Apps for your Commute

Do you take your commute seriously? Then this is the post for you! First featured on the Lucky Frame Blog, this post discusses the best games for commuters with contributions from myself and Jonathan Brodsky.

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Apple are really loving Wave Trip these days…after featuring in Apple Stores worldwide and in the WWDC presentation, Wave Trip is now featured in the UK App Store as an “App For Your Commute”!

We certainly agree that Wave Trip is brilliant for commutes – short levels, non-punishing creative gameplay, a dash of level building to add creative spice to your morning – but we thought we’d take this opportunity to talk about some of our favorite commuting games.

First up, press and marketing guru Kristina, who you may remember from the “Hope With Added Strategy” blog post, or perhaps from the Lucky Frame stand at GDC this year. Kristina has another day job which makes her something of a commuting expert…


Kristina:

I have been a serious commuter for almost two years traveling from Edinburgh to Dundee and back again everyday (about an hour and twenty minutes each way). My experience isn’t unusual, new research shows that the average worker in the UK spends 41 minutes commuting daily and almost 2 million people spend over 3 hours commuting everyday.

Commuting isn’t always fun, especially when you have so far to go, but it does present you with a fantastic opportunity to do new things and spend time for yourself. Having an extended period to try out new games uninterrupted is one of these advantages. So with that in mind here are my recommendations for games designed for the serious commuter:

Superbrothers Sword and Sworcery

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So much praise has been heaped on this game that it may seem like an obvious suggestion but it’s worth pointing out why this game is particularly suitable for a serious commuter.

The storyline is complex and mysterious, and the writing is really excellent. It manages to keep you entertained, giving you something to think about in those moments at work when you find your mind less actively engaged. When I was working my way through this game I actually found myself looking forward to getting onto the train to play the next installment.

The levels can comfortably be completed in 40 minute segments. Just enough time to get settled in play it through and have time to put your makeup on and check your email before you arrive at your destination.

Other reasons to love this game: It has a female protagonist who isn’t a sex object. The game arc is time sensitive so you can only play certain elements on certain days of the month – delayed gratification just makes that commute all the more rewarding. Oh, and the artwork is beautiful. Negative points: after a while I got really bored chasing sylvan sprites and the musical element is a little too self aware, but the overarching story kept me coming back.

Year Walk by Simogo

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Full disclosure, I didn’t play through Year Walk on the train but on a mammoth 15 hour journey from San Francisco to Edinburgh via Newark. Put quite simply, this game blew me away. I would describe Year Walk as a post-modern literary horror puzzle game that reminded me of reading Mark Z. Danielewski’s epic novel House of Leaves. The graphics are gorgeous and it’s just difficult enough to keep you engaged without becoming off-putting. I cried at the end.

NarcoGuerra by Game The News

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A strategy game where you play a police captain trying to crush the drug cartels of Mexico. This game is like a complex and compelling version of Risk where variables like the street price of drugs and which political party you support undermine your efforts for victory.

Playing the game at the “difficult” level it takes me about an hour to win a game (less to lose!) and I got almost two weeks of commutes working my way through all the variables. It’s not the perfect finished article. The button size is a bit small and the dice roll mechanic is frustrating. But the impact of politics on your decisions is a compelling driver which adds an exciting twist to this game.

Thanks Kristina! Next up is Jonathan, 1/3 of the full time Lucky Frame crew. He currently does the opposite commute to Kristina (we’re well organised like that).

Here are Jonbro’s favorite commuting games…


Jonathan:

Helix

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A currently unreleased game by Smestorp. This is an outright action game that operates somewhat like an arena shooter. Enemies come from all sides, and in a standard arena shooter, you would need to fire bullets at them. The brilliant mechanic flip in this game is that you need to encircle the enemies rather than firing at them. This allows it to operate much as a shooter would without the control complexity of dual stick. More than once I have needed a shoulder tap from the conductor to remind me to give them a ticket while playing this. Apparently Smestorp is still adding difficultly layers due to the game no longer being hard enough for him. Hopefully it will be out shortly, but who knows.

868-HACK

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Another unreleased game by Smestorp, available in a prototype version on PC/Mac. This game operates in an entirely different space than Helix. Smestorp is one of my favorite solitare board game designers, and he has a really tight grip on the scope of a board game that works on iOS. While he has been creating and marketing these under the banner of roguelikes, I think that does them a disservice in terms of the audience that they could appeal to. Last year he released a game called Zaga-33, which is also very worth playing, which encapsulated a bunch of the ideas that he brought to this one. Single screen boards, extremely focused player verbs, graspable enemy types. 868-HACK expands on that structure and adds a very strong risk/reward system in which doing a highscore run increases your likelyhood of dying. Since you are scored on both the number of runs that you have done without dying, and also your cumulative points across those runs, there is a push to play safely. Even in low level play, it is difficult to make it to the end of the game, and requires strong planning against unpredictable systems.

Frutorious

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This was a pretty widely overlooked game as far as I can tell, and I think there are a few things that contributed to that. I would encourage you to overlook those issues though, because there is something really fun and charming in here. So once you get past the shonkyness of graphics (I swear, they are really charming in motion), the game at first appears to be something that controls like Angry Birds, but is brutally hard from level zero. The trick of it is that this isn’t Angry Birds at all, you can’t just be close and have gravity take over for you. You need a ton of control adjustments and perfect timing and really good aim and quick trigger fingers and all that good stuff. This is a game that appears to be about chance, when it is really about finesse. There are about a zillion levels, a bunch of which add something interesting to the mechanics of the game. In some ways it feels like a really good platformer, while entirely changing the way a platformer controls.

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