All Articles by Paul Acevedo

Xbox Live: Minesweeper now available all over the place, US gamers make due with Super Monkey Ball

Remember kids, there is no Xbox Live release in the US this week. Not a common circumstance, and hopefully the last time it occurs. The rest of the world, however, gets Babaroga’s Minesweeper, which was already released in the US a couple of weeks ago. It’s a free, ad-supported game. See my previous post on Minesweeper for details on how unfortunately busted it is.

No new games to play this week? Perhaps Super Monkey Ball from Sega will soothe your troubled soul. It’s the Xbox Live Deal of the Week with a sale price of $1.99. Mr. Cranky Pants is even less fond of this version of Super Monkey Ball, but let's just leave our review to do the talking.

Minesweeper is available here (Zune link) on the Marketplace and it costs nothing. Super Monkey Ball is on sale for $1.99 for one week only. Roll over here to get it.

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Super Monkey Ball goes on sale this week, promptly rolls off a cliff

There may be no new Xbox Live release this week (unless we count Minesweeper launching outside of the US), but the Xbox Live Deal of the Week train keeps a-rollin’. Sega’s Super Monkey Ball will be on sale for $1.99, down from $2.99.

Super Monkey Ball on Windows Phone is a sad story. It launched at $4.99 and dropped to $2.99 just a few weeks later. Could the price drop have been indicative of the game having problems? Oh yes. As I state in our review, this version of Monkey Ball is just terrible. It looks and sounds pretty, but the tilt controls are the worst I’ve ever experienced. There are also two Broken Achievements which may or may not get fixed some day. If you’re a very patient and forgiving gamer, you may still enjoy Super Monkey Ball, but it sure drove me bananas.

Super Monkey Ball will go on sale for $1.99 on Wednesday, August 24. You can find the game here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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Minesweeper finally arriving in Europe, still too many mines though

When Minesweeper and Sudoku, two free Xbox Live games developed by Babaroga and published by Microsoft, were released only in the US a few weeks ago, our foreign readers were understandably displeased. We speculated that it might have been because of the games’ reliance on in-game advertisements, which may not have been cleared for other markets yet.

Good news then, as Minesweeper is coming to foreign markets on Wednesday. Well, sort of good news. Minesweeper is actually pretty busted on the highest two difficulties, filling levels with so many mines that they’re impossible to clear without repeated use of the EMP powerup. Babaroga tells us this may be fixed in the future, but for now it seriously hampers the fun.

Minesweeper can be downloaded here (Zune link). No news yet about when Sudoku will be released outside of the US, but we’ll keep you posted. We’ll have reviews of both games very soon.

Thanks to Professeur Thibault for the tip!

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Toy Soldiers Boot Camp to feature minigames from Xbox 360 version

Microsoft didn’t provide many screenshots or details about Toy Soldiers: Boot Camp at Gamescom last week. We do know that it will contain at least four minigames taken from the recent Xbox 360 release, Toy Soldiers: Cold War.

The enterprising lads at WP7Connect have done a little digging and found YouTube videos of the Xbox 360 version’s minigames that will also be included in the Windows Phone game. Of course the WP7 versions will look much simpler and control differently, but the videos should at least give gamers an idea of what to expect from Boot Camp.

Follow the break for two additional video trailers for Toy Soldiers.

source: via: wp7connect

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geoDefense update fixes save game bug, restores balance to universe

geoDefense, the Xbox Live tower defense game with Geometry Wars-inspired visuals, has been a bit buggy since its release. Chief among those bugs is the dreaded save data bug, which we reported on in June. This bug caused some gamers to lose all of their progress when replaying levels, and nobody likes that.

Thankfully today’s version 1.6 patch fixes the save data bug at last. No longer should anyone fear playing geoDefense and trying for higher scores. We’re glad to see Critical Thought Games continuing to hone its enjoyable strategy title.

If for some reason you want a more traditional tower defense experience than the exceptional Plants vs. Zombies, geoDefense is the place to look. It costs $2.99 and there is a free trial. Get it here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

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No new Xbox Live game on August 24

While Microsoft recently announced 12-ish new games coming to Xbox Live, it looks like those titles may not be ready for release just yet. Prepare yourselves, Windows Phone gamers: there will be no new Xbox Live release next week.

I can’t remember the last time there wasn’t an Xbox Live release in the US. Sadly, our European readers already know what it’s like to not see a new game on their Marketplace. When Sudoku and Minesweeper came out for free last week, everybody was surprised that they were only released in the US.

I’m just shocked at this hole in the release schedule, as the last two Game Room retro games, Time Pilot and Shao-Lin’s Road, have almost certainly been complete for a long while. Hopefully the negative reaction to previous Game Room games (stemming largely from the ancientness of some of those games and releasing them all in a very short time span) hasn’t resulted in their cancellation. Some of us want those Achievements!

There will, of course, be an Xbox Live Deal of the Week, so many gamers will still have a reason to pick up a game they didn’t own before. Check back here on Wednesday and we’ll let you know what game is on sale.

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More details about Xbox Live's upcoming Fast Async multiplayer feature

Yesterday we reported on some new features that are coming to Xbox Live when Mango rolls around. One of those was ‘Fast Async,’ Microsoft’s proprietary form of asynchronous multi-player. Geekwire reached out to Microsoft and published this interview with an unnamed representative:

“How will Fast Async work and how does it compare to the current approach for turn-by-turn gaming in WP7? 

Similar to turn-by-turn async gaming, Fast Async, coming this fall with the Mango update will expand on this experience by enabling Xbox LIVE games to manage game data and sessions in a faster and more flexible way. It will also provide a way for games to find players across screens, without having to wait and watch the matching happen, and will prompt players with clear messaging, when it’s their turn to move.

Will Fast Async be implemented by default in all turn-by-turn games, via the OS, or will it only come in some turn-by-turn games, when developers implement it? 

Fast Async will only be included in Xbox LIVE titles if implemented by the game developer.”

The good news we can take away from this is that Xbox Live games will soon have turn-by-turn multi-player, just like indie games have had for a while now. And Fast Async is apparently a little better than regular old async, particularly in the area of matchmaking. One game we know of that will definitely support Fast Aync is Babaroga’s Zombies!!! board game. Oh, and Fast Async isn’t limited to just Windows Phone, which some people are taking to mean that Xbox 360-Windows Phone cross-platform gaming could be happening too.

The potentially bad news though is that real-time multiplayer has not been announced and may not arrive with Mango. If that’s the case, let’s hope it’s not too far off. I doubt Gameloft will port N.O.V.A 2, the popular iPhone Halo clone, until Windows Phone supports real-time multi-player. Insert comment about how Gameloft only seems to be more interested in porting older, much less popular games here.

Sources: Geekwire via WMPUThree Panel Soul

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Tetris is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week, comrades

Anybody remember when Tetris was a killer app that made people want to go out and get a black and white GameBoy to play it on the go? Those days have long since passed; hence even $4.99 seems like a lot for Tetris. Thankfully EA’s Tetris is finally on sale this week for $2.99, which goes down a lot easier.

The Windows Phone version of Tetris is actually quite slick. It’s got great visuals and a fine remix of the classic Tetris theme “Korobeiniki.” There are numerous gameplay variants such as Gravity and Radical that add a bit of variety to the game we’ve all played a million times before. Some people complain about the touch screen controls (swipe left and right to steer, tap to rotate, and swipe down to drop pieces), but I find them to be natural and effective. Our review also praises the game’s stat tracking.

Tetris is on sale for $2.99 for one week only. Puzzle fans can pick it up here (Zune link) on the Marketplace.

Fun fact! I almost wrote a book about Tetris before deciding I didn't quite love the game enough to write about it for more than a hundred pages.

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Kinectimals to feature kinect-kitty, I mean connectivity

When gamers learned that Xbox 360 Kinect game Kinectimals is coming to Windows Phone, undoubtedly many of us wondered whether there would be connectivity between the two versions. Wouldn’t it be cool to take your existing Kinect kitty on the go?

A Microsoft representative shared these details with us:

“The answer is yes, Kinectimals for Windows Phone does share connectivity with the Kinectimals for Xbox 360 version. You can import your favorite pet to your Windows Phone from your Xbox 360 by simply holding the phone up to the TV screen and capturing the QR code from the pet. The phone will recognize the code and add the pet to the mobile experience. Players can export their favorite mobile pets into their Kinect for Xbox 360 Kinectimals game by holding their Windows Phone up to their Kinect sensor which will read the QR code assigned to their pet and add it to their console experience. If players are logged onto their WP and Xbox 360 consoles with the same Xbox LIVE credentials, this process will happen automatically.”

That’s great news for Kinect owners. Kinectimals’ connectivity isn’t exactly using your Windows Phone and a Kinect simultaneously to control an Xbox 360 game, but it is the first interaction between the two devices. The last time we saw Xbox 360 connectivity of any sort was in Microsoft Game Studios’ Full House Poker.

Kinectimals on Xbox 360 is a combination adventure title/mini-game collection/pet simulator in which players adopt an exotic kitten on a mysterious island. It’s targeted towards kids, but I enjoy most of the mini-games and the overall sense of progression as new areas of the island, items, and animals are unlocked. I do wish harm on the narrator though, as his voice should be illegal in civilized countries. Thankfully his blithering can be turned off! Anyway, the Windows Phone version retains just about everything the console version is known for and adds a few new elements into the mix too. We’ll have more details soon.

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Indie console developers discuss why they aren't porting their games to Windows Phone

Our friends at WP7Connect have released the second article in their series about Xbox 360 indie games coming to Windows Phone 7. This time, the focus is on why individual developers do not plan to port their XBLIG titles to WP7.

I’ll summarize each developer’s response:

Novaleaf Game Studios, makers of The Sprit of Khon:

Spirit of Khon is unlikely to come to be ported due to its reliance on custom rendering shaders that WP7 can’t replicate. However, if interest is high enough, Novaleaf would consider porting it anyway.

Milkstone Studios, makers of Raventhorne:

The game uses too many buttons to be ported easily. Besides, Milkstone is located outside of the US and still hasn’t even been paid for their first WP7 game, Epic 7 Free.

Dannobot, makers of Pajamarama:

Dannobot really isn’t sure how to go about developing for WP7. But even then, they would want to wait for official multiplayer support (which is coming in Mango) before entering the fray.

DoubleDutch Games, makers of Speed Runner:

The game’s controls would be difficult to adapt to touch screens. Still, maybe someday.

Left: Breath of Death VII. Right: Cthulhu Saves the World

It’s no fun just paraphrasing somebody else’s article though. WPCentral spoke with Zeboyd Games, makers of awesome indie RPGs Breath of Death VII and Cthulhu Saves the World about bringing their games to the small screen. Their response:

“[We’re] leaning against porting to WP7 at the moment - it just doesn't look like the market is big enough to make it worth the effort.”

Ouch! I don’t think the first four developers’ games are any huge loss. But Zeboyd’s titles would be perfect for touch screens and fill an important gap in the Windows Phone software library. Perhaps RPG fans should send Zeboyd an email.

Don’t think for a minute that all XBLIG makers are giving Windows Phone the shaft. Plenty of XBLIG games have graduated to mobile Xbox Live status, including Twin Blades, Z0mb1es (on teh Phone), and Shoot1UP, to name only a few.

Sources: WP7Connect, Zeboyd Games; Thanks, Dale F., for the tip!

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Video highlights 9 upcoming Xbox Live games for Windows Phone

Today at Gamescom, Microsoft announced a ton of upcoming Xbox Live games. They have since provided a video that shows many of these games in action.

In the video:

  • Chickens Can’t Fly from Amused Sloth
  • Mush from Angry Mango
  • Fight Game Rivals from Khaeon Studios
  • Kinectimals from Frontier Studios
  • Toy Soldiers Boot Camp from Signal Studios
  • Orbital from BitForge
  • Shoot1UP from Mommy’s Best Games
  • Cro-Mag Rally from Pangea Software
  • Burn the Rope from Big Blue Bubble
  • Farm Frenzy 2 from Alawar Entertainment

You’ll notice that Shoot1UP wasn’t actually included in today’s announcement. But we do know it’s a 2D shooter and a port of an Xbox 360 indie game. We’ll have more details about the game soon.

Thanks Colin for the tip!

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Beards and Beaks Cave DLC now available

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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IonBallEX is this week's Xbox Live game

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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Minesweeper and Sudoku are now available for free on Xbox Live

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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Pro Evolution Soccer is the Xbox Live Deal of the Week. Goal!!!!

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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Fruit Ninja Kinect chops its way to Xbox 360 this week

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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Indie game IonBall gets Xbox Live sequel with all the trimmings

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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Exclusive: GameHouse announces five new Xbox Live titles

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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Xbox Live Developer Interview: Game House, makers of Doodle Jump and Sally's Salon

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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