I'm sitting at a ski shop as my dad is getting fitted for new boots. The entire process takes roughly an hour and I've killed as much time as possible by browsing the store's other wares. I pull out my phone and load up a game.
I'm standing at the terminal gate waiting for my zone to board a flight from Detroit to Denver. The plane doors are about to open but there’s enough time that staring onto the tarmac is making me anxious. I pull out my phone and load up a game.
Dinner is still cooking in the oven and there’s nothing to watch on television. I pull out my phone and load up a game.
Some days I'm parked in my car for twenty minutes waiting for the train to stop block State Avenue or I'm having lunch or I'm someplace else doing something monotonous. Wherever I am, my phone isn’t far away. I'm sure you can think of a scenario where you don't have time to dig into a book or podcast and need something else to occupy your time. The following recommended mobile games are designed to be picked up and put down in short bursts of time. Most, but not all, do not require a Wi-Fi connection to allow gaming without using data or without having good cell reception.
“Fire Emblem: Heroes”—The newest game on the list, and therefore my latest obsession, this mobile adaptation of Nintendo’s long-running tactical franchise simplifies things. Players control a team of four fighters through a campaign of knights, archers and mages. Sword users beat axes units, while axes have an advantage against lances, which in turn beat swords. Based on the Japanese style of gashapon games, players have to summon a random selection of characters instead of earning the desired ones outright. Tokens to summon can be bought or won from battles and only so many battles can be fought in a certain time frame. Usually I hate manipulative games that are obviously out to make a buck like this, but the limited playtime makes it perfect for breaks from tasks. Play a match or two for five minutes and in a few hours you can do it again.
“SpellTower”—Imagine the classic word game “Scrabble,” but only better. Zach Gage created a puzzle game where the goal is to match as many letters as possible to form words. Each word created knocks down blocks that change the alphabetical landscape. The twist is that words can be spelled backwards, on diagonals, and in multiple directions. The game was recently updated to partner with Merriam-Webster’s dictionary making it the perfect time to stretch that brain muscle.
“Hearthstone”—Blizzard, makers of the hugely popular “World of Warcraft,” created a card game that’s just as popular. Players battle each other with a combination of 30 minion and spell cards get the other to zero hit points first. There’s always a new expansion pack every few months that introduces new cards to switch up strategies and keep the game fresh. This, like “Fire Emblem: Heroes,” requires an internet connection. It’s necessary for a multiplayer game but therefore provides a greater challenge and more variability than going against a computer. It was my personal game of the year in 2014 and I still play it as often as possible.
“Super Hexagon”—This was the first game I downloaded on my iPhone and there’s a good reason for that. Terry Cavanagh’s mesmerizing and challenging arcade title started as a browser-based game but it was always meant for handheld devices. A press on either side of the screen moves your triangle around an ever-changing stage to avoid pulsating walls that just want to crush you. An Indie Game Festival finalist in 2013, the simple mechanics are easy to learn but hard to master.
“Reigns”—If you know how to use the dating app Tinder, you know how to play “Reigns.” As the king, subjects and advisors constantly enter your throne room with petitions for money and assistance. Swipe right to tell them yes or swipe left to reject their plea. The key is to keep a balance between the church, army, public and treasury. If your army is to weak your kingdom will be invaded, however, if it is too strong the soldiers will throw a coup. A weak church will kill you for blasphemy but a strong church will turn you into a martyr. Though death is all but guaranteed in every session, your heir becomes the new ruler in each game and some decisions carry over in the dynasty.
This column was originally published in the March 1, 2017 edition of the Valley Courier.