Playman Summer Games 3

Back in the 1980s, there was only one way for young men to build up fearsome wrist strength. No, not that. I'm talking joystick waggling – which isn't a euphemism. See, in the days of 8-bit home computers, you couldn't count yourself a proper gamer unless you could waggle a joystick from side to side at ninja speeds while playing multi-event athletic games.

Forget drugs, alcohol or designer clothes. Many British kids ended up spending their pocket money on replacement controllers thanks to games like Daley Thompson's Decathlon.

Anyway, the point is nobody uses joysticks any more apart from nerdy PC flight simulator fans, and waggling a virtual 747 isn't really advisable. But the concept of knackering your hardware trying to hurl a javelin lives on, in Playman Summer Games 3 on mobile.

I tell you, my N81 is quite possibly ruined for other games, having spent a week with Mr Goodliving's new Summer Games title. The '4' and '6' keys certainly aren't what they were before this turned up.

It's the third game in the series, as you'll have guessed from the title. The previous two were great, but this is a huge leap forward (pun not entirely intended). It combines idiot-proof controls, a challenging difficulty curve, and excellent animation into an astoundingly addictive package.

Five events are included: 100m Dash, Long Jump, 110m Hurdles, Pole Vault and Javelin. All relay on the same three buttons in the same way: '4' and '6' are used to run, while '5' is used for dipping / jumping / vaulting / throwing.

It's not just about button-mashing, though. When running, the numbers 4 and 6 appear onscreen, and the quicker you press the corresponding key, the quicker you run. But they don't just alternate – you might get a 4, then a 6, then a 4, then another 4 – so you need your wits about you.

You'll master the controls straight away, but mastering the actual game is another matter entirely. There's huge scope for improving your times and distances as you improve your timing.

For example, your long jump distance is a matter of running as fast as possible, then pressing '5' as close to the line as you can, and then pressing it again at the right point in your jump to shift position.

You'll spend hours trying to beat your best times, I promise.

The characters stand out from the start, too. Playman is joined by a group of cartoon chums from around the world, each with bags of personality. It's all down to the animation, which has been carried across from last year's Playman Extreme Running game.

The athletes flex, stretch and celebrate with distinct character but there's more to it than that. In the field events, once you've taken your go, you get to see a montage of you and your opponent(s) all going at once – the athletic equivalent of the 'ghost' option in racing games, kind of. It looks great.

Wrapped around the core gameplay is a gorgeously designed structure, that sees you competing in individual events against single opponents. Beat them all on Amateur level, and you unlock a tournament to compete against them all.

Win that and you unlock Pro mode, with individual events and then a tournament. That conquered, then comes Survival mode, which has you facing off against a series of Eskimos in an Arctic setting, until you lose an event.

The one niggle about this structure is keeping Survival mode locked until you've won the Pro tournament. Players whose thumbs/reflexes aren't quite fast enough will miss out on the extra mode, which is a shame.

That hardly stops Playman Summer Games 3 from being superb and one of the most addictive mobile games I've played since, well, Playman Extreme Running. Key to this are the in-game high-scores for each event, along with world records, which give you an incentive to keep playing and beat your best performances.

Meanwhile, a pass-the-handset multiplayer mode enables you challenge up to five mates at a time. I lost a whole evening's pub conversation to this feature, so it's a proven success.

But there's more. A connected feature makes it possible upload your best tournament score to a global rankings table, to see how you compare to the rest of the world. It's a small touch, but it's what will keep you playing long after you've beaten the Pro tournament. There's always a few more points to be squeezed out by sprinting a little faster or jumping a little further.

I could go on, but life being short let's get to the point: Playman Summer Games 3 is the best multi-event sports game on mobile and, indeed, is more than able enough to compete on other platforms, too – this would be a hit on Facebook and Xbox Live Arcade, for example.

Sure, it'll break your keys, but you have no idea how we wish there were more games we could say that of. Unless you have a trauma-inducing aversion to sports, you need it on your phone.

Playman Summer Games 3

Gold medal, record-breaking standard from start to finish
Stuart Dredge
Stuart Dredge
Stuart is a freelance journalist and blogger who's been getting paid to write stuff since 1998. In that time, he's focused on topics ranging from Sega's Dreamcast console to robots. That's what you call versatility. (Or a short attention span.)