Windows 8 Apps+Games

We had a few details about the upcoming game Halo: Spartan Strike on Wednesday. Today, we have all the things you need to know. The Halo top-down shooter is coming to Windows, Windows Phone, and Steam on December 12th, 2014 for $5.99. You can buy it once for both Windows and Windows Phone, but the Steam version is a separate purchase.

This is a chapter in the "Halo" universe, which will take you through 30 challenging missions through jungles, cities and more. I spent a few minutes with some of the levels on the Surface Pro 3 and the Lumia 930. I was impressed, but I do share some of your concerns about the controls that stemmed from the previous version, Halo: Spartan Assault.

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It has been a while since we saw a new mobile Windows game from European publisher Game Insight. Their last release was city builder Big Business Deluxe. After that, Game Insight has mostly concentrated on updating Cloud Raiders (now available on Windows 8) and working on other phone and tablet games behind the scenes.

Today Game Insight has just unleashed a new Windows 8 and RT game, and in a fresh genre to boot! Mirrors of Albion is a free to play hidden object game. Taking place within a fantasy version of Victorian England, players investigate a series of mysterious disappearances. This involves lots of traveling to new locations and searching for hidden objects. If you like hidden object games, you'll probably dig it. Stay with us to check out our first impressions and hands on video!

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Earlier this week, Microsoft releases a firmware update for the Surface Pro 3. The update was to enable a forthcoming app that would let users calibrate and customize the unique pen for Microsoft's latest tablet hybrid. Tonight, that app is now live in the Store.

Named Surface Hub, the app looks to be only for Surface Pro 3 owners, although anyone can install it on a Windows 8 machine. However, non-Surface owners are greeted with a 'coming soon' screen, as obviously this week's new firmware is what 'activates' it for the right equipment.

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Gameloft is certainly committed to the Windows and Windows Phone ecosystem, as the publishing house has released numerous games for both platforms over the last few months. Today, this continues with Cars: Fast as Lightning, based off the hit Pixar movie Cars 2 (2011).

Cars: Fast as Lightning is being simultaneously released on the App Store, Google Play, and Windows. As of now, we do not see a Windows Phone version, though it may pop up later.

The game weighs in at 104 MB, is free, and it runs on RT devices as well as x86/x64 Windows 8.1 machines. We did run into a few hiccups running the Windows 10 preview, but our Surface 2 ran the game just fine, albeit with slightly more choppiness.

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ReddHub is one of our favorite Reddit apps for Windows 8.1 It just kicks ass when we use it on something like our Surface 2. But we also like using it on any regular Windows 8.1 machine, especially with touch. A few months ago the app went to version 2.0 and picked up some major new features along with a redesign. Today the app received another sweet update that adds a ton of cool stuff like multireddit support and an improved WYSWIG editor.

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Early this summer, a big batch of Xbox Windows Phone and Windows 8 games disappeared from the Store and into the ether. Some of these games would return without their Xbox features, we reported, while others would stay gone for good. One of those delisted titles was Carcassonne, a strategic board game from German developer Exozet games. This week, it finally returned to Windows Phone.

Formerly a Windows Phone 7 title, Carcassonne has been upgraded to Windows Phone 8 status. The new version looks better and plays faster than ever. It has a new cross-platform online multiplayer mode that should make playing with friends easier than before. And even better, Carcassonne supports universal purchases. Buy it once and get the Windows Phone and Windows 8 and RT versions. Read on to find out how the game plays and what changes the Remastered version brings!

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The VLC team have finally released the Windows 8.1 update for their app, which should now be available through the Windows Store. Version 0.1.0 marks the second major release of the popular media suite, but remains in active beta. While the team behind the app are very much still working on new features and squashing known bugs, it's a far more stable experience compared to previous versions.

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Dream Arcade is a neat little 2D platformer for Windows 8.1 that's on sale for $0.99 for the next two weeks! The game features 27 unique and challenging levels that are beautifully hand-drawn. Dream Arcade pits players on a journey through time-hunting for clues, traversing landscapes, and discovering new environments. The game also features touch controls as well as the ability to use a game pad.

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Last night the suite of previously known 'Bing apps' on Windows Phone received the anticipated rebrand, bringing back the old MSN moniker instead. All the apps on Windows Phone managed to get the update, although only one Windows 8.1 app – Bing Finance – had its name changed to MSN Money. Tonight, the rest of the apps are now refreshed.

Assuming you have said Bing apps installed, if you head to Settings and check for App Updates in the Store, you will likely see all of them with pending new versions of all the apps. From MSN Weather to MSN News to MSN Health & Fitness, the apps now feature MSN instead of Bing near the top.

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If you don't like scary movies, this game is probably not for you. Knock-Knock (knock.ice-pick.com) started from Kickstarter, and then made its way to desktop and mobile devices. You play as an insomniac Lodger that basically needs to survive until the sun comes out. I have to admit that I've turned off my phone several times while playing this game.

Take a look at the official trailer to give you a good idea of what to expect.

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It has been some time since we reported on an update to Xbox Music for Windows. While the Windows Phone version has had ten updates in the last few months, interestingly the Windows version was last updated in April. Today this changes as it, and the recently revamped Xbox Video app, picked up two small updates today.

First up, let us talk about Xbox Music, which has the most attractive of the two changelogs. Microsoft has been getting very good with these changelogs as the app even gives you a swanky toast notification when you re-launch it after the update, telling you what is new. Well done!

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Clash of Clans-style games are all the rage on mobile these days. In the last couple of weeks we've seen Age of Empires: Castle Siege and Star Wars: Commander arrive on both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 and RT. Both games have the obvious appeal of their franchises behind them, but for my money Cloud Raiders from Game Insight has long been the Windows Phone Clash-like to beat.

One of Cloud Raiders' big draws is its truly cross-platform cloud save and multiplayer support. You can start playing on Windows Phone and pick up the same game on Android, iOS, or Facebook. Only one platform has been missing from that equation: Windows 8. Until now, that is. Cloud Raiders has finally arrived on Windows 8 and RT, and is fully compatible with the Windows Phone and other versions of the game. Read on to learn why you'll want to play Cloud Raiders on your tablet or PC.

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A few months ago, we told you that the Belgium-based cable TV operator, Telenet, was offering beta access for their Yelo TV app on Windows Phone. If you're one of their customers, you can now download the final and public version. It just been released as a universal Windows app, so you can also get it for your Windows PCs or tablets.

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Earlier in the summer, we compiled a two-part list of freshly-released indie games for Windows Phone. Microsoft had helped a number of independent developers create a fine batch of games. One of those games, Pop! Food Factory from Blacksmith Software, suffered from performance issues though. I liked the core game but felt it needed more time in the oven.

A few months later, Blacksmith has updated Pop! on both Windows Phone and Windows 8 and RT. With the technical issues mostly smoothed out and a few visual and UI improvements, Pop! has become a much better game. It's free and the Windows Phone version runs on 512 MB devices, so everybody can give this Pop a taste. Read on for our full review and fresh game play video.

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Back when Xbox games for Windows Phone were more of a thing, Gameloft published a free to play city building game called Ice Age Village. That particular genre is mostly worthless, but many of us suffered through it any way for the Achievements. I do mean suffered, because Ice Age Village is a buggy game and the Windows Phone version was never updated with bug fixes or new content.

One year later, Gameloft brings a sequel called Ice Age Adventures to Windows Phone and Windows 8 and RT. The new game is still technically a free to play city builder, but vastly improved production values (Hello, voice acting!) and several design changes make for a much more enjoyable experience. Will it hold gamers' attentions without Achievements, though? Yeah, if you can tolerate the IAP mechanics, you'll probably have a bit of fun with it.

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