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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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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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Burn the Rope! coming to Xbox Live on September 28

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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Full House Poker is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week

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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The rash of Xbox Live game updates continues, with Windows Phone-exclusive strategy title Beards & Beaks (review) receiving a nice little update today. It’s good to see the game being supported on top of its post-release DLC.

Beards & Beaks version 1.1 release notes:

  • We’re listening to our users- the biggest issue reported is people not understanding how to swipe the map. The fix: we added a finger icon, indicating [where to] swipe [in order to scroll the map]
  • Added support to always show tutorials when restarting
  • Minor bug fixes associated with edge cases
  • Preparation for Mango title update

If you enjoy the game’s look inside the battle between gnomes and crows, be sure to read our interview with Adam Isgreen of Microsoft Game Studios.

Speaking of Mango updates, Parachute Panic (review) from FDG Entertainment has now been properly Mango-fied. The recent update (which is only visible to Mango users) adds fast resuming support and increases the frame rate to 60 FPS. That should ease the doomed parachutists’ lives a bit.

Beards & Beaks and Parachute Panic both cost $2.99. Pick up the former here (Zune link) and the later here on the Marketplace.

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WPCentral’s Xbox Live Developer Interview series continues as we converse with Adam Isgreen of Microsoft Game Studios. Adam’s team developed Beards & Beaks, a Windows Phone-exclusive real-time strategy game. Check out our full review here. In the following interview, we’ll delve into a few of the game’s mysteries and reveal exclusive, never-before-seen concept art.

Step over the gnomes and head past the break for the full interview.

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If you’ve resisted picking up Fable Coin Golf until now, it’ll be especially hard to hold out this week. The Windows Phone-exclusive Xbox Live game is on sale this week for $2.99, down from $4.99.

Fable Coin Golf (see review) comes from developer Ideaworks Game Studio, who have worked on a ton of excellent iPhone games. Loosely inspired by the Fable action-RPG series, Coin Golf is essentially a minigolf game set in a fantasy universe and with a nice silly story between levels. It features excellent friend leaderboards and mild connectivity with Fable III on Xbox 360 – money earned in the phone version transfers up to the console game. The connectivity isn’t as advanced as what we’ll see in Kinectimals, but it’s only natural that such features will improve as time goes on. Even if you don’t know your Fable from your Elder Scrolls (you unfortunate person), Coin Golf is plenty of fun on its own.

The sale lasts for one week only. You can pick up Fable Coin Golf here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Beards and Beaks Cave DLC now available

Beards and Beaks is the only mobile Xbox Live title so far to feature downloadable content. The game launched with both a free set of levels (Forest) and a paid set (Mountains). And now, the fifth and presumably final set of levels, Cave, is available for purchase.

In our Beards and Beaks review, I noticed that a ninja gnome appears in some of the between-level screens but not as a controllable unit. The Cave DLC rectifies that, as it introduces both the Ninja gnome and Sorcerer gnome to Beards’ gameplay. The Ninja is fast and kills enemies with extreme precision, though he can’t take as much damage as other gnomes. Yep, he’s easily my favorite unit. The Sorcerer is no slouch either, launching fireballs over long distances. Neither of the new guys can be used in older levels, but they do make the Cave levels feel fresh.

Adding units to one side but not the other wouldn’t be fair. To keep things balanced, the Cave also introduces new enemies – a super strong Football crow and another crow that’s extra fast on its feet.

As for the levels themselves, I encountered a new environmental hazard – a gate that players can manually open to let the gnomes through. But the gate closes after a few seconds, treasure-carrying gnomes can’t pathfind through it correctly, and when it raises back up, it kills any gnomes who were attempting to passing through. You tell me if it’s a good addition or not. The overall difficulty of the Cave levels is harder than previous levels, which makes sense as players will have already honed their strategic flicking skills on previous levels before taking on the Cave.

The Beards and Beaks Cave DLC costs 80 Microsoft Points ($1). While it sadly doesn’t add any Achievements, the new units, enemies, and overall challenge represent a great value for the money. Anyone who really likes Microsoft’s gnome versus crow game should not hesitate to give the Cave a download. 

Beards and Beaks can be purchased here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Minesweeper and Sudoku Mini-Interview

At WPCentral, we’re big fans of Babaroga, makers of the unique Xbox Live game Zombies!!! Last week we revealed that Babaroga’s Minesweeper and Sudoku are both coming to Xbox Live as free, ad-supported games. Naturally the Windows Phone gaming community has a ton of interest in these two titles. So today we bring you this mini-interview with Andreja Djokovic, Babaroga CEO and Founder that delves deeper into their twists on two classic games.

Head past the break for the full interview.

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Next week, two new Xbox Live games are coming to the Marketplace! That hasn’t happened in ages. Even more unusual, both games will be free. The ‘official’ Minesweeper and Sudoku apps come to Windows Phone courtesy of developer Babaroga, who we interviewed back in June, and Microsoft Game Studios.

Head past the break for our exclusive first screenshots of the two games and lots of details!

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Beards and Beaks - Review

Real-time strategy games can be tough to get right on platforms other than computers. Console controllers can’t match the speed and accuracy of a mouse, so most developers don’t even try. Smartphones are much better at recreating mouse-style controls thanks to their touchscreens, but the lower screen resolution compared to PCs still complicates things. Thus, non-PC strategy games tend to be of the less click-intensive tower defense variety. But Microsoft Game Studios has bravely crafted a casual RTS experience with Beards & Beaks, the Windows Phone-exclusive Xbox Live title.

Beards & Beaks (which I always want to type as ‘Birds & Beaks’ for some reason) revolves around two warring tribes: gnomes and crows. Each side competes to collect treasure before the other, inflicting as much harm as possible along the way. Strangely, the game is completely devoid of an actual story - a missed opportunity given the unique and adorable character designs. Even Angry Birds (whose ‘birds versus pigs’ premise is similar enough) has story sequences, after all!

Flick past the break for our full review.

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Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst is an Xbox Live title that can’t seem to catch any breaks. Sure, when it debuted we gave it a positive review. After all, its ability to use both a phones’ GPS locations and satellite photographs to create in-game maps is quite innovative. But even at launch, the game’s online servers (required to use many of its features) performed sporadically at best. A series of patches that should have fine-tuned its performance instead introduced new issues. It got so bad that one of Project Sunburst’s Achievements became unobtainable for new players, necessitating its inclusion in our Broken Achievements exposé.

This week, Project Treadstone, I mean Sunburst was pulled from the Windows Phone Marketplace without explanation. We haven’t received a comment from Microsoft yet, but it’s safe to assume that the game’s ongoing problems and customer complaints resulted in the pull. Given that the game started out semi-broken and never became 100% properly functional after several updates, it’s possible that the development team just can’t get it fixed, but that’s a worst-case scenario. Hopefully Microsoft Game Studios cures what ails Project Sunburst and gets it back on the Marketplace soon. In the meantime, people who own the game should not delete it from their devices as they won’t be able to redownload it until it officially returns to the Marketplace.

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Ready for a new Windows Phone exclusive, Xbox Live gamers? Beards and Beaks fits the beak, I mean, bill. It’s out now on the Marketplace.

Beards and Beaks is not actually about birds wearing beaks as you might think. It’s actually the tale of an evil group of crows (much like Sheryl Crow, only with feathers) who invade a village of gnomes in order to steal their riches. It soon becomes an out and out war, with gnomes invading crow bases and vice versa.

Beards and Beaks may look like a tower defense game at first glance, but it’s actually an action-strategy title (sans towers). Players bring one or more gnomes into a level and control their actions via touch-screen flicks. The object is to collect treasures and prevent the crows from doing the same. In addition to the standard flicks, mushroom-fueled special powers can help turn the tide in battle. Don’t let the bad birds win!

As we’ve said before, Beards and Beaks is the first Windows Phone game developed entirely in-house by Microsoft Game Studios. WPCentral will soon bring you the full scoop on the development process with an exclusive interview with the developers!

Beards and Beaks costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Put down the ‘shrooms and pick up the game here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Lunar Lander - review

The Game Room series is a great way to enjoy nostalgic gaming experiences as well as try classic video games for the first time. I happily did both things while preparing for my Centipede and Pitfall! reviews. Unfortunately though, not every game stands the test of time. Some games are pretty tough to get into if you didn’t play them when they were first released. Lunar Lander is like that. Sure, it’s historically important, but I doubt many Windows Phone gamers will actually care to play it.

Lunar Lander blasted off into arcades in 1979, the year of my birth. Its arcade competition that year consisted primarily of Space Invaders (1978) and Galaxian. While those two games feature science fiction themes and aliens to blast, Lunar Lander is grounded in reality. The player pilots a lunar landing module as it descends to Earth’s moon. Death comes not from unfriendly visitors but from crashing into the landscape or even just landing too quickly – again, a more realistic setup than the competition. This is still a video game though, so players do get more chances to play until they run out of fuel.

Rocket past the break for our fuel review.

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Lunar Lander is this week's Xbox Live game

Last week’s Xbox Live game, Enigmo, broke three straight weeks of Game Room releases. To be fair though, Harbor Master also came out alongside Centipede. Anyway, I hope you like retro games, Windows Phone gamers, because this week’s Xbox Live title is another Game Room entry: Lunar Lander.

Atari’s original Lunar Lander arcade game came out in 1979. Yes, this week’s release debuted the same year I was born. It’s 32 years young! Lunar Lander was the first Atari title to use vector graphics (just as Asteroids Deluxe did a few years later). Its graphics are composed entirely of white lines on a black background. The object is to safely land a spacecraft on the surface of the moon. The original arcade game used an actual lever to control the craft’s thrust and buttons for steering. It will be interesting to see how the game’s controls have been adapted for mobile touch screens.

See that? I didn’t say anything negative about Lunar Lander or how inexplicable it is that someone chose to release it on Windows Phone over so many other Game Room titles. That’s me, Captain Optimism!

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Pitfall! - Review

Many younger gamers’ first exposure to Pitfall! came from the console title Marvel Ultimate Alliance, which featured a Pitfall! minigame. But Pitfall! started its life way back in 1982 on the Atari 2600. The product of a single Activision developer, David Crane, it sold over 4 million copies and skyrocketed Activision to stardom. Now developer Krome and publisher Microsoft Game Studios bring the ‘Fall! To Windows Phone as both an Xbox Live and Game Room title. Is it better suited to mobile play than cranky ol’ Asteroids Deluxe? Yes!

Pitfall! stars the adventurer Pitfall Harry. His sprite was comprised of four separate colors on a platform in which most sprites were made of only one or two colors. Harry’s surplus of colors produced such a realistic effect at the time that many people thought an actual human being had somehow become trapped in their game cartridge. Thanks to modern computer technology we now know that this was not the case, but Harry still retains a certain visual charm after all these years.

Grab onto a vine and swing past the jump for our full review!

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Asteroids Deluxe - Review

Centipede, the first Game Room title for Windows Phone, impressed many with its faithful arcade emulation and stellar presentation. Asteroids Deluxe is the second portable Game Room entry. It’s still a very faithful port (perhaps even more so than the console/PC version), but the game itself is more of an acquired taste.

Asteroids Deluxe is the 1981 arcade sequel to the original Asteroids. Players pilot a ship through an asteroid field, blasting space debris for points. Once a large asteroid is fired upon, it breaks into two smaller ones. Each of those splits into two really tiny, hard-to-hit rocks. Clear a wave of all asteroids and a new wave starts up with even more rocks to avoid and destroy.

Fly past the break and into hyperspace for our full review.

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Two Microsoft Game Studios titles recently received software updates – Full House Poker (review) and Hexic Rush (review). We’ve worked tirelessly from the moment they were updated to find out just what was changed, and it has finally paid off. Don’t say we never did anything for you!

The following issues were fixed in the Full House Poker version 1.1 update:

If listening to Zune music while playing the game, and you turned the game music volume all the way down (in the game settings), after exiting the game, you could no longer turn up the volume on your Zune music without rebooting the phone.  The game music slider no longer controls the Zune music volume as that’s what the phone volume buttons control.

If you tombstoned during a tournament at the right time, when you went to continue your game the blinds would reset to 5/10.  This was very frustrating in a high buy in game or late in a tournament where they should be much higher.

It’s great to have both of these issues fixed. However, Our own George Ponder has recently experienced a separate problem with his temporary save game (not the permanent one) disappearing, so we hope to see that tackled in the future.

Hexic Rush version 2.3 update:

The Hexic update was to fix a NoDo media playback change in XNA. 

What’s that, you want more details? It’s pretty technical … Microsoft XNA developer Nick Gravelyn’s blog explains that post NoDo update, Windows Phone applications and games are no longer able to mute or alter the volume of the Zune media player, should audio files be presently active. Not a very exciting title update, but it’s nice to see that Microsoft hasn’t forgotten about Hexic Rush.

There you have it! You can get Full House Poker here and Hexic Rush here. Both games cost $2.99 and have free trials.

Thanks to WPCentral’s Richard Edmonds for help in deciphering the XNA blog post.

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We were originally told that two Game Room titles, Asteroids Deluxe and Pitfall!, were coming to Xbox Live on April 20. The date rolled around and Pitfall! was nowhere to be seen, breaking my fragile gamer heart. I can stop crying man tears now as Pitfall is finally available on the Marketplace.

Pitfall! was originally an Atari 2600 game from Activision. It was a huge hit in 1982 thanks in large part to its groundbreaking graphics. The lead character, Pitfall Harry, is made up of 4 unique colors, a level of detail so amazing that - I believe - it used to give children nosebleeds. Harry must run, swing from vines, and jump on top of alligator’s mouths across 255 unique screens as he searches for 32 lost treasures. Pitfall! is an adventure so exciting that Activision legally had to include an exclamation mark in the title so as not to fatally surprise people with its awesomeness.

Being a Game Room title, Pitfall! includes a 3D recreation of an Atari 2600 console, historical data and detailed instructions, friends and global leaderboards, and 10 Achievements.

You can purchase this slice of platform gaming history for $2.99 or try the free trial. Grab it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Last week, Centipede - a very nice arcade port and Game Room title - hit Xbox Live. This week, Microsoft follows up with two more Game Room games: Asteroids Deluxe and Pitfall.

Asteroids Deluxe, like Centipede, is an arcade game that Atari published in 1980. Players pilot a ship through an asteroid field, blasting both asteroids and aliens. The arcade version of Asteroids Deluxe is unique for a couple of reasons. First, it featured vector graphics (instead of traditional sprites, everything is composed of lines) that were tinted blue by a transparent overlay. Behind the vector graphics, a printed backdrop added a bit more color. Second, unlike most arcade games, Asteroids Deluxe did not use a joystick for movement. Instead, individual buttons turned the ship left or right and cause it to accelerate. This control style should translate well to Windows Phone, though touch screen buttons will never provide the tactile feedback of real ones.

Pitfall is actually an Atari 2600 game, not an arcade game. Activision's bestseller featured multicolored, non-flickering sprites, a first for its home platform. Donkey Kong may be the first true platform game, but Pitfall pioneered many platform elements. Instead of being confined to a single screen, the game’s star, Pitfall Harry explored a level consisting of 256 different screens. The objective is to find 32 lost treasures within 20 minutes. Pitfall’s simple controls (run left, right, and jump) are a great match for mobile gaming.

As Game Room titles, both games will feature 3D arcade cabinet recreations (Pitfall has an Atari 2600 sitting on an arcade cabinet), historical data and detailed instructions, friends and global leaderboards, and 10 Achievements.

Asteroids Deluxe and Pitfall will debut on Wednesday, April 20th for $2.99 (12 quarters) a piece.

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