Projection: First Light is one of the best puzzle adventure games on Apple Arcade.

If you love games that wrap brain-bending puzzles in compelling storylines, Apple Arcade has you covered. Though its launch lineup still lacks a few of the intriguing titles we've been promised down the line, there are still plenty of games to suit fans of tricky brainteasers and twisty mysteries.

In no particular order, we've rounded up the best (and the rest) of Apple Arcade's launch titles that fit the "puzzle adventure" category, to help you figure out what you'll want to play first.

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Projection: First Light

  • Studio: Blowfish
  • Age rating: 9+
  • Use a gamepad? Yes

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves gets credit as the first feature-length animated film, but Lotte Reiniger's 1926 The Adventures of Prince Achmed, brought to life with shadow puppets, beat Walt Disney to the punch by more than a decade. Projection: First Light (pictured at the top of this article) feels like a tribute to Reiniger's enchanting film, following a shadow-puppet girl in a shadow-puppet world whose pursuit of a glowing butterfly leads her into a magical adventure.

Projection sets itself apart from other platformers with one clever conceit: You control not only the girl, but a ball of light that follows her around. Any shadows the light casts on her surroundings become solid stepping stones, allowing the girl to surmount the obstacles in her path. Using the light to find clever ways to help the girl — like creating a sudden shadow-bubble beneath her that pops her into the air – proves satisfyingly creative. The solid, responsive controls don't hurt, either.

Each of Projection's various multi-part levels takes place in, and is visually inspired by, one of the many different countries with their own shadow-puppet traditions. And steering the girl with one stick of your gamepad, and the light with the other, feels invigoratingly like starting a conversation between the different halves of your brain.

Jenny LeClue - Detectivu

  • Studio: Noodlecake
  • Age rating: 12+
  • Use a gamepad? Yes

In Jenny LeClue - Detectivu, you play as a kid gumshoe whose author is reluctantly adding danger and death to her cozy little world.

The first of two games inspired by Donald J. Sobol's Encyclopedia Brown series of kid mysteries, Jenny LeClue challenges you to play both as the titular plucky preteen detective (or is it "detectivu"? Some mysteries may never be solved) and her own author. The sales of his quaint, cozy mystery series have taken a nosedive, and though he longs to keep Jenny's world safe and harmless, his editor's pressuring him to heap death and danger on the little town of Arthurton and its most accomplished child sleuth.

That meta aspect adds fun depth to the story, which also benefits from sharp characterization. Jenny's more Veronica Mars than Nancy Drew – prickly, brusque, and prone to push people away without realizing it. The game's gorgeous autumnal look draws you in, as does the eerie and atmospheric prologue. And the gameplay itself is fun and varied, challenging you to make snap decisions that affect how the story plays out, scrutinize characters and crime scenes for visual clues, and think like a detective to assemble your observations into a theory of the case.

Tangle Tower

  • Studio: SFB Games
  • Age rating: 4+
  • Use a gamepad? No

Everything's a clue in the funny, compelling Tangle Tower -- even, if you listen closely enough, some of the terrific voice acting...

A young painter, seemingly murdered by the knife-wielding figure on the unfinished canvas she was painting? Now that's a great way to kick off a mystery. Tangle Tower brings its intrepid investigators – earnest hipster doofus Grimoire (like "encyclopedia," a name for a book of knowledge) and too-cool-for-the-room Sally (sharing a name with Encyclopedia Brown's similarly tough sidekick) – to the titular mansion to solve that baffling murder.

There, you'll have to rub elbows with the eccentric members of two families, united by marriage and living in opposite towers of the same building. Witty writing, fun voice acting, gorgeous music, and a delightful Euro-anime visual style make Tangle Tower stand out from the crowd. The puzzles you'll solve are varied, neither too easy nor too frustrating, and always tied to the characters around them. Like Jenny LeClue, Tangle Tower wants you to think like a gumshoe and connect dots between the evidence you've gathered. But its approach to those efforts differs enough that playing one game will only leave you more eager to try the other.

The Enchanted World

  • Studio: Noodlecake
  • Age rating: 4+
  • Use a gamepad? No

The Enchanted World spins out clever variations on a single, simple idea.

Something has stolen your nameless young fairy's mother away, and to get her back, you and your magic staff will have to rearrange the world around you as you proceed along your path. The Enchanted World executes a simple conceit – basically, sliding-tile puzzles, where you have to shift around and swap out segments of a grid until they line up the right way – very well.

The game finds increasingly novel ways to tweak this core mechanic, whether you're revising and re-revising your path to first banish the creature that's blocking your way, then escape to the exit, or figuring out how to channel a stopped-up river in the right direction. The deliberately crude graphics mirror this "simple but well done" approach, making up for a low polygon count with expressive animation. Plus, it's just fun to tap trees and watch them bloom while your fairy hums a happy, distracted little tune.

The Bradwell Conspiracy

  • Studio: A Brave Plan
  • Age rating: 9+
  • Use a gamepad? Yes

The Bradwell Conspiracy: Yes, yes, old chap, the building's collapsing and some dire machinations are afoot, but do try to keep a stiff upper lip.

Welcome to a very English catastrophe. You chose the wrong near-future day to visit a new high-tech museum dedicated to Stonehenge, sponsored by the powerful Bradwell Corporation. Now a mysterious calamity has caved in the building, with you trapped inside.

Luckily, the smart glasses you're wearing connect you with a plucky Bradwell employee who's stuck in another part of the collapsing building. Together, you'll have to navigate the company's Brutalist underground HQ looking for a way to escape. Along the way, you'll both start to discover ominous hints that neither Bradwell nor its "clean water initiative" is as benign as they appear.

Take Portal's off-kilter corporate dystopia, add a dash of BioShock's futurism-gone-to-seed, and blend well with bone-dry humor (or is that humour?), and you've got The Bradwell Conspiracy. The simple, utilitarian graphics won't drop any jaws, but the game's level design does a great job of unobtrusively telling a story. It's fun to communicate with your fellow escapee by snapping photographs of your surroundings to send to her, and her very American cheerfulness strikes a great contrast to your droll British surroundings.

There's a neat twist to the nonviolent gameplay I dare not spoil here, one that leans into the Portal comparisons hard while remaining clever and original. It can be annoyingly finicky in execution — maybe future patches will fix that, along with the occasional glitches that crop up later in the game — but like The Bradwell Conspiracy itself, it's still a fun, worthwhile idea.

Down in Bermuda

  • Studio: Yak & co.
  • Age rating: 9+
  • Use a gamepad? No

Look, those bunnies aren't going to chase themselves back into their holes in Down in Bermuda.

Thirty years ago, aviator Milton's plane crashed in the Bermuda Triangle. Now, bearded and wizened, he needs your help to navigate a series of strange islands, piece together his past, and find his way home. You'll poke, flick, tap, and twist your way through colorful three-dimensional dioramas in search of hidden objects and puzzles to solve. If augmented reality were ready for prime time, this game and its host of tactile interactions would be a killer app.

As befits its tropical setting, Down in Bermuda is a laid-back affair, with cute and colorful graphics and a goofy, ever-changing set of challenges. The puzzles range from "preschool easy" to "I filled an entire notebook page with sequences of numbers trying to get this one right." But they're all fun, and if you get stuck on one, there's usually another waiting to distract you. And the story, though told in the briefest of glimpses, manages to tug at your heartstrings right off the bat.

Down in Bermuda loses points only because I nearly drove myself crazy looking for the last in a series of teeny-tiny hidden items on one island – I had to turn to the Internet to suss it out – and because it's incomplete. You'll find only three islands at launch, with more promised in the future. Still, "I wish I could have played more" is a pretty great complaint to have.

Operator 41

  • Studio: Shifty Eye
  • Age rating: 4+
  • Use a gamepad? No

Equal parts James Bond and Spy vs. Spy, Operator 41 is a slick stealth puzzler.

Okay, time out — this polished, clever game, which lifts its spy-fy vibe straight from the swinging heyday of James Bond, Emma Peel, and U.N.C.L.E., was made by a teenager? Spruce Campbell, we'd toast you with a dry martini, but even in your native UK, you're still too young to drink.

There's not much of a story here: In each bite-size vignette, you'll help your trenchcoat-clad avatar sneak past patrolling guards and other hazards toward a phone or other spy objective. You'll have to crouch in cover, toss obstacles to distract or knock out your pursuers and avoid flashlight beams and security cameras.

But what the game lacks in complexity, it makes up for in style. The clever two-color scheme – red for objectives, danger, or occasional contrast, cool blue for everything else – makes your goal in each level crystal clear. Controls respond well, the intuitive rules play fair, and the difficulty level ramps up smoothly as you progress. With a relative handful of levels before the slick end credits, you'll likely wish there were more to enjoy here. But Operator 41's fun stealth challenges make it a great candidate for gaming on the go whenever you have a few minutes to spare.


Where Cards Fall

  • Studio: Snowman.
  • Age rating: 12+
  • Use a gamepad? No

Where Cards Fall looks great, but plays like That Emo Mixtape You Made in 2006: The Game: Esperanto Edition!

I wanted to like this much-hyped combination puzzle game/coming-of-age story, but it quickly fell apart. The game looks and sounds gorgeous, and the play mechanic – moving decks of cards around the isometric worlds of a young man's memories, and expanding them into houses of cards that help him traverse the landscape to his next flashback – feels fresh.

Unfortunately, the game moves slooooowly, and the story wavers back and forth between being utterly incomprehensible – what's with those giant staring eyes? Is that like a symbol for authority? Was it really a good idea to have all the characters speak in annoying gibberish? – and ploddingly predictable. (Oh, your loner emo high school outcast is drifting away from the friends of his youth while he falls for a girl who's dating someone else? Do tell.)

Worse yet, the difficulty jumps from pleasantly challenging to dang near impossible without warning. By the time the baffling interface led me blunder back to the very first level, with no apparent way to regain my progress, I was ready to fold.

The Get Out Kids

  • Studio: Frosty Pop
  • Age rating: 9+
  • Use a gamepad? No

The Get Out Kids has a terrific story, but not nearly enough actual gameplay to go with it.

The opposite of Where Cards Fall, The Get Out Kids's wonderful writing and characters ultimately fall prey to its frustrating lack of gameplay. The story feels like your favorite dog-eared book from middle school, as a pair of instantly endearing preteen misfits wade into danger in search of their missing dog.

Unfortunately, there's a lot of that story and relatively little interactivity – a relative handful of super-easy touch-based puzzles that rarely offer any challenge or suspense. And you have to plod your way through the narration and dialogue one tap at a time, which makes the all-too-brief intervals when you get to do one tiny, simple thing even more aggravating. I adored this game's sweet and vulnerable heroes, and I want to see how their story plays out. I'm just not sure I want that bad enough to put the time into playing it.

Murder Mystery Machine

  • Studio: Blazing Griffin Ltd.
  • Age rating: 12+
  • Use a gamepad? No

Murder Mystery Machine, where even your heroine's love of coffee is a tired cliche.

The only mystery here is how a subpar CD-ROM game found its way onto my iPad. Murder Mystery Machine seems like it was made with the finest technology 1995 had to offer, and written by someone who heard about life in the United States once, briefly, from a passing acquaintance. With murky graphics, clunky and confusing gameplay, and clichés instead of characters, this "episodic murder mystery" killed off my interest well before I even got through the first installment.

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