Top Ten Sports Games

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Calling all armchair sports fans, if you don't have the time or fitness to be a sports star on the field, then all is not lost - you can pick up a sporting game for your smartphone and live out your dreams! In our latest top apps list, we look back over the our favourite sporting titles from the last couple of years. Whether you play football with a helmet or not, there will be something here that you'll enjoy playing.

1. Monster Pinball

All About Symbian score 90% | Store Link

It's not often you find the perfect game. Great concept, great implementation, great price. But Monster Pinball delivers on every level and is truly impressive. iPhone owners got to play this almost two years ago, but the Symbian version, working on the new Symbian^3 phones with the graphics acceleration, is here at last and it's almost a must-buy for just about everyone.

On the 4"-screened X7 and E7, the game plays tremendously well, though I'd imagine it a little fiddly on the 3.2"-screened C6-01. Monster Pinball also respects Symbian OS and plays perfectly with being put into the background or interrupted (e.g. with a phonecall), simply putting itself into a hibernate state and then taking a few seconds to restore this state exactly when you want to resume.

Finally, a word about the price - £1. Monster Pinball is priced as a budget game but don't be fooled, this is full commercial quality and a steal at a quid (or your local equivalent). Go buy it now if there's an ounce of the arcade loumger in you!

2. Speedball Evolution 2

All About Symbian score 88% | Store Link (Not avilable for Belle)

Ah, Speedball 2. It's a name that is spoken of in reverential terms, because of the impact that it had on thecomputer gaming world in the late 80s and 90s. Now two of the original Bitmap Brothers, as part of Tower Studios, have updated the classic futuristic sports game for Symbian.

Speedball 2 is essentially a souped up, science fictionalised version of a contact ball sport – think Rugby, American Football, Rollerball and British Bulldog all rolled into one. You have a team of nine cyborgs (human players with mechanical improvements, so they don’t feel pain, for example), and your goal is to score more points than the opposing team. The easiest way is to throw the ball into the opponents goal (that would be ten points) but there are stars and bumpers you can hit all around the playing field, just like a pinball machine has, for smaller scores – but they all add up.

Around the core game, you have a quick-play option which lets you simply play one game at a time, just for the fun of it. But the big, long-term option is the already mentioned career option which sees you lead a team (you know you’re going to call them Brutal Deluxe!) through ten years of competition, managing the team and also scouting for new players – it’s a very, very basic management sim, but enough to give you an emotional bond with your team.

The only disappointment is the lack of a multi-player mode in the game. Even a local Wi-fi-enabled option to play your friends would have lifted this up to a 90 score. As it stands, it’s very much recommended, with two caveats. The first is that it genuinely plays and handles like a game from the nineties and you’ll need to decide if you can live with that (I can). The second is that the smaller screened Symbian^3 devices (like the C6-01) are perhaps a little bit cramped when you play the game.

Speedball Evolution 2

3. Backbreaker Football

All About Symbian score 85% | Store Link

That of course isn’t true. Like any sport, there is a subtlety to the game, there are techniques and strategies worked out over many years of playing, both for individuals and the game as a whole. A huge, expansive American Football game would cover all of that.

Unfortunately, Backbreaker doesn't.

Fortunately, what it does have is a cracking and accessible game for absolutely anyone. It’s more like a training exercise for a game of American Football than a full game. You are the solitary player on your team, and you start with the ball. All you have to do is run into the in-zone 100 yards down the pitch. Who’s going to stop you?

This mobile version of Backbreaker is a unique take on American Football. Because it’s been tailored for a portable device and on the go gaming, it has a lot of the strengths of a full game but is something you can genuinely pick up and play for as long as you want. It looks great, it’s reactive, it surprises, and it has a good learning curve. Not sure I could ask for much more in a game like this.

Backbreaker Football

Backbreaker Football

4. Real Golf 2011 HD

All About Symbian score 83% | Store Link

Licensed by Nokia, initially just for its N8 flagship, RealGolf 2011 HD would have been well worth snapping up even if not already free. Though not perfect (putting is fiddly, too much help in shot power, and loading screens are slow), it's still one of the best phone or handheld-based golf games I've ever played and, as you might expect, I've taken great delight in playing through it in considerable detail below, while writing my review, here on AAS and Ovi Gaming.

I should, however, point out that the emphasis in Real Golf 2011 HD is on 'golf' and not 'game'. If you're expecting multiplayer action or even scoring in tournaments against virtual computer players then you're going to be disappointed. This is all about the golfing experience - it's you against the course and conditions.

One of the biggest frustrations of any golf game of any era is getting close to the hole and finding the putting process so fiddly for short putts that you keep blasting the ball past - again and again. Real Golf 2011 HD sensibly takes care of this with an auto-putt-in system. Get closer than a couple of feet and the player is shown putting in for you.

Real Golf 2011 HD

Real Golf 2011 HD

5. Micropool

All About Symbian score 80% | Store Link

First impressions of MicroPool are very good, with a slick setup screen, giving choices between '9 ball' (where balls have to be potted in a particular order), 'US 8 ball' (where you have to stick to spots or stripes - similar to usual UK rules), 'Speed' (as it sounds, a solitaire mode to test your skill and speed) and 'Killer' (where you and the computer each get five misses allowed, after which your opponent wins). Each game can be played with a 'Light' or 'Full' ball set, depending on how full you want the table to be.

 Micropool is smoothly and beautifully animated, with crisp sound effects, realistic gameplay and it behaves impeccably when put into the background under Symbian OS - Botond FM really have game behaviour mastered - many is the time I've realised after a day or two that I still had Micropool sitting patiently in the background waiting for me to take my shot - without having had ANY effect on processor load or battery life. In fact, even leaving the game in the foreground pops up a message after a bit to announce that it's going to turn the display off and let the OS dim the screen in the usual way, to save power. Very nicely done.

Micropool is also one of those game titles which effectively have infinite game play - no two games are ever the same, partly explaining why I've not only become addicted to the title, I also never get tired of it. There's always a new frame to win, a new pattern of balls to weave and blast my way through.


6. Ultimate Cricket 11 World Cup

All About Symbian score 79% | Store Link

Being written in Java and less than 700kb in size, my expectations weren't high going into Ultimate Cricket '11 World Cup. But from the opening screens, I started to be more and more impressed. There's attention to detail in the graphics and gameplay here that would befit a game with 'HD' in the title and coming in at ten times the byte count.

If your expectations of a computer cricket game are that all the bowlers bowl with the same action and that most balls end up being sixes or wickets, then throw those preconceptions out of the window. What we have here is a decent cricket sim, with multiple bowler styles, accurate batting shots, realistic bowling physics (length, line, spin, etc) and a dynamic which, with a bit of practice will see you knocking 1s and 2s as much as 4s and 6s. Even - shock horror, dot balls.

Ultimate Cricket '11 World Cup is genuinely playable. The interface is largely intuitive and doesn't get in the way. And, as a result, I was able to play through several full matches, getting quite engrossed in whether I could help my team win - which is testament that this game works as an immersive title.

Yes, this is a Java game, but don't write it off on that account - it's fully optimised for Symbian nHD, the developers have packed a stunning amount into less than a Megabyte and it's definitely worth £1.50 of your money if have any interest at all in cricket gaming.

Ultimate Cricket '11 World Cup

Ultimate Cricket '11 World Cup

7. Action Bowling

All About Symbian score 79% | Store Link (Not available for Belle)

Action Bowling has an impressive list of bullet points, including “Bowling alley, bowling ball and pins built according to PBA regulation specifications”,  so before you even download the title, it’s setting the standard quite high. Luckily, Action Bowling (ten-pin, not lawn or carpet bowling) does just enough to clear it. Scrappily, but it does manage it.

If a good AI had been included in the game, I suspect it would be in the 'recommended' zone for an 80-89% score. As it is, it falls slightly short, even though the controls for the game, the handling and the feel of a ten-pin bowling game are all here, in simple but scary accuracy.

As you start to play, you pick up the throwing motion quickly, and get some early success. Then there’s a period of “is that all there is?” as you get stuck in a rut of throwing balls, getting spares, and the occasional strike. And then your game playing brain gets it, the depth and complexity of the ball being thrown become a little clearer, and you start throwing with skill and accuracy and it becomes a much greater and personally rewarding challenge.

Thankfully, it doesn’t take log for this levelling up process to happen, and it's at that point that a great game would provide another challenge, be it in an AI opponent, specific challenges or trophies to get… and that’s what Action Bowling is missing. While there is a little multiple choice trivia game based around bowling, it doesn't add anything to the core gameplay.

Action BowlingAction Bowling

8. Let's Golf 2 HD

All About Symbian score 74% | Store Link (Not available for Belle)

Let's Golf 2 is a franchise that has spanned every other mobile platform, plus the core interface code was already in the (golf) bag, so there really was nothing standing in Gameloft's way in producing this title for Symbian. It's tempting to declare this as the same game as Real Golf 2011 HD but with a different look and feel, but in reality there are some significant upgrades to the older title.

On the downside, aside from having to endure the cartoon characters (and animals - see below), the TV-style golfer post-shot animations are gone (compared to Real Golf 2011 HD), the 'TV commentary' track is gone and there are no crowd 'applause' sound effects. 

Let's Golf 2 HD is a fine programming achievement that deserves more work. I'd like to see its innovations brought into the more realistic 'Real Golf' world, I'd like to see hole-to-hole transition times brought down to be two or three seconds and not the current ten, and I'd like to see it optimised to need 20 or 30MB less RAM. Then we'd have a title to really be proud of.

Let's Golf 2 HD

Let's Golf 2 HD

9. Virtual Table Tennis 3D

All About Symbian score 72% | Store Link

Virtual Table Tennis 3D is about as simple as you can get, there isn’t even a quick game option. There is only a stripped down world tournament mode. This tournament requires you to choose to play for one of ten countries. Then the objective is to play against ten players, one from each country, yes, including your own. There are also three skill levels, which incrementally improves your opponent's speed and tactics.

Controls in Virtual Table Tennis 3D are deceptively simple. In front of you is just your racket, which moves across the screen with your finger. On screen instructions advise you that by dragging upwards and to the left or right, as you hit the ball, your return will be aimed in the respective direction. This is a useful tactic for lulling your opponent into the a rally, and then smashing the ball off to the far corner of the table.

Overall, Virtual Table Tennis 3D is an enjoyable way to distract yourself. It’s priced at £1.50, which is just about on the border of a ‘throwaway’ purchase, in my books. I would have liked to have seen a Bluetooth multi-player option.

Table Tennis 3D

Table Tennis 3D

10. Real Football 2010 HD

All About Symbian score 71% | Store Link

As this isn’t the “official” game or has a licence from any of the Football Associations around the world, you’ll be playing for delightfully named teams like Manchester Red, Aston Birmingham and Merseyside. All recognisable but far enough removed from the real names to keep the lawyers happy.

And like countless football games beforehand, there’s an option to edit all the team (and footballer) names. So if you really want your favourites to be easily recognised, feel free to type away. To be honest it’s far too much for me.

There are a huge number of game styles to choose from, all of them different enough to be worth inclusion, but close enough in mechanics to still be the same game – there’s no learning new control systems or techniques here.

But there’s something missing from Real Football HD (and I don’t mean a decent commentator that explains the game you're in the middle of playing – come back, Motty, all is forgiven). I’m not quite sure what the missing thing is, but all the pieces of Real Football should add up to make a great game… but they don’t. The elements feel just about right, maybe with one tiny niggle each, but these start to pile up.

While there’s nothing wrong with Real Football HD and while I’d be happy to suggest it as a good game on Symbian, there’s nothing that makes it feel more than above average. It’s therefore in that horrible 'no mans land' that every Tottenham Hotspur fan can relate to.

[layout note: this game proved impossible to 'screenshot', but the down-sampled promo images here will give you a good idea....]

Real Football 2010 HDReal Football 2010 HD

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