Review: The Nokia N81 and five N-Gage game titles

August 22, 2008 by  


I had the pleasure to try out the Nokia N81 with a few of the recent N-Gage titles and thought I should share my thoughts and overall experience.  As you probably know the N81 is designed as an entertainment device focused on gaming and music and comes in two different models, one with 8GB of built-in memory and one with a memory card slot.

Both models have dedicated gaming buttons on the right (as seen on the image above) which light up when you start a game. They are also equipped with the N-Gage application that offers a comfortable way to download and buy trial or full versions games. The N-Gage platform also allows you to connect with your friends, challenging players around the world and participate in community activities in the N-Gage Arena.

In the review that follows, I’ve evaluated the N81’s gaming qualities and five N-Gage game titles. All images were taken using the Nokia N82.

If you’re looking for Nokia N81 reviews, you’ll find more Nokia N81 reviews at

Does the N81 fulfil it’s ambition of being a gaming device?

I would say it does to some extent but it could have been better. The N81 is great in many ways and there are a few really good ideas incorporated in this phone. However there are a few really bad ideas there as well.

My main concern are the keys. I love the keypad that’s hidden beneath the slider and the idea with the dedicated gaming buttons. When the slider is shut in landscape mode the phone resembles a gamepad. Unfortunately both the joypad and the dedicated gaming buttons are to stiff to be comfortable to play games with. The joypad area is also crammed with 12(!) other buttons which makes it very easy to accidentally press a wrong button and get thrown out of the game.


 The joypad is stiff and many buttons have been crammed into that little space.

I’m not going to cover the audio functionality of this device here and now, but I should mention the annoying faint high-pitch sound the N81 makes every time you start a game, even when you’ve deactivated sounds and music. With that said, I should also mention that the N81 sound quality is superb and that the high-pitch sound is only heard when using the phones built-in speakers and not playing any audio. Once the audio starts playing you won’t hear the annoying sound.

So is the N81 not worth the money? In fact the N81 is definitely worth the €300 you have to spend to get one of these babies. All I’m saying is it could be so much better with a few adjustments.

I enjoyed

  • The dedicated gaming buttons are a great idea
  • 3D accelerated graphics
  • The low price
  • The sound quality

I did not enjoy

  • The somewhat poor build quality and plastic feeling
  • Not enough processing power which caused the games to sometime freeze
  • To many buttons crammed in a relatively small space around the joypad, making it easy to accidentally press the multimedia button or the main menu button in gameplay.
  • The joypad is definitively not gamer friendly and is bound to wear out fast
  • The high-pitch sound the phone makes when the built-in speakers are turned and no audio is playing

With that said, lets take a look at the the games!

Brothers In Arms



This first person shooter game takes us back to the Second World War where you get to play an allied soldier fighting battles in France and Tunis. This game really rocks and gives us all a glimpse of what a high-end Nokia device is capable of. You can easily spend a few hours shooting your way to victory (something I personally enjoyed a lot on the sub on my way to work). The graphics are cool and the fact that you can use vehicles makes it all so much better. Did I mention the sniper rifle?


 It’s possible to aim and shoot in all directions


 Throwing grenades is always fun

 Space Impact – Kappa base



A classic space action/adventure “shoot everything that moves” type of game. Once again the graphics are cool and I love to collect the credits which make it possible for me to upgrade my ship with new designs, heavy weapons and better shields. N-Gage makes it possible to compete with others in World Battle Mode. It’s a shame this game doesn’t run in landscape mode to make full use of the dedicated landscape buttons. There’s so much going on on the screen I can hardly keep up (but I’m sure others will).

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 Big enemies require big guns

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 Pimp your ship in the garage

The Sims 2 – Pets



 The Sims in your mobile. This time it’s all about your puppy. The dog needs entertainment and your the one that needs to make sure it’s entertained. Take him out to the park, visit the petshop to buy toys and other stuff and teach your puppy new tricks such as roll over. Because if you don’t he’ll punish you severely by tearing your house apart. This game was not as good as we expected. After while it just gets boring, perhaps it’ll appeal a younger crowd? Sit Bobo, sit damn it!


 Buy nice toys for you puppy to keep it calm…


 …otherwise it’ll tear your carpet to pieces and pee in your plants




What can I say, this is the classic tetris game invented back in 1985 by the Russian mathematician Aleksej Pazjitnov. Since then it’s established a reputation as one of the most popular video games ever. Electronic Gaming Monthly’s 100th issue had Tetris in first place as “Greatest Game of All Time”. In 2007, Tetris came in second place in IGN’s “100 Greatest Video Games of All Time”. Researchers also claim that prolonged Tetris activity can lead to more efficient brain activit (source: Wikipedia). This version offers different game modes such as versus, 40 lines and hot seat and guarantees many hours of fun.


 The classic marathon mode


 Versus computer mode

Fifa 08



Fifa 08 is probably one of the best games available in the N-Gage platform. It offers a great gaming experience which is slightly reduced by all the crowded buttons around the joypad. The game takes full advantage of the landscape mode and the dedicated gaming buttons. It features both national and league teams complete with every player and lets you choose from a variety of game modes such as tournaments, full seasons and challenges. The game is very entertaining and we really recommend it.


 And he scores!


 Notice the neat shadows

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13 Responses to “Review: The Nokia N81 and five N-Gage game titles”

  1. WOM World / Nokia » Blog Archive - N81 and N-Gage reviewed on August 22nd, 2008 12:59

    […] Dario Soltani from SimplySymbian has had the pleasure of having an N81 in his hands, along with a few N-Gage titles, and brings us his thoughts. […]

  2. Long Tin on November 4th, 2008 13:47

    Hello, I want to buy this N81, but which one is running better with songs and headsets? N81 or N81 8GB? And you have mentioned about the games above such as FIFA 08, The Sims 2…., are these all in the N81 (full version and doesn’t need to pay)?

    Thank You

  3. Long Tin on November 4th, 2008 13:48

    Hello, I want to buy this N81, but which one is running better with songs and headsets? N81 or N81 8GB? And you have mentioned about the games above such as FIFA 08, The Sims 2…., are these all in the N81 (full version and doesn’t need to pay)?

    Please reply to this e-mail address:

    Thank You

  4. Dario Soltani on November 5th, 2008 16:52

    Long Tin: Both are equally good when it comes to sound quality, but if you have many songs the memory card model could be a better choice, simply because you can have several memory cards and switch.

    No the games dont come with the phone, you’ll have to buy them. There are however free trial versions available for download.

  5. vijay on December 9th, 2008 10:02

    great dude

  6. free n gage games for nokia n-81 | Download Cell Phones on December 13th, 2008 16:07

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  7. n81 n-gage games free download | Download Cell Phones on December 13th, 2008 16:31

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  8. n81 n gage games + download | Download Cell Phones on December 13th, 2008 16:49

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  9. mohanad on January 13th, 2009 03:48


  10. dhruv on April 13th, 2009 07:47

    hey bro…i just wanted games for my N81. accidentally i have removed the pre installed games as well. so whats the best way to get games for free…be it trial or full version. please help ASAP

  11. Atul joshi on September 29th, 2009 13:18

    i have N81 from last 8 months
    but i have suffer problem in my ph such as music player not run,not refresh,not any song show ,not delete any images,many many times i have scanning ph meamory and memory card but fount still problem as it is.
    also ngage not worked not open .
    pls suggest information which is helpful for me

  12. Demola on December 26th, 2009 19:11

    I can download the ngage games on my n81.pls can u send me the link 2 me. I don’t want

  13. wisnhu tafaria makonnen on September 2nd, 2012 17:45