The draw of portable gaming is simple – life doesn’t always make it easy to be tied down to a TV (or your computer) for a full-on gaming experience. Sometimes, you get stuck in the car for four hours and need to play a little Pokemon to relax. Mobile gaming makes it even easier with no lack of quality time-fillers that are already in your pocket.
For many situations, portable gaming means a need either for headphones or for an experience without sound at all. It would, after all, be irritating if everybody in the line at Subway was playing Angry Birds with the sound cranked up on their phone. So most respectful people (that don’t have headphones handy) will switch their phone to silent mode. The problem comes in when disrespectful games choose to ignore this, and play sounds anyway. Like Madden 11 HD for iPad.
Asynchronous (or online turn-based) multiplayer games let gamers play at their own pace. Maybe the classic example of this is Words With Friends – you play a word, send it to your friend, and wait for their response. These games take advantage of mobile users’ ability to play anywhere, for filling in those tiny slices of time that might otherwise be wasted. Not to mention, a group of people can play together despite never being in the same room or even the same time zone.
Forza Horizon is one of the seven currently-released games for Xbox 360 that actually supports SmartGlass – and the only one that I own – so I was excited to give it a try the other day. Its big feature in the game is to offload the map to your tablet, making it a little easier to navigate the game’s big open world. In my limited testing so far, this definitely falls into the camp of a promising technology that just doesn’t nail the execution.
The original Super Stickman Golf by Noodlecake Studios is one of my favorite mobile games (links to stores available here). It’s a simple yet challenging way to pass a few minutes of time. Everybody likes mini-golf, right? Super Stickman Golf 2 picks up right where the first left off, adding a few new features and a bunch of new in-app purchase options.
Merits of the upgrade aside, there’s one particular issue with the game that hasn’t changed between the two versions, and it has caused me a tiny amount of grief a few times now. When playing a single player round, backing out to the main menu doesn’t save the player’s progress, and the game doesn’t do anything to warn them of this either. Just like Microsoft Word prompts users before leaving changes unsaved, games always should tell the player before they lose progress.
Tutorials for mobile games have a difficult problem to solve. With console games, it’s likely that gamers will be in front of a TV, can hear the game’s audio, and be generally attentive. But mobile games could be played nearly anywhere, while the device is muted, maybe for just 60 seconds at a time, and maybe only occupying 50% of the users’ attention span.
So, tutorials in mobile games must be as flexible as mobile phones are. While games like Quento are simple enough to barely need a tutorial, not all games can get away with that. Lost Cities for iOS (iTunes link) offers the most flexible tutorial I’ve ever seen in a mobile game – there are no less than four different ways for players to get the rules of this game when they fire it up for the first time.