Chick­en soup for the mobile gamer soul

Five great stay-at-home video games that don’t need a console

5 minute read
Beautiful visuals, unforgettable soundtrack: ‘Sayonara Wild Hearts’ is a top pick. (Image courtesy of Simogo.)
Beautiful visuals, unforgettable soundtrack: ‘Sayonara Wild Hearts’ is a top pick. (Image courtesy of Simogo.)

As we crest more than a month of quarantine, it still feels strange that the best way we can “fight” this pandemic isn’t to take action, but to refrain from activity. This means a lot of us are indoors, stressing out about things outside of our control. Many are turning to video games to occupy their time, and as an avid gamer, I think this is a great idea. Games can give people concrete goals and a sense of accomplishment, and fight boredom.

If you can’t afford or get your hands on a Switch, which has been selling out worldwide, or if you’re more interested in spending 30 minutes rather than 30 (or 100) hours, mobile gaming might be right for you. Here are five of my go-to mobile games that might help you relax during this trying time.

Connecting the dots

Dots (available on Android and iOS) is a puzzle game about connecting colored dots. Connect at least two of the same color vertically or horizontally to gain points and make them disappear; connect four in a square and all the dots of that color disappear. The original game comes with four modes: timed challenge, move limit, endless play, and battle mode. The basic game provides challenge, and is easy to pick up but difficult to put down.

Its sequel, Two Dots, follows an adventurous dot pair as they journey through numerous beautiful environments. This version adds another level of complexity to the game, like dots locked behind breakable ice or moving board elements, as well as separate side-quest puzzles that earn users achievement medallions and badges upon completion. The third game in the series, Dots & Co, is another twist on the original, adding side characters whose abilities help you clear levels.

While the original game has unlimited play, players have a certain number of lives in Two Dots and Dots & Co which take time to regenerate, which can be frustrating (though they can be purchased). That said, of all the puzzle games I’ve played, the Dots family is the one I’d recommend the most.

A visual novel

Florence (available on Android, iOS, Nintendo Switch, Microsoft Windows, macOS, Macintosh operating systems) is an interactive visual novel about the complexity of love and relationships. It follows 25-year-old Florence Yeoh as she meets cellist Krish. It contains little written dialogue, preferring to communicate through its gorgeous visual storytelling.

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The game uses simple puzzles and interactive mini-game elements as seamless and surprisingly expressive narrative devices. Both gentle and unflinchingly honest, Florence is the type of gaming experience I thought was exclusive to long-form desktop or console platforms, and I’m thrilled to be proven wrong. Consisting of 20 chapters split into six acts, a single playthrough takes about half an hour and is worth every minute.

Favorite game, favorite album

Released last September, Sayonara Wild Hearts (available on Apple Arcade, PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Microsoft Windows, Macintosh operating systems, tvOS) was an immediate smash success due to its beautiful visuals combined with an unforgettable soundtrack. Though the game has fairly minimal interactivity (you control the left/right movement and very little else, including acceleration), it’s my favorite game of 2019 and one of my favorite albums of the year. Honestly, if I had to focus more on controls, I’d have less time to appreciate the overall experience, which is what make the game so much fun.

Highly recommended: the irresistible puzzle-world of ‘Dots & Co.’ (Image courtesy of Playdots.)
Highly recommended: the irresistible puzzle-world of ‘Dots & Co.’ (Image courtesy of Playdots.)

It’s a low-stress option easy to play on both console and mobile, and even if you don’t play the game yourself it’s worth watching a playthrough on YouTube just to get the visual experience, or check out the soundtrack on Spotify.

Pokémon keeps up

Pokémon Trainers unite! Though some have observed that the COVID-19 quarantine is the direct opposite of that one blissful summer Pokémon Go launched, the app (available on Android and iOS) has adapted remarkably well to worldwide stay-at-home orders. While the game originally placed significant emphasis on walking around and interacting with others, maker Niantic has implemented changes that allow users to play the game while also adhering to physical-distancing guidelines, and recently announced even more upcoming features that allow users to participate even more fully from the safety of their homes. I’ve been impressed with the way the developers have adapted so rapidly, and if you’ve tuned out since release, the app now has a whole host of new features you may want to check out, including trainer battles.

Animal Crossing sans Switch

Animal Crossing (available on Android and iOS) isn’t limited to the Switch—there’s also a mobile version! Though more limited than the full game, players are still able to engage in AC-standard activities such as collecting fruit and bugs, planting flowers, crafting furniture, designing their campsites, and interacting with friendly animal neighbors. I’ll level with you; though Pocket Camp opens a more accessible door into the Animal Crossing world, it obviously doesn’t provide the same level of satisfaction as the full game. Still, if you’re looking to do something between tasks or are looking for a budget-friendly way to participate in the Animal Crossing revolution, this is a fun option I’d recommend.

Regardless of what genre strikes your fancy, phone games are enjoyable low-stakes challenges that don’t involve buying expensive consoles, and that can be played in short bursts. It’s a medium that can still present engaging and diverse content at the click of a button…or more accurately, the touch of a screen.

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