This week NVIDIA launched their free Tegra Zone application, which is a showcase of games that are “optimized to exploit the full potential of the Tegra mobile processor.” The initial lineup of games is rather light (only six titles are available for purchase), but Tegra Zone has a lot of potential and represents the future of premium content on Android devices. Read past the jump for first impressions of all the launch titles and a preview of what’s in store for the rest of this year.
The Tegra Zone app is designed to highlight games that are optimized for the Tegra 2 processor, but it can be downloaded onto just about any Android device. This might be confusing to some new Android owners, but I think NVIDIA made the smart move of allowing anyone to get a closer look at the latest games. The Android Market would otherwise filter out some of these games to non-Tegra devices, so it’s nice that anyone can use Tegra Zone to still access the professional game reviews, high-res screenshots, HD videos, and behind-the-scenes footage for the top Android games.
The layout of Tegra Zone is quite simple as there are only two main sections. Spotlight displays the latest featured games and news updates, while the Games section lists all the available games and allows you to filter them by type.
News articles are well written and educate the reader about Tegra-related content, but there are less than 10 updates with the latest being a month old. Hopefully NVIDIA’s bloggers will begin to fill this section up and continue to provide the latest news on upcoming Tegra devices and games.
Detailed pages for individual games are about what you would expect from the current Android Market. Each game has a description, images and video, user comments and rating, official reviews, related news, and the ability to share. Anyone can leave their own review of each game, but I like that NVIDIA has highlighted official reviews from game sites like IGN, DroidGamers, and more.
When a user finds a game they would like to purchase, they just click a green “Get it now” button and they are taken to the official Android Market to complete their purchase. Tegra Zone does not detect if you are using an actual Tegra device, so if you are browsing from an older phone you will be greeted with a “Not found” error message.
I like that NVIDIA allows any device to install their Tegra Zone showcase, but the app could still be cleaned up a little for non-Tegra products. Instead of displaying a “Not found” message when clicking on games that an older device cannot access, NVIDIA could use the opportunity to highlight the current crop of Tegra 2 devices and try to upsell the customer a product that can play their games.
Backbreaker THD is a refresh of the popular football game from last year. Players sprint, juke, and spin to avoid oncoming tacklers and reach the end zone. The gameplay is virtually the same as the original title, so if you purchased the old version there is not much reason to buy the new one (unless you just want to show off the graphics capabilities of your new device.)
New additions to Backbreaker THD include:
- High quality textures on the characters, field, and the arena
- More rendered content such as the real time action replay on the Jumbotron
- Realistic shadow effects and dynamic lighting effects such as lens flares
- Fully animated spectators that fill all levels of the arena
At $4.99 the game is reasonably priced and it will delight any NFL fan, but I would pass on Backbreaker if you have already played it.
Dungeon Defenders: First Wave Deluxe HD
Dungeon Defenders from Trendy Entertainment has also been out since last year, but it was updated with enhanced graphics and extended content for Tegra device. Fortunately the developer just updated their original game with the new Tegra content, so you will not be forced to re-purchase the game if you already bought it for another device.
New additions to Dungeon Defenders Deluxe HD include:
- Dynamic lighting schemes and advanced post-processing effects
- High polygon count characters to deliver the same look and effects as on a PC or a PS3 console
- Same number of maps and same level of map complexity as that available on PC and PS3
- Access to all twelve game play levels as available on PC and PS3 versions, and enables access to over 60 different equipment and weaponry choices
Dungeon Defenders is probably the most full-featured game out of all the launch titles and easily worth the $4.99 price if you are a fan of tower defense and RPG games.
Fruit Ninja THD
Fruit Ninja THD is another refresh of an older, popular game with updated graphics. Gameplay is identical to the original version, but the graphics are greatly improved. Fruit Ninja is still an entertaining game, but if you purchased the original then I see little reason to get this update.
New additions to Fruit Ninja THD include:
- 8x higher geometry for the fruit models
- Higher texture quality to deliver realistic looking skins for the fruit
- Higher levels of shading and lighting that deliver nice shadow effects and lighting conditions
- Additional particle effects for the slice actions
Developer Halfbrick has priced Fruit Ninja THD at only $2.99 making it the cheapest of all the launch games.
Monster Madness from Southpeak Games is a port of an Xbox360 game from 2007. The initial reviews of the console version were not that great, but the gameplay is said to be tweaked for the Android version. It appears that this game only worked on Android tablets like the Motorola Xoom right now, so I have been unable to try it out yet.
Priced at $9.99, Monster Madness is the most expensive launch title. I’ll refer to the official reviews in the Android Market to let you decide if this game is worth it.
Update: Monster Madness is now available for other Tegra devices including the Atrix 4G.
Samurai II: Vengeance
Samurai II is a port of an 8-month old iPhone game, but it is one of my favorite Tegra games since it was one of the few titles that was new to me. The button-smashing gameplay is rather simplistic, but Samurai II still entertains as you dive deeper into the game. There is just something satisfying about slicing rows of enemies into pieces.
Highlights of Samurai II include:
- Four times the texture resolution of the standard version
- Increased geometry for more realistic representation of players in the game
- Completely re-designed knockdown moves
- Higher quality and quantity of effects in the environment
- Higher quality and quantity of effects in the fight scenes
Priced under $5, I would recommend Samurai II to any hack-n-slash fan. It looks like the story mode could be completed in a single day, but the stylized manga graphics and bloody action make it worth the price of admission.
Hardwood Solitaire IV
Hardwood Solitaire IV is being promoted for “when ordinary old solitaire won’t cut it!” This game wasn’t exactly my cup of tea, but if you are obsessed with solitaire games then I guess you would enjoy it. Price of admission is $4.99.
Coming Soon: Galaxy on Fire 2
Coming Soon: Vendetta Online
The best is yet to come…
The graphics of all the Tegra Zone launch titles was top notch and the prices were reasonable, but overall I was disappointed with the lineup of games. Most of the titles I had already played last year and the rest were ports from other platforms. However, I still think Tegra Zone has huge potential long term if NVIDIA continues to update it and strives to reach their goal of becoming “The destination for mobile gamers.”
Tegra Zone’s lineup of games that are coming soon is also underwhelming (only 3 are listed), but NVIDIA has 15 developers that have signed on to create premium content for Tegra Zone. That includes some big hitters like Electronics Arts and Gameloft, so we know to expect some more quality titles over the coming months.
I applaud NVIDIA for creating a hub that showcases the power of their Tegra chip, but I’m not blown away by the quality and selection of the games just yet. I think this will change in the next six months, but the best Android games as I write this are found on non-Tegra devices (largely thanks to Gameloft and their lineup for the Galaxy S).
Going forward I would like to see NVIDIA improve Tegra Zone by providing a constant flow of news updates to keep us informed of what’s coming next, continue to showcase more games (duh), and I think the addition of a Tegra-powered device spotlight would also really help their cause.
How would you like to see NVIDIA enhance Tegra Zone? What additional features would you like to see next?