A week down the line, I can safely say that I'm a big fan of Sony Ericsson's Xperia Play. It's comfortable to play, I've got no complaints about the screen at all, and it's big enough without feeling too bulky.
That said, I'm rather more enamoured by the handset's potential than with the current quality of the launch titles. Games like FIFA 10, for example, are so bad that it's astonishing EA would even put its name to it, and it's by no means an isolated case. Even the half-decent games feel like quick and dirty shovelware.
But then perhaps that's launch line-ups for you. Further down the line, it'll be interesting to see whether it can carve a niche for itself as the smartphone of choice for more traditional console-style games. As the only handset around with physical controls, it's got the market to itself for the time being - now it just needs some decent games to justify the hefty asking price.
When Gameloft issued its Halo clone on iOS platforms, it didn't really matter how good the game was, and nor was it especially important how lovely it looked. It's the same story with any mobile first-person shooter. The developers do their best, with gyroscopic aiming and so on, but if you can't quite control it properly then you may as well not bother.
You can probably guess, then, that Xperia Play changes all of that with its slide-out control pad. Within an instant you're able to play the game intuitively, and move and fire with almost the same level of freedom you'd expect from a normal joypad.
I say almost, because the flat analog pad takes a fair bit of getting used to. In fact, I found it much easier to move with the d-pad and aim use the right analog pad for aiming. After that, everything fell into place.
The only problem with having better controls is that it exposes the appallingly generic game design at the core. For the most part, N.O.V.A. 2 is a weary return to the bad old days of samey enemies, boring linearity and uninspired combat.
The fact that there's 12 levels to work your way through might be a plus were it not such a routine, uninspired tour of duty. Occasionally you'll man a turret, lay down sentry guns or strap on a mech suit and stomp around, but there's minimal intrigue as you rinse your way through wave upon wave of undemanding foes.
You could argue that it's the best mobile FPS released to date, and that it's great value, especially given the five-mode, 10-player online multiplayer - and you'd be right. But if ever you wanted proof that value does not equal fun, N.O.V.A. 2 is a textbook example.
Asphalt 6: Adrenaline
Despite Asphalt 6 appearing on every platform known to mankind, I've never had more than a flicker of interest in featuring Gameloft's rather unapologetic Burnout clone in this column. Aside from looking like it was made around 10 years ago, racing games are usually about as suited to touch-screen platforms as a fork is to a bowl of soup.
But with the game's arrival on Xperia Play I was curious whether being able to control it with actual buttons would suddenly transform it into something to get excited about.
Sadly the answer is a resounding "no".
That's not to say Asphalt 6 is a disaster - it's just one of those rather anonymous arcade racing games that struggles to do anything that hasn't been done much better dozens of times before.
The fact that it includes dozens of races, dozens of vehicles to drive and even online or local multiplayer rather fades into the rear view when the core racing experience is so underwhelming. Even when you're blasting past opponents and scattering them like leaves in your wake, at no stage does anything about the game rise above the level of basic competence.
Perhaps it's the slightly tacky look. Perhaps it's the unsatisfying drift handling - buttons or no buttons. Perhaps I'm just being a gigantic misery guts and can't appreciate that for a budget mobile racing game it's not that bad.
Whatever it is, this is one of those occasions when it feels like you're getting exactly what you paid for: a cheap knock-off.
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12
As I scribe, Flick Golf stands like a straddling colossus at the top of the Paid Apps chart on both iPhone and iPad, pointing and laughing at the tiny ants scurrying around its feet. There's a very good reason for this: it's ridiculously addictive. As anyone who has lost hours to Flick Kick Football will attest, games like these are grounds for divorce.
You'd think with its resources and vast experience making golfing video games that EA would be able to come along and wipe the floor with the competition, and yet its latest attempt to woo us feels strangely flat by comparison.
At first glance you'd be hard-pressed to see much wrong with it. Technically it's the best golf game around, with eight crisp and detailed courses, four gameplay modes, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth multiplayer, and challenges galore. You certainly can't fault it for features.
But it's the game's evident determination to be realistic that is likely to prove divisive. It provides plenty of scope for control depth and flexibility, but in doing so fails to capture the intuitive feel that makes you want to play something like Flick Golf until your eyeballs fall out.
Put simply, Tiger Woods takes time and effort to get the most out of, thanks to a timing and aiming system that - at first - isn't quite as easy to grasp as it could be (the game could certainly do a better job of explaining itself, too).
If you're prepared to expend the requisite effort, there's a decent game of golf to be had here, but there's substantial room for improvement.
- Windows Phone 7 - £2.49
- Previously released on iPhone - £1.19, iPad - Free (extra maps in app at £0.59 each).
Sadly, this game proves I am by no means the master of the harbour. Despite my great desire to be the kind of man who can draw wiggly lines to direct stupid colour-coded boats to their respective docks, they always crash in the end. Lives are lost, inquests are held.
In my defence, I'd like to ask who, exactly, is driving these boats anyway? It's all very well asking me to direct them around the harbour. I don't mind giving them a steer on their most suitable destination, but beyond that, they should be able to take evasive action when another vessel is careening straight towards them.
But no. As if marshalling naval traffic to its destination wasn't enough of a hassle, you have to take into account rank stupidity as well - all of which, of course, is a recipe for a low-scoring, high-stress multitasking nightmare of a game that puts me a bad mood during my commute.
Some of you love all this, of course. I'm not knocking you. I admire your squiggly line-drawing skills. I respect your ability to rinse all seven maps and then boast about the fact on Facebook and Twitter. I actually enjoy fighting off pirates as I try to unload my cargo, and trying to avoid those pesky cyclones. I'm just not very good at it. Don't judge. We can't all be heroes of the harbour.
Fight Night Champion
- iPhone - £2.99
The noble art of smashing a chap's face to a pulp isn't something I ever imagined would make an engaging mobile game, largely for the same control-related reasons that blight so many console-to-mobile projects.
But these days developers are a smarter bunch, and much more inclined to completely rethink their games to fit the demands of touch-screen controls. A shining example of this attitude can be found in EA's unexpectedly entertaining Fight Night Champion.
Rather than waste our time with virtual sticks, you move your fighter around the ring by tilting the device and dole out jabs via a variety of intuitive single and double-digit swipes. Similarly, simple blocking and weaving manoeuvres lends the game conviction and depth.
Despite only offering a basic text-based tutorial, it's a system that's remarkably easy to adapt to within a few matches, and once you've got the basics down each bout becomes a proper battle of wills.
Thanks to EA's clout, Fight Night Champion also benefits from top class presentation and 20 famous names (Ali, Tyson, Haye) to slug it out against. On top of that, there's also an engaging Legacy career mode and Wi-Fi and Bluetooth multiplayer.
I would say that EA has landed a knockout blow to the competition, but that would probably result in actual violence against my person, so I won't. Anyway, it's good. You should get it.