Date: November 21, 2010
App type: Game, Xbox LIVE
Publisher: Electronic Arts
Release date: October 15, 2010
Price: $4.99
Requirements: Access to your data connection, sensors, media library, Xbox LIVE, phone identity

Thanks to the success of the iPhone and its App Store, game developers have a new kind of platform to target, and they're just now starting to get the hang of what does--and does not--work on these multitouch, controller-less mobile devices. So we've found that action shooters aren't necessarily ideal on such devices. But casual games--board games, card games, and the like--work well. And so do racing games.

And it's not just iPhone owners that are reaping the benefits. Windows Phone has established itself very quickly as a premier game platform on par with the iPhone, thanks to its inclusion of the Xbox LIVE service and the simplicity with which developers can create games that run on this platform.

So it's no surprise that the best-selling iPhone title Need for Speed Undercover has been quickly and faithfully ported to Windows Phone. NFSU is the best of the two Need for Speed games on the iPhone (the other, Need for Speed Shift, is actually pretty lousy), and is in my opinion the best-yet racing game on any smart phone. And yep, you guessed it, the Windows Phone version is the best yet because it adds real Xbox Live achievements and leaderboards to the mix.

There's a plot to NFSU, not that it matters, involving your infiltration into a car gang of sorts. This is completely superfluous to the game, however, and the video cuts scenes are, thankfully, easily skipped. The real heart of NFSU is the ability to buy and totally customize cars, which you use in races in which you earn money for succeeding. And then the races themselves, which are action packed and well-done.

Those races vary nicely from straightforward time trials to some pretty difficult missions in which you need to do such things as takedown a certain number of vehicles in a certain time period. It's a nice mix, and you can go back and repeat even successful races in order to bolster your earnings and upgrade to the cars and add-ons you'll need to win future, more difficult races.

NFSU unfolds over three different areas, and features some great 3D scenery, excellent sound effects, and fast action. It's a fantastic game, and good enough that I'll absolutely finish it again, this time on Windows Phone. If you're looking for a fast-paced action title that you can jump in and out of in short bursts--as on a commute--NFSU will satisfy that need. But it's also a great game to spend a few hours at a time with, and even if you're not a racing game fan per se, it's one you're going to want to at least try.

Achievements

Because Need for Speed Undercover is an Xbox LIVE title, it offers the following Achievements:

Trial By Fire
Complete the NFS tutorial.
Points: 5

Learner's Permit
Acquire your first car.
Points: 15

Apprentice Mechanic
Customize a car.
Points: 10

Keys to the City
Unlock Port Crescent.
Points: 20

Branching Out
Unlock Sunset Hills.
Points: 20

Retired
Complete Story Mode.
Points: 50

Aficionado
Earn 5 cars for your garage.
Points: 40

Bountiful
Get a bounty over $1000.
Points: 10

Old and Busted
Earn a 2nd car for the garage.
Points: 15

That Was Easy
Complete Old Cutler Road.
Points: 15