The Apple Arcade sure has made a splash, and I decided it was time to dive into it. Apple released not one or two but over 60 totally new and mostly unexpected games out into the wild. Some are good. Many are good, even. But where to start? I took a trip into the Arcade and tossed some quarters in to find out.
I decided to set myself two rules for this. First, the game has to be exclusive to Apple Arcade. That means you can’t get it anywhere else. So while it may be a fantastic game and a genuine personal Game of the Year contender, that means Sayonara Wild Hearts isn’t qualified because you can also get it on PlayStation 4 and Nintendo Switch. It also means Shantae and the Seven Sirens, Cat Quest II, Hot Lava, and Jenny LeClue are disqualified as well. Second, I’m judging the game by playing it only on my phone with no controllers at all. It needs to play well with just the touch screen and nothing else, which is likely what the majority of people will have.
So with those rules in mind, what did I dig up?
Lets start with a genre I expected to do perfectly fine with this program: adventure games. The Get Out Kids caught my eye thanks to its cute art, and it manages to be a pretty good time.
Taking place in the 1980s, you take the role of a pair of young kids named Molly and Salim who, along with Molly’s pet dog Moses, are part of a very exclusive club known as “The Get Out Kids.” One day Moses goes missing, and the kids believe that he was dognapped by Molly’s weird neighbor, who is possibly a vampire. Thus the two must go through a (possibly harebrained) scheme to rescue that dog.
Half adventure game and half hidden object hunter, The Get Out Kids is easy to get into and simply delightful. You’ll see little 3D models of the world and have to solve puzzles and find objects hidden in the world by interacting with other objects. You’ll also be solving simple puzzles, like finding the correct order to turn off a car headlights so the two can sneak into a drive-in movie theater, or throwing a boomerang to knock away bats. It also helps that the game manages to be both hilarious and sad, a weird yet fantastic combination that really got me into it.
The Get Out Kids is a great place to start with Apple Arcade, and a pretty fun adventure game to boot.
If The Get Out Kids felt like a good adventure game to start Apple Arcade with, then Assemble With Care is the one that really made me love the concept.
You play as a traveling repair woman who decides to stop in the town of Bellariva, both looking for work and also wanting to experience the local food festival. Along the way, she meets up with two families that need both their possessions and relationships repaired. One sees the overworked single dad mayor and his young rebellious daughter, while the other sees some sisters that have drifted apart. As you fix the things they own, you’ll learn more about them and fix their lives in the process. It’s a cute and genuinely heartwarming tale.
Of course, you do need to actually fix their possessions. It’s not complicated to do this—the game practically guides you through a large chunk of it—but there’s something so extremely satisfying about setting a camera down in front of you, using a screwdriver to undo every screw, and take the top of it off so you can replace a piece inside of it. Each object you get is a little, usually easy but often enjoyable puzzle. From record players to neon signs, each felt unique and often had little hidden things that, while totally never required to do anything with, was still fun to play on Apple Arcade.
It only takes about an hour or two to finish, and Assemble With Care is worth every second of that time.
The idea behind Dear Reader is a simple one. You’re given classic books and need to fix mistakes in them by swapping words around or pointing out misspellings. How hard can it be?
It turns out the answer is “quite a bit.” I started off with three books, which seemed simple enough. I had the classics Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Alice’s Adventure in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll, and Poems by Emily Dickinson. Each level was a condensed chapter from a book and at first all I had to do was pick which words was missing from a set. However, as the game advanced, more versions of challenges would appear. Soon I had to swap words to get them in the right order, or select words that were spelled wrong, or even remove entire lines that didn’t belong. Suddenly I was reading these classics very carefully, looking for those mistakes. Later levels even come with “twists,” with challenges like having to finish sections before your ink (which serves as both health and currency) runs dry, or changing puzzle types mid-level.
It’s difficult, because a lot of the books I saw were from a time long ago, when the rules of grammar weren’t quite a set in stone as they are now. Or, at least, they were different. I’d expect sentences to flow in a specific order, and get surprised when they didn’t. Yet reading the final product always made sense, and I could see how it got to where it was. I just had to think differently and spend a little more time considering how words flow.
As I completed puzzles I was rewarded with the ink that I had left, which I could then spend on new books. There’s quite a few here, and I saw classics such as The Time Machine, The Picture of Dorian Grey, and The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. Weekly challenges would give a random chapter from a random book, and in a neat little twist after you finished it you could guess which book you got. Choose the right book, and the weekly challenge counted as completing two. You could also complete in-game achievements to earn “rare books,” such as Thomas More’s Utopia.
It’s a ton of content for a weird puzzle game that I honestly didn’t expect much out of, but came to love every second of.
There’s one genre that mobile games are often really associated with, and that’s the classic match-3. In comes Grindstone, here to add a fun barbaric twist to that formula.
You play as the world’s most angry barbarian, who needs to collect grindstones from a mountain in order to feed his family. Simple enough. However, to collect said grindstones he needs to work his way through the mountain and kill all the monsters. You do so by drawing lines, matching up like-colored monsters for kills. Manage to get enough of them in a single match, and they’ll drop a grindstone, which you can collect to get new equipment.
Is it more than your usual “match colors to make things explode game”? Not really. However it’s done in such an impressively silly style that it’s hard to hate or be bored by. Watching your angry barbarian tear his way through a crowd of little creatures is glorious, and there’s a neat tactical edge to trying to make sure you end up in a spot that won’t be hit by an attack any time soon. Occasionally you’ll be put up against a boss too, which changes the way you have to play the game. The first boss, for example, requires you to hit bombs into its mouth by chaining together creatures for stronger blows.
If you’re a fan of match-3’s and watching things explode, Grindstone is a must play on Apple Arcade.
Not every game needs to be a dramatic adventure game or complicated puzzler. Some can just be a simple room turner. Such is Possessions, an easy game about making rooms look right.
The idea is rather simple. You have a room with objects floating around in it in ways that objects shouldn’t float. However, should you turn the camera in specific ways, you can see where these objects should be and put them in the correct spot. Sometimes objects are broken into several pieces and you need to combine them to make them whole again. Other times objects are blocking where other objects should go and you need to rearrange them in a specific order. In addition to this, there’s an AR mode available as well, if you want to place the room on a table and physically move your body to find the correct spot.
Between all the organization, you’ll see a little story play out. There’s no dialogue or written text, so it’s mostly up to your interpretation, but it’s a simple little story about a man and woman trying to make living together and raising a son work, and failing pretty bad at it. It only takes about an hour or two to play through all of Possessions‘ levels, but there’s a sweet and calming game here that at least makes that time worth it on Apple Arcade.
If nothing else, I really enjoyed the houses on display and pretending I lived in them.
Remember that one scene in whatever James Bond movie where he drives the car really fast and chases after some other guy? Agent Intercept is kind of like that.
You’ve got a fast car and fancy gadgets, and you need to save the world every day. You’ll always be moving forward, and not too unlike a runner game, you’re more about controlling the car turning left or right. There’s a boost for when you need to go fast, and you can pick up weapons like missiles and mines to fight back. It’s fast paced, and getting to drift around corners and fire missiles at bad guys always felt great. The game was also packed with some really interesting situations, like having to fight a giant truck loaded with guns, or racing to stop a nuke from firing.
I really did mean what I said when you need to save the world every day too. The game only has a single mission, which is available for 24 hours before swapping out for a new mission. You only get one day to play the level, and every time you play it you get ranked on a scoreboard. You’re pit against 24 other players, so you’ll want to keep trying the level throughout the day in an effort to improve your score. Even if you don’t care about the scoreboard, the levels are unique and it’s a fantastic “I have five minutes, lets see how this one plays out” game.
Plus Agent Intercept is home to some straight up awesome spy music, so that makes it worth a look on Apple Arcade as well.