Have you ever felt stressed while playing something? I know how it sounds, playing games should be a relaxing experience not a stressful one but sometimes, after thousands of dialogs, monsters, quests and character upgrades I feel that I just want to quit the game and do something else… something more relaxing.

Since we’re all in the gaming industry, what can we do for more fun and relaxation? The answer is, of course, casual gaming. I have to admit that I was quite skeptical regarding this kind of games, but after I read some reviews and heard some friends going “OMG, it’s so great! We’re having so much fun!”, I said that I should give it a try.

1. Hedgewars (freeware)

The first game that I played was Hedgewars. Remember Worms Armageddon?
Well, that’s what Hedgewars is. The best part is that even if it’s a worms clone it’s a very good one, and above all, it’s a functional one. Unfortunately older versions of Worms are not working at all in Vista and Worms 3D just doesn’t do it anymore.

Hedgewars can be played both on Linux and Windows, multi or single player, over the Internet or locally. It has quite OK graphics and sounds, many varieties of weapons like grenades, bazookas and guns. The only drawback is that the controls are not very well implemented. You have to use the keyboard for environment browsing and movement and your mouse for weapons selection. Unfortunately you won’t get everything where and how you want each time.

All in all, Hedgewars is a very good, freeware, turn based strategy, that can prove to be quite a good resource for fun and relaxation, especially when you play against a human opponent.

2. Fantastic Contraption (web-based, freeware)

The second game I want to talk about is Fantastic Contraption. I stumbled upon it on a Saturday, almost at midnight. Three hours later I was still playing this game. The ‘story’ is quite simple: you have to build a machine that will cross an object from area A to area B, through some obstacles. You can use three kinds of wheels and two types of rods to tie up your machinery. There is one other thing: real world physics apply very realistically in the game so your machine will have to respect all real-life physics laws.

Contraption is so addictive because almost every solution you find to a level is unique and the solutions to some levels are extremely complex. After finding the way to the next level you can check out the contraption forum, were gamers share their own solutions.

3. World of Goo (cost 20$)

I saved the best for the finish. World of Goo is by far the most funniest and relaxing game I’ve ever played. Between two sessions of Fallout 3 it’s a real pleasure to play Goo. The only drawback is that the PC version is not free, but it’s only 20$ payable through Paypal.

World of Goo is somehow similar to Contraption, you have to build all kind of structures (most of the time bridges and towers) using only a designated number of… blobs. The purpose is to get from one point to a pipe where all the free blobs will be sucked in. Each level has a minimum ‘free blobs’ requirement in order to advance to the next level, so build your structure while making sure that you still have enough free blobs to make it through the pipe.

All the extra free blobs you collect are going to be added later in the game to a special part called The Goo Corporation. Here you have to build an uber-mega-structure, the main purpose being “the higher the structure is, the better”. This part of the game is really an original version of a Hall of Fame. You can see, in the background, players from all over the world making their own building higher and higher.

As you advance in the game you’ll have different types of blobs available for building: black blobs, red blobs, sticky blobs, dead blobs and even some balloon blobs. You’ll have to use these to make flying towers, balloon sustained bridges and… quite often some kind of undefined, yet funny, structures.

World of Goo has 40 missions spread in 4 chapters. If a mission gets too hard you can simply skip it because you have available 3 “skip mission” cards.

In the end, what makes World of Goo so attractive is the atmosphere: excellent design, varied levels, great soundtrack and gameplay.