You’d be mistaken for thinking that playing games on the Windows 8 and Windows Phone 8 were the only ways to earn Xbox Live Achievements and interface with your Xbox One and Xbox 360 console. That’s not by accident, Microsoft used to entice perspective buyers of its products with the promise that they could earn Xbox Live Achievements and more only its platforms. When Windows Phone, the company’s smartphone operating system, arrived, it was billed as the only smartphone buyers could earn points that go towards their Gamerscore. It was a bold move, even if earning Xbox Live achievements didn’t result in a millions of sales.
Since its debut on Windows Phone, Microsoft has begun to slowly roll out ways to earn Xbox Live Achievements, and more, on the iPad and iPhone. Over time these apps have blossomed into neat little games and avenues to build up scores and earn even more bragging rights with friends and family. They also make it easier to do things with an Xbox outside of gaming.
There is perhaps, no better example of how Microsoft has slowly began to embrace other’s platforms than the amount of Xbox Live-enabled games available to users of Apple’s iPhone and iPad devices.
Four games published by Microsoft Studios, the company’s game development group, are available on iOS 7, the latest version of Apple’s mobile operating system. Unfortunately, only one of those three games includes Xbox Live functionality, and it’s called Wordament. The game itself is easy to understand. Users get a board full of letters and are tasked with using the same tiles as everyone else to find different words in speed rounds and head-to-head competition. Because the game relies on human players, Microsoft needed as many players as possible to make the game fun for everyone, that’s probably why it’s free and includes Xbox Live functionality.
Kinectimals, Tentacles and Ms. Splosion Man make up the rest of the company’s gaming line up on the iPhone and iPad. None of them offer achievements, but they’re still pretty fun.
Kinectimals is a miniaturized version of the casual game that Microsoft released with the Xbox 360’s original Kinect Sensor. It features the same cat adoption that the original game did, however players use touch to care for their adopted animal. It’s not free; it costs iPhone users $2.99. Kids can take a photo and add their adopted pet into it in Kinectimals too.
Meanwhile, Tentacles: Enter the Dolphin is practically an endless runner game that casts users as some kind of creature who needs to circumvent a dolphin’s circulatory system and avoid obstacles. It’s weird, but its art style is distinctive. It’s available on the iPhone and iPad for 99 cents.
The there’s Mrs. Splosion Man. It’s a platform game like Mario that includes enhanced physics to make it more challenging. It includes hundreds of challenges to make getting to the end of its 50 levels more fun. It also supports the iPhone’s AirPlay streaming technology so that players can use their television as a large game display. It costs $2.99.
Outside of games, Microsoft makes two SmartGlass apps that absolutely everyone with an Xbox One or Xbox 360 and iPhone or iPad should pick up.
The Xbox 360 version allows users to respond to messages, add friends and browse information about the latest games on a user’s iPhone itself. When paired with the Xbox 360 on the same network, iPhone users can control video and audio playback in their living room too. It’s a bit slow since it connects to Microsoft’s own servers to make the connection possible. As such, it’s not really great as a controller replacement.
The Xbox One SmartGlass completely outclasses its predecessor, due in large part to the new console’s upgraded hardware. Like SmartGlass for the Xbox 360, SmartGlass for Xbox One allows users to control what’s happening in apps and games on their console using their iPhone and iPad. This app connects directly to the Xbox One itself, meaning it’s way more responsive and can be used as a controller replacement in apps and some simple games.
In addition to allowing users to play games, the Xbox One is also meant as a one-stop shop for all of a user’s entertainment needs. Xbox One SmartGlass assists in this mission too. iPhone and iPad owners can use their device’s touch screen and a keyboard and mouse replacement in apps like Internet Explorer, for example. This gives users a more comfortable place to type and the option to showcase important material on a screen larger than what they would have normally.
All of that is impressive, but by far the most useful thing Xbox One SmartGlass can do is only available to iPhone and iPad users who’ve joined the Xbox One’s Update Preview Program. Participants in the program can use their devices as a full-on remote replacement, complete with numbers and DVR control. An Xbox One SmartGlass-equipped iPhone or iPad can also be used a TV guide replacement. That’s right, people can instantly get a television guide on their iPhone and iPad. Tapping a show on their device gives the more information about the episode. Tapping the play button turns the television to the appropriate channel to watch that show.
All told, the Xbox experience on the iPhone and iPad is pretty robust. Other than more Xbox Live games, it’s a perfect mirror for what’s available to Windows Phone and Windows 8 users. Happy playing, and remember to keep all of these experiences and your Xbox 360 and Xbox One updated for the latest features.