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Gambling is an expensive real life hobby, unless you’re great at it. Gambling games take away the risk and cost (for the most part) and just let you focus on the fun of the game and the rush of winning.

You’ll find plenty of card games on mobile Windows platforms, and even some lighter fare like Bingo. Now we have a full-fledged game devoted to scratch-off tickets (also known as scratch cards): Jet-Set Scratch-Off Gold. It comes from Chicago-based developer Babaroga, maker of Shuffle Party, Zombies!!!, and Lucky Lanes Bowling. You might not expect it, but scratch off tickets adapt surprisingly well to videogame form.

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It’s been a rough year for Xbox games on Windows Phone. Many weeks go by without new releases, and a fair number of developers have jumped ship and switched to indie releases (see Asphalt 8). If we had to name the single worst day for Xbox Windows Phone, it would undoubtedly be September 27 – the day the In-App Purchases died. Yes, on that day (or maybe slightly earlier that week) a whopping 11 games disappeared from the service, never to return… Not with Achievements, anyway.

Since then, Chickens Can’t Fly actually did come back to Windows Phone without its Xbox Live features. And just recently, a second de-listed title has done the same thing: Babaroga’s horror-themed board game Zombies!!!. The game is now on sale once again with its former DLC included automatically, all for $5.99. Read on for more details.

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When Windows Phone 8 launched in November of last year, it soon become clear that certain Xbox Windows Phone 7 games were incompatible with the new OS. Microsoft’s immediate solution to the problem was to partially delist all of those games, removing their listings from the Windows Phone website. They did this without informing the developers of those games. After we published an article exposing the issue, the games eventually made it back to the web store with updated compatibility information.

We tell you all this because Microsoft has just made a similar but even more harmful maneuver. This week, no less than eleven Windows Phone 7 games were completely delisted from the Store. They can’t be redownloaded by people who purchased them. And several of the game’s developers were NOT informed by Microsoft of the issues leading to their removal or the removal itself. Read on for the full scoop!

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Windows Phone and Windows 8 gamers should be familiar with Babaroga, the studio behind Shuffle Party and Zombies!!!. Babaroga has been a big supporter of the mobile Windows ecosystem since Windows Phone 7 launched. Though they seem to have grown away from Xbox-enabled games (like so many other developers), Babaroga still produces Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 games as indie titles.

DecodeRing is one of those games. First released on the Zune HD in 2011, it's now back on mobile Windows platforms. Billed as a cross between crosswords and Sudoku, it should appeal to players who love word puzzles. It’s available on both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 as a freemium game. Head past the break for our impressions and an exclusive hands-on video with Babaroga president Andreja Djokovic!

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Windows 8 has a great free bowling game from Microsoft and Babaroga called Shuffle Party. Well, technically it’s a shuffle board game that plays like bowling. That leaves plenty of room for a regular bowling game. Hence Babaroga has adapted their Windows 8 and RT game engine into a straight up bowling game called Lucky Lanes Bowling.

Actually, Lucky Lanes does mix in a little something that you wouldn’t find in the average bowling alley: a Wild West theme called Death Valley. Yup, the default alley takes place in an 1880s-era western setting, complete with cow skulls, scorpions, and desert. The romantic setting doesn’t affect the gameplay in any way, but a cowboy-style bowling alley is far more interesting than a sterile realistic one. Babaroga tells us they have more alleys planned for the future, too.

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Quick, head to your desk drawer. You might have a Zune HD in there that hasn’t had electricity flowing through it for quite some time. Charge it up. Do you see Lucky Lanes Bowling on there? It was one of those free games for the Zune HD that quite a number of us enjoyed. While you won’t be playing it on your Windows Phone device, you can fire up your Windows 8 machine and enjoy it!

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Last year, Windows Phone Central brought you an exclusive interview about a Windows Phone 8 title called Fairway Solitaire from Big Fish Games (and ported by Babaroga). Fairway is actually one of the games that Microsoft used during their Windows Phone 8 reveal event to exemplify how quick and easy porting from iOS to Windows Phone 8 can be. Funny thing is: Fairway Solitaire was slated to be a launch window game for the new mobile OS, but it has actually taken far longer than to port.

As a matter of fact, Big Fish Games has just published Fairway Solitaire for both Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 in celebration of E3 2013. The bad news is they published it as an indie title instead of an Xbox game as originally planned. But on the happy side, Fairway plays great and we’ve got an exclusive video in which Big Fish’s Patrick Wylie walks us through the game’s features. Check it out after the break!

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A couple of days ago, Microsoft announced a slew of Windows 8 games that would be launching over the weekend. Today several of those games are readily available to download: Shuffle Party, Samurai vs. Zombies Defense, Bejeweled Live, and Delicious – Emily’s True Love. The only one that hasn’t shown up yet is Temple Run Brave (based on that movie I dislike), but I’m sure it will be along sometime soon.

Head past the break to check out our hands-on demonstration of Shuffle Party from GDC, plus quick impressions and download links for the games that appeared alongside it.

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Babaroga’s Zombies!!! was an early Xbox Windows Phone exclusive that  still commands a loyal following from board game fans. I fondly remember buying it about a month before joining the Windows Phone Central staff, and subsequently advocating for an update to make one of the Achievements more easily attainable.

Jump ahead to the present, the Xbox Windows 8 and RT version of Zombies!!! has finally gone live. We previously covered some of the new version’s features and improvements, and now PC and tablet gamers can experience the enhanced game for themselves. To get everyone in a zombie killing mood, we present this interview with Andreja Djokovic, the CEO and founder of Babaroga.

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When exclusive Xbox Windows Phone/Windows 8 game Wordament jumped ship to iOS, we were perhaps a little disappointed. Windows Phone needs all the exclusive games it can get, and Microsoft doesn’t need to do Apple any favors. Still, the game has gone multiplatform now and there’s no turning back.

In fact, Microsoft just published the most platform-agnostic version of Wordament ever. This one’s playable via HTML5-enabled web browsers. Best of all for Xbox gamers, the web game comes with 50 GamerScore worth of Achievements!

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I regret to report that the Xbox Windows Phone game release drought continues unabated this week, making the fifth week in a row without a new release (not counting Nokia exclusives). But it’s not all bad news. For one, we have the awesome cross-platform Skulls of the Shogun coming out next week on January 30th. And this week, Microsoft will be throwing Windows Phone 8 users a bone…

Following on the heels of yesterday’s Let’s Golf 2, another game gains Windows Phone 8 compatibility tomorrow: Shuffle Party from Babaroga and Microsoft Studios. Shuffle Party will be free as always, and is probably the third best free mobile Xbox game after Wordament and AlphaJax.

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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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Alright, so Nokia has a good grasp on what the word exclusive means. But Microsoft takes a more liberal stance towards supporting other platforms. We’ve seen the big MS publish previously Xbox Windows Phone exclusive games to iOS before, such as Kinectimals and Tentacles. It always hurt, but we sucked it up and complained only in small doses.

Yesterday, another exclusive turned coat and migrated to iOS: Microsoft’s own Wordament. I had previously speculated that Wordament could function as a killer app, attracting gamers to Windows Phone with its highly addictive gameplay and smart design. That will no longer happen, but here’s the really bad news: Wordament on iOS is an Xbox Live title complete with real Achievements!

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The Windows Phone 7 version of Zombies!!! has just gone on sale as the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. At the same time, Microsoft’s new Windows 8 operating system for tablets and PCs just launched. That makes this the perfect time to check up on the Windows 8 version of Zombies!!!, wouldn’t you say? Windows Phone Central has done just that, and now we've got an exclusive interview about the new version’s features and enhancements to share with you.

Head past the break for the full interview, screenshots, and two videos!

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After running part one of our interview with Patrick Wylie, the VP of Big Fish Game Studios, your friendly neighborhood gaming journalist got sidetracked a bit with health problems. Don't worry, I seem to have pulled through okay. In case you missed the interview, Big Fish - one of the leaders in casual gaming on PC - has announced both Xbox Live Windows Phone 8 and Windows 8 ports of their marquee title Fairway Solitaire. The game is already a huge hit on PC, Mac, and iOS – even people who don’t normally care for Solitaire games (like me) love it.

Check out part two of our exclusive video interview after the break!

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Remember that Windows Phone Summit that took place in San Francisco last month? It centered around Windows Phone 8, aka Apollo. Microsoft chose to reveal a new Apollo-specific Xbox Live game on-stage during the event: Fairway Solitaire from Big Fish Games. Big Fish is a major producer of casual games on PC and other mobile platforms, so the developer’s signing on to support Windows Phone is a great thing.

As it happens, Big Fish was on-hand at Casual Connect Seattle last week to reveal their new cloud gaming service, Big Fish Unlimited. Of course we took advantage of their presence to set up an exclusive interview with Patrick Wylie, VP of Big Fish Games Studios. Head past the break to learn just what Patrick’s team has in store for Windows Phone and Windows 8!

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Speaking of Xbox Live game updates correcting issues with previous updates, last month’s Shuffle Party version 1.1 update actually introduced a nasty texture bug into the game. Microsoft quickly pulled the game itself while they investigated the issue. Developer Babaroga found the culprit, and now both a new update and the game itself are back on the Marketplace.

Shuffle Party version 1.2 release notes:

  • Improved stability when connected to Network
  • Avatar no longer turns backward

If users happened to have completed the 1.1 update a few weeks back, then this update also corrects the following:

  • Incorrect textures on table

That’s it; the developers just wanted to make sure the game experience consistently stable and polished. Thanks guys! Now we can all get back to knocking down bowling pins and collecting coins with our shuffleboard pucks. And when we're done with that, we'll play Shuffle Party! To learn more about Shuffle Party’s many game modes and unlockables, read our review.

Shuffle Party is free and offers 50 GamerScore worth of Achievements. Get it here on the Marketplace.

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Title updates are usually intended to solve problems and squash bugs, but sometimes they introduce new issues of their own. Case in point, the recent Shuffle Party update somehow ended up slightly bugged when published to the Marketplace.

Before we delve into what happened, here are the Shuffle Party version 1.1 release notes:

  • Game stability issues fixed. We had noticed more crash reports when connected to a Network than we could stand for.
  • Avatars no longer appear standing backwards.

Unfortunately, after installing the update, dark and garbled textures appear on the tables, frame, puck, and bowling pins. As a temporary workaround, just head to the Pro Shop and select new skins to make everything look right again.

Developer Babaroga was surprised to encounter the texture bug, because both they tested the build beforehand. Likewise, Microsoft tested and certified it as well with no problems. Thus the texture bug most likely popped up during the process of publishing the build on the Marketplace. Both parties are investigating right now and hope to release a new, bug-free update soon. In the meantime, the versions 1.1 update has been pulled, so just sit tight if you hadn’t already downloaded it.

That little update hitch aside, Shuffle Party is one of the better free Xbox Live games, second only to Wordament. With multiple modes: traditional table shuffleboard gameplay, bowling, and puzzle-like challenges, it’ll keep players busy for a good while. See our review for more details, or grab the game here from the Marketplace.

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