Sunday, March 25, 2012

Game Review (Hanging With Friends - App Store)

Hanging With Friends (HWF) is a guessing game. You go one-on-one with a friend, and each of you get a slew of random tiles. You take turns churning out a word, while guessing what your friend put down. You each start with five balloons -- whenever a person guesses a word incorrectly, a balloon pops. The last player with balloons is the winner.

Simple, yet potentially addicting. I liken this game to Wheel of Fortune without the fortune wheel. Instead, the fortune here is not popping all of your balloons and falling to an untimely death. HWF is yet another fun little "With Friends" game made by Zynga, and it should be an insta-download if you own an iPhone, or even an iPod Touch.


(Not rated higher only because it seems that there is only one theme to play on, and you need to spend cash to get new characters, balloons, etc.)

Game Review (Flight Control - App Store)

In Flight Control, you act as... a flight controller. Who'd've guessed? In it, you have to land jets, helicopters, and smaller aircraft to certain landing zones. While it sounds pretty simple, things get tricky quickly, as several things come flying on the screen in no time.

In order to even be mediocre at this game, you'll need to know just when to time the landings of your aircraft. Flight Control is what most App Store games are: casual, with the ability to play a match in just a couple minutes, and stop. The graphics are simple but nice to look at, and the song that plays at the menu is actually very relaxing. At the price of a mere ninety-nine cents, Flight Control is an app that everyone of any age should own.


Game Review (Draw Something - App Store)

Draw Something is a game by omgpop, identical to their on-the-website game called Draw My Thing. It's available on the App Store with advertisements for free, or ad-free for 99 cents.

Having played Draw My Thing on, I knew what to expect when downloading this game. All this game is is a game of Pictionary, where you and a friend take turns guessing each others pictures to earn coins, which you can use to get bombs (used to get new words to draw, delete letters when making a guess at a word) or buy more colors to draw with.

Draw My Thing is as fun of a game as you'd think, but it's not without problems. First, you don't even get all the colors of the rainbow when you first start the game. A few colors I know you don't start off with that can be imperative when trying to draw certain pictures are green, brown, and purple. How are you supposed to draw the statue of liberty accurately without the color green? Fortunately though, if you buy the game, you at least get 400 bonus coins to purchase a color pack.

I'd recommend downloading this if you like quick one to two-minute games with friends. And even though Draw Something is lacking in a few places, it seems that with an update that'll be out soon, many issues will be fixed - only making this game even better. For what it it is, and the price that it is, you can't go wrong. This game is drawsome.


Hardware Review (LifeProof case for iPhone 4/iPhone 4s)

Along with my iPhone 4s, I decided to nab the most expensive -- and so I assumed best -- case at Best Buy: the LifeProof for $80. While the price seemed sort of excessive, I thought that would mean I'd basically not even need to get insurance for the phone.

I was wrong ... and also right. I'll give my first impression, followed by my latest impression.

When I first saw it in the store, I thought it looked nice; well built, nice design, et cetera. Once I got home and opened the box, I was sort of scratching my head. My initial thought was, "Wow. This case looked a lot better when it was in the box.", followed quickly by, "Where in the hell are the instructions to get my phone in this?"

The box has a little note that says to go to the LifeProof website to see how to get the case together. I HIGHLY RECOMMEND you do this. What I DON'T recommend is water testing it. I know that sounds stupid to say, but I really can't stress that enough. I'll go on about that later.

Before you throw your phone in your case, make sure it's impeccably clean. If you're like me, you'll focus on the tiniest spec of dust in the corner of the screen. Do you really want that to be there for the time you have your phone? I didn't either, but I soon found out that it's seemingly impossible to get your phone in the case without at least one little tiny piece of dust finding its way to the screen. It's frustrating, but just leave it be ... again, I'll tell more about that later.

Later the next day, I noticed a few things: First, some dust was in my screen... being a waterproof case, I was a bit perplexed as to how that could have snuck itself in there. Second, I was getting weird rainbow streaks on my screen that wouldn't go away. Frustrated, I opened my case and saw that the back portion of the case was a little bent, and I guessed that is how the dust/air got in. I also figured that I was getting the rainbow streaks on my screen because I was pushing on it several times to get my phone out of the case to keep cleaning it before I finally put the case together.

I wound up taking the case back to Best Buy to get a new one, and had no hassle. Really, just take these tips:

1.) Don't bother waterproofing your case. Look at the yellow seal, see if it's in tact, and then just get your phone in there. Assume LifeProof knows how to make the case you paid $80 for properly.

2.) Don't put your phone in and out of the front cover too many times before putting the back on and locking it. I did this with my first case, and I feel like this caused me to stretch out the front cover, causing the annoying oily-rainbow streaks. If you absolutely must, do it two times tops. Really just make sure the inside of the case is as clean as possible, as is your phone.

3.) Don't open up your case. Once you snap it together, leave it that way. Forever. With my first case, after I waterproofed it, I attempted to open it up: it was an absolute pain in the ass. I felt like I was breaking it, even though I opened it the same way LifeProof's website recommended.

4.) Use the headphone adapter. When I went driving around after I got my phone, I unscrewed the top part of the case where the headphones go in, and simply put in my iPhone headphones. I realized after dust got in my case just what that adapter was for. Had I actually watched all the LifeProof videos on the site, I'd've known that. So unless you want to get dust on your screen, use the adapter.

If you do those four things and don't make the mistakes I did, your phone may really be virtually life proof. I've brought my phone in the shower, and it has worked flawlessly. I've yet to drop it, but from what I've seen in a YouTube video (YouTube "LifeProof case drop test... it's the first link.), the phone can be dropped from about 5 feet and remain completely in tact. While I doubt the LifeProof case could survive more than a 10 foot fall or a throw to a wall, it could still likely do a lot more for you than some of the other cases on the market, due mostly to its resistance to water... I'm personally looking forward to trying to film a clip underwater with it once summer comes along.

While at first I felt like the LifeProof case was a complete disappointment and waste of money, I came to the conclusion that my ignorance and a possible design flaw (I noticed that the bottom connector flap of my first case was a weird yellow material, while my new one has a black almost memory foamy material.) caused my first case to essentially be a dud. After going back to Best Buy and getting another LifeProof case, I can say that - for now - I'm satisfied. The case is simply but sleekly designed, it isn't bulky so it's easy to get in and out of your pocket, and it's been durable thus far. If you're going to get a case for your iPhone 4 or 4s, I'd recommend spending the extra $20 or so to get the LifeProof.


5/24/13 Update: Two things. First of all, after about 4 or 5 months of having my case, I noticed a crack on the hard plastic charge port door. I contacted LifeProof, and they pretty quickly sent out a back-of-case replacement. When I got it, I mailed my broken case back -- cost me nothing, and happened smoothly. Just today (a little over a year after having the case) that the top right corner of my phone, the rubber portion, near the sleep button, is cracked and peeling. I assume this is from constantly putting it in my pocket and taking it out, but it still shouldn't happen. I'm glad I noticed it, because I don't trust to take my phone in the water at this point. I've also started to notice slight scratches on my case which have created rainbow-esque stripes on my screen, which is pretty annoying... and I take care of my phone the best way I know how.

For an $80 case, it's hard to recommend... it works well for awhile, but crumbles before I'm elligible to get a new phone. If this case lasted just two years before taking a crap, I'd probably be more okay with it. As it stands now, I'd give this case a 3/5. It doesn't completely suck, right now, it's merely shock proof, and not water proof.

Hardware Review (iPhone 4s)

The iPhone 4s was released back in October and is of course the successor to the iPhone 4. Just how good IS the iPhone 4s, and how exactly does it differ from the iPhone 4?

From the looks of things, the iPhone 4 and 4s look almost exactly the same. The only way you can tell the difference physically is by looking for the antennas near the top of the devices, because the slits are in different parts of the phone. Other than that, the 4 and 4s look identical. What's not identical, is what's inside. Here are a few differences:

Camera: iPhone 4 has a 5mp camera with 720p video recording. The iPhone 4s has an 8mp camera with 1080p video recording.

Processor: iPhone 4s is supposedly "twice as" fast due to its dual-core processor.

Battery: Tends to last a bit longer in the iPhone 4.

There are a few others, but those are the main ones. Oh yeah, and the iPhone 4s has Siri. Siri seems pretty awesome when you see advertisements for it, but the reality is, it's just not that useful. The time it takes you to answer a question -- if she can even answer it to begin with -- you could Google it in a shorter amount of time. There are some good uses for it, but Siri shouldn't be the reason you get a 4s.

Personally, I never had an iPhone before, and the only things I had remotely similar were the iPod Touch 1st and 2nd generations. Obviously, there is no comparison in the speed, or picture quality. If you're scared of dead pixels, then don't be scared of getting an iPhone 4s (or even 4), because it has "retina display." What this is essentially is a super-HD screen, with virtually non-existent pixels. I was sort of shocked when I looked at the screen on this thing then went back to look at my iPod Touch 2nd gen and saw just how mediocre that screen looked in comparison.

Like I said, I haven't had a previous iPhone, so I can't tell you how much more of an improvement is from a personal standpoint, but I can tell you that from what I've read, it seems that the iPhone 4s is different from the 4 for the few reasons I stated above: processing power, camera quality, and the addition of Siri. All three are nice to have, but it's not a huge leap forward from the iPhone 4 in my opinion. Still, the 4s is a great device, and the never-ending apps on the App Store just make it an addicting little gadget. If I have any issues with it, it's just that the battery seems to die extremely slow. I DO use it a lot, but I feel like I have to almost charge this thing TWICE a DAY. Like I said though, it's probably because I use it copiously.

+: Screen quality, pages load quickly, most everything else.
-: Siri's not nearly as awesome as its cracked up to be, battery life's kind of below average.


Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Game Review (Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 3 Content Drops #4, 5, and 6)

Another month, another release of DLC for ELITE Premium members. Welp, March has the biggest content month yet, with the release of two "all-new" Spec Ops missions called Negotiator and Black Ice, the multiplayer map Black Box, and 6 achievements worth 160 points. The achievements are listed below:

Skilled Negotiator (25)
Complete the Special Ops mission "Negotiator" on Veteran difficulty.

Shotgun Diplomacy (15)
Complete the Special Ops mission "Negotiator" on any difficulty.

Not on My Watch (35)
Rescue all the hostages in the Special Ops mission "Negotiator."

Ice in Your Veins (35)
Complete the "Black Ice" Special Ops mission on Veteran difficulty.

Slippery Slope (15)
Complete the "Black Ice" Special Ops mission on any difficulty.

A Baker's Dozen (35)
Run over and kill 13 enemies with the snowmobile in the "Black Ice" Special Ops mission.

First things first, the Spec Ops missions. When I heard Infinity Ward was going to be releasing Spec Ops missions, I pretty much immediately rolled my eyes. Really? Missions that I'll play once and never again? I also feel like IW had to add the six achievements just to get people to PLAY the missions. To be honest, they're really the only reason why I cared to bother with them.

The first thing I did was went and played Black Ice. I won't spoil what goes on with this mission ... you'll find it out yourself ... but I will say that this is an extremely easy mission to complete, even on Veteran. It took me just four tries to get through this, and every time I died, it was because of the beginning, simply because there's zero cover. It's a decent mission, but it's very simple, and also short as well.

The achievements for Black Ice are pretty straight forward... beat it on any difficulty, beat it on Veteran, and run over 13 people with the snow mobile. The first two need no explanation, and the third is pretty easy... all you need to do is put the difficulty down to one star, and take your time mowing people down. If you're having trouble getting 13, go up to snow mobiles and stop, so the enemies get off theirs. When they do... RUN 'EM OVER. Black Ice is what it is... an average Spec Ops mission. For that, I just give it a 3/5.

Next is Negotiator... when I played this, I did it with a friend (unlike Black Ice, which I did solo). This mission is a bit longer, and a lot more difficult than Black Ice. The first two achievements for this one are simple enough to understand (see above), but Not on My Watch and simply completing it on Veteran WILL be a challenge. For Not on My Watch, what you're going to want to do is just put the difficulty to the lowest level, and progress bit by bit through the mission. Each time you fail, restart, and go from there. Eventually, you'll learn where to hide, and when to save hostages. Playing on Veteran is quite the chore, and I found it to be one of the most difficult missions in all of the Spec Ops missions in the game. Explaining how I did it would be fairly confusing, but I'm willing to bet there are some helpful guides on YouTube at this point. Really though? The best advice I can give is for you to just be PATIENT. Negotiator is more challenging than Black Ice... for that reason alone, I give it a 3.5/5.

And now, the thing that most people care about; the multiplayer map, Black Box. The whole deal with this map is that the President's plane has crashed in a wealthy neighborhood. It's a fairly big map that in some spots strongly encourages sniping. There's the crashed Air Force One on one side of the map, and also three main buildings with two floors that you can go inside. While the map will be a favorite for snipers, guns like the MK14, Type 95, M16A4, or even any other assault rifle will work well if you have decent to good aim. Black Box mostly contains long sight lines - save the close-quarters sections when not outside - so SMGs and shotguns are not ideal. Unlike Liberation, which seems to be big just for the sake of being big, Black Box is made and made well. Visually, and in the way that it plays. In the few matches that I've played on Team Deathmatch, Search and Destroy, and Domination, it's played pretty well. Of course, there are a fair number of campers that simply refuse to go for the objective, but not enough to ruin the map entirely. Black Box may well be my favorite piece of DLC so far in Modern Warfare 3. It's not mind-blowingly awesome map, but it's one that's worth playing several times over (4.5/5).

While the two Spec Ops missions are just what I expected (that being "meh..."), Black Box has been a pleasant surprise, and it's sure to be a pretty popular map online. This month of DLC has surely been Modern Warfare 3's best to date, and I can only hope that things just get better from here, after the previous two fairly disappointing months.


Friday, March 09, 2012

Food Review (Nacho Cheese Doritos Locos taco from Taco Bell)

Moments ago, I consumed my first Doritos Locos taco from Taco Bell. Before its release, Taco Bell advertised a LOT. Its Facebook page had pictures plastered everywhere (as did its website), and they even had a midnight premier for crying out loud. So the burning question is... how does it taste?

I'll get to that in a bit. First of all, the Doritos Locos taco costs $1.29, and describes itself as, "A crunchy taco made with premium seasoned beef, crisp lettuce, and real cheddar cheese, in a shell made from Nacho Cheese Doritos® Chips." So yeah, all it is is a crunchy taco that has a Doritos shell.

And now the answer to the burning question ... meh. First of all, although Taco Bell claims this is a shell made from Nacho Cheese Doritos, it's not true. The shell is much too thin to be a real Doritos shell, and if you've ever had one before, you'd notice this instantly. As for the shell's seasoning, I really couldn't even taste it until I licked it off my fingers. When you're eating it, it just tastes like you're eating a taco with extra salt on the shell. Basically, it's just alright.

If you want a taco from Taco Bell that's a little more than ordinary, I recommend the Volcano taco, as it just tastes better. The whole Doritos shell thing isn't nearly as big of a deal as Taco Bell makes it out to be. I say it's certainly better than a typical hard-shell taco, but it doesn't deserve to be a main-stay on the menu before the oh-so wonderful Beefy Crunch Burrito.


Update: This was my rating for the regular Nacho Cheese DLT ... with sour cream, I'd give it a 3.75/5.

Tuesday, March 06, 2012

Game Review (MLB 2K12 - 360)

MLB 2K's potential final hurrah as Xbox 360's only MLB game is that of MLB 2K12. Since MLB 2K4's release 8 years ago, I've played roughly 6 of the 8 editions of the game. Of the versions I've played, 2K7 remains my favorite, despite its large number of glitches. The graphics were, in my opinion, the best in the series, and the soundtrack was also really good. Anyway, 2K12...

Let's start with the graphics. As I said a full two lines ago, I thought MLB 2K7 had the best graphics. The fans didn't look so great, but the players looked decent, and the jerseys looked really nice... why with the whole blowing in the wind and whatnot... MLB 2K12 just looks average at best, with more negatives than positives. Let me start with the positives here, as there is just... one positive.

+ Stadiums (Even though Comerica Park is lacking its new scoreboard, and there are STILL generic-only minor league and Spring Training ballparks.)
+ Shadows on the field (It's been in the game for a couple years now, but it's still nice to see that shadows move in over the field as the game goes on.)
- Jerseys (The dark/royal blue that is used as the primary color for teams like the Yankees is not the right color at all ... it looks more like New York Mets blue.)
- Player models (A vast majority of the models look atrocious, with few actually looking like their real-life counterparts. Where are Ryan Roberts and Prince Fielder's tattoos?)
- Animations (I'm still seeing a lot of the horrendous animations from years' past. What's going there, 2K?)
- Frame rate online (It's not terrible, but it's noticeable, and WILL cause you to swing badly on some pitches, and over or under run a LOT of balls in the outfield or infield.)

Yeah... MLB 2K12 may not be the best looking game - in fact, it's far from it - but it's alright looking, to be fair.

To me, 2K11 had a pretty good soundtrack, with some quality songs from a lot of unknown bands, for the most part. This year, 2K Sports has a soundtrack consisting of indy, rock, rap, and even dubstep. If you've got eclectic taste, you can appreciate a good number of the songs in 2K12, but it's pretty average overall. Below is the setlist in MLB 2K12:

Atmosphere, "Just for Show"
Bass Drum of Death, "Get Found"
Explosions in the Sky, "Trembling Hands"
G-Side, "Put Me in the Game"
Grouplove, "Colours"
JEFF the Brotherhood, "Shredder"
My Morning Jacket, "Holdin' On to Black Metal"
Pretty Lights, "Hot Like Dimes"
Skrillex, "Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites"
Telekinesis, "Please Ask for Help"
The Cool Kids, "Boomin'"
The Joy Formidable, "Austere"
The Vaccines, "If You Wanna"

Recognize many of those bands? I didn't either... only about three of them.

I may as well get into the other sounds in the game, starting with the commentary... if you liked 2K11, you'll like it again this year. 2K12 brings back Gary Thorne, John Kruk, and Steve Phillips with "over 80 hours of new commentary." Even though I've only played a few games, I've yet to hear anything repeated ad-nauseum, so that's a good thing. As for the crowd in this game, they're as depressing and emotionless as ever. Hey there champ, hit a walk-off homerun, didja? Yeah well, the home team doesn't give a fuck because they - apparently - aren't paying attention! They hardly react when you get a clutch hit, be it game winning or not, and that's also frustrating. They don't get up and cheer, you just hear a slight clap as if you're at a golf tournament. Why they haven't ever really improved this over all these years is beyond me.

Now that I'm done with that vent... the controls. MLB 2K12's controls tend to be more frustrating than anything else. Primarily, the fielding. If a ball is blooped into the outfield and you have a chance to catch it, if you at all twitch the left stick in the wrong direction, you have virtually no chance of getting to the ball because I guess the outfielders aren't athletic enough to turn around. Online, this is made worse due to the lag - especially the "throw bars" that come up on screen. When you're playing in an online match, you have to release it early to time it properly and get a "green" throw to wherever you're throwing it.

For pitching, I have no problems with it, other than that it can be considerably difficult to get a perfect pitch, especially when dealing with the occasional lag that pops up when playing online. I feel like I should say more about the pitching, but if you played 2K11, you know what to expect.

The hitting in this game feels right and wrong, all at the same time. Getting your timing right and smacking a ball to left field or over the right field wall feels pretty rewarding, but when you hit the ball the same way over the same part of the plate and get out, it's sort of depressing... but I guess that's baseball. The biggest problem I have with the batting in this game is that you will knock COUNTLESS balls foul, often times many in a row. Whether you swing at a ball over the plate or way outside, you'll be hearing "And that's a foul ball." over and over again. I know foul balls are pretty common in the MLB, but it just feels way too excessive in 2K12.

Aside from the countless things I pointed out about this game that I didn't like, MLB 2K12 remains a decent, playable baseball game. The ugly player models and animations as well as the rubber-band A.I. can take away from the experience quite a bit, but 2K Sports has at least made the game tolerable. The pitching can actually be FUN and rewarding when you strike a batter out when you need to, the commentary is better than The Show's, and the menus look about as good as ever. Even though MLB 2K12 is far from a perfect baseball game, it's not too shabby of a final effort from 2K.


Friday, March 02, 2012

Game Review (MLB 2K12 Demo - 360)

And now, 2K Sports is in its final year of exclusive rights to making MLB games on the 360. is MLB 2K12 the MLB game 360 gamers have been looking for?

Sadly, but unsurprisingly, no. MLB 2K12 is the same as 2K11 and beyond... The presentation remains the same. Care for a small list? The pop-up stats when players are on the mound or in the batter's box are still in the same bland design, the graphics remain pretty much below average, the crowd looks dreadful -- and they don't make much noise or move at all after a home run... the list goes on. It's not to say that this demo is terrible, but it's not giving me any reason to believe that MLB 2K12 will be the first GREAT game in the series. Maybe next year, baseball fans.


Game Review (Nexuiz - Xbox LIVE Arcade)

--This is not a full review, as I've only played the trial so far.--

I had no idea this game even existed today until I saw an advertisement on the XBL Dashboard. My friend downloaded it, and so I decided to as well. After playing for about 20 seconds, I was already impressed. Nexuiz (Pronounced Nexus) is a game that I'm glad to have downloaded. While the likes of Battlefield and Modern Warfare are all fine and good, there hasn't been a game like Nexuiz for a decent while now -- at least on the 360. When I first saw images for this game, I quickly thought of Halo, Quake, and Unreal Tournament. It turns out, Nexuiz was originally a Quake mod from several years back.

And a really good one at that, I guess. For $10, you're getting 9 maps (6 of which are TDM, 3 are CtF), several guns, over a HUNDRED power-ups, a bot-mode, and a rather refreshing experience in a game market that has been flooded with more modern military shooters recently. The only problem I have with Nexuiz, and it's the same that I have with every XBLA game... I'm just not sure how long the community will last. I suggest that if you're planning on buying, just buy now. Think about it. $10 for a game that you'll be able to have forever, or spend about that same amount to rent a game from Blockbuster for just a week. Even if you only play Nexuiz for a couple weeks, the playtime you get out of it will make it worth the $10 ... especially if you have a small squad of friends to play with.

As I said, I have a bad feeling that Nexuiz's online will be virtually dead in a month, but before that happens, do yourself a favor and get it. I think this game will be overlooked by many, and that's a shame. It may not be a ground-breaking game, but it's certainly one worth playing when you're growing a bit tired of others games you tend to play.


+: Great graphics; surprising depth -- especially for the $10 price; nice variety in maps.
-: More than likely will have nobody playing the game online by April.