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6 Mobile Games That Beat Playing on a Console

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The kinds of games available on your mobile device have come a long way. A decade and a half ago, the state of the art was Snake, the game that came pre-loaded on Nokia phones. Serious gamers didn’t consider that to be in the same league as any cartridge they could pick up for their Nintendo or Sega consoles (or what was then the upstart new device, the Sony PlayStation).

Fast-forward to 2011, and mobile games are kicking console games to the curb all over the planet — for a fraction of the cost. The winners of the 7th Annual International Mobile Gaming Awards (IMGA), announced at this year’s Mobile World Congress in Barcelona, are some of the most innovative and fun games on any device. Here’s why.

1. AR Invaders: The World Is Your Game Board

AR Invaders, a $0.99 iPhone app from Israel-based Soulbit, won IMGA’s “Best Real World Game” award. “AR,” in case you hadn’t guessed, stands for Augmented Reality — the Invaders are flying saucers. That means you can stand in your back yard, in the street, or wherever you are and zap aliens that “appear” all around you via the iPhone’s camera-enabled screen (see above). You can play in 360 degree-mode (if you’re standing up) or 180-degree mode (for when you’re sitting down). There’s so much arm-raising involved — the saucers often appear right above you — that it could be considered a workout.

Better yet, you can play with friends. AR Invaders is one of the first AR games to feature a multiplayer mode, allowing you to share the joyous conspiracy of blasting invisible green men and not be declared insane.

2. Papa Sangre: Think Sound, Not Vision

The first piece of advice you get in the horror game Papa Sangre: wear headphones. That’s because Papa Sangre, which won the IMGA’s “Most Innovative Game” award, is based entirely on soundscapes. You’re dropped into the wind-blasted land of the dead, where you tap on the bottom of the screen slowly with your thumbs to walk around the multi-directional soundscape. Tap faster to run — which is something you’ll want to do when you hear knives slashing or creatures growling or hideous laughter following you. Given the amount this terrifying game raises your heart rate, it could be considered exercise, too — and at $4.99, it’s cheaper than a gym membership.

3. Beyond Ynth: Is That An Arcade In Your Pocket?

Beyond Ynth is a platform game with an incredible 80 levels — giving you weeks if not months of playtime for just $1.99. You play the role of a bug who has to push a box around a landscape by navigating the maze inside the box. Puzzles within puzzles, in other words, and all of them quite addictive. No wonder it won both the IMGA’s “Excellence in Gameplay” and “Grand Prix” awards. It’s like an entire string of arcade classics condensed into a single game.

4. Snowboard Hero: No Complicated Controllers

If you’ve ever wrestled with a D-pad or tried to remember where the triangle and square buttons are, you know that most console controllers are complicated devices. It can take hours of gameplay to map the buttons in your muscle memory, and newbies are left feeling pretty dumb. In a phone-based title like Snowboard Hero, which won “Best Sports Game” at the IMGA, there’s no such barrier to entry. Tilt the phone left to tilt your snowboard left. Flick forward on the screen to go faster. Do tricks intuitively (if not exactly easily). What could be easier on the eyes and thumbs? Only the price tag: it’s free.

5. Infinity Blade: The Graphics Are Just As Good

Check out a title like Infinity Blade, winner of the IMGA’s “Excellence In Design” award, and you’ll understand why console games are losing their appeal. The graphics in this sword-fighting game are as gorgeous as anything you’ll see on an Xbox 360 or PlayStation3. The multi-generational story of revenge down the ages is appealing, but it’s the lifelike glints on the armor and the dark Gothic cathedral backgrounds that make Infinity Blade a winner. Sure, you could pay $60 and see this kind of thing on your giant HD screen at home. Or you could pay $5.99 to see it at the same relative size — remember, you don’t hold a TV in front of your face — and play it anywhere. Your choice.

6. Plants vs. Zombies: Pick Up And Play

Console games are a time commitment. Pop in the disk, wait for the load screen, watch a series of company logos, sit through an opening video — this isn’t something you can do in five minutes between meetings. Help a bunch of plants defeat a zombie invasion? That you can do, in small increments. So-called “tower defense games” — where you place or upgrade your defense devices then see if they were enough to defeat your enemies — have been around for decades, but Plants vs. Zombies ($2.99), winner of the IMGA’s “Best Casual Game” award, is one of the most colorful and original examples of the genre. One level of helping flowers spray their killer seeds on cartoonish gray creatures of the undead will have you hooked. Just try not to be giggling too much when the boss walks in for your next meeting.

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