Peggle 2 – Hands on with the new 'Duels mode' on the Xbox One

Peggle 2, PopCap’s long-anticipated follow-up to their casual hit Peggle, launched as a timed Xbox One exclusive back in December. As I mentioned in our review, the multiplayer features weren’t quite ready at that time. The online Peg Party mode simply didn’t work for me and many other players, nor was the promised local multiplayer mode available. Still a great game, but players definitely missed the multiplayer.

Xbox One Review: Peggle 2 hits nearly all the right pegs

One of the greatest tragedies in Windows Phone gaming is that PopCap’s original Peggle never made it onto the platform. Originating as a PC game, Peggle eventually made its way to practically every platform under the sun except for Windows Phone – including the Xbox 360.

Still, at least we know PopCap loves Xbox consoles. The long-awaited sequel Peggle 2 launched earlier this month as a timed Xbox One exclusive. The new console needs games and Peggle 2 happens to be one of the most enjoyable games around. A bit of polish got lost in the rush to launch, but the new Peggle still deserves your attention.

Detailed review with video after the break!

PopCap reveals Gardens and Graveyards mode in Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare for Xbox consoles

Not long ago, we published an in-depth preview of Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare for Xbox One and 360. Electronic Arts had invited us to play the game’s competitive Team Vanquish mode, which proved to be tons of fun. Somehow, the transition from tower defense to third-person shooter works really well with Plants vs. Zombies.

Of course, most decent shooters have more than one game type. Garden Warfare is no exception. This week, PopCap revealed a gameplay video and new details about the game’s “Gardens and Graveyards” game type. The capture and defense-based mode will require serious teamwork in order for one of the game’s rival factions to succeed. Check out the video and our impressions after the break.

Get an early look at Peggle 2 for Xbox One with our hands-on footage and interview

Sylvain Dubrofsky of PopCap Games and Windows Phone Central's Paul Acevedo

Microsoft’s Xbox One console is in stores now and doing very well; we even gave it a highly detailed review last week. Early adopters have more than twenty games to choose from, most of which are actually quite good. We’ll be reviewing more of those titles very soon, but in the meantime let’s look ahead at the next great Xbox game to go on sale: Peggle 2!

PopCap’s Peggle 2 is one of the upcoming Xbox One titles we played during our visit to Electronic Arts headquarters just before Thanksgiving. If you’ve ever played the original Peggle on Xbox 360, PC, DS, or phones (sadly it never arrived on Windows Phone), you should know why we’re excited for the sequel. Peggle 2 launches as a timed exclusive on Xbox One this Monday as an $11.99 download.

Head past the break for our video interview and hands-on footage of Peggle 2 in action!

Hands on with Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare for Xbox One

The Xbox One launched in 13 countries last Friday, and early adopters (including much of the Windows Phone Central staff) have a fairly robust selection of launch titles to enjoy. That doesn’t mean we’re not already looking to the future, though. When you buy a console during the first month of its release, you’re investing in the games that will come later even more than the first wave of titles.

One of the most exciting early post-launch releases will be Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare from PopCap Games. Garden Warfare now has an official release date of February 18th, 2014 for both Xbox One and Xbox 360. I actually played the game during our visit to Electronic Arts headquarters last week and came away highly impressed. Head past the break for impressions, gameplay footage, and our video interview with Garden Warfare producer, Brian Lindley!

Bejeweled Live+ Review: The puzzle king returns to Windows Phone

You might not know this, but Microsoft and Bejeweled go way back. PopCap created the very first version in Flash in 2001, originally calling it Diamond Mine. When Microsoft hosted the game at its MSN gaming site, the two parties agreed to change the title to Bejeweled, a name that has now become synonymous with the match-3 puzzle genre.

Windows Phone 7 launched with Bejeweled Live, a decent but overpriced ($5!) port of the game with only three game modes. Considering that Bejeweled on iPhone and iPad each include five modes for only one dollar, the original Bejeweled Live has always represented a poor value proposition.

Thankfully, PopCap has finally made good with Bejeweled Live+, essentially a port of the iOS version. A timed Nokia exclusive, it has a two dollar markup on Windows Phone 7 and 8. But three dollars doesn’t sting too badly when we’re talking about the finest pure puzzle game on the platform.

GDC 2013: Bejeweled Live will soon shine on Windows 8 and RT

Back in February, PopCap surprised us by suddenly releasing Bejeweled Live+ exclusively for Nokia Windows Phones. Confusing name aside, that game is basically a mobile version of the phenomenal Bejeweled 3.

Well, it turns out that Windows 8 and RT were sorely in need of some Bejeweled love as well. Or should I say Bejeweled Live? Today at GDC 2013, we had the chance to talk with Jeff Green, Director of Editorial and Social Media at PopCap Games, who kindly demonstrated the Xbox-enabled Bejeweled Live for Windows 8 and RT.

Full video and more details after the break!

Zuma's Revenge Review: The original Aztec action puzzle game

Casual and hardcore (or ‘core’) games often appeal to one group of players while excluding the other. Aiming at just one slice of the gaming audience is well and good, but the holy grail of game development is bridging the gap by appealing to both audiences. Only one game developer has consistently managed to reach that lofty goal: PopCap. Now owned by EA, PopCap has finally returned to Windows Phone (7 and 8) with a port of its accessible yet challenging puzzle masterpiece Zuma’s Revenge.

As a Nokia exclusive, non-Nokia owners will have to wait six months to play Zuma’s Revenge. Read on to find out why it’s worth the wait.

Zuma's Revenge and Yahtzee arrive on Xbox Windows Phone as Nokia exclusives

While some of us face the possibility that there might not be a new Xbox Windows Phone game release this week, Nokia owners should have no such complaints. Not only did Nokia and PopCap/EA just publish the vastly improved sequel Bejeweled Live+, two more Nokia Xbox exclusives just popped up! From the license lovers at Electronic Arts comes the board game adaptation Yahtzee, while PopCap has blessed Windows Phone at last with their fast-paced puzzler Zuma’s Revenge.

Nokia and PopCap team up for Bejeweled LIVE+ exclusively for Lumia users

Nokia has done it again this week by bringing yet another Xbox game to its dedicated Lumia users. This time around it’s PopCap’s turn with an updated and dare we say nicely done implementation of Bejeweled Live+.

For those curious, it’s the “+” that makes this different than the current Bejeweled Live app on the Windows Phone Store. With that name change comes an extra two levels (Butterfly and Zen mode) and updated graphics.

Xbox 360 Impressions: Plants vs. Zombies Pinball

Prepare for a bit of Xbox 360 news that will spill over to Windows 8 and likely Windows Phone in the future as well. PopCap and Zen Studios have partnered up to introduce ‘Plants vs. Zombies Pinball’ to Pinball FX 2 on Xbox Live Arcade. If you’ll recall, most or all existing tables will appear in the forthcoming Windows Phone port as well, so consider this a sneak preview if you don’t play the Xbox 360 version of Pinball FX 2. Zen kindly provided a review code for the table, and now we’ve got full impressions to share after the break.

Plants vs. Zombies 2 announced for late spring 2013. Headed for Windows Phone 8?

It looks like plants and zombies will be battling it out once again for dominion over your front lawn. PopCap Games, makers of the wildly popular first installment of  Plants vs. Zombies, announced today in a press release that a sequel to the tower defense-style game will be slated for a "late spring" release in 2013. Though no specifics were mentioned, PopCap indicated that the sequel will "include a bevy of new features, settings, and situations, designed to delight the franchise's tens of millions of fans around the world."

An unidentified spokesperson connected to game had this to say:

"Spring is crullest curlie ungood time, and plantz grow dull roots. So, we are meating you for brainz at yore house. No worry to skedule schedlue plan... we're freee anytime. We'll find you."

The Seattle-based maker of such hit games as Bejeweled and Peggle was acquired by entertainment powerhouse, EA Games, last year. Plants vs. Zombies was a huge success, spanning multiple platforms including, iOS, Android, Xbox 360, PC and Windows Phone. We expect the same kind of widespread availability for the sequel as well although no platform-specifics were given at this time.

Looking at the close relationship between PopCap, EA, Microsoft and Nokia, we do expect a Windows Phone 8 tie-in.

See the entire press release after the break.

Casual Connect video interview: Ben Ahroni, producer of Zuma’s Revenge

Paul Acevedo (left) and Ben Ahroni

I made no secret of my love for recent XBLA release Zuma’s Revenge in my review – after all, it’s a PopCap game. Those guys practically always knock it out of the park. As it happens, Casual Connect Seattle featured a panel on the connected experience (gaming on TV, tablet, smartphone: SmartGlass-type stuff).

Who should we find among the panelists but the producer of Zuma’s Revenge, Ben Ahroni. Naturally I snagged him for a video interview. See Ben discuss Zuma, a potential sequel to Plants vs. Zombies, and Windows Phone after the break!

Xbox 360 Impressions: Zuma's Revenge from PopCap, makers of Plants vs. Zombies

PopCap Games may be best known for their sublime Plants vs. Zombies (on sale for $2.99 this week!), but they actually produce a number of stellar franchises like Peggle and Zuma. We interviewed PopCap about those two series coming to Windows Phone last year, and we’ll continue to ask about them whenever we can. PopCap seems to work on one game for one platform at a time, and they’ve just completed a new Xbox Live Arcade release: Zuma’s Revenge. It just came out yesterday, but I’ve been playing the game for a week now in order to bring you this review.

The original Zuma Deluxe was an XBLA launch title way back in 2006. Basically an enhanced clone of classic arcade game Puzz Loop (aka Magnetica), the Zuma games put players in control of a stationary frog who can rotate in any direction and shoot colored balls from his mouth. In each level, more balls roll on-screen along one or more paths. The frog’s job is to stop them from reaching the goal at the path’s end by quickly making as many colored matches as possible. It’s sort of like Bubble Town 2 but much, much better and more varied.

Head past the break for our full impressions and more screenshots.

Plants vs Zombies is the killer Deal of the Week for Xbox LIVE on Windows Phone

Are you a fan of plants? Do you hate zombies? Then if you haven’t already purchased Plants vs. Zombies from PopCap Games, now is your chance because it’s the Deal of the Week!

Plants vs. Zombies is up there with one of the best Xbox LIVE titles for Windows Phone. It has cute graphics, hilarious and bizarre gameplay and it has an addictive quality that makes many users unable to put it down. For these reasons we give it a big thumbs-up and highly recommend it.

The game mostly involves planting plants that shoot at various zombies attacking your house. Variations in plants, ammo, tactics and zombies keep this alternate-tower defense game from getting stale.

All is not perfect though as PvZ hasn’t had an update since January and it is still missing proper Mango support (gah!) which is a heck of a shame since it’s so easy to fix. Hopefully PopCap can get around to fixing that and maybe adding a few bonuses for the rest of us?

You can read our full review of Plants vs Zombies to get an idea on our thoughts and our interview with the developer, PopCap. Otherwise, grab the free trial here in the Marketplace for Windows Phone. The game normally fetches for $4.99 but is on sale for one-week for $2.99. Go!

Don't forget, tonight's new Xbox LIVE is Gun Bros.

Thanks, Thomas, for the tip!

Match gems for less with Bejeweled Live, the Xbox Live Deal of the Week

Yes, our DOTW images are getting more and more obscure.

Last week Gerbil Physics - a game that had never been on sale before - became the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. That must’ve been an aberration, as this week we get another repeat deal. Bejeweled Live is on sale again for $2.99, down from $4.99.

Bejeweled is the classic match-3 puzzle game that has enchanted casual gamers across a variety of platforms. If you’re hungry for a simple puzzle game to play whenever a spare moment pops up, Bejeweled is a good place to look. As our review indicates, the Windows Phone version has three ways to play: Classic, Race the Clock, and Endless. It’s also got some tough and grindy Achievements despite being a casual title, but that’s PopCap games for you.

I don’t know about you guys, but I’m ready for either the enhanced iOS version of Bejeweled (based on Bejeweled 3) or Zuma’s Revenge to come to Windows Phone. In the meantime, Bejeweled Live could use a permanent price drop, and it wouldn’t hurt to put Plants vs. Zombies on sale at last. Come on PopCap, make our dreams come true!

Bejeweled Live is on sale for $2.99 for one week only. Grab it here  on the Marketplace.

Xbox Live: Plants vs. Zombies version 1.3 update brings a discreet change, still no Mango

A barrage of Xbox Live title updates hit last week: Fable Coin Golf, Farm Frenzy 2, Ghostscape, Gravity Guy, The Sims 3, and Tetris. After horror stories of updates getting stuck in certification for months on end, the sight of all these patches is enough to bring a tear to this cynical critic’s eye.

One update that we received a lot of questions about is the Plants vs. Zombies version 1.3 patch. After a little digging, we’ve discovered the effects of the patch: it changes the game’s description in the Games hub from PvZ to Plants vs. Zombies. Not terribly exciting, but then, PopCap has already fixed the game’s major bugs. It is surprising, however, that the update doesn’t add Fast App Switching support. Enabling this important feature (which rolled out with Mango) is supposed to be fairly easy for developers, after all. Hopefully PopCap has at least one more update in store for us.

Plants vs. Zombies is a tower defense game that happened to be one of the very best mobile Xbox Live releases of 2011 – see our review. The game costs $4.99 and there is a free trial. Get it here on the Marketplace.

Plants vs Zombies version 1.2 update kills nasty weed, err bug

Joining the many Xbox Live games that have been updated lately is Plants vs. Zombies, the enchanting tower defense game from PopCap. The version 1.2 update fixes a longstanding issue with Zen Garden plants.

As our review explains, the Zen Garden is a meta game mode that ties Plants vs. Zombies’ Adventure Mode and many minigames together. Players randomly find seed packets during normal game play, which can then be planted in the Zen Garden, tended, and eventually harvested for money. Previously, fertilizing certain sprouts caused the game to crash. A couple of months and a little patch action later, those sprouts can finally be fertilized like any other. Just what kind of plants do the problem sprouts grow into? Why, Kernel-pults, the game’s combat corn on the cobs.

Now that Zen Garden is fixed up, the Windows Phone version of Plants. Vs. Zombies really is just about perfect. It's the only game I've reviewed to receive a 10 so far. Nice as it runs now, we can still expect a Mango update to come along and enable fast-app switching sometime in the near future. Already beaten the game inside and out? Check out our interview with PopCap Games that looks into the history of PvZ's development.

Plants vs. Zombies costs $4.99 and there is a free trial. Hurry up and grab it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

Xbox Live Developer Interview: PopCap Games, makers of Plants vs. Zombies

PopCap Games, Game House (interview), and Zynga are probably the three heaviest hitters among casual game developers and publishers. PopCap is the most mainstream of the big three, selectively porting their games from PCs to consoles and mobile devices with amazing success. On Windows Phone they have produced Bejeweled LIVE (review) and Plants vs. Zombies (review), which I feel is the single best game on the platform. We’re super excited to bring you this interview with Andrew Stein, PopCap’s Director of Mobile Product Management.

Head past the break for an insightful interview and exclusive, never-before-seen Plants vs. Zombies concept art!

Plants vs. Zombies: Xbox Windows Phone Review

As a critic, it’s rare that I can unequivocally say that a game is the very best game in its genre. So many titles do different things well, and they usually have their minuses too. It’s even more uncommon for a game to transcend its own genre and become something that appeals to pretty much everybody. That’s why Plants vs. Zombies is such an amazing game. Not only is it hands-down the best tower defense game on Windows Phone, it also tweaks tower defense conventions and brings so much content that even tower defense naysayers will find a lot to enjoy.

What exactly is tower defense? It’s a type of real-time strategy game. Players build stationary towers which shoot at enemies as they try to reach the player’s base. To put that in Plants vs. Zombies terms, zombies attack the gamer’s yard, striving to get inside the house and eat the tasty brains inside. Weaponized plants with faces and personalities take the place of mechanical towers. In case it wasn’t immediately obvious, this game is loaded with charm and humor.

Watch out for potato mines as you head past the break for our full review.