Xbox Live

Things haven’t been looking too good for Xbox games on Windows Phone lately. As our readers probably know, there hasn’t been a new Xbox game released since KenKen on December 19th. Just before that there were two more weeks with no release: one before and one after AlphaJax arrived. Nokia users have a bit more to play thanks to iBomber Defense, but that does not help everyone else. Well, this week the disturbing trend continues: Microsoft has confirmed that there will be no new Xbox Windows Phone game or Deal of the Week this week. Yikes!

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Gun Bros Review: Battling bad guys and a buggy port

Seeing as how we haven’t had a new Xbox Windows Phone game to review in a while, it’s time to set our critical eyes on older releases that haven’t been reviewed yet. Sometimes we miss a game because it’s too terrible to endure (Babel Rising 3D), but on other occasions your favorite game reviewer has just been too tied up to review every single release.

With Gun Bros 2 due to hit iOS sometime soon, I’ve been inspired to put the original Gun Bros for Windows Phone through its paces. Is Gun Bros really one of the worst Xbox games on Windows Phone or just woefully misunderstood? Read on for our final verdict!

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Every time we report on Windows Phone 8 compatibility, it’s a good news/bad news situation. The Oregon Trail gained compatibility while Shoot 1 UP lost it… Babel Rising 3D sort of became compatible (which was a mistake), and KenKen lost it for no apparent reason…  Which brings us to this weekend.

Good news: Risk from Nokia and Electronic Arts is now available for Lumia phones running Windows Phone 8! On the other hand, two more games – both Nokia exclusives – have jumped ship from Windows Phon 8. Can’t win, can we?

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When Windows Phone initially launched there were some of us who simply used our existing Hotmail Accounts to sign into the phone. Problem was that some had the account set for the wrong geographic region creating a fair amount of issues.

At that time it was nigh impossible to change the region of the account and thus forced many into a situation where a new account was in need to be created. As our Xbox Live ID or Microsoft Account has become central in everything we do now things have eased somewhat and through a lengthy six week process it has been possible to change region via customer services. Not ideal.

That could all be about to changes as Microsoft is currently piloting an online service to get this done much more rapidly.

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No new Xbox Windows Phone game for the New Year

It’s easier to criticize than compliment. Things we dislike stick out like a sore thumb. Also, I’m not too fond of sore thumbs! As you can tell, it’s time for some bad news and hand wringing. That’s because it looks like we won’t get either a new Xbox Windows Phone release or even a Deal of the Week to ring in the New Year.

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Last year’s free Sudoku game provided a nice little bit of logic puzzling for Xbox Windows Phone gamers, but it hardly had any staying power. The randomly-generated puzzles failed to instill much replay value, as players could easily just finish off the game’s Achievements in a matter of hours with no reason to keep playing. Plus its sparse Metro-style visuals left much to be desired. As such, Microsoft’s mobile platform lacked a logic game with real meat on its bones.

This year Capcom of all companies has stepped in to turn things around. Their first Windows Phone game KenKen provides a very Sudoku-like experience that players won’t finish all in one day. Well, maybe you could beat it in a Martian 36 hour day, provided you don’t have a psychotic episode. The question is: does KenKen justify its relatively lofty price?

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Yesterday we went over Windows Phone Central’s picks for the best Xbox Windows Phone games of 2012. It may not have been a stellar year, but we can certainly count 2012 as the best year for Windows Phone gaming so far. Narrowing down the finest games from nearly 50 weekly releases was no mean feat for someone who enjoys nearly every genre and approaches all games with love.

Still, no amount of optimism can overlook the turkeys that sometimes squeeze their way into the Xbox lineup. How do we spot these wretches? Well, broken Achievements, poor controls, and dysfunctional online components are all telltale signs of a game better left unreleased. That makes selecting the bottom of the barrel titles so much easier than choosing the top shelf games.

Head past the break for to learn how a bad game happens and Windows Phone Central’s Worst Xbox Windows Phone games of 2012!

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For many gamers, Xbox Live functionality is one of Windows Phone’s most compelling selling points. Windows Phones allow people who already own an Xbox 360 to log in with their existing Xbox Live/Microsoft ID and receive instant access to their Xbox Live profiles, friends lists, messages. Existing users can customize their Xbox avatars directly from their phones, while new users can create them. The SmartGlass app can even sync with a handful of Xbox 360 games and apps right now, with more titles to support SmartGlass in the future.

Sure, you can many of those features on iOS as well, but they aren’t nearly as integrated as on Windows Phone. Most of the functionality is built right into WP8; WP7 users need the Xbox Live Extras app. The SmartGlass app requires a quick download on both WP7 and WP8. After that, you’ll find it all conveniently located in the Games hub.

Head past the break for more of Windows Phone Central’s Xbox Live primer plus our picks for the best Xbox Windows Phone games of 2012!

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This weekend Microsoft experienced a problem with their Xbox LIVE Saved Cloud Games service, causing some gamers grief as they could not save their progress to the cloud or access previous saves. Xbox LIVE's Major Nelson reported early this morning that the problem been resolved and that those affected would be given a free month of Gold service for their troubles. Microsoft's General Manager of Xbox Live, Alex Garden, sent out an apologetic email trying to reassure users that this will not happen again.

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Slowly but surely, Nokia and Electronic Arts continue to pump out Nokia-exclusive Xbox Windows Phone games. These titles also include games from Chillingo, a popular mobile publisher owned by EA. The latest Chillingo-published exclusive iBomber Defense comes from Scottish developer Cobra.

Originally an iOS game, Cobra’s tower defense title has since branched out to other platforms like Steam and Windows Phone. Fans of the genre should be thankful for that, because other than some performance issues and rough Achievements, iBomber Defense is the best traditional tower defense game in the Xbox lineup.

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It looks like there might not be a new Xbox Windows Phone release this week, as we haven’t heard news of one from Microsoft. But they like to surprise us every now and then, so time will tell. In the meantime, Windows Phone 8 users can play a new(ish) game, as in a WP7 title that was previously incompatible with the new OS. Even better, the newly returned title is one of the best from the incompatible list.

Crimson Dragon Side Story from Grounding and Microsoft has been patched for Windows Phone 8. The version 1.2 patch greatly enhances the game’s speed, but we've also heard it closes a well-liked loophole.

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Alright, so Nokia has a good grasp on what the word exclusive means. But Microsoft takes a more liberal stance towards supporting other platforms. We’ve seen the big MS publish previously Xbox Windows Phone exclusive games to iOS before, such as Kinectimals and Tentacles. It always hurt, but we sucked it up and complained only in small doses.

Yesterday, another exclusive turned coat and migrated to iOS: Microsoft’s own Wordament. I had previously speculated that Wordament could function as a killer app, attracting gamers to Windows Phone with its highly addictive gameplay and smart design. That will no longer happen, but here’s the really bad news: Wordament on iOS is an Xbox Live title complete with real Achievements!

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Any gamer who has owned an iOS device knows that publishers love to offer their games for significant discounts and even free during the holidays. Here on Windows Phone, we’re used to seeing 3-6 games on sale during special occasions, such as the current Countdown to 2012 sale.

Two games from the same third-party publisher on sale at once though? It just doesn’t happen. At least, it hadn’t happened until Namco Bandai’s Galaga Legions DX (review) dropped to 99 cents on Friday night. Like Pac-Man Championship Edition DX, this title regularly sells for the way too high price of $6.99. But both games are now on sale for 99 cents – truly a killer deal from the good folks at Namco Bandai.

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The incompatibility between certain Xbox Windows Phone 7 games and the new Windows Phone 8 OS has been frustrating for gamers alike. More than 20 Xbox games don’t work with WP8, a problem that Microsoft initially tried to sweep under the rug by pulling those titles’ pages from the Windows Phone Store.

Since then, one affected title became compatible with WP8 (The Oregon Trail), while a new game became unavailable due to incompatibility (Shoot 1UP). You might say the two games canceled each other out, progress-wise. The same thing has just happened again, with Babel Rising 3D reappearing and Capcom’s just-released and far superior KenKen disappearing from WP8. The incompatible list can’t seem to drop below 25 games!

Don’t worry, we actually have a tidbit of good news to report on Microsoft’s handling of the WP8 incompatible games. Check it out after the break.

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Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is that rarest of things: an exclusive Xbox Windows Phone game... Well, exclusive among the smartphone market, as it’s a port of the popular XBLA game. And man, what a good one! I even included it in my Five Must-Have Xbox Games list back in May.

But one thing has long kept the wider WP market from embracing the finest Pac-Man mobile game of all time: its steep price. Despite the fact that Pac-man CE DX contains just under a third of the XBLA game’s content, it has always cost only one third less - $6.99, as compared to the beefier $10 console version. In a market in which seemingly everyone (somewhat unwisely) values everything at one dollar no matter what, the $7 price tag just doesn’t fly.

Today that changes because Pac-man CE DX has finally had its first price drop/sale since launching in May 2011. What’s more, it’s now only 99 cents!

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We may not have received an Xbox Windows Phone release last week, but thankfully the drought did not continue this week. What’s more, the latest release is either both good news and bad news, or just plain good news, depending on how you look at it. The very good news: console and arcade giant Capcom is now making Windows Phone games. The kinda-sorta bad news: it’s a somewhat expensive puzzle game. Still, fans of brain puzzles will absolutely eat up KenKen (akso known as KenKen Pro).

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Just over a year ago, Nokia and Electronic Arts announced an agreement to publish over 20 EA games exclusively for Nokia Lumia Windows Phones. Shortly thereafter, they revealed the full list of planned titles. The list contained some compelling brands like Dead Space, Madden, and FIFA. It also included more casual and less exciting titles such as The Game of Life and Connect 4.

We didn’t know whether they would all be Xbox-branded titles or not, but as it turns out, each game released so far has indeed been Xbox Live-enabled. I’d have loved to review The Game of Life and Connect 4 together, but the latter unfortunately doesn’t work on Windows Phone 8 right now and I won’t have a WP7 Lumia phone. So let’s look at LIFE (as I’ll shorten it) on its own merits.

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Microsoft may have shelved the Xbox Windows Phone Deal of the Week program for the remainder of the year, but that doesn’t mean there won’t be any more sales on Xbox games. Similar to the Black Friday week sales last month, the big MS has just kicked off a major sale on Xbox Live games for Windows Phone and Xbox 360. Yes, the Countdown to 2013 sale (sequel to last year’s Countdown to 2012 sale) has already begun! As a special treat for console owners, you'll be able to get two free XBLA games during the countdown.

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Push notifications (also called toast notifications) are those pop-up messages you get from certain apps – the ones that say you’ve got a game invite, a weather alert, a new tweet, etc. Even if you don’t have an app that supports them, you’ve probably seen them appear whenever you get a text message or voice mail.

Windows Phone 7 always had issues with push notifications though. Not the hardwired SMS alerts and such, but pushes from games and apps. Sometimes they worked, sometimes they didn’t, and everyone’s experience seemed to differ.

When Windows Phone 8 rolled around, we hoped that would change. Unfortunately, at first glance it did not (for games, at least). While the pushes from recent Xbox WP release AlphaJax have driven some WP7 users crazy, some Lumia 920 owners like me simply haven’t seen those notifications (and yet others have). Thankfully, pushes aren’t completely broken on WP8. They’re just bugged, and there is a way around it.

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