April 7, 2011 at 4:26 AM ET
What do you get when you mix together miniature golf's hazard-filled holes, shuffleboard's speed and trajectory and the ricochet action of pinball, then add a touch of "Angry Birds" addictiveness and some medieval hilarity to boot?
You get the game "Fable Coin Golf" for starters, but you also get a really excellent example of how Windows Phone 7 devices have a lot to offer avid gamers.
The newly launched "Fable Coin Golf" app, which is exclusively available for Windows Phones, is a bright, beautifully made game developed by Ideaworks and published by Lionhead Studios — the folks responsible for the epic role-playing franchise that is "Fable." It's also the latest Windows Phone 7 app to deliver mobile gaming that crosses over into an Xbox 360 game.
"Fable Coin Golf" tasks you with sliding a puck from one end of a wooden game table into the glowing goal at the other end in as few moves as possible. In some ways it's a lot like a game of miniature golf in that each game table you're presented with is decorated in a landscape strewn with all kinds of hazards that you'll have to try to shoot that puck around — trees, fences, water hazards and even monsters plucked from the "Fable" universe.
The skeletal Hollow Men and ogre-like Hobbes come alive on each table and they will deduct points from your score and bounce you about the playing field if you run into them. But not to worry, there are various power-ups to help you along.
Meanwhile, you'll have to not only work your way around hazards, trying to collect coins along the way, but you'll have to slide into that end goal with enough points to muster a gold, silver or bronze medal — anything lower and you won't be allowed to move on to the next table.
The graphic design is really quite beautiful — each level brought to whimsical life with snarling mini-creatures, tiny trees, animated streams and other features ... like some toy landscape set before you. In fact, I'd say this game is among the prettiest I've seen for WP7.
Meanwhile, just as you triumph over one level, you'll be desperate to attack the next. "Fable Coin Golf" is very "Angry Birds" in that way — it asks you to examine the field before you and try to chart the best way to overcome the puzzling physics challenges presented. And level after level, you'll keep coming back to see what they have to throw at you next.
Windows Phone dials up Xbox gaming
From the beginning, Microsoft has pitched their WP7 operating system as uniquely suited for gamers (Xbox 360-owning gamers, that is) because of the way it lets Xbox owners intigrate their home console with their phone via Xbox Live.
WP7 devices began launching late last year and, as gamers who own them will have noticed, they can access their Xbox Live avatar on their phone and add to their Xbox Live Gamerscore and Achievements list (the sort of thing bragging rights are made of) by playing certain games on their phones.
But Microsoft has suggested much more is possible. At the Mobile World Congress earlier this year, they released a video showing how a Windows Phone could be used as a kind of controller for playing Kinect games on an Xbox 360. That's right — Xbox 360, Kinect and Windows Phone, all working together. It was only a tech demo with no announced launch date, but it's intriguing, fun-looking stuff that seems like a real near-future possibility.
Meanwhile, what Microsoft and company have already begun doing is releasing Windows Phone game apps that not only add to players' Xbox Live bragging rights, but actually intigrate with and have impact on their Xbox games.
"Crackdown 2: Project Sunburst" was the first to deliver cross-platform gaming connectivity. Playing "Project Sunburst" on your phone opens up bonus content and upgrades in your "Crackdown 2" game for your Xbox 360 and vice versa. Meanwhile, the recently launched "Full House Poker" phone app not only lets you use your Xbox Live avatar to play Texas Hold 'Em on the go, but it automatically tranfers your stats and money to the version of the game you're playing on your Xbox.
And then there's the "Halo Waypoint" app which acts as a kind of Halo hub on your phone, delivering Halo news and videos and enabling Halo enthusiasts to track detailed stats from their Halo games and compare them to their friends' stats.
As for "Fable Coin Golf," the mobile game is not only set in the "Fable" universe, it lets you scoop up gold coins scattered throughout each level and then transfer those coins directly into your "Fable III" Xbox game so you can spend them there. You'll also be able to tranfer those coins to the PC version of the game when it launches May 17th. And playing the Fable app unlocks exclusive weapons in the "Traitor's Keep" add-on to "Fable III" as well.
For anyone who loves the Fable games, these are some fun bonuses for sure. But even if you don't own an Xbox, "Fable Coin Golf" is well worth dropping the $4.99 on just for the 45 levels of pretty puck-sliding fun.
All in all, it's the kind of game that Windows Phones need more of. Build apps like this, and the gamers will come.
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