Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was originally a Nintendo DS game. While it retained the violent tone and themes that the series is famed for, as a handheld game it played to its strengths - returning to the top-down viewpoint of the first two titles.
This shift to the fixed, sky-high perspective allows GTA:CW to strip back the controls - removing the need to control a camera in 3D space - without compromising on content.
The drug economy
In fact, in many ways, GTA:CW builds on the GTA formula. These additions include the use of the touch-screen to create a number of mini-games for various tasks – such as hot-wiring cars, and dumpster-diving for weapon caches - and also a drug dealing simulator that provides the backbone of the game's economy.
The dealing mechanic has you interacting with various hoodlums in the world. You have to keep a close eye on who wants what, and the price they are prepared to pay. Smart investments - like moving Ecstasy from the Mob (who sell it cheap) to high paying biker gangs – establish your character, Haung Lee, as a player in the criminal underworld.
It’s an odd addition that, while in keeping with the crime filled themes of the game, feels slower and more considered than the more high-octane, gun-toting, car-stealing elements. That doesn't stop it being a fascinating mechanic though, and it is perhaps the most involving and novel addition that Chinatown Wars brings to the franchise.
Making the best of a bad situation
The mobile focus has also seen a more cartoony look implemented, filled with hard, black outlines, and block, cell-shaded colors. While in the original DS game this stylistic approach felt driven more by necessity than design, on modern screens the crisp lines look wonderful.
Unfortunately, the move to touchscreen has not been a wholly positive one. Though developer Rockstar has done a lot to allow customization of the controls (you can move and re-size all of its virtual buttons), it is hard to keep up in frantic moments. When you are struggling to perform the classic GTA combo of killing competing thugs, before leaping over a fence, and trying to steal a car to escape in, the interface can become a real issue - especially on smaller devices (though I never totally discount the fact that huge hands may be my real problem here).
The true mobile GTA
If you are a GTA fan looking for a mobile option, then Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars is the best choice out there. It is a tight story designed from the ground-up to be played on the go , rather than being shoehorned onto mobile as an afterthought like the rest of the series.