Xbox Live

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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Two weeks ago on November 28, AlphaJax missed its intended launch date. As such, there was no Xbox Windows Phone release that week. We sort of understood that the game had hit a last minute road bump, and then it popped up the next week, so little harm was done. I’m afraid I have similar news to report: there will be no Xbox release this week. Perhaps the sting is lessened since nobody announced a title in advance, though I’d argue the lack of even a delayed game to look forward to makes it worse.

The lack of an Xbox Windows Phone release is not unprecedented. Although it hasn’t been much of a problem this year, we suffered two dry weeks in a row in 2011. Whenever this happens, it’s my duty to point out the finished games that Microsoft could release if they felt like it. That list has long included Shaolin’s Road and Time Pilot, but we can now add Loondon as well.

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AlphaJax Review: Spell it like you mean it

New Zealish developer Marker Metro hopped onboard the WP7 bandwagon prior to that platform’s launch; their indie project AlphaJax followed the platform’s debut a few months later. We’ve long considered it one of the most polished crossword games available, despite the lack of cross-platform support. Perhaps that polish and Windows Phone exclusivity are what caused Microsoft to pick up full publishing rights from the developer this year.

AlphaJax is now a free ad-supported Xbox title, with the previous free and paid versions set to go defunct at the end of the year. We’ve spent ample time with the new version in order to give you this extremely thorough review.

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Jet Set Go Review: Leaving on a jet plane...

The Xbox Windows Phone lineup has a spotty track record with time management games. Sally’s Salon was fantastic, but then it was followed up by the less impressive (and more bug-filled) Sally’s Spa. Both titles wore their feminine themes on their sleeves, making them less appealing to certain insecure male gamers. The only male-targeted genre entry, Star Wars Cantina got itself delisted last year, depriving WP gamers of the precious Star Wars license and lots of grinding.

Thankfully Nokia, along with developer Big Stack Studios and publisher Chillingo have come along with a more gender neutral time management title: Jet Set Go (not to be confused with SEGA’s Jet Set Radio). Not only can both guys and gals appreciate the game’s travel industry theme, but it even outdoes all the previously mentioned games in variety.

Jet Set Go started out as a timed Nokia exclusive before becoming available to all Windows Phone users in June 2013. Read on to see whether it’s worth a buy.

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File this Xbox Windows Phone game release under "better late than never."

Yes, the highly anticipated Xbox-enabled version of AlphaJax is now available at last.

AlphaJax is a Windows Phone-exclusive online Scrabble clone that has made quite a name for itself since its debut in December 2010. The New Zealand-based developer Marker Metro got excited about the platform prior to its release that year, and they’ve never looked back since. Thanks to a beautiful UI and consistent updates, AlphaJax remains one of the most popular online word games for Windows Phone – despite lacking cross-platform multiplayer like many of its competitors.

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If you're on the fence about signing up for an Xbox LIVE Gold Membership, this weekend you can give the Gold Membership a try for free.

From Thursday, November 29th through December 2nd Microsoft is unlocking Xbox LIVE Gold in Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chili, Colombia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore, Taiwan and the United States.

Xbox owners in these regions will have access to online multiplayer gaming, video Kinect, and the entire collection of entertainment apps for the weekend. You can find a complete listing of the Xbox LIVE Gold Membership features here at Xbox.com.

Source: Major Nelson

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Last week’s Xbox Windows Phone Black Friday sale was the largest sale the platform has ever seen, with no less than six Xbox titles discounted. And in fact, the Windows Phone Store hasn’t updated yet, so you can still get those games on sale as of this writing. I have to bear some bad news though… Microsoft has revealed to us that the popular Xbox Deal of the Week program will be taking a break for the remainder of the year. Presumably it will restart sometime around January 2nd.

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Turn N Run: Xbox Windows Phone Review

Russian developer MaxNick really impressed us with its Xbox Windows Phone release of Spider Jack. For a year, it was the closest thing on our platform to Cut the Rope, and remains a quality game. MaxNick has also released a handful of indie titles such as Doodle Invasion, a quirky little game about evil aliens attacking the Earth. Now the developer returns to Xbox Live with Turn N Run, which stars a nicer alien this time. The Windows Phone port arrives only a couple of months after the iOS original – a breath of fresh air after having to wait so long for Sonic CD to show up!

Both of the previous games I enjoyed from MaxNick featured charming 2D art. Does the transition to 3D graphics and a new gameplay style result in another quirky hit? Read on to find out.

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A couple of weeks ago, Windows Phone Central published a dual review of Cut the Rope and Spider Jack. Both games stem from Russian developers, star cute and hungry little critters, and feature gameplay that involves the cutting of ropes (or spider webs). Cut the Rope may be better known (all of my Windows Phone friends bought it), but I actually found Spider Jack a bit more enjoyable. Despite its quality however, Spider Jack suffered one major disadvantage compared to Cut the Rope: its $2.99 price.

Last week, Spider Jack developer MaxNick’s second Xbox Windows Phone title Turn N Run launched at the 99 cent price point (after briefly appearing at $2.99 due to a mistake). That prompted us to wonder whether Spider Jack might soon drop to the same price. Well, that’s exactly what happened today! You can now grab Spider Jack for just a buck.

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