Author - Ripper71

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.

Review of New Civilization-Building Game HUMANKIND

I’ve always loved a good strategy game, heck I’ve even been known to have a fondness for a few so-so games. They foster critical thinking as well as situational awareness that can seem kind of scarce sometimes in these pandemic days. Many of us grew up on the board game Risk where every movement was made by your own hands and strategy was the only way to win (ok occasional dumb luck too). Then came video game consoles to take the next great leap where you weren’t able to cheat and the rules could have the sophistication. This jump to electronic games allowed the gameplay to become more detailed with menus, tutorials and programmed AI that improves every year. Then a new game style hit the world and thought intensive games such as Civilization were able to come into being, 4x, and it stands for Explore, Expand, Exploit and Exterminate and is the basis of most strategy games these days, from Warcraft games to Age Of Empires and Civilization, and is definitely at the basis for the game Humankind.

One of the first things to point out is how similar the gameplay will sound to Civilization which is one of the best known 4x games and is considered to be a gold standard of what can be done in the 4x strategy gameplay. If you talk about facial tissues odds are you will compare them to Kleenex, sometimes company’s products just become the most known by the most people. Humankind is a turn-based 4x turn-based strategy as opposed to a real-time gameplay where often times the winner is the fastest hands or if the player is against the computer then lots of pausing to try to keep up if you have the option or just get faster and faster at strategizing and implementing the 4x. Humankind is definitely designed to be a challenge but with the turn-base it gives a player a chance to really consider all the possibilities as well as leave the computer if you need to. If you are in a real-time against a live opponent you are locked in that chair or you lose.

Humankind also has a great save system which I normally discuss lower in the review but in this case it is nice enough to mention sooner. You can save anytime you like using any name you want so if you were trying something different you can name the save “4 hunters sent west” so you know what you were trying when you go to give it another shot. It also has time stamps so you can look to see the order nice and quick and one of the best things is the game auto saves every turn so if you get all into playing, lose track of turns and realize you made a critical error five turns back you can go back to it easily. I have wanted that on multiple strategy games and even in some other game types where you get one save in two hours of play forcing you to go back an hour to the last save point and boy does that get frustrating.

The graphics in Humankind are great with nicely colored maps and the terrain is recognizable from above as to what type it is. Prairies, woodlands, river springs are all just examples of what the lands are but are so obvious from above as well as a couple little symbols of possible usage that appear when clicking on a hex. Sometimes the graphics on hexagonal maps are much more simplified to help the hexagons to stand out more but personally I like where you feel more like moving across a map and less like pieces on a game table. The music is nice and soothing, it’s actually on while I’m writing this review since it fills the background by sounding nice but not distracting.

Humankind has really deep menus and details of the society you are trying to build. You start at the Neolithic Era which is one of the first things to set the game apart from other 4x ones. You soon go into one of many choices of famous societies and try to build them up by their strengths and weaknesses but it’s fun to get used to the game with a nomadic tribe before settling into a famous civilization. There are quite a few choices of Eras to choose from such as the Egyptians, Assyrians and the Hittites just to name a few and they at least give you a solid starting point and general idea of how your empire can expand. Once you get into expansion you wind up growing your area of influence and start bumping into the spheres of enemy influence where you then need to consider what kind of leader you want to be. Working through different political options should prevent the necessity to declare war on an enemy but let’s face it at some point you are probably gonna want to save game and build a war force to see how that plays out, who can resist?

If you find yourself having a hard time playing as just your one Era the good news is once you complete one you can move onto another. There are a total of 10 so you definitely get to mix things up a bit making it so that no two games would be exactly alike which makes HUGE replayability. If you are playing Humankind on multiplayer it’s good to know you can’t have two of one Era in a single match. There is multiplayer but it’s still in the works at this point, need to get word out about that aspect more since the amount of available matches with players are a little anemic right now with most matches trying to get players or are high levels of turns from being a long standing game. After completing the Neolithic Era all the eras are available to play, you don’t have to hope to unlock them each as you go.

One of my favorite parts of Humankind are the tutorials. Generally tutorials are just something to say is in the game or not but in this case it doesn’t just cover the general mechanics it has tutorials on how to hit certain achievements as well. There is also links to a game encyclopedia, community maps and details on the available AIs making the game about as approachable as you can get.

Civilization and Age Of Empires are pretty big examples of 4x strategy and Humankind can hold its own with them. You can dive into deep menus and expansive gameplay while still hearing mellow music and being turn-based. The graphics look great and no two games will be alike with mixing up what Eras to play and different political and environmental decisions to make. The more you play the deeper you can build your games. If you like Civilization you will like Humankind for all the reasons they are the same and different.

A Preview of Survival-Horror Game Tormented Souls

I have always been a huge fan of survival horror since before it really had that name. Back in the days of Alone In The Dark with their hexagonal characters and great graphics for the time where you find yourself in a mansion full of bad things where more times than not running is the best solution. It wasn’t until Resident Evil came out that survival horror officially had a game to hang its title on and has since been the foundation by which all other games in the genre are compared to. With all this and years of survival horror to compete with does Tormented Souls have what it takes to sink it’s hooks into the players? Let’s check it out.

Tormented Souls starts with the main character Caroline Walker going to investigate a picture she received in the mail from a sprawling mansion only to wake up the next morning naked in a tub with a respirator hooked up to her and missing an eye. This may sound like an average Sunday morning to you but for Caroline it is the beginning of a dark and dangerous experience.

The graphics and sound play together seamlessly especially if you put on a headset for a deeply immersive play and make sure you play it alone in the dark so that you can avoid as many distractions as possible. Literally I waited until there was only me and two cats at home, late at night. As a result I had a few jump moments and truly appreciated what happens in the shadows as you play.

The controls are designed for a controller not a keyboard and the control smoothness of the character increases when using a controller. I tried for a really long time just to use the keyboard and mouse but it was a bit clunky and the keyboard controls aren’t listed under “controls”. The moment I started using a controller the game became more fun. You will have to adjust the directions you are traveling depending on the camera angle so you can be traveling up the screen and wind up with a camera shot from an odd angle to disorient the player but it also means changing the direction you are pushing on your joystick. It looks cool but takes a little getting used to especially if you are fighting something.

When it comes to the issues I felt in Tormented Souls there will be folks who have no problem with them. Also this is a preview of the game so suggestions made at this point might already be adjusted in which case visiting the game closer to release might have different experiences. The big problem I had was the saving process. It’s not uncommon to have players need to find a device like a cassette tape you have to attach to an in-game device and then enables you to save at that location. Often if it is difficult enough to find them then they are reusable the player just needs to go back to the previous spot. I played for a long time and only found one save point which had me running around searching for a save item when I was ready to be done playing for the night. I went back to the location and the tape was single use so all my play after that had to be 1) lost 2) left sitting on my desktop so that I have to leave it open in the background until I get back to playing 3) stay at the game for an extra long period of time just trying to find a save spot. I did the second, then the third and finally just shut it down and lost my work. I died trying to find the save points a couple times as well which brings up the next issue.

Survival horror games like to make it hard to see directions sometimes as well as creating claustrophobic locations to fight in. There is a prime example of some very nasty looking boogies coming at you in wheelchairs in a hallway where the chair takes up the whole space. You can’t jump and you need a full body space to pass the beasties on the sides which you don’t get. As a result you wind up running around in the aisles figuring out ways to slip past them. If you make a mistake you die and if you die you have the same issues as above, you lose everything back to your last (and in my case for a while only) save point. You get a weapon fairly early which is a nail gun but it is extremely ineffectual, hardly even slowing the simplest of creepies. Paying attention to your map will help you negotiate things a bit but you might still find yourself in a dead end hallway with only a little movement at the end to try to work around them. You get morphine to help you recover from such mangling and finagling but don’t expect much of that either. I think that if the game had different levels of difficulty which adjusts the number of saves and heals then it would be accessible to a far larger audience.

Tormented Souls creates a great claustrophobic environment with rich sounds and music as well as dark and graphically disturbing creatures.  If you had a hard time with Silent Hill or Resident Evil this might be a pass for you due to a fairly unforgiving save system. If you are into survival horror though, this is a great step towards mood making for the 2021 Halloween season!