The Holiday season is often time for comfort food. Turkey, stuffing, warm rolls and pumpkin pie are all things we love, but never want all the time lest they lose their magic. Mobile games have carved out a similar place in my gaming soul, which is why November and December is the time of year I enjoy playing them the most.

There will never be a time in my life that an iOS game like Tiny Rogue or Starbillion will consume my life the way Fallout 4  or Undertale would, but they steal some well earned minutes and I’ve come to cherish the experience as much as any game in my library. The reason is that these are games of circumstance; titles I picked up in those moments when I simply needed something to play and they fulfilled their purpose admirably.

Tiny Rogue is a traditional rogue like that never deviates from the formula. In fact, it’s so traditional that it could be called antiquated if not for the swipe-to-move mechanics that make this mobile friendly. The goal is a simple one — escape every room by outmaneuvering and outwitting every enemy get to reach the exit. There are power ups like daggers and different spells to help clear a room, but this is a game purely about positioning and movement. It plays like a game of chess against the computer where you can assume that they will always make the perfect move. The dance becomes familiar once enemy patterns become obvious, but the pressure builds as the later levels are often decided by a single move as the number of moving pieces increases as well. This simple form of mental gymnastics was the perfect game for a trip to the airport, which is something I sorely needed.

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I downloaded Tiny Rogue ahead of of an impromptu trip to Portland with my dad that started with a plane ride from the San Francisco Bay Area to the great northwest and ended with a 10 hour car ride back to California. My first crack at the game was in the car ride to the airport, a pregame ritual before the sometimes harrowing experience of getting on a plane. My experience with flying is like playing the slots, it’s rare you get the triple-sevens and the entire thing goes smoothly. And of course it doesn’t as the airline yanks away the promise of a free checked bag at the last second, forcing me to take a suitcase through security. Big mistake as a bottle of shampoo got flagged in the scanner and forced a Transportation Security Administration to take apart my luggage. In the end that bottle of shampoo forced me all the way back outside to check in the bag and a second trip through the security checkpoint.

We got to the gate with about 20 minutes to spare and a large pile of stress lingering from the whole ordeal. A stiff drink would have helped, but without that I turned to Tiny Rogue and in that moment something simple and familiar to sink into was perfect for that moment. I compare the game to macaroni and cheese (partially because I had some damn good mac and cheese at the stopover in Seattle) because it’s warm and gooey dose of familiarity in an uncomfortable situation.

LACIE

Where Tiny Rogue is a game of circumstance, a pool of calm in an otherwise hostile airport, Star Billions is a shot of drama in micro spicing up even the tiniest moments. Star Billions is a title that came over the Indie Haven tips email and I scooped it up on a whim. The game doesn’t release on the iOS store until Dec. 8, but playing through the preview build turned out to be a wonderful decision that’s made every wait in line or trip to the grocery store rather exciting. The game is a TellTale game in micro, asking you to asks you to make split decisions on the fate of humanity frequently throughout the day. It tells the story about four sentient A.I. characters aboard a spaceship that is looking for a nice planet for human beings to settle after the earth is destroyed. Each A.I. has a very distinct personality and it’s up to the player to decide who gets to play leader in different scenarios. These scenarios are spaced out during different points in the day as every decision requires real time to play out.

The game once prompted me during a trip to the grocery store and I made the mistake of pulling my phone out at the produce section. I spent a good five minutes in front of the cilantro trying to decide who’s the best fit to guide the crew with a hostile alien force bearing down on it. The Safeway employee nearby was quite relieved when I finally picked up a bunch and walked away.

Star Billions is a game I’ll definitely revisit when Thanksgiving rolls around. When I’m with family and things start to get chaotic, it’s a solid few minutes of respite providing drama without a whole lot commitment. It’s perfect for those times when damn near everything needs your attention. Sometimes, a brief trip into space is exactly the thing you need when mom asks you to head to a packed grocery store on Thanksgiving morning.

The Holidays are often the time for games of circumstance; it’s for those titles we don’t really choose to play, but need to play to keep ourselves sane. It’s inconvenient to carry around the foods that make us fill good, so why not play a game instead?   

About The Author

Editor In Chief

Jose is a straight shooter who always goes the paragon route. He joined the team at Indie Haven to spread the word about indie games all across the galaxy. When not aboard the Normandy, he lives in the San Francisco Bay Area playing video games and plotting ways to rid the world of games like Colonial Marines.

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