The biggest problem facing games on the App Store has always been one of discovery. If a game doesn’t make it to the Featured section, or if it isn’t a massive hit, you’re probably not going to find it just by casually browsing.
Apple Arcade, with its smaller, more carefully curated library, helps remedy that problem a bit. But with dozens of games included in an Apple Arcade subscription, it’s still hard to find the hidden gems languishing behind those few hyped in the spotlight. In between the Sayonara Wild Hearts (which is beautiful) and Grindstone (oh, is it 2am already?) are games that you absolutely should be playing, if only you knew to take the time.
Well, friend, I’m here for you with my own tasting menu of hidden Apple Arcade delights. Here’s a sampler of some of the best entries on offer, chosen for their quality, inventiveness, and suitability for playing on a phone. (Though, if you have an Apple TV, I definitely recommend using it for more than Netflix).
Detective Grimoire and Sally are called to Tangle Tower, a structure as strange as the people who live there, to investigate a locked-room murder. Isolated from the rest of humanity on its own private island, Tangle Tower is home to an extended family whose members don’t necessarily hate each other but don’t particularly love each other, either.
The excellent animation, sharp writing, and exceptional voice acting make interrogating suspects and finding the killer a pure pleasure. The puzzles are a healthy mix of logic (can you use clues to figure out which paintbrush goes where) and observation (lining up magnifying glasses of varying strengths). Some you’ll solve in seconds and others will make you question your life choices, but all feel fresh and blend in well with the game’s surroundings. Best of all, Tangle Tower is adapted perfectly to play on a phone, with simple controls allowing for easy navigation, inventory management, and puzzle solving.
Take a brush and drag it through some colors to mix them. That’s literally all you need to know in order to enjoy Tint, a pleasantly challenging puzzle game with a gorgeous watercolor aesthetic. In Tint, you simple connect blobs of paint with targets of a specific color by dragging your finger from one to the other, mixing tones along the way to get the proper shade. To activate a green flower, for example, you’ll have to drag blue through yellow, or vice versa.
The puzzles grow steadily more complex as you work your way through the sketchbook, adding multiple colors and obstacles to each page. If you make a mistake, a quick double-tap gives you a fresh page so you can try again, and hints are there to provide a nudge when you need one. Tint is the kind of gentle brainteaser you crave on a quiet Sunday morning as you sip a cup of tea.
Over the Alps
I’ve always wanted to be a spy. Not a real spy, of course, but the movie kind of spy, fighting with fists one moment and bon mots the next. Over the Alps provides that kind of spy experience, set against a backdrop of World War II intrigue and told engagingly though postcards sent to your confidant. You play as a British agent accidentally sucked into a web of intrigue when a case of mistaken identity sends you off-mission. There’s a beautiful German agent hounding your steps, a set of secret blueprints that could turn the tide of war, and plenty of crosses and double-crosses.
As the story plays out via the text of the postcards, you simply choose how you want to respond by selecting a style of stamp. Will you be charming, tough, amusing, snarky? Your choices will impact those around you: start an argument in the village square and you’ll leave a “footprint,” making it easier for the authorities to track you down, for instance. But if you use your wiles to slip away, the “distraction” might send them on a fool’s errand. England is counting on you, Agent Smith. Do whatever it takes.