This week in mobile games, an Apple Arcade developer switches sides as Ustwo Games’ Desta debuts on Netflix. Then, there are two critically-acclaimed cult favorites to look at, each on either side of the big tech divide: Oxenfree on Netflix and Gris on Apple Arcade. Oh, and just for fun, there’s also some culinary capering with SpongeBob and his Bikini Bottom pals. There’s lots of excitement for iPhone and iPad games this week. Let’s get into it, shall we?
Oxenfree opens up on Netflix Games
Oxenfree is old news to many by this point, but we’re glad it’s getting another lease of life, potentially to a whole new audience. It suddenly arrived on Netflix Games on Saturday as part of a flurry of announcements during Netflix’s Tudum fan event.
It remains a wonderful adventure game about spooky goings-on unfolding among a bunch of disaffected teens on a weird island. The world drips with an uneasy atmosphere, the characters are full of quippery and backtalk, and the dialogue systems feel really organic. The puzzles are well-thought-out too — you can check this popular game out now through the Netflix app or by downloading it through the App Store.
Drop into Desta’s dreamy world
The new game from Monument Valley maker Ustwo Games is not another peerless perspective puzzle game — although there is another one coming — instead it’s a tactical take on the humble game of dodgeball.
Desta: The Memories Between is a game where each throw of the ball is part of a conversation between the titular hero and an estranged friend from your hometown. It’s a clever fusion of story and game mechanics, where pulling back to aim your shot before releasing is fun, sure, but not as instant as the simple taps and swipes required in Ustwo’s signature series Monument Valley.
As you meet more characters and things get complex, you can see the game’s designed to be played and replayed over and over — a roguelike that’s different each time. Extra content will be added to it over the coming weeks and months.
A meaty game, then, with a nice bonus detail: in keeping with the game’s themes, developer Ustwo Games will be donating 3% of the game’s profits to organizations that help struggling young people. Nice.
What else to play this week
Apple Arcade is still pumping out the new(ish) releases, and this week it’s the turn of Gris, a critically-acclaimed but not all that widely played puzzle platformer with a sumptuous art style. Picture a hand-drawn trippy art deco world, and an angular, fragile hero, Gris, making her way through it. Wonderful.
If you’ve got a Netflix account and you’re seeking a rather lighter time of it, there’s SpongeBob: Get Cooking via Netflix Games. It sees you spinning plates for the folks in Bikini Bottom as you fulfill different food orders. It’s actually a new edition of the existing Krusty Cook-Off game, which has existed on the App Store for a while now. However, because it’s another new Netflix game, all in-app purchases have been removed – so it won’t bother you for any money.
Pick of the week
That’s all for the must-play iPhone games and iPad games for this week, as the battle between Apple Arcade and Netflix really starts to intensify. Oxenfree, Desta, Gris, SpongeBob — where will it end?!
Our top pick of the week? If you only play one new game this week we’d recommend Oxenfree — it’s a wonderfully modern spin on the kind of adventure game you don’t see very often anymore. It’s a work of art. So good, Netflix bought the whole studio that created it.
Until next week!
– Neil Alexander Long