Windows Phone might not offer as many apps as iOS and Android, but that doesn't mean fans of Microsoft's smartphone OS need to go without -- there are plenty of great games to choose from.
Consider Hues. It follows the same general idea of the immensely popular puzzle game Threes: tiles of varying colors are arranged on a grid, and you're tasked with sliding them about to match up pairs. As tiles are matched they transform into new, more valuable tiles -- keep matching those tiles to earn a higher score.
The premise is dumb, the short song clip loops endlessly, and the interstitial advertisements that pop up after every few attempts to get the kitty into the box are laughably bad. That said, this is a game about putting a kitty in a box. Press and hold on your phone's display and the kitty will start to scamper on its little legs. Release, and it'll slide on its chubby little belly. If you've timed it right, it'll slide right on into the box. If you've timed it extra-right, it'll have just enough momentum to snap up the fruit sitting behind the box. Time it poorly and it'll plunge into the abyss. It's kind of amazing, and I'm not even a cat person. More importantly, it's free.
In Mega Dead Pixel, you play as a single white pixel falling through a maze of black shapes and icons. Brush past these objects and you'll paint them in a rainbow of colors, earning yourself a few points and power up your megapixel meter -- once that's full, you'll become gargantuan for a few seconds and demolish everything in your path. Collide with objects when you're just a simple little pixel, and it's game over.
The game doles out quests as you play, challenging you to paint a set number of objects, or fall a certain distance without touching anything, for example. Completing these challenges will net you points you can spend on powerups, like the ability to start the next round a bit larger, or on entirely new pixel types with special bonus powers.
If you've ever played a racing game on a mobile device, you're already familiar with the general idea: dart about a race track or course, weaving through and blitzing past opponents as you barrel towards the finish line. Asphalt 8: Airborne takes an acrobatic spin on things, encouraging you to climb into increasingly awesome super cars and more or less take to the skies, ignoring silly ideas like physics and gravity as you take to the skies.
I like to think I've got a firm grip on words, seeing as how I spend my days arranging them into sentences for a living. It's a good thing I keep those thoughts to myself, as my performance in Wordament's perpetual worldwide tournament has been consistently abysmal.
The game's premise is simple: Boggle-style word searches, where everyone is presented with the same scrambled jumble of letters and 2 minutes to spell as many words as they know. It's a worldwide competition that never ends, with a minute-long interval to peruse how well you did (or didn't do) versus the competition before you're tossed in front of the next puzzle.
Rabbids Big Bang is part unabashed Angry Birds Space clone, part zany orbital mechanics simulator, and actually kind of hard. But not Angry Birds hard, which is akin to golf: practice a particular shot again and again, and those piggies and blocks will eventually tumble into place. In Big Bang, the rabbids you're thwacking into the great beyond tumble aimlessly, their paths corrected only when you fire up the jetpacks on their back. Your task is to complete tasks as quickly as possible; orbit a moon 3 times, reach a particular top speed outside of a planet's atmosphere, or collect objects floating in orbit, for example.
Snap Attack takes everything about Wordament that makes me nervous, and institutes Scrabble rules. The basic premise is the same: you're presented with a jumble of letters to make words out of. This time, there are pre-existing words on a board to play from and you've got just over two minutes to craft as many words as you can before taking a peek at the worldwide leader-boards to see how you fared. It never fails -- just when I think I've made a solid effort, I learn how many different, obscure ways there are to use the letter Q.
Being trapped in a mall parking lot or a few square blocks of suburbia is a hellish experience in its own right -- Pako just adds the long, hazardous arm of the law.
It's a police chase in miniature: you'll zip around claustrophobic arenas in speedy muscle cars, avoiding obstacles and police cars as you race to survive. Of course, there's no escape -- only the promise of a higher time to post to community leader-boards. And that challenge is made all the more difficult by just how fragile these little cars are.
Badland has proven to be a treat on iOS and Android, and its Windows Phone incarnation is no different. Tap to flap your puffball's arms, and stop tapping to deflate. It all sounds simple enough, but the challenge in these single-tap games has a way of sneaking up on you, throwing puffball crushing debris and all manner of deadly hazards without so much as a warning.
I've waxed poetic about Rayman's endless runner series more times than I can count, but what's one more go-round with this colorful auditory adventure? Like its predecessor, Jungle Run (also available on Windows Phone), you play as the eponymous Rayman, running and jumping and punching your way through varied, colorful levels, collecting glowing fairy-critters and generally trying to stay out of harm's way. I'd wager you'll mostly be in it for the music: the game's soundtrack is infectious, and you might not even mind restarting levels over and over again in an attempt to uncover every secret nook and cranny.
In Hypernaut, you can veer to the left or to the right. You'd think that wouldn't make for very compelling gameplay, but you're likely to change that tune as you barrel down a barren wasteland trying your utmost to steer clear of mountains, towering columns, shapes flying toward you, and fireballs crashing down from the sky and exploding in your path -- because why not, right? It's a decidedly simple experience, and therein lies the fun; just hop in and zoom about for a few minutes at a time, whenever you'd like.
When Piano Tiles first made waves on iOS and Android Phone a few months ago, I didn't get it. To be honest, I still don't get it. You have to touch the black piano keys -- if you touch the white piano keys, you lose. When you touch those keys, a note in a melody plays. And that's it, that's all there is to it. So why am I still tapping these keys? There are several different modes to choose from, though they all pretty much amount to the same thing: touch the black keys, don't touch the white ones. My favorite is the basic arcade mode -- I can just sit back as the tiles pour down the screen, tapping away in a sort of Zen-like trance.
Okay wait, hear me out. Yes, it's a farming simulator. You'll drive farming implements and prepare fields, plant crops and harvest them, haul things to markets and sell them so you can buy more seeds and do it all over again. And driving a tractor isn't as easy as it looks, either. But setting up a little farming empire be a really rewarding feeling, just you, your massive vehicles, and your well-oiled produce making machine. One warning: while the Windows Phone version is a bit cheaper that the iOS and Android incarnations of the game, there's no multiplayer and some of the feature are locked away as extra in-app purchases.
Skulls of the Shogun is getting a little long in the tooth, but if you haven't played this phenomenal turn-based strategy game, you owe it to yourself to give it a shot. You play as a samurai general who's bringing war to the underworld, leading undead forces in battle against demons and rival generals. It's also a universal app, so grabbing it on Windows Phone will net you the Windows 8 version, too. And that's a good thing. Since the game is compatible across platforms, you'll be able to take on friends and foes who are playing the game on Windows, Xbox 360, or iOS.