Y’know kids, alcohol is pretty great. But be warned. Water’s awesome older brother comes with a few side effects: looking cool, acting cool, and a stinging hangover.
Thankfully, video games can help with at least one of the downsides by soothing the physical, if not the emotional, pain. Here are the games to play should you find yourself in a perilous state, ideal for playing in between vomiting and swearing to never again let that sweet nectar pass your lips.
thatgamecompany specialise in hangover fodder. This isn’t to take anything away from them – titles like Flower and Journey are visually stunning and, if anything, sound even better – but they’re ideal for sitting back with glazed eyes, softly drooling.
In Journey, you’re basically a mystical salmon, forever journeying (eh?) onward to the mountainous peak of light in the distance on a quest not entirely known or understood. There is a story that presents itself as you float and file along but it’s unobtrusive; give it some attention or just take in the surroundings, it’s up to you. Hell, you can even click the multiplayer option if you’re clinically brain dead, and just follow your near-mute companion over desert and tundra, safe in the knowledge that nearly every person that plays Journey is a nice person.
Plus, the length – seen as a problem by some – is because “two hours is kind of the golden time before people have to go to the bathroom” according to creative director Jenova Chen. And that’s the kind of beautiful practicality you need in your state.
2. GTA IV
Firstly, this doesn’t refer to the Grand Theft Auto IV where you’ll drive your cousin bowling, shoot up some Eastern Europeans and mow down a host of identikit pedestrians. No, this is the GTA where you can spend hours roaming around what feels like a living, breathing city – without having to leave the comfort of your living room.
I admit, I toyed with including Saints Row: The Third instead for its more forgiving driving and its focus on fun but no, it’s too colourful, too weird. I don’t even want the option of an 8-bit tank or a gun that fires octopi because I’ll use it and I’ll suffer for it. No, GTA IV is perfect; switch your radio to the sweet sounds of The Journey and leisurely take Liberty City in: the restaurant employees who painlessly go about their duties, the traffic patterns, the planes that fly in continuously tiny circles.
If I’m hungover I want to feel that I could still go out into the real world, buy a suit for that big job interview I definitely didn’t screw up the day before, snag a burger from a street stall without suffering side effects, and go to an internet cafe and reply to advances from the half dozen women that find me attractive. GTA lets me pretend that’s possible while I’m doubled up on a sofa.
3. Max Payne
“The shadows rushed me, bruised mug-shot faces hungry for revenge.” You think your hangover is bad? Max Payne’s got you beat, buddy, on so many levels. It may not be pretty but if there’s ever a character that puts what you’re feeling into perspective, it’s Max Payne and the horrific murder of his wife… and daughter… and best friend.
Whereas recent release Max Payne 3 is clean and attractive, the original Max Payne is a noir that won’t put any added stress on your senses; its sounds minimalist, its action readily slowed via bullet time.
Plus, what with Max’s release on iOS and Android, you can just play it in bed, or in the bathroom, or in a seedy bar to fully soak up the atmosphere. It isn’t going to be easy but then, let’s face it, we both know how this will end: in pain and suffering. Max is just there to offer some perspective.
One to avoid: Heavy Rain
Heavy Rain is deceptive. You might think that something with flashing colours and requiring effort is the worst game to play hungover: your Wipeouts, your Sonics, your Simons. Oh sure, they’re not great – but the worst? Quantic Dream’s Heavy Rain.
Heavy Rain feeds on your reactions, your ability to shake the sixaxis controller, your stomach’s capability to deal with the imagery of lopping off a finger with a rusty saw. What starts out as a low-key experience soon turns into a nightmare: a story you have to care about and invest yourself in, gameplay demanding your attention, unsettling imagery you can’t look away from. Juggling the motivations and actions of four characters is all well and good with a functioning brain, but hungover? It’s like David Cage and co. wanted this to be played with a mature mindset and investment in the plot.