Apple Arcade review: gaming on Android feels like a joke in comparison

Ever since Apple Arcade was announced in March, I’ve been intrigued. How will Apple convince everyone to get hooked on to its new subscription-based service for gaming? 

See, I play a lot on my phone considering that I’m spending more time on these brick bars than I do with my parents. Well, I should fix that. Anyway, so Apple Arcade made perfect sense for someone like me. But, after testing it out for a few days, I’m convinced that Apple Arcade can appeal to the hardcore gamer as well. Not as the de facto gaming option but as the highly polished alternative for short bursts of fun. 

This is our review of Apple Arcade. 

Pricing

The pricing for Apple Arcade is extremely affordable. For just Rs 99 per month, you can get into the catalog of 75 games that are currently available on the store, which will soon go up to 100 and more. In fact, the first month is entirely free. I’m not finished yet, though. Furthermore, this 99 rupee fee is applicable to an entire family of 6 members. That’s just nuts. 

If I know a little bit about us creative Indians, we’ll probably find six other Indians with an iPhone and split the fee. That effectively makes it worth Rs 16.5 per person. That’s cheaper than a Party Pack of Lays chips!

App layout

By the way, to access Arcade you have to open the App Store. Arcade is a separate tab inside the app. The carefully curated-games are presented gorgeously with a few editorial writeups on select games as well. The top bar is always taken up by a video of the game of the day. 

The collection of games is varied. You have puzzlers, RPGs, endless runners, RTS games and more. There is definitely something for everyone except a quality FPS title. But I’m sure something will come up soon. That said, games like Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm and Shinsekai: Into the Depths are proper AAA titles. These games are super polished to an extent that they can easily fit into the PlayStation or Xbox ecosystem. 

However, not all of them last long. #TWSS A few games such as Assemble with Care can be finished in one sitting, but a game like Oceanhorn 2 will require you to spend hours with the phone. This reminds me, Oceanhorn can be played using a DualShock 4 or the Xbox controller. This makes Apple Arcade an even more convincing option. 

What’s good 

What makes Apple Arcade great is the fact that all these games can be played offline and none of them require an always-on internet connection. Additionally, there are no in-game ads. In fact, I didn’t even find a single game with in-app purchases either. This is gaming at its purest and it allows developers to go creatively wild without having to worry about making money.

One thing that’s a little confusing is the whole exclusivity tag. Now, a few games such as Shinsekai, are available on other systems too. For example, Nintendo Switch. From what I gather, Apple is claiming the ‘exclusive’ tag for Arcade games only in competition with Android and other subscription services like Xbox Game Pass. Which means that the Xbox and PlayStation storefronts can sell the same game as long as they are not part of a subscription service. 

In that case, what happens to a game such as Oceanhorn 2? Because the original Oceanhorn was eventually ported to Android. Will the second game never make it on Android? If that turns out to be true, this gives Apple a massive advantage over Android when it comes to the games catalog. Not only are Apple’s iPhones far more powerful than Android when it comes to gaming, but you are also now looking at more exclusive games available on iOS over Android. That must be stifling for Android users. PUBG is not going to be the be-all and end-all of gaming on smartphones in the future. 

The future of mobile gaming

The future of gaming is Apple Arcade and subscription-based gaming. Arcade has something for everyone. And, it maintains high standards of polish and refinement because Apple is funding the development of these games. Also, to access Arcade you need to own a piece of Apple’s expensive hardware. The entry point is expensive, but trust me, it is worth it. Apple’s push to entice users to their products with robust services like Arcade shows a paradigm shift in their sales strategy.

Now, since Google has also announced its Play Pass subscription service, comparisons are obvious. But, Play Pass works slightly differently. For a fee of $4.99 a month, you get access to a list of 350 pre-existing games on the store. There are no exclusives. But, there are apps too. I am optimistic about Play Pass too but Arcade still feels like a monumental effort compared to Google’s effort with Play Pass. I think Google’s Stadia is the more enticing future launch. 

5 great games

Now, while I’ve tried almost all of the 75 games on Apple Arcade available right now, I decided to handpick 5 games you must play right away and then move on to the next.

Sayonara: Wild Hearts

I am huge fan of Simogo’s games. I’ve spent hours and hours on games like Year Walk, Device 6, and the Sailor’s Dream. Simogo’s games are extremely high concept and oozing with creativity. And, Sayonara: Wild Hearts is no different. Made with some help from Annapurna Interactive, Sayonara is a wild ride. Simogo calls it a pop album video game and I can’t think of a better description. In fact, there’s already a vinyl in the works for the excellent original in-game music. I got an adrenaline rush while playing Sayonara: Wild Hearts. Trust me, you will love this one. 

Agent Intercept

Agent intercept is a high-speed car chase mission-based game that is easy to pick up and play. I had a lot of fun maneuvering the car with the wheel stick and boosting along the roads until the car hit the water. And voila, it turns into a boat! How cool is that? This game is not heavy on content but it is pretty damn addictive. 

Assemble with Care

Assemble with Care has been assembled with love and warmth by the makers over at Us Two games. Yes, these are the same folks that created the excellent Monument Valley. This game lets you take charge of a restoration expert who fixes unique things and it does it really well. In fact, my wife and I played it on our phone simultaneously and shared notes. It was a super fun experience. Family sharing, for the win.  

Where Cards Fall

Where Cards Fall is such a unique concept that it is the best game on this list well-suited for a touchscreen experience. The idea here is that you pinch out of a pack of cards to make a house of cards. This then bridges the gap between two elevated locations. Everything is very creatively done and the game gets more intense as it moves forward. 

Shinsekai

The final game on this list – Shinsekai – is a graphical powerhouse. This side-scrolling underwater platform has polish oozing out from every core of its coral reef. It’s not surprising because the game is made by Capcom. You play as the sole surviving human underwater and the frozen waterscape is out to get you. And, dangerous marine life too. Your main job is to survive. Play this one with a controller and a pair of headphones for absolute immersion. Else, it’s no fun.

Also read: Google Play Pass vs Apple Arcade: battle of the subscription passes

Well, that’s it from me. That was my close look at Apple Arcade and what I think of the service. Let me know what you guys think of Apple Arcade. 

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?