Xbox Live

WPCentral recently interviewed Ken Murphy of GameHouse, who filled us in on the company’s existing Xbox Live portfolio as well as their philosophy on the casual games market. He also gave us first news of five upcoming GameHouse titles. That's a lot! All five games will be Xbox Live titles.

  • Collapse!: GameHouse’s very first PC game comes to Windows Phone. It’s a match-three puzzler in which a stack of blocks rises from the bottom of the screen. Players frantically tap groups of three of more colored blocks in order to eliminate them. Customizable characters, multiple gameplay modes, and bosses make for a full-featured package.
  • Delicious!: Like GameHouse’s Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition, Delicious! is a time management game. Players control Emily as she serves customers at a variety of food venues. Each location features unique minigames, keeping the gameplay fresh and tasty.
  • TextTwist 2: A word jumble game in which gamers receive a selection of letters and try to find all possible words that those letters can spell.
  • Cake Mania Main Street: A time management game with four totally distinct locations: a bakery, a flower shop, a fast food joint, and a sushi house. Wacky problem customers like vampires and pirates keep the pressure on.
  • NCIS: The Game from the TV show: Help the cast of the popular crime drama solve several different cases by completing various minigames. This looks a bit like Women’s Murder Club, but with a stronger focus on story and more gameplay variety.

These games don’t have prices or release dates yet, but WPCentral will be sure to keep you updated as they come closer to release.

Image: Clockwise, from top: Collapse!, Delicious!, TextTwist 2, NCIS: The Game, Cake Mania Main Street.

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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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WPCentral continues our Xbox Live Developer Interview series by speaking with Game House's Ken Murphy. GameHouse, a division of RealNetworks, is truly a casual gaming juggernaut, with too many PC games to count and three Windows Phone titles so far. In this interview, Ken graciously discusses the casual game genre, the Doodle Jump Achievement that nobody has unlocked, and lots more.

Head past the jump for the full, fantastic 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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Xbox Live: Cro-Mag Rally is now available.

Cro-Mag Rally from hush-lipped Citizen 12 Studios has finally passed the finish line and is now available on the Marketplace.

Cro-Mag Rally enjoys the distinction of being the first Xbox Live kart racer on Microsoft’s mobile platform. Just because the game’s prehistoric doesn’t mean it’s light on content, as it’s got two playable drivers, multiple vehicles, and nine tracks to race through. These include such varied locations as The Great Wall of China and the lost city of Atlantis. Not only that, but there are lots of powerups with which to assault your fellow racers. Hey, they probably had it coming.

Cro-Mag Rally costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Stop over here (Zune link) at the Marketplace to get it.

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Since its release in December 2010, Revo Solutions’ Rise of Glory has been plagued by no less than three broken Xbox Live Achievements. The developer tells us that they submitted an update to correct the broken Achievements months ago, but for some reason it just wasn’t getting published…

Until now! That’s right, the Rise of Glory version 1.2 update has gone live at last. The update’s only changes are fixing the 500, 1,000, and 10,000 kill Achievements. But hey, that’s what needed fixin’, so this is great news.

We’ve also learned that Rise of Glory will receive a more significant update sometime after Mango rolls around. Sounds like the lengthy update delays haven’t caused Revo Solutions to give up on their WWI-era flight sim just yet.

Rise of Glory costs $2.99 and there is free trial. Fly over here (Zune link) on the Marketplace to pick it up. Don’t forget to read our full review too!

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Tentacles too tough - fix on the way

Like many of you, we here at WPCentral were excited about Windows Phone-exclusive Xbox Live game Tentacles prior to its release. Press Play’s follow-up to Max and the Magic Marker shows all the creativity we would expect from them, with a control method that’s unlike any other game, ever.

But if you actually play the game and get farther into it, you may notice something seems a bit off… Namely, this game is hard! I mean Ninja Gaiden, put your groin into a vice grip and spin the handle hard. The latter half of the game is just tortuous rather than fun. Every little mistake results in the death of Lemmy, the tentacled hero. Levels win which currents push Lemmy into spikes are particularly frustrating. A small percentage of gamers (masochists, I call them) prefer games to be uber-challenging, but most don’t – especially on mobile phones. Why should Tentacles be this tough?

As it turns out, the developers hold no animosity toward gamers. According to Ole Teglbjærg, the game's director:

...We probably underestimated the difficulty a bit.... When we saw how few [players] actually made it through the game, we decided that it would be silly not to have more people enjoy the later levels and bosses, that we have put so much effort into creating.

Press Play has informed us that a future update will address Tentacles’ challenge in a couple of ways:

Easy mode: We have made an easy mode, which basically lets Lemmy take more damage without dying. At the same time we really back the idea that achievements should be earned and not be too easy to get. So when you play in easy mode, you will not get the “No Death” star at the end of the level. So if you want all the achievements, you still need to be hardcore.
Furthermore we polished a few problematic areas and tweaked here and there – see if you can find them!!!

It's great to see them taking steps to extend the game's appeal to a wider audience, because the game has a lot to love – when it’s not trying to break players’ spirits. Locking a couple of the Achievements out of Easy mode is not so great, but maybe those extra refinements they mention will reduce the frustration for Achievement hunters too. We’re willing to give Press Play the benefit of a doubt, so we’ll hold off on our review until the update lands.

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ilomilo is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. Yay!

Ready for an awesome Deal of the Week? ilomilo is on sale for $2.99, down from $4.99.

ilomilo is a fantastic portable adaptation of the hit XBLA game. It stars two friends, ilo and milo, who are averse to capitalization but love playing together. After playing every day, they go home, only to find that the next day, the world has rearranged itself, preventing them from being together. Thus the object of every level is to find each other (while perhaps finding some secrets along the way).

As our review notes, there is no way to die in this game. It’s all about finding your way around, which is challenging enough on its own since the protagonists can walk on all six sides of the cuboid levels. ilomilo remains of the most beautiful games on the platform, with catchy music and great touch-screen controls to boot.

AT&T users who purchased their Windows Phones prior to December 31 got ilomilo for free. Since the start of 2011 it has been available to everyone for $4.99. South End Interactive, the developers, even added 23 new levels to make it a better purchase.

ilomilo is on sale for $2.99 for one week only. To help ilo and milo reunite, head over here (Zune link) to the Marketplace.

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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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Frogger - Review

Updating a classic game for modern audiences is tricky business. Change it too much and you’ll turn off people who liked the original. But stick too closely to the original and it might not appeal to today’s gamers. For examples of perfectly accurate classic ports that are unlikely to gel with people living in the now, see Asteroids Deluxe and Lunar Lander. The Windows Phone port of Frogger, oddly enough, is simultaneously too similar and too different to make much of an impression. It’s not as bad as getting hit by a car, but Konami could have done a lot better.

What qualifies Frogger as a classic? The game made quite a splash when it debuted in arcades in 1981. Its premise and game play are fairly unique: help a group of frogs cross the highway, one at a time, and make it safely to their homes. Most importantly, it inspired a terrific early Bad Religion song.

Jump across the street and past the break for our full review.

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Bubble Town 2 - Review

Windows Phone is just crawling with puzzle games, both of the indie and Xbox Live varieties. Puzzlers are probably the single easiest type of game to develop and they’re well-suited to playing on the go, so it makes sense. Bubble Town 2 from I-Play is one such game, released early on for Xbox Live. It’s an adaptation of a once-popular Facebook game that since been pulled by the publisher. Bubble Town may be a ghost town on Facebook, but is it worth visiting on Windows Phone? Perhaps…

Bubble Town’s got something of a story, aimed at the young‘uns. A bunch of evil aliens called Lumps are invading Bubble Town, and it’s up to the Borbs to stop them. See, even though Bubble Town has the word bubble in its name and is a clone of a spin-off of Bubble Bobble  - Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble, the game doesn’t technically contain any bubbles. They’re Borbs. The writing in the pre-level story sequences is about what you’d expect from a cut-rate kids’ cartoon show, though it does at least inject some personality into the proceedings. Impatient gamers can always skip past them anyway.

Shoot past the break for our full review.

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Tiki Towers - Review

When you think of puzzle games, falling-block games like Tetris and match-three games such as Bejeweled probably spring to mind. But there is another type of puzzler that differs greatly from those games. I speak, of course, of the physics-based puzzle game. These games challenge players to place items throughout a level, using their interaction with the level and the game’s physics to accomplish a goal. Tiki Towers from Game House falls into this cerebral sub-genre.

The premise of Tiki Towers involves an airplane dropping numerous boxes of monkeys onto several different islands. All five of a box’s monkeys must make it from their box to the goal in order to complete a level. The monkeys have their own AI and will walk and jump short distances. But each level contains peaks, pits, and other hazards that the simians can’t surmount on their own. That’s where the player comes in.

Grab a banana and swing past the break for our full review.

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Sally's Salon Luxury Edition - Review

Sally’s Salon is cut from the same cloth as other time management games like Diner Dash. The goal in each level is to please as many customers as possible without keeping anyone waiting longer than necessary. Customers enter the establishment with five hearts floating over their heads – some empty and some filled. If they are made to wait too long at any point in the visit, the hearts will start to empty. Once they run out, the customer leaves in frustration. Performing services that please the customers will fill up their hearts. Different kinds of customers have different patience levels and tipping habits; learning which ones to prioritize is part of the fun.

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Last weekend, we asked our readers what mobile games they would like to see ported to Windows Phone as Xbox Live titles. To make things exciting, we promised to award Beards & Beaks avatar prop codes to the nine most convincing and/or interesting entries. After pouring over the overwhelming number of entries in the contest forum thread, we have chosen nine winners.

Head past the jump for the full contest results!

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Cro-Mag Rally races to Xbox Live next week

We first broke the news that Cro-Mag Rally was heading to Windows Phone back in May. The prehistoric kart racer will finally make it to Xbox Live next week and you can see some of the official screenshots above and below.

Cro-Mag Rally is the first Xbox Live kart racer on Windows Phone. Players can choose either a male or female cavedude and one of 11 different unlockable vehicles. Like all good kart games, weapons and powerups play a role in the outcome of each race. These include nitro boosts, oil slicks, Roman candles, bone bombs, and lots more. Cro-Mag Rally’s nine tracks each represent a major prehistoric age: Stone, Bronze, and Iron. The original game was developed by Pangea Software, makers of Enigmo, and the Windows Phone port comes from tight-lipped Citizen 12 Studio.

Cro-Mag Rally races to the Marketplace on Wednesday, August 3 for the low price of $2.99. That makes it the cheapest racer on Windows Phone! Let’s hope it doesn’t skimp on the fun.

A quick video demo after the break...

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Cave is a Japanese developer best known for its 2D shoot-em-ups. On Xbox 360 they are responsible for Death Smiles, Nin2 Jump, and other hardcore games. Several of Cave’s shooters have even made it to iPhone. Will those games ever come to Windows Phone?

Chances are certainly improving, as the developer announced today that they are working on an original shooting game for WP7. No screens or details are available, but it’s about 20-30% completed. The unnamed game hasn’t been announced as an Xbox Live title, but it seems likely given the number of Xbox 360 titles they have published so far. Today’s announcement also makes Cave one of the precious few Japanese game developers to support Windows Phone at this stage. Let’s hope more – especially Square Enix – will follow!

Windows Phone gamers who are hungry for some Japanese-style shooter action right now may want to give Corona (from indie developer Kajak Games) a shot. It’s very much in the style of a Cave game and has fantastic art. The full version of Corona is here (Zune link) on the Marketplace, and there is also a free version.

Source: Cave Blog via Kotaku; Thanks also to @VirtuousLumox

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Game House initially expected their Xbox Live title Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition to debut in August, but certification went faster than planned. Sally’s got her roots dyed, hair curled, and she is good to go. Thus Sally’s Salon is now available on the Marketplace.

Until now, Star Wars Cantina was the only game in town for Diner Dash fans. Thankfully Sally’s Salon is a much nicer (and frillier) game. Customers enter the salon with their hair all frizz-ay and it’s up to Sally to get them seated and trimmed to perfection. Seating each customer, meeting her styling needs, and checking her out - all while dealing with new customers requires fast tapping and dragging skills.  When the profits start rolling in, players can hire new employees, upgrade salon stations, and add new amenities such as magazines and coffee machines. Nine different locations and some tough looking Achievements should give Sally some staying power. Just try to ignore the elevator music.

Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition costs $4.99 and there is a free trial. Female gamers and male gamers who are comfortable in their masculinity can get the game here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Hectic week at work? Would a simple, lighthearted Xbox Live game going on sale lift your sagging spirits? Don’t worry, Microsoft and FDG Entertainment have you covered with Parachute Panic. It’s on sale this week for $1.99, down from the original price of $2.99.

The object of Parachute Panic is to help stick figure parachuters land safely on ocean-going ships. Players tap the little guys to open their chutes and then swipe to create gusts of wind, steering them towards safety. Threats like UFOs, helicopters, and extremely annoying thunderclouds must be avoided as well. Parachute Panic gets by mostly with its artistic charm. Our review praises the game’s hand drawn graphics and snappy music.

In my opinion, the game is fun but doesn’t have the lasting value of other popular casual games like Angry Birds and Doodle Jump. It does, however, have an awesome cameo by Doodle Jump's Doodler. Cross-game cameos are common among popular iPhone titles, but Windows Phone ports tend to leave them on the cutting room floor (Pocket God’s many cameos, Harbor Master’s Pocket God cameo, and even Doodle Jump is missing its Pocket God cameo).

If you’re in the mood for some challenging gameplay and a touch of silliness, Parachute Panic is a smart buy at this discounted price. It will be on sale for one week only before returning to regular price. Steer your way here (Zune link) to find it. 

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XBox Live's Major Nelson, aka Larry Hyrb, helped announce the arrival of a new bluetooth-enabled headset for XBox 360.  The headset is equipped with a switch that will toggle it between XBox and Bluetooth modes, allowing users to connect to mobile phones, computers and more.  In addition, the power/mute button will now double as the "action" button for answering calls, etc. while connected to Bluetooth.

The new addition to the XBox accessories arsenal will go on to replace the current Xbox standard when it is released in November.  It will retail for $59.99.  The ability to switch from talking on the phone to communicating on a PC or over XBox Live is one more move in the Microsoft's direction of tying all of its platforms together with its "3 screens" approach.  The size and aesthetic lends itself a little better to playing Gears of War in the living room than to wearing around the office or into your local Starbucks, but the versatility is great.

Major Nelson posted a short video describing the features in greater detail on the XBox YouTube page .  You can also see a gallery of the new headgear, along with a new XBox media remote, here.

Source: Major Nelson

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Here's a reminder just in case you missed our initial mention of this contest or were unclear on the rules.

We want to know what games you’d like to see ported from another mobile OS to Windows Phone, and we’re giving away Xbox Live Avatar props for your trouble. To enter, visit this forum thread and tell us the following:

What one game would you most like to see ported from another mobile OS to Windows Phone as an Xbox Live title, and why? Remember, we’re only asking about games that are already available on other cell phones – not console games. Try to name the developer as well. You only get one entry, so make it count.

We will choose the nine most interesting and/or convincing responses and give their writers a redeemable code for a Beards and Beaks Avatar prop that can’t be purchased on the Marketplace. This contest is open to readers from any nation, but we can’t guarantee the codes will work outside of the US. It’s the journey that matters, not the destination!

Entries must be received by 10 AM PST on Tuesday, July 26.  Good luck everyone.

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