The physics of walking on two legs is an astoundingly complex affair. Running is even worse - in essence it’s a barely-controlled fall. Because we’ve all forgotten when we learned how to do those things, we don’t think about the complexity of it all too much. QWOP brings it all back.
This astoundingly frustrating game gives you control of a runner’s leg muscles using just four keys on your keyboard. You’ll no doubt be astounded to hear that they’re Q, W, O and P. The only objective is not to land on your bum. It’s practically impossible. Not a game you’ll return to again and again but certainly worth a look.
18: Little Alchemy
About the most ‘casual’ casual game you can imagine, Little Alchemy requires you to use lateral thinking to synthesize some 400 compounds by combining a few basic elements. This isn’t Breaking Bad we’re talking about. It’s a resolutely unscientific diversion that is at its best when played competitively. There isn’t an online multiplayer, but you don’t need one. Just emailing a pal and saying ‘have you made bacteria yet?’ is all you need.
Pong, that venerable table-tennis simulator, was old news before Star Wars was released. I’m not talking about any CGI-enhanced version here. I mean the original movie. And like that seminal space opera, Pong has no graphical filigrees or furbelows to distract you. This is gameplay at its most basic.
There’s no reason why, some four decades after it first thrilled a generation of flared trouser wearers, Pong would still be playable. But it is. The basic rule-set that takes a second to grasp combines with the annoyingly competent computer opponent to make for an absorbing couple of minutes. And with browser games, that’s often the key.
We aren’t looking here at games that you’ll be playing for epic sessions that only end when you’re carried out of a Korean cybercafé on a stretcher. These are games that fill five minutes when you’re on hold with British Gas or waiting for an Apple keynote live-stream to start. And the brutally basic gameplay of Pong does that more effectively than a lot more ambitious properties.