Reviews

Several Windows 8 and RT tablets have excellent first-party keyboard options, namely the Type Cover for the Surface and Surface Pro and Nokia’s Power Keyboard for the Lumia 2520. But sometimes the official keyboard is expensive (see the two keyboards I just mentioned) and some tablets just don’t have first-party keyboard options.

That’s where MiniSuit (maker of my Lumia 1520 case) comes in. The MiniSuit BluBoard is a universal wireless Bluetooth keyboard that works with Windows 8 and RT, Windows 7, Android, and iOS. It won’t break the bank and you can keep using it even if you switch tablets. But does it do everything a Windows tablet user needs a keyboard to do? Find out in our full review.

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Sometimes, the most addicting apps are the simplest.

Today’s review of Laser Dodger in the Windows Store, truly adopts that motto and runs with it. This arcade style game comes in at a super small 5.8MB when downloaded and is completely free for all to play.  There is no reason that you should not at least give it a go and dodge some face-melting lasers.

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Race Illegal: High Speed 3D is one of the more recent racing games available for Windows Phone 8. The game offers nice 3D graphics, several gaming modes and hopes to fill your need for speed.

Along with the multiple gaming modes, Race Illegal: High Speed 3D offers twenty racetracks to conquer and nine cars to choose from and customize. The game has had its fair share of success over on iOS and Android platforms and in taking Race Illegal: High Speed 3D out for a test drive, the game comes across as having similar potential on the Windows Phone 8 platform.

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There isn’t much to the Windows Phone 8 game Rope Jump but it is enough to drive you crazy trying to master this game.

Rope Jump is simply a game of jump rope where timing and speed being the key to success. It may be surprising how difficult it is to get those two aspects in tune so you can any success at Rope Jump.

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Weather Premium takes on the weather in a common sense approach but does not stray from the traditional forecasts too far.

Weather Premium offers the weather forecast in three styles, Classic, Clother and Awesome. While the Windows Phone weather app lacks radar and severe weather alerts, Weather Premium does a nice job presenting the basic weather information to get you through the day.

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Cat Story is an odd little Windows Phone 8 game that sends you to an imaginary world filled with a wide range of interesting characters you must help build a new life. Game play is a mixture of time management, puzzle and scavenger hunt styles.

The cast of characters in Cat Story have been shipwrecked on an uncharted island and a collection of quests to find all the survivors along with building a new community awaits. Cat Story is a well animated Windows Phone 8 with plenty of puzzling missions to tackle. The only concern is that game flow structure is a little loose and you often find yourself going with the flow.

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CookAid, a DIY recipe app for Windows Phone 8

CookAid isn’t your run of the mill cooking app for Windows Phone 8. It falls in line with a “do-it-yourself” app in that you create your own recipes. Once created, you can generate shopping lists based on the ingredients needed for any of the culinary delights you’ve documented.

Another feature that helps set CookAid apart from just creating a Word document for your recipes is the voice and audio support. If you are looking for a Windows Phone 8 app to generate tasty recipes, CookAid might not be for you. If you are looking for an app to preserve your Grandmother’s recipes, you may want to give CookAid a try.

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Auto Witness is an interesting Windows Phone 8 app that could come in handy should you find yourself in a traffic accident. Auto Witness is a video recording app that sets up on a loop and saves your video automatically if a rapid acceleration or deceleration is detected. The app can also automatically save the videos to your OneDrive account.

The Windows Phone 8 app was chosen as runner-up in the 2014 Nokia Create Competition (Freestyle Master Category) and while it does a nice job of recording your travels, there are a few downsides.

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Shoot Em All is an arcade styled game for Windows Phone where you have to rescue your partner from the bad guys. The game is basically a sniper game that plays like a Hogan’s Alley game, except the targets shoot back.

You are tasked with seeking out the bad guys as they come out of hiding and take them out before they lock on to your position and ruin your day. Shoot Em All has a slight retro arcade feel to it, decent graphics and the need for a quick and steady aim.

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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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