When you have a franchise like Xbox in your arsenal, you better use it to full effect in the smart phone wars. And it looks as though Microsoft is trying to do just that with the launch of Windows Phone 7. We had a chance to check out a few of the titles expected to launch at or around the same time as the hardware and came away mostly impressed with the visuals and Xbox Live integration.
Here’s a quick look at a few of the premiere titles, as well as a brief video overview of what Xbox Live offers. (We think a lot of people will play with avatars for hours.)
ilomilo (Southend Interactive)
We first took ilomilo for a test drive, a gorgeous puzzle game whose goal is to get two cute-looking characters to unite. The backgrounds are wild, and you can zoom in and out using multitouch gestures. We just wish the camera did a slightly better job of following us around.
Need for Speed Undercover (EA)
If you’ve played this game on the iPhone, there’s not a lot of new here. But it’s nice to see EA throwing its weight behind the Windows Phone 7 platform. Accelerometer controls worked well, and the graphics looked pretty stunning on the Samsung Focus’ AMOLED display. Plus, only this version integrates with Xbox Live.
The Harvest (Luma Arcade)
An action-RPG game that Microsoft claims is the best-looking 3-D mobile phone game to date, The Harvest thrusts you into a fight against cyborgs as a mech you can trick out with new weapons and abilities as you progress. The touch-based controls were easy to pick up. In the video you’ll see a sweet stomp move that mows down all nearby enemies.
Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst (Microsoft Game Studios)
Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst is a tower defense game with a cool twist. Using Bing Maps you can defend buildings and other structures right around you. The action is pretty fast and furious, and it’s a clever mash-up. Those who want to play with friends can team up with other players to build up their defenses.
Rocket Riot (Code Glue/Microsoft Game Stuidos)
At the risk of sounding repetitive, Rocket Riot is a riot. On the surface, this side-view shooter looks like it belongs on ancient gaming console. Then when we fired the game up we realized the 8-bit graphics are just a tip of the hat to an earlier era. The gameplay itself is all modern, involving lots of swiping in different directions with your right hand to shoot as you control your jet pack-equipped hero with a finger on your left hand. Absolutely everything in the environments is destructible–just as it should be.
Xbox Live Quick Tour
With Xbox Live integration on board, gamers can create fun 3D avatars and trick them all with all sorts of accessories. Your gamer profile allows you to track scores and wins, and you can challenge others. However, multiplayer gaming for now on Windows Phone 7 is only turn-based, not simultaneous multiplayer like Game Center for iPhone.
Overall, gaming on Windows Phone 7 looks like it will be satisfying, and this is only a partial list of what will be available. EA alone today announced that it’s brining Tetris, The Sims 3, and Monopoly to the OS, in addition to Need for Speed Undercover. We’re also excited to see Star Wars: Battle for Hoth and Bejewled Live. However, we’d like to see EA add more of its marquee titles to the mix (like Madden), as well as other big developers show us what they have up their sleeves. There’s also no Angry Birds here, though it’s rumored to be making its way over to the platform.
Based on what we’ve seen so far, though, we can tell that Microsoft has paid a lot of attention to the gaming experience on Windows Phone 7, and we expect it to only get better through the holiday season and beyond. Although the Android camp is quickly playing catch-up with iOS, Xbox Live on WP7 is already looking better than what Google phones have to offer.