Casual Friday: 17 Sweet Smart-Phone Tweaks and Games

Welcome back to PC World's weekly effort to celebrate sloth.

Operation: Cellular Slack

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 Touch, 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.

ScummVM, Sam & Max on cell phone
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 smart-phone-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.

Pocket UFO
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 Defense, 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 2 hours.

Pocket Quake
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 savor 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 colored blocks keep closing in on the center, 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! (See the next page for more stuff!)

Key Kustomizations

The HTC home screen is handy, as is its TouchFLO interface. But I need to tame them and show them who's boss. Here are some must-have tools if you too hate the status quo.

9. PointUI Home: iPhone this, iPhone that--I'm tired of people talking about Apple's cool, no-stylus interface. My advice: Download this free (and amazingly smart) smart phone application to make your mobile more manageable.

HTC Home Customizer
10. HTC Home Customizer V1.0: If you want to give Windows Mobile just a small face-lift as opposed to total reconstructive surgery, HTC Home Customizer is the program for you. With the help of this convenient little application, you can easily change the fonts, icons, and shortcut buttons featured on the home-screen interface that comes on the Touch.

Touch Settings
11. Touch Settings: Out of the box, the nifty finger-swiping interface on the Touch had one small problem--spam buttons! The thing was filled with shortcuts to programs I'd have to pay for that I didn't want, and an obnoxious link button to online stores for buying more crap. They were driving me nuts! I could have downloaded a Pocket PC Registry editor to insert my own shortcuts, but I'm supremely lazy. Touch Settings has all the tweaks I need in one easily accessible program.

The (Yawn) 'Useful' Apps

Yes, I know that billions of useful programs are out there, but here are some go-to applications that I'm using every day.

12. Viigo: It's an RSS feed reader and then some. This is a must-have mobile app for catching the news while you're on location.

Help 2 Speak
13. Help 2 Speak: Yeah, when you're a jetsetter like me, a conversational translator is essential. I can't tell you how many times I'll check this program while at the International House of Pancakes. I mean, how do you order a Rooty Tooty Fresh 'N' Fruity in French, German, Danish, Italian, or Spanish?

14. HelloTwitFace: This microblogging tool gives you easy access to HelloTXT, Twitter, and Facebook at the same time--and, well, any program whose name can double for a lame insult is A-OK in my book.

What About the iPhone?

And then there's that whole iPhone thing. Yes, the SDK is out, but if you want to play around right now, you must first clear several hurdles to hack your iPhone apart (aka "jailbreaking"). Oh, sure, you can play some Web games optimized for your cell, but that isn't the same thing, is it? I pinged people far and wide, and Macworld's Dan Moren was more than happy to point me to a few Apple-centric applications for all you iPeople out there.

15. Labyrinth is a digital port of the old analog wood maze/ball game. You know, you tilt the thing, avoiding holes, until your metal pellet reaches the end.

16. If you fancy yourself a musician, check out Pianist, which offers a multitouch keyboard for you to rock out on. Want to have an impromptu jam session with your MP3s? It's possible on the iPod Touch version of the app (for now).

17. Remember what I said earlier about emulators? Yeah, well, caveat emptor, friend. Someone created a fully functional NES emulator for the iPhone, as well.

How about you guys? Anyone else find some great tweaks or cell phone games I need to check out? Hit the comment field below and let me know!

Until next week...

Senior Writer Darren Gladstone geeks out over gadgets, games, and odd uses for humdrum tech. In other words, he's a nerd--and he's okay with that.

Subscribe to the Best of PCWorld Newsletter