Reviews

Over the weekend, Samsung and Verizon launched the new ATIV SE sporting Windows Phone 8.0 with Update 3. We sort of forgot about this phone, since the 8.1 news became the main focus for us. But we decided to pick one up and give you a full on tour of the device.

As I mention in the video (which turned out longer than I had anticipated), the ATIV SE is a really sharp and elegant device. Sure, Samsung tends to give Windows Phone the cold shoulder, but even when they seem to be not trying they make compelling devices. The ATIV SE is no different and so far I’m quite impressed with it.

Let’s take a closer look

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Age Calculator is a Windows Phone app that will break down your age into years, months, days, hours, minutes and seconds. The app doesn’t do much beyond that.

The Windows Phone app has a simple interface and does come across with a bit of a novelty feel. Still, it is somewhat interesting see how those years can translate into seconds. It may surprise you how quickly those seconds can add up.

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Tink Magician is a relatively new Windows Phone 8 game that has you defending a magical kingdom from a demon lord. You use your magical spells to summon elemental powers to destroy the invading armies of the demon lord. Tink Magician is a fantasy battle game that plays much like a tower defense game but also has RPG aspects.

As you battle your way through the map of your kingdom, you will earn experience points that can be used to upgrade your character and gold coins that can be used to buy power boosts. While Tink Magician is a fast-paced Windows Phone 8 game, it can also be rather exhausting with the volume of monsters and bosses you have to defeat.

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Color Weather is a no-nonsense weather app for Windows Phone 8. The minimalistic design changes the background color dynamically depending on the current temperature.

Along with the current conditions, Color Weather offers a five-day forecast so you can better plan your week. The weather app does have Live Tile support and while Color Weather’s simple design has a certain level of appeal, it may be too minimalistic for some.

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Cortana vs. Siri vs. Google Now

This morning, Cortana for Windows Phone 8.1 was unleashed to the US through the Preview for Developers program. Microsoft’s new personal voice assistant is taking aim against Apple’s Siri on the iPhone and Android’s Google Now.

But how well does Microsoft do out the gate? Will Cortana’s beta status hold her back?

We pitted Cortana against an iPhone 5S and a Motorola Moto X to see just how good (or bad) the new flagship Windows Phone feature compares. Head past the break to catch the video!

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Windows Phone 8.1 Review

Our comprehensive overview and review of Windows Phone 8.1

After eighteen months of being, Windows Phone 8 is getting its first major OS update from Microsoft. While Windows Phone 8.0 has had three minor updates between late 2012 and 2013, it is Windows Phone 8.1 that will finally bring a small avalanche of new features and improvements to users. The update is free and expected to arrive for all current Windows Phone 8 devices in the coming months, though starting today, a Preview for Developers is now live should you want to take the OS for an early spin.

I have been using the Preview release of Windows Phone 8.1 for nearly the last two weeks on a Nokia Lumia Icon. Reviewing a whole OS, especially one as robust as Windows Phone is no small feat. Regardless, I’ll go through what I think are the biggest new features and even some small changes that I think users want to hear about.

Is Windows Phone 8.1 really a game changer? And has Microsoft finally delivered a product that the masses can adopt? Let’s find out.

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Real Steel World Robot Boxing is an entertaining Windows Phone 8 game modeled in the spirit of the movie ‘Real Steel’. Think of it as a game of Rock’em Sock’em Robots but with more intensity.

Real Steel World Robot Boxing has 24 robots to fight or buy and 4 gaming modes to test your mechanical pugilistic skills with. The game has been out for a little while now and while there is room for improvement; Real Steel World Robot Boxing comes across as a fun game for our Windows Phone 8 gaming library.

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Week View 8 is a calendar alternative for Windows Phone 8 that centers around a weekly view of the calendar. Week View 8 does have monthly and yearly views but the calendar app is focused on approaching things one week at a time.

While the pending Windows Phone 8.1 update will bring plenty of changes to our native Windows Phone calendar, many may still yearn for alternatives. In using Week View 8 for the past few days, it comes across as a capable Windows Phone calendar app and if you prefer a seven-day approach, Week View 8 is an option worth considering.

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If you’re in the mood for a casual (almost novelty) game to help you pass the time, take a look at Cocktail Master 2. The Windows Phone 8 game has you directing your faithful bartender Miguel around the bar.

The goal is to mix a concoction that will delight Miguel or at least not kill him. The interface is straightforward and Miguel is full of comical reactions to your drinks. Cocktail Master 2 may not be a challenge packed Windows Phone game but it is an entertaining option to consider.

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Witch Potion is a match-two styled puzzle game for Windows Phone 8. The game premise has you seeking out these matches to make potions. A black magic is surrounding the game’s realm and hurting the creatures within. The potions you help to create will go towards defeating the black magic and restore harmony to the realm.

Witch Potion has 120 puzzle levels that will create potions to help eight different creatures that include a Yeti, Ogre, Mermaid, Leprechaun and more. Each puzzle level has a set number of moves and some levels include additional challenges such as not matching certain elements.

Witch Potion is from an AppCampus alumnus, has nice graphics, challenging game play and comes across as an entertaining puzzle game for Windows Phone 8.

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Robot Bros is a relatively new Windows Phone game that plays like a platformer but has a puzzle plot. You take control of the Robot Brothers and have to navigate from start to finish while negotiating around a series of obstacles.

The challenge comes into play in that you can only control one robot at a time and both robots have to cross the finish line. Robot Bros has 90 levels with six robot types. In just tinkering with the game for a short time, it comes across as a challenging game. Robot Bros has recieved some nice reviews over on iOS and has the potential to do the same here on the Windows Phone platform.

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Last week we reviewed Spirit of Hero, a Windows Phone-exclusive MMORPG from Vietnamese developer TeaMobi. Although a large and potentially fun game, Spirit of Hero suffers from a poor English translation and several technical issues. I must be on a janky Asian games kick, because today I’m back to review Raiden X for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 and RT. This one comes from a Chinese publisher called Kim Labs and indie developer HeartTour.

Although Raiden X bears the name of the famous Raiden shoot-em-up series, it’s not an official Raiden title. The developer borrowed the name and a few assets and made their own Raiden game without permission of Raiden owner Seibu Kaihatsu. Yet unlicensed fan games like this are actually part of a longstanding tradition in Japan and Asia. They’re called doujin games, and exist in something of a gray market in their native countries. Some doujin games are great, while others are totally amateur hour – like Raiden X.

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Sweets Mania Space Quest is a matching game for Windows Phone 8 that has an assortment of missions where you are tasked with pairing up various styles of candies. Game mechanics are similar to what you would find with Bejeweled but with a set number of levels with an assortment of mission goals.

Graphics are well done, game play challenging and overall Sweets Mania Space Quest is a fun game to pass the time with.

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Russian publisher Game Insight produces titles in many genres (mostly on other platforms), but its specialty is city-building games. Their previous Windows Phone and Windows 8 release 2020: My Country impressed me with its futuristic setting and wealth of content (see our review). But still, I longed to see more Game Insight titles make their way to mobile Windows platforms.

As luck would have it, Game Insight has just released Airport City on both Windows Phone (1 GB of RAM or higher at present) and Windows 8 and RT. It comes from Innowate, the same team who bought us the My Country series. Although the two game look and play a lot alike, Airport City does a few things differently as well. Namely it combines traditional city building with airport management, which proves more interesting than you might expect.

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There are plenty of options in the Windows Phone Store for those looking to add creative filters to your photos. One Windows Phone photography app that hopes to catch your attention is Old Photo.

Old Photo is a simple app that lets you use creative filters to give images an older feel. The effects are nice, the user interface simple and images are not resized. Old Photo may not have as many bells and whistles other Windows Phone photography apps have but it does a decent job of things nonetheless.

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Dead Clicker is a Windows Phone 8 arcade game that calls upon you to protect the gates of a cemetery from an army of zombies.

To do so you must smash the zombies into the ground, much like you would do in a game of whack-a-mole. The more zombies you smash, the higher your score. Should the zombies make it out of their graves and reach the cemetery gates, they will escape ending the game.

Dead Clicker is a fast-paced Windows Phone game that has decent graphics, challenging game play and is a fun way to pass the time.

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Volume, a Windows Phone volume management app

Volume is an interesting utility app for Windows Phone 8 that helps you manage your phone's volume levels. If you are constantly adjusting the volume throughout the day or find that you often forget to adjust things, this app may be of help. Volume will let you set up profiles to automatically adjust your Windows Phone's volume during key times of the day (meetings, after hours, during classes, etc.) and create Live Tiles to quickly adjust the volume for those unexpected times.

Volume has plenty of options, some of which require an in-app purchase for the premium version, available to regulate your Windows Phone volume. The app’s user interface takes a little time to get used to but overall, Volume comes across as a handy app for those needing a little help adjusting the volume levels.

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Dragon Revenge is an arcade styled game for Windows Phone 8 that has you playing the role of a dragon intent on destroying everything in sight. From buildings to trees to cows, your job is to wreak destruction upon the lands all the while avoiding the villagers arrows.

The game has an unlimited number of gaming levels where you guide your dragon across the sky, attacking villages and collecting gold. And Dragon Revenge isn’t just thoughtless destruction with several missions or challenges to tackle for extra gaming points. It may take a little time to get used to the gaming controls but for the most part, Dragon Revenge comes across as an entertaining game for Windows Phone 8.

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Windows Phone 8 is home to an excellent massively multiplayer online role playing game (MMORPG) called Order & Chaos Online. Sadly, publisher Gameloft sent that game out to die by failing to support it with updates and keep it content-identical to its superior iOS and Android versions. What’s a Windows Phone-owning MMORPG fan to do?

Enter Vietnamese developer TeaMobi, recent graduate of Nokia’s AppCampus program. TeaMobi has just released an MMORPG called Spirit of Hero on Windows Phone – before competing platforms. We learned about Spirit of Hero through Windows Phone Central’s popular “Newly Discovered Games” forum thread, where our dedicated readers share the latest games they’ve discovered. Is Spirit of Hero a worthy successor to Order & Chaos Online? Find out in our detailed launch review.

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If number puzzles are your cup of tea, you need to check out the new Windows Phone 8 game Numolition.

The game’s premise has you working with a crew of demolition experts and need to flatten as many puzzles by creating combinations of two or more of the same numbered blocks. You can add or move these blocks to create the combos, which in turn can be demolished by tapping on the group. It sounds easy but harder than you may think.

Add attractive graphics, three challenging gaming modes and Numolition turns out to be a solid gaming title. Numolition was released on iOS, Android, and Windows Phone last week and in playing the game over the weekend, it is a very appealing addition to the Windows Phone 8 gaming library.

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If you need to keep track of your finances from your Windows Phone, there are plenty of options to consider. myMoney hopes to be on your short list when shopping for a Windows Phone 8 financial app.

myMoney has plenty of features to set your budget, track your expenses, be reminded on bills, and keep everything backed up to the cloud. The user interface does take a little time to get used to but myMoney comes across as a capable financial option for Windows Phone 8.

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Fishy Rush is a casual game for Windows Phone 8 that takes the endless runner genre under water. With Fishy Rush, you swim your goldfish for as far as you can, collecting coins along the way.

The game is not all fun in the sun with plenty of dangers and shark attacks to avoid. You can collect coins and pearls to use in the game's store to buy upgrades and there are plenty of power-ups to help you survive the dangers of the deep blue sea. Fishy Rush isn’t a terrible game for your Windows Phone but some may find it falling a tad short of the mark.

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If you are looking for a translation app for your Windows Phone or Windows 8 device, iTranslate isn’t a bad option to consider.

iTranslate covers over eighty languages with an easy, straightforward interface. Add predictive text and voice output on many of the languages and iTranslate becomes a rather appealing language app for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8.

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Shuttle Up is a relatively simple Windows Phone 8 game where you try to navigate a shiny little ball as high as you can. While the premise is simple, game play isn't without challenge.

The challenge with Shuttle Up comes into play with barriers that will be scattered about that you have dispatch before advancing any higher. As you approach the barriers, ever so slightly they will move out of your way. Advance to quickly and you'll smash into the barriers, ending your game. In playing the game for the past few days, Shuttle Up comes across as a fun, challenging game for Windows Phone 8 but it also can be frustrating.

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We first looked at Pac-Man Museum during last year’s E3, where it served as part of Namco’s push to reinvigorate Pac-Man with modern audiences. The same push includes an animated show and game called Pac-Man and the Ghostly Adventures, as well as the updated Pac-Man Championship Edition DX+ on both Windows 8 and Xbox 360.

At last Pac-Man Museum has arrived on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 to teach gamers the history of Pac-Man by packaging nine of his classic games in one downloadable collection.

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