If I’m commuting on the train and don’t have two hands free to play Switch or 3DS games, I play a mobile game. Usually, it’s Threes, but sometimes another game takes its place. That’s the case now. The new game is Holedown.
I feel good about playing Holedown, because, really, I’ve played way too much Threes. I also like it. That helps.
I feel bad about playing Holedown, because, really, what am I even doing with these mobile games?
I don’t play mobile games just to play them. They’re a background activity that I play while listening to podcasts. My attention is elsewhere. I’m twiddling my thumbs.
Threes is a tile-sliding game in which success is measured by how long it takes you to lose. I’m OK at it, not great, but it’s fun to do decently at it briefly before getting a Game Over.
Holedown is a ball-bouncing game, the genre that goes back to Candy Crush, to Peggle, to Breakout, to Pong. In Holedown the conceit is that we’re mining, firing balls into chasms filled with numbered blocks. Each ricochet of our ball ticks the blocks’ numbers down by one until they detonate and we can mine deeper.
It’s simple, fun and clever. The more I play, the more gems I mine, the more power-ups I can attain to fire more balls into the mine at once. I can get nine to carom around as I dig through a cave on the moon.
It’s good, which is the least I could expect given that it is primarily from Martin Jonasson (aka Grapefrukt), the maker of the wonderful minimalist strategy game Rymdkaspel.
I just don’t like it enough to give it my undivided attention. It’s not grabbing it. That happens with games of this specific type that can put on a show for those of us amused by how things will bounce.
I used to watch the TV game show The Price is Right and loved when they played Plinko, a game about dropping discs down a board stuck with pegs, hoping the discs would carom down into the best prize slot at the bottom of the board.
Ricochet games can, however, be games of skill. I used to watch professional billiards on TV. I know that people who apply themselves can see the angles and bounce each shot perfectly.
I could get good at Holedown, I figure. It could be my billiards instead of my Plinko.
But I only play mobile games when I’m distracted, in that narrow window of time on the subway when I also want to steal those moments to dig out of my backlog of podcasts and when I need to be sure I’m not standing in anyone’s way as people jostle in and out of the car at each stop.
I can’t get good at Holedown, not the way I play mobile games. I will therefore play it as an amusement, consume it like a song during a run or a hot dog during a baseball game. I’ll enjoy it, but if I think about it too much I might feel bad.