Welcome to our new regular feature: the best games of the month. Every month we’ll look at a collection of the newly released Windows Phone games that stand out from the crowd. The titles we choose will range in genre and production value. Anything goes as long as it’s fun, original (not using someone else’s IP without permission), and freshly launched.
March was a particularly strong month for Windows Phone because we got three new Xbox Live releases. Multiple mobile Xbox titles in a month is not a common occurrence nowadays. We’ve chosen two of those titles for this best-of list: Rayman Fiesta Run and Throne Together. Non-Xbox games tended towards average quality this month, but Machinarium, Castle Raid 2, and Super Polygon rise above the pack as excellent games.
Quick impressions and Store links after the break!
Throne Together is an Xbox Live-enabled block-stacking puzzle game. Each level starts out with a partially constructed castle. The player’s job is to add various shaped pieces to the castle without causing it to fall down. Put too much weight on the lower pieces and they will develop cracks or even break, so you need to distribute the weight evenly.
To place those pieces, tap and drag them down from the top of the screen. The pieces come in many shapes and sizes, not just squares and rectangles. Players will also unlock special pieces like doors and windows that provide bonus points when placed in specific locations.
Throne Together does have some difficulty problems stemming from its free to play nature; the later levels are virtually impossible to beat without purchasing boosts with real money. The game’s Facebook integration has been broken for some players (like me) since launch as well. But you’ll still have a great time until you hit the difficulty wall, and the developer continues to seek a solution to the Facebook issue.
With lots of different goals and castle pieces and a charming art style, Throne Together is a better than average puzzle game.
- Throne Together – Windows Phone 8 – 29 MB – Free – Store Link
- Throne Together – Windows 8 and RT – 42 MB – Free – Store Link
Of all the games in this article, Super Polygon (a clone of Super Hexagon) from Dangling Concepts is probably the most different from the norm. Players control a tiny polygon as it travels through a 3D tunnel. The controls are simple – just tap left or right to move your polygon around the center of the tunnel.
Being a music and rhythm game, Super Polygon features catchy and energetic electronic music. As the song plays, players will have to dodge oncoming walls in order to keep your polygon alive. The obstacles and player movement match the beat of the music, creating a cool and hypnotic effect.
Because it’s so different from the norm, you really have to experience Super Polygon for yourself. And since the game is free (with a few optional IAPS such as removing ads), that should be very easy to do.
- Super Polygon – Windows Phone 8 – 21 MB – Free – Store Link
- Super Polygon – Windows 8 and RT – 25 MB – Free – Store Link
Castle Raid 2
Here’s a game we haven’t covered yet. Castle Raid 2 comes from Arctic Mill, a small indie studio based in Sweden. And yet this game feels like it comes from a much larger studio thanks to its excellent hand-drawn artwork, voice acting, and clever gameplay.
Castle Raid 2 is a real-time strategy game in which two medieval fantasy armies battle for supremacy. RTS games are traditionally fairly complex, but Arctic Hill has done a great job of streamlining the core concepts for mobile play. Instead of sprawling maps, each map fits on a single screen. At either end you’ll find one of the two combatants' castles. Destroy your enemy’s castle and you’ll win the match.
Before you can start producing knights, archers, and other military units, you’ll have to gather some resources. Simply create a few peasants and they’ll gather up the resources automatically. A peasant can only collect resources once though, so you need to make a steady stream of them in order to keep the resources flowing.
Once you’ve got the necessary resources you can create military units to attack the enemy and protect your peasants. Again, these units automatically go to work so there’s no need to micromanage. Order up three of the same unit simultaneously and you’ll get an upgraded unit who can deal a lot more damage. The key is to release a good variety of units and cancel out your opponents’ forces.
It takes a few rounds to master the balance of resource gathering, attacks, and using your towers’ special abilities. But once you get a grip on Castle Raid 2’s battles, you’re in for an addictive campaign. Feeling competitive? Castle Raid 2 also supports 2-player head-to-head battles on one device.
- Castle Raid 2 – Windows Phone 8 – 52 MB – $1.29 – Store Link
- Castle Raid 2 – Windows 8 and RT – 41 MB – $1.99 – Store Link
Machinarium is a point-and-click adventure game that stars a little robot named Josef. As the game opens, we see him dropped in a scrap heap outside of a gigantic industrial city. Josef wakes up, repairs himself, and sets off towards the city. Once the player helps him get inside, Josef sets about searching for his childhood robot friend. Along the way he’ll help robotic citizens in need as well as working to stop the evil Black Cap Brotherhood from destroying the city.
The story unfolds without any text or dialog. Instead, characters speak in voice bubbles that show little pictures about what they’re saying. This sells the idea that everything happens within an alien world. And yet the story is surprisingly involving and emotional, thanks to the gorgeous art-style and hand-drawn animation of each character.
Machinarium is one beautiful game. It feels like an interactive cartoon, just like most of the best adventure games of yesteryear. The robots’ world comes to life through an amazing attention to detail. Although Machinarium suffered from a crashing bug upon its release, the latest update fixes the problem. Buy it without fear, adventure game fans.
- Machinarium – Windows Phone 8 – 221 MB – $4.49 – Store Link
- Windows 8 and RT versions coming soon!
Rayman Fiesta Run
When Rayman Jungle Run appeared on Windows Phone and Windows 8, it quickly took the mantle as the best platformer on mobile Windows platforms. The sequel Rayman Fiesta Run ups the ante, improving on its predecessor in both gameplay and visuals, and it even offers much more reasonable Xbox Live Achievements to boot.
Rayman and his friends now travel across a sprawling world map where they will access a total of 76 levels. Like Jungle Run, the goal of each level is to collect 100 Lums. But the Lums you collect can now be spent on power-ups and unlocking new characters and artwork. Rayman adds swimming to his repertoire of moves, and yet the controls remain perfectly simple and responsive.
Fiesta Run is a beautiful game, with vibrant colors and impeccable artwork. Besides gorgeous new character art and background themes, Ubisoft and Pastagames have also added 3D platforms into the mix. These don’t appear in every single level, but they add a great sense of depth whenever they show up.
For my money, Rayman Fiesta Run is the single finest Windows Phone game released in the month of March. Check out our full review for more impressions!
- Rayman Fiesta Run – Windows Phone 8 – 81 MB – $2.99 – Store Link
- Rayman Fiesta Run – Windows 8 and RT – 97 MB – $2.99 – Store Link