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The 10 Best Apple Arcade Games (So Far)
In a service filled with great titles, these are the games that you should try first.
You can find dozens of games in Apple Arcade, and - the wonder of wonders - almost none are bad. Some games are better than others, however, so here is a list of the ten games to start with. These games weren't necessarily made with the biggest budgets or the biggest studios, but they are games that will stick in your head like a catchy tune.
A note: many of these games don't really work until they're played with a suitable controller such as the Sony DualShock 4 or the Xbox One controller. You'll have the most fun playing these games on either the iPad or the Apple TV - but the controllers work on the iPhone too.
Sayonara Wild Hearts
"Sayonara Wild Hearts" is a psychedelic, music-driven feverish dream. It's technically a "Thumper" -type rhythm game, but it says "sayonara" to the abstraction of this game in favor of a story about a woman who saves the world on her motorcycle. She flies through canyons, collects hearts, carefully jumps through time and chases balls into emerging robot dogs, while catchy pop songs rumble in the background.
Some levels are better than others and the frequent change of perspective sometimes makes it difficult to reorient yourself the first time you play a new level. But these are exactly those kinds of artistically valuable games that Apple should have more of to stand out from. The title is also available for the Nintendo Switch, but with Apple Arcade you don't have to pay the normal price of 13 euros.
What The Golf?
"What the Golf?" is hilarious, weird, slightly challenging, and kind of silly. I love it! It's always about golf, but you can get an idea of the crazy directions this game goes in by playing one of the first levels. In it, you see a house on a golf course - and when you pull back your finger (or press a button on your controller) to set the angle and force for the ball, you find that it is the house that is moving. And then you'll keep placing this farmhouse around the screen until it falls into the hole, which causes the screen to break out into big, orange letters that scream, "HOME IN ONE".
It goes on forever and somehow "What the Golf?" even crazier without losing much momentum. Think of it as a golf game for people who don't like golf, but frankly, this is a game everyone will love.
Even if you prefer games with ultra-realistic graphics, you should give Bleak Sword a try. It may look like the beloved early 80s with Nintendo and Atari, but it has become my most played Apple arcade game. You slip into the role of a swordsman in the form of a stick figure, every round you fight against zombies, bats, spiders and other beasts on as many levels as possible.
With a stamina bar in mind, you can attack, dodge, parry and counter, and collect items that will help you overcome the most difficult levels. But you also need to be careful. In a twist inspired by "Dark Souls" you have a chance to win a level where you died of yourself and can take the experience and equipment gained in it with you. Rest assured that you will enjoy this amazing soundtrack too.
Assemble with Care
"Assemble with Care" is a rare joy of our throwaway society: It is about a young woman named Maria who travels the world and puts things in order. On the surface, she fixes everything from broken cassette players to broken mantelpiece knick-knacks, but as the story unfolds it becomes clear that she also fixes broken relationships.
"Assemble with Care" is not difficult: part of the "repair" consists essentially of replacing dead batteries. But the everyday movements of spinning unwound cassette tapes, using a screwdriver to open the battery compartment, and snapping the cassette back into its deck are immensely relaxing. You are also happy to see how the characters get their once broken property back and how happy they are. In short: a satisfying game. With around two hours of running time, it doesn't take long, but you'll think about it more than any other story-driven game on Apple Arcade.
Pilgrims is one of the games that was added after Apple Arcade launched, and there is hope that Apple's service will continue to be as impressive as it was originally. "Pilgrims" is a point-and-click adventure and card game at the same time, with a story largely told through music and images in thought bubbles rather than words.
You "play" a card of the moustached protagonist to make him appear in the scenes you travel to on an overview map, and you click on objects like acorns and pots to add them to your deck as cards. "Pilgrims" is about finding the right situations in which to use these items. Developer Amanita Design is taking care of it - so well that you will probably be sad when this airy story about helping other people finally runs out of cards. The Eastern European-inspired soundtrack should not be missing either.
The iPhone has long been a particularly good platform for puzzle games and "Spek" fits in well with that tradition. Like Apple's product packaging, this creative brain teaser has lots of white space and subtle black lines (at least in the beginning) and it's all about moving around shapes so that they blend in with other shapes, which in turn allows you to use an endlessly moving circle to grab fields along the lines.
"Spek" only has 50 levels, but its ingenuity is surprising. And unlike some of the other games here, it's good for longer commutes on buses and trains.
The Pinball Wizzard
If you look at a screenshot of "The Pinball Wizard" you might think you're looking at a rather elaborate RPG about a dirty little wizard moving through a dungeon. In practice it is very different. The wizard is a pinball ball and the doors that open at the start of each round are used to speed up the ball.
You have to turn off enemies to get to the next round, you unlock new skills as you move up from level to level, these make progress a little easier. One also has to throw the wizard into barrels to restore his health or magic. "The Pinball Wizzard" is really complicated in some places, but nothing more than a normal, well-designed pinball machine. This is exactly what is so addicting.
Cat Quest II
Apple Arcade is basically a family friendly gaming service, so it's hardly surprising that one of the best fantasy RPGs is a cheesy adventure set in a cat kingdom. Let's get that straight: If your fur is "fur-following" because of puns like cats, then you might want to keep your fingers off Cat Quest II. Because the puns are getting much, much worse.
But if you don't mind (and yes, hello, I do), you'll love the gameplay, which relies on switching back and forth between the dog and cat characters you control. This is a useful and satisfying statement, and I have used it to set up my cat as a mage and my dog as a warrior. You can also play the game together with friends: it's a perfect mix of charm and challenge.
"Patterned" is further proof that great games don't have to be extreme or push your device's processor to its limits. In fact, this is probably the most relaxing game on Apple Arcade. At the bottom of the screen are colored, puzzle-like pieces that you drag into appropriate sections of the complex black and white image that takes up much of your device's screen.
When you're near completion, the screen begins to transform from a pencil sketch to a picture - and it's a wonder to see it.
"Grindstone" is a variation on the endless Bejeweled and Candy Crush Saga clones in the App Store. Then why is it on this list? Because, damn it, it's just so much fun. And of course - since it's Apple Arcade - you don't have to worry about all of those microtransactions that affect other games in the genre.
It's also surprisingly bloodthirsty, in a more comic book-like way. "Grindstone" puts you in the skin of a blue-skinned berserker who cuts a path through animals of the same type with his sword. The player decides which path to take before each round, presses "Start" and then watches as all the monsters explode as his sword cuts through them. It's fun, it's challenging, and it's a reminder that these types of games don't require any artificial restrictions to keep them attractive.
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