Hydro Thunder GO
- Windows Phone 7 £3.99 (Free trial available)
Every game should have a name you can holler with gusto: the more inappropriate the better, so that unassuming execs can exert their latent masculinity during sleepy presentations. On that note, may I present Hyydroooo Thunnnderrrrr GOOO!
After a few months wallowing in self-imposed mobile gaming purgatory, Microsoft appears to have realised that some big-name headline content is probably a good move. A big, flashy speedboat racer featuring nine excellent tracks is certainly a nudge in the right direction - or at least it would be if someone at Microsoft Game Studios understood the word 'optimise'.
The old Midway arcade heritage does its best to come across on the small screen, with the kind of brash, summery visuals that Sega once had a monopoly on. The excellent tilt controls lend themselves perfectly to a game that requires some rough treatment as you rip through the swell. But the frame rate...oh my.
It's all very well having a game where the boats move like s*** off a shovel and you spend half the time boosting, but if the hardware's not quite up to the job, scale back your ambitions - or figure out a way to achieve them. It's not that bad, but it could be a lot better. Let's hope they patch it.
For now, it's still one of the better Xbox Live efforts to hit the Windows Phone 7 store to date, and it's not offensively expensive, either. Is someone paying attention out there in Microsoftland? Let's hope so.
In the cutthroat world of mobile gaming, nothing is sacred, and no blockbuster is safe from a cheap knock-off.
Despite a few absolute howlers down the years, Gameloft is actually getting rather good at 'approximating' gaming's greatest hits. The latest example of its run of impressive form is its unashamed take on StarCraft-style real-time strategy.
Originally released on iPhone, Starfront's recent appearance on iPad and Xperia Play may prove more interesting due to the control advantages that both platforms bring. As you'd expect, the iPad's bigger screen is an immediate plus and lends itself perfectly to the game's icon-heavy point-and-click gameplay, while the Xperia Play's combination of touch screen and buttons provides an intuitive alternative.
The gameplay itself follows the old-school RTS template to the letter, but is no less engaging for it. As usual, three factions (humans, aliens and sentient robots) are all battling it out for control of the planet's rare minerals, and you eventually see the conflict from the perspective of all three.
If you've played any mainstream RTS since Dune 2 you'll know the base-building, resource gathering drill inside out, and Gameloft knows better than to tinker with a successful formula. But it more than makes up for its evident lack of innovation with a lengthy and varied 20-mission campaign, intuitive controls and surprisingly lavish production values.
On top of all that, you can meddle with four-player online or local multiplayer across five maps using Gameloft's robust Live 2.0 system.
You shouldn't expect anything more than a solid cover version of everything you've played before, but if that's what you're after, Gameloft delivers.