Xbox Live

We have already mentioned the new features heading to your Windows Phone Game Hub with the Mango update. Well the other shoe that dropped with that news is that fourteen new XBox Live titles are also headed to Windows Phone.

We know about Beards & Beaks: Cave Area, IonballEX and Fight Game: Rivals and to see what the other eleven titles are, hit the break.

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Beards and Beaks is the only mobile Xbox Live title so far to feature downloadable content. The game launched with both a free set of levels (Forest) and a paid set (Mountains). And now, the fifth and presumably final set of levels, Cave, is available for purchase.

In our Beards and Beaks review, I noticed that a ninja gnome appears in some of the between-level screens but not as a controllable unit. The Cave DLC rectifies that, as it introduces both the Ninja gnome and Sorcerer gnome to Beards’ gameplay. The Ninja is fast and kills enemies with extreme precision, though he can’t take as much damage as other gnomes. Yep, he’s easily my favorite unit. The Sorcerer is no slouch either, launching fireballs over long distances. Neither of the new guys can be used in older levels, but they do make the Cave levels feel fresh.

Adding units to one side but not the other wouldn’t be fair. To keep things balanced, the Cave also introduces new enemies – a super strong Football crow and another crow that’s extra fast on its feet.

As for the levels themselves, I encountered a new environmental hazard – a gate that players can manually open to let the gnomes through. But the gate closes after a few seconds, treasure-carrying gnomes can’t pathfind through it correctly, and when it raises back up, it kills any gnomes who were attempting to passing through. You tell me if it’s a good addition or not. The overall difficulty of the Cave levels is harder than previous levels, which makes sense as players will have already honed their strategic flicking skills on previous levels before taking on the Cave.

The Beards and Beaks Cave DLC costs 80 Microsoft Points ($1). While it sadly doesn’t add any Achievements, the new units, enemies, and overall challenge represent a great value for the money. Anyone who really likes Microsoft’s gnome versus crow game should not hesitate to give the Cave a download. 

Beards and Beaks can be purchased here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Last week, WPCentral broke the news that IronSun Studios’ IonBallEX (yes, the developer is averse to spaces) would be coming to Xbox Live. We just didn’t expect it so soon! IonBallEX is this week’s Xbox Live release.

IonBallEX is an Arkanoid-style game in which players use a paddle and ball to break bunches of bricks. This game is more interesting than many of its brethren thanks to its darkly futuristic setting, a wide variety of block types and power-ups, lots of enemies and bosses to fight, and its experience system. Plus it’s a sequel to an indie game, which we don’t often see on Xbox Live. For more details and screenshots, check out our preview.

IonBallEX (boy I’d rather type that as Ion Ball EX) comes out on Wednesday, August 17 and will cost $2.99. Brick-breaking fans won’t want to miss it.

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Buy.com's eBay store is offering up a sweet deal on a XBox Live Messenger Starter Pack until August 17, or while quantities last.  The package, which will only run you a cool $42.99, includes a 1 Year Xbox Live Gold subscription, 400 XBL Points, a chatpad and a plug-in headset (reg price = $67).  We're not normally one to sling products for other companies, but we know a good deal when we see one.  Considering a year of XBL Gold will normally run you $59.99 alone, you can't miss.  Click on the source link to get there.

Source: Buy.com eBay Store

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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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Sports fans who haven’t bought Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 (the only sports title on Xbox Live so far) for some reason are in for a treat this week. Konami’s premiere soccer game is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week at $2.99!

PES 2011 is a surprisingly accurate recreation of the sport, with realistic tactical game play, licensed European teams, advanced A.I. and numerous authentic animations. Can you kick a soccer ball into some guy’s junk if you want? Not quite that realistic, but I digress.

Pro Evolution Soccer’s 3D graphics contribute to the realism as well. The player models, detailed stadiums, and weather effects all make for a very console-like presentation. The game features multiple control options: simple accelerometer and touch-screen controls or a virtual pad and buttons. It’s also got some very grindy Achievements, so prepare to be in it for the long haul if you want the full 200 GamerScore.

Pro Evolution Soccer 2011 is on sale for $2.99 (down from $4.99) for one week only. Get it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace, football fans!

(Yes, this does mark the second of Konami’s three Xbox Live games to go on sale. We’re that much closer to a Castlevania Puzzle deal!)

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Seeing as how Fruit Ninja is so popular with the Windows Phone crowd, we thought our readers might be excited to know that Fruit Ninja Kinect is coming out this Wednesday on Xbox 360.

Fruit Ninja Kinect is the same game that fans know and love, only with much nicer HD visuals and of course Kinect motion control. Players swipe with their hands to chop the fruit now instead of just their fingers. It’s actually a much more exciting (and tiring) take on the original concept. In addition to the standard Classic, Zen, and Arcade modes, the Kinect version introduces something missing from the Windows Phone game: multiplayer. It supports both co-operative and competitive gameplay for two players. This makes Fruit Ninja Kinect the perfect party game – it’s an active new spin on a game everybody knows and loves, plus others can join in the fun.

Fruit Ninja Kinect will cost 800 Microsoft Points ($10) when it debuts this Wednesday. Of course Xbox 360 owners will also need a Kinect peripheral in order to play it. Kinect players who aren’t in a huge hurry may prefer to wait for the retail release of The Gunstringer (from developer Twisted Pixel) on September 13. It costs $30 and includes both The Gunstringer on disc and a download code for Fruit Ninja Kinect.

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Xbox Live isn’t exactly crawling with brick-breaking games at the moment. The only such game, 3D Brick Breaker Revolution (review), is ten kinds of terrible. Gamers looking for a Breakout-style fix have had to make do with indie games, such as IronSun StudiosIonBall, which we reviewed in December.

Great news for fans of that game and brick-breaking games in general – IonBall is getting a sequel, and it will be an Xbox Live title to boot.

Head past the break for more exclusive IonBall EX details and screens!

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WPCentral recently interviewed Ken Murphy of GameHouse, who filled us in on the company’s existing Xbox Live portfolio as well as their philosophy on the casual games market. He also gave us first news of five upcoming GameHouse titles. That's a lot! All five games will be Xbox Live titles.

  • Collapse!: GameHouse’s very first PC game comes to Windows Phone. It’s a match-three puzzler in which a stack of blocks rises from the bottom of the screen. Players frantically tap groups of three of more colored blocks in order to eliminate them. Customizable characters, multiple gameplay modes, and bosses make for a full-featured package.
  • Delicious!: Like GameHouse’s Sally’s Salon Luxury Edition, Delicious! is a time management game. Players control Emily as she serves customers at a variety of food venues. Each location features unique minigames, keeping the gameplay fresh and tasty.
  • TextTwist 2: A word jumble game in which gamers receive a selection of letters and try to find all possible words that those letters can spell.
  • Cake Mania Main Street: A time management game with four totally distinct locations: a bakery, a flower shop, a fast food joint, and a sushi house. Wacky problem customers like vampires and pirates keep the pressure on.
  • NCIS: The Game from the TV show: Help the cast of the popular crime drama solve several different cases by completing various minigames. This looks a bit like Women’s Murder Club, but with a stronger focus on story and more gameplay variety.

These games don’t have prices or release dates yet, but WPCentral will be sure to keep you updated as they come closer to release.

Image: Clockwise, from top: Collapse!, Delicious!, TextTwist 2, NCIS: The Game, Cake Mania Main Street.

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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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WPCentral continues our Xbox Live Developer Interview series by speaking with Game House's Ken Murphy. GameHouse, a division of RealNetworks, is truly a casual gaming juggernaut, with too many PC games to count and three Windows Phone titles so far. In this interview, Ken graciously discusses the casual game genre, the Doodle Jump Achievement that nobody has unlocked, and lots more.

Head past the jump for the full, fantastic interview.

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Next week, two new Xbox Live games are coming to the Marketplace! That hasn’t happened in ages. Even more unusual, both games will be free. The ‘official’ Minesweeper and Sudoku apps come to Windows Phone courtesy of developer Babaroga, who we interviewed back in June, and Microsoft Game Studios.

Head past the break for our exclusive first screenshots of the two games and lots of details!

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Cro-Mag Rally from hush-lipped Citizen 12 Studios has finally passed the finish line and is now available on the Marketplace.

Cro-Mag Rally enjoys the distinction of being the first Xbox Live kart racer on Microsoft’s mobile platform. Just because the game’s prehistoric doesn’t mean it’s light on content, as it’s got two playable drivers, multiple vehicles, and nine tracks to race through. These include such varied locations as The Great Wall of China and the lost city of Atlantis. Not only that, but there are lots of powerups with which to assault your fellow racers. Hey, they probably had it coming.

Cro-Mag Rally costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Stop over here (Zune link) at the Marketplace to get it.

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Since its release in December 2010, Revo Solutions’ Rise of Glory has been plagued by no less than three broken Xbox Live Achievements. The developer tells us that they submitted an update to correct the broken Achievements months ago, but for some reason it just wasn’t getting published…

Until now! That’s right, the Rise of Glory version 1.2 update has gone live at last. The update’s only changes are fixing the 500, 1,000, and 10,000 kill Achievements. But hey, that’s what needed fixin’, so this is great news.

We’ve also learned that Rise of Glory will receive a more significant update sometime after Mango rolls around. Sounds like the lengthy update delays haven’t caused Revo Solutions to give up on their WWI-era flight sim just yet.

Rise of Glory costs $2.99 and there is free trial. Fly over here (Zune link) on the Marketplace to pick it up. Don’t forget to read our full review too!

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Tentacles too tough - fix on the way

Like many of you, we here at WPCentral were excited about Windows Phone-exclusive Xbox Live game Tentacles prior to its release. Press Play’s follow-up to Max and the Magic Marker shows all the creativity we would expect from them, with a control method that’s unlike any other game, ever.

But if you actually play the game and get farther into it, you may notice something seems a bit off… Namely, this game is hard! I mean Ninja Gaiden, put your groin into a vice grip and spin the handle hard. The latter half of the game is just tortuous rather than fun. Every little mistake results in the death of Lemmy, the tentacled hero. Levels win which currents push Lemmy into spikes are particularly frustrating. A small percentage of gamers (masochists, I call them) prefer games to be uber-challenging, but most don’t – especially on mobile phones. Why should Tentacles be this tough?

As it turns out, the developers hold no animosity toward gamers. According to Ole Teglbjærg, the game's director:

...We probably underestimated the difficulty a bit.... When we saw how few [players] actually made it through the game, we decided that it would be silly not to have more people enjoy the later levels and bosses, that we have put so much effort into creating.

Press Play has informed us that a future update will address Tentacles’ challenge in a couple of ways:

Easy mode: We have made an easy mode, which basically lets Lemmy take more damage without dying. At the same time we really back the idea that achievements should be earned and not be too easy to get. So when you play in easy mode, you will not get the “No Death” star at the end of the level. So if you want all the achievements, you still need to be hardcore.
Furthermore we polished a few problematic areas and tweaked here and there – see if you can find them!!!

It's great to see them taking steps to extend the game's appeal to a wider audience, because the game has a lot to love – when it’s not trying to break players’ spirits. Locking a couple of the Achievements out of Easy mode is not so great, but maybe those extra refinements they mention will reduce the frustration for Achievement hunters too. We’re willing to give Press Play the benefit of a doubt, so we’ll hold off on our review until the update lands.

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Ready for an awesome Deal of the Week? ilomilo is on sale for $2.99, down from $4.99.

ilomilo is a fantastic portable adaptation of the hit XBLA game. It stars two friends, ilo and milo, who are averse to capitalization but love playing together. After playing every day, they go home, only to find that the next day, the world has rearranged itself, preventing them from being together. Thus the object of every level is to find each other (while perhaps finding some secrets along the way).

As our review notes, there is no way to die in this game. It’s all about finding your way around, which is challenging enough on its own since the protagonists can walk on all six sides of the cuboid levels. ilomilo remains of the most beautiful games on the platform, with catchy music and great touch-screen controls to boot.

AT&T users who purchased their Windows Phones prior to December 31 got ilomilo for free. Since the start of 2011 it has been available to everyone for $4.99. South End Interactive, the developers, even added 23 new levels to make it a better purchase.

ilomilo is on sale for $2.99 for one week only. To help ilo and milo reunite, head over here (Zune link) to the Marketplace.

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Beards and Beaks - Review

Real-time strategy games can be tough to get right on platforms other than computers. Console controllers can’t match the speed and accuracy of a mouse, so most developers don’t even try. Smartphones are much better at recreating mouse-style controls thanks to their touchscreens, but the lower screen resolution compared to PCs still complicates things. Thus, non-PC strategy games tend to be of the less click-intensive tower defense variety. But Microsoft Game Studios has bravely crafted a casual RTS experience with Beards & Beaks, the Windows Phone-exclusive Xbox Live title.

Beards & Beaks (which I always want to type as ‘Birds & Beaks’ for some reason) revolves around two warring tribes: gnomes and crows. Each side competes to collect treasure before the other, inflicting as much harm as possible along the way. Strangely, the game is completely devoid of an actual story - a missed opportunity given the unique and adorable character designs. Even Angry Birds (whose ‘birds versus pigs’ premise is similar enough) has story sequences, after all!

Flick past the break for our full review.

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Frogger - Review

Updating a classic game for modern audiences is tricky business. Change it too much and you’ll turn off people who liked the original. But stick too closely to the original and it might not appeal to today’s gamers. For examples of perfectly accurate classic ports that are unlikely to gel with people living in the now, see Asteroids Deluxe and Lunar Lander. The Windows Phone port of Frogger, oddly enough, is simultaneously too similar and too different to make much of an impression. It’s not as bad as getting hit by a car, but Konami could have done a lot better.

What qualifies Frogger as a classic? The game made quite a splash when it debuted in arcades in 1981. Its premise and game play are fairly unique: help a group of frogs cross the highway, one at a time, and make it safely to their homes. Most importantly, it inspired a terrific early Bad Religion song.

Jump across the street and past the break for our full review.

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Bubble Town 2 - Review

Windows Phone is just crawling with puzzle games, both of the indie and Xbox Live varieties. Puzzlers are probably the single easiest type of game to develop and they’re well-suited to playing on the go, so it makes sense. Bubble Town 2 from I-Play is one such game, released early on for Xbox Live. It’s an adaptation of a once-popular Facebook game that since been pulled by the publisher. Bubble Town may be a ghost town on Facebook, but is it worth visiting on Windows Phone? Perhaps…

Bubble Town’s got something of a story, aimed at the young‘uns. A bunch of evil aliens called Lumps are invading Bubble Town, and it’s up to the Borbs to stop them. See, even though Bubble Town has the word bubble in its name and is a clone of a spin-off of Bubble Bobble  - Bust-a-Move/Puzzle Bobble, the game doesn’t technically contain any bubbles. They’re Borbs. The writing in the pre-level story sequences is about what you’d expect from a cut-rate kids’ cartoon show, though it does at least inject some personality into the proceedings. Impatient gamers can always skip past them anyway.

Shoot past the break for our full review.

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Tiki Towers - Review

When you think of puzzle games, falling-block games like Tetris and match-three games such as Bejeweled probably spring to mind. But there is another type of puzzler that differs greatly from those games. I speak, of course, of the physics-based puzzle game. These games challenge players to place items throughout a level, using their interaction with the level and the game’s physics to accomplish a goal. Tiki Towers from Game House falls into this cerebral sub-genre.

The premise of Tiki Towers involves an airplane dropping numerous boxes of monkeys onto several different islands. All five of a box’s monkeys must make it from their box to the goal in order to complete a level. The monkeys have their own AI and will walk and jump short distances. But each level contains peaks, pits, and other hazards that the simians can’t surmount on their own. That’s where the player comes in.

Grab a banana and swing past the break for our full review.

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