If I had to pick one adjective to describe moms, it would be “busy.” We’re always on the go doing something or other, usually at the the cost of our own leisure time. As a result I find it difficult to find the time to sit and play video games that require hours of game-play working through excessively long levels, or exploring open-world universes, unless I choose to sacrifice even more of my sleep. I’ve therefore become a big fan of games I can dip in and out of easily when I have a little time to spare.
I’ve rounded up three of my favorite games that can be progressed significantly when you have under five, five to 15, or 15 to 30 minutes of free time: Fallout Shelter, Rock On, and Big Pharma.
Under Five Minutes – Fallout Shelter
I have never played any of the Fallout series of games but when Fallout Shelter was announced during this year’s E3 and instantly began taking over all my social media feeds, the game immediately appealed. I’ve always been a fan of The Sims and the combination of Sims-esque gameplay (keep them fed, keep them happy, breed…) with a post-apocalyptic backdrop ticked a lot of my boxes. Adding to the appeal was the cost: free, and that it could be played without feeling the need to spend money on premium currency or other additions to speed up/improve the game–something I found incredibly frustrating when I played The Simpsons: Tapped Out and other freemium games.
In Fallout Shelter, you are in charge of an underground vault populated by dwellers. Your job is to expand the vault by adding on rooms and increasing the number of dwellers whilst managing occasional disasters such as RadRoach infestations or attacks by raiders. Each type of room has a different function. Living quarters increase vault capacity and give dwellers somewhere to, *ahem*, breed new dwellers. Power generators produce power, diners produce food, and water treatment plants produce clean water–necessary to keep everyone from radiation poisoning. As you progress through the game, other rooms are unlocked including medbays, a radio studio which improves happiness, and better food/power/water production rooms. Each dweller has stats which show where they are best placed to work. Placing dwellers correctly produces an improvement in the room’s efficiency.
This is a game of micro-management and careful balance. Build too many rooms and you’ll need extra power to support them, but assigning too many dwellers to work on power will mean not enough food and water being produced which can then lead to starvation and illness. However, assigning too many people to food and water means you won’t have enough power to sustain the rooms. It’s a simple concept but tricky to actually perform. Each room takes a set amount of time to produce its resources (from around 45 seconds to several minutes) so you can easily nip in, pick up resources, check assignments, and close again, having made progress, all within just a few minutes. Perfect while waiting to pick up kids outside practice or for the kettle to boil.
Five to 15 Minutes – Rock On
My go-to game for when I have a little longer to myself is Rock On, an iPad quiz game that asks you to identify songs and artists. There are dozens of these kinds of games on the market but the thing which makes Rock On stand out to me is that it uses all original songs by the original artists, no awful cover versions or instrumentals. At the end of each level, you even get a link to the songs on iTunes. The app has a strong nostalgia factor. It’s great for rediscovering songs you had forgotten about, or finally putting a name to that song you’ve always liked but never managed to identify. My music collection has definitely expanded since I began playing.
The game is divided into dozens and dozens of levels, each with a specific theme. Some are somewhat general such as “rock anthems,” or “stadium fillers,” others are decade-specific like “Hits of the 90s,” and there are occasional artist-specific levels where you can choose from popular artists including Nirvana, Pink Floyd, Elvis Presley, and Queen.
Each level can be played through multiple stages. The initial Mic Check requires you to correctly identify 5 out of 10 songs, speed rounds require you to rack up a set amount of points (the faster you answer the more points your answer is worth), and sudden death rounds requires you to identify a number of songs without making any mistakes. Completing each stage unlocks the next one in that level, adds new songs to the level, and also awards stars which add up to unlock new levels. Fail to answer correctly and you’ll lose a life.
Players start out with five lives, and if you run out, you either have to wait out the clock (usually for around 15 minutes) or watch a short commercial to get an extra. Unless you’re a music genius, you’ll probably run out of lives pretty fast which ends your gameplay, unless you’re prepared to sit through lots of commercials. I consider it an built-in time limit that stops me wasting away hours trying to score an extra few stars. The game is free with commercials and a commercial-free edition can be bought for $4.99.
15 to 30 Minutes Plus – Big Pharma
When I was younger, I was a huge fan of Theme Hospital and I’m always on the lookout for games that replicate that its style. Big Pharma is a fantastic little PC/Mac/Linux game that comes close and is a fun way to fill 15 to 30 minutes or more working on a level, although beware that you can easily find yourself still playing three hours after you have switched it on.
In Big Pharma you take control of a factory which produces drugs for a wide range of conditions. Your job is to import the raw ingredients, process them through various machines, package them into a commercial product, and sell them for as big a profit as possible. You have to balance research (creating new machines, etc.), exploration (sending people out to discover new raw ingredients), finance, and the factory floor itself, through a range of challenges. Each ingredient can be processed into multiple products, often by combining it with others, through long and complex production lines but beware of side effects.
Visually, the game is reminiscent of Theme Hospital with brightly colored cartoonish graphics and cute animated machines. One thing that I would change if I had the power is the conditions you treat. Instead of Theme Hospital‘s silly, made-up conditions, Big Pharma uses real world illnesses. There’s something that’s simply not quite as amusing about making a drug to treat genital warts or ADHD as there is about curing a patient of Jellyitis or Bloaty Head. That being said, the game is a lot of fun and dangerously addictive. I keep jumping back in whenever I have some time to kill, ready to set up a new line or progress my research a little bit more (or more often to panic over the state of a particularly dangerous loan!). Big Pharma is available via Steam, Humble Store, and Gog for $24.99.
Let us know your favorite quick-play games and we’ll share them with other readers on our Facebook page.
GeekMom received a copy of Big Pharma for review purposes.