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December 2011 Archives

It's been a bumper year for computer games. The Sunday

Mercury's STEVE WOLLASTON selects his top 10 of 2011.


1 ELDER SCROLLS V - SKYRIM

GAME of the year couldn't be an easier decision, despite it being an incredibly strong 12 months for gaming.

The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword

Image via Wikipedia

Skyrim takes the top spot for its sheer depth, ingenuity, fantastic plot and immense visuals.

Imagine playing in a Lord Of The Rings film where you can just about do whatever you want.

There is something truly fantastic about strolling through beautiful landscapes while wielding a huge sword and waiting for something to try to decapitate you.

Add in a wonderfully stirring classical score, oodles of gore and mystical madness, and you have the perfect game. This one will take over your life.

2 FIFA 12

PERFECTION is something EA strives for and since forcing Konami's Pro Evolution series into runner-up position, they have polished and fine-tuned the FIFA bandwagon.

The game is as fluent, in-depth and gripping as any football fan could want.

Playing online is a true joy, as long as you like being verbally abused by 12-year-old Amercians in Iowa.

"Man you English are lame at soccer," I was told. Duh, it's football, kid.

3 DISNEYLAND ADVENTURES

I CAN guarantee that if you scour the net and every gaming magazine worldwide, nobody will have placed this game in their top 5.

That puzzles me because this aims squarely at its target audience and delivers a very playable game which is cute, colourful and quirky.

Of course, nothing can be a substitute for a trip to Disneyland itself but this game does bring the magic of Mickey and pals to your living room in a triumph for Kinect.

The game menus are very responsive, as is the gaming experience itself.

4 CALL OF DUTY MODERN WARFARE 3

YOU can't ignore COD, it's everywhere.

MW3, as it's affectionately known, dominated the gaming industry ahead of release and, not for the first time, garnered huge TV coverage.

Aside from the superb graphics and top-notch warfare gameplay, the storyline is not hugely important.

The game excels in the online arena with the whole world seemingly rejoicing in blowing each other to smithereens.

As ever, the quality is unquestionable and the fun is endless.

5 PORTAL 2

WONDERFULLY complicated and beautifully unique, Portal was the thinking man's puzzle/platform game.

Portal 2 primarily comprises a series of puzzles that must be solved by teleporting the player's character and simple objects using the portal gun, a device that can create inter-spatial portals between two flat planes.

The game's physics allow momentum to be retained through these portals, which must be used creatively to manoeuvre through challenges. It's a game that will test your grey matter.

6 THE LEGEND OF ZELDA: SKYWARD SWORD

THE Legend of Zelda games have been a central part of the Nintendo franchise for many years, peaking with the N64 Zelda game more than a decade ago.

Now it can be said the game has surpassed that. This latest offering is a huge shot in the arm for the ailing Wii console, and proof that there is life in it yet.

As ever, the mix of RPG, adventure and combat are perfectly woven into the magic of the game.

The controls are absolutely first-class and help to make this more than just another game. It oozes with quality throughout and proves a big hit with fans and newbies alike.

7 UNCHARTED 3

THE Indiana Jones-inspired series that Spielberg would love to direct, Uncharted reaches another level on its third outing as it takes you from a grimy London pub to a bustling Columbian town.

Relentless action, diverting puzzles and wonderful visuals combine to ensure the game stands out even in a year full of spectacular games.

Uncharted 3 is so monumentally enjoyable that it shines like one of its hero Drake's buried treasures.

8 BATMAN ARKHAM CITY

IT didn't seem possible that Batman Arkham Asylum could be bettered, but that's exactly what's happened.

There is no great secret here, just a huge Gotham City to explore, all the traditions of Batman mythology and a hell of a good combat system.

Gameplay has been tweaked and improved since last time out with a deeper combat system. Graphics are fantastic and really it's one title that every self-respecting gamer should own.

9 F1 2011

THIS is probably a strange choice to some people.

There's no denying the quality of the game but my reason for picking it is sheer personal enjoyment alone.

This is the best Formula 1 game to date and one that delivers the action, atmosphere and thrills of the sport perfectly.

10 GEARS OF WAR 3

IN many ways it has been the year of the first-person shooter, with the genre enjoying a higher quality of overall releases.

Gears Of Wars 3 for many was a very significant release and in many ways as important as Call Of Duty Modern Warfare 3.

Once again, it was a game rich in narrative and full of action, but the high-octane gameplay, edgy nature and superb online play made this a must have game.

For me, it really was as much fun as MW3 both online and offline.

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Gadget Review: Kobo EREADER

By Steve Wollaston on Dec 27, 11 02:06 PM

Kobo-eReader-Touch-Edition-1-544x345px.jpg

I am a complete virgin when it comes to readers, despte being a gadget reviewer and web editor this current technological craze has slipped past me.

I was therefore pretty intrigued when Kobo asked me to review this touch edition reader.

The first thing I thought when unboxing it was rather worryingly 'Ooh that's nice', the black quilted effect looks good.

Now I am a real fan of books, I like holding a book and leafing through the pages, I also like tossing a book down the side of the bed when I am ready for lights out, that makes this a totally alien experience for a bookworm like me.

It became clear very quickly to me that this little tablet of tricks could be the thing to win me over, wireless connection, touch screen, 1GB of memory and a battery charge that lasts for 2 weeks is a good start!

It is also very sleek and compact, similar in look to an iPad but much smaller, I like the white screen effect although it took me a bit to get used to it.

Buying books and publications through the store is effortless and there is over 2.3m products currently available, there is also the option to borrow and read eBooks from your local library but I haven't tried that yet.

I loved the virtual page turning and there is no doubting that this is a very functional and user-friendly device that in all fairness is a joy to use.

It looks great, works well and there are plentiful options and it supports PDF which is useful.

Does it turn me away from books? Not just yet, but I will certainly use this in tandem with the more traditional medium.

Great fun.

More information at www.kobobooks.com/touch

devolo_.jpg

Spending in excess of £100 on a pair of plugs may not be top of everyone's list of priorities but in this case exceptions should be made.

This is a very sophisticated high-speed home network that gives you speeds of up to 500 mbs via your household's electrical wiring.

Perfect for use with all kinds of data transfer and home entertainment aside from the clear benefits of using your plug sockets for data transfer it is also very easy to set up.

All you need to do is plug it in to the plug socket and connect the network cable, simple as that.

I find that the device works perfectly for wireless connections generally and in my case I have used it to connect the Xbox 360 wirelessly to the home network.

Anyone who games online will tell you the need for a fast and efficient wireless connection and the use of the dLan technology makes it effortless and very effective.

It is also streams 3D and HD and uses only 0.5 watts in standby mode making it eco-friendly too.

The technology works in old and new houses so wiring of all ages is fine, you can also encrypt the connection for security.

Billed as a 'networking innovation' devolo have once again tweaked their existing quality products to offer the best home networking solution to date.

digital_silence_ds-321d_noise-cancelling_headphones.jpg

Here's a top-of-the-range product from Digital Silence.

In ear noise cancelling phones designed for mobile phones which double up as your MP3 player.

Not only do you get fantastic power blocking out the sounds of your environment, such as the gym's insistence on broadcasting Crap FM, but a switch on the cable allows you to answer your phone if it rings during the music.

And the in-built microphone means you don't have to remove the comfortable soft pods from your ears.

There's hardly any noise leakage too, so no-one has to know that you're listening to Justin Bieber while you work or work out.

The volume and bass are terrific - my Sansa clip usualy struggles with volume on mid-range earphones but there's real impact with these. Expect to pay about £70, but it's worth it if you want - possibly - the last word in quality.

www.digital-silence.com

Review: Marmite Mouse

By Steve Wollaston on Dec 13, 11 09:32 PM

Marmite.jpg

Fresh from an appearance on Dragon's Den and now with the backing of Dragon James Caan, Motormouse is an innovative and quirky company specialising in iconic and eyecatching computer accessories.

With a stable of products like Porsches and Mini Coopers these are the ultimate mouse for showing off in the office or raising a smile in the house.

The latest design is just perfect for me as I am a huge Marmite nut. Perfectly recreating the famous Marmite jar this is a very comfortable mouse and one that raises a second-glance.

It looks brilliant but more importantly it fits your hand well and is actually very comfortable.

Revitalising the computer mouse market is not an obvious one by any means but Motormouse have done just that and in some style.

You can also get a toast mouse mat too - genius!

Marmite Mouse (RRP £18.99, Mat £7.99) More information at - http://www.motor-mouse.net/

Gadget Review: Air Swimmers

By Steve Wollaston on Dec 13, 11 08:45 PM

If you are the kind of parent who likes to get your kids a different type of gift or an uncle who likes to get a nephew or niece the wackiest present you can find then this is 100% for you.

Air Swimmers are quite absurdly fish that swim through the air, a shark or a clownfish to be precise.

As you can see from the video they glide through the air as if they were swimming using the fin to move in the same way a fish would.

Do NOT buy this if you have a small house, you need to have plenty of room and you also need to take your time when assembling it.

Great fun and just about the quirkiest gift you could buy for Xmas.

More information here - http://airswimmers.com/

Review: Annoying Monsters

By Steve Wollaston on Dec 13, 11 08:13 PM

Annoying Monsters.jpg

Guaranteed to drive parents mad Annoying Monsters by 50 Fifty Toys are a new cute and cuddly toy for kids but with a difference.

At first glance they look adorable but when you press them they surprisingly
repeat what you say, fart, burp, laugh, snore and even scream!

Parents will probably hate them but children are going to find them hilarious.

Stockist www.play.com

SRP - £15-£20

It's that time of the week again when we look at this week's Official UK App Store Chart - Week 49 (w/e 11th December 2011) - featuring the top ten free and paid iPad and iPhone apps.

iPhone (Paid):

1.) WhatsApp Messenger - WhatsApp Inc.

2.) Catchprase - Deluxe Digital Studios London.

3.) FIFA 12 by EA Sports - EA Swiss Sarl.

4.) Angry Birds Seasons - Rovio Mobile Ltd.

5.) Football Manager Handheld 2012 - SEGA.

6.) Color Texting - Golden Future Apps.

7.) Angry Birds - Clickgamer.com.

8.) Bejeweled - PopCap.

9.) TETRIS - EA Swiss Sarl.

10.) Fruit Ninja - Halfbrick Studios.


iPhone (Free):

1.) iTunes - 12 Days of Christmas - iTunes.

2.) Pool - Byterun.

3.) Modern War - Funzio, Inc.

4.) Very Hungry Cat - iDevUA Treelight Limited.

5.) Bejeweled Blitz - PopCap.

6.) Ringtones 500,000+ - DYSoftware.

7.) Need for Speed Undercover - EA Swiss Sarl.

8.) Theme Park - EA Swiss Sarl.

9.) Toca Hair Salon - Christmas Gift.

10.) Christmas Countdown 2011 - The Best 25 Free Apps. - MagicSolver.com Ltd.


iPad (Paid):

1.) Football Manager Handheld 2012 - SEGA.

2.) F1 2010 Game - Jump Games.

3.) Chess - Mastersoft Mobile Solutions.

4.) Pages - Apple.

5.) Contre Jour HD - Chillingo Ltd.

6.) GarageBand - Apple.

7.) Batman Arkham City Lockdown - Warner Bros.

8.) The Cube - All3Media International.

9.) Infinity Blade II - Chair Entertainment Group, LLC.

10.) Weather+ - International Travel Weather Calculator.


iPad (Free):

1.) iTunes - 12 Days of Christmas - iTunes.

2.) Theme Park - EA Swiss Sarl.

3.) Diamond Dash - wooga.

4.) Toca Hair Salon - Christmas Gift - Toca Boca.

5.) Paper Toss 2.0 - Backflip Studios.

6.) Tap Zoo 2: World Tour - Pocket Gems, Inc.

7.) iBooks - Apple.

8.) My Xbox Live - Microsoft Corporation.

9.) Christmas Countdown 2011 - The Best 25 Free Apps. - MagicSolver.com Ltd.

10.) Bubble Blast 2 - kreactive technologies.

 

MinistryHeadphones465.jpgRetro over-the-ear headphones from London superclub Ministry of Sound come, as you might expect, in a funky black and yellow design.

Great power with deep bass output is ideal for immersing yourself in the club atmosphere.

Leatherette padded cans fit with super comfort and cut out external sounds although there is a bit of leakage if you're bothered about annoying others on the bus. Depends on how thumping you want your sounds, really.

Nifty collapsable design means they can be stashed away in your pocket safely.

But, complete with MoS logo, they look great and, so, it's a great look. Expect to pay about £30.

www.ministryofsound.com/headphones

Review by Steve Nicholls

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From 26th December - 6th January - Apple are bringing back the popular 12 Days Of Christmas where people can can download a selection of songs, music videos, apps, games and books for free.

Each download will only be available for 24 hours. Get the 12 Days of Christmas app to make it even easier to access your gifts while you're on the go.

If you have an iPad, iPhone or iPod touch? Don't worry. From 26 December you can download gifts from your computer.

You can download the app here - http://itunes.apple.com/gb/app/itunes-12-days-of-christmas/id479672983?mt=8

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Authors

Steve Wollaston

Steve Wollaston - Sunday Mercury games reviewer Steve has been writing about video games for donkey's years. In fact he is probably far too old for it now which is why you will see a lot of reviews been done by kids... He has been nominated three times for Regional Games Journalist Of The Year at the Games Media Awards, but never wins. His major love is sports games and rates Sensible World of Soccer circa 90's as the greatest game ever made - closely followed by Championship Manager 2. Skyrim has currently taken over his life.


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