Fall is here, everyone! Leaves are changing, the cold is creeping in, and if you’re reading this now, in October, because my ass is always late with these, then you’re probably basking in the spooky season with everyone else. I, personally, do not care for Halloween, and seeing as I will most likely be working on the holiday this year – and subsequently forced to dress up against my will – how about we just jump into September’s best apps before I burst into tears?
Azure Lane is the type of game I would normally stay the hell away from. When my buddy DJ first told me about this insane app, he came right out and said, “So next week I’m going on a tour of the USS Massachusetts because I play this mobile game where anime girls turn into old ships and I have a crush on the Massachusetts.” Yes, I was just as in shock as you are reading those words back. So naturally, I needed to see what this game was about. Surprisingly, though? I was met with quite an in-depth experience. This ain’t your ordinary Japanese dating game. On the contrary, I spent a few days playing Azure Lane and not once was I given the ability to marry a boat. Instead, I was thrust into a worldwide conflict, told through visual novel-style gameplay, which quickly shifted to a bullet hell-esque sidescroller. I must say, Azure Lane is quite fun. I couldn’t get as into it as I would like, simply because the idea of a complex, multi-layered story turns me off whether the game is on a mobile device or a console. I just can’t stick with something that deep for long. But if you’re into gripping plots of war and history, complete with firefights that require building the proper ship formation for the job and timing your special attacks in boss battles, then surely give Azure Lane a try. Dating and marrying boats is just an added bonus!
Another game suggested by someone close to me, Hotel Hideaway is a colorful mobile game that kept my girlfriend and I quite preoccupied the first night I tried it. Picture Club Penguin or Animal Crossing, strictly set in a hotel. This is a game designed for the interior designer. Hotel Hideaway is all about having the best clothes and the best suite in all of cyberspace. Set in a massive hotel full of real online players, the game tasks you with meeting new people, purchasing new items, and showing them off. While that may seem boring to some, I defy you to not have any fun playing this app. I must say, sometimes the lack of “game” makes it feel a bit empty. I would love some more diversity in the form of mini-games to play with friends. The closest Hotel Hideaway comes is in the form of mystery wheels that gift you with items of varying rarity, almost as if the game is centered around loot box culture. Thus, Hotel Hideaway is a bit of a double-edged sword, and certainly not something you’d want to hand a child. Microtransactions are everywhere, and seeing as the waiting game can make anyone frantic, you’ll probably find yourself giving into them frequently. Luckily, the chat rooms and cookie-sharing system make mingling easy, and that’s what makes Hotel Hideaway so full of charm and easily approachable.
As I told the LosHarrow crew while considering apps to try this month, I decided to take one for the team and try the accursed Gears POP! app that released in August. You may remember Gears POP! from its lackluster announcement at E3 2018, when we all thought a new Gears of War proper may be announced. Fortunately, Gears 5 did see a reveal and a full release in September as well, but we were also met with this silly-looking mobile game as an added…bonus? Thankfully, Gears POP! actually brings some fun to the table, believe it or not. After playing many rounds of its online competitive mode, I have returned from the frontlines to announce: “Gears POP! is actually not too terrible at all, really!” Allow me to explain. The game tasks players with defending three objectives at the base of your screen, and attacking their opponent’s three at the top. Think of Missile Command, with the missiles being a vertical tower defense scenario in the middle of the screen. Using Funko Pop figures of Gears of War characters like Carmine, Marcus Fenix, and General RAAM, players must attack/defend the objectives and battle for supremacy of the field. The game plays out in RTS format, with the only real interaction from the player being to drag-and-drop characters onto the field when the time is right, and opening new Funko Pop loot boxes as they are rewarded after matches. The game has potential for growth, and with daily missions it held my attention for some time, but for those of you too timid to give it a shot, Gears 5 is also out there on consoles, and it is good.
Mario Kart Tour
This one seemed like a no-brainer, and I’m sure you can tell why. By the way, thank you for putting down Mario Kart Tour for a few minutes to read my column. It seems like everyone in the world is playing this game, from my friends and family, to my coworkers who do not seem like the kind of people who even know what a “Mario” is. Fortunately, this praise is well-deserved, as the game contains a lot less microtransactions than the world was worried about, and damn it, it’s fun! All the Mario Kart staples are here, from a colorful cast of racers, to customizable karts, to varying speeds and difficulties. Unfortunately, the highest speed, 200cc, is locked behind a paywall in the form of the Gold Pass – a Fortnite Battle Pass-like monthly subscription that also offers in-game items. Luckily this is all optional, but it makes the game a bit less free if you want a true Mario Kart experience. The game as a whole is fairly hefty, though, with events and new cups coming down the pipeline, seemingly for free. This is great, because I can see myself playing the game for quite some time. Mario Kart Tour is super accessible for both veteran players and those new to the franchise. Karts move on their own, and turn with a simple swipe on the touchscreen. Drifting can be made automatic or manual, with the difficulty increasing if you want more precise control of the kart. Items return, of course, with the new ability to hold three at a time in some cases. All in all, Mario Kart Tour freshens up the series in exciting ways while also staying true to form. Let’s face it, if you’re not already playing this game, what are you waiting for? Let’s-a go!
Quite possibly my favorite app of the month, Sirius XM may seem like an old man’s choice. Who listens to the radio anymore, am I right? Well let me elaborate here. My family has paid for Sirius XM for years, whether it involved owning a device you plug into an auxiliary port, or built right into a car. Ad-free radio is simply the future, boys and girls. But as I grew up and got my own car, I listened to radio less and less, ultimately turning to my own podcasts and music from my phone, which I would connect through bluetooth. Enter: the Sirius XM app which saw a major overhaul this month, and is now provided alongside any Sirius subscription. Essentially, I can now listen to any Sirius station on my phone – no external device necessary – and I do. Sirius subscriptions start as low as $8 a month, and if you’re the kind of person who enjoys a little talk show with your Pandora stations, I highly suggest giving it a try. From stations like PopRocks which consistently churn out bangers 24/7, to On Broadway – which blends showtunes with interviews, thanks to a cast of dedicated theater-loving disc jockeys – Sirius is full of music for everyone. The Beatles even have a station now, and what could be better than that? Only one thing, and that’s having a designated app so you can listen anywhere. That’s why Sirius XM tops September’s list, and it’s not even a game.
Another month down! That one felt like it just flew by. Now here we are in October and the year is winding down to a close. I must say, I’ve got some fun ideas for the final three months of 2019. Spoilers, they’re going to be themed instead of focusing on new apps. First up? Spooky games! That’s right, I’m putting on my big boy pants and trying some scary mobile apps. I don’t like this one bit, though. I never play spooky stuff. Especially when I’m holding a $1000 device in my hands. Here’s hoping there are two more App Recaps after this (fingers crossed I don’t smash my phone against a wall in terror). Wish me luck! See y’all soon.