Monthly Archives: December 2018

Katamari Damacy Re-roll: Craziness ramped up to 11!

Think of the craziest game you’ve every played – then quaduple it: That’s Katamari Damacy Re-roll, the very definition of Japanese crazy ideas at its finest.

The Katamari Damacy series first graced the PS2 waaaaaay back in 2004 and even back then, it was a large scoop of whacky mixed with a side order of “WTF?” While the game spawned a few sequels over the years, it’s now available on Nintendo’s Switch console – and it’s a perfect fit for the device.

The story is simple enough: A tiny prince must rebuilt the stars, constellations and moons that his wayward King father, The King of All Cosmos, destroyed when he decided to go on a drinking binge. Crazy, right?

To make his father happy, the prince is tasked with rolling a small, adhesive ball – called a katamari – around locations on Earth, collecting pretty much as much as he can  – people, animals, pins, balls, dominoes, playing cards, people, even mountains – until the ball is big enough to become a new star in the sky.

The story is as bizzare as the game play, with the prince having to rotate and guide the katamari around earthly locations, slowly growing bigger and bigger until the King of All Cosmos deems it big enough to become a star.

Adding to the pressure of creating more stars is the fact the tiny prince is often under a time limit to reach a certain size katamari ie 10cm, 15cm, meaning the prince will have to often sprint around the location, adhering more and more objects to said katamari. You have to be careful, though, as banging into some items will knock objects off the katamari, reducing its size. Yes, it’s as off-the-wall as it sounds.

Katamari Damacy Re-roll is a perfect fit for the Nintendo Switch, as each location is perfect for bite-sized gaming sessions if you only have a few minutes to play. Visually, it looks nice, with a colour palette of bright colours and a graphical style that is as far from realistic as you can imagine.

The controls worked well enough, although it took a while to get used to flicking the analogue sticks in the right direction to give a speed boost to the katamari, something that is vital to master and is crucial in helping pick up objects faster when you’re against the clock!

The music is catchy enough, with a kind of bouncy note to it, and an at times bombastic theme tune, but the voice of the King will get on your nerves after a while. That said, it’s in keeping with the game’s off-the-wall aspect and you can always do what I did: Turn the volume down a little.

Overally, Katamari Damacy Re-roll is perfect for the Nintendo Switch, especially if you’re after something that definitely doesn’t take itself seriously and is something so mind-bendingly weird that you can’t help but smile, something especially apt during what is now commonly called the Silly Season.

A big thank you to Bandai Namco’s Australia PR man for providing a review code for Katamari Damacy Re-roll.

What a year, eh?

Twenty eighteen was a great year to play video games.

It was a great year for triple AAA titles and indie games and looking back, I didn’t play as huge amount of games this year. I played more games on my Nintendo Switch and PlayStation 4 than I did on my Xbox One, although, that has changed lately, with the excellent offerings Xbox has dropped on its Game Pass service lately. Make no mistake though: 2018 was a most excellent year for video games.

This year, I also found myself replaying some of my favourite games from past years, one of them being Titanfall 2, which is just a phenomenal game and I really hope spawns a worthy sequel [I hope EA is listening]. I also started replaying The Stanley Parable, Deus Ex Mankind Divided and Civilisation V, all games that captured my attention when they released and found time from me this year.

I’d like to thank you, the readers, who have stuck by this blog as it’s lurched from year to year. There aren’t many of you but I appreciate every one of you that stops by the blog.  Apologies for not updating the blog as often as I should.

OK, enough faffing about: In no particular order, here are some of my favourite games that I played this year.

GamejunkieNZ most favouritist games of 2018

God of War [PlayStation 4]:

I’ve always been a long time fan of the God of War series but this year’s edition took it to the next level. I like to say it was “All killer, no filler” as it didn’t overstay its welcome with unnecessary fluff. Here’s what I said in my review: “Ultimately, Santa Monica Studio has brought us a tale featuring a boy and a man trying to get to know each other in some pretty trying circumstances but, my word, what an adventure it is. Simply put, God of War is one of the best games I’ve played this generation. Pure and simple.”

Red Dead Redemption 2 [PS4/Xbox One]:

It had a slow start but, man, once RDR2’s narrative about diamond in the rough cowboy Arthur Morgan got its hooks into me, I couldn’t stop playing – I actually thought about it while I wasn’t playing it and may, or may not, have shed a tear during a particularly emotional moment. Without a doubt, RDR2 is Rockstar’s magnum opus when it comes to characters that you’ll connect with and care about. “Hindsight is  a wonderful thing,”so the commonly uttered phrase goes, and in my case, it is entirely appropriate for Rockstar’s Red Redemption 2, a game I initially criticised on social media but now, with hindsight, and several hours of game play under my belt, I’ve changed my opinion.”

Wolfenstein: The New Colossus [PC/PS4/X1/Nintendo Switch]:

While New Colossus wasn’t as memorable as Wolfenstein: The New Order, it’s another fine adventure for BJ Blaskowitz, a character that has evolved with each gaming generation. The fact that it was on the Switch, too, is mind-boggling. My words: “Wolfenstein: The New Colossus is going to have its detractors but I tip my hat to Panic Button: The developer has knocked it out of the park with this portable version and I’m glad I waited until now to play it, to be honest. It’s just an added bonus that I can also now play Wolfenstein The New Colossus on the toilet, if I’m that way inclined, of course.”

Yakuza 6 [PS4]:

I first fell in love with the Yakuza games on the PlayStation 2 and have loved the craziness of the series ever since. Sure, the Yakuza games are filled with Japanese nuttiness and the like, but the combat is engaging and the narrative never fails to deliver in spades. “Yakuza 6 is said to be the last game of the series featuring Kazuma Kiryu, which will be a shame, but what is also a shame is that the Yakuza series isn’t as popular as it should be in the West: It’s a series that deserves more attention from gamers thanks to its deep narrative and strong character development. I can’t recommend the series highly enough.”

Old Man’s Journey [Nintendo Switch]:

The hand-drawn art style just captures the emotional journey of an old man’s journey after he receives a letter from a family member. It’s a game of exploration in a land of pastel shades and weird angles. Here’s what I said: “Old Man’s Journey is a delightful game that manages to evoke an emotional story without the spoken work just by using hand-drawn art and the emotions they conjure up.”

Hollow Knight [Nintendo Switch]:

It’s described as Metroidvania-like but all I know it’s bloody hard at times, with dexterity and prowess needed avoid hazards and clear obstacles through a ruined kingdom over run by insects and other creatures. Perfect for short blasts and often spoken in the same breath as Dead Cells.

Grim Fandango [Nintendo Switch]:

It’s no secret that I have massive love for Tim Schafer’s point-and-click adventure game set around the Mexican festivities of the Day of the Dead and focused on deathly travel agent Manny Calavera, so it’s no surprise that the remastered version is on this list. I can’t get enough of this game. indicated by the fact that I own it on several platforms.

Mutant Year Zero: Road to Eden [X1/PS4/PC]:

A game set in a post-apocalyptic world that isn’t all brown and irradiated, MYZ: Road to Eden feels a lot like the Xcom series and is best played stealthily, but it took me a while to get into that mindset, meaning I often went in all guns blazing, forgetting to take out units that could alert other units. You can imagine what happened. For this one, slow and steady wins the race.

Katamari Damacy Re-roll [Nintendo Switch]:

A crazy, off the wall game – from the days of the PS2 – where you have to recreate the stars in the sky [that your king father destroyed] by rolling a katamai ball around, sticking all manner of objects to it: small animals, pins, domino tiles, cards, plants. The bigger the katamari, the happier your father is. It’s as weird and crazy as you can imagine.

 

I’d like to thank PlayStation New Zealand, Xbox New Zealand, Bethesda, FiveEight Distribution, and the companies in both Australia and New Zealand [PeadPr, Huawei NZ, Oppo NZ, King Creative Media, Nintendo Australia, Acumen Republic, Samsung NZ, that have supported me this year with review product. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Edifer V4 gaming headset review: Two thumbs up

The LEDs surrounding the V4 ear cups give Edifer’s gaming headset a nice look.

I reviewed Edifer’s G4 over-ear gaming headset last year so was keen to look at the company’s V4 gaming headset when I was offered the chance but just how do the two headsets differ?

To be honest, I’m not sure, as they both seem pretty similar in terms of specifications and design.

Like the G4s, the V4s are comfortable to wear, with the faux leather padded ear cups cushioning your ears. I wore them for extended gaming periods and didn’t experience any discomfort or soreness and they didn’t feel heavy on my head. The V4s also did a good job of blocking out exterior noise – perhaps not as good as my Sol Republic headset – but enough to quieten down exterior TV noise or conversations.

The V4s have a faux leather material that means the ear cups are comfortable.

The V4s are PC, PS4 and Mac compatible and each ear cup has a 40mm driver unit (as well as in-built LED lighting in the mesh metal interior), offering a frequency response of 20Hz – 20KHz (I have no idea what that means) and an impedence of 20ohm (again, I have no idea what that means).

The headset connects via USB and the 2.5m-long cable is enough to let you plug it into a games console in a TV entertainment unit and let you sit on a couch. The cable has an in-line remote built in which turns the headset on and off and mutes the retractable boom microphone (which sits in the left ear cup). I tested the headset on my PC, playing Respawn’s excellent Titanfall2 and on PS4, playing Rockstar’s also excellent Red Dead Redemption 2. Audio was clear and crisp, with nice bass tones in both games.

The V4s also have positional 7.1 surround sound built in, which means you can hear everything that’s happening, and vibration, activated with a toggle on the inline remote control. The vibration isn’t over-the-top and just a slight enhancement of the game audio. It’s nice that you can toggle it on and off, meaning if you don’t want the vibration, you can switch it off.

The retractable boom mic & inline remote control.

The headset band is quite flexible, seeming pretty robust (although, I wouldn’t get too carried away twisting it) and it’s well priced, clocking in at just under $NZ100.

Overall, Edifer’s V4 gaming headset offers a great gaming headset that’s comfortable, provides good in-game audio, and, importantly, won’t break the bank if your looking for a good entry level gaming headset.

I’m still  not sure what the difference between the G4 and V4 headset is but with a great price and great performance, Edifer’s V4 gaming headset seems like it’s two-thumbs up worthy.

Thanks to PR company King Creative Media for the review unit.

Oppo R17 Pro review

 

I have to admit that I didn’t really know much about Oppo as a phone brand when I was asked if I wanted to review Oppo’s flagship R17 Pro smartphone.

Now, though, after a few weeks with the Chinese company’s flagship phone, while I still can’t say I know much about Oppo as a brand, I’m super impressed with the R17 Pro. So very, very, impressed.

The R17 Pro feels like a premium phone, and it feels substantial in the hand. It has a nice heft to it but it’s not heavy. The review model was a colour that Oppo calls radiant mist, which alternates between blue and purple hues, depending on the angle you’re holding phone. To my son’s disgust, I wrapped the phone in the supplied case: It wasn’t my phone and I wasn’t going to risk damaging it. He reckons the translucent rubbery case detracts from the phone’s good look but it does, believe me.

Sporting a 6.4-inch FHD+ screen with Corning Gorilla Glass 6, 6GB RAM, a Snapdragon 710 chipset and  128Gb of flash storage, the R17 Pro will do all you need it to and ticks all the right boxes. Of course, it has all the latest connection standards: Wifi a, Bluetooth 5.0, USB C (generation 3.1) and NFC.

As is the norm with flagship phones these days, the R17 Pro has both face scanning and fingerprint scanning for unlocking the phone. The finger print scanner is under the glass screen and there are no buttons on the handset, apart from a power button on the right hand edge and the volume rocker on the left hand side. The facial scanning is so bloody quick that the phone had unlocked even before I managed to get my thumb to the screen. I decided I’d deactivate the facial scanning and stick with the finger print scanner.

These days, a smartphone’s notch is a talking point and I have to say, the R17 Pro has a great notch, resting in the middle of the screen. Oppo says it’s inspired by a droplet of water and I can see that. A nice thing about the notch is its unobtrusive and doesn’t dominate the top edge of the screen.

Oppo’s phone has eschewed the common 3.5mm headphone jack – the supplied head phones have a USB-C connection, if you want to use wired headphones – but if you’re like me, chances are you’ll be using Bluetooth headphones anyway so the lack of a 3.5mm jack is a moot point to me. The R17 Pro is running Android 8.1 which is overlaid with Oppo’s ColorOS, which I have mixed feelings about, to be honest.

Oppo touts the R17 Pro’s camera – and it seemed to be a good one, based on my average photographic abilities. The R17 Pro has a 12MP primary camera , a secondary 20MP lens, and a third TOF (Time of Flight) 3D stereo camera that adds depth to photos. It has a 25MP front facing camera and the phone, like others in its price bracket, uses AI algorithms to automatically identify what you’re taking a photo of (ie, animal, sky, face).  Images seemed clear and bright and not over saturated and with good definition.

Here are some photos of my dog , who seems to be my default image model, when it comes to smartphone photos.

I was impressed with the phone’s battery life, The R17 Pro has dual 1850mAh batteries and Oppo says the phone can reach 40 per cent charge in 10 minutes . While I didn’t time that so I can’t verify if it’s true, the phone recharged from zero to a useable state really quickly, and I got about a day and a half of moderate use before it needed a quick top up.

I used the phone in normal day-to-day conditions and ran benchmarking software 3D Mark’s suite of hardware-crushing tests to put the phone’s hardware under pressure. Testing the phone with the Sling Shot Extreme benchmark – recommended for high-smartphones – the R17 Pro scored 1816 points using the OpenGL API and 1435 using the Vuklan API, and 2655 points in the Slingshot test – well short of the top-end Galaxy S9, Google Pixel 2 and Apple iPhone X, which are pricier and have higher specs.

Look , for a brand I knew very little about until I was asked if I wanted to review this phone, I’m really, really impressed with the R17 Pro. It retails for just a tad under $NZ1000, and should make it attractive to people wanting a capable, mid range smartphone.

It’s unlikely Oppo’s R17 Pro will knock Samsung and Apple off the top spot with consumers keen on high-end smartphones, but Oppo is definitely making loud noises that the other two should watch their backs closely.

Huge thanks to Campaign Lab for providing an Oppo R17 Pro handset for review