Business Times – 11 Apr 2008
By CHRISTOPHER LIM
LOOK around an MRT train and you’ll see at least a couple of people hunched over their Sony PSP or Nintendo DS portable game consoles.
Maybe you’ve even envied their distraction from the discomfort of being crammed four people to a square metre, but wouldn’t buy an electronic gadget purely for pleasure.
Nokia wants you to know that there’s a new alternative to mobile gaming. If you own the Finnish company’s latest N95 and N81 (or the 8GB versions of those two models), or N82, phones, all you need to do is point your device’s Internet browser to n-gage.com and download the N-Gage software for free, turning your phone into a pretty capable portable gaming device.
Next, pick a game to download. Only five are currently available – Asphalt 3: Street Rules, Fifa 08, Brain Challenge, World Series of Poker Pro Challenge, and System Rush: Evolution.
All of them cost $18 with the exception of Brain Challenge, which is $3 cheaper.
That’s cheaper than any console game, portable or otherwise. Best of all, you get to try trial versions before you buy, so the system is risk free.
There will eventually be quite a few games to choose from, starting from upgraded versions of classic titles already included on many modern phones, such as Tetris, Block Breaker Deluxe, and Mile High Pinball.
But there will also be more advanced titles like Brothers In Arms, The Sims 2 Pets, and One.
But even the more complex games are designed to be played in short bursts, since the nature of mobile gaming is such that it’s usually played on MRT and bus journeys that typically last between 10 minutes and an hour.
Using your Nokia phone’s existing buttons to control the action onscreen is inevitably less ideal than specialised gaming controls, but it works acceptably. This is particularly the case with the driving game Asphalt 3, which doesn’t require constant directional changes.
You’ll need a mobile broadband data plan or Wi-Fi connection to download the N-Gage software and games, but flat-rate plans from all three telcos make this a reasonable proposition.
And there’s always free – though often unreliable – Wireless@SG Wi-Fi if you happen to be in range of a hotspot and manage to get it working with your phone.
The main drawback with N-Gage beyond the controls is battery life. Nokia’s N95, for example, already has pretty poor battery life, even with basic use.
Gaming for even a short amount of time significantly speeds up battery drain. And if you get so engrossed on a long MRT journey that you play for a solid hour, you could find yourself with barely enough power left to make a call – and that’s assuming your phone doesn’t just shut down by itself.
So, if you do decide to give N-Gage a go, do yourself a favour and buy an extra battery.
A pair of wired or Bluetooth wireless earphones is also a good idea since it adds significantly to the gaming experience, although bear in mind that Bluetooth sucks your battery life too.