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Playing with Windows Mobile games at the Old School Yard (Qype)

Playing with Windows Mobile games at the Old School Yard (Qype)

Ob. disclaimer – I went to the Old School Yard courtesy of Qype for a event

As soon as I walked in, I knew it was my kind of pub. Huge screens, games to be played, drinks to be consumed, and a feeling of space. The main problem was a distinct lack of chairs – but if you’re playing, why are you sitting down?

There’s even a tiny back garden with some faux grass if you need a sense of fresh air – or you can stand outside the pub itself, which has plenty of space. There’s even a wonderfully decorated basement with all sorts of nick nacks and decoration touches.

On the night we were there to look at Windows Mobile phones and gaming, there was even a very knowledgable cocktail meister serving some delicious cocktails (we counted watermelon and ginger amongst the ingredients) and some oh-so-juicy burgers. Nom om om.

I was handed a surprisingly svelte’n’sexy Windows phone to play with for five minutes. It had a very whizzy user interface that begged you to swipe and swipe away, and it’s certainly come on leaps and bounds since my last-thwarted attempt to get a Windows phone to work with me, back in 2008. The games looked fun, the screen looked bright and colourful, and the interface seemd incredibly responsive to my touches. Aside, that is, from the touch-screen keyboard which was responsive but just couldn’t quite cope with my drunken attempts at writing a text – but then again, I’ve never gotten on with touch-screen keyboards generally.

If only there was a way to actually try a phone in the real world for a while before you bought one – I’m in the market for a new phone, but have yet to find a cool phone with a physical keyboard – and touch-screen keyboards and I just don’t seem to get on yet. And yes, I’ve been told that I need to train touchscreen keyboards to respond to me – but quite frankly, if I have to train an input device, then something’s gone wrong straight away. I already know how to read and write – I don’t need to adjust my reading skills for a different book, do I?

A snippet of life in the household

A snippet of life in the household

I am using an ancient tiny Celeron laptop to try and surf the modern Internet, with all its social media widgets and Flash files.

Hyperham is using a modern fast Intel dual-core laptop to play Dungeon Keeper 2, a classic game from 1998..

All while Eddie Izzard is talking about flags on Channel 4…

The best game EVER … is now free. Till May 24th.

The best game EVER … is now free. Till May 24th.

Seriously, run – don’t walk – and download Portal for free.

It’s the game that burns twice as bright but half as long as most games. It’s the game that gives a 3D shine to essentially a fiendishly clever mind-blowing puzzle game. It’s got more character than most Hollywood films, it brizzles with tension, and it’s more hilarious than Matrix: Revolutions.

Go. Download. It. Now.

Awomo – you fail!

Awomo – you fail!

I spotted a BBC News article on Awomo, a new UK-based games company that was offering streaming downloads of games – and offering Tomb Raider: Legend for free during its beta period. So I thought I’d try it out.

It took me a while to download the required program, then six minutes to download the essential game files, and I thought I was ready to go. Unfortunately, trying to launch the game launched a flurry of pop-up warnings.

The laughingly-called support part of the website said that if there were any problems, you should try and visit the Awomo fourms, which is fair enough. But I couldn’t spot the answer to my problem on the forum, so I thought I ought to try and ask a seperate question.

Only to find that you can’t post on said forum without registering, and the administrators have disabled registration.

Thus, we have a new online games company which is so unkeen to hear from its customers that it won’t let them post to the forum in any way, shape or form. Odd, that.

Why, Vista, why?

Why, Vista, why?

Appropos of nothing, I ended up upgrading to Windows Vista last night. (well, rather, my new swanky laptop which I got for a ridiculously cheap price arrived).

Straight away ran into a few problems. All the fancy graphics are nice, but don’t actually amount to even a ramp of beans, let alone a hill. The much-vaunted security issues seem positively annoying when you’re trying to set up a new laptop.

The worst issue is that my favourite game in the whole wide world, Civilisation 4, refuses to run on Vista. I’ve tried running patches, installing DirectX, uninstalling and reinstalling and each time various little bugs come up. including that it can’t find the DVD – even though I ran it from the DVD in the first place.

Which wouldn’t be so bad if … half the reason I upgraded was so that Civilisation 4 could run comparatively smoothly on it instead of crashing when my old laptop would overheat.

Have you used/tried Vista in earnest and anger? Would I really be sad if I resorted to trying to dual-boot it just so I could run a game?

The wonderful world of Wii

The wonderful world of Wii

So Miss R and I have had a weekend of being with the Wii … and while Miss R has not tried to wrestle it from my hands, we’ve had a good couple of games of tennis and bowling on it. Which she beat me at (oh the shame!).

On the Friday night, Miss R’s sister and brother-in-law happened to pop over, and so we showed them the console. The brother-in-law, having had some boxing and golf experience, took to boxing like a duck to water – and it was amazing watching him playing the game while adopting the classic boxer stance. Because while you can sit on the sofa and play these games, why would you want to? Now I’ve got two controllers, I’m wondering whether to get two more in case any visitors pop round!

Having said that, it does take some time to get used to the controllers. Holding it sideways for Sonic? The thing that really baked my noodle for a while was in Call of Duty 3 when you have to move it fast in a certain direction to wrestle a rifle from an enemy. I’m still not sure how that happens, to be honest!

Making a Wii for myself was rather quirky fun, but that’s where my love affair with the cutesyness of the Wii control panel ended. All those jolly sounds, all that Japanese animation – it can get quite grating after a while. Give me the tentacle monsters of anime anyday!

Right now, though, my Wii has been trying to download a systems update from the wireless internet since midnight on Sunday. It still wasn’t done at 8am this morning – hopefully it’ll be done tonight. And for a putatively simple console the whole family can use, getting it online is a bit of a struggle.

Of course, the real test will be whether Miss R likes the Wii enough that she plays it by herself…

I still want a Playstation 3 though! In that spoof Apple-style parody video for the PS3 versus Wii – the “cute as a button” skinny blonde/Nintendo Wii would have me reaching for a garrotting knife sooner or later. Or maybe I just want to keep up with the electronic Jones’ in the work office next door…

Wii vs PS3. Fight!

Wii vs PS3. Fight!

Like most gadget/tech/game-obsessed folk, I’ve been dreaming and arguing with myself between the PS3, the X-Box 360 and the Wii as my next games console of choice. Which is rather silly, considering I mostly play RTS games and I don’t use my existing game consoles that much any more. But dream on, I do. And unlike Angelina Jolie, a games console is within reach. At least, theoretically.

Why would I want all three?

A Nintendo Wii will get me off the couch, it seems like great multi-player fun and it might just turn Miss R on into the possibilities of gaming.

A Playstation 3 – well, it’s just the games console equivalent of a great big thundering V8 turbo-diesel Ferrari. The idea of downloading games and trailers in HD quality does sound appealing – even if I have a traditional CRT TV set. Plus, the trailer for Grand Theft Auto IV had me *drooling*.

As for the XBox 360 – well, it came out before the PS3, it;s cheaper and it promises better integration with my PC and online, with downloadable movies and trailers. But then the PS3 promises that as well, doesn’t it?

All this came to a head last week, when on one day whispers on the Internet abounded of a discount code that let you get 40% off any goods in their catalogue, at least for the 20,000 customers. Including a Playstation 3. So I ended up ordering a Playstation 3, and wondering if I could have better spent the money on something else. Like a house.

The next day, Miss R told me (on request, she doesn’t check on this all the time for me!) that the local game shops had managed to secure a supply of Nintendo Wii’s. Before I had time to think about it, I’d popped down to the shop, handed over my credit card and became the proud owner of a Nintendo Wii. Mostly because I had aspirations to selling it on eBay – but also because I did want to play it, see what it was like, and perhaps turn Miss R onto the power and greatness of gaming.

Alas, to sell it on eBay meant not touching the Wii. So it’s been sat on the living room floor for the last week, lonely, untouched, unplayed with me only occasionaly salivating at it, wondering whether someone would pay me a lot of money for the privilege. But it was not to be – the only two flickers of interest came from someone in the Phillippines who wanted two (scam alert! scam alert!) and someone from Scotland who wanted it for their church youth group and wondered if I would do a deal.

Of course, in the midst of all this, I was starting to stress about just what I had done, buying two games consoles on two consecutive days. At least until the letter came through saying that the discount code had been withdrawn, and that if I wanted the shiny gleamy Playstation 3, I’d have to pay full-price for it. Baluga. Although my parents are in Hong Kong at the moment, where PS3s cost 73% less than they do in the UK

So tonight, after the total failure of my attempt to make some money (that’s my application to The Apprentice cancelled), I at least have the small consolation price of having a Wii to play with tonight. Unless you want to buy it from me? 🙂

Snakes on a phone

Snakes on a phone

Way way back in the mid-1990s, I remember when mobile phones became more than just ways of talking to people. My then-new Nokia phone had a little mini-game called Snakes.

It was a very simple 2D black-and-white game on a screen that a Spectrum would laugh at, in which you controlled a little snake in order to make it eat things and grow larger, while avoiding its ever-growing tail. But it was just enough to occupy my attention span on any bus or tube journey, and there were reports in the paper of showbiz celebrities (such as Robbie Williams) competing with each other to attain a higher-and-higher Snake score. Thought they were dead busy meself.

But later Nokia phones that I owned seemed to abandon games altogether. My last phone was a Sony Ericsson W810i, and aside from its laughable excuse for a keypad, it didn’t seem to have any particularly compelling games on it.

Today, I got myself a Nokia N73. One of the great joys of getting a new mobile phone is diving into all the buttons, options and menus – without having read the manual, of course – to see what there is. That is, after you’ve frantically opened it and plugged it in only to belatedly realise that you need to insert the battery first. Which involves removing the battery cover which takes a degree in mechanical science – or a belief that you can rip apart the phone without damaging the new toy you’ve got.

Anyway, while I’m checking out all the new options – where’s the automatic keypad lock ?! – I find the Games section. And there’s a game called Snake. Oooh, past guilty pleasures abound, I think. Retro emulation of an old game on a new smartphone – how cool is that?

Nope. They’ve gone and reprogrammed it. With sound, music, lights, colours – and more importantly – re-set it in a 3D world. Now it’s no longer a simplistic, easy-going game that anyone can figure out. And now it’s even harder to play. Multiple distractions of light and sound everywhere. The blackness of the gamescape makes it feel like you’re in an oppressive world rather than a cheerfully simplistic one.

The most annoying thing is that since my commute is now 5 minutes long by car, I can’t play the game properly. And I really want to!

Reasons to get an X-Box 360

Reasons to get an X-Box 360

I currently own a Playstation 2 and an X-Box. Aside from the odd spurt of gaming obsession (mostly with Grand Theft Auto San Andreas and Halo), they mostly sit there lying, begging to be used and played with. So when news first eeked out about the X-Box 360, I wasn’t that particularly bothered.

Until I saw that the X-Box 360 comes with a built-in Media Center Extender. Which basically means it can hook up to my PC network (wirelessly I assume), and let me watch digital videos or photos stored on my PC, in the living room on my TV set. Now this sounds dead handy to me. Especially given the 40 Gigabytes of video I’ve yet to watch.

Of course, I could just mod my existing X-Box for the same effect, but why do that when I could have a new gleaming white/green gadget to play with instead? Then again, I could just go on holiday instead…

Entertainment overload…

Entertainment overload…

As usual, Armando Iannucci says it best: “The sooner we set limits to the … stuff we’re prepared to be entertained by, the happier we will all be.”

As I look around at:

– the 40 Gigabytes of TV programmes I have downloaded and yet to watch
– the CDs I haven’t heard yet
– the DVDs/tapes I’ve borrowed from friends that I haven’t handed back yet
– the Amazon DVDs I’ve hired that I haven’t even opened, two months on
– the pile of VHSs of ancient TV recordings I haven’t seen
– the four waist-high piles of magazines I haven’t read through
– the two shelves of books I haven’t read
– the six computer games and ten console games that still lie there

I really ought to realise this and get rid of it all and hark back to a minimalist existence and give up on trying to use all this stuff.

But what’s really sucking my time? Web surfing. Endless web surfing. Stuffing my brain with useless trivia and opinions that might come in handy in the pub one night, but otherwise never gets used. Oh, and playing Civilisation III. Endlessly.

Maybe I need to join a self-help group or something. But that’ll take time out of sorting out my entertainment backlog. Although on the plus side I might bump into Helena Bonham-Carter.

See, Fight Club is not a film I would normally watch. But a neighbour brought it round one night, we watched it and it was a fantastic film, and I really ought to buy/read the book. And it’s moments of entertainment bliss like that I’m scared of missing out on.

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