Reviews

Ubisoft’s Watch Dogs launched on consoles this week. Everyone who plays mainstream games is neck-deep in that game’s free-roaming campaign, extensive multiplayer modes, and cyberpunk hacking gameplay. Yours truly is still busy with Wolfenstein: The New Order, so the only dogs I’m watching are of the mechanical variety.

Xbox One also has a new indie game to play, courtesy of the ID@Xbox program. Worms Battlegrounds is the latest in the long-running Worms franchise from UK-based Team 17. Although about a million miles away from a free-roaming epic like Watch Dogs, Battlegrounds does sport a fully-voiced campaign, 3D landscapes and physics, local and online multiplayer, and even clan support. It’s the biggest Worms game ever, is what people who measure Worms games say. Read on for our full review with exclusive screenshots and hands-on video!

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Goldfish in the Sewer is a relatively new racing game for Windows Phone that approaches things from a different angle.

You are tasked with racing a goldfish through the twists and turns of the local sewer system for time. Make the run fast enough to earn a medal and you get to advance to the next race.

Goldfish in the Sewer has potential with nice graphics and challenging game play. The biggest drawback to the game is the racing controls that may have you swimming upstream with little hope for success.

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We were tipped on a relatively new Windows Phone 8 weather app the other day and while we have plenty of weather app options, this one ain't too shabby. Skyline has a minimalist appearance that delivers the basic weather information along with an interesting map feature.

Yes. It is another Windows Phone weather app but Skyline has enough appeal and gusto to stand out from the pack.

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We have several blackjack games to choose from on Windows Phone and Windows 8, most being of the free-and-supported-by-ads variety. But hey, ads can be annoying!

With that in mind, I recently checked out a paid universal game called Blackjack Assassin from DeadCode Software (the trial is fully featured and ad-supported). With a name like that, you might expect a cool and quirky approach to the traditional game of Jack Black, I mean blackjack. Blackjack Assassin is actually a very straight-laced blackjack simulation, but dedicated fans of the card game might not mind. Head past the break for our full review.

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Clipr is a relatively new photography app for Windows Phone 8 that lets you clip parts of one picture and paste it into another picture. Clipr also has tools to selectively blur portions of photos, merge two photos into one and create Start Screen background wallpapers.

After using Clipr over the past few days, while the app could use a little fine-tuning, the app comes across as a creative photography tool for our Windows Phones well worth a try.

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Review – VEVO v3.5 for Windows Phone

Vevo is a popular video hosting site (www.vevo.com) that has been described as "Hulu for music videos". The five-year old service is a joint venture between Universal Music Group, Google, Sony Music Entertainment and Abu Dhabi Media. The Windows Phone app received a major update last week that refreshed the user interface, added a few new channels, an improved playlist manager and more.

We have touched on Vevo before but though a closer look at the updated version (version 3.5.0.80) was in order.

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While the battery life in our Windows Phone and Windows devices has improved dramatically over the years, there are still times when you need a little boost to make it through the day. The easy solution is finding an outlet and just plug in your Windows Phone or your Surface tablet.

However, when an outlet isn't available a portable, an external battery is a good option to have. RAVPower offers a nice assortment of external batteries and the RP-PB14 Xtreme is one of the beefiest batteries the company offers. The Xtreme battery sports a 2300mAh battery with LCD display and a ton of connection options.

The RAVPower Xtreme is a nice option to consider to cover a wide range of recharging needs but the size may take away from the portability of this battery.

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Pic: The Invasion of the Nutcrackers is a platform Windows Phone 8 game were you have to fend off an invasion of nutcrackers. These are not your Holiday Season styled Nutcrackers but odd little creatures that remind me a little of Pac-Man.

You play the role of a Pic, a strange looking creature with eyes, hands, feet and a huge nose, who works his way through various puzzle platforms to defeat the Nutcrackers. Animations tend to give things a children's game feel and controls are a little cumbersome. Pic: The Invasion of the Nutcrackers does have a bit of potential, but it may be best to give the trial version a shot before buying the full game.

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TV Blaze is one of the more recent television show tracking apps to become available for Windows Phone 8. The app helps you track your favorite television shows from what you have already watched to the new episodes that are waiting to be watched.

TV Blaze also has Trakt.tv integration, OneDrive support and tons of information on your favorite shows. Navigation isn’t as straight forward as we would have liked but overall, TV Blaze is a nice option to consider that will help you track your TV viewing habits.

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Clash of Clans is one of the most profitable mobile games in existence. But developer Supercell has so far refused to bring Clash to Windows Phone. That refusal opens up the doors for companies like Gameloft to swoop in and make their own Clash-like games. But Gameloft’s Total Conquest sits on the buggy side of things, so maybe you’re looking for a different game to play involving clans and clashes.

That’s where Game Insight’s Cloud Raiders comes in. A competitive raiding game set within a Skylanders-like world of floating islands, Cloud Raiders shows loads of polish even during its first official month of release on Windows Phone. With casual strategic battles, base building, clan support, and unrivaled cross-platform support, Cloud Raiders is both a great replacement for Clash of Clans and an impressive game all on its own. Read on for our full review.

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If you think you have mad math skills and quick reactions, Kaboom is a Windows Phone game that might be of interest.

The premise of the game is that bad times have befallen on major cities worldwide. An evil mathematician has launched a reign of terror on these locations and it's your job to save the day.

You will need to solve basic math problems to prevent bombs froe destroying the city. The pace of the game picks up the longer you survive and while there's not much to Kaboom, it comes across as a fun Windows Phone game.

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Time of My Life is a relatively new Windows Phone 8 app from Microsoft Studios that is designed to help you track where you spend your time.

The app uses your Windows Phone location services to log the time you spend in one location or the other and will chart your activity with daily, weekly and monthly graphs.

Time of My Life is an interesting app with potential but could use a little fine-tuning.

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Maleficent Free Fall hit the Windows Phone Store last week in advance of the Disney movie Maleficent that is due out in theaters on May 30th. The latest Windows Phone 8 game from Disney Studios places a dark twist on the match three game.

The multi-level, multi-chapter game has you following a young Maleficent through the years tackling a wide assortment of match three challenges. You earn magic that can be used to unlock power-ups that will help you survive the puzzles.

Maleficent Free Fall is a well animated, entertaining gaming option for Windows Phone 8 and if you're looking for a challenging puzzle game, it's worth checking out.

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Magic Realms is the Windows Phone and Blackberry version of Elemental Kingdoms, a popular collectible card game/RPG. It also happens to be a re-skinning of an existing game called Lies of Astaroth, with the same game mechanics but totally different cards, art and story.

Origins aside, Magic Realms is a vast and endlessly enjoyable card game. You get a lengthy story mode, online player-versus-player battles, clan support, semi-weekly live events, cloud saves, and even cross-platform compatibility with the Blackberry version of the game. That’s quite a lot of value from a free to play game. Learn more in our in-depth review.

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Tap Master: Mondrian is a simple Windows Phone 8 game that will test your ability to react to commands and objects flying down your screen. The game's design is inspired by Piet Mondrian's minimalistic style and has you tapping colored shapes as they run down (or in some cases up) the screen.

The challenge to the game is that you can only tap the pieces as directed by the game. It sounds easy but as you progress through game play, the pace increases and you might be surprised how challenging it can be to keep up.

Tap Master: Mondrian has a simple layout, challenging game play and is a nice addition to the Windows Phone gaming library.

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Review: Lenovo ThinkPad X1 Carbon

When Lenovo first introduced the ThinkPad X1 Carbon Ultrabook in 2012, we were faced with a machine that was close to perfection. Sure, the original iteration was not perfect in every sense but it came closer than any Ultrabook we had available.

Now that we have landed in 2014, the company has released its third iteration of the ThinkPad X1. We've spent a little time with the 2014 edition of the ThinkPad X1 and after the break, we see what has changed for the better and for the worse.

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At first glance, the Windows Phone game Shift may not be very impressive. It is a game of tic-tac-toe so it cannot be that challenging of a game, right?

While Shift is a tic-tac-toe game for Windows Phone 8, the game adds an interesting twist to the game. Game play is done in match style where you have to be the first to win three games, but you have to win by two games. Game play has a continuous pace until someone wins the match, which gives Shift that twist to make it stand out a little.

Shift is a fun, casual game for your Windows Phone gaming library and the twist in game play helps give the game a little staying power.

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A while back we reviewed Spirit of Hero, a 3D MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game) from Vietnamese developer TeaMobi. Although fairly buggy and riddled with translation errors, the game offered a lot of content and a unique look at Vietnamese history and mythology. And there aren’t exactly tons of free to play MMORPGs on Windows Phone.

It turns out that TeaMobi is something of an MMO specialist. They offer two more massively multiplayer online games on our favorite smartphone platform: Ninja School and Avatar. Today we look at Ninja School (aka Ninja School Online), a free platforming RPG similar to the popular Maple Story series. Surprisingly, this one works with both Windows Phone 7 and 8. Do technical problems and poor translation keep this game from ninja awesomeness? Find out in our full review.

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If light leak effects are your cup of tea, you may want to check out the Windows Phone 8 photography app Lights of Cali.

The app has over 230 light leak effects, a wide assortment of text overlays and the ability to add your signature to your photos. You can apply these effects to existing images or launch a camera app to capture new images to edit. Lights of Cali also has a social network where you can share your creations and view other member's use of light leaks.

In just tinkering with Lights of Cali over the past few days, it comes across as a capable photography app for your Windows Phone.

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Every week, I like to look into the “Newly discovered games” thread in our forums to discover new Windows Phone games to play. Our dedicated readers seek out new game releases and share their Store links. Often the games are great - such as Magic Realms, which also has its own forum thread. But other times somebody will share a game that’s not so hot; those are the breaks.

One such game I discovered there is Hockey Fight (available in Pro and Lite versions) from Ratrod Studio. Ratrod has released some very impressive games on Windows Phone like the Drift Mania series and the Skateboard Party series. They have also released Hockey Fight. The idea of a game dedicated to hockey fights is fairly promising, but Hockey Fight lacks some of the polish and features we’ve come to expect from Ratrod games (including Moga controller support, sadly).  Read on for our full review.

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With the release of Windows Phone 8.1, under the Preview for Developers program, we have seen a number of apps surface in the Windows Phone Store focused on creating custom Start Screen backgrounds. Each app seems to follow the same pattern of having a simple interface and plenty of creative styles.

Theme+ is one of the more recent additions to this genre of apps and falls in line with those that have come before. Theme+ has a simple interface that allows you to create custom designs that can add a dash of color to your Windows Phone 8.1 Start Screen.

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OneLens is a Windows Phone 8 photography app that offers up over thirty film filters that can add a creative touch to your pictures. The app has an internal camera app that allows you to preview and then apply your creative filters to your photographs.

OneLens is a simple option for the times you need to snap a quick pic and apply a creative filter. The photo app also includes editing tools to adjust the intensity of the filter application, crop or change the filter choice all together. You can also import existing photos to edit and OneLens supports original image sizes of up to 38MP.

It may not be your daily driver for photography but OneLens isn't a bad option to consider as a supplemental app.

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One of the ideals of Microsoft’s connected ecosystem of Xbox consoles, Windows Phone, and Windows 8 and RT is easy portability between the various platforms. Make it easy for developers to write one game and release it to more than one Microsoft platform and consumers win too since they get more software to choose from.

Last December the Xbox One saw its first port from Windows 8: Microsoft’s Halo: Spartan Assault. Now NinjaBee/Wahoo Studios (nobody can say the difference between the two labels) has brought their own Windows 8 game over to Xbox One as part of the ID@Xbox program: Nutjitsu. This one is basically the exact same tablet/PC game but with Achievements.

If playing a tiny retro-style game on your expensive new console doesn’t hurt your pride, you might want to give Nutjitsu a try. Read on for our full review with video!

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Blazin' Aces is a new air combat game for Windows Phone 8 that was released last week. The game is nicely drawn up, has its fair share of challenges but can also be a little on the frustrating side.

You play the role of a pilot in the golden era of aviation (World War I/II periods) and have to defeat the invading forces. Blazin' Aces has two gaming modes, a soundtrack that fits the action well and plenty of power-ups/boost to help you with your mission. The game is similar to Mini-Squadron (which is sadly no longer available), just a little more edgy.

Blazin' Aces will require a little patience until you get used to game play and the controls, but will begin to grow on you once you get a hang of things.

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Mini Motor Racing is a relatively new Windows Phone 8 arcade styled racing game with quality graphics and challenging racecourses. The cars remind me of those miniature RC cars and there are plenty racing car styles to unlock. Add over three-hundred races to win with two racing modes and Mini Motor Racing will not grow stale too quick.

The game has seen decent success over on iOS and based on what we've seen, Mini Motor Racing should see similar here on the Windows Phone 8 platform.

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