Archives For Gaming

We knew the E3 annual gaming conference would bring the announcement of Microsoft’s Project Natal, rebranded as Kinect, but few of us were expecting a refreshed Xbox 360 console. After years of unfulfilled Xbox 306 “Slim” rumors, perhaps we just gave up on the idea. But, MS has delivered.

The new Xbox 360 form factor is available first in the “Elite” spot ($300, 250GB, 802.11n), with a refreshed lower-end “Arcade” config to follow – once existing inventory has been depleted. The most obvious change is a sleeker and more compact enclosure, but Microsoft is also touting the fact that the new unit has been engineered be “whisper quiet.” Hopefully, they’ve also engineered away the red ring of death (RROD).

As attractive as the new case is, I’m disappointed that Microsoft wasn’t able to do away with a massive (and lit) power brick. Also, I’m a bit surprised to see they didn’t go down the Blu-ray path… to take on Sony. Had they, I’d probably have upgraded my primary gaming station. But, as it stands, I’ll wait on the lower end unit to bring Netflix, ESPN 3, and Windows Media Center extender capabilities into the bedroom.

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Marcus Penn took his brand spanking new Netflix Instant Streaming disc for a spin on the Wii.

As a Blu-ray owner, he doesn’t appear entirely satisfied with the video quality. However, even though the Wii is only capable of standard def resolutions, using component cables (480p) should provide a nicer experience than running over composite (480i). Unlike the PS3 and Xbox 360, I don’t believe there’s a television-esque remote available for the Wii. Yet Netflix (or was it Nintendo?) nicely integrates the Wii’s motion controller into the experience… Watch Marcus slide his queue around. (Of course, the directional pad can also be used for more traditional control. Which may be more efficient. For adults.) Unlike TiVo and Roku, but like the 360, the Netflix Wii experience enables genre-based browsing of content beyond your queue.

All in all, this seems like a decent upgrade for dual Wii/Netflix customers the low, low price of zero dollars.

If my inbox is any indication, it looks like a large number of folks will be receiving Netflix instant streaming discs for their Wiis in the next day or three. Running SD-only content off of disc isn’t quite as exciting as the Netflix Xbox Live app or even Roku. But it’s a nice freebie for Wii-owning Netflix subscribers (and their kids). Given I no longer own a Wii (due to the aforementioned SD problem and not enough compelling content), I won’t be able to provide a hands on in the near future. However, if there’s a shortage of streaming discs, I might be able to help someone out…

OnLive, the streaming games start-up, has announced that it will begin rolling out its subscription service ($14.95 per-month plus the cost of purchasing or renting the games themselves) to customers on the 17th of June 2010 to coincide with this year’s E3 gaming conference. It will be a US-only offering, however, at least for the foreseeable future, restricted to “to early registrants throughout the 48 contiguous United States”. This is in-line with their beta test program which requires users to be within 1000 miles of one of OnLive’s data centres.

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I’m always looking for new games on my Android phone. Right now I’m addicted to a simple word app called Target and still waiting for an Android version of Jewel Quest. However, a 3D gem popped up the other night while I was surfing through the marketplace. Remember those old Magic Eye pictures? Magic Eye was a short-lived fad back in the nineties, and even made it big enough for an iconic reference in the Kevin Smith flick Mall Rats. If you didn’t catch Magic Eye stereograms back in the day, there’s now an Android app for that.

There’s a free Magic Eye app available for Android with six trial pictures, and a pro version for 99 cents with 102 pics. Stare long enough and hard enough, and you’ll see the hidden 3D image behind the chaos of colors and shapes. Perhaps most importantly, the new apps give you tips on how to see the hidden 3D images. If you gave up on Magic Eye last decade, maybe it’s time to try it again. And if you’re really a glutton for punishment, Download Squad discovered a Magic Eye Tetris game last fall. Haven’t seen it on Android yet, but surely it won’t be long.

Don’t have an Android device? No worries. Magic Eye is available for the iPhone too.

PSP  LollipopAs a casual video gamer, sports has always been one of my favorite genres. I like being able to play an entire game from start to finish, without devoting a month of my life to beat the title. My natural love for sports probably also contributes to this preference, but whatever the case, it’s safe to say that they’ve been a staple of my entertainment system for a very long time. Unfortunately, when it comes to innovation in gaming, the sports franchises seem to lag the rest of the field.

I’d argue that this is due to the monopolies surrounding most major professional sports, but it may also have something to do with the temptation to release a new game every single year. After being burned too many times, I did finally cut my upgrade cycle from every year to once every 2 or 3 years. However, even with less frequent purchases, I still notice that there are pieces of each game that seem to be endlessly recycled year after year after year.

Specifically, I’m talking about the commentary in EA Sports games. Whether you’re playing NBA Live or John Madden football, having live commentators lends a certain amount of realism to the experience. Sure, their puns are cheesy and sometimes there are glitches where they’ll tell you how bad you did on a great play, but overall I enjoy having someone critique my every press of a button.

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Netflix and Nintendo have come up with a solution that will allow you to stream Netflix movies and shows to the Wii game console this spring. The initial solution works much like PS3 streaming, requiring you obtain a disk from Netflix (you have to be a Netflix member to do this). Many already have Netflix streaming capabilities on other devices like the PS3, Xbox 360, or one of the multitudes of Blu-ray streaming devices. But there are a ton of folks out there with nothing more than a Wii machine connected to their TV. So this ultimately expands Netflix’s reach to more households, albeit via standard definition content only, and gives Nintendo a competitive feature to add to their sales pitch.

Check out more of Brent’s reflections on tech, gadgets, software and media at Brent Evans Geek Tonic.