I did this one fast! I am so proud of myself, I must say. Feels like I hit some kind of writing epiphany this month, and suddenly I’m writing up a storm. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed some of the pieces I’ve been a part of lately, as well as checking out our newest podcasts (I just so happen to be on W.I.N. regularly; shameless plug). But I digress, this month of apps is sure to bring you some joy, as these – rather large – picks genuinely felt like some of the most pleasing of 2020 so far. Even Apple Arcade didn’t let me down, which helps solidify my perpetual $5 a month to the Cupertino Gods. That being said, how about we take a stroll through the apps of July to see what all the fuss is about?
If you’ve ever played 2017’s Nier Automata, then you’re already well aware of its creator, Yoko Taro, and his whimsically warped mind. I’ve learned from personal experience that the guy is quite eccentric, going so far as to rarely show his face and get annoyed by the most random questions. The man is a character, no doubt, so when I saw he was going to be the creative director on a new app this month, I downloaded it immediately. SINoALICE is a cooperative turn-based combat game revolving around storybook characters of pop culture. These scantily-clad, anime-inspired depictions of characters like Snow White, Cinderella, Little Red Riding Hood, and others wield massive weapons like hammers and crossbows to hunt demons along their literary path for vengeance.
Tasked with collecting blood to bring their stories’ authors back to life, the player must follow each girl’s personal quest chain to achieve this goal. Whereas the premise of SINoALICE is as captivating as it is twisted, the gameplay leaves a bit to be desired. Whether teaming up with CPU allies or online players (I assume this is doable later, I just haven’t unlocked the online mode yet), combat flows in a semi-tedious, turn-based fashion. Utilizing a stamina bar that refills rather quickly, players must choose which attack to use against enemies, of which there are three waves per level. This is sort of like Raid: Shadow Legends (name dropping again!), however the player only controls the girl they brought into battle. The enemies’ weaknesses must be discovered on the fly – no chart is given as to how different colors affect different enemy types – and the player’s barely dwindling health makes the game feel like a walk in the park alongside a 10-minute timer that’s far too forgiving.
Although combat may feel basic and samey at times, SINoALICE is worth checking out for Yoko Taro’s iconic influence, alone. Also the cinematic cutscenes and orchestral score deserve some love. This game is actually really awesome.
One of my favorite mobile games from my “I can’t believe I have an iPad!” days was Smash Hit. This visually stunning game had you throwing silver balls at glass structures as the camera moved on rails through similarly stunning locales. I mean it, this luminescent landscape is still one of the most gorgeous mobile games I have ever laid eyes on. Having enjoyed Smash Hit so much, I was blown away this month when I learned of a newer game I had missed by the same studio: PinOut. Having now tried it out, I’m pleased to announce it’s just as vibrant and fun as its predecessor.
Following a similar structure of “play through one colored area to unlock the checkpoint to the next,” PinOut’s gameplay is contrarily nothing like Smash Hit. Instead of throwing balls this time around, you’re hitting them… with paddles. That’s right, as the name suggests, PinOut is a pinball game in which each level is one giant pinball table full of various obstacles and paddle placements. The game gets progressively harder with slides and ramps that must be shot at with extreme accuracy in order to push on, however this challenge comes so gradually that the learning curve feels nearly flawless. The action onscreen is frantic and colorful, depicting the realistic feel of an arcade pinball machine, right on your phone or tablet.
PinOut is so gorgeous and fun that I cannot believe it’s taken me so long to hear about it. My apologies to those more astute than I on the world of mobile gaming, but July has finally graced us with this masterpiece.
Tangle Master 3D
This month, I really had my sights set on playing Tides of War, a Pirates of the Caribbean-themed ship combat game from Disney. I had received an email about it and finally thought I’d give it a shot, only to find out it’s one of them “build your city and strengthen your defenses” games, so I dipped out of there. Thankfully, Facebook saved the day yet again with an ad for one of the most enjoyable time-wasters I’ve played to date!
Tangle Master 3D is a simple premise, but aren’t they all? Each level offers the player some intertwined cuts of colored rope, attached to a pencil. The player must then untangle said ropes to clear said level! On paper this may seem easy, but when you’re on a level with five ropes to untangle within 10 moves, the world begins to crumble around you fairly quickly. I was surprised by how fast a simple time-waster became an anxiety attack waiting to happen. What kept me playing, however, even in its most difficult moments, was the satisfying physics engine Tangle Master 3D employs. Dragging and dropping the rope ends and watching the pieces wiggle about feels realistic and visually pleasing. This aspect of the game was what initially prompted me to download it, and seeing the game play as it was advertised absolutely blew me away. That almost never happens with these smaller mobile games.
While the upgrade system could be more enticing – all you can really do is spend the coins you earn on new pencil alternatives – the amount of puzzling content is enough to make Tangle Master 3D a recAPP favorite.
Four Months Earlier
Back at the beginning of July, I received a Twitter notification that some random person had followed me. This, as always, took me by surprise, and in checking out their profile I noticed they were developing an indie game, with a sort of “prologue” coming out this month on the App Store. Without knowing much more than the fact it was going to be narrative-based and emotional, I decided to give it a try. Now, I feel I must say I have no connection to this person, nor does my opinion have to do with their involvement in any way; I truly do not know this man from a hole in the wall. That being said, this game took my heart for a ride I was not expecting.
Gameplay is fairly simple as you take a mother and son for a walk up a hill. The man’s mother is visiting from England, and he’s decided to show her the famous Griffith Observatory in Los Angeles. As you hold the screen to keep their paces in line with each other, you’ll watch the dialogue progress, and a sentimental narrative unfolds before your tear-filled eyes. You learn of his mom’s recent cancer diagnosis and how their relationship isn’t the same as it used to be. You’re also told of his grandmother back home and her own problems with growing old and out of touch. It seems the creator of this game had a very strong emotional attachment to the women in his life, and seeing this play out through a captivating art style helps convey his message easier.
I won’t spoil much more, but I highly recommend giving this quick 20-minute app a look. When the full game – titled Linda & Joan – finally releases, I hope to write more about it, so stay tuned!
SpongeBob: Patty Pursuit
One of the beauties of Apple Arcade is Apple’s partnership with famous companies, earning them the rights to exclusive games based on existing properties. This has given us “wonderful” games in the past like Steven Universe: Unleash the Light and Loud House: Outta Control. I make fun of those, but this month I tried out a Nickelodeon game that instantly caught my attention – SpongeBob: Patty Pursuit – and it was actually quite fun.
A proper side-scrolling platformer, Patty Pursuit follows SpongeBob and his merry band of misfits as they try to thwart Plankton’s evil plans – you know, typical SpongeBob stuff. What makes this game so cool from the start is its dedication to the show’s art style. Literally, this game takes no liberties in shaking up the visuals we know and love; this game looks and feels like an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants. I dare say… Patty Pursuit is like The Stick of Truth in terms of commitment to the source material. As for gameplay, each level follows the standard “collectathon” formula, with SpongeBob using his own set of skills to wall jump, spring jump, and kick baddies away as he collects coins and hidden spatulas. This game is probably the best Super Mario clone on the App Store – besides Super Mario Run, of course. SpongeBob’s sidekicks bring their own skills, as well. Patrick, for example, can slam his butt down and break through brick, opening up secret areas.
There’s quite a bit of replayability to be had in Patty Pursuit, and a lot of content on offer to begin with. If you can get past the incredibly stuttery tutorial level, the rest of the game feels buttery smooth, and I assure you, you’ll have a smile on your face whether you’re a child or an old man, like me.
I told y’all you’d be floored by this month’s selection! Makes me proud to be a mobile gamer when I’m able to come across some unique little treasures like the ones above. Here’s hoping August supplies me with that same feeling! A minor spoiler, but this month I’m anticipating the release of either the Crash Bandicoot mobile game, or Ubisoft’s new fan service cash grab, Tom Clancy’s Elite Squad. So be on the lookout for possibly one of those next month, and until then, as always, wear a mask!