Apple Arcade is Awesome
Updated: Jan 7
For as long as I could remember, the mobile gaming market has been a place for hot garbage. Games infested with microtransactions and egregious ads have been finding a comfortable place within your mobile play store. Every day new “games” would flood the market making it seem impossible to find quality experiences on your phone. So much so that I’m sure many of you have sworn off mobile gaming entirely. I know I have.
Imagine my surprise when I find out that Apple Arcade, the new mobile gaming subscription from Apple, is the complete antithesis to the current mobile game business model. I mean it, Apple Arcade deserves to be taken seriously not only for its slew of high-quality mobile games but because it has finally added validation to the platform.
For the uninitiated Apple Arcade is a $5 a month subscription for unlimited access to 100s of mobile games online and off. No microtransactions, no ads, no bullshit. Just games, honest to goodness video games. This is significant in more ways than one. Not only because Microtransactions are the worst, but because when completely removed from the equation developers can create games that aren’t concerned with gauging your wallet but rather offering up unique and memorable experiences.
Apple Arcade allows game progression to happen naturally instead of being halted by rudimentary annoyances like energy bars or convoluted currency systems. Just you and the game, the way it’s meant to be. When that factor is taken out you can sink your teeth into the games and enjoy it the way intended.
The list of games available from the get-go is extensive and frankly a little overwhelming. At the time of writing, there are over 100 games available. I barely scratched the surface of what Apple Arcade has to offer but I would like to highlight some noteworthy ones.
Dead End Job
Ever wonder what a cross between Luigi's Mansion and The Binding of Isaac would look like? No? Well, too bad cause here it is. Dead End Job is a ghost busting twin-stick shooter wherein you play as Hector Plasm, the ghost exterminator. As Hector you’ll navigate office building, parks, and other urban locals bustin' ghost, dodging enemy projectiles and picking up power-ups. The action takes place through an isometric perspective similar to The Binding of Isaac but it’s much more approachable. the art style is gorgeous and looks just as good as your favourite 90s cartoons. The action is also a little less gruelling. Losing doesn’t hard reset the game but you do lose all of your earned perks so there are penalties. The game is super addicting and getting a good run can be exhilarating. Plus, the writing is excellent too.
Pinball Wizard is a traditional Pinball game with the soul of a dungeon crawler. You’ll fight enemies, cast spells, and gain XP but all through the framework of a pinball game. Your Wizard navigates the course by slapping him with your flippers. You’ll collect treasure defeat monsters and gain new spells to help you climb the dungeon tower. After every run, you can spend the money you collect to upgrade each spell making them more useful in battle. There’s just a great vibe to the game that kept me coming back for more. The rewards felt attainable and despite the difficulty, I constantly felt like I was making progress.
Frogger in Toyland
Ok honestly who cares about Frogger anymore? I know I didn’t. I had no affinity for the character back in the day. This latest entry though is amazing. Not only does it look incredible its also one of the most fun and challenging mobile games I have ever played. The concept is simple, just hop forward and save froglets while navigating increasingly difficult stages while completing challenges to gain 3 stars. What makes the game shine is its level design. The whole game takes place in real-world environments like bedrooms, bathroom backyards, and kitchens. You’ll navigate up vacuum cleaners, run across flaming grills, and dodge a Godzilla-like baby who tosses around all its toys. Each stage gets more and more creative with new challenges constantly being introduced. There are bonus costumes to unlock and secret levels to find ensuring that you are never far from a substantial reward.
Quite possibly the most beautiful game I've played here, EarthNight is a runner game unlike any other. Taking place after a Dragon Apocalypse, Sydney and Stanly must skydive back down to earth from the far reaches of space slaying as many dragons as possible on the way. You’ll run along backs of dragons in super speed all the while defeating enemies and dodging obstacles. There’s a great sense of scale as you run on these dragons and the sense of speed is exhilarating. Every level ends with a chance to slay the dragon and if your not skilled enough it’ll toss you off only to skydive your way to other dragons back. The hand-drawn graphics are mesmerizing and has a level of immersion not seen in the runner genre. The soundtrack is also amazing further rounding out this awesome experience.
I’ve played a few more games but these four were the ones I found myself playing the most. Granted, I've probably only played about 15% of the game on offer but I'm hopeful that the rest are just as high quality. The wide range of games ensures that you'll always have something good to play, whether its a deep action RPG or something far more simple.
Saying I’ve hated mobile games is an understatement. In fact, I believe everything wrong with current AAA video games stems from the wretched mobile market but Apple Arcade is on the right track. It's delivering a variety of quality games at an affordable price. Indie devs get the exposer they deserve and we get the mobile experiences we want. For now, at least it seems like a win-win to me.
What gets me most excited is to continue my journey into the indie game sphere. I’ve ignored the indie market for far too long and with Apple Arcade I have no excuse anymore. Since my second kid was born my gaming time has been cut down even more and now those couple minutes of quiet time between feedings and diaper changes can be used to play a quality game. By no means is this a replacement for my Xbox One or PlayStation 4 but its a nice little addition. If you're like me and avoided gaming on your phone like it was the plague than I’d say give Apple Arcade might be for you.