The recent demise of Nokia’s N-Gage platform has left the iPhone as the undoubted king of mobile phone gaming. But its rivals are innovating – the Sony Ericsson Yari is the first phone to boast Wii-style gesture controls.
You wouldn’t suss that the Yari is a gaming specialist from first impressions. In fact, it appears to be an unassuming standard-issue Sony Ericsson slider; surprisingly hefty for a compact handset and generally well built, only let down by overly plastic and loose-fitting control panel.
Games, games, games
It’s not until you delve around that its gaming credentials are revealed. The top keys flanking the earpiece instantly open the games menu, while the Game Carousel lets you browse your library and apps like Facebook from the homescreen.
It also recommends the top downloaded games from the PlayNow Arena so you can easily add these to your collection or enter the store.
The Yari arrives with only a handful of ‘gesture’ games and all will be familiar to Nintendo Wii owners. Bowling lets you swing your arm to roll the ball down the alley then, looking at the screen, add spin and aim by tilting the phone.
Yes, it’s diverting fun – if not ideally suited to a crowded tube train – but the Yari’s gesture skills can handle more intricate movements.
Anyone for tennis?
Perch the phone on the supplied fold out stand, pop yourself in front of the very discrete motion camera and you can play Tennis or fight the flab with a Fitness game.
Just like the Wii you can make a forehand swing and see the ball loop over the net or bend your knees in the squat position to start your workout.
Despite the responsive sensors picking up your every move, the games are a little uninvolving and basic to really excite, while gameplay on Tennis is too slow to get the adrenalin pumping and boredom soon sets in.
Of course, the biggest and most fundamental flaw is that the 2.4in screen is way to poky to really enjoy an immersive interactive experience.
Outside of gaming, the Yari is a capable multimedia phone, but it’s not without its niggles.
Full-fat internet surfing on the Yari is a messy affair. It’s default web browser struggles to properly render HTML websites and, despite also being a little disjointed, Smart Fit is the best mode for viewing pages on its 2.4in screen. Downloading Opera Mini is a must.
The clearly marked music player cursor on the five-way joypad also marks out the Yari as a muso. It doesn’t boast the new Clear Audio tech last seen in the Aino but returns to the original Walkman MegaBass equaliser suite to adapt and boost the sonics.
Shockingly, Sony Ericsson commits a double faux pas by not fitting the Yari with a 3.5mm headphone jack or even supplying an adapter. Despite this outrageous oversight, the music player is still very listenable via the bundled headphones with a good dollop of low-end rumble to beef out your tracks.
The 5MP camera is also pretty decent, featuring autofocus, Smile Shutter tech, Face Detection and Macro mode for close-ups. The LED flash is ineffective but snaps taken in sufficiently good light are colourful with some levels of strong detail.
We didn’t expect a major Nintendo Wii-like gaming revolution but the Yari was doomed from the off. Its compact slider and small screen format doesn’t lend itself to compelling gesture gaming.
Plonk it on a larger touchscreen handset like the, erm, iPhone or Sony Ericsson's own Satio and we might have got more animated.