With the recent rash of E3 announcements, including Dead Space 3, I thought it might be interesting to take a closer look at the world of iPhone gaming. Aside from a few basic games for the iPhone, I haven’t had much experience with this new, relatively unexplored concept of playing games on a mobile device. Back when I was a teenager, cell phones had all the entertainment value of a cinder block, and so I never really thought of my handheld as a way of casually playing a game, let alone taking on a console franchise like Dead Space.

As a huge fan of both the original game and its impressive sequel, when I learned that there was an iPhone edition, I was pretty eager to take a look and see how it stacked up against the PS3 version, whose disc I had replayed so many times it was nearly run down to the size of a drink coaster. At first I expected a rehash of the original game. By this time, Dead Space 2 had been on the shelves for a brief period of time, but I thought, There’s no way that this will take on the second game.

In fact, the iPhone version does neither. It instead follows a completely separate storyline that runs parallel to the adventures of Isaac Clark on the Sprawl space station. Otherwise, the game mechanics of the first two titles have been replicated for the iPhone version, and done very well. The action takes place from a similar perspective with the camera trailing behind our protagonist, Vandal, as Necromorphs pop out of vents and up from grates, and players are once again tasked with severing mutated limbs.

When I first downloaded the game, my expectations for the controls were pretty low. Touch screens have been, in the past, very finicky, often without the responsiveness required for intense gameplay. But I should’ve known to expect more from the iPhone. After a few minutes of playing, getting used to the way sliding my fingers back and forth controlled Vandal’s movement, aiming, and firing, the process became second nature, and instead I could focus, as the video game gods intended, on holding my bladder during a turn around a sharp corner. It was surprising how quickly the user interface (or, really, the lack thereof) got out of the way and let me just enjoy playing. If there was a qualm I had with the controls it was that, being on a smaller device, when I was frantically trying to escape being dismembered I found myself running out of screen space to try and maneuver.

Graphically, Dead Space for iOS really made an impression on me as well. The graphics, of course, aren’t as detailed as its big brother console editions, but they hold up well when you realize you’re playing this game on a telephone about as thick as a pencil. The game’s lighting effects and sound design are very faithful to the overall Dead Space experience, putting you in the middle of an overly dark and industrial space station with a compounding uncertainty about where you’re safe and when you’re going to be attacked next.

Playing Dead Space for iOS has expanded my view of what mobile gaming can be. I’m in awe of what this tiny little slab of glass and metal can do. With games like Dead Space, the iPhone might just be leading the charge toward the future of mobile gaming.