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Windows Phone Xbox Live Review: Pac-Man Kart Rally

The selection of Xbox Live racers on Windows Phone varies widely in quality. Hydro Thunder GO and Need for Speed Undercover occupy the top end of the quality spectrum, while Cro-Mag Rally sits in a pool of ick at the bottom. Sadly, Cro-Mag Rally was also the only mobile Live kart racer for almost a year. Fast-forward to May 2012 and Namco Bandai surprised us all with Pac-Man Kart Rally. While it never matches the lofty quality bar set by the Mario Kart series, Namco’s racer still manages to be pretty fun, easily surpassing its only other Windows Phone competitor.

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Prior to its release, I was enthusiastic about Pac-Man Kart Rally for a number of reasons: it’s a kart racer (fun genre), it features Pac-Man and other Namco characters, and it’s the first mobile Xbox Live game with wireless multiplayer (local Wi-Fi only). Then it launched to mixed reactions – the poor frame rate and repetitive music seem to be major turn offs for many gamers.

Frankly I find the negative reactions largely hyperbolic, as it’s still a competent and accessible racing game, light years ahead of the only other Xbox Live kart racer, Cro Mag Rally in quality. In any case, it seens someone at Microsoft may have noticed the tepid Marketplace ratings and reacted quickly. For whatever reason, Pac-Man Kart Rally has dropped from $4.99 to $2.99 just two or three days after its release.

Is this a price drop, random sale, or simply a marketplace glitch? We won’t know for sure until next week, when Microsoft will hopefully respond to our queries. It’s mostly good news, as gamers who were turned off at the relatively high five dollar price point now have more incentive to snap the game up right away. It’s probably wisest not to price a game with so many rough edges above three dollars, regardless of brand recognition or a novel multiplayer feature.

On the other hand, many gamers like me bought Pac-Man Kart Rally at the original price only to see it costing less a few days later. We’re rather unlikely to receive refunds – heck, I never managed to get refunds for all the delisted games I’ve bought, a far worse situation (and I did try!). The lightning fast price drop, sale, or whatever will surely leave a bad taste in the mouths of early adopters.

In the long run, the increased sales from a more reasonable price point will probably outweigh a bit of temporary negativity. WPCentral has contacted Microsoft for comment on the price change and will update should we receive clarification.

Get Pac-Man Kart Rally here on the Marketplace.

Update: Microsoft has confirmed this is a permanent price drop.

Thanks to Nima Heravi for the tip!

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While several Xbox Live games have yet to go on sale, we still see the occasional repeat Deal of the Week. Last week it was Glow Artisan, and this week it’s Puzzle Quest 2 from Namco. Seeing as how this is the third time the $6.99 game has gone on sale for $4.99, maybe it’s time for a price drop.

Puzzle Quest 2 is a puzzle role-playing game. Players explore large dungeons, take on quests, and collect plenty of loot. Whenever a battle occurs, the fighting is done via Bejeweled-like match-3 gameplay. It’s an extremely long game with beautiful art, multiple playable characters, and several clever minigames.

A few problems like poorly-thought out Achievements, lengthy loading times, and annoying lack of Fast App Switching keep Puzzle Quest 2 from greatness. Still, the gameplay is just super addicting. If you like Bejeweled and RPGs, you really can’t do any better. Check out our exhaustively-researched (seriously!) review for more details.

Puzzle Quest 2 will be on sale for $4.99 for one week only. This gaming treasure can be found here on the Marketplace.

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Puzzle Quest 2: Xbox Windows Phone Review

Puzzles games often feature enjoyable gameplay, but they rarely give users a reason to keep on playing beyond chasing high scores (or Achievements). That’s what made the original Puzzle Quest so special. Australian developer Infinite Interactive (later bought out by Firemint) had the revolutionary idea of combining the core gameplay of a puzzle game with a sizable RPG adventure. Naturally a slightly less-inspired sequel followed, this time branching out to even more platforms. Namco handled the Windows Phone port of Puzzle Quest 2, squeezing the lengthy console game into a tiny mobile package.

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For a while there it looked like we might not get a Deal of the Week this time around. Thankfully, the clouds finally cleared away and Flight Control emerged from the storm of Marketplace delays. It’s now on sale for $1.99, down from the regular price of $2.99.

Flight Control is the progenitor of the line-drawing genre of casual games. Created in 2009 by Australia-based Firemint (now owned by EA), it became an instant sales phenomenon. The Windows Phone version lags behind the iOS and other versions in terms of features (no HD makeover and only six maps here), but remains a fun and addicting title.

Achievement hunters, prepare for lots of grinding to reach 10,000 planes landed. I’m about 7,000 short on that one… Then again, Harbor Master, another developer’s nautical take on the same concept, has even more grueling Achievements.

Flight Control is on sale for $1.99 for one week only. Pick it up here on the Marketplace.

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When Namco Bandai’s Puzzle Quest 2 went on sale a few weeks ago, it wasn’t actually the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. Fast forward a bit and this time it really is the Deal of the Week. Starting Wednesday it will be on sale for $4.99, down from $6.99.

Puzzle Quest 2 is a puzzle role-playing game. Players explore large dungeons, take on quests, and collect plenty of loot. Whenever a battle occurs, the fighting is done via Bejeweled-like match-3 gameplay. It’s an extremely long game with beautiful art, multiple playable characters, and a few nigh-impossible Achievements. Ignoring the Achievements, the gameplay is just super addicting. If you like Bejeweled and RPGs, you really can’t do any better. We’ll have a full review soon.

Puzzle Quest 2 will be on sale for $4.99 for one week only. This gaming treasure can be found here on the Marketplace.

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Xbox Live: Three Namco Bandai titles updated

Three of Namco Bandai’s Xbox Live titles received updates last week, and we’ve tracked down their details. First off, the Pac-Man version 1.2 and I Love Katamari version 1.1 updates add Japanese language support to both games. Good timing, because Windows Phone 7 launched in Japan in August. Beyond the localization, both games remain identical to their previous versions.

More exciting is More Brain Exercise’s version 1.1 update. Here are its release notes:

  • Enhanced graphics
  • Improved responsiveness of swipe gestures
  • Fixed minor bugs: Achievements and date recording

Do the graphics look better? Maybe just a bit. But the important thing is those bug fixes. More Brain Exercise previously contained a Broken Achievement – “It’s Not Temporary,” which requires players to earn 100 points for Temporal Lobe exercises during Daily Training. The Achievement is now fixed; players who have already met its requirements just need to complete one more day of Brain Training to unlock it.

As for the date recording bug, previously the game would sometime skip ahead three calendar days. This made it impossible for players to complete training during the missed days. Thankfully that will no longer be a problem.

Oddly, the game’s start up screen still displays an ad for Xbox 360 Kinect title Body and Brain Connection that says “Coming in 2011” even though it’s been out for most of the year.  More Brain Exercise also badly needs a “Restart Exercise” option in the Pause menu.  Still, it’s great to see that Namco didn’t leave the game hanging with a broken Achievement and other nasty bugs.

All three of these Namco titles cost $4.99 each. You can find Pac-Man here (Zune link), I Love Katamari here, and More Brain Exercise here on the Marketplace.

A high five to anyone who can tell me what show the papercraft in the picture is from!

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More Brain Exercise - Review

When Nintendo’s Brain Age: Train Your Brain in Minutes a Day! debuted on the DS in 2006, it jump started the brain training sub-genre. Based on the theories of neuroscientist Dr. Ryūta Kawashima and featuring his image, Brain Age contained a variety of minigames and puzzles aimed at ‘exercising’ the brain and thus (supposedly) improving mental functions. It also included the single best videogame version of sudoku that I’ve ever played. Brain Age’s runaway sales success inspired many imitators, including mobile Xbox Live titles Brain Challenge from Gameloft and More Brain Exercise from Namco Bandai Games. More Brain Exercise is the closer of the two to Brain Age’s fantastic design, but unfortunately it’s a pretty poor copy.

Head past the break for our full review, brainy readers.

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Let’s see, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX recently hit Xbox Live. Everybody loves it, but they’re not crazy about the $6.99 price. Do the powers at Namco lower the price to make the Pac-public happier? No way, they put the original Pac-Man on sale instead. Pac-Man is the Deal of the Week at $2.99, down from $4.99.

Pac-Man is a straight port of the original arcade game. It contains a single maze which Pac-Man must clear of its dots and fruits repeatedly until the ghosts finally become too fast and take him down. Pac-Man was once a huge arcade hit and many of us fondly remember the original. Unfortunately, it’s not a terrific game on Windows Phone. As our review points out, the controls just can’t keep up with the challenging gameplay, plus the Achievements are like 3 cents and a Twinkie short of impossible. Buy it if you want a quick dose of nostalgia, but don’t expect anything near the fun and quality of Championship Edition DX.

Pac-Man is $2.99 for one week only and of course there is a free trial. Chomp it up here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Pac-Man Championship Edition DX - Review

A long time ago, Pac-Man was king of the arcades. If you were a gamer, you were either playing Pac-Man or wishing you were playing it, and you never failed to ask asked your mom to make Pac-Man pancakes in the morning. Over the years, the yellow guy’s popularity has waned despite the occasional (and generally mediocre) sequel.

Fortune turned back in Pac-Man’s favor with 2007’s downloadable console title, Pac-Man Championship Edition. Critics and gamers alike praised CE’s return to classic-style game play and looks. Three years later, Pac-Man Championship Edition DX improved on CE’s foundations, creating the perfect Pac-Man game for the modern era. Now DX comes to Windows Phone with a few less features than the console version but just as much retro modern charm.

Turn a corner, watch out for ghosts, and head past the break for our full review.

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Last week, the tilt-controlled Xbox Live game Super Monkey Ball received a nice price drop. Today a game with similar (but better) controls just dropped its price too: I Love Katamari from Namco. It’s down from $6.99 to the far fairer $4.99.

I Love Katamari is the mobile version of the Katamari Damacy series. Players control the tiny Prince of the Cosmos and his sticky Katamari ball. The goal is to roll up various objects into the ball, from small things like gum packets and books to giant objects like cars and planes. It’s a quirky good time. Players will need to play four different game modes on each of I Love Katamari’s 6 varied levels in order to earn all the Achievements, including a crazy 110 point Achievement for rolling up every single item in the game.

Sega’s Super Monkey Ball is frustratingly hard due to utterly abysmal tilt controls. I Love Katamari’s tilt controls aren’t perfect, but they are far more manageable. As I say in our review though, it is still a fairly challenging game due to strict time limits on some levels. With practice, most players should be able to roll their way to end of the game.

I Love Katamari is now $4.99 and there is a free trial. We've been told this is a temporary price drop, so don't wait too long to try it. Roll it up here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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I was understandably excited when we learned that Pac-Man Championship Edition DX was coming to Xbox Live this week. After a week of anxious anticipation, it’s finally available on the Marketplace!

Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is the mobile port of the 2010 console sequel to Pac-Man. It’s a huge upgrade over the original, with multiple selectable visual and audio styles, three distinct mazes (down from the console version’s 9 mazes, but still a fun assortment), and copious game modes. These include 3- and 5-minute Score Attacks, Ghost Combo, and more than 10 different time trials.

The goal isn’t just to eat dots any more – players bait ghosts into following them, creating huge chains of enemies that can be cleared with a trusty power pellet. Whenever a fruit is eaten, a new arrangement of dots and ghosts appear in the maze. It’s all about earning as many points as you can within each mode’s time limit, and the game’s online Leaderboards look very good so far.

The mobile version of Pac-Man Championship Edition DX is currently exclusive to Windows Phone, so don’t confuse it with the regular Championship Edition that’s available on iOS. Even though I’ve only played it for a short time tonight, I can easily say that it eclipses the original Pac-Man and is actually one of the best Xbox Live games so far. It even has easy Achievements to boot!

Pac-Championship Edition DX costs $6.99 and has a free trial. Chomp it up here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

One more thing… If you’re wondering how to unlock the second maze, Manhattan, try scoring over 150,000 points on Championship II’s Score Attack(3 min.) mode.

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In the last few weeks, Microsoft has released so many Game Room titles to Xbox Live that even huge Game Room fans like me became weary. Next week’s Xbox Live release still has a retro flavor, but it’s actually a much newer and more exciting game: PAC-MAN: Championship Edition DX.

In our review of the original Pac-Man, I complained “This title offers so much less content than sequels like Ms. Pac-Man and Pac-Man Championship Edition.” Namco has actually done me one better this time, because they skipped Championship Edition and went straight to its superior sequel, DX.

The console version of PAC-MAN: Championship Edition DX is an absolutely fantastic game. It features 9 different mazes, numerous selectable looks for Pac-Man and the ghosts, and three main gameplay modes: Score Attack, Time Attack, and Ghost Combo. DX throws dozens of ghosts on-screen at once, which might sound too hectic but is actually quite exciting and manageable in practice. Pac-Man even gains a bomb ability that knocks ghosts back to the center of the maze but resets the player's score multiplier.

Pac-Man CE DX is much easier than the first Pac-Man game, so it should be a better fit for mobile phones. Unlike the original Pac-Man game, this one is played in landscape mode, which should reduce the number of accidental presses of the nefarious Home and Search buttons.

The only bad news is its price: $6.99. Namco’s mobile games don’t come cheap. But thousands of gamers happily paid $10 for the Xbox 360 version; if the phone version matches the console game's greatness, 7 bucks won’t sting a bit.

The Windows Phone version of PAC-MAN: Championship Edition DX will debut on Wednesday, May 18.

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It’s Xbox Live game updates day at WPCentral. First we covered the news of Full House Poker and Hexic Rush’s updates, and now we’re revealing the recent update contents of Pocket God (review) and Puzzle Quest 2.

Pocket God version 1.1 changelog:

  • Added the Double Rainbow All The Way Across The Sky episode
  • Miscellaneous bug fixing and optimization tweaks

The iOS version of Pocket God receives regular updates, called Episodes. It has 38 episodes so far. Prior to the version 1.1 update, the Windows Phone version only included the first 32 episodes. Double Rainbow is actually episode 35, which means two episodes have been skipped. The missing episodes both involve a new area, Ape Mountain, that hasn’t made it to WP7 yet.

What changes does Double Rainbow All The Way Across The Sky bring? According to Wikipedia, it "adds the ability to draw a double rainbow in the sky (referring to the internet meme). The Pygmies will react to the rainbow. This is the first update where the Pygmies can actually talk, when showing reactions from the double rainbow.”

Pocket God’s Achievements are notoriously difficult, which is surprisingly given the game’s utterly casual nature. NGMOCO, the developer who handles the Windows Phone port of Pocket God, assures us that Achievement difficulty will be addressed in a future update. Hopefully Ape Island makes it into the next update too. At any rate, Pocket God fans should be glad to know that NGMOCO hasn’t forgotten them.

Puzzle Quest 2 version 1.1 update includes:

  • The Cheating AI and PWNT! Achievements are now attainable.

Nobody likes glitched Achievements, so it’s good to see Namco has fixed Puzzle Quest 2’s. Now if they’d only fix the game’s lofty price… Puzzle Quest 2 is a puzzle RPG, not unlike Castlevania Puzzle. The original console Puzzle Quest is one of my all-time favorite games. We’ll review the slightly less impressive Windows Phone sequel sometime soon.

You can find Pocket God for $2.99 here (Zune link) on the Marketplace. Puzzle Quest 2 is a much steeper $6.99 here. Both games have free trials. God save the Prince, gov'nah. Cheerio!

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I Love Katamari - Review

The original Katamari Damacy was a sleeper hit when it launched on Playstation 2. It featured a rather unique premise, with the King of All Cosmos requiring the young Prince to roll up tons of objects into a sticky ball called a Katamari. The prince goes from picking up small objects like pencils to gigantic fare like buildings and even islands, creating an amazing sense of scale. Japanese wackiness and humor abounds.

There really is nothing like the Katamari Damacy series, so I was thrilled when Namco released the game on Windows Phone 7 as an Xbox Live title. Then again, I love Katamari comes from the same developer who brought a rather lackluster Pac-Man port to Windows Phone 7, so quality was not guaranteed. I’m pleased to report that while I Love Katamari has a couple of serious issues, its personality and spirit still remain intact.

Roll past the break for our full review.

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Two weeks ago, Castlevania graced Windows Phone 7 as an Xbox Live game. This Wednesday, another popular console franchise makes its mobile Xbox Live debut: I Love Katamari from Namco Bandai.

I Love Katamari is part of the Katamari Damacy series. In these games, the player is tasked with rolling up various objects, animals, and even people into a giant, sticky ball called a Katamari. This version of the game uses tilt controls to steer the ball. It also has a single Achievement worth a whopping 110 GamerScore, which has to be a Windows Phone 7 record. Just don’t expect that one to be easy: it’s awarded for rolling up every single item in the game, which will surely take a while.

Did I mention the graphics, sound, and pretty much everything about the Katamari series are completely wacky? Find out if you love Katamari too when it releases on Xbox Live this Wednesday.

Source: @KarlStricker

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Pac-Man - Review

Pac-Man is one of the most-ported games ever, and now Namco brings it to Windows Phone 7 as an Xbox Live title. This version is faithful to the arcade original, but lacks any bells-and-whistles to get excited over and introduces a few new problems.

Everybody knows how Pac-Man works, so let’s focus on what’s changed for Windows Phone 7. The game is played from a vertical orientation. The actual play field takes up the top two-thirds of the screen, with a virtual joystick on a plain blue background at the bottom. Super bland menus that use an ugly font further contribute to a mediocre presentation.

To find out whether our circular arcade hero gets the ghosts or if they get him instead, chomp a power pellet and head past the break.

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We reviewed Flight Control for Windows Mobile not too long ago and found it to be an entertaining, addictive gaming app. Namco's Flight Control has made the transition to Windows Phone 7 and is just as entertaining and as addictive. If anything, the capacitive touch screen has improved game play.

Flight Contol has been well received on other platforms such as the iPhone and to see how well the aplication transitioned to Windows Phone 7, just ease on past the break.

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Namco brings Tekken Resolute to Windows Mobile

Namco Bandai announced today that the Tekken game franchise was going mobile with the game Tekken Resolute.  The mobile version of the popular arcade game is available for Java, Windows Mobile, BREW and RIM platforms.

Tekken Resolute promises to bring intense graphics and fluid animations to the mobile platform. Players can choose between the Iron Fist Tournament with the Arcade Mode or fight through various stages of a Story Mode. Tekken Resolute also has a Tekken Force Mode where you battle multiple enemies.

Tekken Resolute can be purchased for $6.99 through various wireless provider's app stores such as AT&T's Media Mall or through Namco (still billed through your wireless provider).  Namco is slowly updating their website so if Tekken Resolute isn't listed under your carrier and device, check your wireless provider's app store.

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