Of the million or so methods you can use to categorize and label video games, perhaps the most useful is this: there are fast games and there are slow games.
Fast games usually live within the dominant console genres – shooters, sports and action/adventure. These are games that put a premium on excitement and quick reflexes. Slow games might include puzzlers, simulations and RPGs. These games reward strategy, creative thinking and attention to detail.
With every passing year, I become more of a Slow Game Guy. I can manage frantic shooters, but only in small doses these days. I much prefer fiddling endlessly with abstract puzzles or obscure RPGs that require advanced inventory management skills. At this rate, I’ll be quilting within a few years.
Two new games loitering around the bestseller lists at the iTunes app store demonstrate how the slow/fast divide is evolving in the mobile touchscreen era.
“Dream of Pixels,” (iOS; $2.99; rated 4+) is my kind of game – a slow and pretty puzzler with fuzzy abstract visuals and hypnotic ambient music.
Fans of classic handheld gaming will find “Dream of Pixels,” instantly familiar. It’s “Tetris,” in reverse, basically. Instead of rotating and dropping puzzle pieces from above into solid blocks below, you cut away chunks of a monolithic block as it descends. By removing the properly shaped puzzle pieces, you keep the block from reaching the bottom of the screen and ending the game.
In Classic mode, the block descends slowly, gradually picking up speed as you progress. The game’s pastel colors and droning electronic music evoke a dreamlike feeling. If you fail to clear the board, the screen slowly fades to white, which represents waking up from your pixilated reverie.
Puzzle mode does away with the countdown element and instead rolls out a series of boards designed to test your spatial thinking. Again, “Dreams,” takes a backward approach and presents a challenge that works like a jigsaw puzzle in reverse. You must remove the proper shapes, in the proper sequence, to disassemble the pattern and clear the board.
“Dream of Pixels,” has taken a place next to gentle puzzlers like “Osmos,” on my bedside iPad gaming queue. I find these abstract spatial games are a good way to shut down my frontal lobes for the evening, now that I’ve sworn off late night TV programming.
For those looking to speed up rather than calm down, the revamped racer “Joe Danger,” (iOS; $2.99, rated 9+) is all about velocity. A rebuild of the popular PlayStation Network game from a couple years back, “Joe Danger,” is the kind of game that never lets up.
“Danger” is basically a variation on “Temple Run,” genre of speed race games that require monk-like focus and ninja-like reflexes. You play the estimable Mr. Danger himself, stuntman extraordinaire, as he speeds his motorbike through a lethal gauntlet of ramps, loop-the-loops and curiously elaborate road hazards. For instance, you might need to hop your bike over a whirring saw blade, duck under a swinging TNT barrel, or backflip over a shark tank.
Since this is an iPhone/iPad game, the controls have been reduced to the basics of screen taps and swipes. As with other games of this variety, the challenge is to pull off The Perfect Run on any given course. That means executing a series of perfectly timed moves as the stunt obstacles speed past. One wrong move and it’s back to the starting gate.
This is either an exhilarating challenge or a nerve-wracking ordeal, depending on your disposition (and, I suspect, your age.) My kids can go at this stuff all day. It’s all I can do to try to keep up.
Now then, where are my quilting needles?
New this week: Hack-n-slash demon disposal in the hotly-anticipated “DmC: Devil May Cry,” for PS3 and X360 (fast game) and medieval merchant strategy with “Crusader Kings II: The Republic,” for PC and Mac (slow game).