The AfterPad Apple TV Games Guide, Part 2
In part one of this series, I covered some of the bigger Apple TV releases. Still, it was merely scratching the surface of the games available on the platform.
This time, I decided to shake things up a bit by recording full gameplay videos of every game on this list, direct off the Apple TV. It was an excruciatingly time-consuming process, and I won't be doing it for every article, but I hope you enjoy the results!
Have any thoughts, questions, or recommendations? Be sure to check out the AfterPad forums to let me know.
Rayman Adventures is a fascinating example of how to handle the dichotomy of supporting both the Siri Remote and MFi controllers. Start the game with the Siri remote and you'll find an experience similar to Rayman Jungle Run and Rayman Fiesta Run: an auto-runner where you press carefully-timed moves to avoid traps and make it through the level.
Connect an MFi controller, and instead of an auto-runner, Rayman Adventures turns into something related to the classic Rayman Origins and Rayman Legends console games: a slower-paced, more traditional platforming game that allows you to stop running and explore the levels.
I love – love – this idea. It's brilliant. You can take one game and present it to two completely different audiences, optimized separately for each of them. Casual gamers get a casual auto-running experience. The type of gamer who'd spend $50-$100 dollars on a controller probably wants a less casual experience, so the game tailors itself around the input.
Unfortunately, this input optimization is the only part of the app I'd call brilliant. Between levels, Rayman Adventures slaps on a monster collection mechanic. Throughout the course of playing the game, you'll collect monster eggs. You'll then be sent to to an egg hatchery screen where you have to wait through timers to hatch your monster eggs. You can spend a consumable currency to bypass these timers, of course. Once you do hatch your monster, you can choose to use it to help you through a level, after which it gets tired, and you'll need to spend another consumable currency to wake it up.
This all feels very disjointed. I'd rather NOT use monsters to help me through a level – it feels like cheating when it isn't required, and a pointless barrier to entry when it is required. Being bounced back and forth through monster hatching / monster management / monster searching / level selecting interface screens feels utterly pointless. I never looked forward to it – I found myself blowing through it all as quickly as possible to get back to the game.
Rayman Adventures is available right now on Apple TV. An iOS version is in soft launch in New Zealand.
Alto's Adventure feels like a hybrid of something like Jetpack Joyride and Tiny Wings, with an aesthetic similar to Monument Valley.
It's your basic "make it as far as you can while collecting things and avoiding obstacles" game. Your character snowboards down a mountainside, avoiding obstacles and chasms, pulling off tricks, and collecting llamas (yep!), and generally enjoying a beautifully rendered environment.
You've played games like Alto's Adventure before. That's okay – it's a fun format. So it's understandable if you're a bit burned out on trying another entry in the genre. All I can say is this: give Alto's Adventure a chance. This is one of the most polished, beautiful games I've ever seen in this genre. I found myself replaying it over and over again, and the gorgeous atmosphere and pleasant soundtrack went a long way towards that.
Alto's Adventure is a universal binary, so buying once on iOS gets you the Apple TV version for free. Both versions support MFi controllers, so I'd strongly recommend picking it up for iOS today.
There's no shortage of arcade-style gaming on the Apple TV. I've already covered the genius that is Geometry Wars 3, but thankfully, Apple TV arcade gaming doesn't stop there. Cosmos is a simpler affair, but with fun gameplay and a clean presentation, it's definitely worth a look.
Cosmos hits the right notes for an arcade game. The gameplay is simple but fun. It's difficult without being frustrating. And trying to beat your high scores is addicting.
Arcade gaming is one place where MFi controllers make a huge difference, and Cosmos serves as a perfect example how. Dodging enemies and bullets, collecting power ups, and aiming your weapons feels so much smoother with a real analog stick than it does on a touchpad. It's a fun game either way, but you'll be getting higher scores with a real controller.
Cosmos is universal for iOS and Apple TV. Grab it now on iOS, and it'll show up in your Apple TV purchases automatically. I prefer playing it on the big screen, but it runs just as well on iOS, with or without MFi controllers.
Octagon has you rotating an octagonal ball across an octagonal tube, avoiding falling through gaps in the floor or getting stuck on barriers, with the goal of making it to the end of the stage.
It plays like a slower paced version of Unpossible, Proun+, or Impossible Road. This is not a bad thing – those games pride themselves on their extreme difficulty caused by the speed, whereas Octagon focuses more on carefully navigating the level.
Octagon supports both the Siri Remote and MFi controllers on Apple TV. Unfortunately, controller support is completely broken on the iPhone and iPad versions. There is no controller mapping to swap your location from the top on iOS. The Apple TV version corrects this problem, and works perfectly with MFi controllers. Hopefully this will be coming to the iOS version before too long.
Octagon is a universal app, so purchasing it on iOS gets you the Apple TV version for free.
Sigh… 2048. To some, a cleverly-designed puzzle game with addicting gameplay. To others, a fad that dominated iPhones for about 2 weeks last summer before being promptly forgotten. To yet others, a shameless rip-off of the far more polished Threes.
In truth, 2048 is all of these things. It's a clever game. It's cleverly ripped off from Threes. And despite its fad-like popularity last year, it's still a lot of fun. It isn't as fun as Threes, but Threes isn't on the Apple TV, nor does it have MFi controller support.
2048 probably didn't need MFi controller support. It also probably makes a lot less on the Apple TV than it ever did on iPhone. In fact, the best way of combining 2048 with the Apple TV would probably be playing it on your iPhone while watching something else on the TV. But you know what? The game is free, its universal, and its lots of fun.
You probably already download 2048 last year, in which case its already sitting in your Apple TV purchased list, waiting to be downloaded. If you missed it, just download it already. At the very least, you'll see what everyone was talking about last year.
Bean Dreams is reminiscent to classic side-scrolling platformers Mario and Sonic, but with an even greater emphasis on precision timing. Your only real move is to bounce – on enemies, obstacles, and the level itself – so the challenge is timing these bounces correctly, and reaching the end of the level in as few bounces as possible.
Execution is key with such a superficially simple concept, and execution is where Bean Dreams excels. This game got a perfect rating on TouchArcade, and it's not hard to see why. The presentation is top flight, the levels have a perfect amount of challenge for both casual and hardcore players, and the soundtrack is memorable.
Bean Dreams feels like one of those games that could have existed years ago, but didn't. There is a timeless quality here that makes Bean Dreams feel like an instant classic – a game that would have succeeded regardless of the year in which it came out or the platforms for which it was released.
Like most Apple TV games, Bean Dreams is a universal binary. Buy once on iOS, and you get the Apple TV version for free. Both builds support MFi controllers, which I strongly recommend playing them with. This was a classic on iOS, and it's a classic on Apple TV. If you're a platforming game fan, I strongly recommend picking it up immediately.
Canabalt. The granddaddy of them all. If you've ever played a side-scrolling endless runner, you owe a debt of gratitude to Canabalt.
Canabalt isn't the first game to require the player to run as far as possible in a side-scrolling world before they die, but it did codify a lot of the aspects that are now standard with the genre: simple-but-beautiful pixel art, maddeningly difficult gameplay, and an overall design that encourages repeated replaying.
There are more recent games in this genre on the Apple TV, but Canabalt has been updated many times with new levels, features, and characters. Even without these additions, Canabalt holds up fine, but these new elements keep it fresh.
Canabalt is a universal app for Apple TV and iOS. And with how long this game has been out, there's a decent chance you already own it, but if not, this is a great chance to pick it up for both systems. The iOS version doesn't currently support MFi controllers, but Canabalt is still a lot of fun on a touch screen.
Slotz Racer 2
It's multiplayer slot car racing on the Apple TV. Do you really need me to explain how cool of a Concept this is? Seriously, if you've ever played with slot cars, you should be closing this article down and buying the game already!
For those of you still with me, I'll explain. Slotz Racer brings the time-honored tradition / hobby of slot car racing to the big screen. Grab a few friends and a few MFi controllers – this one works best as a multiplayer experience.
This is a universal app for both iOS and Apple TV. However, there's a bit of a catch to that. While the Apple TV app supports multiple connected MFi controllers, the iOS version of this app does not currently support MFi controllers. However, there is another free version of the app called Slotz Racer Zenos Special that does support MFi controllers.
The good news is, all of these features and more will be coming to the iOS version of Slotz Racer 2 very soon. So don't hesitate to purchase the universal version now.
Apple TV and iOS are home to many arcade-style bullet dodging shoot-em-ups. But the vast majority of these are ports of old arcade games, with pixelated graphics and coin-op-friendly game structure.
Phoenix HD, in contrast, is a brand new game. The graphics are gorgeous, with shaders, transparencies, and 3D effects that feel right at home in today's gaming landscape. What is unchanged, however, is the high-energy, brutally difficult gameplay. Fans of classic shoot-em-ups will be right at home here.
In many ways, the Apple TV feels the perfect home for Phoenix HD. This game was one of the earliest iOS games with controller support. Heck, support predated the MFi controller program by quite some time, instead using a hacked-together controller standard called iCade!
So yes, one thing you can count on here is great controller support. Fast-paced arcade shooters like this demand a reactive input method – Phoenix HD feels a heck of a lot better with a real controller than it does with the touch screen or Siri remote.
Phoenix HD is a universal app, so one purchase on iOS gets you access to both versions. Everything supports MFi controllers, so don't hesitate to give this one a download today.
Mos Speedrun 2
Side scrolling platformers are a dime a dozen on the App Store. In order for one to stand out from the rest, it has to be exceptional. Good news: Mos Speedrun 2 is exceptional.
Inside this game, you'll find perfectly designed levels, responsive gameplay, tons of collectables for character customization, and a speed running mechanic that adds an extra thrill to replaying levels
If anything, I think Mos Speedrun 2 sells itself short by focusing around the speed running mechanic. The levels in Mos Speedrun 2 are cleverly designed, full of branching paths, secrets, and collectable items. Speed running encourages players to rush without stopping to appreciate the care and attention that obviously went into every aspect of this game. Speed running is a great mode for advanced players, but by focusing the game entirely around it, it feels like Mos Speedrun missed an opportunity to be the Apple TV's Super Mario Bros or Sonic.
But don't let that stop you from downloading it. For the love of god, if you're a fan of platforming games, you need to buy this one immediately. Its a top-tier entry in the genre. It's also a universal app, meaning one purchase gets you a copy for both iOS and Apple TV.