One of the most fascinating tech battles that's been brewing this year is between Apple and the established giants of handheld gaming: Sony and Nintendo.
Apple execs have been increasingly loud in their boasts that iPhone (and even more so the iPod touch) make the PSP and DS look distinctly old hat. For the most part, the Japanese giants have avoided a public war of words with Cupertino, although their introduction of digital stores and courting of iPhone developers show they're taking the threat seriously.
But it all comes down to the games. The App Store is clearly excellent value -- compare the prices below with the £20+ price tags on most DS games. But can Apple's devices really hold their own with the handheld establishment in terms of quality? Here are five games that are having a crack at the DS -- we've also picked five doing the same to the PSP.
The core of Nintendo's recent success has been creating new games and genres to make use of its interactive hardware, developing games around the DS' stylus and the Wii's motion controller. The equivalent game for the iPhone's touchscreen is Flight Control, which has pioneered the 'line-draw' genre.
That means drawing lines with your finger, in this case to guide planes and helicopters in to land at an airport. It sounds simple, but once they start appearing in their dozens, it grabs you by the propellers and doesn't let go. An online community and Twitter-bragging features only add to the fun. It's spawned a host of imitators, but remains the one game in its genre that Nintendo would surely love to poach.
Who Has The Biggest Brain?
Nintendo's Brain Training games helped make the DS a multi-million selling success, not least by convincing legions of Japanese pensioners (and Patrick Stewart) that they needed a handheld games console. But such games are crying out for online modes to compare your brain with other players around the world -- a feature that wasn't in the original DS games.
Who Has The Biggest Brain? does that on the iPhone. It's a conversion of the Facebook game of the same name, and offers a wide range of mind-stretching exercises. The Facebook angle is the key -- it uses Facebook Connect to let iPhone players compare noggin size with their real-life friends. Tying social features into this genre works particularly well, as do the cross-platform aspects.
Nintendo fanboys will tell you that The Legend of Zelda series is untouchable, and 20-odd years of gaming genius probably proves them right. Yet that doesn't mean the iPhone is lacking its own sprawling RPG about heroic young boys with mystical swords going on epic quests. Zenonia is that game.
In truth, it's less like DS' stellar Phantom Hourglass as it is like older 16-bit Zelda titles. What's more, it makes less innovative use of the iPhone's touchscreen, opting for a virtual D-pad and buttons. But the point is the iPhone is regularly characterised as a platform for casual games with little depth. Zenonia proves that theory wrong: the iPhone can mix it with the big guns even for hardcore genres like RPGs.
Tap Tap Revenge 3
Guitar Hero: On Tour caused a stir when it came out on DS, thanks to its touchscreen-strumming controls and chunky fret accessory. The iPhone has also been innovating on the music game front, however, with the Tap Tap Revenge series the best example.
It uses a Guitar Hero-style mechanic -- dots falling down the screen with you tapping as they hit the bottom. But it sports plenty of new features on the connected side, including an in-app music store to buy tracks in bundles of two or six, its own virtual currency to buy new clothes and instruments for your character, online battles and push notifications to alert you when friends beat your score.
The DS comes into its own as a platform for puzzlers: the more fiendish the better. The iPhone has more than its fair share of puzzle games too, but if you have to pick one out to pit against Nintendo's device, it would be Enigmo 2. The idea is simple -- direct a stream of water droplets through object-packed levels into a bucket at the end. The result is hugely challenging, in the best way.
The game's 3D graphics shows off the iPhone's physics capabilities, while its controls show the advantage of having a multi-touch screen. It was one of the first games to offer an optimised version for the more powerful iPhone 3GS, and shows that puzzlers can go beyond 2D with aplomb on Apple's devices.
The DS continues to reign supreme as the handheld platform of choice for younger gamers -- although one area we haven't covered here is the mushrooming market of iPhone games for tweens and teens, which could threaten that.
But the games above show the iPhone and iPod touch are more than capable of holding their own against Nintendo's handheld on technical grounds. If more developers can start to show the creativity and innovation of the Big N's internal teams, Apple could make good on its promise to give Nintendo a run for its money.