The Hangover Games: What to Play Once the Party’s Over
A selection of games that hopefully won't make you throw up on yourself when it feels like the Fall of Saigon is happening between your temples.
We're slap bang in the middle of the Christmas and New Year party season, a time that brings with it inherent dangers – the headaches, the chills, the barfing, the all-day-in-bed dining rituals, and all of those work party-related embarrassments that have been arranged into their own kind of cliched visual language by advertisers trying to hawk you stuff over the festive period.
I don't care who you are or what measures you take to "prevent" a hangover – be that eating a decent meal before going out or necking a sachet of "restorative powder" when you get in – as one simple truth remains: if you drink ten pints of medium-strength beer on a night out, the next day is going to feel like the Fall of Saigon is happening between your temples.
But let's say you drag yourself out of bed sometime before Channel 4's weekday airing of The Simpsons, but after the opportunity to achieve anything constructive has passed. And let's say you're lucky enough to have little-to-no home responsibilities; perhaps you'll make it as far as whatever your gaming device of choice is. And perhaps you'll spend your four waking hours of this limbo-like day staring, mouth agape and dribble brimming, at a video game.
What are you gonna play? Nothing too explosive, or too loud – and certainly nothing particularly demanding. These games are great drunk, but the day after, significantly less so. Allow me, then, to recommend some digital distractions to see you through your self-inflicted suffering.
ANYTHING KATAMARI-COLOURED, BUT IDEALLY ONE OF THE FIRST TWO GAMES
These have worked for me, at least. The objective is delightfully elementary: roll stuff up into a massive ball, attaining a specified size before the time runs out. After this feat's accomplished, The King of All Cosmos will belittle you, regardless of your brilliance. Looking utterly mad but playing like a dream, enough that you'll temporarily forget your present nightmare, the initial brace of Katamari titles – 2004's Damacy and its sequel, We Love Katamari – are among the most wonderful toys to have graced the PlayStation 2 generation.
JOURNEY, OR FLOWER, OR BOTH
You can get these on the same "collector's edition" disc for the PS3, so if you don't own them but have said system: what are you doing not owning these? Journey is the wordless story of a wanderer who must travel from shimmering desert sands to the snowy, storm-battered peak of a distant mountain. To play you merely point your little fellow forward, jumping where necessary and using a single chirrup to solve a few simple puzzles. It's supremely relaxing, but may leave those of a fragile emotional state in tears come its climax – which even the most beer-goggled will realise inside 90 minutes.
Flower is by the same team, thatgamecompany, and grants the player control of the wind. You guide the breeze, collecting petals across a variety of stages – some beautifully verdant, others scarred by industry – to unlock a level exit. Its makers have called it "our video game version of a poem", which is just what you need with a right bastard behind the eyes.
A LEGO GAME
Block-based puzzles that you can't be stuck on for too long, endearing humour and a whole lot of smashing stuff up – but in a cute way, rather than the manner in which Rockstar typically goes about the bombast business. The LEGO games are far from just for kids, and a couple of recent entries in the massive catalogue of bricks-doing-shit releases have stood out.
The newest LEGO Batman effort, Beyond Gotham, is a bit too befuddling in its onslaught of characters-I-don't-care-about, but better is 2013's LEGO Marvel Super Heroes, with a roster of easily recognisable comic icons and an open-world New York to zoom Iron Man (or whoever) around. Equally appealing is the plot-mirroring video game of The LEGO Movie, which features many scenes from one of 2014's funniest films. As with all LEGO games, you can't actually "die" at all – so even those with the fuzziest vision will muddle through a few stages.
The Classic Game Room review of Out Run 2 for Xbox
OUT RUN 2
I can play this (Xbox-ported) sequel to one of the most important arcade racers of all time for all time. The set-up never changes: the same five minutes, give or take, over and over. And I love it. The bright Sega-blue skies, the crazy power slides, the cheesy pop of the background music, the slap-happy partner in the passenger seat who'll never be impressed whatever the difficulty of the route you rocket through. It's just gloriously relaxing, and it always puts me in my happy place – even with pores sweating out the night before's pale ale ingestion.
BEYOND: TWO SOULS, OR – IF YOU CAN STOMACH IT – SOMETHING FROM TELLTALE
Binging on a box-set is a fine "waste" of any wasted day – but if you like your stories prompted by the press of a controller button, you could always see your shakes out in the company of a motion-captured Ellen Page, the star of this 2013 PlayStation 3 exclusive.
The Paris-based Quantic Dream studio has been putting out its singularly divisive brand of "interactive drama" for several years. But while many critics slammed Beyond: Two Souls, its most recent release, for its lack of Actual Gameplay, I enjoyed its garbled plot of psychic siblings and sci-fi silliness, and didn't mind that all I was asked to do was press X here, or nudge the analogue sticks a certain way to do away with some pesky lookout or whoever. To be honest, I was probably drunk when I played it, to have liked it as much as I remember – but it's equally suitable for hangover viewing, given that's what you'll mainly be doing here: watching, not playing.
Otherwise, those craving a narrative kick with effortless interactivity should seek out something from Telltale Games. The Walking Dead (which is a bit bloody heavy on the heartache) and The Wolf Among Us (a murderous mix of Fables-preceding fantasy noir) might both be too much for delicate stomachs. But the new Game of Thrones episode is a great two-hour accompaniment to the hit HBO TV show (although it's still got its share of bloodshed), and Telltale's take on Back to the Future is a gently paced, relatively charming exercise in nostalgia.
ENDLESS OCEAN, OR ITS SEQUEL, ADVENTURES OF THE DEEP
These Wii games take you into the big blue and just ask that you enjoy it. There are tasks, but nothing taxing. Unless the idea of being submerged makes you shit yourself, this is a great way to drift through the haze of a hangover. Just watch the air gauge, and the sharks, because death at such depths guarantees nobody's finding your lungs-flooded corpse. (Nah, you'll be OK – there's no death, no "game over", in Endless Ocean.)
THE SAILOR'S DREAM
If you're not susceptible to seasickness, here's another nautical option – this time for iOS devices, so you don't even have to get out of bed. Swedish studio Simogo's newest mobile production is an all-story affair, with no challenge save for the discovery of "memories" scattered around a small spread of islands.
These, alongside audio logs left by our "narrator" – which are aired every hour, on the hour – and seven folk songs to be found floating in bottles – one per day, for each day of the week – combine to form a complete, if spare, tale. If you "cheat" the game by adjusting your iPad's internal date and time, you'll see and hear everything inside an hour. But The Sailor's Dream is too sweet a serving to rush through, especially on a dickie tum. Take it slow and savour every moment.
Kung Foot played by a bunch of people from YouTube
A SIMPLE LOCAL MULTIPLAYER GAME
Sportsfriends for PS3 and PS4 offers you and a pal both BaraBariBall and Super Pole Riders, which are hilarious when enjoyed while still under the influence. But if football, and FIFA, is your go-to sports game, here's a hangover alternative to all that officially licensed noise: Kung Foot.
A mini-game featured on the adorable Rayman Legends, Kung Foot is a one-on-one (or two-plays-two) beach volleyball meets Sensible Soccer kick-about that is just brilliant. Like, come on: look at it up there and tell me you don't want a turn, even if you're three sheets to the wind.
Set up tournaments or just keep on hammering through standalone matches – however you choose to approach Kung Foot, it eats up hours like children do all of the Cadbury Roses you bought to last until Christmas Eve. The same chocolates you should leave alone unless you want a puddle of brown all over your lap.
SOMETHING FROM YOUR YOUTH THAT YOU KNOW INSIDE OUT BUT STILL LOVE
An evergreen: whatever you can play time and again and enjoy despite the numerous times you've seen the same stages, the same enemies and the same credits.
For me, there's Out Run 2, as identified above, and as a Sega kid growing up I still love punching my way through the whole of Streets of Rage 2 – difficulty down, lives up, depending on blood alcohol levels – and The Secret of Monkey Island is often restarted while hanging, what with its special edition being a permanent fixture on my mobile phone (and me long ago learning all of its solutions). Anything Mario-shaped is a pretty reliable option, too, barring this monstrosity.
So unless you were the Atari Jaguar-owning weirdo at school whose only games were Cybermorph and Trevor McFur – neither of which you should play while steaming (in fact, just don't play them again, ever) – you'll be fine here. At least until that third wave of nausea kicks in and you remember where you "hid" the office stapler.