Author - Ripper71

A Look at the 2022 Creation Entertainment Star Trek Las Vegas Convention

My favorite convention to attend every year is Creation Entertainment’s Star Trek Las Vegas. We take time off from work, put aside some money for the vendors and squeeze every minute we can out of very full days of stars among the stars. It is the place to go for all things Trek.

This year the convention took place at a new location, Bally’s on The Las Vegas Strip, and though the layout wasn’t optimal it didn’t stop a sell-out year of attendance. Whether on a stage or in the exhibitors, hall everyone was so happy to see each other and the interactions were stellar as usual. Fans got to chat while getting autographs or photos. The big Trek names got to interact individually with fans at their tables but to the whole convention in the main hall. Walter Koenig worked the stage with a very grandfather feel, George Takei made us laugh and feel heart felt sentiments as he talked about not just Trek experiences but how the lost members of the original series impacted his life. Kate Mulgrew is still our Captain Janeway and still has the gusto to keep captaining, and of course William Shatner was… well William Shatner. I doubt he will ever change. You didn’t have to be a bridge officer to be entertaining though. Ron Perlman and John Noble also handled the stages by themselves and were definite fan favorites. Ron Perlman in particular was having a terrific time up on stage and kept cracking himself up. A lot of people go to the convention for autographs mainly but stay for panels.

There are two main ways to get autographs and photos at the convention, one is through a sign-up system where you go into a separate room for the meetup and the other is at tables throughout the exhibitor’s hall. Each has its benefits but one of my favorite things about exhibit hall signing is the celebrity can work at their own pace, chat with people and take much more candid pics than the professional quality ones offered by Creative Entertainment. You can also walk by and see how they interact with their fans. Special kudos to celebs like Doug Jones, Garrett Wang and Michelle Hurd were definitely prime examples of how warmly they can treat their fans. Garrett Wang has impressed me this way every year I have attended and I look forward to it again next year, he always takes time for the fans and you can tell how much he cares about them by his interactions with them.

The exhibitor’s hall has a wide variety of booths and sci-fi/fantasy stars of just about all fandoms. There was Will and Holly from the Land Of The Lost as well as Star Trek Wines and the local Las Vegas Star Trek cosplayers. Star Wars is even welcome though don’t be too surprised it you take a little good natured ribbing. Then again the cardboard costumes can be fun too. They were even selling special pillows to help you sleep better and dream amongst the stars.

The only slight damper on an otherwise amazing show would be the convention space itself. The main theater seemed quite a bit smaller this year as well as having two of the theaters on the 26th floor of Ballys. The casino did set aside express elevators up to them but people would leave the big theater to go to something upstairs at about the same time so that even with the express there would be long lines and grumbling fans who probably should have went up sooner. I wouldn’t be surprised if STLV ends up back at its old location next year which seemed to have more than enough convention space and free parking.

Creation Entertainment’s Star Trek Las Vegas convention is one of the best meetups of starry eyed fans and friendly stars out there and though the root of the convention is Star Trek, it embraces fans of all types of entertainment and fandoms definitely embodying the ideals of the Federation.

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Starship Troopers Terran Command Review

Come on you apes, you want to live forever?!? I found myself yelling this that at my computer screen as I started my first campaign in Starship Troopers Terran Command and I was still making Starship Troopers appropriate comments right up until writing this review. The question is does the game call out to non-fans and fanatics alike? Let’s find out! Ripper’s Roughnecks! Roll out! Hoorah!

It would be very easy to miss a lot of the satire in the game if the player doesn’t have a fair knowledge of the material the game is based off. First a very famous book, then a series of infamous movies and even a collection of great cartoons. Dark Horse even puts out multiple Starship Troopers comics all to try and bring the bug worlds to life. With all that history a couple games would be expected to pop up from time to time so Terran Command almost seems a little late to the party but properly loaded with satire. As they say though better late than never. Would you like to know more?

Starship Troopers Terran Command is a single player, real-time strategy game. Gameplay consists of playing the Mobile Infantry through a campaign with each scenario/map unlocking for replay once you start it. There are five levels of difficulty which are damage based: at easiest your weapons do 2X damage, normal is 1X and hardest is .5X. So gameplay and enemy damage remains the same no matter which difficulty which works well when trying to train yourself on play by starting easiest and working your way up, making for great replayability of both the campaign and the maps. The maps are well designed with interesting topography that allows for chokepoints and other strategic attacks and defenses. One of the more interesting mechanics are Clear Line of Sight and Clear Line of Fire when it comes to fighting. If you have two squads of rifleman side by side neither one of them can shoot through their neighboring squad without killing them so if you try to they freeze up and a red mark appears over their heads. Moving until they have a True Line of Sight which can be done by a different squad formation or more interestingly put them on higher or lower ground gives squads a better chance to help.

You don’t have to keep all of your men alive (unless that’s the mission) you just need to keep one man in the squad alive and you can even lose and recapture bases as long as you maintain your objectives. You can also refill your infantry squad when available, save games when you feel like it as well as autosave often and change difficulty on the fly. Game controls are mostly traditional real-time strategy style and game physics for the most part are what strategy players are used to.

The graphics and audio are really important in this game since nostalgia for the franchise will attract most of the players at first who always wanted to stomp on some Arachnids. The ships and infantry are well rendered with even their click comments sounding fresh out of the films and cartoons. It is definitely immersive and time flies when you’re on a bug hunt. You don’t have to know anything about the Starship Troopers world to play and enjoy the game but it does help to know the acting is supposed to be over-the-top. Even the cutscenes which are done as motion comics are filled with patriotic music, smooth voiceover and smiling troopers with their limbs still on. On the topic of graphics and troopers when you lose one in a battle you can zoom in and actually see them go in a manner you would expect from the movies, explosions and gore galore. I could say more but we need boots on the ground out there, mount up!

The main drawback in Terran Command is that there are only single player campaigns with no plans to go multiplayer at this point in time. As far as I know there are also no plans to make an Arachnid campaign which fans will be getting gung-ho for so hopefully that will show up in an expansion. If a player isn’t really into Starship Troopers this game may not hold their attention as long as this game really feels like a love letter from the fans to the fans who will love it even if they wish for a multiplayer or bug campaign. On a big plus side, in a game about bugs I didn’t see any technical ones.

Word of mouth from lovers of the Mobile Infantry should bring in fresh boots for bug stomping as well as Starship Troopers fans lining up to serve. Starship Troopers-Terran Command is a traditional RTS at its core but the game feels like Starship Troopers through and through. I will be going back to Starship Troopers Terran Command on a regular basis to get some, and to do my part because service guarantees citizenship!

Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure Pinball FX Review

I remember seeing Raiders of the Lost Ark in the movie theaters, multiple times. It was a scary adventure movie with great stunts, snappy dialogue and epic music, what more could a kid ask for? At age 10 I soaked it in and wanted more which I got through the other movies, even the fourth one that shall not be named had moments. Then add to that the fact that I was a pinball addict from the age of six and it was only a matter of time before it made a Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup move to mix one of my favorite silver screen sagas with my favorite gaming experience for two great tastes that taste great together. The board did the series justice but these days with COVID-19 still around and social distancing especially a pinball machine that every player puts their hands on then suddenly playing at home is really the smartest move. But how many of us can afford to have pinball in our homes? Well it’s as close as your console or Steam these days in the form of Zen Studios Pinball FX 3, though there is the concern: can pinball be fun virtually with virtual physics? We ran Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure through the paces to let you know!

If the original board isn’t that impressive then a virtual board of it definitely wouldn’t be that exciting so luckily that is far from the case with this table. The real world version didn’t miss an opportunity to bring an aspect of the series to life in every bumper, flipper and plunger. The artwork on the cabinet looks like a title sequence for “Indiana Jones” and the score section of the cabinet has art inspired by the first three movies and is designed to look like one of the movie posters and does an amazing job of it. The plunger control, instead of just being the post of the plunger getting pulled back is Indy’s pistol and you pull the trigger to launch the ball. It then goes out on a beautiful table that plays between medium-fast down the table with a decently long surface. There are little “toys” that move through throughout the board adding to the adventure with reprised voice roles and original music from the trilogy. As a table it has always been a favorite and luckily available at a couple playable museums we visit.

Virtually the developers made sure to work all the important aspects of the original table with some additions only available on a virtual table. There are a couple different modes to play, one is the original where they went through and reproduced all of the important aspects of the original trying to make sure all the physics match exactly what happens on the real board. If you could get a pinball controller with flippers and a plunger that would probably be the only way to make it feel more realistic without being, well, real. This is definitely preferred by the hardcore pinball players who like to do tournaments and multiplayer play because the real world physics go right down to the ball which let me say is the very key to a good pinball game. If the ball doesn’t perform right the game won’t last and there have been plenty of pinball playing disasters that plagued the early days of virtual silver balling. Pinball FX was one of the first to pull it off and they are now known for it with different companies licensing their tables through them. Pinball FX 3 comes with Fish Tales for free so if you want to check it out and make sure you trust the physics and the controls then it won’t cost you the price of one of the fancier tables and if you have any tables from Pinball FX 2 then they are backwards compatible with FX 3! The best version of the game with tables you already know, win-win.

 

Once you are comfortable with the physics and controls of Pinball FX 3 and feel comfortable committing to a table then Indian Jones: The Pinball Adventure is a great table to try as a first purchase, being one table it’s cheaper than a trio pack. Besides being physically accurate to the table there are multiple ways of playing, single player, multiplayer, hot seat and single player enhanced. Hot seat is when you hand the controller off to another player for up to 4 players just like multiplayer at an arcade, single player is just you and multiplayer is online play against people from all over the world for tournaments and achievements. If you don’t feel that strong about your playing there are practice modes and other settings you can do to make your play better and more competitive. The favorite way to play in our household is the enhanced tables where there are animated events that happen throughout the game that wouldn’t work in the real world. A great example are the two planes on the table. During real life play when they are triggered you hear a flying noise and maybe a little shake of the planes (or almost tilted, yes you can do that in this too), on the animated table the two planes fly across the screen. Indy uses his whip, the tank does special stuff and other things I don’t want to spoil but it really adds a lot to the game.

In this game pack there is only one table, more tables came out for the movies but this is a kind of greatest hits from the first three which works nicely for entry pricing, the larger Indy packs cost a bit more so this is a great starter, trust me, I already have my eye on one of the Universal table collections (Back To The Future, E.T., and Jaws, with Jaws being king in our house).

Pinball FX 3 Indian Jones: The Pinball Adventure is a great starter table to get used to virtual pinball while at the same time getting to live through and re-enact favorite moments from the original trilogy. If you play true blue physics and gameplay it will be the closest thing you can get to the actual table without leaving home or investing in a table at home, if you like extra fun features then you get to experience all the creative touches the design team added to the experience. You can play alone, home party style or with anyone anywhere which in these days of CoVid is not something to sneeze at, though if you are sneezing and coughing you might want to just stick to online for right now…

Evil Dead: The Game Review – Hail to the King

When it comes to previous Evil Dead games it’s hard to feel as much love as one wants to, especially with the earlier ones that became unplayable due to glitches corrupting the save files. So will Evil Dead: The Game take us to a groovy place chainsaws and deadites or will we find ourselves toying with hopes the Necronomicon sends the game through a portal to parts unknown?

The Necronomicon was first introduced by H.P. Lovecraft… nope! None of that background business. We are here to review the latest Evil Dead game which works off a system similar to Friday The 13th and Dead By Daylight where it’s an asymmetric game built of a team working for a common goal while dealing with a player enemy whose job it is to swallow their souls. It’s PvP in the sense that one player hits you with traps and enemies they summon for indirect fighting while a team of four players work together to find key items to advance the game such as the Necronomicon. Probably one of the best ways to describe it would be as an evil dungeon master setting up the environment on the fly to wipe out a team. The Survivor side feels a lot like Left 4 Dead but the Demon side has a kind of novel feel. It feels like map editing live against the players. The Demon side is addictive to play, messing with the other players game resulted in some laugh out loud moments. At one point I set a tree trap and when the players went by it nearly beat the soul out of them and it was hilarious.

To keep every match from feeling the same there are two types of skill level-ups: temporary and permanent. Throughout a map you collect things that improve the different aspects of the game temporarily improving range or melee or other things such as fear resistance. At the end of the match they all go away but the more matches you play the more permanent unlocks you can do for the character by leveling. Not having unlocks count across all of your characters helps keep the replay ability alive as well.

The characters are broken down into classes so that each player serves a role to help the group. The key to winning a match is teamwork and take roles you feel you can best use to help everyone. The Survivor characters are Leader (such as Lord Arthur), Warrior (such as Henry The Red), Hunter (such as Kelly Maxwell) and Support (such as Pablo Simon Bolivar) and each has its pluses and minuses. The Kandarian Demon classes are Necromancer (such as Evil Ash), Puppeteer (such as Eligos) and Warlord (such as Henrietta). Each class has their own Ash character as well so everyone won’t fight over the same one.

Evil Dead: The Game is, at its core, a multiplayer game with very little single player content: It is built for PvP. There is a choice to play the matches with an AI team but the AI could… use some help. That means it will rely on server population which can be hard to maintain, even games such as Call Of Duty have a hard time with that aspect. The game will mainly be played by fans of the series and those interested in the play style and that population then needs to be maintained through updates and additional map releases. That last part is particularly important because the maps in the game are large but look identical. ED fans will want other locales of the franchise such as SMart, the high school and Lord Arthur’s castle. The graphics are beautiful, the gore is over-the-top fun and hearing all the characters doing their one-liners is gold giving plenty of eye and ear candy to help. There is also a good amount of variety in the game with the different classes, traits, weapons and abilities to keep players distracted from lack of maps but eventually some new scenery is a must.

Evil Dead: The Game is a love letter to the Evil Dead franchise while being a fun player vs. team gaming experience. The atmosphere is there, the unique building options both during play through and character permanent stat builds help replay ability with plenty of good and evil character choices making the game an addictive experience. It will rely heavy on player population and updates though so hopefully it won’t wind up being dead by dawn…

Pinball FX Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure Review

It almost seemed like an April Fool’s Day joke: a review hit our desk for the latest Indiana Jones Pinball FX table, just few days after the latest Indiana Jones pinball table dropped. It didn’t take long for us to realize it was the latest jump forward in quality from the engine used for previous games to the latest Unreal Engine. The question is does this jump in quality warrant moving on from your current collection of tables? Let’s take a look!

Really most gamers only need to hear “Unreal Engine” to know that there is something special being made. Unreal is a pedigree expected by the name alone. If it doesn’t have an impressive quality of graphics and audio as well as smooth playstyle then it isn’t living up to its name. In this case the game has a double expectation since it is built on the Unreal Engine but with the games and physics base from Pinball FX.

Luckily, Zen Studios knew what was expected of them and started out the new build with a very anticipated table with lots of bells and whistles in Indiana Jones: The Pinball Adventure. Before you even get into the table you get to see your arcade room where you can put trophies on shelves, posters on walls and rugs on the floor. The graphics are a bit cartoonish which works well since most tables also have bright, cartoonish graphics so it transitions into them nicely. When a table is chosen from the menu the “camera” flies in and does a tour of the board briefly before settling on a camera that looks at the whole table with the room to each side of it.

The Unreal Engine is put to good effect not just in the introduction to the tables, but in the performance of the machine itself. Whether you use the keyboard to play (shift buttons are the flippers) or if you use a controller (triggers RT and LT) the response time from hitting the flippers and their response as well as the physics of the silver ball all feel like a real table. Between our most recent reviews of Indiana Jones tables I managed to get some time with the real life machine and I can say that it actually plays better virtually than real life since there is no concern for the wear and tear of the real machines take over time or replacing official plunger control. It’s Indy’s gun on the official table, an 8 ball was used at the pinball museum I played at.

Besides the wear and tear on real life tables there are extra graphics and animations that can only exist on a virtual table. Indiana uses his whip to flick across the table to different treasures while a really big German tank takes aim while driving around and there are so many other touches that we don’t want to spoil here. The graphics are just gorgeous already so that when you add simultaneous animated events tied in the game is elevated to the next level. You can play the game without the virtual additions if you want to make it as close to the real thing as possible. You can also play it single player, hot potato, online and even tournament play giving you pretty much every option you might want.

As for the overall comments on the table it is a medium to fast speed, long table with lots of bells and whistles and great virtual presence. The gameplay is very addictive.

There’s a bit of concern that has been brought up in the silver ball community about backwards compatibility so you can play all the tables you collected on PFX3 on the Unreal Pinball FX, and it really doesn’t sound like that is going to happen. It does make sense to me since we are talking about the next generation for pinball games in UPFX, any game played on it is being rebuilt on Unreal Engine. At that point it is like another game, maybe even considering it as a GOTY or Remastering where you wouldn’t have a problem buying the new addition of the game and each table plays like a mini-game that has been remastered or rebuilt. And if you don’t get the Unreal version of your table you still have it on PFX3 then when you can afford it pick it up on UPFX.

On the subject of affording some of the newer games which aren’t on sale they might be considered a bit expensive whereas if you pick them up on sale they aren’t too bad. I had 220 tickets to spend ($19.99) and I got the Jaws table for 30 tickets leaving me plenty left to spend. Some tables purchased on Steam might find you paying $14.99 for example for the Indy table though you might find this competitively priced with the Pinball FX3 as well as the quality of experience of an Unreal Engine table. Also right now many of the tables are on sale for the UPFX to help offset the cost of building your new library.

The Unreal Engine was a terrific choice for the developers to build from and they put it to great use. Pinball FX: Indiana Jones The Pinball Adventure is a great game that lives up to the hype with crisp video quality and perfect physics. It’s got nice replayability with community events such as tournaments and free play days. Now I need to go play some more Jaws. We need a bigger boat!

Marvo Z Fit Pro Wireless Gaming & Office Mouse Review

The Marvo Z Fit Pro wireless gaming and office mouse is an interesting product. While some mice cater to a particular kind of user – gamer, office worker, left-handed, right-handed, etc. the Marvo Z Fit Pro attempts to satisfy all of them. Does it succeed? Well, just two weeks ago my mouse, which is from a very well-known gaming device company, ended up breaking on me. Sadly, I had to unceremoniously throw the mouse in the garbage. Old primary gaming mouse, you will not be forgotten! Then, as if by some divine providence, the Marvo Z Fit Pro wireless gaming and office mouse arrived at my house just in time to help me get back to gaming.

Package Contents

The Marvo Z Fit Pro wireless gaming and office mouse comes with a USB-C charging cable wrapped in parachute cord for maximum durability. If you are just hanging at your desktop computer you may not need to use the wireless aspects as you can just plug it into your PC with that same cable. However if you do wish to take the Marvo Z Fit Pro into the wireless realm, you can do so via Bluetooth or the included 2.4 GHz USB dongle. With the mouse in wireless mode, you get about 120 hours of gameplay – VERY nice! Charging the mouse from 0% battery takes about three hours, so you won’t have to wait too long should you charge it at, say, half power. At its heart is the Pixart 3370 Optical Sensor capable of up to 19,000 DPI and 1000Hz/1ms polling rate. The mouse also features the incredible Omron mechanical button switches rated for 50 million clicks. On the bottom side of the mouse, you’ll find PTFE premium mouse feet for some slick gliding.

Besides having a solid gaming pedigree on the specs sheet, the mouse continues its versatility by being able to alter its size and shape. The mouse comes in two different colors of white and black but isn’t just limited to that. By taking the magnetically held buttons off the side of the mouse you can switch out its shell! Included in the box are both a large and small mouse grip shell. With the large one installed, the length of the mouse measures 125mm. With the smaller shell, it measures 110mm. It’s really the difference between having a small, travel size mouse you might take with your laptop or iPad or when laid up in a position with fairly limited space and a gaming mouse that gives you a larger surface to grip and adjust onscreen. You can even adjust the DPI sensitivity at the touch of a button which is important since gamers prefer different mouse sensitivity depending on the gaming situation they find themselves in.

Size Comparison

On the cosmetic side, Marvo makes over a dozen shell colors which can be bought as a set of the two sizes for around $15 each. That’s a very nice option, not just for matching the mouse to your other pieces of gear but if you are rough on the surface of the mouse (don’t game while eating Cheetos folks), you just order a new grip set and it looks nice. You can also download software which lets you make changes to the colorfully lit logo that is beneath the grip in the body as well as changing the underglow lights in the base that can be turned on and off to save battery when you are wireless. Since the mouse bodies are interchangeable regardless of the base color if you get both color choices of mice and pick up some of the extra bodies you can swap around all you want. The interchangeability of shells is so fast too, just pop off the magnetically held side buttons and then just slide it off!

During my playtime with the Marvo Z Fit Pro Wireless Gaming and Office Mouse I realized it was an excellent mouse choice for both the serious gamer and office worker alike. Born from a Kickstarter campaign this mouse was designed with most things users across the board would want with a reasonable price and they succeeded. Now I need to get some of the different colors to mix it up a little and maybe start saving up for the white version.

Not For Broadcast Review

I was on lunch break at the TV station I had gotten hired for only two days earlier as a camera operator. I heard a big commotion going on in the control room so I popped my head in and saw a bit of chaos. The technical director/director couldn’t make it and we had to go live on air in a few minutes. Quietly I walked past everyone and sat down in the command chair, checked out how the controls were all setup then said to everyone arguing behind me that I could do the show. The room went silent as one of the management asked,  “You think you can do it?” That was the day that I started my broadcast day as a camera operator and finished it as a technical director/director.

This is extremely unheard of. The only reason it happened was that I have a B.A. in Broadcast Journalism and 12 years of broadcast news experience, most of it as a director and technical director (usually separate positions). Working in news I learned every position as well so that by the time I was lead director at the station I could do any job in production with confidence. I finished off my broadcast career at a couple local channels doing all the different positions though without all the tension of live news where things can go wrong and snowball fast, especially during events such as election coverage which generally goes almost all night. With all this in my rear mirror it makes sense that when the game Not For Broadcast crossed our desk I was the logical choice for it.

Not For Broadcast is an interesting mix between real live news production issues and unrealistic jobs for one person to do all of. In very small markets (meaning the geographical area of coverage that your station can be reached in) I have seen multiple positions being done by the same person. But, in most markets and there are almost always a couple people working. In this game you need to load tapes, monitor the language to hit the censor button, watch the tracking on the signal, punch the source in preview on time then either take different camera sources or go between tapes and camera and other jobs as they develop. In the average television stations these are mostly done by different individuals being led by the director’s voice so this isn’t necessarily a realistic portrayal of what goes on though just about all are done at a station. To make this a game a bit more of a case of spinning plates, the developers have put together a base newscast that they could add to as the game progresses. So it starts a little challenging without trying to frustrate you out of the game in the first newscast. I do recommend playing through all the tutorials at least once since at a point in the game it stops helping you with one aspect so it can move onto other ones so that it can be easy to forget how to do things and their timing in shows.

There’s a whole story going on in the background of the station and its crew about political unrest and government that affect not just your coworkers but your family as well. You are a janitor asked to direct, roll tapes, take sources, censor language, track feeds and many other things as the game progresses and you take orders from a disembodied voice over the phone. However, you are also asked by your brother-in-law to help him out which could impact results both with your family and the government. Nor For Broadcast is set in an alternate 1980’s London. The games story and design make it so that some of the action gets a little heavy. But the developers did a good job of making the game sure was still fun and funny by injecting levity into the stories, taped segments and character of the anchors, reporters and their guests. As a result it really almost feels like two stories are going on, the political strife that permeates the overall background story and the janitor who has just been asked to do a live broadcast without any experience and what it is like to be thrown in to sink and swim in front of a “live audience” being asked to do multiple positions at once. Many years ago I saw a station that was so small it had a very small staff running it but it was still three experienced professionals that busted butt to do a newscast which was not as good of quality as the game creates. Luckily this is just for fun, which is nice.

When it comes to the question of replay-ability that is a resounding YES since answering the background questions can make for multiple storyline results all by itself. Make sure you keep track of your choices so you can choose which ones to change the answer to and which to stick with during multiple play throughs. Your quality of play will increase as you play the game making for better newscasts. In such a situation both in game and in real life that is generally true so that you can have cleaner, tighter broadcasts and watch back and fix things that didn’t go so well previous times. Also the developers are talking about more broadcasts coming out in the near future so you might want to replay the tutorials before any new content.

Not For Broadcast takes the fun challenges from a news broadcast while eliminating the less fun real life parts. The game is a challenge and one that keeps pulling you back in to see what kind of aspect you need to add to its next run. You have a virtual broadcast job and at the same time have serious choose-your-own-adventure political upheaval going into your newscasts in a fun way and get to see how good of a score your newscast can receive.

Skinit Xbox Series X Console Skin Review

I consider myself one of the lucky ones among my peer group as my wife saved up and per-ordered me an Xbox Series X console. The gift was incredible in that as soon as the console was released I was able to dive right in. It is a beautiful experience to play the system and I was immediately engulfed. After a while the body does eventually need to do other things besides playing video games (hard to believe, I know) and it was at that time I noticed that the outside aesthetic of the console proves to be a bit lacking – it’s just a black block.

If you like a clean, neat, low key design for your entertainment center, it’s great. If you like having a fancy game cave with with special editions consoles and controllers then the system is just kind of “meh”. Luckily, Mrs. Ripper noticed as well and placed an order at a company we once did a review for named Skinit. The order was for one of their console skin kits – and a beautiful kit at that.

The kit arrived in a plain brown envelope with a folder inside holding all the different stick-on panels. My family knows that I am a huge Edgar Allen Poe fan who has a 15 year old WoW guild with a crow as its symbol so she looked through Skinits uploaded images though she could have uploaded her own. This fits me.

The sticker sheets just needs little parts popped out and protective edges to keep the actual panels from getting damaged in shipping. I was nervous about doing this since thanks to a physical issue I have a bit of a shake to my hands sometimes when I am trying to keep them still. I really didn’t need to worry about it. I practiced a couple times before removing the adhesive back so that when I went for it I was surprised how easy it was. When I put a panel down and it was a little off I was able to peel it back up and re-lay it down. When you get it in exactly the place you like it then you can push down firmly to make it stay in place.

I’m lucky that Mrs. Ripper remembered the review we did with Skinit and decided the Xbox Series X needed a little something more, because it definitely takes the consoles look to the next level! I would highly recommend the Skinit console skins to anyone looking to spruce up their game system. They retail for about $30 Dollars per kit and are well worth the cost.

Preview of Cyanide Studios’s Blood Bowl 3

Blood Bowl 3 speaks to me. You see, I was a table top gaming nerd who carried around Dungeons and Dragons sourcebooks for both players and dungeon masters during a time when most people didn’t even know what a DM was. I played many different RPGs – even the old Star Wars RPG from West End Games. One of Mrs. Ripper and my favorite table top gaming moments involved a lunatic mercenary holding a thermal detonator underneath the nether region of a particular Imperial Commander who was not giving us the information we needed. Also being a big video gamer, whenever a popular pen and paper property got converted into a video game version I couldn’t wait to get my hands on it. A prime example of this would be Blood Bowl 3.

I never felt like I got enough time in the Warhammer world on the table top so when the first Blood Bowl game came out I was jazzed and loved it. All the slower aspects of football are pretty cut and trimmed so that it was most about team building then about enemy smashing. Between Blood Bowl and Arch Rivals it was all about unnecessary roughness and a good time. But then there was a lapse of time from the Blood Bowl franchise until 2009 when a new version of Blood Bowl came out with updated rules from the table top edition, a practice which has continued on through BB3.

Blood Bowl 3 is particularly interesting since it is three types of games in one; fantasy football, turn based and real time strategy and table top style RP. The fantasy football is key because if you don’t build a good enough team then you will get destroyed both by the AI and the other players trying to perform on the pitch. Balance is important to the point that the game offers newbie players the option to get a pre-balanced team build and concentrating the tutorials on the field strategy play. At this point in the closed beta I expect a few more tutorials to appear to help figure out the complete gameplay while still allowing for play within the table top rules.

There are a lot of fantasy football elements for the players who are into that. If you are into Madden games, Blood Bowl likes to poke a finger or two at them so that the elemental play is serious but its all set in a tongue in cheek delivery. As team manager you have to build your team, get your coach and cheerleaders, heck you even design your own war banner and colors to fight under. One of the first things you do in team building is choose which race you want to play as. Right now there are only 4 to choose from but the plans are for a total of 12 races including four new ones: the Black Orcs, the Imperial Nobility, the Old World Alliance and the Chaos Renegades. Getting to play the Imperial Nobility in beta was a whole lot of fun and all four of the teams have advantages and counter-balancing disadvantages. The game is great about making sure the teams balance out pretty well especially in the beginning. I actually don’t enjoy playing fantasy football as a rule but wrap it in a Warhammer package with some levity and I can play it all day long.

Once your team is somewhat ready to go you head onto the field and it is time for the square based strategy part of the game. You have to have an open square to move to it and if a competitor player’s characters are between you and the spot you had better be ready to roll because there’s gonna be some fighting. Each character has a name, race, position and attributes and abilities. These and some decent armor can make or break an engagement on the field. You can play solo in campaign mode (not available at time of preview) as well as tutorials which I recommend playing all of them first especially campaigns since they provide the best time to work on your strategies and get comfortable with what you team members can do and what are some of the best interactions to get you in the end zone. There are a few ways of playing the game against other people. There’s the standard Quick Match, Online match, Verses AI, and Hot Seat which is where one person takes a turn then another player takes the seat. figuratively or literally, passing it to a friend so you can each play on the same computer/controller/console. Whether or not a game is real-time or turn-based can be decided when making the match or playing a certain match that has it’s own rules. Being able to work between turn-based and real-time provides newbies a chance to get comfortable in the format and veterans of strategy games the choice to face the challenge of a real-time match.

The table top role playing element comes in the form of effects during the real-time/turn-based moves. If you go to attack your opponent or they go to attack you,  you roll for initiative on 6 sided dice that roll in front of you.  Then it will show your roll and whether or not the amount made for a successful action or did it fail and do damage back on you. These and more are all decided by a roll. Some rolls aren’t number rolls they are for actions. For example if you attack your opponent and fail to take them down then you might have a couple of choices such as falling to the square behind you or still into your opponent to hopefully knock them down taking you with him. Such sacrificing moves can get your team to the end zone but you have to be willing and think it through. Seeing the dice roll is a lot more fun than just being told you succeeded or failed too. One of my favorite parts of the game is the team player specific cut-scenes which show you slamming the other team into the ground or getting slammed and how much damage you do to them in the action. They remind me fondly of other Warhammer games and cut-scenes so to be able to trigger so many during a game is awesome. You even get to see your cheerleaders trying to get the fans excited at halftime. The cut-scenes are beautiful and detailed, with lots of colors, clean graphics and excellent sound quality.

Blood Bowl 3 has so much potential and so many hopes by both the design team and fans who have gotten a taste of it in beta and want more. I look forward to the additional races a lot and seeing what community building goes into place working the game into a whole new experience while still (mostly) playing inside the current table top rules. Some elements of the game are ready to roll out, others look like they either need a lot more work or they just haven’t included it in the closed beta such as the other 8 races and the single player campaign. There is no current release date but I look forward to keeping an eye on Blood Bowl 3’s development and polishing.

RiotPWR ESL Gaming Controller for iOS Review

It’s hard to remember a time before video games since they have been around since the latter half of the 1970s though it really wasn’t until Nintendo came up with the Game Boy in 1989 that a mobile game system gained great popularity. Nintendo is still doing a great job bringing mobile systems to the market such as the Nintendo Switch but mobile gaming has definitely changed, with most people wanting a portable system for gaming that can also show movies, allow texting, and what the latest devices were initially made for: phone calls. When most people hear “mobile gaming” they think of their phones these days and no one could blame them, there are more phone types than mobile gaming systems. I’ve been playing mobile games on my phone so much the last few years that my gaming calluses have changed to where I hold my phone instead of one of my console controllers. As a result sometimes I want to play on my phone but hold onto a controller like my Xbox One style and comfort. For this, RiotPWR has designed a mobile controller that uses the best of both styles being able to play your game on your phone with touch enabled while offering the ability to fight like you are on a lighter weight Xbox style controller. Enter: the RiotPWR ESL Gaming Controller for iOS.

It was during a trip from Las Vegas to Orlando and back that I realized how much I rely on and enjoy being able to have my gaming go wherever I go. I could go a while without PC gaming, take some time off from console gaming but when Mrs. Ripper wants to take a break and dive into the latest news and information I find I want to play some of my smartphone games. It was this logic that earned me my weird gaming calluses and I went through a lot of games on my phone until I settled on a few, a big key one being Call of Duty Mobile. I have played the Call Of Duty franchise as well as Battlefield and Medal of Honor on both the PC and the console since they began, so I was a little concerned that it wouldn’t be the same playing on a phone. At first it wasn’t, but after a pretty easy learning curve and going through the game menus I found I enjoyed my mobile gaming experience as well as I do console or PC – it’s just its own beast when all is said and done. While playing Call Of Duty Mobile I realized that with hands as big as mine it can be hard to hit small buttons and in some ways the console has, if not the best, definitely the most intuitive controls, whether it is because I have played it for so long or because the game was originally designed for it. Either way sometimes I found myself playing Call of Duty Mobile with players using controllers and they seem to edge out the competition on certain map modes and vehicle controls seem better for players with controllers. Luckily RiotPWR sent me their ESL controller to get my game on.

The RiotPWR ESL controller looks and feels a lot like a Xbox controller with a few differences the first of which is the controller is green, yellow and white the colors of the ESL (formerly Electronic Sports League), there’s a two foot lightning cable sticking out the front, a bracket sticking up from it and a lightning in and an audio out ports. The two foot long lightning cable is designed to plug into your iOS phone so that you have a wired plug to the controller for zero latency. The funny looking bracket on the top is designed to clamp down on your phone and hold it in place above the controller or you can disconnect the bracket and use it to hold your phone up on a surface so that it is more like wired console game playing giving you a more traditional controller experience. The controller’s iOS lightning in is a through charger for your phone so that playing on the controller won’t kill your phone’s juice. The last input is for a headphone jack, this is handy for using older or wired headsets, though your phone’s audio works great with a wireless headset still when the controller is plugged into your phone.

I found myself really enjoying Call of Duty Mobile with the controller and one nice aspect is that you still have screen touch sensitivity when plugged into the headset. Most things can be done using either system’s controls and the few that weren’t adapted from the game you can reach over to the phone and touch the commands. There are a whole bunch of games that can be adapted from your phone to the controller, RiotPWR has its own companion software, Ludu Mapp, that provides free games as well as Apple Arcade, xCloud and console streaming games so that this isn’t just a controller but instead a full system experience. Games you need to purchase before use are also available through the Ludu Mapp app and generally just costs a few bucks.

Weight can be an interesting issue when it comes to controllers and this case is no different. The controller with its phone holder runs about 9 oz., the average Xbox One controller runs 10.3 oz. which some folks think either that the RiotPWR is too light and feels a little cheap to them because of it or the lighter weight makes it nice for longer gaming sessions. Gamers tend to have a pretty strong opinions on controllers so definitely to each their own. The RiotPWR feels plenty heavy when you put the weight of your phone on it but considering you can take your phone off the controller and use the removable holder or just put it to the side and you can cut the weight dramatically and actually become lighter than fully assembled.

I figured out a couple of extra uses for the controller. Sometimes I like to listen to my wired headphones which have headphone jack inputs while relaxing and I can do that through the controller’s 3.5mm port or I want to watch a movie on my phone I can use the controller to keep powering my phone while listening wired or wireless.

Being someone who has a hard time getting out of bed due to medical issues having the RiotPWR ESL next to the bed has improved my mobile gaming but it has also just aided in every day living and interaction with my phone. The price point is competitive to controller prices, the controller is plug and play, and has very few issues. If some aspect of the controller or its software Ludu Mapp isn’t quite what the player wants, most aspects can be modified to suit their preferences. I would like to see more of the menus and buttons of Call of Duty Mobile adapted to the controller but that is something the software programmers with Ludu Mapp can work on in time without detracting from the gaming experience. If you have a gamer in your life who spends lots of hours on their phone until their hands cramp and they get weird calluses this might be the controller they need.