Thursday, May 29, 2008

On The Move...

Moving to a new apartment this week and it will take a few days to get settled in, so I'll be playing catch up on the mobile tech news as soon as I can get the new office/lab set up. I have a couple N-Gage game reviews coming up, so stay tuned. Meanwhile, there's been a lot of other cool mobile news making it's way around the web...

The Internet Tablet line turns 3 years old
The N95-3 finally gets a firmware update
Snakes Subsonic launches for N-Gage
The S60 powered Samsung L870 revealed

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

More Than One "Snake" Coming To N-Gage

Just last week we get news of the new Snakes Subsonic game coming to N-Gage soon, bringing back the old fun Nokia game in a bold new way. This week, news breaks of an even more exciting "Snake" game. That's right, Konami is bringing Metal Gear Solid to N-Gage. Any hardcore gamer knows that Metal Gear Solid is one of the best franchises out there, and to have it come to N-Gage means a lot to Nokia's gaming portfolio. It will be interesting to see how this new game play. If it's even a fraction of what the console versions were, this is going to be a monumental addition to the N-Gage collection.

With Companies like Capcom and Konami developing for N-Gage, we will finally have some titles in the "big names, big games" category. More and more people hear about the great N-Gage comeback because of this news for sure. Gonna be a great year for N-Gage, and a great year for gaming.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Simple Improvements To Complex Devices

It's night, and you hear your N81 8GB chime that the battery is low. Uh oh, forgot to plug it in to the charger. The lights are off, so it's pitch dark and you really don't want to turn on the lights just to see where that tiny little prong plugs in on the phone. So you fumble around with the charger and phone until you finally connect...

Why is there lights for every single button on phones these days, but there's no way to see where various connectors are when you need to plug in? I know it sounds trivial to have such a feature on a mobile device, or any device for that matter, but there are a lot of us that live our lives in the darkness a large percent of the time and we need well lit icons, terminal beacons, and just about anything that helps us even just a little bit while in less than acceptable lighting conditions.

In a time where Timex Indiglo watches, writing pens with battery powered LEDs, and ultra low power plug-in night lights exist, it only makes sense that the devices we use 24/7 should be user friendly 24/7. With the addition to status LEDs, backlit buttons and keys, and even battery indicator lights, it's only logical to have a way to see where those ever shrinking plugs go while in the dark. Be it through a dedicated "light up the sockets" button or some other ingenious method.

Of course it would be great if you could turn the feature off to save power or for those that never really need it. I mean it's not like you would need the lights on all the time anyways, so why not just let the light sensors on these devices determine when it's too dark and turn on when you hit one of the buttons on the device? This brings me to another simple idea of static awareness of devices where your device should know when it's been touched or moved and will react according to what the user wants to happen, but I'll save that for another post.

"In the right light, at the right time, everything is extraordinary."

Friday, May 02, 2008

Block Breaker Deluxe

The classic Block Breaker game is back with a fresh new look and lots of new N-Gage goodies this time around. Much more polished than the original, and even the sequel. For anyone familiar with the paddle style games will get a real kick out of this one. With several locations each containing ten levels and a boss level, a ping-pong-like tournament, dozens of paddle and ball upgrades, and a slew of challenging N-Gage point pickups, It's amazing this game only takes up a mere 5 MB of space on the phone.

I haven't had the chance to try the multiplayer mode via bluetooth, but I'm pretty sure it's much like the tournament level where you are basically playing "pong" with the other player. There's an option to change the screen orientation, as well as the key settings to your style of playing. I love all the high score stats that you can check out to see how well you have progressed through the game.

As for my favorite location, it would have to be the Coconut Casino where there are levels you can play mini versions of slot machine, poker, and craps for lots of cash. I just love it when I get poker chips raining down to catch with my paddle. Sometimes it makes me feel like I'm somewhere else when I play this game. Be careful though, this game will suck up your time as it is hard to put down when you get in to a rhythm.

The graphics aren't anything to wright home about, but are good enough to know what's going on. The music and sound effects are clean and cool (some block hits sound like forks tapping on wine glasses). Not much of an online presence with this game. Just the ability to upload your high scores. In fact, there's a Great Gameloft Giveaway Competition going on between April 21 and May 18 where you can submit your score for a chance to win very cool prizes. I really like how Nokia and Gameloft have teamed up for this event. It's a good marketing and distribution technique that will help N-Gage on the path to success.

Overall, it's a great paddle style game with lots of extras and many challenges. If there was a real-time online tournament mode I would have given it the fifth star. Even without that, the game shines pretty bright. Check out the video of the game in action.

Games To Go Rating: 4 out of 5

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Space Impact: Kappa Base

If there's one thing I miss about going to the arcade it's the scrolling shooters. Now I can get that same joy of intense flying and shooting action, and I don't have to stand in one place anymore to do it. Space Impact Kappa Base for the N-Gage platform is one game I have grown to love over the last few days. The action of this game is very fast paced and has a lot of depth.

With three characters to select from, two difficulty levels, ten missions, eight Skyblades with varying attributes, a ton of cool weapons, and a plethora of enemies to take out, there's no way one could get bored with this game. You could spend hours on end just trying to find your perfect setup. It takes credits to unlock many of the weapons and spacecraft, which makes the game that much more challenging. There's also a combo system to multiply points gained in game and a grading system for each mission that shows how well you pilot through.

Of course the N-Gage Arena features are pretty cool too. The World Battle lets you test your skills and uploads your best scores amongst the list of other players. It would be cool if there were more game modes or even just a two player co-op mode, but there's just so much going on in this game already, and I'm pretty sure it pushes the current phone hardware to the limit.

The controls are relatively easy to use on the N81. You can also remap the keys to your liking. The game only plays in portrait mode, however. The music in the game is very good and sound effects are nice as well. The graphics are astounding with the whole 2D mixed with 3D thing going on. Overall, this game rocks, and in it I see much promise of success for the new N-Gage platform.

Also check out the All About N-Gage review and a video of the game in action.

Games To Go Rating: 4 out of 5