Apple Arcade Hands On

Apple announced their new gaming subscription service, Apple Arcade, at their recent conference alongside the iPhone 11, but you don’t need the latest handset to use this interesting new take on game subscriptions.

Accessed from a new Tab on the App Store in iOS 13, which launches tomorrow on any iPad and iPhone made after 2015, plus Apple TV, Apple Arcade offers a vast collection of new games from large and small developers for a set monthly fee of £4.99/$4.99 and no in-app payments or adverts.

From the Arcade section you can browse the latest titles such as Going Down, LEGO Brawls, Ocean Horn 2 and EarthNight or search for new games to play.  You’ll still need to download them as usual but any game is available on every platform from iPhone 6S and SE to iPad Air 2, Mini 4 and above, plus, of course, the Apple TV should you want to play the games on the big screen.

iOS 13 also offers support for Bluetooth controllers, including the PS4’s Dualshock 4 and the Xbox One controllers with Bluetooth, as well as some third party gamepads.  Many games can be controlled via touchscreen or with a gamepad of your choice, so the options are there for the choosing.

Once downloaded, the games are playable much like any other on the App Store but with the assurance of no further payments or annoying adverts.  It also means Apple has pushed to get big developers on board including Ubisoft (Rayman  Mini) and Warner Bros for LEGO but even some of the indie titles are impressive enough to stand out on their own.   While the service is an interesting one, it’s the games that sell it, though as these are all playable on any format, don’t expect anything that will push the latest hardware to its limits.

Some of the initial games do indeed make the service an interesting prospect for the first month (which you get free) but if Apple want to encourage the take up of the service they’ll need to keep supplying good quality, eye catching titles month on month.


One of the games I was drawn to, Cleaversoft’s EarthNight, has a simple enough concept, it’s an endless runner style game set on the back of dragons floating above the Earth.  Humour, some deft controls and, above all, the graphics help to lift this one above the usual copy-cat runners out there and it looks as if we could see a steady stream of competitors to the leaderboard for this game.


It’s well worth playing, the controls are fairly simple but still allow for some interesting strategies. In addition to timing jumps you also have the option to speed up landings, avoiding or deliberately landing on top of the strange creatures you encounter in order to get some extra height and collect as much junk as you can.

There are two characters to choose from and both work in slightly different ways, giving you several options for playing.  It’s small touches like this which mean EarthNight is a good ambassador for the Arcade’s first week.


Oceanhorn 2

The sequel to the hit PC, console and mobile adventure game, Oceanhorn 2 is a very Zelda-esque title that wouldn’t look out of place on the Switch next to Breath of the Wild.

It’s not quite as deep but it looks amazing on an iPad and plays smoothly even on the old iPhone SE.  I expect to see this game popping up on PC and possibly consoles at some point so Apple has a bit of a hot title on their hands getting this out first on their service.


Rayman Mini

It may be mini but it’s most definitely a Rayman game with the limbless French guy looking just as good here as in the last few console games.

If you’ve played the previous Rayman mobile titles you know the score here; shortened bite-sized level design but with some beautiful artwork and plenty of hidden areas and things to collect,, taking you through a basic tutorial on the moves before throwing some more complicated scenarios at you, all while wowing you with the great looking themed areas.

Rayman Mini is a perfect game to showcase the start of Apple Arcade and has a huge number of levels to get your teeth into despite their small size.



While it’s still early days, all the titles on the Apple Arcade at the moment look promising and the free month gives everyone a chance to try at least some of them out.  The fact that you’ll need to download any game to play it will please some and annoy others but at least you’ll know that there won’t be any annoying in-app payment boxes or adverts to get in the way.

Apple Arcade is officially released alongside iOS 13 tomorrow on iPhone with the iPad update coming soon after.





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