Category: Microsoft

The house of green and black; anything in general about Microsoft. Look to the tags for anything more specific.

Check out 31 mostly new Indie games coming to Xbox One

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If you’re tired of all this virtual reality news coming out of GDC and just want to check out some new games, the Xbox YouTube channel has posted 31 new trailers of upcoming indie titles. These games are all part of Microsoft’s indie publishing program, ID@Xbox, which has some booth space at GDC to show off the games.

Many of these are games I looked at in the IGF this year and it’s good to see them updated and getting console releases (Submerged, The Sun and the Moon, ClusterPuck 99). There are also a lot of titles I hadn’t heard of making their “console debut” on Xbox One. Of particular note is The Flame in the Flood which looks like a fantastically artsy rogue-lite set amongst a flood in a “forgotten post-societal America”. You can check out most of the games on the Xbox channel but I’ve included their bullet point listing after the break if you want to read some more.

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Microsoft has more than one Xbox 360 update planned for 2015

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Xbox Preview Program updates are nothing new if you follow Xbox’s Major Nelson or if you keep an eye on the Xbox press site. So I was about to scroll on by this latest Preview Program Enrollment headline when I realized it was for the Xbox 360. By this point I figured Microsoft was happy to leave their last-gen console to retire like a distinguished 55 year old; still around and doing well but not the topic of water cooler gossip like it used to be.

I’m happily mistaken — especially as Katy and I are using our 360s more than ever to play EDF — and happy to report that at least two new updates will be coming to the console through 2015. The first, which doesn’t have a solid release date yet, won’t bring glamorous new features but it may ease the pains of network troubleshooting for some users. Improved troubleshooting options will be added as well as a download/upload speed test utility.

The next update(s) are only promised by Major Nelson as “coming later this year”. While owners could sign up for the preview program in years past, this time around it’s more like a lottery. Major Nelson’s post details the new process.

2014 IGF entrant, Shiftlings, coming soon to Xbox One

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Since it’s turned into IGF week here at GameLuv I thought this would make for a fitting post. Shiftlings, one of my short listed picks from the 2014 IGF, is coming soon to Xbox One. The game page exists but there’s no release date or price info just yet.

Surprisingly similar in theme to a few of my 2015 picks, Shiftlings ties two alien astronauts together by an umbilical air hose that’s always over-inflated. The puzzling, platforming gameplay centers on shifting the air between the two which enables new abilities. Naturally, it’s also important to avoid space spikes and other pointy, poppy obstacles when your inflated with life-saving air.

Until there’s more to report I’ll just say congrats to Rock Pocket Games. It’s always good to see an IGF entrant come to release, especially the ones I haven’t been able to keep up with.

An update on Karaoke @ DAM for Japan’s Xbox One

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The post I made about Karaoke @ DAM for the Japanese Xbox One last July continues to get traffic so I thought I’d write an update. To promote the service Microsoft and Daiichikosho roped in prolific enka singer, Sachiko Kobayashi, and had her train up on the decidedly-not-enka rock song ‘One Night Carnival’ by Kishidan. The results are tremendous.

As for the “game” itself, I can confirm it’s pretty easy to switch your Xbox One’s location and download the app. Unfortunately you’ll quickly be confronted with a notice that “communication with the center system could not be sure”, according to Google Translate. I take this to mean it won’t connect to the server from outside of Japan but it could be because I don’t have one of Hori’s generic USB microphones. According to the Karaoke @ DAM page it seems no other headset or microphone will be tolerated. I was so close! I’m sure there’s some way to tunnel or proxy the Xbox One traffic so it looks like I’m in Japan but I’ll leave that work up to someone else.

Once you are properly signed in it looks like you can peruse and preview the entire catalog of songs for free. With plans to add 200 new tracks every week since launch that should give you around 102,000 songs to choose from. Got your VPN tunnel, Hori mic and a list of J-Pop songs you have memorized? Now you’re ready to pay. The rates still stand at a reasonable $3 for 24 hours of access or $10 for 30 days. DAM branded Microsoft Points cards are available at retailers in Japan as well. And at least for a limited time, that Hori microphone comes with a free 30 days of access.

That’s a lot of hoops to jump through to sing karaoke on your Xbox One and nab some Japanese Achievements. But until Microsoft gives the English speaking world a similar product (and with the death of Karaoke on Xbox 360) this is the only option we’ve got.

I’m going to keep trying to get on so I hope to be back with another update at some point. In the meantime, here’s some higher quality screens I grabbed from the Xbox One.

Xbox Avatars, What is going on?!

While the beloved (?) Xbox Avatars had to sneak into their own deprecated little Xbox One app, the party is weirder than ever back on Xbox 360. I spent a few minutes poking around the ‘#trending‘ section of the Avatar Store and found pricey homages to Grumpy Cat, Wrecking Ball, Turn Down for What and more.

You can check them out on the Avatar Store website and even see your own Avatar model them right here.

Boom Ball brings block breaking body bounding to Xbox One, today

Released amid the rampant consumerism and crippling food comas of this holiday weekend is a new Xbox One digital game: Boom Ball for Kinect. I know, it’s hard to think positively about Kinect’s motion controls but this $10 download is like a pleasant cross between Boom Blox and Breakout. It looks like a perfect low impact, low cost game to help recover from the festivities or show off that new Xbox One.

Commander Cherry wants you to pose for him

Ever the sucker for games that point cameras at my dumb face, I’m happy to inform the world about Commander Cherry’s Puzzled Journey. Like Leedmees on Xbox 360 and upcoming rival, Fru, Commander Cherry requires you to stand up and strike poses to create bridges and platforms for a 2D character. Where Leedmees was more like Lemmings and Fru has a gorgeous visual style, Commander Cherry looks to revel in dumb-itude.

Despite the similar gameplay elements they both look different enough to be equally appealing. Fru’s stages all take place on a single screen with an emphasis on puzzle solving. Cherry’s stages scroll like a traditional platformer with glowing pick-ups suggesting the shape you need to take. I could get into both as long as they don’t release around the same time. There’s only so much mild physical activity I can handle after all.

I’ll probably have more to post about Commander Cherry’s Puzzled Journey as it nears its “2015” release on both Xbox One and PlayStation 4.

Play your old tables on Pinball FX2; out now on Xbox One

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“Any available tables originally purchased on the Xbox 360 games and entertainment system from Microsoft will transfer over to the Xbox One version of the game at no additional cost,” reads the blog post over at MajorNelson.com

Score one for Team Internet! When Pinball FX2 was announced for Xbox One my excitement immediately fizzled into disappointment with the news that previously purchased tables wouldn’t carry over. How upset was I? In uncharacteristic fashion I actually sought out an online forum and openly expressed my feelings. Apparently loads of other Pinball FX fans did the same because now our table purchases do carry over. Oh and it’s out now on Xbox One so go play some free demo tables or load up the ones you already bought!

Done Playing: Strider (Xbox One)

It's not sprites but the game has a really great detailed look

It’s not sprites but the game has a really great detailed look

I finished Strider 2014 last week and overall it wasn’t great. As an homage to the arcade original I suppose that makes it a pretty accurate tribute because as much as I love that wacky old Strider it’s not much of a game. You run and jump wildly, hammering the attack button as everything explodes, you and your enemies alike. Peculiar characters come and go in a blur of flashes and there’s lots of deaths caused by wonky animations. Take away the coin slot and drag those traits out for a few hours and you’ve got Strider 2014.

As a tribute to Arcade Strider it hits every point you could list.

  • Hangglider infiltration
  • Constant shing-ing sword attacks
  • Quasi-Neo-Soviet regime
  • Grandmaster Meio
  • Dipodal Saucers, robo-hawks and panthers
  • A big mechanical gorilla
  • Super awkward gravity changes
  • The ‘Tong Pooh Three Sisters’ squad
  • Cartwheel jumps and slide kicks
  • Really annoying air skiff jumps

As a modern Metroidvania game it also ticks off the major checklist boxes.

  • Big map screen that you uncover as you play
  • New abilities guarded by bosses
  • Bosses that are defeated with the last ability you unlocked
  • Backtracking
  • Color-coded doors that require abilities to unlock
  • Hidden collectibles
  • Way fewer fast travel points than you’d like
  • Loading screen hallways
  • Upgradable health and skill meters

Combining both of those lists should result in an amazing game but in the end it’s neither a great Strider or Metroidvania game. It’s just ok and only recommended at a discount price. You’ll get just enough satisfaction from the Strider trappings by the time the frequent frustrations of actually playing the game set in. For a badass future ninja, Strider gets his ass outright stopped a lot. Being shot in the air will send you reeling to the ground, resetting the charge attack you need to deal with the frequent shield wielding enemies. Later upgrades let you bypass most enemies but then a lot of doors are locked until you kill everyone in sight anyways. This cycle alone probably added an hour to my playtime and breaks the pace at which you’d love to keep moving forward.

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There are ways to counter all this stuff but the game doesn’t require more than constant button mashing

Boss fights are not only frustrating but boring and repetitive. I routinely died in order to figure out their  patterns instead of being able to dodge or counter until I could see what was going on. Seeing what’s happening in a boss fight is made even more frustrating thanks to the subtitles that fill the lower third of the screen with big banners. These usually cover up Strider and all the lasers and shockwaves flying towards him. It is astoundingly poor design and if the accompanying voice acting was recorded to be ironically bad à la Bionic Commando ReArmed, it fails.

The best I can say is that the game does capture the Strider vibe…  and that it isn’t very long. Sometimes a game being short is a great thing; it sets the stage and lets you play with its systems just long enough to keep you enthralled. Strider offers a few encounters that feel really strategic and fun but mindlessly wailing on the attack button is the order of the day. A few thousand button presses and a minimum of concentration is all it takes to blaze through in 4 or 5 hours. It’s all flashes, explosions and wonky mechanics and while that is Strider in a nutshell, this 2014 edition isn’t as memorable as either a Strider game or a Metroidvania game.

Xbox One gets ‘Karaoke @ DAM’ service in Japan [UPDATE]

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UPDATED 01/22/15: I’ve done some digging, found out how to download the app myself and took some much higher quality screenshots. Check it out here!

Original Post: While I continue to wait for an Xbox One version of the 360’s Karaoke game, the new console will launch in Japan this September with a sing-along service in tow. ‘Karaoke @ DAM’ will provide an initial selection of 100,000 songs and corresponding HD videos with 200 new tracks delivered each week. A SingStar-esque scoring system called “Precision Scoring DX” is promised and videos of your performance can be recorded with Kinect. There’s even a SmartGlass app that can be used to queue up songs and playlists.

Rates start at an appreciably modest $3 for 24 hours of access or $10 for 30 days. Karaoke @ DAM sounds like some cheap fun but it sure could use a redesign based on these very tiny screenshots. Come on Microsoft, get The Karaoke Channel and iNiS on the ball and bring that Avatar-powered Karaoke to the Xbox One already!