From the PBS Idea Channel arrives Here's An Idea, a web-based series that examines the connections between pop culture, technology and art. In layman's terms, it serves bite-sized concepts so well that even your children can digest them, hence their premiere episode's guide to Super Mario and Surrealist art! Turn off the TV (and Nintendo) and have your kids find out what one small plumber has done for the world of media and ideas!
Anyone feeling like video games have become an endless spiral of expectance might want to give Sifteo a try. Forget huge screens and hard-on-the-eyes 3D screens; the premise of Sifteo cubes is bringing gamers back to basics with an innovative twist. The tiny cubes (anywhere from two to six combined) have their own screens that interact with one another. Each is equipped with a 32-bit ARM microprocessor, a 3-axis accelerometer that determines positioning, 8MB Flash for quick launching, installing and uninstalling of games, a lithium-ion polymer rechargeable battery, and a full-color 128 pixel LCD touchscreen display.
A $149 starter kit gets you 3 Sifteo cubes, a charging station, the Siftlink USB wireless radio, Siftrunner software, 2 free games plus the Sifteo Creativity Kit and 500 points to use in the Sifteo Online Store. Any additional Sifteo cubes are $45 a pop, a bit pricey if you plan on making use of the 6-cube dynamic.
Another catch is that users will need a PC with Windows 7, XP, or Vista, or a Mac, running OS 10.5 or higher, to run the devices. You'll then need to actually download the SiftRunner software for your computer. Once installed, an account has to be opened along the way to launch it. Once that's done, you simply plug in the Siftlink USB wireless radio and click on the Sifteo cubes to begin operation. On screen instructions navigate you to add all available cubes and buy games from the online shop. Here's where the Sifteo magic lies. The games range from free to 300 points, to play. After they’re downloaded, you’ll find them in “my games”. Although there’s limited flash memory, there was enough for us to easily store eight games. Once acquired, all that's left to do is click "play" to launch any game; note that the sounds are actually generated from your computer’s speakers.
Learning how to manipulate the cubes is intuitive and fun. On-screen instructions during actual gameplay also help guide the action, like when it needs to go to the next screen and you simply tip the cube toward the other cube to transfer it--useful with games like in “Gopher Run”. The cubes can be placed next to one another and they can also be stacked atop each other. Some games like the puzzler, “Chroma”, utilize the accelerometer and tipping the cubes to manipulate the contents on screen. “Do the Shift” was also rather entertaining as it requires you to use the cubes in a very action-oriented "Bop-It" style manner.
My only complaint with it all is that the games, no matter how cool they were to play, seemed geared mostly towards a younger audience. I was left longing for a more thought-provoking/intriguing game library, but I imagine that that'll come with time, after more developers actually dedicate their savvy to the system.
Overall, Sifteo is an interesting tech toy that might get most mileage out of a younger audience for now. And considering the price of the average handhelds available in the market, Sifteo is worth its weight in ingenuity and possibilities.
When Ubisoft announced Rayman: Raving Rabbids for the Nintendo Wii five years ago, I assumed it was a strategic move to take advantage of the console’s unique controls and rapidly expanding audience. While the move was certainly family friendly, it left many original Rayman fans wanting more. The series had morphed into the first of two disappointing mini-game collections and the future of the franchise looked dull at best.
However, that outlook has changed now that Rayman has returned back to a platformer in the appropriately titled, Rayman: Origins. What’s more impressive is that Rayman: Origins transports you to a beautiful world of 2D animation. The game’s engine is designed specifically to scan in the artist's work and import it into the game. This whimsical style breathes new life into Rayman and his friends as they ban together to save the world.
Not only does the game look great, it controls well too! It actually reminds me of a little red plumber, especially with the addition of the "wall jump" and "ground pound" moves, but this isn’t a bad thing. Jumping, running and even flying around the fantastical world feels fluid and responsive.
Additionally, Rayman doesn’t have to go it alone, three friends can join seamlessly in local multiplayer mode by picking up a controller. They can play as Rayman’s faithful buddy, Globox, King of the Teensies or a Teensie. One cool mechanic of this multiplayer mode is “bubble death.” When someone dies, he/she becomes a bubble. The dead player can then control this bubble that can be “popped” back into life by an active player. But once every player is “bubbled,” the level restarts.
The Rayman: Origins demo that I played focused on one "element" per level. There was a level centered on wind mechanics and another focused entirely on ice. This made for some fast-paced gameplay with a wind tunnel sucking Rayman up and spitting him out across the screen during one part and a waterway sweeping him away during another. All of it kept me on my toes awaiting the next challenge!
With so many triple-A titles coming out this holiday season, Rayman: Origins may get lost in the clutter, but I encourage all of the true platform gamers out there to keep an eye out for this gem as it was released this month for Wii, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3.
Rayman: Origins truly returns the franchise back to its platforming roots and breathes some much-appreciated life back into the series.
So, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim releases tomorrow (11.11.11) and it's pretty much the only thing that matters. Here's why:
First, the game has an infinite number of adventures thanks to the Radiant Quest System, where different guilds and non-player characters provide randomly generated quests to kill bounties and gather resources. When added to the fact that there are an infinite number of dragons to slay, we're not sure you'll ever be putting this game down.
But developer, Bethesda, and director, Todd Howard, weren't just aiming for quantity with Skyrim, the game has also addresses pretty much every issue with its predecessor, Oblivion. The more obvious improvements include the voice acting (more varied) and a character creation system that actually produces figures that don't look like they've been mauled by a bear. The user interface is also much improved, with 3D item models and cleaner, more intuitive categorizations of items.
Skyrim's also got this brand-new Crafting System that allows players to create and enchant weapons and armor. Similar to the alchemy system in previous games, where you would combine various ingredients to make potions and poisons, you can now tan hides for leather accessories, or mine and smelt various metals for weaponry. Pretty cool, huh?
And now for my Playthrough (*WARNING* Spoiler alert):
I started my quest as a prisoner about to be executed for what I'm sure were ghastly and bloodcurdling crimes, when a dragon showed up, wrecked the town, and saved my Argonian hide. In the first five minutes of the game I was asked to make a choice between the Imperials and the rebels, but I honestly didn't even know I was making a choice at the time, I was running away from a huge dragon who wanted to kill me and everyone else in the town! So I haphazardly ran from the fire and destruction into the keep with a guy who was apparently an Imperial, and together we set about killing a bunch of rebels who wanted my blood in a sort of tutorial on the various aspects of combat and dungeon-crawling.
After we escaped the burning town, I was free to go and do whatever I could possibly want (although the Imperial I had befriended did suggest that I go talk to his Uncle in the nearby town of Riverwood). Instead, I found an abandoned mine, looted it, chased around butterflies, dragonflies, and picked some pretty flowers. Then, I noticed that the way to discover new alchemical properties of ingredients is to eat them! So I roamed the countryside some more, picking flowers, catching insects and shoving them all indiscriminately into my lizard-mouth. Eventually, I stumbled across a witch's house. She had a human heart on her counter, so naturally I stole it and ate it, in the name of science (awesome).
When I eventually decided to give the main plot a whirl, I went into a dungeon, retrieved a golden dragon-claw, and went to meet the lord of a nearby city. While talking to him, a dragon attacked, and thus I fought my first dragon of Skyrim and it was amazing. Skyrim succeeds in making every adventure, whether part of the “main plot” or not, feel like its own story, thus making every dragon kill feel like an epic accomplishment. I'm never putting this game down. Ever! You probably won't want to either.
As Electronic Arts gears up for the November 15th release of it's latest installment in the Need For Speed franchise--The Run--we managed to snag up a minute with Black Box Senior Producer, Steve Anthony. Not only did the Vancouver native give us a breakdown of The Run, he also gave us a little insight on how cool it is to work for one of the biggest video game companies around! Check out that and more in :60 Seconds with Steve Anthony:
Fans can watch the official Need For Speed: The Run trailer here:
The Razer Mamba (2012) is one sexy, sexy gaming mouse. Its sleek ergonomic design is perfect for any size right hand (sorry lefties) and its functional rubberized texture actually prevents the staining associated with too much "gamer hand." The scroll wheel and dock also have eye-popping, customizable colored LED lights. From the get, the Mamba looks and feels great, gaming with it was a treat!
The newest addition to Razer’s gaming peripherals arsenal is the 6400dpi 4G Dual Sensor System. The Mamba also has a second sensor that can tell what surface it’s on and how far away from that surface it is (which works particularly great for sniping). When we took the mouse off of the surface and set it back down, the cursor barely moved instead of the usual shooting off the screen that happens with normal mice. The Dual Sensor System can also be configured to work at any desired distance from the surface, adding a whole new layer of customizable gaming.
One of our favorite features about the mouse is it’s wireless capability. There's virtually no lag between commands and their execution thanks to the its 1ms response time. We’ve read a few reports about stuttering cursors and poor performance, but in several hours of testing we didn’t encounter a single delay! It may have been an issue that was solved in the latest firmware update (which I downloaded before testing).
For a rechargeable wireless mouse, the Mamba’s battery life is astounding. Fully charged, it's advertised to last for 16 hours of continuous heavy gaming. We tested it for about five and was about a third of the way through the battery life. That's solid! The handy little LED lights on the front left of the mouse actually display how much battery life is remaining. And if the battery’s running low, plugging in via USB allows the Mamba to work while it’s charging. Razer advertises a seamless transition between wireless and wired modes, but I wasn't so sure. It took about a second or two for the computer to recognize the device, not much more.
And if all these features weren’t enough, the Mamba comes equipped with a total of 7 programmable buttons, all of which are ergonomically designed and easy to reach. The two side buttons are perfect in proportion and the two buttons on the top left can actually scroll through 6 different sensitivity presets. We found this really useful for a bunch of gaming scenarios, and We didn’t encounter any lag while switching. Of course, if you don’t need to switch sensitivities on the fly these buttons can be programmed to anything at all.
The Mamba’s software is free to download from the Razer Support website, and is very user-friendly and easy to navigate. The software allows for up to 5 different profiles, saved directly to the mouse so that it will retain those settings on any computer. The only problem we encountered with the software was time, it takes forever to rewrite and save all of the profiles! Every time we wanted to change one setting, or customize the LEDs, we were forced to wait 3-5 minutes for the software to overwrite all of the data.
Alas, I wrote a love letter to Razer’s Mamba, and even with the hefty $130 price tag, it’s still a very sweet buy. At first, I couldn’t imagine ever needing to spend that much for a gaming mouse, especially when a $10 two-button wired mouse usually suffices. But actually trying out the Mamba changed everything! We wound up finding a lot to drool over.
Developers have found a way to turn the ever-popular destination-based social media platform, Foursquare, into one big game of Warcraft. World Of Fourcraft is a brand-new (and clever) application that allows users in the New York City area to join "teams" based on their boroughs. Members can then check in from different locations throughout the city to wage war and conquer territory, much akin to the popular video game series, World Of Warcraft. Nice, just so long as no one expects any dragons, wizards, or ogres on the subway!
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