Zookeeper World (iPad): COMPLETED!

The original Zookeeper was the subject of one of my very first posts on this here gaming diary over 16 years ago. Well, not quite the original game as that was a Japan-only GBA release called Zooo or something, but the DS version I played was pretty much the same game. Anyway, forward time on a bit and the world of match-3 puzzlers has changed a bit so you can’t just re-release Zookeeper and expect it to fit in.

So they’ve aped the likes of Simon’s Cat and Puppy Blast and added loads of gimmicks to the formula. Now instead of (or as well as) removing a number of each animal, you also have to deal with revealing panels behind them to remove, or have them in bottles that you have to match two or three times before they disappear. Or there are flowers you can’t directly match to remove, crates you have to break, or beehives where removing animals next to them releases bees. There are fruit bombs that blow animals away, conveyor belts that move things round, and crowns you can only get rid of by dropping them off the bottom of the screen, as well as power-ups to employ.

On top of that, progress through the levels unlocks money and items for your real actual zoo which you can fill, Theme Park style, with attractions and animal displays. This is not the same Zookeeper I remember.

But, it is at least as addictive and it’s a lot of fun. Some of the levels are incredibly tricky, and a few may only be clearable with luck, but I loved working through all 200 of them and it’s one of the more polished and solid games of its genre around. Plus, as it’s Apple Arcade, there’s no in-app purchases like all the other games have, and no adverts.

The Room Two (iPad): COMPLETED!

I quite enjoyed the first game when I picked it up on the Switch cheap a while back, but never saw this sequel (or rather, second half of the story) appear on there. I noticed it was on Apple Arcade and so thought I’d play it there instead what with it being essentially free.

Controlling it on a touch screen was actually more complex than perhaps it should have been, especially the zooming in and out which felt in inverse of pinch-to-zoom controls every other app ever has. Very little of the game is actually speed dependant though, so it wasn’t really a problem – I just preferred the joycon pointer waggle controls on the Switch.

The story continues on exactly from the end of the previous game, so it seems like one game cleaved in two rather than a separate instalment. It’s also more of the same thing – escape room style puzzles, with lots of key-finding and hidden drawers and arranging thing in a particular way. It did seem a bit easier than the first part, but a few parts of that were a little obtuse so maybe that’s intentional.

Doodle God Universe (iPad): COMPLETED!

I’ve just got myself a new iPad so I’ve been flitting around some Apple Arcade games, and landed on this one. I’m not really sure what to make of it, because it’s a mostly-nothing game, and yet I got a bit sucked in.

The aim is to create everything. Because, you know, you’re God and all. You do this by combining things you’ve already created. Many of these make sense, like fire and sand make glass, but a lot don’t – like life and stone creating egg. Since literally all you do is combine things, it rapidly deteriorates into try-everything-on-everything like one of those terrible illogical point and click adventure games.

It’s very polished, and the voiceover guy who definitely isn’t trying to be Morgan Freeman is great (if a bit repetitive), but there’s not really any game here. You just find (i.e. brute force) all the combinations and then you’re done. So I’m done.

Game Dev Story+ (iPhone): COMPLETED!

Many, many moons ago, I bought the original version of this on my iPhone. It was great. In fact, I still have it and my development company (Ubisocks) is still going and is on year 300 or something.

Recently, a modified version was released on Apple Arcade as Game Dev Story+. I’m not sure what is actually modified, aside from a different coloured icon, but it doesn’t matter because it meant I could restart the game without losing my more-than-a-decade-long save file.

It’s easier than I remember. Certainly, the early stages anyway. Once you have All The Money and can get a game that scores 40/40 regardless of how hard you actually try during development or which genre combo you choose then it’s a walkover, but I had no issues in the beginning at all – never ran out of money, constantly made a profit, and quickly grew Fire Sausage (my new development house) to the point of unstoppable sales. My Animal Crossing clone in particular was a massive seller and award winner!

After 20 in-game years you reach “the end”, in that no new stuff happens, but by that point I’d won all the awards and created a best-selling console so I’d done everything there is to do.

Devil’s Kiss (PC): COMPLETED!

Firstly, I just want to say that although this is a PC game, I played it via the Steam Link app on the iPad. Actually, it’s more complicated than that, but it’ll do for now.

Secondly, this game came free with Lair of the Clockwork God – a new platforming/point and click hybrid game from Size Five Games. It was a surprise simultaneous release with that game, but instead of being either of those two styles, it’s a visual novel telling the story of how Ben and Dan met at high school, and the immediate adventure they had there.

It’s very short and has no challenge whatsoever, but it was funny and, of course, it was free. And there’s a section set in the toilets.

Takeshi & Hiroshi (iOS): COMPLETED!

At first glance this is a JRPG, but actually, it’s somewhat different. There’s a wrapper story (with really nice puppet stop motion animation cutscenes) about a brother who is writing a JRPG to entertain his sick little brother.

The problem is, he doesn’t know how to code the AI, so he pretends to be the AI while his brother plays, and so, as him, you have to decide which enemies to have appear in the random battles. If you make them too hard, his character dies, but make them too easy and he gets bored. It’s actually really tricky, but pretty unusual in terms of gameplay.

It’s cute, and I really like the animation, but I did find the RPG bits too random.

Discoloured (iOS): COMPLETED!

I had no knowledge of what this game was going to be like, but from the screenshots I anticipated a narrative discovery game, hopefully with one or more toilets. Sadly, there were no toilets.

But I was mostly right about the narrative discovery bit. Discoloured is a first person puzzle game, although the puzzles require discovery more than logic. You are transported to a 50s style diner, but everything is in black and white. By finding and activating red, green and blue prisms, you put colour back into the world, but to do so involves looking at and activating everything, not always with obvious reason.

There’s a lot of to-ing and fro-ing as certain items and switches only appear or are useable when the correct prisms are enabled (or disabled), which is tiresome despite the very small area the game occupies. It’s all over pretty quickly, though.

It’s interesting but there’s no plot or story to follow, and the puzzles aren’t really the sort to give you any sense of achievement, and so coupled with the short length of the game I was just left with a thought of “is that it?”.

Marble It Up: Mayhem! (iOS): COMPLETED!

I was a big fan of Marble Blast Ultra on the Xbox 360, and this, apparently by the same team, coming to Apple Arcade was great… until I tried to play it and found it totally impossible to control with a touch screen. Then I realised I could use my 8bitdo controller with my iPad and, despite having to balance the system precariously on my lap, it actually worked well. Well enough to complete, even.

So the game isn’t as good as Marble Blast Ultra. I’m not sure what’s missing, but the levels all seem really easy and a bit bland. Perhaps the fun I had with the “original” was trying to beat friends’ times on the leaderboard and that’s not what I’m trying here, but I’m also not wanting to, so there’s still some spark not there.

That said, I did enjoy it. Except for that one level – called Escalation, I think – which I spent longer trying to complete one single jump on than I spent on the whole of the rest of the game combined. There’s a high platform you have to reach and you have to get a jump power up and then normal jump and immediately boost jump to get the height needed. Problem is, the timing is near impossible and until I did it by mistake there was no way of knowing if I was even doing the level correctly. Eventually I fluked it only to fall down higher up, triggering an earlier checkpoint on the way down, and then had to do it again.

Lego Builder’s Journey (iOS): COMPLETED!

What a lovely little game this turned out to be. It’s these tiny little Lego dioramas each with a little puzzle in – get you little lego boy to the other side of the screen, or make machinery do something, or build a thing in a certain way.

It isn’t difficult, although one of the puzzles introduced a new gimmick which I completely missed so it stumped me for a while, but it’s clever and looks incredible and if you have Apple Arcade already (as against all odds, I do) then it’s free and a wonderful thing I strongly suggest you play.

This screen involves building a path for your skateboard.

Assemble With Care (iOS): COMPLETED!

Another nice little Apple Arcade game. This time, you’re a repair woman who is trying to make some money while visiting a town for some festival or other. You seem to be able to turn your hand to repairing everything, and despite having turned up with just a small suitcase, you’re equipped with spare parts for a watch, a music box, a handheld games console, and a slide projector amongst other things.

Like Possessions, which I also completed today, it’s short and easy, but the disassembly, repair, and reassembly of these items is just the delivery mechanism for the story. A story which involves two sisters who have fallen out, and a father and his daughter who have forgotten how to have fun together. By repairing their stuff, you can repair their relationships.

It’s not actually quite as twee as I’ve made out, but it’s enjoyable enough for as long as it lasts.

Possessions (iOS): COMPLETED!

This is a little puzzle game where you’re give a 3D view of a room with some objects hanging in midair. The idea is to rotate the camera in such a way that the items appear to be in the correct place – flowers on a window ledge, taps on a sink, that sort of thing – before moving on to the next set of items.

It isn’t hard, and the game is incredibly short, but it was fun and looks really nice. There’s also a story that plays out with the man of the house becoming more and more absorbed in his work and less and less interested in his family.

Not a game I’d have bought, but certainly worth a play on Apple Arcade.

Jenny LeClue – Detectivú (iOS): COMPLETED!

You know, I’m actually enjoying Apple Arcade a lot more than I thought I was going to. This is another of the titles on there I’ve completed.

I won’t go too much into the plot, but it’s a story of a girl solving a murder which turns out to be more than “just” a murder. There are interrogation sections where you prod people and question them about evidence you find, lots of puzzles (often of the jigsaw and press-the-right-buttons variety), and some platforming. Being an iOS game, the platforming is a bit woolly, as you don’t have direct d-pad control of Jenny. Instead, you sort of drag her around, or flick her to jump. It’s a bit fiddly, but you can’t die and it’s not against the clock so doesn’t really matter much.

None of the game is particularly difficult, with most of the puzzles being quite straightforward, but it took me a good 12 hours or more to complete so it’s a decent length. The plot is excellent though, and the way it’s framed as a book an author is writing, under duress, is very unusual and adds a sort of second plot.

My only real complaint is that when you solve the mystery at the end… you don’t. It’s left as a To Be Continued, which was a bit annoying.

Pilgrims (iOS): COMPLETED!

This was a very short Apple Arcade point and click adventure game from the makers of Machinarium. You have to complete little tasks for people, some of whom join you in your quest, and then when everyone is happy, you win.

There’s not a lot more to say about it without spoiling anything, but it’s a nice little thing to play for the hour or so it lasts.

Tint (iOS): COMPLETED!

Tint is a relaxed puzzle game, where you use watercolour paints to colour in objects on each level. Mixing colours produces different colours, as you’d expect, and the trick is to make sure you don’t cut off routes from paint sources to objects as you paint.

There are a lot of these sorts of games around at the moment, such as Lines on the Switch, but this one isn’t grid based and gives you much more freedom in working out a solution. On the other hand, it can be a little fiddly weaving your paint line through narrow gaps without touching other colours already down.

It isn’t very hard, nor very long, but is an enjoyable little game while it lasts.

Mini Motorways (iOS): COMPLETED!

Let me just address your question of “Alright deKay, how are you going to claim you’ve completed this?” right off the bat. Each level has an achievement for getting a certain number of cars on the map, and I hit this target and got all the achievements. Happy?

Mini Motorways is very similar in style to Mini Metro, which I have on many different devices and enjoy very much. It’s not surprising it’s similar as it’s the same developers, of course, but there’s something not quite right with it and I’m not sure it’s entirely down to me not being very good at it.

The aim is to join up houses with a matching colour building, by drawing roads, so people can get to and from work. If you can’t supply enough people in cars fast enough, then it’s game over. And here is the problem: sometimes you can’t through no fault of your own.

Of course, you can fail by causing too much traffic congestion, or having routes that are too long, or not making use of motorways, bridges or traffic lights most efficiently, but I was failing even when I’d the shortest possible route with no delays or junctions. The game simply wasn’t proving me with enough people to service the buildings, or was but randomly putting them far too far away from each other.

As a result, success was much more down to luck than planning, of which there was an element in Mini Metro but here it’s more obvious and there’s nothing you can do about it.