The holidays are a time for family, for warmth, for snuggling together over hot chocolate and showering each other with love. Except when they’re not; close proximity to family can also mean a lot of biting your tongue and reminding yourself that Grandma hates it when you cuss.
It’s not that we think you should spend your entire holiday season hiding from your family, but even the closest of kin need a little break now and then. Here’s how the Sidequest crew gets our game on to cool off during the most wonderful time of the year.
A Girl Adrift
July 19, 2017
The world has flooded and most of civilization is gone. What’s a girl to do? Fish, mostly. A Girl Adrift is a free-to-play (in-app purchases available) incremental game that largely consists of going from place to place and fishing out the sea’s treasures (and occasionally, junk). Like many incremental games, the point is not to get through the objectives quickly but to slowly level at a relaxed pace. And indeed, this game is not going to be quick in the least; while something new unlocks at almost every level, it can take weeks between levels if you’re like me and want to max your stats before moving on. Likewise, since the plot is tied into your leveling, it can seem like it’s moving at a glacier’s pace, but it’s there and it’s intriguing.
“Grind” can be a dirty word when it comes to RPGs I’m actively engaging in, but sometimes I just want to unplug my brain for a while and watch my super-adorable little girl fish up increasingly outlandish fish bosses to rob them of their wealth. Or maybe I just want to spend half an hour dressing up my little girl in new outfits and picking out different ships, all of which are pure aesthetics. Or, my favorite, putting on headphones and letting the game play itself for a while, going off sound cues for when input is needed. The game has very little in-game music (mostly for fish battles) but instead has peaceful ocean noises to set a quiet, isolated mood. If I close my eyes, it’s very easy to imagine I’m a kid in the middle of a big, wide ocean; alone, but unhurried. There’s always more fish to catch.
Antiyoy is just about as simple as a strategy game can get. It’s heavily based on an earlier game, Slay, by Sean O’Connor. There’s a hexagonal grid, you put guys in the spaces, and you move the guys around to attack and defend. You can combine guys to make a stronger guy, but he uses up more of your income than the two guys did individually. There are no options in armor type or unit speed or anything like that. The simplicity of it is what’s calming, for me. It’s challenging, and just unpredictable enough to keep my attention, but I can carry on a conversation easily while playing it, for instance. The campaign mode has 95 levels, which is enough to keep me going. (Randomly generated levels tend to make me lose interest quickly in games like this, for whatever reason.) It’s also combative enough to let me vent a little frustration.
Update: I’ve run out of campaign levels, and the randomly generated “skirmish” levels are still holding my interest.
State of Play
March 30, 2017
Kami is a simple puzzle app that requires the folding of triangular spaces of colors to leave one overall square of color. Although the puzzles can become quite challenging, finding the solution is very satisfying in a non-rage-quit-inducing way. There are 108 different puzzles to try in the Journey mode, and an additional mode that allows you to both create your own and try puzzles that other players have crafted. I would recommend playing with the sound on because the light clicking/flipping sounds of the tiles are even peaceful. This game is so relaxing that I usually get it out on my phone whenever I’m anxious or need something to fidget with—I’ve been known to be the most into this game during the takeoff or landing part of a flight. The tactile nature of this 2D puzzle makes it a relaxation favorite for me.
French Guy Games
I’m not much for mobile games, but since I first stumbled upon Twenty, it’s been an easy favorite. The pleasant brrrrring of the tiles as you swipe them together, the bright, cheerful colors, the satisfaction sending a cascade of numbers together and getting the coveted twenty—it’s no wonder that it’s my favorite de-stress game, even though the mobile version has modes like Panic to ramp up the difficulty. The game is simple to pick up, as you slide together matching numbers to get to twenty. Sometimes tiles join together to make things more difficult, and the further you get, the harder it becomes. But when family’s got me two seconds from tearing my hair out, there’s Twenty‘s “Zen” mode, where I can swipe all my problems away in peace. It has the added benefit of being easy to zone in and out of, meaning I can hop in and out of conversations as necessary rather than incurring the wrath of whoever is trying to talk to me and failing because I’m too wrapped up in a game.
It also helps that I’m great at it and can probably slaughter your high score. 80th percentile, my friends.
What games get you through the holiday season? Let us know in the comments!
Melissa Brinks is Sidequest’s editor in chief, co-creator of the Fake Geek Girls podcast, author of The Compendium of Magical Beasts, and an aspiring beekeeper. She once won an argument on the internet, and tweets at @MelissaBrinks.