Category Archives: review

iPhone Puzzle Games

PuzzleManiak €3.99 – includes a lot of Nikoli puzzle games (in fact most of the ones from here are in there), all are randomly generated with different difficulty levels and includes a daily Web Challenge where you compete against other’s times. Worth it alone for Slitherlink.

Vexed €0.79 – Good port of the Palm OS game including all level-packs.

I’m still looking for a version of Sherlock (Windows) or Hercule (Palm OS) for the iPhone…

Richard Morgan – The Steel Remains

Fairly short book, and about 3 quarters of it feel like exposition (although there’s plenty of things happening) and build-up, but it covers a lot of ground; a fair amount of it in flashbacks. Nevertheless, it ends in a nice, satisfying climax. It’s fairly unflinching in both its violence and sex (homo- as well as heterosexual).
If you like Morgan’s SF books, you’ll enjoy this as well.

Dan Simmons – Olympos

This is gonna be a bit of a rant…

  • First off, it’s not as good as Ilium, but it’s still a fast-paced page turner. If you skip all the useless prose.
  • It isn’t Science Fiction. It’s Future Fantasy or something. There’s no science (and that’s not just due to the “far future” timeline). Simmon’s an English major FFS.
  • He (thinks he)’s well-read, and lets you know it on every single page.
  • The story is rather convoluted (probably due to trying to be clever with its literary inspiration) and deus ex machina abound — how couldn’t they in a world full of “gods”? Bah.
  • Anything that “creates universes via the thought / inspiration of genius” is made of FAIL. Humans aren’t special, get over it.
  • Worst of all, the book is in so many ways incredibly self-centred. By that I mean, that so much of its thinking is a product of the time (and even country of origin as well as possibly religion) of the author.

Still, the Hyperion Cantos (which I enjoyed quite a lot) had similar faults.

Alastair Reynolds – The House of Suns

As usaul, hard SF-ish. Gives a very good impression of time- and space-implications of galaxy-wide colonisation using relativistic travel. There’s a reveal about two-thirds in (complete with “sit down for this”) which on first thought is a bit “meh!”, but nevertheless has very far-reaching consequences which only become obvious a bit later. Also, I don’t quite see the point of the Palatial side-story. Nevertheless, an enjoyable and gripping read, but not quite as good as Reynolds’ other books IMO.

Tekkon Kinkreet

An amazing movie. Very enjoyable, but slightly fragmented (with many fades to black separating scenes) and very surreal.
I’m a bit sad that many people won’t bother with the film because it seems to make very little sense in the beginning (and not too much more explicit sense in the end); it’s more like a collage of emotions at times.
The art style takes some getting used to, it is similar to Ping Pong from the same mangaka — which also has an excellent live action adaptation which I cannot recommend heartily enough; it evokes many of the same feeling that Tekkon Kinkreet does.
Technically, the 2D animation has a rather low frame-rate at times (and I’m not sure I like the motion-blur post-processing in that context), but the excellent backgrounds and superb 3D animation (which managed to never feel separate) are more than making up for that.
Last but not least, the soundtrack (although sparse) by Plaid fits perfectly.

Truly a high point for animated films this year!

Alastair Reynolds — The Prefect

I finished reading Alastair Reynolds’ “The Prefect” yesterday. It’s set in the Revelation Space universe (in the Glitter Band, before the Melding Plague) and comes in fairly short at ~400 pages (which I read in two suitably epic evening sessions).
It’s very much a page-turner, and I feel he is improving from book to book. Two things weren’t handled terribly (the Thalia Ng strand was not quite as exciting and important as the others, and the reveal about what happened 11 years back doesn’t IMO justify the actions taken afterward by the Supreme Prefect as well as the people at the scene).
So, if you hated Reynolds before, you might hate this book a bit less, everyone else will probably like it as much as I did (which is a lot). I feel this is a good stand-alone novel (in the way things start, move forward, and end) but the other books also add a lot of nicely interwoven additional background information; so I find it hard to judge how I would’ve felt about the book had I not read the other books…

Very recommended.

My PS3 impressions – End of Day 1

Hardware – Heavy, although it doesn’t seem much bigger than my 360 when horizontal. Although upright it seems much more massive. I won’t be lugging this back to my parents’ for the weekend. The form itself is odd, and always makes me look twice because out of the corner of my eye it looks skewed and perspectively incorrect. The finish looks very nice (glossy black – Klavierlack) and attracts dust and fingerprints even more so then the PSP, but then you don’t have to touch it as often as the handheld. After it’s been on for about 10mins, the fan goes to its high settings (same as when turning the machine on), which is about the same volume as the fans on my 360 (not the jet-engine derived DVD drive), but a much nicer tone (not as much droning). So far, I don’t own a disc-based game, maybe the spinning drive will provide additional ventilation. It expels plenty of warm air out the back and the right (top) side.
HDMI output at 1080p looks really good; I’m using an HDMI to DVI cable and a mechanical DVI switch (so I can still use my Mac Pro with DVI as well).

Controller – Still don’t like the sticks (large dead-zone, little resistance, positioning). Seems to charge quickly, though. Haven’t seen a single game where the SIXAXIS was useful. The Motorstorm demo had an option for control using it, but I was missing feedback of how far I was turning and how much further I could turn. The triggers have a similar feel of “not knowing where you are”. Rumble is missed. It’s very light. D-pad is decent.

Interface – I really like the XMB in principle (especially on a high-def output device), but it seems a bit cumbersome once you get into sub-menus (e.g. in the audio-output menu, you had to go right to get the screen to save your changes; elsewhere you don’t have to do that and right will change the category). The built-in “swirl” and the music visualiser look very nice (the swirl probably only in HD), although I don’t see what they have in common with the music (but this has been my problem with visualisers for the past 5 years or so).
The text-entry system is a disgrace. Give me a proper on-screen keyboard, getting the USB-keyboard out of the closet gets old fast. The whole set-up process of the console was seemingly focused on being user-unfriendly: Plug in your wireless controller, then you have to use the PS2 display connector first to get a picture to enable HDMI, optical out disabled by default, the on-screen keyboard, …
As for the user-friendliness, something I wanted to mention that contrary to one’s expectation (but not their marketing materials) the PS3 is much more a PC than the 360 coming from Microsoft. The PS3’s got activity LEDs for the HDD, it needs to be properly shut down, it installs stuff after downloading, etc.
But I have to add, most things are fine after the initial set-up. Nevertheless, most companies would do well to rent an Apple employee for improving the unpacking and set-up experience of new shiny equipment… 🙂

Online / Store – I’m not quite sure how the accounts will work for different regions will work, so far I’ve not used my planned main-account name, as I’ll probably reserve that for a European account. I also haven’t bought anything (again because I’m not sure how transferable the bought items are).
The friends system I haven’t tried much, although I registered a few peeps.
The (US) online-store is essentially a web-page (which is slightly sluggish when moving quickly between items). You use the analogue stick to controller the mouse pointer or flick between controls with the D-pad (unfortunately it also scrolls through long description texts). The sections are nice and clear, I like the “what’s new” and “top downloads” side bars.
The downloads themselves are nice and fast (maxing out my 6000 kbit/s connection most of the time, the rest of the time I was torrenting ;)), but they better be because you (currently) cannot do anything else while download. Except cancel the download. Which then tells you that the download has failed if you do. I know, I canceled it!
Good selection of stuff though, I was expecting it to be sparse compared to XBLM, but it’s not at all. I really appreciate the “proper” downloadable at very reasonable prices.
1080p trailers look really, really nice. Recommended are 300 and Black Hawk Down. It’s also nice to have plenty of hard-disk space.

Demos / Downloadable Games
F1 2007 – Quite nice and difficult (played with most of the aids turned off). Looks a bit vaseline-smeared.
GripShift – “Only” looks OK, but seems very fun. Reminds me of Trackmania. Not too keen on the racing, but more on the platforming / collecting side of things. I’ll probably buy this.
GT HD – Only game I recalled running in 1080p. The gameplay doesn’t look much better than you remember GT4, but it’s really sharp and the car models are a lot better (which you would have noticed it they’d simply used the GT4 ones in this). The replay though look really proper good! No force-feedback, even with the Driving Force Pro. Hate!
Motorstorm – Looks and plays nice, but some of the videos I had downloaded looked nicer (with dust particles going in and out of shadow / sunlight and being shadowed correctly). The demo is probably from an older build.
Resistance – Died repeatedly after killing 3-5 of the bad guys with the default weapon.
None of the games I recall as using AA (although F1 used depth of field and motion blur, and so did GT HD in replays), but on the plus side all of them had a very stable frame-rate and no apparent tearing.

(Current) Conclusion
I’ve ordered the US versions of Resistance and Motorstorm, so I’ll see how the full games fare. For me, as a 360 owner there aren’t many more interesting exclusives out at the moment, but the good downloadable games and the stunning picture via HDMI (compared to the lacklustre colours via VGA on the 360) are quite nifty. As is the feeling of untapped potential, but we’ll see about that. 😉
Would I recommended you buy one at the current price? Not really, unless you have enough disposable income or are gagging for a Blu-Ray player. The reason I imported one now was that I sick of Europe getting shafted.