Arcade Islands: Volume 1

Game review by
Chad Sapieha, Common Sense Media
Arcade Islands: Volume 1 Game Poster Image
Simple mini-game collection quickly becomes dull to play.

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A lot or a little?

The parents' guide to what's in this game.

Positive Messages

Some games promote friendly local social play for up to four people. Unlockable rewards encourage practice and perseverance.

Positive Role Models & Representations

There are no substantial characters here, but kids playing together could take behavioral cues from each other in how they react to winning and losing.

Ease of Play

Some games are very easy while others can be surprisingly challenging, requiring a dozen or more attempts to get a proper feel for both controls and objectives. There's no option to alter difficulty, but some team games may become easier if playing with a skilled partner.

Violence & Scariness

Some mini-games involve cartoonish combat, including ships shooting asteroids, Vikings punching bears, fish shooting lasers, and tiny tanks firing cannons at each other. There's no blood or gore; enemies typically disappear in a flash of light once defeated.

Language
Consumerism

What parents need to know

Parents need to know that Arcade Islands: Volume 1 is a collection of mini-games for the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. Games are grouped in themes, such as magic, space, and water. Many are focused on puzzle solving and movement and have no iffy content, but some revolve around battle, with tiny tanks firing cannons at each other, Vikings punching bears, and spaceships shooting asteroids. But the visual presentation is simple and cartoonish, without images of blood or gore. Some games support multiplayer and team play, allowing up to four friends to play together in the same room and experience social competitive gaming. Note that while most games are simple and easy to understand, some require a good deal of practice to master. Perseverance is rewarded with newly unlocked games and treasures, but some kids may grow frustrated by the poor balancing of difficulty between games.

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What's it about?

ARCADE ISLANDS: VOLUME 1 is a collection of dozens of simple mini-games set on themed islands. The Cosmic island, for example, has games that involve rocket boosting between spinning planets and shooting asteroids, while the water-themed Atlantis island includes activities such as swimming around the ocean popping fish eggs before they hatch, and protecting a ridge of coral from encroaching enemies. Most games are single player, but some allow groups of up to four to play together in teams. Multiplayer games can be easily identified via an optional filter. There's no overarching story or tournament mode, but players do need to unlock new games and islands by earning stars in the games they have available. An online leaderboard for each game lets players know how their performance stacks up against others, and kids will earn treasures that can be viewed for accomplishing specific objectives on each island.

Is it any good?

This collection of mini-games is very accessible, but the engagement and entertainment wears off quickly. Arcade Islands: Volume 1 is easy to get into and most of its games are intuitively designed, but it feels more like a collection of simplified mobile games than a living room party game. Part of the problem is that only some of its games are made for multiplayer, which will disappoint anyone hoping for a true party game experience. A bigger issue is that many -- perhaps even most -- of the activities are blatant rip-offs of other games. Whether you're tapping a button to stay aloft, whacking a ball in a 2D golf simulation, or blasting marbles at a snaking line of orbs, chances are you'll experience some serious déjà vu. But the greatest hitch keeping it from offering at least an adequate mini-game anthology experience is that there's no connective tissue between islands or games and no tournament mode to take solo players or groups on a journey that lasts longer than just one game. Without some sort of overarching structure, it simply feels like an uninspired collection of cloned games.

All of this said, a handful of games do manage to stand out as being at least challenging, if not entirely original. One involves simultaneously controlling two groups of running birds – one moving left to right, the other moving right to left – that must leap over obstacles. It requires a Zen-like multitasking mental state achieved only through practice. Another game forces players to shoot an energy blast that matches the shade of oncoming enemies to defeat them. With six colors to choose from -- three of which require tapping a shoulder button to subtly shift the shade of the other three colors -- success is no easy feat. But these activities aren't the norm, and without any grander mode to tie them together, it's hard to come up with a good reason to invest in this bargain bin collection of copycat mini-games.

Talk to your kids about ...

  • Families can talk about screen time. Since it's a collection of mini-games with no overarching story or chapters, Arcade Islands: Volume 1 play sessions can end after minutes or hours, so how do you determine how long is long enough?

  • Do social games played with others in the same room help give you courage to talk to friends you might not know very well? Do you think team play lets you build a bond with them?

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