Arcade Islands – Volume One is a brand new minigame collection that was just released by Mastiff for Xbox One and PS4. We tested the Playstation 4 version – here’s our review.
The minigame genre is a bit of a curious one. It got big with Mario Party, then really boomed in the Nintendo Wii days (which TONS of copycats), and I loved the Kinect Sports games on the Xbox 360. I also enjoyed Sports Champions on the PS3, but once we arrived at the current generation of consoles, the genre kind of went quiet. The Xbox One had a few re-releases of classic games (Halo and Rare Replay come to mind) and the PS4 had the Uncharted collection, but very little to nothing in the way of couch coop minigames – part of the reason I was eagerly anticipating Arcade Islands.
And no, that wasn’t because I was expecting something at the level of a Mario Party of Wii/Kinect Sports here – I was fully expecting a collection of relatively generic titles. Easy to pick up, the kind of stuff you often see as a mobile app, and pretty much what nearly 90% of all the minigame collections on the Wii were like. Why? Because there’s nothing like it on the PS4 at the moment, and these collections of games with simple controls are excellent when playing with kids.
It turns out that Arcade Islands is pretty much exactly what I had thought it would be too, in both a positive and negative sense. It has a great amount of diversity over no less than 30 minigames, ranging from classic shoot ‘em up action to air hockey and card games to minigolf. None of the games are especially brilliant by themselves though, so don’t expect any pleasant surprises aside from the diversity of the selection.
In a somewhat odd design choice, the game features some sort of campaign mode in which you need to unlock the majority of the games before you can play them – forcing you to set high scores (or in most cases, ‘okay’ scores) on games you may not even enjoy playing. The way this works is that the games are divided among different (themed) islands, and you start off with access to only one of them. Score enough stars by meeting objectives, and the next island unlocks. Luckily it’s not that difficult, but if you have a younger player who isn’t that skilled and just wants to have a little fun it’s a bit restrictive. And really…. that’s the best choice for a core audience here.
Mastiff has done well to include multiplayer appeal – quite a few of the games support local multiplayer modes for up to four players, and there are online leaderboards as well (for those who enjoy going well beyond the three star ratings). Local multiplayer is especially fun in certain games – parents and kids can play together cooperatively, while evenly matched players can also go head to head.
Volume One of Arcade Islands (is this already a franchise?) shouldn’t be treated as more than it is – a collection of relatively generic minigames. Some are fun, some are extremely forgettable. The latter can probably also be said of the audiovisual style – there’s a “mobile” look and feel to it, so don’t expect anything more than that. Still, despite the lack of originality and quality, it’s a rare chance to enjoy a few ‘plain and simple’ types of games with younger players on an Xbox One or PS4. If you’re not in that group/scenario, you’re better off looking elsewhere.