Having had a good rant about World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge the other day, we're wary of spending too much time bashing the big mobile publishers for their unambitious N-Gage launch titles.
However, fairness demands that Gameloft get the same scrutiny that Glu did – and perhaps more, given that Gameloft was one of the first publishers to sign up to the new N-Gage platform way back in May 2006.
Nearly two years later and the publisher's first new N-Gage game is… Block Breaker Deluxe. Yes, that's right, a version of the existing Java game that, if we're honest, doesn't feel a great deal different in terms of core gameplay.
What has the publisher been doing all that time?
Fair question, but two things mean this game doesn't get as harsh a reception as Glu's poker title. First, the N-Gage version only costs £6, rather than £8, so it's not a huge premium over the Java title.
And second, it's got Bluetooth multiplayer – although admittedly, this currently relies on you finding another N81 user with the First Access application and Block Breaker Deluxe installed. Good luck with that.
Anyway, if you're not familiar with the Java version, the game sees you travelling round glitzy venues in a fictional town, Palm Ocean, competing in Block Breaker contests. And yep, that involves breaking bricks by batting balls at them, in a Breakout stylee.
Each location features a series of levels, culminating in a boss to battle. You earn money along the way, and can grab a large variety of power-ups to help you, covering everything from lengthening your bat and giving you a laser to obliterate bricks, through to spawning multiple balls and making them more powerful.
The thing that shines through in Block Breaker Deluxe, just as it did in the Java version, is the excellent level design. The variety will really test your wits, and there's moments that will leave you grinning from ear to ear (most of them involving several multi-ball power-ups resulting in 12 or more balls richocheting around the screen while you try to keep them in play).
There's also casino elements on some levels, which see you catching poker chips or bouncing craps dice to earn extra dosh. All in all, it's just as fun and engrossing as the Java game (and its iPod spin-off, for that matter).
There has been some weirdness with the screenshots, we should make clear. The ones above are the official N-Gage screens, yet the game itself has changed since those were released. It's not vastly different, though.
We haven't been able to test the Bluetooth mode yet, but plan to as soon as possible. It's a good inclusion, albeit one that'll only be useful once the N-Gage app is on more handsets.
Meanwhile, the game has the standard N-Gage Arena interactivity, enabling you to upload your high-scores to a global league table (and another score over WSOP:Pro Challenge is the fact that you can see your own ranking, rather than just the Top 10).
It's a supremely addictive game, too, with plenty of 'just one more go' appeal pulling you into long sessions. We'd still argue that it's a relatively unambitious title for N-Gage though, which explains the lower-than-you-might-expect mark at the bottom of this glowing review.
It's good that N-Gage is getting games like Block Breaker Deluxe, Tetris and World Series of Poker: Pro Challenge, as it hammers home the point that it's not just a platform for hardcore console-style games. But it'd be nice to see publishers making more of N-Gage with these casual titles, piling more resources into the visuals and sound, throwing in more game modes and extra levels, and so on.
Perhaps they will once there are more N-Gage users out there to buy the titles and provide a return on the publisher's investment. As it is, Block Breaker Deluxe is a great game, but only a pretty good N-Gage game.