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Posts tagged with "arcade"

Arcade Highlights: Crossy Road Castle

Anti-gravity rainbows, cute animal characters, prize machines, co-operative play, and endless tower platforming: if this all sounds like the perfect diversion during a long stay indoors, you’re absolutely right.

Crossy Road Castle is a long-awaited sequel to the original Crossy Road and one of the newest Apple Arcade titles. But don’t let the word ‘sequel’ mislead you – Crossy Road Castle offers an entirely different gaming experience than its predecessor. Think less “crossing the road” and more “climbing an endless tower, one micro-level at a time.”

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Arcade Highlights: Pilgrims

Apple Arcade launched with a flurry of fantastic games. Not long after the first wave of titles hit the service, Czech studio Amanita Design turned heads with the unexpected release of Pilgrims, a traditional adventure game that borrows interaction elements from card-based games. The studio’s quirky, signature art style and sound design come together in a short but delightful game that encourages exploration and experimentation.

Amanita has been making iOS games since the earliest days of the App Store. It’s probably best known for Machinarium, which was released in 2009, but it has released a string of artful games that are fan favorites, including CHUCHEL, Samorost 3, and Botanicula.

Pilgrims dropped on Apple Arcade in October and is available on iOS, iPadOS, tvOS, and the Mac. I’ve played the game on all four platforms and found that it’s best experienced on the iPad, followed closely by the Mac.

The reasons Pilgrims succeeds so well on the iPad are threefold. First, the game is beautifully illustrated in a hand-drawn style that is reminiscent of a children’s storybook, which a big Retina iPad screen helps bring to life. Second, the iPad’s superior sound system makes it a great way to enjoy the game’s soundtrack, even without headphones. Finally, as I’ll explain in more detail below, Pilgrims relies on a card-based approach to gameplay that lends itself to touch, making direct interaction with the game’s cards and collectibles a natural fit.

The iPhone benefits from the same intimate interaction as the iPad, but the experience is diminished by the smaller screen and the iPhone’s inferior speakers when played without headphones. Pilgrims benefits from the even bigger screens of a Mac and TV, where I found that interacting with the game with a trackpad or mouse felt closer to the iPad’s touch experience than using the Apple TV’s Siri Remote or a game controller.

Pilgrims features a storybook-like feel, good humor, and a fun soundtrack.

Pilgrims features a storybook-like feel, good humor, and a fun soundtrack.

The premise of Pilgrims is simple: you start the game as a traveler who wakes up in his tent. You navigate around a map to various locations by tapping or clicking on them. Along the way, you collect items, interact with other characters, and solve puzzles. As you pass certain milestones, you’re joined by other pilgrims on your travels as you progress to the conclusion of the story.

The characters you befriend and the items you collect are represented by cards at the bottom of the screen. As you travel from point to point, your objectives will be clear: the thief wants potatoes, and the restaurant owner wants wine, for example. To obtain those items and unlock later stages of the game, you need to visit other locations on the map and through trial and error, collect items, trade for others, and interact with characters to advance the story.

Interactions in Pilgrims are primarily accomplished by dragging the cards of items you've collected and travelers you've befriended into each scene.

Interactions in Pilgrims are primarily accomplished by dragging the cards of items you've collected and travelers you've befriended into each scene.

Interactions are initiated by dragging cards into each scene and then watching how the story unfolds. The scenes are handled with an excellent sense of humor and whimsy that encourages you to experiment. In turn, that lends itself to a leisurely pace and provides a richer experience than doing the minimum necessary to reach the end of the game would suggest. It also makes Pilgrims a fun game to revisit because, although the environment may be familiar, testing different interactions with the characters you meet along the way makes repeat plays fun.

It’s the combination of storytelling and card-based play that makes Pilgrims such a perfect match with the iPad. Playing on a big Mac screen with a good set of speakers is a close second, but sitting back in a comfortable chair and exploring Pilgrims’ world from an iPad can’t be beaten. If you missed this release, which trailed the Apple Arcade launch by a few weeks, be sure to check it out now.

Pilgrims is available as part of Apple Arcade on iPhone, iPad, Apple TV, and Mac.


Arcade Highlights: Grindstone

When it comes to mobile games, all a new title has to do to draw me in is show a Candy Crush-style grid of objects. There’s something about the simple mechanic of making connections on a grid that’s hard for me to resist. Most of the time, though, I find that while such games can easily grab my interest, many will quickly lose it when I actually start playing. It’s usually just standard match three games that keep my attention, so when I first tried out Grindstone, I didn’t think it would be for me.

Grindstone is an Apple Arcade title from Capy and the creative team behind the excellent Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP. It features a familiar grid of objects – in this case monsters to defeat – but rather than rearranging matching monsters in a Candy Crush fashion, you’re tasked with tracing a line from one matching monster to another, determining the order in which you’ll slay them and potentially earn rewards. Monsters have to be adjacent to each other for you to string them together, so essentially you’re completing a connect the dots puzzle each turn with as many monsters destroyed as possible.

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Arcade Highlights: Sayonara Wild Hearts

How can I best describe Sayonara Wild Hearts? It’s an on-rails music-driven game, but that feels like an inadequate description. Yes it’s a game, but combining the gameplay with Sayonara Wild Hearts’ blend of immersive levels, gorgeous visuals, and incredible soundtrack, it feels more fitting to call it an experience.

Sayonara Wild Hearts was an Apple Arcade launch title, one of the few demoed on-stage at Apple’s September event. And as one of Arcade’s premiere titles, it’s a brilliant representation of what Apple’s new service represents: off-the-walls originality. Arcade aims to fund and promote a variety of creative titles, freeing developers from the restraints commonly associated with the App Store’s In-App Purchase-dominated gaming fare. Sayonara Wild Hearts offers an experience that’s so unique and, dare I say, trippy, that it clearly represents its makers’ unfiltered vision.

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Arcade Highlights: Card of Darkness

Do you like fantasy-themed games? How about Zach Gage’s work – Flipflop Solitaire, Really Bad Chess, Typeshift, SpellTower, etc.? Would a mobile game brought to life by the art of Adventure Time creator Pendleton Ward be of interest to you? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, then Card of Darkness should be one of the first games you download from Apple Arcade.

If you answered no to all three questions, you should probably play Card of Darkness anyways.

Card of Darkness is a roguelike game where each stage contains a grid of stacked cards, with each stack holding a random mix of monsters to defeat, weapons to equip, and potions and treasure to find. There are also magic spell scrolls that help you more easily navigate what can be a treacherous quest to get from the start of the grid to its end. You don’t have to clear every card stack to complete a level, but you do need to forge an open path to the finish line, and every stack you take even a single card from will need to be finished. As you clear each card stack, more stacks further into the grid will be revealed, slowly reducing the amount of cards that stand between you and the end of the grid.

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14-Year-Old Developer Created Game for Apple Arcade’s Launch

Patrick Klepek writes for VICE about the 14-year-old developer, Spruce Campbell, whose game Operator 41 was part of the Apple Arcade launch:

“When I saw the Apple Arcade announcement in March I dropped everything and decided to build a whole new game for Arcade,” [Campbell] told VICE via email. “I thought that the games that really fit Apple Arcade will probably be designed for it from the ground up, so I came up with a stealth game that would work on all the Arcade platforms.”

Campbell has quite a personal story. As Klepek notes, the young developer taught himself to code starting at the age of 8, and when he was 12 he designed a game, CyberPNK, that netted him a BAFTA award. He also received a scholarship to attend WWDC this June, which is where he was able to personally pitch Operator 41 to Apple for Arcade inclusion. Campbell says following that pitch:

“I went back to the dorms, and over the next week I was accepted onto the service,” he said. “I’d say that was the luckiest moment of production—so many stars had to align for me to be accepted onto the service and everything went so well.”

Klepek’s concluding words put into perfect context what this story means for the potential of Arcade’s future.

Operator 41 doesn’t have many reviews. It didn’t get a big marketing push, and wasn’t on Apple’s big stage…But what’s remarkable is that Operator 41 exists at all, and shows Apple having a willingness to give people a shot. Apple Arcade isn’t a place where, like the App Store, anything can get published. There is a curation element. Campbell wasn’t signed because he made a hit that Apple thinks will bring new people into Apple Arcade. In this case, Apple decided it was worth including a game by a mostly unknown 14-year-old designer.

Arcade’s launch has been fantastic, and with the near-certainty of more stories like Campbell’s moving forward, the service’s future looks bright.

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Arcade Launches for Some iOS Beta Testers

Earlier today, a series of reviews of Apple Arcade were published across the web and on YouTube. Shortly thereafter, Apple took the wraps off the service itself for at least a subset of people running the iOS 13 or 13.1 betas. Arcade doesn’t officially launch until September 19th, but it appears that Apple is using a slow roll-out to some beta testers to test the service and create buzz around the launch.

The design of the Arcade tab is reminiscent of the App Store’s other tabs, although more space is reserved for spotlighting individual titles, and so far, there is little editorial content. It will be interesting to see how this mix evolves as more games become available and more editorial content is created. In addition to themed collections like ‘Start Your Adventure’ and ‘No Time to Blink,’ Arcade has a section dedicated to ‘New Arrivals,’ includes hint guides for three of the games and a button at the bottom of the view for accessing every game in the service.

The activation of Arcade for some users coincided with a press release from Apple highlighting four games by smaller game studios: The Enchanted World, Patterned, Overland, and Card of Darkness. I haven’t had a chance to comb through the entire catalog yet, but there are a lot of great-looking games featured at launch that jumped out at me including:

I’m looking forward to trying all of these as well as discovering new titles.

As I said on AppStories this week, I’ve been cautiously optimistic and excited about Arcade. What I’ve seen of the new service in my brief time with it so far today is perfectly in line with what I hoped for. Apple seems to have struck a nice balance among many different categories of games, and with only about half of the 100+ titles that should be coming soon, that is an excellent start.


Apple Highlights Arcade Titles in New Video

Today on its YouTube channel, Apple published a new video highlighting some of the titles coming to Apple Arcade once it launches next Thursday alongside iOS 13.

The video spends nearly two minutes providing quick glimpses at a lot of Arcade titles, while lingering for extended periods over a handful of titles that haven’t been seen much before, such as Earth Night, Hot Lava, Skate City, and more.

The demos Apple shared on-stage at its September event received mixed responses, but I would expect a much more enthusiastic response to greet this video. Everything showcased looks fantastic, offering interesting stories, gameplay mechanics, and visuals. If Apple really does have 100+ games like this at or near launch, Arcade is going to quickly become a very compelling service.


Apple Unveils Apple Arcade Game Subscription Details

Today, Apple took the wraps off of Apple Arcade, the game subscription service that will bring a curated selection of games to iOS devices, the Apple TV, and Macs. Although the service was originally announced in March, until today, few details were available.

During the keynote event at the Steve Jobs Theater in Cupertino, California, Apple shared new details about Arcade, which will be available beginning September 19th on iOS, September 30th on iPadOS, and in October on macOS Catalina. As promised, Arcade features games with no ads, In-App Purchases, or other add-ons. Instead, for $4.99 per month, subscribers can download any of the games in Arcade’s catalog on their devices from the dedicated Arcade tab in the iOS and Mac App Stores, and a separate pre-installed Arcade app on Apple TVs. Games are available to up to six family members through Apple’s Family Sharing feature, sync progress across devices with iCloud, and do not require an Internet connection to be played.

Phil Schiller had the following to say about Arcade in Apple’s press release:

“We are so excited to launch Apple Arcade on the App Store. A curated selection of over 100 new and exclusive games from many of the most innovative game developers in the world is the perfect complement to the App Store’s existing massive catalog of games,” said Phil Schiller, Apple’s senior vice president of Worldwide Marketing. “We think customers of all ages are going to be delighted that a single subscription gives the whole family unlimited access to the full catalog of amazing Apple Arcade games, all without any ads or additional purchases, while knowing every game must meet Apple’s high privacy standards.”

The new Arcade tab in the App Store will feature personalized game recommendations, game trailers, and editorial content that appears to be similar to what the App Store editorial team has been creating since iOS 11. Apple says:

The catalog will exceed 100 games in the coming weeks as new titles are introduced, with more games to come every month.

As rumored, Arcade will cost $4.99 per month and Apple will offer a one-month free trial.

It’s heartening to see Apple take an interest in promoting high-quality games with artistic value. I’m hopeful that the promise of services revenue will push Apple even further to make its devices first-rate gaming platforms. Helping game developers produce and promote top-notch games for its platforms is a fantastic first step. However, whether Arcade will succeed will depend largely on the undisclosed terms of Apple’s business deals with developers. If that piece of the puzzle works for everyone involved, next I’d like to see Apple address hardware limitations of its devices, especially the Mac, which has difficulty handling anything but the simplest games.


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