Monday, October 24, 2016

Roundup: activities and the very best apps for that Apple TV that is new

The Apple TV has been available for a week now and the tvOS App Store is estimated to include over 1,000 apps, with more coming online every day. There’s a pretty good selection of titles, with a heavy focus on gaming. Developers are still figuring out how to use the touchpad Siri Remote in interesting and new ways but the initial launch is promising for sure. We’ve rounded up our favourite apps and games for the new Apple TV so far …

Top Apps And Games For The New Apple TV

Battle Supremacy: Evolution

My current favorite Apple TV game, Battle Supremacy: Evolution. You play as a transforming mecha unit and speed through beautiful-scenery like futuristic cityscapes, mountains and more. The vehicle can swap between being a tank, a drone or an airplane and each mode is distinguished from each other to offer unique gameplay, with the difference between driving and flying being the most compelling. It’s a great high octane racer-shooter featuring 100 single-player missions to accomplish and team deathmatch multiplayer. The game is universal and progress is synced between your iPhone, iPad and Apple TV through iCloud for added convenience.


The new Apple TV Siri Remote bears a lot of resemblance to the Nintendo Wii motion controller. I loved playing Snooker with the motion gestures on the Wii, and Cueist brings a great, perhaps even better, interpretation of the game to the Apple TV. Cueist has pretty visuals to boot: 60fps gameplay with high-quality reflections on the balls. Use the touchpad to pull off some more complicated moves with the cue, like jump, screw and curve shots. You can play against a friend or against a CPU to get up to speed. You can use an MFi game controller for more accuracy, but playing with the motion controls using the Siri Remote is way more fun.


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Arguably, the most well known network media streaming service is now on Apple TV. The Plex developers have done a great job with this — beautiful artwork, simple navigation and great video streaming quality. Reviews from sites like Rotten Tomatoes are integrated directly into the interface and the UI in general matches Apple’s tvOS iTunes Store apps, so it feels right at home. The app talks to a local Plex Media Server to get its content.  You can also view livestreams from internet video networks like YouTube and Revision3. Plex is the best choice for NAS media streaming to a new Apple TV.


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Another media streaming app similar to Plex, the app requires a helper app to run on a Mac in the local network which handles the actual file sourcing and transcoding necessary for the new Apple TV to play it. The UI is really streamlined to the essence of watching TV shows and movies, making navigation super-simple with the new Apple TV Siri Remote. The app plays a relevant backing soundtrack as you hover between movies, which adds a great cinematic feeling before you’ve even started watching a show. Squire can directly integrate with torrent movie streaming sources, too, for easy access to not-very-legitimate content on Apple TV.


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I think this is the most ‘in-depth’ Apple TV game out of the current selection. A full-on adventure puzzle game, with a beautiful variety of worlds … you cross oceans, explore mazes and fight dragons in your quest across the ancient kingdom of Arcadia. Game Center integration tracks your progress via achievements as you play through the ~10 hours of gameplay on offer. The sound design in this game is top-notch, which makes it so fun to play on the Apple TV with the immersive living-room environment. It works great with MFi game controllers too.

Crossy Road

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If you have played Crossy Road on iPhone, then you’ll know what you are in for here. You get a chicken to cross as many roads as possible without getting hit by the oncoming traffic. The simple four-way controls work beautifully on Apple TV. At Apple’s September event, they showed a multiplayer feature where two people could play simultaneously; one using the Siri Remote and another using an iOS device as a remote. This takes full advantage of the shared user aspect of a television but unfortunately its not included in the game just yet.

Sing! Karaoke by Smule

An interesting sing-along karaoke app from Smule. Great for home parties — use your iPhone or iPad as a microphone. You can also watch people from all over the world perform songs, as well as sing alongside them. A strange, but cool, social music experience.

Alto’s Adventure

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The iconic iOS game is now available on Apple TV, in its full 60fps 1080p glory. The game syncs with the iOS version of the app so you can pick up right where you left on any device. The app is also universal, so there’s a good chance you already own the version for Apple TV. The game has just added support for MFi game controllers, which may be preferable to the Siri Remote touchpad interaction.


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Shadowmatic is a weird game to describe. The idea is you have to manipulate floating objects in a scene against a spotlight to cast shadows that make recognizable objects. Once the highlighted scene matches the end image, you win and move on to the next level. The appeal is in the discovery more than the game progression: seeing how abstract shapes can bend light to depict completely different images on a screen is very compelling, even if it sounds boring. It works great on Apple TV thanks to the beautifully high-resolution graphics.

Almost Impossible

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A new game from Realmac Software: a difficult side-scrolling platformer with a highly-stylized graphic style. I love it on iOS and the Apple TV app is pretty good too. Although the game is frustratingly intentionally hard, the checkpoint system is very generous so you always revive right next to the obstacle that just killed you. You can also pay to advance if you get really stuck.


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The tvOS App Store is dominated by video entertainment apps and games so it’s nice to see some utility apps make an appearance that are genuinely useful. Scoreboard keeps track of player scores for physical board and card games and simply displays the score onscreen. Play something as a group in the living room and whenever players wants to check how far ahead they are, they can just glance up at the TV.


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I love Brickbreaker as a quick time waster and the game concept shines on Apple TV thanks to the remote touchpad. You can get a 1:1 translation of finger swipes on the Siri Remote and the movement of the paddle onscreen. Other than that, it’s a pretty standard Brickbreaker experience with powerups, varying level designs and a pumping soundtrack. That’s not a bad thing. Why mess with something that works so well?


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Another utility app: checking your Internet speed. This is probably not going to stay on your Apple TV Home screen for very long, but when you are setting up your box or moving it to a different room, it’s reassuring to be able to verify the strength of the Wi-Fi connection. Maybe you use it once or twice a year, but that still means you need to download it.

TapTap Party

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The TV is great for multiple people like families. TapTap Party capitalizes on that by bundling a suite of mini games into one app for the Apple TV. Up to four people can race around ninjas, zombies, snowmen in arctic hockey, and more in a hectic party game a la Mario Party. The developer promises to add more mini games over time which will keep game content fresh. Even so, good value for $3.99.


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A simple puzzle game, with a basic design hiding a pretty complicated game. Somehow, you have to move the squares to cover the circles. You have to discern the one combination of block positioning and movements that solve the level. A laid-back brain teaser perfect for casual evening entertainment.

Mr Jump

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Mr Jump won an Editors’ Choice award on iPhone and iPad and the same game is now available on Apple TV. I love Mr Jump because each level adds a different power-up to change the gameplay. It’s the classic one-button game with a surprising level complexity. The frustration is definitely part of the appeal here though — getting to 97% level completion and then dying is a key factor in galvanizing another round of play.

CARROT Weather

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You can ask Siri for weather conditions using the mic on the new Apple TV’s Siri Remote but tvOS doesn’t (yet?) have its own built-in Weather app on the Home screen. CARROT Weather fills the gap nicely, or as I like to call it, the weather app with an inferiority complex. CARROT differentiates itself by giving its apps a personality. This scales to the TV nicely, adding some depth to what could be a dull list of temperatures. The visual accompaniments are almost a show unto themselves, with a variety of characters popping along depending on current weather. Let’s put it this way: it’s the only weather app I know that features a spaceman moon landing. Funny indeed.


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This is a classic arcade game in every sense. Eight-bit graphics. Power ups. Star field. The works. A big issue here is the control mechanism, I’m not sure exactly what the problem is but the ship will randomly shoot off to one side of the screen, ruining that particular run. When it’s working, which is most of the time, it’s pretty good fun. If you know what Galaga is, you should give this a go.

Young Hollywood

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Recommending apps that are essentially TV channels might be a weird thing given people’s TV preferences are so varied but I think Young Hollywood deserves a mention. It’s clearly meant for a younger audience but all the content is free and has high production value. Watch documentaries about magicians, console game developers, YouTube stars, indie video makers and more. I was surprisingly impressed with the content offered by a relatively-unknown brand.


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It is certainly weird to suggest doing math on your TV, no question. If you are looking for a TV calculator, perhaps as part of a school / learning environment, PCalc is the best app for the job. The main calculator appearance is easy to read at a distance and navigating the calculator buttons with the Siri Remote is intuitive and obvious. The Settings have loads of options too, to customize your math-computation experience for engineering or scientific uses. If you want a calculator for your TV, PCalc is the app to get.

The beauty of the new Apple TV is that the App Store can be ever-expanding with great new apps and games to watch and play. I have been surprised by the gaming quality with the Siri Remote, I think developers have done a good job within the limitations to make comfortable control schemes. Still, if you sit longing for a more-console feeling, the MFi game controllers can give you that.

Some games, like Rayman, even add additional controls when a game controller is connected to take full advantage of the additional joysticks/buttons available on a gamepad. My personal recommendation is the SteelSeries Stratus for ~$50 but there are a lot to choose from out there; Apple is pushing the SteelSeries Nimbus.

Let us know if you find some cool Apple TV apps and games not mentioned here below in the comments.

(Please note: In some cases, we are unable to link to the app directly due to limitations with the iTunes Store, so instead we have linked to relevant videos or the iOS version of the app. You can always search the name of the app on your Apple TV to find it.)

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