Office productivity plummets during the holidays. Many people take extended vacations, and some businesses just plain shut down. And the employees who actually show up to work? They while away the hours playing casual games on their workstation web browsers.
PCWorld does not condone absenteeism, laggardism or all-around, year-end slothfulness. But if you must play a browser game at work, you might as well zone out on a holiday-themed title. You know. Because ’tis the season.
Effing Worms – Xmas
You may be familiar with Effing Worms: it’s a game about guiding a carnivorous worm underground, launching surprise attacks on unsuspecting people and animals to sate your unyielding appetite. Effing Worms – Xmas is a holiday-themed spin on the idea, and the general idea remains the same. This time around our invertebrate hero is out for revenge, having been rebuffed by Santa, or on the receiving end of a lousy gift, or… the details are irrelevant, really. Lurk underground, eviscerate elves and reindeer and yetis, and grow progressively larger until it’s time to take out jolly old St. Nick himself. Every level charges you with taking out a set number of enemies, and things gradually get a bit more chaotic as Santa’s full military might is brought to bear. The game is short and rather silly — an excellent diversion during those holiday lulls.
Icy Gifts 2
This one gets weird. Santa has fallen off of his sleigh into frigid water, and is trapped in an icy bubble. You’re armed with bombs, which you’ll use to detonate frozen presents and weaponry — based on my experience with Effing Worms, I presume Santa has always travelled with an arsenal. Icy Gifts 2 is by no means a challenging game. Most levels boil down to clicking once, and then seeing if you’ve detonated enough things on screen to free Santa from his icy prison. That said, I have to admit that I dropped quite a few hours of my day studiously unlocking every upgrade and achievement available to me. Sometimes you want a game that really pushes the boundaries of what gaming can be. Other times however you just want to blow stuff up and save Christmas. When that time comes, Icy Gifts is there for you.
Garden Gnome Carnage
Here’s another bizarre game for the grinch in all of us. Garden Gnome Carnage sees you destroying a legion of Santas hell-bent on providing some holiday cheer. By strapping yourself to a building that glides along on wheels, swinging by a bungee cord and hurling bricks at the approaching gift givers. Also you’re a lawn gnome. An ever increasing number of St. Nicks charge in by land and see, but you’re aided by a lucky black cat, a brick-laying princess, and the occasional airstrike. How all of this ties in with the holidays is admittedly more than a little unclear, but the gameplay is fun and addictive.
Infectionator – Christmas Edition
The anti-holiday spirit seems to be something of a trend. Consider: Infectionator – Christmas Edition, a game about unleashing a zombie plague to ruin the holiday season. It’s a bit crude, but loads of fun: you’ve got 24 days to infect as many people with a manufactured virus, and hoping the zombies you create survive long enough to infect passersby. When humans die they drop golden coins, which you can use to fund research to improve your virus. You’ll eventually run into heavily armed soldiers and Santa himself, who’ll lay waste to your minions unless your virus is strong enough to take them out first. Sure it’s simple and not exactly in line with the holiday spirit, but it’s all rather fun.
Ice Beak isn’t technically a holiday game, which might make it an awkward way to kick things off. But its theme of winter persevering over a fiery hellscape seems close enough. The game is a puzzler at heart: you’re tasked with guiding the frozen protagonist through maze-like corridors, blasting enemies with a freeze ray. You’ll soon learn to conserve ammo — shots are limited, and only replenished at a level’s sparse checkpoints.
It’s a rather simple mechanic, but one that’s built out rather well across the game’s levels. Rudimentary physics allow you to create chain reactions, with frozen enemies collapsing into their comrades or triggering switches and opening doors. It’s also a bit… minimalistic — that’s a full sized screenshot up there. It’s lovely in its own way though, and a fun wintery way to spend an hour or two.
David Daw has studied the history and future of television and has a master's in Broadcast and Electronic Communication Arts from San Francisco State University along with a BA in genre fiction from NYU.