Sometimes you don’t want a deeply tactical wargame, or a highly involved RPG, or a brain-burningly tough puzzle game. You just want to have a quick bit of fun playing a game that doesn’t need too much thought or time. We’re calling this a pick-up-and-play game rather than a casual game, because the latter are often used to fill quite large expanses of time – they’re makework games, not exciting games. Pick-up-and-play games give you an adrenaline rush. We’ve picked out three of the best for iPhone, proving that the Apple phone really is the best mobile phone contract money can buy.
1. Jetpack Joyride (£0.69
Jetpack Joyride has been named Game of the Week by Apple, arguably because this is the king of the pick-up-and-play games: fast-moving, funny, and fun. You play Barry Steakfries, a designer-stubbled hero who is battling against a legion of evil mad scientists. He starts out armed with a stolen Machine Gun Jetpack, which is both his means of movement and his weapon, shooting bullets at anything below him (usually evil scientists).
This is basically a classic side-scrolling survival game, where you have to avoid various hazards that will kill you, surviving as long as you can (and gaining as many points as you can, in this case by collecting coins en route). What sets it apart from others in the genre is the sheer glee of the gameplay, a certain amount of variety (you can acquire quite different weapons and modes of transport, as well as doing various special missions), and most importantly, regular updates of new content from the game’s creators. For under a quid, you can’t really go wrong.
Another side-scrolling survival game, or perhaps side-galloping, Robot Unicorn Attack is so self-consciously twee and cute as to transcend both concepts and become a simply brilliant game. The game play itself is not particularly original; what is, is the ridiculously over-the-top unicorn theme running through it. Not only do you control the eponymous Robot Unicorn, but each of your lives is framed as a Wish rather than a life (Robot Unicorns don’t live or die, they either succeed in pursuing their dreams, or try again another time), the screen is all in shades of purple and lilac, and the entire action of the game is soundtracked by the classic 80s synthpop song Always, by Erasure. The whole thing is utterly tongue-in-cheek, as you’d expect from its publishers, Adult Swim Channel, but it works both as a game and as a joke.
Canabalt is a bit like a noir parkour version of the above two games. That is, rather than playing a rocket man or robot unicorn, you play a small man running through a large cityscape, leaping from skyscraper to skyscraper. The city map is randomly generated on the fly, so the difficulty varies enormously (and randomly), and the replay value is massive. Everything is monotone, which instantly gives the game a classic look. The soundtrack is matching minimalist techno, a perfect fit.