We all know the feeling: You're at work and you take a bathroom break, but you always take your phone with you. Why? So you can pass the time with a quick game of Angry Birds, that's why! Come on, now - no one really expects you to take a bio break bored anymore.
For years now, iOS devices like the iPhone and the iPad along with a myriad of Android-based phones and tablets have successfully marketed themselves to the mindset of small-serving, "minute" gaming. It fit the medium perfectly with the hardware limitations of early devices in particular. Mobile platforms - especially smartphones - have always been well-suited to a game that was quick to launch, quick to satisfy, quick to quit, and finally, quick to resume. Idle time has never been the same thanks to Game Dev Story and Fruit Ninja.
Games have proven to be the most popular applications on smartphones, beating out the likes of weather, social-networking, and map/navigation apps. And with so many undeniably fun games coming at such low prices - many being completely free - it's not hard to see why. But mobile gaming has not remained stagnant, perpetually cranking out the same simple, small-serving games. As the platform shows to be a huge moneymaker for game developers, and as hardware improves, iOS and Android devices are starting to see legitimately full-featured and full-length games, some of which remind of what we're used to playing on consoles, and some of which have already been available on consoles.
World of Goo is one such game. When the indie title was released as a downloadable game for the Nintendo Wii console and PC platform in 2008, it won a pile of annual awards including Best Puzzle Game, Most Innovative Game, and even Wii Game of the Year from IGN. It's also earned an outstanding rating of 94 on Metacritic. But two years later it saw a revival on the iPad platform, eventually earning even better marks. That's right, this already outstanding game was actually a better one on the touchscreen platform, and it's also made its way to Android devices less than a month ago, already showing to be one of the most popular paid games on the platform.
But it doesn't stop at puzzle games. Even the storied Final Fantasy franchise has begun to encroach on the mobile platforms. 1997's Final Fantasy Tactics is a classic that earned status as one of the greatest games of all time by Gamespot. An updated version of the game, Final Fantasy Tactics: War of the Lions, was released for the PlayStation Portable (PSP) console in 2007 with improved graphics, redone cutscenes, and additional character options, receiving great acclaim itself, albeit with complaints of slow-downs during battles. This past August, War of the Lions was released to iOS platforms. Not only does this iPhone/iPad iteration consist of the entire original 1997 classic with all of the enhancements that came with the PSP release, but it takes things a couple of steps further by adding a convenient auto-save system (great for the mobile platform) and fixing the slow-downs that occurred in the previous version.
It's not all about remakes, either. Madfinger Games introduced Shadowgun to iOS and Android platforms this Fall and it changed what we expect from the visual quality of mobile games. While it might boil down to a derivative shooter that wants badly to be Gears of War without approaching that game's pure excellence, Shadowgun surprisingly looks comparable to the refined visuals that we've become used to on high-definition consoles, and does an admirable job of pulling off the third-person shooter. If nothing else, it's certainly an eye-opening revelation regarding the quality of presentation that these mobile platforms are already capable of.
And this week, the growing popularity of the gaming service OnLive has spread to mobile platforms in unprecedented fashion. OnLive is the first "cloud gaming" service; it is accessed through a web browser on a supported platform and games are played through a remote Internet connection, the actual processing taking place on remote servers. The result is the ability to play high-end PC games like Assassin's Creed: Revelations, Saints Row: The Third, and L.A. Noire on low-end PCs or straight through TVs without a hitch. The library is growing all the time, and now the entire service can also be accessed from a phone or tablet. You can employ a gamepad (sold separately) to play most games, but there has already been a fair amount of titles that have been given touch-screen controls like Defense Grid Gold, Darksiders, and DiRT 3 which don't require any extra peripherals at all. While the brand new mobile deployment is rough around the edges thus far, the fact that it's possible to play Batman: Arkham City on an iOS or Android device today is pretty astounding. It doesn't cost anything to browse OnLive through your phone or tablet, and it's worth doing just to see with your own eyes that it's all possible.
The trend is firmly in place: Phones aren't just for Zynga anymore. Not only are deep, high-end games reaching mobile platforms in steadily growing numbers, most importantly, they are selling and are proving profitable for publishers and developers alike. And as devs improve at adapting to the platform and hardware continues to progress at blinding speed, it might not be all that long before we're playing games like Call of Duty and Skyrim on phones and tablets without compromise. Before you write that off as a ridiculous statement, remind yourself that you could go ahead and play Deus Ex: Human Revolution on your phone right now if you wanted to.
What are your favorite mobile games? Tell us in the comments!
Check out these retailers for your video game needs:
- Play N Trade, 545 South Broad St., Lansdale. (215) 368-1955
- Play N Trade, 2612 W. Moreland Road, Willow Grove. (215) 830-8505
- Classic Game Junkie, 111 S. Easton Road, Glenside
- GameStop, 1551 Valley Forge Road, Lansdale. (215) 631-1230
- GameStop, 2333 W. Main St., Lansdale. (215) 855-4280
- GameStop, 801 Bethlehem Pike, North Wales. (215) 412-2900
- GameStop, Montgomery Mall, North Wales. (215) 362-2036
- GameStop, 222 East Main St., Collegeville (610) 831-8732
- GameStop, 1838 Bethlehem Pike, Flourtown (215) 836-5947
- GameStop, 1495 Old York Road, Abington (215) 885-2069
- GameStop, 2500 W. Moreland Road, Willow Grove, (215) 657-4341
- GameStop, 44 E. Germantown Pike, Norristown (610) 279-2078