The most innovative mobile games are rarely the best-selling, and technical innovation often comes at the expense of great gameplay. Yet innovation is what drives gaming forward. So with that in mind, we’ve compiled a list of the 10 most innovative mobile games that were released in 2008, including iPhone, N-Gage, Java and iPod titles.
1. Reset Generation (Nokia)
Reset Generation scored a perfect 10 when reviewed on Pocket Gamer. The spin-off Facebook version was one aspect, but it was the wider Web 2.0 aspects around that which truly impressed, with players able to embed their profile in blogs and social networking profiles and view replays of any game played online via a widget.
2. Spore Origins (EA Mobile)
Platform: Java / iPhone
Sensibly opting against trying to cram the entire Spore PC game into mobile form, EA Mobile focused on the relatively simple cell stage of the game. The innovation came with the connectivity in the Java version, allowing players to customise their spore throughout the game, then upload it to EA’s server and fight asynchronous battles against those of other players – complete with a website tracking their stats.
3. Super Boom Boom 2: Space Adventure (Gamevil)
Super Boom Boom 2 let players purchase virtual ‘G-Points’ which could then be spent on extra levels, items and mini-games. It’s not the only Gamevil game to use this feature in Korea, but in the west it’s a marker of what may be to come in 2009.
4. Rally Master Pro (Fishlabs)
Rally Master Pro is probably the best looking mobile racing game yet. But its innovation was as much about connectivity and some of the distribution models behind it. For example, publisher Fishlabs seeded the game on various pirate websites, allowing people to download and install it for free in an effort to rapidly build a community of players. That went hand-in-hand with the way players paid to download extra tracks for the game, through a system of credits on the myFishlabs community.
5. Chess with Friends (Newtoy)
Chess with Friends is an important game in showing what’s possible with iPhone (and, indeed, connected mobile games on any platform). Gameplay is entirely asynchronous, so you make your move and then wait for your opponent to make theirs at their leisure – which could take seconds, hours or days. But you can have several games going at once, ensuring there’s likely a move to play whenever you fire up the game.
6. Star Wars: The Force Unleashed (THQ Wireless)
Platform: Java / N-Gage
The Force Unleashed makes it into this list for Universomo’s imaginative approach to the controls, based on tracing symbols on the keypad to perform attacks. Not all gamers warmed to the idea, but it’s praiseworthy for seeking a control mechanic that’s not a poor relation to console controls and which fits well with the game’s subject material. In case you’re wondering, yes, the game itself was really good, too.
7. TV Show King Online (Gameloft)
The concept behind TV Show King Online isn’t innovative – it’s essentially PlayStation quiz franchise Buzz!. It’s the connected features that make this so interesting, with the ability to play real-time quizzes over the network, as well as uploading scores.
8. Scene It? (Namco Bandai)
Here the innovation came in the weekly question packs that players could download to keep their interest up. By September, more than 26 million questions had been downloaded in this way – and since this is the US, the publisher is reaping the rewards of that in longer subscriptions. Namco Bandai launched four new puzzle categories for the game in September, to further freshen up the experience for players.
9. Tap Tap Revenge (Tapulous)
What started as a free music game for jailbroken iPhones has now become the premier iPhone music game brand. The ability to ‘download’ songs from within the game – a clever technical workaround, since Apple doesn’t officially allow it – was one feature. Persuading major labels like EMI to make songs available for the game was another. Plus there’s multiplayer and community features being built around the core game.
10. UEFA Euro 2008 (EA Mobile)
You could see EA’s licence to make a football game based on the Euro 2008 tournament as an obvious cash-in. Instead, they took the opportunity to enhance the gameplay, introducing skill bars used when players want to shoot, cross, tackle or perform skill moves. The idea was to test a control mechanic that would be more accessible than traditional fiddly button-pressing. It worked well, with some elements making it into the next FIFA game.