Mobile games are one of the largest markets in the gaming community today, in large part due to their accessibility. Popular ones include Candy Crush, Pokémon GO, and Clash of Titans. These are games you can play on your phone, iPad or other tablet device without needing to purchase an expensive system like you would for a console-based game.
Of course, mobile games become controversial when you start to include them as part of the gaming community. There are plenty of people who think they shouldn’t count as real gaming, brushing them off as largely casual puzzle games.
But as mobile phone technology has evolved, so have mobile games. Older games for consoles like the Xbox and PlayStation 2 are even getting mobile phone ports, proving that phones can sometimes take the place of traditional consoles. We’ve come a long way from Snake on the good old Nokia “brick.”
The Arcana: A Mystic Romance is a fantastic example of what mobile games have to offer. Billing itself as an “LGBT-friendly game” where “you choose your pronouns — then romance to your heart’s content!” — it’s the perfect game to play during Pride Month or all year long.
After a brief character creator where you can choose your name and gender, you’re introduced as a magical prodigy in your world. You are an apprentice left largely to your own devices by your mentor. Equipped with a particularly insightful tarot deck, you take off on an adventure to discover who you are and why this world feels so very strange.
Wasn’t there a plague a few years ago? Why did it vanish? How did the Count disappear? And what did you and your friends have to do with it? In fact, why can’t you remember anything past a few years ago?
Story-rich at its core, the Arcana offers you multiple story paths to navigate from the outset. Selecting a character allows you to transport yourself through the game’s plot through the perspective of your chosen character as well as your own.
Make no mistake, you are the core driver of the story. You aren’t just sitting in the passenger seat while your companion takes you along. But your companion helps steer the story. Have you ever wondered how different a story might be if the main character had a different best friend or love interest? That’s The Arcana.
In addition to your chosen companion, your choices along the line affect the direction of the story. At intervals you’re given a set of choices, and what you pick determines what sort of ending you’ll receive.
Each main story line has an “upright” and “reversed” ending. It gives the game a great deal of versatility when it comes to replayability, a key feature of any story-driven game. Some of these choices also generate special screen shots that are archived in a collectible gallery, helping you see any paths you might have missed in your story. After you finish each chapter you have the ability to go back and start that section again, allowing you to collect any lost moments immediately.
There are also mini-games available, such as the daily spin option. You spin a wheel and are awarded with a number of prizes, such as coins or artifacts that belong to one of the selectable companions. After certain collection landmarks are passed you get bonus skits, first one for each character and then a group skit after the final landmark is achieved.
Another mini-game is called “Heart Hunter.” After choosing an avatar for your character you run around and try to collect hearts from characters on each board. Once you’ve received four you have the opportunity to obtain screenshots, and a collection of these gets you bonus items that make moving through the game easier.
Why would you need tools to make the game easier, you might ask? Because the game itself is free to download and free to play, so they include in-app purchases to generate a profit. Each chapter costs keys to unlock, and those keys generate over a 24-hour period. If you’re impatient you can buy keys to unlock chapters. And some of the choices you make in the game are considered premium choices, requiring coins to unlock. You can obtain these coins by way of one of their mini-games, or you can go the much quicker route of purchasing them.
The Arcana is free to download for both Android and Apple devices, so it’s worth downloading if you’re interested in seeing what the mobile phone gaming landscape looks like these days. The art is beautiful, the stories are well-crafted and the characters are endearing. It’s the perfect way to escape on your lunch break at work or to whittle away a long afternoon.