This is part 4 of our Apple Arcade rankings. Quick navigation to other parts:
1-25 | 26-50 | 51-75 | 76-100 | 101+
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It’s a puzzle game built around Lego. Take random pieces scattered about the world to build bridges, create slides, or solve more complex puzzles. Along the way, you’re treated to a light story and some emotive music.
Builder’s Journey has a lot going for it. It’s a puzzle game where you can actually be creative in building things with Lego, which is a really neat idea. It’s also got a great soundtrack. It even has a great narrative setup. But is squanders almost all of these things at every turn. Its puzzles vary wildly in difficulty (and quality), parts of the game cut out the music completely, and the story goes absolutely nowhere. Add to this how the game has really unresponsive controls and an overly minimalist design (why aren’t the people just minifigs?), and I’m just confused and disappointed.
Much like its full name suggests, Yaga is an action-rpg steeped in folklore. In it, you play as a one-armed blacksmith who is cursed with bad luck. The tsar of the kingdom sends you out on a quest a variety of quests in hopes to break a curse laid upon him by Baba Yaga. When you aren’t simply wandering through areas and fighting baddies, you can take on quests and make dialog choices that shape your blacksmith’s personality and impact the narrative. This, plus a ton of Slavic influence, are the things that differentiate Yaga from other action-rpgs.
Yaga is a fascinating mishmash of things. Slavic folklore, Mass Effect-esque dialogue wheels, action combat, and rhyming couplets all play a part to make this game undeniably distinct. The only problem is, I’m not sure the blending of these component parts ends up making something cohesive.
It’s also worth nothing that Yaga feels borderline unplayable without a controller, but you won’t realize this until you’re in a combat encounter. Fights require a level of finesse that the game’s touch controls simply cannot provide. There’s also some really horrendous load times in Yaga that really kill your momentum.
Update: Yaga has aged poorly. Despite an update that brings a lot of quality of life improvements to it (including an easy mode to make playing it on touch tolerable), the game that hides beneath the stylish veneer is hard to get excited about. The load times are still very much a problem, too.
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INMOST is a platformer with an emotional story driving things along. You play as a variety of characters through various vignettes, and solve puzzles and learn how these seemingly disparate characters are tied together. To set the mood, INMOST also sports a beautifully dark pixel art style.
I’m intrigued by the story of INMOST, but I don’t really enjoy playing it. The platforming is slow and clunky, and a lot of the puzzles rely on trial-and-error. Instead of feeling challenging—which is what I believe INMOST is going for with these decisions—it makes for a pretty boring and repetitive experience.
Update: I went back to IMOST because I thought I had missed something about the game on my first try with it, but I still find it a kind of bumbling and boring experience, mostly because of the really poor and unresponsive touch controls.
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Kings of the Castle is a super-colorful first-person platformer about collecting diamonds. Your goal is to parkour all over an environment, collecting these gems so you can pay a dragon to free a prince locked away in a castle.
There’s a lot I like about Kings of the Castle’s style and sense of speed, but it just doesn’t feel like a great fit for Apple Arcade. First-person platforming is tough, especially if you’re doing it via a touch screen, and the game’s multiplayer mode is basically nonexistent unless you can round up some real life friends to play with you.
Update: Kings of the Castle got some new daily challenges, but they don’t change the core experience in any meaningful way. The first-person platforming continues to show promise, but ultimately just feels too clunky to control.
Skate your way through three different cities, whether just to find perfect lines or complete specific challenges. Skate City is kind of a 2D take on the Skate series, where you aren’t doing crazy trick combos or finding collectibles. Instead, the focus is on performing specific tricks and riding smoothly.
Overall I’m not super impressed with Skate City. The controls are not as intuitive as they look. It’s visuals also look kind of clunky. This, plus the fact that Skate City has very little personality to speak of, makes it feel pretty forgettable.