Video games require time: learning, challenge and improvement. This is, in fact, the most common argument used against them: “in what takes me to spend an Assassin’s Creed I can see fifteen movies.” And, although this is a somewhat misleading sentence, because you would have to put the series in the same bag -or the reading of a book-, it is true that, to play with a certain level of involvement, we almost always need a few hours ahead. But not always.
On the other hand, the fast game is irremediably associated with the idea of killing time , lightness, dedicating space to those free moments that arise during the day, between transfers in the metro or waiting for a medical consultation. What to play, then? A silly, addictive, where you think little and can leave anywhere, at any time. ‘Angry Birds’ (Rovio Entertainment, 2009), ‘Plants against zombies’ (PopCap, 2009), ‘FarmVille’ (Zynga, 2009) or the perennial ‘Candy Crush Saga’ (King, 2012), playful works that do not propose large challenges and encourage the pique, the short-term reward metered.
There is, however, life beyond ‘Candy Crush’. There are video games that drag you into states of introspection or debate in just 20 minutes, not treating you like a robotic monkey with prehensile thumbs, but as a rational being, which can make you lose something more than the notion of time or nerves: they bring wealth emotional. And they are not few.
Papers Please: the hangman of the sentry box
Its own author, Lucas Pope, considers it a “documentary dystopian thriller”. We are a customs inspector whose paperwork is piled up, every working day, measured by game days, does not take more than 5 real minutes. And the challenge is to survive – we, our wife, children and in-laws – to the harsh rents of life in a psychotic communist state full of borders.
Our postmark is a machine gun: we can condemn the lives of innocent people, make dirty deals with mafias or that the collateral damages destroy each other. A brilliant game, with a simple but accurate approach, implacable, and that will always leave a feeling of tension and confusion, of repentance and desire to be, yes, a better official. You can download it from here .
This War of Mine: victims and witnesses
The game of 11 bit Studio puts us to the controls of a group of people who are under the same roof and must, at the stroke of both physical and emotional coexistence, rebuild that kind of dilapidated home, leaving at night to find supplies for survive the war, the incessant robberies, kidnappings, envies and that dog eat dog that appears when the world is on the edge of the abyss.
The game system is ridiculously simple, similar to mixing The Sims with a point & clickadventure 20 years ago. But the result could not be more effective: after a couple of games -also divided in days- we will feel that there is something between those pixels, inexplicable with words. A desire for humanity, friendship. You can download it from here .
Monument Valley: finding the exit
Ustwo, mobile application developer, achieved with ‘Monument Valley’ (2014) create something truly revolutionary: join the good ideas of ‘Echochrome’ (SIE, 2008) with the attractive aesthetics of ‘Fez’ (Polytron, 2012). And the success was overwhelming .
This clever game designed by Daniel Gray plays with gravity and perspective to create something unique, where the enveloping soundtrack and graphics transport us to a world that only exists in dreams. It is difficult to want to play a single game once you enter the world of ‘Monument Valley’. There are no half measures: if you try it you will understand it. Download it from here .
Terraria: where the earth takes us
‘Terraria’ (Re-Logic, 2011) adapts the Minecraft formula on build-and-survive and the mix with Derek Yu’s ‘Spelunky’, designed in 2008 and which has already become an incontestable classic. It’s funny how seemingly simple games manage to deepen to snatch us hours and hours of our daily life. Maybe it’s not the best example to wait for bread, but it’s that ‘Terraria’ does everything it can do well.
Share, like ‘Minecraft’ (Mojang AB, 2009), a day-night cycle where we will go from building and constructing work items -and weapons: guns, boomerangs, armor, ninja stars, lightsabers, etc.- to face against Hordes of zombies, who will try to destroy the manufactured during the day. Try it by downloading from here . And, if you’ve been wanting more, you can also try ‘ Starbound ‘, the ‘Terraria’ space .
Downwell: descending into the abyss
‘Downwell’ is one of the most robust and addictive games you can get your hands on. His message is simple: he goes from jumping into a well in search of treasures. The well is a metaphor for the journey towards knowledge / discovery, an oriental trope on the wisdom that life experience provides us. And, meanwhile, we fall without stopping.
From this point of departure, the Japanese Ojiro Fumoto explores the mechanics to emulate the richness of elements in ‘Nuclear Throne’ (Vlambeer, 2015) from a much more limited perspective. Said in a profane way: it turns the act of falling without stopping into an obstacle course, where we are given some skills to start and the rest depends on our expertise. Will you be able to descend to the underworld of the fifth world? Download it here
Electronic Super Joy: time to dance
In the western culture, just a head swaying or a rhythm treading can disturb the passenger next to us. And it may be convenient, from time to time, to relax the muscles and let go. This little toy designed by Michael Todd makes you face the day with another perspective, turning the city into your dance floor. You will die a lot, but you will also dance, to the epileptic rhythm of their soundtrack.
‘Electronic Super Joy: Groove City’ (2013) has an unbreakable charisma: the enemies, to ourselves, are taken to the concept of being a video game, fully aware of their weapons. The version for tablets, pseudo-sequel of the original, contains more final heads, all descacharrantes, and elevates the difficulty until the unavoidable. But do not let it scare you and download it .
Alto’s Adventure: beyond the trees
This adventure, similar to ‘OlliOlli’ (Roll7, 2014) and other games where skate skating obstacles is the core of the game, differs from any competitor thanks to its setting. Animation and delicious background music are enshrined as we descend through snowy hills, while a sunset or an aggressive storm colors the background.
Pressing a single button -in the case of tablets, marking on the screen- we will activate the jump; the rest depends on our reflexes. And it is easy to get lost in such a suggestive setting and atmosphere, cruising through dilapidated villas, rugged terrains or forgotten forests. A minimal game, parco in mechanical elements, and magical in everything else. You can download it from here .
Superbrothers – Sword & Sworcery: the adventure of living
‘Superbrothers: Sword & Sworcery EP’ (2012) dismantles a handful of myths and puts them on their backs. The game of Capybara Games manages to evoke that feeling of helplessness, the solitude of being in front of a bonfire at midnight, in the middle of an inhospitable forest. It could be considered a point-and-click although there are combats; It could be said that it is a game of puzzles, although they are absurdly easy to solve.
Under the baton and capital score of Jim Guthrie, the plot of the game makes practically nothing explicit, forcing us to become involved, to be part of that strange 8-bit world. And the result can not be more grateful. Download it from here .
Between sagas the game goes
I wanted to leave the best for last. The saga ‘The Room’ has come to be called «the triple videogame A of the tablets». Its production values, at least in the aesthetic framework, are very high. Basically, they are environmental puzzles full of good ideas, something that has not happened in the table for years. The first ‘The Room’ won the BAFTA in 2012 for Best British Game and the second entered the best-seller lists and annual recommendations of a lot of media. From here you can download your first part, and from here and here , your second and third, respectively. Every so often they are on offer; I would not let it happen.
On the other hand we have ‘LifeLine’. It started as a small-scale project by Dave Justus, storyteller in ‘Fables: The Wolf Among Us’, the popular Telltale Games game. The hook is simple: a guy is trapped on the Moon and communicates with us through common messaging, just as a friend would do via WhatsApp.
I think the name of the studio, 3 Minute Games , says it all: games to which you can take a sip of your time and take it with you in thought. The ‘LifeLine’ are games in real time. This is: if the protagonist takes half an hour to reach a crater, within half an hour we will miss a warning and we will continue to communicate with him. It is a recollect game, of diffuse narrative, tremendously immersive, at times claustrophobic, where we feel that we have the life of a person in our hands. From here you can download them: ‘ LifeLine ‘, ‘ Lifeline 2 ‘ and ‘ LifeLine: Silent Night ‘.
Rediscovering the mobile game: from the laptop to the tablet
With tablets portable gaming is more feasible than ever. Two decades ago the Game Boy was the nerve center of portable gaming. It makes one, the popular PlayStation Portable (PSP).
Together with smartphones , thanks to emulators or official adaptations of games such as ‘Chrono Trigger’ or the ‘Final Fantasy’ saga, the portable game has been moved and adapted to the needs of the current user. One thing is clear: good videogames are not going to abandon us, on the contrary, they will remain united to us, wherever we go. Nothing better to make bearable a hard day.