GTA: Chinatown Wars

GTA for the iPhone


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.

QOTD: Nikola Tesla


“The scientists of today think deeply instead of clearly. One must be sane to think clearly, but one can think deeply and be quite insane.”

[From Nikola Tesla]

Just what WoW needed: Dungeon Finder


I am by no stretch of the imagination the worlds most avvid World of Warcraft player, but I’ve dabbled a little and when I have nothing exciting to play on my Xbox 360 it’s a great filler. A monthly subscription will also only cost you just over R100, which is great if you’re a little strapped for cash and can’t fork out R700 for a new 360 game.

One of the only issues I had with WoW as a casual player was that I couldn’t really complete any of the dungeons, or instances, as I didn’t really know anyone else that played they game. At least not anyone that was playing on the same realm and from the same faction. Once you start getting to the higher levels this becomes a real problem as it becomes more and more difficult to be rewarded with decent items from questing and general slaughter.

I didn’t play WoW for a number of months and I didn’t really track the new features added with the patches, but on loading it for the first time in ages (after a few hefty patch downloads) I noticed a new icon on the toolbar – Dungeon Finder.

wow-df-1.jpeg Dungeon Finder (DF) lets you pick a specific or random dungeon, allows you to choose your role in the group (tank, healer, DPS, etc) and then drops you into a queue until it has assembled an appropriately sized group with the necessary skills and then drops you all into the start of the instance. You don’t need to spend time traveling to the entrance, which is a great time saver and means you don’t have to find them on your own. You complete the dungeon with your group and then you can choose to either run to the exit and continue from there or you can use the “Teleport out of dungeon” feature to end up where you were before you were teleported into the instance.

Another great feature of DF is that it works across realms. So the group making is done centrally across all (well, most I suspect) the realms so you will almost always find a group. The longest I’ve waited for a group is about 20 minutes, but in the evenings it generally takes less than a minute. While you are waiting for your group to be assembled you can continue questing or whatever you were busy with. Once your group is ready you will be greeted with the friendly screen letting you know that you are about to start and what your role in the group is.


For me, DF added something that completely changes my WoW experience. In fact, I can’t stop playing it. If you don’t have a large group of friends that play WoW and you were annoyed that you couldn’t tackle the instances on your own, DF is for you. Pay for another month and give it a try, you won’t regret it. Your social life will however take a noticeable plunge. Welcome back to Azeroth.


QOTD: Paul Fussell


“I find nothing more depressing than optimism.”

[From Paul Fussell]


Challenge your grey matter



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.


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.

QOTD: Steve Jobs


Steve Jobs: “‘I want to put a ding in the universe.'”

(Via Quote of the Day.)

Quick App for Xbox 360 Owners: 360 Live


Most of the apps I’ve installed that claim to deliver a great Xbox Live experience have fallen very short. This new app by Juan Xavier Larrea finally delivers the goods.

I guess you need to be a bit of an Xbox Live freak to see the value in an app like this, but I’ve found myself in a situation before where I wanted to check on either one of my own or a friends achievements, online status or some such.


If you are a big online gamer and own a Xbox, 360 Live [$1.99 – iTunes Link] is the app for you. There are many apps within the App Store that perform many of the same functions as 360 Live but none of them are this well integrated.

  • Sign in securely using your Xbox Live credentials. 360 Live automatically retrieves your friends.
  • Complete Gamertags management. Add, remove, accept or reject pending requests.
  • An organized Friends List. Grouped by status (Online, Offline, etc.)
  • Gamer Profile and details including gamerscore, bio, location, country, gamercard, avatar, etc.
  • Check your friends complete games history.
  • Compare locked and unlocked achievements per game and gamertag.
  • Send and receive messages. You can even send messages to multiple recipients!
  • Gamercard coverflow style carrousel on landscape mode!

The only negative that I’ve seen testing this app out is that at times, it can take some time to load. Hopefully that is cleared up with an update or two and if it is, this will be hands down the best Xbox Live companion piece.

(Via The iPhone Blog.)

Handbrake Video Encoder Hits 0.9.4: Not Dead, Just Pining for the Fjords


Anyone that owns a Mac and a portable media device that is capable of video playback has no doubt used Handbrake to rip and/or convert a DVD or media file to an appropriate format or size so that they could have it with them on the go.

It’s been a while since the application has been updated, but the it has been worth the wait. The speed improvements and the presets make faster and simpler than ever to drive the sometimes scary task of fiddling with video.

Best of all, it’s still free. If you’re using anything else, stop it. Download Handbrake today and put it through its paces.

A year to the day after the previous version was released, Handbrake has hit 0.9.4, and boy is it faaaaaaaaast:

There’s an old proverb in the video encoding world: “Speed, size, quality: pick two.” It means that you always have to make a trade-off between the time it takes to encode a video, the amount of compression used, and the picture quality. Well, this release of HandBrake refuses to compromise. It picks all three.

If you have video you want to get onto your iPhone, Handbrake is the way to go — and it’s free. New, streamlined presets still include Apple Universal, iPod, iPhone & iPod touch, and Apple TV (as well as others if you’re rocking the Xbox, PS3, Zune, or whatever floats your video boat).

Improvements include much better H.264 encoding via the x264 project, a new build system, new soft subtitles, live preview, and constant quality encoding. As can be seen by the list above, they’re all about x264 now, so they’re also winding down support for AVI, OGG/OGM, and XviD — they’ll tell you why via the link above, but basically they want to pull you kicking and screaming into the better looking future. Love them.

Here’s the direct link to downloads for Mac OS, WIndows, and Linux.

Note to 64-bit Mac users: If you decide to go with Handbrake 64-bit for OS X, and intend to rip DVDs, know that Handbrake uses VLC for the task and VLC 1.0.3 doesn’t yet have a 64-bit version, so you’ll have to stick to 32-bit Handbrake, or downgrade your VLC to 1.0.2 64-bit.

If you give it a spin, let us know how it transcodes for you!

[via TUAW]

This is a story by the iPhone Blog. This feed is sponsored by The iPhone Blog Store.

Handbrake Video Encoder Hits 0.9.4

via The iPhone Blog

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