With the Apple Watch rapidly approaching the wrists of fervent early adopters, it’s time to survey what you can actually do with the damn thing. The usual suspects will be there: The New York Times to get your up-to-the-minute news, Twitter for trolling on the go, Instagram for staying current on what your friends are eating — but the real question on everyone’s mind is: What can I play on it?
The small form factor of the watch presents an interesting challenge to designers, since most extant iOS games won’t translate over very easily. With challenges come opportunities, however — the iPhone presented new avenues for game designers to explore, reframing old genres and creating the possibility for whole new ones. The resulting creative explosion brought games into the lives of countless people that might not be playing anything otherwise.
Related: Hands on: Apple Watch
Will the Apple Watch have as big an impact on gaming? It’s doubtful, but we’re open to the possibility of something knocking our socks off. Here are six games announced so far that we’re excited to check out on Apple’s impending wearable.
Four random letter tiles appear, and the play has 30 seconds to tap out as many words with them as possible in 30 seconds. It’s not unlike Boggle. Compete against friends or randos in both real-time or asynchronous competition, with leaderboards through the Game Center and a dictionary of over 3,900 words. It will be available at launch for free with advertisements, or ad-free with a single in-app purchase. Developer John Passfield from Right Pedal Games says he got to work on the game as soon as rumors of the watch started to coalesce:
“With the rumors of an Apple Watch swirling around I knew this was a device I wanted to make games for. So I started to learn Swift and compiling a list of game ideas that could work on the Watch. When the Watch was officially announced and the WatchKit SDK was released I sat down and worked through which ideas could work with the initial SDK.
“Four buttons were an obvious layout on the watch screen size. I am a big fan of word games and had made a number of them over the years from Word Shake on PC to a bunch of mini-games in my Brainiversity game series. The four button layout lent itself perfectly to the idea of making four letter words as rapidly as you can.”
A similar word game, Letterpad instead offers you a grid of nine letters from which you must tap out words related to a common topic. For example, in the video above the category of “glass” requires the player to find “pane,” “break,” and “eye.” Developer NimbleBit (of Pocket Planes and Tiny Tower fame) promises 200 puzzles available on launch, along with the ability to create and share your own. Letterpad will be available for phones and tablets, in addition to the Apple Watch.
Watch This Homerun
Leave the words to the nerds: Watch This Homerun is baseball distilled down to the singular face-off between pitcher and batter. Pitchers will send various kinds of pitches rocketing your way–fastballs, curveballs, knuckleballs–for you to knock right back at them. Accurately timed and placed taps is the name of the game. A companion iPhone app will show leaderboards and stats as you climb your way up the ranks through leagues of increasing difficulty. Developer Eyes Wide Games plans to follow Watch This Homerun with more sports games for the Apple Watch, similarly built around short bursts of gameplay for skillful, low-commitment fun on the go.
Save the world, five to 15 seconds at a time. You are the High Priestess of the War Mages, tasked with battling all sorts of nasty monsters. Many of your attacks will require an extended period to recharge, meaning you’ll have to wait and come back to finish each fight. The design goal was apparently to sustain interest over a period of months through brief, sporadic gameplay sessions. This is the first game from developer Everywear Games, who formed to develop games exclusively for smartwatches. It will be available for free.
Watch out, Runeblade — you’re not the only game claiming to be “the first Apple Watch-exclusive RPG.” Watch Quest features characters from developer WayForward’s Shantae series in a roleplaying game that lives on both your iPhone and Apple Watch. The phone hosts your kingdom, where you can manage items and whatnot, while the watch is for when your hero heads out on a journey.
“Players are invited to play passively by selecting longer, easier quests and outfitting the hero up front – or by taking on more difficult quests which require foraging for items as you go,” WayForward explained. Passive missions sounds reminiscent of the alarm clock/mobile RPG Dreeps, which basically plays itself like an elaborate screensaver. Watch Quest will be available at launch for free with a training mission. Additional quest packs will be available as in-app purchases.
Surgeon Simulator and I Am Bread developer Bossa Studios is no stranger to unexpected, innovative gameplay, so it’s no surprise that it would want to tackle a game for an entirely new platform like the Apple Watch. Because the device’s pitch has been so focused on notifications, then Bossa set out to design a game that could mostly be played through them.
You are in charge of a spy agency well past its peak, with one lone, remaining field agent at the mercy of your guidance. While on missions, your agent will ping back to you for advice on things like how to handle a guard. You will have two options for what to tell him, but the missions play out in real time and your agent won’t wait around forever, so if you don’t respond for long enough they will take matters into their own hands. Spy_Watch will be a premium app, though no pricing has been announced yet.