There are plenty of awards for mobile games, but most focus on the biggest titles from the established publishers.
Which is all well and good, but it's sometimes nice to also recognise the most innovative new ideas – and these often come from smaller firms.
That's what the International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGAs for short) was set up to do. Launched in 2004, it recently announced the longlist of 25 nominees for the next awards, due to be given out in February next year at the 3GSM show in Barcelona.
We thought it was time to round them up, to give you a glimpse at some of the hottest ideas in mobile gaming. Some are commercial games, while others are still concepts in the making. All are thought-provoking. Read on.The 25 IMGA nominees are…
|Anima Wars (Anino Mobile)|
The game where turn-based strategy meets traditional hack'n'slash action games. You have to capture your opponent's stronghold with a mixture of tactics and pure firepower. It's got luscious 3D isometric graphics, and eight players can compete over the network, in two teams of four.
|Puzzle Bobble Online (Taito)|
The legendary bubble-bursting puzzler comes to mobile with its multiplayer mode intact. You can even chat to your opponent while playing, which is great for rubbing in the fact that you're hammering them. You can also send texts to your friends inviting them to a game, and there's a sophisticated matching system to make it easy to find people at your level to play against.
The modelling world is a dirty business, especially if you're not a fabled Size Zero. Nevertheless, modelling is the subject of this game, with you making your way in the fashion world, snagging photoshoots, making friends, and hurling the odd telephone at your PA. Well, not that last one. The game ties into a global community of players too, so you can compete against your peers.
|Street Duel (Mobitween)|
This year's IMGAs features a number of games using Adobe's Flash Lite technology, from which we're expecting big things in the future. Street Duel is a simple turn-based game where you have to shoot the other player, but it's cross-platform multiplayer, meaning you can duke it out with people playing on their PCs.
|Sketcher (Zio Interactive)|
Nothing to do with the shoes, sadly. Instead, this is an innovative idea where you have to draw the levels as your character moves along them. Succeed, and they'll keep going. Along the way, there are boars, turtles and other traps to spoil your fun. Sketcher is one of the more original games in the awards, and looks set to provide plenty of pencil-based fun for players.
Stands for 'I on Mobile Online', as you probably won't have guessed. This is a massively multiplayer online roleplaying game, which is playable both on mobile handsets and online – an increasingly common feature in the submissions to the IMGAs. You choose one of three jobs for your character, and then complete tasks while chatting to other players. Who all look like Pebbles Flintstone, as far as we can tell.
|3D Tilt-a-World (Super Happy Fun Fun)|
We wrote about this game a few weeks ago, and it's still as cool. It's a pinball-style game that rather than get you to press buttons, instead uses the camera to detect motion – meaning that as you tilt your phone, the playing field moves. Ace. You have to move a ball through a selection of mazes, making this a Marble Madness for the 21st century, with suitably swizzy technology built in.
|Blades & Magic (Fishlabs)|
Cor. That's all we can say on spying the visuals for this massively multiplayer roleplaying game, which claims to be the first 3D MMORPG for mobile phones. It looks as good as some of the ones you see on PC! Anyway, you pick a character and then travel across a fantasy land, offing monsters and duelling with other players, earning experience and money as you go. Heaven knows what phone you'll need to run it, but we want this game nonetheless.
|Neopets Mobile (In-Fusio)|
Mobile offshoot of the immensely popular website, which takes traditional virtual pet ideas but then throws in a heap of casual games to help develop your little monster. Neopets Mobile includes games that aren't available on the website version, and the two are fully interconnected, so you can use the same Neopets account for both.
|Bruce Lee (Indiagames)|
Sadly not a remake of the classic 8-bit platform game. Although if it was, it probably wouldn't be nominated for an innovation award. Anyway, this is a beat 'em up with the emphasis on spectacular graphics and suitably whip-smart martial arts moves. There haven't been many good beat 'em ups on mobile so far, so it's no surprise this caught the judges' attention.
|Mega Monster (Firemint)|
If nothing else, this deserves the award for most self-explanatory title. Mega Monster sees you playing, yep, a mega monster. Except it's a bit more complex than that. You're a weedy alien, who's taking part in a galactic reality TV show that has you trying to take over Earth through native species. How? By turning them into mega great monsters, of course! It sounds frankly bonkers, which is why we're gagging to play it.
|Drakulin (RTZ Interactive)|
Monsters are a running theme in this year's IMGAs. Drakulin puts you in the cape of 'Dracula's forsaken son' for 100 fiendish 3D puzzles, which looks and sounds like a cross between Tomb Raider and ancient TV game show The Crystal Maze. The developer promises the graphics are really pushing what current handsets are capable of, so it should be a feast for the eyes.
|Time Noodle (Comic Factory)|
There just aren't enough mobile games set in noodle shops. Thankfully, Time Noodle aims to rectify that, presenting a realistic simulation of the ins and outs of the Asian fast-food industry. Well, alright, it's a simple Flash game where you serve noodles up to customers, and take their money in return. But that's how it is in real life, trust us. The cartoon graphics are charming, so this looks like one game that's more sweet than sour. (Sorry.)
|KooZac (Ben Cusack)|
Working on the principle that two great games will make an even greater game, Ben Cusack has chosen to blend Tetris and Sudoku in one heavenly whole. Well, he's got falling blocks and mathematical calculations, anyway. You have to place the numbered blocks on top of each other as they fall, to meet the target assigned to you by the game. It's one of those simple concepts that takes seconds to grasp and weeks to master (unless you're rubbish at maths, in which case it takes weeks to grasp…).
|Wireless West (Zinkia Entertainment)|
I like what they've done with the title there. Wireless West is a frontier adventure, that lets you play as an outlaw, a sheriff's man, a wheeler-dealer or a farting cowboy (well, not that last one). You travel around 52 towns completing different missions to improve your character's skills. But then you can go online and duel with other players in real-time, while whistling the theme from High Noon. Well, that's what I'd do. There'll also be new content added regularly to keep it fresh.
A game where you rotate objects to match their silhouettes sounds like a piece of cake, right? Not in this case. SiL has you spinning more than 100 objects, with some being fiendishly hard to set in place. The game features trippy stylised graphics, and three different gameplay modes to keep your attention.
This one takes some grasping, but it's perhaps the most ambitious of all the nominees. Triangler is a multiplayer location-based game played by two teams of, er, 100 players. And the aim is to capture members of the other team by banding together with two of your team to encase them in a 2000-metre equilateral triangle. I said it took some grasping… It's not as hard as it sounds though, as you use your phone's display, and group voice chat to line everyone up in the right places. Start rounding up 99 mates now!
|Dance Star (Lanetro Zed)|
Forget those 'press right then left then up' dance rhythm games on mobile. They look old hat next to this cool camphone-enabled game. It's not really a game, as such. It's more of a dance tutorial application. A character does dance moves on screen, while you point the camphone at your feet, with outlines showing how you should be moving them. And voila: you're dancing like Fred Astaire! Or Fred Flintstone, of course. The game can't work miracles…
|Raging Thunder (Polarbit)|
Racing games are made for 3D handsets (as you'll know if you've played some of the dodgy 2D racers out there). Raging Thunder is a polished speedy sim which errs towards arcade fun rather than dull realism. In other words, it's a Ridge Racer rather than a Gran Turismo. You race against three computer opponents, but the game's real innovation is its over-the-network four-player mode, which puts a whole different spin on things.
|Crazy Matches (IKS Mobile)|
The developer hasn't exactly been verbose in its description of this game. "Funny casual games with tournaments possibility" is as far as it goes. So we'll work it out for you. It's a Flash Lite game, with cool cartoon visuals, which appears to see you playing as common kitchen matches. Strike a light, that sounds fun! Actually, it probably does involve striking a light…
|Lament Island (Sim Life)|
Wow. This game really does look the bees' knees graphics-wise. On the one hand, it's a fairly traditional 3D action adventure, with you roaming some luscious locations solving puzzles and exploring. But it's also extremely innovative in its use of mobile technology. For example, you use the microphone in your phone to blow, and scream to drive away monsters. Not one for playing on the train then. And it also uses the camera to recognise changes in lighting, and incorporate them into the game.
|Dance Arena (Flamix Co)|
A more traditional rhythm-action dancing game this, with colourful 3D visuals and an intoxicating sense of fun. You're entered in a disco dancing competition, which involves fast thumbwork to bust spectacular moves, in time with the beat of course. The better you do, the more people will dance along with you, although they'll hurl abuse at you if you mess up. It sounds a bit like classic Dreamcast (and then PS2) game Space Channel 5. With even more frighteningly skimpy hotpants.
|Synchro (Sai Chung Tam)|
Another game making use of the mobile phone's innate connectivity – this time using Bluetooth, rather than its network connection. Synchro is a multiplayer game where you all stand in a circle, with an imaginary ball in the centre. You have to press left and right in time with a beat, which is synchronised across all the players' phones. Whoever keeps time best will draw the ball towards them, until someone wins by getting it all the way over. Quirky and original.
|Tornado Mania (Digital Chocolate)|
You've already read about this cool one-thumb game in our preview, but just in case… You control a tornado, and get to choose whether to use your windy force for good (rearrange buildings into a tidy utopia) or evil (raze 'em to the ground). There's a quick-play mode and a more in-depth story mode. There's every indication this could be as big a sleeper hit as DChoc's Tower Bloxx was last year.
|Rollercoaster Rush (Digital Chocolate)|
Digital Chocolate's second nomination, and a thoroughly deserved one too. Check our review for more details, but Rollercoaster Rush has you playing as a brakesman on, yes, a rollercoaster. All you have to do is speed it up, and slow it down – with the aim of creating the most exciting ride possible for your passengers. A simple idea, marvellously realised.