Mobile games are quick plays by design. Pay a few bucks to download one, and you can be confident you’ll get a few hours of lighthearted fun. JAMDAT’s Neverwinter Nights bucks that trend, trading to-the-point action for methodical questing. The results will demonstrate to you that some traditions are in place for a reason.
Starting with character creation, it’s easy to see that this was an ambitious effort. Pick your race and skill set. Heck, you can even roll for attribute points. So far so good, right? Despite a small screen and limited technology, Neverwinter tries to live up to the legacy of its bigger brother, the PC classic of the same name. That’s worth something. The key word, however, is “tries,” as the game fails to be captivating or intuitive.
Just moving around is a pretty big pain in its own right. Your character lumbers like he’s wearing cement shoes. The up, down, and sideways directions — either with your handset’s direction pad or the keys — give you some leeway on collision fields. However, the diagonal movements aren’t so forgiving, negating their timesaving potential.
To talk to people or pick up items in the world, you need to use the “okay” button. While 5 works for all other functions like calling up the pause menu — where inventory, enemy targeting, and attack types are chosen — it’s unable to simply engage in conversation. Thus, you’re forced to play the game two-handed, which is something I would think mobile game developers would avoid whenever possible.
Enough complaining, though — for now, anyway. The world you’re placed in is massive. It streams in with relative smoothness, though this also means you must be able to get a signal to play. Combat is done smartly, with ranged attacks launching automatically and melee fracases executed simply by running into the assorted fiends. Their picture and life bar shows up on the HUD, giving you a quick view of what the tiny sprite is that you’re trying to kill.
Graphically, Neverwinter reminds me of the Ultima games on the NES. Is that good or bad? Neither, really. It’s basic but does the job. There’s some detail, but you really have to squint to see what’s going on. I’m annoyed by the seemingly passable paths that turn out to be too narrow for your character to waddle through, though. The music worked when it was used, and was definitely better than many RPGs I’ve played in my day.
Try as I did, I just couldn’t get into the mobile iteration of Neverwinter Nights. It was far too slow, and reminded me of just how far RPGs have come on consoles in the last decade or two. I applaud the effort to jam this much game into a tiny (and inexpensive) package, but that doesn’t mean I want to play it. Unless you’re among the hardest of the hardcore role-players, I doubt you will, either.