Xbox Live

As Windows Phone fans who stay up till the wee hours probably know, the Marketplace usually updates with new apps and price drops between 10 PM and midnight PST. Thus the new Xbox Live game and Deal of the Week are available by the time most people get up on Wednesday mornings.

This week, however, there seem to be a wrench and possibly a squirrel in the works. As of 10 AM PST, Lunar Lander still isn’t available for purchase and The Harvest is not showing its discounted price. There are no new Non-Xbox Live apps either.

Did the guy at Microsoft who throws the switch on Marketplace updates call in sick? Is this just some technical error? Or is there something more sinister at work? With Sony’s recent and well-publicized shutdown of PSN due to malicious hackery, many gamers are on edge where online services are concerned.

The Marketplace’s stalled update will likely be resolved later today. Cleaning squirrel guts takes time! We’ve contacted the good folks at Microsoft, who are aware of the problem. We’ll let you know as soon as they have more information to share or the update goes through.

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Guitar Hero 5 sales not exciting enough for you? Here’s an Xbox Live Deal of the Week we can really sink our teeth into: The Harvest is going on sale for $4.99, down from $6.99.

The Harvest is an action-RPG set in a distant future in which aliens have conquered humanity. Thanks to the development of armored mech suits, the remaining pockets of humans finally have a chance to fight back. Our review praises the game’s beautiful 3D graphics, easy controls, multiple playable characters, and diversity of upgrade options.

The Harvest is that rare thing – a really impressive Windows Phone-exclusive game. But many gamers passed over it or don’t know about it due to the dreaded $6.99 price point. The sale price should help Luma Arcade’s action-RPG finally get its due.

The Harvest’s $4.99 sale begins Wednesday and will last one for week. Buy it or try the demo here (Zune link) at the Marketplace.

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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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Earthworm Jim HD - Review

During the 16-bit gaming era, Shiny Entertainment’s Earthworm Jim made quite a splash. It boasted very unusual character designs, an off-beat sense of humor, and excellent graphics and sound. It was also frustratingly hard, but so were a lot of games back then. Earthworm Jim was such a success that it spawned a few sequels and its own cartoon series.

Fast-forwarding several years, Gameloft - the developer/publisher known for producing mobile clones of popular console franchises – has brought the original Earthworm Jim to Windows Phone as an Xbox Live title. Is Earthworm Jim still as groovy as he ever was? Yes and no. This version is pretty rough around the edges thanks to some poor design decisions from the ‘loft.

Swing past the jump for our in-depth review.

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We all thought the worst was over after the Marketplace outage yesterday with scheduled maintenance, but now it seems Xbox Live is having an issue on multiple WP7 devices with backend Windows Live services. If you head on into the Xbox Live hub and await for the automatic update process to start, you should be left with a forever hanging "Updating..." at the top.

Both myself (Omnia 7) and our Daniel Rubino (Focus) have reproduced the error so it looks like it's not directly affecting a single location and multiple Live profiles are confirmed to be affected. Hopefully Microsoft will get the system back up to speed. For the time being they have stated on Twitter that "It’s a new issue that users are unable to access Xbox LIVE features at this time." Are you experiencing this issue?

via: WinRumors

Update: We've just had news (and have confirmed) that the Xbox service on WP7 is now back online. Thanks ash755 for the heads up!

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Rocket Riot, the Xbox Live twin-stick shooter from Dutch developer Code Glue, received a minor update this week.

Rocket Riot version 1.2 change log:

  • Control bug completely eliminated

Rocket Riot’s virtual twin-stick controls are extremely smooth and fun to use.  But as I mentioned in our review, the game’s controls used to bug out occasionally in certain levels. That won’t happen anymore, thank goodness.

We’ve also learned that Rocket Riot will receive a more significant update in the future. Among other things, it will improve the game's handling of Achievements. I’m glad Code Glue continues to improve their already standout title.  Rocket Riot costs $4.99, and it has a free trial. To join the riot, grab it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

Fun fact! The Rocket Riot version 1.1 update article was my first post here at WPCentral. Time flies (with rockets).

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Last week, super tough Earthworm Jim was the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. This week’s sale game is much easier. It’s Guitar Hero 5 from Glu Mobile and Activison.

On consoles, Guitar Hero has long been outdone by the excellent Rock Band series. Activision, Guitar Hero’s publisher, even made it a point to run the ‘Hero series into the ground by releasing numerous sequels and spin-offs every year. Bad mistakes, Activision’s made a few. But hey, Guitar Hero 5 is the only Xbox Live music game on Windows Phone. It’s committed no crimes. Plus it’s actually decent, with 32 songs from artists like Blink 182, David Bowie, and Garbage, and easy Achievements.

Guitar Hero 5 is on sale for $4.99 (the price it always should have been), down from $6.99. There is of course a free trial. Get your rock on here (Zune link) in the Marketplace.

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After three weeks of Game Room releases, we finally have a modern game for this week’s Xbox Live title. Enigmo, from Austin-based developers Pangea Soft and Chaotic Moon Studios (makers of The Revenants, see review), has now made the jump from iPhone and Windows Mobile to Windows Phone 7.

Enigmo features 50 levels of physics-based puzzles. The goal is always to force one or more liquids (water, etc.) into their matching receptacles. Players have a limited number of gadgets at their disposal to reflect and filter fluids in the right direction. Enigmo’s realistic physics are brought to life with some very clean 3D graphics. You’ll find more details and a list of Enigmo’s Xbox Live Achievements here.

Enigmo costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Grab the enigmatic puzzler here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

But wait, there’s more! We’ve also learned that Pangea Software’s Cro-Mag Rally is coming to Xbox Live for Windows Phone. Indie developer Citizen 12 is very secretively handling the port. Yet we do know that Cro-Mag Rally is a caveman-themed kart racing game with 9 tracks and 11 drivable vehicles. Windows Phone needs a kart racer, so let’s hope it races to market soon.

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This week’s Xbox Live title is Enigmo, a physics-based puzzle game. Enigmo sort of blind-sided us as we hadn’t heard about it coming to Windows Phone until recently, but now we’ve got some concrete details to share with you.

Enigmo was originally developed by Austin-based developer Pangea Software. It debuted on the strange and foreign Mac platform before making a successful run on iPhone. It’s also been released on the Windows Mobile platform – anybody remember that one?

We’ve already seen a physics-based puzzler on Xbox Live in the form of iBlast Moki. Enigmo is a little bit like that, but the goal is to direct streams of liquids into the appropriate receptacles using various gadgets. The Windows Phone version of Enigmo features sharp 3D graphics and 50 puzzles to solve. It was developed by Chaotic Moon Studios, also located in Austin, and will cost $2.99.

Head past the break for our exclusive reveal of Enigmo’s Xbox Live Achievements and the game’s debut trailer.

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This competition has been running for a while now and you have the last chance in entering it before the closing date (2nd May 23:59 PDT). So, do you fancy laying your hands on the box of awesome? US only, unfortunately.

It's contents are pretty impressive:

  • Samsung Focus
  • Samsung Series Notebook
  • Windows 7 home Premium
  • Microsoft Arc Touch mouse
  • Samsung 46" LED TV
  • Xbox 360 250GB console with Kinect
  • 3 Kinect-enabled games
  • Xbox Live 12 month gold membership
  • Microsoft Office Professional 2010

This bundle is worth quite a chunk of money so better get your entry in should you wish to be in with an opportunity to win, win, win. Please note -- however -- that this offer is through Facebook and requires access to your personal information, not to mention you are required to sign up and supply your name, address, email, etc.

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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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A recent job posting over on Microsoft Careers has caused a wave of speculation that Zune music services may be getting renamed to "Xbox Live Music."  The posting, entitled "Business Manager-IEB-Xbox Live Music Marketplace," calls for a candidate who is "passionate about driving [Microsoft's] first party Music business in the US across multiple tuner end points; Xbox 360, Windows Phone 7, PC, WWW and Bing."  Most notably, the would-be Interactive Entertainment Business team member would be "responsible for management of relationships with two of the four major record labels as well as a number of high profile indie labels, and creating strategies around content to drive the Zune Music business."

The new moniker seems to be in line with Microsoft's decision to kill off the Zune music player back in March, followed by the guarantee that their Zune Hardware Business Developer would "be going to work tomorrow."  The Zune media player never quite took off the way MS would have liked, but the marketplace was a great infrastructure in which to base WP7's app store.  Perhaps the potential name change is simply the first step in a re-branding to bring Windows, Windows Phone, Xbox, and Zune together.  One green ring to rule them all!

Source: Microsoft Careers; Via: WPSauce

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It’s Xbox Live game updates day at WPCentral. First we covered the news of Full House Poker and Hexic Rush’s updates, and now we’re revealing the recent update contents of Pocket God (review) and Puzzle Quest 2.

Pocket God version 1.1 changelog:

  • Added the Double Rainbow All The Way Across The Sky episode
  • Miscellaneous bug fixing and optimization tweaks

The iOS version of Pocket God receives regular updates, called Episodes. It has 38 episodes so far. Prior to the version 1.1 update, the Windows Phone version only included the first 32 episodes. Double Rainbow is actually episode 35, which means two episodes have been skipped. The missing episodes both involve a new area, Ape Mountain, that hasn’t made it to WP7 yet.

What changes does Double Rainbow All The Way Across The Sky bring? According to Wikipedia, it "adds the ability to draw a double rainbow in the sky (referring to the internet meme). The Pygmies will react to the rainbow. This is the first update where the Pygmies can actually talk, when showing reactions from the double rainbow.”

Pocket God’s Achievements are notoriously difficult, which is surprisingly given the game’s utterly casual nature. NGMOCO, the developer who handles the Windows Phone port of Pocket God, assures us that Achievement difficulty will be addressed in a future update. Hopefully Ape Island makes it into the next update too. At any rate, Pocket God fans should be glad to know that NGMOCO hasn’t forgotten them.

Puzzle Quest 2 version 1.1 update includes:

  • The Cheating AI and PWNT! Achievements are now attainable.

Nobody likes glitched Achievements, so it’s good to see Namco has fixed Puzzle Quest 2’s. Now if they’d only fix the game’s lofty price… Puzzle Quest 2 is a puzzle RPG, not unlike Castlevania Puzzle. The original console Puzzle Quest is one of my all-time favorite games. We’ll review the slightly less impressive Windows Phone sequel sometime soon.

You can find Pocket God for $2.99 here (Zune link) on the Marketplace. Puzzle Quest 2 is a much steeper $6.99 here. Both games have free trials. God save the Prince, gov'nah. Cheerio!

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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, a game that’s meant to multiplayer but isn’t went on sale and the Xbox Live gaming public collectively yawned. This week, we get something a little more interesting…

Earthworm Jim HD is on sale for $2.99, down from the regular price of $4.99.

Earthworm Jim is a faithful port of the classic Sega Genesis and Super Nintendo platforming game that was originally developed by Shiny Entertainment. It stars an earthworm who has been given super powers by an alien space suit. EWJ (as his friends call him) thwarts enemies both with a pistol and by whipping them with his own earthworm body. The creative cast of bosses includes Bob the Killer Goldfish, Evil the Cat, and Queen Slug-for-a-butt. In addition to lovely hand-drawn art, Earthworm Jim also features a stellar soundtrack. Just be warned that the touch-screen controls aren’t the best and the Achievements are fairly hard.

Earthworm Jim is $2.99 for one week only, and there is a free trial. Snap it up here (Zune link) on the Marketplace. 

Update: Also, Assassin's Creed - Altaïr's Chronicles HD (see our review) has also dropped from $6.99 to $4.99. That's here in the Marketplace.

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Avatar Gadgets now free as a bird

Avatar Gadgets has always been an odd piece of software. It’s lumped in with the Xbox Live games, but it’s not a game. It’s just a collection of utilities. If you buy it, it sits there at the top of your games list, mocking you with its non-gameness and lack of Achievements. It does use your Xbox Live avatar though, so there is a tenuous Xbox Live connection.

Avatar-Inspector-Gadgets is also the only Xbox Live product on Windows Phone that regularly sells at the 99 cent price point (everything else starts at $2.99). At least, it used to be 99 cents… Avatar Gadgets is now free!  Our review praises the Zippo lighter gadget and the product’s overall novelty. Now that it’s free, you have no excuse not to try it for yourself - other than the aforementioned space it takes up at the top of the games list, natch.

Grab Avatar Gadgets here on the Marketplace for the low price of zero cents. Will it be free forever? Probably, but we have contacted Microsoft just in case and will update this article when we know for sure.

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Earlier this week we reported that two Game Room titles, Asteroids Deluxe and Pitfall, would be this week’s Xbox Live releases. Windows Phone retro gamers will have to wait a little longer for their Atari 2600 fix, as Pitfall didn’t come out today after all. I was jumping at the chance to play it, but I doubt legions of people will be disappointed at this news.

On the bright side, Asteroids Deluxe made it out the gate. The sequel to Asteroids, Deluxe is an arcade game that Atari published in 1980. Players pilot a ship through an asteroid field, blasting both asteroids and aliens. It uses vector graphics in which everything is composed of lines, not unlike upcoming Must-Have game geoDefense. As part of the Game Room series, Asteroids Deluxe has a 3D arcade cabinet, seriously great Leaderboards, and 10 Achievements that are awfully similar to Centipede’s.

Asteroids Deluxe is $2.99, and like all Xbox Live games there is a free trial. Classic gaming fans can grab it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

Head past the jump for our CES video of Asteroids Deluxe and Shao-Lin's Road.

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The Xbox Live Deal of the Week program has featured a few high-quality games so far – Rocket Riot and last week’s Carneyvale come to mind. They can’t all be winners though, as this week’s deal proves…

Uno HD is now on sale for $2.99, down from the regular, crazy price of $4.99.

Our Uno HD review praises the game’s interface, features, and gameplay experience. However it does criticize the game’s price, so $2.99 seems fairer. But I have to wonder, how many gamers are dying to play a single-player version of Uno for any price? Anyone???

Uno HD is on sale for $2.99 for one week only. There’s also a free trial, which you might want to try before buying… Grab it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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