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We mentioned a few weeks ago that Babaroga’s survival horror-themed board game, Zombies!!! (review) would soon be receiving its first PDLC expansion pack, known as ‘Zombies!!! 3.5: Not Dead Yet!’ As it turns out, the expansion has quietly slipped onto the Marketplace and won’t require a new title update. Finding it might prove a challenge though – you have to actually start a New Game and then select Expansion Packs from the top of the screen. While ‘Not Dead Yet!’ may not be easy to find, its price is fairly easy to swallow: 160 MS Points ($2), a bit lower than anticipated.

Head past the break for WPCentral’s exclusive detailed descriptions of the expansion’s contents, hands-on impressions, and Achievement tips.

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The first 'Not Dead yet!' image reveals the new Meat Cleaver item.

Babaroga’s been hard at work updating their mobile Xbox Live titles, as evidenced by the recent Minesweeper and Sudoku updates. Now Zombies!!! -  the developer’s only self-published Windows Phone game so far – has received a new update as well.

Zombies!!! version 1.2 release notes

  • Added a free ringtone (found under Options)

Free ringtones are always nice, but the really exciting news is what the next update will bring. The first Zombies!!! PDLC expansion pack should debut within the next month or so. ‘Zombies!!! 3.5: Not Dead Yet!’ adds 18 new cards, new animations, five new Achievements worth 50 GamerScore, and more. Yes, this officially makes Zombies!!! the first Windows Phone game to break the 200 GamerScore barrier.

All five new Achievements are worth 10 GamerScore each:

  • Blunt Force Trauma: Player unlocks this Achievement by killing 3 zombies while the card “No Guts. No Glory.” is in play.
  • It’s Me! Let Me In!: Player unlocks this Achievement by playing the “There You Are” card to move their pawn from an outdoor square into any building. Zombies update adds ringtones - PDLC with 50 GamerScore of Xbox Live Achievements on the way
  • Shop Smart: Player unlocks this Achievement by using the “Hey, I Got One of Those” card to gain a Shotgun.
  • Night Drive: Player unlocks this Achievement by playing the card “The Keys Are Still In It” while the card “Too…Tired…To…Run” is in play.
  • Fresh Meat: Player unlocks this Achievement by killing 50 zombies with the Meat Cleaver.

We don’t have pricing details for the expansion yet, but 240 Microsoft Points ($3) seems likely. More expansion packs are planned for the future, each of which can be toggled on or off after purchase.

Asynchronous multiplayer (announced in WPCentral’s developer interview last year) will not debut with the ‘Zombies!!! 3.5’ expansion, though it should come along in the next update. Will Carcassonne beat Zombies!!! to the punch as the first mobile Xbox Live game with online multiplayer? Only time will tell.

Zombies!!! is a faithful adaptation of the horror-themed board game of the same name. See our review for more details. The game costs $4.99 and there is a free trial. Pick it up here on the Marketplace.

Thanks to everyone who tipped us about the Achievements.

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A short while back, Babaroga updated their free, ad-supported Minesweeper and Sudoku Xbox Live games. At last we’ve got the details for both updates to share with you.

Minesweeper version 1.2 and Sudoku version 1.3 release notes

  • Added Fast App Switching support
  • Increased the maximum number of tokens players can earn to 110
  • Switched ads around based on user feedback
  • Minesweeper: Fixed a bug that stopped players from earning more time when resuming Speed games
  • Various bug fixes

Nothing major there, but Fast App Switching is always appreciated (especially if you’re cheating at Sudoku). The new token limit allows players to use powerups more freely, highlighting the unique powerup feature these games have while making the game a bit easier to boot. Gamers now have even less excuse not to earn each title’s 50 GamerScore of Achievements.

You can pick up Minesweeper here and Sudoku here on the Marketplace.

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For the longest time, microtransactions were prohibited in Windows Phone games. Microsoft’s Beards & Beaks dabbled in offering PDLC (premium downloadable content) last July. But no third party games offered PDLC until Gravity Guy’s January update. Before you can buy extra stuff for those games, you’ll first need to purchase the game itself. Bug Village, on the other hand, is the only freemium Xbox Live title so far. The game itself is completely free; developer Glu Mobile makes its profits from the title’s optional content purchases. While this style of game won’t be for everybody, you can color me excited for the potential of future freemium Live titles.

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Everyone expects a game like Bug Village to have lots of bugs in it – ants, bees, and whatnot. But when the Windows Phone version launched a few weeks ago, it was infested by a few software bugs, and nobody likes those. Thankfully Babaroga and Glu Mobile worked quickly to kill off the worst offenders.

Bug Village version 1.1 release notes:

  • When resuming the game via Fast App Switching, task timers now advance correctly
  • The ‘Air Freshener’ Achievement (Kill 100 stinkbugs) is now attainable
  • The ‘Ding!’ Achievement (Reach level 25) now unlocks at the correct time

Previously, players really couldn’t use the Fast App Switching feature since it paused the game’s timer. With the game’s tasks all revolving around passing of the clock, the last thing you wanted was for the timer to stop and halt your progress. Fast App Switching now works fine (though it did crash on me once), a chime signifying that the timer has advanced when resuming. As for the Achievements, several players have already unlocked the full 200 GamerScore since the patch went live - definitely a nice improvement.

The developers still plan on future updates that will add new content and further refinements... Hopefully that means those stinkbugs and ladybugs will get easier to tap! To learn more about Bug Village, check out WPCentral’s developer interview and premium content analysis.

Bug Village is a free game with optional paid DLC. Get it here on the Marketplace.

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Ever wonder how well the free Xbox Live games for Windows Phone do in the wild? Babaroga has provided us with some analytics for Shuffle Party, their shuffleboard/bowling game. Shuffle Party has been played over a million times so far, with an average of 20 minutes per play. Not too shabby!

Babaroga is actually responsible for three of the four free, ad-supported Xbox Live titles so far: Minesweeper, Sudoku, and Shuffle Party. The fourth such game, Breeze, came from Null City Software. All four games were produced by Kirby Leung at Microsoft. In similar territory, the most recent free Xbox Live title, Bug Village was ported by Babaroga for Glu Mobile. Rather than advertisements, it relies on PDLC for revenue.

Did you somehow miss out on Shuffle Party? Check out our review, and then grab the game here from the Marketplace.

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Bug Village – the first freemium Xbox Live game (smartphone or otherwise) – is now available. What’s a freemium game? That means everyone gets the full game for free. But the developers at Glu Mobile also offer some premium content (PDLC) for dedicated players to buy. The PDLC here (Coins) allows you to build special structures and/or speed up the time it takes your bug minions to complete tasks. It’s completely optional and you can earn the full 200 GamerScore without spending a dime, so no worries!

Bug Village is also the first city-building game on Windows Phone. As mentioned, you’ll be recruiting an army of hard-working insects and expanding your village as you see fit. With detailed 3D graphics and the aforementioned Achievements, Bug Village is a game every Windows Phone owner should try. See our developer interview for more details.

Aspiring entomologists/architects can find Bug Village here on the Marketplace.

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As the Windows Phone game library continues to grow, a few types of games remain conspicuously absent: role-playing games, first-person shooters, and freemium games. The first two are well-established genres (on other platforms), but the term freemium is a bit different. It’s not really a genre, but a business model. Freemium games are free to play but also have optional (or semi-optional) premium content for users to purchase. There hasn’t been a proper freemium Xbox 360 game yet, but they’re quite common on PC and iOS: Farmville, Smurf Village, and even many MMO games utilize the freemium business model.

Windows Phone kinda-sorta has a freemium game already: Haypi Kingdom. However, Microsoft shot down its in-game transaction model, forcing players to email the developer outside of the game in order to purchase coins. The neutering of Haypi Kingdom raised the question: when, if ever would the big MS officially allow games with microtransactions on Windows Phone? That’s surely the number one thing keeping Zynga away from the platform, after all.

The times they are a-changing, my friends. WPCentral is pleased to announce that a freemium game is officially coming to Windows Phone, and it’s an Xbox Live title to boot! That bleeding edge title is Bug Village, first announced back in August and from the fine folks at Glu Mobile (with porting duties handled by Babaroga). Bug Village really is an important title for the platform. Gamers might remember how Microsoft’s own Beards & Beaks included paid DLC, but the game itself costs money. Bug Village establishes the freemium model for the platform, making it more than a simple iOS port.

What kind of game is Bug Village? Why, it’s a city-building game, much like the aforementioned Smurf Village. The object is to build the biggest and best village with the help of your faithful insect army. Building things costs resources, of which there are two types: acorns and coins. While players can obtain acorns through normal gameplay, coins will cost real-world money. Bug Village has another goal on top of just building: to unlock Achievements! There are 200 GamerScore worth of Achievements to earn. We were previously told freemium games would be limited to 100 GamerScore, but Microsoft recently decided to allow all mobile games the full 200 regardless of business model.

We’ve just scratched the tip of the iceberg on Bug Village’s payment model and features. To find out more, check back next weekend for our Glu Mobile Xbox Live Developer Interview.

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Shuffle Party is the latest free Xbox Live game developed by Babaroga and published by Microsoft Studios. Unlike its predecessors Minesweeper and Sudoku, Shuffle Party even had the good manners to release simultaneously worldwide. Whereas the other two games are cerebral logic puzzlers with sizable learning curves, Babaroga’s latest offering is a far more accessible sports game. The sport? Why, shuffleboard and bowling, of course.

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Not long ago, WPCentral broke the news that Shuffle Party, a new game from Babaroga and Microsoft Studios, would be released as a free download in the US this week. As promised, Shuffle Party is now available on Xbox Live. Even better? It appears to be available outside of the US too!

Shuffle Party is a shuffleboard/bowling game. Players aim the puck with the touch screen and then send it flying down the lane. The game has several modes of play, with the overall goal of earning money to purchase items from the Pro Shop.

What we didn’t mention last week was Shuffle Party’s sweet Xbox Live Avatar support. Between shots, the camera cuts to your Avatar, showing how he or she reacts to the game. It gives the game a great personal touch – nobody will accuse this one of being too sterile.

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Shuffle Party is a free download and includes Achievements worth 50 GamerScore. We can confirm that the game is available in France as well as the US. Foreign readers, let us know if you’re able to grab it too. Here’s the download link.

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Remember Minesweeper and Sudoku, the free Xbox Live titles from Babaroga and Microsoft Studios? Soon they will be joined by Shuffle Party, another free game from the same developer and publisher team.

Shuffle Party is a shuffleboard game that players can enjoy even if they’re never been on a cruise ship. Microsoft’s Windows Phone team proposed the initial concept, with the folks at Babaroga developing and adding to the design.

MS and Babaroga’s latest collaboration boasts stylish 3D graphics set against a Chicago skyline (home of Babaroga’s main office) and realistic physics. The simple touch-screen controls allow players to shift the puck horizontally and set its angle before launching. Swipe forward and off it goes!

Shuffle Party has several ways to play:

  • Bowling: Slide a puck (called a biscuit in shuffleboard lingo) down the lane, picking up spares and strikes as the pins come tumbling down.
  • Challenge: Slide the pick around obstacles, collecting coins, and landing in the Goal Zone. Think Fable Coin Golf, but more realistic.
  • Shuffleboard: The traditional vacationers’ game. Send the biscuit down the lane into a triangular scoring zone, with some spots offering more points than others. Sort of like a combination of darts and air hockey.
  • Pass n Play: Local multiplayer built around the main shuffleboard game (not bowling). Not only do you try to land in goals, you get the satisfaction of knocking your friends’ pucks off the table – and vice versa.

Money earned in the various game modes can be spent in the Pro Shop, tying the whole experience together. The shop sells unique pucks, pins, and frames. Naturally, buying every single item nets you an Achievement.

Speaking of which, Shuffle Party includes 50 GamerScore worth of Achievements, just like its two free predecessors. And like those games, banner advertisements run across the top of the screen during gameplay. There won't be any waiting through ads between menus or anything obtrusive like that, thankfully.

Shuffle Party comes to Xbox Live in the US on Wednesday, November 30 – the same day Ghostscape is scheduled to emerge. It will require the Windows Phone Mango update. No word on release dates outside of the US, but it will come to other regions eventually.

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We’ve interviewed Xbox Live developer Babaroga in the past, and today we look at the studio in more depth. Zombies!!! is the developer’s best-known Windows Phone title, but Babaroga has actually worked on more than 9 Xbox Live games, including Minesweeper and Sudoku. Both tiles are published by Microsoft and available for free in multiple territories. History Babaroga opened its doors in Chicago in 2001. From day one they focused specifically on mobile phone games development, making dozens of games prior to the proliferation of smartphones. That experience made it easy for them to migrate to more powerful devices as they debuted, including Windows Phone in 2010.  To date they have released over 50 titles, including the previously mentioned Xbox Live games as well as Spore Origins and EA Sports MMA, both published by Electronic Arts on iPhone. Expanding for the future Babaroga recognizes the tremendous opportunities that Microsoft platforms bring to game developers. As such, they now focus primarily on Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox Live Arcade development. The strategy has paid off so far; their Xbox Live titles have enjoyed praise from critics like yours truly and fans alike. After more than ten years of crafting mobile games, Babaroga has recently opened a new studio in London, just a stone’s throw away from WPCentral’s own Richard Edmonds. Spearheading the European office is David Bachowski, VP of Business Development. The  London team is currently looking for programmers and 3D artists who share excitement and passion for Windows Phone and mobile gaming as a whole. Interested parties should contact Babaroga by email. Don’t forget to let us know how it goes!

We’ve interviewed Xbox Live developer Babaroga in the past, and today we look at the studio in more depth. Zombies!!! may be the developer’s best-known Windows Phone title, but Babaroga has actually worked on more than 9 Xbox Live games, including Minesweeper and Sudoku. Both tiles are published by Microsoft and available for free in multiple territories.

History

Babaroga opened its doors in Chicago in 2001. From day one they focused specifically on mobile phone games development, making dozens of games prior to the proliferation of smartphones. That experience made it easy for them to migrate to more powerful devices as they debuted, including Windows Phone in 2010.  To date they have released over 50 titles, including the previously mentioned Xbox Live games as well as Spore Origins and EA Sports MMA, both published by Electronic Arts on iPhone.

Expanding for the future

The London office of Babaroga LTD

Babaroga recognizes the tremendous opportunities that Microsoft platforms bring to game developers. As such, they now focus primarily on Windows Phone, Windows 8, and Xbox Live Arcade development. The strategy has paid off so far; their Xbox Live titles have enjoyed praise from critics like yours truly and fans alike.

After more than ten years of crafting mobile games, Babaroga has recently opened a new studio in London, just a stone’s throw away from WPCentral’s own Richard Edmonds. Spearheading the European office is David Bachowski, VP of Business Development. The  London team is currently looking for programmers and 3D artists who share excitement and passion for Windows Phone and mobile gaming as a whole. Interested parties should contact Babaroga by email. Don’t forget to let us know how it goes!

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Babaroga’s Minesweeper and Sudoku both launched on August 10. Both are free, ad-supported Xbox Live titles that sport a sleek Metro look. The only problem with the August launch is that it applied to the US only. Minesweeper came to other territories a short while later on August 23, but Sudoku has been MIA in those places – until now. Sudoku is finally available outside of the US! (Note: it may take a few hours before it shows up on your Marketplace.)

Sudoku is a logic puzzle game in which players must fill in each square of a 9 x 9 grid with the appropriate numbers. While sudoku is traditionally a pen and pencil game, Babaroga’s version adds a nice leveling system and powerups to the mix. It also includes a unique and challenging Lightning Mode with a timer and combo system, should regular sudoku not be exciting enough for you. For more details, check out our full review.

Remember, Sudoku is free and has 50 GamerScore worth of Achievements, so you have no excuse not to download it. Pick it up here from the Marketplace.

Thanks, DarkSynopsis, for the heads up!

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Minesweeper - Review

Minesweeper as we know it was created in 1990 and has been bundled with every new version of Windows since 1992. The mobile Xbox Live version, developed by Babaroga and published by Microsoft, is one of the first two free ad-supported games for Xbox Live and the first to be available in regions outside of North America. This game shares much in common with its fellow free game Sudoku, though the actual gameplay is completely different, with a much higher learning curve. Get past that and you’ll find an enjoyable logic puzzle game.

Step carefully over the mines and past the break for our full review.

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Babaroga’s Zombies!!! (review) is a very cool survival horror-themed board game for Xbox Live.  The only thing I didn’t like about it was a nasty Broken Achievement that almost nobody could get. I’ve got good news and bad news then for my fellow Zombies!!! owners. The good news: an update that fixes the ‘Was it Worth it?’ Achievement is finally available. The bad news? It’s a Mango-only update.

Here are the full release notes for the first Zombies!!! Mango update:

  • Added Fast-App-Switching support
  • Fixed bugs that have been reported since the initial release
  • Reduced difficulty of “some” achievements :-)

While some Xbox Live titles have seen increasd frame rates with their Mango updates, the graphics in Zombies!!! remain the same. It looked great to begin with. More importantly, Babaroga listened to their fans and reduced the frustration of that infamous Achievement.

When WPCentral interviewed Babaroga over the summer, they promised asynchronous (turn-based, over the internet) multiplayer and paid downloadable content in a Mango update. Those features are still coming to Zombies!!!, but they’re not ready just yet. We’ll keep you posted on the next update’s progress.

For now, Zombies!!! players who are running Mango can commence to unlocking ‘Was it Worth it?’, while the rest of us have another reason to hope that Mango rolls out as soon as possible. Don’t have the game? It costs $4.99 and you can find it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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When Microsoft published their free Xbox Live version of Minesweeper in August, we were all happy to get a free game. However, we noticed something was up with it. Namely, there were so many mines that you couldn’t solve the puzzles properly! Minesweeper’s supposed to be challenging, but not like that. I resolved to stop playing it until an update came out.

Thankfully, Microsoft and developer Babaroga took notice of these problems as well. Today they issued an update corrects the difficulty issues, but it’s not a traditional update. Minesweeper’s control data is stored as an XML file on a Microsoft server. This allows the developers to make adjustments to the game without the need for a patch. When gamers launch the game while connected to the internet, it checks for the updated XML file and updates accordingly.

Today’s Minesweeper changes include:

Classic mode

  • Intermediate:
    Mines reduced from 36 to 24
    Experience reward increased from 150 to 200
  • Advanced:
    Mines reduced from 76 to 60
    Experience increased from 250 to 300

Speed mode

  • Beginner:
    Mines reduced from 15 to 12
    Experience increased from 150 to 200
  • Intermediate:
    Mines reduced from 40 to 24
    Experience increased from 200 to 300
  • Advanced:
    Experience increased from 300 to 400

To update your game, launch the game while connected to the internet. You may need to load up the Leaderboards and/or restart the game for the changes to take effect. You’ll know it worked when the mines listed on the difficulty selection pages match the new values.

It’s amazing what a difference a few less mines can make. Previously, it took me over 100 tries to complete an Intermediate puzzle. Post-update, I finished one on my first try. This dramatically improves the game and makes the Achievements much easier too. Look forward to our full review soon.

Minesweeper is free on Xbox Live. Get it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Sudoku - Review

Sudoku, which comes from developer Babaroga and publisher Microsoft, is one of the first two free ad-supported games for Xbox Live. It’s currently available in the US only, though it will likely debut in lands afar eventually as well. There are a ton of different sudoku games on Windows Phone already. This version is certainly not definitive, but it’s a pretty good way to get some free Achievements.

Head past the break for our full review.

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When Minesweeper and Sudoku, two free Xbox Live games developed by Babaroga and published by Microsoft, were released only in the US a few weeks ago, our foreign readers were understandably displeased. We speculated that it might have been because of the games’ reliance on in-game advertisements, which may not have been cleared for other markets yet.

Good news then, as Minesweeper is coming to foreign markets on Wednesday. Well, sort of good news. Minesweeper is actually pretty busted on the highest two difficulties, filling levels with so many mines that they’re impossible to clear without repeated use of the EMP powerup. Babaroga tells us this may be fixed in the future, but for now it seriously hampers the fun.

Minesweeper can be downloaded here (Zune link). No news yet about when Sudoku will be released outside of the US, but we’ll keep you posted. We’ll have reviews of both games very soon.

Thanks to Professeur Thibault for the tip!

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Tired of playing Flowerz, penniless Windows Phone Xbox Live gamers? Then today’s your day! Minesweeper and Sudoku are both on the marketplace costing nothing at all.

Minesweeper and its kid brother/dance partner Sudoku are the games many of us know and love, but they do include some fancy new additions to get the cerebral juices flowing. There’s the snazzy/maybe a little plain Metro UI design, a leveling system, and powerups that can ease the pain of challenging levels. To learn more about the powerup system and future plans for these titles, check out our mini-interview with Babaroga, the developer. Both games are free and ad supported, so their Achievements are only worth 50 GamerScore a piece - 150 less than a standard Xbox Live title. But hey, free GamerScore is free GamerScore, so let’s not get bogged down with numbers.

Logic puzzle loving gamers can find Minesweeper here (Zune link) and Sudoku here on the Marketplace.

Update: Games only available in the U.S. as of now, may show up in other regions later. Maybe not.

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Minesweeper and Sudoku Mini-Interview

At WPCentral, we’re big fans of Babaroga, makers of the unique Xbox Live game Zombies!!! Last week we revealed that Babaroga’s Minesweeper and Sudoku are both coming to Xbox Live as free, ad-supported games. Naturally the Windows Phone gaming community has a ton of interest in these two titles. So today we bring you this mini-interview with Andreja Djokovic, Babaroga CEO and Founder that delves deeper into their twists on two classic games.

Head past the break for the full interview.

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