The ten most anticipated mobile games of 2008
The ones you'll want on your phone
Of the three gaming platforms we attempt to predict, mobile is definitely the most tricky. Not only do publishers tend to shy away from doing a lot of preview publicity, but the relative swiftness of mobile development also means that even they don't yet know some of the games that could turn out to be their most impressive releases during the next 12 months.
Still, with that caveat out of the way, it's time to get down to a brief explanation of our process. While there are plenty of games with 2007 in their titles – Tiger Woods PGA Tour 07, World Championship Pool 2007, Kevin Pietersen Pro Cricket 2007 and Air Traffic Controller 2007 spring to mind – whereas the likes of FIFA, Pro Evo and Champ Manager are already onto their 08 iterations, we've ignored such cyclical fare. Sure, some of them are excellent but you're clever people, so we assume you can work out for yourselves whether your favourite is likely to return.
Instead we've focused on some of the original and innovative mobile games you might not yet have heard of, but that we think you will soon. And a lot.
Let's get on with the show, shall we?The ten most anticipated mobile games of 2008
|10. Fantasy Date
Release: Now (US), TBA (UK)
Getting the balance between mobile's undoubted mass-market reach and gaming's conventions is perhaps one of the trickiest elements of the designer's art. Fantasy Date isn't the most seamless example of course, but the innovative blend of gaming, interactive storytelling and virtual dating, all resting on a WAP/streaming video platform, does demonstrates one lateral direction to take. Recently launched on Sprint in the US, you have to work your way through various multiple choice answers to get your chosen slightly saucy romantic interest to fall in love with you. Of course, technical limitations may preclude a UK release, but if it's successful in the US, expect plenty of clones in 2008.
|9. Dirk Spanner and the Fallen Idol
Adventure games are starting to make something of a comeback when it comes to pocket gaming, thanks to successful DS titles such as Phoenix Wright, Hotel Dusk and the forthcoming Professor Layton. The reason is their slow pace works well in terms of dip-in-and-out sessions, while quality plots and simple controls means anyone can play. So, it's good to see Nokia getting in on the act for next-gen N-Gage with Dirk Spanner. Mixing a film noir graphical style with a splash of quirky humour, the point-and-click one-button detective game will see you battling an array of femme fatales and gangsters.
|8. Gothic 3: The Beginning
The growth of in-depth mobile strategy and role-playing games during 2007 seems to be a counter-intuitive trend when compared to sector's obvious mass-market potential, but nevertheless a hardy band of refugees from PC gaming seem to be building a strong presence on mobile. For them, RPG Gothic 3 is likely to be a contender for game of the year thanks to its promise of 14 enemy types, 28 different weapons, ten types of armour, more than 50 unique maps, a whopping 1,200 lines of dialogue, solid artificial intelligence and over six hours of gameplay. Pick-up-and-play it won't be.
|7. Wolfenstein 3D
Developer: id games
Okay, so it's not been officially announced but reading between the lines, it seems clear that the next game John Carmack will be working on for mobile (and DS) will be the company's original 1992 shooter, Wolfenstein 3D – BJ Blazkowicz, Nazis and all. Of course, first-person shooters aren't the best matched genre in terms of the mobile's control system but with the experience of Orcs & Elves behind it, we think id's Wolfenstein 3D could offer something new, especially if Nokia decides to invest in a version for the next-gen N-Gage.
|6. CarJack City
Developer: Tag Games
One of the highlights of our recent trip to see Dundee's mobile game makers was a quick hands on with Tag Games' GTA-on-a-mobile CarJack City. It's nowhere near finished yet but the car jacking part of the game was working fine and the underlying driving mechanic seemed solid, too, even if the collision detection was a bit off. Nevertheless, considering the team's involvement with the original GTA game, it would be wholly appropriate if it managed to pull the attempt off. And with the addition of time-dependent missions (amongst other new features), this will be one to watch as its development continues throughout 2008.
|5. Devil May Cry: Dante's Awakening
With an impressive mobile version of Resident Evil already released, Capcom's looking to leverage its big console franchises once more with the arrival of arch half-demon anti-hero Dante. In Devil May Cry: Dante's Awakening, you'll be doing all the usual activities, such as fighting enemies, solving puzzles, unlocking weapons and generally looking mighty cool thanks to your big red coat and shock of white hair (Boris Johnson this ain't, though). There'll be over 45 missions to hack-and-slash through, something Capcom claims will eat up around ten hours of your life. Oh, and it looks amazing, too.
|4. Wi-Fi Army
Developer: W2Pi Entertainment
When it comes to speculative projects for 2008, there's little that's currently more vapourware than Wi-Fi Army. It's based on Google's as-yet unreleased Android mobile platform and plans to wrap technologies such as GPS, wi-fi, 3G, photo-recognition and Google Maps into an Augmented Reality experience that will see you playing a massive version of phone Killer (i.e. chasing people around cities to take their photos which are then compared against a database of targets). To be honest, we're sceptical it will be released but in terms of ambition and pushing the boundaries of mobile gaming, W2Pi should be applauded.
Nintendo's got Pokémon, Namco's got Tamagotchi and there are plenty of other portable creature-based games ranging from Neopets to Spectrobes and Digimon. How Nokia's Creebies will fit into the taxonomy is a question for 2008. At least, there appears to be plenty of tongue-in-cheek humour as you'll start the game with virtual cash and mobile home in which to keep your Creebies. So does that mean they're trailer trash? As caring for your creatures, while accessorising them like small celebrity shih tzus and breeding them like fruitflies appear to be the order of the day, we're assuming the answer's in the affirmative. And on that basis, we're going to name ours after characters from My Name is Earl.
|2. Project White Rock
Of all our most anticipated mobile games for 2008, Nokia's Project White Rock is the most mysterious. All that's been announced is that it will run both on N-Gage handsets and PCs, feature connected play and be "innovative". One reason we rate it so highly, however, is that it's being developed by RedLynx, the company behind the excellent N-Gage strategy game Pathway to Glory. We also think it will be one of titles Nokia promotes as being a key release to drive adoption of the whole next-gen N-Gage experience. It could be ground-breaking, then.
|1. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed
Publisher: THQ Wireless
So here we again, hostages to fortune with Star Wars as our most anticipated release of the year. Considering the dreadful history of games based on the licence, you'd think we should know better. And perhaps so, but does that mean we shouldn't give The Force another last chance? For one thing, the video footage looks amazing, while our recent close-up view of the game also had us intrigued. Quality developer Universomo is working on the N-Gage-bound project, too. Will it be enough? It's hard to tell but playing as Darth Vader's secret apprentice sounds cool, and features such tournaments, high-score uploads and downloadable content should make it unmissable (we hope).