Changing my mind on Apple Arcade’s range of games

I’ve broadly been a fan of Apple Arcade since the start. Some gamers got sniffy about it, arguing it didn’t include ‘proper’ games or a pile of AAA hits. That missed the point: Apple Arcade was meant to be something different, not another me-too service. Thing is, I missed the point myself a bit as well.

My Stuff article on the best Apple Arcade games lists titles that personally clicked with me, but in introducing Apple Arcade to my daughter, the manner in which I’m approaching and thinking about the service has shifted.

My daughter has used mobile Apple devices since before she could talk. She could navigate an iPod touch at 18 months. Safe to say, she’s familiar with this stuff. These days, she has her own iPad, which she uses almost daily—for a limited amount of time. It’s stuffed full of games and educational apps. She loves it.

One thing, though, is she’s never been keen on games with risk. There are exceptions: she’ll happily play two-player retro games with me. Broadly, though, she dislikes arcade fare on the iPad (with the notable exception of Super Phantom Cat 2, for reasons I’ve never quite been able to figure out).

She likes comfort and repetition when playing games (and also watching TV) and so stuck with a lot of kiddie games she’s now outgrown. Yet she blazed through Hidden Folks (intentionally deleting her progress several times to start again) and happily plays Dissembler and Threes! So I got thinking… what about Apple Arcade?

I dumped a ton of games on to her iPad and kind of left her to it. She’s working her way through Monument Valley. She’s got quite far in What The Golf? Mini Metro has had a few launches. Farm It! has gone down well. I’m glad I figured out that this service could provide new gaming opportunities for her—new things to try; new challenges to solve. It also opened my eyes to a certain diversity of approach within Apple Arcade that I’d not fully considered before.

A lot of gamers—myself included—were (and, indeed, are) quite sniffy about certain choices Apple made. I still think some Apple Arcade games are objectively poor. But it’s interesting to see a few cute ‘grind’ games in the mix, since those tend to align with exploitative freemium loot boxes and related horrors.

Ultimately, these games sort of are freemium games without the hideous business model. But you know what? My kid is really enjoying Farm It! She’s having fun. BUT. There are no ads. There’s no IAP. It’s safe from the crap we so often see elsewhere. And it showcases that Apple Arcade is a service intentionally designed to be for everyone. Even today, that seems quite rare in gaming and can only be a good thing. I wish I’d figured that out sooner.

May 21, 2021. Read more in: Apple, Gaming, Opinions

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My Android/iPhone/iPad mobile games of the year (2020)

I play a lot of mobile games. This year, I thought I’d list my favourites. All titles are available on Android/iPhone/iPad, except Little Orpheus, which is part of Apple Arcade. So without further ado…


10. Bird Alone: What initially looks like a vapid virtual pet quickly transforms into an intriguing tale of making a connection with another creature, underlined with emotional clout you don’t see coming.


9. Ord (Android/iOS): Classic text adventuring distilled into three words, with each scene being a single-word set-up, action and outcome. It seems reductive, but your mind plays in the gaps of this intriguing, amusing experience.


8. Fancade: Absurdly ambitious, Fancade is on the surface a bunch of entertaining mini-games. But dig deeper and you find an entire customisation engine—and even full frameworks for crafting your own creations.


7. Empty.: A rare free puzzler that isn’t out for your wallet, Empty. wants you to relax with its gorgeous soundtrack and reduce its tiny worlds to nothingness by spinning rooms and matching the colours of objects and flat planes. Beautiful stuff.


6. Krumit’s Tale: With an unparalleled level of sophistication and depth, this title feels like the last word in cramming dungeon-crawling into a shoebox. It looks great, has plenty of depth, and includes several distinct modes. Fab.


5. Ready Set Goat: The goat runs left! And then it runs right! Also, it’s being attacked by invading nasties. All you can do is prod to make it jump. It’s like a claustrophobic Canagoat, and I’m rubbish at it—but it’s annoyingly compelling.


4. Little Orpheus: In 2020, Apple Arcade offered deeper experiences than this Limboish platform puzzler, but a mix of visually awesome set pieces and a properly chucklesome script for me lifted Little Orpheus above the competition.


3. Super Fowlst 2: Demons are invading and only a chicken can stop them! Fantastic two-thumb Metroidish larks here as you flit about, bonking baddies on the head, grabbing gems with which to buy missiles you poop at your foes.


2. unmemory: This one starts off looking like an illustrated ebook, before events send you down a rabbit hole that reveals the game to be a set of room escape puzzles reworked as a book (or the reverse). It’s the modern mobile era’s DEVICE 6.


1. There Is No Game: WD: TING leaps between genres, after spending some time trying to convince you it’s not a game. What it is: a clever, witty, unique experience that shows what enterprising indies can do. My GOTY—on any platform.

December 31, 2020. Read more in: Gaming

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Kill your productivity: free browser games ahoy!

I spend a lot of time writing about games and the internet. Over the past two decades (eek!), the two of these things have in one area combined: browser games. Back in the early 2000s, games you played in your browser were rare and mostly awful. Flash shook everything up, but then Steve Jobs punched Flash squarely in the face.

Today, though, tons of genuinely great games are playable without any additional plug-ins. I some time ago penned a piece for Stuff on the best of them, but it mysteriously vanished one day. Not sure how. Anyway, by way of magic (Internet Archive: bless you), and a smattering of elbow grease, it’s now back, with revised content and some new games.

Whether you’re into bizarre endless text adventures, retro classics, surprisingly engaging clickers, one of the best match games ever created, platformers, puzzlers, or a version of Pong played against endearingly dopey bears, there’s never been a better time to kill your productivity with browser games. And while you’re doing so, perhaps take a moment to marvel at what’s now possible in a web browser – and what might be possible another two decades along the road.

January 16, 2020. Read more in: Gaming

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The best of Apple Arcade: Craig’s played too many games edition

I don’t often link from here to other stuff I’ve written; I should probably do so more often. But! I wrote a thing about Apple Arcade. More specifically, I – like some kind of deranged games-ingesting lunatic – worked my way through a decent chunk of over 70 games on Apple Arcade, decided which I thought were the best, wrote a bit about them, and recommended how best to play each one. (Some of these games are a much better fit for an iPhone; others really need the big screen + controller experience.)

So please go and read The best Apple Arcade games for iPhone, iPad and Apple TV – 2019 and share it with all your friends, and maybe the powers-that-be will get me to write some more.

October 14, 2019. Read more in: Apple, Gaming

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Google Play Pass and Apple Arcade are not the same thing

Earlier this year, Apple announced Apple Arcade – and it turns out the service is really good. Naturally, Google felt the need to offer its own take on Apple Arcade, which has become Google Play Pass.

The thing is, as much as the press wants to drum up these services as direct competition, I don’t see them as existing in the same space. Although there’s more than a whiff of me-too about Google Play Pass, it reminds me more of something similar I once tried on Amazon – bundling a bunch of existing apps under an all-you-can-eat subscription.

A load of games you’ve probably already played is a far cry from 71 shiny new exclusives. Also, as much as developers are concerned about viability in an Apple Arcade world, they might pause on looking at Google Play Pass, which for two bucks a month directly competes with apps that exist elsewhere on Google Play.

Say what you will about Apple Arcade regarding its impact on iOS game sales, but at least it’s not pitching full-priced premium title Monument Valley 2 against a subscription service that costs half the price – and also includes Monument Valley 2.

October 3, 2019. Read more in: Apple, Gaming, Opinions, Technology

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