Every day we wake up to a gamescape that’s teeming with new entries, which makes that perfect-match game more and more elusive. If you haven’t tried gamifying your phone experience, research shows you really should give it a go, for the sake of your sanity if nothing else – and one of the best reasons to do so is to relieve stress.
Whether you’re anxious or not, you’ll agree that, whenever you’re tied up in a traffic jam or commuting to work by mass transit, boredom can get the better of you. So why not pull up this helpful list of game apps and download a few, for the fun of it?
Alto’s Adventure is an endless snowboarding journey that is a result of a bunch of llamas getting away from the protagonist. The mountain shepherd is a whiz with the snowboard, scaling the mountainside landscape in the midst of soothing music and beautiful visuals.
The Toronto-based developers (Ryan Cash and Jordan Rosenberg) going by the name of Snowman started out with productivity app Checkmark, then went on to games via Circles and Super Squares. For Alto, they got help on the design side by Harry Nesbitt – and the ensuing game soon gained traction: the trailer itself passed the 100,000 views mark 3 days after the big release!
Indie Dutch developer Vlambeer’s crazy fish angler ride, Ridiculous Fishing, lets you virtually blow your catch to smithereens, no release, just instant gratification. Now there’s no need for you to get up at the crack of dawn to catch the tasty finned morsels.
The quirky visuals and suitably eerie music will get your head in a game at all hours: just power up, keep calm and cast a wide net! It made 2013’s "Game of the Year" and dubbed "a heroic quest for glory and gills".
The game’s an uncluttered no brainer, featuring a blank, square-headed avatar that predictably hops forward as best it can to avoid the precipices and hurdles that are deviously peppered along the way.
Released in May 2014, Two Dots is a basic connect-the-dots game. The title pair of dots get dragged across all sorts of uniquely minimalist gameverses, tundras and jungles among them, where a new bit of trouble can always crop up out of left field. With more than 185 levels to get through, each with varying, unpredictable mechanics, Two Dots was "created with the notion that beauty and fun are not mutually exclusive."
Lastronaut tells the apocalyptic journey of a pixelated last-man-standing protagonist got a lot of traction on the back of its nice-looking 8-bit graphics and relentlessly catchy gameplay.
Developed as something of an experiment, with the first-time devs trying to answer the question whether a free-to-play game with no pay involved at any level, ever, would take off, Lastronaut was launched to great, immediate acclaim and one million downloads, one week after launch!
Beyond Ynth features a half-airworthy, frustratingly slow bug that you’ll need to guide through to the end of each level by having it move boxes around while avoiding getting squashed under them – basic, but focus-grabbing stuff.
Beyond Ynth was published by FDG Entertainment 5 years ago, and had picked up both the Excellence in Gameplay and the Grand-Prix awards at the 7th International Mobile Gaming Awards. Coming on the heels of the critical darling Ynth, the beautifully-illustrated (at times hand-drawn) 80-level epic hasn’t needed much in the way of promotion.
Powder makes you a skier who races downhill, gathering points the longer you stay upright. It’s set against a snow-capped mountainous background that really excels in terms of glacial stylishness.
Conceived by the creative pair of indie devs Dave Chenell and Eric Cleckner, working out of New York, the game’s, as they put it, "simultaneously soothing and stressful". The game had more than 200,000 downloads in the first week and was featured by Apple in more than 15 countries.
Digital Melody’s Timberman, an arcade game with old-school graphics and a pixel-artsy feel that I know many will enjoy, has been unsurprisingly gobbled up like hot cakes on the app stores. You get to play as a burly lumberjack, chopping at a tree that keeps going on forever. It sounds like simple gameplay, which is probably why it is super addictive.
Created by Pawel Kitajewski, creative director for the Polish digital interactive agency Digital Melody, it has had an impressive uptake, boasting over 15 million players, and got named one of the best games to have landed on the Apple store in 2014. There’s now a host of Timberman items you can buy, T-shirts and iPhone cases that bear its pixelated insignia.
Game about Squares is an indie game from developer Andrey Shevchuk. Featuring thoroughly graspable gameplay – getting squares lined up with same-colored circles – the added bonus (or, some say, annoyance) of funny messages dotted along the way, and a helpful version for the colorblind among us, have helped his puzzler compete with the bigger guns out there.
With 36 puzzles to fiddle around with, GAS boasts an exceptional level design, but its zero-to-hero fame may have been triggered by its showing up on Hacker News (it was soon after being picked up by Reddit).
Aside from being a game that hones reflexes and hews to the trend of rapid-fire hand-eye coordination, it’s the messages that accompany the player’s wins and losses that make Swipey Circle stand out from the pack.
The devs have the gameplay and art down pat, with their game matching the trends in all relevant categories: from level design to smooth-looking graphics, fast-paced, pull-your-hair-out-grueling and patience-testing gameplay and beyond. Swipe your way to the top!
BeaverTap Games pays tribute to Super Mario Bros, from visuals to soundtrack, with this coin-collector game, Mikey Hooks, that harks back to the age of Nintendos. It was released in August 2013, as a follow-up to the equally successful Mickey Shorts.
The platformer created by Mike Meade and Mike Gaughen is full of hooks and swings, with spikes and robots lurking at every corner, to guarantee you won’t call it quits until the game is well and truly over. The nostalgia is kept alive through a jingly OST which will tug at heartstrings while keeping you wanting more. More and more gold coins, that is.
Turbo Bugs 2 can at times be just as frustrating as any adult-targeted endless runner out there. That, added to the cute factor that the bug’s slice of life has well cornered, results in a ride that, while not terribly original in terms of gameplay, keeps your heartbeat elevated and your eyes at ground level, hot on the heels of the lead bug.
From the Bulgarian devs at Zariba, Turbo Bugs 2, through its bug’s eye view and well-drawn, cartoonish characters, stands out from the pack. If you can’t put it down even when the clock’s run out on your coffee break, don’t feel guilty, it’s not just you!
In Boson X, you play as a scientist, suit, tie and in active pursuit of the elusive Higgs boson. Not at all as boring as this description might lead you to imagine, the app will have you quantum-leaping forward into a ceiling- and floor-less race, at an ever-increasing pace.
Launched by Mu and Heyo (namely, Ian MacLarty and Jon Kerney) 2 years ago, the game itself took 3 years to make, since the developers had day jobs. Just as well, since soon after its launch, enough accolades came in to make them feel the moonlighting was worth it.
Described as an endless runner, it would actually be more accurate to pin FTN down as an endless… roller – as it features a ball that the user has to nudge down a revolving rolling pin of torture, spikes and everything gruesome! It’s the second game from the Scottish brainy youngsters of Pixel Blimp, who’ve previously launched the popular Wee Paper Planes.
The game Zenith is a space adventure that has players steering a ship around the many various obstacles you’re likely find in outer space, where physics count but the laws of gravity don’t apply. The quest is equal parts classy minimalist graphics and gameplay frustration.
Zenith, a space adventure that has many playing already (after its March launch), was the result of a bet Android developer Matt Kula made with himself, that he could try his hand at iOS and make something worthwhile.
Launched just a few months ago, the paid indie puzzler Dwelp by Roundabyte, aka Romanian developer Alex Blaj, has been on a roll ever since, with users raving about its original game mechanics and smooth-looking graphics. The puzzler has been growing steadily by word of month and recently has even been featured as Starbucks’ pick of the week.
David features a square as the unlikely anti-hero that slingshots attacks onto larger-than-life evil shapes. Developed by Andrew Armstrong (of FermenterGames) and launched in April 2014, David is equal parts Angry Birds, Shadow of the Colossus and Limbo.
Lauded for its minimalist design and counterintuitively thrilling adventures, everything about this game – the story, gameplay and gameverse – screams passion and 100% devotion to the craft.
Developed by Little Eyes LLC in late 2013 and released on iOS first, the use of multitouch in Eliss Infinity is off the charts, and its continued reign is not for nothing: putting the command of Universes in the hands of the player, developer Steph Thirion has made a gem that seems impossible to beat.
Created by Terry Cavanagh, an Irish indie developer, VVVVVV is a platformer with spot-on bare-bones pixel graphics, that defies gravity and thankfully has an auto-save function in place to avoid any unnecessary frustration pile-ups.
The game capitalizes on a low-fi retro-nostalgic trend, while the minimalist graphics go hand in hand with its original, ever surprising game mechanics and a real earworm of a chiptune track by Souleye. Check out the demo here.
Grachev’s Emoji Cosmos isn’t taxing on the brain, but it does get crazy fun, crazy fast – or, as Wired elegantly put it, it’s got "the addictiveness of Flappy Bird and the hipness of emoji." How’s that for a winning combo?
Ivan Grachev, a 19-year-old computer science student at Moscow State University, designed the characters of his game as emojis that he then had man a spaceship and, while soaring upwards into space, try to eschew incoming obstacles.
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