games

Apple announced the iPhone 4S today, which millions of hipsters and fruit fanatics will be lining up to purchase on October 14. Does the new iPhone threaten to stall Windows Phone’s rise to the smartphone big leagues? In some ways, yes. Whenever the competition rolls out a new product line, that’s always cause for concern. In the following editorial I’ll spell out the different areas that Apple has me worried. Just don’t forget that I absolutely love Windows Phone and I’d sooner give up one of Rich Edmond's kidneys than live without it.

Head past the break to find out in which areas the iPhone 4S may have current Windows Phones beaten.

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Plex Lite - App Spotlight

Plex Lite has recently been unleashed on the Windows Phone Marketplace and is the free version of the popular game Plex. Plex Lite has access to all twenty-four levels of the Adventure Mode but lacks the Survival Mode which is found on the paid version.

Plex Lite has you clearing tiles off a 3D sphere by placing matching tiles on top of existing tiles of the same design. There are bonus tiles that appear along the way to help you with the adventure. Each level must be cleared within a certain time limit and the faster you clear the sphere, the higher your score.

The game screen has your placement tile displayed in the upper right corner, rotation arrows to turn your sphere in the bottom right and your timer (the blue bar) along the left side. You'll have to rotate the sphere until the spot where you want to place the new tile is highlighted in the center of the screen. Once that is accomplished, tap the screen and the new tile drops.

Plex Lite is just addictive as the paid version and worth a try. Plex Lite is ad supported but only on the transition screens. The game screen is ad free.

You can find Plex Lite over here at the Windows Phone Web Marketplace. You can also find Plex here at the Web Marketplace for $.99.

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Minesweeper - Review

Minesweeper as we know it was created in 1990 and has been bundled with every new version of Windows since 1992. The mobile Xbox Live version, developed by Babaroga and published by Microsoft, is one of the first two free ad-supported games for Xbox Live and the first to be available in regions outside of North America. This game shares much in common with its fellow free game Sudoku, though the actual gameplay is completely different, with a much higher learning curve. Get past that and you’ll find an enjoyable logic puzzle game.

Step carefully over the mines and past the break for our full review.

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Implode: Xbox Windows Phone Review

I’ve had the pleasure of reviewing three mobile Xbox Live physics puzzlers so far: iBlast Moki, Tiki Towers, and Enigmo. Now that IUGO’s popular Implode! has come to the Windows Phone, could the genre be getting too crowded for its own good? That depends on how much you like a cerebral challenge. After braving Implode!’s vast quantity of levels, I’m pleased to report that my brain has yet to be tapped out. More importantly, Implode! is good enough and different enough to justify its place on the platform.

Put on your hard hat and head past the break for our full review.

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Gravity Guy - Review

There are many different approaches to adapting traditional genres to mobile platforms. Take platformers, for example. Sonic the Hedgehog 4 brings an Xbox 360 title to Windows Phone with touch-screen controls. I love the game, but some people either can’t or don’t want to adapt to touch-screen controls. Doodle Jump, designed purely for mobile phones, simply relies on tilt-control to steer its ever-jumping hero from platform to platform. Gravity Guy from Miniclip falls somewhere between the two extremes.

Flip past the break for our full review.

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Collapse! - Xbox Windows Phone Review

How much do Xbox Live Achievements affect your enjoyment of a game? The best Achievements enhance the gameplay experience, simultaneously rewarding progress and encouraging players to experience the game in new ways. Sometimes we see games whose Achievement difficulty doesn’t match their casual nature – Doodle Jump and Harbor Master to name only two. There are also poor games whose only redeeming value is the easiness of their Achievements (hello, Butterfly!). And then comes Collapse! from GameHouse. A good game with easy Achievements, but there is such a thing as too easy.

Head past the jump for our full review.

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After the huge disappointment of 3D Brick Breaker Revolution from Digital Chocolate, I wasn’t exactly eager to play any more of their games. That title sported an awful 3D graphics engine, poor controls, and overly difficult gameplay and Achievements. Surprisingly, Digital Chocolate’s other Xbox Live title, Tower Bloxx: New York is far less offensive. It’s still nothing special, but fans of casual games may enjoy it.

Climb the stairs past the break for our full review.

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Comics Trivia - App Spotlight

If you think you know your comics, check out Comics Trivia. The Windows Phone game is full of over 2,000 questions from your favorite comics.

When you first launch the app you will need establish a user name for the online leaderboard and after that, get ready to be humble. The questions cover a lot of ground from the classic titles to the new age comics. Thankfully, the questions are multiple choice so you can always get lucky if you have no clue on the answer.  Each game is ten questions and the leaderboard scores are cumulative.

Graphically, Comics Trivia is nicely done with various comic book heroes filling up the background as you are quizzed.  The developer should consider adding a gallery page to the game to showcase some of these graphics.  Settings are simple, covering music on/off and vibration on/off.

All in all, Comics Trivia is a fun game to pass the time. Comics Trivia is a free, ad-supported game and you can find it here at the Windows Phone Web Marketplace.

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Beards & Beaks, Microsoft Game Studios’ lighthearted real-time strategy game, just got updated to version 1.1 a few weeks ago. That update was for Nodo devices, but it didn’t add Mango features. Now that Mango is available to the masses, MGS has wasted no time in pushing another update with proper Mango support.

Beards & Beaks version 1.2 release notes

  • Fully Mango Supported!
  • Fast App Switching
  • Live Tile: Switches back and forth from Gnomes to Crows when pinned to the Start Menu.
  • All the updates from version 1.1

Fast app switching is the most important feature, but enhanced Live Tiles are always welcome. To learn more about Beards & Beaks, check out our developer interview, review, and downloadable content impressions. That’s a lot of info! Many more Xbox Live titles will receive Mango updates in the weeks to come. Stay tuned to WPCentral for all the details.

Beards & Beaks costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Pick it up here (Zune link) from the Marketplace and help the Gnomes stop the Crows!

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Yesterday we reported that Full House Poker is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. It still is, but we’ve learned something unusual. Something magical… There are four Xbox Live games on sale this week instead of one. Madness! Joining Full House Poker (on sale for $1.99) are Puzzle Quest 2, Brain Challenge, and Gamechest: Logic Games. These are weekly sales, not price drops.

Puzzle Quest 2 from Namco Bandai is on sale for $4.99, down from $6.99. Like Castlevania Puzzle, PQ2 is a puzzle role-playing game. It’s got beautiful art, multiple playable characters, and a lengthy quest, plus a few tough (due to their luck-based nature) Achievements. If you like Bejeweled and RPGs, you really can’t do any better. We’ll have a full review soon (long game!).

Brain Challenge from Gameloft is on sale for $2.99, down from a ludicrous $4.99. BC is a collection of brain-teasing minigames that you should be wary of. It sports an amazing five Broken Achievements, and has yet to receive an update. Seriously, Brain Challenge is buggier than an entomologist's laboratory.

Gamechest: Logic Games is on sale for $1.99, down from $2.99. It includes three different games: chess, sudoku, and Minesweeper. Sure, free versions of Minesweeper and Sudoku are already available on Xbox Live, but what about chess? Our review praises the chess game’s multiplayer feature, which allows a Windows Phone player to compete against a PC player asynchronously. Certainly a good idea, though the implementation is so rudimentary as to not be worth the effort.

Gamechest: Logic Games also boasts a leveling system in which players earn experience and level up by winning games. But to reach the max levels in each game and earn all of the Achievements requires a horrendous amount of grinding. Never have I been more bored with a game than when toiling after Gamechest: Logic Game’s Achievements, and that’s not hyperbole.

At any rate, it’s great to see more than one Xbox Live game on sale this week. Let’s hope Microsoft makes a habit of this! You can find Full House Poker here (Zune link), Puzzle Quest 2 here, Brain Challenge here, and Gamechest: Logic Games here on the Marketplace.

Thanks for the tip, DarkSynopsis!

UPDATE: Brain Challenge is part of the sale too.

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Remember when Microsoft announced 14 (really 13) Xbox Live games back in August? Of those titles, Collapse! and Gravity Guy have landed so far.  Soon we’ll be able to add another one to list, as Burn the Rope! comes out on Wednesday the 28th (tomorrow).

The game’s official description:

Burn the Rope is a challenging game where you try to burn as much rope as you can in each level. There’s a catch! The fire only burns upwards, leaving you to rotate the level to keep your flame alive! Bugs along the ropes have different reactions to the flame. The ant changes the color of the flame so you can burn different colored ropes, and the spider shoots out a web bridge so you can access parts of the level that you could not before. Burn the Rope is incredibly fun and addictive. You will actually feel like you’re burning a rope, yet there’s no need for a fire extinguisher! 

Game Features

•        The Bug Squishing minigame, only available on Windows Phone, mixes it up between levels.

•        Take on over 100 exciting and puzzling levels!

•        Unique accelerometer controls and gameplay

•        Beautiful graphics and cool fire effects!

•        Easy to learn, hard to master!

Already a hit on iPhone and Wii, the Xbox Live version of Burn the Rope! comes from developer Big Blue Bubble Inc. and publisher Microsoft Game Studios. It will cost $2.99.  We'll update things once the Marketplace links become available.

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Now that we’ve had a huntin’ sale, it’s time to relax with some poker. And by that, I mean that Full House Poker is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. On Wednesday it will be on sale for $1.99, down from $2.99.

Full House Poker is a single-player Texas Hold ‘Em simulator. Even though it sadly lacks multiplayer, it does boast a few cool features. It was the first mobile Xbox Live game to feature avatar support, for one. Even more impressively, it sports full connectivity with the Xbox 360 version of the game. Money and experience earned in one version transfers to the other seamlessly. Let’s hope more games connect to each other so well in the future.

If you like Texas Hold ‘Em (the most enjoyable variation of poker in my opinion), the only thing you should really ask yourself is whether or not you’d enjoy it in a single-player setting. As our review states, Full House Poker does have a good leveling and unlockable system, but not the best opponent AI. I would hope for a Mango update to add some asynchronous multiplayer, but considering that the developer, Krome, has been out of business for a while, I doubt we’ll see any updates besides perhaps the addition of fast-app-switching.

Full House Poker will be on sale for $1.99 for one week only. Cash in your chips here (Zune link) to make the purchase.

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Hyper Defence XT - Review

We first mentioned Hyper Defence XT when it first hit the beta stages. The Windows Phone game has now hit the open Marketplace and our first impressions hold true.

Not much has changed with Hyper Defence XT since we last visited the pre-release version.  The tower defense game is set in the fictional Outpost 26 where you have to defend the outpost from invading aliens. There are a wide assortment of weapons to buy and upgrade to wipe out the invading hords.

Continued after the break.

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Bobble Biker - Review

The developers of Juice Factory have a new Windows Phone game over at the Marketplace. Bobble Biker is a motorcycle race game that has you navigate through a series of jumps, bumps and hazards without crashing or losing your head.

Bobble Biker has the multi-level race game, a race track creator and access to other user-created race tracks. Along the way you can earn cash to unlock addition bikes, upgrades and get new racers.

To read more on Bobble Biker, make the jump past the break.

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Super Monkey Ball has been updated by Sega, which fixes the broken achievements we reported on a while back. We've received word that the achievements are now obtainable and all gamerscore can be successfully earned. The achievements in question are:

  • Crowned Champion - Get a crown on every stage of a world
  • Conquer Space Case World - Complete all of the stages of the Space Case World

If we get an official change log from Sega, we'll pass it on.  You can download Super Monkey Ball from the Marketplace. It's currently running $2.99 and there is a free trial to let you try before you buy.

Thanks Aaron and mydefposse for the heads up!

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Last month, WPCentral broke the news that Cro-Mag Rally, the prehistoric-themed Xbox Live kart racer from Citizen 12, would be receiving a title update. At last that update has hit the Marketplace.

Cro-Mag Rally version 1.1 release notes:

  • Lower camera for better overall car control
  • Implement auto-accelerate.  You no longer need to hold down F to keep going. (F is still displayed on screen though.)
  • Tweak physics for cars on medium difficulty to make them a little less grippy (easier to drift through turns)
  • Tweak control response curve to make it more "linear" (and thus more responsive at smaller angles off-center)
  • Tweak dynamic range of the sensitivity setting. The least sensitive setting should require nearly 90 degree rotation of phone to achieve maximum turn. Most sensitive setting requires only about 30 degrees to achieve maximum turn. 
  • Lower maximum speed for all cars in certain tracks (the more curvy ones) in order to slow down the overall pace (and make them a little easier). Does not apply to Expert mode.
  • Tweak the wall collision code to prevent certain instances of being able to go off map

In short, karts now auto-accelerate and the camera angle offers better visibility. After putting in a quick race in the updated version, I definitely prefer auto-acceleration to holding a ‘Forward’ button. The game’s handling still feels a little wonky, but there’s only so much a developer can do post-release. Props to Citizen 12 for taking gamer feedback into account. Check out our previous article for the developer’s full explanation behind the patch.

Cro-Mag Rally costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Gather it here (Zune link) in the Marketplace.

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PES 2011 - Review

For those who aren't aware of Pro Evolution Soccer (PES), it's a series of football (soccer to some parts of the world) games by Konami that began back in 2001. It sports similar gameplay to the likes of Fifa by EA Games, but is put down by lack of licensing. PES2011 for Windows Phone is no exception with a handful of teams sporting unlicensed names – Man Red (Manchester United) and Man Blue (Manchester City) to name but a few.

Don't allow the above to put you off from trying PES2011 out, it really is a superb football sim for Windows Phone. There are a number of game types available including quick match, exhibition, UEFA club competition and leagues & cups with fairly challenging gameplay and intelligent AI. Head on past the break for the quick run through and video goodness.

Pros: 
Good football simSolid controlsLeagues and cups available
Cons: 
LicensingLimited gameplayAchievements too time consuming
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Joining the many Xbox Live games that have been updated lately is Plants vs. Zombies, the enchanting tower defense game from PopCap. The version 1.2 update fixes a longstanding issue with Zen Garden plants.

As our review explains, the Zen Garden is a meta game mode that ties Plants vs. Zombies’ Adventure Mode and many minigames together. Players randomly find seed packets during normal game play, which can then be planted in the Zen Garden, tended, and eventually harvested for money. Previously, fertilizing certain sprouts caused the game to crash. A couple of months and a little patch action later, those sprouts can finally be fertilized like any other. Just what kind of plants do the problem sprouts grow into? Why, Kernel-pults, the game’s combat corn on the cobs.

Now that Zen Garden is fixed up, the Windows Phone version of Plants. Vs. Zombies really is just about perfect. It's the only game I've reviewed to receive a 10 so far. Nice as it runs now, we can still expect a Mango update to come along and enable fast-app switching sometime in the near future. Already beaten the game inside and out? Check out our interview with PopCap Games that looks into the history of PvZ's development.

Plants vs. Zombies costs $4.99 and there is a free trial. Hurry up and grab it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Trine's Hangman quietly gets updated

The popular Windows Phone word game Trine's Hangman was recently updated to version 1.12.0. The update fixes a few bugs, improves performance and merges the high score page and sharing page to give the game more of a metro feel.

An invalid word was removed and the game versions recieved a name change. The free, lite version is now "Trine's Hangman" and the full, paid version is now "Trine's Hangman Pro". The developer felt that since the lite version, while ad supported, is no longer limited in functionality the name change was in order.

A Mango update is also in the works that will bring the fast resume feature into play, live tiles with information about your current position in the game's leader board, one-on-one multiplayer mode, and a deep-link tile that will go straight to the game screen.

If you haven't tried Trine's Hangman yet and are looking for a very good word game for your Windows Phone, it is definitely worth a try. You can find Trine's Hangman here (opens Zune) and Trine's Hangman Pro (running $1.99) here at the Marketplace.

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