Back in September, we reported that indie word game and Windows Phone exclusive AlphaJax would be upgraded to Xbox Live status (or is that Xbox Windows Phone status?) at long last. The game’s developer, Marker Metro has been a Windows Phone supporter since before the platform launched. That support finally paid off when they got Microsoft to pick up publishing rights for the Xbox Windows Phone version this year. Gamers will also reap the benefits of the upgrade quite soon, as the new version launches this Wednesday!
Words with pals
AlphaJax is a Scrabble-style multiplayer crossword game. Now, you might be wondering why should care about another Scrabble clone when the hugely popular Words With Friends just appeared on Windows Phone (at long last) earlier this month. Well, it comes down to preference but many players – including yours truly – prefer AlphaJax to Zynga’s game. For one thing, Marker Metro actually eager to support the Windows Phone platform, launching their game way back in December 2010. The much larger Zynga held out for quite a bit longer rather than helping the platform grow.
From a gameplay perspective, both games are quite similar. But the special scoring tiles appear in different locations on each game’s board, which affects scoring slightly. AlphaJax’s visuals also take better advantage of the Windows Phone screen’s real estate, whereas Words With Friends has a lot of wasted space. Overall I find AlphaJax is cleaner and easier to use, though both games are great.
AlphaJax is one of the few indie Windows Phone games to be republished as an Xbox-branded title, joining IonBallEX, Wordament, and Chickens Can’t Fly (technically a sequel). And let’s face it, that’s the reason many of us will choose to play AlphaJax over the non-Xbox Words With Friends.
The new version comes with 200 GamerScore worth of Xbox Live Achievements – see the full list at Xbox360Achievements. I fear the presence of Achievements will lead to rampant cheating within a certain crowd, though at a glance the list appears to be more reasonable than Wordament’s. Besides, you can always play with people you trust if cheating becomes an issue.
The other benefits of the Xbox upgrade include Xbox Live avatar integration and the ability to invite friends or other specific players by their Gamertags. In fact, avatars are displayed both on the friends list and at the top of the screen during gameplay. As an Xbox fan, I appreciate little touches like that. Finally, the game offers multiple Live tiles, including one that shows your opponent’s latest chat message.
Free for all
The Xbox –enabled AlphaJax will be a free, ad-supported game. It doesn’t look like people who previously purchased the paid indie version will be able to upgrade it to Xbox status, unfortunately. In fact, the indie version will become defunct at the end of the year when its servers shut down. Everyone will need to start fresh rankings-wise with the new game, just like when Wordament became Xbox-enabled.
If you’re a fan of word games or even just free games with Achievements, the new AlphaJax is something to get excited about. The only question is: will the online functions actually work at launch? Xbox Windows Phone games often suffer from server issues, which could happen again with this title. We’ll find out when the Microsoft Studios-published AlphaJax launches on Wednesday, November 28!
Thanks to TNTJudbud and TehParalyzer for the tip.