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Top 10 handheld games we saw at Gamescom 2011

We emerge, sweaty and tired, but full of handheld happiness
Product: Gamescom 2011 | Format: Android, iPhone, iPad, 3DS, PS Vita
Gamescom 2011 Multiformat, thumbnail 1
Gamescom is over (it’s been over for a week, to be fair) and the dust has settled after a hectic week of games, Germans, and Germans who love games.

We were there, walking the halls and forcing our way through the crowds to get our grubby hands on the best upcoming games across all the mobile and portable platforms.

Handheld editor Mike Rose has all the info on the best-looking 3DS and Vita titles he saw at the show, while I will be walking you through some of my top picks when it comes to Android and iOS.

Ladies first, Mike...

LittleBigPlanet Vita

Let's get something straight - when LittleBigPlanet first launched on PlayStation 3 in 2008, it was something new, something fresh, and something very exciting.

With the subsequent releases of a PSP version and a PS3 sequel, the series continued to exude entertainment, but that original spark was buried underneath extra game types and modes and whatever else was thrown onto the pile.

So when we grabbed a demo copy of LittleBigPlanet Vita at Gamescom we were expecting more of the same. As it turns out, developer Double Eleven Studios has plenty of tricks up its sleeve.

The game uses the whole range of Vita capabilities, from the back touch panel to the gyroscope, and there are oodles are brilliant ideas packed away. We only saw a handful of levels, but we're already brimming with excitement to see what else this game can throw at us.

Resistance: Burning Skies

This Vita spin-off of the Resistance series came as a surprise during Sony's Gamescom press conference, although in hindsight it makes perfect sense to bring one of the biggest franchises on PS3 to its handheld sister.

Resistance: Burning Skies takes us back to the start, as we take on the role of a New York fireman who wakes to find the world falling down around him.

The Chimera are here, and he has no qualms with bashing them in the face with his fireaxe and then picking up a chaingun and clearing rooms full of them.

Who is our hero fireman? What caused him to slip into the coma, and where exactly is he smashing his way towards? The Gamescom demo left many questions that we're looking forward to answering next year.

Sonic & Mario at the London 2012 Olympics

In all honesty, we didn't think this would be featuring on our Best of Gamescom list. But, as it turns out, Sonic & Mario is a whole lot of fun.

Imagine a whole boatload of sporting mini-games that make full use of the 3DS capabilities, such as the gyroscope, the touchscreen, and the microphone and you're well on your way to understanding why we enjoyed this game a little too much.

Of the games we played, there were some really clever ideas on show - and we only got to see just under a dozen games. There will be over 50 in the final version.

Due for release next February, this is one title that will hopefully fill that inevitable post-Christmas drought.

Mario Kart 7

How can it be that Mario Kart barely ever changes and yet manages to capture our hearts so easily every time a new instalment rolls around?

This latest release, coming to Nintendo 3DS in December, is perhaps the most exciting we've seen in a good while.

You're not just zipping around on the ground this time - you're taking to the air, and dipping into the deep blue sea. Where you'd normally fall into the water and get dragged away by Lakitu, wasting valuable seconds, your kart will now simply sprout propellers and shoot you through the water.

There are also levels set in the sky, Diddy Kong Racing-style. It's a big step for the series, and one that we can't wait to see in action come December.

Adventures of TinTin (iPhone, iPad)


Woah, lower the pitchfork, friend. Yes, it’s a film tie-in, but you can tell Gameloft is taking this one seriously from the graphics alone, so let’s not roast it just yet.

A stealth-based game that sees you playing as both the eponomous boy hero and his trusty dog Snowy, The Adventures of Tintin for iOS is shaping up to be quite an interesting marriage of cutting-edge visuals and classic stealth gameplay.

What’s most impressive about the game isn’t the visual consistency - with even the stamp-esque controls designed to fit in with the world on the screen - but also the level of cinematic flair Gameloft has employed in each scene, with the camera pulling back or setting up for the most dramatic and effective angle.

This one is looking rather good.

Battlefield 3: Aftershock (iPhone, iPad)


It takes courage to completely split away from what has gone before - especially when it comes to a major franchise like Battlefield.

But that’s exactly what Battlefield 3: Aftershock is trying to do, ditching the single-player campaign in favour for a wave-based Survival mode against increasingly more dangerous opposition.

Cynics may say that it sounds awfully like both Modern Warfare 3’s new mode on consoles, or World at War: Zombies on iOS, but EA Mobile would probably say something like “yeah, but it’s Battlefield”.

And it is - the guns look, sound, and react like their home console brethren, while the locations for both single and multiplayer iOS gaming are taken directly from the locations in the console/PC release.

There isn't the same level of destruction (this isn’t the Frostbite engine), but given how much more suited to mobile play wave-based games tend to be we wouldn’t bet against Battlefield 3: Aftershook causing a ripple in the FPS genre when it’s released later in the year.

Squids (iPhone, iPad)


Combining the finer points of games like Angry Birds and Final Fantasy Tactics and wrapping them up in visuals that Xbox gamers on Live Arcade would be happy with, Squids was probably the biggest surprise for me (Will) at Gamescom this year.

Unfortunately, it's one of those games whose appeal is difficult to explain to somebody who hasn't played it.

Just think of it this way - it’s polished, it’s attractive, it has plenty of tactile joy and RPG elements, and it has a bit in which you knock fish off the back of a large turtle with a squid wearing a fedora.

Jurassic Park (iPad 2)


To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much going into the Jurassic Park demo. Telltale’s recent games have been strong in the writing department, but the studio's tendency augment these plots with insultingly easy puzzles and awkward controls is getting a little old.

So it was refreshing to see the company take a completely different route with the latest title, effectively capturing the atmosphere of the iconic Spielberg blockbuster through the sound, visuals, and removal of all the on-screen clutter like an inventory.

The fact that it’ll be an iPad 2-exclusive wasn’t too much of a surprise given the technical issues the company has had bringing its games to the original Apple tablet (we're not counting the Newton).

What will be interesting to see is how the new emphasis on a pared-back HUD and QTEs for action sequences will translate to the touchscreen. It’s surely going to be better than the virtual joystick.

Shadowgun (Android, iPhone, iPad)


Sometimes a casual time-waster isn’t enough. Sometimes you want something a little more meaty, more ‘core’ than your average physics-based puzzler.

Shadowgun is looking increasingly like mobile’s next big ‘event’, with eye-wateringly beautiful graphics that really do echo Epic’s iconic Gears of War, combined with some frantic cover-based third-person shooting.

It’s still relatively early in terms of build quality, but the smoothness of the animations, huge environments, and the impressively detailed AI of your enemies means this is one mobile game you should have at the very top of your 'looks quite good' list.

OnLive (iPad, Android tablets)


Yes, it’s not a game. Nor is it particularly new, given that it’s been demonstrated for years and years now. But this was the first show where I finally saw the much talked-about OnLive in action, running Just Cause 2 and Split/Second on both an Apple iPad and an Android tablet.

And, wow, my mind was blown. Watching the games run was one thing, but seeing them run with a (rather fetching) OnLive joypad controlling the action on the iPad without any hitches or delays was like seeing the future.

The software around the service is absolutely brilliant, putting Xbox Live and PSN to shame with its multiple vid streaming, instant ‘brag’ video capturing, and plethora of social features.

If the 1 Mbps required for tablets is true, and the servers can hold up to what must be a significant amount of bandwidth strain, there’s a very real chance that OnLive will end up taking off among the mobile gamers.

Of course, this will likely pose an issue for people compartmentalising games into ‘mobile’ and ‘console’, but we’ll get to that when it happens.

Reviewer photo
Will Wilson 26 August 2011
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