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Nokia N-Gage
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 04, 2004   |   Episode 11 (Show Archive)  

   
Say what you will about Nokia, but they have guts. They decided to throw their hat in the ring and release a high-priced portable without any quality launch titles and even less third party support. They made it hard to change games while making you look stupid while talking on the phone . all at the same time. Either this is one of the most daring companies on the planet, or they are simply insane!

Whatever you think of Nokia, you have to give them credit for trying. How are they supposed to know that Sony would announce a new handheld right before the launch of the N-Gage? How are they supposed to know that people would object to talking into a taco phone? Clearly Nokia was dealt a bad hand, and they're doing their best to turn lemons into lemonade. They're doing this with a whole batch of hot titles and a brand new version of their system that gives gamers what they wanted. But does any of this equal a good website?


The Frag Dolls are going to get you to buy Ghost Recon 2. No really, they are!
Look and Design: At first I didn't like the N-Gage page. It looked sloppy and thrown together. But the more I explored the front page I realized it wasn't the design I had a problem with, just the color scheme. After my eyes adjusted to the black and gray text I found the site strangely interesting and fun to surf. The front page has all the stuff you'd expect - news, game links, adverts for the system - but manages to add a few extras that could be real useful to N-Gage users. There's an event calendar as well as a way to see quotes and facts about upcoming games at a glance. None of this stuff will knock your socks off, but it's more than most of the sites have done.

In a strange attempt to make the front page more approachable Nokia has decided to post recent (on topic) posts in their N-Gage forum. If you're already cynical about websites putting personal testimonials on their front page, then this isn't going to sway you. Although all of the quotes were on topic, I couldn't help but notice how lame they were. I have a hard time taking anybody serious if they actually say something like "Does your N-Gage have a name? I call mine Mr. Gage" ... but then, I guess I'm responding to it, so what does that make me?

Accessibility: You might not think it from Nokia's handheld, but the N-Gage website is surprisingly easy to surf. Everything is out in the open and manages to look good while not being overly hi-tech. The various versions of the system are explained in both text and video, and the games all have their own pages that tend to be even more impressive than the games themselves.

Gamers simply looking around will find some strange and interesting pages that inform you of the product, but not in a pushy way. If you explore the brain drain section, you will see the "experiments" Nokia put gets through to make the "perfect" game machine. This section allows you to watch entertaining videos that explain each of the new features, while also giving you some insight on how and what you watch. Further down the page you'll find eCards and all kinds of other downloads.

Insider Information: I know this is going to be hard to believe, but we're looking at a news section that is actually worth a damn. This is a section you might actually dig through without getting bored. The coloring is a little off, and they could use a better staff writer, but

If you really are one of those three people playing XIII, I want you to Email me this second!!
Nokia's news page is by far one of the best online. It's full of cool facts, and not just game announcements, release dates, and support info, there is actually good stuff here that is well laid out and easy to read.

To make everything even more interesting, Nokia's new site is all over the board. In one article you'll know about a WWE partnership, while in the very next article Nokia will be talking about donating N-Gage units to help the people beat the record for continuous gaming. The news is also littered with pictures and links to other things you might find interesting, making this one of the finest news sections we've reviewed (matching the greatness of Ubi's page).

Parting Thoughts: It's easy to sit back and bash on the N-Gage, but maybe instead of criticizing we should be looking at its positives. Take for example it doesn't look like a taco any more! It's easier to insert games, and there's finally a button you can push to switch to games. These are all things people wanted, and Nokia listened. That's more than I can say for some companies that pay almost no attention to the public because they're too busy making money. Of course, had Nokia actually listened to the gamers they would have never entered the portable market in the first place. Perhaps the public was right about something after all.

FINAL GRADE: A-

(Important Note: This review was written in 2004. As is the case with websites things tend to change and get moved around. We've decided to cover major companies who should have a presence on the web for many years to come, but the actual reviews of the layout may not be relevant for more than a month to a year. Having said that, we're hoping this article was still interesting, and if not, at least you go this extra little paragraph of explanation that you wouldn't normally get on the other websites.)
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