Universal game purchases have long been one of the most requested features from avid Windows Phone gamers, right behind SD card support (at last!) and more Xbox games (no luck yet). Already popular on iOS, the universal app concept allows users to buy a game or app once and then play it on both Windows Phone and Windows 8 and RT.
Yesterday Microsoft and 343’s Halo: Spartan Assault officially became the first universal app on Windows Phone and Windows 8. It turns out that several more Windows Phone/Windows 8 Xbox games also went universal alongside Halo. Most are technically free and thus the universal label is more symbolic than anything. But another paid game is now universal as well: Skulls of the Shogun from 17-BIT. Head past the break for more details and word on which mobile Xbox games still need to go universal!
Skulls of the Shogun
Skulls originally launched on Windows Phone, Windows 8/RT, and Xbox 360 as three separate purchases. Gamers who wanted to play it on all three platforms had to shell out a whopping $30 in total for the privilege. The price of each version dropped over time however, with the total cost of all three versions ringing up at $20 just prior to yesterday’s universal app switch.
Great as the universal app concept is for consumers, it’s still not supported by the Xbox 360 and Xbox One ecosystems. Thus buying the universal version of Skulls of the Shogun only gets you the Windows Phone and Windows 8/RT game, not the Xbox 360 version. Nor does a purchase of Spartan Assault on phone and tablet include access to that game’s Xbox 360 and Xbox One versions. Still, the switch to universal app status for Skulls means players can buy the mobile version and the 360 one for $15 total now, assuming they want that console access.
Skulls of the Shogun is a turn-based strategy game set in a fantasy version of medieval Japan. The story-base single-player campaign spans 20 stages and offers multiple difficulty levels. The campaign’s writing is some of the best you’ll find in a strategy title, mobile or otherwise. Expect plenty of twists and humor in the tale of an undead general’s journey to find his own killer.
Strategy games usually excel in multiplayer though, and Skulls is no different. All three versions support asynchronous competitive multiplayer in the “Skulls Anywhere” mode. Even better, Windows Phone, 8/RT, and Xbox 360 can all play against each other! Skulls Anywhere games support up to four players and are tons of fun… But it’s too easy to forget when you have a turn due to the phone game’s lack of Live tile support.
Check out our full review for lots more Skulls of the Shogun gameplay and cross-platform details!
Get the game
Implementation of universal app purchases in the Windows ecosystem is still awkward at the moment. According to reader reports, users must be running Windows Phone 8.1 and then purchase the Windows 8 version of the game first. After that, you should be able to download the phone game from your Windows Phone 8.1 device without having to repurchase it. Hopefully the Windows 8 Store gets updated soon to allow purchases in the reverse order as well!
- Skulls of the Shogun – Windows Phone 7 and 8 – 57 MB – $4.99 (universal) – Store Link
- Skulls of the Shogun – Windows 8 and RT – 136 MB – $4.99 (universal) – Store Link
- Skulls of the Shogun – Xbox 360 – 207 MB – $4.99 (not universal) – Xbox.com Store Link
More universal games and games that should be
Along with Halo: Spartan Assault and Skulls of the Shogun, a few other Microsoft-published Xbox Windows Phone/Windows 8 games are now universal apps as well. You can identify a universal app by the “Made for Windows Phones and Windows PCs” text displayed on its Store page.
- Microsoft Mahjong
- Microsoft Minesweeper
- Microsoft Solitaire Collection
Several more Xbox games could benefit from the universal app treatment. Here are a few we’d like to see:
- AlphaJax (free already)
- Angry Birds series
- Asphalt 7
- Babel Rising 3D
- Bejeweled Live
- Cut the Rope
- FIFA 14
- Fruit Ninja
- iStunt 2
- Jetpack Joyride
- Kingdoms & Lords (free already)
- Monster Island
- Rabbids Big Bang
- Rayman Jungle Run
- Rayman Fiesta Run
- Shark Dash
- Shuffle Party (free already)
- Six-Guns (free already)
- Throne Together (free already)
- UNO & Friends (free already)
The switch from two separate purchases to universal status would require action from those games’ various publishers: Electronic Arts, Gameloft, Halfbrick, Miniclip, Rovio, Ubisoft, and (in a few cases) Microsoft. I doubt most of them will choose to change payment models, but you never know!
Note that poor Galactic Reign was conceived as a universal game prior to its delisting. Players could purchase one version and play the other. But the Windows Stores didn’t recognize it as a universal purchase, and you couldn’t earn Achievements in the version you didn’t know. But now Galactic Reign is gone, a failed experiment from some tiny part of Microsoft Studios that was truly ahead of its time.