New mobile game needed for brief breaks
August 6, 2014 12:01 PM   Subscribe

It's time for me to get a new game for my iPhone. Very specific needs inside ...

I have, I think, exhausted the entertainment value of Fairway Solitaire and Triple Town, and need a new diversion for short (5-minute-ish) breaks. Complicating factor: The phone is an iPhone 4s, running OS6 (I have intentionally not upgraded because of how much the newer version slows down a 4s), meaning many new and hot games aren't supported.

I would love strategy, or even RPG elements, but only if the game itself can be meaningfully and enjoyably played in 5-minute chunks. In the past, I've enjoyed Catan and various match-three games, but I think I am over the match-three mechanic. I also wore out Threes and 2048, and am over those as well.

What should I try next?
posted by jbickers to Computers & Internet (27 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
Plants vs Zombies, 1 or 2. 1 came out before iOS 7, so it should work on 6.
posted by soelo at 12:07 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Trainyard (the demo version has different levels). Helsing's Fire.
posted by jeather at 12:07 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

posted by Buttons Bellbottom at 12:10 PM on August 6, 2014

Doctor Who: Legacy is match-based BUT has an interesting mechanic and RPG elements. Non-DW fans claim to enjoy it as well. I like it most on an iPad but it also works on my 4s with iOS6.
posted by wintersweet at 12:14 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Game Dev Story definitely worked on iOS 6 but I can't confirm it still does. There's a demo, though. It's a really fun little RPG/simulation about running a game development company. You can definitely get a good chunk of gameplay in 5 min chunks, it'll just be a bit slow-going at the start.
posted by griphus at 12:15 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Monument Valley is an amazing and beautiful environmental puzzle game that's like a cross between Journey and M.C. Escher. I'm not really sure how it'll run on a 4s, but it's well worth the $$$.
posted by DNAshwood at 12:21 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

See if Threes will work.
posted by JHarris at 12:25 PM on August 6, 2014

Oops, missed that you've already played it.
posted by JHarris at 12:25 PM on August 6, 2014

Strong recommendation for Slay, it is a strategy/geometric hexagon-board area-control game with a bit of an RPG feel to it due to icon use. A turn takes under a minute and you can come back to the same game days later without having to re-figure your whole strategy. I played version 1.0 (same developer but for Windows) on a 486 in 1995.
posted by andorphin at 12:37 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

It's not for everyone, but, Robot Wants Kitty is a strange and messy and slightly buggy platformer beloved by... hundreds? Dozens? It's A MESS. But it's wonderful. Thing is, there are MILLIONS of user-generated levels in it, of varying quality, from terrible to amazing. Some are puzzles, some are jokes, some are head-scratchers, some are rage-quit finger-nightmares. I love it so much. You could play through them for literally years. Some are 90 second games, some are hours long. And it's so old and janky, it'll run great on 4S.
posted by RJ Reynolds at 12:41 PM on August 6, 2014 [2 favorites]

Race The Stig is basically a "side scrolling" car game where you have challenges to finish and obstacles to dodge. Each race stands alone and you collect golden nuts...that's it. No weird levels, no need to buy stuff, it just lets you race your car for as long as you want. And it's free. Check it out! I play it in short bursts all the time!
posted by MultiFaceted at 12:42 PM on August 6, 2014

A Dark Room is... unique.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:07 PM on August 6, 2014 [3 favorites]

A Dark Room is... unique.

Yeah, I would love to play that one, but weirdly, it requires OS7.
posted by jbickers at 1:21 PM on August 6, 2014

Flow Free
posted by jeffamaphone at 1:30 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

jbickers: Yeah, I would love to play that one, but weirdly, it requires OS7.

That is weird. Sorry about that.
posted by Rock Steady at 1:34 PM on August 6, 2014

I've only played it on Android, but Hoplite is my go-to time killer. It's a hex board turn-based strategy game with some (per game) RPG-esque ability upgrading involved.
posted by Nonsteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drug at 2:32 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dooors and its sequels are a lot of fun. I don't usually like room escape games, but am addicted to those.

Jelly Blocks is an oldie, but still one of my favorites. One of the few games I've found that gets harder in manageable stages.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 2:52 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

KenKen is one of my favorites.
posted by SLC Mom at 9:48 PM on August 6, 2014 [1 favorite]

Hoplite, man.
posted by Skyanth at 3:18 AM on August 7, 2014

Ticket to Ride USA and Ticket to Ride Europe are compatible all the way back to iOS 4. You can definitely play in 5-minute chunks. Solo games against the bots will go quite fast.
posted by expialidocious at 12:00 PM on August 7, 2014

Every so often, maybe every few months in fact, I end up posting a list of mobile games I particularly like. Well here we go again, many of these I've mentioned before I'm sure. I don't know which of these are iOS 7/iPad only, this is intended to be a list to explore from....

BOARD GAMES (in order from easiest to lean/simple to hardest to learn/complex):
Hey That's My Fish HD - Made for kids, but still a pretty good game.
Carcassonne - Probably the best interface of any iOS board game. Comes with multiple levels of computer opponents and a cool solitaire mode. Has expansions as IAPs.
Ticket to Ride - Already mentioned above, a nice game with interesting expansion IAPs if you end up addicted.
Forbidden Island - A co-op game, everyone wins or loses together. There is no computer partner, but you can play it just as well as a single player strategy game.
Small World 2 - A big pricey at $10, and expansions aren't cheap either, but very cool if you can afford it. It's "2" because this app was originally a free app for much less -- people who already had the original got 2 for free, so if you've tried it before you might want to check it out again.
Rivals For Catan - The first take of a Settlers of Catan card game, renamed recently Rivals For Catan, this is interesting because unlike Settlers of Catan, it's intrinsically a two player game -- not three or more, just two. And yet, it's still a very good game. Comes with computer opponents, of course.
Caylus - We're getting to the deep end of the pool here. It is possible to learn to play from the in-app help and tutorial, but you might want to seek out a YouTube video for the board game version just in case. Very complex and strategically rich, and has a good interface, but challenging.
Puerto Rico HD - The popular Eurogame has a weird interface that takes some getting used to. You'll probably be better served here if you've played the board game at least once, but if you can get used to it, this is an excellent game.
Agricola - What can I say? I love this, but I recommended it to empath and he and his girlfriend had a bad reaction to it. You don't get the whole base game with this, but the I and K decks (which supply many MANY additional occupations you can learn and improvements you can build) are, if I remember right, only $0.99 each. Contains an interesting solitaire mode, or you can play against computer players. Still, it's probably best if you've played the physical board game, or at least read a good YouTube video on it (Board Games With Scott has an excellent tutorial video.)

Weird World: Return to Infinite Space is a nice low-impact exploration game with action battles.
Defense of the Oasis is a lot like Minesweeper Super Hyper Ultra Edition.
I still have Out There on my iPad, it must be doing something right.

There is an app called Crosswords Classic that costs $10. That's high for the App Store, but it comes with a constant stream of new daily puzzles to solve, and an option to subscribe, for monthly fees, for more, so if you like crosswords you should definitely have a look.
posted by JHarris at 11:31 PM on August 7, 2014 [2 favorites]

Oh, I missed a couple:
In my opinion one of the great secrets of the App Store is PuzzleManiak HD, which is nothing less than an iOS port of Simon Tatham's Puzzle Collection. Many kinds of randomly generated puzzles to play, including Sokoban. Highly recommended.

And of course Frotz is free, and plays Infocom-style text adventures that it can obtain over the internet.
posted by JHarris at 11:33 PM on August 7, 2014 [1 favorite]

I just wanted to note that it seems that PuzzleManiak HD recommended by JHarris is no longer available – or perhaps there's a geo-restriction. If anyone else has a problem, I found it in a different format, as "Simon Tatham's Portable Puzzle Collection," and it's great for short puzzles. I'm currently loving "Signpost."
posted by taz at 9:33 AM on August 22, 2014 [1 favorite]

Ah, it's gone, is it? Shame. Maybe they were re-appropriating something they shouldn't have. At least you can get it in some form.
posted by JHarris at 8:27 PM on August 22, 2014

Yeah, it's available for iPad/iPhone for free, with no ads, which is very nice.
posted by taz at 12:47 AM on August 23, 2014 [2 favorites]

I just came across another one that might be good for your purposes, jbickers: Lyne (iOS5 and above), "Deceptively simple. Infinitely complex. LYNE is a minimalist puzzle game that will knot your brain as it calms your soul... Connect the shapes. Fill the board. Lose yourself in the interflowing paths of LYNE."

Features (from the description):

- Hundreds of pre-built puzzles
- An infinite number of procedurally-generated puzzles, released daily
- No in-app purchases. No ads.
- Slick, intuitive interface
- Soothing dynamic audio
- Unlockable colour palettes

I like games in which you don't need to worry about running out of puzzles if you use it a lot, which sounds like the situation here. I just downloaded it myself.
posted by taz at 3:05 AM on September 19, 2014

Oh, damn, another one I meant to suggest: Strata (iOS 4.3 and above). "The goal of Strata is to strategically layer colored ribbons to match a pattern. Using forethought and strategy you must sequence your moves correctly. Over time patterns emerge and your tactics may evolve, but Strata will keep you on your toes with increasingly difficult puzzles."

I've had this one for a while, and really like it; it's perfect for short game breaks, and I find the aesthetic of laying down the ribbons and the look of the finished puzzles very satisfying. It starts out very simple and gets harder. I play it to try to get a "perfect" score for each one (no undoing) to keep from whizzing through them too quickly.
posted by taz at 3:35 AM on September 19, 2014

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