Play Games in Facebook Messenger
Facebook added games to its Messenger app a year ago, part of the social networking giant's efforts to keep your eyeballs glued to messaging app even when you're not chatting. Games are now solidly a part of Messenger: the app started out with 17 games in November 2016, and that total has swelled to more than 70 games, with '80s mainstay Tetris and a Star Wars-branded game the latest to join the mix. Expect the fun and games to continue into 2018 when Facebook says a Messenger-based version of Angry Birds will arrive.To find a game, just open a conversation and tap on the game controller icon. (If you don't see it, tap the three-button icon to see more options — it's likely you'll spot the game controller there.) In addition to challenging friends to games, you can now live stream your Messenger gaming sessions via Facebook Live. And Facebook says it's testing the ability to let people play games with each other from within Messenger's video chat feature.
But which game should you pick? We've gone through many of the available titles to find which ones will spark friendly conversation between you and your friends — and which ones will end in awkward silence.
Anyone who spent far too much time playing Tetris on a Mac or PC in the late '80s, early '90s will be thrilled — or alarmed — that the tile-matching puzzle game is now on Facebook Messenger, ready to divert your attention on an entirely new platform. All the hallmarks of the classic game are here — the rotating, multicolored bricks, the quickening pace as you level up, even the jaunty Russian theme music. Tetris lends itself to the Messenger interface with simple controls that let you tap to rotate and slide to drop the bricks into place. So now a new generation can enjoy the greatest thing to come out of Russia since vodka.
Star Wars: Porg Invasion
It's safe to say that the Porgs — the owl-like critters that appear in The Last Jedi — have gotten mixed reviews from Star Wars aficionados. While some fans find the cooing creatures a cute addition to Star Wars, others would like to see the Porgs receive a Jar-Jar Binks style banishment to a galaxy that's even farther away. If you're in the latter camp, you're unlikely to warm to Porg Invasion, a casual game in which you help BB-8 shoo away the Porgs that have overrun the Millennium Falcon. And even if you're agog over Porgs, you still might find the gameplay a little too basic, even if Chewbacca's howls of protest provide some delights.
This is a classic game done right in Facebook Messenger. You've got only one chance to shoot the dive-bombing aliens and rack up the biggest score possible, but the controls are simple to master: Just slide your continuously shooting spaceship back and forth with a finger. Galaga on Messenger even recreates the classic game's Fighter Captured feature, giving you the chance to unleash double-barreled destruction when you free your ship.
One would think Pac-Man would be a natural for a quick casual game, especially since this is pretty faithful recreation of the Bandi Namco original. But the controls aren't very precise, so your little Pac-Man is likely to skid past all those power pellets and into a ghost's waiting maw. There are better ways to pass your time.
Another arcade classic makes a successful jump to Messenger, thanks to simple controls — just slide your finger back and forth to fight the alien hordes — and a nostalgic look-and-feel. Bonus points to Taito for recreating the '70s splash screen for the game, right up to the screen that invites you to insert a coin to play.
Words With Friends: Frenzy
You've got a rack of letters that keeps filling up just as fast as you can empty it. Your challenge is to spell as many words as possible before all the tiles spill off your overstuffed rack. Words With Friends may like the challenge of coming up with short and sweet words, but I found I quickly ran out of playing space while my tiles piled up. It doesn't help that the game weighs you down with far too many vowels to truly flex your word power. Instead, try the standard version of Words With Friends, which is also available in Messenger.
You don't need a lot of bells and whistles to have a successful casino game — just compelling gameplay that follows the old casino adage of keeping the customers coming back to the gaming tables. Messenger's Blackjack iteration does this with multiple game modes: in Tournament mode, you're trying to collect more winnings than your rival players while a solitary Lightning mode challenges you to win the most money in just five hands of Blackjack.
I like noodling over the sudoku puzzle in my daily newspaper, and Daily Sudoku brings that to my phone with easy, intermediate and hard puzzles every day. A particularly nice touch: tapping on a number highlights where you've already placed those numbers in a puzzle, making it easier to spot the squares you still need to fill in.
Track & Field 100M
I have many fond memories of 1980s afternoons playing Track & Field at my local arcade. I cannot say the same for this Messenger adaptation, which strips the game down to the 100-meter dash. All you do is tap frantically on your smartphone screen to send your sprinter toward the finish line. There's very little replayability, which is probably a good thing since I'd fear for the wear and tear on my phone's display from excessive tapping.
It's like Tetris, but confined to a hexagon. You've got to carefully place multicolored hexagons into a larger six-sided playing area. Fill in a row in any direction, and those game pieces disappear, letting you rack up points and bonuses. But plan things out carefully, because once you can no longer lay down a piece, the game's over. It's both challenging and addictive.
It's such a simple concept — kick a ball around a wall of rival defenders and past the goalkeeper. But Golden Boot manages to add enough twists to make this shrunken-down version of the beautiful game into an addictive way to pass the time. Swiping left or right lets you curve your shot, and you can rack up bonuses by hitting targets. Golden Boot offers solo play or you can challenge Facebook friends to timed challenges.
Messenger's got a lot of matching games, and this is my least favorite. You've got match three or more of the same kind of animals to clear them off a grid, as more animals appear to take their place. The controls are pretty wonky, even after you figure out that you're supposed to slide an animal rather than tap it, though I do like the end of the game where the head of the zoo berates you for failing.
The classic board game never really sets sail in Messenger, as turned-based play can make games feel stretched out longer than a round-the-world voyage. But the biggest problem with this mobile version of Battleship is a truncated grid that doesn't give you a lot of space for hiding your fleet, removing a lot of the game's challenge.
You've got a playing board of different colored ties. Tap on the ones grouped together to make them disappear, but make sure you think things through — any lone color tiles remaining will end your game. It's a very simple concept, but it's difficult to master and it keeps you coming back for more — the best kind of casual game in my book.
You control a little blocky fellow running through a series of logs and collecting coins along the way. To make leap over those gaps in the logs, just tap on the screen. (Tap twice for extra long gaps.) The trouble is, you're going to die — a lot — so it's hard to get into the game when it's ending just as you build up a head of steam.
Shuffle Cats Mini
This carnival-style shooting gallery game should be more enjoyable. I mean who doesn't like flicking playing cards at portraits of cats scrolling by? But the sound isn't very engaging and you don't seem to rack up any bonus points for nailing harder-to-reach cats. Play this on an iPhone running iOS 11 like I did, and you may find your flicks from the bottom of the screen inadvertently summon up Control Center.
This game takes some getting used to, but if you feel like putting the time into it, you may find it rewarding. You're presented with a crossword-like puzzle and your only clues to solve it are the available letter tiles and a picture containing the words you need to spell. Since Wordalot keeps track of how long it takes you to solve a puzzle, this can be a great way to score bragging rights over your Facebook friends.
You're a fairy, soaring through the air, continuously blasting at an onslaught of never-ending demons. You collect coins along the way, which you can use to level up your weaponry. The upgrades and bonuses add a bit more complexity than what I look for from a casual game, but you and your fantasy-loving friends may feel differently.
Another fun matching game, 2020 Connect has you connecting numbered tiles. Place together with the same value, and they'll disappear from your board, only to be replaced by even larger numbers. As with Brick Pop, there's a modicum of strategy required here, which puzzle game fans should find appealing.
Stop me if you've heard this one, but it's a matching game. In this one, you combine similar tiles to create new characters. Two boys turn into a farmer, two farmers turn into a knight, and so on. Sounds muddled? It is, and sliding the tiles around with any precision is a little maddening.
The brick-breaking game from your arcade days makes the move to Messenger, and it's every bit as enjoyable here, even if the screen feels a little cramped.
Any similarities between this match-three game and Candy Crush are for the intellectual property lawyers to sort out. Nevertheless, Messenger offers a version of this game in which you're matching up identical baked goods instead of sweet treats. If you have a soft spot for Candy Crush knock-offs, you may find this game to be a worthwhile pastime, but otherwise, there's nothing here that differentiates Cookie Crush from the multitude of other matching games you can play in Messenger.
Even the famously mellow Jeff Lebowski might lose his temper at Super Bowling, which brings 10-pin action to Messenger in five- or 10-frame games. (You can also challenge Facebook friends to timed showdowns.) Controlling the direction of your bowling ball is tricker than it looks, as one miscalculated swipe can send your ball gutter-ward. In-game bonuses are also tied to watching ads, further sapping the game of its fun.