Ah yes, the dreaded ‘C’ word. The term ‘casual gaming’ is disliked by some gamers.
They dislike it because they feel it signifies a dumbing down of the specialist hobby they grew up with. It means the mainstream acceptance - and hence dilution - of their beloved pastime.
When we use the term 'casual', it means a game that’s engineered for a wide audience, with an emphasis on immediate gameplay, polished presentation, and water-tight controls. It doesn’t mean that the game lacks depth or value for core gamers.
All of us at Pocket Gamer are casual gamers, in that we enjoy and appreciate good casual games. Here are five of the best on Android.
Prism 3D (HyperBees)
There are plenty of ball-rollers around, but Prism 3D stands out for its bright, attractive approach. It’s also technically more of a ball-bouncer than a ball-roller, as your beach ball perpetually thumps against the floor.
It’s up to you to guide it across a series of abstract levels, landing on score multiplier squares to, well, multiply your score.
Despite a sensitive accelerometer control system, Prism 3D never forgets its casual credentials. There are usually multiple paths to take through the levels, which allows for players of all skill levels.
Flick Kick Field Goal (PikPok)
Much like Fruit Ninja, Flick Kick Field Goal rests everything on a brilliantly tactile control system, and the requisite visual feedback to make it all worthwhile. Here, you’re punting American footballs between a couple of posts.
The flick-to-kick system works beautifully, allowing just enough leeway for skilful shots without ever becoming frustratingly exact. Any challenge is left to the kicking distance and wind strength instead.
While it’s not the most involved experience, three modes provide subtle variations on play, and OpenFeint integration ensures you’ll keep coming back to climb the online high-score tables.
Shark or Die (HandyGames)
Just because a game’s described as ‘casual’ doesn’t mean it has to be safe or bland. Shark or Die lets you play the part of a man-eating shark, chowing down on innocent swimmers.
With a unique viewpoint (you look up at the surface from the seabed), HandyGames wisely keeps things straight forward. All you need to do is tap where you want sharky to go, and it’ll chomp any humans in its way.
There are tactics to consider, though, such as approaching your prey from behind so as to avoid raising the alarm. Shark or Die is a simple – and simply wicked - pleasure.
People complain about style over substance in video games, but in the broad, wide-reaching casual genre the two are tightly interwoven. Every game on this list combines tight gameplay with polished visuals, and Buka is arguably the most stylish of the lot.
Hexage has created a gorgeous universe bursting with character. The main character might be a glowing blue globe, but you’ll want to do everything in your power to save her from attack.
The gameplay’s equally out of this world, as you fend off aggressive meteor attacks while simultaneously manoeuvring Buka out of harm’s way. A truly stellar casual experience.
Fruit Ninja (Halfbrick)
Fruit Ninja is probably the purest example of casual gaming on this list, and arguably the finest. It’s incredibly simple – fruit gets lobbed up, you slice it out of the air.
It’s hard to know what makes it so compelling. Most likely it’s a mixture of solid presentation and wonderfully tactile gameplay.
You feel (and hear) every squelch as you slice your way to fruit salad Nirvana, and the pleasure derived from comboing multiple pieces of fruit with a single swipe of your finger is unparalleled.
Tight OpenFeint implementation means that there are plenty of incentives, too, including achievements and online high-score tables.