Hands-on: Get detailed ESRB game ratings on your iPhone and Android phone, for free

Summary:Don't let your eighth-grader trick you into buying mature games with risque content (like Duke Nukem Forever) with the free ESRB video game ratings mobile app for your iPhone or Android phone.

Don't let your eighth-grader con you into buying the just released Duke Nukem Forever, thinking it's a game where he can play as a nobleman of a duchy, when in fact it's a first person shooter with literal toilet humor, explicit sexual and sexist content and of course profanity, according to reviews of the game by CNET and Ars Technica.

You can outsmart your kids with the free Entertainment Software Rating Board's (ESRB) mobile app for iPhone and Android smartphones, which offers instant access to detailed rating summaries for over 20,000 titles published since 2008. The summaries provide more explanation for the single letter rating ESRB assigns each title that is prominently displayed on the box art. Originally, this mobile app was only available to iPhone users but has since expanded to work on Android handsets as well. This latest version is designed for iOS 3.1.3 or later, and Android 1.5 (Cupcake) and up.

The ESRB mobile app works like this. First, download and install the free app on your phone through the Apple App Store or Android Market (search for ESRB). Once opened and with access to the Wi-Fi or cellular network, you can either take a picture of a game with your phone or tap out its name using the virtual keyboard, which will bring up a ratings summary assigned to that title.

I gave this handy app a try by to see what ESRB has to say about the critically acclaimed Portal 2 game, where you play as a human test subject trying to escape a lab by creating exits with a "portal gun".

First, I snapped a picture of the Portal 2 game with my Android phone. You may have to retake the photo a couple of times to capture a relatively focused shot and in good lighting before the app will kick into search mode. Failing that, you could always type in the name of the game using your phone's on-screen keyboard.

Once it recognizes the game into the photo, the app will list relevant titles on the "Search Results" screen where you can select using the phone's touchscreen.

The ESRB rating summary for Portal 2 includes a logo of its "E" rating, a detailed description of some of the obstacles that are part of the gameplay, as well as the language used in the characters' dialogue. There is even a "Share" button at the top of the screen to make it easy for users to pass the rating details along via Bluetooth, email, Facebook, Gmail and even by SMS.

For non-iPhone or Android users, these ESRB ratings summaries are also accessible on-the-go on ESRB's mobile site.

Now you have no excuse for not knowing more about the games your kids are playing.

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Topics: Mobility, Hardware, iPhone, Smartphones

About

Gloria Sin is a New York-based freelance journalist who writes about the tech toys that you can't live without for ZDNet. She has little patience for poorly designed user experiences, and is not afraid of opening the guts of her own machines for repair or hacking her gadgets for new uses.She has written for FastCompany.com, Popular Scienc... Full Bio

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