November 29, 2009

Movies Opening This Week: It's hard not to get sick of George Clooney

As we delve deeper into Oscar season, more exciting movies get pushed out. While I personally am very excited for next week's The Lovely Bones, we still have some George Clooney to keep us entertained. But really now, how many movies should he be in, in such a short span of time? Have you noticed? It's like Fantastic Mr. Fox, The Men Who Stare At Goats, and now this:
Up In The Air
A test of how much more of George Clooney you can take, this Jason Reitman flick seems to be a well-written piece of corporate fun.
Basically, Ryan Bingham is an expert at corporate downsizing operations (err, firing people to save the company money) and he has learned to embrace life on the road. However, a girl who is tasked with the same job is hired to go along with him so he can show her the ropes, and it seems that he's met his perfect female counterpart.
But judging from the trailer, the movie looks like it will have yet another awesome soundtrack, great writing and performances, and maybe a life lesson or two.
I'm looking forward to watching this one, even if it's not in that "anxious" kind of way.
The movie, while looking Oscar-worthy, is bound to have some competition. Is Brothers gonna be it?
Not really.
I mean, yeah, it looks like it's gonna have some good performances, but it doesn't mean that the movie is gonna be an instant Oscar nominee. There's something about it that strikes me as overly soapy, but hey, who knows what'll happen in the actual movie, right?
The premise is that it's about a family. Dad goes to Afghanistan while uncle helps in taking care of the family. They think dad is dead, so uncle and mommy go to bed. Dad suddenly opens his eyes and wants to talk to mommy. Chaos ensues.
I think Tobey Maguire and Jake Gyllenhaal... are credible enough to be brothers. Natalie Portman, though? She's a tad too pretty to be convincing as an army wife. That aside, though, I think it's gonna be the kind of movie that'll only hinge upon the performances of the actors... I'm not even sure if the movie will go well at all since I think that from the trailer, there will be a few contrived moments.
Speaking of contrived, how about this next movie?
Starring a surprising cast of talented actors, Armored is the newest movie by director... Nimrod Antal who made Vacancy. Now I'm just gonna contain myself over here so as to prevent myself from making sophomoric jokes about his name, but really, has anything done by a nimrod sounded good? The credit of directing "Vacancy" doesn't exactly bode well for the movie either.
Dumb judgment aside, this inside job looks to be a reasonably watchable film. Basically, it's about this guy who's short on cash. This same guy is a new recruit in the armored truck delivery industry, and with the help of a team, they engineer the perfect heist. But things go wrong when an innocent comes in the foray, increasing the risks of everything falling apart.
There'll most definitely be some contrived high-tension sequences, but I don't know. I don't think it'll be bad at all.
Still, don't even watch the trailer. For crying out loud, it reveals the whole movie, which is probably why I do not even mind if I miss this or not. Hell, it even looks derivative.
I'll be damned, however, if I didn't say Robert De Niro's new outing was derivative either.
Everybody's Fine
Oscar season also coincides with Christmas season, and usually the movies that are about Christmas are crappy. Look at Deck The Halls or Christmas with the Kranks. Despite that, however, Everybody's Fine doesn't seem to be, thankfully enough, of the same mold.
And for good reason. It features an all-star cast consisting of fan-favorites Drew Barrymore, Kate Beckinsale and Sam Rockwell, a relatively credible director (Kirk Jones) is at the helm, and it's actually a remake of some Italian film. OK, maybe the word "remake" doesn't ring well in the ears, but you gotta love how subtle and light the tone of the movie is.
This will obviously be a feel-good movie, but I think I feel like wanting to watch it. It's not an urgent craving to rush to the theater, but when it hits on DVD, I might grab it. I don't know, let's just see how it fares with the critics when it opens up.
But from derivative, we scrape to the bottom of the barrel. That's right, kids, it's time for another crappy parody movie!
While I'm thankful that someone finally milked the idea of making fun of the vampire trend, a lot of YouTube videos are just funnier than this. I mean, good God, this movie is just looking plain awful.
Set in a college located in a cursed land, Transylmania is a movie that basically makes fun of vampiric romance... that's kinda it, really. There's nothing else to it but some immature sexual innuendo and maybe a tinge of pop culture.
If there's anything that redeems this movie, it's probably gonna be the original title... and maybe the fact that it doesn't throw as many pop culture figures at our faces and call it funny.
Other than that, I have no clue as to why there's any appeal to it. Might as well call it Vampire Movie, then.

November 28, 2009

New Super Mario Bros. Wii First Impressions

Video games, how I have missed you!

In student life, it's hard to maintain that balance of work and play, and for weeks on end I have only depended on my iPod touch to give me those short bursts of entertainment, but a capacitive touch screen can only get you so far...

For so long have I wanted to just touch a controller-- any controller-- but since I only have the Wii for a primary console, I didn't really have many games to choose from.

Maybe I could just play Rock Band again. Maybe I could complete the Luigi levels of Super Mario Galaxy. A versus match online in SSBB? As if I could find anybody to play with!

No, I needed something new.

So I got New Super Mario Bros. Wii. And it's frigging awesome.

Granted, I've only gotten past the first world, and while I'm not playing it right now, I sure am craving to get into the game again.

It's easy to get into the groove of things, I mean, come on, it's a traditional Mario game! Anyone who can't familiarize themselves with the classic control scheme must be living in a friggin cave. Basically, you hold the Wiimote sideways and control it as you would control the old NES games. Still, since it has Wii in the title (as well as a glaring lack of Classic controller and Gamecube controller support), motion control is bound to be an integral part of the game. The new propeller suit requires you to shake the Wiimote so you can fly for a short period of time, some platforms are operable by you tilting the Wiimote left or right, they can carry stuff by you holding the 1 button and shaking the Wiimote, and inspired by Super Mario Galaxy, the boys now have a spin attack.

But what are controls for if there wasn't smart level design?

This early in the game, a sense of something special already simmers in me. There is some ingeniously brilliant level design, and I have yet to even get into the second world. Surely, things can only get better from here?

November 25, 2009

iPhone App of the Week: Mover Plus

Bluetooth transfer has always been a big issue with the iPhone, simply because the iPhone doesn't let you natively transfer pictures or contact information through Bluetooth. Even the iPod touch (except the first generation) has built-in Bluetooth, but aside from multiplayer games and stereo wireless headsets, there's not much use to Bluetooth.

A lot of apps help the iPhone and the iPod touch with this task, and Mover is just one of the many apps available in the App Store that let a user transfer pictures, contact information, bookmarks, or blocks of text. While the apps aren't perfect (they can't transfer between devices that aren't Apple-branded), there are some pretty creative applications that do something you'd think was so mundane.

The logic is that you can add some photos to a table. This table, after finding another iDevice, will let you gain the ability to swipe the data you want to share. It's like sliding your number across the bar table or something, only thing is, you get to keep your copy of it.

I've tried it quite a few times with a few photos, and I have to say, it works very well.

You can share your files through either Wi-Fi or Bluetooth (the new update available will also be able to activate Bluetooth even when it's off from the system settings), but you can't interact with multiple iDevices at the same time (as far as I can tell).

The simple, easy-to-use interface is a refreshing break from having to surf through tons of menus just to be able to send a photo or a contact number. Just open the app, add the thing you wish to send and after the device detects your recipient, you can just swipe the item their way. They'll receive it in no time, really. What's better is that there is also a free version that's able to interact with the paid version through the same networks: Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, and the same kinds of information: photos, videos, contacts, bookmarks, or text.

Too bad that Apple has a music business to run, and thus cannot let any developer make an app that lets you send music files as well.

Rating: 8.5/10 [$1.99 iTunes Store Link, Simple Bluetooth mover that gets the job done flexibly. Free version also available with ads]

Also, from now on, I will also give the spotlight to a promising upcoming iPhone app that will most likely be featured in the future.

Here is, iPhone App Preview of the Week.

It's safe to say that Plants versus Zombies is one of the most popular casual games this year, so it's just natural that after Peggle, Pop Cap would go on to port this game into the iPhone and iPod touch.

Here's a preview from, ironically, Fox News.

November 24, 2009

Julie and Julia review

Julie and Julia
Starring Meryl Streep and Amy Adams
Columbia Pictures

People always seek comfort food after a whole day of stress, and from the likes of it Julie and Julia may just be that companion to your bar of Toblerone.

Basically, Julie and Julia is based from two different memoirs. Need I even tell you who wrote the memoirs?
Anyway, Julie Powell is a typical American who likes to write, but didn't finish the novel she wanted published. Her husband suggests that she start a blog to scratch her writing itch, and since she finds comfort in cooking especially after dealing with various angry people in a government call center, she decides to start blogging about cooking.
And not just any type of cooking. She decides to go through (and blog about) her experiences cooking through the entire cookbook legendary American cooking teacher Julia Child made.
The movie will also juggle around the general life of Julia Child, and it shows that Julia Child wasn't always Julia Child at first. In the 40's she didn't even know how to cut an onion, but later she would rapidly gain progress in cooking class and go through a journey of getting her cookbook published.

First off I have to say that Meryl Streep is such an adorable character in this movie. Every time she's on screen, she just shines. You don't see Meryl Streep, you see an overly jolly Julia Child, and it's hard not to get into it because of her inviting, welcoming demeanor that isn't at any way condescending. When the situation demands Julia Child to be mad or sad however, Meryl Streep doesn't even overact. The subtlety of the emotion Streep utilizes is as effective as ever, and it raises a huge, unfair bar that Amy Adams doesn't ever get to reach.

So yeah, in other words, Julie Powell's life is of much less interest. Okay, maybe there's the occasional conflict, and a sprinkle of a meltdown, but there is nothing that feels major about any of the events of Julie's life. You don't even feel her "bummed-ness" when a distinguished dinner guest cancels at the last minute, despite a second chance at getting a burned dish right, which is oh-so sitcom-ish in its convenience. Basically, this part of the movie, which is actually the one of more focus, is just less interesting and feels a bit too simplified. It was supposed to make the typical frustrated working gal in the block relate to her, but the convenience of the plot just makes it unbelievable. Perhaps if you took a look at the real blog archives, well, maybe you'll believe the "524 recipes in 365 days" thing, but that's basically the only thing that's interesting about her. I mean, that part of the film doesn't even feel very urgent either. It feels as if it was all just a breeze when it shouldn't. Julie's emotional meltdowns (and the toll the project takes on her marriage) doesn't even faze because they feel all too pointless... they're solved a bit too easily.

But Julia Child's part... my God, it's much more worth watching. Just watching Meryl Streep act is worth the price of admission, but really, let's not lie, there are a few dull parts in the movie. And yet, just as the dull parts start to overstay their welcome, the editing saves the day.

Ultimately, the thing that works against it is the thing that works for it. In the effort to tell two stories, you'll be glad that there's a bit of variety to shake things up, but it just doesn't make the whole affair seem important nor does it beg you to get yourself to care. To make things worse, the two stories don't tie up nicely by the end of the movie, and throughout it you just feel disconnected between the two stories. They transition nicely enough, but even with good editing, there's not enough material to establish a connection.

It's just the kind of movie that, if someone asks you, "Why are you watching this?", you'll answer, "Just to kill time.". Not even Meryl Streep's great acting saves the movie as a whole from ever evolving into something memorable. If there's anything that can be memorable, it's Streep herself, and that's a bit of a bad thing, especially for Amy Adams.

It's not great, but it's not bad either. Entertaining, but not much food for thought.
Exactly like a bar of Toblerone at the end of a work day.
Rating: 7/10

November 22, 2009

Orphan review

Starring Isabelle Fuhrman, Peter Sarsgaard
Now on DVD

Ever watched "The Good Son"? Well, grab that, wrap it up with better special effects, hire someone better than Culkin and tadda, you get Orphan.

But unlike that old crappy movie, there's also a lot more logic to this, and the horror has a bit of a point. When you get to share an appointment with this movie, well, let's say you'll probably get pleasantly surprised.

But before we get to the review, let's meet Esther first.

She's a little girl who is adopted by a family composed of (don't laugh but...) Jon and Kate, plus two children. Kate just recently lost a child and gave up drinking, so she wants to give her love to someone else who doesn't have a family. When Jon establishes a connection to the mature-for-her-age Esther, Kate thinks she's found the one to adopt. Things don't go so well when she's released to the wild, however.

A nun suddenly doesn't come back to the orphanage, a kid gets pushed down a slide, and someone's gun seems to have one bullet less. Coincidence? Kate doesn't think so. Kate's intuition points all arrows to Esther, but no one seems to believe her. Even the psychologist likes her more than Kate.

There, if you have yet to watch "The Good Son" the two are kinda similar. Then again, even if you don't really know anything about "The Good Son", you'd still find the premise of Orphan pretty damn familiar.

It isn't really obvious when you watch such a strong first part. The movie shows promise, actually, but it may be just because newcomer Isabelle Fuhrman makes a strong turn as Esther, and she just knows how to strike a balance between sickly sweet and sickly... just sick. Her sweetness isn't too much, so you too are actually attracted to her unprecedented charisma, but her sick side will actually impress you because it truly makes you believe that she has something in her head.

Despite her performance, the movie doesn't do her efforts justice. In the end, you'll feel like you watched another horror movie. But I'll be damned if I didn't say I actually felt a bit of sustained suspense over there. I mean, yeah, there's suspense, but the scares mostly don't even work. It's like, "okay, let's use our collection of suspenseful music and psyche the viewers". Not only is that technique so cliche, it's also damn funny.

Also funny is the climactic last part of the movie. The final "moral choice part" of the movie just made me burst out laughing, I mean, there was such a lot of build-up, it could only be predictable. And when the moment did come, I couldn't resist. I just burst out laughing like hell.

That doesn't mean that the movie is bad, it's actually quite competent. The huge twist behind the Esther mystery is actually compellingly unique (although it's kinda lazy in a way), but overall, the movie does entertain. There are a few moments of sharp writing and genuine suspense, but it ends up becoming an average movie.

Really, the only real reason to watch this is to watch Fuhrman and see how much of a promising star she will be. I see a future for her, and that future doesn't have to involve Peter Sarsgaard having an affair with her as a college professor. That's already been done.

Rating: 6.5/10

November 21, 2009

Movies Opening This Week: Taylor Lautner. Nuff said.

Doing this post has been the last thing on my mind for the past few weeks, but I'm gonna make up for it this time by actually just covering all the movies that just got released last week, in addition to the ones that are about to be released.

Oh, and I just want to flame on...

New Moon
Summit Entertainment's vampiric juggernaut of a franchise makes a return a year after its debut, but this time, it's obviously drawing more people (its midnight run overshadowed Dark Knight and Harry Potter) but it could most likely be attributed to one thing: Taylor Lautner. You know, that dude from the utterly despicable The Covenant? Only buffer? Yeah, he's so buff it's enough to draw in the gals into the theater without having to know any of the mythos (Twilight has mythos?) of the quadrilogy of books that spawned this piece-of-crap film. Hell, he's so buff it's enough to derail Robert Pattinson's spotlight just because his scrawny, sickly torso fails to match the almost weirdly sudden growth of physique in the "native American".

The trailer itself makes it clear that the film is not going to be viewable without at least watching the first movie. While the action sequences and special effects look improved, I still can't say that I'm itching to watch it. I might watch the actual movie saga someday out of curiosity, but that'll have to take long.

Enough about vampires though, why don't we talk about ninjas or assassins?

Or both?

Ninja Assassin
The Wachowski Brothers have a pretty spotty record as far as movies go. They pretty much gained worldwide acclaim with a sci-fi classic, the original Matrix, followed it up with the passable sequel and ended it with a pretty crappy 3rd act. In between, there was V for Vendetta which I actually liked, and in '07 there was Speed Racer which was more of an LSD trip than anything. What does this have to do with anything, you ask?

Korean singer-actor Rain has a role in Speed Racer, but the brothers apparently saw some potential in the man. Now they spawn a love-child: Ninja Assassin. Product of multitudes of Asian stereotypes? I think so.

So... yeah, let's see now. A guy called Raizo is a special killer of a gang but he's betrayed by the gang so he swears revenge. Not really new, but the selling point over here will probably be the action and knowing the history of the directors, there's probably gonna be a lot of bullet-time too. It's strikingly fake-looking in the trailer though... but I'll reserve any more judgment until I see this film.

But you know what else isn't new?

Old Dogs
Disney's follow-up to the startling hit Wild Hogs has John Travolta and Robin Williams starring as, what else, middle-aged men who are buddies.

Williams' character, Dan, is a man who doesn't seem to have a wife so he's not great with kids while Travolta's character, Charlie, well, I'm not sure about his role in the movie. The buddy, I guess.

Plot comes in to test the friendship when Vicki comes along to see Dan. And now she has kids-- his kids.

A screenplay that somewhat resembles Daddy Day Care ensues. Dan has to take care of the kids for a while while Charlie is gonna... be the uncle, I suppose. The two, along with some other guy, go through misadventures that simply has hilarity written all over them. Heh heh heh heh... not.

But wait a sec, BERNIE MAC is in there? When did they shoot this movie?

Dangit, I'm lingering on this movie for too long. Why don't we just get on to a different animal?

The Princess and the Frog
Considered a return to basics for Disney, the legendary animation style that this new release possesses is not without its new-age flourishes, and what I mean by new age is the fact that it's the first Disney movie to ever feature an African-American princess. And you know what, it's kinda promising.

It's basically a twist on the story of the Frog Princess. Kiss the frog, frog becomes human, happily ever after. But not in this movie, this time, the princess who kisses the frog becomes a frog as well (reminds me of Shrek 2, for some strange reason) and they track down the cure so they can become human again. Oddly enough, I'm fascinated as to how the new movie will delve into more of the "wizard's" backstory since nobody has never really known much about how the prince became a frog in the first place.

Pleasantly expecting a classically good time, even though I don't expect it to match the quality of past Disney 2D flicks.

So okay, since we're technically on the topic of African-American's, why don't I just end this bad segueway right here and just talk about Sandra Bullock's 3rd major starrer of the year:

The Blind Side
You know what this movie just reeks of? Oscar bait.

Still, it's probably what Sandra Bullock needs right now, especially after a disaster we shall not name.

It's the true story of African-American football player Michael Oher who comes from a broken family and adopted by the thickly Southern Touhy family. Not excited, but I don't think it's crappy either. Time will tell although it's enjoying some rave reviews right now.

But how about a movie that I'm sure will garner a lot of rave reviews?

The Road
Starring Viggo Mortesen and Charlize Theron, The Road is a thriller by author Cormac McCarthy that's set in post-apocalyptic America. It's like Fallout, so to speak, but this time, it's more thrilling, more realistic and more grounded.

Frankly, I think this is a movie to watch. The trailer is darn convincing, and it's been getting some rave reviews all around. Will it win an Oscar like another Cormac McCarthy adaptation No Country For Old Men?

No, but it's looking damn close.

November 20, 2009

Chrome OS detailed

A few months ago, you probably heard that Google was working on a desktop OS of its own. While Android is making the netbook rounds, Google's new Chrome OS aims to take the same approach the company has taken with Android: open-source, fast, and web-driven.
This time, however, Google wants to emphasize on making the Chrome OS revolve around, what else? Google Chrome. If you already have the browser, you may already know that it's a fast, stable multi-platform browser that rapidly updates with new features as time goes by (and if you beg to differ, then your computer may have a defect). This is basically bootable Chrome as detailed in this publicity video:
So basically, Google is gearing towards the netbook crowd than the actual desktop, but the sensibilities around the OS do apply for the real netbook user. People basically buy netbooks for one thing: the Internet. That's why "net" is in the name, right? With the boot time of the OS clocking in at just a mere 7 seconds, it's probably gonna be a boon for the netbook makers.
Still, it doesn't hurt to be concerned whether Google's own "cloud" storage is actually safe. I'm not even sure what kind of "cloud storage" the company plans to implement, but they want netbook makers to switch to smaller capacity flash drives instead of the bulkier hard drive in preparation for this.
Obviously, if you are looking to install some software, you probably won't find much luck here. Microsoft Word? Nope. Adobe Photoshop? Ha! It's just you, Google and the Internet.
So Google, what about the developer support?

November 12, 2009

Xbox modders get locked out of Live, and then some

I heard from a podcast that described something a GameStop employee said. The employee basically said that if someone bought the high-profile Modern Warfare 2 before launch date, Microsoft would brick his/her Xbox. At the time, it sounded like a joke, but for some reason it's somewhat coming true.

Today, I saw an article in Yahoo! stating that Microsoft has initiated an Xbox banning crackdown that targeted Xbox owners who had chipped/modified units. The only thing Microsoft really did was block Xbox Live access and this leads me to note how ludicrous the reasoning behind it is. It's piracy. But what good is blocking Xbox Live when Microsoft still lets you play the pirated games anyway, just offline?

The Yahoo! article also reported that even innocent, law-abiding owners got an Xbox Live ban, but the worse thing about this screw-up is how crappy Microsoft's support people must be. The report quotes the innocent 'victim' as being waved off by support as if he were a criminal, and this is where the worst thing about anti-piracy measures comes in. Even the innocent ones aren't spared.

Hell, it's hard to know why MS targeted the Live service instead of bricking the whole thing. It's a separately paid service and I don't think you can pirate a service that you have to pay for monthly. Consequently, pirates will remain nonchalant and mostly shrug it off since their Xbox systems can still play games anyway, so it's kinda pointless all things considered.

Oh, and how about improving the way customer support treats your customers, Microsoft? They still pay legally for the online service so that's the least you can do.

November 11, 2009

iPhone App of the Week: Canabalt

Ported from a free Flash game, Canabalt is a paid app that runs on a very simple premise: escape.

The only thing you actually need to do is jump. Now it sounds extremely boring, but this is where some of the subtle additions come into play. Like any platformer, you'll also have to jump across obstacles, huge gaps, quickly crumbling buildings, even the occasional vaporizing robot or so.

The pace quickens in Canabalt so contrary to the barebones premise, it never really bores. Combined with an aesthetic that is teeming with a retro sensibility, and some awesome music (although I have to admit, it's the same track looping over and over again), it's a perfect game to play on a brief commute.

The addictive thing about the game is how it simply never ends until you die. The game over screen gives you a hilarious description of how you fell, and it even offers an option to post this same description on Twitter so you can challenge friends who have the game (or just plain promote the game to your circle of pals).

It's a very basic game that's well worth purchasing as it is just as well presented as it is addictive.

Rating: 8/10

The Thing About Blogger

My local blog editor broke down so I had to log into the web interface through my browser. I hunted for some options since I had just recently changed my password, and then I found something curious.

If you scroll all the way down in the Settings page, you'll be able to find something called an "Updated editor". How long has Google been hiding this feature and letting people "suffer" with the old editor? Shouldn't services like these be automatically applied?

November 10, 2009

My Twitter account is... LOCKED?

I just watched an episode of Digg Nation a little while ago and found out that one of the hosts, specifically Alex Albrecht, had to change his multitudes of G-Mail passwords because he was sent a warning by his G-Mail widget/extension thingy notifying him to change his password. The host would go on to say that Google might have leaked a seemingly select number of user names and passwords to the entire web (just like how the juggernaut also made private voicemails appear in public Google search results). I say "select number of user names and passwords" because co-host Kevin Rose didn't report any suspicious activity on his account, but proceeded to change his password anyway.

So to be safe, I changed my password as well. Hell, I changed the passwords of all the primary websites I log into, and since Tweetie 2 for the iPhone and iPod touch doesn't allow the alteration of a password from the app itself, I had to resort to using the computer instead (come to think of it, I could've used mobile Safari... D'oh!). But anyway, I changed my password, logged out, and tried to log back in with the new password.

For some reason, Twitter wants me to "chillax" because it temporarily locked down my account.

Ahhhh great.

November 6, 2009

iDo think the Droid has potential.

I never blog that much about Android (hell, the last time I blogged about it was 2 years ago or something), but with the recent attention-grabbing (aggressive) ad campaign conducted by Verizon, it's hard not to give notice to its new flagship Android phone, the Motorola Droid.

It's Transformers-like, really. The ad, I mean.

The real product is... well, it's being touted as the world's slimmest phone... with a slide-out keyboard.

It's not ugly by any means, but it looks very boxy. Still, the biggest star of the show is the new Android 2.0 which comes out of the box. Looks very slick and responsive, but still not as responsive as the iPhone.

Then again, it could be attributed to hardware, which purportedly lacks multi-touch. This video proves otherwise though.
The product looks wonderful, and I can't wait for it to come here (or at CEL Manila? Maybe I'll go again this year)... I so want to tinker with a full-fledged model!

November 4, 2009

iPhone App of the Week: Eliminate Pro

ngmoco has a large presence in the App Store, but aside from Topple, there's not a free app in their arsenal... until now.

This menu screen, my friends, is of Eliminate Pro. Despite the "Pro" moniker, this online first-person shooter is far from costly (that is, unless you wish to buy energy cells) and it's well-made for a free app.

Instead, Eliminate takes advantage of Apple's in-app purchases, which just opened up to free apps. I've always worried about how Apple's new stance on in-app purchases would make developers lazy and get money through nickel-and-diming customers instead. Quite frankly, Eliminate kind of proves this theory, except that it is far from lazily made.

The meat of the game lies in the online-only deathmatch which pits you against either random players around the world, or a private friends list. If you wish to improve your shooting skills, tapping "Bots" is the place to go (and it's the only offline mode of the game).

And this leads me to how the game controls.

Basically, you have two analog sticks, the one on the left lets you control the character's movement, while the right one lets you rotate the camera and aim. Tapping the right analog also lets you fire your weapon, while tapping the central part of the screen allows you more precision with your shooting as it closes up to reveal the reticle... err, you know sniper-style. Tapping the bottom part lets you jump through platforms, while tapping the upper part lets you access the menus. The thing about the control overlay is that it disappears overtime, which can be both a blessing and a curse. For one thing, it makes for a more immersive experience since the buttons are not in the way of your view, but adjusting newbies will find it a bit uncomfortable, especially when controlling the right analog stick to aim. It can be quite awkward, really, and the zooming reticle can be annoying if accidentally summoned. In fact, the reticle caused me to die before I could shoot someone accurately.

Thankfully, the game offers options to customize the controls, but it's not as powerful as that of Duke Nukem's (although Duke Nukem's controls are crappy). Still, just being able to uncheck the box that says "Tap Center to zoom in" or whatever is a saving grace for the game. Auto-fire can also help newbies adjust better.

So okay, the game's controls are decent, but how about the actual game? Well, the maps are varied since they're picked at random (and they're kinda decently made to boot), and more importantly, getting into an online match is pretty darn fast, and better yet, it doesn't sacrifice the graphical quality of the game just to get it loading fast.

Still, I was playing on newer hardware, so if you're on a first generation iDevice (be it iPhone or iPod touch), be wary as the game's performance could take a hit due to more outdated innards.

So if you think you want to opt out of the game, you can tap on Menu, get a glance of your performance, and just get out. But the catch is, when you quit, the game shows its evil, corporate side by depleting your "energy" as shown in the main screen. The purpose of this "energy" is to limit your playtime, and if you wish to play more despite depleted energy, you can wait for it to recharge the next day or purchase this energy through iTunes, which is actually a big load of bullcrap. In a corporate point of view, this is a bit of a creative way to limit server load (and even fund the server maintenance), heck, people actually buy the $139.99 power pack for Christ's sake! Madness, right?

Quite ironically, depending on your performance, you can also earn some in-game currency called "Credits" to do the same thing, and then some.

I think it actually makes more sense to price the armor and gear than the energy, but the equipment, apparently, can only be had through the in-game credits. Puzzling, to say the least.

But at the end of the day, only the level of fun you had matters, and I, quite frankly, had a bit of that as well. Despite the limiting energy mechanic, the free app doesn't require you to purchase anything with real money, really. If you can control your urge to play continuously, you can pretty much have this game and not mind the in-app purchases. It's a competent FPS that connects to a game really quickly without sacrificing graphical fidelity, which is rare in the App Store nowadays. ngmoco does a good job with this app, and I recommend you download it.

Rating: 7.5/10 [Online FPS fun for (deceptively) nothing!, iTunes Store Link]

November 3, 2009

Chronicles of a Windows XP Upgrader #5: Yehey.

A trip to Hong Kong helped me clear my mind and take the load off, but now that I'm back in the Philippines and armed with a new hard drive, I can finally go on with my plan.

I opened PCMover and it did its thing... for 5 hours that is. Restarted my computer, opened up Windows 7, formatted my main hard drive, installed for less than 20 minutes, and voila!

I am at peace...
Oh wait a sec, I'll have to move all my files back.
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