Review by Gokhra
Anything regarding a relationship between people and a furry four-legged pet is endearing to the point that a big chunk of the business is made from selling licensed products bearing the pets face. There is Garfield, Marmaduke, Snoopy, Tintin and Snowy, the mechanical canine of Jimmy Neutron and countless others. The common thread is that in all these cases the pet is smarter than the average owner. And that brings us to the tale of Wallace and Gromit.
Being clay characters Wallace and Gromit are more flexible than we could possible dream of being. Therein lies part of the charm because the whole animated sequence is made in the old school fashion of using clay characters.
Wallace is an inventor whose inventions don't always turn out to be the right stuff. He devotes his time to two obsessions: cheese, and the manufacture of ingenious yet easily misguided Rube Goldberg contraptions such as a complicated method of automatically frying an egg using all kinds of slides, pulleys, swings and whatnot.
The Wallace & Gromit dynamic is that of the temperamentally and intellectually superior dog looking after his endearingly daft human partner, a mana nice manwhose inventions, designed to make life easier and better, require constant vigilance.
Curse of the Were-Rabbit is made around the setting of England of the 1950s with neat row houses and lavishly cared-for vegetable gardens. Everything is not so beautiful though as rabbits are creating havoc by devouring the vegetables. And this too only a few days before the annual Giant Vegetable Competition. With such a momentous occasion coming up you can't have rabbits eating away your prized creations no matter how cute the furry creatures be.
The annual Giant Vegetable Competition is hosted by Lady Tottington (voice by Helena Bonham Carter). There has to be a villain and it is in the form of Lady Tottingtons smarmy suitor Victor Quartermaine (Ralph Fiennes), would prefer to deal with the bunny problem via shotgun. Of course, the lady would have none of that. She reminds Victor of the agreement they had about no more thoughtless killings. Hmm, makes you wonder what thoughtful killings constitute of. Which category do you think crossfire falls under?
Anyways to ease the rabbit problem, Wallace and Gromit come to the rescue by starting up a "humane" pest control outfit called Anti-pesto. Basically they capture the rabbits and keep them in their home. That can't be good and ultimately their home is filling to the brim with furry white bunnies. Actually the bunnies are in all the colours of the rainbow. To solve this dilemma Wallace concocts his latest invention which is a "mind-manipulation-a-matic". It requires him to subject a test rabbit to brain-waves encouraging the animal in non-vegetable thoughts. Remember what I said about experiments going bad? Not long afterward a large, marauding were-rabbit is tearing up everybody's patches. The climax takes place during the vegetable festival that has touches of "King Kong" as well as action sequence spoofs from other movies.
Throughout Victor Quartermaine, who'd rather shoot the beast and secure the position of local hero as well as winning Lady Tottingon's hand in marriage, creates all kinds of obstacles for our heroic duo.
Wallace & Gromit have been entertaining viewers with the short films shown on some of the channels such as Pogo which sadly isn't available in all the neighbourhoods. It's got subtlety, felicity of expression and brilliant timing. It makes way for a smart and stylish human/dog love story.
The adventure genre of games died. Years ago. There were many reasons, but mainly it depended too much on “pointing and clicking”. As much as they might have excelled in the story, the poor gameplay brought them down. It wasn't that people stopped wanting to play them, it's that people got fed up of the limitations involved in the point and click interface. And with so many other alternatives, their popularity declined.
With Fahrenheit, all that is about to change. The game has been written and directed by David Cage who cunningly realised that adventure games needed to evolve and make use of the technology now available. Therefore, Fahrenheit is essentially a point and click game, without any point or clicking.
In reality, it's not really a game in the conventional self. It sounds a bit cheesy but it really is more of a movie that you play through. It hides this well and it does deceive you into thinking that you can go where you want and do what you want, when really you're just playing through each individual scene in the movie.
It's an absolute master class in game design with multiple options available to you, characters that you can relate to and certain sections such as the opening, which show the murderer and the cop at the same time in split screen mode. This brings forth incredibly tense moments to the game where you need to figure out what to do to get into the next scene whilst you can see the cop on the other side of your screen making his way to where you are.
The most memorable games down the years have always crammed some of their best moments into the opening sequence, and the same holds true for Fahrenheit. Holed up in a beaten up New York diner, IT maintenance man Lucas Kane finds himself with a little more on his plate than the half-eaten steak and chips he couldn't quite finish off. Possessed by unseen forces, he takes himself off to the men's room and carves strange symbols into his wrists before committing a brutal, clinical murder on an innocent fellow customer.
Awakening from his trance you take control of Kane's actions, choosing whether to try and hide the evidence, mop the blood up, wash your hands, pay your bill and leave through the front door, acting like nothing's happened, or just getting the hell out through the back door as quickly as you can. Or a combination of the two. The variations in the opening scene alone make the game not only intriguing to play, but just as fun to watch how someone else does it.
Immediately after the murder you come to your senses and try to keep it togetherin addition to holding down a day job, being hunted by the cops, and trying to solve the unfolding mystery. Interestingly, you'll also play as the two detectives tasked with hunting Kane, adding yet another level to the game's storyline. Do you help Kane's supposed murderer discover the truth? Or do you instead move to apprehend him at all costs? Like most adventure games, the story serves the gameplay and not vice-versa, but it is through gameplay that the game excels past its immediate competitors.
The action in Indigo Prophecy is broken up into a few segments. The main componentand perhaps the most radicalis the dialog system. Instead of choosing one of several answers written out verbatim on the screen, players are presented with single words that represent ideas, along with a corresponding direction screen. To select a word/reply, you simply press the arrow key in the direction connected to the reply, resulting in more organic conversations. As a kicker, each response is timed, turning normally dull dialog sequences into surprisingly involved and engaging reflex/thought challenges.
A few chapters down the line you're already making choices with Kane which may - or may not - affect how things dovetail later on. They may not seem especially significant at the time, but hours later, it's heartening to learn that even seemingly minor decisions have a bearing on the investigation. For example: did the cop see you in the diner or the park? Did you sit back down in your seat in the diner? Do you lie to your brother about what's happened? It's a game that's always asking you questions. There are a ton of bad decisions to make, and sure enough you'll make them, if only out of curiosity to find out what happens. But with a sensible check-pointing system, you're rarely forced to retread old ground for more than couple of minutes.
The storyline is the game's main driving force and it's excellent; you want to know what happens and you care about the characters. The overall presentation of Fahrenheit is also excellent; the graphics are well drawn and animated, while the settings are varied and large in scale. The sound is great; the voice acting is the best I've heard in a video game and rarely gets repetitive or strained. The soundtrack is also excellent, more akin to a film than a game. But that's the whole point; this game has been created as an interactive movie and they've managed to make it work.
It's not perfect, though, there are a few problems. The control system is often counter-intuitive, putting "simon says" style button mash in a game this deep. The camera implementation is sloppy and the action sequences sometimes don't suit with the lovingly-crafted narrative. But the amount of enjoyment you'll get from the whole experience will greatly outweigh these minor problems.
In my opinion this is one of the most fresh, exiting and original games to come out for a long time; it's well presented, sounds great and offers something completely new. Buy this game, you'll love it. Well, unless you're a gamer like this: doiop.com/Ignorant.
The most expensive litter box
When inventors have too much time and no apple tree to lie under
By Mood Dude
I once wrote an article about pets where I mentioned something not-too-nice about cats and was almost blasted out of my not-too-comfy computer chair. I value my butt a lot and so to pacify cat lovers here's a gadget that they must die to get. In fact, the price might actually kill them anyways.
If you really love your cat then you can't simply give them a litter box made out of your old television container. Some people love their kitties so much they splurge to get an Automated Litter Robot. Now what the heck is that you wonder? It's a ridiculously pricey $300 gadget. So what does it do? It's a weird looking devise into which a cat goes in and comes out after emptying all the mice it ate.
The Litter-Robot consists of a large, 27” diameter globe setting on a round base, also about 27” in diameter, and about 10” tall. There is an oval opening where the cat goes in and exits. You can see a black cat if you look closely at the picture. Question is how do you get the cat to do that?
The Litter Robot features an automatic cleaning cycle that runs 7 minutes after each time a cat enters the litter robot. There is weight sensor attached to the base unit that senses when a cat steps into the globe and starts the whole process. If another cat enters the litter robot during a countdown cycle, the timer resets, ensuring a cat won't be inside the globe when the cleaning cycle starts. If you really hate the cats then you can try to make them get stuck inside.
On the interior of the globe, lining the bottom third of the globe, is a thick flexible rubber liner, only attached at the edges. That's what collects the brilliantly smelly kitty poop. Seven minutes after a cat exits the Litter-Robot motor turns on and starts rotating the globe. To make an insanely long techno babble short the rotation somehow drops the poop into a bag and cleans itself without making the room smell. You can go a week with one bag. Considering how big the bag is you can collect all that poop and sell to people who want to have something to throw at rock concerts or political meetings.
Shake up and light up
A flashlight that requires no conventional power source
What is it?
This is the one of the coolest new gadgets around. Not only that it's something we definitely need considering how often we stub our toes cause of the incessant loadshedding. It's a flashlight with no bulb, no a/c adapter, and no batteries.
How does it work?
The EverLife Flashlight is a new invention that simply does away with the need for batteries or electricity… it doesn't even use a bulb! Ok, now that's a bit strange so how does it work?
It uses a very strong magnet and principles of induction that's a it too complicated and classroom-like to go into now. You simply shake the flashlight to "power it up". But techno geeks must know how so I will oblige. Shaking the flashlight causes a very strong magnet to pass back and forth inside a wire coil. The magnet's movements cause the light's capacitor to be charged, which enables the LED to light.
What's it look like?
The EverLife is shaped just like an ordinary flashlight, and weighs about the same as a normal flashlight with its batteries. However, the EverLife is made of a clear plastic material so you can see the mechanics inside. You can see the wire coil, and the magnet that slides back and forth underneath. In addition, you can see two rubber stoppers which pad the magnet on either end of the tube. When you shake the flashlight, you can hear and feel the magnet sliding back and forth, but the rubber pads dampen most of the noise. The light is activated by pressing and holding a round button. The fact that you have to keep the button pressed is a drawback. A proper on/off switch would be a better idea.
Does it go as long as the Energizer bunny?
Reviewers used theirs tons of times and it has never failed to light. The downside is that you need to shake it for 30 seconds. Manufacturers website claim it will last for 5 minutes and most of the reviews I checked out online say that the light stays on for about 4 minutes and then starts to dim. That's not bad considering that's about all the time you actually need to run and get a real light that runs on batteries. That way you can continue with your dinner without chomping on the stray cockroach. If you want a continuous supply then you gotta shake it every 4 minutes or so. Still not bad and to boot you'll get some wrist exercise.
Is it worth it?
As for the light itself it is very strong. It's a bit brighter than the new cheap Nokia phone that you get with Citycell connections. It's a very bright white light, with a tinge of blue similar to a white fluorescent light. The manufacturer claims that the light can be seen up to a mile away though it's doubtful.
Also the flashlight floats and is waterproof so you can carry it around when the polar ice caps melt and Dhaka sinks to newer and more literal depths. It's also quite cheap at about 20 dollars. Too bad you can't find it here.