Version tested: Mobile
At first glance, Reset Generation shares common elements with many other mobile games. The gameplay revolves around falling coloured blocks. The control system is simple, requiring only two buttons and one thumb. The music sounds like it's being banged out on a miniature Commodore 64 by a pixie in a biscuit tin. However, there are two key factors which set Reset Generation apart. Firstly, it hasn't been designed with a casual audience in mind, and secondly, it's not rubbish.
Let's start with the demographic issue; the clue is in the name. On booting up Reset Generation, you're greeted by a princess sporting a pretty pink outfit, big blue eyes and a bouffant blonde hairdo. "We are the Reset Generation," she says, all Peaches and cream. "We grew up with computers and videogames. This is our story."
The opening sequence goes on to introduce some of the game's other characters. These include the Hedgehog (who has blue spikes and a need for speed) and the Plumber (who sports red dungarees and a moustache, but has blonde hair and a thick Russian accent - presumably Nokia's more frightened of Nintendo's lawyers than SEGA's). Other characters include Bomberman clone Dr. Lovebomber, a staff-wielding Level 50 Elf and a woman called Babe Gunner, who boasts twin pistols and giant tits.
The parodies aren't all that clever or hilarious, but that's not important. The point is your Mum won't get the joke, no matter how many rounds of Wii Sports tennis or Diner Dash or Carol Vorderman's Sudoku she's played. Reset Generation isn't designed for casual gamers, but for those who started out with Space Invaders, moved on to Sonic and Mario, grew up with Lara Croft and are wasting what's left of their lives on World of Warcraft.
This becomes even more apparent once you start playing it. Reset Generation isn't so much pick-up-and-play, more pick-up-and-realise-you-have-to-do-the-tutorial. It's simple enough in principle: matches are played out on a grid, and each character has a base on opposite sides. The objective is to capture the princess holed up in the enemy's base and return her to your own - while preventing your enemy from doing the same to you.
But things are complicated by the fact there are three phases to each round of gameplay. First a set of four blocks will drop onto the grid and you must rotate and slot them in, Tetris-style. Five blocks or more in a row form a combo. These increase your attack power and the distance you can move around the grid, and can only be destroyed in special circumstances.
In phase two, you move your hero. Movement is more limited on enemy squares, and you're more vulnerable to attack. In phase three, you get to fire two cannon shots. These can destroy regular enemy blocks (but not those which form combos) and special items. In addition, firing two shots at one of your own squares will protect it from enemy fire.
So in short: drop blocks, move and fire. But in practice there's a huge amount of strategy and planning involved. This is partly due to the wide variety of special items which appear randomly around the board. There are springs, teleports, doors and pipes to help you get around. There are grenades and guns you can use to blow up your opponent's blocks. There are rings which make you invisible, wands which turn enemies into frogs, brushes which paint blocks your colour, pigs you can command to eat your rival's combos and all manner of other special items and secret weapons - all of which can tip the balance of power in an instant.
On top of this, every character has a unique ability that can be triggered when their combo meter is full. The Hedgehog can zoom across the map in any direction, the Level 50 Elf can lay down an entire row of blocks, Babe Runner can travel diagonally and so on. The Story mode is designed to let you try out all the characters and experiment with their different abilities, and doing so is great fun.
As matches progress there are endless tricky decisions to be made. Do you place your blocks where they'll form a bigger combo, or use them to build a more direct route to your enemy's base? Do you destroy the grenade your rival's heading for, or use both your cannon shots to protect that teleport you need? That nearby pipe will spit you out right next to the enemy's princess, but you make it back to base before he steals yours?
By the way - you only have a limited time to make each of these decisions, as the tiny ticking clock on the screen indicates. You get just a few seconds to survey the grid, observe the special items available, note your enemy's location, second-guess their strategy and decide what to do. It's a lot of pressure.
And that's when you're playing offline - it's the multiplayer mode where Reset Generation really comes into its own. Up to four players can take part in matches, and you can choose to battle against friends or random strangers. If you select the latter option, make sure you've had plenty of practice - the online players we've come across have all been extremely experienced and tough to beat.
So I've mainly been playing against Eurogamer's own Dan Pearson, and all right, I haven't beaten him either. Not once. Over the course of more than a dozen games. Possibly two dozen. What does this tell us? Yes, that I am rubbish at Reset Generation, but also that it's a great multiplayer game. I keep playing Dan because I'm convinced that this time, this time I'm going to win - I'll get that essential power-up at just the right moment, or I won't make that stupid mistake again, or this new strategy is bound to leave him broken and weeping and sorry for being such a big smug gloater following the first 27 matches.
Reset Generation achieves the just-one-more-go factor thanks to some superb fine-tuning. There are a plenty of gameplay mechanics to get to grips with, but the learning curve is just right. You feel as though your skills are improving with every single match, even if you lose, which makes for a real incentive to keep on playing. The power-ups are powerful enough to turn matches upside down, but they're not distributed so frequently that it's impossible to pursue longer-term strategies.
In other words, Reset Generation is one of the few mobile phone games out there worth playing - if you own one of the few mobile phones it's possible to play it on. Nokia's been touting the game as a flagship title for the relaunched N-Gage platform, but I couldn't get it to work on my N95 or even my spanky new E71. In the end they sent me an N81 for the purposes of this review, but they're unlikely to be so generous when it comes to everyone else in the world.
The good news, however, is that anyone with a PC can try out the game over at ResetGeneration.com. That's the full game, complete with online options, Friends lists and all the rest. For free.
Which is really rather generous of Nokia, considering Reset Generation is an excellent game. It's got more depth and charm than a lot of the rubbish old tat on Xbox Live or PSN. It offers a real challenge and real rewards for investing your time and using your brain. It's got a multiplayer mode that's fantastic fun, even if you're completely rubbish at it. Worth rushing out to buy a new phone for? Not quite. But worth playing for free on the PC? Yes. Worth emailing the link around so all your friends can play the tutorial in time for the lunch hour? Absolutely. Just don't bother CCing your Mum.
8 / 10