Business & Tech

Running and jumping through various virtual gauntlets

A screenshot of the mobile game “Dragon Hills.” The game is an auto-runner, which means your character automatically runs forward through the levels, leaving you in charge only when you jump.
New York Times
A screenshot of the mobile game “Dragon Hills.” The game is an auto-runner, which means your character automatically runs forward through the levels, leaving you in charge only when you jump.

Graphics-heavy, three-dimensional video games can be overwhelming as you jump, hit, and shoot through various adventures. But a calmer experience can be had in beautiful, stylish games that could be called one-dimensional — some just need a single finger for control.

Dragon Hills

$2 for iOS, free for Android

Dragon Hills is a fabulous new game in this category. It’s an auto-runner, which means your character — a purple-haired, sword-swinging warrior atop a dragon — automatically runs forward through the levels, leaving you in charge only when you jump.

The control is simple: Your dragon slithers along the ground, and buries itself into the soil when you hold the screen with one finger. Then it leaps out into the air when you let go. Its teeth munch when you tap the screen, helping you take bites out of enemies and obstacles and gather awards and tokens as you zip along.


Dragon Hills’s graphics are cartoonlike and colorful, and the way the dragon, terrain, and other characters are animated is eye-pleasing and fun. The play itself feels fluid and easy, but as you advance you have to learn to burrow under lava puddles and leap chasms to avoid arrows being fired at you by knights.

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Dragon Hills is equal parts funny, enjoyable and easy. It is also challenging as you boost the strength of your dragon by adding armor and facing trickier obstacles.

Chameleon Run

$2 for iOS and Android

Chameleon Run, also new, has a similar setup, with the character running in a straight line through a series of levels. You must also jump over gaps, leap over obstacles, and collect items. But the graphics in Chameleon Run — colorful geometric blocks and shapes that soar through the air — are even more minimal than those in Dragon Hills.

This game features two controls to manage. As well as using one finger to jump (the longer you hold, the higher and farther you jump) you need another finger to change the color of your character to match the color of the block you’re going to land on. If the colors do not match, or if you fall into the void because you miss a landing, you explode and the game is over.

It’s fast, gorgeously animated and looks deceptively easy. But don’t let this apparent simplicity fool you, since it’s challenging to get through higher levels.


$3 for iOS and Android


Where Dragon Hills is amusing and Chameleon Run is frenetic, Fotonica is psychedelic. Part “Tron” and part “2001: A Space Odyssey,” the game takes a first-person point of view. You see the platforms and obstacles racing toward you and your hands flailing to the sides as you run ever faster.

Its graphics are like first-generation computer games, line-like vectors that sketch out the details as you race along, winding around the screen and dazzling you in a surprisingly enjoyable whirl of colors.

The game has a single control, but the levels are difficult, and getting the timing of your jumps right is hard. You can play it as an arcade game, with levels to complete, or as an endless runner, with platforms that just race at you until you finally fall. Playing Fotonica is exciting, so you probably want to be sitting down.


$3 for iOS, free for Android

Duet is another game with a similar style, but instead of placing you in control of a running, jumping character, you have to steer a pair of blue and red dots through an ever-advancing maze of white blocks.

A tap on the left of the screen spins the dots around a common center one way, and a tap on the right spins them the other way. You have to think very quickly about how to spin the dots so you don’t smash one of them against a block you have already passed. Duet, I found, activates different parts of your brain as you navigate the mazes.

Stride and Prejudice

Free for iOS, $2 for Android (via Amazon)


Finally, check out Stride and Prejudice, a weird but adorable 1-D game in which you have to jump a character over platforms made of the entire text of Jane Austen’s most famous novel. It’s even possible — just about — to read the story as you jump along, though as you get faster you may have to practice a bit of speed reading. If you do find you like the story, the game lets you start from where you fell off last, if you want to read on.

Kit Eaton writes on technology for The New York Times.