It’s worth keeping the same disclaimer in mind once again – in the interests of fairness to the mobile market, I’ve played each of these games using the touchpad without an external controller. Many Apple Arcade games include controller support, but if you’re like me you probably don’t carry a controller everywhere you go.
If you have an Apple Arcade account, you can play any of these without paying anything extra.
SAYONARA WILD HEARTS
Okay, okay, okay. So if you’ve been putting off getting your hands on Apple Arcade because you’re not sure about it and you need that “killer app” to get you trying it out – Sayonara Wild Hearts is that killer app. I‘ve played quite a few Apple Arcade games, twenty that I’ve now recommended and a further eight that weren’t worth talking about, and this one is by far the absolute best I’ve played.
In Sayonara Wild Hearts, you’re a woman who gets pulled into a neon world filled with colourful bikers that need to be defeated for the usual indie game metaphorical reasons. You defeat them by driving and doing whatever the game prompts you to do. The game, at its core, is a lane racer in which you dodge obstacles, collect as many points as you can, and fight off the bikers through a series of quick-time events. The game is simply fun to play though, and it doesn’t take any particular level of skill to finish it either, especially seeing as you don’t get much of a penalty for losing and if you get stuck the game will offer to skip the section for you.
You start off the game riding a skateboard, but soon upgrade to a motorcycle, which is the most common vehicle, as you dodge around a world that pulsates with music matching the beat of the world as you face off against dancing, masked women on bikes. Sometimes they shoot at you, sometimes they try to attack you with swords, sometimes they turn into a giant robotic dog. You know, the usual.
The controls remain the same throughout play and never become overly complicated even as the world itself fills with increased visual spectacle, because this game loves being filled with flashy, visual spectacle. The screenshots from the game really don’t do it justice either. The game is fast, and you need to be quick if you want to get a high score, but if you just want to experience the game, you can be a lot more relaxed about it. Either way, you’re gonna get an awesome little experience.
The gameplay constantly changes ever so slightly throughout the short 90-minute runtime. Sometimes you’re on your bike, dodging things, other times you’re flying and can fly all over the screen, other times you’re on a deer who does a lot of jumping. There’s a hoverboard, a car that responds completely differently to the other vehicles, a boat… maybe even a dragon too. Your mode of transport changes, and sometimes the perspective shifts from third-person into first-person or sometimes top down, but the gameplay never over-complicates itself, even constantly shifting around as you fight with mounted guns, swords, and bows. All of which feels like you’re almost dancing your way through the levels.
This game is one that simply deserves to be played. It’s just that good. It’s good enough that I sat down to play it for a few minutes while waiting for something, and I instead ended up sitting there until the game was done. It demanded my attention, and it made me wish there was more to play, but what’s there is a blast to experience.
Ever wanted to play a game where you’re Wall-E? Well, this is probably about as close as you’re gonna get. Doomsday Vault puts you in the shoes of a robot who’s down on earth and doing its best to collect as many plant specimens as possible so they can be taken to a nice vault somewhere safe where they can grow and, presumably, eventually cover the earth again like that one random plant somehow did at the end of Wall-E.
This little robot has no real story to tell, and you’re mostly just getting dropped into an environment and then controlling the little guy from an isometric perspective to make you way over and around environmental hazards. You pick up boxes to pop ’em in water, you run across breakable floors as quickly as you can, and you rush along whenever you enter water because apparently your robot body can’t handle a little H20.
These hazards are presented as relatively simple puzzles that you need to overcome, and aside from the parts where you’re underwater and need to hurry, the game puts no real stress on you. The character moves slowly and there’s no timer to anything – and that’s good because the controls can be a bit clunky and operate on a grid-based floor that only allows you to move in four directions.
To make things a little more fluffed up, you can also find collectibles that help you grow more plants in your vault (which is pretty much there for completionist reasons), and you can set up air purifiers around the levels as an additional collectible that has no real function outside that same completionist obsession. The game itself isn’t particularly long though, so the collectibles offer some semblance of replayability. Good for a couple hours if you’re looking for a relaxed exploration puzzle game that won’t have you scratching your head too long.
TOWAGA: AMONG SHADOWS
In this stylish game, you’re the Lightbringer! And rather than being some kind of a messiah figure, you’re a masked being who can shoot fire or light (it’s not entirely clear) out of his hands and this beam of fiery light, or lighty fire, can be directed all around the screen to destroy all sorts of dark little demons. It’s a pretty fun time.
Each level, aside from the flying ones, places you in a solitary position from which you decimate your foes before they can get to you and injure you. You can upgrade the beam and your rechargeable area-of-effect magic (usually used to push your enemies off you so you can have some breathing room to keep shooting at them), and so you slowly become even more powerful as you go through a simple narrative about beating an evil shadow man thing. And when you’re not standing solitary, you get to fly around the screen in a fairly typical bullet-hell shooter – but that mode feels less meaty than the stand-and-shoot mode, probably because you don’t get to use your magic.
All this points towards a rather simple game, and it is simple, but the stages are quick and perfect for mobile devices. The fact that most of the levels don’t even involve dodging means there isn’t much room for weak controls. It just works. You aim at things and your continuous beam of death murders everything in that direction, and if you struggle you can always put on an assist mode (but you don’t have to).
The game’s biggest problem is that you can get through the levels relatively quickly and then the “story mode” is done. You have access to a survival mode, another survival mode (but this time you’re flying), and an extra story mode that’s basically a built-in sequel but it has no easy mode, so its essentially a challenge mode. That’s it though, and then you’re out of content. But the content that is there is great and a fun time to play through. So give it a try if you want some mindless shooty action with your fiery light/lighty fire man.
I have a longstanding belief that anything James Bond-inspired works better in a video game format than a film format, and Agent Intercept further supports this (or at least to me). The game puts you behind the wheel of a spy car that chases down enemies, and dodges their guns and landmines while ramming them off the road. All the while you’re also shooting at them or blowing them up with missiles. It’s all rather mindless fun, and that’s what makes it great.
There’s no real story to be found in the game, and you’re instead given a time-based, rotating roster of missions. These missions will have you stopping some kind of an espionage plot with your trusty car, which can also transform into a boat, because of course. However, this roster of missions can be a bit annoying because you can’t just play the next mission and have to instead wait till that next mission unlocks in a few hours.
Although, with each mission comes a bunch of challenge modes you can engage in, and these challenges either involve shooting as many targets as you can or dashing around the map as quickly as you can. It’s simple stuff, and somewhat lacking in content. That’s the bad news about it, but despite the deficiency of content, the content that is there is a blast to play through.
According to the game, there will eventually be a story mode, but like many of these Apple Arcade games, that’s in the future! But the game’s worth checking out in the meantime. You can play through it for some entertaining chases and then, when that story mode comes along, it may just be worth diving straight back in there and seeing what kind of fun espionage action the devs can conjure up.
Sometimes you just have a nice little family and you need to find a job and so you decide to start hacking monsters to pieces in a ritualistic, puzzle-like fashion. You know, the usual. And that’s what you do in Grindstone. You’re a man who just needs a job, and that job happens to be a colour-matching puzzle game with some mild battling elements.
Grindstone looks like your typical match-three puzzle game from the outset, but it’s a little different to your usual fare. You can only attack monsters of the same colour, and you can link through colours in eight directions rather than the usual four. The goal is to link as many monsters together as possible to maximise your score, and to finish the level as quickly as you can. The longer it drags on, the more likely the monsters will get angry and attack you.
That’s something else that sets this game apart from your usual colour-based puzzlers. Enemies telegraph their desire to attack you, and if you land next to them at the end of one of your attacks, they’ll attack you and you’ll lose a heart. Replenishing those hearts is also somewhat expensive and so you’re heavily encouraged to stay away from enemies.
As you string together monster combos, you gain the ability to break through crates, chests, and the bodies of certain boss monsters. So the incentive is to string as many together as you can to crush through your opposition in a far more visceral way than your usual match-three game. It’s not going to revolutionise the formula, but if you’re looking for a good bit of fun that also allows you to upgrade your muscle-y dude to be even more efficient when slicing up colourful monsters then grab yourself Grindstone. It should last a good long while too, if the number of levels is anything to go by.