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Gaming on the Apple TV: Why a gamepad isn't as optional as it seems

Andrew Hayward | Nov. 6, 2015
Even some proven touch games ported from iOS aren't a comfortable fit for the Siri Remote.

beat sports
As of this writing, Beat Sports is the top paid Apple TV app at $10 a pop. It’s cute, simple family fun—like an original Wii game.

Apple added its own top charts soon thereafter, which helps a bit, and is now rolling out categories—together, they should go a long way towards showing off some deeper cuts in the growing TV App Store library.

Good fun—and grumbles 

Unsurprisingly, it’s the simplest, “one button” games that are best on Apple TV so far. Crossy Road is great because it’s just constant clicking with occasional swipes. Alto’s Adventure requires nothing more than clicking and sometimes holding the button down. Both of those games were a blast on iOS, and that hasn’t changed on the TV. Similarly, Canabalt and Jetpack Joyride both work well due to straightforward game design. 

And there are a couple of big releases that feel comfortable with the Siri Remote because they were built from the ground up to use it. Harmonix’s Beat Sports is slight, sure, but the music is great and the motion controls work solidly. Meanwhile, Galaxy on Fire: Manticore Rising delivers a slick, impressive space shooter that’s automated enough to work well with the Siri Remote, but still offers enough interactivity and control to be entertaining. 

Still, the vast majority of early Apple TV games are ports of top iOS entries—and some of them just don’t play nearly as well using the Siri Remote touchpad. Geometry Wars 3: Dimensions Evolved, Does Not Commute, and Pako: Car Chase Simulator are games that I love on iPhone, but all of them feel diminished on Apple TV using the Siri Remote. There’s something in common between all three of them: You’re steering a vehicle, and it feels very fiddly and imprecise with the touchpad, even when trying the different touch sensitivity settings.

does not commute
Does Not Commute is an amusing game of time-shifted traffic navigation, but the Siri Remote’s touchpad does it a disservice.

Elsewhere, a game like Rayman Adventures is only for Apple TV (so far) in the United States, but it is built on the familiar framework of the great Rayman: Fiesta Run—and I just can’t seem to wrap my head around the touchpad controls. It’s the same core game that I’ve played for hours and hours on iPhone, but the interactions don’t feel as natural on the Siri Remote. On the other hand, a complex game like Transistor has been smartly streamlined for the Siri Remote because it doesn’t try to replicate the iOS experience on your TV. It’s a winning approach. 


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