Meditative, calming Android apps (or websites)
September 20, 2014 6:50 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking, roughly speaking, for a game, but it needs to be as un-game-like as possible. I'd like something interactive I can play with when feeling overwhelmed which is visually appealing, responsive, fairly simple, and has few or no objectives. Levels and world-building are too addictive for this purpose. I'd like to be able to start and stop playing quite easily, and to be able to play when my mind is out for the count (so no puzzles). Can you help?

My Platonic ideal of this sort of app might be something like:
- dropping stones into water
- watching a field of wheat in the breeze
- an aquarium that keeps and feeds itself, no fuss
- painting which fades over time
- a blossoming branch (buds on touch)
- generative music

One thing I would really, really like is no splash screens, but that's just by the by. I've also found that most things I hit upon are Android live wallpapers - if you know a way to use these as an ordinary open-and-close app I'd be delighted to hear how.

Unusual suggestions would be fine - artworks? Proof-of-concept websites that only do a cool thing? Zen apps? Games for very young children? Test apps for touch? There are a great many calming sound apps, but I haven't found any yet which have something for you to do on the screen, and this sort of thing would be perfect.

(I have a smartphone with Android 4.4.4. Thank you!)
posted by lokta to Grab Bag (14 answers total) 38 users marked this as a favorite
The excellent Android game Smash Hit has a nice Zen mode. Basically the game has you slowly flying through surreal and chill environments while shooting balls to shatter glassy objects, collecting balls and avoiding obstacles. The Zen mode is just shattering stuff in cool landscapes, forever. I'd watch the video on the Play page and see if it's what you're looking for.
posted by selfnoise at 7:03 PM on September 20, 2014

Monument Valley is not *exactly* what you're looking for, but you might like it. It's a (spatial) puzzle game but with no time element: you can play as slowly and calmly as you like. I find the whole experience quite soothing when I'm stressed out.
posted by Susan PG at 8:23 PM on September 20, 2014

Check out Let's Create Pottery. There is a game aspect where you are asked to create an "order," but it's easily ignored, and you can just futz with shaping the clay and decorating a pot while birds softly chirp. There's a free version to try it out.

Or maybe some trippy art thing like Flowpaper?
posted by sageleaf at 8:24 PM on September 20, 2014

Two websites -

I've been enjoying the Circle of Fifths game posted about here. (For me it hits that sweet spot of being engaging but easy to step away from; you may need to take a look to see if it is too addictive for you.) The game wants you to combine music notes to yield the next note up on the "circle of fifths" - there's a little diagram of a circle at the bottom of the page that shows the order the notes go in. But really, learning the notes is optional and you can play without it. To play, you use the arrow keys to move the blocks around and combine like-colored blocks, and they play music notes.

And there's the good old Jackson Pollock splash-painting website.
posted by LobsterMitten at 8:31 PM on September 20, 2014

NodeBeat is a generative music app that you might like. No structure at all--tap places, create sounds, loop them, etc. It's weirdly soothing.
posted by MeghanC at 8:52 PM on September 20, 2014

I like this thing. It's lovely, you don't get too invested in it, the music is calming. It is not free (for iPad which is the version I have) but it's worth it.
posted by jessamyn at 8:53 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Dots, on endless mode, is my version of this.
posted by ocherdraco at 8:58 PM on September 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

You probably want the non-game game Mountain! Rock Paper Shotgun review here.
posted by taz at 11:34 PM on September 20, 2014

There's PolyFauna, a generative music exploration app from Radiohead that combines procedurally generated imagery based on nature themes with snippets of rhythmic music from The King of Limbs (and some upcoming projects). No goals or challenges, just exploration.

In a similar vein for PC is Proteus, another soothing game that combines music with nature exploration. You can get it via Steam or on the official site.

Also, MobyGames has a small subcategory for "Meditative/Zen" games on Android. Looking through it, Luxuria Superbia might be a good fit, sort of a deep dive into fractal imagery. There's also Alter Ego, a port of a classic life simulator game that I posted about on MeFi a few years ago. It's more structured, but in a laid-back, choose your own adventure kind of way that results in charming and melancholy little vignettes.
posted by Rhaomi at 12:38 AM on September 21, 2014 [1 favorite]

You might like Toddler Lock. As you touch the screen, there's sound feedback in the form of different musical notes, and various shapes of different colors appear. Dragging your fingers fast or slow across the screen makes lines of different thicknesses. You can erase the whole screen, but the marks you make fade over time on their own as well. Not sure how to describe it, really, but it seems to meet a few of your requirements and it's free.
posted by you must supply a verb at 6:07 AM on September 21, 2014

I have an app on my iPad that would be perfect (Fluid 2) but unfortunately it looks like there isn't an Android version. In the course of trying to find it, though, I came across a few Android apps that might be promising: Fluid Monkey, Magic Fluids, Fluid Paint, Liquid Simulation.

I'm also fond of bubble wrap apps, here's one that looks good for Android.
posted by ootandaboot at 1:50 PM on September 21, 2014

Came in to suggest Dots on endless mode, as ocherdraco has already mentioned.
posted by AthenaPolias at 2:03 PM on September 21, 2014

Sonic Bubbles.
posted by yoHighness at 2:31 PM on September 21, 2014

possibly too "puzzle" for what you're after, but Zen Bound.
posted by russm at 4:29 PM on September 21, 2014

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