Yet they do have their advantages. For one thing, they're cheap, costing an average of $5. For another, they're portable -- whenever you carry your mobile, the games come along for the ride. And these suckers can really make that daily commute to work go by faster, trust me (see BW, 5/9/05, "Taking Video Games To The Next Level").
Everyone has their favorites when it comes to mobile games. I don't play poker, but Downtown Texas Hold 'Em, from publisher Jamdat, is a runaway success. I am into pool, and enjoyed Wimos' 3D Pool, but I'm not too interested in hockey-based games. And most people like the classic Tetris puzzle game and Pac-Man, the famous arcade game. I've also found a few other games, listed below, that I think you might enjoy playing, too.
DEMO DRAG. I must warn you, however, that your ability to download these games will depend on what kind of a phone you have (you'll need a Web-enabled phone with a color screen), and on what games your wireless service provider offers. For example, you can find Digital Chocolate's 3D Extreme Air Snowboarding on Cingular but not Verizon Wireless. You can view your carrier's game listings directly from your Web-enabled phone.
Many service providers offer free demos of mobile games, but, truth is, these downloads can be a pain in the neck -- and your wallet. When I tried to get the demo for Downtown Texas Hold 'Emfor my phone, the download took more than 10 minutes, for which I had to pay a dollar or two in airtime charges. Then, when the download seemed to be almost complete, my phone froze up. Apparently, my connection got interrupted. So, thanks for nothing! I would recommend skipping the demo.
Instead, first go to the game publisher's Web site to see the game preview, guide, and pricing information. Then check out a review on GameSpot.com or GameZone.com. In the past, I've found these sites' reviewers to be right on. Now, prepare those fingers to get punching!
Many people are hooked on Bejeweled, from Jamdat. This puzzle game is a good place to start if you're just getting into mobile gaming. How it works: Using your keypad, you manipulate rows of diamonds, rubies, and other jewels to create rows of identical stones. This isn't as easy as it seems at first, but once you get into it, the game is seriously addictive. Better yet, Jamdat just released a multiplayer version, allowing you to compete head-to-head with players across the country.
Vijay Singh Pro Golf 2005
Gameloft's Vijay Singh Pro Golf 2005 will make you feel like a pro. You can pick your clubs and your stroke speed, and get a bird's-eye view of the golf course as you aim. Off goes your golf ball, flying across the fairway. Sure, you can find some 3D golf games out there, but this 2D title seems better than much of the competition.
Prince of Persia: Warrior Within
For super-cool graphics (for a cell phone, mind you -- these don't compare with PC or console art yet), check out Prince of Persia: Warrior Within from Gameloft. This action-adventure game challenges you to be a fine swordsman. You can crouch, jump, and wield that weapon to your enemies' chagrin. You'll love the colors and the immersive graphics.
An offering from Wimos, this features 3D graphics that make the games -- pool, 9-ball, or snooker -- very real. And that makes 3D Pool stand a head above other pool games I've tried. In several 2D pool games, I've had difficulty measuring angles and was an awful shot, and I'm a decent pool player in real life. In 3D Pool, however, you can also use various camera angles to get up close and personal to the ball, or to get a bird's-eye view of the table. Kharif is a BusinessWeek Online reporter in Portland, Ore.