April 29, 2009

iPhone App of the Week: Platypus

Ever remember the glory days of the Nokia 3310? Maybe you upgraded it in Tutuban or something so your phone could sing as it turns off? Or maybe you just wanted to make your own picture messages with that editor? Whatever you did with that old phone, one thing always stayed the same: your addiction to Space Impact.

That game wasn't exactly the original side-scrolling shooter, but it might as well be the first mobile one. Thankfully, developer Handmark is bringing that to the year 2009 where colorful, vivid touch screens are the norm, and what do they call it? Platypus.

Featured in the 2nd iPod touch commercial, Platypus is a very colorful side-scrolling space shooter that has a distinctive look to it- basically it's all made out of clay.
This aesthetic definitely works for the iPhone and the music has that retro 8-bit feel to it- which I definitely love even if sometimes it becomes repetitive.

The gameplay's simple: lead your plane to the end and shoot everything in your path. By default you fire your missiles automatically, but you can make it stop by pressing the little "FIRE" button. In general, it's a good game, but you'll have to decide on a control scheme that works for you. It will be either "Touch" which enables you to move the plane through the touch screen, or "Tilt" which lets you move the plane by tilting the iPhone/iPod touch. To be honest, I like "Tilt" better because you can calibrate it so it can work well and you won't have to block the screen with your finger because enemies and obstacles can come from all sides.

The difficulty of the game is varied, the pace is relatively fast, and the power-ups are key to becoming a killing machine. True, there are power-ups that just suck, but you'll get to have a favorite among the 3 (or was it 4?) of 'em. Just getting the star will enable you to activate the power-up, while getting the power-up will require you to shoot all orange-colored enemies.

There's nothing else aside from the aesthetic that's fresh and original from Platypus, but it's a great time-waster and may even remind you just how addicting Space Impact was, because quite frankly, this game's addicting as hell too.

Rating: 7.8/10

April 28, 2009

Making Twitter Work For You

While this relatively new social microblogging service is- for the most part- for the egotistical broadcast of mundane human activities- celebrity or not, Twitter can also be a really good productivity tool at times. Some practical uses include:

1) Keeping up with news
This is a no-brainer for a lot of people, as the 1 million plus followers of CNN can attest. Truly, it is a lot more convenient for other people to read bite-sized headlines of current news than the actual entirety of the article. While the convenience is there, other important information is left out- which is why several other news organizations in Twitter also provide links alongside the title.

2) Zeroing in on the news you care about
This is different from keeping track of the events happening on the world, because in Twitter you can also focus on a more specialized view on news. Let's say you like football (I refer to soccer as football) and you just happen to be able to find an interesting news source for football on Twitter by using its great Search feature. You can just follow the news source and you'll automatically receive every headline you care about. Why? Because it's just about football and nothing else.

True, you could just subscribe to RSS feeds but RSS feeds aren't exactly used in a widespread manner among computer users, even if they are widespread from site to site, but one can basically track everything a specific website churns out in Twitter anyway, so it's pretty much a mainstream version of the RSS feed.

Say, you like the articles of a certain site, and let's say you just have an allergy to RSS feeds. If you want, you can find the Twitter feed of that site (typically they even endorse it) and Follow it. That way, you can now get links of the articles of the site because unlike CNN, most of the time they just put a little info about the article then put the link of the article alongside it.

3) Keep track of the actual now
Most of the time, people Twitter a significant event as they happen, and the powerful Search tool lets you in on the action. You can literally get up-to-the-minute information of everything in real time and see the different views of different people.

Maybe a less significant example would have to be the elimination episode of a reality show. Say, American Idol. Since Filipinos get the short end of the stick (basically "via satellite" shows aren't really live broadcasts), they can keep track of the actual episode as it happens live. True, you're not exactly watching it, but at least you're really up to date- and you could see the reactions of people as an event happens in that episode as well. Some are utterly worthless, but you'll be surprised at some of the observations people make.

Perhaps American Idol isn't very good for an example... How about a more current example, like the Center for Disease Control tracking Twitter feeds for cases of swine flu?

4) Sync with Internet services
Some Twitter syntax enable you to sync with web services like Remember the Milk, which lets you see your to-do list. I've seen several "hacks" before, but I don't remember where I saw them.

5) Get questions answered
Twitter is a thriving community, and usually, you could ask a question and odds are they could get answered in a set period of time. If you have your friends and your workgroup with you, you could get a mixed set of answers and solutions that you perhaps could have never thought of.

6) To-do list
Twitter has a web page optimized for cellphones, so if you connect your cellphone to the Internet and access Twitter, you could be able to see your to-do list. How do you make a to-do list in Twitter? Tweet the thing you have to do of course!

If you have a lot of followers (or a follower who typically spams your Twitter page), you can favorite the tweet for easier access to it.

Perhaps those are the only ways I can think of that utilizes Twitter in a more productive manner, and this is just the bottom of the barrel.

REFERENCE: Lifehacker (for 4-6)

April 27, 2009

Not Just Birds, Pigs Too.

Piglet may not see the light of any day for now in countries like Russia, because the country has blocked imports of swine from the southern US and Mexico. Why? Two words: Swine Flu.

As if you haven't heard already, the Internet is abuzz with information about the newly discovered Mexican killer (OK, it's not necessarily Mexican, but the most severely affected area is Mexico and some parts of the States), so for now, if you can, why not go vegan?

Half-hearted joking aside, health organizations are now working hard to contain the potential epidemic. If you have a relative in Mexico, pray that they don't get the disease, as H1N1 is also easily communicable between humans, unlike bird flu (H5N1) which in my knowledge is only communicable from animals to humans. With the rate of people getting the disease though, it's highly likely that said relative will get quarantined in the airport like all those New Zealanders and New York preschoolers ahead of her.

Symptoms include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. It's also classified as Influenza A.

Reference: CNN

April 25, 2009

Movies Opening This Week: Rip Dickens Off Edition

What Dickens book, you say? It's The Christmas Carol. Why that book when it's not Christmas, you say?

Well, just read on and you'll understand. Before that though, we'll have the higher-profile beast (the key word being 'beast') out first, and it's...

X-Men Origins: Wolverine
Famously leaked to the interwebz, this new X-Men film flips the page onto Logan's life during his pre-X-Men days. If you watched X-Men 2 and you didn't understand why they had to attack that lab that was owned by a guy named Stryker, this is the movie you'll have to watch to understand.

But after seeing the rough cut of the movie on Quiapo-Blu-ray, I don't feel satisfied with the movie. True, the unfinished effects contribute to that, but I also feel unsatisfied with the back-stories of all those other characters. I mean, the other half of the cast seem so two-dimensional and oh-so disposable, you won't even care about much of the movie. Face it, the only thing you'll get enjoyment out of this movie is the action.

Which is why it's still a pretty good movie to watch in a theater, complete with a huge tub of popcorn.

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past
Now this is the Charles Dickens rip-off. At first, you'll see Matthew McConaughey, and as we all know, McConaughey films are usually shallow fluff but I think he may just have a potentially good rom-com in his hands.

Basically, McConaughey's character Connor Mead is a successful fashion photographer. Suddenly, his deceased uncle's ghost meets up with him because of his comparably bad love life (in terms of 'falling in love' and not just 'one night stands') and he suddenly bumps into the Ghost of Girlfriends Past, Present and Future (now you see the resemblance?). He sees that a colleague of his (Jennifer Garner) has already been dissed by him and he finds out that she's the "one". Now he wants to change his present to affect the future.

Battle for Terra
A CGI film with what seems to be zero originality, Battle for Terra seems like a Ferngully-ish (OK, there is no possibility of this film resembling that film, but I still have that feeling that they are both similar) and a "just about any other sci-fi film" adventure that sees humans destroying the species of the Planet Terra just so they can find habitation. Personally, I think it's gonna be one of those hypocritical (and subtle?) environmental films that also involve humans becoming the bad guys. Standard fare, but eh, maybe it's gonna be pretty decent.

Action looks good, CGI looks cartoony but the over-serious tone defies the style of the film. I mean, it's just unoriginal.

Just hope there won't be any really annoying character serving as the occasional comic relief though.

Portal Review: The Cake Is A Lie

Portal (PC, 360, PS3)
With a great, unique gun in your hands, you won't be able to hurt people, but you could still cause wanton destruction-- and maybe get some cake.

Still, with that gun comes a catch: you'll have to test it first.

Basically, you're a test subject in the APERTURE Science Lab, and the only thing guiding you is a computer voice named GLaDOS, yes, an operating system. The only thing you'll have to do? Well, find the exit in each level and ride the elevator. That's basically it.

So what about going to the exit? What's so special about it? Well, it's harder than you think. And maybe even more nauseating too. Acid rivers, energy balls, spikes, and platforming hazards arise. You also have your companion cube with you so you can MURDER!- I mean, press big buttons.
I wuv my companion cube. Seriously, it has a charm to it.

Anyway, this is pretty much the premise of the game. But despite that, the game is extremely funny, and the gameplay mechanics are very inventive. The only thing you'll be able to actually do with your gun is to shoot two colored portals onto concrete. When you go inside a portal, you'll get out of the other, but you'll also have to be creative with the placement of your portals. When you play it, you'll find out how creative you'll have to be.
Where in the hell?

The puzzles are the star of the show here, and the later ones are even hair-pulling-ly difficult even in Normal difficulty. But the payoff to the difficulty is pretty much the boss battle and the ending song. Seriously, that ending song is a brilliant method of plot progression, as in, it's probably one of the most creative ways to declare, "I'll be back, -evil laugh-".

Moreover, this game simply has a great villain. GLaDOS is just... NUTS in a good way. The voice she has will at first set a semi-serious mood, and later you'll find yourself laughing so hard, you might kill yourself in a level.

Unfortunately, the game is extremely short, but I ended up trying to finish it for months anyway, and that's because I simply have a chronic sickness to these First Person Platformers. Other than that, Portal is just one of the best games you'll be able to play. You'd actually know that it was good because I'm having a really bad time typing this review. And when something's good, I tend to type whatever.

Rating: 9/10

13-year old wins Apple promo; people start acting like one

13-year old Connor Mulcahey won Apple's "Billionth App" promo by downloading the app Bump. This app is able to switch contact information to another contact. Apple awarded him with 10000 dollar iTunes credit, an iPod touch, a 17" MacBook Pro and a Time Capsule, effectively making the prizes worth about 15000-17000 US dollars.

Obviously, other people feel left out and have started to throw fits. Honestly, it's funnier to read what they say than looking at the Apple counter.

A sampler:

"this sucks"
"I wonder if the kid even knew there was a contest"

April 24, 2009

More Details on LEGO Rock Band

You know about the LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Indiana Jones and LEGO Batman, right?


Well, if you do know and love them, LEGO Rock Band might just be the thing for you. Taking a break from extremely famous movie franchises to extremely famous gaming franchises, Traveller's Tales' flagship (?) kiddie franchise does the unthinkable and goes on to blend both worlds.

You could always wait, but I got me some new juicy details, after the jump.

Staying true to the brand name, the two developers have decided upon a new gaming mechanic that would revolutionize all Rock Band and LEGO games forever.

Yes, you're gonna make your own instruments from LEGO blocks! Amazing!
True to the other games, the literally LEGO made instruments will also resonate on screen. If the Fender Stratocaster is the default guitar you first use in the real Rock Band games, then that LEGOcaster will be the default guitar in LEGO Rock Band. Just... wow. Not as cool as that literal axe, but still, awesome.

Just be careful with those fret buttons... perhaps LEGO Rock Band won't even have a Hard difficulty because of this thing.

April 23, 2009

Rock Band 2 Review (WII)

Rock Band 2: Special Edition (Wii version reviewed)
EA Games, MTV Games, Harmonix, Pi Studios

It's not always when Harmonix screws something up. True, the LEGO mashup may be one case, but Rock Band (1) for the Wii is another.

You see, the first iteration of the franchise for the white dude had a lot of features stripped from its beefier 360 and PS3 counterparts: character creation, online play and most importantly for me, the online music store.

Fortunately, Harmonix has made up for the disappointment of the multitudes of Wii owners by offering a bigger, better, badder Rock Band 2. It's simply nearly identical to its big brothers from the art direction to the myriads of clothes on offer in Character Creation mode.

It's a rather massive game now in comparison to that of the first iteration, so I'll just sift through some of the major ones.

Graphics and Presentation
The departure of pre-rendered videos is very welcome, as it's very cute to see your own character miss notes when you do, as the "concert" that happens while you play is now rendered in real-time. Some frame rate issues do occur, but it's only noticeable when you are the singer in the band. Other than that, the characters and animation have very impressive art direction and fluidity. You'll even love how, at times, the avatar of the guitarist would sing along and share the mic with the singer.
The flexible character creation even lets you create some of the most outrageous avatars you'll find in a rock game, and they are all rendered flawlessly. Subtle uses of your characters in loading screens (as well as your band's name) also look extremely cool to boot. Hell, the only issue I'd have with the presentation of Rock Band would have to be the fact that it isn't in HD!

The quality of the instruments is pretty solid. I personally would've liked the guitar to have better fret buttons, as well as some more responsiveness, but overall, I think the included instruments (1 set of drums, 1 guitar, 1 USB mic) will last very long. 

You'll need 3 AA batteries (included in the box) for drums and guitar for they are wireless, but you'll only probably exchange them every 2 months or so. We bought Rock Band 2 during the last week of February, and yet the guitar still lives on without a single battery change. The drums on the other hand, has just received its first battery change 2 weeks ago. Take note though, that battery life will still depend on how long you play in one sitting.

Drum sticks get black quick though, as they are made of actual wood and not plastic.

Gameplay Mechanics
Gameplay is relatively easy to pick up with drums as the color coded rings of the real instrument reflect the colors of the notes that will appear on screen. Guitar on the other hand, handles like a real one. You can hold the fret buttons, but you'll have to strum using the strum bar first before the game accepts it. (For training and more information about contorls, one could be able to go to a very detailed tutorial or just train on any part of any song)

Singing is radically different beast, obviously, but it's not just karaoke- it also detects correct pitch. No, actually, it's more pitch than words, so if you don't know a part of the song but you know the tune of it, you can just hum your way to victory. Some parts of a certain song where the instrumentalists go solo are supplemented with "clapping sessions". Basically, the vocalist will also have to clap to the beat- as indicated by scrolling black circles overlapping a stationary white circle.

When someone is doing miserably, a team member can use stored energy (which can be received through playing grey notes or singing yellow phrases correctly) to go into "overdrive". Overdrive is basically Rock Band's answer to Guitar Hero's "Star Power": it can "save" the troubled band member from failing, or even ressurect a band member who has already failed. One would know if failure is imminent by checking out a green/yellow/red meter on the left corner of the screen. When someone is going down that meter, it means he/she is doing badly or missing notes. When he/she reaches the bottommost part of that meter, he/she fails and must be "saved" through the Overdrive of the other bandmates- and fast because the meter turns yellow and later, red when someone fails. Basically, a failed bandmate will take the rest of you down with him, and if the others don't rush to save him (or are too late) they'll all fail the song; this mechanic definitely encourages teamwork and some frantic moments.
But of course, failing just sucks, doesn't it? This is why you can choose to activate a "No Fail" mode which effectively removes all chances of failure- as well as the ability to save your progress in Tour (aka, Career) Mode.

High Score OCD
Much of the replay value present in these types of games lies in the basic "I want to beat that high score" psychology- if you could call it that. This is why Harmonix also put "Solo" and "Rock Ending" mechanics. The former basically adds bonus points depending on how well you play a guitar/drum solo while the latter gives the players bonus points when an ending is successfully executed. 

Let me delve more into these "endings". The notes suddenly look like spreaded jam, meaning that you could just do anything with your instrument- and yes, that means strumming any fret, banging any part of the drum, and screaming/speaking gibberish into the mic- and after that part, the points will be given to you depending on just one condition: will the instrumentalists be able to play the last few notes? When they are able to not miss the last note(s), the points are given to you. Otherwise- when the player screws up on that last note- no bonus points for you!

The actual experience of Rock Band lies in the number of people you have at your disposal. If you play it with a full band, a certain feeling surfaces- and that abstract, indescribable feeling is pretty much the thing that makes Rock Band so good and dare I say it, magical. Still, your friends or family aren't always around- they have lives too- so online is here to cure your loneliness.

There are two major online modes: Online Tour and Battle of the Bands. Online Tour enables you to find other people who are lonely too, and they could serve as one (or all) of the missing members of your band.
While I have yet to be able to find a full band online, I was able to find several guitarists, and the song I picked was Joan Jett's Bad Reputation. It doesn't replace real people who are there with you, but it's close.

Searches would take long depending on the time you go online and the number of people who are actually on and/or already playing, of course..

Personally, I haven't actually tried the latter- Battle of the Bands. Basically, its premise is that you can connect your entire band online and fight with other bands who are online.

Music Store
For the first time in the Wii edition, Rock Band gets its own Music Store where you can now download 20 free songs out of the box as well as purchase more famous songs. Each song costs 200 Nintendo Points or $2.00, and while the 630 song-catalogue is not yet complete in the Wii, it's getting there. New songs added in the 360 and PS3 are currently being added alongside the songs that play catch-up. So while there's no My Sharona yet, you could now get the newly added Spongebob songs.

Now Go Party!!!
Wii owners (or PS3 and 360 owners for that matter) who are fans of the rhythm genre (or just like to conduct parties in general) will consider Rock Band 2 a no-brainer. Personally, it's even better than Guitar Hero: World Tour even if its drums have those (unintuitive) cymbals and just 2 more songs than Rock Band 2. When you pop this in and you start playing with several friends, you're just gonna be so elated. It's just a gratifying experience with others- and Rock Band's ability to make people feel this way is unsurpassed, thus making Rock Band 2 (or the franchise in general) one of the best rhythm game(s) of all time.

Rating: 9.3/10

April 22, 2009

iPhone App of the Week: Newsstand

UPDATE: Newsstand has since been updated in a somewhat radical manner. For one, the landscape view doesn't show a 'newsstand' anymore , but just a landscape view of the thing you see in portrait mode (when in an article). Plus, it has sharing features (E-mail, Twitter, etc.) as well as Google Reader sync support. Other than that, Newsstand is widely the same and only sports subtle visual changes. (Newsstand 1.0 is the one reviewed; 1.3.2 sports the above features)

The one thing I don't like about Safari in my iPod touch is the fact that it doesn't support RSS feeds- and yes, it's more important than Flash for me. Thankfully, the App Store is there to rescue as it already offers multitudes of RSS readers, but for now, I've settled with an app called Newsstand to gather all the latest articles of various sites I frequent to. And no, RSS is not like Twitter where you have to click the link to automatically open the browser to read- it displays the actual article involved.
So when you open the app, you will have to wait for a few seconds and all your feeds will come out. The interface is pretty clean, and you can filter all the articles to the ones you marked for later reading ("Flagged") or to the ones you haven't read ("Unread"). Otherwise, you can go inside the site you subscribed to and read the article(s) you want.
One great thing about this app is that it will make you notice the fact that you still have some unread articles because the icon will also bear a number badge (number of unread articles) ala the Mail application.
Still, personally, adding new sites isn't always easy, but the number of methods available for adding new sites is welcome. Unfortunately, before you are even able to add more sites (or folders, actually), you have to press Edit.
True, the Edit screen also lets you delete or move the sites you subscribe to, as well as give you tips on using Newsstand, but this is when you're finally able to add new sites and folders for organization.
There are a number of ways you can add feeds, actually. Normally, you can just type the URL of your favorite site, but if the site you typed doesn't typically have a RSS feed on the fly, you can search for an alternative feed through its Search feature.

If you have a Bloglines account, you could also let Newsstand gather all the RSS feeds under your account through Import.

Other than that, there's also a distinctive gimmick to Newsstand that separates it from other readers: it can be a literal "newsstand" when you put the device on a landscape orientation.
When you click on a site's "magazine", it'll open up and show you a list of the articles, and you can read it without having to leave the screen as well. It's pretty cool, and somehow lets you read through feeds faster in my experience.

Not everyone knows about RSS, but if you do, Newsstand can serve you well, although there is the occasional rendering and magnification bug.

Rating: 7.5/10

April 18, 2009

Movies Opening This Week: Delay No More edition

Speaking of delays, the delayed Harry Potter movie (Half-Blood Prince) is getting an earlier release date. Err, that is, earlier by 4 days from the original release date. Whoops, then.

But another delayed movie (twice delayed!) is getting its theatrical debut at last, and it is...
The Soloist
It was supposed to debut last year so it can be fresh in the memory of Oscar-voters, but instead it was delayed to April. Now, it's coming and I don't feel as excited anymore, but it's still something to watch out for nonetheless.

Starring huge names, this movie is based on a true story and is a huge deviation for director Joe Wright (Atonement, Pride and Prejudice) who typically directs British period book adaptations. It's about a journalist who discovers the hidden talents of a homeless man who developed schizophrenia during his second year in music school.

Other movies opening this week include Fighting and Obsessed, two movies I don't think aren't good nor bad enough to deserve mention. Although Obsessed notably has Beyonce starring in it.

April 17, 2009

Nokia and Microsoft sue each other

It may sound as if Nokia's defending a filed trademark of a phone that doesn't exist yet, but this case is a bit dumber than you'd typically expect.

Nokia has sued Microsoft for "copyright infringement" due to the widespread use of the code "E74" without consent of Nokia. Microsoft countersued Nokia because of this rather rash action.

"Like any company, we have to protect our intellectual property. Microsoft crossed the line when they illegally made possible the widespread use of the trademark," commented a Nokia representative who refused to be named, "our E75 phones are about to come out this month, and now Microsoft is capitalizing on our much-awaited phone by putting one number off the name! I dare say, this is even worse than China!"

Microsoft has yet to comment as of this writing. Meh, they're probably too busy.

April 16, 2009

Rock Band PSP may not be ludicrous at all

Sony announced its 2009 PSP line-up, and when the words "Rock Band Unplugged" were uttered, it was met by skepticism- my skepticism. However, the words "Amplitude" and "Frequency" were thrown around, and as far as I know, people consider those two Harmonix games as classics.

So with that in mind, Rock Band Unplugged may be a back-to-basics tour for the guys at Harmonix, and instead of a huge arena, the performance would be held in a little intimate locale. OK, maybe I stole that analogy from a Sarcastic Gamer article but thing is, it's a return to Harmonix's roots this time around, and it may just sell plenty because of the Rock Band name alone unlike the games that inspired it.

Personally, I haven't played Amplitude nor Frequency so I can't really judge, but with all the videos I've seen it looks like a lot of button-mashing and micro-management- with an great soundtrack. I don't own a PSP, but I'd like to try that kind of gameplay- it seems pretty damn addicting.

Another big draw for this game is the downloadable content- a first for a PSP game (I think)- that's gonna be available, and there'll be 10 exclusive songs at launch. The most downloaded songs in Rock Band's console counterparts will also make it to the PSP game.

Put a tab on this, PSP owners. June 6 will be the date.
As for me, I'll wait for the Wii version of that Beatles game. I'm surprisingly excited to be playing some Beatles songs- Rock Band style. But that could be for another post (or maybe even a review?).

iPhone App of the Week: Metal Gear Solid Touch

Kojima Productions and Konami made a big fuss out of the gaming world with a teaser that somehow implied that Metal Gear Solid would be ported to the Xbox 360. Everyone thought wrong when the reveal was made: Metal Gear Solid was getting an "installment" on the iPod touch and iPhone.

So now that it has been released for quite a few months, people have voiced out their critical opinions, and many say that the app just isn't worth the hype, and frankly, it's quite true.

But before I give my reasons, let's run through the way you play it first.

After you select a mission, you get this still image depicting a part of the story. True, it may not have as much impact as say, an animated video, but with the iPhone's bad 3D graphics, this'll do. Pressing "Next" will then give you the story in text, and when you press "Next" yet again, the game loads and finally starts.
Basically, all the objectives of all the missions involve "defeating" (a word we shall be replacing with "killing" from this point on) troopers from various groups in the Metal Gear Solid saga, and it's pretty much just that. Kill this number of troopers, kill this number of soldiers, it goes on and on.
This is the part where you take control of the crosshair. While you will control Snake, you can't control the direction he's gonna run because he's always just going to stay in cover. The movement that happens, happens off-screen, meaning that all that running with Big Boss' body just happen in the text you'll read. So, you just move your finger to move the crosshair then you tap the screen to shoot until the enemy's life gets drained. If you don't shoot them early enough, they'll shoot you back, but they'll only do so when a white meter (which turns red) fills up. However, there are also allies who come into the mix. If you shoot them, you lose a life. In short, it's kinda like Hogan's alley for the NES.
There's not much variety in that, so Konami decided to at least make a bit of an effort to put just that. Some mechanics include:
1) Pinching the screen to activate the sniper which enables you to shoot enemies that are too far for your ordinary gun.
2) Ducks and frogs you have to shoot for life bonuses and bazookas/invinsibility respectively
3) Just one different kind of enemy that is vulnerable to shots in the foot and spine, but they don't appear often.
4) The Drebin Shop lets you buy MGS art using "Drebin Points" you collect from each mission.
Perhaps the Drebin Shop is the only saving grace for the game, but even that thing only caters to Metal Gear Solid fans. I'll bet the diehards are the only ones who'll bother to collect "Drebin Points" to unlock all of the wallpapers, because frankly I've only been able to "buy" the Snake wallpaper, and I don't intend to go any further than that.
In the end, you'll find the rewards of the Drebin Shop to be pretty lame, because you can just collect them off the Internet and call it a day. Hell, to add to the fan service, there's even an "MGS History" which summarizes the stories of all the past Metal Gear Solid games!
So I'm not necessarily recommending this app for iPhone/iPod touch owners, but I'm recommending this for diehard Metal Gear Solid fans. Still, if you've got nothing to do, this game is pretty playable, and you don't need to read the story parts to play this, as the story doesn't lend to much in this decidedly action-oriented game. It's only pretty good, and the game doesn't really go beyond "pretty good". In fact, it dangles in between the line of "pretty good" and "really lame".

Rating: 6.5/10

April 15, 2009

5 Reasons to Get Chrome

If you haven't heard about Google's entry into the browser market, then you might be missing out on a potentially very hard hitter to the industry. While it still doesn't have the extensibility and customizability of the comparably famous Mozilla Firefox, Chrome's simplicity, like Safari before/after it (however you view it), is just one of the things it has going for it, and I wouldn't have any problem recommending that you adopt it as your default browser.

Here are 5 reasons why you should adopt it as your default browser:
1) Security
Security is the primary reason we stay away from browsers like Internet Explorer. While the 8th version of the formidable browser has some unique security features, it's far from being the most secure. In fact, in the recently held Pwn2Own contest, only Chrome was left standing. What's Pwn2Own? Well, it's a competition where people find security flaws in various browsers, and when they do discover those holes, they get to win the computer they exploited the browser upon. 

The other browsers in the competition namely IE8, Safari, and Firefox (Opera was not in the competition), were all exploited in just seconds. Clearly the security alone is enough for a recommendation? (Just uncheck the box that lets you agree to Google spying on your every move in your time with the browser... or go Incognito?)

2) Minimalist design lets you concentrate
The bad thing about Firefox, in my opinion, was the clutter you'd get when you install so many extensions. True, you could simply uninstall them and start fresh, but what if I liked them extensions?
This is where Chrome's "limitation" becomes a real benefit to your browsing. Its minimalist interface forces you to concentrate on the web, and not on the multitudes of toolbars that sit on the browser. Heck, the whole thing could just pass as the Full Screen mode in Internet Explorer- minus the admittedly annoying auto-hide.

3) Don't break down when it crashes
We've all been there before. Firefox would crash and we would simply wish that its auto-recovery feature would be able to save all the other tabs we had open. True, most of the time, the restoration did its thing, but there are times when not all the tabs you open are restored.

Fortunately, we don't even need to contend with such folly with Chrome's unique tab management (and yes, this is the feature Microsoft ripped off from Chrome, but it would be unfair to say that the feature should only be limited to Chrome, because it's valuable) as it treats every tab like an individual program in the Windows taskbar.

For example, Flash would cause a website you're viewing in this one tab to slow down and eventually not respond. You could still switch to another tab and open the browser's own Task Manager by right clicking the top part of the browser. You can kill the pesky unresponsive task and resume reading all those other tabs without a sweat.

4) It Opens FAAST
I'm serious when I say that it very snappily opens itself as soon as you finish double-clicking. True, there might be a few seconds of loading at times, but for the most part, this is one of the biggest draws of Chrome for me: how insanely fast it opens. You could say that it opens as fast (or faster) than Internet Explorer, but it's more secure (and hogs less memory than Firefox).

5) Newbie friendly
It's not that my dad is not computer illiterate because he very much is computer literate, it's just that he has this habit of typing URL's into the search bar- and I might be right to assume that my dad isn't the only one. Well, Google Chrome's Omnibar changes all of that. Not only is it just another Firefox Awesome bar, it's also a search bar as well.
So next time my dad enters in "www.yahoo.com", I'm pretty sure that the result won't be a Google search page, but the real thing. No offense, dad.

These are just my top 5 reasons to download so I might have missed a subtle feature or two that adds a lot to the user experience. Not all people will like Chrome's barebones approach and its lack of extensions (which will be "fixed" in a newer version), but there's a market for Chrome, I'm very sure of that.

April 13, 2009

Should Nintendo and Sony adopt the App Store model?

Apple is counting down the days 'till they reach their 1 billionth download in the App Store, so it's glaringly obvious that the model is working for them, for developers, and most of all, for consumers. Hell, they're even giving away some iPod touches and MacBook Pro's to a lucky downloader but I won't delve deeper into that.

The point here is, since Apple's App Store model is extremely successful, should actual gaming companies follow suit and provide games for their handhelds through an online connection and an iTunes-like middleman?

Sony and Nintendo have the resources, the software experience (Sony has a mixed record with regards to bundled software, though), platforms (Sony PSN, Nintendo Wi-Fi Connection) and the memory card compatibility (Memory Stick for PSP, SD/SD High Capacity for DSi) to provide all of this so nothing's actually stopping them from creating a Steam-esque/App Store-esque gaming marketplace. If they so choose, they could still sell games in retailers so they can have a share of that audience (esp. for the DS and DS Lite), but ultimately, they could also create a thriving community that is built on the premise of being able to download PSP or DS games straight through the device online or through your computer (and PSP/DSi syncing will put it inside their memory cards).

Besides, the PSP and DSi, like the iPhone and iPod touch, have multimedia features like music playback, video playback (PSP only), photo viewer, camera/s (DSi only; PSP accessory sold separately in Japan and Singapore), etc., so a media manager like iTunes isn't that bad of an idea at all. In fact, the PSP already has one (but it's not bundled with the PSP, and unlike iTunes, it's not free) so it would do Sony good to actually add PSP downloads into the software so games can be accessed through Memory Stick (like how the pirates do it).

Additionally, Nintendo and Sony could use their respective built-in stores (PlayStation Store and DSi Shop) as a springboard for the model. If consumers are hesitant to give out their credit card numbers, they could already use the Nintendo Points and PlayStation points available in the market! After you download from the respective stores, you can sync your purchases to your computer and everything can be copied. I mean, if your PSP and/or DSi is stolen, at least you still have all your games with you in your computer, instead of having the game/games stolen with them. If your computer breaks down, you could retrieve the games in your newly reformatted computer by installing the media managers and authorizing your account in them so all your paid games can start re-downloading like iTunes.

One final reason why Nintendo and Sony should implement an App Store/iTunes model is due to one thing: cartridges and propriety storage can get really old. And expensive. I mean, if you want to play one game and switch to another, it would be a lot better if you could just go to the home screen of each respective handheld and just select the next game you want to play instead of having to switch UMDs or cartridges. And frankly, Nintendo DS cartridges are pretty small so they could get lost.

So obviously, I like the idea of having an App Store model to these handhelds. They could potentially cut production costs (or maintain them somewhat), reduce the rate of people rebuying their stolen games, and be a bit more environmentally friendly. After Apple made the splash with the App Store, I actually didn't touch my DS until after a few months (and that was because I was charging my iPod touch). Please make it happen (at least in the next generation of handhelds)!

April 11, 2009

Movies Opening This Week: 37 Going on 17 Edition

Before I get going with this, I just have to tell you this bit of news: Dragonball Evolution is already getting a sequel.

So now that you've become traumatized yet again, I don't think I'll even have the heart to spitefully put really bad movies here for now. That's why I'm starting out with:

Slumdog Millionaire
In America, it's ancient. But in the Philippines, it's just opening. I know there are already loads of people who have the pirated DVD (and it's "DVD Copy" to boot), but it's worth paying to see. Hell, I'd like to see it on the big screen. Want a review? Here it is.

17 Again
I know what you're thinking. I know it's Zac Efron in there, but I don't think he'll be that big of a distraction in this admittedly interesting movie. Like that other movie, it has a lot of comedic potential, especially when given the right direction, and more importantly, the right acting. Perhaps I'm giving too much/little credit to Zac Efron, but what the heck, I'll give this movie a shot.

The premise here is that Chandler, I mean, Mike, tries to save this suicidal old man and winds up a teen again. Yeah, he's 17 again, thus we get Zac Efron. He decides to go back to high school so he can sort of change the way he lived it. But since he has a wife and kids, he runs into several awkward situations (I'm betting my money on Zac's character's daughter becoming infatuated with him. Awkward...) and, well, there'll be a moral about satisfaction, I'm sure of it.

To be honest, the trailer has its funny parts and that's why I'm putting it here with a cautiously optimistic eye. Check back on Rotten Tomatoes or some other review outlet you trust to see how it fares with the critics. It's pretty high right now at 83% as I write this, with some critics saying that "it's actually good" and that "it's a piece of casting genius". Some have downplayed it for "being predictable" and having a "cheese factor that lets it down", though.
I actually have to agree with another review that says, "it borrows elements from Big and Back to the Future" and it's quite true. There's something about the trailer, that I feel, resembles the latter. I just don't know why... though I half-expected his car (by 0:35 in the trailer) to become the DeLorean! That'd be... awesome.

Crank: High Voltage
Like its predecessor, this journey is an adrenaline pumping one because this time, instead of poison, Chev Chellios (played by Jason Statham, yet again) has to keep the battery charge of his heart up by electrocuting himself constantly. Yeah, it's like this huge B-movie, complete with scantily-clad ladies, swears, and action. Although I guess it has its share of comedy.

Not really expecting this movie to be a masterpiece (and it doesn't need to), but it looks like a fairly decent popcorn movie.

State of Play
A journalist gets embroiled in a conspiracy that started out as a mere reporting gig that involves a girl who was shot by (purportedly?) a congressman. Not really sure who killed the girl but whatever.

All I know is that it might either end up as a mediocre thriller, or a pretty good one. Reminds me of Zodiac somewhat. To be honest, I'm only half interested in this movie because of the star power involved (although I think Russell Crowe hired Nicolas Cage's hairstylist).

April 9, 2009

More iPhone Features Apple Might Tell You In June

As time passes by, rumors pop up more frequently, and some of them get confirmed. Right now, we even have an official interface for video recording as well as a digital compass.

Still, Apple naturally won't comment about these features and will only reveal them to an unsurprised audience (esp. if the audience is in the know with these rumors) in the June conference called WWDC (WorldWide Developers Conference).

1) Video Recording Confirmed
By fooling the iPhone 3.0 firmware into thinking that the present iPhone it is installed in possesses a video camera, this little screen shows up.
As you can see, there is now a "switch" to the lower-right side of the camera screen.

2) Camera Autofocus
By fooling around with the firmware file, hackers have also found out about several other features. One of them is "auto-focus", which would actually be a great improvement to the relatively bad 2 megapixel camera found in the iPhone, though I suspect it won't be supported in the iPhone nor the iPhone 3G.

3) More Megapixels
There's something a bit puzzling about this one, because Apple has reportedly ordered quite a few cameras, and there are two kinds: 3.2 and 5 megapixel variants, to be exact.

The 3.2 megapixel camera could either be iPhone only (while the 5MP one would be attached in an unidentified product), or the 3.2MP camera could be attached to a lower-end model of the iPhone while the 5MP one could be attached to a higher-end model so as to mark a difference besides hard drive space.

All I know is that the camera will at least get bumped up.

4) Digital Compass/Magnetometer
So what's a magnetometer? Well, it's pretty much an accelerometer on steroids. Magnetometers determine the phone's absolute position so it can open up a lot of possibilities: like being able to put 3D objects on a plane in real-time. It's like CGI on green screen minus the green screen.

A bit more helpful is being able to get an even more precise location through GPS and turn-by-turn directions.
An example:
The Nokia 6210 also has a magnetometer.

5) Bigger Storage/Stock
The world's flash memory might be in peril because Apple ordered 100 million 8Gb chips from Samsung. Basically, this might either mean a lot more stock for the 8GB and 16GB models around the world or an introduction of a 32GB model and the axing of the 8GB model.

6) Video Editing?
There might be a video editing feature in the works, although I can't imagine how it would work. Still, Sony Ericsson has a VideoDJ feature in its various phones, and it provides extremely basic video editing features. If a Sony Ericsson phone could do that, why not the iPhone?

7) Faster Wi-Fi
To complement Apple's Time Machine and Airport Express refreshes, Apple has put in support for a new chip that does 802.11n Wi-Fi, which has really fast speeds.

8) Video Answering Machine?
With a video camera on the way, Apple's patented "video answering machine" technology might just exist as a pretty innovative way to lazily answer calls.
Theoretically, for the desktop Macintosh, the iChat application would be able to let you record video messages depending the status message. For example, if your status message is "Be Right Back" and a person wants to video chat with you (and you don't answer the call by just leaving the notice alone), the message you recorded for the status message will appear.

I'm not sure how this will work in the iPhone, but it would actually be pretty cool if:
1) You hang up a call and a pre-recorded video message would come out (although the caller would kill you because it would waste their load/call minutes) or;

2) iChat would be available in the iPhone with Yahoo! Messenger, AIM, G-Talk, MSN Live, and Jabber support!

This feature was actually found in an old beta release of Mac OS X Leopard and prototypes of the original iPhone.

Sources: MacRumors, C|Net

April 7, 2009

Bookshelves become cool again

Since last year, we decided to make organizing our bookshelves (and the multitudes of ahem, back-up DVDs) an annual affair. Last year, we had to list them all down, type them all on MS Word and print about 40 pages total.

This year, we change things a bit. So I discovered this new piece of software called Delicious Library 2 for Mac OS X, and it is stunning how much it streamlines our work. All we had to do was put the book's barcode onto the built-in webcam's line of vision (and in a proper way), and 9 out of 10 of the guesses are extremely correct. The Mac would read the title out loud so you can sort of multitask. I mean, I remember one time when we scanned a few Harry Potter books. The Mac said "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by J.K. Rowling...", and in a different voice it said, "Voldemort!". That was pretty cool and pretty ROFLWTFBBQ.

Granted, Filipino books and several books are either not in the database (it uses Amazon as a base) or the barcode might be obscured too much that the camera shot gets misinterpreted (usually it becomes Tae-Bo or Lone Ranger 2), but for the most part, it works like a real charm.

It may remind you of Shelfari- only with offline access- but the program also goes beyond books.

You can also scan the barcodes of original DVDs (and at times VHS's but never VCD's)...

Audio CDs (once again, original)...

Original video games...

Hell, even gadgets!

This really makes for a great way to see if, for example, we have a certain book at hand, and it could be found in an instant due to per-letter search.

Of course, manual adding of those items is also supported.

Still, Delicious Library 2 is not just an inventory app glorified, it's also something you could use to remind yourself that, for example, item A should be returned to friend Z, or if you get robbed, you have all information in your hands with regards to purchase date, cost at the time, etc. Heck, you could also be able to see the selling value of a certain item were you to resell them on eBay or Amazon!

The program is not without its quirks, especially stability-wise and camera-wise, but this is a really impressive piece of software that deserves its own shelf in your Mac's drive.

Rating: 8.7/10
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