freemium

Slowly but surely, the upcoming Windows Phone 8 games we previewed from Casual Connect a few months ago have started to appear on the Store. First came Babel Rising 3D, then Yeti on Furry (awful name!) and Nightmares from the Deep: the Siren’s Call. Now Puzzle Retreat, the first game we covered from the show, has finally become available on Windows Phone 8.

Puzzle Retreat (from Australian developer Voxel Agents) is quite clearly a puzzle game. Windows Phone owners can enjoy the first 60 levels for free, and then opt to purchase additional level packs if they like. The developers took great pains to ensure Puzzle Retreat runs on devices with 512 MB of RAM, so everyone rocking a Windows Phone 8 device can play it.

We’ve got impressions, hands on video, and new behind the scenes info from the developer – all after the break!

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Windows Phone 8 got its first proper taste of Xbox-enabled freemium games when Gameloft’s Real Soccer 2013 debuted earlier this year. But that game reached for players’ wallets so deeply and so often that we could barely enjoy it. Now Gameloft gives us another freemium game, the social city builder Ice Age Village. Don’t let Real Soccer 2013 or Glu Mobile’s Bug Village sour your feelings toward this one; it is less buggy than its genre predecessor and even players who choose not to spend any real currency can have a good time.

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Ice Age Village from Gameloft is a free Xbox city building game for Windows Phone 8. As far as we know, any Windows Phone 8 device can run it and the game only takes up 79 MB of storage, so it should have a sizable player base already.

The city building genre is a time consuming one since many tasks involve returning to the game at a later time or date to reap their rewards.  Wouldn’t it be nice to speed up the process a bit and get your village making money faster right off the bat? Darn right it would.

Windows Phone Central has a bunch of codes for free Coins, animals, and items, plus a handy Achievement guide. Don’t spend a single Acorn until you’ve read it!

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We’ve just settled in with two strong Nokia exclusive Windows Phone releases this week, but avid gamers and non-Nokia owners are already hungry for more. Hey! Why don’t you go order a pizza from your Xbox 360 if you’re so hungry?

Well, assuming we’ve all had a nice lunch/dinner/second breakfast, it’s time for a new Xbox game from our good friends at Gameloft. This week’s release is Ice Age Village, one of the more casual-friendly titles that Gameloft announced for Windows Phone 8 last year. Whether or not the theme appeals to you, Ice Age Village happens to be free-to-play, so we all might as well put down our vegetable peelers and give it a try.

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The first Real Soccer for Windows Phone was less than an exemplary game. Announced back in 2010 as a launch title, it didn’t show up until well into 2012. The Real Soccer we eventually got falsely advertised the inclusion of two modes (‘Enter the Legend’ and ‘Club Master’) that weren’t even in the game. And one of the Achievements (‘Man of the Match’) was tied to the absent Enter the Legend mode, making it impossible to unlock – by design! Gameloft’s otherwise solid Windows Phone port of Let’s Golf 2 also suffered from an impossible-by-design Achievement.

Yes, Gameloft and the Xbox Live certification team were awfully negligent in those days. We brought these issues up to Microsoft, but neither game was ever fixed and Real Soccer still has the same blatantly incorrect store description it launched with.

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We dished out praises like crazy to the original Full House Poker game for Windows Phone. It was the first Windows Phone 7 game to have proper avatar support and is still the only one, really. A picture of the user’s avatar on their stats screen like AlphaJax and Wordament have doesn’t really count; users want to play games as their avatars.

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Gun Bros Review: Battling bad guys and a buggy port

Seeing as how we haven’t had a new Xbox Windows Phone game to review in a while, it’s time to set our critical eyes on older releases that haven’t been reviewed yet. Sometimes we miss a game because it’s too terrible to endure (Babel Rising 3D), but on other occasions your favorite game reviewer has just been too tied up to review every single release.

With Gun Bros 2 due to hit iOS sometime soon, I’ve been inspired to put the original Gun Bros for Windows Phone through its paces. Is Gun Bros really one of the worst Xbox games on Windows Phone or just woefully misunderstood? Read on for our final verdict!

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It’s a bit late in coming, but at last we have an official wrap-up of our time spent at Casual Connect Seattle this year. Unlike the Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3), which is a console-focused event, Casual Connect centers around casual games – a ‘genre’ or subset found mostly on smartphones, tablets, and PCs.  As such, we ventured forth in hopes of scoring some juicy Windows Phone games coverage as well as gauging the casual gaming industry’s feelings towards Microsoft’s smartphone platform in general.

Head past the break to see what we learned, plus links to all of our exclusive Casual Connect coverage!

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Freemium Xbox Live games have gotten off to a rocky start on Windows Phone. Bug Village is sort of ho-hum and Glu’s two follow-up titles Gun Bros and Contract Killer sadly released in extremely buggy states. Hopefully the low quality and/or bugginess of those three games hasn’t completely soured our audience from the freemium business model... After all, iOS and the PC overflow with high quality free-to-play games.

The reason I’m talking up the freemium model is because Microsoft has finally started allowing free-to-play games to come to Xbox 360. Several such titles are in the works (including one extremely promising action-RPG that I can’t name just yet), but the first will be an online multiplayer-oriented XBLA title called Happy Wars from Japanese developer ToyLogic.

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Ready to shoot some thugs, Windows Phone gamers? As we promised yesterday, Contract Killer from Glu Mobile is now on the Marketplace.

Contract Killer allows players to take on the ruthless world of corporate business, making deals with unsuspecting investors only to leave them high and dry at the last minute. Wait, wrong kind of contract! Actually, you play as a hitman in this game. Missions involve sniping one or more targets from a first-person perspective. But watch out – they shoot back.

Assassin's Guild

Like Glu’s recently-released Gun Bros, Contract Killer boasts some compelling social features. The folks on your Xbox Live friends list who play Contract Killer are automatically added to your Assassin’s Guild. The more members of your guild complete optional objectives (like getting 10 headshots in a row without missing), the more rewards everyone gets. Rounding out the co-op options, players can send gifts of Medkits, Sodas, and Reactix to each other.

On the competitive side, the Target Friend mode allows you and your friends to shoot each other (asynchronously). I wasn’t able to eliminate any of my friends as they haven’t downloaded the game yet, but it sounds like a cool feature. What will the rewards for Target Friends missions be?

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Ready for another freemium Xbox Live game this week? Good news then, because Glu Mobile’s Contract Killer launches this Wednesday (if not a few hours early). Today, we exclusively debut the Windows Phone version’s trailer.

Contract Killer is a first-person sniping game in which the titular assassin takes on secret missions for a variety of clients.  He’ll choose from dozens of sniper rifles, machine guns, and other NRA favorites in order to dispatch his foes. Each mission comes to life in a realistic 3D environment populated by multiple people. Find the right target, swipe to aim your gun, steadying it if necessary, and press Fire to ruin the bad guy’s day.

Each mission costs a certain amount of energy to take on. Energy restores over time, but you can also purchase snacks with Microsoft Points and get right back in the action. As with Gun Bros and Bug Village, the PDLC here is completely optional and just lets you get through the game quicker. Just buy something if you like the game, or spend nothing if you don’t.

Contract Killer will hit the Marketplace on Wednesday, July 18. Like Gun Bros, it’s free and includes 200 GamerScore worth of Achievements.

That brings us to the elephant in the room… Last week, Glu Mobile’s twin-stick shooter Gun Bros got off to a rocky start. The game is plagued by excessive load times, network issues, and other bugs. It’s a shame because if you look past these problems, Gun Bros is actually quite addictive and has some great social features.

Glu is definitely aware of these issues with the game. They’re working with Microsoft to resolve them with an update as soon as possible. A small number of players have also reported items disappearing from their inventories. Thankfully Gun Bros items can be restored regardless of the update’s arrival. Just submit a ticket at Glu’s customer support website and they’ll take care of you.

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Who’s the best at finding out Xbox Live releases ahead of time? Why, Windows Phone Central, of course! We’ve got the exclusive first word of tomorrow’s new Live title... Gun Bros, which we first announced back in April, launches this Wednesday.

Gun Bros is a top-down twin-stick shooter, not unlike Zombies on the Phone. But instead of a horror theme, this one’s pure sci-fi, with much more content to boot. Players choose from one of two titular bruddas, outfit them with a bevy of high-tech weapons and armor, and then descend onto several contested planets and start filling their alien invaders full of lasers. Don’t worry; I hear the aliens always drink the last of the milk and then leave the jug in the refrigerator instead of throwing it away. Such atrocities will not go unpunished!

Our hands on with Gun Bros back at E3 in June

To see Gun Bros in action and learn more about its optional PDLC purchases, check out our E3 2012 impressions with video. We do it all for you, loyal readers!

Gun Bros from Glu Mobile will debut on Wednesday, July 11 for the low price of free.

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One thing we can all agree on is the need for more mobile Xbox Live games that let us shoot things. Thankfully Glu Mobile is on the case. The noted freemium publisher will follow up Gun Bros on Windows Phone with a more realistic shooting game: Contract Killer. We had the pleasure of demoing it at E3 2012 today and came away impressed.

Contract Killer places players in control of a mafia sniper. From the map screen hub you’ll choose from a variety of missions or visit the shop. The actual missions come to life via detailed 3D graphics. Aiming at your unknowing targets is as simple as swiping the screen in the desired direction. Once you have them lined up, fire and ruin your enemies’ day!

Each mission costs a certain amount of energy to take on. Energy restores over time, but you can also purchase snacks with Microsoft Points and get right back in the action. As with Glu Mobile’s other freemium titles, the PDLC is completely optional and simply a way to get through the game quicker while showing your support for the developers. Programmers gotta eat!

Contract Killer has no official release date yet, but we expect it arrive later this summer. Windows Phone Central will have first word of the launch date, so make sure you check back frequently! If you’d like to try Contract Killer out now on PC, jot on over here with the Google Chrome browser.

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Who says you can’t find mobile games at E3? A few days ago, Windows Phone Central met with Mike DeLaet and Jason Enriquez of Glu Mobile to discuss their upcoming mobile Xbox Live games. The first title they demonstrated for us is Gun Bros, which we revealed in April.

Gun Bros is a top-down twin-stick shooter somewhat reminiscent of arcade classic Smash TV. Players choose from one of two titular brahs, outfit them with an arsenal of high-tech weapons and armor, and then fly to one of several planets and start filling hostile aliens full of equally hostile ordinance. Don’t worry; the aliens are actually big jerks and they totally have it coming.

By completing missions you’ll earn both XP and Xplodium, a rare mineral. XP leads to leveling up, opening access to better equipment. Xplodium can be processed and used to purchase said equipment and items. Of course, Gun Bros is a freemium title and players can purchase even shinier guns and things with Microsoft Points. You won’t have to purchase credits to enjoy the game though.

Gun Bros has passed certification and should launch very soon. We highly recommend trying the PC version for free right now using Google’s Chrome browser – after a few minutes you’ll see why we’re dying to play it more on the go.

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Yesterday WPCentral promised to reveal two upcoming Xbox Live games from Glu Mobile, the first of which is Contract Killer. Today we follow up with the announcement of a second, even more exciting Glu title: Gun Bros.

Gun Bros (pronounced ‘bros,’ not ‘brothers') is a twin-stick overhead shooter. Players control either of the two beefy siblings as they fight to stop the evil organization known as T.O.O.L. (no relation to the band, whose concert was the first I ever attended) from stealing the galaxy’s valuable Xplodium resources. The plot is basically an excuse to head from planet to planet, taking on missions of various difficulties, killing tons of unfriendly aliens, and collecting as much Xplodium as you can.

Between missions, the Gun Bros can process their Xplodium to turn it into gold. Better processing methods unlock as you go along. Gold is then used to buy new weapons and armor pieces. The character customization element adds a nice degree of depth and helps the heroes survive against more challenging foes.

Gun Bros’ freemium element comes from its second currency, War Bucks. These are an optional PDLC purchase that let you buy premium equipment (much like the coins in Bug Village).Premium items are much better than regular ones, making progression faster and easier. Gun Bros is an action game though, and you can play it as much as you want (no time constraints here) without buying War Bucks.

Another way to stay ahead of the alien hordes is by forming a Brotherhood, Gun Bros’ multiplayer-esque feature. Brotherhood members can recruit each other’s characters, who will then fight alongside them as AI companions. Experience gained by AI players transfers over to their owners, so friends can help each other out even without actual simultaneous multiplayer. Think of it like joining a friend’s game in Crackdown: Project Sunburst, only there’s actually a point in this game.

Gun Bros should arrive around the same time as Contract Killer – in May or the summer months. Both games will feature 200 GamerScore. Like yesterday’s announced game, you can try the PC version of Gun Bros for free right now using Google’s Chrome browser. It’s actually pretty fun and addictive, so why not give it a shot, bro? WPCentral will have more details to share about both newly-announced Glu Mobile titles soon!

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Last year WPCentral broke the news that Glu Mobile would be releasing the first freemium Xbox Live game on Windows Phone (Bug Village). We even interviewed them about all the particulars. Now we’re back with the exclusive announcement of two more Glu Mobile freemium titles coming to Windows Phone. The first of those games is Contract Killer.

In Contract Killer, you’re a sniper who takes on jobs for the mob and other tough customers. Each mission requires you to take out one or more targets as they walk around unaware. You simply aim at the target, zoom in the scope, steady your breath if necessary, and shoot to kill (or capture with tranquilizer darts).  Watch out though, because the enemies will shoot back if you miss or they see one of their friends go down.

Between missions, players can purchase ammo and new weapons with the money they’ve earned. Taking on missions depletes your energy, which refills over time. Thus you can only play a certain amount before taking a break, not unlike Bug Village. Optionally, players may choose to purchase credits using Microsoft Points. These can then be spent on better gear or food to refill energy. Contract Killer should go over well with the Mafia Wars crowd since they share a similar structure, but even non-Facebook gamers should enjoy this one’s sniping action and detailed 3D graphics.

Contract Killer will arrive in May or a short time thereafter. If you’d like to try it out now on PC, head over here with the Google Chrome browser. Check back tomorrow when we’ll reveal another upcoming Glu game!

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Windows Phone Xbox Live Review: Bug Village

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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Now that Bug Village has launched, we can finally examine the freemium game’s PDLC in detail. The vast majority of the game’s PDLC is associated with coins, though players can also buy acorns if they prefer not to wait for the in-game harvesting process. Everyone receives 10 free coins upon starting the game. Unfortunately, the tutorial strong-arms you into using one or two coins unless you’re content to leave the game running while the first house and piles are built. Thus most players will end up with 8 coins to spend once the tutorial ends.

Coins are good for two things: speeding up tasks and buying premium items. See, tasks like building houses and farming resources take time to complete. The times start at 15 minutes and stretch into the hours from there; thankfully players are usually given a choice of three different lengths of time when harvesting items. The longer you harvest, the more Acorns and XP you’ll earn. But if you’d like to skip out on the waiting and instantly complete a building or task, it will cost one more coins, depending on the time involved.

As for premium items, they include buildings, decorations, food, piles, and flowers. All of these things look different from the non-premium versions, and some offer greater benefits. For instance, premium buildings produce extra insects compared to regular buildings, which would have to be upgraded in order to achieve the same effect. Premium decorations are purely aesthetic, though they do contribute toward the Achievement for placing 50 decorations. Premium piles and flowers produce greater rewards than low-end versions, but are surpassed by high end flowers and acorns. Premium piles and flowers have much lower level requirements though, so they may be worth buying early on in the game (especially the Wonder Crocus).

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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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WPCentral revealed that month that Bug Village would be the first freemium Xbox Live game. Then we took it a step further and revealed the full details of the game’s microtransaction system in our interview with Glu Mobile. The time for previews now comes to an end, as Bug Village officially arrives this Wednesday.

Bug Village is a city-building game. 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, and you won’t even need to purchase PDLC in order earn them. It’ll just take a bit more time.

Bug Village launches Wednesday, January 11. As a freemium game, it costs nothing to download and play – you’ll just have the option of buying DLC. We’ll let you know as soon as it hits the Marketplace.

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