Some people, young and old, who enjoy video games, also happen to have a disability that prohibits them from being able to play the vast majority of games out there. The input controls are simply too complex, requiring user interaction beyond inhibited capabilities. Eelke Folmer does a good job briefly describing this dilemma, and the sorts of mechanisms employed to overcome this barrier of entry. That concept is now widely referred to as One Switch, a term indicating the retooling (or ground-up design) of a game to allow for nothing more than a single input.
In recent years OneSwitch.org has held competitions promoting the creation or retooling of one-switch games, with notable participation by students of programming and game design. Along the way something interesting has happened. Not only have the results been impressive, but many of these games are so good that they easily stand on their own as fun, challenging, thoroughly engaging games for all types of players. And that’s what this list is about, highlighting my personal favorite one-switch games, that just happen to be great games in their own right. Oh; and you might also be interested to know that these games are Free.
Aliens Kidnapped Betty – Here is proof positive that even puzzle platforming adventures can be turned into One-Switch games. Aliens Kidnapped Betty, by Vyacheslav Stepanov exudes all the charm and pixellated goodness of the classic 8-bit era, including a delightful soundtrack of chiptune ditties. Take control of Mike as he attempts to rescue his wife from her alien abductors. Avoid spikes, collect coins and keys (to unlock doors) and, above all, watch out for the alien slugs. Thanks Jay is Games!
CANABALT – This stylish frenetic platformer, by Adam Atomic and Danny B, places you in the role of a lone runner desperately trying to escape from a city under siege. A great sense of science fiction atmosphere helps draw the player into the game world.
Casanova – Casual, light-hearted cuteness with an arcade-y feel. Most enjoyable is the simple pick-up-and-play mechanic and, especially, the charming soundtrack. Embedded Flash game.
Deharmonized – Let’s see if I can describe this neat little game in one sentence. An ambient puzzle-oriented maze game featuring a determined ball searching for his soul-mate. Ok, I inferred the story element but that’s how it felt. Would love to see an expanded version, perhaps with more levels or a larger map.
Dream Hoppin’ – Quite unlike the previous title, Dream Hoppin’ is more about casually bounding over obstacles to super cool jazzy tunes. The charm is undeniable in this surprisingly fun Flash entry by Tom Sennett.
Fire Nano – Retro theme with a nice ambient vibe, thanks to the steady pacing and soundtrack. Levels are randomly generated so prepare for immediate high difficulty. Little Fire Nano will be restarting his adventure quite a bit before you get the hang of it.
GRAIL – Dark and brutal gameplay in a one-switch form factor, where mastery of each segment is the only way to make it through. I certainly didn’t.
Ichi – Jay van Hutten and Michiel Nijhof have managed to craft an engaging one-switch puzzle game with charming crayon style art. Navigate the ball through each level by using various paddles & bumpers…and good timing.
Metro.Siberia – Control a space ship in this extremely challenging Flash game. The way it works is simple: hold down the space bar to thrust, release it to drop down. Don’t hit anything. May I suggest that only highly skilled players, or those who enjoy punishing difficulty should attempt this one.
Momiga might be described as the quintessential minimalist puzzle game, playable in a browser. If you think it isn’t possible for a puzzle game featuring nothing more than a large square pixel to offer any real challenge, then I simply must defy you not to get stumped by this one within the first few levels. The “puzzle” is straightforward, getting the pixel from the left to the right of the screen. Figuring out how it’s done is another endeavor.
Pax Britannica – I wouldn’t have thought it possible for a One-Switch RTS (Real Time Strategy) game to work, but somehow the team behind Pax Britannica have found a way…and not only that but they’ve provided for a 1 to 4 player experience on a single screen. Choose a factory ship and use its limited resources to produce a fleet of spry fighters, heavy bombers, imposing frigates or opt for increased resource gathering. Once deployed the vessels will carry out their attack autonomously. The strategy you employ may need to change as your opponents adjust their own tactics. It works as a single-player experience but the real fun is to be had with human players. Nicely done.
Petrichor – A short-form puzzle platformer involving a mysterious quest, a lonely female protagonist and her closest friend… a red umbrella. Easily completed in a single play session, but wonderfully atmospheric. Featured on Indie Impressions.
Saut – An atmospheric side-scrolling game. Try to reach the end of each challenging level by sliding and jumping your way from platform to platform. The secret to success lies in a combination of careful timing and memorization of the level layout. Unless you’re extremely lucky (or far more skilled that me) your character is going to fall to his death many times before clearing a stage. Fortunately, you can keep track of how many times this happens thanks to the death counter in the upper left corner of the screen. Highly recommended for gamers with patience and skill.
Scorch Went Bonkers – This clever title by Jakub Wasilewski puts a creative twist on an old classic. Play against up to three opponents (human or AI) on a single screen. Each player mans an artillery battery with a rotating target reticle. Use carefully timed shots and proper trajectory to take out your opponents, before they take you out. Whoever survives the most rounds wins. Great multi-player fun. If you play single player you will want to put the AI at the lowest setting – and it will probably still destroy you. But this is a game which can slowly be mastered, which is satisfying. Download the zip file and extract the contents to a folder using a compression utility. After that just double-click the icon to launch the game. Also: Java version of the original.
Sienna – Probably the most difficult one-switch endless runner you’re likely to ever play, that stars a cat. Not recommended for children. All others play at your own risk. In fact, you should probably not even attempt it. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Tamachang Escape – Never underestimate the potential addictiveness achieved through the simple act of combining a laser and a bouncing ball that must, above all, be set free.
Wavespark – Use gravity to surf the downhill slopes and catch as much momentum and air as possible in order to reach the next checkpoint. How far can you go? And how many ‘Sweet Landing’ chains can you earn along the way? Further proof that compelling gameplay can just as well come in the simplest of packages.
You may also enjoy:
- Coffee Break Games – Casual gaming in short bursts
- Fessic’s Favorite Free Video Games
- Honorable Mentions – More free games
- Most Memorable Video Games – An Historical Timeline