When it comes to bundles of games stuffed into one package, little else lives up to the likes of Rare Replay and (at last – following years of updates) Halo: MCC. However, this week, Arcade Islands: Volume One steps into the proverbial spotlight to nab some attention. Arcade Islands: Volume One offers over thirty “pick-up-and-play” games in one neat and accessible bundle. I cant quite comment on the pricing as that’s yet to be revealed, but what I will say is that Mastiff would do well to target the $12.99 – $14.99 range, anything over is asking for too much.
But why? I hear you ask. I mean, surely over thirty games in one justifies the cost when Rare Replay launched at $30 and offered thirty games in total? Some would argue that that’s a fair comparison, but let’s pause it right there. You see, Rare Replay was jam packed with (mostly) bulky titles that offered hours of gameplay per-hit. This dollar-per game was easily justified when we’re looking at acclaimed games such as Perfect Dark, Battletoads, Viva Piñata and so forth. Arcade Islands: Volume One, on the other hand, outputs games that literally last minutes at a time.
This five-minute per whack – and that’s being very generous in most of these games, puts, in my opinion, Arcade Islands: Volume One in the aforementioned price radius. If Mastiff charges anything over $14.99, you’re being robbed. Anyhow, pricing to the side, let’s get stuck in. Arcade Islands: Volume One takes the concept of pretty much any dollar mobile game that you’ve ever sunk any time into, and brings it to console. There’s an impressive variety on offer here, that much goes without saying, and each game is fairly different and distinct to one another.
Loading up the game will take you to the main hub, which serves as a collection of themed islands that each encompass games based on those themes; Vikings, Magic, Tropic, Atlantis and more. The UI has a very clean, yet mobile sort of presentation, which is great for the younger target audience. Starting out, you only have access to the first island and must earn a set amount of stars to progress to the next island. Stars can be earned per-level to a total of three, largely rewarded and measured based on endurance, skill and in some cases, perseverance.
Each of these levels will clearly showcase the star-meter during play, tracking progression towards the bronze star, the silver star and then the gold star. It’s all simple stuff, really. Furthermore, the amount of stars needed to unlock consecutive islands don’t tend to demand too much. I felt that unlocking the final island was a lot harder than it needed to be, but this was simply due to the difficulty of earning stars on the island before it, grouped with the fact that the games on that preceding island are just not at all fun, in fact, they’re horrendous and half-baked.
Arcade Islands: Volume One’s main drawback is exactly that. Despite some interesting and fun additions, many of the games either handle too poorly or they’re just not that much fun. The first level, for example, sees you donning the role of a bunny rabbit that’s tasked with vertically climbing platforms until it’s high enough to hit that three-star rank. Then, we move onto air hockey, in which three stars can be achieved by scoring several goals against the AI opponent. This should give you a basic idea as to what to expect as far as individual game quality goes.
Let me tell you, in regards to the quality, the games tend to be pretty hit and miss. Now, I quite enjoyed a few of the games here. Special mention goes to the Asteroids-inspired game. However, there’s some additions that stand out particularly due to a range of poor design choices and generally shoddy development. Take, for instance, the marble shooter level or the level based on card-pairs. The former handles about as accurately as a lizard on ice, whereas the latter is just a lazy filler game that’s about as pleasant as stubbing a toe on a steel door.
Arcade Islands: Volume One’s wide collection of games fluctuates exactly like this, often. So much so that when you’re forced to play them to unlock more stars, it feels less like fun and more like torture. Don’t get me wrong, I do think that this bundle is worth your time and attention if you specifically enjoy minute-by-minute games like this, but I would be remiss if I didn’t point out how infuriating, or boring, a lot of these games can be. It’s fair to summarize Arcade Islands: Volume One as a pool of borrowed ideas, some that work, and some that just do not.
There’s some multiplayer fun to be had here, too. Several of these games can be played locally with up to four players; cooperatively or competitively, depending on the game. Throw in leaderboard implementation and a system that charts which of your friends rules each island (based on overall points scored) and there’s no denying the healthy serving of replay value within. Earned stars will also go towards unlocking cosmetic treasure via the Treasure Hut. There’s nothing revolutionary here, but it’s a nice touch nevertheless and again, will no doubt please the younger gamer.
It’s a shame, really, that many of these games either handle poorly, feel like filler additions or simply lack any degree of fun, because if anything, Arcade Islands had potential. Sadly, much of that is squandered due to the aforementioned reasons. Touching up on the visuals and the audio, there’s little to write home about here. Sure, there’s some visual diversity island-to-island, but the lack of detail across the board and the stiff animations makes the whole ordeal feel cheap. The same can indeed be said about the game’s generic audio and overall presentation.
Arcade Islands: Volume One is a bundle of over thirty borrowed ideas, spread across a range of themed islands that encompasses them. While some of these games do indeed relay a good degree of fun, several of them either handle poorly, serve as filler or prove to be more frustrating than they’re worth. There’s certainly some value and depth to this collection, but it’s a far cry from both quality and innovation.
This game was tested and reviewed on Xbox One. All of the opinions and insights here are subject to that version.