Author Archives: Gerard Campbell

Tony Slopes demo: A weird but strangely addictive downhill racer

Tony Slopes in his rocket-powered inflatable ring ready to hit the … um, slopes.

It’s almost the end of what could best be described as a forgettable year for me so what better to round off the blogging year with a game that I’m going to add to the “Weird but strangely addictive” files.

I received an email from family-run British developer Seedtech Studios over the weekend (before starting game development the company specialised in 3D visualisation, animation and simulation) with a Steam code for early access to its game Tony Slopes because I had “either requested a copy of the demo for media articles/reviews, for blog/vlogs, or because you have signed up in the past for play-testing.”  I can’t remember if I had done either (to be fair, I have trouble remembering where I put the car keys 20 minutes after I’ve used them) but I downloaded the demo anyway as I was curious to see what it was all about.

Tony Slopes is a multiplayer and single player downhill racing game where you race others down a variety of terrains (snowy slopes, for example) riding a variety of objects. What sort of objects? Ah, a shopping cart with rockets attached, a shark, a crocodile, an inflatable rubber ring  … and a hump back whale. Yes, you read that right: A hump back whale. At the moment, it’s only single player racing, which is fine by me.

For my first race, I selected the shopping cart, a road cone helmet and it’s played like any downhill racer: Navigate your craft around a twisty course (the opening track is set in a mountain range), avoiding the patrolling hi-vis wearing officials and basically getting to the finish line first. If you crash, go off the course or hit a barrier, you respawn and continue racing. I finished third in my first race, pipped at the line by a crocodile and an inflatable boat. There are a lot of customisation options for your character greyed out so it looks like options will unlock as you progress through the game.

For my second race, I selected the humpback whale. It had to be done, right? As you’d expect for a huge water-based mammal, pulling off quick manoeuvres was pretty hard and it took a while to gain momentum as the whale barrelled down the slopes, but you can still do some pretty mean slo-mo jumps with it!

In my third race – in an inflatable ring – I, unfortunately, took out one of the officials who was walking across the track just as I approached the first jump: His scream as he went flying through are still echoing in my head. Sorry, mate. I saw an ambulance parked up nearby, hopefully you got medical attention in time.

Here’s some video I captured of about 30 seconds of racing (there’s a delay in me starting as I had to fumble around to get the capture software recording):

From this demo, Tony Slopes shows a lot of promise already if you’re a fan of downhill racing-style games, and while it’s bare bones right now in terms of features, its clear that Seedtech are leveraging off its background in 3D animation and simulation as for an early access title the game is showing some real promise.

It’s only being developed for PC at the moment but Seedtech says it is in discussions with PlayStation, Nintendo and Xbox for a console release. Seedtech is hoping the full game will be out sometime next year.

A game to keep an eye on, I reckon.

Top tech predictions for Christmas

Please note: These consoles are not top picks for this year’s Christmas.

Yes, this is most of a media release but, hey, it’s been a busy year so ride with it.

With Christmas just around the corner, price aggregation site PriceSpy has come up with what it thinks will be the top gadgets, games and consoles this Christmas.

The site predicts that top Christmas gadgets will be the Xiamoi MiJia M365 electric scooter, Apple Airpods Pro, Xiaomi Mi robot vacuum, Sony WH-1000XM3 headphones, Amazon Echo Dot (3rd generation), Apple Watch series 3, Ultimate Ears 3, Fitbit Charge 3, Google Home Mini and Garmin Instinct.

It also predicts that the top games and consoles for this Christmas will be the Nintendo Switch, Pokemon Sword, Star Wars Jedi Fallen Order, PlayStation 4 Pro, Call of Duty Modern Warfare, Logitech G29 Driving Force, Xbox One S, Xbox One wireless controller S and Pokemon Shield.

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, New Zealand country manager for PriceSpy, says it strongly recommend consumers use a price comparison site or app to find the best deals. As well as helping to save money, these sites can help ensure people aren’t paying over the odds on items that may be over-inflated in price.  It’s a fact that many products receive a bigger discount the closer we get towards Christmas. However, it’s also true that some items receive a price hike!

“Carrying out pricing research throughout the year can potentially help save consumers hundreds, if not thousands of dollars, which is money that can be saved in the bank!”

I guess we’ll see after the New Year if PriceSpy was on the money, eh?

Christmas came a little early: Blade Runner now available on GOG.com

Well, looks like Christmas came a little early for PC gamers and fans of Westwood Studio’s superbly wonderful Blade Runner as the game – long been a nightmare to get running on modern computers due to it being released during the late 1990s – has suddenly available on GOG.com for a entirely reasonable $13 or so.

It was an instabuy for me, if I’m being honest: I read about it this morning and picked it up a few minutes later.

I have long been a fan of the original game, playing it as a teenager after winning a copy of the dis-based version of the game and a nice coffee mug emblazoned with the red Blade Runner logo: It has long disappeared). Sadly, time has not been kind to the original Blade Runner: It was released in an age when CPU clock speeds were much, much slower than they are now and the graphics were created using voxels, not powered by high-end graphics cards.

The game is set around the same time as Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner movie but instead of playing as Rick Deckard, you play as Ray McCoy, a Blade Runner roaming the streets of Los Angeles 20198 in pursuit of androids that have gone rogue.

Trying to get Blade Runner working on a modern PC is a complete nightmare, to be honest, and the only way in recent times that you’ve been able to play it using files copied from your install discs is using the Scumm program which lets you run select point-and-click adventure games provided you have the data files.

Up until now, I’ve been using the Scumm to play Blade Runner but it’s so nice to see that GOG.com have picked up the rights for this (firing it up tonight it also looks as if it’s using work from the team behind Scumm as the program’s logo pops up just before the game’s opening).

I am so happy that Blade Runner is now accessible to PC players who may not have had the chance to experience the original and seeing those unmistakably visuals just brings tears to my eyes. So, so good.

I’ll still keep my OG discs, of course, but at least now I know I can play the game on my modern PC without running through hoops to do it.

Thanks for the early Christmas present, GOG.com.

 

Pico Tanks: An iOS tank game with a real cutesy factor

I have to start this write up with an apology to Melbourne-based developer Panda Arcade.

Months ago, the Australian developer got in touch with an early access code to Pico Tanks, an iOS and Android game that features cute cartoony tanks battling against each other in 3 vs 3 multiplayer matches.

I redeemed the code, played some of the beta, enjojed it but failed to write up my thoughts. So Panda Arcade, I apologise profusely for writing something up soon. Better late than never, right?

OK, so Pico Tanks. What is it? In a nutshell, it’s tank-based multiplayer combat with really cute visuals and high customisation for your tanks. You can build your tanks from a multitude of bases (which feature a variety of wheel and track configurations), turrets and weapons – as well as popping hats on them for that extra bit of bling!

[Update one: December 16] : Panda Arcade tells me Pico Tanks has soft launched in New Zealand, Australia and The Phillipines and will launch globally in January next year.

Tanks are moved using an on-screen virtual joystick which works extremely well and you shoot and aim using the virtual controls on the right side, either by lining up and firing of just tapping the shoot button As you progress you get a variety of extra abilities like the air strike power up, which does just what it says on the tin: Drops bombs on enemy tanks.

[Update two: December 16]: Panda Arcade has also released a new trailer for Pico Tanks. Here it is:

Good work, Panda Arcade! (and, again, sorry for the lateness in getting this up)

Red Dead Redemption 2: In pictures

Red Dead Redemption 2 (PC) A story in pictures

 

It might have arrived on PC a year after the console release, but Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC is a beautiful thing. It really is.

Sure, you have to tweak a multitude of settings to get things just right (I’m currently averaging around 55 frames per second with a mix of ultra/high/medium settings) but boy, oh boy, it just looks gorgeous.

RDR2 on PC wasn’t without its problems, though: Rockstar screwed the launch royally with launcher issues, frequent crashes, and new patches that reset all the graphical settings to the default, meaning painless tweaks of each graphics preset had to be done all over again to find the optimal frame rate settings – but things seemed to have settled down now and RDR2 it’s still one of my most favourite games of recent times.

Actually, RDR2 seems to be comparable to Hideo Kojima’s recently released Death Stranding: Both are quite polarising among gamers, both criticised by some for its slow pace while adored by others. I haven’t played Death Stranding so I can’t comment on its game play but I have played RDR2 on both PS4 Pro and PC and I love it. It’s one of my favourite games of recent times.

It’s also got an amazing photo mode and there are so many great moments that I find myself pausing the game, framing a nice shot (especially if it’s night or the sun is just right) then clicking! It’s one of those games that you can document your life thanks to the photo mode.

So, enough words: Here’s is my journey so far through Red Dead Redemption 2 on PC through the lens of the game’s photo mode.

Enjoy.

 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

PriceSpy predicts big Black Friday ahead for Kiwis

Black Friday is approaching fast so PriceSpy has sent through some data on what it expects this year’s edition to hold for Kiwi consumers.

Excitement for Black Friday is mounting, as keen Kiwi shoppers search out the best deals ahead of Christmas.  According to New Zealand’s fully impartial price and product comparison site, PriceSpy,  popularity for the big day is as popular as ever, as visitors numbers using the site grew by a fifth (20 per cent) in 2018 compared to 2017.  What’s more, PriceSpy predicts this figure will rise by the same amount (20 per cent) again later this month on Black Friday.

But as some savvy shoppers know, not everything is always as it seems. PriceSpy data also reveals the global shopping phenomenon doesn’t necessarily offer the best deals, with discounts on some popular products being considerably lower than what consumers may actually expect.

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett, New Zealand country manager for PriceSpy, says: “Our insights suggest popularity for Black Friday has continued to rise year on year, with the percentage of overall visitors using our site increasing by a massive 108 per cent since 2015.  

“For those looking to take part in the Black Friday sales this year, we couldn’t recommend more strongly the need for consumers to be price aware, as a recent PriceSpy survey* found Kiwis may be expecting more of a bargain that what is actually being offered.”

The  survey found:

  • A fifth (21 per cent) of Kiwis expect to save an average of up to 30 per cent on Black Friday 
  • Three fifths (58 per cent) of Kiwis said they expect to save an average of between 30 and 90 per cent on Black Friday.
  • Historical insights from PriceSpy however suggest a very different reality, as the average discount offered across all products listed on the site last year was just 12 per cent.


Liisa continues:  “Out of all the products consumers clicked on last Black Friday (124,771), 37 per cent of items were found to offer a discount, but almost one in ten (nine per cent) increased in price, going against what the majority of shoppers believe.”

For those hoping to bag a bargain or two ahead of the Christmas shopping frenzy, historical data from PriceSpy suggests electrical items are amongst the most popular that consumers are searching out.

Liisa adds:  “Last year, 68 per cent of TVs listed on PriceSpy decreased in price on Black Friday, offering an average discount of 10 per cent per item, which is a pretty decent saving.

“On the other hand, even though almost two fifths (39 per cent) of headphones decreased in price on Black Friday 2018, the average discount per item was only seven per cent. What’s more, nine per cent of headphones were found to increase in price!”

“So even though a large proportion of products appear to offer a discount on Black Friday, some of the prices aren’t slashed as much as consumers might expect.”

Liisa Matinvesi-Bassett concludes: “With almost 50 per cent (47 per cent*) of Kiwis planning to purchase something this Black Friday, shoppers should first head to a price comparison site like PriceSpy to be sure the purchase being made is being offered at the best price, as this will avoid the disappointment that comes with finding out you’ve overpaid later on.”

To help Kiwis gamers prepare for the big Black Friday rush, here are PriceSpy’s top predictions on most popular games:

 

Top predictions Game Price range (current as of 23 November 2019)
1 Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (PS4)

Call of Duty: Modern Warfare (Xbox One)

$93.69 – $114.95
2 FIFA 20 (PS4)

FIFA 20 (Xbox One)

$75.00 – $109.99
3 Pokémon Sword (Switch)  $87.69 – $99.95
4 Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Switch) $93.69 – $99.95
5 The Outer Worlds (PS4) $93.69 – $99.00

Oppo Enco Q1 ear buds

Oppo’s Enco Q1 ear buds in all their glory.

Ear bud heaven

I’m not usually a fan of ear buds – my ears don’t seem to agree with most of the brands I’ve tried in the past – but Oppo’s Enco Q1 ear buds seemed to have agree with my ear holes right off the bat.

The silicone ear tips were comfortable and, most importantly for a company that started out as an audio equipment manufacturer before branching out to smart phones, the sound was top notch – but more on that later.

What’s interesting with the Enco Q1’s design is the neckband that houses the ear bud cables, which snake out from near the end of the soft, flexible band like a serpent.

The neckband is made of a flexible memory rubber and to be honest, I hardly noticed it was there. It’s light weight so it’s not uncomfortable. The accessory pack includes a variety of different sized silicone ear tips so you’re bound to find one that fits.

Embedded into the left hand side is the on/off switch, noise cancelling button (which also activates the Q1’s three audio modes) and volume up and down.

Pairing via bluetooth 5.0 was hassle free (with the ear buds advising me they’d connected quickly with a rather soothing voice, not like the rather robotic voice with my Bose Q35s) and Oppo says the buds have a range of 10m (line of sight, of course). I only had one instance when the audio cut out and that was when I had to go hunt for the dog when he wandered down the street – and that was further than 10m.

I mentioned noise cancelling earlier. Yep, the Q1’s have active noise cancelling that you can turn on and off with the press of a button on the neckband. You know when it’s on or off as the soothing voice tells you “Noise cancelling on/off”, and while I didn’t feel the noise cancelling was as good as my Bose Q35 over ear headphones, they blocked out overly loud noise around me.

But how do they perform? How does audio actually sound when listening?

Impressively, actually.

Most impressive

Right from the get go, the Q1’s impressed me with a quality of sound that, frankly, put many other ear buds that I’ve used in the past to shame. Bass notes really resonated and sound quality was crisp, clear and balanced.

The left hand side of the neckband houses the control buttons.

Double tapping the function button switches between music, cinema and gaming sound modes, with each one adjusting the audio to suit what you’re doing. The cinema mode, for example, pushes up the bass and adds 3D audio where required, while the gaming mode drops the bass, instead highlighting the finer audio details that gamers are listening for. Playing Deus Ex Go, the sound was crisp and immersive, as was the cinema mode when I fired up John Wick on my iPad.

As Darth Vader would say, “Most impressive.”

Oppo claims the Q1’s will last for 15 hours before needing a recharge and they’re not far off the money, actually. I’ve used them fairly consistently over the past two weeks – mainly listening to music while walking the dog – and haven’t had to charge them yet (at the time of writing they had 20 per cent battery left). The ear buds remind you when you have 10% left and they’ll charge in a couple of hours.

Pedigree on display

Oppo’s pedigree as a former maker of high-end audio equipment is on display here, with an impressive ear bud set that will make your ears smile (if your ears could smile, that is).

I also think at $199 the Q1’s are priced really well, especially given the bells and whistles you’re getting in these ear buds.

« Older Entries