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Apple Arcade

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Official Apple Arcade website

 

We've discussed it a bit in the big Apple thread, but I think this service deserves its own thread where we can discuss it and recommend individual games to each other. 

 

When Apple first announced Apple Arcade earlier this year, I was pretty interested. A subscription service that would give me access to hundreds of mobile games that didn't try to fleece me, steal all my personal data, or shove annoying ads in my face every few minutes? That sounded great! I love playing games on my iPad, but I have lamented the lack of quality titles available for a long time. When Apple announced it would cost $4.99/month last week, I got really excited. That seemed like a really good deal. Now, that the first batch of games is available (through iOS 13 and iPadOS 13 beta), the early reviews have been overwhelmingly positive, and I am simply over the moon.

 

The standout title of this launch games appears to be Sayonara Wild Hearts, which was shown at the September Apple Event. It bills itself as "a pop album video game." I've seen several people on my Twitter feed hype it, and it will probably be the first thing I download once I sign up for the service. I've read that this is best played with a controller, but it does work with the touch screen controls. I'll give both a shot now that I can connect a Dual Shock and Xbox One controller to my iPad.

 

I'm also excited about Rayman Mini, which appears to be a successor to Rayman Jungle Run and Rayman Fiesta Run, both of which I greatly enjoyed. (Rayman Adventures, which came out a few years ago, had a lot of potential, but it was a micro-transaction-infested mess).

 

Beyond that, there are apparently a lot of really good games to check out in the launch lineup. Once I update both my iPhone and iPad to version 13, I'll sign up for the service. I'll post here if I find anything else worth checking out.

 

 

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I can’t wait to try out Arcade. I LOVED Oceanhorn so really looking forward to Oceanhorn 2 - that’s my “Zelda” for the iPad :) but I’m also looking forward to trying out Sayonara Wild Hearts and the others. I particularly like the art style of Sayonara and Skate City. I didn’t initially think a curated game lists would really work but, as you pointed out almost all of the reviews so far highlight the quality of the titles included. At £4.99 and 1 month free it would be ridiculous to miss out on these. 

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So I signed up for Apple Arcade at the beginning of the month. I've tried a handful of games so far. For now, I just want to focus on the one game I've actually played from beginning to end.

 

Rayman Mini

 

Rayman Mini is a auto-runner in which you guide Ubisoft's limb-less mascot from the start of a level to the end. Along the way, Rayman collects lums, 100 of which are scattered about each stage. Collecting all 100 nets you a perfect score on that stage. 

 

As you'd expect from the auto-run genre, your move set is limited: you can jump, hover, punch, and ground pound. You can't directly control the direction Rayman runs. This may sound very limiting if you're used to having full control of him in other games. Fortunately, excellent level design and tight controls make up for it. The game supports controllers, but I found the move set is simple enough that the touch screen controls work fine. 

 

The levels themselves can be completed in less than a minute if you know what you're doing. However, reaching the end can prove to be more difficult than it appears at first. For one, Rayman can't take a single hit during the course of the stage. If you collide with a baddie or land on a row of spikes, you die and must start over. Additionally, the difficulty ramps up quickly. By the end, you'll need to pull off precise maneuvers if you just want to survive. Furthermore, if you want to unlock the last few levels and beat the game, you need to earn a perfect score on every stage, which means collecting every lum. Fortunately, the short levels mean that getting back to where you were doesn't take very long. That said, it can be maddening to reach the end of a level and realize you missed one lum along the way due to a poorly timed jump.

 

If you enjoy challenging side-scrolling platformers, I highly recommend you check this game out. Don't let the fact that it's an auto-runner put you off or think that it's not a "real" Rayman game as a result. It is, and it's great. If you enjoyed Rayman's most recent 2-D outings on consoles, I strongly believe you'll find something to enjoy with this one.

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Get "What The Golf?" if you have arcade.  It is great.   I think I've played about 10 hours and am at around 99% completion

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I have a few more quick impressions of some Apple Arcade games I’ve played:

 

Sayonara Wild Hearts

As I said earlier in this thread, this looked like the must-play game for the service at launch. I finished it last night, and... it was pretty good. If you like games that mix gameplay, visuals, and music together — think something like Rez — you might like this.

 

The game is pretty short overall; it should only take a couple hours to reach the end. However, if you decide to earn a Gold Rank on every level, it should take you considerably longer to complete it. Like Rayman Mini, the levels are farily short, so replaying one does not take very long.Every level in this game offers a unique gameplay mechanic, keeping it feely fresh until the very end.

 

Be sure to grab a controller if you play it though. This one definitely benefits from either a good D-pad or analog stick.

 

Shantae and the Seven Sirens

!!!METROID-VANIA ALERT!!!

!!!METROID-VANIA ALERT!!!

 

Yes, we have a bonafide Metroid-vania to play on Apple Arcade. The good news is it’s pretty great. The game features tight, responsive controls, excellent hand-drawn visuals, and a killer soundtrack. It also offers a fair bit of challenge for experienced players, although it’s nothing compared to something like Ori and the Blind Forest or Hollow Knight in that regard.

 

At the moment, only part one of the adventure is available, with part two arriving in the near future. At this point, it’s still too early to rank it next to other greats of the genre, but I am looking forward to the next part. I think there’s a lot of potential here for a truly great game. I just need to see the whole thing to know for sure.

 

I suppose this goes without saying given the genre, but definitely grab a controller for this one. Touch screen controls do not work well with it.

 

ChuChu Rocket! Universe

I just started playing this one last night, but I can already tell I’m going to be super addicted to it. I love puzzle games like this, especially on a touch device. If you’re like me and had never played a ChuChu Rocket! game before, it’s essentially a Lemmings-esque puzzle game where you guide little mouse-like creature to a rocket. The trick, of course, is figuring out the optimal path for them to follow.

 

So far, the levels I’ve played have done a good job of introducing the basic gameplay mechanics while offering up some decent head-scratchers to keep me hooked. I haven’t been completely stumped by any of the levels I’ve played so far, but with over 100 levels, and I suspect that the difficulty will ramp up considerably, especially toward the end.

 

This game does have support for controllers, but you don’t need it. You can play the game perfectly fine with touch controls. 

 

===============

 

That’s all for now. I’ve downloaded What the Golf? and will give it a try this weekend. for now, I’m going to dive back into Shantae and Chu Chu Rocket and see how far I can get with those.

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On 10/10/2019 at 11:41 AM, Kyle-K said:

Get "What The Golf?" if you have arcade.  It is great.   I think I've played about 10 hours and am at around 99% completion

 

I'm about halfway through this game now, and I agree. This is one of the more surprising, inventive, and downright funny games on the service right now. Even better, it works great on mobile. The touch screen controls fit well with the gameplay, and it can be picked up and played in short bursts whenever you have a spare moment. I hope to finish it sometime in the next few weeks.

 

I have another game recommendation for those interested: Marble It Up! Mayhem. This one follows in the footsteps of Marble Madness and Super Monkey Ball. Like those games, the player must roll a ball -- in this case, a marble -- to a goal without falling off the board. Players control the marble itself instead of tilting the board as in SMB. The marble can also jump over obstacles as well as collect power-ups to increase its speed, jump height, or decrease its rate of descent when falling through the air.

 

Unlike the two games mentioned above, Marble It Up! does not require players to reach the goal within a certain time limit. They can take as long as need to reach the goal. Additionally, checkpoints throughout each level make it a little easier to reach the end. Players can improve their times, however, in order to earn gold, silver, and bronze medals, which unlock bonuses as well. Dedicated players can even push for platinum medals as an additional challenge.

 

The levels themselves start out relatively easy and increase in size and complexity as the game introduces new ideas. By Chapter III, levels can take several minutes to complete, and earning those gold and silver medals requires a fair amount of skill. It will be interesting to see how hard the game gets on the fourth and fifth chapters.

 

If you plan on playing this game, I highly recommend connecting a controller. Playing well requires precise movement, and having a controller that gives you tactile feedback when you move a joystick or press a button is a must. Using the built-in virtaul joystick and buttons does not work nearly as well.

 

Anyway, be sure to check it out if you have a chance. I think most of you would really like it.

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On 11/19/2019 at 2:47 PM, JFo said:

The levels themselves start out relatively easy and increase in size and complexity as the game introduces new ideas. By Chapter III, levels can take several minutes to complete, and earning those gold and silver medals requires a fair amount of skill. It will be interesting to see how hard the game gets on the fourth and fifth chapters.

 

Quick update -- I'm on the last batch of levels now on Marble It Up!, and yeah, this game gets brutally difficult toward the end. Last night, I completed a whopping three levels, and managed to get the gold medal times on each. I wish the game kept track of how many times you died, because I bet for me it would be in the triple digits for a couple of them. I had entertained the notion of beating the platinum times on all the levels, but considering how difficult the endgame is, gold will have to do. At any rate, I hope to beat the last two levels tonight and add this one to my completed games list for 2019.

 

One interesting part about playing Marbel It Up! for me is that it is one of the games on Apple Arcade that can be played on any device that supports it. I've played it on my iPhone XS, iPad Pro, 5K iMac (late 2015 model), and Apple TV 4K. The promise of playing an Apple Arcade game on any device you want holds up pretty well -- at least with this game. I've never lost any progress and the syncing is seamless.

 

I also find it interesting to see how the game looks and plays differently on each device. The Apple TV 4K looks the least impressive, with relatively flat lighting effects and a performance target of 60fps. It mostly hits it, but with ocassional minor studders. The iMac, on the other hand, looks the best, and offers a wide range of graphical options. I can crank the resolution up to 5K, and pump up the anti-aliasing to max, but then I'll get about 10fps while playing (just a guess). The best balance seems to be playing at 1080p with AA turned off. If I do that, I can usually get 60fps without any problem, but I still notice some drops here and there. The iPad Pro seems like the best balance -- 60fps locked with some of the extra graphical bells and whistles of the Mac version.

 

The only real technical issue I've had playing the game was on Mac. For some reason, when I pair an Xbox One controller to the computer, the buttons do not map to the appropriate inputs. I haven't tried using the Xbox One controller with any other games, so I don't know if it's just a problem with Marbel It Up! or with the controller itself. I'll have to play some other games with it to find out. In the meantime, I've had absolutely no issues with the Dual Shock 4 on any Apple device. Pairing the controller always works perfectly.

 

Again, I highly recommed this game if you have Apple Arcade. It may be tied with Rayman Mini as my favorite game on the service so far.

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I finsihed off Marble It Up! Mayhem last night, as expected. Much to my surprise, the last two levels were not as impossibly hard as I expected. I even managed to get a the platinum medal time on one of them without even really trying.

 

At any rate, I’m looking at playing Assemble with Care next. Any game from the makers of Monument Valley has my attention. Best of all, it’s a fairly short game according to How Long to Beat. It might be a good one to sneak in during a busy holiday weekend where I have three family events to attend (including one at our own house). 

 

I also want to get around to playing Oceanhorn 2. My wife played the demo at the Apple Store this weekend while she was getting her iPhone repaired and told me it was a game I would like. I think she’s probably right, but I think I might want to play the original one first. If I do, I may get it on Switch. I have a bunch of store credit there right now, so I can get it for next to nothing. 

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Thanks for the impressions on Marble It Up - looks fun so I’m going to grab it for this weekend. Also, I really liked Oceanhorn and so far 2 has been very good too (Zelda-alike). Easy recommendation :) 

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Assemble with Care

As expected, I completed this game last weekend. It’s fairly short — maybe a couple hours long at most if you take your time and engage with the story. At its core, it’s a puzzle game in which you use the touch screen on the iPhone or iPad to disassemble, repair, and reassemble various items such as a rotary phone, a watch, and a turntable. There are 11 objects to fix in total, each increasing in complexity as you go along. The game makes good use of the touch screen as you’d expect, and it is very satisfying taking objects apart and figuring out how to get them back together.

 

The story is simple, well told, with some good performances by the voice actors. There’s not much to it, so I won’t give much away. I will just say that this is one of those stories where fixing the objects is an analogy to fixing the relationships between the characters you encounter along the way.

 

At any rate, this is definitely one to check out, particularly if you are interesting is something quiet. It’s nice to play a game where the objective is to repair things rather than blowing them up.

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Apple Arcade Now Available With $49.99/Year Subscription Option

 

Joe Rossignol for MacRumors.com:

 

Quote

To switch to the annual subscription plan on an iOS device, open the App Store, tap on your profile photo in the top-right corner, tap on Subscriptions, tap on Apple Arcade, and select the one-year option. 

 

This saves you about $9.89/year. I just switched mine. The new subscription will start for me on New Year’s Day.

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I finally finished What the Golf? today while I was home with a sick kid. I 100% completed it in 12:37:29 with around 11,000 strokes total. As I said in an earlier post, it’s a perfect game for mobile and touch screens. I did try it out on my iMac, and while I’m sure it is possible to play it with a mouse, I think the touch screen is simpler, faster, and more intuitive. For some of the harder levels, this is essential. The game can be brutally tough at times, and having good touch screen controls makes them a little easier to do.

 

I recently also played a game called Stela. Did you like Limbo? Did you like Inside? Well, have I got a game for you! Stela very much follows in the footsteps of those two games, right down to the exact same control scheme. The developer, SkyBox Labs, describes it like this:

 

Quote

 

Stela is a cinematic, atmospheric platformer about a young woman witnessing the final days of a mysterious ancient world.

 

Overcome daunting challenges, treacherous terrain, and gargantuan beasts while traversing a decaying land. Manipulate the environment to solve elaborate puzzles and creep past dangerous creatures under cover of muted landscapes, all set to an original soundtrack. Survive sweeping environments including mysterious towns, haunting forests, and massive subterranean ruins brought to life in an atmospheric experience.

 

 

You run left to right, solving puzzles, out-smarting various enemies and monsters, and basically trying not to die. The story is told in the environments and through the gameplay. It’s intentionally left vague and open-ended, allowing you to draw your own conclusions as to what’s happening. 

 

Overall, it’s good, but doesn’t live up to the quality of PlayDead’s two masterpieces. For one, it’s not quite as fucked up. Two, the puzzles and the set pieces are quite as good either. The good news is that it’s pretty short — probably less than three hours total for most players — and can probably be finished in a single evening if you have the time.

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I finished a game on Apple Arcade last night called Inmost and wanted I would share my thoughts on it. I started playing Monday night with the intent of putting it away after a half hour. To my surprise, it roped me in, and I ended up finishing it a couple nights later.

 

It's difficult to describe what Inmost is without giving too much away, but I'll do my best. At its core, it’s a 2D side-scroller split into three sections, each of which has its own protagonist and play style:

 

  • Adam — A bearded man whom you play as for most of the game. His sections can be best described as the Metroidvania portion, with an emphasis on light platforming and puzzle solving (no combat to speak of here).
  • Lizzie — A little girl exploring a house with her toy rabbit. These sections are more story driven, with lots of dialogue.
  • Knight — A masked warrior who battles through fairly linear levels against swarms of black goo-like monsters of varying types.

 

As you progress through the game, it switches between these three protagonists at certain points. It's not entirely clear while you're playing how their stories relate to one another. The narrative comes together by the end, however, and to say that it’s a sad story would be an understatement. The game even boots up with the following warning: 

 

Quote

INMOST is a moving story of loss and hope, with themes, including traumatic death, that some may find emotionally upsetting. Player discretion is advised.

 

After playing it, I can confirm it delivers on that promise/threat.

 

This is one of those rare instances where a second run can give additional depth and meaning to the events you just played through . After completing it, I replayed first level and picked up on things I didn’t catch the first time. I imagine the same would be true throughout the whole thing. The good news is the game isn't very long — three hours at most the first time through — so replaying it isn’t a huge undertaking. I might try to do that, just because I found the story so interesting.

 

Visually, Inmost looks like Playdead (makers of Limbo and Inside) made a GameBoy Color title. Colors are muted with a strong emphasis on blues, greens, and blacks, that reinforce the somber mood of the narrative. Like other modern 8-bit pixel art games, the graphics go evoke the feeling of the systems they're trying to emulate, while at the same time going beyond what was possible on them. In this case, the animation of the characters and the detail of the environments are clearly above and beyond what you could have gotten on a GameBoy Color. What surprised and delighted me most was how expressive the characters could be despite the low resolution of their sprites. The graphics may look crude, low-budget, and simple at first glance, but there's a lot to appreciate about the visuals the longer you look.

 

And I'll stop there. Add Inmost to the list of Apple Arcade games that have impressed me. This game may not be for everyone, but I'm always glad when something like this can get made and distributed to a large audience.

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I have another game to share with you all: Manifold Garden by William Chyr Studio. I finished it yesterday after just over five hours of play time. Here is a quick description and some of my thoughts on it.

 

Manifold Garden is a first-person puzzle game set in a world inspired by the works of M.C. Escher. It requires the player to manipulate gravity and navigate areas that infinitely repeat. Basically, imagine a game that takes place in a world that looks kind of like this...

 

escher-relativity-lithograph-medium.thumb.jpg.14b4aea97c293353844e760f86b3baec.jpg

 

...and you get an idea of what your in for.

 

The puzzles are extremely well designed from beginning to end. The game eases you into it by teaching you the basics early on, then ramps up the complexity and difficulty as it progresses. Aside from some button prompts at the beginning to teach you the controls, it offers little in the way of an explanation of how all the mechanics works. This is an instance where the player learns by doing and observing, rather than reading a tutorial. It trusts the player is smart enough to figure it out and lets them do so at their own pace. I won't go into any more detail, because I think the game is best experienced by knowing as little about it as possible.

 

That said, don't expect much of a story here. You're not given an context for who you are, what you are doing, and why. There is no lore to uncover, journals to read, or any backstory for your character. You're left to interpret the game on your own. Or you can be like me and just appreciate the fact that none of those things get in the way of trying to solve the puzzles.

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It looks like the second half of Shantae and the Seven Sirens is now available. Definitely check it out if you have not done so already. It’s an great Metroid-vania, and probably one of the better games on Apple Arcade at the moment.

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I finished off Shantae and the Seven Sirens last night. My feelings on the game have not changed much since last October. The hardest part about diving back into it was remembering what was happening when I completed the first part. It also took me a while to remember all the controls and game systems that I had learned. It’s not a terribly complicated game to figure out, but it would have been nice if the game had been released in one big batch. Still, it was a lot of fun, so I won’t complain too much.

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I've been really enjoying Pinball Wizard, it's great to pick up while waiting around on something.

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Shinsekai: Into the Depths

 

I finished this one a couple weeks ago, and I really enjoyed it. This is another solid metroid-vania on Apple Arcarde, coming from none other than Capcom. What sets it apart from other games in the genre is the setting. It takes place under water, which creates an opportunity to use some unique gameplay elements.

 

For one, your character (who is unnamed) needs air to breathe. As you explore, you can pick up additional tanks to increase your air capacity. At first, you can only carry up to five tanks at a time, but this can be increased as you play. Air tanks can be refilled by finding air pockets, air vents, or save points. Plenty of these are scattered around the game map, so running out of air wasn’t a big concern for me most of the time. You do have to be careful though. When you take damage from an enemy or by falling too far or too fast, your tanks take damage. If a tank takes too much damage, it breaks and you lose it, resulting in a drastic reduction in air capacity. Thankfully, you can replace lost tanks by finding them scattered about the levels.

 

Another unique gameplay twist is the fact that your character has air thrusters in their suit, allowing them float through the water like their were floating through the air on a jetpack. You can jump as you’d expect, but the thrusters are really necessary to get from place to place. The only downside to using them is that they consume your air supply, giving you another incentive to look out for a source of air to refill your tanks.

 

That doesn’t mean you can just float anywhere you want though. As you’d expect from the genre, you need to find new equipment to open certain doors and access new areas. More importantly, you need to upgrade your suit, which can only dive to a certain depth before taking damage from the increase in water pressure. When you reach the limit of your suit’s diving capabilities, the water appears red, so you always know how deep is too deep. The map screen also visualizes this with a red line. The ultimate goal of the game is to push that red line downward by upgrading your suits diving capabilities and reaching the bottom of the ocean.

 

I think what I liked the most about this game is that it was very laid back and relaxing. There’s something about being in the ocean that gives the game a very mellow feel. There are some combat encounters that are a bit more intense than others, but overall, it’s not a fast-paced frantic game — definitely worth checking out.

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