Xbox Live

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Harbor Master - Review

Touch-screen gaming has its advantages and disadvantages. We’ve all played games like Earthworm Jim that try to replicate traditional console controls on the touch screen with limited success. But building a game around the advantages of a touch screen can produce wonderful results and even new genres. Such was the case with Firemint’s Flight Control – the first line drawing game. It played like nothing else and sold like crazy on numerous platforms, including Windows Phone. Every good idea can be improved upon, as developer Imangi shows with Harbor Master. Its nautical theme and new mechanics will keep Flight Control fans and new players alike enthralled for quite some time.

Chart a course past the break for our full review.

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Twin Blades - Review

For several months, Twin Blades from Press Start Studio reluctantly enjoyed the distinction of being the only Xbox Live game to be pulled from the Windows Phone Marketplace. During its absence, it earned something of a cult status as mobile gamers suddenly realized they were missing out on a hardcore action experience. Now the game is back with green zombie blood instead of the original red. Is Twin Blades’ return cause for celebration? Yes, unless you’re a zombie, in which case, stay out of Sister Angelika’s way.

Slice past the break for our full review.

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geoDefense - Review

As the plethora of tower defense games on the Windows Phone marketplace proves, tower defense games aren’t hard to make. But they are hard to do well. Just look at the first two tower defense games on Xbox Live: Zombie Attack! 2 is an undercooked snooze-fest and Battle for Hoth is too difficult to be much fun. Both games stray unsuccessfully from tower defense conventions, whereas geoDefense from Critical Thought Games is the exact opposite. It’s as traditional as they come, but also tremendously fun.

geoDefense’s claim to fame is its Geometry Wars-inspired look. Every tower and enemy is composed of neon outlines, harkening back to the days of vector graphics. It’s an extremely simple but charming look, even if one enemy type resembles Pac-Man a bit too closely. The background, no matter the level, is always made up of black space with a pattern of graph paper-like lines, further enhancing the geometric feel. Explosions create a cool warping effect on the background, adding a clever modern contrast to the retro visuals.

Follow the path past the jump for our full review.

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Now that the 6 Weeks of Must Have Games has ended, we’re back to learning about the weekly Xbox Live releases a bit less far in advance. The first Xbox Live title to follow Angry Birds will be… Twin Blades from developer Press Start Studio and publisher Microsoft Game Studios.

That’s right, after disappearing from the Marketplace for several months over concerns about it gory content, Twin Blades is coming back. Users who already own the game have received an update that changes the game’s blood to green, and soon the game will be officially available for sale.

Twin Blades is a side-scrolling hack-and-slash game starring a nun who is tasked with saving the world from an army of the undead. She’s armed with a sickle and an assortment of guns, all of which can be upgraded by collecting zombie hearts. It’s a challenging and lengthy game with both a story mode and an all-action survival mode. We’ll have a full review soon.

Twin Blades will be available on Wednesday, July 6 for $2.99.

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Slowly but surely the entire collection of Xbox Live launch titles for Windows Phone games are going on sale. Having scratched Bejeweled Live off the list, it’s now time for Women’s Murder Club from I-Play to see the weekly discount. It’s on sale for $1.99, down from $2.99.

Women’s Murder Club is a hidden object game with mild adventure elements. Players take on the role of various crime solving ladies as they scour crime scenes for clues and try to solve a murder mystery of some sort. As our review mentions, the plot is incredibly forgettable. But it’s still a competent hidden object game (the only one on Xbox Live right now) and its Achievements are fun and easy.  Provided you like the genre, it’s easily worth getting for the low sale price.

Women’s Murder Club is on sale for $1.99 for one week only and there is a free trial. Point your magnifying glass here (Zune link) to find it on the Marketplace.

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I Dig It update stuck in certification limbo

I Dig It (review) from InMotion Software is a fun little Xbox Live game. Unfortunately, since its release it has been plagued by severely glitched Achievements. In our Broken Achievements article, I stated:

“As of April 11, InMotion had submitted an update that corrected all of I Dig It’s known issues. Two months later, Microsoft has not chosen to publish the update. I feel for your plight, I Dig It players.”

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Developer Interview: Babaroga, makers of Zombies!!!

Zombies!!! (review) was one of the first Xbox Live games I bought after jumping on the Windows Phone bandwagon. A survival horror-themed board game, it’s like nothing else on the platform. The game’s developer, Babaroga has made it no secret that they are working on a major update for the game. That’s good because I hate secrets almost as much as black licorice. Putting the devil candy aside for the moment, WPCentral is excited to bring you something much tastier: our interview with Andreja Djokovic, CEO and Founder of Babaroga, about their future plans for the Zombies!!! franchise and Windows Phone.

Grab a snack if you like and head past the jump for the full interview.

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Though you can watch our video tour above of the new Games Hub in Windows Phone "Mango" (see review), you'll want to read all the changes cataloged by Microsoft themselves. From the Windows Phone Blog, you can tell, once again, that Microsoft is listening to consumers by incorporating a lot of changes. Indeed, the Games Hub feel more unified with the whole Xbox ecosystem and the changes are most welcomed.

Here's what's new:

  • Improved Collection View - basically smaller icons for games with a list view, makes it easier to navigate
  • New 3D Avatars with attitude - With XNA/Silverlight in a single app, your 3D Avatar is now "built in" with more functionality and movement
  • Improved Xbox LIVE messaging - Word suggest/complete is now built in, you can communicate with other Xbox  LIVE members on PC, phones or console. "If a message contains certain emoticons (e.g. Smile, Sad smile), you’ll notice your avatar’s expression change to reflect that emotion! (If a sender overloads a message with conflicting emoticons, your avatar will look bewildered."
  • Connect with Xbox LIVE friends
  • Integrated achievements and new comparison views
  • Edit your profile
  • Improved Spotlight content
  • Improved game request notifications: In Mango, you’ll receive notifications for multiplayer game or turn requests and can track them in the Requests section of the Games Hub.

Some of those last few ones are just carry overs from Xbox LIVE Extras, which is now purely for the Avatar Marketplace and to design your Avatar. Overall, a solid list of changes to look forward too.

Source: Windows Phone Blog

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Major Nelson has kindly started tallying the top Xbox LIVE games for Windows Phone on his site (before it was only the console).

While nothing groundbreaking, it's kind of nice to get insight into what sells and what doesn't e.g. SIM3 is at #13, despite being, you know, terrible (see review). The top five games though were:

  1. Sonic the Hedgehog 4
  2. Doodle Jump
  3. geoDefense
  4. Hydro Thunder GO!
  5. Rise of Glory ('Deal of the Week')

Sure enough, the top four are part of the 'must-have-games' campaign and we have to agree that they're all pretty much worth it.

Source: Major Nelson; Thanks, Karl C, for the heads up

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As the 6 Weeks of Must-Have Games draws near its end, Popcap’s Plants vs Zombies is finally available on the Marketplace.

Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense game like no other. Zombies are invading the player’s home, and only a host of attack plants will fend them off. The variety of towers, err, plants at your disposal (49 in all!) is amazing and allows for all kinds of strategies. Adventure Mode’s 50 levels will take a fair while to plow through, but that’s only half the game. 19 unlockable minigames really do flesh out the package and keep the fun going. Even when you’re not playing, don’t be surprised if the catchy soundtrack (including a brilliant music video during the end credits) gets stuck in your head.

Plants vs. Zombies costs $4.99 on Windows Phone and there is a free trial. Harvest it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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It’s a very Popcap week on Xbox Live. Not only are all of Popcap’s Xbox 360 games on sale, but the Bejeweled Live is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week on Windows Phone. It’s on sale for $2.99 (the price it always should have been, many would say), down from $4.99.

Bejeweled is the classic match-3 puzzle game that has enchanted casual gamers across a variety of platforms. If you’re hungry for a simple puzzle game to play whenever a spare moment pops up, Bejeweled is a good place to look. As our review indicates, the Windows Phone version has three ways to play: Classic, Race the Clock, and Endless. It’s also got some tough Achievements despite being a casual title, but that’s Popcap for you. Don’t ask me about XBLA Zuma’s Achievements or we’ll be here all night.

Bejeweled Live is on sale for $2.99 for one week only. Grab it here on the Marketplace.

If you’d prefer some console Bejeweled action, both Xbox 360 versions are on sale too: the fast-paced and multiplayer-oriented Bejeweled Blitz Live for $2.50/200 Microsoft Points and regular old Bejeweled 2 for $5/400 Points. From a PC or Mac, you can purchase Blitz here and Bejeweled 2 here.

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Rise of Glory is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week

We recently mentioned Rise of Glory in our article about broken Achievements in Windows Phone games. The long-delayed update to fix the game’s Achievements hasn’t been released yet, but on the positive side, the game is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. It’s on sale for $1.99, down from $2.99.

Rise of Glory is the Windows Phone version of iPhone flight simulation Skies of Glory. It puts players in the cockpit of a World War I-era fighting plane. Our review praises the game’s tilt controls and 3D graphics. The controls are challenging, in a realistic way. I pretty much just crashed repeatedly when I tried it, but hopefully you’re more coordinated than me.

Rise of Glory is on sale for $1.99 for one week only. If you’re itching to take to the skies, pick it up here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Broken Xbox Live Achievements on Windows Phone

For many gamers, Xbox Live Achievements are the Windows Phone platform’s main selling point. They provide primary and secondary goals to strive for in games. They also make it easy for other people to see what you’ve accomplished. Earning Achievements contributes to GamerScore – an overall score that quantifies a person’s accomplishments across Xbox 360, Windows Phone, and Games for Windows Live games. It’s a brilliant and addictive system.

Except when something goes wrong. Despite the apparently rigorous testing that games undergo during the Xbox Live certification process, sometimes a game is released with one or more with unobtainable Achievements. We call an Achievement broken or glitched when it is impossible for gamers to unlock through any means.

Why are glitched Achievements a big deal? As I said, people get addicted to earning Achievements. Obsessive compulsive types eat them up. People who really buy into the Achievement system sort of calculate the full 200 GamerScore into a game’s purchase price. They feel ripped off if they can’t get the full 200 no matter what they do. Even for less compulsive gamers, it can be frustrating to go through the effort to satisfy an Achievement’s unlock conditions and find that it didn’t unlock.

Head past the jump for the full list of broken Xbox Live Achievements and what’s being done to fix them.

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Doodle Jump - Review

Slowly but surely, all of the major iPhone gaming hits are finding their way to Windows Phone. It’s important that Microsoft’s young platform has the games that people like and want to play. The latest game to make the jump to Xbox Live is Doodle Jump, originally developed by Lima Sky. The Windows Phone version was ported by Mr. Goodliving (who were shut down by owner RealNetworks prior to the game’s actual release) and Game-Lion Studios. Doodle Jump has been a huge success on other platforms due to its unique, appealing art style, precise accelerometer-based controls, and easy-to-learn, hard-to-master game play.

Is Doodle Jump just as much of a standout on Windows Phone? Step, no, jump past the break to find out.

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The Xbox 360 is a great place to advertise Windows Phone 7 as the phone’s Xbox Live features are designed to appeal to console gamers. Now gamers can learn about Windows Phone and get a free avatar prop for their trouble.

Here’s what to do:

  • On the Xbox 360, switch to the Inside Xbox section of the dashboard.
  •  Find the tile that reads: Get a free Windows Phone for your avatar/Your avatar is the special guest on Hot Apps with Laura Foy (it’s marked as an Advertisement).
  • Watch the video and then…
  • You’ll see a zoomed-in view of a Windows Phone. Navigate the cursor to the “Keep the phone!” tile. Click it and download the avatar prop.

That’s it! Have your avatar call my avatar. We’ll go out for ice cream.

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It’s the third week of Microsoft’s Must Have Games promotion. This week’s Xbox Live release, geoDefense, comes from Critical Thought Games. It’s now available in the marketplace.

geoDefense is a traditional tower defense game in which waves of enemies travel along a path on their way to the player’s base. Building and upgrading towers along the way is your only defense. geoDefense’s claim to fame is its Geometry Wars-inspired vector graphics. Everything is made up of colorful neon outlines and explosions are accompanied by a cool background warping effect. geoDefense gets pretty hard eventually, but I found it much easier to learn to play than the existing Xbox Live tower defense games,  Battle for Hoth and Zombie Attack! 2.

geoDefense costs only $2.99 and there is a free trial. Tower defense fans will definitely want to grab it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Wake up! Glyder is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week

Last week’s Deal of the week, Pac-Man, underwhelmed us due its poor controls and steep difficulty. This week’s sale game isn’t too exciting either, though it’s kind of by design. You see, the game in question is Glyder: Adventure Worlds from Glu Mobile. It’s on sale for $1.99, down from $2.99.

As our review explains, Glyder is a very sedate game with no real story or sense of urgency. But it does have lots of flying around wide open 3D spaces. Activities include item collecting, races, and that’s about it. Control-wise, players can opt for tilt or touch-screen controls – always nice to have a choice. Glyder will appeal to patient, even-tempered gamers. People who can read a Stephen Baxter novel without dying of boredom. If that sounds like your thing, put down that hefty copy of The Time Ships and give the demo a try.

Glyder is on sale for $1.99 for one week only. Collect it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Microsoft’s E3 keynote presentation may have left Windows Phone cold in the dust, but that doesn’t mean the company has completely neglected their mobile platform at the event. They’re showing off several new Xbox Live games and a few that were previously announced but haven’t been mentioned in a while.

Head past the jump for screens and details on all 7 upcoming titles.

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Microsoft's E3 2011 keynote summary

Today Microsoft delivered their keynote presentation at the E3 Expo in Los Angeles. The presentation details their Xbox 360 console plans for the next year. Windows Phone was disappointingly absent from the presentation, though some WP7 games are being announced separately today. For now, let’s look at the major announcements from the presentation.

As expected, Kinect was a major focus this year. The huge sales success of Kinect as well as the uniqueness of the device caught many developers by surprise last year. This year, we’ll be seeing several much more substantial games either require Kinect or support it optionally. Kinect Fun Labs is a new feature that’s now available on the dashboard. The approximately 720 MB download features several free Kinect tools and activities and even Xbox Live Achievements. Inside the Fun Labs, gamers can create an Xbox avatar by scanning their bodies, scan objects and have them appear on-screen, and move their hands to draw in the air. Kinect is certainly becoming a much more useful peripheral to own, though many would like to see a price drop too.

Microsoft continues to expand the Xbox 360’s functionality as a home entertainment device. A new, redesigned dashboard update will come this fall. Video-related features include YouTube support (finally!) and live television too.

Windows Phone users who have grown accustomed to the Bing search button will welcome the Bing search function’s arrival on Xbox 360 too. It can search the Xbox 360 Marketplace, content stored on the console, and Netflix. Bing Search will be even more convenient thanks to Kinect voice recognition.

Head past the jump for a full list of games mentioned during the conference.

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So the big E3 gaming convention is going on today, with Microsoft set to reveal tons of Xbox goodness. It may not be a coincidence then to see Xbox Live Extras get updated today to v1.6 with a significant addition, namely the ability to buy and change your avatar's appearance within the app itself.

As you can see from the image above, you can now change your avatar and purchase new items from the Marketplace (using MS Points)--this is quite the update and nearly completes the Xbox LIVE experience on the phone. The ability to use MS Points is interesting only because we're expecting the usage of actual money and MS Points to overlap, eventually, in the Marketplace as an option for purchases--perhaps this is the first sign?

Finally, we can't help but notice the usual speed-tweaks, making the app a bit zippier than before (though perhaps that's placebo). We've reached out to Microsoft for an exact change-log, so expect an update to the post later on.

You can grab Xbox LIVE Extras for free in the Marketplace here.

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