Like other subscription services, Apple Arcade has had an uphill task since its launch in 2019. Not only must it convince iOS device owners to subscribe to another monthly subscription — it also has to give them a good reason to stay. subscribe. The game service has gone through several pivots to achieve this, from incorporating mobile classics to reportedly shifting its focus to games with long-term engagement.
Apple’s strategy seems to be shifting again, and you can see it in its newest game, Air Twister. Created by video game legend Yu Suzuki, this is a gonzo space shooter that is truly unlike anything else on the market today. This psychedelic game has players flying around giant mushrooms, shooting desert manta rays, and riding goldfish – all while art rock songs like Queen play in the background.
Air Twister is a sign that Apple may be taking a page from another popular streaming service book: Netflix.
Air Twister basically the spiritual successor of the 1985s Space Harrier, another famous title worked on by Suzuki. It is an on-rails arcade shooter in which players fly, shoot and dodge their way through 12 stages. Like Space HarrierPlayers will dodge colorful energy pellets, shoot down geometric shapes, and face giant bone dragons.
The main difference is that this is the intended mobile game played on touch devices. The main link is that the player swipes their finger across the screen to lock the enemy ranks, taking them all out with a homing shot. Blowing up entire groups of monsters gives players stars, currency used to unlock cosmetics, weapons, health, and more perks that will make the next run easier.
This is a classic arcade shooter, which may be unpleasant for some modern players. A successful run takes about 30 minutes, but mastery is the name of the game. Players will go through the same series of stages multiple times as they grind to earn stars and build towards the perfect run. There are a few other unlockable modes to change things up, like the minigame where the player taps on numbered squares in the correct order, but most of the packs are built around the same order of levels.
It can be repetitive, but I find it very addictive. With such short runs, I find myself booting the game once or twice a day and dropping another attempt. The upgrade system adds some noticeable progress as I get a little better each time. That gives it an edge over classic shooters, which rarely have mechanics to help players improve (you’ll have to drop more quarters to get better). It’s a clever way to modernize an old genre, giving it longevity beyond the old-fashioned leaderboard pursuits.
The core gameplay is a nice throwback to the arcade era, but Air Twister most famous for his absolutely insane style. The game is a series of psychedelic paintings that come to life, as if they were developed during the mushroom-fueled fog in Burning Man. Each level is filled with trippy imagery, from parks like Alice in Wonderland to skies filled with floating houses carried by balloons. There are several cutscenes throughout the story and each one is stranger than the last.
All of that before mentioning the truly wild original soundtrack from Valencian rock art composer. Symphonic rock underlines everything, from the menu to the levels, making the game feel like an excellent rock opera. A few days later, I found myself singing along as I was on the menu picking up a new upgrade.
I can’t imagine any major publisher releasing a game like Air Twister in 2022. It’s the kind of creative swing that’s too pronounced out there. And that’s where I see Apple Arcade perhaps picking up some hints from Netflix’s now-fading golden age.
At the peak of the streaming service, Netflix began investing money in ambitious auteur projects. This resulted in a series of award-worthy films during the late 2010s, from Alfonso Cuarón’s Rome to Martin Scorsese’s Irish. For a time, Netflix felt like passing a blank check to famous directors, allowing them to create whatever dream project they wanted.
Apple Arcade seems to be doing the same thing. Air Twister it really felt like Apple sat down with Yu Suzuki, an industry legend, and gave him the freedom to make whatever he wanted. It’s also not the first time we’ve seen Apple take that approach. fantasy is a fantastic work of love for Final Fantasy creator Hironobu Sakaguchi and Demon World see PlatinumGames experimenting with inventive action games. All of these titles make Apple Arcade even more interesting, as it contains left-field pet projects from industry lovers.
As a customer, I find this a fun strategy. Air Twister recklessly conceived in some ways, but it was very strange. It feels creatively out of control, which is rare outside of today’s independent scene. Despite the problems I had with him, I was eager to re-enter day after day and delve deeper into his strange world. I’d rather play an imperfect game that’s produced with passion than a safe hit that ticks all the usual boxes. Apple Arcade currently delivers that experience more often than its competitors.
Is it a sustainable strategy? Most definitely not. Current Netflix walking back his focus on auteur films, reportedly calling them a “vanity project.” I imagine Apple could do the same if games like Air Twister didn’t translate into customer retention. For now, I’m just going to enjoy this moment as long as it lasts. If legends like Yu Suzuki continue to make games where you ride an elephant and fight a giant clock that shoots another clock at you, I’ll keep subscribing for another month.
Air Twister launched on June 24 for iOS devices via Apple Arcade.