I don't need to get a life: I'm a gamer, I already have lots of lives!

E3 2016 is just behind us. The announcements have been made, the dust has settled and (some of) the hype is beginning to die down (a little bit, at least). Yet the 2016 expo wasn’t all that different from previous years. In fact, as is commonly the case at the gaming world’s biggest calendar event, games for your smart device were hardly anywhere to be seen. All this, at a time when “mobile games generated approx. 85 percent of mobile app market revenue” last year. Against all the odds the wider industry places against their success – including very limited presence at trade shows – they’re bucking the trend.

And at Dauntless HQ, things are no different. Over the past fortnight at the very least, two members of our Creative team – Graphic Designer Rosie and Copywriter Chris – have been hooked on three games in particular. Each has its own little quirks; all of them represent how effective powerful simplicity is when it comes to an experience built for a smart device. 

Say 'Hi' to Stack

Stack is all about the simplicity and the timing. The premise is equally uncomplicated: your aim is to stack square-shaped blocks as high as you possibly can. With each tap on the screen, you fix another block in place, and you’ve stacked up another layer on your tower. All that’s required from you, brave player, is the ability to time each tap as well as possible, so that you align the square – ideally – with the edges of the tower below it.

Manage to do this, and you’ll enjoy the most satisfying of xylophone chimes. Even better: do this repeatedly, in succession, and it’ll sound as though you’re playing each note of said instrument, incrementally. Conversely, mess up the timing, and no music for you; the successful notes go from low to high, so your progress matches the music. It really is the simplicity of this rewarding game mechanic that makes the game so powerfully addictive. With Stack, we dare you not to immediately think “maybe just one more” at the end of every round.

Next Up – The Walking Pet

Here, your mission – should you choose to accept it – is to help a pet with, err, well… walking. But it’s actually a lot more fun than that sounds – and at times, legitimately hilarious! Timing is still important in this one, but just as important are your observational skills: you need to keep those eyes on your virtual pet.

The premise: you tap the screen to make your pet take a step – from the first one onwards, you are then responsible for each and every further step they take. Now, this may sound simple enough – “how hard can it be to tap a screen repeatedly?!” Well, the challenge comes in the fact that these pets are totally and utterly uncoordinated: tap too quickly or too slowly in succession, and they’ll topple right over. You need to carefully time each step so that their momentum doesn’t send them slipping up: either backwards, or toppling head over heels. You also need to factor in their weight and body shape: if they’re top-heavy, that’s certainly a complication to keep in mind in terms of forward momentum.

Above all, we love how the simple intuitiveness of this game, alongside the developer’s sense of humour, shines right through. Moreover, add in the vacant, South Park style cartoon eyes on the crazy pet animal collection, and you’re on to a winner. We dare you not to laugh yourself silly playing this one!

Last But Not Least – Jelly Jump

This is another one in which your hand-to-eye coordination needs to be top-notch! The overall setup is as straightforward and simple as the first two games we’ve looked at. You control a  jumping blob of jelly, desperate to get out of reach of some pesky rainwater. You do this by timing jumps just right, so the jelly lands on the next safe ledge, before having to jump again to the next safe spot. That could be required straight away, just as you thought you had safely landed; alternatively, the game could tease you, by moving in the next ledge super slow, just to keep you on your toes.

On your part as player, the interaction remains as simple as ever: tap the screen to jump (as high as possible). But, arguably in the case of this game, timing is the most crucial of all: if you don’t facilitate your jelly jumping at just the right moment, it’ll either land straight into the water trap below, or it could end up trapped between the moving ledges. It’s up to you to prevent either grisly end, as you make your way to the top.

The Bottom Line?

What we have on our hands here are three games made by absolute pros: Ketchapp Games are the development team behind it, and they have a very distinctive style. They've clearly taken some visual cues from the legendary Monument Valley – also not to be missed! – and packaged them up with gameplay mechanics that are extremely effective, and addictive, in their simplicity. Now admittedly, what’s not so great about these three games, is the stoppage time forced on you by frequent ads. They do occasionally err on the side of being intrusive, but since all of these are free-to-play games, we can’t really complain all that much, especially as said ads don’t hang around for anything above five seconds.

Now, these games are perfect for the following situations when you’re on the go:

  • When you’re waiting in a queue (with any of these three, definitely no longer a problem)
  • When you’re travelling on any kind of transport (that doesn’t involve you driving the vehicle in question!) 
  • When you just want something to simple to play for a couple of minutes here and there. They’re no big time commitment, and no big deal.

What are your thoughts – have you played any of these? If not, try them out – see how far you get, and share your high scores with us! They’re a great example of mobile games; they're quick, very accessible, and don't take up a whole lot of your time. Whether you’re a fan of mobile games, or a vehement opponent, they’re a format that has undeniably found its niche, and – just like our smartphones – they’re not going anywhere.