Apple Arcade is ringing in the new year with a new mobile game releasing every Friday for the entire month of January. Here are the amazing titles that I have been playing so far.
Apple Arcade’s first Friday release of 2023 was on January 6 with an interactive story game called Episode XOXO. Episode XOXO is my first interaction with the developer Episode Interactive. I am an avid Webtoons reader, and this title seemed similar to an interactive web comic. The stories let players choose their character’s gender and the gender of their character’s love interest. Players customize their character responses and can choose between different outfits at specific parts of the story.
Episode XOXO is the Apple Arcade version of Episode, which launched in 2014 and is available in the Apple and Google Play stores. Compared to Episode, Episode XOXO has barely any stories. There are currently nine different series on Episode XOXO, while the OG Episode boasts of sporting over 150,000 stories. Granted, Episode has had much more screen time, so to speak, and also allows users to create their own stories. Even so, with such a large repository in Episode, you would think they would debut a larger catalog with Episode XOXO. The biggest advantages the new mobile version has over Episode is that the story options aren’t locked behind a paywall, and you don’t have to complete chapters to unlock additional stories. With these limitations, I doubt I would be able to dedicate that much time to the original Episode title.
Apple Arcade’s next Friday release for the month was on January 13 with Illustrated. Illustrated provides a small twist to the puzzle game genre, and it’s enough to suck me in. While I love physical puzzles, I can never seem to get into digital puzzles. I don’t know if it’s the difficulty of sorting through dozens of puzzle pieces, or if there just isn’t anything exciting enough to keep me from just breaking out my favorite puzzle box. Illustrated adds a few interesting features. The puzzles are laid out in series based on the puzzle creator.
The puzzle art is different from what I’ve seen of other similar games. Instead of heavily featuring photography, the puzzles are based on paintings and digital art. Each puzzle has a small note from the creator describing what the puzzle art means to them.
As a fellow artist, this is a really nice touch that keeps me invested in completing more puzzles from artists I enjoy. Additionally, the puzzles are accompanied by music that builds as you complete more of the puzzle. Like the music, the colors start out muted and gradually increase in saturation the more progress you make. The music reminds me of Hindsight’s soundtrack, with its heavy string and piano focus with simple melodies. There are currently just over three dozen puzzle series, although not all of them have been released as of yet. Some puzzles also have a feature where you can work together with up to three friends to complete the puzzles together. I have a feeling Illustrated is going to be a permanent resident on my iPad.
Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On!
The new title introduced on Friday, January 20, was a remastering of developer Game Freak’s cult classic called Pocket Card Jockey that was originally released on Nintendo 3DS. Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! combines the very relaxing game of Solitaire with, you guessed it, horse racing. The introduction features a cute and slightly disturbing story of a young jockey whose dream is to win the derby but doesn’t have a lick of experience. After a fatal encounter during their very first training session, the jockey makes a deal with an angel who gives them a second chance to achieve their dream, or else it’s straight to heck with them. I was thoroughly shocked to discover how complicated Pocket Card Jockey is. Multiple rounds of high stakes Solitaire are combined with complicated resource management and strategy that must also coincide with the stars aligning and Venus being in retrograde in order to ensure racing success.
Basically, this new mobile version is hard, and I feel like any victory was the result of sheer luck. The early races are reasonably easy, but when it comes to G1 races, I just can’t keep up with the better horses. Each race starts out with a brief overview of the stats of your competition. Each G1 race was stocked with horses with speed and stamina stats 2-3 times better than my own horse. There is a breeding mechanic that I did not get to try out yet, which may be the key to unlocking these incredible stats. If you’re up for a challenging puzzle/strategy game and ever went through a horse-fanatic phase, Pocket Card Jockey: Ride On! is for you.
The last new Friday game debuting on Apple Arcade this month on January 27 is Squiggle Drop. Unfortunately, Squiggle Drop launches today, so I have not had the opportunity to play it as of the time I’m writing this.
The premise of Squiggle Drop is that players solve a puzzle by squiggling a shape inside a box which then drops onto the object below. Another smashing success in the naming department. Based on the previews, some of the puzzles look to be quite tricky. Squiggle Drop is currently releasing with a whopping 100 levels, with promises of more on the way. There is also a leaderboard and an option for players to challenge their friends to beat their scores. The whimsical nature of the puzzles and art style indicate Squiggle Drop will be a fun, albeit challenging, title.
Let me know in the comments which new Apple Arcade title is your favorite, or which ones you are looking forward to trying out.
Until the next time, stay cool, be you. Bye!
Developers: BorderLeap, Episode Interactive, Game Freak, Noodlecake Studios