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The first Gravity Guy starred a hero wrongfully imprisoned by his evil government for manipulating gravity. He broke out of prison, only to be endlessly pursued by a heartless Gravity Trooper. At the end of the game, Gravity Guy escapes to his freedom.

Gravity Guy 2 disappoints ever so slightly by comparison because all pretense of story is gone. Players control a now-helmetless Gravity Guy, but the cut scene bookends and evil pursuer have vanished. The store description says Guy has been captured and cloned (Miniclip also published this webpage to expand on the premise), but that doesn’t spill over into the game itself.

In fact, the first game’s story mode and local multiplayer are MIA as well. An endless runner doesn’t need these things to keep players entertained, but the lack of context and modes still represents a small step back in an otherwise much improved game. Still! Forget the missing bits, this one really is much better.

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Electronic Arts’ UK-based Chillingo label has been a terrific supporter of the Windows Phone platform. They’re primarily known for their puzzle games – including Cut the Rope, which remains conspicuously absent from WP7. Chillingo makes other kinds of games too, such as Extraction: Project Outbreak. It looks like an action game but plays like a strategy title, making for a unique experience. An excessive number of bugs and technical issues threaten to drag the Windows Phone port down like so many zombies, but the fun mostly manages to come out unscathed.

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Last week’s Xbox release, Extraction: Project Outbreak (review coming tomorrow!) was a surprising strategy title mixed with elements of action. This week, we get another strategy title, but otherwise it couldn’t be more different. Babel Rising 3D will soon be on the Windows Phone Store, courtesy of developer Mando Productions with Ubisoft publishing. Yes, this is Ubisoft’s first Windows Phone title (Assassin’s Creed and Splinter Cell came from Gameloft under license from Ubisoft).

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The Xbox on Windows Phone lineup, on the whole is far too casual for some gamers’ tastes. Xbox Live features have attracted a sizable minority of Xbox 360 fans to Microsoft’s mobile platform, where they find an abundance of puzzle games and a disarmingly small number of established gaming franchises. Microsoft does sometimes throw the hardcore crowd a bone though, as evidenced by the recent release of Crimson Dragon Side Story. Not only does Side Story tie into the upcoming Xbox console game Crimson Dragon’s fascinating universe, but it’s also one of the more robust and ambitious mobile Xbox games in sometime.

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MonsterUp Adventures, sequel to the hit indie jumping game MonsterUp from Karios Games, is now available on the Marketplace. Even better, it’s free through Saturday! Time to start downloading if you enjoy platformers or games like Doodle Jump

We’ve been excited about Adventures since first learning about it way back in spring 2011. Karios has taken the endless jumping game formula and married with a more traditional and robust game structure. Players now venture across an island map, taking on individual stages rather than just endlessly jumping after a better high score. Stages last about 10 minutes apiece and have specific goals like collecting different numbers of gems along the way. A bar at the right of the screen shows progress so you can know when you’re getting close to the top. Check out our video preview to see how it all works.

Gems collected throughout your adventures can be spent on unlocking new characters and even a ringtone. Adventures also features a PDLC system in which players can purchase gems to hurry along the unlocking process. These optional code purchases must be made through the Karios website, which provides codes instantly upon purchase. Just input the code into the game and the shiny gems are yours.

The original MonsterUp (review) was the best endless jumping game on Windows Phone at the time of its release, and the same applies to the sequel as well. MonsterUp Adventures is a welcome advancement of the genre that should appeal to an even wider audience. Grab it here on the Marketplace while it’s free! After this weekend, the price goes back up to $1.99.

Update: The free offer has been extended to Monday morning.

Thanks to Matt C. for the tip!

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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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Monster Island’s Xbox Live launch on Wednesday was odd for a couple of reasons. First, only people located in the US could buy it, even though past Miniclip games launched worldwide. Second, one of Monster Island’s Achievements, ‘Big Spender,’ is tied directly to purchasing $3 worth of PDLC. That raised my eyebrows pretty much off my head, and I know I’m not alone.

Only a couple of days after its US-only release, Monster Island no longer shows up while browsing or searching the Marketplace. For all intents and purposes it has been pulled, though you can still grab it from the link in our previous article. Why was it pulled? No official word on that yet, but we do know that Microsoft is actively investigating the Achievement issue, thanks in part to yours truly. The Big Spender Achievement breaking well-known Xbox Live rules and the seemingly erroneous US-only launch are the most likely reasons for the game’s removal.

How did Monster Island end up with an Achievement tied solely to purchasing in-game content? In all likelihood, no one noticed the problem during the certification process. Big Spender’s description, ‘Buy 3 coin packs’ could sound like a normal in-game action to someone who hasn’t played the game or studied it very closely. Of course, part of the certification process should involve testers actually unlocking the Achievements to make sure that they work, at which point the problem would have been spotted. Still, sometimes things slip through, such as Broken Achievements or other bugs.

The important thing here is that Microsoft seemingly realized something was wrong this week and acted quickly to keep it in check by pulling Monster Island. If the practice of literally paying for Achievements was allowed to continue, then Achievements would lose their emotional value. After all, many gamers like me prefer to play Xbox Live games so that we can earn Achievements and share our accomplishments with others. Doubling the cost of a game for 10 GamerScore is not an Achievement.

 We’re still waiting on official word about Monster Island’s Big Spender Achievement and the game’s subsequent disappearance from the Marketplace. If Microsoft releases an official statement, WPCentral readers will be the first to know.

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It’s time to take a break from Sid Meier strategy games for a while and settle into some nice throwing things at other things. I am, of course, speaking of Monster Island, the latest Xbox Live release from Miniclip.

Monster Island is basically a monster-themed version of Fragger. Instead of a grenadier, you’re now a monster who must defeat invading monsters. Aim and throw five different kinds of monster grenades to destroy your stationary enemies. With a whopping 262 levels (and more promised in a future update), it offers plenty of bomb-throwing fun.  

Monster Island features a robust in-game shop in which players can purchase new characters, level unlocks, level skips, and level solutions using in-game currency. Being a Miniclip title, it also allows users to purchase coins with Microsoft Points. That’s not so bad in and of itself, but the Big Spender Achievement actually requires players to purchase not one, but three coin packs!

The cheapest coin pack costs 80 MSP ($1), so users would need to spend a minimum of $5.99 ($2.99 for the base game plus $3 for three coin packs) in order to earn Monster Island’s full 200 GamerScore. Of course, larger packs actually offer more coins per dollar than smaller packs, so why couldn’t the Achievement just be for buying a single pack? More importantly, this is the first Windows Phone title to actually require players to spend additional money in order to get all of the base game’s Xbox Live Achievements. Even among Xbox 360 games that practice is extremely rare (if not prohibited outright), so it’s startling that Microsoft allowed it here.

Perhaps it’s natural for publishers to test the limits of what they can sell to users as PDLC, but many would agree Miniclip has gone too far on this one. It’s a shame too, as without the annoying PDLC component (and multiple in-game pop-ups encouraging players to spend their coins), Monster Island is probably the most robust Angry Birds-type game on Windows Phone. The massive quantity of levels and variety of playable characters and bombs, not to mention some clever level design, certainly makes it worth a look. Could 'Big Spender' have simply slipped through the certification process by mistake? We've contacted Microsoft and will report back if they reply.

Monster Island costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Get it here on the Marketplace. Alternately, you can check out the Flash version at Miniclip.com.

Update: Currently the game is only available in the US. We'll let you know when this changes.

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While Sid Meier’s Pirates! is arriving on Xbox Live this Wednesday, Microsoft has already announced next week’s new title as well. It will be Monster Island from Miniclip.

Monster Island is basically a monster-themed version of Fragger. Instead of a grenadier, you’re now a monster who must defeat invading monsters. Aim and throw five different kinds of monster grenades to destroy your stationary enemies. With four huge sets of levels, it offers plenty of bomb-throwing fun.  Being a Miniclip title, Monster Island will also feature optional microtransactions, allowing players to purchase level skips and solutions with Microsoft Points.

Monster Island comes to Windows Phone on Wednesday, April 18 and will cost $2.99. If you’d like to try it sooner, check out the Flash version at Miniclip.com.

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Who says spring is too late for winter sports? The time is right for iStunt 2 (no relation to Jet Car Stunts), which is now on the Marketplace.

In iStunt 2, players steer a snowboarder around 2D courses, collecting stars and trying to earn high scores – not unlike the GameBoy classic Motocross Maniacs. Your border will have to survive crazy loops, buzzsaws, gravity portals, and other hazards in order to reach the finish line. Steering is as simple as tilting the phone to adjust the board’s position, while swiping down on the screen crouches and swiping up jumps.

iStunt 2 has four sets of levels containing at least 88 levels (we’re not sure of the exact number yet). The coins earned from completing levels can be spent in the game’s shop to unlock new rides, boards, and level skips. You can even unlock Gravity Guy and the protagonist from Fragger, Miniclip’s previous Xbox Live titles.

Miniclip was the first mobile Xbox Live developer to incorporate PDLC in their titles, a trend which continues in iStunt 2. Players can purchase coins for the in-game shop using Microsoft Points – it’s 80 MSP($1) for 1500 coins or 320 MSP ($4) for 20,000. But remember, spending money on coins is an entirely optional timesaver since you earn them in-game anyway.

iStunt 2 costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Get it here on the Marketplace and start boarding!

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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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Windows Phone gamers may be busy with this week’s new Xbox Live release, Chickens Can’t Fly. But as I’ve told my friends, loved ones, and the people at the mental asylum, you can never have too many games. That’s why we should all give the Xbox Live Deal of the Week, Gravity Guy, a good looking over too. It’s on sale for $1.99.

Gravity Guy is a slick, fast-paced platformer in which the hero flips between floors and ceilings rather than jumping. See our review for more details. It packs a lot of content ever since the last update doubled the game’s length and added PDLC. The added bits feel like they were designed just to make you spend money on DLC though – they’re more frustrating than fun. Still, some people like a challenge!

Gravity Guy is on sale for $1.99 for one week only. Get it here on the Marketplace.

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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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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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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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When Gravity Guy launched last year, two of its Achievements were unavailable to players. This was not due to glitches but by design – quite unusual for an Xbox Live game. Fast forward to today and Gravity Guy’s version 1.1 update has arrived. It packs quite a lot for an update, including a few surprises.

Gravity Guy version 1.1 release notes:

  • Added Fast App Switching support
  • Added the Rescue chapter to Story Mode (29 new levels)
  • Added paid DLCs:
    Slowdowns: Slows down the game for 90 seconds. It's like "bullet time"

The paid DLC (PDLC) is the big news here. Gravity Guy has officially become the first third-party Xbox Live game to offer PDLC, a bit ahead of Bug Village and Zombies!!!. Players automatically get three free Slowdowns, which can be used by tapping the new icon in the top-left corner of the screen. Slowdowns typically last for about one and a half levels – if the player doesn’t make any mistakes. Use up your free Slowdowns and it costs 160 Microsoft Points ($2) to buy a pack of 5 more.

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