Apple Arcade surprised us. It had an entertaining starting lineup, and many enticing new additions to the all-you-can-play service followed. Apple may be pickier with its arcade participants than the free games loaded with in-app payments on the App Store, but there are already 100 games to choose from – it’s already hard to know where to start.
So we gave them ten options. While most of you are playing Arcade from your mobile, remember that you can also play on iPad, Mac, and even on your Apple TV. Some of them benefit from larger screens and the addition of a Bluetooth controller. (Pro tip: Your Xbox and PS4 controllers are compatible.)
Admittedly, the releases slowed down slightly in 2020, so we only made a few changes this time. However, we have covered a puzzle game Blindspot.
Tangle Tower is a point-and-click adventure game that lands somewhere between Professor Layton, Monkey Island, and Clue. Tasked with solving a Poirot-like crime (a murder in locked rooms), they explore the tower the game is named after and talk to witnesses and potential suspects to uncover the truth.
Instead of searching for items or selecting from baked dialog options, the core mechanics of Tangle Tower is the query system. You solve puzzles to collect items you can use to prove someone is lying. They link item cards in a mini-game to make a clue-like statement. For example, you could claim that a gramophone was used to kill a color palette because the victim had left it there. (I suppose you might be wrong, but you could.) It’s a captivating loop; The puzzles are just difficult enough to make you feel smart, and the interrogations are a real highlight.
The only drawback of the Tangle Tower is its length: it took me only four hours to complete it. Given the quality of the production (the artwork is beautiful, and the characters are all voiced), the short game is understandable.
Mini Motorways is the successor of the indie hit Mini Metro. Like this game, Motorways removes the complicated trappings of full-blown traffic simulations in favor of simplicity. While the metro starts with two metro stations, the highway starts with a building and a house. It would be best if you drew a road to connect the two so that the car of the residents of the house can reach the building. Over time, more and more buildings and houses are added, increasing your road network’s complexity.
Along the way, you will receive additional tools to improve your road network, namely traffic lights, which I have not yet understood, and the titular highways necessary to bypass traffic blackness and keep traffic running. It differs from the subway in its free-form nature: while trains follow a set route, cars always take the shortest route to their destination, and they will redirect you in a seemingly nonsensical way. If you don’t, it will inevitably lead to traffic jams that will ultimately be your downfall – while the game is quite forgiving, it’s game over if too many cars take too long to reach a building.
What The Golf?
You don’t have to like golf to play this. It’s better if you’re not a purist. What about golf? Starts as a fairly simple variant of the sport but quickly develops into a punk remix that uses the basic mechanisms of mobile golf swings. Soon they will throw themselves, animals, and even houses on the greenery. And just when you think you’ve figured out the game’s gimmick, some classic games are recreated in golf form. (We won’t reveal exactly which titles it emulates here, but rest assured, you’ll be surprised.) What about golf? It is practically a meditation on games that simplifies complex concepts in a single mechanic: pull back with your thumb and swing.
Shinsekai: Into the Depths
Capcom’s exclusive Apple Arcade scratches every Metroidvania itch you might have. Shinsekai: Into the Depths is slower than you might be used to, as the game’s nameless protagonist shuffles through the depths of the ocean in a pressure suit. But it’s a classic exploration adventure where you can go deeper and deeper into the sea by finding new skills. The game adds more features and is constantly tweaking the formula of what you want to achieve so that things stay fresh despite a somewhat slow start. The underwater world is beautifully rendered and quite mysterious, and it looks like it is set in a world where rising oceans have engulfed civilization. Most importantly, it plays well, regardless of which device you use and whether you control the character with a controller or a touch screen.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
One of the banner titles at Apple Arcade’s launch is not exclusive. But that makes sense: it’s almost too nice to be a mobile game. You dodge obstacles or fight your enemies with swipes and taps in Sayonara WildHearts, all in time for one of the best game soundtracks of 2019.
It’s not a long game, but it’s a satisfying one that requires repeated playthroughs. Sometimes it feels like Rez, while sometimes you’re driving through an open-world game like the GTA series – albeit on a single road. And if you ever find parts of a level too difficult, the game-over menu occasionally offers to skip ahead. You can repeat the level at any time once you have completed it. I’m all for giving away games, which means everyone has a chance to complete Sayonara Wild Hearts, regardless of their skill level.
Steven Universe: Unleash the Light
Unleash the Light is a turn-based role-playing game that focuses on the intergalactic adventures of Steven and his warrior friends, the Crystal Gems. This third game ties in with the Cartoon Network series and two previous games but takes place before the events of Steven Universe: The Movie. While you can plan your attacks without hurrying, a Paper Mario-like timing system allows you to score critical hits and defend your six protagonists. With polished aesthetic, sophisticated animations, and the same voice actors as the cartoon, the game feels like a part of the respected series. As for the game itself, the easy-to-understand combat system gradually unfolds and becomes more sophisticated without ever becoming too heavy. It’s a cute, endearing game and ideal for all RPG fans who have to commute daily, and I may have already finished it.
Unleash the Light is a turn-based role-playing game that focuses on the intergalactic adventures of Steven and his warrior friends, the Crystal Gems. This third game ties in with the Cartoon Network series and two previous games but takes place before the events of Steven Universe: The Movie. While you can plan your attacks without hurrying, a Paper Mario-like timing system allows you to score critical hits and defend your six protagonists. With polished aesthetic, sophisticated animations, and the same voice actors as the cartoon, the game feels like a part of the respected series. As for the game itself, the easy-to-understand combat system gradually unfolds and becomes more sophisticated without ever becoming too heavy. It’s a cute, lovable game and ideal for all RPG fans who commute daily, and I may have already finished it.
This weird game-as-meditation proves that Apple Arcade isn’t just a home for the games you’ve already played on your phone. With a dedicated revenue stream from the service, the hope is that game makers can take more risks and create experiences that might not have otherwise made it in the cutthroat world of mobile gaming.
In Lifelike, you play as a tiny ball of light, interacting and making melodies with the particles (organisms?) around you. The game is divided into levels acting as a tracklist, each offering a different audio experience and interaction dynamics. There is no built-in tutorial, and it’s up to you to figure out what to do and where to go. Discovery is half the joy of the lifelike.
Inmost charges up with an emotional warning juxtaposed with the cute, albeit moody, pixelated look. Parts of the game are deliberately slow and tedious, while in other parts they attack and attack mysterious shadows and beasts. You switch between three characters with different abilities and control systems, resulting in a rich adventure that tries to deal with mature topics without excessive signage. The game is a little buggy sometimes, and I would advise playing carefully to make sure that auto-saves help more than hinder. Despite these frustrations, in most cases a game is worth your time.
Assemble With Care
Cassette player. Film camera. Slide projector. In Assemble with Care, antique restorer Maria has to repair objects and help each owner to repair a broken relationship. It is wonderfully satisfying to take apart an old device and find out how all its components – which often include no-frills gears, wires and screws – fit together and influence each other. The whimsical puzzles are slowly becoming more difficult, but fortunately they are always easier and faster to solve than the real objects from which they are inspired. The story is a lively and heartwarming affair about reconnecting with loved ones. If you need a feel-good pick-me-up to play at home or on the go, the latest from Monument Valley developer UsTwo Games is a great place to start.
Read More: favorite Games of 2019