Six stupidly addictive games (and what happened to them)

Here’s a word of advice: invent a popular video game. Sure, there’s a high chance you’ll fail, and the start-up costs are massive if you don’t have some promise of a future but trust me, if you get it right, the video game industry is the place to be. In fact, you don’t even need to build yourself a studio. Some people have made millions from just one game and they haven’t even set foot out of their house to achieve it. You can make millions from a good idea. So here are six stupidly addictive games that you can play on your phone, tablet or laptop that prove that you don’t need a big budget…just a good idea and a little bit of business sense.

Angry Birds

If you haven’t played Angry Birds, then the chances are you either don’t have a smart phone, you live on a tropical island far away from society, or you were once addicted but you burned all memory of the game’s existence from your mind in order to rescue your sanity. Sadly, the game exists, whether you like it or not.

It is probably fair to say that Angry Birds is a pretty blatant rip-off of an older game called Crush The Castle and its sequel, although Rovio Entertainment- who develop Angry Birds- prefer to say that their creation was ‘inspired by’ CTC, because outwardly saying you’re a giant copy-cat doesn’t make a jot of sense if you want to sell a popular video game. Crush the Castle took the original concept of the game, which involved firing a catapult at various targets, but themed it in Medieval England with actual catapults and, you know, actual castles. The game was a quiet success, but it was free-to-play, which was all well and good for gamers, but bad news indeed for companies that wanted to make shed-loads of money.

Rovio Entertainment noticed the success of the game, at least among gaming sites, and decided that the general public would love a game like this- it was just a sad reality that they would find catapults and castles a little boring. So, in order to spice up the game, and to make sure they weren’t sued out of everything they owned, they decided to replace the original theme with cutesy birds and adorable green pigs. And thus a legendary game was born. The game’s concept seems simple, but when you stop and realise that its entire premise is taken from another, lesser-known game, you start to feel a little bit like you’ve been conned. Or at least you should.

In fact, so popular is this game that a Star Wars themed version has been released, tying in perfectly with the release of the latest movie. And let’s not forget that this year, 2016, there is an actual, legitimate and professionally made Angry Birds movie on its way to cinemas. Considering the game has no real plot other than “Birds are angry and try to destroy pigs’ lives”, it’ll be interesting to see where they go with it.

Candy Crush

Candy Crush is the video game that must be stopped. In fact, so addictive is it that some people actually seek counselling for their addiction, and various work colleagues of my past have had to delete the game from their phones lest they watch as their social lives crash and burn. And it really is hard to imagine why such a game would be addictive.

After all, CC is just a clone of a typical ‘Bejweled’ style puzzle game. You have to line up three candies of the same colour to earn points, and when you’ve done this enough, you unlock another level. Unlike Angry Birds, this game is free to play…at least initially.However, after you’ve played through a few levels, you come to the numb realisation that you have actually invested real time of your own life into this game, and then it really is difficult to break the spell. Of course, every now and again (although it seems to be increasingly often the further into the game you get), you’ll come across that level that you simply can’t beat, and after a while you grow tired of simply repeating it. In order to progress, you can pay for certain bonuses and power-ups that normally make the level easy to beat.

Now, normally these purchases are only a couple of pounds at a time, but imagine millions of people playing the game and all being so addicted that paying a couple of pounds to clear the odd level is an attractive proposition to them. The game’s creators must be sitting in literal pots of gold. Why has nobody written a genuine dystopian thriller about this?

Of course, as with all games, the emphasis is on the player. Nobody actually forces the player to pay out any money and, if a person was patient enough, they could realistically finish the whole game. But imagine being the one person who can’t beat level 30 and having to watch as your friends, family, work colleagues and dog all progress to level 50 whilst you stubbornly sit there, refusing to pay for a free game. Eventually, even the strong-willed amongst us would surrender to the game’s appeal and pay out. That’s its power. It is a truly evil entity in our galaxy and it must be stopped.

Flappy Bird

Not along the Angry Bird phase started, another game came along that utilised the seemingly universal appeal of cartoonishly stylised birds. It was Flappy Bird. And, by now, you probably won’t be at all surprised to learn that it is a shameless copy of another smaller, less recognised game.

It was made by Dong Nguyen, a Vietnamese game developer who, after playing Helicopter Game, decided to copy the entire gameplay of the game but use a cute bird instead. Apparently, a game that involves trying not to crash a helicopter is boring, despite what that scene from Mission Impossible tries to tell you, and the public are much, much bigger fans of a bird doing exactly the same thing.

Basically, the bird on the screen is constantly moving, and you have to move the bird up and down to avoid the obstacles that approach it. There is no end to the game, as you simply get scored for how far you travel, and when you eventually and inevitably smash the bird brutally into an immovable object, your game ends and your score is recorded. As always, the challenge is to get better and better each time, and that’s where the addictive quality of the game comes in.

Interestingly, unlike some consciousness-eating developers, Nguyen felt genuine guilt over how addictive his game was. In February 2014, he announced on Twitter that by the end of that day, he would be taking the game down from all app sites. The original rumours persisted that he had done this due to a law suit being filed by Nintendo, who apparently saw a likeness to their own Mario games. However, this was never confirmed and, in an interview later in the year, Nguyen said that the game was designed to be played in a few minutes and not for hours on end. Genuine concern for the physical and mental wellbeing of his customers had led to him taking the game down. In August he released an improved version of the game but he urged all players to “take a break”. They likely did…in order to play Candy Crush.

New Star Soccer

If you have always wondered what it would be like to be a professional football (or soccer player, for my potential American readers), then your first port of call would be FIFA, which has its now infamous “Be a Pro” mode. However, if you’re on a budget, the next option is New Star Soccer, which could be downloaded to a phone or tablet for a one-off price and- surprisingly- played for no other transactions.

Basically, you are an upcoming soccer star, and you start out in the lower leagues of the football world before, eventually, signing for the huge teams and playing for your country. There is very little in the way of licensing in this game, and so team names are incorrect- although they do look incredibly similar to the actual club names they’re based on. The graphics aren’t that good but the gameplay is terribly addictive. In a match, you basically have to make successful passes, score goals and genuinely help your team to become victiorious. After every match, regardless of your team’s performance, you will be marked individually on how useful you were. This increases your star rating, which increases both the clubs you can join and your weekly wages, which in turn gives you more in-game money to spend on items such as better boots. Of course, these also help your performance, which helps you earn more money, which sends you right back to where you started from.

The interesting thing about this game is that, when you’re not playing matches, you can actually control your player’s personal life. You can decide if he gets a girlfriend, whether he lives in a rundown shack or an eight storey mansion, and whether it is sociably acceptable for a footballer of his calibre to turn up to training on a bicycle or whether you should splash out of a sportcars…or a private jet. You can also talk to the press and how well the interview goes can make a difference as to how the fans, manager and team-mates view you.

And most hilariously, there’s no age cap here, and so you can finally end your ‘footballing’ career at the grand age of 112, having won 27 World Cup titles, fourteen domestic titles and probably a whole load of world records.

Peggle

Oh, Peggle. What a game. On the surface, it seems wonderfully simple. In fact, it is- so much so that anybody can play it, from the young to the old and infirm. The idea of the game is simple. Aim your cartoon, fantasy character’s cannon, fire a ball at the coloured pegs, and watch as it bounces its way down to the bottom and picks up lots of sweet, sweet points for you. Providing you hit at least one orange peg, of course. Otherwise its a big fat ‘zero’ for you. It is basically a cross between crossfire and pinball, although admittedly neither of those games had a unicorn as the main character. This game has been downloaded for computers and consoles across the world and, although it has no online mode, it is a single player that is still brilliant fun being played when drunk. Trust me, it’s happened in my college days.

Like most of the games on this list, it is extremely simple, although to be a real champion, you do need to have invested at least a few hours into working out the intricacies of the game’s system. And, unlike some games, it does seem to still reward bravery- many a time I have fallen ‘beginner’s luck’ due to a novice making a stupidly insane shot that somehow results in a triple point tally.

However, despite its accessibility, Peggle exists mainly now to be played by a select group of hardcore players. They play each other quite regularly, although they’re so good at the game that you wonder if they ever go outside, stop to eat or even take toilet breaks. And no, it isn’t an eSport, so there’s precisely zilch money at stake- they literally play entirely for the dubious honour of being the best Peggle player around. Presumably, after beating the entire world at an outdated and largely simplistic game for no reward, they then leave the basement, go to their room and reflect on the years they should’ve spent getting a degree and building relationships with living, breathing humans.

The game’s sequel, Peggle Nights, is essentially precisely the game game, but at night. You honestly have to wonder how long it took the developers to come up with that corker of an idea.

Plants vs Zombies

If there was an award to be given for “Most Self-Explanatory Game Name”, I don’t think there’d be much competition, because Plants vs Zombies would take first, second and probably third prize.

Basically, you play as a man/woman who, for reasons unknown to us all, has decided to stay put in their unfortified and undefended house whilst a zombie apocalypse rages around them. Luckily, you’re a skilled botanist (either that or the offspring of a mad professor) who has an army of overgrown plants with anger issues at their disposal. You deploy different types of plants, although you only have a certain amount of slots and you cannot build them until the timer allows you to. There are flowers that fire like strange, natural cannons, giant nuts that seem to exist just to block zombies and get eaten alive (and yes, their adorable faces wince in agony as they’re devoured) and the sunflowers, who suck up the sun’s energy and allow you to research and build plants at a quicker rate. You certainly won’t pass your biology degree if you use this game as your main focus of study.

The game doesn’t really involved you doing much else other than clicking and placing plants, and quite frankly, that works well. Not every game has to be a frantic test of skill and reaction. But that’s not to say that you can fluke your way to victory in a game like this. It is, at its heart, a management sim, and that means you have to know what plants to use, when and where to use them, and when to sacrifice a blocking nut in order to allow you the time you need to rebuild defences somewhere.  This game’s appeal is that it caters to those who enjoy games but don’t want to rely entirely on their skill level (or lack thereof).

Unlike some of the games here, this title has expanded, and there are now consoles versions coming out with play more like a gardener’s version of Team Fortress. There’s still no movie on the horizon, although with the film world as it is, I wouldn’t be surprised if it became a terrifying reality. I mean…plants that fight! That’s a recipe for success right there!

Plus, it has zombies. And no birds- angry ones or otherwise- to be found anywhere.

 

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