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Some notes on Apple Arcade games that I’ve played:


This is super good. The writing is charming and funny and moving, but also there’s really interesting rethinking of what it means to be an RPG. Directly addressing the “hero who saves the world” trope; rethinking combat / spell mechanics in interesting ways. And managing to work in emotions and emotional health into its core, mechanically as well as narratively.

Only downside is that it’s chapter based, and I’m still waiting on the second chapter. So, while I really enjoyed the three hours I spent with the game, I’d like to spend a lot more time with it…

Card of Darkness

This was maybe the game on the service that I was most looking forward to: I’m still playing Flipflop Solitaire regularly, which I think is a legitimately great game.

Unfortunately, Card of Darkness hasn’t grabbed me the same way. I’m willing to believe that I’ll like it more if I spend more time with it, but for now there have been other places where I preferred to spend my time.


Like, for example, with Grindstone. Took me a little while to warm up to this, but once I’d played for a couple of hours and gotten a couple of key pieces of equipment, I really like it. Very pleasant core mechanic, I think they do a good job balancing the game to make the levels feel you’re doing some thinking and are in danger while ultimately really being about drawing paths with your fingers in colorful ways.

Also nice to not have to worry about how a free-to-play mechanic would affect things.

Sayonara Wild Hearts

I was really expecting to enjoy this more; I’ve played through it once so far, and it was fine but not as special to me as it was to other people? I’ll find time to go through it a couple more times at some point, though.

Where Cards Fall

This game I’m more torn about than any other on the list. It has a really good puzzle mechanic, used to make some very well designed puzzles; but also more than any other game on this list, there are tons of little things that it does wrong? (Most of which feel like unforced errors.) It’s been a while since I’ve played it, but issues that I can remember:

  • If you click in the wrong place (or if the game misinterprets your interaction), then your character might move in ways that will cause you to have to spend a while getting back to the previous state; and moves are (usually) not interruptible, so even if you notice the problem quickly, there’s nothing you can do about it.
  • The puzzles depend on height and spacing, but the visuals don’t always make it easy to determine heights and spacing.
  • You don’t have a list of puzzles, so you don’t know if finishing the game will take a couple of hours or a couple of weeks.
  • Performance was usually fine (I’ve got an iPad Air 2), but then on a later level it suddenly became bad enough to be literally essentially unplayable. (I’d stretch my fingers to try to place a card, the game would spend about five seconds with the card vibrating between two different positions, and 75% of the time it would end up in a position that I didn’t want.)
  • The puzzles are interspersed with cut scenes, and the cut scenes are not only long enough to take up a significant portion of your time interacting with the game, they’re also oblique enough (non-verbal, in particular) that, fairly soon in, I had no idea what was going on in them and had no desire to follow their thread.

Which, as I write it out, doesn’t seem like so much? But it meant that I was constantly being annoyed at the game. Really good puzzles, though, so I kept on going until I hit performance issues that made it unplayable.


Amusing enough concept, but it didn’t really grab me; I probably played a couple dozen (short!) levels, and then I stopped.

Assemble with Care

From the makers of Monument Valley, and not as good; quite lightweight puzzle, quite straightforward narrative, and while it was pleasant and I was happy to have played it, it didn’t have the surprising charm of its predecessor.


A puzzle game in the sense of jigsaw puzzles, except the pieces are made out of squares, so you’re placing them based on the pictures instead of the shapes. An entirely pleasant way to spend time (modulo some performance issues around the fringes); having played this makes me curious about the genre on the iPad. And I’m still going through the puzzles, it’s a quite solid way to spend five or ten minutes, without having to worry that I’ll get sucked into something large / tricky.


A color-based puzzle game. I went through the first book of puzzles; they were pleasant but pretty mindless. Then I started the second book and the difficulty level skyrocketed. And I stopped, but I might well come back, there’s definitely something there.


I wanted to like this, if for no other reason than that the developer sounded convincing on Designer Notes, but my basic conclusion is that this just isn’t the genre for me. If you like XCOM-style games, then you might enjoy Overland, I have no reason to believe it isn’t well done, but I bounced right off.


So that’s where I am now; still playing Grindstone and Patterned, and I really am going to give Sayonara Wild Hearts another shake. And I’ll drop everything and pick up Guildlings again when the next chapter is released. And I have another half-dozen games that I’ll give a try at some point, and I’d love to have suggestions for good games that I missed. Certainly enough reason for me to stay subscribed to Apple Arcade for now; not necessarily enough reason for me to tell other people they should subscribe, though?

Also, potentially a nudge to buy a new iPad: the games all mostly ran well enough on my iPad Air 2, but a couple of them clearly weren’t optimized with that in mind. (But hey, running at all well on a 5-year-old device is good!) We’ll see what iPads Apple releases this Spring…

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