Stop Playing Candy Crush. Here Are Four Better Commute Killers

The best one-handed mobile video games to obliterate tedium.

The Four Best One-Handed Games for Your Commute

Hey, watch this short video on your phone, OK?

Just type in:
I bet you'll be hooked, in the nicest possible way.

You deserve some good games. Anyone who's ridden the train at rush hour knows that mental escape is sometimes all that separates us from the guy in the tinfoil hat. Some read, some podcast. Finding the right game, though—that’s a little trickier. 

Besides the overwhelming number of options, many mobile games are designed inadequately for the harsh, judgmental world outside your home. Shooting your elbows out on a crowded subway to play Angry Birds isn’t going to make you new friends. There are bartending simulators that make you use your phone like a drink shaker. Try playing that on the airport security line. 1 Literalists: Don't try playing that on the airport security line.

Don’t worry, I’ve done the hard work for you. I’ve slogged through the best and worst of the app store to find the perfect games to kill your commute. Here are four, available on both Apple and Android, that you can play anywhere to save you from even the most outrageous time-wasting institutions. DMV, do your worst. 

4. You Must Build a Boat 


$2.99 for Apple or Android 

For those who don't want to step too far outside their Candy Crush comfort zone, try You Must Build a Boat. It boils down to a tile-matching game, but it is more than the sum of its parts. The goal is to build a boat. You build a boat by completing quests. You complete quests by earning gold and matching tiles. The meat of the game is matching specific tiles based on what your little guy at the top of the screen is up against. You might need swords to beat a monster or keys to unlock a chest, so your entire strategy can change on a dime. You get that awesome addictive “just one more game” sense, but unlike with Candy Crush, even a lousy run earns you gold, which makes it feel like you’re advancing instead of spinning your wheels. 


3. Ridiculous Fishing 


$2.99 for Apple or Android

My next pick gives You Must Build a Boat a run for its money in the Most Literal Name category. Ridiculous Fishing is a totally stylish and bizarre game that features a three-part structure. First, you sink your hook as deep as you can by avoiding fish. Then you do the exact opposite and try to grab as many fish as you can on the way up. Finally, you lift the fish out of the water and shoot them (obviously). It's an addictive format that give you a satisfying feeling as you remember a fish you saw on the way down, catch it on the way up, and shoot it out of the sky. Ridiculous Fishing uses your phone’s tilt mechanism to control your line, and while it works very smoothly, you look a little, oh, ridiculous swinging your arms around in public.


2. Hoplite 


$2.99 for Apple, free on Android 

I know what you're thinking. This looks nerdy and slow-paced and probably has a lot of rules. It’s all true, but it becomes intensely engaging once you get used to the non-intuitive rules. You have a set of moves, and each bad guy has a set of moves, and you take turns moving across the board. You can easily outmaneuver two or three of the  bad guys, but delicately stepping through a field of eight enemies is a true brainteaser. In a weird way, playing this game helps me understand why people like chess. Hoplite doesn’t have the upgrade capacity of Fishing or Boat, but the randomized stages make every round uniquely challenging. If you haven't noticed by now, I love games with pixel art. 



1. Duet 


$2.99 for Apple, free on Android 

Duet is the beautiful execution of a simple premise. Spin clockwise or counterclockwise. Avoid the blocks. It doesn't take long to realize it's much easier said than done, and since your ball leaves a splatter mark for every collision, your failure is right in front of you the whole time. The first  three games have a random element; your play will be helped or hurt by the luck of the draw. Duet is the opposite. The levels are pre-programmed, so when you lose you can’t blame a bad hand. It’s punishing and repetitive, but that’s exactly why Duet works. After five minutes you’ll say, "This is impossible." You’ll wonder what kind of maniac Duet was designed for (me). Then slowly, block by block, rotation by rotation, mistake by mistake, you'll get through to the end, and you will amaze yourself with this feat.  

I hope you enjoy these games. They’ve gotten me through many a train ride. Just don’t blame me when you miss your stop.

Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.