at play when it comes to making cross-platform console games that scale down from the PS4 to the Xbox One to the previous-generation consoles. Similarly, iOS developers already have experience with this problem, due to the fact that the iPad faces exactly the same issues - same GPU as the iPhone, way more pixels to render. Expect developers to take advantage of the following compensation techniques on the iPhone 6 Plus:

  1. Dropping the rendering resolution
  2. Dropping the framerate, perhaps down to 30fps
  3. Reducing some on-screen effects and shaders

Those are the tricks generally used to compensate for discrepancy in hardware, and I’d expect to see developers take advantage of some combination of them as they target the iPhone 6 Plus, when necessary.

Conclusion

This article should be taken for exactly what it is - technical discussion and speculation based on assumptions about hardware that isn’t available yet. To reiterate, it is still too soon to know exactly what the performance differences between the various iPhones will be.

This article is in no way meant to imply that the iPhone 6 Plus won’t play games well. The various methods to compensate for resolution differences listed above may or may not be noticeable to most gamers. The trade-off of having a giant screen will probably be worth it for those interested in the iPhone 6 Plus. The iPhone 6 will have a better time rendering full-resolution at 60fps than any other iOS device. Gamers who find that important will want to keep it in mind.

Finally, for those considering upgrading: the iPhone 6 will not run games significantly better than the iPhone 5S, but it will likely be a noticeable improvement over the iPhone 5, and a massive improvement over anything earlier. If you’re upgrading from anything less than the iPhone 5S, expect a much better gaming experience.

For iPhone 5S gamers, the story is more difficult. The iPhone 6 Plus is, on paper, a downgrade for gaming, at least at full-resolution 60fps.

The big screens of the new iPhones offer some amazing benefits for usability and immersion, but it’s important to understand the costs associated with those gains before deciding whether or not to upgrade, and which model to upgrade to.

Personally, I’ll be looking forward to getting my hands on both of them, and am preparing to test each exhaustively. This will be a lot more productive than theoretical benchmarks - expect to see another article soon about the actual experience of gaming on these devices.

iOS 8 - A Game Changing Update for the Apple TV

How some behind-the-scenes changes to AirPlay turned the Apple TV into a real game console

If you’re as serious about iOS gaming as I am, chances are you’ve been eagerly awaiting the day Apple releases a high-end Apple TV with an App Store full of games and an official game controller. Due to a variety of factors, mostly related to content deals with cable companies, Apple has thus far been unwilling to release such an Apple TV (they like to make a big splash with the product, and that requires both gaming and television content - can’t do one at a time).

Such an Apple TV product is definitely on the horizon, with various well-connected members of the Apple community having confirmed that A-list Apple engineers are hard at work on such a device. However, until such a device is formally released, Apple has pushed users towards a stop-gap solution in the form of a technology called AirPlay.

While this stopgap had issues in the past, Apple has made some serious improvements in iOS 8 that turn AirPlay based gaming into a compelling experience. Read on to learn how.

The History of AirPlay

AirPlay is a brand name that encompasses multiple video output technologies, but the important one to discuss here is one called AirPlay Mirroring. In effect, AirPlay Mirroring beams the contents of your iPhone or iPad’s screen on to your TV. When combined with an MFi controller, this allows you to play iOS games the big screen, without needing to ever take your eyes off the TV and touch your device.

Theoretically, AirPlay Mirroring offers a great solution to people wanting an Apple TV game console. Unfortunately, the reality has been far less pretty. The actual mechanics of beaming a 1-megapixel image from one device to another over Wifi, 60 times per second (iOS and most TVs run at 60fps), without compressing the image until it’s illegible, and without a perceptible delay, has been too tall an order for Apple in the past.

In iOS 7 and below, AirPlay Mirroring runs at a maximum of 30fps, resulting in a somewhat jerky picture. Even being able to do that required significant video compression, resulting in a big-screen picture that often looked like a low-resolution YouTube upload. Unfortunately, this compression also requires a significant amount of processing on the device itself, which results in a noticeable delay between what happens on the iPhone’s screen, and the amount of time it takes to compress, beam, and display the video on the Apple TV - some games are rendered almost unplayable on the TV, since this lag simply doesn’t provide enough time for you to react to the picture you’re seeing. While some games manage to play great in spite of these limitations, for the vast majority, AirPlay has simply not been good enough. But that’s about to change, in a big way.

Enter iOS 8 - AirPlay Reborn

There’s no two ways about this: the difference between iOS 7 AirPlay and iOS 8 Airplay is night and day. In iOS 8, Apple has somehow managed to dramatically improve every single aspect of AirPlay Mirroring. It is a stark, immediately obvious contrast.

First of all, iOS 8 broadcasts AirPlay at a consistent 60 frames per second in compatible apps (more on that later). This means that Apple is shooting a 1-megapixel picture from your device to your Apple TV 60 times per second - twice as much as under iOS 7.

But that’s not all. Apple didn’t just double the framerate, they also dramatically enhanced the quality of the video output. In iOS 7, AirPlay output a relatively hightly compressed video that showed obvious compression artifacts in basically every scenario. It was playable, but certainly noticable. In iOS 8, the compression used is much more intelligent - video quality is dramatically better when less motion is occurring on screen and against simpler backgrounds, and against more complex scenes, the compression occurs less perceptibly. In retro-style games with limited on-screen activity, compression is basically imperceptible. In more complex 3D games, compression exists, but manages to look FAR better than under iOS 7. GTA: San Andreas, for example, looked better being broadcast from my iPhone than it ever did on my PS2.

Complex video compression with a high degree of quality generally comes with a big cost: latency. Without getting into too much detail about the nature of video compression, having a compressor that can see “into the future” can give you dramatically better results. Basically, what that boils down to is, the video being broadcast is always a few frames behind, in order to give the compressor the ability to analyze those frames and create a more fluid picture. The issue for gaming is, if you get too many frames behind, the player starts to notice a delay between their actions and what happens on the screen. This is called input lag. A certain amount of input lag is a part of every TV, but AirPlay video piled a good deal more on top of the amount the TV already had, to the point that many games were unplayable.

In iOS 7, this input lag was very noticeable. Holding your iPhone up to the TV, it was easy to see that the iPhone was displaying a picture almost half a second ahead of the TV. In iOS 8, despite major improvements to video quality, the lag has been reduced. Not eliminated entirely, mind you - such a thing would be impossible - but reduced to the point that a great many games are now playable that weren’t before. This is perhaps the biggest improvement iOS 8 brings. There is a lot further to go before every game is playable comfortably, but the work Apple has done in iOS 8 is commendable.

Unfortunately, iOS 8 brings one pretty major AirPlay flaw that iOS 7 didn’t have, and that serves to make certain games unplayable.

A Stutter Away from Perfection

As great as iOS 8’s AirPlay fundamentals are, one somewhat nasty issue made it into the GM. In certain games, the AirPlay picture exhibits a noticeable stutter every second or so. This basically freezes the picture on screen for 5 frames or so, then throws all those frames up at once. Games with this flaw are generally unplayable, and even after closing the game, the lag remains for a minute or two, before generally correcting itself, only to return if you launch another affected game.

Strangely enough, there is little rhyme or reason as to which games exhibit this flaw. Extremely graphically intense games like Dead Trigger 2 and GTA San Andreas have no flaw at all, whereas the relatively simple Sonic series stutters to the point of unplayability.

I’m still in the early phases of trying to nail down exactly what is causing this stutter issue, and I plan on experimenting with different network configurations and devices to try to determine whether those factors have any impact on it. I’ll update this post when I learn more about this issue, or if Apple manages to fix it with a subsequent update.

The Future

The good news about AirPlay is, it is a technology that can grow and improve along with the components of the iPhone / iPad and the Apple TV. Network technology in these devices today is limited to 802.11n - a fast standard, but one that does provide a bottleneck in maximum bitrate and range. The new iPhone 6 series is being upgraded to the much faster 802.11ac standard, and presumably updates aren’t too far behind for the iPad and the Apple TV.

In addition to wireless upgrades, improvements to the GPUs inside the iPhone and iPad can make a huge difference in broadcast quality. Current GPUs are restricted from working too hard on AirPlay, because if they draw too much power for broadcast, the performance of the game itself starts to suffer. Newer GPUs will include more cores which can be dedicated exclusively towards video processing, and take some of the load off the cores powering the games themselves.

The biggest potential for improvement is in the video encode itself. AirPlay today uses a video compression technology called H264 - a high quality, adaptable, industry-standard codec that can be found in everything from Blu-Rays to web video to teleconferencing. As well as h264 has served us up until today, the industry has been hard at work designing an upgraded codec called h265, which is capable of around 50% greater efficiency - meaning it can cram 50% more quality into the same amount of bandwidth as h264.

Enabling h265 over AirPlay will likely require a new Apple TV with an h265-capable GPU. The good news is, such a chip is easy to find - the A8 chip in Apple’s newly-announced iPhone 6 line is fully capable of encoding and decoding h265 video. When the A8 chip makes its way into the Apple TV, I fully expect an upgraded h265-encoded version of AirPlay will come along for the ride.

But thats all for the future. The fact of the matter is, even today, the vast majority of iOS games are playable on the Apple TV with iOS 8. Apple has done a massive amount of work on this front. The experience of using an iPhone in an MFi controller today, streaming to the Apple TV, is finally a good enough experience that I can recommend it wholeheartedly (at least once the stuttering bug is ironed out).

If you have an iPhone / iPad and an MFi controller, and you want to take your gaming to the TV, Apple finally has you covered with AirPlay and the Apple TV.

Link: 'Hands-On Video and Impressions of the MOGA Rebel MFi Controller'

TouchArcade goes full hands-on with the Upcoming Moga Rebel controller, and provides a great video and some interesting impressions of using the controller.

Jared from TouchArcade says:

As you can see, the Rebel mostly resembles an Xbox controller, with its offset dual-analog sticks and button arrangement. In terms of build quality the Rebel feels quite solid, though it still doesn’t feel as solid as an actual 1st-party controller from an Xbox or PlayStation. It feels lighter than either of those, and has more of a plasticky feel, but it still feels like a well-built piece of equipment. The buttons have a nice clicky feel, and the L and R analog triggers feel especially good in terms of resistance and springiness. The two analog sticks also feel great, though they’re a bit looser than I prefer.

[…] Overall, my impressions after yesterday’s demo and my own time playing around with a review unit last night is that this is far and away the best full-sized MFi controller on market. Now, there’s not a ton of competition in that area, and there are a few negatives to the Rebel. Obviously pricing is an issue as it is with every MFi controller, and at $79.99, while the Rebel definitely does feel like a well-built piece of hardware, it still doesn’t feel like something that costs $79.99. Also, as much as I love the flip-out arm to hold my device, it doesn’t flip all the way back, and the angle at which it stops feels a bit too forward for my taste. That’s a very minor problem though, and one I’m quickly getting used to.

Read More

Lots to digest here. Seems like while the Rebel isn’t perfect, it should come the closest of any so far to fulfilling most people’s needs in an MFi controller.

Also noteworthy is the impressions of the Moga World App, which should be launching alongside the Rebel. The app provides a limited catalog of MFi controller compatible games, shows an overview of button layout and sensitivity, and should allow for firmware updates in the future to improve the Rebel controller.

Razer has done something similar for their upcoming Junglecat, with the notable addition of allowing for customizable button sensitivity. Here’s hoping MOGA incorporates something like that as well.

I’ll be posting my own impressions of the Rebel as soon the review unit gets here, and I’m planning on getting and exhaustive review up as soon as possible. Stay tuned.

MOGA Rebel MFi Controller Available September 17th

The long-awaited launch comes next week for $79.99

Moga Rebel MFi controller screenshot

It has been a long, long ride, but it looks like the Moga Rebel MFi controller is finally getting close to launch!

Starting September 17th, the Moga Rebel will be available from retailers everywhere, including Apple, at a price of $79.99 - the same price as the SteelSeries Stratus and Moga Ace Power controllers.

Moga Rebel MFi controller iPad docked screenshot
The Moga Rebel looks like it’ll play just as well with the iPad as with the iPhone

This controller has undergone a ridiculous number of delays, possibly doing to manufacturer MOGA being closed down and folded into it’s parent company, BDAinc. The controller worked in one form or another since at least January, when it received FCC approval for sale. Since then, it has undergone a bit of visual redesign, but was still scheduled for launch at GDC this year. At least, it was, until Moga cancelled their press meetings and closed down their Facebook and Twitter presences.

Whatever happened, Moga seems to be back on track, at least in some capacity. Here’s hoping they continue designing iOS controller - it seems like they keep getting better at it.

Moga Rebel MFi controller vice grip
Dock your iPhone and play

The Moga Rebel looks like it will end up being the most versatile MFi controller available. The integrated grip supports every iPhone and iPod Touch (even the iPhone 6 Plus, apparently!). Due to the use of Bluetooth, the Rebel will be fully compatible with every recent iPad model as well. No other controller works great with both the iPhone and the iPad today - the Stratus has no way to support the iPhone - so I think the Rebel is going to be the controller of choice for a lot of people.

Moga Rebel MFi controller vice grip
This box hits the Apple Store for $79 next week!

You can learn more about the Moga Rebel from MOGA’s site, as well as pre-order from the MOGA Store online.

For a complete list of compatible games, check out the MFi Controller Compatible Game List right here.

Link: iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus Revealed

Apple iPhone 6 and 6 Plus Revealed

Oh, and there was something about a Watch. But this is a gaming site, so you’ll have to read about that one from Apple!

Thoughts On Tomorrow’s Apple Event

Apple September 9th iWatch iPhone event MFi controller screenshot

So it’s that time again. On tomorrow, September 9th, Apple will reveal… something… to the world. Tim Cook will show the world “Apple’s strongest product lineup in 20 years”. There are countless websites and personal blogs covering rumors, news, and opinions, but I figure I might as well add my thoughts to the pool. Tomorrow, we’ll see how close I might be.

I’ll be watching live tomorrow and commenting on Twitter as it all goes down, and I hope you’ll join me. Until then…

1) There will be new iPhones

Too much smoke here for there not to be a fire. There will be a 4.7 inch iPhone revealed tomorrow, and it is likely there will be a 5.5 inch model as well. I’m not quite sure about the rumored resolutions - John Gruber probably isn’t too far off with his guesses, but you never know, Apple could easily standardize on 1080p or something like that.

The resolution difference between the 5.5inch model and 4.7inch model have potentially interesting implications for gaming. If they both feature the exact same GPU performance, than presumably the 4.7 inch model would actually have better graphics and frame rates than the 5.5 inch model. That would be an interesting marketing pitch from Apple, trying to sell a bigger iPhone that is worse for high-performance tasks. At the same time, the 5.7 inch model is rumored to have more storage and a better camera, meaning the highest-end customers are going to want it. We shall see how it goes.

2) There will be an iWatch

The long-rumored Apple wearable will be revealed tomorrow, though won’t go on sale for many months. Apple’s pre-announcement will be about controlling the narrative, and showing the product to the world on Apple’s own terms.

I’m just going to go out on a limb and say that Apple’s wearable will be called the iWatch - don’t overthink it, Apple needs to pitch it as straightforward as possible. I’m not entirely sure what features it’ll have, beyond all those that have already been rumored. There will almost certainly be fitness, Siri, all that sort of thing. Personally, I think the killer feature will be all about mobile payments, perhaps even with a Touch ID implementation.

3) There will be no new iPads this month

Check back next month, early November at the latest. The iPad is important enough to Apple that it gets its own event. Apple won’t muddy the iPhone message with a new iPad, let alone muddy the reveal of a brand new product line in the iWatch. Not tomorrow.

4) There will NOT be a game-playing Apple TV… yet

I’ve been waiting for an Apple TV game console for so long now, and I want to believe it’s here. Sadly, I just don’t think the time is right. Too many people in the know say it is absolutely happening, and that key Apple people have formed a team and are deep in the process of working on a new Apple TV, but those same people say it isn’t ready.

Maybe we’ll get lucky and a new Apple TV will come in next month’s event. That would make sense - it goes along nicely with an iPad reveal. If and when a game-playing Apple TV box is revealed, AfterPad will become THE go-to place for Apple TV gaming. But my money is on next year.

5) Maybe new Macs, but probably not

There have been long-standing rumors of some new 12 inch retina MacBook Air. The time might be right for that - the technology is there, even with Intel’s recent part delays. My money is on next month’s iPad event for new Macs, though, as it fits the theme better. If tomorrow is about Apple’s ultra mobile event, and next month is about Apple’s computers - including the iPad - that would make a lot of sense, positioning-wise.

6) New iPod Touch

What the heck, I’ll go out on a limb and say this product could happen. If Apple is preparing to kill the rest of the A5 powered product line by the end of the year, the iPod Touch could use an upgrade to the A6. I’m not sure Apple cares enough, though.

I’ve long thought it would be amazing to have an iPod Touch style device with integrated MFi controller compatible controls. Kids would kill to have that for the holidays, but I think it’s pretty unlikely.

7) No new MFi controller talk, UNLESS we get a new Apple TV

This one is pretty straightforward. As much as we all wish they would, Apple isn’t going to spend a lot of time on these game controllers at this time, at least without it being part of a broader narrative.

If a gaming Apple TV or a gaming iPod Touch is announced, I would expect Apple to spend some time pumping up game controllers. But I expect these to come next month, so no controller news tomorrow.

8) There will be an A8 processor, and it will be amazing

I don’t know a lot about what Apple has up their sleeves with their upcoming processor, but I’m willing to bet it’ll work great with Metal, and it’ll more than compensate for whatever screen resolution increase the 4.7 inch iPhone provides. Gamers have a lot to be excited about with this, but I have absolutely nothing to speculate on regarding specifics.

Wrap-up

Well that’s what I have for tonight. Should be fun to look back tomorrow and see how wrong it all is. Your regularly-scheduled MFi gaming news will resume shortly.

The Best Apple TV Games, Part 1

Gaming on Apple TV with an MFi iPhone game controller

A lot of people - myself included - have been waiting for a gaming capable Apple TV for a long time. Current rumors are inconsistent about when such a product might be released, with guesses ranging from next week to over a year from now.

The good news is, gamers don’t have to wait that long to play iOS gamers on their TV. Through a technology called Airplay, modern iPhones and iPads can beam anything displayed on their screens to any current Apple TV. This, when combined with an MFi controller, allows true touchscreen-free play of iOS games on the big screen.

Such a solution isn’t perfect, however. In its current form, Airplay limits the framerate of screen mirroring to 30fps, and introduces about a half second of lag. This, combined with the fact that reaching down to touch your iPhone’s screen while looking at your TV is incredibly awkward, restricts the number of games that really work well with Airplay.

The best games to play via Airplay must have complete touchscreen-free controller support. That means menus, gameplay, pausing - everything must work completely using only the buttons and d-pad of the controller, as if the touchscreen doesn’t exist. The framerate limit and half-second lag further removes games that require fast reflexes or precise timing. The good news is, even with these restrictions, the list of games that work great on the Apple TV is substantial.

I’ll be covering this as a series of articles, to be posted over the course of the next few weeks. If anyone out there has any suggestions for games they personally recommend for the Apple TV, don’t be afraid to let everyone know in the comments section below.

Read on for Part 1 of the series!

Read More

Updated: Zombieville USA 2

Zombieville USA 2, an old-school side scrolling brawler / shooter with a modern coat of paint, was recently updated for MFi controller support.

This game follows in the tradition of Double Dragon, Metal Slug, games like that; you travel from the left side of a level to the right, fending off swarms of enemies using both melee weapons and guns, and collecting objects and powerups. It’s an old formula that would’t feel out of place in a classic arcade, but developer Mika Mobile manages to turn it into a polished and fun experience.

Zombieville USA 2 screenshot iOS mfi controller support
Blasting zombies in the USA!

Despite being several years old, this is still a great game, and one that a lot of people have been eagerly awaiting an update for. I always like seeing developers spend some time updating and polishing up older games, and in this particular instance, the inclusion of MFi controller support really serves to improve the experience of playing Zombieville USA 2.

If you haven’t picked this game up yet, now is a great opportunity. It’s a polished, fun game, and now that it supports controllers, it plays better than ever.

Review: Mikey Boots

Speedrunning never felt so fun

Mikey Boots, the long-awaited followup to speed run platformers Mikey Shorts and Mikey Hooks, is available on the App Store. And, while developer Beavertap Games has made something different than the previous games in some key ways, Mikey Boots has somehow managed to take a relatively straightforward gameplay mechanic and turn it into an exceptional experience.

Mikey Boots takes a beautifully simple design and executes it perfectly, without ever losing focus on what makes the game fun. The titular Mikey (or a new female companion) have to traverse a series of levels covered in dangerous obstacles and swarming with enemies, and they have to do it using only jet-propulsion boots. These boots launch the character up and either to the right or left. That’s the only movement the player controls: move up-left, move up-right, or release to allow the character to fall. This is a rather limited move set compared to the more straightforward platforming of the previous Mikey games, but that limitation is the key to Mikey Boots’ challenge.

new release MFi controller preview
Dodge bullets, traps, and enemies

The levels are loaded with things that will kill you - enemies patrolling the ground, spikes lining walls and ceilings, bullets that fly across the screen towards you. Successfully dodging these obstacles and making it to the goal in one piece is an immensely satisfying experience. More ambitious players can try to complete a series of additional goals to truly master a level: collecting all of the coins scattered throughout the level, beating the level within a certain time limit, and finding the secret room containing a pair of golden shorts. Successfully obtaining every goal in every level is going to keep even the best gamer busy for quite some time.

Mikey Boots enters a different App Store ecosystem than it’s predecessors. Flappy Bird showed a world of developers that gamers aren’t afraid of a simple, fun, challenging game. In the weeks that followed, thousands of indie developers released their own games inspired by Flappy Bird. Mike Meade, half of Mikey series developer Beavertap Games, frequently joked about making a “Mikey Flaps” game. I’m not sure when Mikey Boots entered development, but its clear that Flappy Bird left it’s mark in one key aspect: the level of challenge.

Mikey Boots depth screenshot new release MFi controller preview
Mikey Boots manages a great deal of depth from it’s limited control scheme

Lets get one thing clear: Mikey Boots is not an easy game. This is especially true in contrast with the previous Mikey games, which tended to be far too easy (I tended to create my own challenge in the other games by trying to attempt all of the level goals at one time). In Mikey Boots, by the later levels, you’ll just be struggling to survive. With that said, the difficulty curve here is fair, with more than enough time to acclimate in the early levels before the challenge is ramped up.

One more thing. When talking about difficult games, it’s important to clarify exactly WHY the game is difficult. To put it simply, Mikey Boots is the best kind of difficult. The challenge always feels beatable. Failure never feels frustrating, or cheap, or beyond your control. It always feels like if you’d just timed your move a LITTLE BIT better, you’d have made it. And unlike Flappy Bird style games, the levels in Mikey Boots always have an end. So it isn’t just playing the same thing for a high score - you always have a clear goal in front of you, and there is a great deal of satisfaction in actually reaching that goal after failing repeatedly. Personally, I think this makes for a much more rewarding experience than the high-score-chasing of Flappy Bird.

Mikey Boots difficulty screenshot new release MFi controller review
The difficulty ramps up gradually, but does get challenging

Graphically, there isn’t much to say about Mikey Boots. The graphics were never really the strong suit of the Mikey games, with backgrounds that often feel inconsistent with foregrounds. But that doesn’t really matter much - the graphics get the job done. Far more important to a speed run game like this is the framerate, which is absolutely rock solid at 60fps. The sound design is solid, with memorable level-dependent chiptune music and minimal sound effects. It feels retro without feeling dated. Most importantly, it never gets wearying, even after the 30th time in a row attempting the same level.

While the controls are quite simple, Mikey Boots’ support for MFi controllers is particularly excellent. Movement can be handled any way you want - use the d-pad, analog stick, or shoulder buttons to send your character right or left; the choice is yours. This control scheme has the special benefit of playing to the strengths of every available controller - the PowerShell has a terrible d-pad but great shoulder buttons, the Stratus has terrible shoulder buttons but solid d-pad and analog sticks, the Moga has solid triggers and shoulder buttons but bad analog nubs and d-pads. Mikey Boots’ control flexibility allows you to get a truly great play experience with every single controller, which is something very few MFi compatible games can claim.

Mikey Boots timing screenshot new release MFi controller review
Timing is everything

Rounding out the list of features, Mikey Boots also includes the series’ trademark smorgasbord of unlockables. The coins you collect aren’t just ornamental - you can use them to buy a variety of skins, clothes, haircuts, and boots for your characters. In addition to letting you customize your character, these accessories often make reference to other indie games or include inside jokes, which is something I always love to see.

Mikey Boots customization screenshot new release MFi controller review
Accessorize - all the cool kids do it!

Ultimately, Mikey Boots combines the Mikey series’ trademark speedrun gameplay with Flappy Bird’s willingness to challenge the player. Over the past week, three classic games were released with MFi controller support: Bioshock, Ridge Racer, and Back to Bed. I haven’t played all that much of any of them because of how difficult it’s been to STOP playing Mikey Boots. That’s the best recommendation I can give. Download this immediately.