The long-awaited update to the Apple TV that allowed third-party apps has been a mixed blessing. On the one hand, there are lots of new apps to play with and some of them are fan-flippin-tastic! On the other hand, usability and simplicity has taken a big knock, and there were some pretty serious niggles that are, thankfully, gradually being ironed out.
Better to dwell on the good, though, and I’ve found the apps to be a breath of fresh air. The Apple TV has always been a pretty big part of our TV/film watching experience, but now it’s added a whole new level with games. There are two easy comparisons to make with the new gaming functionality, and that’s to put it up against the Wii (casual gaming, less of a focus on graphics) and the Playstation (top of the range graphics, more expensive games).
Of course, for us, the Playstation 4 has been more of a bane than a boon, although we did finally get to the end of Tomb Raider. I haven’t played or owned a Wii for ages but I don’t think things have changed too much on that front.
Some of the first apps I downloaded on the Apple TV included the fantastic Crossy Road and Alto’s Adventures - two simple but beautiful games that transfer well from phone to TV because they’re just about clicking the remote at the opportune moment. Moving on to more complex games included Asphalt 8 which is enormous amounts of fun, and Just Dance 2016.
I paid a ridiculous amount of money for Just Dance on the Playstation, before realising it needed a special movement sensing controller that didn’t come with the package we had. Subsequent searches for the controller always seemed to fail, it was never in stock, and eventually I gave up the search, leaving that game to gather digital dust. I see now that they introduced an app to allow players to use their phones as the sensor, but that was long after I’d consigned the game to the scrap heap.
So, already, because the Apple TV remote counts as the movement sensor, and that naturally comes with the box when you buy it, you’re a step ahead. It’s super easy to use, you hold the remote in your right hand and follow the dancers on screen.
They’ve put a lot of effort into the dances, some are easy, some are a lot harder, and it’s pretty good at recognising when you’re doing it right and when you’re just leaning against the wall wondering how anyone manages to keep up. It gets you puffed out which is a good sign, and is super fun while you’re playing.
The only thing to watch for is keeping hold of the remote in your one hand. Just like the Wii when it first arrived on the gaming scene, there’s some concern about the Apple TV remote going flying out of your grip and smashing into something, or damaging itself. At £65 for a replacement, it’s not your bog-standard TV remote. There is a wrist strap which helps a lot - and has the added bonus of providing a better way of being able to tell which way up the remote is when you’re just watching TV.
The ‘which way up is the remote’ debacle is another misstep that Apple have made with their newest iteration of set-top box. However, for me, the positives far outweigh the negatives. Bringing more games to more people at an affordable price and allowing them to actually play along with the equipment in the home, that can only be a good thing for consumers and developers alike.