Thursday, 31 March 2011

3DS "Review"

The 3DS has nearly been out for a week in the UK, and most of us have had time to mull over the ins and outs of the consoles. Its Nintendo’s most expensive handheld to date, so many will be asking – is it worth the money? My answer – yes.
Rather than give a lay down on everything the console does I’ll be commenting on features that particularly stood out to me as you’ve probably heard everything there is too already (And if not the internet has a plethora of information.) Anyway, onto the “review”.

The first thing you’ve got to notice is the machine itself. It looks brilliant – from the front at least. The surface is immune to fingerprints which I’m sure will be a welcome sign to anyone. It’s a nice finish overall and a massive step up from the DS I’ve been used too for all this time, but perhaps not as much for the DSi generation. It’s not perfect though. The stylus is oddly positioned at the back of the console again akin to the original DS. It’s also retractable and often a struggle to remove, which adds a few extra unnecessary seconds. Hardly a factor that will sway you away from the console, but an annoyance non the less. Another problem at the back is that – it’s metal. Rather than the sleek combination of black and grey surrounding the rest of the console, a metal strip sticks out and just makes me wonder why they didn’t cover it up. I assume this will be improved upon in the next iteration. Both these issues are minor niggles at the most, and really don’t take away from the overall feel of the console. The Circle pad works great in conjunction with the D-pad, both easier to use than it may first look.
However, who buys a console solely for its looks? The software is what really matters, and this is where the console really stands out from previous iterations. It’s worth considering I skipped the DSi so some of my points may not be a massive step up from that, but compared to Phat and Lite it really is a massive difference.
The menu is clear, concise, easy to navigate and can be manipulated at will, much akin to the iPhone layout.It’s a nice thing to see when you load your console and allows a small amount of multi tasking, but only 1 main task at a time. It gets kind of annoying confirming you want to quit each application, yet the features saved me once or twice. What really shines out is the sheer magnitude of features bundled in with the console. Classics like playing games (duh) alongside the DSi’s camera mode and sound are carried over, but many more gems are hidden within.

There are 3 games bundled in with the console that will entertain for a few hours (Face Raiders, AR games, Mii Plaza games). They are surprisingly fun, yet short, but for free you really can’t ask for much more. They serve to highlight some of the 3DS’s new functionality in the gyroscope, pedometer and AR use more than as standalone games, yet there is massive potential in each of these titles. I personally spent hours exploring before even loading my bought game. The Mii creator from the wii has also been ported over and expanded for 3DS use, able to go through the old method or take a picture to Mii-ify. It fails at times, but often gives surprisingly good results. It’s nice to see this feature is here to stay, enabling there use in games such as Pilotwings.Going through what I love about each feature would need an entire review in itself, so I’ll stop at this – prepared to be impressed.

But there’s more. I’ve managed to get this far without even mentioning what is a key feature to many potential buyers - the 3D. “Believe your eyes” is a the main element of nintendo’s ad campaign, so how does it stand up in the real world? Simply put, it works. Everyone seems to see it slightly differently, but as a general rule the layers of depth it adds really is something to see. It works. And it’s great.
But is it necessary? Nope. Even on launch day, I soon found myself switching between the two with a pretty even split. This may be down to Street Fighter able to produce fantastic images due to its game play. I even found it distracting at times, having to keep in the sweet spot during a tense battle can sometimes be troublesome. But with the ability to adjust 3D levels without so much as a pause, it’s easy to adjust given your situation. It’s nice to have, and the console excels with 3D or without.

However, there are a few things that I have a problem with. The first issue stems back to a hardware problem, battery life. 3-5 hours is abysmally low for a handheld, and this could easy push away buyers who save there handhelds for long trips – it just won’t last. Eventually either Nintendo or a 3rd party will remedy this via a battery pack or an updated console, but for those who are wanting to purchase now may question its immediate use.
The streetpass feature is also a really neat idea – you walk past someone who also has the mode turned on, then your two consoles exchange data without so much as a sound. It can be nice to open your 3DS and see your trophies have battered another’s in Street Fighter; or even that another Mii has appeared to help save the king in Streetpass quest. Yet this stems back to the battery life. The console has a short battery life as is, having to leave wireless active on the go just in case is a hard sell. This is especially hindered by the lacklustre numbers that come with every launch, coupled with UK tradition will make the occurrence rare outside of game stores. If this didn’t require that extra battery life from an already short lifespan I would love it, but for now it’ll have to stay off unless on short journeys.
A similar situation lies in the pedometer – the console needs to be on for it to work. If you take your console with you it’s generally off to start with, so being forced to ensure it’s on (using precious battery life) is frustrating. It may be necessary (I’m no technical wiz) but frustrating non the less. There’s life in this though, as for the steps you take you earn play coins which can unlock nice little features like extra AR games or rent-a-hero in streetpass quest. It’s worth doing it for the 1000 steps a day to max your cap.

I hate to end on a bad note, and for a console like this, I can’t.. I love it. The problems I’ve outlined are the only downsides I can find other than an underwhelming launch line-up, but that will soon change. I started this review aiming for a quick review, but I’m already over 1000 word. I’m just bursting with stuff to say about the 3DS. I could now easily go on for another few thousand words about just how much I love it, but I need not bore you any longer. All I can say is that if the negatives put you off, think again. They may be frustrating, but the overall package is fantastic, even for its hefty price tag. I would recommend it to anyone with only one barrier to instant purchase – the games. As innovative and outright fun games like face raiders are, they don’t quantify to such a purchase. If you want to wait for the killer apps to be released, fair enough. Prices may have changed or upgrades are release. But there’s something for everyone (even your grandma) in this little machine, so sooner or later, you should add one to your collection.

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Witch Hunters confirmed for 2011!

Hey, just got back from the School League. Our team placed well, through to the finals, and a bit of interesting information came out of it.
During the presentation on the new Grey Knights, given after the games at this year’s School League Semi-final event (30th march) at Warhammer World, a piece of interesting information was presented. No further information was given, but it was confirmed that Witch Hunters would be hitting the shelves in 2011. Some people had doubts over whether an update would ever come, so this is a welcome progress update to many. Unfortunately I was unable to grab the photographic evidence, but this came from a designer’s presentation (Wade, didn’t catch the last name) straight from GW HQ so it’s pretty much confirmed! Good news for Witch Hunters fans.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Think with portals. (Mini review)

With the Orange Box, most fans were anticipating Half Life 2:Episode 2 as the most attractive reason to buy it. But inside is a hidden gem in Portal, an experiment by valve which is impressive in its own right.
You play the role of Chell, a test subject for aperture science; with the promise of escape for completing the challenges set by GLaDOS, the robotic voice that echoes through the test halls. And these echoes are quite literal, as GLaDOS is the only other character in the game. It’s a one way communication but it gets the job done with entertaining dialogue between puzzles.
Where the game really comes to life is with the elusive Portal gun. It’s a simple idea where you shoot at two places to create a portal from one to the other. Puzzles start off as simple but soon become more challenging and require a bit more thought. Through the games 19 levels there’s lots of variety to keep you interested throughout. Its only going to take a few hours to get through, but it’s a brilliant system that’s definitely worth it. And once you’re done there’s time trials to do, portal limits, and advanced stages which expands upon the regular stages and gives them a new twist. The whole mechanic is simply brilliant, evolving from a simple use of portals to abusing gravity to traverse across gaps otherwise seemingly impossible. The only problem I found throughout my play through were that occasionally you knew exactly what to do, but execution of your idea takes longer than it should. This is a rare occurrence however and does not take away from the overall feel – the portal gun is fantastic.
However, don’t expect it to last you long. It is at it’s heart just an experiment, lasting but a few hours at most. With a sequel on the horizon, Portal is an essential purchase you really should add to your collection. If only it was longer.

Sunday, 20 March 2011


Just realised I’ve done a review without actually saying just what the scores mean. I’m sure you know approximately, but here’s what they mean just so you know my take on it.

0%-09% - No enjoyable moments whatsoever, treat as nuclear waste – stay well away and dispose of as soon as possible.
10%-19% - Pretty hideous. Maybe theres something hidden that may seem like fun, but really it’s still utter rubbish.
20%-39%- Maybe one of two slight moments of enjoyment, but massively flawed and best avoided.
40%-49%- A few good bits here and there, but that’s about it. Not really worth looking into from anything but a bargain bin.
50%-64% - Average at best, unless it’s a niche that appeals to you or you’ve been looking forward to it, probably worth missing.
65%-79% - A good game, but it’s just missing that special something. Still worth picking up, but a major flaw or a similar issue could put you off.
80%-89%- A great game, but not quite brilliant. If your at all interested it’s probably worth picking up, but one or two problems mean it might not be for everyone.
90%-94% - A fantastic game you shouldn’t think twice about buying. Only one or two small details prevent it from getting to the top.
95%+ - BUY THIS. Its flaws are second to none, and from start to finish the game radiates fun. If you own the console you NEED this game.
100% - I’ve been hacked. No game is perfect.