Honeycomb shows off its gaming chops

While Google's 'Honeycomb' announcement concentrated mainly on the user interface and new techniques programmers would need, the company briefly turned the stage over to Thomas Williamson of War Drum Studios to see what the new Android OS offers gamers.

During his appearance, Williamson explained how his company has moved entirely to mobile development for Android-based devices - and demonstrated the first such project, Monster Madness.

Originally developed for the PS3, War Drum was able to port Monster Madness to the Honeycomb platform using the same assets - suggesting that dual-core Honeycomb-powered tablets will be able to easily handle the sort of downloadable titles normally seen on the PlayStation Network and Xbox Live Arcade.

Williamson promised two-player co-operative play over Wi-Fi, and seemed to suggest that this will be possible via ad-hoc networking - meaning that players won't need to be connected to a network in order to play while they're out and about.

Explaining that the game used numerous particle effects - seen to great effect when the player character equipped the flamethrower to fight off the 'fat zombie' boss - Williamson was able to demonstrate the game running on a Tegra 2-based tablet with no perceptible slowdown.

Another title Williamson was keen to show off during the event was History Channel Presents: Great Battles - Medieval, a real-time strategy title that packs entire armies and giant battlefields on to your tablet.

Described as an educational strategy game with massive battles, Williamson claimed that it's the first title War Drum Studios has been involved with that is able to fully utilise a dual-core processor, pushing the Tegra 2 chip in the demonstration unit to its absolute upper limits.

Both demos were certainly impressive, offering significantly more freedom of control than titles like Infinity Blade on the iPhone at a cost of what appeared to be simplified graphics - although not by much.

Honeycomb doesn't just promise opportunities for freshly developed titles, however. Google's Hugo Barra claimed that the Android team has worked hard to ensure that software written for older versions of Android will work fine on Honeycomb-based tablets, providing that the developer has stuck to Google-recommended best practices when writing their game.

To demonstrate how well older titles scale up on a Honeycomb-powered tablet, Barra fired up an unmodified version of Fruit Ninja - a title originally written for Android and iPhone smartphones. The graphics looked sharp, the animation smooth, and Barra was even able to show off support for the Motorola Xoom's multitouch display.

With both Sony and Nintendo planning next-generation hand-held consoles, the tablet gaming market has its work cut out if it wants to grab a big market share - but the low cost of most titles coupled with the multi-use potential of the devices could mean that Honeycomb powers ahead in 2011.

To see a video of the games in action, head across to our main Honeycomb article and skip the embedded video to 15:40.