Earlier this month, during their iPhone 11 Keynote, Apple also announced the release date of September 19th for their biggest gaming initiative to date: Apple Arcade. Much like Xbox Gamepass, Apple Arcade allows users to download and play as many games as they want on up to 6 total iOS devices; all for just $5 a month. This plan can be shared with up to six family members for the same low price and none of the games included will feature any form of in-app purchase (IAP) or micro-transactions. Apple Arcade titles can be played online or off once downloaded, and you can pick up and play on any iOS device (including Apple TV) with saves shared between devices. Mobile gamers can now even sync a PS4 or Xbox One controller to their iOS device via bluetooth.
Anyone who signs up via the Apple Arcade section of the app store will get their first month free. Interested mobile gamers only need to sign up with their existing iTunes/Apple account to gain access to the 100+ games that will be added to the service between now and the end of this year. No announcements have been made at this time on the number of games that will be added and how regularly players can expect to find new titles on the service. Out of the 53 games that are currently available, I personally had the chance to try a handful of them for myself. Now that we have the details out of the way, let me tell you about my experience with the service after having the entire weekend to dive into all Apple Arcade has to offer.
What immediately stood out to me was the sheer variety of the games offered. This is a far cry from the typical shovelware that plagues the App Store (or Steam for that matter). Though a lot of these tiles, like survival-strategy title Overland for instance, are currently available for purchase on other platforms at their standard retail price, Apple Arcade offers a great way for interested gamers to try out the full game before they commit to a purchase. I only played Overland briefly, due to some control issues with the touch screen, but I feel like the game would be best played on PC. However, I probably never would have considered picking it up if I hadn’t tried it first on Apple’s new gaming service.
The trouble with some of the games on this service is that when playing on a phone like I was, the touchscreen doesn’t always register finger taps, as was the case in Overland. When I went to confirm an action on my turn, such as moving or picking up a can of fuel for the road, I had to first tap once to select my choice, tap again to confirm it, and then tap once more just to make sure. What ended up happening though is that I would click anywhere outside of the box designated for me to select my choice which took me all the way back out to the main game and forced me to re-do that process all over again. With a controller, this would not be a problem at all. Unfortunately, I was not able to test the service with a controller at the time of this writing due to some Bluetooth connection issues.
A few bumps in the road aside, I really like where Apple is going with this service. There are even some current games that are exclusive to Apple Arcade, like the sequel/spin off Exit The Gungeon. This time around, the game is played on a phone or iPad in a side scrolling fashion as the Gungeoneer rides an elevator down a rapidly collapsing Gungeon, while avoiding enemies and bullets along the way. Dodge Roll has incorporated an excellent control scheme for phones here. Simple swipes on the right side of the screen control where players dodge in the environment, while swiping on the left side of the screen moves a character left or right. Firing is handled automatically and instead of picking up guns, the player’s starting firearm transforms over the course of their play-through and will get stronger and stronger as they plummet further down through the Gungeon.
Fans of platformers shouldn’t feel left out as Rayman Mini is here. What feels like a simple endless runner turns out to be so much more as clever timing and wall jumps can be used to change Rayman’s momentum and direction in any level, allowing players to reach hidden collectibles as they race through levels gathering lums. With three different characters and various costumes to unlock (yes, ALL are unlockable through gameplay) Rayman Mini should keep fans entertained for awhile.
However, the one game that has kept me glued to my phone since I first tried it has been Grindstone. It looks like a cross between any cartoon one might find on Cartoon Network and something like Puzzle Quest. Players are tasked with literally slicing through same-colored monsters trying to create chains of 10 or more enemies to generate grindstones which act as currency and also allow for chains to be extended to rack up even more points. There a three goals to every level which include killing a certain number of monsters, unlocking a chest that appears on the board after defeating the enemy that holds the key, and then killing the king that appears. The caveat here is that chests can only be opened after obtaining the key and killing the specified number of monsters to open it. Also, to defeat the king and get his crown, players must form a chain of at least 5 like-colored enemies that match the king’s color. While players can move on through the exit door at any time by forming a chain leading up to it, completing all three goals will yield the best results in each level.
These exist in the form of blueprints which provide the player character with armor to defend against enemy attacks and other hazards that can cause damage, potions that cost grindstones to refill, and even different weapons and special attacks to make it easier to clear each level. I have easily put over a dozen hours into this game already and have no intention of stopping soon. Its great for long sessions or for playing a few levels before bed. I highly recommend it to fans of puzzle games and the animation style of Adventure Time as that is what the character designs remind me of most.
Overall, Apple Arcade is an entire TNT crate of bang for your buck. While Gamepass is the best deal available for console gamers, fans of mobile gaming would be remiss to skip out on what is beyond a shadow of a doubt the best bargain for gamers on iOS. If you’re tired of being nickel and dimed in every freemium game that pops up on the App Store (and there are A LOT) then look no further than Apple Arcade, which provides mobile gamers with a console-level gaming experience for literally a fraction of what they’d pay for some of these titles on other platforms. Its a veritable buffet of eclectic indie titles and a great way to try some games out before committing to a purchase on iOS or any other gaming platform. Parents will find much to love here as well as none of these games have anything over an M rating, so there is fun to be had for the whole family!