By Ronald Gordon
Mobile games often get a bad rap when it comes to their status within the gaming community. While some find them enjoyable and can stay engaged, others are turned away by the predatory nature of monetization that many mobile games suffer from nowadays. Luckily, those who are on the hunt for quality offerings sans monetization annoyances will have to hunt no longer, thanks to Apple Arcade bringing a whole lot more games to the phone.
Earlier this week an event hosted in a super secret location, the iPhone maker unveiled their many projects and gave the media the scoop on what’s to come for Apple Arcade titles. From brand new mobile titles to previously known PC and console games adapted to fit into Apple Arcade, 20 new titles were announced and released for avid subscribers or newfound fans of the monthly subscriber service. These were announced one day before they dropped, so it was quite a surprise when an Apple executive broke the news to the assembled press. Here’s a brief summary on some of the games featured in this new release calendar.
TMNT Splintered Fate, created by Paramount Global and Super Evil Megacorp, is a Roguelike with an in-depth evolving narrative. “In their latest adventure, available exclusively on Apple Arcade, Splinter is missing and the brothers are under attack. Unravel the mysteries to discover the sinister hand behind the mayhem,” Apple said when talking about this new experience. The lovely faces of Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo and Donatello can now be seen on your phone, thanks to the cooperative experience that TMNT Splintered Fate hopes will catch on. It even features Tom Waltz, a writer who helped create many of the narratives from the TMNT comics for IDW Publishing. I, for one, am tempted by this prospect, as it handles swimmingly well on the phone and has many aspects of Roguelikes I’ve enjoyed in the past. It really feels like a console game that somehow fits in the palm of your hand.
Disney SpellStruck, made by Artist Arcade and Fun Games with collaboration from Disney itself, is a word game featuring many well-known characters and references. Apple had this to say about the game, “Developed in partnership with the co-creator of Words with Friends, comes a new enchanting word game. Set out on a journey to the Isles of Tiles with beloved Disney and Pixar characters and take on challenging crossword-style games.” They teased the various maps and are you traverse on your way to being a spelling genius. Not only is solo play an option, but those who want to compete with their friends can have plenty of fun challenging each other or even gaining high scores on leaderboards with its daily challenges. Despite my aversion to word games, trying out Disney SpellStruck left me stuck in a chair for more time than I’m willing to admit, which just goes to show how enthralling the game can be even if you’re not a wordsmith.
This next game is quite the funny one. What The Car? from Triband is a racing game, but it offers up everything but the normal racing experience. Described by Apple as a “hilarious racing adventure. Players take on the role of an unconventional race car with constantly changing features, such as legs, wings, and even the common cold.” What The Car? is a rollercoaster of thrills in more ways than one. You can customize the car with everything you could imagine, race with your friends, get a high score on the leaderboard, or even make your own levels to challenge people. I was hooked as soon as I saw you could have a car with legs that stretch into the heavens. I was stunned by the sheer ridiculousness of What The Car?’s wacky antics. I’m sure that even if you’re not the biggest fan of racing games, this racing experience is just what you need. And did I mention there are bears? You have to check this one out.
Last, but certainly not least, is Cityscapes: Sim Builder from Magic Fuel Games. Cityscapes has a lot to show off, including diagonal roads, which I was told is hard to progam. In it’s description, Apple says, “This new, sustainable take on classic city-building games is optimized for mobile and created by veteran sim builders. Players take on the role of mayor, and are tasked with building carefully thought-out systems to protect the health and happiness of citizens.” There’s a distinct message on sustainability and building cities to last rather than trying to make something big for the hell of it. Cityscapes feels like a sim builder that you could lose hours in. There’s plenty of goals in the campaign, and plenty more goals to achieve as side content to show off to your friends. There are monuments you can build (even the Statue of Liberty), bridges you can make, and really a laundry list of things you can tinker with in order to make your city one of the greatest. Even when I tried it out, knowing my until-now non-existent interest in city builders would make the trial a bit dull, I sat there for longer than I needed to. I found ways to make my citizens happy or planned expansions that would impact the environment around me in a polluting way. I’d definitely suggest it if you’re in the market for a new city builder to engage in, Cityscapes has more than enough for any player.
Apple Arcade’s roster is a lot larger than just these four games. A new version of Temple Run is available as well as games such as Limbo or Little Nightmares, which have both been remade for mobile play. If there was ever a time to buckle down and buy an Apple Arcade subscription, it’d be now seeing as how there’s bound to be more quality games like these in the future. With passionate developers such as these folks mentioned, maybe mobile games will become a lot more respected in the near future, as they are an under-tapped wellspring of entertainment that almost anyone could engage in if they made the effort.
Ronald Gordon is a New York Videogame Critics Circle Senior Intern & Mentor. He was the first of our writers – or any intern anywhere – to complete an internship at Rockstar Games.