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Tuesday, November 10, 2015

In summary: The first wave of games on the Apple TV


Last week, I reviewed the new Apple TV. While I was a fan of the previous models of Apple's little entertainment box, I was really keen on this new model because, with a hard drive built into it, it's also a remarkably effective little game console.

It's going to take a while for developers to start releasing games en masse on to the Apple TV, as they need to be redesigned to function with the unique remote that the Apple TV comes with. I recommend that if you do plan on playing many games on this device you get yourself a controller too, as plenty of games do support that.

But I digress. While we wait for a flood of games to start landing on the Apple TV, there is a bunch of titles that give us a hint to the console's potential. I've listed nine good ones to start below:

Crossy Road


Crossy Road is insanely addictive. On the iPhone and iPad it was this little endless Frogger game, which, thanks to the simple way to share high scores, and its ridiculously charming gameplay and range of characters, was something that brang out the competitor in all of us. But it was a solitary experience. Crossy Road on the Apple TV introduces a two player mode and, true story, over the weekend I sat down to play some games for review, but then my wife and I started playing Crossy Road. Hours later, after bumping one another into rivers, cars, and otherwise sabotaging one another to hilarious effect, I had wasted half a day, and didn't care in the slightest. For the longest time I've wanted Crossy Road on the big screen, and it doesn't disappoint.

Asphalt 8


Gameloft and I don't exactly get along, what with the company's obsession with creating pretty, but highly derivative and soulless clones of console games for mobile. Asphalt 8 is a highly derivative riff on Need for Speed and the like, and has some aggressive microtransactions that make progress painfully slow without splashing out real money, but as a Free-to-Play tech demo of the kind of visual quality that you can expect from the Apple TV, it's passable enough. Games of approximately Wii U quality are possible, and if Real Racing 3 were to get an Apple TV port following on from this, I would be very happy indeed. Real Racing 3 is ace.

Transistor


Transistor is the most "serious" game on the Apple TV to date. A fully fledged RPG with a seriously compelling narrative and some of the slickest art design that you'll see in a game anywhere, Transistor is the kind of in-depth game that you can plug hour after hour into. Obviously we're not going to see Dragon Age or Fallout 4 on the Apple TV, but as a supplementary console, it's games like this that show the device's potential to become a home for indie game design.

Related reading: Our review of Transistor on PC.

Duet


Duet is a powerfully simple game, but in that simplicity is such elegance that it's impossible to put down. From gorgeously minimalist art design, to the spectacularly subtle and emotive soundtrack, Duet has a personality to it that belies the fact you're in control of two dots of colour... and nothing more. On the Apple TV it controls beautifully, either with the gamepad or the remote.

Related reading: Harvard reviews Duet's iPhone release.

Beat Sports


The first Apple TV exclusive of note, Beat Sports tries hard to be the device's version of Wii Sports - a simple, elegant game that everyone in the family can pick up and play while getting used to the features of the Apple TV. It's not going to have the impact of Wii Sports, but it's a fine game nonetheless. Brought to us from Harmonix, it's a simple rhythm game that takes a couple of different sports (baseball, volleyball, golf) and then tasks you with timing the swings and shots with the music playing in the background. The multiplayer is a real highlight here, because it is a game that anyone can jump into and enjoy.

Oceanhorn


Oceanhorn doesn't even try and hide its influences - this game is, through and through, a Zelda clone. But it's also a good one, with quality level design, gorgeous art direction, and a beautiful soundtrack. This is another one that I highly recommend playing with a gamepad for the full console experience, but with that set up, you'll forget that you're playing an Apple TV; it's like Nintendo created a small downloadable Zelda game to tide fans over until the next big release, and it's brilliant at that.

Related reading: Matt's review of Oceanhorn's original release on iPad.

Phoenix HD


Who doesn't like a good SHMUP? On the iPad, Phoenix HD wasn't an especially great game, because SHMUPs and touch controls don't go too well together. But on the Apple TV, kicking back with a controller, I was able to "rediscover" this title, which I never really got to enjoy previously. Now I enjoy it a great deal. It's fast, frantic, and when the screen fills with a mass of enemy and ally bullets alike, it's fulfilling everything a SHMUP fan is looking for in their games.

Geometry Wars 3


Geometry Wars 3 is one of the finest modern arcade games you can play. It's spectacular on the PlayStation 4, and the Apple TV port is perfect. Once again, not a game for the Apple TV remote, but if you happen to have a game controller, then you'll be screaming around destroying colourful geometric shapes with the same kind of abandon that you do on the other consoles. Again, this is not a game that would push a console, but it stands as further proof that, at least as far as the indies go, the Apple TV is very capable indeed.

Related reading: Our Geometry Wars 3 (on PlayStation 4) review.

Xenowerk HD


The final game on this little list is a Alien Breed-style sci-fi dual stick shooter, that tasks you with delving through a series of small areas, killing mutant alien things and collecting loot before making your way to the exit and the next level. It's grindy and lacks a narrative, but it's good fun in short bursts, looks decent on the TV, and is another good reason to pick up a game controller.

- Matt S.
Editor-in-Chief
In summary: The first wave of games on the Apple TV
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