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Apple Arcade review: one subscription to bind them all

Bildschirmfoto 2019 09 10 um 19.09.19
© Apple (Screenshot: nextpit)

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Have you ever wondered when did the consumption of digital media, ranging from apps to books, games, movies, music, programs, and cloud storage end up taking the subscription model route? Apple's foray into the game subscription model, Apple Arcade, did not have the easiest of beginnings for me, and this is the 10th gaming subscription package that I will be taking the plunge. I have given Apple Arcade a go in two phases to date before struggling with my inner demons prior to making a decision: should I keep or cancel it?

Gaming subscriptions are not a new thing these days, and yet I do sense that there is still plenty of room for this particular niche to mature when it comes to the subscription model. Recently we got to spend more time with Google Stadia. Microsoft also has plans to offer some Xbox titles via its own streaming model with Project X; while Amazon also wants to get up to speed with its Project Tempo service. I did mention earlier that I'm purchasing a whopping nine subscription models (including Apple Arcade), and I have to admit that for the very first time, I've guessed just how many of such subscription models there really are for this article. I hardly dare to calculate how much money I have to spend each month for these services, but one thing's for sure: they do burn a rather large hole in my pocket. As a matter of fact, I only use a few of these subscriptions regularly:

Like it or not, there are some subscription services that you simply cannot live without. For me, these happen to be Apple's iCloud service (because you're up to your ears with data and where better to store it than on the cloud itself?) and Amazon's Audible, simply because you always seem to somehow have two remaining credits that you plan to use - but for what? Oh never mind, I'll watch it tomorrow. Tomorrow: Congratulations, your new Audible balance is here. Hmmph!

Apple Music is also rather difficult to live without. After all, over the years I have come up with my specially curated playlists of my favourite artists, downloaded music, and not to mention HomePod compatibility that simply makes it impossible to cancel my account. I am unable to get rid of Netflix because I share the account with two other parties. At all times, there was a great struggle within me arguing about the pros and cons of canceling these subscriptions, when an email from Apple mentioned: "Julia, come back! Here, why not try out four weeks of Apple Arcade subscription - for free!" "No!" "But you love to play!" "Yes! They want to keep you, Julia." "No!" "But it is free!" The back-and-forth continued until I settled for a resounding YES!

This was not the first time that I tried Apple's gaming service. Right at the beginning when there was a promotion, of which I am unable to remember the content of, but I still managed to pick up a free Apple Arcade subscription in the Apple App Store for a limited time only. Similar to Apple TV+ (Sheesh! I actually still have this subscription! This is because I am not taking into account the first year which is free), Apple Arcade did entice me somewhat at the beginning but unfortunately, it did not have enough to retain me as a loyal customer. However, my curiosity was piqued as to how the subscription model developed since the end of 2019.

What is Apple Arcade?

Apple's game subscription service was introduced in autumn 2019 and was made available on macOS, iOS, iPadOS and tvOS - which allows me to play on my various Apple devices (except on my beloved Apple TV, simply because it is too old). The subscription costs $4.99 monthly, which is about $50 annually - without taking into consideration the free month when you first sign up. That would certainly add up in the long run with other subscription models that cost twice as much as this subscription (you know, you'll be spending several hundred euros each year is time to stop!)

Apple Arcade now offers more than 100 games that can be played offline. If you own an account in Apple's Game Center, all of the games on the above-mentioned platforms will be synchronized. For most games, you are able to create up to three scores. Apple's Family Sharing feature also allows you to share Apple Arcade with your loved ones.

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In 2019 Tim Cook introduced Apple Arcade officially / © Apple (Screenshot: AndroidPIT)

In my opinion, the game subscription offers some advantages that I have always noticed negatively while surfing in App Stores daily. So you can be sure that with Apple Arcade, you don't have to subject yourself to annoying advertising, nor can you purchase advantages via in-app purchases and micro-transactions (pay-to-win model). Instead, Apple Arcade offers a gaming experience that is reminiscent of consoles and handhelds instead of app gaming, and I like that.

Recently, I noticed on Apple TV+ and Apple Arcade too, that Apple put in an enormous amount of market analysis and research into new digital offerings. This has allowed Apple Arcade to evolve to a state where they can offer only the very best of mobile games. We can find popular genres like puzzlers, click-and-point, open-world adventures, in addition to successors of well-known app games, like a photorealistic psychedelic adventure called Frogger or the saga of your furry feline friend in Cat Quest 2. Apple has taken a similar approach when picking up content for Apple TV+. Here we are able to enjoy Game of Thrones, The Revenant for those who enjoy a good scare, and plenty of other quality content. In other words, whatever your primal desire likes, you should be able to find something in there. You can also try out a lot of different content with such proper execution. As for Apple Arcade, this is what I have to say: Great job! I really like that.

My game recommendations: Tangle Tower, Cat Quest 2, Oceanhorn 2

Three games in Apple Arcade have made me particularly happy over the last few weeks. So much so that I missed my bonuses in Animal Crossing on the Switch for a few days in a row, and almost missed the May Celebration event. Apple has actually piqued my attention via various genres. I have always loved the mind-boggling games that centered around "The Room" series with "House of Da Vinci" being one of my favorite games. Thanks to a tip from a reader a few weeks ago, the iOS game Cat Quest also got my attention. It was available for free! Such click-and-point games always remind me of Monkey Island and transport me back to my wild, younger days. But in the end, "The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild" also had an enormous impact on me in my late 20s. I would describe this game alongside Luigi's Manson 3 as the best games on the Switch.

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Ocean Horn 2 brings back memories of The Legend of Zelda on the Nintendo Switch. / © NextPit

That's why it was so easy for me to find my way around Ocean Horn 2. If you can free yourself from comparisons, but still love open-world games, you should definitely try the game. For me, the game is a milestone where smartphone gaming is concerned, because I have to be honest: I only know that this kind of game exists on the console, and is virtually impossible to find on smartphones. Apple, having secured exclusive rights with Finnish game developer Cornfox & Bros., has certainly done well for themselves. The controls are intuitive when played on the iPhone with decent touch controls. Generally, I don't like touch controls. The feeling in Ocean Horn 2 on the MacBook Pro is all the more ingenious. The graphics perform flawlessly, and I didn't even have to look at the controls to move around, it's all coherent and due to generational reasons you can hit 90 percent of what you need in this open-world adventure with the keys W, D, S and A. You fight monsters, collect treasures, search for keys to locked doors and pick up new skills. The boss fights are challenging and sometimes surprisingly difficult. Just as I like it.

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In Tangle Tower you solve a bizarre murder case / © NextPit

Tangle Tower with a lot of humor

I wouldn't really equate the motley puzzle game Tangle Tower directly with The Room series. There are too few tricky puzzles included for that. But Tangle Tower in Apple Arcade convinces with cheerful dialogues between the two main investigators with whom you have to solve a murder in a mansion. The game has been produced in such a high quality that on the iPhone, iPad, or MacBook, any feeling of playing an "app" never rises to the surface. Instead, this click-and-point-adventure is pure enjoyment, where it really captivates you and lets you forget the whole world for a few moments. The voice actors are great, even if they are in English - you can read the subtitles in German. The characters of the game are unique, accompanied by a funny story and exciting twists & turns. The included puzzles have pushed me to my limits and offer different challenging levels from easy to difficult. In Tangle Tower, I often had to think laterally, but it was worth it. It's even more fun on the Mac than on the smartphone, because you get to enjoy stunning audio and high-end graphics, which you can even configure on the Apple computer at the beginning.

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Cat Quest 2 convinces with funny dialogues and cute creatures. / © NextPit

Cat Quest 2: If Harry Potter was a cat... eh?

The Cat Kingdom game is my secret favorite in the arcade universe. What more does the animal-loving person need more than a cuddly cat next to a fluffy dog in order to defeat evil together? In Cat Quest 2, you play as both characters, who, accompanied by epic Harry Potter-inspired music and incredibly funny dialogues, can fight really tough monster battles, collect and upgrade armor and learn spells. Here you can laugh about torture methods like "We'll tie a cucumber to your back" or nobility titles like "Your Meow" - Cat Quest 2 is simply royal, no matter if it's on the iPhone or the MacBook.

Apple Arcade - Decide which subscription to take?

I now have more or less three games that tie me to Apple Arcade. Because when it comes to playing time, the individual titles have a lot to offer. (That's what I said, they want to bind you. No!) I'll try Apple Arcade for one or two months (Yeah, sure...) and actually I've already decided which music subscription or TV subscription or book subscription or audiobook subscription has to go. Apple Arcade will kill Audible and nobody can stop me! (But on Monday, the follow-up book to "Achtsam Morden" will be released and the author will read it himself this time, and ... STOP! Shut up and take my money, subscription models).

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  • 4
    Hai Karate Jul 1, 2020 Link to comment

    What the hell is this story doing on an Android-focused site?

  • 49
    storm Jul 1, 2020 Link to comment

    These subscriptions get expensive fast.i recommend against them nearly universally. Abusive business model, irresponsible consumer model. Avoid, avoid, avoid.