As a working man in my late twenties who is also always juggling three or four hobbies at any given moment, it often seems like my reserve of free time and energy just gets ever more strained as I get older. It’s a challenge juggling what I want to do with my capacity to do it all, and that’s almost always led to making compromises with myself (e.g. all of the writing that I’ve not done lately).

That has especially impacted the video gaming that I’ve done over the past several years. It’s not enough that at least 40 hours per week on the job get piled on top of the at least 40 hours spent sleeping. I’m also splitting my attention with other things I love, such as listening to music, watching shows and movies, hanging out and having good times with my fiancée, or perusing Twitter against my better judgment!

Whereas my younger self could just endlessly barrel through whole days in the Perfect Dark combat simulator, Command & Conquer, or DDR, these days, that now only happens once every other Destiny 2 expansion campaign. Facing the realities of young adult life, I have gotten more judicious with how my gaming time is spent. Which is maybe just a generous way of saying that a major factor in many of the games I decide to play is whether I can start and then definitively stop them in not-overly long chunks of time.

That’s lately meant the likes of, for example, going through the Switch release of Final Fantasy IX, and doing so while my finacée watches and the both of us talk about it. It’s been a lovely way to do something nice together while also happening to involve playing some games. FF9 is eternally her favorite FF ever, and she’s wanted me to give it a shot since forever ago—we even first started on her PS1 copy of the game a while ago, but that attempt tapered off—while having her as a guide, a springboard for my thoughts and comments, and my cheerleader during trying times makes it more fun for me.

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That could also involve throwing on Super Smash Bros. Ultimate whenever I want some super quick bursts of non-intellectual action, since I get plenty of single-player mileage out of the CPU opponents and the endless characters upon endless characters to choose from; I’m especially in love with the new Squad Strike modes, just throwing 6 to 10 fighters into a vat of chaos. I also happen to love making Mii fighters, which then end up with gems of stupidity like this.

From left to right: Hana Mutou, Heat Miser, and a rough Mii approximation of my Gun Gale Online OC

One type of game that has been especially appealing to me lately, however, is the “just one mission” game. Much has been said and written of the Civilations which compel people to play “just one more turn” or the rougelikes/roguelites tempting to do attempt the gauntlet “just one more time”, sinking their hooks into the psyche with an addictive streak. But sometimes, what I want is the exact opposite of an addiction: Something that I can play one round of, finish, and then promptly quit in a positive state of mind, mentally tired yet satisfied from the experience. Then I can pick it back up again another day when the mood hits me once again.

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The game working that niche for me, at the moment, is Tiny Metal.

I had originally snagged it a year ago shortly after it first came out, but I’ve only just begun playing it again during this past week. Just in time to hear that it’s gonna be getting a sequel soon at that! And that its story campaign will be spearheaded by the ever-deserving and endearing Commander Wolfram!

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In essence, Tiny Metal is a turn-based strategy game where you, as commander, shore up and maneuver an army of infantry, vehicles, and aircraft against other commanders over a grid-based battlefield. It’ll entail capturing buildings that either provide money at the beginning of each turn or build your reinforcements, as well as sending off your soldiers to trade fire with the enemy. Its closest point of comparison—and intentionally so, being a direct copycat-in-the-modern-age kind of title—is the series of Famicom Wars and later (plus far more famous) Advance Wars games, which was most assuredly my reason for picking it up.

(quick sidenote: had I waited a year to indulge, maybe Wargroove could’ve been the game of choice instead?)

And it’s made me happy! The turn-by-turn action is decently methodical without being way too complicated, doing what I’d have wanted an Advance Wars-like to do. Additionally, even though the art style seemingly gets a bit of flak, I personally quite like it all, up to and including the rinky-dink “my five year old drew this” vibe of the cutscene character art.

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Then there is my favorite thing at this particular moment in time: Each mission takes around just 30 to 45 minutes on average—not to short, not too long, just right—and it is a wholly satiating period of time. I complete that mission, and I am done with the game for the day, thinking happy thoughts shortly afterwards. It’s a mindset that fits especially well with the Nintendo Switch as its platform, because that handheld mode is such a blessing; maybe I’m chilling on the bed late at night, or playing while near my laptop as I try to collect game screenshots for an article but am then compelled to finish the round that I started.

But hey, there ain’t much harm even in getting sidetracked like that. It took only half an hour to get through! Even as a distraction, Tiny Metal is respectful of my time. That is a way of carrying one’s self which I can appreciate.