Apple's App Store is home to many epic, time-consuming games. I've recently been enjoying Kingdom Rush Frontiers, a tower defense game with lots of achievements, missions and goals. Unfortunately, I don't always have time for it. That's when I break out a "lunch hour" app.
A lunch hour app is one you can pick up and play at anytime. There's no story arc, save points or asset management. A game can be as brief or as involved as you like. There are many games that fit the bill here, and we've selected our favorites. And now, TUAW's favorite lunch our apps (all prices are USD).
Wait, Yahtzee? With all the beautiful, exciting games in the App Store, you're picking Yahtzee? Yes I am. The classic dice game looks fantastic on my iPhone's Retina display and is super easy to play. It's easier than the paper-and-dice, in fact, as the app does the counting for you (addition is hard!). Plus, there's a campaign mode available if you'd like to try to beat a series of eccentric characters. But for pick-up-and-play, I love basic Yahtzee.
Here's another iOS game that started life as a board game. Lost cities is a card game that has you building sets based on color. The goal is to get a run, low to high, and acquire more points than your opponent. There's a bit of strategy involved, but not enough to commandeer all of your grey matter. Lost Cities looks great and the music is nice, too. I play this one while waiting at the bus stop a lot.
I work with words for a living. I've blogged over 1.75 million words for TUAW, written a pile of books, and I even write NaNoWriMo novels each fall. So you think I would want to get away from words to relax, right? Wrong. Every day at lunch I pull up Astraware Word Games and play each of the five games: Shuffle, Wordsearch, Hexxed, Gridlock, and Spellmaster. The games are tied to GameCenter for score sharing, so I dare you to beat me at Spellmaster!
What can I say? I like words. Letterpress is the wonderful brainchild of Loren Brichter and it's also an addictive game. What's great about it is that you take one turn at a time against your opponent, so you can take a few days to ponder the best possible choice of words to vex the other person. I love coming up with annoyingly long words on the last move to upset my opponents as I squeak by and win another game...
Right now, I pull out Dots when I have some spare time. It's a souped-up version or Connect Four that challenges you to remove connecting dots of the same color. I love the think-ahead strategy of the game -- if I remove these three dots, then I will line up these four and score more points. Dots has the added challenge of a timer, so I have to think fast to clear the dots off my screen. It also means I can fire up a game and be done with it in just a few minutes.
Honestly I don't play a lot of games at lunch, as I'm usually planning my next meal or reading or listening to music (I have also been known to noodle around with GarageBand during lunch). But when I do play, I often like to pretend I am the Dark Knight. This isn't the greatest game in the world, but I like to pretend I'm Batman. He loves gadgets, like me! I am prone to just swinging around Arkham City on my Wii U, so my compulsion to play Bruce Wayne knows no bounds.
One of the earliest of the tower defense genre games on the App Store, I still find myself pulled into Fieldrunners when I have a few moments to play. There's something that makes my brain happy when I play tower defense games, and Fieldrunners was always an extremely well-balanced game. Balance is critical in tower defense, and this one adds enough fun graphics, sounds and towers to make it challenging and fun for many hours.
Finger Arts has built shockingly addictive versions of classic games like Hangman (built around newsfeeds), Solitaire, Free Cell, and so forth. Although it's hard to pick a favorite, I've probably spent more time playing a quick Spider game than any other. It's a solid interface, although I must say I'm not a huge fan of their recent card face re-design. Still, it's fun gameplay, and one that you can pick up, enjoy, and then put away.
PuzzleCraft is the queen of "let me mess around for 5 minutes" games on my iPad. I have long since hired every possible hire, built every possible building, upgraded every possible upgrade, and yet I find myself returning again and again because this is the perfect game to keep my fingers happy when I have just a few minutes to calm down, generate some serotonin, or fiddle while I'm on the phone.
I always have loads of games to play for coverage, but Fairway Solitaire is a great one that could use another recommendation. It's perfect for a pick-up-and-play lunchtime game, has a really funny commentary track to cheer you up if the day isn't going so well, and with lots of individual "courses" to play on, daily challenges, and plenty of upgrades, you could jump into this game every day for a year and find something new.
I blame this one on Mike Schramm. He reviewed this game two years ago and enthused about its combination of puzzle and RPG elements. It's one of those games that's great to pull out when you're waiting in line or you forgot to bring a book to lunch with you, but it can easily be one of those where you glance up and find that -- oops -- 30 to 45 minutes have disappeared. It's both mindless, but figuring out the right strategy is a lot of fun as well. My other favorite lunchtime game is PuzzleCraft, which Erica covered in great detail.