Monthly Archives: October 2019

Player 2 Charity Marathon: Gaming for a good cause

Here at GamejunkieNZ, we love supporting our fellow gamers when they’re doing good things for the community.

Well, our friends at Australian website Player 2 is holding its fourth Charity Marathon on November 2, supporting the Terry Campese Foundation. The Terry Campese Foundation, a charity started by ex- Australian, NSW and Canberra Raider player Terry Campese, helps those in his home region that are doing it tough. 

Player 2 Editor Matt Hewson has been a strong supporter of this cause for many years, with the last 2 marathons raising $8314 for the foundation. Matt’s passion for this charity has been recognised by Terry and his foundation with Matt becoming an official member of the Foundation’s board in June of this year. 

With Matt now having a say in where the money raised during the P2 Charity Marathon is used, he has chosen something close to Player 2’s heart, video games. Country hospitals in NSW are severely underserviced when it comes to providing entertainment for sick and injured children being treated in their wards. As any parent can tell you, waiting in an emergency bed for results or observations with a sick child can be a painful experience, making things worse for a kid that is already feeling terrible. With that in mind the Marathon is looking to raise $4000, enough to purchase three GAEM Vanguard portable game systems, three gaming consoles and associated accessories and three android tablets for the Queanbyan District Hospital and Braidwood hospital. 

It is Player 2’s belief that making any stay in a hospital for a child and their family easier is a goal worth chasing and that is what they are going to do by playing video games for 24 hours and streaming the entire event on Twitch. Player 2 invites people to donate, win prizes and watch the fun as the Player 2 team tries to make it through all 24 hours without nodding off or going insane. 

Anyone who donates $AU5 or more (one entry per $5) will go in the draw to win prizes donated by Xbox, Turn Left, Namco Bandai, 2K Australia, Koch Media, Ubisoft and more. Thousands of dollars of prizes are up for grabs, the full list of which will be available on Player2.net.au in the lead up to the event. 

From the team at GamejunkieNZ here in New Zealand we say “Good on ‘ya, Matt.”

You can find Player 2’s Twitch channel here and more about the marathon, and how to donate, here.

 

Lonely Mountains Downhill: You, your mountain bike, & nature

Two years ago, I was browsing through Kickstarter and was intrigued by a campaign for an as-yet-unmade mountain biking game called Lonely Mountains: Downhill.

Inspired by videos by riders like Danny MacAskill, German development studio Megagon Industries wanted to create a “mountain biking game in which the mountain is your only opponent and nature your only companion”. Fast forward two years and I can confidently say they have succeeded.

I plonked down 25 Euros ($NZ44) on the campaign, which got me a digital copy of the game, a digital art/behind the scenes book, an exclusive wallpaper and an exclusive poster, my name in the credits and the developers Megagon Industries, based in Berlin, Germany, would plant a virtual tree in the game for me.

My name’s in there as a backer. See if you can spot it? (Hint, second line from the bottom, sixth name from the left).

Megagon Industries was seeking 35,000 Euros and when the Kickstarter ended, they’d secured 45,042 Euros, and reached some stretch goals, too. I was backer number 274.

I think I was attracted to Lonely Mountains because I loved the low poly-aesthetic and I love mountain biking – and this would let me be more reckless that I would ever be on my real mountain bike (I’m too scared of crashing most of the time I go downhill these days).

This was the pitch: “Just you and your bike – take it on a thrilling ride down an unspoiled mountain landscape. Make your way through thick forests, narrow trails and wild rivers. Race, jump, slide and try not to crash – all the way from the peak to the valley!”

Now, 2019, the game is out and I’m loving it. A lot. It was originally slated for a mid-2018 release but development slipped. These things happen, you know. I wasn’t even worried: I actually forgot I’d backed it for a while. It was a surprise when the the Steam key landed in my inbox.

Off the bat, Lonely Mountains looks gorgeous. I love the low-poly asthetic that gives it a real unique look and feel. The environments, too, are just vibrant: Full of life and colour. I mean, look at this shot (I stopped my rider there purposely, so he could look at the waterfall below). Impressive, right?

I’ve said it before but Lonely Mountains really does let me be more adventurous that I would ever be on my real mountain bike. While I’m able to climb hills OK when it comes to the downhills, I tend to ride the brakes more than I should. Lonely Mountains lets me sprint, jump and slide to my heart’s content without any fear of injuring my ageing body.

Talking about injuries, I’ve crashed a lot in Lonely Mountains: a helluva lot. Megagon said we would. Despite smacking into numerous trees and rocks (which puffs of pixelated blood), my little rider dusts himself off – and restarts at the most recent checkpoint.

I wouldn’t be surprised if I’ve already smacked into the tree that Megagon Industries planted for me. Keep an eye out for it, will you? It’ll be the one with lots of pixelated blood on it.

The thing I like about Lonely Mountains is that it rewards persistence.

At first, each new trail – like real mountain bike trails – is an unknown quantity, unfamiliar. You take it cautiously (well, I tend to), braking on every corner, following the suggested path. The more you ride that trail, though, the more confident you become: You notice shortcuts between stands of trees or around a clump of rocks. You notice little things that shave precious seconds off your time and get you to the finish just that little bit faster.

Another thing I like is that the in-game soundtrack is nature itself. It’s refreshing, to be honest, to play a game that doesn’t bombard your ears with an overly loud soundtrack.

If you haven’t already guessed, I’m loving Lonely Mountains and am slowly unlocking new challenges and trails. This is one Kickstarter I’m glad I backed.

 

Oppo A9 2020 review

To say I’ve been impressed with Oppo handsets is an understatement.

I’ve reviewed a few Oppo handsets over the past few years: The budget-focused AX7, the more pricey Reno 10x zoom and the R17 Pro and all three have impressed the hell out of me with their mix of smart design and great performance.

This time around, I’m looking at an Oppo at the other end of the scale: The mid-range A9 2020, which retails for around $500, and frankly, it’s a cracker.

Running ColorOS 6.0 (Oppo’s UI software layered over the base Android 9.0 OS), the A9 2020 sports a 6.5-inch OLED screen and is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 665 CPU. A 5000mAh battery will give you a days worth of use before needing a charge, 8Gb of RAM, 128Gb of storage (expandable to 256Gb via MicroSD), and stereo speakers with Dolby Atmos round out the package. Surprisingly, it also allows for a dual SIM setup, handy if you want to combine a work phone and personal phone into one handset.

It also has a four-camera setup: a 48 megapixel main camera, an 8MP ultra-wide lens (119 degrees), a 2MP mono lens and a 2MP portrait lens. More about the camera later, though.

Like the more expensive Reno 10x zoom, the A9 has a nice heft to it and feels weighty in the hand when you pick it up. Despite being a budget phone, a fingerprint scanner just under the three main camera lenses allows for fast unlocking, as does the facial recognition which allows you to unlock the handset just by looking at it.

The A9 2020 sports a 1600×720 resolution screen and is vivid, bright and responsive. Sure it’s not the more common-these-days 1080p resolution, but for my money, on a 6.5-inch smartphone screen, the difference is inperceptible to my old eyes, anyway.

Turn the Oppo over and you’ll notice the array of camera lenses cascading down from the central top of the phone. I used the A9’s camera in a variety of situations.

Here’s a selection of photos taken with the Oppo’s camera.

Outdoor photos seemed natural with clear, crisp images but images captured using the night mode were quite grainy. The A9’s camera’s strength is definitely daylight photos.

Keen to test out the phone’s gaming prowess, I tested it on 3D Mark’s Sling Shot Extreme benchmark (Open GL ES 3.1 & Vulkan APIs), returning scores of 1089 and 1057 (placing it 1% better than Huawai’s Mate 10 Pro).

One feature that Oppo promotes is the Game Boost 2.0 software, which supposedly optimises the phone for when you play games: blocking notifications and phone calls so you get an uninterrupted gaming experience. I tested the A9 2020 with Deus Ex Go, a rather superb mobile game based on SquareEnix’s Deus Ex series, and Gameloft’s Asphalt 9: Legends, a racing game that would push the phone to its limits. I also selected the software’s competitive mode setting (which is said to improve performance and frame rates but will use more power).

In Asphalt 9, the Oppo seemed to perform pretty well and I didn’t notice any perceptible lag. I also tested the A9 202 with the Antutu benchmarking suite which stress tests phone hardware using a variety of tests. The Oppo returned a score of 171,239, telling me the phone “defeated 12% of users” [I wasn’t really sure what that meant, to be honest, as it didn’t provide details of what users it had defeated].

Oppo is a handset manufacturer that continues to astound and impress me with its smartphone offerings and it’s done it again with the A9 2020, a mid-range smart phone that packs high-end features but has a low end price.

If you’re in the market for a good price mid-range phone, you should definitely consider the A9 2020 in the mix.