Category: reviews

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Limbo – The Edge of Hell?

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Electricity is not your friend, and signs can be a death hazard. Luckily, this sign is broken, much like the fractured world you pass through, with no explanation for how or why it is.
Those spikes in that pit don't look inviting
In 'Limbo' you play as a young boy in a desolate world, where you are but an insignificant silhouette, hunting for your sister.
Limbo is an Xbox Live Arcade game, developed by PlayDead. It is available for 1200 Microsoft points, and makes up part of their ‘Summer of Arcade’ campaign.

If you keep an ear out on the Xbox Live Arcade scene, you will probably have heard about ‘Limbo’ by now. I purchased the game and had the pleasure of playing through it this past weekend. Why don’t I tell you a little?

Please be aware that there might be some very minor spoilers in this article.

You awake in the dark world with very little aplomb, a quiet opening of two pale white eyes against a black backdrop which is your character. The world, too, is dark and foreboding, quiet, with an ill breeze. Hope you are ok with that, as there is not a speck of colour to be found (intentionally obviously). The world of Limbo is but a shade of gray, a fitting decal for the edge of hell. Oh, as is the gore.

Sailing through the world of Limbo
Sailing through the world of Limbo. Even the water is but a gray form, still and unmoving. The light shines on the boat as you reach the shore, to explore further.

The atmosphere this creates is remarkable. I recommend playing this game in a dark, quiet room, giving it the attention it deserves. It will really enhance the experience. There are chilling moments, with animal attacks to insects, pointy spike-traps and death falls, rising water and falling elevators. It will freak you out. As will all the sudden deaths in various, often violent ways.

So, let’s get down to business. Review, eh? Ok. Well I loved the game. It really suits my style of gaming, and if I had to compare it to a recent game, I would have to say it is like Braid, in a sense. The game is as much for its art than the game itself. However, it is very different in design and play than Braid.

Electrical signs can be a death hazard.
Electricity is not your friend. Luckily, this sign is broken, much like the fractured world you pass through, with no explanation for how or why it is.

I have a few minor gripes with the game. Firstly, I currently have 104% completion. Nitpicking I know, but why not just go up to 100%? It’s a blatant attempt to play to the hunter-gatherer instincts, specifically the gatherer part :P. I’ll add to this that whilst I’m happy in that the game doesn’t repeat its puzzle types, towards the end the puzzles become harder, yes, but in my opinion, a little less interesting. In the beginning, you have some clever puzzles including encounters with a terrifying creature of nightmare proportions. These later dry up a bit and become timing-based physics puzzles in a much more mechanical environment.

Often, this boils down to dying enough times to work out the sequence, the rhythm, the timing or a jump or fall. Luckily, frequent checkpoints avoid you tearing out your brain in frustration.

The second gripe is the length. The game is not too long – I would set an estimated time for about 5 hours. This flows nicely into my final gripe, the price. Microsoft / PlayDead have set a price of 1200 Microsoft points, which is fair, however it is above the odds a little bit – I think they might sell more if it were only 800 (and actually I believe it will fall to that price in a while).

I am nitpicking. The game is excellent for those who like this type of game, which I am. I thoroughly enjoyed playing, and even once complete, I played through a few more bits to collect the various, and for once challenging, achievements. I am tired of getting achievements for ‘doing the tutorial’ or just for ‘completing mission 3’. It’s nice to see a game be a bit more cryptic with its rewards, although of course the solutions are widely available online by this stage.

Pros:

  • Extremely atmospheric
  • Fair pricing
  • Artistic
  • Good musical score
  • Challenging puzzles
  • Violent
  • Interesting story concept
  • Inventive achievements

Cons:

  • Could have been cheaper
  • A little short
  • In places, the game is a little too trial-and-death-and-error

Overall, I’d give it a 8 out of 10, an excellent score but falling just below a 9 due to the length. A totally recommended buy, but if you are feeling the pinch a bit, I’d suggest maybe waiting a little as I believe that it will drop to 800 points in a few months.

BlackBerry Storm 2 (9530) Review

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I have recently put two fingers up to both T-Mobile and Sony Ericsson. Sick of my C905; nothing much WRONG with it but just old… bland… dull…

Lol. I wanted a new gadget.

A BlackBerry attracted me for a while – all the benefits of a smartphone, without resorting to an iPhone, with hundreds of useless apps. I also like the email and internet functionality of them. However, I did want a touchscreen phone, and that meant only the Storm series – specifically the BlackBerry Storm 2.

Now, for those who don’t know, it’s a very good idea to research phones etc before buying. And I did. The original Storm was plagued with gripes. The Storm line uses this interesting type of touchscreen, where it IS a touchscreen but it’s also a click-screen too. Sound odd? It is a little, but after getting used to it, I can say it feels great. But the point is, it was kinda poorly executed on the first Storm. As was the OS, a bit slow and glitchy.

Did the Storm 2 fix its predecessor’s problems? Yes indeed it did! And to be honest, I can’t be bothered with a huge review, so here’s the scoop. The Storm 2 is an excellent phone.

Battery life is the smartphone standard of 1-2 days depending on usage and what you have turned on. Email works intuitively and fast, as does SMS / MMS. My one gripe is that SMS and MMS do not flow together in the conversation view. The built in browser, if a little slow sometimes, is dependable, and besides Opera Mini works great. All the apps I have so far have integrated really well into the OS, appearing in context menus and other places where relevant.

Anything more specific… um I dunno. Let’s do a quick pros and cons:

Pros:

* Screen clickyness feels great and allows for fast QWERTY typing. Improved over Storm (1) version which was mechanical. Now is electrical.
* Interface is mostly lag-free
* Decent integrated camera, for a smartphone
* Intelligence around the phone’s tilt during calls etc
* up to 32 GB SDHC Media Card and a pretty good MP3 interface
* Multitouch

Cons:

* No pinch-to-zoom (probably copyright or something :@)
* Cold-start (battery pull) time is very long
* Fingerprint magnet
* Many options in settings – I doubt most people would want to use the more colourful ones but they are mixed in with the regular ones so it would be easy to get confused
* Changes on the media card take a while to reflect properly in the device (it will detect the changes and ‘scan’ for ages, and might still get it wrong. A battery pull works for this though)

That’s all I can be bothered with right now. Sunday night – past midnight. Night.