Ten addictive little flash games
The economy may be tanking and we may be three inches away from martial law, but whatever's going on people will still need good ways to decompress for free. Maybe especially now! So here are ten great little games you can play for free in your browser, regardless of what kind of computer you have. Nothing to download, nothing to pay... just click, and play! I hope you'll love these as much as I do.
fl0w for the PS3
fl0w is a unique game created by Jenova Chen as part of a thesis on making games that would be easy enough for new players to play, while still providing a challenge for more advanced players. In fl0w you play an aquatic organism - made of abstract geometric shapes - that swims through various depths underwater. There are little geometric bits to eat, which increase the health and complexity of your creature. There are also various other creatures, which you can eat bits from until they dissolve into yummy, yummy nutrients. Watch out, though! They'll be trying to do the same thing with you.
fl0w's unique design and soothing soundtrack makes for hours of relaxing, engaging gameplay. Perhaps this is why it was selected to ship as a game available for the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable - an unusual move for a humble Flash game, although fl0w is definitely worthy of the opportunity. It's likely to become as much of a sleeper hit as Katamari Damacy, and for similar reasons. Take a look at the PS3 version, in the video to the right, and be sure to catch it at the PlayStation Online Store as a downloadable game. Try fl0w!
Asylum is another creative offering, this time from Germany. You play a psychiatrist at the Psychiatric Clinic for Abused Cuddly Toys, and must rehabilitate various plush toy animals from the abuse they've suffered at the hands of negligent and mindlessly vengeful children. The characterization and animation are funny and adorable, and the interface is straightforward: in a therapy session with a plushie, just select from a wide range of treatment options (ranging from dream analysis to electroshock treatment) and pay attention to how the creature responds. Gradually a story for each creature will unravel, explaining what brought about their condition as they work through the healing process with you. Try Asylum!
Another one-of-a-kind game, Sprout, has you playing a little seed trying to get home to your acorn forest. Through this wordless game and its direct point-and-click interface, you navigate your seed by telling it what to grow into and let the elements in your environment (birds, gravity and so on) get you closer to home. The crayon-drawn landscape gives this game its unique look, and while the gameplay is straightforward the challenges are increasingly difficult and will require some trial-and-error. There's no way to "die" in this game, no way to get yourself into a situation where you can't complete the game, and so experimentation is both available and fun. Along the way you'll encounter other plants that will show you how to grow into other plant types, expanding your options. Despite its lack of replay value, Sprout will easily earn a niche among your favorite flash games. Try Sprout!
Grow is another innovative symbol-based game. You're given a sphere and twelve items, and you choose which order you drag them into the center of the sphere... where they take root, evolve and interact with each other. Exactly how they develop depends on what else you've placed, the order you've placed them, and how far along they are. Grow - along with the rest of the games in the Grow series - are great little flash games I'm continually introducing to my friends when they visit, and they're invariably hooked. Do yourself a favor and don't Google for the solution - once you have it, you won't be able to play it anymore, and it's too much fun to experiment with the pieces and their effects. Try Grow!
In Pandemic you play a mutating virus whose objective is to kill as many humans as possible, destroying mankind by spreading to every region of the globe. (So it's a great game to play after watching too many news cycles.) The more people you kill, the more points you get to spend on lethal new symptoms, means of resistance, and ways to spread your contagion. The caveat? Becoming too lethal too quickly will attract attention, and world leaders will shut down important vectors of infection such as borders, water facilities and airline travel routes. So you'll have to learn to be sneaky. All in all, Pandemic is a darkly amusing little game that allows you to indulge your societal antipathy just a little. Try Pandemic!
Don't worry about the Japanese name, Kakato Otoshi is actually very simple to play - and the premise is nicely demented. Why do women wear such high heels sometimes? Honestly, it's like they're trying to walk on stilts! Whatever the reason, in this game women come to you complaining about the mysterious discomfort being caused by wearing absurdly high heels. It's up to you to knock the bits off their heels with your trusty li'l hammer and convert their stilletos into something a bit more practical. And your services are in great demand - they'll even pay you for your work. What they will not do, however, is sit down or take off their shoes for you to work on them. That's right, you're hammering away at high heels and have to be careful not to hit these women in the ankle or leave them standing precariously on misaligned heel segments, or they'll crash to the floor. If you send any of these ladies sprawling there's a hefty financial penalty, so perhaps they're just in it for the malpractice insurance. There's also a time limit, so you'll have to be deft! One of the cute extras is that instead of levels, there are ladies... so when you complete a stage it will say in big bold letters, "Lady 4 Cleared", for example. Beautifully absurd. Try Kakato Otoshi!
Every so often there's a simple little Flash game that you inexplicably can't stop playing. Fishy's one of these. It's simple enough: just use the arrow keys to move your fish around. Eat fish that are smaller than you. Avoid being eaten by fish that are bigger than you. That's it! But somewhere between the straightforward gameplay and the engaging trance music the game turns into a kind of blissful meditation. The eyes and hands are busy playing but the mind finds tranquil repose. I've been known to while away nights just tripping out to it - something for the forebrain to do while the rest goes into meditation. There are more advanced versions of the game - Fishyfish is one - but I still prefer the original version. I guess it's like being Irish and trying to explain to someone why you love potatoes. There's nothing flashy or gimmicky about them, they aren't a very active food (compare with those exciting soft drink graphics where the ice is colliding into the cup and the cola is splashing and flying everywhere... I just can't get into food that's that active), they're just... yummy. Like Fishy is yummy. A yummy little game. Try Fishy!
LOLcats in space. Anti-subliminal beer-vertisements. Munching virtual critters in a virtual space filled with Technicolor spam and inexplicably floating gummi bears. Haxed by Megahurtz is one-tenth game and nine-tenths modern-day acid trip. The premise is simple enough - munch little critters that have stolen your data - but like an A-list celebrity vehicle the plot matters very little, and is only there to create an excuse for the main course - in this case, psychedelic leetness. A game for our time, Haxed is officially tragically hip. Try Haxed!
I'll admit, I'm not big on fast-paced frenetic button-pushing games. I almost never play them, myself. "Here quick, push A! Now go to the left, quick before - Oh. You died. Nevermind." But Filler is just fun. There are balls bouncing around inside a box. You press down with your mouse button and a sphere of your own appears and expands as you press. The balls will bounce off your sphere, and you can create as many of them as you'd like. The object is to fill two thirds of the box with your spheres, and not let these balls hit them while you're expanding them - or you'll lose it and be penalized. Learning how (and when) to create spheres to use to trap these balls somewhere out of your way is fun, and will leave you with a sense of accomplishment. Straightforward gameplay somehow becomes loads of fun, which is why Filler made this list of addictive little flash games. Try Filler!
For the last game on the list, I've saved Incredibots. It's a nifty example of what they're doing in games nowadays with physics engines - simulate gravity, friction and so on and making objects becomes not only easy, the objects are realistic as well. The large-scale games are doing this, and now the smaller Flash games have physics engines too as computers become more powerful. Incredibots makes good use of this, allowing you to have fun engineering cars, machines and just about anything else you can think of to solve the challenges in the levels. Or, just play in Sandbox mode and dink around with it. There are shapes, wheels, motors and pulleys, and it's all simple enough to get into and start tinkering with. You can make a movie of what you've created, and share your creations with your friends too. I particularly wanted to share this game here because however fun it is for adults, it can only be more fun for children. If you've seen any, consider introducing them to Incredibots. You'll secretly know they're learning physics and basic engineering concepts, and they'll secretly have the upper hand because they'll know it's really a lot of fun. Try Incredibots!
Bonus: Level Up!
While I'm not typically a fan of platformer games, every once in a while something comes along that definitely impresses. Level Up! from Nifty Hat was just so good, I had to feature it here. A boy has crashlanded in your garden and lost his memory along with all his skills. While he's repairing the fence he demolished, you get to bound through the game collecting memory crystals which you can give to characters to buy spiffy new skills. Additionally, the more you do something throughout the game, your basic skills (such as Run, Jump, and even Idle if you stand still long enough) will actually level. This means that your character improves throughout the game. One part platformer, one part grinder, all parts cute! Who is this boy, and why does he seem so familiar? With a fresh gameplay concept and a bippy little soundtrack to go along with the retro 8-bit feel, you should definitely try Level Up!