Essential indie games for Windows Phone (January 2013)

Essential indie games for Windows Phone (January 2013)

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Last month I spotlighted a clutch of games created by independent—or “indie”—developers that had either caught fire among Windows Phone owners or impressed the folks here who review apps for a living (yes, I’m insanely jealous). The response was so good—obviously, lots of indie game fans out there—that I decided to make it a regular thing. So here’s the first monthly list of most promising indie titles to debut or receive big updates during the previous weeks.

To me, the explosion of indie smartphone games is one of the most exciting recent developments in entertainment—and the Windows Phone Store has been absolutely flooded with fun titles. What I love about this genre is how it forces the people who craft them to be creative, since most games are made without the luxury of massive budgets or staffs. More typically, they’re labors of love. And the best of them—like The Path of Kara and Chimpact below—are practically indistinguishable from any big studio release.

The downside of indie games? Finding the gems can take a little time and effort. But that’s where this column—and Store collections like Next Big Thing—come in. So here’s my list of not-to-be-missed indie titles this month. Which new ones can’t you stop playing?


The Path of Kara

The Path of KaraThe Path of Kara

The Path of Kara has an intriguing story, Celtic-inspired music, and gorgeous visuals right out of Lord of the Rings or Pixar’s Brave. You take on the role of Kara, a young shaman on a quest to save her island. Solve riddles, gather supplies, and use your shaman skills to defeat dangerous creatures through 70 levels. $0.99



Avoiding monsters – or outsmarting them – is the trick to this dungeon maze adventure, with clues and brain teasers along the way. Great for all ages, Haunted has 27 monsters to worry about and new maps every month. $1.99

Dummy Defense

Dummy Defense

Explosions, boulders, spiked walls and more perils await in this game of ragdoll physics and quick wits. Build a structure to protect your dummy, with the ability to see areas of strain in your design so you can shore up defenses. The cheaper your structure is to build, the more stars you earn. $0.99

Paper Dash

Paper Dash

Accidents happen, but this one was a doozy. Now you’ve got to start a paper route to pay for damage to a neighbor’s car, collecting bottles and soda cans along the way for extra cash. Earn superpower to deliver more papers…and make more cash. Free



Springing a rubbery, happy-go-lucky chimp around a lush jungle to the beat of native drums makes for a wildly enjoyable game in Chimpact. Help your monkey collect bunches of bananas, discover gems and medallions, and explore secret paths as you advance him through the different levels. $2.99

Sketch Taxi

Sketch Taxi

Updating a classic ‘80s video game for Windows Phone, Sketch Taxi puts you in the driver’s seat of a flying cab, picking up fares and delivering them to different levels of a Jetsons-like landscape that’s sketchy, not cartoony. The more fares you deliver, the more you make. The better you drive, the bigger your tips. $1.99

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  • mtcerio
    9 Posts

    Dummy Defence and Chimpact not available in the UK???

  • Wow!! Sorry Michael, lol! Didn't know it was going to come to this... Maybe it's time to do a extremely preliminary outline on what we can possibly expect in a future update to WP8.... Just to let the boys know you guys are "working on it" and have more in store... I know software development is hard work and takes a lot of man hours, so I'm going to deal with the WP8 music hub, and wait patiently for what's next.. I do compliment everyone on the team for the fine work that has been done in WP8. Like I said, with the hardware Nokia has developed, and the wonderful OS WP8 is, this has been the best smartphone experience I have ever had. Its just so exciting to even be able to think that it can be better... Thanks!!

  • Given that a lot of the conversation here is about XBox Music I'll throw my two Cents into the ring.

    1.) Why is there no XBox Music Desktop App? Can't think of any good reason except pushing People to W8.

    2.) Why doesn't XBox Music work on WP7 devices in Countries that did not have Zune Music Store? In Germany with the advent of XBox Music this became possible - in Austria it only works on my WP8 device but not on the WP7.

    3.) Connected to 2 - why don't we have Bing Audio in Countries were there is XBox Music but where we didn't have Zune before that. I'd love to tag a song I hear on the Radio in my Car and Download it with XBox Music. Now I have to use Soundhound and look the song up myself as it has no link to the store (Shazam might be an alternative but the free version only supports a limited number of tags/month).

    4.) The XBox Music Metro App is just terrible. It looks nice but it's really hard to navigate to the things you actually want to do with it. I fear the only thing you can do is to do the same as to the original Zune Software. Throw away and build a new one. I'm serious - it's terrible. Also I'd love to get the Album Cover Fullscreen Background from Zune back. It looks a lot better than what XBox Music is displaying after Music has been playing for 30 seconds or so.

    5.) The time it takes for a song to start is just too long. That never was an issue with Spotify and if I believe what others here tell me: it wasn't an issue with Zune either. It's not taking 30 seconds like somebody here mentioned but simply to long. This needs work as it severly degrades the experience.

  • Cadwr
    0 Posts

    Haunted and Sketch Taxi look interesting. I was very recently introduced to the original Space Taxi by Giantbomb's Encyclopedia Bombastica video on it, so it is cool to have this version to check out. Demos downloaded and I'll give both games a try when I have a chance.

  • coulton
    0 Posts

    I am also wholeheartedly disappointed with the Xbox Music Modern UI application.  The Zune software was amazing, they had thought of everything.  Everything was clickable and lead you to discover new music and to download music to your hearts content.

    The Xbox music application is another story.

    First - If you;re playing a song, there isn't a download button to download the song that is currently playing.  When you have downloaded ("added to my collection") a song, for some reason a download button appears on the "right mouse click" menu.

    Secondly - Why oh why do songs take so long to play.  This wasn't an issue with the Zune software.

    Thirdly - If you press play on a song and then flip back to the Desktop (by clicking top left), the song doesn't play!!  You have to go back to the application and wait for it to play.

    Fourthly - If you're playing a song from an album, clicking the album cover doesn't lead you to the album page.

    Fifthly - The application is awful for discovering new music, it sucks.  I feel stuck in my current music collection and it's a pain to find new music.

    I contacted the "Chat support" that Microsoft provide, and she simply didn't listen and insisted that I was wrong.

    And another thing.... apparently the "Xbox live" Join page isn't misleading saying that you can have access to Zune Music with an Xbox Live subscription.  You have to have both an Xbox live AND a Zune subscription to get to music via Xbox Music on Windows 8.  So we all have to pay for Xbox live AND Zune (Microsoft can't be bothered changing the name of it to Xbox music) on the Xbox website.


    Bring back Zune as a Modern UI app.... please!

  • Hi everyone. This my first post on this blog.. I actually decided to join after I saw Rodney's post. I am also sorry but I completely and utterly agree with everything that Rodney said. I am a die hard Microsoft fan.

    I've been really disappointed with Xbox music and alot of other things that I will not dive into. But since the topic is Xbox music then I will just talk about that.., I got the HTC 8x few days ago moving from the WP 7. I must say that Zune was so much better and I had an amazing experience using it. Even the zune desktop application which no longer works with Wp7 ( which is ridiculous in my opinion ) was my favorite thing. The search experience on Xbox music desktop is horrible. The interface is laggy and the songs take forever to play.

    My friend who has an iPhone and uses iTunes was so impressed by the Zune dekstop application he wanted to switch to windows phone completely.

    Xbox music on the phone has alot of issues. Everything that Rodney said I agree with 100%.. Music and Lync are the main 2 reasons for me to use WP and one of them is horrible.

    When I am trying to stream a song over the WiFi 16mb connection in Dubai it takes around 30 seconds to start the song. I can't even change the gray background in the Xbox music app. I prefer the black one which gave me a unified feeling across the phone.. Too many things to mention, I don't know what's going with you guys. This really sucks and iam really disappointed. I think the progress of this phone is really slow and if you guys don't listen to the consumers asap. You will lose alot of customers. I already have alot of friends that moved to Samsung and iPhone now. Ian really not impressed with Xbox music for desktop and phone. Zune gave me a better experience to sync my music, search browse and manage my phone.. Ian really disappointed , but I love Microsoft..

  • Please Do U have any idea about that what the game developers are thinking about windows phone 7 ??

  • duus
    0 Posts

    Now since the posts here all seem somehow related to it I have to ask:

    Do you ever check your facebook page? If you go in there you will see that around half of the comments to the official posts are people screaming for news about the 7.8 update. You do know that the value of facebook is that it is two-way right? Using it as a wall to hang commercials and then let random people run your reputation to the ground isn't exactly good marketing.. For every commercial push you try in there there are 40-45 people giving you bad publicity.

    Now I would like windows phone to succeed seeing how I love the interface (and have Nokia stocks ;) ), but it is not going to happen without a sound ecosystem and a large profit stream, both of which will not happen if you do not get new users to join and expand your market share.

    You need to start communicating with your customers!

  • @ Florin

    Maybe you are right. The time that the drop box stays down might be fine if you just want to skip to the next song and let it play, but if you want to skip to the next song then listen for a second, then skip to the song after that until you find the one you're in the mood for, you will find yourself doing a lot of button pressing. Its even more frustrating when you're trying to drive.

    I'm not asking them to change the default drop box timeout time. I just would like to have a little button on the box to be able to lock the box down for however long I please. There's plenty of room on the box to do this without it being cluttered. The idea is to press the lock button and the box will stay down, then with another press of the button the box will hide. Just an option for those of us who need it.

    Another solution, which should actually compliment my first idea, would be to add a option in settings to let us determine how long that box stays down. Right now the default time seems to be 3 seconds. It would be nice to have choices like 15, 30, 60, and 90 seconds to choose from, and of course the standard default time. Its options that make a OS seem more refined, and tailor to everyone's needs.

  • I really would love to see Settlers of Catan on WP8. This has been by far and away my favorite game to play on my phone and was dissapointed to see it missing from WP8.

    I started with the iPhone 3GS and then iPhone 4. Then I started feeling boxed in and I switched to Android for two years. When WP8 came out I got very excited because I love the OS. So I've switched. I agree with Rodney that the XBOX Music doesn't quite make the grade. It feels clunky and the controls aren't very intuitive.

    I love my Lumia 920. Hands down it is the best phone I've ever owned. I'm really excited about the platform and I hopeful that some of the apps that I'm really missing will soon resurface on this platform. Either way...I'm in it to win it.


  • Florin
    0 Posts

    @Rodney E. Jones Mate I did not listen to any long mixes(that have more then an hour or so, I suppose you're referring to that, not to mix like a playlist song after song) but regarding the sounds between tracks I think this is your L920 fault. I have an HTC 8X and honestly I didn't hear any sound that would create discomfort when I change tracks. Also the dropdown controls on the lock screen are not disappearing too fast, they stay long enough to go to the next track or previous.

    Regarding this blog, I like the idea, it helps me staying up to date.

    I like the graphics on Chimpact, if only dev's would start use the full power of GPU instead of doing dull graphics on their games (and I'm not talking only for WP, they do it on other platforms too).

  • Looking for the easiest way to copy files from your PC to your Windows Phone? Get Transffr from Windows Phone Store! more info at

  • Lol! I figured you might have meant games, but I really don't play games that much,, yet. Sorry to get so far off subject. :-):-)

  • @Rodney: Haha. I meant games, but it's nice to know what you're rocking out to on that gui-tar, too.

  • I don't mean to hijack the Michael, there are PLENTY of threads over on the forums.  I wish SOMEONE from Matt Akers (who used to be the Zune Desktop App Program Lead) team would provide an answer, or just pop in and say "hey, we are listening, and want to make you happy, so we are working on addressing the major concerns."  Nope.  No word, other than from MVP's, which is fine to a certain extent.  I COMPLETELY, to infinity and beyond, agree with Rodney.  XBM is a complete joke, on Windows Phone and Windows 8.

    Now, to the games you gave above, I'd have to say The Path of Kara is a great alternative to Final Fantasy.  Chimpact has some great visuals.

  • OMG! Where do I start?? Lol

    I listen to everything from Sound Garden to Nas,, Jay Z to Slipknot,, Funkadelic to Zeppelin,, Bruce Springsteen to Ray Charles, Wu tang, NWA, Notorious Big, Korn, Muse, Queen, Markita, Madonna, Prince, MJ, Five Finger Death Punch, Public Enemy, Audio slave, Slave, War, Mountain, Parliament, Chevele, Eminem... Whatever sounds good!! I only have about 1000 songs on my 920 so far, but my collection is growing everyday.

  • @Rodney: We welcome passion. :-) Speaking of which, tell me what you're playing these days that you love!

  • Thanks Michael.. I'll stop. Lol!

    I've always bragged about how you guys always listen to us and try your best to implement our ideas. Thanks.

  • @Rodney: Appreciate your thoughts on this. It's been passed on to the team.

  • I hate to do this again, but I feel it necessary........ Sorry.

    Slightly off subject!...... I hope the WP team reads this one!


    I have decided to take it upon myself to see that Xbox Music is updated with at least the functionality of Zune in WP7.5. Zune in WP7.5 worked just fine, in fact the functionality was great! But with Xbox Music comes many extremely annoying issues so bad that if you use your phone mostly for playing music I can't recommend that you waste your time, and money on a WP8 device... Can you guys believe I said that? Let me say it again.. If music playback is what you are looking for do not buy a WP8 device. I never thought those words would come out of my mouth, but Xbox Music's functionality is that horrific.

    But there is hope because fortunately software can be updated.. Thank the lord. Besides XBM I absolutely love my L920, and its exactly the kind of device I have been asking for for years. The only downside is that I use it mostly for music playback.. To bad for me there is no real intuitive solution currently in WP8 for Music playback. What's wrong with it you might ask???

    First off,, BUGS!... Has anybody noticed all this popping and crackling going on between tracks, or at start/stop? And, if I wanted my music to skip I would just use my CD player. When you hit the next track button sometimes seconds into the song it will jump to the middle or end of the track. Its weird! Wow!

    And I'm not sure if this is a bug or just poor engineering, but when I try to come back to my mix its gone. I've noticed that if the phone sits idle for a certain period of time it looses, or backs out of the mix you started. This is probably my biggest complaint about Xbox Music. So annoying because I start a mix so that I can continuously play all the music in my device without having to hear the same song twice, but when it deletes my mix, and I have to start over by hitting that little play button,, which used to be two beautiful notes in Zune, it will start back with songs I've already heard.. Its driving me absolutely nutz!! Lol... The phone has to sit for a long time like over night, or hours for this to happen, so when you are ready for your drive to work your mix is gone. I first noticed this when I would press the volume rocker and the audio controls in the drop down box would be missing. I think Zune only did this if the phone was soft reset, which is acceptable..

    Speaking of the drop down box with the audio controls.. We lost the audio controls on the lock screen due to the new lock screen capabilities in WP8, but it was at a cost. I personally want the on screen controls back. I hate having to two step it,, pressing the power button, then the volume rocker to access the audio controls which like I said don't even appear after not using them for a while. This annoyed me with WP7.0, but then WP7.5 came out with the controls affixed to the lock screen, and wow,, so much better. Can you imagine how annoying it is that its already gone, and we're right back where we started having to two press it? I feel like I'm going to ware my buttons out! At least give me the option of being able to select the audio buttons to be permanently affixed to the lock screen. Is it possible for a lock screen app to do this? Either way please come up with a better solution.

    Back to the drop box with the audio controls that are always disappearing. When you do press the volume rocker and the audio controls drop down the box goes back up to fast. Sometimes it takes me a few seconds to decide if I want to listen to a song or skip it and it seems like everytime I decide to skip it, and I go to press the bottom the box shoots back up almost mocking me like " nope". So frustrating this is.. The solution? Maybe the time the engineers decided to have this box stay down isn't the problem. We need a little button on the bottom right of the dropdown box that when pressed will make it hold itself in the down position from any screen including the lock screen, and when pressed again the box will go back up,, especially if you guys won't give us our lock screen audio controls back.. Another smart thing to do would be to add a option in settings for us to determine how long the box stays down, similar to how we decide when the lock screen times out. Please come up with a better solution..

    Why did you guys make the now playing album cover so small in Xbox Music compared to Zune? Bring back the large beautiful album cover with the time, and play status big enough for us to read,, please.. There also seems to be some kind of graphical error with it as well with this weird outline of white on the edge. Please fix..

    Who decided to not include the FM radio in Xbox Music? Please tell them to kindly put it back......

    I have never complained this much about WP software, but the music hub does not seem on par with the quality of programming that we've always seen with WP. It has this sense of poor finish, and incompleteness to it.. I hope I didn't offend anyone specifically on the team with my criticisms, but I have to say this is Android 2.3 quality software at best,, and you guys should be ashamed of yourselves.. Remember,,, biggest WP fan in the world here guys!