There’s nothing that says Healthy Week like enjoying the warm glow of your computer screen. But I'd like you to know that Indie games care about your waistline and your health just as much as the next developer does. For this week’s feature, I picked out five games – well, “game” could be stretching it for a couple of these – that help you get in shape or learn something about your body.
I’ve also dipped into the world of iPhone for a couple of these titles since the platform best facilitates mobility and ease of use for those on the go. Just because they’re on a smaller screen doesn’t make them any less in need of your attention. Sit back and get ready to get physical. These five titles prove that indie games are good for the heart as well as the mind.
Haven’t you always wondered what happened when you weren’t staring blankly at your nether regions? As it turns out, there’s a team of has-been soldiers patrolling the area with guns. That figures. Privates is actually a 2D side-scrolling shooter that puts you into the condom caps of a squad sent down to eliminate sexually transmitted diseases. Instead of guns and flamethrowers, you have anti-viral, anti-fungal, and spermicide to eliminate the nasties hiding in your loins. During the multiple chapters, you’ll be exploring cartoon-shaded naughty bits as you try to work your way to the larger threat. It’s a bit like Contra – with more penis jokes.
If you can’t already tell, there are a lot of sex jokes running around Privates. It’s an immature game that handles a very mature subject surprisingly well. To eliminate each of the diseases, you have to scan them first. Scanning brings up a fully voiced description of the enemy that’s actually rather funny. Look past the somewhat awkward controls and cartoonish look and you’ll find a very smart lesson on sexually transmitted diseases. Better yet, Privates is free to download. When I was a teenager, I would have rather played this game than read those sex-pamphlets my mom kept sticking to my door. Creepy.
Being healthy doesn’t just mean the body; you also need a healthy mind. The Asylum lets you take a crack at curing a group of animals gone a little crazy: from the hippo that has a thing for puzzles to a turtle that can’t stop working out. You’ll meet with each of them separately to learn about their psychoses and underlying problems. I won’t deny it – it’s cute and a bit funny. Oddly enough when you ask for help, you get a really accurate assessment of the underlying problem. The game consists of little more than clicking on different treatments. Prescribing the wrong treatments, however, can sometimes cause more harm than good. Use your head so these animals won’t lose theirs, and you'll learn about mental health in the process.
With the revolution of the iPhone and the ability to take a little computer with you just about anywhere, it would only be a matter of time before someone found a way to intertwine your waistline with the virtual world. Lose It is a free app that keeps track of the calories that you put in as well as the ones you use up. For a little app, it can plan your meals, set up your exercise routines, and calculate how many calories are being exchanged between the two. What I personally love about this app are the motivators that you can send yourself to keep you going when you’re all out of steam. Lose It ties into a website as well if you’re tired of squinting. It might not keep track of every push-up you do or slice of cake you sneak through your diet, but anything that keeps you moving and motivated is surely a great thing to have around.
Sometimes you just need to keep being healthy simple with one thing – like running. The iPhone was practically built for running and a number of applications have taken advantage of the features the phone offers. Run Keeper tops the pile as a free app that maps your course, keeps tracks or your running stats, and will brag about you on your social networks just to make all your friends feel really fat. Instead of having me go on about an app you probably already have hanging around your phone, let me tell you about one you should keep your eye on. City of Epic reminds me of the geeks guide to running. The developers take the same ideas behind Run Keeper and add quests such as running away from zombies or avoiding hobos with bricks. There are even a couple of quests that require friends to help you run. If XP won’t get you moving, I bet a friend will. City of Epic isn’t ready for everyone, but the developers are working on a Kickstarter campaign to bulk up their finances. Throw them a little dough and maybe you’ll be a Level 10 Runner in no time.
One of the easiest ways to lose weight is to cook at home. Sure you could download Epicurious with its list of low fat options and ability to create an entire meal with items you have just lying around the house – but where’s the fun in that? Let’s look at an app that looks a cooking in a whole new light. As I’ve been told for years now, pigs are some of the cleanest and smartest animals around. Hence, they must be good for you. Baconnection has everything you need to know about cooking with bacon from appetizers to desserts. The list of recipes extends far past omelets to include soups, sandwiches, and even vegetarian dishes like apple-bacon green beans and warm bacon salad. And yes, there are bacon games such as bacon trivia and a guessing game where you pick out the ingredient of well-known dishes. (Hint: The answer is bacon.) I’ll admit that the bacon chicken and dumplings is not the healthiest choice in the world, but it has to be better than that bag of grease that passes for a kid's meal at fast food joints.