Let’s not stand on ceremony – Nokia N-Gage has given reason to take mobile gaming very, very seriously, elevating it far beyond the five-minute snacking of your traditional Java based phone gaming, while sneaking up on PSP and Nintendo DS in terms of gameplay and visual pizzazz.
Nokia is a canny operator and by taking the ailing platform from it niche gaming device and plonking it in their high-end but popular smartphones such as the N81, N82 and N95, it has already widened the N-Gage’s appeal.
So why get excited about N-Gage’s second coming? Well, it’s early days but, firstly it’s set up to play multiplayer gaming with fellow Nokiateers across the globe, a la Xbox Live. The futuristic racing game, System Rush: Evolution is the only title available with such online skills but once the N-Gage finds its feet, more games will flood the showroom.
Despite the initial low-key online multiplayer arm, the N-Gage arena still provides a heap of interactive mods, including the ability to post your scores online and comparing your talent with N-Gagers around the world through a well-balanced ranking and rewards system. You can easily create your own gaming nom de plume and keep your gaming circle tight by adding friends.
When you consider Java-based mobile games cost anything from £2.50 to £5 for new big name releases, the average £8 asking price for N-Gage titles doesn’t seem so steep. Fact is, these games have superior quality in terms of gameplay and graphics and the majority are more immersive than your average Java Joe.
But if you’re still worried the game will be a dud and a waste of your hard-earned 8 quid, N-Gage’s play before pay provides some simple reassurance – it lets you trial games before downloading so you can get a proper flavour of the fun on offer. Also, if you just want an intense blast at one game, Nokia offers one-day (£1.50) and seven-day (£4) passes. Unfortunately, you don’t get to keep the game but it’s just like renting a DVD from your local Blockbuster. On demand gaming!
Nokia maintains it rep for intuitive UI’s with the N-Gage app. It’s pretty well thought out too with a simple tab design to navigate around. There are sections for your home page, downloaded games, online profile details, ranking and gaming history, friends lists (with the ability to add N-Gage mates) and the showroom for download games over-the-air.
Of course N-Gage isn’t perfect. The choice of games from launch is limited with around seven titles to chose from but this will grow rapidly and big game console franchises like Crash Bandicoot and top flight gaming developers and publishers like EA Sports with its high profile FIFA 08, will add gravitas to the cause. Plus, as we’ve covered previously, innovative titles using GPS, camera skills and more are on the horizon.
There have been some initial teething problems with downloading the app. If you can’t find access to a Wi-Fi connection, downloading an average 20MB game over 3G will break your spirit, not mention data charge. If you don’t have an all-you-can-eat data tariff, you’ll suffer an almighty bill shock. Although, sucking it down your broadband pipe and installing it via your PC or Mac is less of a faff, as is managing your games library.
Other complaints involve the length of time it takes for games to install but this has mostly been smoothed over by Nokia. Issue with payment have also proved frustrating, with some network operators not supporting the phone bill method of stumping up for games. It means turning to the credit card as an alternative and although not entirely ideal (some punters may have reticent about given up their details over the phone), it’s not really a major gripe.
So, despite some niggles and initial shortfalls, the new N-Gage platform still looks in rude health from the outset. N-Gage has clearly revolutionised mobile gaming in terms of connectivity, eye-popping graphics and how you purchase and download the games.