Ghostbusters: The Video Game Reivew

By Mike on 2:00 pm

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"Conglaturation !!! You have completed a great game. And prooved the justice of our culture. Now go and rest our heroes!" This grammatical nightmare was the ending screen for the original NES Ghostbusters game, produced by Activision way back in the late 80s. The game has an infamous reputation for being just awful. In fact, so have most other Ghostbusters games. I smiled when I saw the ending screen included in Atari's new game. It can be seen on one of the computer monitors at the Ghostbusters' firehouse. Unlike so many of the ones that came before it, Ghostbusters: The Video Game is actually quite good. The game proclaims that this is the third movie. Indeed the story plays out in exactly that fashion.

You play as a newly hired rookie Ghostbuster rather than one of the actual characters from the movie. Ray, Peter, Egon, and Winston are all there, voiced by Dan Aykroyd, Bill Murray, Herold Ramis, and Earnie Hudson respectively. It's nice to see Winston finally included in the game as he seemed to be suspiciously left out of past ones. Annie Potts returns as the Ghostbusters secretary Janine and William Atherton returns as EPA agent Walter Peck. Saturday Night Live alumni Brian Doyle-Murray is new to the cast as Mayor Mulligan. Alyssa Milano, known for roles in Charmed and My Name is Earl, voices Dr. Ilyssa Selwyn. It's vary nice to see nearly the entire original cast return to voice their characters. This really ties it in beautifully with the concept of the "third movie".

The game itself begins where the first movie began, at the New York Public library. The library is soon to host a new exhibit on Gozer, the demon god. Late at night, a woman is seen running past two security guards followed by a huge blast of energy that engulfs the city. Slimer escapes soon after, heading back to the old Sedgwick hotel. The Ghostbusters soon encounter other powerful ghosts from their past including the librarian and Stay Puft. Missions vary from being part of a team of one or more of the other Ghostbusters, or solo. The goal of the game is simple enough, catch ghosts and destroy deities. The Rookie has been hired on as the experimental equipment technician, who's job is to test Egon's new inventions. At the beginning of the game, you're given the standard proton pack, which is used to weaken then wrangle ghosts into your trap. Hitting R2 activates the proton stream to attack the ghosts. Once the green reticule around the ghost turns red, the pack automatically lassos them, where you have to fight the ghost into the trap, deployed by hitting Square. Once trapped, you can further weaken the ghost by "slamming" them with L2, when your slam meter reaches full, which is charged by pulling the ghost in the opposite direction they're trying to go. Once weak enough, pull them over the trap and wrestle them in. Pick it back up when you're done with X. Other weapons become available later in the game. The green slime pack from Ghostbusters 2 allows you to neutralize caustic black slime as well hurt enemies. It also packs a slime tether which can be used to tether objects or manipulate them; it's used by L2, which is the secondary weapon function button. The dark matter generator allows you to temporarily freeze ghosts, and the meson collider is especially effective against deity ghosts. Boson darts fire a high powered charge from the proton pack, working as its secondary weapon. Certain weapons are more effective against some enemies than others so it's best to play around. Catching ghosts or destroying deities brings in money, which can be used to purchase upgrades for weapons and other inventory. Destroying property takes away money.
Another aspect of the game is using the PKE meter, which detects hidden ghosts (red screen), environmental phenomenon (green), or hidden possessed artifacts (blue). It switches to a first person view when using it. Scanning various things using R2 collects information for the Tobin's Spirit Guide, including the ghost's methods of attacks, how difficult they are to capture, and what their weaknesses are. The Spirit Guide as well as weapons, tutorials, and gameplay information are stored in the PKE meter, accessed by hitting start. Hit triangle to enter scanning mode.

The game itself can be quite difficult at times, especially if played on experienced or professional mode. On the proton pack, a green bar on the right side shows your current health. If you drain it, another Ghostbuster will come and revive you if they're near by. If not, you fail the mission. You can also revive your own colleagues if they fall. It's not so much the more powerful ghosts that are the big threats, but the ones that attack in large groups, such as the possessed wall sconces in the Sedgwick level. You'll also need to periodically vent your proton pack when using weapons to prevent it for overheating. This can slow down gameplay somewhat. The Rookie's dodge and movement abilities are somewhat limited. You can run and dodge using the circle button but this feels delayed and is often pretty much useless beyond normal movement.
The levels themselves are well done with plenty of variety. The entire game has eight in total, and it can be beaten in about six hours depending on the difficulty setting. The artistic style of the game blends a mix of cartoony atmosphere with realistic character models. The game has trophy support and multiplayer to keep you busy for longer, though I didn't try the latter. Overall, Ghostbusters is a fun game to play despite it's minor flaws. Fans of the series will definitely get a kick out of it.

Sadly, despite it being a solid game, Ghostbusters does have some technical issues on the PS3. Despite Sony owning the Ghostbusters IP, the Playstation version is clearly inferior to the Xbox 360's. For starters, the game does not run in HD. On the 360, it does run at 720p but on the PS3, the resolution is limited to 960x540, which isn't much better than Euopean PAL's SD video resolution. Rather the PS3 will upscale the game to HD. My TV indicated it was running at 1080i but it certainly did not look like it. Textures are washed and aliasing problems are clearly evident. Once again, programming difficulties on the Cell were blamed. After three years of the PS3 being on the market, and vastly superior games being developed for it, this excuse just doesn't fly any more. If your programmers can't develop on the Cell, sack then and hire some that can. Given that Atari published the game, this doesn't surprise me though considering the technical garbage that studio has produced over the years. In contrast, Ghostbusters is an achievement compared to most of their rubbish. Aside from the low resolution and bad textures, there really aren't any more other technical issues. There's no tearing or frame drops. However, I did notice that during pre-rendered cut scenes, lip syncing seemed a bit off.
I already mentioned how impressed I was with the audio. The voice talent is spectacular and the game includes all the classic themes and sound effects from the movie. From a technical standpoint, audio is where this game really shines.

Compared to other Ghostbusters games, this one is definitely the best. Compared to other games in general, this one still has issues. The gameplay is just plain fun and the controls are decent enough. The resolution issues on the PS3 though are inexcusable, which is what prevented it from getting a higher score than it did. This is easily worth an 8 out of 10 on the 360 but it gets docked half a point on the PS3 because of the graphics problems. This is definitely worth a rent, especially if you're a fan of the series. It's the first game for the IP that really lets you feel what it's like to be a Ghostbuster.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

What works
-Outstanding use of original cast for voiceover
-Fun gameplay with all your favourite weapons from the movies
-Good level design
-Excellent music and sound effects
-Intriguing story really does feel like the "third movie"

What Doesn't Work
-PS3 version doesn't run in HD
-Textures look washed and 3D models have aliasing (jaggies) issues
-A little on the sort side
-Dodge and run controls a little unresponsive and not vary useful

Prototype Review

By Mike on 10:00 pm

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Prototype is a vary appropriate name for this game, as that what it feels like. It's a decent enough concept for a game but still quite rough around the edges. This summer has been odd in a sense since we've seen two vary similar superhero titles released at around the same time: Prototype and the arguably superior Infamous. The latter being a Playstation exclusive while the former was developed as a multi-platform release and published by Activision. In the game, you play as the anti-hero Alex, who is attempting to stop an infection gripping New York City. The game has some impressively strong moments but in the end, it's weaknesses prove to be the kryptonite that beats down its superhuman strengths.

The game begins with all hell breaking loose in the tutorial level. It then jumps back several days earlier where you suddenly wake up from the dead on the morgue slab at GENTEK Corporation, a genetic engineering company. Alex soon discovers he's acquired super human strength and the ability to shape shift provided he absorbs the thing he needs to copy. You can use the shape shifting ability to gain new "weapons" and defences, or disguises. The game's world is controlled by a fascist government's soldiers known as the Blackwatch, who are attempting to contain the city after the viral outbreak. Alex sets out to protect his loved ones and find out who infected him and the city.

Gameplay itself is in the pretty basic open world beat-em-up style. Square and Triangle unleash regular and heavy attacks respectively. You can dodge by hitting O and the right stick in the direction you want to go. The D pad is used to select various weapons and disguises, which is further enhanced by the circle menu. (You'll have to excuse me if I make a mistake about the controls since I'm writing this over a week after I rented it) R2 is used to run up walls, including just about any building while X jumps. You can hit O to grab onto vertical surfaces and use the left stick to climb around. Health is in the greying out screen style though one difference between this game and a lot of others is environmental variables don't hurt you. Even if you jump off the top of the Empire State Building, you won't die. Only enemies can do damage. Heath doesn't recover automatically, so watch the red health bar at the bottom. You can gain health by collecting red orbs found in the game, or by consuming civilians or stunned enemies with the triangle button.
For weapons, you have a selection of your claws made out of shape-shifted matter, a giant fist of the same, your own human fists, and guns enemies drop. You can also use your super strength to lift certain objects and throw them at distant enemies. All work in pretty much the same way. Targeting is done by the L1 button. Speaking of enemies, you'll face blackwatch soldiers, military vehicles, infected civilians, and GENTEK mutants, which get stronger respectively. You can drive military tanks by hacking the vehicles by repeatedly pressing triangles. Enemy and friendly AI is pretty poor though, most often just randomly running around like chickens with their heads cut off. Having civilians tell you to "fuck off" if you bump into them, in true New York style, is not exactly pleasant to hear in a game like this. Alex seems pretty anti-social though the way he pushes people around. The city is populated with a large number of NPCs but none seem to react to your presence until you do bump into them. Soldiers and the infected don't put up much of a fight so it's really only the mutants you have to watch out for.

Alex's powers can all be upgraded and new powers can be bought in the game if he gains enough points, as in other titles such as Force Unleashed. One thing lacking is any sort of block ability to defend against enemies, though a shield power can be purchased as an upgrade, though it's effectiveness is limited.

The game itself is a mix of open world with structured missions. You can navigate to the next mission be heading to the yellow marker on your map, where you'll be given instructions on what to do next. Some missions require you to infiltrate an area by consuming someone and using them as a disguise. Others require you to collect items and others are purely combat or escape. This is pretty standard fare for this type of game and it doesn't really bring anything new to the table. Like all open world titles, mission variety is limited and the game can get vary repetitive vary quickly. Overall though, the controls are tight and the missions are challenging, which is plenty to keep players busy. The big open world city concept also gives quite a bit of replay value as you explore the city. The game also has trophy support.

Probably the biggest weakness of Prototype is the graphics. The game looks extremely dated by at least five years. Textures and objects lack detail and the whole world has a grey, washed look to it. This game could easily have appeared on Playstation 2 or the original Xbox without much alteration. NPC characters are also pretty badly done and Alex himself is only average looking compared to other PS3 games. Graphics may not be everything but they could have at least tried to make it look better. Other than that, I saw no issues such as tearing, frame rate drops, or freezing. On the audio side, voice acting for the main characters was well done but NPCs seemed a little cheesy to me. I can't even remember what the music was so the score isn't exactly memorable. Of course, I already mentioned the poor AI. Prototype runs at 720p.

Prototype is a pretty decent game but it pales in comparison to the similar Infamous. It's not exactly a technical achievement by any means with it's bad graphics, average audio, and idiotic AI. Gameplay is decent though it really brings nothing new to the table. This is a standard open world beat-em-up, there's really not much else to say. I suggest trying Infamous instead if you're looking for the super hero experience. This game is worth a rent but I probably wouldn't buy it.

Score: 7.5 out of 10

What Works:
-Solid controls
-Action packed gameplay
-Good variety of missions for open world
-Upgradable powers
-Intriguing story

What Doesn't Work
-Bad graphics look extremely dated
-Audio not memorable
-Idiotic AI

EA Allows You to Sexually Harass Booth Babes, I Die A Little Inside

By Mike on 11:19 pm

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I'm curious to know how this meeting of suits went. Who at EA's marketing and legal departments honestly thinks that this is a good idea. EA has launched a contest for Comic Con to advertise Dante's Inferno. They're challenging convention goers to "commit an act of lust" on one of their booth babes, prove it, and be entered to win a grand prize dinner for two with a pair of bimbos, plus limo service and free swag. I'm not sure that the feminists or the labour board is going to like this too much. Imagine being groped by a bunch of pimply faced geeks all day while having to maintain composure while they get rewarded for being an obnoxious, dirty manwhore. I figure this is either going to end in one of two ways. 1) a huge lawsuit or 2) on an episode of Maury. In all fairness, EA has probably hired strippers or something to do this job. I really hope it's not the poor college girls and young models they usually hire for these gigs. Getting treated like a piece of meat all day long then having to go out on a date with the biggest horndog. Makes me glad I'm not a woman. It also makes me die a little inside that the gaming community is being reduced to this. Those poor girls. I am aware I'm probably feeding the beast by just posting this. Publicity stunt without this being an actual contest? Let's hope so.

The gist of EA's contest

Remember your booth babe is a human being.

Source: Ars Technia

An MMN Movie Review: Transformers 2

By Mike on 12:00 am

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"Mr. Bay, those aren't ideas they're just special effects." "I don't understand the difference..." Ah yes, another Michael Bay classic, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen. My best friend was stoked for this movie after seeing the first one. She's a big anime fan so this is right up her ally. After the movie, we both pretty much had the same reaction. In the immortal words of Jay Sherman "it stinks." Well maybe it's so bad it's good. No, it doesn't even qualify for that. Transformers 2 is just plain bad. I think it encompasses everything wrong with the summer blockbuster. It lacks anything resembling a concrete story and heavily uses CGI special effects as filler.

The movie begins as Sam Witwicky (Shia LaBeouf) is heading back to college, and thus has to separate from his girlfriend Mikaela Banes (Megan Fox). Has car Bumblebee also says that he will miss him. Sam still has a shard of the energon cube from the first movie, which the resurrected Decepticon leader Megatron wants. This is so he can use it to fulfil The Fallen's command, which somehow involves destroying the sun. The Autobots, under Optimus Prime, have to stop him. However, they run into problems when Optimus dies in battle. Sam, Mikaela, and the other Autobots have to hunt down the location of the Fallen's sun destroying weapon to finish him off once and for good. Ok, so that pretty much sums up the entire film.

The movie runs for 150min, which is at least an hour too long. This movie relies heavily on filler, such as extensive scenes of LaBeouf, Fox, John Turturro (playing an ex CIA agent), and Ramón Rodríguez (Sam's college roommate) wandering the Egyptian desert. These scenes do nothing to advance the story only serve to show off just how annoying the characters are. The film was also significantly dumbed down from the fist one, if that were possible. In one of the first scenes we see, Sam's chihuahua is madly humping another dog. Sam's mom while visiting his college somehow buys pot not knowing what it is and goes on an unfunny stoned rampage to the embarrassment of her son. (I'd be embarrassed too if I were in this movie) Despite all that, I took the stupidity right up until truck balls. The Decepticon Devastator (the giant robot seen climbing the pyramid) actually has two large wrecking balls dangling between his legs, which the movie clearly points out through Turturro's observations. Bay himself has confirmed that these are Devastator's "testicles". Really, truck balls?! It doesn't really offend my sense of decency but come on, it's just so incredibly stupid. That one scene sucked my IQ down 50 points. Why would anybody put that in there! You know somebody made an executive decision to keep that. Then there's Mudflap and Skids, the two cars that bust out the Ebonics. Some have claimed the look and voices of the two Autobot twins is a racial stereotype against urban blacks. I wholeheartedly agree. Once again, I'm not morally offended by this, but it's just dumb; Jar Jar Binks dumb. Lastly, there also seems to be a lot of hot models attending Sam's college. This is a common Hollywood cliche in movies like this. After five years
(don't ask) at UofT, with the majority of the student body being female, I can assure you that college does not look like that in real life. Well, unless you have an Asian fetish, then go nuts.

If the movie couldn't get any worse, the all consuming special effects look awful to boot. The Transformers have a cartoony/plasticy look that doesn't add to the realism. It's a live action movie but it almost has a Bed Knobs & Broomsticks feel to it; a cartoon within a live film. CGI, when poorly done, will always stand out like a sore thumb. A good artist will make them look like they belong there.
A good example would be Iron Man last summer, or Lord of the Rings. Transformers just looks like garbage though. The faces of the robots were particularly badly done. Transformation scenes looked good though but the robots should probably stick to their disguise forms. Mind you, the explosions and action scenes are well done, as they should be considering it's 90% of the movie.

Over all, this film has no saving grace. I have no idea how this movie has continued to stay in the top 10 box office gross list for so long. It's probably the worst movie I've seen in some time. Definitely not worth the $10 for the ticket. It's unnecessarily long, it's boring, it looks awful, and it has no story what so ever. Don't waste your time, not even renting it on DVD.

Score: 2 out of 10

What Works:
-Transformation scenes and action involving live action actors looks good

What Doesn't Work:
-Everything else

Mind's Eye

By Mike on 7:44 pm

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Back in the early 90s, Canadian youth orientated cable network YTV broadcast a series of early computer animation clips during their "Short Circutz" segment. A majority were from The Mind's Eye: A Computer Animation Odyssey, a series of art films which was produced in 1990 by Steven Churchill of Odyssey Productions. I had long forgotten this still until I stumbled upon it on Once Upon A Win, a nostalgia blog. The clips are examples of vary early, some would say groundbreaking 3D computer animation. This was made five years before Toy Story. Admittedly, these clips have not aged well. A film such as Mind's Eye would have taken expensive, professional render farms to produce in 1990. Contrasted to today, something similar could be produced by amateurs using a single, low cost home PC and basic 3D modelling software, and could be rendered in real time at high resolutions. Despite their primitive appearance, the films do have a certain beauty to them. The music for the films was produced by several musicians including Thomas Dolby or Blinded by Science fame. In case you're wondering, the original Mind's Eye is not available on DVD. There were some VHS copies floating around but for most people, Youtube is the only place you can watch them.

Get Skype on Your iPhone/iPod Touch in Canada

By Mike on 11:36 am

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Skype is one of the most popular free Voice-Over-IP (VOIP) applications today. VOIP services allow you to make phone calls through your computer over the internet rather then through conventional phone likes. The main advantage to using VOIP over a conventional phone line is cost. In Skype, talking to other users of the service is free of charge regardless of where they are in the world. Assuming the bit rate is around 20kbps, this works out to 150 kilobytes per minute. Using my Cogeco service for an example, which is $44.95/mo for 60gb, that works to be roughly 0.01 cents per minute long distance, which is negligible. 1gb gives roughly 7,000 minutes talk time, far more than anybody would use. Calling land lines with Skype costs about $2.95 per month for unlimited US & Canada. It provides a cheaper, no frills alternative to more advanced VOIP services offered through cable companies when features such as call display, voice mail, and call forwarding are unwanted. The biggest flaw of course is that Skype cannot work with a standard phone, unlike VOIP offered through a cable company. It requires additional equipment such as an existing broadband internet connection, wifi router, and a wifi phone in order to use it without having your computer on. The Wifi phones are quite expensive, with the cheapest one going on Skype's site for $134 USD. Fortunately, many smart phones and wireless PDAs have Skype apps available to them, including the iPhone and iPod Touch.

If you go searching on the Canadian iTunes Store for Skype, you won't find it, and it doesn't appear it will be coming out any time soon. Unfortunately, the Skype app for the iPhone is not available in Canada. It was apparently barred by the Canadian Radio & Telecommunications Council (CRTC). There have been a couple of rumours floating around as to why. Some claim there were issues with e911. When using Skype, 911 services cannot locate you. Others say it was due to a patent issue over the why Skype handles data. Regardless, Canadians wanting to use Skype on their iPhone or Touch are pretty much out of luck, unless of course you're smart enough to cheat the system. You don't even need to jailbreak your phone to get it. You need to create a US iTunes account. Here's how to do it.

-Open up iTunes, select iTunes Store in the left column, then scroll to the bottom. Where it says "My Store", select "United States" from the list.
-It will prompt you to log in. You can't use your Canadian account so you'll need to make a new account. The EULA will say it's for American buyers only. Just ignore that. We're not buying anything after all. Follow the on screen instructions.
-Create a different username and password from your Canadian one.
-When it asks for a credit card, select "none".
-Under address, enter your name (real or fake, it doesn't matter).
-Enter a fake street address but use a real city and matching zip code.
-Enter an email address and phone number that's different from your Canadian account.
-Once you're done, it will send a confirmation email to the account you provided. Open it and click the link. There, you're all done.
-Now, just search for Skype, it's a free app, and download it. Now you can make all the VOIP calls you want from your iPhone or Touch instead of having to use your computer.

Now, I should mention a couple of things about signing up for an account that's in a different country from your own. It does violate the EULA. Apple probably won't come breaking down your door but you'll get no warranty or technical support. Secondly, you'll only be able to purchase free apps. The iTunes Store requires that you have a credit card issued in the same country as the address provided so if you have a Canadian card it won't work. Despite that, you can now access the entire American App Store library. There are quite a few free apps that are only available there and not abroad. I tried the American only Sirius/XM app as well. XMRO is still free to Canadian hardware radio subscribers. However, the App requires a US based subscription so unfortunately my Canadian username and password did not work. (as a side note, XM Canada and XM/Sirius are two separate companies even though they provide an identical service, sans premium Sirius content of course. XM Canada and Sirius Canada did not merge unlike the US companies)


iPhone App Review: Air Mouse Pro

By Mike on 11:54 am

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Using a standard keyboard & mouse to control your computer isn't always practical. It would be ideal to remotely control your HTPC without resorting to bulky wireless keyboards or expensive Bluetooth enabled universal remotes. That's where Air Mouse Pro (AMP for sort) comes in. This app gives you full remote control of your computer using your iPhone or iPod Touch. It normally retails for $6.99 but is currently on sale for a thrifty $1.99. The app boasts a long list of features including multi-touch support, accelerometer enabled motion control for mouse movement, media controls, web controls, two button mouse, programmable hot keys, and a full digital touch keyboard. This is a god send for HTPC users. The app works for both OS X and all current versions of Windows from XP up to 7.

I tested the app with Windows 7 RC1 and OS X Leopard. In order for it to work, you have to download a server client so it can interface with your computer. Everything sets up easily and once that's installed, Air Mouse will automatically detect your computer. On Windows 7, it setup quickly. I didn't need to adjust anything with the firewall. OS X required some minor firewall adjustment as I had forgotten I had set it to allow only essential services. You'll have to set it to allow access for specific applications and then add Air Mouse Server (recommended), or set it to allow all incoming connections (not recommended).

So how well does Air Mouse preform it's job. Pretty well actually. I'm actually using it to type part of this article. It used the standard iPhone keyboard and therefore is subject to the same flaws that it is. Unfortunately, autofill is missing meaning that it won't automatically correct mistakes or punctuate contractions. Plus you have to flip back and forth between letters and numbers/punctuations, which can be irritating, especially if you just want to type a period at the end of a sentence. The mouse functions vary well. Under OS X, it is vary responsive and accurate. You can switch between trackpad mode and motion sensing wand mode by tapping the cross icon in the top right corner of your iPhone screen. I'm actually curious as to how PC based shooters would play with this since it works similarly to the Wiimote. You are required to hold down a virtual trigger to move the mouse pointer in order to avoid accidental input. Air Mouse provides four function modes. Standard input with keyboard, media remote complete with playback buttons, web remote that accesses basic browser controls, and a hot key mode which could alternatively function as a gaming mode. The hot key mode can be used to execute key commands and quick launch programs. All work as advertised.

Under Windows 7, I did notice that input seems to be more sluggish than the OS X version. I'm not sure what the reasoning for this is. It is also reported that the app can occasionally crash. The people behind AMP say that this happens if the iPhone runs out of memory, and rebooting the phone fixes the issue. I've had AMP crash once on me so far. It's also worth noting that using this app will probably kill your battery. It works through wifi, which can drain a lot of power. My iPhone is usually plugged in next to my couch so it's not an issue for me. I just recommend putting your phone to sleep when not using AMP. The app does support adhoc wifi connections so a router isn't necessary provided your computer has built in wifi. It works with wired systems that connect to a wifi router as well.

There are a couple of features I'd like to see improved. Namely Bluetooth support. The AMP people claim this is because Bluetooth is not accessible to third party apps. Whether this has changed since iPhone OS 3.0 was released is unknown. It would be vary handy to be able to control something like a Playstation 3 with it. Wake-on-LAN would also be handy. This would allow you to remotely start up an HTPC. I'm aware that there is another app that does just that but it's not worth $2.99 for just that feature. Speaking of price, I think AMP is more than worth the $1.99 sale price. However, I think the regular price of $6.99 is a bit much given what else is in that same price point. I think I would probably pay $4 at most for this feature. It's not a full replacement for a keyboard but it's definitely vary handy for HTPC enthusiasts.

You can download this little gem from the iTunes App Store, where else.

Update July 9th: One little thing I didn't realize about this app is that you can't use it to log into a computer (ie type in your username and password). This is because the server has to be running in order to do this; so you need to be booted to the desktop. It's a bit of a pain in the butt that could easily be fixed with Bluetooth support. However, when/if Apple plans to open up BT access is anybody's guess?

What Works
-Remotely control any Windows or Mac OS X PC over wifi
-Responsive controls
-Easy to set up
-Wiimote like motion control function
-Multiple functions for media and web browsing, quick launch applications and hotkey commands

What Doesn't Work
-No Bluetooth support
-Occasionally freezes on iPhone
-iPhone keyboard not the best in the world
-No iPhone autofill text correction function
-No wake-on-LAN support
-Full price of $6.99 is a bit much, pick it up while it's on sale

Score: 8.5 out of 10

iPhone 3.0 Has Issues

By Mike on 6:33 pm

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Despite the extensive beta testing, Apple really dropped the ball with iPhone OS 3.0. A lot of people have been complaining about the many problems involved. So much so that they're already pushing 3.1 out the door; it's currently in semi-public beta. I'd thought I'd list off a couple of the problems I've noticed with it.

Inaccurate GPS
A lot of users have complained that the GPS system on the 3G is no longer accurate after upgrading. Some claim it can be a couple hundred meters up to miles off of where they actually are. It's not the GPS chip that's gone bad but rather how the iPhone calculates your location. It uses two ways of doing this. When you're outside, it uses the GPS satellite signal; if it can't find the satellite it uses triangulation. This second method measures your distance between the three nearest cell towers to approximately judge your location. 3.0 has broken triangulation on my phone but is still accurate when using the GPS. The free MotionX GPS Lite app will tell you which location method your phone is using.

Wifi Connection
Spotty wifi connectivity seems to be another issue. My iPhone will frequently claim it can't find my household wifi connection even though my laptop it's sitting right next too it shows full bars. Granted my office is on the second floor and the router is in the basement, but that never phased my iPhone before.

The 3G seems to run noticeably warmer with 3.0, though not anywhere close to as warm as some 3GS phones get. Battery life also seems shorter, particularly when using 3G. I'm not sure if 3.0 has caused that or if it's just my imagination.

Slow Response Time
2.x felt a lot more snappy than 3.0. There seems to be a lot of lag when using common apps. Obviously Apple has optimized it for the 3GS, which sports a faster processor. Perhaps releasing universal updates isn't the best idea.

MMN's Top Six Most Underrated/Underplayed Games

By Mike on 12:01 am

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Now that we've seen the most overrated, lets look at the most underrated. You know the ones. The games that are just so good but for one reason or another, nobody played them. Here's my top six in no particular order. Why six? This one was more of a head scratcher and I couldn't think of any that were good enough to round out the four remaining. lol

Okami (PS2, Wii)
A beautiful, stunning, masterpiece of a game who's sales ranged from modest in North America to mediocre in Japan. That last one being rather ironic since it is based on classical Japanese legends. Okami stands as the only game that can really rival Myamoto's Zelda series in size, scope, and quality. It featured beautiful sumi-e/ukiyo-e style cell shaded graphics, a haunting classical Japanese score, an engaging story, and to top it off it was just plain fun to play. What other game lets you play as a wolf with god powers?

Grim Fandango (PC)
This is the game that killed the LucasArts adventure games. Sales were poor at best and yet this game is so good. It truly was the studio's magnum opus. A four year journey through the Aztec land of the dead done in a 1930s film noir style. It featured Manny Calavara at the centre of a gripping conspiracy story that saw tickets for free passage to heaven being stolen from souls, then bought and sold on the black market to the undeserving. The game had great art deco visions and a wonderful jazz score. After this game's financial failure, LucasArts too one more stab at the adventure genre and then closed up shop for good. The games that made them famous disappeared, replaced by a seemingly endless stream of Star Wars titles. Now that Monkey Island is being remade and Sam & Max saw a revival, hopefully LucasArts will take another crack at this fantastic adventure game.

Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords (PC, Xbox)
This game was broken and rushed due to strict LucasArts deadlines. It had huge plot holes. It goes unappreciated because of this. However, Obsidian still manged to create a sequel worthy of the original, and even surpassing it in some cases. It was one of the first Star Wars titles to ever question the clear cut nature of the force seen in most other works, showing that good and evil were not as black and white as they were made out to be. The game is heavier on dialogue and explores a lot of the philosophy in depth. It was vary well written and far darker than any other Star Wars game. The Sith Lord Kreia is regarded as one of gaming's best characters. KotOR II is vary much a thinking man's Star Wars.

Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask (N64)
Majora's Mask has largely been overshadowed by the epic Ocarina of Time that preceded it. It took the Zelda series in a direction I think a lot of people weren't ready for. It still stands as the darkest and saddest game in the series. It also turned gameplay upside down by having a 72 hour deadline to finish events before having to reset a la Groundhog Day. The story involves the theft of Majora's Mask, a legendary mask involved in ancient black magic rituals that became so powerful, it took on a life of its own. The mask is stolen by Skull Kid who wants to use it to destroy a world that he feels wronged him, by crashing the planet's menacing looking moon onto Clock Town. Link has to resurrect the four Guardians of Termina and stop the disaster before time runs out. It stands as a unique entry into the series that brought something refreshing. Compared to more recent entries targeted at kids, this is one adults can strongly appreciate.

Flower (PS3)
I could criticize Flower on several points. Namely it's short length and lack of any complex gameplay. Many other reviewers have in the past. However, there is a certain beauty in Flower's simplicity. The calm gentleness of it all and how it seems to blend perfectly with the PS3's motion controller. Each blade of grass is rendered in full 3D and the score almost has a calming effect to it. It's one of those games you pick up after a hard day when you just need to zen out for a bit.

Sonic CD (Sega CD)
Probably the best Sonic the Hedgehog game ever made. It had beautiful graphics, a lively early 1990s sound track, and a meaningful time travel system that actually tripled the size of the game's six levels. Naturally Sonic CD sold poorly, mostly because it's system sold poorly. Despite being one of the best Sonic games around, it doesn't get the same love as many other titles. Crappy games such as Sonic Labyrinth and Sonic 3D Blast frequently appear on compilation discs but Sonic CD has only made one; on the Sonic Gems Collection for the Gamecube and Japanese PS2. A PC version compatible with Windows 9x was released and is arguably the best port, including high res cut scenes compared to the Sega CD's poor quality FMV.

Emotion Engine Emulation Coming to PS3?

By Mike on 11:09 am

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It is being reported that Sony has filed a patent for Emotion Engine emulation using the Cell Processor. Umm, ok, I thought this technology was already out there. It turns out that this story, originally reported by Siliconera, is considerably out of date as EE emulation has been around since 2007. It is possible that Sony only recently filed a patent for it but there's nothing new to see here.

Here's a brief rundown of the PS3's foray with backwards compatibility. The original 60gb and 20gb PS3s were essentially two systems in one. They featured the PS2's Emotion Engine processor and Graphics Synthesizer GPU alongside the PS3's Cell and "Reality Synthesizer" GPU. The problem was putting these four chips into one system drove up the cost of the PS3 so the Emotion Engine was cut out of the system all together for the original 80gb unit. Playstation 2 games were software emulated using the Cell but the graphics processor proved more difficult to emulate, which is why the GS was retained. Backwards compatibility was reduces somewhat, down to 80% from the near 100% compatibility of the previous models. To further reduce costs, PS2 backwards compatibility was cut from the new 40gb models all together. That irked a lot of PS2 fans. It is possible to use two consoles of course but the allure of an all in one system is strong. Full software emulation is the holy grail for those who don't have the older backwards compatible systems. However, the difficulty emulating the GPU is what has held this back.

Source: Siliconera