iOS gaming recap: Oxenfree, Gris, and more deepen Apple Arcade and Netflix Games rivalry

Oxenfree key art
(Image credit: Night School Studio)

This week in mobile games, an Apple Arcade developer switches sides as Ustwo Games’ Desta debuts on Netflix. Then, there are two critically-acclaimed cult favorites to look at, each on either side of the big tech divide: Oxenfree on Netflix and Gris on Apple Arcade. Oh, and just for fun, there’s also some culinary capering with SpongeBob and his Bikini Bottom pals. There's lots of excitement for iPhone and iPad games this week. Let’s get into it, shall we?

Oxenfree opens up on Netflix Games

Oxenfree is old news to many by this point, but we’re glad it’s getting another lease of life, potentially to a whole new audience. It suddenly arrived on Netflix Games on Saturday as part of a flurry of announcements during Netflix’s Tudum fan event. 

It remains a wonderful adventure game about spooky goings-on unfolding among a bunch of disaffected teens on a weird island. The world drips with an uneasy atmosphere, the characters are full of quippery and backtalk, and the dialogue systems feel really organic. The puzzles are well-thought-out too — you can check this popular game out now through the Netflix app or by downloading it through the App Store.

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Oxenfree: Netflix Edition

Play as Alex as she and her friends explore a deserted military island. Soon the decisions they make bring malicious supernatural forces to the foreground. You can choose how to respond and the decisions you make determine the ending. 

Download from: App Store (opens in new tab)

Drop into Desta’s dreamy world 

(Image credit: Ustwo)

The new game from Monument Valley maker Ustwo Games is not another peerless perspective puzzle game — although there is another one coming — instead it's a tactical take on the humble game of dodgeball.

Desta: The Memories Between is a game where each throw of the ball is part of a conversation between the titular hero and an estranged friend from your hometown. It’s a clever fusion of story and game mechanics, where pulling back to aim your shot before releasing is fun, sure, but not as instant as the simple taps and swipes required in Ustwo’s signature series Monument Valley. 

As you meet more characters and things get complex, you can see the game’s designed to be played and replayed over and over — a roguelike that’s different each time. Extra content will be added to it over the coming weeks and months. 

A meaty game, then, with a nice bonus detail: in keeping with the game’s themes, developer Ustwo Games will be donating 3% of the game’s profits to organizations that help struggling young people. Nice.

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Desta: The Memories Between

Netflix members can experience this surreal world of dreams while interacting with other characters and healing relationships. It's a roguelite with a ball game mechanic at its center. 

Download from: App Store (opens in new tab)

What else to play this week 

Apple Arcade is still pumping out the new(ish) releases, and this week it’s the turn of Gris, a critically-acclaimed but not all that widely played puzzle platformer with a sumptuous art style. Picture a hand-drawn trippy art deco world, and an angular, fragile hero, Gris, making her way through it. Wonderful.

If you've got a Netflix account and you’re seeking a rather lighter time of it, there’s SpongeBob: Get Cooking via Netflix Games. It sees you spinning plates for the folks in Bikini Bottom as you fulfill different food orders. It’s actually a new edition of the existing Krusty Cook-Off game, which has existed on the App Store for a while now. However, because it’s another new Netflix game, all in-app purchases have been removed – so it won’t bother you for any money.

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GRIS

Play as Gris and travel through ethereal places as you deal with the emotional struggles she holds inside. It's as beautiful as it is meaningful. 

Download from: App Store (opens in new tab)

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SpongeBob: Get Cooking!

Netflix's version of SpongeBob: Krusty Cook-Off still contains the culinary fun of the original game but does away with in-game purchases. Improve the efficiency of the Krusty Krab and use your points to dress SpongeBob up in different outfits. 

Download from: App Store (opens in new tab)

Pick of the week

(Image credit: Night School Studio)

That's all for the must-play iPhone games and iPad games for this week, as the battle between Apple Arcade and Netflix really starts to intensify. Oxenfree, Desta, Gris, SpongeBob — where will it end?!

Our top pick of the week? If you only play one new game this week we’d recommend Oxenfree — it’s a wonderfully modern spin on the kind of adventure game you don’t see very often anymore. It’s a work of art. So good, Netflix bought the whole studio that created it. 

Until next week!

- Neil Alexander Long

Neil Alexander Long is a gaming contributor for iMore, as well as the founder and editor of mobilegamer.biz (opens in new tab), a mobile games industry website that specialises in exclusive news, interviews and insights.


He started his games media career almost 20 years ago on UK games industry magazine MCV, before editing Official Nintendo Magazine, interactive iPad magazine iGamer (RIP) and edge-online.com (opens in new tab) (also RIP), Edge magazine’s online presence.


In 2014 he moved to Apple to serve as App Store games editor. There he helped launch new App Stores on Apple Watch and Apple TV, the App Store's UK Today tab, Apple Arcade and countless games, including Clash Royale, Monument Valley 2, Brawl Stars, Candy Crush Friends Saga and Beatstar. 

With contributions from