Like many forms of technology I have developed a seriously pendulant love-hate relationship with smartphones. On the one hand all I ever wanted was a cellphone that made high quality phone calls. On the other the thought of the entirety of the internet in the palm of my hand is a temptation I cannot resist. So I got a refurbished iPhone a while back. The trouble with owning a smartphone is you will eventually start loading it up with games, which forces me to question whether or not these games can in any way be comparable to those on my Xbox or PC. At first glance the answer seems to be an obvious no, but you have to boil down the concept of gaming to really look at what phone games have to offer.
So what is it I look for in a game? Regular readers will know my big three are story, multiplayer, and action. Two of these nearly unheard of in the mobile download arena and the social aspect is generally over emphasized. So far we’re not looking promising.
Tophat will tell you most games are just ports of old flash games, and in many instances he’s absolutely right. In college flash games were synonymous with time sinks. They were addicting and mind numbingly pointless. I’m fairly certain their effect on brain cells was comparable to a Thursday night binge at that bar that served 10 cent pitchers and catered to fifth-year seniors. I’m pretty sure the beer was so cheap because they wanted to distract you from the sticky floors and the roaches in the bathrooms.
Some of these games actually gain some credibility with the implementation of gyroscopic controls and touch input. For example the ever popular Doodle Jump gains finesse when it requires you to tilt your phone instead of mash directional arrow on your keyboard. Of course it’s still not going to get you a higher SAT score. At most it will keep you from noticing your legs being gnawed off by badgers because you’ve been playing so long you’ve been evicted and you have been sleeping in a cozy nest full of ravenous furry creatures thinking you were still chilling on your couch as a productive member of society.
Speaking of ports, it turns out you can find games with story lines on your phone. They’re all RPG ports from the NES era, but they are there iT you want to buy them again instead of playing them on an emulator on your PC. Of course hardcore fans will argue that the difference in inputs ruins the experience.
I have found a few action games I can sink my teeth into, but it turns out this voids the warranty. You try returning your phone full of human teeth marks. You’ll get laughed out of the mall too. It doesn’t stop me from shooting zombies from an AC-130 or going all Evil Knievel in an odd assortment of vehicles. Zombie Gunship was one of the first games I downloaded when I got my phone, and really why wouldn’t it be? The game basically steals everyone’s favorite Modern Warefare singleplayer mission and exchanges Taliban or Muslim extremists or whichever for zombies. Add an upgradeable ship, some garlic, and baby you got a stew going. Top Gear Stunt School Revolution is a recipe for disaster. Licensed games have been synonymous with Texas sized deuces for 15 years or so. And let’s face it, a show designed to inform car buyers which vehicle is right for them, or which ridiculous self-modifications should be avoided hardly lends itself to a successful video game. But of course Top Gear is no ordinary car show. The controls are a little iffy but what we end up with is a weird Grand Turismo/X-Games hybrid that turns out to be a lot of fun.
The games I spend the most time on are the social games. The “multiplayer” games of the phone world. But I’ve probably bored you enough for one day. We’ll dig into the best and worst of those another time. Say, whatever happened to the N-Gage?
Wait. Enosh. You didn’t actually answer your premise. Are phone games legit? Come on man. We need to know!
Alright fine. If you must know, the short and the long of it is this. I have never found a phone game that is as engaging as a console or PC game. They all feel like gaming lite. Even if some are better than flash games they are merely the next step in the evolution process. Honestly I don’t want to play Mass Effect or Borderlands while I’m on the John anyway so in the end the games I have played have met my basic gaming needs.