Stuck on a plane for a 6 hour flight? Maybe you’re riding the rails for a few hours to get to a conference. On a long car journey, and not driving I hope, but fancy some quiet time? Back when I was younger and car journeys seemed to go on forever, the idea of playing some video games was great. In that era though, you either had to own a Gameboy or a Game Gear (and probably shares in Duracell) if you wanted to partake in that particular hobby. In this day and age though, mobile gaming and developments in the handheld market have made gaming on the go a very viable option. To that end (and the fact that Pokémon Go has arrived!), here are 5 games that could keep you occupied when you’re on the move.
A few notes before starting: Some of these are mobile, others require a handheld console. I’ve tried to include games from a number of genres without going for too many obvious ones. So don’t expect too much of Bejeweled or Tetris here. I’ve avoided games that require you to be connected to the internet, so no Hearthstone! Let us begin!
Plants vs. Zombies
Platform: iOS, Android, Windows Phone, Nintendo DS, PS Vita, Literally everything ever
Ok, I know I said I wouldn’t include anything too obvious, but this one certainly needs mentioning.This has become a hugely successful franchise from PopCap, combining simple but engaging gameplay with a great cartoon art style. They even managed to cram a story in there! If you don’t already know, you spend your time planting a variety of anthropomorphic plants to defend your garden from the zombie horde. The large number of different plants (from peashooters to cabbage-pults) and zombies (from ones wearing road cones to those riding dolphins…yes you read that right).
New plants and zombies are introduced at a quick rate to keep things from getting stale.
There are additional stages in the game once you’ve finished the main story such as wallnut bowling and whack-a-zombie. There really is quite a lot of content for your money. This is a good game for a journey of a couple of hours thanks to the variety and pace of the game. No stage lasts much longer than 5 minutes, but you’ll be keen to get to the next one to find out what new toys it will give you to play with.
Platform: iOS, Android
Navigate your tiny triangle ship through a constantly warping, ever accelerating set of shapes. That’s the whole concept of this. It’s like an endless runner game on a crazy drug trip, with pumping music (earphones are a must!) and bright colours. You simply press left and right on your phone to rotate your ship around the centre of the screen, and desperately try not to crash into the walls as they rush towards you. Occasionally the walls will change position to keep you guessing.
This is on the easiest setting. And yes, 78 seconds is the best I’ve managed.
Each game will probably last around a minute on the easiest setting before you crash, but due to its simplicity and ‘just-one-one-go’ nature you’ll find half an hour has passed before you know it. Once you get into a rhythm, it becomes very trance like and you can go into an almost Zen state as you dodge walls and find gaps almost without thinking. Then you crash and do it all again. This is an excellent commute game and I would highly recommend it.
Platform: Nintendo DS, iOS, Windows Phone
It surprised me that a game of this scale could even work on a phone, but somehow 2K and Firaxis managed. It’s certainly not as in depth as the core games in the series, and it is a little lighter than the console versions of the same game. But this is still that game that can suck hours out of your day without you even realising. Taking your chosen culture from fledgling village to globe spanning empire is as engaging as ever, and the less heavy gameplay makes it ideal for a plane or long train journey. You’ll place your settlements, build your structures and soldiers, and explore the world making enemies and allies as you go.
This one is better on a tablet due to more screen space, but it works just fine an a smaller device.
The turn based nature of the game is perfect for a journey if you want to take it easy rather than play something hectic. The variety of options and civilisations to suit differing play-styles helps to keep it fresh if you want to play multiple times. There’s plenty here for a low price tag if your looking for a strategy fix on your journey.
9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors (999)
Platform: Nintendo DS, iOS (novel version)
This one is a little different, as it’s a visual novel/puzzle game depending on which version you get. The iPhone version is the same as the DS version, but with the puzzle sections removed. This could be a good thing if you don’t want to have to deal with some of the more difficult challenges placed in your way and just get on with the story and making key decisions. The story is somewhat like Saw, with 9 people trapped by a mysterious person, who has set traps and challenges designed to kill them.
Everyone wears a watch with a single number on it. This may or may not be important. No spoilers here!
The decisions you make along the way have a large bearing on the game, often determining who will survive. This results in the game having a number of different endings. In fact, if you want the full picture of what’s going on, you’ll probable want to play through several times. A play through will take around 8 hours, so getting the full story could take a number of journeys which is great for a regular long commute or several flights.
Puzzle & Dragons + Puzzle & Dragons Super Mario Bros. Edition
Platform: Nintendo 3DS, (Puzzle & Dragons Z without SMB is also on iOS)
This could be a little controversial, as the Puzzle & Dragons is a free to play game with all that micro transaction business and I’ll get to why I’m including this anyway in a minute. Puzzle & Dragons is a fun puzzle/RPG-lite game in which you fight monsters with dragons by matching coloured tiles on a grid. The more tiles you match, the more damage you do. Different colours will damage enemies more or less depending on their vulnerabilities or resistances. Between stages you can walk around a town, fusing dragons to create more powerful ones, or power up the ones you have.
The gameplay is simple, but there’s a lot of depth to creating a good team.
Now, the reason I’m including this is because the 3DS version of it is great. You get the main game without any of the micro transaction nonsense, plus it includes a Mario version of the game. That’s 2 whole games in the one package! I don’t know what it is, but playing this with Mario characters is so much fun. The game looks light and fun, the characters evolve in different ways, changing from one character you know to another. There are the occasional difficulty spikes which is a pain, but the game is great fun to play and can easily absorb a whole journey if you let it. The phone version is good, so long as you don’t mind the grind to offset the micro transactions, but the 3DS version is absolutely worth your money.
Some honourable mentions. Rodeo Stampede is a recently released mobile game that’s rather addictive. You ride animals across the savannah, leaping from animal to animal, adding them to your zoo in the sky. It’s worth a look. Blazblue: Revolution Reburning is a fighting game in the vein of Streets of Rage crossed with the Blazbue series. Crazy characters with insane fighting styles make for an entertaining game in short bursts. Then you have the classic Tetris, which is always a winner, I’d stick to the DS/Vita versions rather than the weaker mobile ones though. Ascension: Chronicle of the Godslayer is a deck builder that’s much better against real people, but playing against the computer has kept me entertained on a few short haul flights and might be worth looking into.
And that’s my list! Are there games that you couldn’t do without on a long journey? Let me know about them. If you haven’t tried the ones above, have a go and tell me what you think. Happy gaming!