As offensive as that “z” is, the first XBL game we downloaded was Flowerz, mostly because it was free. It’s not surprising based on the price that the interface is extremely paired down and for a puzzle game it’s about as barebones as can be. The hook for this match-three puzzler is that as you put similarly colored flowers together, the cleared blossoms will sometimes turn into the color of what’s at its center instead of vanishing, making for some interesting strategy in later levels as more and more colors are added. It’s’ a worthy distraction, but there are more than enough better puzzle games on Live, they just aren’t free.
Our first paid app, Butterfly was a good introduction to touch controls. The game is all about guiding a fragile butterfly through a garden, making flowers bloom as you glide over them. At the same time you have to avoid frogs, venus flytraps, fish and insects on your way to floral happiness. When your finger is moving the butterfly it hangs over the screen and it’s a little too easy to lose sight of the tiny white insect, but hitting an enemy has such a tiny negative impact on your flight path that it barely matters. If you’re looking for a light distraction this is good, but Butterfly is such an easy game it barely feels worth completing. We were able to get the highest rating on all the levels without really trying.
Out of all the first slate of games, Fruit Ninja is one of the most familiar apps to smartphone fans. Fruit Ninja is addictive in its simplicity; just flick your finger across the screen to cut as much floating fruit to pieces as you can. Soon enough it reveals a surprising depth with combos, special items, and customizable options to keep you occupied. It has a really fine balance between straightforwardness, style, humor and gameplay. If you haven’t played it to death already, it’s a definite download when you start up your Windows phone.
de Blob Revolution
Another touch screen favorite of the last year, this spin-off of the popular de Blob series makes it more of a puzzle game this time around. You start with a room and you need to draw a path for you blob to travel to make it to the exit. The skill comes from having to avoid going over a square you’ve already gone over while freeing as many fellow blobs as fast as you can. This one can get tricky real fast, but the challenge is more often fun than frustrating.
OMG (Our Manic Game)
A top down shooter that stylistically owes much to titles like Rez and Space Invaders Extreme, this one is probably the most hardcore of what we’ve played. You control the constantly shooting spaceship as the screen scrolls and enemy spacecrafts appear to start blasting at you. Their shooting patterns are pretty easy to avoid, but you’ll never get a high score that way. The big points come from tapping an enemy to put it in “manic” mode, which makes it more challenging but it pays off points-wise. Moving the ship around was a little spotty at times, which really sucks when you need some precise movements to avoid many of the attacks, but when the controls do work we had a good time.
You know that board game Monopoly? This is it on a phone. Still, since EA produced this portable version of the Parker Bros classic it at least has good production values. After choosing your player piece (we’re partial to the elegance of the top hat) you can pass around the phone with other human players, or just take on the AI in the real estate adventure. It’s good for what it is, but if you own digital Monopoly in any other form, this won’t do much for you.
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