Paris. A thief by night and regular Joe by day. A strange symbol your father left you. An Anti-Christ that has risen from the grave. This all sounds like an epic recipe for some crazy National Treasure sequel, and honestly, this kind of feels like an anime version of that movie. You play Phantom R and are trying to uncover an ancient mystery that your dad left you as a small boy while stopping the evil Napoleon Bonaparte himself from taking over Paris.
The story really takes itself too seriously for how silly the plot is. During the 5 hours you will spend with this game I honestly felt no attachment to the characters or story. They’re very cookie-cutter and don’t really develop any type of personality. The spotty voice acting doesn’t help either. There are a lot of characters for such a short game and many of them only get a few seconds of screen time to shout at you and that’s about it. It’s a very forgettable game, not just in the story. The visuals are your bog-standard anime-style graphics. The game plays like a rhythm version of Professor Layton on top of all that.
Once you get a hold of your character and can explore the map you will be presented with still backgrounds on the bottom screen like in Professor Layton. You then tap away ferociously until stuff happens. You can collect two hidden presents per screen for golden coins that are used to buy aids during mini-games. Some screens will have secrets such as notes that need to be found to find a secret music page, soundtrack CD, or objects that produce sounds that are needed to build the master instrument. These hidden items eventually unlock hidden chapters, but I honestly didn’t care enough for any of the characters to learn any backstory here from said chapters.
The meat of the game is the rhythm sections and these are fairly simplistic, but frustrating in nature. In most rhythm games you can get good at it by following the beat of the song. In this game, you don’t ride the entire beat like in most rhythm games. Small sections are cut out with button presses. For example, you do a sequence with A or B buttons like A-B-B-A-B and that section follows the beat of the song. This would be fine if the entire game wasn’t a Simon Says game disguised as a rhythm game. You have to listen to a sequence of notes and repeat them regardless of the beat of the song. I wound up failing many mini-games because I wanted to naturally tap or press buttons in time with the beat, but just mashing the buttons worked. Increased difficulty means more prompts to remember and they sometimes play so fast that it’s almost impossible to remember the sequence on the first try.
While I praise the game for giving a variety of mini-game types they do repeat very often. The games usually require you to tap two buttons or swipe on the screen in certain directions. That’s it. In between the rhythm games are mini-game puzzles that are fairly easy and offer no challenge. There are a few Simon Says ones in here too, but the sequence is remembered so if you mess up you just start at the last note you messed up on. That offers no challenge and allows you to basically mash all the buttons and not care about the order. While I could find a groove with some rhythm mini-games there were many that I just couldn’t get into or kept messing up on and didn’t understand why.
Overall, Rhythm Thief is a Simon Says game disguised as a rhythm game. There’s no true rhythm here outside of repeating every pattern in time with a beat. I could do that without a beat. The increased difficulty isn’t about more complicated songs, but just increased speed and more prompts in a shorter time frame. That’s not challenging just frustrating. The story is nonsensical and takes itself too seriously with characters that are one note and don’t have any time to build a personality to care for. While the visuals are nice it feels way too much like a cousin to Professor Layton and not its own thing.
Infinity Blade was a big deal when it was released. It was the Dark Souls of mobile games at the time before Dark Souls even came out. Chair Entertainment started a revolution that many tried to copy and failed. It was a rogue-lite that had you dying over and over to only use the gold and XP you acquired to level up and get further each time. Some consider it a repetitive grind, but others feel it makes them want to get further and further and find the chiseling of progression addictive. Rage of the Gladiator tries this and doesn’t do any of it very well. Forget a story, it’s pretty much nonexistent outside of a few stills with text.
There are ten bosses to fight through. Each one does more damage, has faster moves, and more of them. Despite this sense of progression in difficulty, the game is very easy. You have to dodge left or right in first person, jump, and then swing your sword left or right, and even kick when you successfully dodge. You can get a max of a 5-hit combo in unless you use a special move before that fifth hit. There’s no strategy involved, and I only died one time during my entire play-through. Moves are easy to predict and rather slow. The repetition gets worse when you have to win three rounds per boss. That’s 30 rounds in total before unlocking the medium difficulty. Yeah, you work your way up through hard, but the moves are just faster and one or two more are thrown in. You also take more damage.
You can buy weapons, shields, armor, mana, and health potions, acquire passive and offensive abilities and increase stats. You win gold after each match and earn one measly XP per match. Yes, it’s a complete grind and this is leftover from this being a mobile game. At the end of the tenth boss, I was only able to buy two new weapons, a single shield, and an armor piece. You can use gold to buy XP, but this system is in favor of grinding or slowing you down enough to make you buy this stuff via microtransactions, but these aren’t on the 3DS version. So, instead of rebalancing the game, they kept the grind in.
This would be fine if the game was as epic or good-looking as something like Infinity Blade. Instead, we get generic Greek mythology bosses, a ninja, and a Chinese martial arts master, and that’s about it. Medium and Hard difficulties have one additional boss at the end, but they’re not exciting. However, the animations are stiff, the visuals are ugly, and everything is just on repeat forever. There’s no strategy involved in the fights or even how to go about your attacks. Instead of adding a parry system that allows you to counter an attack you just dodge. There are a few attacks that can be paired, but it’s only on a few of the bosses. It would even be cool to change up the background, but instead, it’s the same Roman arena forever.
Overall, Rage of the Gladiator is a repetitive, boring, easy, and weak attempt at a genre that has been done better and to death. There’s no rebalancing of the shop or winnings so you’re grinding as if you can buy these things to advance quicker. The bosses are uninteresting and boring, the game is ugly and drab, and there’s no story to speak of. Shoving a mobile game onto the 3DS was a bad move and it shows here.
As time goes on I’ve learned to appreciate engaging casual games that don’t require intense focus. Small adventure games that only take a few hours to beat, relaxing puzzle games that don’t really have an ending, and anything in between are fun to enjoy and veg out on. It’s the same effect for me as binge-watching a show. A Little to the Left tries to be that. It has engaging puzzles and serotonin-squirting organization puzzles along with cute visuals, but it does come with issues.
The game’s puzzles start out fairly simple. There are around 75 puzzles in the main game with 365 daily puzzles. Puzzles start out with just straightening photos on a wall, putting cat toys in a basket, arranging a dinner set, aligning colored pencils in a certain order, stacking rugs, etc. These first dozen puzzles are relaxing and really give you a taste of what this game could be. Yes, I said could be as the game quickly ramps up the abstractness, and even with a full-on guide and accessible hint system in the game it still doesn’t make sense. The arrangement puzzles are the absolute worst. These are abstract shapes that don’t snap together but instead are arranged in a specific pattern. The patterns usually make no sense since the pieces are so far apart. These puzzles will frustrate most players and lead you into a false sense of relaxation and simple organization and stacking.
That’s not to say I don’t like a challenge. One puzzle has you sliding a mirror to the left and right and arranging the objects according to the reflection. Another has you stacking cat food cans in colored columns that match. These puzzles were enjoyable. My favorite was the organization puzzles. Put all the junk in the correct cubbies. That’s a lot of fun with the process of elimination. Sadly, there are only about four of those puzzles and I wanted more. The difficulty is all over the place, but it’s the artificial difficulty. The puzzles are just so obscure sometimes that most people may quit the game.
I also found the snapping system pretty broken. Sometimes you place an object in the right spot and it will snap into place and make a faint ding sound. However, abstract pattern puzzles require two symmetrical objects in the same spot in the scene before they will snap into place. This hinders progress as there are no tactile hints that you are making progress. There is a hint system that shows you the solution by erasing and uncovering. This was nice as I would try to just erase one part and still be able to solve the rest on my own. However, even the hints sometimes make zero sense.
Thankfully, you can still move on with the “Let It Be” system that skips the puzzle for you. There are some puzzles that have two or more solutions such as sorting from highest to shortest, then by color, and then by matching an image on the same object. While the first solution may seem easy to spot the additional solutions can be insanely abstract and obscure. I really tried to solve as many as I could on my own, but in the end, I solved maybe a quarter of the puzzles by myself. There were just too many that were frustrating or I felt I wasn’t making any progress. Some were just me overthinking the puzzle, but some were just poorly designed.
The visuals are cute. It has a pastel minimalistic look. Lots of colored pencils, charcoal, and watercolor art designs. The music is great and relaxing to listen to in the background it’s just too bad the game isn’t as relaxing. In the end, A Little to the Left is misleading in its first dozen puzzles and quickly ramps up the abstractness and obscurity too much requiring too many puzzles to be skipped. The most enjoyable ones are too few. This isn’t a bad game at all. There are fun puzzles peppered throughout the bad ones, and the overall cat aesthetic is enjoyable with great music.
Apple Arcade continues to dominate the mobile platforms with amazing original games that are non-pay-to-win or stuffed with microtransactions. These unique games invoke what gamers love about games and what mobile games should be. Not since the early days of iOS gaming have there been this many awesome games.
A gorgeous and fantastically unique puzzle game that will keep you glued to your screen. The game insists on stress free and relaxing gaming. The bright colors, simulated textures, and overall zen nature of the game is welcoming. The addictive nature of mobile games is a key ingredient to making them great. You want to be able to play for an hour or five minutes, but always want to come back. Stitch has done this without making it frustrating or repetitive.
LucasArts’ SCUMM engine games hold a great fanbase for those who grew up in the 80s computer gaming scene. They were bright and colorful. Revolutionary, for their time, in terms of gameplay and art. They were also later updated with voice acting which was some of the first of its kind. While the games were short (running around 6 hours per game) they were memorable and had a special sense of humor that was considered top of their class. The series got a much-anticipated remake starting with the first game. While not much was really added, the entire game was redrawn from scratch with all new lines of dialog recorded by the original cast.
The game definitely plays like an old point-and-click adventure of yore. Clumsy controls (which were never really fixed), slow pace, obtuse object hunting, and no puzzles. That’s not to say the game is bad. While it doesn’t feel as modern as The Longest Journey or even David Cage’s games with quick-time events and button pressing that’s part of the charm. Thankfully the game has a hint system that slowly gives you more specific hints including full-on arrows pointing to the exact spot you need to be. This was really helpful and a must-have for first-time players or those who aren’t familiar with this era of adventure games.
The game has two main areas. The first one consists of some small areas, a town, and a large overhead map to get to these areas. Most of the game is gathering items and figuring out where to use them and how. You have multiple commands such as talk to, push, pull, look at, use, open and close. These are used by pulling up an action command menu and then you have your inventory. To use these commands you need to pull up the command menu and then the inventory. This is cumbersome and took a while to figure out. You control Guybrush by clicking around on the ground, but his walk cycle is pretty slow. There’s a lot of backtracking in this game and this slowed the progress a bit. One thing I didn’t like was the insult for sword fighting. You have to lose to pirates to learn their insults and comebacks. You need to learn enough to defeat the first “boss”. There was a lot of trial and error doing this and it got really frustrating.
The star of the show is the characters and the writing. The salesman Stan for example is hilarious. Using overexaggerated arm waving and an obnoxious coat to look like a sleazy salesman. The pirate LeChuck doesn’t get much on-screen time, but neither do most of the characters. The main character Guybrush is who you will get to know the most. There is an optional dialog for most characters to get to know their personality more than their backstory. There just isn’t enough time to get to know them more. So, it makes up for funny writing and witty humor which the game does solidly.
I liked the visuals in this game. The hand-drawn art is beautiful and still captures the classic LucasArts look. Some of the animations feel a bit stiff still, but again, that all adds to the charm. The voice acting is awesome, there is some funny use of items and small little tidbits of humor thrown in that did make me chuckle. I have to say that this game won’t hold everyone’s attention. It is slow to build up and takes a while to get going. A lot of people might feel lost clicking on everything and not realize what order to do things in, but the hint system makes this game much more enjoyable. I highly recommend this classic remake, but it won’t be to everyone’s taste.
I love short point-and-click games, but they are hit-and-miss. For these games that are less than two hours, it takes a lot of talent to pull off a good story, something to get attached to, and fun gameplay. Cat Museum nails almost all of this except the story and something to get attached to. The mini-game and puzzle-driven gameplay are more entertaining than pixel hunting, but there’s also the fantastic art direction and grotesque nature of the whole game.
See, the story just doesn’t make any sense. It’s told in abstract story panels. I only gathered that you’re possibly dreaming and your dream of a cat museum full of monsters and creatures that need help. You’re searching for special eggs and that’s all I could gather. It doesn’t make a lick of sense. The game isn’t confusing or anything like that which is nice. Clicking around moves the boy and you will see eye icons for things to look at and hand icons for interaction. These hand icons advance the game and each interaction is unique and different. Jigsaw puzzles, slider puzzles, timing mini-games, and just weird things like pushing and pulling things to reveal hints. It’s hard to get stuck in this game as there’s always one object in each room to interact with which will reveal a hint or the puzzle/mini-game will advance the story.
The best part about this game is the insane art style. Lots of grotesque characters, guts, bodily fluids, and crazy monster designs right out of a child’s nightmare. However, it’s still colorful and full of life. I really liked the atmosphere and world of Cat Museum, but at a 90-minute runtime, the game doesn’t allow any type of world-building or anything of that nature. Dialogue is cut down to a couple of lines per character and none of it is meaningful. There are a couple of scenes where you need to run and hide from a monster chasing you, but it’s just to the end of the same room so there’s no challenge there either.
There’s not much to say for a 90-minute game. For a few dollars this is an interesting art exhibit, but not much more. I appreciate the unique puzzles and mini-games, but the monster designs are so cool that I wanted to spend more time in this world and learn more about it. What’s here is a short and crazy ride full of weird art and nothing more.
We as humans tend to dwell on death and what lies beyond. It’s only natural as we simply don’t know. Behind the Frame explores this concept with an emotional tug-of-war of a story, but you really need to pay attention, and a lot of the story is more between the lines and not what’s really being shown in front of you. There’s a lot of assumption that you know what’s happening when the main character looks shockingly off in the distance based on the previous scene. It’s done fairly well too.
Most of Behind the Frame is puzzle solving. It takes a dark twist halfway through and it surprised me. Your goal is to acquire all five missing colors on your paint palette to finish your painting. To do this each color is locked away behind a chapter puzzle. These got rather complex towards the end, but nothing you can’t figure out without exploring and finding that key item that gives you that “AHA!” moment. Some puzzles are as simple as matching colors on a painting to memorization. Nothing is overly complex and it does eventually come together. The painting itself is a matter of scribbling enough in the empty space and it will auto-fill. Nothing extraordinary there. There are some other small tasks like making food which is as simple and dragging items around.
There isn’t a lot of context on the main character’s life itself through any reading of notes or anything. It’s pretty much learning about her past and her connection with her neighbor. The game has gorgeous anime-Ghibli-inspired art with a few small cut scenes thrown in. I never got tired of looking at the game, but it is confined to mostly her apartment. Every so often you “dive” into a painting, but it’s usually just for story context. There were a few panoramic scenes that were breathtaking. I actually felt like I stepped into a painting myself a few times.
In the end, the game is over in about 90 minutes or less depending on how long it takes you to solve the more complex puzzles in the final chapters. Without having to solve these this game is over in an hour. The story does unfold quite a bit towards the end and without voice acting it gets a lot of emotions across and I have to give the developers credit for that. Most of these short indie games don’t have any meaning behind them. They have some clever gameplay ideas or neat visuals and nothing beyond that. Behind the Frame actually tugged at my heart strings a bit and got me thinking at the end which is more than I can say for 60-hour-long AAA titles. If you want a puzzle-filled emotional evening with great visuals and fun gameplay mechanics then look no further.
The original release of Doom 3 was a huge deal. It was a technical marvel with fantastic new lighting effects and textures that could fill the latest GPU and all of your RAM. It split fans due to the slower pace and focus on jump scares (that honestly don’t really work these days anymore) and a bigger focus on the story (if you can call it that). The game retains the same dark visuals and monsters from before, but being the first game in full 3D it had a lot of problems.
The first thing you will notice is that this release has no visual upgrades outside of some texture filtering and anti-aliasing and slightly better lighting. The textures still look muddy and the models are still low-poly. With this being the third official release of this game I’m surprised more work hasn’t been done to it. You play as a marine who is stationed on Mars when things suddenly go wrong. The first couple of levels is probably the best since they slowly introduce the gameplay to you and have better-designed levels. Zombies emerge from the dark, and your flashlight is a lifeline. It does have a short battery but recharges within seconds.
The main issue with Doom 3 is its much slower pace in every part of the game. The movement is slow (you have adrenaline that’s used for limited sprinting which is annoying), and the weapons reload slowly (why is there reloading anyway?). Not to mention the weapons just plain suck. The pistol is useless outside of the first couple of levels. I never touched it after this. The machine gun is useless in later levels, and everything else just feels slow. Enemies feel slow as well. The environments are also cramped with too many enemies spawning at once and I constantly backed into walls and got stuck in corners trying to get away. Very rarely does the game ever feel like a classic Doom game with more open areas.
The level design is also terrible. The game is way too long as it is and it’s just boring hallways after hallway finding PDA access cards, running back and forth activating switches, and trying to open doors. nearly eight grueling hours of this. It felt like a chore after the first two. Eventually, you do get to Hell, but it’s such a short level with a boss fight at the end, but it still suffered from cramped areas and nothing new except a couple of enemies that finally show up such as the Hell Knight and Arch-Vile which are some of the toughest enemies in the game. I mostly stuck to the strategy of using guns that shot the fastest such as the Cell machine gun being the most powerful with the chaingun being second. I used the shotgun through most of the mid-section of the game until I got the cell rifle.
There are a few boss fights in the game that all play out the same, and in the end, the entire game is just one long boring chore. It’s fun at first, but if you are a veteran of classic Doom games then most of you may just shut this off early. This is my third play-through of this game and it’s less enjoyable each time. I originally played this on Xbox, and then PC, and then dabbled in it a bit on Xbox 360 and never finished it. Now I completed it on Switch.
Speaking of the Switch the game plays fine, but there is some slow down in the larger areas and it doesn’t always stay at 60FPS. In handheld mode, the game runs fine as well, and you have the option to turn off flashlight shadows to help, but overall it’s great to just have another FPS on the Switch. These don’t come around often. Included is the Resurrection of Evil expansion which I already finished once on Xbox and a new Lost Mission short campaign which I will get around to eventually. It’s nice that there’s some new content. Overall, this could have easily been a remake from the ground up or a mode that made it feel faster-paced like the classic games. If you are itching for a mid-2000s FPS game then go ahead. Don’t come into this thinking it’s like the newer Doom reboots. This game was a specific era of id Software at its lowest point (Quake 4, Rage)
Gimmicks that use various types of hardware are nothing new since the days of the Wii made that mainstream, but very few games use your camera outside of a home console for gameplay. While it’s wholly gimmicky and can be played with a controller, the game uses your webcam to see your eyes blinking to determine when to change scenes in the game or interact with objects. Not often does the gimmick feel like it’s influencing something important, but when it does it works well.
You play as a boy named Benjamin Brynn floating along the river of death in a boat with a wolf as a ferryman. He’s to be taken to a being in a large tower whom he has to sell his life story so he can pass on and the ferryman can be paid. You start out as a child and you eventually learn your mother is an accountant and failed music composer and wants you to follow in her footsteps. Each scene is full of mostly black with just what you can remember being in view. Sometimes an eye will appear on objects for you to blink at and interact with. When a metronome appears you can blink and jump to the next scene or try to hold your eyes open and see the scene to the end. Most of the time I couldn’t do it (it’s very dry where I’m at here in the summer).
You slowly progress through the story only to find out that you need to retell the story correctly. I won’t spoil anything as to how or why, but the only times the blinking gimmick felt right was when you had to close your eyes to focus on someone talking. With headphones on this is a great effect. The game does a great job detecting your eyes even in low light, and I was using a laptop webcam which isn’t that great. There isn’t much else to this game. It’s an interactive adventure with interesting visuals. The whole game reminded me a lot of That Dragon, Cancer, but I can’t connect to this game as much as it’s shorter and at the time I was expecting my first child so that game hit home quite a bit. A big fear is your child being born with some sort of debilitating disease.
You’ll most likely not really feel the game’s impact until the last 20 minutes when things get really dark and sad. It didn’t make me tear up, but it was really sad for sure. You can finish the game in about 90 minutes, but I did connect with the character to an extent, but not wholly. The scenes rush by too fast and you’re meant to understand the moral of the story more than connect with the characters and get behind their motives and feelings. I feel a game like this misses the mark due to its short run time, but the gimmick would get tiring for more than 90 minutes.
Overall, Before Your Eyes is a charming game with a lot of heart and a fun gimmick that works well when it wants to. It’s a very short game and doesn’t let you really connect with the characters enough. It’s forgettable in the end, and not as memorable as some other short adventure titles I’ve played in the past, but it’s fun and worth a look.
One of the most obscure gaming handhelds systems besides the Gizmondo is the Nokia N-Gage. I fondly remember this system yet never owned one until recently. I remember the giant cardboard stands in GameStop for it. The system even had its own game rack next to the GBA games. It was a massive deal back in the day because merging cell phones and video games weren’t even a thing yet. The iPhone wouldn’t be out for four more years. Sure, phones could play simple Java games, but just barely. The days where simple Snakes and Tetris were starting to sunset, and we finally were getting real 2D mobile games. But 3D games on a mobile device? It’s why the N-Gage was so expensive. At $299 ($462 adjusted for inflation) you were getting a mobile powerhouse. The graphics capabilities were about on par with the original PlayStation. However, it was the same price as the PS2 and Xbox and twice the price of the GBA.
So, what happened? Well, there are plenty of YouTube videos that dive into the history of the N-Gage extensively, but there isn’t a cohesive guide on how to use one in 2022. There are a lot of roadblocks to getting the game running. You can’t buy games at stores anymore, you can use the device like a cell phone, but it’s impractical today, and it doesn’t take standard removable media. The N-Gage is a pain in the ass to get working for just 65 measly games. However, these weren’t just shovelware. There were released by big AAA companies like Activision, THQ, and EA. This guide will help you choose your device and get you started.
The Nokia N-Gage was released on October 7, 2003, to mixed reception. The device looked fine, but it had a few flaws. Firstly the device had to be held like a taco to speak into it and the battery had to be removed to insert games. This was a problem as you could possibly miss a call during that swap time and you had to wait for the phone to restart. It also had middling battery life not just for gaming running at around 3 hours, but for talk and standby time as well. Talk time was around 5 hours. The system launched with 7 titles with all of them being ports. Tomb Raider, Pandemonium, Sonic Advance, Super Monkey Ball, Puzzle Bobble VS, Puyo Pop, and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater. All were solid titles for the platform, but the fact that these seemed like great to decent ports worried many early adopters. The exclusive and more anticipated releases weren’t set to be released for another 30 days or more. The original N-Gage model was quickly replaced by the QD just 7 months later. The price was reduced by $100 just two weeks after release and games retailed for $30 ($46 adjusted for inflation).
Should you get a taco model? No. Unless you’re a collector there’s no reason to get this version. The only advantage is the USB file transfer so you won’t need an MMC reader and you can use it as an MP3 player if you wanted. They are also more expensive than the QD and harder to find. The N-Gage also boasted its rival to Xbox LIVE which was N-Gage Arena. It’s dead these days but gave way to multiplayer options and game interactivity such as new levels, scoreboards, and more that were never seen before on mobile devices.
The QD model was released in May 2007 to quickly fix many of the original model’s problems. While game stores were thinking about booting the system, the QD put the speaker on the face of the phone and added a card slot at the bottom of the unit for MMC cards and games. The issue here is that you can only have one. Instead of adopting SD cards and having a third slot, Nokia cheaped out. They also removed the USB port, MP3 functionality (most likely a chip they decided to axe), and only a dual-band antenna. The design itself was also rounder and easier to hold. The QD is more available running at around $50-60 and is really cheap.
How Do I Get It Running?
So you just bought your shiny N-Gage and it won’t work! That’s normal. First off, make sure you have a new battery. There is old new stock on eBay as well as third-party batteries such as those from Polar Cell. The model number for the battery is BL-6C. You also need to have a SIM card in the system or it will not run. You will get a continuous “Insert SIM Card” error that you can’t back out of. You can either get one from a local phone store or buy a deactivated one on eBay for less than $10. It’s another cost on top of the system, but unless you already have a full-size SIM card you need to do it.
Second, the games are rather expensive. Some launch titles are under $20 including sports games, but the better exclusives like Ashen are $50+. The rarest game is The Elder Scrolls: Shadowkey which can run $600+. So, holy Christ I just bought this $50 to play some obscure mobile games and the games can cost more than the system?! Unless you’re a hardcore collector don’t bother. You will need to fork out even more cash by buying an MMC card which is hard to find and only really available in China.
There are 13 pin MMC+ cards and 7 pin standard cards. Most plus cards or dual-voltage cards won’t work in the N-Gage. I haven’t been able to get any current 1GB cards you can buy right now to work reliably. I recommend sticking with 512MB cards as it’s plenty of space for games and usually works more reliably. You will also need an MMC USB card reader that you can get cheap on eBay as well for less than $5. The max size you can use in the N-Gage is 1GB. The 2GB cards will not work and are unnecessary anyway. The entire N-Gage library is just a bit over 1GB. You also need to remember to never transfer games via Bluetooth. If your system memory is full during the transfer you can get the “White Screen of Death” and will need a flash box to reflash the system. The system memory only holds 4MB. It seems laughable today, but ROM chips were incredibly expensive up until maybe 10 years ago and the same went for removable storage. In total that’s another $15-20 on top of the $10 SIM Card. So in all, you need to spend $70 or so just to get the system up and running.
There was not much in the way of customizing cell phones back in the early 2000s. The most you could do was ringtones bought off of stores and wallpapers. The N-Gage doesn’t have much either despite its high price point. I couldn’t even find an option to change the ringtone at all. Wallpapers are about it and I have made a folder of official N-Gage wallpapers resized to fit on the device here. Just place these on the root of your MMC and go into Tools>Settings>Display>Standby Mode and select your wallpaper.
So there are of course the retail released N-Gage games, but you can’t just get direct ROMs and copy them to the MCC card. You need to get cracked games as these did have DRM. I can’t link to where to get them, but they are available. All you need to do is copy the numbered folder example: 6R31 to the System>Apps folder and it will show up automatically under the main menu. If it doesn’t the game isn’t cracked properly. There are also Symbian games that work on the system as well. While certain Java J2ME games run on the system they must be MIDP-1.0 environment games and they run poorly. It seems the N-Gage just wasn’t designed to run these games. While Symbian 7.0s was released before the QD Nokia did not update the software to run these newer games. So sadly, you are limited in your game selection. The Symbian games run much better on here though. Let’s take a look at the entire N-Gage library. There aren’t enough for “hidden gems” or anything like that. You should honestly check out every single game since there aren’t that many.
Ashen – N-Gage exclusive and developed in-house by Nokia. This is as close to Quake or Doom that you will get. It’s a horror-themed FPS and was highly anticipated for the system.
Asphalt Urban GT – A fun arcade racer and one of the few games that got a sequel. This really showed off the graphics power of the system.
Asphalt Urban GT 2 – Back again already? While just as fun as the first game it literally doubles the amount of content. I recommend finishing the first and then playing the second. You’ll get a lot of racing game time on your N-Gage this way.
Atari Masterpieces Vol. I – N-Gage exclusive. An awesome collection of Atari 2600 games. Asteroid, Battlezone, Millipede, and Super Breakout just to name a few. There are also four unlockable games.
Atari Masterpieces Vol. II – N-Gage exclusive. More Atari 2600. More fun. A couple of repeats oddly enough, but mostly all new.
Barakel: The Fallen Angel – N-Gage exclusive. One of the few dungeon crawlers on the system and it looked good too. This was a lot of fun and didn’t push the system too hard controls-wise. This was an unreleased game, but a full working copy is floating around online.
Bomberman – A multiplayer classic. It’s 16-bit Bomberman and it plays really well here. Not much content, but still worth a quick playthrough.
Call of Duty – A refined port of the PC game. Using a special engine to accommodate the portrait mode. It was one of the few shooters on the system.
Catan – N-Gage exclusive. Released late in the console’s life Catan somehow managed to actually work on the tiny screen. What helped were objectives and a quest mode to also help with longevity.
Civilization – A port of the original PC game, but with the Civ II’s graphics. There’s even a full Civilopedia and tutorial here too! A pretty impressive game overall. There was no multiplayer released most likely because this came out just before Nokia officially axed the system.
Colin McRae Rally 2005 – Overall one of the best racing games on the system. Solid visuals, physics, and somehow managed to just play well on the tiny system.
Crash Nitro Kart – A visually dumbed-down version of the PS1 game. Instead of 3D models, the game uses 2D sprites but still plays fairly well. Sadly, it’s another straight port from an older console.
The Elder Scrolls Travels: Shadowkey – N-Gage exclusive. One of the most impressive and sought-after N-Gage games. Period. This isn’t just a fun RPG, but it’s a freaking Elder Scrolls game! It just makes me think more and more how much I wish Travels: Oblivion would have turned out on PSP.
FIFA Soccer 2004 – A port of the GBA version, but with 3D stadiums. A fairly impressive game and was a best seller as well.
FIFA Soccer 2005 – More FIFA! Basically the same as the GBA version as well and just new rosters and mostly the same. Try each version to see which you like best.
Flo-Boarding – N-Gage exclusive. A pack-in title for Europe systems only. The was one of the few region-exclusive games. It’s a decent snowboarding game and helped tide, early adopters, over.
Glimmerati – N-Gage exclusive. A weird arcade racing game with supermodels to attract the equally strange. Boasted N-Gage Arena features at launch that don’t matter today.
High Seize – N-Gage exclusive. A fun strategy game with a lot of content packed in. This is as close to Advance Wars as you will get on N-Gage. Thankfully this game supports hot-seat mode so you can play multiplayer on a single device.
The King of Fighters: Extreme – N-Gage exclusive. One of two traditional fighting games and the best on the system. While its controls are limiting it works, and there is Bluetooth multiplayer so that’s not completely cut-off today. It looks good and does surprisingly well on the portrait screen.
Marcel Desailly Pro Soccer – An interesting release from Gameloft. While not as graphically impressive as FIFA it’s an alternative.
Mile High Pinball – N-Gage exclusive. One of the few in-house developed games from Nokia and just one of the best for the system period. 85 tables? Yes, please! The portrait screen is perfect for this kind of game. Lots of content here.
MLB Slam! – N-Gage exclusive. The only baseball game on the system. It isn’t graphically impressive, but it is a lot of fun and has a lot of content.
MotoGP – Probably the worst racing game on the system. It’s worth playing just to check out for curiosity. The game was rushed and feels incomplete with missing sound effects and choppy visuals.
NCAA Football 2004 – The only football game available. Full 3D visuals and a lot of content.
N-Gage Freestyle – N-Gage exclusive. Another European exclusive game. A weird motocross game mixed with button timings.
One – N-Gage Exclusive. An impressive fighting game exclusive to the system. It’s one of the best-looking games on here too. Feels a bit generic, but you can tell effort was put into the game.
Operation Shadow – N-Gage Exclusive. A decent shot at a military-style third-person shooter. Nothing special, but still fun.
Pandemonium! – A port from the PS1 version. This was a good 3D platformer despite its weirdness.
Pathway to Glory – N-Gage Exclusive. Probably one of the most impressive and highlighted games on the system. This was a killer app on the N-Gage. A really fun WWII strategy game similar to Company of Heroes.
Pathway to Glory: Ikusa Islands – N-Gage Exclusive. A direct sequel to the first game due to its popularity. More WWII strategy goodness awaits and it has Bluetooth multiplayer.
Payload – N-Gage Exclusive. A 3D car combat game similar to Wipeout.
Pocket Kingdom: Own the World – N-Gage Exclusive. The only MMO on the game and it’s a 2D one at that. You can still play this offline and dungeon crawl and level up. The online features just let you text other players and trade items which isn’t much of a loss today.
Pool Friction – N-Gage Exclusive. Another European-only game. Decent 3D pool and the only one you’ll get.
Puyo Pop – I was fairly surprised a Japanese puzzle game would make it to the N-Gage. It’s standard fare and not much different from the Game Gear of GameBoy Color versions. It’s still a fun puzzle game on the go.
Puzzle Bobble VS – Another great puzzle game. Essentially just good ‘ol Bust-A-Move. It’s perfect for the portrait screen as well.
Rayman 3 – A fun port of the GBA version with clean visuals and bright colors. One of the better platformers on the system.
Red Faction – Another high-profile game. While being a port of a PS2 game it worked surprisingly well and is rock solid. It does have control issues, but you can get used to it.
Requiem of Hell – N-Gage Excluive. A pretty decent action RPG with awesome horror and gothic themes.
Rifts: Promise of Power – N-Gage Exclusive. Absolutely rock-solid RPG. Backbone Entertainment was behind the wheel here. They only did one game before this one (an Incredibles game) but would later go on to create Death Jr. for PSP and become a porting powerhouse. It looks good, has a decent story, and has tons of content.
The Roots: Gates of Chaos – N-Gage Exclusive. A simple colorful action RPG. Nothing special, but still really fun.
Sega Rally Championship – A port of the Dreamcast version. This is a great game…to see just how not to do a racing game on the N-Gage. Yeah, this was a pretty awful port, but fun to play just to see how things could really go wrong on the system. It was only released in Europe so US gamers didn’t miss anything.
The Sims: Bustin’ Out – A port of the GBA game, but has N-Gage exclusive mini-games. If you like the Sims you will like this as well.
Snakes – N-Gage Exclusive. What would a Nokia phone be without a Snake game? This is the sixth generation of the game and is now in 3D! It was available for free on the N-Gage website and could be transferred to any other N-Gage via Bluetooth or Nokia N95 phones. However, only the N-Gage got the full 42 levels.
SonicN – A middling and lazy port by Dimps. This is a straight port from the GBA Sonic Advance, but instead of tailoring the game to the portrait screen, it’s just filled in from the top and bottom with a large border. The play area is incredibly small and it doesn’t run at the best framerate.
Space Impact Evolution X – A port of the Symbian version. Just a simple arcade shooter and high-score game.
Spider-Man 2 – A short but sweet N-Gage exclusive version. This is a 2D platformer with 3D races against time. You can probably beat it before the battery even dies.
SSX: Out of Bounds – Being the first mobile SSX game it had a lot of attention. Even my 13-year-old self at the time was reading about this game for N-Gage up to its release. It works surprisingly well but sadly had no online multiplayer.
Super Monkey Ball – Being a port of the GBA game it actually is in full 3D and plays better than the GBA version. It’s a lot of fun with a ton of levels and works well with the portrait screen.
System Rush – N-Gage Exclusive. One of the best games on the system. A mix between F-Zero and Wipeout. The excellent-looking tracks and models show what the N-Gage can do graphically.
TechWars – N-Gage Exclusive. A simple mech game. Great visuals.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2004 – Not the best version of the game, and not having an analog stick makes swinging less accurate, but it’s still a solid title. A little more 2D than 3D graphics here.
Tom Clancy’s Ghost Recon: Jungle Storm – A port of the PS2 exclusive. Ubisoft did a fantastic job here and it’s one of the best-looking N-Gage games. It also received a lot of press and attention. I remember fondly seeing ads for this in GameStop at the time.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory – Another high profile game for the system and a true killer app. This is one of the few games that really showed how to do games right on the N-Gage.
Tom Clancy’s Splinter Cell: Team Stealth Action – A weird choice despite how impressive Chaos Theory is. This is a more traditional phone-style game and is a 2D platformer. Still great, but not as good as Chaos Theory.
Tomb Raider – A port of the PS1 game. While technically impressive the controls take a lot of getting used it and it plays link a tank.
Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater – A fantastic port from the PS1 version. It plays incredibly well and has a smooth framerate.
Virtua Tennis – Ideal for quick game sessions and a disappointing port of the Dreamcast version. The game is mostly 2D sprites, but it still plays decently enough.
Warhammer 40,000: Glory in Death – N-Gage Exclusive. A pretty good strategy game overall. It’s a shock that this genre is one of the strongest on the system despite the hardware and screen working against it.
Worms World Party – Again, another solid strategy game for the system. This is one of the best mobile Worms games you can play.
WWE Aftershock – N-Gage Exclusive. A surprising 3D wrestling game and the only one on the system. It’s mostly playable, but it’s not the best it could be.
X-Men Legends – A fantastic dungeon crawler hand-tailored for the N-Gage. This is one of the best games on the system.
X-Men Legends II: Rise of Apocalypse – Another fantastic dungeon crawler like its predecessor. While it plays it safe it’s basically more X-Men Legends goodness.
Xanadu Next – N-Gage Exclusive. An early release title, and while not the best RPG on the system, it’s still pretty decent.