Sunday, 3 April 2011

That Extra Dimension: A Procrastination Review

Hey all,

Seeing as how I've hit the inevitable wall that comes with writing essays, I've decided to review my latest splurge: the new Nintendo 3DS. I've had about a week and a half of playing around with it, so reckon now's a good a time as any to give my view.

First, some background. For those who don't know, the Nintendo 3DS is the latest hand-held consule to be released. It came out of the 25th March (the same day as the iPad 2, for those keeping track), and costs approx. £200: I brought mine for £230 plus a game, Super Street Fighter IV, from The biggest features are a massive graphical boost as well as the ability to register 3D without the use of glasses. For those who saw my rant of 3D, I'd like to point out 3D doesn't come out the screen as much as add layers to the game, which makes for a far more enjoyable experience and is less strenuous on the eyes.

For what do you get for this huge chunk of bursary? Well, in this review I'm going to look at the console only. Street Fighter IV could have its own review, and maybe it will someday...

First up is the actual contents of the box the 3DS comes in. As well as the console, you get a charger (handy!), a charger dock (basically a platform to rest your DS on which can also charge the console at the same time. Good for angling the DS, but essentially superfluous) and a selection of manuals thick enough to serve as a make-shift weapon when the machine inevitably rises up in some impending apocalypse. There are also various AR, or Augmented Reality, Cards for use with some of the software, which I shall touch on it a bit.

The console itself has two major changes to its layout. Firstly, there's the 'circle pad'. This is essentially a joystick for the DS, something that the PSP has used for a while. It's nice to see it on the DS at last, though as a left handed person there is one problem, and that's when games inevitably require you to use both the stylus and move your characters (such as the upcoming Kid Icarus: Uprising). You can operate the touch screen using a finger from your right hand, but this leaves horrible marks across your nice shiny touch screen. Before, you often had the option of using either the D-Pad or A-B-X-Y buttons (which are organised into a D-Pad shape) depending on which hand you favoured. These is a chance that this simply won't be an option anymore, and that could be a problem.
The second change is a wider top screen, which is also the one that uses 3D. This is a nice touch, and although older DS games don't take up the entirity of the screen, this is no major problem. It is also worth pointing out here that the graphics of older DS games is, oddly, downgraded on the 3DS, though if you don't really care about graphics on these games (which wasn't always amazing) then this shouldn't be too much of a problem.

The major software on the 3DS are the AR Games. There are two of these pre-built into the 3DS. The first is Face Raiders, a fantastic game that takes a picture of a person's face then transplants it into a shooter-game involving the 3DS camera. I must have showed this to half a dozen people, and everyone seems to have hugely enjoyed it. It capitalises on the 3D in a way that does not get in the way of the enjoyment, yet still shows it off. This is a great feature.
As for the other AR Games, imaginatively entitled AR Games: Augmented Reality, these use the cards mentioned above to place various game elements in the real word. These are fun, though less impressive, as they require the cards to be placed on a flat surface and constantly kept within the camera's view. I get the feeling that these were merely a test for something bigger, and Nintendo are trying to work them into future games.

For anyone who's played the Wii, you'll be happy/annoyed to know that Miis are back! for those unfamiliar with the Miis, they're essentially little models of the person playing, often usable in games. On the 3DS, players can either make one from scratch, or take a picture of themselves and have the console do all the work. I made one from scratch, mostly because the console version of me had really tiny eyes. The Miis are then used in StreetPass...

Mini-Mii. I think it works...

Speaking of which, StreetPass is an interesting little feature that becomes active when the 3Ds is put on Sleep Mode. When two 3DSes pass each other on sleep mode, then they exchange data. Miis are sent to each console, which can then be used in either a puzzle game where you collect pieces of an image from Miis you encounter, or an RPG in which Miis fight ghosts, levelling up the most you encounter the same Mii. So far, I've met 7, and it's really fun to open your 3DS and see that you've passed someone else. StreetPass is also used in a number of the major launch titles, Super Street Fighter IV included. It will certainly by interesting to see what future games do with this feature.
StreetPass also includes a pedometer, which counts the number of steps you've taken, and rewards you with up to 10 coins per day. These are used in various ways, such as hiring heroes and buying puzzle pieces in the games mentioned above, or unlocking features in games such as Street Fighter.

So those are the majority of the features on the 3DS, but there are also things like Friend Lists, a soon-to-be-added Internet Browser (almost typed Bowser there. Too much Nintendo...), a music player if you upload songs to the 3DS' SD card, and ever a 3D camera. But now it's time for the important element - the 3D itself!

As I've said, I've shown off Face Raiders to a number of people, all of them with 3D turned on. I don't think I've met a single one who didn't enjoy it to some degree - even my housemates, who I managed to coax an 'it's impressive' out of (they've very hard to impress technology-wise). The 3DS does come with a depth slider, which allows anyone playing to adjust how much 3D is used to a comfortable level. Some people have experienced headaches, and though I've had little issue myself, I can see why people might struggle.

So, all in all, I've probably give the 3DS a solid 8/10. There are some elements that feel underused, the non-Face Raiders AR Games in particular, but elements that really stand out such as StreetPass and Face Raiders (it really is good. Anyone who wants a go and they see me, let me know. I tend to take it with me most places). The price tag, however, is pretty high, especially compared to places like the USA. It it were £30 cheaper, I'd bump up the rating to around 8.5, maybe even 9 if I felt generous.

TL;DR Section.

3 Pros.
  • Good 3D.
  • Some great games.
  • Great fun to play.
  • Some elements seem a little tacked on.
  • Can be expensive.
  • Launch price a little too high.
Overall rating: 8/10.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Truth or Dare: Ubisoft and the 'We Dare' Controversy

Hey all,

Yes, it's time for another computer game rant, and today we turn our attention to a planned Ubisoft game, We Dare for the Nintendo Wii and Playstation 3. First, a little about the game itself:

We Dare is developed and published by Ubisoft, famous for such games as the Assassin's Creed series. The game itself is, according to the bastion of knowledge Wikipedia, "a "sexy, quirky, party game" and involves kissing, striptease and spanking." Recently, it was given the PEGI rating of 12 in the UK, meaning that its content is suitable for those aged 12 and up.
Now, I'm not here to talk about the actual content of the game, as that's something for a different time. What I am here to talk about, however, if the controversy that has arisen in the UK surrounding the game.

Before reading any further, I suggest you all check out the European marketing campaign that has sprung the whole matter. the videos only 1:27, and watching it will really make following my argument a whole lot easier. go on, I'll wait.

There, now let's talk about what happened following that commercial's debut - a small number of people got very angry about the low rating for what looks like a very sexually-charged game being sold to children aged 12. An article here (granted, from an online gaming magazine) has opinions from both sides of the argument...

"I have a 13 year old daughter and if I knew she was playing such a highly charged sexual game with boys, I would be appalled," said Laura Pearson of Birmingham. "It is encouraging under-age sex." Another parent said the game will "fuel sexual tensions" and could lead to "sexual touching or assault." 

"It's only like a modern day spin the bottle," said Sandra Betts, who has a 15-year-old son. "It's just a bit of harmless fun."

Today, it was announced that the game was not to be sold in the UK. Ubisoft folded, caved into pressure from an outside group, and, in the process, said that any game not targetted at kids along should not be allowed.

The issue with this rating system is that PEGI can only rate games based on their content, not what the player may be doing. Here, in my view, lies the problem. Ubisoft have taken a very specific marketing route, which was then drastically opposed to how PEGI viewed the game, yet Ubisoft's advertisement shows audience playing and, more importantly, the way they're playing it. PEGI graded We Dare on the content of the game - these are drastically different areas, and there likely should have been some communication between the ratings board and Ubisoft so that these two messages matched. 

Does this men, then, that the outraged parents were right?

Hell no! PEGI are professionals, and they understand gaming and what's appropriate. They clearly mark content in games, which is available both on the internet and the boxes themselves. Like in my last gaming rant, this comes down to parents not carrying out research and instead relying on what is meant to be an eye-catching one and a half minute piece of advertising.

But, at the end of the day, this is not about We Dare as an individual product; this is about We Dare as the latest in a line of computer games with 'risque' material suffering because of the media. We Dare did not receive much media attention on TV because of the problems in Libya and elsewhere filling time (and rightly too!). However, past controversies have.

The Character Models formerly known as The Taliban.

The latest Medal of Honor game allowed players to control a faction in the multiplayer mode called the 'Taliban'. Naturally, many people objected, and the developers were forced to change them to 'Opposing Forces'. this changed involved nothing but altering the name of the group, as their character designs was exactly the same. Whether the choice of the name was right in the first play is not the problem here, but rather that the publishes, Electronic Arts, backed down on the decision, despite a number of gamers (myself included) willing to fight for the right of computer games to tackle modern issues, just as films and books can.

I suppose, in comclusion, this can be summed up - surprisingly - by Peter Griffin once again (damn, that guy's good!): "Well sir, I may not agree with that you said, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it." Ubisoft were clearly expecting We Dare to be rated higher than PEGI 12, hence their marketing. However, the parents really should take a look at the arguments made by the rating board before getting angry. It seems no-one is right here, and everyone looses - especially gamers, who find companies less willing to take exciting new chances.

It's a sad day for gaming.

Peace out,

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Harvey Poster

Hey all,

Noticed I hadn't blogged in a long while, so I thought I'd share the Harvey poster, drawn by Dean Ward.

Rather smashing, don't'cha think? Look out for it cropping up through the Guild soon - not long to go!

Peace out,

Monday, 21 February 2011

A Lesson in Fabulous: Star Driver.

Hey all,

Just remember; If in doubt, be fabulous.

This much fabulous can power Mecha. Fact.

Peace out,

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Harvey - The Story So Far

Hey all,

So, we're just under 2 weeks into the rehearsal process for Harvey. I'm really please with how the show's coming along so far, so I felt I'd post up a few pictures. The first picture comes from Act 1 Scene 1, and features Elwood (Alastair Clarke) and Sanderson (Martin Poile), while the second features Myrtle (Lauren Brighton) and Omar Gaffney (Shakeel Quader) in Act 2 Scene 1.


I'm really excited about the progress the cast has made so far, and can't wait for it to keep getting better and better.

Also, while I'm on a drama kick, LUDS have a shiny new blog. Find and follow it at

Peace out,

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Kids Today: A Rant About Some Parents

Hey all,

So I woke up this morning and loaded up my laptop to check my emails. This, in itself, is not uncommon. My homepage for my internet is yahoo - as I use yahoo for my emails, I figure this makes sense. While on the homepage, I checked out the four headlines they had running at the moment, and one was concerning a woman who's son ran up a £1000 bill on his xbox. I've sen the story on the gaming site I often visit (, but like to check out how non-gaming media covers stories like this. Foolishly, I clicked it.

You can read the article for yourself:

The article makes pretty standard reading: The woman put her card details onto the xbox so her son could use Xbox Live, a service that allows you to play games with your friends online. Her son, however, brought various other items for use in-game, eventually culminating in this huge bill.

I've seen plenty of  stories like this before - it's nothing new. However, it was the woman's comments that really ruffled my feathers. I quote:

“It is ridiculous to allow someone of his age to make payments without any checks being done.”

“It is impossible to monitor everything your children do. These companies should take some responsibility. They take advantage of vulnerable people.”

 This woman is, to be perfectly frank, an idiot. Granted, you can't keep your eyes on everything your children do. However, the complaints that there is no age verification is simply not true. The putting in of your card details counts as age verification, as Microsoft are assuming that, if you're old enough to have said card, then you're old enough to take responcibility. There are no age checks on amazon, because it stores your card details. This is the same thing, with the exception that one is done on a computer, one of the xbox.

Secondly, the mother should have told her son that he was to check with her before purchasing anything else. You can't watch your children all of the time, but you can talk with them about limits, or at least check up on them. To blame some scary grey box is stupidity in its highest form. To quote Peter Griffin, "Maybe parents need to take more responsibility for what shows their kids watch instead of blaming the shows themselves ... Yeah" It's the same principle with games.

Thirdly, there are other options to using your card; the main one being that you can buy codes for 1 year's xbox live subscription. They're cheaper, and, more importantly, mean that you don't have to put in card details. Granted, the woman may not have known about these, but I still feel it's a point worth making.

Lastly, and this is the most important point, the article points out that there are clear instructions for setting up parental control on the xbox. The mother should definately have looked at these. Parents seem all too willing to ignore ways in which they can monitor safety about children and technology without hovering over their shoulder. The kid was 11 for God's sake, she should have checked out ways to keep, not only her bank balance, but him, safe. I felt really upset when the article reported how he didn't want his xobx anymore. It was clearly something he enjoyed, but because no boundaries had been set/his mother hadn't looked over what he was doing, he'd been made to feel like the bad guy.

Anyway, I'm ranting. I said it would be a rant, and it turned into one. I'll finish it there.

Peace out,

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Get My White On: Why I don't dance.

This weekend, I've spent my time at LondonAnimeCon. On Sunday, there was a DDR Torunament.

This man can dance. He covered two dancemats at once.

I can't dance. I went out round 1.

Peace out.