Asphalt 3: Street Rules

You can't beat the thrill of screaming round a corner at full tilt, smashing other cars out of the way before leaping off a hill and skinning something coming the other way with just centimetres to spare, before ramming a police car.

But enough about Bishop's Stortford on a Friday night. Instead, let's focus on Asphalt 3: Street Rules, which is out on N-Gage. And yes, it offers all of the above, with the added bonus of nitros, roving TV cameras, and no risk that you'll plough your car into The Kebaberie and ruin everyone's post-pub snack.

It's a pretty straightforward conversion of the existing Asphalt 3: Street Rules 3D game, which we reviewed last year, except with beefed-up graphics and sound, and N-Gage Arena connectivity. The beauty of the new visuals has a genuine gameplay implication, though: by being sharper, the graphics make it possible to see what's coming more easily and thus take appropriate action.

Your job remains the same, which is to race in various cities, earning money with your daredevil driving while upgrading to flashier cars (and motorbikes) and unlocking new challenges as you go. The cities included are San Francisco, Las Vegas, Honolulu, Tokyo, Mumbai, St Petersburg and Rome – but not London, sadly.

Each offers a single track to race on, and has the feel of the local city, so you get trams to avoid (or smash into) in San Francisco, neon nightlife in Vegas, oceanside roads in Honolulu, and so on.

The different challenges are varied. Some are straight eight-car races, but Beat 'em All involves destroying six other cars as quickly as possible, whereas Cop Chase has you pursuing the leader while trying not to smash into the other cars. Duel, meanwhile, is a head-to-head against one other car, and Cash Attack sees you trying to earn as much money as possible in one race, through stunts and crashes. New challenges are unlocked as your overall cash level reaches certain milestones.

You also unlock new vehicles and tuning upgrades, including everything from tyres and engines through to shock absorbers, crankshafts and pistons. Changing these affects your top speed, acceleration, braking speed and control, enabling you to set up your car to match your driving style.

Oh, and you get to 'choose your lady', which means picking from three women (once they've all been unlocked), each of which gives a different bonus while racing.

So what about the racing? Well, it's fab. Gameplay-wise, Asphalt 3 is pitched somewhere between the Holy Trinity of console racing classics Burnout, Ridge Racer and OutRun. The resemblance to the first of those is most pronounced though, right down to the 'takedowns' when you smash up your rivals.

Still, originality be damned: this game is fast, the controls are simple, it looks great, and you'll find yourself grinning throughout.

At least, you will once you realise that using lots of nitros is the only way to progress, and that the only way to get enough nitros is to drift round every corner. It took me several races to work this out, and I was getting mightily frustrated at constantly finishing sixth. The key, if you're playing in landscape mode without the number-pad, is to double-tap left or right as you head into a curve, by the way.

Drive well enough, and you'll get coverage on live TV, with a helicopter hovering overhead as you race – doubling the money for any stunts and smashes.

Once mastered, none of the challenges is super-hard, and dedicated players shouldn't have any problems working through them. Asphalt 3 has that 'just-one-more-go' addictiveness factor in spades, after all.

What to do when you've completed the game? This is where N-Gage Arena comes in, tracking your overall money total against other players. In truth, this feels a slightly empty experience (and I say that from the lofty position of 11th in the world). It would've been nice if Gameloft could have made more of the rankings; for example, adding individual tables for each track, with metrics like fastest lap time and money earned per track. It would certainly add more long-term depth than one overall cash total.

Oh, and some kind of ghost-racing mode to compete directly against friends would've been nice, too. As developers get more experienced with the N-Gage platform, hopefully this kind of Arena connectivity will come into its own.

As it is, Asphalt 3: Street Rules is an excellent driving game that's a great showcase for your N-Gage handset.

Asphalt 3: Street Rules

Looks good, drives fast, lets you smash into things. Marvellous