Apple Arcade is only a few days away from being released to the public alongside iOS13, but for those of us in the beta branch of iOS, the service became available to play around with earlier this week. So I did what any reasonable person would do, and downloaded a smattering of games, deleted a bunch of stuff from my phone when I learned I quickly ran out of hard drive space, and played a couple of titles.
But alongside just downloading the games, I took advantage of the new feature to pair a Bluetooth controller to my phone, and tried these games out with my PS4 controller. Here’s just a bit of the bangers I tried out.
SAYONARA WILD HEARTS
I’ll begin with one of the most aesthetically pleasing games I got to try out, because I’m apparently naturally drawn to pastels and neon. Sayanora Wild Hearts is a game about… something. I think someone’s heart was broken so hard that the universe was impacted by it, and the only way to fix everything is to surf through Tron or something. But the important thing is that you control a lady who cosmically skateboards through space collecting coins and hearts while pulling off some sweet ballet kick-flips in the process.
It’s more exciting than it sounds, I swear. I only played about 3 levels to start with, but I don’t think it’s a rhythm game as much as it is a game with a rad look and killer soundtrack that you just kind of experience. I might be too early into it to understand the actual mechanics of the game, primarily if there’s a win or lose state to the game, or if you truly are just letting it all wash over you.
Whatever the case may be, I’m certainly going to try out more of Sayanora Wild Hearts when I get the chance. It’s made a great first impression, and I’m exceedingly curious about where the gameplay goes from here.
OCEANHORN 2Oceanhorn 2 follows in the footsteps of Oceanhorn in that it too is doing its best Zelda game impression. While the first game was an ode to the top-down Zelda games, this one is a 3D action game, much like Ocarina of Time or Windwaker. But despite wearing its inspiration on its sleeve, Oceanhorn 2 seems like a genuinely competent version of what it pulls from.
You’ve got your dungeons, your annoying mob enemies that shouldn’t be as much of a threat as they are, you’ve got a sword, a shield and plenty of puzzles involving you putting a thing on a pressure plate.
Oceanhorn 2 however, is the only game where I dealt with some weird input issues while using my controller. The camera would occasionally start to swirl, my character would start sprinting without me telling them to, and sometimes they’d just swing their sword at what I assume is a ghost I couldn’t see.
But despite those minor quibbles, my main issue is that I don’t think I’d want to play this on a cellphone. I kept looking over at my Switch, wishing I could play it there, or cast it to my TV or something. The game itself seems great, but not suited for cellphone gaming.
WHAT THE GOLF?
You know what’s a weird thing about me? I like golf games. Seriously, I think they can be a lot of fun and calming in the right scenario. Sometimes you want that slow paced, methodical experience, and I think a good golf game can deliver that
What the Golf? is absolutely is not that game. It’s way better. The first level has you do the standard, “hit ball into hole” thing, except they just want you to hit the flag to complete a level. Then level two comes in and suddenly you’re just hurling the golf club at the flag. This kind of keeps going until I found myself launching couches, cats and even houses at the hole. Sometimes I was one ball, sometimes I was 50.
What the Golf? is this absurdist take on golf which easily was the highlight of Apple Arcade for me thus far. I would buy this game outright if Apple Arcade didn’t already have me covered on that front.
Grindstone is a puzzle game where you’re tasked with climbing a mountain, using tons of little critters as your stepping stones. By which I mean you’re killing a bunch of little creatures to fulfill your murder quota while collecting scraps and currency you can use to craft better items and abilities.
I went into Grindstone thinking it would be a nifty looking, “match 3” game like Bejeweled, but instead you’re chaining as many same colored enemies together, allowing you to blaze a path through them. You need to find the most effective route to clear out the most of these little guys as you can. But soon you learn that by collecting a titular grindstone, you get to change the color of the enemy you can kill in that turn.
Some enemies will attack you if you stop in their radius, or some obstacles require you to build up a chain of enemies before you can clear through them. There’s a lot going on here, and I can easily see this game getting super challenging in the later levels when you need to manage several mechanics at once. But as it is, I’m really enjoying it.
Skate City is exactly what you might think it is from the title. It’s a 2D skateboarding game that boast chill vibes, and smooth tunes while letting you effortlessly pull of various flips, spins and grinds.
Tricks are controlled using either the analog sticks or virtual analog sticks on the screen. For this game, I decided to see how viable it was without a controller. Turns out, you’re really gonna want one for this game. The touch controls aren’t awful, but having to juggle between mushing your thumb on different parts of the screen to accelerate, spin and do a trick make it a little clunky.
But if you’ve got the controller and want just a chill-ass skate session, Skate City is probably one of the best skateboarding games I’ve played on my phone, which admittedly isn’t saying much. It’s good, trust me.
So those are more or less, the first games I managed to spend any real time with. I’ve got to say though, Apple Arcade as a product is actually really winning me over. I haven’t really come across any games that have actively repelled me away. There are some genres of game on the service that I know aren’t for me, but all of the games themselves look pretty polished from my quick glance of what was available.
Although in classic App Store fashion, discoverability among this subset of iOS games is still kind of a hassle. There aren’t any genre categories to browse or even a straight alphabetical list to peruse, which kind of seems to defeat the whole point of Apple Arcade in the first place.
My limited impression of Apple Arcade is based on the handful of games I got to play, but so fa I find myself more drawn to the games that aren’t trying to provide a “console” experience. I like a certain kind of game on my phone, and playing something like Oceanhorn 2 on an iPhone screen just doesn’t seem like anything I want to do.
Apple Arcade launches on Friday, September 20th for iOS for $4.99 a month and later this year on iPad. There was a free one month trial I took advantage of that should be available when the service launches.
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