Can you survive An Unholy Return: The 31 Games of Halloween?
33 Consoles of Christmas
Nokia N-Gage (2003)
By Cyril Lachel     |   Posted on December 19, 2006   |   Episode 27 (Show Archive)  

It's time once again for Defunct Games' 33 Consoles of Christmas, your 33 part guide to the best and worst system designs of all time. Join Cyril Lachel and Chad Reinhardt as they judge 33 different game consoles based on what they think of the look. Forget about actual hardware and software, the only thing these guys care about is talking about their exterior design. Join us every day between November 23 and December 25 for a new console review!

Synopsis: The Nokia N-Gage is a strange combination of a portable game system and a telephone. With its weird design, tall screen and lack of quality games, the N-Gage had a hard time attracting people to their system. The system was unique because it's one of the few systems that actually makes you work at swapping out games, something that other portables have never had problems with. But Nokia was determined to get it right, something that was easy to see when they released a second version of the unit almost immediately after the first one shipped. These days the N-Gage brand lives in Nokia cell phones, which is probably a better fit for a portable that was neither a good phone or a great game player.

Best Games: Pathway to Glory ... and, well, that's it.

You know you have a bad design when the most endearing thing fans say about the system is that it resembles a taco. A burrito, taco salad or flan would be fine, but not a taco. Anything but a taco! What's funny is that the taco shape is not the worst part about the N-Gage design. What forces me to fail the system is that in order to change games you have to take the system's back off and then take out the battery. Any console that makes you jump through hoops in order to swap games is just asking for ridicule. There's no excuse for that, it's perhaps the worst design flaw I have ever seen. And to make things worse there must have been some guy at Nokia that thought it was a good idea. Why else would they have released it in that state? I can see it now, a guy in the meeting room suggesting that the system should look like a taco and gamers should have to take out the battery in order to play another game. The good news for Nokia fans is that they never actually had to change the games because there was only one good game for the handheld. Sad but true.

"Hey, I have a great idea!" exclaimed Donald Nokia, during a brainstorming session for their new handheld. "Let's take what is basically a cell phone, jam a bunch of buttons on both sides, make some crappy games, and sell it for way too much money! We'll make Billions!". I have to assume this is actually what happened, and that there was much nitrous oxide involved during these brainstorming sessions, because I can't conceive anyone of a sober demeanor to think this was a great looking system. The idea probably looked good on paper; provide the functionality of a mobile phone with the allure of portable gaming. Unfortunately, this just isn't a comfortable or attractive system by any means. The buttons are terribly cluttered, and using the device as a phone is awkward and clumsy at best. The screen is alright, and the sound passes muster, but the design is, frankly, hideous. I can't think of much to say in the system's favor, so I won't.


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