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Windows Phone 7 Gaming: Emergent

Our last mobile platform is arguably the weakest, for the simple reason that Windows 7 Phone still hasn’t had a massive impact on the mobile phone market, and games aren’t currently coming thick and fast to the device.
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This is a shame, because Microsoft has done a lot right with WP7 as a mobile gaming platform. Integrating mobile and console-based Xbox Live profiles was a brilliant move, allowing you to take achievements and friends lists from console to phone and back again, receive game invites through your phone and use one Avatar on both devices. Setting an agreed set of hardware specifications gives developers a target and ensures that games should look good, whatever the phone. What’s more, WP7 makes it easy to find and buy new games from within the Xbox Live tile, even if the best titles are steadily getting submerged by the usual lazy clones and me-too ports.
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The best games look good too. Titles like 3D puzzle/platformer Ilomilo, and Microsoft’s fine sci-fi RPG, The Harvest, are a great showcase for hardware like the HTC 7 Trophy and LG Optimus 7, proving that these handsets have the screens and 3D performance to make very capable gaming devices.

Tie-in games, where your performance earns bonuses in the ‘grown-up’ Xbox 360 version, is another brilliant idea, and one successfully executed by the highly enjoyable Fable: Coin Golf. Our one big concern is price. Where iOS and Android titles are generally hitting 59p to £2.99 price points, with a premium for tablet titles, £2.49 seems to be the baseline for WP7 games, with some titles soaring to £5.49 or more.
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And the future? Microsoft hopes that the release of its Windows Phone 7 Mango update will revitalise the platform, and there’s a chance that new handsets from Nokia, Acer, Fujitsu, LG, Samsung, HTC and ZTE might give WP7 the strength to compete with upcoming iOS and Android phones for 3D horsepower. We’re also intrigued by talk of hooking WP7 up with Kinect.

Most of all, though, the platform needs games. A few choice announcements at next month’s E3 conference wouldn’t hurt, and not just the new ‘Must Have Games’ promotion, pushing such exciting, never-before-seen classics as, erm, Angry Birds, Doodle Jump and Plants vs Zombies. Ideally, WP7 needs franchises on the scale of Halo, Gears of War and Forza Motorsport to succeed.

Key Titles:

The Harvest
Our pick of the selection on WP7 is a slick sci-fi RPG with strong 3D graphics and excellent touchscreen controls. It’s not perfect, but it’s big, ambitious and a serious statement of intent.

ilomilo
Released in tandem with the Xbox 360 version, this stylish puzzle-platformer does a fantastic job of blurring the boundaries between console and mobile games. The touchscreen controls have flaws, but the gameplay and graphics work briilliantly.

Fable Coin Golf
Lionhead’s Fable III tie-in does its best to transfer the game’s visual style and humour to WP7, and allows players to win gold they can spend in the console RPG. More importantly, this fun take on mini-golf is a great game in its own right.

Note: Thanks to LG and HTC for providing Windows 7 phones for this article.

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