Look. It's okay. We get it. You're a big, bad, awesome gamer who likes big, bad, awesome games... but sometimes all you want is something simple, bright, effortlessly engaging and packed with vibrant colours, sound effects, and high scores. Like watching a lava lamp or a Winamp visualisation, there's just something both relaxing and galvanizing about turning on a game that deluges you with the sort of instant gratification you can get from a simple concept done well and engaging. Here are three games that might look plain at first glance, but serve up big entertainment by knowing just how to wring as much bang for their buck as possible out of their small ideas.
- Katamari Damacy Mini-Game - Cleaning up would be a lot more entertaining if it involved gathering everything into a giant, sticky mass and simply rolling it over everything in your house. And then right out the door, because why stop with small-scale ridiculousness? Originally designed by Namco to illustrate the strange-sounding premise behind their now-massively successful Katamari Damacy series, this little arcade game is simply about creating giant balls of stuff, starting small until you're larger than other things you can then roll over and add to your own mass, until you've eventually added people, animals, cars, and more to the mix... and then on and on forever. It's exceptionally simple, but with its adorable design and bouncy retro soundtrack, it's the sort of thing that puts a smile on your face as effortlessly as it fits neatly into snack-sized gaming breaks.
- Jungle Magic - Match-3 games are sort of the original gaming time waster, although saying that to me kinda implies it's something you regret doing, which Ryz and Eloku's gorgeous little puzzler definitely is not. Your goal is to drop all the magic pieces in each stage to the bottom of the screen and assemble artifacts, which happens by swapping tiles around, making lines of three or more, and then sitting in slack-jawed wonderment as the massive chain reactions occur. It's not mindless, however, since blindly moving pieces around can lead to getting the magic items you need stuck, so you'll want to carefully plan things out in order to proceed, especially since you can move tiles while other reactions are happening. Jungle Magic is relatively low in terms of complexity, but its excellent design combined with its deceptively thoughtful and yet fast-paced gameplay makes this one title that can be hard to put down.
- Flashxed - Puzzles are great, and simple bite-sized puzzles? Even more so! Marcel Volmaro's little gem of a title wants you to clear the board by matching together coloured blocks, which vanish when they touch another of the same hue, and begin the game stacked in odd formations you need to figure out how to best slide the apart from. What makes this so fiendishly addictive is the game lists how many moves it should be possible to solve each stage in, and trying to figure out just how that number is attainable is part of the delicious challenge. The presentation is spartan but lovely, and the sheer volume of stages combined with the easy-sounding premise makes this one of those games you can find yourself gravitating back to whenever you have a spare moment. It would also be a perfect fit for iOS and Android, but if all you had to do to play it was pull it out of your pocket, you might really be in trouble as far as productivity goes.
While we welcome any comments about this weekly feature here, we do ask that if you need any help with the individual games, please post your questions on that game's review page. Well, what are you waiting for? Get out there and rediscover some awesome!