App Diary: Sky Tripping, Nightgate, and ‘board games’ for Apple TV

It’s been almost a year since Apple unveiled the fourth-generation Apple TV with its own App Store, and we’re seeing the platform continue to expand with interesting apps. While many of these are still just adaptations of apps that have already been available on the iPhone and iPad, the move to the big screen can create a whole new experience, and open up the apps for family play. This week, we take a look at a new scenery app along with three games that have recently caught our attention. This is the debut of our new App Diary, which focuses on what we’ve actually been using or playing recently, rather than a basic list of new apps.

Sky Tripping (free) — If there’s one app that makes us wish Apple would allow third-party developers to build their own screensavers, Sky Tripping is it. This scenery app for the Apple TV provides a series of stunning aerial vistas from nature that can run on your big screen to help you relax and relieve stress. There are currently six volumes of scenery for different settings — two Coastal Trip volumes, Wasatch Winter, Redrock Sedona, Sonoran Desert, and Suburban Living. The first Coastal Trip volume is included for free, while a $2/month or $20/year in-app subscription is required to access the remaining (and any future) volumes the developer publishes. A 30-day free trial is also available. If you tend to leave your Apple TV on for the view, but have become bored with the aerial screen savers that Apple provides, Sky Tripping is definitely worth a look — you’ll have to load it up manually, as Apple doesn’t allow apps to become screen savers, but in our opinion it’s worth the effort. The app also includes an iPhone and iPad version, but honestly in our opinion this is an app that totally comes into its own on the Apple TV.

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Nightgate ($4) — Reminiscent of a laid back version of Geometry Wars, this is an immersive and captivating game that has the player exploring a futuristic yet minimalist digital world to reach targets while avoiding enemies and dodging bullets across 50 handcrafted levels. The graphics and soundtrack in Nightgate provide a sort of digital surrealism that we found very engaging, yet the game is still a wonderful mix of chill and challenge. The developer has also done a really good job of designing the game mechanics specifically for the Siri Remote, so it feels right at home on the Apple TV, rather than a console game or iPhone game that’s simply been adapted. That said, you also get an iPhone and iPad version included in the download, and progress syncs across your devices via iCloud, so you can pick it up and play on the go and then continue with the next level on your Apple TV when you get home.

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Monopoly Here & Now: TV Edition ($4) — The Apple TV provides a good way to play games as a family, so naturally, traditional board games can be a particularly good fit on the big screen. Hasbro has brought “TV Editions” of some of its popular titles, and while you’ll have to purchase them separately from the iPhone/iPad versions, you’ll still likely pay less than you would for the actual physical board game, while gaining virtual AI players. The TV Edition of Monopoly Here & Now makes good use of the Siri Remote, and a pass-and-play mode allows you to play with up to four players, with a mix of three human players and three AI players. While we found the tutorial video clearly wasn’t optimized for the higher resolution display, the gameplay itself is fun and easy to pick up pretty quickly, simplifying some of the full Monopoly concepts into a game that’s more suited for quick play rather than marathon sessions — for those who aren’t familiar with the new genre, you collect passport stamps instead of property deeds, there are no houses and hotels to build, and no bankruptcies; the game is simply won by the first player who fills their passport with stamps.

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Risk: TV Edition ($2) The TV Edition of the popular Risk board game remains much more faithful to the original, and provides pass-and-play support for up to six players, which can be human or AI. You can also play against the AI, or play against friends remotely in an online multiplayer mode. The game has four difficulty settings, and experienced players will still like how it follows the authentic rules of classic Risk. The TV Edition of Risk has a fun style to it with impressive graphics and animated avatars, along with support for multiple maps and game stats and achievements.