Dec. 27, 2010 at 6:40 PM ET
When it comes to smart phones, Windows Phone 7 devices — aka the Xbox phones — are busy trying to play catch up.
The new operating system just launched in November and hasn't exactly been doing gangbusters in terms of sales. Still, the phones have much to offer gamers. After all, Windows Phone 7 devices come with Xbox Live built in — that’s Microsoft’s popular online community gaming service.
If you were one of those people who found a WP7 phone under the tree on Christmas morning or perhaps you just decided to treat yourself to one of these shiny new gaming gadgets, here's a look at the games that are well worth playing.
Ilomilo – free
This incredibly cute and superbly done game of 3D puzzling will task you with bringing together two adorable creatures (best buddies Ilo and Milo). You will have to help them traverse a bright, beautiful world, turning this world in all directions and switching perspective from one creature to the other to figure out how to help them meet. This game is not only very well designed and beautiful to look at, it's also free. But there is a downside. And that is that "Ilomilo" is only available to WP7 owners who are AT&T customers. (Lame! I know.) But the good news is, even if you don't have a WP7 phone, you can download the game to your Xbox 360 using Xbox Live. So at least anyone can play it on their home console.
Fruit Ninja – $2.99
I love "Fruit Ninja" so much I just might marry it. This superb game of fruit slicing is quite simple to play (just slash your finger across the screen to cut all manner of flying fruit). But it is so well crafted you will want to play it over and over and over and over and over again. I'm serious, this game, which just made the leap from iPhones to WP7 devices, is incredibly addictive. When you check yourself into the "Fruit Ninja" detox program, just tell them I sent you.
Rocket Riot -$4.99
This fast-paced arcade shooter with tons of personality is, well, a riot to play. With its old-school style pixel art, its frenetic airborn action and its colorful cast of characters, you'll have a blast as you rocket your way about each level blasting enemies (and anything else that stands in your way) into tiny cubic smithereens.
Flight Control – $2.99
This sleek and gorgeously designed game of airplane guidance has been a hit on the iPhone and the iPad and is equally enjoyable on Windows Phone 7 devices. Touch the screen and draw a path to bring airplanes safely to their appropriate runway. It's harder than it sounds and utterly absorbing. If you don’t already own this unique game, now is the time.
Max and the Magic Marker – $6.99
This award-winning indie game (previously available on PC and as a downloadable title for the Wii) is among my very favorites app available in the WP7 Marketplace. “Max and the Magic Marker” combines whimsical platforming gameplay with the drawing mechanic that delighted so many of us in “Crayon Physics Deluxe.” Max, the boy with the magic marker, needs to stop the monster that he accidentally created. It’s your job to help him. When he comes up against obstacles and enemies, you’ll have to draw on your phone’s touch-screen to create solutions to his problems. If he needs to cross a ravine, for example, draw a line to create a bridge for him. At $6.99, this game is pricey but worth every penny.
Glyder: Adventure Worlds – $2.99
This adventure-filled game of flight is a soaring pleasure to play. Here you take winged adventurer Eryn sailing and swooping through the skies as she tries to collect crystals and conquer challenges and explore the strange world before her. Puting the tilt controls to use, the game does a great job of giving you that almost vertigo-like feeling of flight right there in the palm of your hand.
The Harvest – $6.99
While many of the games you can play on Windows Phone 7 devices have previously appeared on other platforms (usually the iPhone), "The Harvest" was made exclusively for Windows Phone 7 and can’t be found anywhere else. In this top-down action/role-playing game, you fight off hordes evil Harvesters on a future Earth. The battle action is well paced, the graphics look great and the game offers plenty of a RPG depth. Clearly a lot of care and effort went into the making of this game.
Star Wars: Battle For Hoth – $2.99
I enjoyed this "Empire Strikes Back"-themed tower-defense game when it arrived in Apple's App Store and it has translated nicely to the new Windows phones. Here's another chance to take down Snowtroopers, Viper Probe Droids, TIE Fighters and even AT-ATs as you defend Echo Base from the Dark Side. The graphics may not be the most inspired you’ll find, but the game’s ability to scratch that “Empire Strikes Back” itch will make up for it.
Star Wars: Cantina – $2.99
Speaking of the "Star Wars" universe, here's a chance to not only revisit the famed Tatooine cantina of original "Star Wars" fame, but to run the business yourself. If you've ever played a restaurant simulation game like "Diner Dash," then you know that managing a food and drink establishment can be a hectic blast. Now add the colorful characters from the "Star Wars" universe and you've got a very special game indeed. This isn't a perfect game but it will give you a really amusing "Star Wars" fix.
The Sims 3 – $6.99
The epic life-simulation gaming found in your typical “Sims” game has been smartly streamlined for the mobile phone with this application (a version of which has also appeared in Apple’s App Store). “The Sims 3” for WP7 is easy to jump into and yet retains plenty of depth. Create your own little digital human complete with some seriously quirky personality traits. Tend to their needs and help them achieve their wishes both big and small. The game is, as always, delightfully engaging.
The Revenants – $2.99
This good-looking little action-puzzle game finds you playing a newly formed spirit struggling to survive and struggling to grow into a more powerful spirit. To survive you’ll need to absorb the enemy ghosts that are after you. To do this, you’ll use the touch screen to draw loops around your enemies. These loops create vortexes that suck them right up. The gameplay is unique and well worth checking out.
de Blob: Revolution – $2.99
de Blob – a cheerful character who brings color to a color-less world – first appeared on the Wii as the hero in a clever platforming puzzle game. But don’t expect any platforming this time around. “de Blob: Revolution” has you helping de Blob trace trails of color through a gray world, saving its inhabitants as he goes. Trouble is, the trails he paints can’t cross each other or go through obstacles. This is a maze puzzler with great graphics and a cool concept that will keep you coming back for more.
CarneyVale: Showtime – $2.99
Of course you should spend $2.99 on this circus-themed physics game. I mean, you’re firing a clown out of cannon and then – using these bizarre robot-like arms – you’re grabbing and flinging him through an airborne maze of electricity- and fire-laden hazards. What could be more fun than that? This game got its start as part of Microsoft’s Community/Indie Games initiative. The ragdoll physics at work here are a sight to behold and the absurd, madcap gaming is hard to peel yourself away from.
Flowerz – Free
I wouldn’t have thought I could tolerate yet another match-three puzzle game. And yet, I decided to try out “Flowerz” for a few minutes … and before I knew it an hour had gone by. Yes, you’ll be tasked with matching flowers of the same color in rows and columns of three. But this game puts its own twist or two on the match-three thing – twists that will force you to think strategically and plan for the long term.