Apple Arcade Review: The Saviour That Mobile Gaming Needs

By Glen Fox |
The Good

A wealth of awesome games from the get-go

It's cheap at only $4.99 per month

No IAPs, ads, or gacha and full offline and controller support for every game

Works across every Apple device

The Bad

There's still some uncertainty surrounding the service

Ask any random gamer what they think about mobile games and they’ll probably look at you in disgust and claim that they’re the worst thing to happen to our favourite past time since the Virtual Boy.

The thing is, they’re not entirely wrong – and we didn’t really realise the true extent of that until we got our hands on Apple Arcade, Apple’s upstart new games subscription service that aims to change the way we play, and consume, mobile games.

It dispenses with all of the rubbish we’ve come to expect from the platform since free to play became the go-to monetisation scheme. There are no adverts, no IAPs, no gacha mechanics. It also adds a few highly sought features in controller support and offline play.

Every single game follows those rules, and work seamlessly across Apple’s entire portfolio of devices. You can start playing on your Apple TV, leave the house and continue where you left off on your iPhone, and even have a quick game on your MacBook when you get to the office.

Your save file will be waiting for you over the cloud no matter the device you play on, and you can hook up a controller and play with that on any of them if that’s your preference. All of those things are nice, but they pale in comparison with Apple Arcade’s best feature: no free to play in sight.

Apple Arcade Removes What We Don’t Like About Mobile Gaming: Free to Play

The service costs you a measly $4.99 per month, and provides you with over 100 games. There are no limits to the number you can play at once – well, besides the limits of your device’s storage – and the list of games is set to grow substantially over time.

We just cannot express how pleased we were to boot up a mobile game that actually felt, and played, like a real game. We weren’t instructed to spend extortionate amounts of cash on the chance to obtain a hero, we didn’t have to watch an ad after every level, and we played without interruption when our internet went down.

It helps that the games are such a joy to play, of course. Our personal highlight so far is Hot Lava, a video game spin on the childhood game of getting around the house without touching the floor. It very much feels like a game that would normally exist on a console, but it doesn’t. It’s on mobile.

It’s fully online, with other players running around the world alongside you. You can check out their custom characters, watch them fall to their deaths in lava, or jsut mess around with them in the variety of sandbox environments.

Elsewhere there is absolute tons of awesome games by acclaimed developers. There’s a new Rayman game, an RPG by the Square Enix team behind Octopath Traveler, two games by Alto developer Snowman, a new Frogger, Cat Quest 2, Oceanhorn 2, and loads more – all of which are exclusive to Apple Arcade on mobile.

It Includes a Wealth of Awesome Gaming Experiences, Like Hot Lava and Oceanhorn 2

Naturally, we have got a few early concerns: Hot Lava, for example, didn’t really play all that well with touch controls. Will touch become an afterthought for many games on the service? Will developers make sufficient funds from the low $4.99 to sustain it? How often will we see new games?

There are a lot of unanswered questions with regards to the service, and it almost feels too good to be true at times. As things stand though, we haven’t been this excited with a new piece of gaming paraphernalia since the Switch changed what we can expect from mobile games back in 2017.

This is exactly the change that mobile needed to start convincing gamers it’s more than just a few minutes to kill while you wait for the bus. Apple has created a service with genuinely awesome games to play, and has given us numerous different ways to play them.

Simply removing the nastier parts of the industry: IAPs, ads, gacha, and forced online play is a huge part of the battle, but it helps that Apple Arcade has a few early killer apps like Hot Lava to demonstrate that it’s got something new to bring to the table. We can’t wait to see what comes next.

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