Six Puzzle Games To Help You Escape Your Workday

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Six Puzzle Games To Help You Escape Your Workday

Words by Mr Johnny Davis

8 April 2023

You’re in the office. It’s lunch hour. Instead of grimly chugging though a Pret sandwich at your desk while you scroll down the MailOnline or shop online* or desperately update your CV, why not open up a new browser and do something less boring instead? Research has shown for years that puzzles are a great way to boost your mental health – solving them produces dopamine, the pleasure chemical. Other benefits include better memory, better visual-special awareness, more empathy and just an overall better mood. Puzzles are also the ideal way of escaping the workplace while not actually escaping the workplace. (Obviously, we’d never recommend taking time out to play a game when it’s not your allotted lunch hour. That would be terrible.)

“Focusing such that your mind is occupied but not excessively challenged is incredibly helpful for people with depression, anxiety, and stress,” trauma therapist Ms Olivia James told Wired magazine in 2021. This, she said, was because the activity “offers a little holiday from yourself”.

Since we’re living in the 21st century, “doing puzzles” doesn’t mean having to make like a nana on a National Express train and pack a book of sudoku – although that would work just as well. From immersive and charming 3D balms for the mind such as Monument Valley to ridiculously fun updates on join-the-dots like World Of Goo, your desktop computer or phone isn’t just the manacle with which to shackle you to your nine-to-five. It can actually free you from it for a while, too.

*OK, this one is allowed.


Hidden Folks

The answer to a question no one has ever asked: “What would Where’s Wally? be like on a mobile phone?” The “hand-drawn, interactive, miniature searching game” tasks the player with hunting for hidden objects by tapping on grass, tress, doors, tent flaps, etc, across impressively large and varied landscapes, in this pleasingly adorable time waster. A fun workout for the brain that carries that most underrated of recommendations – a game that can be enjoyed by adults and kids alike.


Monument Valley

As visually stimulating for the eyes as it as calming for the brain, Monument Valley is rightly lauded as one of the best puzzle games ever to come to mobile devices. With a style based on Japanese prints and minimalist sculptures, the idea is to guide Princess Ida through mazes in the style of Mr MC Escher, optical illusions and “impossible objects” as she navigates 10 isometric levels of pastel colours and ambient bliss. It’s not the world’s longest, or hardest, game. But it might just be the loveliest.



Now that Wordle has been reduced to a game of workplace bragging rights (“I got it in three”), the time is right for a new web-based word game. Perhaps you have tried Quordle, the four-word grid version? Or Heardle, the preposterously difficult music-based guess-the-intro game? Hopefully you have given Octordle (eight words in 13 guesses!) the swerve, if only based on its name alone. May we instead recommend Phrazle – we promise we’re not making these up – instead? The twice-daily challenge here is to find patterns that reveal a common phrase. A bit like Catchphrase on the TV. Sample answers include “Dead As A Dodo”, “Throw Caution To The Wind” and “Crunch Time”. (Though, if you’re anything like us, you’ll find answers are mostly “On The Tip Of Your Tongue”.)


Portal 1 and Portal 2

Fast-paced first-person platform game consisting primarily of a series of puzzles that need to be solved by teleporting the protagonist, Chell, plus various objects, using “the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device”, or portal gun. Notable for its whimsical humour – Aperture Science was apparently established for the sole purpose of making shower curtains for the US military, before its founder became mentally unstable from moon-rock poisoning – as much as its frantic gameplay, Portal has been called “one of the greatest video games ever made”. Available across a variety of devices, a film version is currently in development.


The Guardian Quick Crossword

Word puzzle, usually takes the form of a square grid, in black and white (nine). The classics are the classics for a reason, and The Guardian’s Quick Crossword is perfectly pitched for the workplace in terms of its difficulty (it’s not that difficult) and the time it’ll take you to complete (not that long), providing a welcome 10 or 15-minute time out. Pay a couple of quid for the app and you get the option of playing with someone remotely. Play online and the extensive below-the-line comments add to the camaraderie. (Yes, it turns out plenty of other people are bored at work, too.)


World Of Goo

Charming, surreal and ingenious, World Of Goo is a robust argument for anyone left in the world who still thinks video games are mindless time wasters or lack imagination. “It made me a more complete person,” isn’t the sort of review you normally associate with gaming, but it makes perfect sense for this life-affirming indie puzzler. The player drags and drops dozens of living, squirming and talking balls of goo to create bridges across strange and beautiful backdrops, unlocking new puzzles along the way. The aim is to use as few goo balls as possible. It started life as a Windows game, now it’s playable on almost everything.

Power plays