More Mobile Games

Last month’s train adventure, leaving me stranded in between town and home for over four hours, taught me one important lesson: I needed a new mobile phone as the battery of this one wasn’t up to the task anymore. So recently I went out and purchased a rather expensive, top-of-the-line, ultra-slim yet strangely plasticy, new mobile phone. It has all the bell and whistles I’ll never use, like TV reception and a VGA screen capable of actual internet browsing as opposed to slimmed-down i-mode internet, a rather snazzy camera, and all manner of applications I either don’t need or don’t understand. Having to part with my old games and, sigh, high scores I thought it was a good time to have another look at the state of mobile gaming by purchasing a few new titles in the name of research.

Tetris Crystal
Priority number uno after getting a new phone is to make sure you have a decent Tetris on there. The problem is that G-Mode has roughly a billion slightly differing versions and like the fool I am I opted for the more expensive one, rather than the cheaper version I had been playing over the last 2 years. That isn’t to say it’s bad, because it isn’t, but amongst the Tetris line-up I cannot fathom why this one is three times as expensive as my previous version. I suspect the EA branding on the title screen may have something to do with it. Japanese mobile gamers should stick with the 100 Yen Tetris Red or Blue versions which are not only the cheapest but, strangely, the best ones out there. That said, it’s Tetris and I’m sure, thanks to my lovely commute, I’ll be getting my money’s worth.

This title was pre-installed on the phone, which is a good thing too as I’d never have the arrogance to buy it for myself. The Mojipitan series has been around for a while now and is a cute mix between Scrabble and a different kind of Scrabble. You are presented with a grid, often shaped to limit expansion space, and a few tiles pre-placed on the board forming a word. You then need to place a set number of tiles from a cache on the board, always making sure new and valid words are formed. The game ends when no options are available and the level ends when all tiles have been successfully placed. Come to think of it, it is very much like Scrabble, except, of course, it’s all in hiragana and only involves Japanese words, which is why I wouldn’t have bought it on my own accord. . But as far as mobile ports of GBA and PS games go, this one is pretty good. Readability is somewhat of an issue, even on a lovely screen like that of my new mobile, but all in all it’s not too bad. And it’s probably good practice. The first few levels certainly weren’t a problem for me, which is somewhat different to a few years back when I tried my hand at the GBA version.

Another port, running on the EZ-appli software, this game runs brilliantly, as if it was made for the mobile platform. It is identical to the DS game Hudson released a while back where the player must draw a single continuous line on a grid following an decreasing set of numerical hints as to where to draw. The game itself is massively addictive and great fun for any puzzle fanatic. The mobile version suffers slightly from controls, making selecting certain parts of a square a little hit and miss, but that really is splitting hairs. The real main problem is the art direction, showing white numbers on a light green background, which can play havoc on my tired eyes after a day of work while I’m suffering from “monitor weep”. Also slightly annoying is the sales tactic of selling four sets of 25 puzzles separately. It’s great for those who just want to try out a game and maybe not commit to it much, but it’s annoying for people like me who end up having to micro-transact their way to a significant sum as we blaze through the puzzles.

Response times and graphics are slowly making headway on the mobile platforms but there remains the problem of a decent control input, hence all good mobile games are simple mobile games. There is no way I am spending money on 3D racers or action-platformers because I well know my thumb won’t be able to cope. But for simple puzzle titles it’s faultless. I find it amusing to see how simple DS games are migrating to the mobile platform, like the Hudson Puzzle Series, which actually have a better home on the phone, but I’m not complaining.

As I am still too embarrassed to whip out my DS in public, I am, after all, trying to pretend to be an adult, mobile phone gaming still takes up a lot of my time, or rather, I am filling a lot of my wasted time playing mobile games. The technology has progressed far enough for hardware manufacturers to start thinking about working on controls and inputs, especially with iPod and iPhone games gaining ground, soon to overtake the standard handsets. Some kind of nub, PSP-style, or dedicated, well-placed buttons would go a very long way in raising the quality and possibilities of mobile phone gaming.


  1. Is the iPhone available in Japan? If so, did you consider getting one?

    Do you know how it stacks up against Japanese cell phones?

  2. The n-gage was way ahead of its time. Still is.

  3. Atually, you know, I don't think the iPhone is here yet. iPods are massively popular though, so when it comes I'm sure it'll do well. That said, it seems TV tuning is "The Big Thing" for mobiles these days. One wonders why, considering the state of Japanese television. I'd personally probably get an iPhone if it has a deal with my carrier (AU), because, well, I'm sad and shiny technology excites me.

    Celso....don't start.

  4. I too have an AU mobile phone and for the last weeks I've been hoping to get a brand new phone with PC mobile on it but... I found out AU does not do such things, :(

    I've recently seen people in the US with a PC mobile phone that's as good or better than the Iphone and I was hoping to get something similar to that in Japan but... not really. The ones I found (different carrier) are as big and as heavy as bricks...

    Unlike you JC, my main reason for changing my mobile phone would be to have it with a touch screen & stylus so I can write/practice kanji (something you can't do with a thumb on the Iphone) and that phone I saw in the US was just right for that. Pity they don't sell it in Japan, :(