Reviews

Batman Arkham City

You want to visit Arkham City

0

(10/10)

“The batcomputer is none too frisky today, Batman.” – Robin

Batman Arkham City

I remember how I felt before I started playing Batman Arkham Asylym. I wasn’t excited. In fact, I was ready for another poor job at trying to recreate a part of the DC super-hero world. Ready to cringe as happy childhood memories of reading comics were destroyed with every click of the “A” button.

But it didn’t happen. In fact, it was quite the opposite. The game was brilliant and brought a bunch of new concepts and gameplay tactics to the fore. It made me smile.

I was moderately excited about Arkham City, but I was pretty confident that it would just be more of the same. I didn’t pre-order it. Then some of my mates got it. Then the Metacritic reviews started coming out and I knew I was missing out.

I rushed out and bought a copy. I haven’t looked back.

It’s dark and it’s fantastic. In every way. The level of detail in the world that has been created is mind boggling. Inclusion of almost every villain that Batman has every faced in a single game wrapped up in a single coherent story is a feat in itself.

The gameplay and control dynamics are also extremely polished. I haven’t wanted to throw my controller at my TV once yet. Some of my friends apparently have, but they have co-ordination issues.

I haven’t finished the game yet, but it looks set to keep me busy for quite some time. Especially if you decide to tackle all the side missions and to finish the Catwoman part of the game as well.

Bravo lads. I’ll pre-order the next one.

iOS vs. Android

10 Things I hate about you

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Most people would argue that I’m probably not the best person to write this article as I’m simply not capable of being impartial or objective when it comes to all things Apple. I may have drunk the Kool-Aid, but I’d choose a non-Apple device if I was presented with an alternative that did the job better.
iOS vs. Android

It’s the little things those guys at No. 1 Infinite Loop do that make all the difference.

Some people are trying very hard to convince me to make the move from the iPhone to a device that runs Android. They have supplied me with a Google Nexus One running Android 2.2. Not the newest, shiniest Android phone, but it apparently still does a pretty decent job of showing off the operating system. Some of the criticism I list below is of the device itself and not of Android. I’m sure that later models of Android phones probably address some of these issues.

My top 10 things that will make me go back to my iPhone at the end of the month:

1 – The touch screen isn’t great. It’s not terrible either, but I’ve been using an iPhone since the original 2G came out and I’m used to Apple somehow figuring out exactly what I was trying to push on the screen. I found myself cursing out loud on a number of occasions after repeatedly not being able to tap the link or button I was aiming for.

2 – Global search, or rather lack there of. It’s something I use frequently on my iPhone. If someone sent me an email or text message or if I think I’ve saved something in a note, but I’m not sure, I can use the iPhone’s search function to search the contents of any and all applications on my phone for a keyword. On Android it is limited to looking things up in the contacts database and on the Interweb. I would have though that Android would excel at this, with Google knowing a thing or two about search.

3 – Sometimes there are just too many taps or options to do basic things. Like after installing Skype every time you want to dial a number another dialogue box pops up asking if you would like to use the phones dialer or Skype Out. I’m not debating that it is a cool feature, but it makes dialing painful. Even an option just to turn it on or off would be great.

4 – You can’t adjust the audio volume from the supplied earphones. Ridiculous I know, but super frustrating if you listen to a lot of music on your mobile phone.

5 – If you’re listening to a song and you like it, but you don’t know what it is, you have to go into the music application (you could also use the widget or notification bar I guess) to see what is playing. On the iPhone you just tap the sleep button and you are shown the current songs album art with song and album name. And no, “Car Home” is not a solution. I definitely don’t want to launch an application to change the way I interface with the phone every time I get into a car.

6 – Following on from this, there are no on screen music controls while the phone is locked. This is super annoying when you’re driving and you’re playing music from the device into the cars head unit. Again, you need to unlock the phone and go into the music application to change tracks.

7 – The battery life of the device is shorter than my iPhone. I can’t make it to the end of the day without charging it. I’m a pretty heavy data user so I generally have quite a few apps running in the background and I have most of the services set to synchronise automatically, but I’m not using any services that I don’t use on my iPhone. Push notifications and the limited ability of the iPhone to multi-task is what makes the difference.

8 – This one may be a little unfair as Apple don’t make it easy, but I feel there are enough people in the world that use iTunes to organise, buy and listen to music that there should be an out of the box mechanism to synchronise your music. I found DoubleTwist which does a decent job of getting your music onto the device, but it is cumbersome having to load an additional application to get your music onto it.

9 – Copy and paste. I didn’t know how much I needed it until I got it on the iPhone. Copy and paste on the device is functional, but it’s rather unpleasant to use. On the iPhone it’s almost as intuitive as using a mouse.

10 – Wifi configuration for enterprise and corporate networks is significantly more complex then on the iPhone. I’m not sure how Apple get it right on the iPhone (and in Mac OS X), but all I need to select is “WPA 2 Enterprise”, enter my credentials and it figures out the rest. On the Android device (and on a PC running windows) you need to know your “EAP method”, “Phase 2 authentication”, some other stuff and your credentials.

Now some of these may seem ridiculous, but when it comes to everyday use, the iPhone is a far superior experience when it comes to user friendliness of the user interface.

I do feel that I also need to mention a few things that I really like about Android and where I think Apple could take some direction:

1 – Social media integration on Android is fantastic. Having a view on all the services someone makes use of right in the contacts application is really useful. Media sharing also provides a host of options other than just the Google services.

2 – Dragging the unified notifications bar down from the top of the screen is a great way to get a quick view of all the activity on the phone, especially if you’ve been away from it for a while.

If anyone feels that I’m being unfair to Android because of the Nexus One, please feel free to supply me a device that performs better and I’ll gladly review it and post and update to this article.

Monday-Night-Combat

Too much of rad: Monday Night Combat

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I don’t really have much to say about this game, except that you absolutely have to play it. I haven’t had this much fun since I tried to get the game to zoom in as close as possible into Lara Croft’s boobs in Tomb Raider 1 on the Playstation.

Monday-Night-Combat

It’s all about fast paced death and destruction. Kill your opponent and then gesticulate rudely for added pleasure.

There are a number of classes to choose from and they are all awesome. It takes a while to get used to each classes special skills, but the button mashing remains pretty much the same across all of them, so the learning curve isn’t too steep. Depending on whether you’re a point-and-shoot or sneaky-sneaky kind of guy you’ll probably start off with the Gunner or Assassin class.

Although there is some single player action, the real fun only starts when you get a 16 player ( 8 vs 8 ) Crossfire game going. It’s complete and utter mayhem. Be ready for much swearing and virtual high fiving as you try to take out the other teams moneyball.

As you progress you earn money which you can use to unlock custom classes and badges like “Don’t forget the bacon”. Does it get any better than this ?

There are plenty of local people playing (pretty much everyone on my friends list), so you’ll have no trouble finding a game with a low ping/latency.

It’s on Xbox Live Arcade and will set you back a measly 1200 MS points.

Monday nights will never be the same again.

A journey back to the land of Windows

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It had been just over two years since I had had the (dis)pleasure of booting a Microsoft operating system. Two weeks ago I decided to see what all the fuss was about with Windows 7 and at the same time take a look at Parallels 5 Desktop for Mac. I hadn’t used Parallel’s since version 3 and I’d heard good things about it as well. Two birds with one stone.

And while I was at it, I figured I’d give Office 2010 and Visio 2010 a go as well. Certain sites that I make regular use of were developed by folks that haven’t heard of things like standards and W3C so I often find myself having to log onto a terminal server just to access information or open documents.

After downloading all the relevant installation files and obtaining all the appropriate license keys, I was ready to go.

The Parallel’s installation went off without a hitch and was super quick. Pretty unobtrusive and what I expected.

ParallelsDesktop5forMac.jpeg

I fired up Parallel’s for the first time and clicked on the button to install a new OS. I pointed it at my Windows 7 image and clicked next. It recognised it as a Windows 7 image and pretty much did everything else on it’s own. I gave the OS access to only one of my CPU cores and 2048GB of RAM. I also chose not to have any integration between Mac OS X and Windows as I would be uninstalling before the trial expired.

I couldn’t believe how quick the Windows 7 install was. I run the VM on an external LaCie 7200rpm disk connected with firewire 800, but even so, the installation was nothing like what I was used to with XP (I never installed or used Vista, so I have no idea what that installation process was like). I logged in for the first time, it did some stuff and was raring to go. First thing I did was take a snapshot, just in case I ended installing something that blatted my VM or I decided I wanted to go back to a clean install.

I played around with IE and some of the other apps that come bundled with Windows 7 and was very happy with the performance inside my VM. Considering that I gave it access to a fair amount of resources I was very happy that it wasn’t bringing my system to it’s knees.

Next I installed Office 2010 Beta and Visio 2010. Also went off without a hitch, but did require a fair amount of downloading of additional components. Not the end of the world. After the installation I took another snapshot. Again, just in case I wanted to get back to a near clean install. I opened up a few Word and Excel documents, a few diagrams in Visio and set up Outlook to connect to our Exchange server, again all without any issues. One thing I did find rather annoying was that every time one of the applications encountered some new feature it would need to install an add on from the Interweb. I suppose some of this will go away once the product is out of beta.

I had now completed installing everything I wanted to try out and so far so good. The apps all seemed pretty light and very very responsive in my VM. The combination of Parallel’s 5 and Windows 7 was leagues ahead of where I was some two years ago with Parallel’s 3 and XP. In fact, if Parallel’s runs a special anytime soon or gives me a big discount on upgrading from 3 to 5 I may actually consider leaving it installed for the odd occasion I needed to access a Terminal server. The prospect of keeping it patched and anti-virused and anti-malwared really doesn’t excite me, but I can always just revert to a snapshot if something bad happens.

I’m not really sure what all the fuss around Windows 7 is. It looks OK, but there isn’t really anything that jumps out at me as a killer feature. I guess it’s not XP or Vista and is apparently stable as a primary operating system. Maybe I’m just used to that with Mac OS X and FreeBSD ?

As an aside I’ve been playing with VMWare 3 as well, albeit not with Windows 7, but I really think that Parallel’s have taken it to the next level.

I’ll post any new revelations here as I come across them.

Plants vs. Zombies

Plants vs. Zombies

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(9/10)
Everyone knows that everything is better with zombies. Plants vs. Zombies is no exception.

Plants vs. Zombies

This 28MB download from Popcap games will ensure that from now on, you won’t have a minute of boredom while sitting in from of your computer.

Essentially, instead of shotguns and chainsaws repelling hordes of the brain eating undead, you make clever use of your green fingers and some rather obviously genetically mutated plants to build a line of defense between them and your back door (and sometimes your chimney).

As you progress you build up an arsenal of flora that each have their own special abilities. I’m particularly fond of the cherry bomb that leaves the undead charred and with a look of bewilderment on their faces. The levels also get progressively more challenging requiring you to choose your green army carefully. Once you’ve found your groove for a particular level you shouldn’t have too much difficulty keeping the zombies at bay.

Plants vs. Zombies comes with a number of additional game modes (like survival, puzzle, zen garden, etc) that provide many hours of additional play if you are still craving for more once you have completed the adventure mode.

My only comment to improve the game would be to make adventure mode longer, or to unlock some kind of uber adventure mode once you’ve completed it the first time. Well, maybe survival is kinda like that. Anyway, I digress.

@simondingle chose it as his pick of the week on last weeks zatechshow as well. Surely two people can’t be wrong…

Stop reading and just go and get it !

It’s available on Windows, Mac, iPhone and in your browser and will only cost you R185.

Download Plants vs Zombies here – or they will eat your brains !

GTA: Chinatown Wars

GTA for the iPhone

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It was inevitable. Grand Theft Auto: Chinatown Wars was released earlier this week for the iPhone. The was ported from the Nintendo DS and PSP version by the Rockstar Games folk on Leeds. Although I haven’t played the other two versions, the game is apparently almost identical. It is available from the iTunes store for £5.99 and carries a mature/17 rating for the swearing, sex and violence that is necessary in any GTA game.

GTA: Chinatown Wars

My only notable experience with GTA in the past was with GTA IV on the Xbox 360, so I was sure I knew what I was in for. The story centers around a young Triad on his way to Liberty City to deliver a sword to his uncle Kenny after the death of his father. Of course things go horribly wrong from the minute that Huang sets foot on Liberty City soil.

Gameplay consists of missions and minigames that progress you through the story and build up stockpile of cash. For the most part you’ll be chasing after thugs and gang members that are invading your families turf and letting them have a one on one chat with the biggest gun you have in your arsenal. You’ll also be running from the fuzz and running over unsuspecting pedestrians. If you’re not fast enough you’ll end up in the slammer.

So far the game has been pretty engrossing and the story moves at a decent pace. My only complaint is around the control system, not so much when you’re on foot, but when you’re driving around. Maybe I’m trying a little to hard not run over the old ladies, or maybe my fingers are just to big but I not getting the hang of it.

The sound and graphics are also very impressive. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the graphics push the iPhone 3GS’ CPU to the max.

It’s one the first games available on the iPhone platform that has real substance as far as a story goes and is welcome addition to the App Store. Hopefully also a sign of things to come from Rockstar. The more mainstream developers that work on the platform the better for all of us.

It’s definitely worth the £5.99 and will provide you weeks of entertainment. My only warning is that it definitely chews your battery, so make sure that you some juice nearby.

Machinarium

Challenge your grey matter

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(8/10)

There was quite a lot of noise about Machinarium when it was released and everyone started playing it. I thought I’d keep my opinion to myself until I had finished the game.

The game was developed and released by a small independent Czech studio Amanita Design and was simultaneously released for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux. A great feat you may think, but actually just a clever move by developing the game in Flash. So basically any OS that has a compliant Flash player is able to play the game.

Machinarium

I know zombies that wouldn’t waste their time with most flash games out there, but Machinarium really does take it to a new level. The world the game takes place in is beautifully drawn and the level of detail is amazing. The game reminds me of the kind of gameplay we had with some of the classics like Myst. Puzzles that make you want to tear your hair out and run over the next door neighbours yapping dog. Fortunately there is a clever built in hints system that you get access to by completing a mini-game.

The game costs $20 and you get access to all three versions when you buy it. The game isn’t very long, but it is definitely worth the money.

Save the little robot.

Update: Tweetie 2.1 for iPhone

0

(9/10)

tweetie A quick update on the review for Tweetie 2 for the iPhone.

Version 2.1 was made available a few hours ago and it has delivered the goods. Support for lists, native retweeting and geotagging.

Awesome x Rad.

I’ve upgraded the rating to 9/10.

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