Portable Games We Never Thought Would be Good
Sometimes, games that seem like bad ideas turn out, well, sweet.
To be successful, a video game publisher can play it safe and make something everyone wants, or take a risk and dare to try something new. In the portable market, this can be disastrous because of limitations in technology, but not always. Sometimes, everything comes together and the games are great. All of the games in this feature sounded horrible and in some cases, damn near impossible, but the developers pulled it off. From first person shooters to fighters, these games surprised the hell out of us.
Doom (Game Boy Advance)
Ever since Tony Hawk skateboarded his way onto the Game Boy Advance, we knew the system was powerful, but Doom blew us away. Here's id Software's epic first person shooter crammed onto Nintendo's handheld, 3-D graphics and all; it even comes with four-player link cable support for deathmatching. Sure, it doesn't control as well as with a mouse and a keyboard on PC, but we happily blasted imps and zombie soldiers on the go.
Doom RPG (Mobile)
While on the subject of Doom, its role-playing game seemed like a horrible idea, even with series creator John Carmack at the helm. After years of blasting demons on Mars, we had no intention of handing over real time shooting for turn based combat. Then we saw and played the game, and were instantly hooked. Not only does it look phenomenal, but it plays almost exactly like Doom, with monsters exploding into bloody chunks. The fact that we can speak with various scientists, and learn more about the hellish situation, adds depth to the mindless shooting. Excellent.
Duke Nukem Advance (Game Boy Advance)
Not to be outdone by Activision, Take-Two Interactive brought the wise cracking Duke Nukem to the Game Boy Advance. Like Doom, it runs in glorious 3-D and has link cable support for four-players. There are less levels (19 to Doom's 24), but we still had a blast blowing holes through aliens. "Hail to the king, baby".
Guitar Hero: On Tour (DS)
Guitar Hero on DS seemed like one of those ideas that was so crazy, it just might work. Here we had Vicarious Visions, developers of the handheld Spider-man games, creating a portable music game with a custom handgrip with fret buttons. It seemed like a potential disaster, but the team succeeded, creating a pint-sized Guitar Hero with a cool soundtrack, attractive graphics and a very enjoyable two-player duel mode. The game sold tons of copies, which led to the creation of the upcoming Guitar Hero: On Tour Decades.
Metal Gear Acid (PSP)
When Sony's PSP launched in 2005, Konami released a Metal Gear unlike anything we'd seen before. Instead of sneaking around snapping necks, Solid Snake defeated his foes with playing cards. Ok, so these aren't your ordinary cards. They have machine guns and rocket launchers on them, but we wanted no part of Metal Gear Acid. Despite the cool graphics, it just seemed too weird. But then we played it and fell in love. The strategic element put a new spin on the tactical espionage formula.
Before jamming on plastic guitars and drums, gamers got their musical jollies from more obscure games like Electroplankton, Nintendo's quirky sound mixer that lets you make tunes and alter your voice with the help of cute looking sea creatures. Although it's a cool game, it was a tough sell in 2005. Here was Nintendo trying to convince us that a music game starring plankton was cool. Suffice to say, we thought the company had too many mushrooms, and we're not talking about the ones in Super Mario Bros. Despite our reservations, however, Electroplankton turned out to be a worthwhile under the sea experience.
Killzone: Liberation (PSP)
Without a second analog stick, the PSP cannot do first person shooters justice, but that doesn't mean we want them transformed into puzzle games, platform adventures or even third person shooters. But when faced with limited hardware, that's the risk you sometimes have to take. Case in point, Killzone: Liberation. Instead of shoehorning a horribly controlling FPS onto its handheld, Sony crafted a cool third person romp where you blast Helghast forces across war-torn environments. We were skeptical at first, since Killzone for PlayStation 2 isn't that great, but we enjoyed Liberation. It was designed with the PSP's strengths in mind, and is a worthwhile purchase.
Touch the Dead (DS)
Shooting zombies with a plastic light gun makes sense. Repeatedly tapping them with a stylus, however, seemed stupid until we got our hands on Touch the Dead. This intense monster mash pays homage to Sega's House of the Dead series by thrusting you into hordes of undead and charging you with blowing their heads off with a pistol, shotgun and other weapons. Frantically tapping the touch screen is actually lots of fun, and a great way to get our zombie fix while on the road.
Sonic Rush (DS)
Unlike Mario, Sega's Sonic the Hedgehog has starred in numerous awful video games, most of them on consoles, so we had our doubts that his 2-D portable adventure, Sonic Rush, would be any good. However, Sega pulled off a masterstroke by bringing Sonic back to his side scrolling roots. We blasted through checkpoints, zipped around loops and sailed across both DS screens while enjoying attractive graphics and special effects. At least it's good to know that despite its horrid 3-D adventures, Sega's still got it.
Star Wars: Episode III: Revenge of the Sith (DS)
Say what you will about the Star Wars prequels, but the Revenge of the Sith video game is lots of fun. It's a side-scrolling beat-em-up where you chop up battle droids with your lightsaber and use Force powers. In addition, the game features these cool 3-D flying stages that let you blow up enemy fighters. Before it released, however, we doubted its quality. Portable Star Wars games (cough, Yoda Stories, cough) suffer from a huge case of the suck, and considering the bad vibe from the movies at the time, this should have been terrible. Instead, it's a cool adventure game every Star Wars nut should own.
Tekken Advance (Game Boy Advance)
Fighters never caught on with portable systems. Midway published some decent Mortal Kombat games, but there's very little variety. Namco Bandai, however, took a great stab at the market with Tekken Advance, a pint-sized version of its popular arcade series. Only 11 characters made the cut, but the game plays and looks great, with fast punches and kicks as well as pixilated yet impressive graphics. Hardcore fighting fanatics probably despise it because of the limited controls and lack of extras, and we never thought it'd work, but Namco Bandai surprised us with a solid fighting experience that does the series justice.