When people talk about escapism in video games, it usually means huge and expanding worlds in which you can get lost. There are great fantasy realms like The Witcher, a post-apocalyptic wasteland of the Fallout series. The types of games you can play for dozens or hundreds of hours, losing a whole night while the real world around you escapes. But who has time for that? Lately I have found myself looking for a different kind of escapism. Smaller spaces that do not offer a whole world to explore; instead, they are a brief getaway to calm my nerves.
During the past week, two excellent examples of this have come to light. One is the Alto & # 39; s Odyssey snowboard adventure on the iPhone. An endless snowboard game where the objective is ostensibly to accumulate a high score and not crash does not immediately sound like a relaxing experience. But, like its predecessor, Alto & # 39; s Odyssey has a style and tone that are extremely chilling. It's like an extreme sport crossed with relaxation therapy. As you move through the endless expanse of the desert, you will find beautiful landscapes, from ruins that crumble in the distance, to a bright and brilliant sun that goes through an intimidating sandstorm. It will fly through waterfalls and bounce on hot air balloons.
Like many similar games, Alto induces an almost zen state, where the outside world vanishes and you are intimately focused on guiding a small snowboarder through an ancient city in the desert. (The game even includes a "zen" mode, where you do not have to worry about crashing.) Part of what makes it work as well as an escape from the real world is the platform. Because it's on a device you always carry with you, you can jump to High Odyssey almost whenever you want. Stressful times like riding a crowded commuter train or downtime before a great presentation can be peaceful. For me it is a mental cooling, a few minutes to restart my brain. And a necessary aspect of the experience are the headphones: they help you to block the world for a while and immerse you in the relaxing soundtrack of the game.
Fe, a new game from Swedish studio Zoink, offers a similar respite. It is essentially a three-dimensional platform game, think of a simplified Super Mario 64, where you play as a mystical creature of the forest exploring a colorful but somewhat sinister forest. The space is made of dull colors and irregular edges, but its beauty is wonderful. The game itself is quite simple. You can jump and pick up certain objects, and for the most part you are solving environmental puzzles while avoiding towering creatures like robots. If they catch you, you can hide in a little grass until they leave. When you find yourself lost, which is rare, there are birds that will show you the way to go.
Faith is not especially challenging, and the story is very minimalist and open to interpretation. But I love being in this world; splashing in a river or climbing a snowy mountain, looking far to see what wonders await me. Singing is a game in which your main way of interacting with the world is to sing: a button allows you to call other animals and lull them with a wolf howl. The game is available on a wide range of platforms, including PC, Xbox One and PS4, but I've been attracted to the Nintendo Switch. As with Alto & # 39; s Odyssey, this allows me to both take the experience with me, and also plug in some headphones to completely immerse myself.
Crucial to both games is the ability to enter and exit without problems. Both can be enjoyed even if you only have five minutes to spare. A brief visit to Alto & # 39; s Odyssey will take you through multiple areas in the game, and because the world is generated by procedures, you are likely to see new things every time you play. And although you may not make much progress in Faith if you only have a few minutes, I have found myself enjoying simply existing in your space. It's amazing how relaxing it can be to sit under a tree and sing to some beavers.
There are many other similar examples of this type of escapades, games that give you a few moments of respite to clear your head. Mobile games such as Neko Atsume or Animal Crossing: Pocket Camp also offer cozy and quiet places that do not require much of you. They are simply there, whenever you need them.