By Warren C. Bennett
I’ve owned a Samsung Galaxy Note II since the beginning of April. When I first bought the device, I did a quick first impression of gaming on the phablet. I found that I enjoyed it quite a bit and using the Note II as a gaming machine worked very well. After a month of use, does the phone still hold up as a good gaming machine?
Controlling it all
I am not someone who loves the idea of virtual controls. Gaming on a mobile phone has been slow to win me over. It was the small screen combined with often unresponsive and finicky onscreen buttons that would quickly wear on my patience. Some games worked well with them, but others did not.
Since owning this massive beast of a machine, I’ve come to realize that some of my issue was just a lack of screen real estate. With the increase in screen size, many of my issues with virtual controls have disappeared. Although I have small hands, it seems that finding these buttons on a large screen is much easier for my fat fingers. I’ve been playing multiple action games that require quick reflexes and great timing. I’m not the best at many of these games but more often than not, my death is my fault and not the controls.
Saying that, there are some games that just don’t lend themselves to virtual controls. I still haven’t become used to playing old school action games like Metal Slug 3 or Sonic. I often press down on the control spot and nothing seems to happen. Or the action I desire is delayed. This is just annoying, but also doesn’t happen with every action game. This makes me think this has more to do with how the game is ported than the hardware.
One section of games that I enjoy more on the phone than online is so-called ‘social games.’ Or, as they are commonly referred to, Facebook games. I am not a huge fan of playing games on Facebook. Often a fun game is marred by over ambitious social mechanics that get in the way of gameplay. Like a message that pops up every time I take a turn and asks me to share that turn with my friends. I’ve found that when these games are released as mobile apps, many of the social ‘features’ are stripped away. This often leaves the core gaming experience without many of the irritating social trappings. For instance, I’ll play Words with Friends all day on my phone, but I won’t touch the product on Facebook. I’ve also played games like Candy Crush Saga and other Facebook mainstays on my phone. This is a pleasant discovery, though I can’t say that all Facebook game conversions take away the dreaded social functions.
Online coop and competitive gaming is one area I didn’t think I’d really do much of on my phone. However, I am finding that my phone is the perfect device to fire up a good fragfest or a game with online questing. When I originally bought the device, I started playing Order and Chaos Online. This full fledged WoW clone works well and scratches that MMO itch I have once in a while. I can play it in bed in small bursts, so it is a good game for a mobile platform. Another game that fits the ‘Questing’ mold is Arcane Legends. This is the best of the Spacetime Studios offerings, giving the player a fun game that can be played in bite-sized chunks. I also just discovered Shadowgun Deadzone, a full on PVP death match style shooter for the phone. I am not the best at this game, I have had fun going on-line and killing people in five-minute long matches. I’m slowly ranking up and unlocking various weapons and upgrades. I do have some quibbles with the game, but it really makes me long for an HD port of the original Unreal Tournament for mobile systems.
Classics on the go
I’m also making my way through many ‘classic’ mobile games. I have every Angry Birds game ever made, from the first offering by Rovio to the newest Angry Birds Star Wars download. I also have the amazingly fun Bad Piggies, a game that reminds me of a 2D version of Banjo Kazooie Nuts & Bolts. In it, you don’t fling birds, but build vehicles for the Piggies to find various items. It is fun and I highly recommend it. I started playing Jetpack Joyride on my Playstation 3, so I downloaded that on to my phone as well. I’ve never been a huge fan of endless runner games but I really do enjoy this one.
Another classic I just downloaded in Scribblenauts Remix. It is a port of the DS game, mixing stages from both the first and second game. I’ve not played a Scribblenauts game before. I’m finding the gameplay to be fun, if a tad frustrating. Sometimes I don’t get what I write down and other times it comes out different from I expected. However, that doesn’t keep me from playing. I’ve made it through almost two worlds very fast. They are selling more worlds for 99 cents, I am already thinking about buying the expansion.
Searching in Confusion
A month of using the Galaxy Note II makes me realize that this cell phone, or Phablet, is a true portable gaming competitor. Not all game genres have a huge representation on the device, but I can find almost every game type I want if I do research on the web first. Some of my issues with gaming on the platform come more from finding the games I want than from actually playing the game. It seems like both Google Play and the Amazon Android market just don’t understand what the term “genre” means. They have their game catalog split in to various categories, but often the games in these categories don’t represent it. I find Hardcore RPG games in the action and adventure category, for example, or puzzle games inside the card game section. Both markets need to take a step back and truly find out how people search for their products. It isn’t easy to just browse games in these markets; I often find the game I want on the internet and then look it up in the Google Play store. This is probably the biggest flaw I can find for gaming on Android devices.
The Future Awaits
There is an obvious reason that the mobile space is bursting with games. It is a relatively open market that allows anyone to create and publish a game. There are many great products to be found among the mass of endless runner and puzzle titles. I believe on all mobile platforms there is a lack of focus on the side of the store, but this is an issue I don’t expect to be addressed. This leaves it up to the developers and publishers to really push their product and let the public know it is on a virtual store shelf. Yet, it is both easy and convenient for me to fire up my phone and play a quick game of…whatever. This, combined with the rapidly expanding power of cell phones and portable devices, is why I think gaming mobile gaming will continue to expand over the coming years.
That being said, not every gaming genre is a good experience on a device with virtual controls. I do know I will continue to game on my Note II but that may not be the case if I ever buy a smaller phone. I look at this as a companion to a 3DS by Nintendo, not a replacement. I can imagine taking both devices with me as I travel. I do know that my phone will get more snatches of gaming time since it is easier to use on the go. Products like the 3DS and Sony’s Vita are are less about impromptu gaming and more about specific games. That is what the mobile market has in spades – spur of the moment purchases and being able to play a game in small snatches of time. The mobile gaming age has finally caught up with me and I don’t mind it one bit.