While Flappy Bird may have introduced the genre to millions of new players, there are many games out there that were designed specifically to be challenging beyond frustration. These games come in many different flavours but the end result is the same, leaving you with the strange but exciting combination of rage and an eagerness to play just one more time. It’s deliberate, it’s maddening, and it’s so much fun to keep playing.
With that in mind, here are our five picks for Android games which will present a serious danger to both your hair and your phone…
Terry Cavanagh’s insane creation combines an incredibly simplistic design with chaotic lights and a soundtrack that seems to cause a release of adrenaline just by hearing it.
You pilot your character by shifting the world around you as it closes in on you. Each wave has a specific escape point, and as long as you find it in time you move on to the next floor immediately after you escape.
You aren’t really playing the game so much as seeing how long you can survive. Most people only last a few seconds before the soft robotic voice tells them to begin again. And that’s a voice that you will hear over and over again before you reach your frustration point and squash your desire to hurl the phone into a brick wall by closing the game and walking away. Super Hexagon is £1.99 well spent and plays well on just about every screen size. Just don’t think for a second that the larger screen will make the game any easier.
Playing on the 8-bit aesthetic and vertical-only format that many suspect helped Flappy Bird get popular, Squiggle Racer is a new offering that makes you feel like you are playing a digital version of a game you’d find in a convenience store. There are only two controls and whether you go left or right you have no control over your acceleration or braking. You move at a constant speed, and touching the walls means instant death.
Squiggle Racer is challenging, but not impossible. What separates it from games like Flappy Bird is that everything is a constant, so you can develop a rhythm and a pattern with practice. The real frustration comes when you slip up and crash after developing that pattern, ruining what could have otherwise been dozens of successful laps because you blinked at the wrong time. It’s also a free game, making it the perfect time-waster for everyone.
Frustration via repetitive motion will only get your so far. Some folks need puzzles, and while you can make a puzzle challenging it’s usually just a matter of time before the puzzle gets solved. This is because when you start to play a puzzle game you are first introduced to the rules, and those rules govern the game and give the puzzle shape. The Impossible Game looks like it has these rules, but you discover shortly after your first puzzle that you have no idea what the rules are.
Originally for iOS and even Xbox Live, The Impossible Game thrives on frustrating you by obfuscating what you actually need to do in order to win. The puzzles rely on the entire screen and the awareness inherent in being on a phone to make the puzzles more challenging. By the time you figure out the first few puzzles, you’re either ready to quit altogether or you’re completely hooked and lose a day trying to solve more and more puzzles. It’s easily one of the most challenging games out there, and for £0.60 it offers a heck of a lot of gaming time.
Sometimes what makes a game challenging isn’t so much the obstacles around you, but the controls you are forced to use as an added challenge. If you think about games like Asteroids or Super Mario Bros, the games are firmly defined by the controls. You know exactly what each button press is going to do, and that tactile response helps make the game easier. Tilt to Live was one of several games that became popular because it relied entirely on the gyroscope in your phone to control your character, which turned an already interesting game into a whole body-twisting anger-inducing thrill ride. It also has a sequel now, with more game modes and lots of new obstacles.
Tilt to Live 2: Redonkulous plays very much like the original, and if you play through the Classic Mode it almost feels like you are playing the original. There’s also a Code Red mode, which takes an already challenging game and makes you feel like you’re playing it for the first time. Without arms. There are also new boss encounters, and a whole new set of weapons to use in order to try and survive the longest. It’s well worth the £1.79 asking price to lose yourself in hours of tilting and killing, but you might do well to consider keeping a strong drink at your side to deal with the stress.
What made Flappy Bird frustrating is how the character failed to behave the same way each time you pressed a button. What should have been a simple up and down mechanic became complicated by random highs and lows.
Drifty Driver takes a page from this playbook by putting you behind the wheel of a car that takes subtle button presses and turns them into slamming the car left and right as you drive into oncoming traffic.
What should be a fairly simple game that has been repeated in many forms over the last 20 years of gaming is reborn on your phone or tablet, with the added twist of only sort of being in control of the vehicle you are driving. If you slam into the sides, or into another car, the level ends and you try again. It’s more than a little frustrating, but it’s free so you only have the cost of your phone to think about when you eventually smash it to pieces.
You might also want to check out our 7 alternatives to Flappy Bird.
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