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Books, movies, TV shows – they’re all good ways of killing time on those long, boring flights and bus rides. Sometimes, though, there’s nothing worth watching and you just don’t have the focus to read another chapter.
Nope, what you need is a particularly engrossing game on your phone or tablet to help the hours drift by. With tens of thousands of games in both the Apple and Google app stores, though, which ones are worth your time?
Well, to get things started, here’s ten of our favourites – all perfect ways to waste time on long journeys. They’re all available on both iOS and Android, so you’ve got no excuse not to go and grab them all.
Plague is quite possibly the best distraction tool I have ever found, bar none. I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve said “I’ll just have a quick game” … and still been sitting there trying to infect that last damn country several hours later.
With the premise of killing off the entire global population in all manner of nasty ways, you carefully evolve an infectious disease over time to do its evil work before scientists develop a cure. It’s incredibly addictive, with a dark humour that appeals greatly. There’s something strangely satisfying about being able to name your own disease and watch the scourge of ‘Travel Blogging’ destroy the world.
Apparently I’m not the only person that thinks so – it’s one of the most downloaded games on either app store.
Have you ever fancied yourself as an elderly granny on rollerskates determined to thwart evil criminals hell-bent on stealing your apples? Yeah, me neither. Still, despite not being able to identify particularly well with the central character, Granny Smith is a remarkably addictive game.
With fun cartoon-style graphics and a slick physics model that sees our fearless granny wiping out in all kinds of interesting ways, this is a game with a perfect difficulty curve – easy to get in to, but becoming increasingly difficult as you make your way through the levels. The “just one more game” factor is extremely high.
Hill Climb Racing
Hill Climb Racing is one of those games where its simplicity is a major reason behind its addictiveness. With all of two controls – stop and go – and fairly rudimentary graphics and sound, its not particularly taxing on either your hardware or your brain.
Despite that, though, it’s just a whole lot of fun. With ten upgradeable vehicles and 11 stages, all with wildly different characteristics, you’ll still be trying to climb that mountain or creep through that cave system as morning breaks on your overnight bus trip.
With new levels and cars being released every month or two, this is a game with serious longevity.
Super Monsters Ate My Condo
Looking for a new and colourful way to drain your battery? Well, the fun, frenetic and rather odd Super Monsters Ate My Condo could well be it. Garish monsters jump up and down beside an increasingly-unstable tower of condos that fall from the sky.
Flicking unwanted condos out of the way allows colour matches to be made, yielding points and upgrades and deactivating the ‘evil’ condos that make an all-too-regular appearance.
With all manner of objectives to master (and the odd irritating bug to overcome), your desire to play the game will almost certainly outlast the charge in your phone.
Hills of Glory 3D
Ok, we lied slightly when I said that all of these games are available for iOS and Android – Hills of Glory 3D came out on Android a couple of weeks ago, but it’s not quite ready on iOS yet. It’s so much fun, though, that I couldn’t not mention it.
If you’re a fan of tower defence-style games (I am) and WW2 games (I am) and games-with-remarkably-good-graphics-for-a-mobile-device (I absolutely am), then this will be right up your alley.
It’s definitely a challenge, especially without spending real money for in-game credits, but one that you’ll happily devote an entire plane ride to overcoming and then some.
It would probably be a little easier on a tablet than a phone – the different control mechanisms for each weapon can be tricky to pull off on the smaller screen – but either way, you won’t be putting it down in a hurry once you’ve started playing.
Available on Android (free)
From Rovio (you know, the people behind that little Angry Birds franchise) comes Amazing Alex, another great way of losing several hours of your life.
Reminding me a lot of The Impossible Machine game I played as a teenager, the idea is that you place a bunch of everyday items (ropes, buckets, scissors, that kind of thing) to achieve a relatively simple goal like popping a balloon in an overly-complicated way. Rube Goldberg machines, anyone?
And of course, it wouldn’t be a Rovio game without having to try to gain three stars. With 100-odd levels you’re not going to run out of annoyingly difficult challenges in a hurry, even if you do run out of patience.
Available on iOS and Android (free, $0.99 to remove adverts)
When I first saw this game, I thought “ho hum, another side-scrolling arcade game, how much fun could it be?”. And then I downloaded it and played it for five straight hours. Right, so, apparently quite a lot then.
There is literally just one control in Jetpack Joyride. One. You press the screen to go up. When you’re not pressing it, you go down. That’s it. And yet somehow Halfbrick Studios have made one of the most compelling mobile games I’ve ever come across.
Incredible attention to detail and neat little touches, approximately a bajillion upgrades and objectives and just a total sense of fun make this game an absolute winner.
Oh, and it’s free. Just go get it already.
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If you’re looking for something a little more cerebral, try Quell. The idea is deceptively simple, just guiding a droplet around a series of small mazes filled with various obstacles and collecting pearls along the way.
The droplet moves in a straight line until something stops it, and there is an optimum number of moves to finish each stage.
Unlike the frenzy of games like D-Day or Super Monsters Ate My Condo, the graphics, soundtrack and gameplay evoke a surprising sense of calm.
Perfect when everyone else around you on the train is sleeping and you’re wanting to do the same – even if in reality you know you’ll still be playing it many hours later…
Frontline Commando: D-Day
For a long time I’ve been put off first or third-person shooting games on mobile devices – the graphics and gameplay never quite seemed to good enough to justify the battery drain. Last week, though, I came across D-Day, a WW2 action game that gets it right.
While my phone’s charge levels still drop alarmingly after playing for a while, at least the game itself is a lot of fun.
D-Day simplifies or eliminates actions that don’t matter so much – movement, for instance – in order to focus on the action. Pick a weapon (upgradeable, of course), aim with one finger and fire with the other.
Duck in and out of cover, lob a grenade or two to keep things interesting and when you’ve cleared the area, move on to the next one. The graphics are remarkably crisp and fluid, even on a relatively old phone, and sound effects useful without being overpowering.
All in all, definitely worth the download.
I’ll admit, I was surprised that I liked this game. With cutsey graphics and sounds, and a very basic premise (match 3 items to make a bigger item, and slowly build a ‘city’ in the process), Triple Town didn’t seem like something that would hold my attention. And yet, hours later, apparently it did.
There’s not much to say about it really – it’s a simple concept brilliantly executed, and won’t unduly tax your hardware in the process. You can play Triple Town for a few hours and still have enough juice to find your hotel once you get off the plane. Fun times.
So there are ten of our favourite games that we use to while away the hours on yet another long journey. What are yours?