Best Handheld Games of 2010
Portable technology is getting more and more popular and powerful, and with the rise of sophisticated gaming software for the world’s various smartphones, there’ll soon be fierce competition for your handheld bucks. Whether you like puzzling, platforming, action, or dense JRPG’s, the game industry wasted no time this year trying to get at them. Take a look at our staff picks — we’ll steer you right.
Puzzle Quest 2 & Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker
Ron Whitaker’s Picks
Handheld games are not normally something I spend a lot of time on, but the last couple of years of years have been an exception. There are a bunch of handheld games worthy of your attention this year, but here are the two that topped my list:
Puzzle Quest 2 (DS)
The first Puzzle Quest won several RPG of the year awards, and the second one is, if anything, better than the first. The engrossing title features four classes and four widely-varied playstyles, so you can replay it again and again. The ‘Match 3’ puzzle gaming is still one of the best examples of cross-genre merging in the current generation.
Unlike the first game, weapons come into play through new ‘action’ gems, and you can also use secondary items — such as potions and shields — in combat. The pacing is still a little slower than some gamers would prefer, but if you’re into RPGs or puzzle games, you really can’t go wrong with Puzzle Quest 2.
You can also play Puzzle Quest 2 on the XBox 360 or PC (via Steam), but for my money, the DS version is the best, simply because it’s a fun game to take on the road.
Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker (PSP)
Peace Walker will make you glad you own a PSP. It’s a full-fledged entry in the Metal Gear Solid series, and one that no die-hard Snake fan should go without playing.
Picking up the convoluted Metal Gear storyline at the end of MGS 3, Peace Walker gives you a series of tightly-structured missions to accomplish. It also adorns them with a team-building/enemy-capturing system that actually turns out to be great fun. All of this ties into your creation of Outer Heaven, which series fans will recall as something Solid Snake destroyed in the first MGS game.
Add in the cooperative play and side missions, and Peace Walker will keep a spot in your portable gaming queue for hours upon end.
Dragon Quest IX: Defender of the Stars and Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3
Shawn Sines’ Picks
I spent hours and hours playing games while traveling this year, so my handheld recommendations are pretty broad. From Dragon Quest 9 to Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3 for PSP, there ware no lack of great handheld titles to choose from. DQ9 kept me glued to the DSi even after I’d arrived at my destination more than once. The turn-based combat seemed really well-suited to the handheld, and thanks to the Toriyama characters, I had flashbacks to the last PS2 title.
Persona 3 may not be as well known as DQ 9, but something about the murder mystery and the plot devices still keep me playing it until late in the night. The portable conversion grabbed me with the new female protagonist and new the storyline, which added some interesting wrinkles to the original protagonist’s story.
Mark Burnham’s Pick
Full review here.
If you’re not at all familiar with the Scribblenauts games, here’s the pitch: you play as Maxwell, this little guy who just hangs out solving puzzles. The puzzles always sound simple, but they seldom are. An example might be something like “make the elephants leave their pen.”
The catch is this. To help you solve these puzzles, you summon objects into the game world, by typing them into existence on a keyboard. Type “dragon,” and a dragon will appear and behave like you’d expect. Type Cthulhu, and the freaking Cthulhu monster will appear. The working dictionary is huge, and you’ll have trouble stumping the game. It’s pretty insane.
In Super Scribblenauts, the main difference is the addition of adjectives to the dictionary. You don’t have to settle for a dragon anymore. You can summon a blue, angry dragon. Or a haunted school. Or a floating tiger. You can even create various “potions,” as in “sleeping potion,” or “poison sword,” and use them to create all sorts of mayhem.
You’ll find many more mature handheld games to choose from in 2010, if that’s your thing. But Super Scribblenauts makes you use your imagination, and brings out the kid in you in truly fun ways.
Phil Hornshaw’s Pick
Chair Entertainment’s iOS game Infinity Blade is easily the most-hyped thing to hit the App Store in its entire existence. We’d been hearing about it for months — about how spectacular it would look; about how it would prove the power of mobile gaming; about how it would elevate the kinds of games we see on the iPhone and iPad because of the use of Epic’s Unreal Engine 3.
Then Infinity Blade launched, and, well, yeah — all those things happened.
Infinity Blade is the game you turn on and show your friends when they ask you why you were dumb enough to shackle yourself to an AT&T contract for two years just to have Apple’s overexposed iPhone. It’s the game you hand over to naysayers who think that mobile gaming is somehow less important or less pure than console or PC gaming (hint: it’s not). It’s the game you point to when you want to show people that mobile devices and their apps are going to change the way we think about video games.
The game itself is great, but not the greatest. It can be more repetitive and short-lived than similar games on the platform, even though iPhone games are almost by definition repetitive and short-lived. But Infinity Blade feels like the real deal, like the kind of high-budget, high-concept games you’d get on other platforms. And it is pretty damn fun to play, on top of being absolutely gorgeous.
Infinity Blade is one of the games this year that deserved to be fawned over by everyone who has been talking about it all this time. If you own an iPhone, you owe it to yourself to check this game out — it’s very likely the shape of things to come.