6 Smartphone Games The Minimalists Will Appreciate
1. Ready Steady Bang: A personal favourite of mine, this utterly simple game embodies the best moments in Westerns. Stripping the Western of its setting, opting for a pleasing, minimal white-and-gray aesthetic, this game makes violence appear rather cute.
In a mechanical voice, the game counts down from “ready, steady, bang.” The first player who taps the screen shoots first. Only one player wins, but both are rewarded with one of 31 goofy death animations.
The “bang” is randomly timed—sometimes there’s a long gap after “steady”; sometimes the “bang” happens immediately. But the game’s best moments are in the long, drawn-out lulls: two people staring intently at the screen, fingers tensely perched on opposite sides of an iPad, anxiously waiting for the “bang.” It’s tremendously fun dueling friends.
2. Bounden: A game that encourages actual intimacy between human beings. Beautiful and affecting, Bounden is a masterpiece where two people hold opposite ends of one smartphone, moving together to guide a cursor over a three-dimensional ball.
Bounden is a two-player game that uses a smartphone gyroscope to make players dance together. A reticle takes center stage on the phone screen, perched on top of a sphere. That sphere spins, bringing around lines of circles that have to match up with the reticle – with two players holding opposite ends of the phone, that means moving together in smooth, complex ballet moves.
Bounden is made in collaboration with the Junior Company of the Dutch National Ballet – actual, professional dancers helped craft its moves, and it shows in the game's inherent grace.
3. Desert Golfing: It begins as an escape from the banality of life, but quickly forces you to ask questions. It tracks your score, but the game itself never ends. So why play? As you go further into this golfing game, the big question hits you: Why do anything?
Desert Golfing is a straightforward video game. It is a golf simulation, set in a two-dimensional desert that rolls on forever. Using a catapult-style aiming mechanism, the sort you may remember from Angry Birds, you hit the ball toward the hole. When the ball goes down, you move on to the next hole. Then the next. Forever. There is no end. It has been called “the best worst game in the world”, by US news site Kotaku. Like other smartphone gaming smash hits, it is ridiculously compelling.
Because, although Desert Golfing is a straightforward video game, the emotional journey for its player is entirely complicated. You begin with eager anticipation: the hope that you are about to be challenged, surprised and thrilled. For the first 18 holes, these hopes are quietly met, accompanied (for players of a certain age, at least) by a sense of nostalgia at the game’s eighties Atari aesthetic and impossibly simple control scheme.
4. Super Hexagon: A minimalist action game which in reality is an epileptic mindbomb. It requires you to guide a small triangle through an increasingly difficult maze of spinning hexagonal shapes, which conveniently always have at least one side open.
Super Hexagon, released in August, is the latest iOS obsession among those seeking a killer challenge. It’s a hyper-speed, techno-soaked action game in which players dodge an endless succession of collapsing walls in a vertiginous never-ending tunnel. It’s extremely difficult.
Super Hexagon is about recognizing and reacting to patterns. There are a limited number of wall formations that can come at you, but the order in which they’re thrown at players is random, and the speed is relentless.
5. Dots: A beautiful digital version of the classic pencil-and-paper game with slightly different rules. Instead of drawing against another player, or being allowed a single line at a time, you simply connect all the dots of the same colour that are in a straight line.
Dots is a game that wants you to have a good time. From its stylish, understated, New Yorker-fonted presentation to its stripped-down and super-accessible gameplay, it does everything it can to ensure that after each 60-second round you want another.
The grid that you play on is only 6x6, and the dots that you have to connect - horizontally or vertically, but not diagonally - are clear and easily distinguishable. And because they only come in five colours, and you only need to connect two to make a match, you can always move.
6. Duet: A rhythm-based game, it places you in control of two small orbs connected by a circle. In the game it's the position of these orbs that matter. You spin this shape clockwise or counterclockwise in order to avoid the obstacles coming down.
The orbs are attached exactly opposite each other on a small ring at the bottom of the screen. You can spin the ring clockwise or counter-clockwise by pressing on the right and left sides of the screen, respectively. The ring will rotate for as long as you hold, then stop on a dime the instant you release.
The goal is to spin the ring around in such a way that the orbs don't run into any of the blocks falling toward you. As the game description says—keep calm and avoid everything.