17 sweet smartphone tweaks and games

Hack your phone, play some great games on the go, and, oh yeah, try a couple useful apps as well.

Games on your cell phone — lame, you say? You're obviously looking in the wrong places, friend, because this ain't about 8-bit blackjack or playing Snakes on a plane. I'm talking awesome puzzle games, graphic adventures, shooters ... wait. I'm getting ahead of myself.

Here's the deal: My economic stimulus hush money from Uncle Sam showed up, so I bought an HTC Touch. The phone is great for all that "productivity" nonsense I keep hearing about, but I needed to hack this sucker apart for goofing off while on location. My mission: Seek out sweet, free software for Windows Mobile 6. And, really, why shouldn't you benefit from all my hard work trying to avoid hard work?

Disclaimer: All of my finds work on an HTC Touc, and many of the programs here — especially the games — should work on other Windows Mobile phones as well. But please do some research and make sure that these programs will work on your phone before installing anything!

Retro gaming

Emulation is always a gray area when it comes to gaming, and if you're not careful, it constitutes piracy. You do have a couple of options, though. First, if the game is released to the public for free — which happens with many ancient titles — you can play it. Second, if you own a game, you have the right to make a backup for yourself. Me? I'm backing up games to my cell phone! So why not try to run some classics between calls? Here are my favorites.

1. ScummVM: I love the old LucasArts graphic adventure games. Sam & Max Hit the Road, Maniac Mansion ... I could go on. And I might if I had more room. I still own all the games, and this little software app (made for just about every OS ever conceived) lets me play them on my morning commute. Also, check out the bottom of the downloads page for a couple extra freeware games.

2. Pocket IIe: I've been hankering to play Karateka again. Maybe even to hit the high seas with Sid Meier's Pirates and to venture Beyond Castle Wolfenstein. If you feel the same, download this Apple IIe emulator, and you're halfway there. (You'll just need the Apple ROMs.)

Want other smartphone-ready emulators? Here's a great place to start. Remember, though: If you don't own the original versions of the games, don't copy that floppy!

Download these now!

3. Zelda Mobile: This Java-based cell phone game is a work in progress (currently at "Demo3"), but it still manages to capture all the fun of a certain old-school action adventure game.

4. Pocket UFO: I wear my nerdiness on my sleeve, but when I found this fully functional tribute to the classic PC title X-Com: UFO Defence, even my pocket protector cried. This turn-based squad strategy game lets you build bases and launch missions to take down an alien menace. From your cell phone, of course. If your phone has the horsepower to run Pocket UFO, you really have no excuse to miss this truly awesome (and truly free) game.

5. Samulos: It seems Tetris-ish, but it's really more like the popular PSP game Lumines. You watch the blocks drop, match the like colors, and deal with more falling blocks. Sounds harmless enough, you say? I'll check back with you in about two hours.

6. Pocket Quake: Want to play a classic first-person shooter on your cell phone? No problem! Well, one slight problem: The program requires the .WAD file from the original game if you want to savour the full fragging experience. Lacking that, this portable version will also work with the shareware version of Quake. Want to really freak someone out? Try setting this thing up for multiplayer.

7. Shift: A bunch of goofy-faced coloured blocks keep closing in on the centre, and you have to make 'em connect. Think of it as a Bejeweled-ish puzzle game that pushes everything toward the middle of the screen.

8. Pocket Gravity: By all rights, this program is utterly useless — yet, I keep opening it up, creating odd shapes, and seeing how they react with other objects in my little digital sandbox.

On to some of the slightly serious, but equally cool cell phone mods!

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