I thought a fun way to ease back into posting the occasional story might be to have a look back on what’s been taking up ATVG’s game time over the last few months.
In this recent post concerning the case of the missing Facebook icon, I described the arc my gaming took following the birth of Apple Arcade 12 months ago.
For months it was a case of briefly dipping in and out of dozens of games, constantly being distracted by the next shiniest thing, while more kept arriving on the service, each begging to be downloaded and trialled.
Around March or April, I started to employ some self-discipline, deciding to go back and start choosing games from Arcade’s service I felt warranted a full playthrough.
These were not the only games played since then; many such as Butter Royale, Sonic Racing, Shock Rods and Exit The Gungeon (and so many more!) are games to jump in and out of as an arcade snack, when a quick fix as opposed to immersion is what you’re after.
But when time allowed and the headspace was right, the lights would dim, the recliner would recline, and the TV would exclude the outside world as I adventured through some strange world or other, a warming brandy or whisky within reach.
Turn the page to find out which way the wind blew, and where the tides and currents of Apple Arcade have been taking me.
No Way Home
I love a good twin-stick shooter, and Apple Arcade has some fantastic examples of the genre. Explottens and Dead End Job have demanded my time (while deserving so much more of it), and for those after something of the non-Apple Arcade persuasion, then Barbearian (here’s ATVG’s review) is a game Apple TV gamers must own.
No Way Home from SMG Studio mixes exacting twin-stick mechanics with a huge lost-in-space adventure, quality voice acting, quirky humour, and a massive amount of side-quests and crafting to keep distracting you, making it one of Apple Arcade’s standout titles.
There is an end to aim for, but it’s worth taking your sweet time to get there.
Not long ago No Way Home was updated with an excellent arcade option, with smaller mini-game versions of the main game’s mechanics, meaning SMG’s title now fits into both descriptions of a quick-fix and a big adventure.
Oceanhorn 2: Knights of the Lost Realm
Many words were posted here on ATVG during the development of Oceanhorn 2, and so unsurprisingly it was one of the first four games I played following Apple Arcade’s release in 2019.
I soon got lost in the isles of Apple’s virtual arcade however, bouncing from game to game until I managed to get that kid-in-a-candy-shop giddiness of new, new, new under control.
Apple’s subscription gaming service really needed a big-hitting triple indie flagship title at launch, and Oceanhorn 2 carried that burden confidently.
Prior to launch I was actually a little worried about being disappointed, fearing that the trailers may have been promising an adventure bigger and freer in scope than developer Cornfox & Bros. would deliver.
After my first quick taste, I was cautiously optimistic, but after fully immersing myself into the world of Arcadia months later for a full playthrough, I’m happy to report my fears were unfounded.
I don’t think this is much of a spoiler, it’s actually a pretty standard JRPG-trope, but there’s a point in Oceanhorn 2 at which players will gain full control of the world map, with the ability to travel freely in style. I regret not taking full advantage of this, as I feel there’s whole sections of the map I left unexplored due to pushing on with the main quest and eventually hitting the point of no return.
June 2020 saw an update to Oceanhorn 2 that added new content and a new ending, and I see a time at some point in the future when I’ll jump back in to remedy my lack of exploration.
Cat Quest 2
The five games on this list cover my three favourite genres: twin-stick shooters (must play more Butter Royale!), RPGs (I’ll one day circle back and finish the excellent Yaga) and 2D platformers (I really need to spend some more time with Shantae and Shinsekai). Cat Quest 2 is another stellar example of an RPG, although it lifts up from Oceanhorn 2’s over the shoulder third-person view, to a more bird’s eye top-down hack’n’slash magic spellathon.
Updates are a running theme in any ongoing discussion of Apple Arcade, and it’s one of the service’s major strengths. Subscribers currently not only have access to more than 130 titles, but effectively get a season pass (and an endless season at that) to all future game updates. Improvements and completely new content make games you’ve loved even better and worth returning to.
The Gentlebros recently applied the update treatment to Cat Quest 2 with its Mew World addition. I know this is going to draw me back in one day. I just don’t know where I’ll find the time between new games, casual quick fix gaming, and life. But it’s nice to know the Mew World addition is there waiting for me when I’m ready.
Prior to the update, CQ2 was already a huge adventure played out over a massive map, with secrets and side quests sprinkled generously throughout. As with No Way Home, which I didn’t actually mention up top, CQ2 can be played in couch co-op mode, as can many of Apple Arcade’s titles.
The final boss fight was worthy of the epic quest that took me there, and it’s always a little sad seeing the end credits roll after investing serious hours into a big role-playing game’s universe. But time is finite, and games are many.
Move on I must.
The Chinese Room’s Little Orpheus was almost refreshingly short compared to the previous three games I played, and made for a high quality palette-cleanser on the way to my next longer adventure.
Funnily enough, as I write this I’m listening to Les Baxter’s 101 Strings Orchestra and his Que Mango! album, and it’s ridiculously appropriate music for Little Orpheus. Big bold 1950’s quirky exotica. Love it.
Split into short, manageable episodes, complete with cliffhangers and catch-ups, Little Orpheus throws players into a world of over-sized monsters and unbelievable tales of journeying to the centre of… something.
But is it perhaps just a tall tale concocted by our Russian protagonist in order to delay impending punishment? Hmmm…
The Chinese Room’s production values nail every aspect of Little Orpheus, with the studio’s walking adventures going sideways for a change to 2D. While the puzzles are not hard, and there’s not much to do but jump, climb, push and pull, it’s the story and unrelenting headlong visual rush that makes this such a compelling addition to the studio’s catalogue.
Samurai Jack: Battle Through Time
The most recent of ATVG’s gaming conquests, Samurai Jack from Adult Swim Games arrived on all the major consoles (including Apple TV!) at the same time, finding me at a perfect time between games, and had me at hello.
While Samurai Jack is a very linear action-adventure compared to the first three games above, the upgrading of skills and equipment adds an element of agency over your quest. There’s no choice as to where to go except forward, but players can certainly choose the style in which they advance.
And when I say style, I mean fighting style. Wade in heavy-handed, light and fast, or attack from range, with an excellently implemented quick select function that allows an easy combination of the above.
It’s great to see a bunch of these major console releases coming simultaneously to Apple TV via Apple Arcade, validating the little black box as a console alternative.
Keep ’em coming Apple.
The recently released Marble Knights from Wayforward is the first Apple Arcade title I’ve been able to pre-order from Apple’s new Coming Soon section. And going into the weekend with it freshly baked, golden brown and ready to play, it was the obvious choice.
My first couple of hours have coloured me impressed. I’m playing this one through to the end.
I had thoughts of going non-Apple Arcade and taking Hyper Light Drifter for a spin, as it’s increasingly touted as a modern classic. It will have to keep waiting patiently on my Apple TV’s hard drive however, until Marble Knights is done.
If you’re new to The Apple TV Gaming Blog (ATVG), or just new to Apple TV gaming in general, or both, then the best place to get acquainted is our Best Apple TV Games of 2020 article. You’ll find a great collection of games to play, and a bunch of useful links to our previous site content. Welcome aboard. Enjoy the ride.