Past Rants, Raves & Views

Vodafone launches Freedom Freebees with select handsets

All available now on Vodafone PAYG with Freedom Freebees

All pay as you go phones come ready for customers to take advantage of their great value Freebees, which include a choice of free minutes, text and web access or international calls 

www.vodafone.co.uk/freebees.

 Every pay as you go customer is also automatically opted-in to Freebee Rewardz.

Every time a pay as you go customer tops up as little as £5, they’ll receive a text giving them a voucher code. They can then go online to ‘grab’ an instant reward or bank them as ‘grow’ points, to save up for something bigger.www.vodafone.co.uk/rewardz

Customers can choose from a wide selection of rewards including big name discounts from brands such as Thorntons and BLOCKBUSTER, music downloads and free minutes or choose to take a mystery reward, which could be anything from a smoothie maker to an iPhone. Alternatively, customers can collect points towards vouchers and experience days.

Vodafone 354

If you want an easy-to-use phone that’s great for social networking and web access, choose the Vodafone 354 with full QWERTY keypad. Available now for £25 PAYG, the 354 has Facebook built in, so you can update your status or upload photos in seconds.

BlackBerry Curve 9360

Get Wi-Fi and improved web browsing on the thinnest BlackBerry Curve smartphone yet. Available now for £225 PAYG, the BlackBerry 7 OS makes this smartphone faster and smoother to use, perfect for keeping up with friends and family wherever you are. It has social network feeds and pre-installed apps such as Twitter and Facebook.

Samsung GALAXY Y

The Samsung GALAXY Y is an easy-to-use touchscreen smartphone. Its 3” screen responds quickly to taps and swipes, so you can access everything you need in a flash. Available now for £100 PAYG, the smartphone also gives you several homescreens where you can put icons and shortcuts to the things you use most often – so you could have favourite contacts on one screen, and news and weather widgets on another.

HTC Explorer

The curved and compact HTC Explorer features a 3.2” HVGA touchscreen and 3MP camera. Available now for £130 PAYG, it’s also loaded with HTC Sense, featuring amongst other things, a customisable active lock screen so you can keep up to date with the latest feeds without needing to unlock the screen.

The Nunchuk

I don’t know why, I just don’t like it.

I’m a big fan of the Wii, and as a result I play a lot of Wii games as both a reviewer and gaming nut. Obviously there are a lot of bad titles out there, and at times you feel as if you’re digging through a rotten haystack of gaming mediocrity, trying to find a diamond needle that makes all the other pap worthwhile. But overall, the Wii’s a lovely little console, that despite its flaws I’d hate to be without. But the one thing about the Wii that annoys me more than all the bad titles put together, is the Nunchuk. Man, how I hate it.

All blood and thunder

Predator is a brilliant film.

I say this under advisement. I'm not averse to more arthouse fare on occasion, but as far as 80s action films go, Predator is right up there. It's not every fella that can make Schwarzenegger look like a 90 pound stripling, after all. More importantly the Predator character, such as he is, plays right into the omnipotence complexes that we gamers often have. It's all very well to run and gun, but I always gain far more satisfation from the 400-yard headshot. Patience. Awareness. Strategy, not tactics. 

For me, the Predator is just about the most silkily slick killer in contemporary sci-fi. So why is it that every game I've ever played the bugger in imbues him with all the grace and poise of a one-legged reject from Strictly Come Dancing?

Predator: Concrete Jungle

is the most notable offender, making the management of the cloaked killing machine about as much fun as thumb-wrestling Jimmy Giant Thumbs while wearing sandpaper boxer shorts. But

Alien V Predator

, Rebellion's new offering, makes plenty of mis-steps too. Don't get me wrong... the game is not bad at all and plugs into a particularly primal spot on my fun gland. But there's not a developer I can think of who's brought balletic grace to the big fella.

Why can't old Dreadlocks flit seamlessly from vantage point to vantage point? Batman can. Rikimaru from Tenchu can. Sam bloody Fisher can. Maybe that's the fallacy. Concrete Jungle went so horribly wrong because it worried too much about the arsenal of weaponry... spear, disc, and all that jazz. At his (its?) heart, the Predator is a ninja, albeit a 200 kilo one with exotic alien weaponry. He's not for charging headlong into a pack of goons and steamrollering the lot of them... he's for sitting on a branch 200 feet up and decoying individual goons away from the pack and into a gory death, to be recorded on an alien 8-track and played back later to a Sergeant Mac while he's having a psychotic episode.

To be fair, the new game makes some efforts to address this... you're basically a stealth character. At the same time, you do suffer from TMSS... too much stuff syndrome. You have loads of take-down options and it can feel a little overwhelming, and with slightly clunky response on the controls, that hoped-for dimension of sheer alien slick-ass badness is taken away.

I'm looking forward to really getting into AvP as a multiplayer proposition. I really am. I can't help it if, deep down, I want to be a space ninja.

--

Rob Hobson

HTC Legend Bested by bad-ass Desire

It's difficult to say that the HTC Legend is going to be anything other than fantastic, for starters it's an HTC and it's the replacement to the Hero- a phone legendary in its own right. So imagine Phonica's excitement when HTC announced a new, higher spec product at MWC.

The spanking new Desire - the official name for the much guessed at Bravo – is a phone with some very antiquated ancestry. This phone is a direct descendent of the aspirational Google Nexus One. In HTC's traditional manner, they've realised the flaws with a Google branded product and announced a new one that's just better.

Android 2.1, 5MP camera with LED photo light, pinch to zoom, flash web pages, 1GHz processor and an optical trackball all come to the party with the HTC Desire- it's certainly got Phonica feeling a little covetous. Add to the mix the newly incorporated multi-screen view a-la Sony Xperia X1 and the Sense UI aesthetic upgrade and you have the next phone you wish you could afford.

The great news is that the Desire is reportedly going to be cheaper than the Google Nexus One and Orange and T-Mobile have already announced that the Desire will be free on certain contracts. Have HTC just killed the mobile market? Not if Samsung Bada has anything to say about it...

Project Needlemouse Gets to the Point

Finally. What we've been waiting for since 1994. On Thursday 4th February 2010, Sega extricated the title of their latest hot topic.

Sonic the Hedgehog 4.

Now if that isn’t the last propaganda technique in this title, I’ll eat my Megadrive. Now let’s not write this off before it’s even test-worthy. Ok, so Sega have released a clip of about 1 second of mock-up gameplay, and it looks very promising. Even to get the most sceptical non-believers tapping their keyboards in anticipation of finding a second trailer clip. The part I’m worried about is the full title: Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. Excuse moi? Episode? What is this, Sonic or Star Wars? It’s well known to avid followers by now that this title is slated for a summer release as DLC. You may think this limits the game size so that the game must be broken down into more modem-befriending, byte-sized segments. However, please Sega, couldn't you have been more creative? Take Sonic the Hedgehog 3 for example. Those of you like me will happily remember that this game featured two “episodes”, Sonic 3 and Sonic and Knuckles. Very clever. Split the game in half, sell it twice, the kiddies get a sequel to sonic 3 in 8

months after the release, everyone’s happy…

Well. This time it’s tasting a bit bland. Ok, so I’m literally sweating in anticipation for Sonic 4, and what 16-Bit nutter isn’t? All I ask is- please Sega, take a look back at 1991, 1992 and 1994 and do it that way; or even browse 1993, where Sonic CD gave the relatively lucky few a taste of 90’s techno and time travelling!

One verdict can be assured, whether the game will get all the chaos emeralds, or spindash straight into a pit of spikes, it is sure to leave a lasting impression on Sega’s reputation. This is their Death Egg, their chance for victory, or Sonic’s Game Over.

Mark Hogan

Phones to Watch at the Mobile World Congress

Barcelona's Mobile World Congress is the Mecca of mobile phone enthusiasts everywhere. Yes it does sound a lot like a boring political meet and greet but trust us, there's nothing Gordon Brown about this congress. Once a year all eyes turn to Spain's sexiest city to whet our appetites for the newest and greatest mobile phones in store for the year ahead. With one particular superpower of mobile never making an appearance with their newest phone, MWC might be missing the fervour of an Apple release but it will certainly have more than a few head turners. Here's our roundup of what to expect and who to look out for in Barcelona.

Android big boss (too much MGS) HTC is likely to show a few of it's future smartphone of the year contenders. The two main suspects are the Bravo and the Supersonic- the Bravo will surely be an all round powerhouse with a name like that- and the rumoured Sense UI sprucing up the look of the standard Android interface together with an optical trackball is a very exciting prospect indeed. I'll be willing to bet that the Supersonic will be a speed demon- with that name sounding very similar to the brand positioning of the nippy Samsung Jet.

Acer are boasting the E110, but we can forgive the retro name if it runs anything near as good as it looks. It's a very pretty phone and one which won't be overlooked as the most stylish entry of the Acer mobile catalogue and probably the first real reason to get your hands on one.

There's also the lovely looking Samsung Wave, the thematically contiguous host of the new Bada platform (with Bada meaning ocean in Korean). Many a journalist will be busting a gut to get to grips with this new OS; it'll be very exciting to find out if this new entry onto the smartphone OS market can boast any features which make it a real contender among the dons- iPhone 3.0, Android 2.1 and WebOS. With a blistering 1GHz processor on board the Wave will be quick but lets hope they put all that power to good use. We'll find out soon.

We'll be updating the blog with all the big MWC news so keep an eye out for new blog action.

Music to your 5.1 ears

How can one little cable bring so much ear-bursting happiness?

Like most film nuts, I always watch my DVDs via a big screen and through surround sound system. The picture is impressive, but what makes any film truly come alive is 5.1. Everything is so much clearer and awe inspiring with surround sound, from the little SFX that twinkle around the room, to the clear speech and rip-roaring explosions. Surround sound just makes films come alive.

So what I’ve always wanted to do is link-up my surround sound amp and Xbox 360, and hear some of the games in glorious 5.1. But frustratingly, the 360 has no optical output, so I can’t connect and enjoy some ear-bashing goodness. Curse you Microsoft cheap-scats!

But this technical shortcoming hasn’t been a major issue for me. I’ve always used the standard TV speakers, or if necessary slapped-on a pair of headphones. It’s not perfect, but it’ll do, and you’d be surprised at how well a pair of headphones can deliver. But recently I brought a PS3 – which has an optical output – and gave that a blast around the system. The results were fantastic. Well, I say fantastic, I’ve only got the one game at present (Resistance: Fall of Man), but it gave me a taste of what surround sound could do for a game, and vice-versa. So, I dived face-first into the web, and went in search of a way to get surround sound out of an Xbox 360.

Disappointingly, this isn’t going to be an epic tale of one mans enlightening experience of self discovery, filled with struggle, pain, adventure and torment. After a couple of brief clicks of a mouse and a sip of Ovaltine, I found a suitable cable on Amazon. No intricate technical operation was need, no expensive parts, not even a new console. Nope, just £12.99 and two days in the post. Why didn’t I do this 4 years ago?

Choice of one

Why is GTA4 still the only sandbox game worth playing?

One thing we’re not short of in the world of gaming is choice. There are quite literally hundreds of thousands of games available today, with every title fighting to be the number one of its respective genre. But most genres don’t have a definite number one title. For instance, if you want to play a really good FPS, you can go for Half-Life 2, Bioshock, Modern Warfare 2, Halo, Killzone 2, plus many others. If you want a racer, then there’s the Forza series, the Gran Turismo series, the Colin McRae series. Fancy some 3rd Person action? Then there’s Uncharted 2, Batman: Arkham Asylum, Fable 2, Gears of War. I could go on listing games until my digits are worn away to stumps, but you get the idea. With most genres, there’s no clear ‘Big Cheese’, just a lot of similarly excellent Babybels.

Peter Moore on 3D gaming

EA Sports boss on how 3D TV will help gaming

Last weekend, Sky Sports showed a live event for the first time, in 3D. Sunday’s title clash between fierce rivals Manchester United and Arsenal was shown in several pubs around the UK, exclusively in 3D. This technology is expected to be available for all Sky HD subscribers by April, with events such as films, live sports and TV shows getting the 3D treatment. This is great news for 3D fans, and all I can say is, “the reds go marching on!”

But how is 3D technology going to affect gaming? There was the classic Virtual Boy console in the mid 90s, and various other toe-dips since, but gaming has never truly embraced 3D. In a recent interview with CVG, EA Sports boss Peter Moore had this to say.

"As James Cameron did with Avatar at the movies, you've got to build [games] from the ground up with 3D in mind.

"None of the games I've seen [so far] have been built that way - they've been regular games running in 3D. The real secret sauce will be when somebody says: 'I'm going to build this game specifically for a 3D platform.'"

Games such as Invisible Tiger have showcased (albeit on a very basic level) what 3D can do to a game, and what it can bring to the gameplay. The game tie-in for Avatar also showcased some very impressive 3D visuals, and if you search the web you’ll find a whole host of video clips of 3D games. But what about the future, and what have EA got up their sleeves? Moore had this to say;

"I'm not making any announcements, but it's no coincidence that of the 3D [TV] broadcasts I've seen in the last two years, I can count the NBA All-Star event in Las Vegas, while ESPN has announced 3D programming - perhaps even a full channel. There have also been a number of announcements around the [football] World Cup, with some games broadcast in 3D.

"This is reminiscent of where we were with HD five or six years ago. It seems like a lifetime ago now, but you'd go to CES and be in awe of HD - and it was sports games that showed up the technology.

"I think there's great opportunity for EA to bring sports to life in unbelievably imaginative ways, once we can grasp what 3D means to us."

Fingers crossed we see some 3D gaming soon, and double fingers crossed (if that’s possible without losing a digit) that it’ll be better than the red and black torture that was the Virtual Boy. I still can’t see greens…..is grass still green?

Scott Tierney

Brothers in Arms

Preview

Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front

Publishers: Gameloft

Developers: Gameloft

Format: iPhone, iPod

Available: February

Great game, but do FPS’s really work on the iPhone?

Although the original Brothers in Arms game was an iPhone hit, I personally wasn’t a huge fan. Not that it wasn’t a good game, it was. It had some compelling sections of breathless action, the graphics were solid, and shooting people in the face while on a bus-ride home was always fun. But personally I just don’t think FPS’s or TPS’s work on the iPhone. We’ll come back to that in a minute, but for now, let’s have a run-through of Gameloft’s latest offering- Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front.

Brothers in Arms 2 has been improved in every department, making it far superior (in terms of stats anyway) to the original. Whereas BIA1 had three environments, this new version has five; Pacific, North Africa, Italy, Normandy and Germany. Sadly, Ardennes (home of the mighty pate) has been dropped. BIA1 also had approximately three hours of playtime, while BIA2 has six. Other features such as more levels and more vehicles are also on show. They should have called it Brothers in Arms X2.

Another feature that impresses, and could become the making of BIA2, is the multiplayer. The original didn’t come with this option, so it’s a big deal for BIA2. Now instead of just playing through the game on your own, you can join a group of like-minded souls, and get some WW2-style killing done. There’s no co-op mode, but a deathmatch should still make for some interesting gameplay. Whether it’ll work in practice, with possible connection problems being a worrying vulture hovering above, is yet to be seen. But hopefully it will, and it should make those bus-rides home more enjoyable. And noisy.

During our playtest we were quite impressed with BIA2’s gameplay. It wasn’t mind-blowing, and as usual the visuals were a bit higgledy piggledy, but it was good fun. There were plenty of baddies to shoot, the areas were well laid out and sound-wise the action sounded intense. There were some clever set pieces also, such as a plane crashing right into the battlezone. Little touches like that add real depth to a game, and take it beyond a dumb ‘bang bang’ shooter.

But the main problem we had, and one that I personally still believe is the reason why FPS’s on the iPhone don’t work, is that the controls were extremely fiddly. Layout-wise, they were OK, with the movement cursor at the bottom-left of the screen, and the shoot button on the right. But the basic task of moving around was a real problem. To aim, you had to rub your finger around the screen, and to walk you had to rub the cursor at the bottom. There was an awful lot of inconvenient work involved, and that doesn’t include shooting and selecting weapons, whilst getting shot at.

FPS’s on iPhone’s just don’t work. There’s too much to do, the controls are fiddly and numb, and you’ll just end up running into enemy fire while looking at your shoelaces. Not that Brothers in Arms 2: Global Front isn’t a good game, it’s probably about as good as it gets. But it’s shackled by the awkward control system, which isn’t advanced enough to deal with so many variations. Just leave the FPS’s to the big boys, iPhone, and stick to what you’re good at, like point-and-clicks, racing sims and puzzles.

Scott Tierney

The Lure of Lucas

Star Wars: The Old Republic

I have never played an MMO. There. I've said it. I make no apologies. I find World of Warcraft less appealing than turtle porn, to be honest, and EVE Online (whilst admirable in its ambitions) seemed to demand that I get involved in some sort of guild or power bloc. As a Chelsea fan whose allegiance predates the Russian era, I have enough hang-ups about how I offer my loyalty.

However, Bioware recently released a bit more info about their upcoming MMO Star Wars: The Old Republic, and I watched some video of developers and designers talking earnestly about the difference between Sith Warriors (basically Darth Vader) and Sith Inquisitors (the Emperor). And my family jewels started to tingle.

Perhaps it's my lack of imagination. I struggle with creating "me" characters. I went with a Dark Elf for my first run-through of Oblivion, and all I could think was... why do I have purple skin? As for Dragon Age, I've tried Elven Rogue and Human Mage and both felt odd. I just struggle to picture myself in leather bondage armour or a bloody skirt.

Sith Inquisitor, though, feels different.

Yes, I'm a sneaky bastard. And yes, I'm not above a little chicanery and deception to get my way. Alright, so I don't own much in the way of flowing

robes, but I do this thing for my girlfriend with a bedsheet and a... never mind. Thing is, I'd rather be the Emperor than Darth Vader, or Han Solo, or any of them for that matter. I'd probably look after my skin a bit better, though. Galactic Emperors can surely afford a tube of Clinique every now and then. The point I'm making is that it feels right, from my point of view. I like the idea of a little less combat and a little more evil persuasion. I like the idea of telling the goon with the lightsabre where to go and who to slaughter. Hey, I usually root for the bad guy. Screw Superman - who, by the way, I can't stand - let me be Lex Luthor any day. I want to be Gene Hackman in the Quick and the Dead. I want to be Agent Smith. I want to be Ra's al-Ghul, the Joker and Tyler Durden.

I want to be evil.

So see you at the Jedi Academy? I'll be the Sith Lord slaughtering apprentices with a wicked gleam in my eye, a song in my heart... and surprisingly good skin.

Monopoly

Publisher: Electronic Arts

Let The game Begin!

Developer: Venan Entertainment

Format: iPhone, iPod Touch

Money is power...and so is property !

Monopoly, monopoly. It's a popular board game known to all. Brought back childhood memories: unwrapping Mr. Monopoly from under the tree, eager to play my first game only to lose horribly, retreating crying to my room vowing it was the worst present ever. Years later I decided to face my fear and pick up a copy Wii and later decided to get the iPhone version. While the copy for the Wii has the Classic and World Edition together on the iPhone platform it's two separate versions...how capitalist of EA!

Oi, shouldn’t you be dead?

Why is a perfectly aimed headshot not always followed by death?

Here's a little question to get your brain a' grinding. What happens when you get shot in the head? The long answer is that there's a bloody fireworks display that coats the room in claret and traumatizes nearby children. The basic and far shorter answer, is that you die. In real life this is not only a rule, but an unavoidable law of the universe that we are all bound by. But in the land of video games, the laws are not so strict, and the repercussions even less so.

The other day I was playing the joyous Uncharted: Drakes Fortune (yes I know I'm late to the party, but I brought wine). It’s a cracking adventure that thrills and excites in boundless ways, but there is one little problem that bugs the hell out of me. When baddies take a well aimed bullet to the head, they often survive. Even on the easy setting (I said I brought wine, what's the problem?) the bullet-begging bad guys can often take a shot to the face, and then seconds later start firing again. It maybe just me, but this drives me mental.

You’ve just fired a piece of metal the size of a baby carrot, at nearly the speed of sound, into a human’s (not an alien, mutant or Terminator’s) face, but they haven’t died, and you’re left screaming “You cannot be serious, the bullet was on the spine, blood flew up!”

There are numerous other games when this crime against gaming humanity happens. Rogue Warrior (terrible game anyway), Just Cause, Gears of War (those Locust were tough though), Fallout 3 (again, those Super Mutants were tough), Far Cry, Kane and Lynch, even the exceptional Half-Life 2 has this problem.

iPad Will Change the Technology World

 

PhonicaMagUK is normally focused on mobile and games technology. Apple is a key topic in our writing because of the innovative and exceptional iPhone, the fantastically capable touch device which revolutionised the way we view handheld technology. Now Apple has announced the iPad, a crossover device somewhere between an iPhone and a Macbook- and it's the most exciting piece of technology the world has ever seen.

Imagine that we once used to interact with our computer with a clunky mouse, our computer stuck to the wall with wires and its monitor equally immovable.

Those days are gone. We don't even need a keyboard anymore. Apple's iPad is a revolutionary tablet computer which enables the user to manipulate everyday workloads with their hands, browse the full internet at arms length, purchase digital books, videos and music on the move and all of this for just $499.

There's a lot to tell about the new iPad, the first thing to explain is the reason it's appearing on a games and mobile phones blog. As the first piece of technology to incorporate all of the tech from one of our favourite phones, the 3GS, into a computing device- and the first piece of tech to allow usage of all the current apps on App Store on anything other than an iPhone or iPod Touch, and a product that will use 3G communication for data, this whole new category of product is directly related to everything Phonica holds dear. In fact it is a new territory and deserves its own space on the current tech landscape.

Right between the Cells

The PS3 - yes, I am an owner - has had its little pants pulled down. No longer can Sony boast proudly of having the only inviolable console on the market. George Hotz - hacker alias Geohot - has seen to that. If you're a hacker or technowhiz and you want to read it straight from the horse's mouth, here you go. If you're not and you don't, I'll do my best to break it down for you.

First up, Hotz is not a hacker in the crappy 90s movie sense. He claims he's doing everything for research purposes, as this little excerpt makes clear.

"If you have a slim and are complaining this hack won't work for you, stop reading now. WE DO NOT CONDONE PIRACY, NOR WILL WE EVER. If you are looking for piracy, stop reading now."

Hotz claims to have access to the Hypervisor, which is low-level code designed to monitor the operating system and run the PS3's hardware. If this is true, there's really no way round this for Sony (or, indeed, Microsoft, who use something almost identical to manage the XBox 360s security) short of changing the hardware. He can stop the basic code from trying to run calls, effectively turning off all the box's internal security. He can create his own calls and get the code to run them. Memory access and rewrite is pretty much sewn up.

The hack, as Hotz himself admits, is not complete. And bad news for those of you hoping for pirated copies of MAG to start turning up on torrents this week: that may well remain impossible. Hotz has the Cell processor more or less where he wants it, but the Blu-Ray drive is another matter. While X-Box has always had security issues due to unencrypted firmware on their last-gen DVD drives, we're told that PS3's Blu-Ray can have its security amended with a firmware update. Then there's the encryption on the actual Blu-Ray discs, which - as far as we know - remains inviolate.

Still, it's a start. It's certainly not what Sony wants to hear, particularly as Hotz is planning to publish elements of his decryption of the PS3's SPUs to his blog to let others play around with them.

This one's going to run, kids. Keep an eye out.

Rob Hobson

Light at the End of the Tunnel for Perfect Dark

Yes, the long awaited (and traditionally delayed) Perfect Dark is almost upon us, the latest revamp of this slice of cult retro gaming is only weeks away from its Xbox Live Arcade release with unofficial sources claiming the classic hit could be released as soon as Wednesday 27th January.

The iconic Nintendo 64 FPS has been completely reworked by 4j Studios, visually the game is substantially revitalised from the original game with all-new eye-licking and pin-sharp textures and resolutions, without an expansion pak in sight….

In case you haven’t seen the 60-or-so high definition screenshots then try to picture this: immaculate attention to detail, high resolution textures and vibrant colours, no more monotone backdrops. This really is day and night versus the Nintendo original, and of course, a Joanna Dark to lust over.

Lovers of the original will breathe a sigh of relief to hear none of the original game’s features have been dropped; only extra attributes will be added such as online play. All that without a stumble of slowdown, 4j Studios have promised a framerate more deserving of the game.

Maybe this time all of the niggles and rough edges will be wrought out of this stunning game to make a worthy competitor on 360 to rival the mighty Halo? You can be the judge.

Right now I’m digging out my N64 to get practicing, I wouldn’t want a proper pasting on my first online deathmatch.

Get ready to load up your Farsight and shoot someone through a brick wall, this is set to be the best game to hit XBLA for a long time.

Here I come to save the day!

Do we take the simple function of saving for granted?

The other day I was replaying a childhood classic, Sonic 2. Ah, Sonic, you old devil, how time hasn’t aged you a day. The gameplay is still as fast and as enjoyable as ever, the tunes still set my toes ‘a tapping, and although this is a game that’s over 16 years old, it still looks reasonably good. Even after all these years, it still knows how to tickle those gaming happy-sacks.

I was up to level 8 (Metropolis), but by this point all the emerald collecting and baddie smashing had taken its affect, and I was starting to grow drowsy. So, I do what I normally do at quarter past four in the afternoon, and prepare to save-up and get ready for bed. But at that moment, I remembered something truly shocking. In Sonic 2, you can’t save your game! All those hours wasted, with no returnable reward or return. I’ve either got to keep playing, or quit and start all over again. So I did what any self respecting games journalist would do, and cried myself to sleep.

Tablet computing could bring major changes in gaming

With Microsoft announcing the Slate tablet PC at CES and Apple’s long-rumoured tablet Mac expected this Spring, 2010 could be the year that tablet computing really takes off. Both Microsoft and Apple are promising to pack the power of a laptop into the much smaller chassis of a tablet computer. While there is some reason to be sceptical about either company being able to successfully combine power and good battery life, if they do live up to their promises, the devices could be interesting new gaming platforms.

Before last year, it was hard to imagine an Apple launch being interesting for gamers at all but the iPod Touch has changed all that. Apple is now pushing the device as a handheld platform and suddenly the idea of playing games on an Apple product doesn’t seem so weird. Since tablet computers will rely on similar touch screen technology to the Touch and there is the possibility of an Apple tablet using the app store, there is already a strong stable of developers who would no doubt delight at adapting their games, and developing new ones, for a more powerful computer with a much bigger screen.

Rockstar San Diego called out on bad business practices

On 8 Jan 2010 the wives of the developers at Rockstar San Diego wrote an open letter to the popular gaming website Gamasutra regarding the business practices and conditions that their husbands were being forced to endure.

Management at Rockstar San Diego apparently has notched the deal up by enforcing 12 hour work days, including on Saturday, with false promises of compensation time. Not to mention the cut in vacation time, medical benefits and the loss of overtime pay completely.

Legal action is threatened although the letter had stated that they wished for their letter to be the catalyst for change. Diagnosed cases of depression and suicidal tendencies are mentioned, with the conditions at work severely affecting family life and their health.