Christmas is bloody great, isn’t it? Time off. Presents. Meat. Mulled everything. Chocolate. Leftover meat. Yuletide telly. Whole wheels of cheese. Cold meat (pickles optional).
But, wait, what are those shapes in your periphery, growing larger by the second? They look a bit like you. They’re wearing paper hats, grinning, and beckoning you towards them. Oh Christ, now they’re mumbling abstract words like, “Charades?”, “Family game of Monopoly?” or, worse, “Well I’ll tell you when I would’ve triggered Article 50...”.
Festive cheer fading past, it hits you. These people are your family, and not only do they have you trapped till the day after Boxing Day, they’re approximately 45-seconds away from ruining your merry Christmas.
No longer. For now, due to the alluring, technological teat of your smartphone, you can giddily retreat into your favourite armchair, pull your Santa hat down low and disappear into a biosphere of gaming. Here are eight such offerings – all free – to safely see you through the Xmas break, until such point that you’re allowed to re-enter society.
But remember: always keep a spare battery, burner iPhone and working sockets within arm’s length, because should you find yourself without charge at any point, you might actually have to make eye contact with your relatives, produce an on-the-spot assessment of that night’s EastEnders episode &/or Donald Trump. And, great though he is for offering some whipsmart escapism, not even Mario’s super enough to save you from such evil.
Super Mario Run
Making his debut bow on iOS, everybody’s favourite moustachioed, dungaree-enthusiast plumber is recalling his Jumpman (Mazzer’s original name, on 1981 arcade classic Donkey Kong) roots, in this blissfully simple tap-to-jump autorunner.
Nintendo nerds have been in a frenzy of anticipation for the game, meaning the inevitable Pokemon Go comparisons might not be too far off truthful. And yet, the requirement for an internet connection (to beat piracy, apparently), means tube-seat play is all but impossible, while it won’t be available on Android for the foreseeable which, if you happen to own one, sucks.
Regardless, catching up with yer ol’ mate Mario Christmas afternoon still pips watching QEII blather through her year in brief, right?
Inspired by the playground craze so rampant that some schools now ban bottled water, Stephen Hawking’s IQ is not required to figure this game out. Expert motor skills, a steely nerve and a skipful of patience, however, is.
Prepare to be furious as you cycle through being very, very bad (it took us 10-minutes to cobble together four successful flips), bask in the glory of a 20-streak and then suddenly become shite again, before promptly saying goodbye to your social life until about March next year.
A sequel-of-sorts to bonkers fight app, Wrassling, this lairy golf game sees you evade seagulls, octopuses and no shortage of water in your quest for a hole in one.
Feeling friendly? Two-player is when it cranks up a gear, as the first to five is crowned the winner. Even better, take out your latent aggression via the timeless medium of a headshot.
Ignore that its title is what Russell Brand might call a road traffic accident, and Dashy Crashy provides a surprising amount of jeopardy for a jerky traffic-beating app. Mixing comedy, clever controls and a seemingly endless freeway, it’s like Speed with a laughter track. A year since it came out, it’s still among the most compulsive games.
Really Bad Chess
Ok, so the title doesn’t exactly fill you with confidence (but, then, nor does chess in general, does it?), however Really Bad Chess is really quite… good! Assigning you a random combination of pieces – eight queens, four knights and a bishop? Why not – and pitting you against AI (that might be sporting a spawn of pawns), it’s chess for people that really hate chess.
(Free; iOS, Android)
Disney Crossy Road
Following on from the original, monolithic Crossy Road – with its 100,000,000 downloads and millions of dollars of revenue – this Frogger-aping road-cross game is beautifully simple yet maddeningly difficult.
The arrival of a Disney version at first glance seemed a cheap money-spinner, yet with a slew of characters, new worlds and upgraded visuals it is a surprisingly slick affair.
Frisbee Forever 2
“But I haven’t played the first Frisbee Forever,” we hear you cry. “How will I keep up with its intricate sub-plots and narrative nuance?” Don’t worry. This game requires no attention span, nor an interest in the much derided ‘sport’ of Ultimate Frisbee, and somehow manages to be better than the real thing.
Navigate your jazzily decorated disc through a bunch of hoops and round obstacles and, within a few goes, you may just unearth a dormant desire to jack in your current 9-5 to retrain as a Frisbee Guy.
Angry Birds 2
It’s easy to hate on Angry Birds these days. Yes there’s been a naff film, shoddy app spin-offs and tsunami of cheap merch hawked on every market corner, but lest we forget it was one of the original gaming apps to make us lose our collective minds and overshoot our busstops?
A tasty morsel of gaming yore, it manages to combine nostalgia with a swanky upgrade on the 2009 original, while being every bit as addicting, too.
So if you’re going to insist on watching that 1973 Morecambe and Wise special for the 14th year running, you can afford to reconcile with those squawking birds and maddening swine. It is Christmas, after all.