free to play

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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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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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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Time was we posted an article about a new Xbox Windows Phone game (or games!) every week like clockwork. Those days are long behind us, never to return again. But I do get to write about the weekly Xbox console releases, which is almost as fun. And this week we actually do have a new Xbox Windows Phone game, on the unusual day of Friday: FIFA 14 from Electronic Arts! We hear a last-minute bug kept it from releasing on Wednesday.

FIFA 14 is the latest in EA’s extremely popular football/soccer sports series. Last year’s FIFA 13 was originally a Nokia exclusive, and only just became available to all Windows Phone users a month ago. Now all of us (with phones that have 1 GB or more RAM) can enjoy this year’s rosters and new features. And unlike FIFA 13 – which sells for $4.99, this year’s game is free to play. More details and Store link after the break!

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Mobile publishing giant Gameloft plans to send Windows Phone and Windows 8 lots of love this year. Brothers in Arms 3 and GT Racing 2 are two of their upcoming games, with several more unannounced ones in the wings. And today they’ve just dropped another one out of the blue…

World at Arms is now available on Windows Phone, with the Windows 8 version due to follow soon. The game combines city building with strategic warfare, all in a realistic near-future military setting. Think Kingdoms & Lords but with tanks, aeroplanes, and robots. World at Arms is free to play and works on Windows Phone 8 devices with 512 MB of RAM, so anybody can get in on the military madness.

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Gambling is an expensive real life hobby, unless you’re great at it. Gambling games take away the risk and cost (for the most part) and just let you focus on the fun of the game and the rush of winning.

You’ll find plenty of card games on mobile Windows platforms, and even some lighter fare like Bingo. Now we have a full-fledged game devoted to scratch-off tickets (also known as scratch cards): Jet-Set Scratch-Off Gold. It comes from Chicago-based developer Babaroga, maker of Shuffle Party, Zombies!!!, and Lucky Lanes Bowling. You might not expect it, but scratch off tickets adapt surprisingly well to videogame form.

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Last month, Russian publisher Game Insight’s popular city building game 2020: My Country launched on Windows 8. The game did not run on Windows RT at that time, nor was the Windows Phone 8 version ready. Optimizing for ARM-based hardware takes a little more time, and Game Insight wanted to get the lead version out in the wild in the meantime.

One month later, 2020: My Country has arrived on Windows Phone 8! And the Windows RT version is now available as well. If you enjoy free to play town-building games, the sequel to the original My Country is definitely worth a try. Read on for impressions and Store links!

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Back in the early days of Windows Phone 7 gaming, online games were few and far between. One game – Haypi Kingdom – made a name for itself by offering an MMO experience in which players could build strongholds and war against each other. Haypi Kingdom was quite buggy though, and eventually the developer stopped supporting it.

Since then, Windows Phone 8 has come along and we can now play genuine MMORPGs like Order & Chaos Online (also lamentably unsupported by its publisher). But that old Haypi Kingdom-style design is still fun and addicting, it turns out. Flare Games (who also made Royal Revolt) have just released its second Windows Phone 8 game: Throne Wars. With beautiful artwork, an easy to learn interface, and lots of player-versus-player battles, Throne Wars might just become the casual MMO to beat.

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Indie and mobile games go through various genres of the moment over time, sort of like how console and big-budget PC games have been stuck on First-Person Shooters for the last ten years or so. For the longest time, it seemed like every new small-scale release that came along was a tower defense game. Hardly anybody complained, due to the inherent joy of defending towers.

The new genre of the moment on mobile is definitely the endless running game. A slew of endless runners have recently flooded Windows Phone 8, including such high profile releases as Subway Surfers and Despicable Me: Minion Rush. Only one endless runner with 3D graphics sports Xbox Live features, though: Temple Run 2 from Imangi Studios (makers of Harbor Master). Does the only non-spin-off sequel to Temple Run stand tall above its competitors? Read on to find out.

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If there’s one thing Microsoft hates, it’s for consumers to know about an Xbox Windows Phone or Windows 8 game before that game is released. You’ll recall that a slew of Xbox-branded games for mobile Windows platforms popped up at the end of 2013, most of which had never been announced or publicized by the platform holder.

Still, a sharp-eyed tipster has discovered a game that could be the next Xbox release for Windows Phone and Windows 8.1/RT: Throne Together from Rogue Rocket Games and Microsoft Studios. Throne Together has already soft-launched in certain countries. At first glance, it appears not to be Xbox-enabled. But Windows Phone Central has confirmed with the developer that Xbox is definitely in this game’s future.

Throne Together is a fun and free little puzzle game. Head past the break for instructions on how to get it, plus our hands-on video!

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A few months back, Windows Phone Central revealed that Game Insight would be releasing a sequel to My Country on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. The California/Russia-based publisher couldn’t announce a release date at that time, but at least we knew that 2020: My Country would be their next game for mobile Windows platforms.

At last, 2020: My Country is here on Windows 8 and RT; the Windows Phone 8 version should follow shortly.

Like the first My Country, 2020 is a complex and comprehensive city simulation game. Think closer to Sim City than Kingdoms & Lords. This one takes things into the near future, throwing a few sci-fi elements into the mix. It’s still free to play, which has its ups and downs.  Read on for our review on this new Windows 8 game.

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They might not always achieve release date parity with other platforms, but Disney Interactive is still a major supporter of Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. This year we’ve seen new releases like Where’s My Water? 2 and Where’s My Mickey arrive in fairly timely fashion, and even a few slightly older games like Wreck-it-Ralph make the trip to mobile Windows platforms.

Today Disney’s latest mobile game Frozen Free Fall has popped up on Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8, just a few weeks after the iOS version’s November 21 release. Free Fall is a free-to-play match-3 puzzle game, not unlike that Candy Crush Saga game that everyone raves about. Head past the break for impressions and Store links!

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December is shaping up to be a great month for Gameloft fans. Last week, the mobile publishing giant released Dungeon Hunter 4 for Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8. Mobile Windows platforms need all the action-RPGs they can get. Dungeon Hunter is also one of 15 titles that Gameloft announced back in August.

Another one of those titles – perhaps the most highly anticipated one – is Despicable Me: Minion Rush. 3D endless runners are crazy popular, to say nothing of people’s love for the Despicable Me movies. Those folks’ hearts should be a flutter today because Minion Rush is finally available on Windows Phone 8!

This release coincides with the Despicable Me 2 Blu-ray and DVD, which just came out today. The promised Windows 8 version of Minion Rush is also now available. Neither Windows version has Xbox support, which should come as no surprise after Dungeon Hunter 4 and Asphalt 8 released without it.

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City-building games with timers are increasingly common on mobile platforms. Xbox Windows Phone has seen a few, including Gameloft’s own Ice Age Village. These games lure players in with their initially rapid progression and lots of loot to collect. But the longer one plays, the less new things there are to see and the more the feeling of sameness pulls in. Do we keep playing them for fun or out of habit?

So the question becomes how to make a city builder with real lasting appeal – one that keeps providing players a reason to play and maybe even spend some money. Electronic Arts found a clever way to do so by adding timers to its Sims franchise and calling it Sims FreePlay. Now Gameloft returns to the genre with Kingdoms & Lords. The hook: they’ve thrown strategic battles into the mix.

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Xbox Windows Phone gamers might have noticed that a Store link for Gameloft’s Kingdoms & Lords has been making the rounds today. Unfortunately, most users are finding they can’t actually download or play the game on their phones. Is it a case of the dreaded 1 GB RAM requirement? Nope, even folks with 1 or 2 GB of RAM can’t get their Kingdoms on.

Windows Phone Central checked in with our friends at Gameloft and discovered just what is happening with Kingdoms & Lords. It turns out the game has soft launched in a few territories but remains mostly inaccessible to users in other regions like the United States. Luckily it will be releasing worldwide next week, so the wait shouldn’t be too hard.

Head past the break for our hands on video, Achievement details, and more!

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Six-Guns is one of the largest scale Xbox games for Windows Phone 8 thanks to its open world setting and vast assortment of missions to complete. Despite some overbearing In-App Purchases and an undercooked multiplayer mode, Gameloft’s western-themed game has legions of fans.

Shortly before Six-Guns’ arrival on Windows Phone 8, Gameloft also announced a version for Windows 8 and RT. We knew little about the tablet and PC version other than its status as an Xbox title, but the mostly great Windows 8 port of Asphalt 7 inspired hopes. Now Six-Guns has arrived on Windows 8 and we’ve put it through its paces.

Does the big-screen port match gamers’ expectations? Read on to find out and see hands on video!

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Russian computer engineer and game designer Alexy Pajitnov created Tetris for PCs way back in 1984. But Tetris first caught the public eye when Nintendo packed it in with the original GameBoy portable console in 1989. Since then, a number of companies have licensed the game and put their own unique spin on it, with the versions from Nintendo (especially Tetris DS) and Sega (Sega Tetris for Dreamcast) standing above the crowd.

Publishing giant Electronic Arts has also produced several Tetris games, including the 2011 Tetris which appeared on Playstation 3 and Windows Phone 7. This year’s Tetris Blitz is EA’s latest version, marrying the time honored Tetris gameplay with the frantic pace of Bejeweled Blitz. Tetris Blitz arrived on Windows Phone 8 a respectable four months after iOS.

Does this version deserve a spot on the list of best Tetris games? Read on to find out.

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We’ve poured on The Sims FreePlay coverage lately, and why not? Xbox Windows Phone games have become relatively scarce this year (though September saw plenty of new releases). It’s also a massively sized mobile entry in one of gaming’s most popular franchises… Not to mention, it’s free to play so any Windows Phone 8 user with 1 GB of RAM can get it (internet connection required).

Then again, the ‘free’ feather in a title’s cap can also be a thorn in its side from a gameplay perspective. The Sims FreePlay embodies many of the free to play trappings typically perceived as negative by users, from time-based mechanics to dual currencies. Can the joyful simulation aspects of The Sims survive all those grabs for players’ wallets? Read on for our evaluation.

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A couple of weeks ago we interviewed Canadian indie developer the Coding Jar about their premiere Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 game, Fling Theory. We discussed the game’s origins, how it plays, and the studio’s future plans.

What Coding Jar didn’t reveal was that the game would be getting an update soon. They’ve just published a major update to the Windows Phone version that makes the game entirely free to play, with no need to pay for new levels. The update for the Windows 8 version is still pending. Full details and the download link after the break!

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Last month at E3, Microsoft and Wargaming.net announced World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition as the next free to play in development for Xbox Live Arcade. Both World of Tanks and Ascend: Hand of Kul (which also has a Windows Phone companion game in the works) are due out later this year. What we didn’t know is that another free to play game would actually be arriving much sooner.

Quietly announced a while back, Ubisoft and Kung Fu Factory's Spartacus Legends became available to download on the 360 last week. Free for all Xbox Gold members, Legends is basically a brutal one-on-one fighting game loosely based on the Starz TV series Spartacus. Usually when a publisher releases a game with so little fanfare, it indicates a lack of faith in the product. But Spartacus is actually fairly entertaining and visceral. Just be prepared for a bit of a grind.

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