Tiny games, big fun

What do you expect from a mobile game? Something that can be played in bite-sized chunks, I imagine. Probably you’re thinking about the quality of graphics and sound, about your favourite genres, about becoming absorbed into the minuscule world on the screen, if only for a little while.

Whatever your expectations were, Tiny Games will confound them all.

Tiny Games is not really a game. It’s an enabler of play. And I mean play in the loosest sense: whoever you are, wherever you are, whoever you’re with, there will probably be something here that entertains and delights you, and probably several things that will irritate and embarrass you, too.

Tiny Games

The app starts by asking you where you are. The free version only allows you to choose “Home,” but options like “Road,” “Pub,” and “Work” can be unlocked individually or as a bundle, even if the price to do so looks a little high by App Store standards.

Then it’ll query for more information. Which room are you in, and how many people you’re with who want to play. Then a couple of multi-choice mood questions like a favorite shape or desired level of violence. I’m not sure these have any impact on what happens next, but the app usually gives you a pleasantly cheeky response to your selection.

You’ll then be presented with a suggestion for a simple real-life game and, if necessary, any digital tools needed to play. Once, in the office with stationary to hand it, the app suggested my colleagues and I have a hole punch race – who can pop the most holes in a sheet of paper in twenty seconds – and gave us a timer that counted down.

Home, alone, the first time I tried the app it presented me with a digital spinner to spin and instructed me to work through the alphabet, finding an object in line with the spinner that started with the appropriate letter.

Tiny Games

There are lots more examples; lots more. I have yet to see a duplicate in several hours of playing with this app.

Reading them out in text as you’ve just done, and even seeing them staring back at you from the screen in a jaunty font on cheerful pastel backgrounds, these Tiny Games don’t look like much. Some sound boring, and in truth, a few are. Some sound silly, and in truth, many are. But that’s looking at it from the wrong angle.

The right angle isn’t what the game sounds like. It’s how it plays. And that’s where the magic happens.

As a result of toying with this app, I have come to the front of a train ticket queue with three fingers planted firmly on my cheek, and had to wrestle out my wallet and pay the cashier while keeping them there. I’ve sat in the pub with friends making music by tinkling on half-empty beer glasses, walked through the park with family looking for strangers to have on my team for a dangerous heist.

Tiny Games

If you don’t like the sound of any of those, well just start again. You’ll have another recipe for wonder and whimsy at your fingertips in no time. There are games here suitable for any personality, of any age. It may, in fact, be the ultimate family game. You should have seen us all in fits of giggles as we desperately tried to keep a running commentary on an imaginary horse race, naming the nags after different letters of the alphabet.

This is real life, with real people, and it’s really fun. This is the first app I’ve ever know that positively encourages you to forget there’s a mobile device in the mix and just get out there and laugh and live it up. Never mind all the worthy identikit new-age meditation and life tools apps that litter iTunes: if you want an app that reminds you of the value of life outside your mobile, Tiny Games is what you need.