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.

Where do glitched Achievements come from?

Before we talk about specific games, let’s look at how it’s even possible for a game to release with an unobtainable Achievement. When we spoke with an Xbox Live developer (who asked to remain anonymous) about the Xbox Live certification process, he had this to say:

“As a developer you can’t actually test LIVE functionality properly – only within a debug environment. Only Microsoft can test in a “real” LIVE environment. This meant that there may well be problems that you can’t detect while making and testing the game. It also means if they are detected, you can’t debug them or even tell exactly what’s going on, so they’re very hard to fix. This was compounded by the fact that Microsoft don’t seem to test this side of the process until well into submission – in fact until you’ve pretty much finished submission and gone through several rounds of testing.”

That’s the heart of the problem – developers can’t actually test Achievements themselves. It’s up to Microsoft’s testers to make sure they work. Actually testing Achievements can be difficult and time consuming (depending on the Achievement), so things sometimes slip through the cracks.

Once a game debuts on the Marketplace and ends up in dedicated gamers’ hands, that’s when glitched Achievements can rear their ugly heads. Players complain, and the developer usually responds by correcting the bug with a software update.

Games with unobtainable Achievements

Unfortunately, several Windows Phone games still have broken Achievements months after release. Here are the ones we know about:

Crackdown: Project Sunburst by Microsoft Game Studios 

Problem Achievement: Slumber Party - Score a kill at 10 Friend's bases.

Here’s a rarity: an Achievement that initially worked (I have it) but became broken following a title update. Slumber Party is tied to Project Sunburst’s rudimentary multiplayer substitute in which players visit a friend’s base. March’s version 1.2 update broke the ability to visit other people’s bases, thus preventing further players from earning the Achievement.

Solution status: We reached out to the game’s developer at Microsoft Game Studios but did not receive a response. Considering how buggy the game is even after several patches, the prognosis of Slumber Party returning to life is not good.

UPDATE: The game has been permanently pulled from the Marketplace. Nobody will be earning Slumber Party in the future.

I Dig It by InMotion Software 

Problem Achievements:

  • Egyptian Explorer - Complete the Egyptian expedition.
  • Egyptologist - Complete your collection of Egyptian artifacts.
  • Mushroom Farmer - Collect 100 mushrooms from the Cavern expedition.
  • Entomologist - Collect 30 small ants and 10 large ants from the Amazonian expedition.
  • Venting - Plug 10 geothermal vents in the Oceanic expedition.
  • Junk Collector - Complete your collection of the junk diggins from the Farm.

I Dig It, bless its little heart, ties with Brain Challenge HD for the most broken Achievements of any Xbox Live title. The game itself is extremely buggy and doesn’t track the items that players collect correctly. Some people have managed to get a few of the above Achievements, but for many they simply don’t unlock.

Solution Status: 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.

UPDATE: The version 1.1 patch went live during the fall, at last fixing the game's Achievements.

Rise of Glory by Revo Solutions Games

Problem Achievements:

  • 500 Kills - Accumulate 500 kills during game time
  • 1,000 Kills - Accumulate 1,000 kills during game time
  • 10,000 Kills - Accumulate 10,000 kills during game time

These are self-explanatory. The 10,000 kills Achievement is simply assumed to be broken as no one has actually earned that ludicrous number of kills so far. It would certainly suck to grind out so many kills and not get the Achievement, but Rise of Glory players would probably notice something was up when the preceding Achievements didn’t unlock either.

Solution status:

The developer submitted an update fixing these Achievements sometime prior to May, but Microsoft still hasn’t published it. Come on, big M!

UPDATE! The version 1.2 patch finally came out at the end of July and fixed these Achievements.

Brain Challenge HD by Gameloft

Problem Achievements:

  • Get the Game - Unlock one mini-game in Training Mode
  • Get All the Game - Finish all of mini-game in Training mode
  • Combo User - Get 30 combos in any mode!
  • 40% Brain Usage - Reach 40% Brain Usage!
  • 60% Brain Usage - Reach 60% Brain Usage!
  • 80% Brain Usage - Reach 80% Brain Usage!

Clearly Brain Challenge has some serious Achievement issues. Some users have received one or two of these Achievements, but nobody has the 40, 60, or 80% ones.

Solution status: We contacted Gameloft quite a while back but received no response. Anecdotally, an Xbox360Achievements.org user reached out to them and was told that “nothing [is] wrong with the game.” Gameloft’s Windows Phone support has been less than stellar so far, so Brain Challenge may never receive a fix.

Revolution by Playful Art

Problem Achievement: Empty Fort Knox - Earn 225 gold medals.

This Achievement requires players to earn a gold medal on every level of the game. Sadly, it’s impossible to do that on level 47. Four gears are required for that level’s gold, but the game only provides three.

Solution status: According to Playful Art, the Achievement issue has been fixed for months. However, the update keeps getting rejected by Microsoft because of other problems that became apparent during the certification process. Since level 47 is all that matters to actual gamers, it’s a shame that a stopgap update hasn’t been certified.

Zombies!!! by Babaroga

Problem Achievement: Was it worth it? - Use 3 or more Hearts in a single combat, then win by using Bullets.

Combat in Zombies!!! is decided by dice rolls. To lose three Hearts in a battle, players would need to roll a three or lower three times in a row. On the fourth roll they would still need to roll three or less and then choose to use bullets to supplement the roll and win the fight. Statistically, that won't happen every time, but it should happen sometimes. Don't factor in the first three rolls. Once you get to the fourth roll, the odds of rolling one, two, or three should be fifty percent. But many players like me have tried for hours and never gotten that lucky fourth roll. It's not like we're trying to roll one specific number - the algorithm is messed up. A few people do have this Achievement, but it remains unobtainable for most.

Solution status: Babaroga wouldn’t actually admit that there is a problem (gotta disagree, guys), but they do apparently plan to make it easier to get anyway.

UPDATE: The Zombies!!! Mango update fixed the problem on 7/22/11.

Super Monkey Ball by Sega

Problem Achievements:

  • Crowned Champion - Get a crown on every stage of a world
  • Conquer Space Case World - Complete all of the stages of the Space Case World

To earn a crown on a level, players must collect all 10 bananas on the level and finish it without dying. Each world has 20 levels, so that’s 20 crowns to earn. Due to the game’s poor controls and high difficulty, the only level on which this is even feasible is the first, Monkey Island. Sadly, the Achievement doesn’t unlock even if all 20 crowns are earned in a single session.

As for completing Space Case World, the final level of the game is just about impossible, so perhaps the developers thought they didn't need the Achievement to actually work. But a few gamers have braves the game's frustration and beaten the last level, only to find they didn't get the hardest Achievement.

Solution status:

We contacted Sega, who were apparently unaware of the Achievement issues. They couldn’t commit to fixes, but I remain hopeful.

UPDATE: The 'Crowned Champion' Achievement was sort of fixed on September 24, but unfortunately players are now required to earn crowns on every single level of the game instead of every stage of a world as the Achievement description states.

Enigmo by Pangea Software/Chaotic Moon Studios

Problem Achievement: Mad Scientist - Complete all 50 levels.

This one’s for beating the game. Unfortunately, it doesn’t unlock.

Solution status: As of May 10, Chaotic Moon had submitted a fix. Like I Dig It and Rise of Glory, we’re just waiting on Microsoft to actually publish the update.

UPDATE: The patch finally went live on December 20, fixing the problem.

Games with mislabeled or semi-glitched Achievements

Sometimes an Achievement is obtainable, but its description is incorrect or it takes more work than intended. Here’s a brief listing of games with problematic but not impossible Achievements:

The Oregon Trail HD by Gameloft

Problem Achievement: Gold Digger - Collect 50 pounds of gold and 8 diamonds without gettin' any bad stones on yer way to Oregon

“It only seems to unlock on Ultra Hard settings when selecting the option "Take a Risk", which gives you less time to collect gold and gives you a higher goal to reach.” Source: Xbox360Achievements.org

Pocket God by NGMOCO

Problem Achievement: Shark Snap – God - Score over 100 shark snaps.

This actually requires 1000 shark snaps instead of 100. The developers plan to knock the requirement down to the proper 100 in a future update.

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX by Namco

Problem Achievement: Big eater – Eat 100 ghosts!

Players have to achieve a combo in Ghost Combo of 100 or greater. The developers apparently plan to make the Achievement cumulative across all modes in a future update.

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That’s it for WPCentral’s first broken Achievement roundup. Feel free to tip us if you discover more games whose Achievements need repairs.