Written by Eric Seitz
I played as many Apple Arcade games as I could in two weeks — here’s my one-sentence review of each one.
Less than two years old, the Apple Arcade’s game library continues to grow, as does the allure of its $5 monthly price tag. The App Store’s success has been unrivaled, and it (likely accidentally) ushered in an era of mobile gaming that has proven to be one of the most lucrative forms of entertainment. Apple Arcade is the tech giant’s capitalization on the success of the App Store — but Apple Arcade promises to shed the ickiness of microtransactions and gacha schemes that dominate the mobile gaming scene.
Apple Arcade is a sleek all-star team of highly curated titles that aims to convince consumers to throw another chunk of change Apple’s way. It’s a step that might just manage to bridge the abyssal gap between mobile gaming and console gaming. Available with cross-saves on iPhone, iPad, Mac, and Apple TV, not only is it gaming’s sexiest offering — it’s wherever you want, however you want. But just how well does its library of games stand up?
All of You 6/10
Despite its intriguing — and often satisfying — Angry Birds-esque physics-based puzzle system, All of You’s gameplay hook proves to be little more than a gimmick, and many puzzles can be solved through trial and error.
Neither adult-swim style visuals nor hyperviolence have ever been my cup of tea, however, Grindstone proves that two wrongs sometimes do make a right — its gameplay, reminiscent of Bejeweled, evokes a tangible satisfaction in mowing down dozens of enemies, and its universe is both fleshed-out and charming.
Mini Motorways 8/10
Stripping the job description of a civil engineer to its most basic form, this strategy road planning sim has sweetly short levels that capitalize on its arcadey leaderboard system, though its replayability dwindles quickly.
What the Golf? 10/10
Pitching itself as “the golf game for people who hate golf,” What the Golf? is a silly, party-style mini-golf game, and its wacky levels, forgiving quick-reset system, and reference-heavy universe make it the perfect sort of video game comfort food.
Besides its honorable effort to showcase talented illustrators, Patterned does not attempt to tread new ground in the realm of puzzle games — great for mobile play, this game provides quick, easy-to-solve puzzles that form beautiful patterns once completed, and at that, it excels.
Over the Alps 8/10
A narrative-driven game in which your choices affect the outcome, Over the Alps delivers a moody, enthralling story that has me second-guessing every decision I make; but in a game where your choices mean everything, its narrative beats can feel confusing and sometimes misleading.
Sonic Racing 5/10
The mascot racing genre is a cornered market, with Mario Kart’s ubiquitous success sucking up all the oxygen in the room, and Sonic Racing does little to dethrone Mario Kart, feeling unoriginal, slippery, and distinctly mobile-game-y — plus the game’s main mode being online multiplayer, gives it a barrier of entry to newcomers who may find themselves frustrated at frequent losses early on.
Employing a stunning art style, beautifully unobstructed with its first-person perspective, Nuts has the player doing the mundane task of setting up surveillance cameras to track squirrel movement in a forest, and the result is a relaxing three-hour-long vignette, wrapped neatly in a satisfying storyline.
Operator 41 6/10
A good gameplay hook with an interesting but inaccessibly low-color-contrast artstyle, this stealth puzzler is criminally short — I was able to start and finish it in less than one class period (sorry Professor) — and it hardly gives the concept a chance to prove whether or not it has legs to stand on.
Dread Nautical 5/10
A low-poly isometric tactical battle game with brutally sour voice acting, Dread Nautical’s presentation is hard to bear, but it's gameplay manages to make the overall experience slightly more tolerable, with an interesting blend of genres (turn-based tactics and randomly generated levels of rogue-likes).
This unforgiving yet encouraging town management sim presents the player with scenarios that contain seemingly reasonable objectives, then attempts to murder the player repeatedly as they fumble their way over the finish line — needless to say, I could hardly put this one down.
Takeshi & Hiroshi 9/10
A rooted, brilliantly told story that acts as the perfect vehicle for what can only be described as a “reverse RPG,” Takeshi & Hiroshi takes what gamers know to be the tropes of traditional turn-based RPGs and turns them on their head, challenging players to be the designers of a video game within a video game.
Dear Reader 4/10
This game prides itself in literary wordplay, however, its puzzles are hardly puzzling, and I found myself able to solve them while only paying about 60% attention; polarizing itself from those who might not enjoy reading very much and threatening to bore bookworms to sleep, Dear Reader fails to secure any audience.
Focusing on strategizing on the fly, Decoherence is a blend of the twin-stick shooter and tactical arena fighting genre that offers players a wide gamut of options and methods of approaching each level, however, the tutorial chucks all of the game’s mechanics at the player, making the learning curve incredibly steep, likely to turn away newcomers.
Depicting a cross-country road trip that takes place during the apocalypse, this turn-based tactical strategy game delivers digestible, square-shaped levels that players must find the best possible route out of before being attacked by enemies — Overland has struck the balance between managing resources and reaching an objective, though its levels begin to feel samey.