Apple Arcade allows mobile gamers to ‘play extraordinary’


Blake Loria

Apple Arcade is a monthly subscription service costing $4.99 with a one-month free trial for new users.

Apple launched its mobile gaming service, Apple Arcade, Thursday, Sept. 19. The service offers U.S. players access to over 100 exclusive mobile games for only $4.99 a month, and new users can enjoy a one-month free trial. The service may be accessed on iPhones, iPads and Apple TVs, and is advertised as one subscription where up to six family members can access the games without ads and with the ability to play both online and offline.

The tagline the service is using is “play extraordinary.” According to Apple, the company has partnered with many developers across the world to redefine gaming. Although an endless amount of mobile games are available on the App Store, many of them are cash-grabs focused on showing the player advertisements for other games every minute or two. So, when I saw there would be no ads and over 100 games for me to explore offline, I decided I would try out the free trial to see for myself if the service is different from other typical mobile games.

From murder mysteries to puzzles and even role-playing and platformer games, the service offers a variety of game genres. Out of the 53 games available at launch, “Punch Planet,” “Cardpocalypse,” “Dead End Job,” “Sayonara Wild Hearts” and “Bleak Sword” were some of the best.

The diversity of the characters only adds to the experience.

— Blake Loria, 11

Punch Planet,” developed by Sector-K Games, is a “Street Fighter“-like game with a sci-fi, retro 1980s’ wave style. Players can battle in four locations with either central processing units (cpus) or with other players. Although there is a story, following an undercover police detective framed for murder, the fighting is the main focus of the game. Punch Planet breaks the mold of the common fighting game, with an immersive environment and simple art style. The six playable characters are cartoonish, with an almost comic book style to them. For instance, one character, named Dog–who looks suspiciously like a wolf–is a freelance assassin whose origin is unknown. Five-year-old Dog loves money, hates the vet and its weapon of choice are teeth and claws. The diversity of the characters only adds to the experience and helps build the universe. Overall, the game was fun, with simple and competitive combat and an immersive world. However, the game feels incomplete. With a few more stages, characters and game-modes, the game could surely become more full and entertaining.

The card game was simple, with unique cards and interesting mechanics.

— Blake Loria, 11

Cardpocalypse,” a single-player role-playing card game developed by Versus Evil, follows 10-year-old Jesse on her first day of school at Dudsdale Elementary. The player controls Jesse, competing in the card game Mega Mutant Power Pets against other characters, all trying to become “masters.” The card game was simple, with unique cards and interesting mechanics in contrast to games like “Magic: The Gathering.” The main antagonist of the game is the principal who absolutely hates the card game and bans it, forcing the characters to play the game secretly. This was the main story, with the player playing between classes and during lunch, adding some pressure to the card game. Although the card game was fun and easy to understand, the game’s attempt to be more than a card game seemed out of place. The card game is enjoyable by itself, and the dialogue system and scenes where the player explores the school in between matches is more tedious than entertaining.

This game is perfect for a casual play.

— Blake Loria, 11

Dead End Job,” an action game developed by Headup Games, has the player fighting ghosts and ghouls in a 1990s’ style cartoon world for the company Ghoul-B-Gone, the “number one experts in paranormal pest control.” The game is a twin-stick shooter, having the player use a “Ghostbusters“-like machine to vacuum enemies, and choose paths to different rooms until making it to the room with a boss. The levels are fairly easy, but become repetitive after playing for a while. However, the game makes up for this with the artwork and quirky level design. At this point, the game becomes hectic, with multiple enemies chasing the player. While this part of the game is harder than the others parts of the levels, it is still entertaining and keeps the game fresh. This game is perfect for a casual play, and although there is a story, with the main character being haunted by his mentor, the game focuses more on game-play and making the player laugh. The game is an obvious homage to “Ghostbusters,” and with the tongue-in-cheek humor throughout the game and casual game-play, Dead End Job manages to bring life to the Apple Arcade selection.

The game is a blend of genres, making it fresh and fun.

— Blake Loria, 11

Sayonara Wild Hearts,” developed by Simogo, is best described on the App Store as “A pop album video game,” and has the player run through various stages colored with soft purples, pinks and blues. The game is beautiful, with a nice score, which maintained the tone and the atmosphere of the game. A playlist of the score is available on Spotify. The game is a blend of genres, making it fresh and fun. It is similar to other running games, such as “Temple Run” or “Subway Surfers,” however the game does not stick to the formulaic game-play, and keeps things interesting with moments of battle between people, motorcycle chases, and even a level where the stage is in virtual reality game. The game has the player go through action-packed, unique stages. The ending is wholesome, having the player beat the antagonists with love, a sweet ending that only accentuates the overall tone of the game. However, the game is fast-paced, and does not allow the player enough time to take in the surroundings and comprehend everything going on, which is a shame since the game is so beautiful and full of potential for innovating the genre of game it is.

The controls were easy to understand, while also forcing the player to strategize.

— Blake Loria, 11

Bleak Sword,” developed by Devolver Digital, is a pixel fantasy game where the player trudges though diorama-like stages, battling fanciful creatures. What appeared to be a simple-looking game at first turned out to be one of Apple Arcade’s better selections. The game sets the tense tone right away, throwing the player into its stages and having multiple enemies ambush the player in beautiful areas, such as the dungeon and the swamp. The controls were easy to understand, while also forcing the player to strategize with swiping the screen and tapping being the most difficult action players will do. This allows for the player to focus more on developing a strategy and being invested in the game and is a nice change compared to the many mobile games with unnecessarily complicated controls. While Bleak Sword is definitely one of the more fun games, it is yet another game the service offers with a flat story and boring cut scenes, which I often found myself skipping entirely.

Ultimately, these games do not redefine gaming. However, each was unique and enjoyable in some way, and given some time, Apple Arcade could prove itself as a serious gaming service. Even the less engaging games were high quality, and Apple Arcade could be the first step to redeeming the mobile games players have had to deal with for years. With a trend of popular and in-depth games moving to mobile format, such as “Call of Duty: Mobile” and “Mario Kart Tour,” Apple could definitely expand the market, enticing casual gamers such as myself to play while away from a console. It is apparent the developers put work and love into their games, and with the bonuses of no pop-up adds or micro-transactions, and offline playability, Apple Arcade is definitely worth it.