The popular BioWare RPG makes its was onto cellular handsets, so we take it for a spin and give it a final score...
Cell phone games are becoming a lot more popular, and one of the company's leading the charge is JAMDAT. Not content to simply put out sports and puzzle games, JAMDAT set its sights on BioWare's critically acclaimed RPG, Neverwinter Nights, and with developer Floodgate Entertainment's help, have managed to shrink the popular game onto mobile phones, and while it has some minor issues, Neverwinter is very impressive.
Based on the Dungeons & Dragons universe, Neverwinter Nights tells the story of a foster child (that'd be you) that lives with a druid. A mysterious black smoke has been turning the creatures in Kryptgarden forest evil, and you must embark upon a quest to restore order and find the source of the problem. A lot of what you'll do involves fetching items, but you'll eventually explore the rather large world map, visiting areas, buying and selling items, and battling monsters along the way in between towns or while dungeon crawling. But before I get to that, let's explore the character creation options the game gives to you.
When you start, you're given the option of creating your own character or allowing the computer to roll the dice for you and build one on its own. Either way works well, the first option being the most important to RPG fans that like to distribute skill points and tinker with their character's best traits. You can even select a portrait of what your guy, gal, or thing looks like. It's not the most advanced of systems, but it's deep for a mobile phone game.
After creating your character, you're gently placed in the game world, where you go through a brief tutorial to get the hang of the controls. Speaking of which, they're very simple to learn. In fact, you can play the game with one hand! You move around with the Up, Down, Left, and Right keys, and pressing the Menu button brings up your options menu where you can quickly cycle through what types of attacks and items you would like to use. It's extremely user friendly, making the game accessible to just about everyone.
Combat isn't the standard turn-based battles we've grown accustomed to. Rather, they happen in real time, with you engaging the enemy, choosing your attack, and walking over to or get in range of the monster and unleashing hot death upon them. Unfortunately, the game doesn't really put on much of a show, so you may have selected to hit an orc with a sword, but you won't be able to tell if you're actually hitting it until it drops dead.
Neverwinter's visuals are a mixed bag. I played the game using an LG VX7000 and it was very colorful and lightly detailed. It looks a slight step above an NES game, though its graphics are dependent upon how powerful your phone is. While visiting with JAMDAT, a representative demoed the game for me on a phone with a lot more muscle and it looked like an entirely different game. However, while all that power is good if you like eye candy, you don't need better bells and whistles to enjoy the game. The environments are varied and the enemies (thieves, orcs, bugbears, and other assorted creatures) are distinguishable. I just wish your character was. No matter who you pick, the end result always looks the same; a guy dressed in blue.
As for the game's sound, the music is all right, but for some reason it abruptly stops whenever you talk to someone. When it is playing, it's suitable for this type of game, but it's certainly not memorable, and the sound effects are your usual bleeps.
JAMDAT's biggest achievement with the game is the use of streaming technology, whereupon which information is requested by your phone and downloaded, then discarded when it's not needed. This causes the game to frequently load, but the positive is how enormous the world is. The game is truly a milestone in cell phone gaming, if, that is, you can get a signal. On the ground this isn't a problem, but in the air the game is nearly inaccessible, though you'll still be able to play the most recently downloaded content.
Neverwinter Nights is a good RPG that'll take you hours to complete, and the streaming technology is only a sign of better things to come. It can't compete with games on Nintendo's Game Boy Advance, but for what it is, it's impressive. I just wish it could've kept me company at 32,000 feet.
What's Hot: Very impressive technology in use here, allowing for huge worlds.
What's Not: The streaming technology doesn't allow for long in-plane experiences.