Flappy Bird or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bird

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Mobile gaming is a wonderful thing. While it once took a 10 tonne console to escape to another world, where one would typically find a selection of guns, aliens and Italian plumbers, we can now use conveniently portable devices to take us away from our troubles instead. Or allow green pipes to cause even more.

Flappy Bird was the latest avian title to land in our pockets and find surprisingly astronomical success, with a deceptively simple premise and mechanics. A single tap performs a single flap of the wings of a small bird that looks like Kirby with Jay-Z’s lips which, although officially nameless, I affectionately call Flapster.

But why did a game made by a Vietnamese indie developer in a few evenings after work that launched in May 2013 become the most popular mobile game of 2014? The answer lies deep within the struggles of our lives.

Mario uses his raw plumbing tekkers to open wormholes and transcend dimensions with green pipes, but Flappy Bird and its nameless protagonist present a whole new facade to these former allies. He’s not a trained worker. He’s a bird. Pipes are enemies, and serve solely to crush his hopes and dreams with a brutal splat. Should our friend succeed and pass beyond the blockade, life throws up yet another challenge before his eventual death.

Attaching no name or back story to the bird lets us project our own emotions and struggles onto its journey. Life, like Flappy Bird, is not fair. To stand any chance of reaching double figures and cross the obstacles in our paths, we must stay focused and tap carefully. Yes, we may fly face-first into a pipe now and then, but we won’t give up. We will keep tapping. Tapping towards freedom.

Now, as creator Dong Nguyen, with $50k a day in his pocket, withdraws the app from stores and himself from the limelight, lil’ Flapster flies off into the sunset (via a few green pipes, naturally). All we have left are fond memories of the winter of the bird, who taught us it was alright to fail, as long as we got straight back up to seek the bing, and the hours we lost in our quest for a high five.

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First Xbox Live game for both Windows Phone and Windows 8 quietly released

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galactic_reign2When Windows Phone 8 was released way back in October last year, much was made of the relationship prospective Windows Phone 8 purchasers would have between their mobile and their PCs. Since then, nothing much to that side of things has materialised, but yesterday that all changed.

Galactic Reign was teased by Microsoft last October, but there was no mention of platforms, nor was there a release date, but yesterday the game quietly slipped into both the Windows 8 Store and the Windows Phone Store as an Xbox Live title. Microsoft used to always announce upcoming Windows Phone games well in advance, but they haven’t done so much of that recently, and it seems crazy that such a huge milestone for the OS was released with so little fanfare, but hey, at least it’s here now.

galactic_reign3As you might have guessed from its name, the game is a sci-fi strategy number. You have to find the right balance between spaceships and weapons and hope your fleet is good enough to beat your opponents, and we won’t go into too much detail here, but there’s a single player mode with 60 challenges and a multiplayer side of things where you battle people online. There a bunch of Xbox achievements to aim for as well.

It’s great to finally see a game which bridges the Windows Phone 8/ Windows 8 divide. With the multiplayer game, you can play with different hardware to your opponent, i.e. it doesn’t matter whether you use a PC, Windows Phone or Surface. Galactic reign will cost $4.99 for Windows 8 or for Windows Phone 7 and 8. The best bit of all? You only need to purchase one version to have access to it on both platforms.

Source: Windows Phone Central

Sony PlayStation 4 launch liveblog: Sony shows the controller and a bunch of games but no actual PlayStation

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Tonight is the night that we’ve all been waiting for since E3 2005. At an event in New York tonight, Sony is set to present ‘the future of PlayStation’ to an audience of the games press, and we all know what that means.

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Grab your bingo cards and join me as I furiously scribble down all the news and go into a PlayStation-induced trance on my keyboard from 11pm tonight, and prepare for the next generation of gaming.


Click here for our liveblog – live!

Nvidia unveils Tegra 4 chip and Project Shield handheld console at CES conference

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It’s the first day of CES proper today, and the news has started to flood in. Nvidia held an interesting press conference today to announce a few things. There’s no doubt that the most anticipated (and most important) announcement of the day was the Tegra 4 – Nvidia’s new flagship chip to ‘rule them all’. That is until Qualcomm and Samsung show off their work. The new chip packs 72 GPU CUDA cores, and is produced on a 28nm manufacturing process which is a step up from the 40nm of the Tegra 3. This means that even though the chip packs more power, it’ll take less of a hit on the battery life. It uses a new quad core, Cortex-A15 based architecture as well. One notable omission is the lack of integrated LTE – while it does ship with an external modem, that both takes a hit on battery life and reduces space inside of the phone. It’s interesting to see whether this impacts Tegra 4 adoption, as many phones which used a Tegra processor internationally had to use a Qualcomm processor in the US so as to keep LTE.

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The other thing that Nvidia announced was a new handheld gaming system called Project Shield. This came to me as a surprise, but its very very interesting. It features a 5″ 720p display, a Tegra 4 chip and an Xbox-esque controller portion. It is running stock android (i.e good) and has the ability to stream games from your Steam library from your computer to the device, where you can play them. It’ll be interesting to see whether this catches on or flops when it becomes available in Q2 2013

App of the week: Mass Effect: Infiltrator

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Mass Effect Infiltrator

This week’s app of the week is Mass Effect: Infiltrator by EA, published for mobile platforms as a spin-off from the wildly successful game series. Set in the same universe and time period as the console games, you follow the story of Cerberus agent Randall Enzo, a veteran agent who ‘procures aliens for illicit experiments at a secret facility’. During the course of the game, Randall goes rogue and vows to take down Cerberus. You do this through an arsenal of weapons and biotic powers which, depending on how you use them, give you a number of different ways to kill the enemies which have you completely outnumbered. Each set of enemies you take down, depending on how and how fast you kill them, will earn you credits to spend on things such as armour and weapon upgrades for your character.

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The controls of the game are fairly simple and are well explained at the beginning of the game. There is a massive contrast between combat and non combat controls, with the latter being fairly slow and relaxed while the other enables you to play lightning fast, taking down multiple enemies in rapid succession. Switching between weapons to get more style points for your kills and choosing which biotic powers to use is as simple as dragging in from the top corners of the screen, something which after a while of playing becomes almost automatic.

Overall this is a fantastic game which I would recommend to both fans of the Mass Effect series and just about anyone else who enjoys shooter games with a great storyline.

Mass Effect Infiltrator, Android (£3.71) and iOS (69p)
Download it from Google Play and the App Store

How Football Manager took over my life

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Xavier Voigt-Hill:

Our friend Will Halse of footykicks explains how a simple game is ruining his productivity. Replace Football Manager with Cricket Coach and it’s basically the same story for me as well.

Originally posted on footykicks:

As I sit here writing this, I have just won promotion with Brighton from the Championship to the Premier League in Football Manager, and it has taken 20 hours of my life to do this. Those twenty hours have come when I am supposed to be revising, or doing something constructive, but yet I have chosen to play this game. But why is it so addictive?

To be honest I’m not really sure. I think that there is something addictive in leading a club to glory, or battling to the death in a relegation scrap, and coming out on top. Grabbing the next big star for 100k and transforming him into a ‘leading Premier League striker’ feels great. But don’t worry, if you’ve played Football Manager before, you are not alone in this. We all know what it is like to lie in bed playing around with formations and future…

View original 577 more words

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard review

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After not too long a wait, Bethesda has graced us with yet more dragon vampire killing fun in the form of the first DLC pack for our best game of 2011, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, best known as the source of repetitive internet jokes which have prompted numerous angry blog posts. Under the title of Dawnguard, this add-on not only gives an extra 6 hours of gameplay but also makes a number of slight additions and improvements to an already great game.

On the whole, Dawnguard’s storyline is not fantastic but it’s still a good addition to one of the best games out there. The quests are fun, with a good mixture of murder, carnage and even the occasional puzzle, the new characters are interesting and in all honesty fun to interact with and, most importantly for an RPG, the storyline is good.  My major complaint with Dawnguard is the fact that there is no variety in what you have to do. Just like the rest of Skyrim, each quest is simply run here, kill/steal/Fus Ro Dah this, come back, repeat, and while this can be fun for short periods, I found that after about an hour of gameplay I began to become bored. It would have been nice for a Bethesda to make at least a little differentiation between Skyrim and Dawnguard, but alas no.

While the main storyline is at worst disappointing, the rest of the DLC is far superior. There are numerous minor changes to the general gameplay which make the whole experience feel much better than it did before. My favourite addition is that of horseback fighting, as nothing feels better than charging through battle, firing slow motion arrows from the back of your horse. This, along with dragon bone weapons, werewolf and vampire perk trees and other such improvements makes for a significant improvement for an already superb game.

Overall, Dawnguard is decent. While the storyline and quests are not what they could have been, everything else that comes along side the questline makes Dawnguard in my eyes worth the money, despite the high price tags. The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim: Dawnguard is available now for 1600 Microsoft Points (£13.71) from the Xbox Marketplace and for £13.99 on PC via Steam, while Bethesda is said to be ‘not satisfied yet‘ with Dawnguard’s performance on PlayStation 3, and have decided to hold back its release until they can ensure that it will not worsen users experiences in the Skyrim world.