alphajax

Twenty days or so ago, we showed you guys a few Windows 8 games that were in the process of a beta. We had Halo: Spartan Assault, Ty: The Tasmanian Devil, and AlphaJax. Since then, two of those three games became available for you to officially download without being a resident of Trinidad and Tobago. Now, you can grab the last piece of the puzzle – Alphajax is on Windows 8.

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Xbox gamers have been eagerly anticipating Halo: Spartan Assault ever since Microsoft announced the Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 game at the beginning of June. Many Windows Phone gamers especially look forward to it since Spartan Assault is likely the only Xbox Windows Phone game that will be released this month (we hear next week, in fact). Be that as it may, Windows 8 users got the first shot at the first mobile Halo game today, however briefly…

For a few hours, the tablet and PC version of Halo: Spartan Assault became available for purchase in the Caribbean island nations of Trinidad and Tobago. People from outside of those countries were able to buy it too, thanks to a little regional trickery and the magic of PayPal. Unfortunately, Microsoft quickly pulled Spartan Assault as we were in the process of writing this story to tell you about it, just hours after the game first appeared on the Windows Store.

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AlphaJax is quite the popular Xbox game for Windows Phone. Much of that stems from its relatively smooth asynchronous online play, though the game being free certainly helps. Before AlphaJax graduated to Xbox Live status, it was originally a popular indie game. The transition to Xbox Live introduced a few bugs, which we’ve all been hoping would be fixed with a patch.

Good news, bad news time! The first update for AlphaJax has finally arrived. Now for the bad news: the developer recommends that you skip this update. Full details after the break.

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Push notifications (also called toast notifications) are those pop-up messages you get from certain apps – the ones that say you’ve got a game invite, a weather alert, a new tweet, etc. Even if you don’t have an app that supports them, you’ve probably seen them appear whenever you get a text message or voice mail.

Windows Phone 7 always had issues with push notifications though. Not the hardwired SMS alerts and such, but pushes from games and apps. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t, and everyone’s experience seemed to differ.

When Windows Phone 8 rolled around, we hoped that would change. Unfortunately, at first glance it did not (for games, at least). While the pushes from recent Xbox WP release AlphaJax have driven some WP7 users crazy, some Lumia 920 owners like me simply haven’t seen those notifications (and yet others have). Thankfully, pushes aren’t completely broken on WP8. They’re just bugged, and there is a way around it.

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AlphaJax Review: Spell it like you mean it

New Zealish developer Marker Metro hopped onboard the WP7 bandwagon prior to that platform’s launch; their indie project AlphaJax followed the platform’s debut a few months later. We’ve long considered it one of the most polished crossword games available, despite the lack of cross-platform support. Perhaps that polish and Windows Phone exclusivity are what caused Microsoft to pick up full publishing rights from the developer this year.

AlphaJax is now a free ad-supported Xbox title, with the previous free and paid versions set to go defunct at the end of the year. We’ve spent ample time with the new version in order to give you this extremely thorough review.

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File this Xbox Windows Phone game release under "better late than never."

Yes, the highly anticipated Xbox-enabled version of AlphaJax is now available at last.

AlphaJax is a Windows Phone-exclusive online Scrabble clone that has made quite a name for itself since its debut in December 2010. The New Zealand-based developer Marker Metro got excited about the platform prior to its release that year, and they’ve never looked back since. Thanks to a beautiful UI and consistent updates, AlphaJax remains one of the most popular online word games for Windows Phone – despite lacking cross-platform multiplayer like many of its competitors.

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Last week’s Xbox Windows Phone Black Friday sale was the largest sale the platform has ever seen, with no less than six Xbox titles discounted. And in fact, the Windows Phone Store hasn’t updated yet, so you can still get those games on sale as of this writing. I have to bear some bad news though… Microsoft has revealed to us that the popular Xbox Deal of the Week program will be taking a break for the remainder of the year. Presumably it will restart sometime around January 2nd.

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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!

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Achievement unlocked: Xbox LIVE upgrade enabled

Back in January 2011, we posted a rumor noting that the Scrabble-like game AlphaJax, one of our favorite indie games for Windows Phone, may be heading to Xbox LIVE.

Flash forward a mind-numbing 19 months later and we’re happy to report that indeed, AlphaJax will be coming to Xbox LIVE for Windows Phone in the near future.

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Best Independent Games for your Windows Phones

Windows Phone Central's round-up of the best independent games

Well.... we've taken a look at the best camera apps, best must have games, best must have apps, best free games and best weather apps for your Windows Phones. Now we turn our sights the independent game developer for the Windows Phone platform.

They make code from their basement office or from a start-up company but some of these games can give the larger software companies (EA, Microsoft, etc.) a run for their money. We've rounded up a handful of games from the Marketplace's independent developers that we have found to be entertaining, fun, well presented and a worthy addition to anyone's Windows Phone gaming library.

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Windows Phone Word Game Round-up

To many, word games on your Windows Phone are a great way to pass the time with. These games can be challenging and mentally stimulating. Heck, you might even learn a few new words from some of these games.

You can compete against yourself, time, the phone or other gamers that are a bazillion miles away. You can find words, create words, and complete words.

Personally, I like the word games that developers have brought to the Windows Phone table and thought it was time to round up a collection. We'll break them down into three categories; Scrabble types, Word Search types, and Hangman types.

To see a list of our favorites from each, ease on past the break.

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AlphaJax -Everyone’s favorite Scrabble clone, I mean, word game - has received a steady stream of updates since its release in October. We were excited when a February update added unlimited, ad-supported play to the trial version of the game as well as user statistic tracking.

Today’s update overhauls stat tracking. Previously, the leader board just put the players with the highest number of wins at the top. Now player skill is also a factor. The new rating system is based on the Elo rating system. Gamers increase their rank via wins, but rank goes up a lot more by defeating a higher ranked opponent. On Xbox 360, the Xbox Live TrueSkill system works much the same way.

How does AlphaJax’s rating system affect people who are new to the game? Players aren’t ranked until they complete ten online games. Pass-and-play (local multiplayer) doesn’t affect rank. Even if someone loses all ten of their starting games, they won’t receive a negative rank. When they finally do win, they should jump up in rank a fair bit since other players are likely ranked higher than zero.

Now that players have a proper skill rating, random matchmaking has significantly improved. There are two options: Skill Match and Random Game. Random works just like it did before, throwing one player up against a completely random opponent. Skill Match, however, pits the player against someone with a similar skill rating. This should result in much more competitive games. Winning a Skill Match is also more likely to have a significant impact on a player’s rating. A high AlphaJax rating, I assume, helps you get all the girls. I’m… not quite there yet. ;)

AlphaJax, is the leading Scrabble-style game for Windows Phone 7. It supports two-player online play against friends or random players as well as local multiplayer. Our review praises AlphaJax’s features and presentation. Even now, AlphaJax remains quite possibly the most polished and addictive indie game on the platform.

AlphaJax is available in ad-supported and ad-free ($2.99) flavors. You can pick it up here (Zune link) on the Marketplace. WPCentral staffers Daniel Rubino (Malatesta), George Ponder (coppertop) and Paul Acevedo (eastx) are accepting challenges!

Head past the jump for the full version 1.7 changelog.

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One our favorite games on Windows Phone is of course AlphaJax, so it's nice to see them take away an ONYA award in New Zeland. The ONYAs "...celebrate those who design, develop and create New Zealand's best websites and applications. They're awards by the industry, for the industry."

There were three finalists, including one for the iOS system, which AlphaJax was able to beat out. Anyways, a big congrats to the Keith Patton and the folks at Marker for their success. See the video of the three finalists and acceptance speech after the break.

Source: Microsoft New Zealand; @alphajax

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Keith Patton aka the man behind AlphaJax (and a few other New Zealand based apps) was interviewed recently where he discussed development on Windows Phone 7 as a platform.

The interview is quite technical, meaning developers (both new and experienced) will get the most out of it as we understand Keith shares some tips on techniques, framework, workarounds and improving performance.  But the takeaway message from Patton is when he says that working on WP7 is “probably one of the most enjoyable phases of my development career" and that it's "fun" to write on WP7 as it should be.

Ben Gracewood conducted the interview and you can read more about his thoughts too on his site.

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One of our favorite games on Windows Phone just got a major update/overhaul: AlphaJax (see review)

First up, for those who don't want to throw down their hard earned money, there's now a free, ad-supported unlimited trial version available. Having all the same features as the paid except for some ads, this free edition should allow a lot more people an opportunity to play the game. Of course a paid, no-ad version will stick around for those of us who don't like them there ads, so no worries on that end.

The second big update are user statistics. While it's no Xbox LIVE support this is clearly the next best thing as now you can keep track of your stats, the top games, the top players and even the top moves in the AlphaJax universe. Oh and starting a few days ago, you can now play up to 30 simultaneous games--which is just pure insanity.

The update is in the Marketplace now and you can grab it here.

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Yeah, so we've fallen over the whole AlphaJax craze (see George's double review of it and Spell It!; my thoughts here)

An obvious next step for the app would be for Xbox LIVE support--after all it already has great asynchronous game play/multiplayer support, push updates and is just a solid app. But not many games have gone from non-Xbox status to Xbox LIVE certified--actually we can't think of any. That's because to get that coveted status, you need to do a lot of collaboration with Microsoft and meet their very high standards to get access to the LIVE universe.

Will AlphaJax be the first to transition? We don't know but on their Facebook page, they strongly hint at the possibility. When asked about Xbox LIVE support they responded with "stay tuned...!"

Oh we will, we will. Thanks, Ricardo Dawkins for the tip

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AlphaJax vs Spell It! - A Head to Head Review

When we first mentioned AlphaJax, a scrabble-type word game for Windows Phone 7, there were a few comments suggesting we take a look at another word game, Spell It!. Well, who are we to shy away from a request.

Over the past few days, we took both out for a test drive to see if there was a clear cut choice between AlphaJax and Spell It! The game premise of both are virtually the same but are there enough differences that may give one an edge over the other? To find out what we thought, ease on past the break.

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Confession: big word game fan here. Second confession: had no idea about this game until today, even though it came out October 21st.

AlphaJax is  a killer scrabble-type game that allows asynchronus multiplayer turn taking--which basically means you can play other people who also have a Windows Phone. We just took it for a quick spin (playing against our own Rob Alvarado) and left darn impressed with the feature set:

  • Facebook & Twitter integration (for sending out invite challenges)
  • Challenge anyone in your address book, Twitter, FB or random
  • Save screenshot of your game (seriously -->)
  • Push notifications + Live Tile (!)
  • Chat back and forth
  • Can play up to 20 simultaneous games with friends

The game costs $2.99 but we think it's totally worth it so far. Gameplay is smooth, the options are rich and the chat feature is just a bonus. The only downside, we suppose, is that your opponent has to be on a Windows Phone 7 device. We'll try to get a full review up but in the meantime...who wants to play me...

Check out their website for more info here or grab a trial here from the Marketplace.

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