Early this week those of us who watch for news in the Windows Phone space were hit with a whammy. Just days after announcing the availability of an Xbox LIVE for iOS application, Microsoft announced the availability of Kinectimals for iOS. Immediately the tech pundits went crazy. Is Windows Phone dead?! Has Microsoft given up on it’s promising mobile platform? What really is dark matter?! (So I added the last one in, doesn’t mean people aren’t wondering.) While I’ll save my jokes about bad timing on Microsoft’s announcements, there’s a little truth to the idea that if Microsoft Game Studios is going into mobile in a big way –and it seems as if they are, then Microsoft needs to focus on providing unique experiences for our platform of choice.
You can’t talk Xbox LIVE on Windows Phone without first talking about what’s unique to it. Any Xbox LIVE game let’s you earn achievements on the go, so any gamerscore you rack up is immediately credited to the gamertag attached to the Windows Live ID you are using on that device. It sounds gimmicky, but I can attest to heeding the call of the almighty bleep-blops. While Microsoft does restrict Xbox LIVE titles to games it publishes there’s a wide assortment to choose from including everything from Angry Birds, to Fruit Ninja to Max & The Magic Marker. Adding Xbox LIVE to any game makes it more enjoyable. Sure iOS players have had most of the third party titles for ages, but can they get gamerscore? Nope.
I love the thought of getting a few extra features on top of the great games on other platforms but I’m more intrigued by what Microsoft Game Studios is doing in the mobile games space. Over the past year they’ve launched a new studio dedicated to mobile game development and made a big push for original content for Xbox Live on Windows Phone. This week we’ve got the best of them.
I’m a sucker for good story and great gameplay, and Fusion: Sentiment has both. You begin the real-time strategy game as a young robot builder and battle your way through levels of opposing squads to uncover secrets in the game’s universe. Tired of gaming on that small Windows Phone screen? Pickup the Xbox version of the game and transfer your machines to your console to continue battle the scum of the universe. I found the graphics to be very decent, which explains it’s somewhat long loading time. Fusion: Sentient is $2.99 in the Windows Phone Marketplace. If you’re a little gun-shy (and for $2.99 who shouldn’t be?) I urge you to check out the free trial.
So gnomes, the unjustly abused minority of all lawn ornaments. Subject to ridicule and mockery and occasionally even theft. in Beards & Beaks gnomes have had all they can stand, and they aren’t going to take it anymore. Your job in this title is simple, use the power of mushrooms and other power ups to defend Gnome Town. There’s treasure all over the place, and plenty of gameplay to keep you wrapped up for hours. Even when you’re done there’s even more game play as it’s Microsoft’s first Xbox LIVE title to have DLC. Once again MGS Mobile even manages to kill it in the graphics department. Beards & Beaks is $2.99 in the Windows Phone Marketplace and also has a free trial. Get it folks.
We end this week with the best of all puzzle games. It has all the requirements for a handheld AAA title including great art direction, unique game controls, even addictive background music. I’m of course talking about ilomilo. The game’s story is simple: help Ilo and Milo find each other in increasingly strange and visually stunning worlds. Definitely try ilomilo, which does ring up at a slightly steep $4.99 but does include a free trial. I’ve loved every minute of the trial, and the moment I get through my backlog of titles I’m hitting the buy button.
That takes us to the end of the magic carpet ride we call Windows Phone App Flow for this week. Remember to hit me up with any Windows Phone apps you enjoy on Twitter – my username is @harlemS. I’ll be back with more apps and questions about the universe next week including some theories I have on faster than light travel. Until then, make it so!