The only game I played while I was away was Plantera [official site]. Actually, the main game I played was “going for walks and exploring local nature and wildlife” but I put a few hours in on Plantera because it’s a clicker game I could let run while I caught up with Holby City episodes.
The thing I actually liked about it was that it’s so front-loaded. Cookie Clicker is about the long game. You need to leave that tab running and tended to for hours and hours and hours before the game’s weirder aspects start to reveal themselves.
Plantera hasn’t really figured out the pacing that keeps people hooked on clicker games and so after a few hours you’ve seen what it has to offer. You have all the tree types and the bushes and the vegetables and the buddies who automate the work or keep the predators at bay. All that happens is their crops become more value, climbing up through star-ratings.
Instead of offering hits of discovery as levels are reached you settle at a point where Plantera becomes this riot of colour and movement on the screen and you can dig in and click a bit if you fancy (I do like a quick click through any piles of butter or milk that my minions haven’t gotten round to collecting yet). It’s more like an aquarium or something at that point.
What I’m getting at here, and what I found most interesting, is that Plantera’s ability to become boring is why I like it. Clicker games put me in an awkward position of enjoying the immediate reward rush of reaching a milestone but simultaneously knowing that I’ll regret this use of my time later. But when one is front-loaded in the way that this is it lets me off the hook. I can play or watch, I can enjoy my farm growing and get the little frisson when I level up or when I get a new object to play with , and then after a few hours I can feel done with the game.
Oh, and if you’re looking for another riff on the clicker genre I really really like Forget Me Not: My Organic Garden [official site]. It’s got all the hallmarks of a clicker game but the progress you make pushes forward a narrative so it’s got an end point and incorporates your maintenance of the garden into the story.
I should add that I’ve only played 8 hours of Plantera so if it suddenly changes and starts doing wacky things 400 hours in I am totally unaware of this fact. Also you can’t hold me responsible if an update changes the late game and ruins your life.