Apple Arcade is "an amazing alternative" for new developers, creator of Jelly Car Worlds tells iMore

JellyCar Worlds imagery
(Image credit: Walaber)

Apple Arcade is in a unique position where it can honor the App Store games of yesteryear, while also looking to the future of smartphone gaming with brand-new exclusive titles.

JellyCar Worlds, developed by Walaber, is a great example of this. The fourth entry to a series that first debuted on iPhone back in 2008, came out on Apple’s subscription gaming service back in December 2022 with all new levels, cars, a level editor, and remade levels from the previous games in the series.

Having played the first game way back when I bought my iPhone 3G back in 2008, its physics and charm were what first appealed to me, while its controls gave me and many of its players an idea of how a game could be played on a touchscreen device without a controller. In JellyCar Worlds, you can create and drive a car made completely of jelly, that you must avoid obstacles with, alongside using abilities in a bunch of levels, from a rocket, to a balloon, and more.

A recent update brought levels from the first JellyCar game to Worlds, and with a bunch of updates for Jelly Car Worlds already in development, iMore spoke to Walaber founder and developer Timothy FitzRandolph about the series as a whole, and how it compares to creating the first game back in 2008 when the App Store was in its infancy.

Back to 2008

Tim is a gamer, first and foremost, and was first inspired by the physics of games like Gish and LocoRoco. 

“The original game came from simply playing around with trying to make squishy physics, something I'd seen in games like Gish and LocoRoco, but not many other games,” FitzRandolph recalls. 

“Once I got the simulation working, I realized that it would be easy to make objects change their shape (as long as the number of vertices on the shape didn't change), which gave me the idea of a car that could transform into a monster truck!

“That seemed dramatic and ended up providing some gameplay since becoming large meant you could jump over gaps, push boulders, etc.”

“As for the original App Store version, I was very interested in learning how to make games for the new platform.” FitzRandolph continues. “I realized that a control scheme involving both the touch screen and tilting the device could work for JellyCar, so I jumped into trying to port the game over right away.”

Jelly Car was something that FitzRandolph originally created as a personal project. But soon after its release, he pitched the sequel to Disney, which is how it became the series publisher from then on. 

“I actually worked at Disney (in their games QA department as a test lead) when I created JellyCar, which started as a personal freeware project,” FitzRandolph reveals. 

“When I heard that the mobile division was looking for pitches for new smartphone games, I pitched the idea of JellyCar 2.  The mobile team accepted it, and from that moment JellyCar became a Disney property.”

Revisiting the Jelly

JellyCar Worlds on iPhone

(Image credit: iMore)

As it’s been over ten years since the last release of a JellyCar game, we asked FitzRandolph why he decided to revisit the series after all this time. 

“A combination of things,” was the answer. “I've learned a lot since the original JellyCar games, both in terms of game design, and game development.  Also, the games had become harder and harder to get over time, being taken down from the various stores for various reasons,” FitzRandolph explains. “So the idea of making the "ultimate" JellyCar game, updated with improvements and available on modern platforms was really appealing to me.”

With this in mind, we wondered why this latest game is called ‘Worlds’, and doesn’t have a number attached to it. “I was hesitant to call it JellyCar 4 because so much time has passed, I wanted to make sure the game could appeal to new players not familiar with the older games as well, and a ‘4’ in the title might make people think they have to have played the previous games in order to understand/enjoy this new one,” FitzRandolph clarifies. 

“It's a brand new game, definitely a sequel as opposed to a remake. There are many design changes that I think make it a true sequel, including rethinking and unifying how abilities work (plus many new abilities), having ‘world’ levels that you drive in to reach each new level, challenges and unlockable collectibles, and of course refined versions of many features that made their debut in previous entries in the series.”

FitzRandolph continues. “I’m excited that I will be adding in all of the levels from the previous games in the series into JellyCar Worlds, along with fairly faithful recreations of the menus from each game as well. It's not the same as re-releasing those games in their original form, but it's still a way to preserve some of the hard-to-acquire content in a way that also benefits JellyCar Worlds, which I'm excited about.”

Being independent of the mouse

JellyCar Worlds page on App Store in Apple Arcade

(Image credit: iMore)

With JellyCar Worlds being entirely self-published - something that hasn’t occurred in the series since the first JellyCar game back in 2008, we asked FitzRandolph if this meant that he had greater focus on what Worlds could include, without talking to other involved parties.

“Being independent certainly meant that there were fewer stakeholders to discuss the design with, but overall I don't think it affected the design too much,” he clarifies.

“Getting the game to be a part of Apple Arcade probably had the largest impact, because it meant that I could focus on making a premium multi-platform game with a single, simple business model, which freed up my time to focus on the gameplay and the content of the game.”

Compared to the developer kit that’s offered in 2023 with what was first released to developers back in 2008, we wondered if there were any big differences between this and developing Jelly Car Worlds in the past year. 

“Probably the most surprising thing was just how much tilt controls have fallen out of style! JellyCar just *barely* works on a phone, considering that you may need to do up to 3 inputs at once to play the game (drive, rotate, activate an ability),” FitzRandolph continues. “For this reason, I still think tilting to rotate the car, with touch regions for driving and activating abilities is the best way to play the game, but players these days really want touch-only options, so I had to think of some alternate control options that didn't rely on tilt!”

The App Store is 15 years old in 2023, so does the marketplace still hold the same opportunities as it did back in 2008? “The short answer is no. Some of the things that made mobile so amazing for independent developers are still true: an absolutely huge audience of players can be reached on mobile, with less friction than other platforms,” FitzRandolph explains.

“However, the business models have changed so much, particularly with player expectations that games will be free, it really makes it difficult for small teams to create a game that not only reaches a lot of people, but generates sustainable revenue to continue supporting it, whether the game be ad-based, or in-app-purchase based. Things like Apple Arcade are an amazing alternative, but it's a smaller portfolio that you need to find a way to be a part of, which means not all developers will have that chance.”

JellyCar Worlds - its controls on iPhone

(Image credit: iMore)

What’s next?

With the Level Editor now out, and the original levels from JellyCar available to play, are there more plans being made for future Worlds content? Perhaps a head-to-head multiplayer mode in the near future?

“The very next update (1.5) will be updates to the level editor, and also add challenges into the JC1 levels,” FitzRandolph reveals. “After that, the current plan for 1.6 will add JellyCar 2 levels and level editor updates, followed by 1.7 which will add JellyCar 3 levels and more level editor updates.”

FitzRandolph confirms though that online racing is not in the game’s future. “Online multiplayer is most definitely NOT planned, although local same-screen 2-player is something I'm still considering.”

With Apple in the midst of preparing its Vision Pro headset for 2024, FitzRandolph hasn’t yet committed to bringing JellyCar to visionOS. 

“Being a very 2D game, I haven't thought about it much, as it would have to be played on some kind of virtual "screen" even in a 3D computing context,” FitzRandolph explains. ”I think my next game will likely be 3D however, so I'm keeping spatial computing in mind for the next game, maybe not as a core consideration, but if I have an idea I like that also is a good fit for spatial, that would be a bonus.”

Going Back to the Jelly Future

JellyCar Worlds level 2 on iPhone

(Image credit: iMore)

JellyCar Worlds is a fantastic game already, with plenty of modes and features to keep you going for months. And that’s not even considering what you can do in the Level Editor with custom creations.

This is a game that celebrates what’s made JellyCar so fun to play since the series debuted in 2008. From brand new levels to seeing old ones return, alongside using those tilt-controls with your iPhone 15 Pro, it’s a nostalgic hit that still feels fresh, all these years later.

And it looks like FitzRandolph isn’t stopping there. Worlds already looks to be a game that honors what came before in the series with great levels and fun features, while focusing on new ones such as the Level Editor, and we’ll be there to see how JellyCar improves even further down the line.

Have you been enjoying the return of JellyCar Worlds so far? Let us know in the iMore Forums whether you have or you remember playing JellyCar from the early days of the App Store.

Daryl Baxter
Features Editor

Daryl is iMore's Features Editor, overseeing long-form and in-depth articles and op-eds. Daryl loves using his experience as both a journalist and Apple fan to tell stories about Apple's products and its community, from the apps we use everyday to the products that have been long forgotten in the Cupertino archives.

Previously Software & Downloads Writer at TechRadar, and Deputy Editor at StealthOptional, he's also written a book, 'The Making of Tomb Raider', which tells the story of the beginnings of Lara Croft and the series' early development. He's also written for many other publications including WIRED, MacFormat, Bloody Disgusting, VGC, GamesRadar, Nintendo Life, VRV Blog, The Loop Magazine, SUPER JUMP, Gizmodo, Film Stories, TopTenReviews, Miketendo64 and Daily Star.