There are surprises in life. The Jets win the Super Bowl. Martha Stewart goes to prison. And this week, my best reviews are for games you play on mobile phones. like Paris Hilton photos in a glossy magazine, they''re cheap, easy and entertaining.
Phone games have been silly for, you know, forever. Characters used to look like sticks. Games were shallow and dumb.
Yet, here come a new slew of legitimately fun games. I''m focusing for the moment on Electronic Arts games, because they''re about $5 each through EAmobile.com, and EA is a leader in the field.
The most obvious winner is Tetris Mania. My Tetris-aholic mom would love this little phoner. It plays like any good Tetris does. Differently shaped boxes fall from the sky. You arrange them. Before you know it, two hours pass.
Tetris is a puzzle game, so it looks simple. If you''re looking for something more complex, The Sims 2: Pets is a pleasant surprise.
You begin by picking a golden Lab, a Chihuahua, a mutt or another dog. You play ball, feed them -- the range of missions you normally carry out in pet simulators such as Nintendogs. It''s cute, although if you''re not into simulators, it might bore you.
Even EA Mobile''s NASCAR''07 looks pretty good for a phone. The imagery is on par with car games from the 1990s. You see the same basic aerial view of your racer as you speed around a track.
The downer of NASCAR''07 is you don''t wield much control. You decide when to change lanes and speed up, but you''re not really driving-driving. Still, its simplicity might appeal to people who aren''t hardcore gamers.
These mobile games take playing back to the basics. If you''re sick of buying super-hard video games that make your brain work as if it''s playing Jeopardy, phone games offer much more stripped-down diversions, akin to older games from the 1990s.
Here''s a good comparison. Tiger Woods PGA Tour''07 is a much simpler beast than its brethren on Xbox 360 and PS 3. It looks rudimentary. But the mobile version uses the same, fun dynamics of targeting fairways and perfecting backswings.
To the contrary, Tiger Woods PGA Tour''07 for the fancy and interactive Nintendo Wii severely tests your ability to stand in your living room and swing the interactive remote control like you would a golf club.
I''m an OK golfer, but I can''t get this Wii Tiger Woods to read my swing correctly. I''m sure the problem lies with my impatience to perfect a virtual drive, approach and putt. But the cell phone version is more entertaining.