Despite my mixed feelings about my device of choice, there is already an impressive array of Xbox Live-supported Windows 7 games available for purchase. While most of them are currently available on the iPhone in some form, the lure of achievement points and some genuinely interesting, exclusive titles can allow for the WP7 to develop into a legitimate alternative to Apple's conqueror of worlds.
The Harvest - $9
Think of The Harvest as Diablo Future with touch controls. As one of three different character classes with differing durability, strength and range; players can plough through the four available levels in just under four hours with plenty of enjoyable Action-RPG grinding on offer. There is not sufficient depth to the action to warrant multiple playthroughs; but the strength in presentation alone will ensure that most would at least complete the game with the Scarab class (which is by far the most accessible). The boss fights are fairly entertaining, and often task players with using each of their special abilities to conquer pattern-based battles. The controls are responsive, and any errors would rarely result in death (or any great amount of damage for that matter), or any great amount of frustration. The Harvest doesn't provide much challenge, especially once you have kitted out your mech. Save for the first level, which is uncharacteristically difficult when compared to the rest of the experience; you should find yourself breezing through the game. Shallow, but flashy and involved fun (7/10).
Star Wars: Cantina - $4 (Available for $1.19 on iPhone)
Star Wars: Cantina is easily the least effective use of the Star Wars license in gaming history. In order to help your old friend, Robb: Nia Adea serves drinks at his cantina to pay back a sizeable debt. You will serve patrons of differing species and/or occupations, and depending on your speed you earn larger tips to attain daily earnings targets. If you don't serve customers fast enough, they may just decide to kill your other guests or alternatively die of thirst. While I did fail to attain objectives initially, once I got the hang of it, the game offers little-to-no challenge. After finishing the Career Mode, I played through multiple times to earn the 200 available Gamerscore points and never lost a customer or failed a subsequent playthrough. The game looks pretty enough, but the touch controls often fail to respond as required, leading to much frustration. You can upgrade the facilities to cater to specific customers, or increase the speed at which drinks are prepared; but ultimately Star Wars: Cantina is a shallow experience that will leave you looking for reasons to leave Tatooine (4/10).
Flowerz - Free
Flowerz is yet another Match Three game, that tasks you to match three to five flowers of the same colour in order to work through a quota of, well, flowers. There are some interesting mechanics at play, such as the shovel which allows you to move flowers to a more convenient space, and later on, certain flowers when cleared, will leave different coloured buds (depending on the coloured centre of the plant cleared) which adds another layer of strategy. From a presentation perspective, Flowerz is the quintessential free game; with modest looks and sound. The game often failed to precisely register my touch, which at times resulted in the loss of game-saving shovels and butterflies.While it definitely provides an experience worthy of its price tag, Flowerz is nothing new, and nothing memorable (4/10).
Bejeweled LIVE - $6.50 (Bejeweled 2 & Blitz available on the iPhone for $1.19)
Another Match Three game, but with a level of polish and depth that something of the likes of Flowerz fails to emulate; Bejeweled LIVE is beautiful and fiendishly addictive. Classic, Action and Endless modes each offer sufficiently different experience to warrant hours of sustained play. Be warned though, this game drained the battery of my phone like none other; with two hours of play eating over half of the battery power. The game features fantastic Leaderboard support, which has resulted in even more hours spent staring at my phone. While Bejeweled LIVE doesn't offer anything substantially different from its predecessors, it is easily one of the more refined WP7 games available at launch, and worth the investment (8/10).
Flight Control - $4 (Available on the iPhone for $1.19)
Fun, almost addictive puzzle game that almost anyone with an iPhone would have (and probably should have) played. Players are tasked with tracing landing paths for varying types of aircrafts, over several different airports (each with their own arrangement of landing strips) which are each subject to varying weather conditions and obstacles. Despite my best efforts, I have failed to develop the skill level required to post any exorbitant scores; but I have had fun nonetheless. I should note that I have not had any luck viewing Leaderboards populated with any scores other than my own, which is slightly disappointing. The game controls extremely well on my handest, with few errors in touch recognition. With simple graphics, compelling gameplay and inoffensive sound; Flight Control is a worthy addition to anyone's WP7 game library (7/10).
It is probably worth noting that I am bit of a snob when it comes to phone gaming. Apart from Bejeweled LIVE, none of the games I have played on my WP7 handset (or an iPhone for that matter) have provided an experience comparable to that offered on dedicated portable consoles (specifically the DS and PSP). That being said however, it's come to the point where I can't really afford to continue investing in said machines as the games are considerably more expensive. Maybe publishers can price content for consoles more competitively, so the PSP and DS can get a look in again (I stress that this is for me, I am under no illusion that these platforms can't survive without my patronage)? Then again, maybe pigs will fly?
Has anyone else picked a WP7 handset? What games have you been playing? Has everyone else got an iPhone?