CategoryGame

Nintendo 3DS XL Nintendo Goes Bigger

When Nintendo released the 3DS they obviously hoped for more. When they survived the original release though and made some price cuts sales picked up and people started to realise what a good handheld console it was. In an age when smartphones are trying to become the dominant gaming gadget for the handheld gamer Nintendo still keep their dominance but they are struggling.

With the 3DS XL they are looking to make yet another impact by the same technology that was first released in the smaller model. With its autostereoscopic 3D technology and arguably stronger game catalogue than Android and iOS phones can provide Nintendo is looking to strengthen its dominance and with the Sony PS Vita struggling to make an impact this may not be such a hard task.

Build
The first thing to notice about the 3DS XL is simply that it is in fact just a bigger version of the 3DS but with a few little changes for the better, like the upgrade from the 2GB to 4GB SD card for example. The build of the 3DS XL itself is now more rounded and stylish, and the screen is around 90% bigger which obviously gives better viewing for the games.

The change in size and the change in screen has obviously made the unit itself bigger, and this version of the 3DS won’t easily fit in your pocket. This of course is something to be expected when the smaller version was designed for that type of use. This is a version of the 3DS made to concentrate on the gaming, more than the handheld side of things, which is not to say that it does not fit nicely in your hand of course because it still does. If anything it’s actually more comfortable to hold.

One very strange omission from the box the 3DS XL comes in is the AC Adapter; in fact there are no cables to recharge the unit at all. This is strange and it seems to be assuming that you will already have this adapter available from the previous version of the 3DS; this is a risk and an extra expense as not everybody will have the smaller version or will feel the need to buy a new adapter. This may not be that much of an expense but it does seem strange that you are given a handheld console that needs charging to play it, but no actual charger to do this with. I know for a fact from watching reaction on Twitter to this news it is something that is confusing Nintendo fans and other gamers.

Screen
As mentioned the screen for the 3DS XL is 90% bigger than the smaller version. This works well with quite a few of the 3DS games, especially ones like Resident Evil: Revelations. It’s also said that the 3D element of the 3DS works even better now it’s got more screen space to work with, which was an issue with the original 3DS in the past. At a screen size of 4.88 inches this is pushing into Playstation Vita territory but of course it’s not got the same quality as the Vita’s OLED screen. That said the 3DS does not have the game catalogue that really lends itself to the need for high definition graphics.

This does not hold the screen back though, and as the main selling point of the 3DS XL it’s definitely an excellent screen that brings a lot more to the games that are available now, and in the future. It will be interesting to see if Nintendo have more to offer to take advantage of the screen itself in the future.

Battery
Of course with a bigger screen it’s safe to assume that the battery would be hit and usage would go up. Nintendo have said the increased power usage is around 86% but with six and a half hours of 3D and eight hours of 2D promised this is not that bad, and with the size of the unit itself it is unlikely you’ll be playing it for that long anyway.

Verdict
As always with Nintendo products it’s easy to recommend the 3DS XL, the question is who it is aimed at. With the bigger screen and the already high quality game library available it’s obvious that new fans will be interested but then of course the little signs such as no AC Adapter make you wonder are they aiming at the fans who already own the 3DS? It’s debatable whether fans who already bought the 3DS itself will want this bigger version which is also more expensive, but if they have the money to spend they may just do it.

Personally looking at the 3DS and the 3DS XL it’s questionable whether the extra cost for the new model is really worth it. There are no real “must have” updates to this new version other than the big screen so this is undoubtedly an upgrade few will go for. One good thing of course will be the undoubted lowering of the original 3DS price, so now may be the chance to pick up one of those if you have not got one.

NVIDIA Project SHIELD a Preview of the Android Gaming System with PC Game Streaming

Yesterday I took a look at the Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 tablet prototype which was an interesting gaming tablet, but the one that is raising most of the questions for gamers is NVidia’s Project SHIELD game system. Looking like a game controller with a five inch touch screen added on the top of it, NVIDIA promise a platform where Android games can be played and full scale PC games can be streamed to the games system and played through the use of shared processing with your computer. This is an interesting idea but also raises a lot of questions.

As tablets and other mobile systems look to steal some of the fire from consoles and PC gaming NVIDIA may be onto something unique with the idea of streaming to an Android tablet like this and it’s a concept that may just work. With questions though on processing power required from the PC and the pricing of the system itself there may be quite risky for the company and too expensive for the average gamer to consider.

Build

As I said in the introduction Project SHIELD as NVIDIA call it looks like a gamepad with a touch screen added on top. The gamepad itself looks reminiscent to the Dreamcast controller from the now long dead console but does feature everything that you would expect from a console, with added features such as speakers and a few extra buttons such as home and back buttons which are obviously for the Android touch screen.

The black colouring and nice design though does make SHIELD look good and it definitely will catch interest in that respect, but it’s questionable as to how comfortable the controller will feel in your hand, especially when you want to use the multi touch screen features as well. It may take some time to get used to the feel of it, but it does show some potential.

Features
Project SHIELD will come with the Jelly Bean variety of the Android Operating system and will be a fully working 5-inch tablet (other than 3G connectivity, this will be through Wi-Fi which will include connecting to your PC for streaming). This game system though portable in nature is probably designed to be used around the house, especially to play your PC games. The fact is though as well as Android games you’ll have the ability to download all kinds of apps onto the system itself. For games you’ll also be able to use the NVIDIA TegraZone to download games too.

Screen
At 5-inch the screen looks perfect for Android games and I’m sure there will be little issues. NVIDIA state it’s also multi-touch which is pretty standard with tablets such as this now. The problem I can see is with the PC game streaming. Games on the PC rely on big screens, rich textures and high resolutions to look good so it’s debatable whether they will really get a lot out of running on a small 5-inch screen. The idea of streaming the games is quite fun, and quite a gimmick but it’s questionable really if you would want to run a game like Skyrim on such a small screen, though it should be noted an HDMI socket is provided to connect to a TV but that defeats the purpose really. If the games themselves look good enough then this may be an interesting concept. It is fair to say that NVIDIA do know what they are doing when it comes to getting the most out of hardware graphically, and with their new Tegra 4 chip it will be interesting what they can pull out of it.

Performance
The power for Project SHIELD will come down to what the Tegra 4 chip can provide. This is a quad-core processor so will provide all the performance needed for the Android side of things. Graphically NVIDIA also state the GPU horsepower is six times that of the Tegra 3, so there is a lot promised from the new chip. Future reviews will of course be able to look at just how good the chip is, especially when it comes to streaming. It’s also interesting to note that to work alongside the chip the Android Operating System is unmodified which is fairly unique from manufacturers now.

The interesting part is the specs required for the PC you are wanting to stream your games from (which is its main selling point. System requirements at the time of writing (and are likely to change) are an Intel i5 or equivalent CPU, GTX 650 or 660M(Notebook) GPU as minimum, 4GB or RAM and Windows 7 or higher. A router will also be needed for the Wi-fi element of the system. This is a fairly powerful machine to have to stream from, so again questions are raised again.

Verdict
There are a lot of questions around Project SHIELD but there is also a lot to be excited about. The gaming system gives you all the best from Android gaming and also provides the capability to stream PC games and play them anywhere around your house. The question is though is there really a need for it?

Another big question will be what NVIDIA are looking to price the system at, which in ways could make or break the success of SHIELD. Gamers won’t want to pay more than they would for a console, and if the price comes anywhere near a cheap gaming PC it’s likely that many will be put off by this. This creates an argument that Project SHIELD would have to be fairly cheap or interest will vanish quite quickly, and in the end if it’s only streaming games from the PC do we really need that? When tablets are coming out that can power console quality games without the need to stream from a powerful PC will they be a more interesting route instead? Time will tell on this one, and it may be a fact that the Android gaming will dominate the gaming system anyway.

Plants Vs. Zombies Adventures

One of the more popular and well know of the facebook games is Plants VS. Zombies Adventures by popcap games, and with over five million players its not hard to figure out why. In this game you try to hoard off waves of zombies with well placed plants that kill them…again. There are a few different types of plants, like peashooters that shoot the zombies, sunflowers that create more sun so you can grow more plants, and asparagus that shoot stalks. You collect the sun as it falls from the sky and use it to place your plants along the paths in your area.

The zombies come in waves, and are confined to the paths, so you just have to make sure you put enough plants along the path to deal with them. There are also different perks you can use to freeze the zombies or extent your plants range, and these all cost sun to use like everything else. The plants also have to be grown in your town base, and this costs money which you can gain by building more houses in town which generate money. The game has a play system where you move from one location to another as your levels progress, and you unlock more and more plants and items to allow you to slay zombies like a pro. It gets progressively harder wave after wave, and you can only put your plants down as fast as your sun levels are regenerated to do so. The graphics are very cartoonish, but they look nice and add a sort of fun undead feel to the game which only furthers to add to its appeal. Another feature of plants vs. zombies adventures that I enjoy is how you unlock different areas and lands as you progress. This adds a good sense of achievement to the game and gives you some fun goals to try to work for as you play. You also complete quests in this game that can range from cleaning up the property in your area, to going out on the road and taking care of some zombies. All in all this is a very fun game to play, and reminds me of something like FarmVille only with zombies.

Playster Vs Scribd Vs Audible: Which Book Subscription is Right for You?

Are you a heavy reader? If so, you may want to consider a book subscription to save some money on all those books you are buying. Think about it, if you are reading more than a book a month, you are probably spending more than $20.

With subscription platforms running at about $10 each, it makes sense to be reading digitally. But with so many options, you may be asking which book subscription is the right fit for you? The top players in the industry at the moment are Playster, Scribd, and Audible. We tried each service and here are our thoughts on each one.

Playster
Playster is the newest member in the subscription service industry, but it is rapidly made some waves. With unlimited books, movies, music, games, and audiobooks, this service can be a serious game changer. Judging it completely by its books and audiobooks, it is pretty impressive, especially its audiobook selection. The book collection looks like it is a little outdated with its content; the most recent books are about 6 months old. Good news is that it has many of the classic titles and New York Times Best Sellers. It is audiobook collections seems to be updated the same time that the paperback version of a book is released and features all the major publishers. Really, besides Harry Potter, it seems like Playster is not missing much in the audiobook department. The user experience is the main problem here – books can only be searched by titles and not by author. Also, the overall design of the members page looks like a beta prototype. The thing Playster has going for it is the fact that both the book and audiobook catalogs are bundled together for $9.95. The biggest seller is the fact that all their books and audiobooks are available for unlimited consuming, which is not being offered anywhere else at the moment.

Scribd

In terms of content, Scribd seems to have the same ebooks and audiobooks as Playster, with few differences far and between. Scribd’s major advantage over Playster is the fact that its user interface seems to be much cleaner and easier to move around in. However, its major downfall is that readers can only read three books a month from Scribd’s rotating catalog of books. There are some books that can be read unlimitedly throughout the month, but they are not really the titles you want to be reading. The same deal goes for audiobooks, where only one audiobook can be read per month. If you are keeping up, Scribd offers you three ebooks and one audiobook a month for $8.99.

Audible
Audible’s main issue is that it is only a subscription platform for audiobooks. While its audiobook subscription is the most impressive of the bunch, including titles from John Green and the Harry Potter series, I find it a little outlandish to be paying $9.99 for just one audiobook a month. While many audiobooks are about 10 hours long that can easily be used up at a few days at work, if you listen to them while working at your desk. In terms of usability, it works just fine, and has plenty of cool features, but the monthly price for a single audiobook is not really worth it, in my opinion, especially if you are a heavy consumer.

So which do you think is worth it for you? Is there another service that you’ve been using to stream your audiobooks and ebooks? Let us know in the comments below.

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