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Josh Smith

Josh has been interested in video gaming and technology since the early 80’s. Growing up in Maine has proven difficult, but he’s found ways to gain access to hardware and software not typically seen in rural parts of the country. Now living near the coast, Josh is happily married with two young children and is teaching them the ways of the Force. Unfortunately, it’s the Dark Side.

Using the Magic of a Magic Marker in Max: The Curse of Brotherhood

If you’ve grown up with siblings, there isn’t a time when you didn’t try to wish them away. For Max, dealing with his little brother Felix is a hassle and one day, in a fit of rage, Max used the search engine “Giggle” to find a spell that might take the nuisance away. Upon successfully completing the spell, Max, in a Labyrinth-like moment of regret, decides he doesn’t want his brother gone and launched a rescue. There’s no Goblin King in this tale, instead Max is dealing with the evil Mustachio whose purpose is to transfer himself from the old, raggedy body that he’s in now, into a younger, more spry specimen.

That’d be Felix.

Upon entering the world of Mustachio, Max is immediately met with resistance, as plants, animals, and the “other things” that live there are trying to ensure that the brave youngster never reaches Mustachio to stop the experiment with Felix. Max’s only weapon is the same magic marker used in Max and the Magic Marker, released in 2010 on other platforms.

Of course, when it’s described as a “magic marker,” it’s a literal expression. The marker that Max carries with him is really magic and allows him to manipulate the environment. Beginning with earth, but eventually controlling water, trees, vines, and even a bit of pure magic, Max sets off to find his brother.

Using the Xbox One controller isn’t easy, particularly when a mouse and keyboard combination seems like it would be easier during particular puzzle scenarios, but developer Press Play has mastered the art of timing, creating a constant sense of unease and the ever-present fear of failure. At each juncture, regardless of Max’s situation, there’s a way that you can screw it up, forcing you back to a checkpoint. Thankfully, checkpoints are plentiful and the loading times are unusually fast for the Xbox One.

Towards the middle of the game is perhaps the weakest structurally, with many puzzles requiring hurried decisions and advancement depending constantly on trial and error. Frustration can boil up, ending in many cases with turning the game off. It may be that some colors blend into each other, making some puzzles seem harder than they actually are, or it could be during the sequences where Max has to run for his life and fails, either way you will want to stop playing at some point.

Don’t.

After a few frustrating levels, the game comes to a magnificent conclusion, with Max being forced to implement the most unlikely of puzzle mechanics. It’s from that point on when you begin to see that the level design is brilliant. Using vines to swing from branch to branch, landing on pillars of earth only to be swept up in geysers of water that propel you up and around dangerous obstacles is as satisfying to watch as it is to accomplish. Puzzles come together in ways that you — and even the developers — didn’t expect. Difficulty is high, but by that point players will be comfortable enough with the mechanics that they’ll pose little problem. Timing will be your enemy, but patience you’ll discover a game that will be remember at the end of the year.

Overall Score: 9 out of 10

Like Difficult Games? This Blackguards Preview will make you second guess yourself

There’s a strange community within the gaming world that wants their games to be as difficult and unyielding as possible. It’s that community that has made titles like Super Meat Boy, Dark Souls, and the rage-inducing Trials franchise massive successes. I can only assume that developer Daedalic Entertainment has seen the success of those games when they decided to create Blackguards for PC.

Some players were granted early access to the game in November 2013, myself being one of them. The game has been updated since then, modifying the difficulty to allow a wider audience to enjoy it, but a large spike still remains that will frustrate most.

The story begins as the main character, you, is falsely accused of murdering the Princess. In a magnificent turn of stereotypical narrative, you’re also a victim of amnesia, making it difficult to prove your innocence. As you escape your own hanging, you begin a quest to clear your name. Nothing particularly unique in terms of story variation, but as with any RPG, you’re not stuck in that one quest line throughout.

Early on you’ll gain party members, each with their own unique abilities that flourish at different moments of a battle. The battles are essentially at each point of the map that you move to, as there is no real “character movement” outside of combat situations. To dumb it down, imagine a board game — that’s the world map. Your party moves from point-to-point, with combat initiated at each of them, unless you’re visiting a town. As you enter towns or complete quest objectives, additional points will be discovered or paths will become available to other towns and villages.

The turn-based combat compliments the hexagonal grid system that each encounter brings. The combat is perhaps one of the easiest to learn, but as you get deeper and deeper it will get more and more frustrating. The update that addressed difficulty was just the beginning, but to appeal to to masses — if that is indeed their goal — more needs to be done.

Players familiar with tabletop games will understand the system the easiest, with action points being used on each character’s turn — which makes sense, considering this was derived from a tabletop game. Players and NPCs are able to forego an attack on their turn in order to do a “double-move,” closing the distance between your foe quickly. Having a character with ranged combat or skilled in magic is invaluable in these situations because, while there is a maximum distance for ranged attacks, characters are essentially gaining an extra attack if they’re able to stay at range. That’s important because, in perhaps the most frustrating part of the game, your attacks miss far too frequently. Arrows are dodged, spells fizzle out, and sword swipes simply miss. Early on, even with one or two special skills in your repertoire, you’ll find yourself using the more basic attacks, as they have the greatest percentage to hit the enemy.

Special skills are important, as they’re exponentially more useful than your simple attack, but the risk of missing is also far higher. As combat initiates you may even be met with combat-requisites, like being required to reach a character within five turns otherwise the NPC you’re trying to save will be murdered. It’s those scenarios where the combat flaws shine through. When rushing to complete a battle you’ll often find that the tactics that work — moving slow and steady, for instance — aren’t able to be used, otherwise you fail an objective. Because of that, you’ll fall into a “quick save-quick reload” game that forces you to redo an encounter over and over again.

The generic storyline and stereotypical characters are easily overlooked because the character development system is surprisingly deep, allowing for customization rivaled by few RPGs. The difficulty pendulum helps cause some unneeded frustration though, overall. Having easily dispatched foe after foe across five or six encounters, you’ll suddenly be met with a battle that flips your normal tactics on its head. And while this is a great way to prevent repetitive combat and tedious action, the fact that you have to implement an entirely new set of tactics on the fly with no gradual difficulty increase may force you out of Blackguards and into the welcoming arms of an easier, more well-paced title.

Overall Score: 6.5 out of 10

Note: This review was done on the Blackguards early-access beta build that featured the first four chapters of the game. More updates may be available after the game’s release on January 24, 2014.

Limited Edition Titanfall Xbox One Controller Announced

What may be the most anticipated title for 2014, Titanfall is slated to release in March 2014 for Xbox One. A brand new title, Titanfall  has received numerous awards from shows like E3 and been named “Most Anticipated” by MTV Games, Forbes and others. Seeing the excitement surrounding the release, Microsoft has taken advantage.

Introducing the Titanfall Limited Edition Xbox One controller, Joel Emslie, Lead Artist at Respawn Entertainment stated, “In a collaborative effort with the Xbox design team and the Respawn art department our goal was to create a controller that feels as if it is a piece of military spec hardware transported from the universe of Titanfall and into players hands.”

Though no particular modifications have been made to the controller besides the aesthetics, those who have been waiting for the game’s release next month will be pleased to drive their Titan or dispatch their foes in style. The black, white and orange motif is sure to draw attention and is the first fully-licensed limited edition controller to be offered for Xbox One.

Releasing on March 11, 2014, the Titanfall Limited Edition Xbox One Controller is available alongside the game, created by Respawn Entertainment. The team largely consists of developers from the massively popular Call of Duty series, which explains the buzz surrounding Titanfall itself.

The cost of the controller is expected to be $64.99, on par with current retail Xbox One controller prices.

Review Rewind – Batman Arkham Origins

The Arkham Series has left an impression on Batman fans and gamers alike, with it’s simple-yet-complex fighting system, the implementation of villains both popular and less-known, and the recognition that comic-turned-video-game can be successful. That’s why when Rocksteady, developer of Batman Arkham Asylum and Arkham City stepped back into the shadows to let WB Games handle Batman Arkham Origins, it was met with righteous disapproval. After all, you don’t go to the Superbowl with Tom Brady and then start his supermodel wife, Gisele, at quarterback — regardless of the ratings*. To continue that analogy, Batman Arkham Origins could be compared to Gisele playing in the Superbowl and going 17-30, 212 yards, with 2 touchdowns and 3 interceptions.

Sports analogies not your thing? OK, let’s simplify this, Batman Arkham Origins does some things right and a lot of things wrong. Like Gisele, the game is still beautiful to look at and will tease you with promises of a good time, but in the end you may get bored with the repetitiveness of, “Look at me, tell me I’m pretty. No, ignore my other flaws, just tell me I’m pretty.” That’s not to say that Gisele is a whiney attention-whore, but Arkham Origins is.

The “Origin” in the title doesn’t refer to Batman himself, a surprise to most who decide to spend time in the game. Instead, you’re discovering the origin of the relationship of Batman and his arch nemesis, The Joker. In fact, it’s not only your relationship with the Joker that you’re introduced to , but your relationship with a number of other villains. The Riddler, for instance, is simply referred to as “Nigma,” the last name of Edward Nigma who eventually becomes the Riddler. Unfortunately that particular example doesn’t sit well within the game; it seems more that WB Games is showing us that their knowledge of Batman is deeper than we would have expected, but instead it comes off as a desperate way to try and prove that point.

The premise of the game itself is pretty damned decent though, as Batman has a bounty placed on his head by the villain known as Black Mask, while eight lesser-knowns try to collect. Fan-favorites like Bane and The Penguin return and brilliant nods to enemies that appear in the other games are dropped covertly within some of the conversations, but there’s still a feeling of desperation to the rest of them. It’s constant feeling that WB Games dug into the annals of Batman to find low-tier villains, but did nothing to add personality to any of them. Each combat situation with these villains is also done so poorly that it detracts from the entirety of the game.

The thing with the Batman Arkham Series is that the basic combat has always been so well done that players deeply enjoyed playing, particularly with some of the brutal boss fights sprinkled in at precise moments. Origins, on the other hand, is a tale of two battles. First, your basic movement throughout Gotham, hindered by police and thug alike, is smooth and enjoyable. The combat is largely unchanged from the previous games — thankfully. Gadgets can be used to devastating effect, with certain scenarios even allowing for precision setup. Placing traps and luring enemies into them can be magnificently successful. And when your ideal scenario falls apart, a legitimate feeling of panic sets in. Batman is a superhero, after all, but he’s not bullet-proof.

The boss fights are the weakness of the game, though. So much, in fact, that it feels like it was another studio who created them. There’s a sliver of repetition to each battle, even in previous games, but the tediousness of the battles this time around shine through to make them simply unenjoyable. With little instruction and often a mix of real-time/quick-time events, you’ll learn a villains tendencies, only to suddenly have them change and defeat you, resulting in a complete restart of the encounter.

The changes made, things like fast-travel, additional collectibles, and a beautifully designed Bat Cave are examples of what WB Games did well. With the Caped Crusader viewed as a vigilante, having the police looking for you is a brilliant touch. Coupled with the thugs and villains who are out to cash in on Black Mask’s bounty, it’s a nice blend of the various motives. When the Joker finally gets involved though, a third arc is added that gives players a unique look into the psyche of Batman himself. The Joker is an anomaly to him, with no real motives beyond “being crazy”. It’s that relationship, the one we know as arguably the most codependent in comics, that we begin to see develop. The overall story intertwines nameless, random enemies, super-villains, and the Joker to create a wonderful look into the origins of the relationship. The problem is that some of these super-villains are too obscure for most players to recognize and the combat sequences are so poorly done that nobody would want to look deeper into those characters.

Overall score: 6.5 out of 10

*Bad example.

NOTE: For the sake of this review, the multiplayer portion of the game was not played and did not hold weight in the final score.

When it comes to building a PC, Lian Li ensures size doesn't matter

The current state of the PC market has most enthusiasts building machines that are bigger and faster, but sometimes the answer to your question isn’t bigger. In fact, sometimes having a smaller piece is exactly what you need.

Trust me.

If it’s too big it can just be uncomfortable. Ramming it into any space that fits or jamming it into tight crevices is no way to treat your favorite instrument: your PC. Instead, for those who have come to enjoy the subtler, more discreet chassis, Lian Li introduces the PC-TU100, a mini-ITX case designed to meet most of the needs of day-to-day PC use, but with little ability to turn into a hardcore gaming PC — though the ability is there. Like a hot date, the only way to ensure that you’re successful is meticulous planning. You can’t half-ass your design and still expect to have success, instead you have to look at every angle, every decision and see the potential. You wouldn’t take that hunk you saw at the library to the Dollar Menu with hopes to impress. Don’t treat your PC-TU100 that way either.

This chassis is small. As in, if you took it to a park people would circle around you murmuring, “aww” and “how cute!” as you hovered over it cautiously, hoping nobody was too rough with it. It’s durable though, made with aluminum and designed so that the sides don’t simply slide or pop off. Instead you’ll have to apply a little force to undress this beauty, grasping the tabs and ejecting the sides  to access the beautiful insides. The dimensions, roughly 6.5”x11”x10” (and that’s bloating the numbers a bit), make this look like a pregnant VCR — you remember those, right?

It’s that mini-ITX design that makes it difficult to supercharge the PC, as it only allows for low-profile GPUs, however those looking for an APU build — the build tested with the chassis — will be pleased. By removing the need for a GPU, the stress of cable management is far less. Good thing too, because the limited real estate within makes it one of the more difficult chassis to work with. Stock CPU fans are also your friend here, as you’ve only got about 65mm clearance to play with. For some of you, 65mm may seem like a lot, but without proper cooling you’ll be able to keep your beauty hot all night long — though that’s what we’re trying to avoid here.

Drive bays are also a concern, but Lian Li has designed a plate at the bottom of the PC-TU100 for two 2.5” drives. Only one was used for testing purposes, but an SSD fit very well, though connecting the SATA cable was a bit uncomfortable. The cable management again being a concern, relying on you to almost force the connectors in, rather than sliding it into place all sensual-like.

What the PC-TU100 lacks for in size, it makes up for in innovation. Concerns over limited drive bay ports can be alleviated with external storage, connected via the USB 3.0 ports. An optical drive can easily fit in the designated slot and, due to the size, it’s all portable. In fact, the included handle makes this perfect for moving data from one location to the next if a laptop isn’t necessary. As a mobile media box, packed full of digital content, you simply need to connect this to a projector and you’ve got a cinema-in-a-box.

Retail price: $110.00

Available in Black or Silver

Battle Command – a Mobile game that mixes hardcore PvP with casual gameplay

Mobile games are typically thought of as being in the category of “casual,” mainly due to the system implements that are put in place. Players often are required to complete some menial tasks, then forced to wait a set amount of time before being able to to proceed to the next task.

Or, you could always spend some money.

The new app Battle Command, available on Android and iOS, follows this same formula, but implements an interesting social interaction that isn’t necessarily common. Often, these apps simply to blitz your Facebook page with requests for help from your friends; that is available here as well, though it’s not as intrusive as some titles. Instead, players can form their own alliances, groups of players who can help each other with tasks like speeding up building upgrades (those take time), supplying troops (these also take time), or simple game tips and tricks through the integrated chat system.

The gameplay itself mixes elements of real-time strategy with base management to create a unique blend of single player content merged with player versus player (PvP), but the overall objective seems to lean more in favor of the PvP. You can earn oil and steel — used to upgrade your facilities — through harvesters you setup on base or you can venture off and battle some increasingly difficult objectives that will reward you with a particular amount of resources. The catch is that once you complete an objective, you won’t get resources for doing it again.

Further, the soldiers you create, again using resources you farm, are expended in each battle they’re used. While this creates an economy of sorts, it’s still frustrating when you expend 100% of your soldiers only to learn you needed only a fraction of your force. As you play, you’ll learn quickly where to place your soldiers for an attack and how many to use so that you’re not wasting time or resources, something that isn’t entirely explained to players at the beginning of the game.

But why the need for an alliance? Beyond the simple fact that you can grant each other time-based benefits or donate soldiers, what’s the point? Simply put, the point is bragging rights. As you complete PvP missions, you’ll start to earn individual awards and, should the rest of your alliance pour themselves into PvP as well, you’ll see yourself start moving up the leaderboard.

Truly, Battle Command implements many of the same features that other free-to-play, wait-versus-paying games implement. It’s the futuristic setting, complete with colorful scenery and high-tech weaponry that will pull you in. The sci-fi feel is great for combat scenarios, but the times when you’re in the base end up feeling like a chore. As you get deeper and deeper into the gameplay, the times get longer and longer, eventually leading to situations where you can complete only a couple upgrades per day. As a casual time sink, Battle Command can be a perfect distraction. For something deep and engrossing though, this isn’t for you.

Your Last Minute Tech Gift Guide

PANIC! You haven’t finished your Christmas shopping and it’s December 22nd. Now it’s crunch time and overnight delivery is your saving grace. But what to buy? Gift cards are the easy way out, clothes are always a gamble, but new technology is always a safe bet. Aside from having to teach Mom how to use whatever you buy, there’s something available that just about anybody’s life can be made easier.

em>SensoGlove – $89.00 – This handy gift idea (sorry, I couldn’t resist the pun) is perfect for the golf enthusiast in your family. Whether they’re a novice or an expert, the SensoGlove is useful and will improve your game. Using specifically placed sensors, the glove gives feedback based on particular pressure points and directs golfers on where to apply or reduce pressure. The result is a surprisingly clear instruction on how to change your grip, which leads to straighter, longer shots. And despite the SensoGlove being packed full of tech-goodness, it still looks and feels like an everyday glove, important for anybody who doesn’t want a computer strapped to their arm as they play.

em>Google Chromecast – $35.00 – Bursting on to the market last summer was a piece of hardware that didn’t necessarily revolutionize the video streaming industry, but made it easier to access and cheaper to buy. Google’s Chromecast just shy of being “Plug & Play,” but nevertheless is brilliant. Using a tablet or a smartphone, you’ll be able to send your Youtube, Netflix, HBO Go, and other streaming services directly to your television at the push of a button. Instead of investing in a Roku Box or an internet-ready television, this HDMI-connected device does it all for you, all in high-def clarity.

em>Samsung Galaxy Gear – $299.00 – With our hardware capabilities hurling forward at the speed of light, it’s no surprise that Samsung has taken a stab at the wearable technology market. With their Galaxy Gear, your wrist becomes your Samsung smartphone or tablet. Kind of. With your phone safely tucked in your pocket or even on the other side of the room, you can monitor calls, emails, texts, even the weather right from your wrist. If you can get past the semi-uncomfortable straps, you’ll be able to find your phone at the push of a button, lock or unlock your device, or even take pictures and video from the built-in camera. The screen measures 1.63”, meaning it’s not too gaudy for those who prefer to keep a lower profile. For those that want to show off their hardware though, a range of colors from simple black or gray to lime green and orange (and more) are available. Wearable tech is still in its infancy, but if you’re looking to surprise someone with something to match another Samsung device, look no further.

em>Google Nexus 7 – $235.00 – Another summer announcement by Google, the Nexus 7 was designed and powered by Asus, a recognizable name in the PC industry. The 7” screen is common in the world of tablets, but the power packed within is what’s impressive. Powered by a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and 2GB of RAM, the tablet can handle video — particularly gaming — very well. Packing 323 pixels per inch, when you’re watching videos on the device you’ll do so in surprising HD, fed through the dual-band WiFi. Two cameras, a nearly 4,000 mAH battery, stereo speakers (a rarity for tablets), and Bluetooth make this one of the surprising must-haves for 2013.

em>Samsung Galaxy S4 – $399.99 – What tech list would be complete without a smartphone, particularly one that feels as smooth as Samsung’s newest Galaxy model, the S4. Having a 5” screen might seem big for a phone, but the 1920×1080 resolution means that when you’re staring at that screen, you’re staring at it in HD. Powered by a 1.9 GHz Quad-Core Processor or 1.6 GHz Octa-Core Processor (it varies depending on market and carrier) and Android Jellybean, it’s fast either way you slice it. And running a 2,600 mAH battery means it’s got plenty of juice to get you through the day without needing a recharge. Good thing too, because the GPS, Bluetooth, and WiFi can drain a battery quite fast. It’s got a hefty price tag, but those of you who act fast can get this phone from Verizon Wireless for just $50.00. Now tell me who wouldn’t have a happy holidays with that!

Turn your dorm room into a cinema with the Epson Powerlite 750HD

I’ve touched on the fact that most consumers acknowledge that your average physical televisions are widely regarded as being better than your average projector, which is why I’ve set out recently to determine whether that can be proven. Of the projectors I previously spent time with, the most impressive was the Epson Powerlite Home Cinema 8350, delivering bright, colorful picture even in rooms where natural light exists. Since then I’ve spent time with others, though none quite as impressive as what Epson was able to produce. I’m happy to say they’re at it again, only this time they’re presenting a projector that might be a better “fit” for the dorm or apartment life. The Home Cinema 750D is a smaller projector, measuring only a fraction of the size that the 8350 is, but delivering some features that were absent in the larger, more expensive model. For those living on something of a budget or in an area that has limited space, you might find this being worth your time and money.

To mention it right off the bat, the 750HD has 3D capability and this may be a selling point for some consumers. Unfortunately, 3D is a technology that is yet to catch-on to the same effect that HD did, meaning it’s not something that will be universally adopted. It’s an interesting feature to have and works well, particularly if you’re playing a game or if you own a PC graphics card that has 3D capabilities, but overall 3D is more of a gimmick than a selling point. Still, seeing Batman Arkham City in 3D via Xbox 360 is pretty awesome and because the projector comes with a pair of 3D glasses (normally around $99 each), it’s that much more of a bargain.

Another important factor is the resolution, clocking in at a disappointing 720p. Normally consumers will want to upgrade to 1080p when your picture sits at 42” or more, so with the 90” screen that the 750D offers, 720p doesn’t reach the full potential that you may want from a home cinema. What is impressive, and quite so, is the 3,000 lumens that this bad boy pumps out. Lumens are essentially how bright the projector is and with 3,000 of them blasting onto your projector surface you’ll find quickly that you can see the screen easily, even with natural ambient light shining through  your windows. The downside to a projector that bright is that in your dorm room or smaller apartment, turning the lights out for a movie night will only make the projector seem brighter, which may kill any mood you’re trying to set.

Finally, some intangibles are present in the design and shouldn’t go unmentioned. The 750D has eight inputs, including two USB, VGA, S-Video, HDMI, component, composite, and RCA, meaning you’ll be able to connect nearly everything you own to it. Staying relatively quiet and cooler than you’d expect for such a small design, you can easily fit this on a desk or small table and then move it out of the way when done, something that couldn’t be said for the bulkier (and more expensive) 8350. The focus is adjusted manually, but it’s not that big of an issue, particularly because it’s designed to be used in smaller rooms anyway, though a simple “set it and forget it” philosophy can be implemented if you don’t intend on moving it for each use.

At $799.99 the Epson Home Cinema 750D isn’t particularly expensive, but there are design choices that will deter you from using this as your primary monitor for basic computer use. As a gaming or cinema option though, even with your typical television viewing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find something that works as well and offers the reliability of a two-year warranty. Even though it suffers from the lack of a 1080p option, 720p is passable thanks to the brightness. Finally, you’ll want your own home audio system as well due to the lack of speakers, a mainstay in the world of projectors. For basic television viewing and PC use the 750D is not for you — nor is it designed for that. As a home cinema, setup or mounted within your home, apartment, or dorm room, this is ideal. You’ll quickly become the go-to place to watch movies or sporting events and a 90” screen, even at 720p, will impress all watchers.

A battle with addiction – Peggle 2 Review

It was 2007 when I got my first taste. Just a quick fix to get me through the day, “Try this,” a friend said, “it’s not like anything you’ve ever had before.” He was right. Not long after my first inhale, I was higher than I’d ever been in my life. Everything was beautiful. Colors were more vivid, a unique soundtrack played to my every move, and I swear there was a unicorn. Now five years later I’ve kicked the habit and I’m back on the straight and narrow. Things were going great, that is until I was told of a new drug. It’s like the other one, my old friend that was so hard to kick, but this one was better. It’s at that point, at that moment when I heard Peggle 2 would be gracing Xbox One, that I knew I couldn’t fight the urge. My addiction was never really defeated, it just lie dormant. Waiting for today.

It’s not that the sequel offers much more than what we had in the original — in fact, it doesn’t — but the fact that it’s here, it’s going to cause ripples in our little world of gaming. If we didn’t love Popcap Games as we do, we’d surely have people crying foul for what could easily have been new downloadable content, rather than a new title altogether. And if it weren’t for the ridiculous $11.99 price on Xbox One, you’d see exactly that. But at that price, with the content included within, you’re bound for a wonderful, colorful, audible high unlike anything else available on Xbox One.

The simplest way to describe Peggle 2 is to give the vague, oh-so-ridiculous statement that, “it’s Peggle.” You shoot a ball at a bunch of pegs and blocks in an attempt to hit each of them colored orange and progress to the next level. For the newcomer or the Peggle addict though, it’s so much more. Each level is hosted by a unique creature who grants you a special ability should you hit one of two green pegs in the level. With the exception of Bjorn the Unicorn, no other Masters return from the first game, leaving players to embark on a delightful new voyage where you’re forced to learn the ideal time to initiate the “power” to try and finish a level. It’s awkward at first, having new dealers … er, MASTERS to familiarize with, but you’ll soon find yourself enjoying the new cast of characters, particularly with each new level.

For some players, you may only enjoy Peggle 2 during parties or when you’re feeling sad, but it’s clear that Popcap Games has taken every chance it can to get you addicted once again. And they’re great at it. The level design still looks like a simple pattern, but it’s clear that TLC has gone into the creation. This isn’t trailer trash meth we’re dealing with here, this is pure, 100% Columbian. And unfortunately there are no support groups to help kick the habit, because nobody wants to.

Overall score: 8 out of 10

Plagued with mistakes – Battlefield 4 Review

In what was expected to be one of the year’s biggest releases, Battlefield 4 entered the market with a roar, but that roar has petered out to a whimper. Plagued with network errors, both with the single player campaign and the online multiplayer, EA has struggled to keep fans happy. After having the game for more than a month, I wanted to give them ample opportunity to address issues, but at this juncture it would be a disservice to you, the reader, if I delayed my review any longer.

To be fair Battlefield 4, when it’s working, is a solid shooter mechanically. On PC (my review platform) and on console, there is nothing unexpected or awkward implemented that would make players feel that uneasy about taking a dive in, even if it’s your first experience with the franchise. The single player campaign itself can be a little confusing though, at least in the first few chapters. You see, I’ve been unable to finish the game due to a persistent little bug that crashed the game to desktop any time I try to load my save. From what I’ve gathered so far, the US has been attacked by China, who executed the attack on the basis that the US assassinated one of China’s presidential nominees. This triggers a flurry of attacks by China against United States and sets in motion the events of the campaign overall. Strangely though, the campaign isn’t as solid as the storyline would lead you to believe. It’s not bad or confusing, but it seems a bit empty, as if the missions your squad is tapped for are forced, rather than events that would actually flow with the tides of war. Granted, EA had to orchestrate suspense to manufacture a feeling of heroism for sake of the narrative, but the it seems that it’s there only as a set piece for running and gunning.

The multiplayer fares far better, particularly on PC where the advanced visuals shine. With a souped up gaming PC, a requirement if you want to run this at ultra-high settings, players are staring into a screen of realism. The Frostbite 3 engine creates destructible environments on a scale we’ve not seen before. Maps are bigger, so the potential for destruction is also bigger. How the game handles 64 players on one map, some flying jets or driving tanks, others moving cover to cover, and it still implements destruction similar to what real grenades or bullets can do is amazing. For you Battlefield enthusiasts, it does come at a cost though. Plagued by server instability, gaining access to a multiplayer game is a constant hit-or-miss affair. Though a patch has been promised in the next week for PC players (sorry console owners, you’ll have to wait), the fact that the game has been hobbled since release is enough to dwindle the community down to a point where you’re only playing with hardcore Battlefield fans, and once the servers eventually have stability, those looking to learn the ins-and-outs of the multiplayer will be busy having their asses handed to them for countless matches.

Not fun.

With the campaign freezing/crashing and the multiplayer woes that have plagued the players, it’s hard to get a read on what the game is supposed to be. It’s like watching the Sixth Sense 3/4 of the way through, then having the DVD player spit in your face. You’re left feeling befuddled and insulted at the same time. And it’s because of that feeling that I’m not able to rate the game appropriately. Having not been able to play the multiplayer consistently and dealing with troublesome campaign issues, all I can say is that you should wait until the game is fixed before you buy. If the game is fixed.