Nintendo Wii U review of reviews

The Nintendo Wii was like a firework of its generation of consoles – it burned incredibly brightly and shot up fast and then kind of fell away. Opening up the casual gaming market (the same market that has been such a boon to smartphones) was in many ways a genius move, but certain casual gamer-centric decisions like making the Wii an underpowered, family friendly standard definition console alientated a lot of “hardcore” gamers. The casual nature of casual gaming left a lot of Wiis gathering an awful amount of dust.

Fast-forward six years and the all new Wii U is hitting the shops. Nintendo used to be kings of the console so will their bigger, faster, better offering have enough to wow the crowds back?

Wii-U

Kyle Orland over at Ars Technica is pleased that the Wii U addresses one of the major failings of the Wii.

One thing is clear, at least—the HD graphics on the Wii U are at least on par with those of current HD systems. I loaded up the opening cut scene for Mass Effect 3 simultaneously on both my Xbox 360 and the Wii U, switching TV inputs to compare the rendering between them. If there was any difference in the quality, I couldn’t make it out.

The Wii’s detractors would often complain about the system’s underpowered hardward – making it somehow less of a gaming machine than the XBox or PS3. Nintendo have finally caught up – with the previous generation of console.

I’m willing to believe the Wii U is more powerful than the older HD consoles though, primarily because the system is also pushing a lag-free wireless image to the Wii U GamePad while it generates those HDTV graphics. Sometimes that touchscreen image is just a mirror of what’s happening on the TV, but often it’s a totally different viewpoint of the same scene, or a different scene entirely. I’d have to imagine ignoring the touchscreen altogether might actually give developers more horsepower to spend on the image being pushed to the TV

GamePad

One of the most innovative things about the Wii was the Wii-Mote a motion-based gaming system that was wildly popular and copied by both Sony and Microsoft. After 6 years of resting on Wii-mote laurels, David Piece at the Verge notes that Nintendo is bringing something new to the table with the GamePad.

The GamePad is huge, about 10 inches long and fairly thick and wide as well. Fortunately it only weighs about a pound, and thanks to ridges underneath your fingers in the back is quite comfortable to hold as long as it’s in both hands — it’s a little awkward in one hand, especially when you hold it in portrait mode. It’s made of black plastic, and is glossy on the front and matte on the back. The glossy part is incredibly fingerprint- and smudge-prone, just like the console, and Nintendo might have been better off using the matte material everywhere. The whole thing feels a little cheap and flimsy (a common occurrence with Nintendo consoles) though it’s plenty sturdy in use. The build quality is one of many sacrifices Nintendo seems to make in the name of creating a lighter, smaller GamePad. Most tradeoffs I could live with, but not the battery, which insisted on dying after only about three hours of gameplay — Nintendo obviously sacrificed battery size to keep the GamePad light, and it overshot the balance a bit. I had to have the GamePad’s charger, which includes yet another huge brick, accessible at all times when I was playing, because as you’ll see there’s basically no Wii U without the GamePad.

Back at Ars Technica Kyle Orland has issues with the launch titles.

But if the Wii U is capable of generating graphics more detailed than those of other current systems, the launch games I’ve seen so far don’t do a great job showing that off. First-party titles like New Super Mario Bros. U and Nintendo Land capture the company’s signature bright, cartoony style, but they come across as high-definition versions of games that would have been possible on the original Wii.

However T3 have some kind words about some of the titles.

The Wii U’s launch line-up is strong, covering everything from triple-A big-hitters to cheaper indie downloads, single-player adventures to multiplayer feasts. Nintendo Land – A great intro to the Wii U’s inputs a la Wii Sports, this comes bundled free in most packages. Includes 12 meaty mini-games themed round Nintendo classics from Donkey Kong to Zelda. New Super Mario Bros U – Sure, it’s a 2D platformer (Galaxy will have to wait), but the breadth of its multi-terrained world is stunning and collaborative multiplayer engaging.

Wii-U-GamePad

Consoles stopped being gaming machines a long time ago and the orginal XBox media centre hack was (at least for me) a revalation. So how does the Wii U fit into this new media hub landscape?

Although the deluxe Wii U shipps with Hulu Plus, Amazon Instant Video, and YouTube apps all preinstalled, Cnet uncovered a major failing.

Unfortunately, one section where the Wii U majorly fails — compared with other consoles — is media playback. Truth is, there is none. Even with all of its USB ports and SD slot, users cannot play their own media on the console. Throw this into the missed opportunity category.

So what’s the verdict? Techrader manage to sum it up the best.

For Nintendo fans looking to finally enter the HD era, the Wii U may seem like a beacon of light in an endless downpour – and if you’re coming from the Wii, it will be quite impressive, indeed. Not only are the publisher’s own properties sleeker than ever before, but third-parties can finally deliver the great games they’ve been making for other systems in recent years. But gamers who already have an Xbox 360 or PlayStation 3 may struggle to see much of the appeal for now. Many of the Wii U games are lightly enhanced ports, with just a few noteworthy originals. And the online interface and streaming media options aren’t quite as polished or robust as what’s seen elsewhere. It’s difficult to point to a brilliant, system-selling game that justifies a new console purchase. There’s great fun to be had on the Wii U right away, but we struggle to call it an essential purchase for those still enjoying games on other platforms.

AOC myPlay: Supersize your mobile’s display

myPlay

Ever get fed up of the miniscule size of your Smartphone’s display? Have you dreamt of a larger screen on your tablet? With AOC’s new 27” myPlay i2757Fm display monitor, you can plug your Android-compatible gadget in to see your screen in large HD quality.

The myPlay i2757Fm is a clever device, and has been much needed, especially if you want to sit back and enjoy watching a movie on a larger scale than being restricted to a screen the size of your hand. Using a special MHL (Mobile High-definition Link) connector, the advanced LED monitor transfers full HD 1080p content from the small screen to the big at the touch of a button. The integrated speakers ensure you can hear as good as you can see. Your Smartphone / tablet’s batteries are also charged at the same time, so you can be sure that you will never suffer any interruptions due to your device running out of power. You can even control the device using your existing DTV remote.

Suitable for use with any Android-powered tablet or Smartphone, the myPlay i2757Fm boasts a full HD premium IPS (In-Plane Switching) screen that measures 27”, meaning it will breathe life into any film, website, document, video, photograph or even game that you choose to display on it. Just think, no more strained eyes or neck as you try to fathom out what is showing on the small screen – especially if you are playing a puzzle game or reading subtitles on a movie – all you need to do is supersize your display by plugging it into the myPlay i2757Fm.

Forget SpecSavers, the myPlay i2757Fm display monitor could very well be the ultimate sight for sore eyes. Visit www.aoc-europe.com for more information.

The nuts and bolts of Logitech’s new mechanical keyboard

Before we go any further, I would like to say that the keyboard I am typing this on has seen better days. Every keystroke emits a clunky noise, and it rattles along trying its hardest to deafen me as I write this very sentence. If only I had the new mechanical keyboard from Logitech, my world would be so much quieter.

Logitech-G710

The G710+ mechanical gaming keyboard is, by all accounts, the Lamborghini of computer peripherals. With a host of features, the G710+ is really the answer to your typing woes. The low-noise mechanical keys offer high speed performance, making it ideal for both everyday use and intense gaming sessions. The backlight keys also help aid you when playing or typing long into the night. The white backlit LED light is adjustable between four intensity settings, meaning you can make it as bright as you wish, or even turn it off if your eyes prefer it.

As a gaming keyboard, there are 18 separate individual programmable functions you can utilise that will save you precious time, offering complex combinations of keys at a touch of a button. The mechanical keys are built to last too, and come with a life cycle of 50 million keystrokes. The near silent keystrokes are achieved with dampening rings under each key, and they all feature advanced 26-key rollover anti-ghosting technology meaning your computer will never miss a key press ever again.

You can also control audio settings on your PC from the keyboard, and disable the Windows Start shortcut so you are never in any danger of being distracted whilst gaming.

A worthy keyboard that would grace any serious enthusiasts desktop, the Logitech G710+ is priced at a competitive RRP of £149.99. For more information, visit www.logitech.com.

Sennheiser U320 Gaming Headset: Multi platform? These Cans Can

Seinheiser-U320

And so the debate continues to rumble on. PC? Xbox 360? PS3?  Mac? Whatever your particular weapon of choice, the lack of uniform head gear is irritating in the extreme, particularly when you consider most households will have multiple platforms lying around. It would make perfect sense to produce a multi platform accessory, and Sennheiser, revered sonic champions of long standing, has done just that.

According to their research, the majority of gamers today are in their mid twenties and tend to prefer consoles over desk top PCs. On the other hand, I’ll bet there’s an army of PC users out there who might just have a thing or two to say about that. Either way, it makes economic sense to have one high end head set to fit all the choices to keep everyone in the household happy.

The U320 is designed using a patented padding Senheiser calls CircleFlex, which moulds itself to the shape of your head making the cans a very comfortable fit. There’s also a noise cancelling mike so the orders you scream at your online team mates will be easily picked up. Simply raising the boom arm mutes your mike and you’ll be able to maintain radio silence at will.

Product Manager Christian Ern remarks: “The U 320 ensures the best conditions for enjoying your favourite game. We’ve worked hard to develop a consistent sound, regardless of the platform, and believe that our efforts will contribute to players everywhere enjoying a better sound experience.”

Sennheiser U320 Gaming Headset  £109.99

www.sennheiser.co.uk

Roamler: Real life RPG adventure + cash

More and more companies are trying to take advantage of the fact that growing numbers of consumers are wandering hither and thither with location-aware, internet connection super computers in their pockets all the time.

One such app is the free-to-download Roamler, which enables anyone with an iPhone the chance to perform small tasks for brands with their iPhone in exchange for experience points and in most instances small sums of cash. Assignments include simple home-based tasks such as taking a photo of your coffee machine or location based such as reviewing a product’s presentation.

Roamler-app

The two main problem I had with Roamler are similar to the problems I have with most social networks: apathy and uptake. Whilst you can rack up small sums of cash it was still pretty hard to motivate myself to fire up the app and get going – even though I “had” to for this review. And as with all minor social networks there is a limited number of opportunities and fellow users. However, once you do overcome the first hurdle of actually using the app it’s very easy to “get into” using it and if you have a bit of free time on your hands, or are simply bored. And once you get “hooked” it can be an engaging way to spend your time – especially if you’ve used RPGs before.

A recent upgrade to the app now also encourages more social interaction between Roamlers, so there is the opportunity to ‘love’ or comment upon a challenge performed by a friend. Those with a competitive streak can race one another to be the first to complete a task, and progressing through the levels offers an increased number and variety of new tasks. Like I said, it’s handy if you’re into RPGs.

“There is a huge appetite at the moment among iPhone users to play games competitively and we saw an opportunity for brands to capitalise on this. Roamler has been a huge hit in the Netherlands, with 150,000 tasks undertaken so far and many fans commenting on the addictive nature of the app. UK consumers now have a chance to join in the fun, share and network with new and old friends via Roamler, and earn money while providing useful insight on behalf of brands.”

Co-founder of Roamler, Wiggert de Haan

Interest piqued? Visit roamler.co.uk.

Logitech G600: A gaming mouse for the MMO generation

Is your old bog-standard mouse getting a bit rusty when you play WoW or LotRO? In that case, maybe it’s time to invest in the new Logitech G600, a mouse especially designed for MMO players.

Logitech-G600

The customisable mouse features a grand total of 20 buttons (yes, on a mouse!), with 12 of the buttons set on a side panel for ease of use. Fully programmable, you can create your own key-commands or just stick with one of the three default profiles, pre-set for MMO and general games.

For the real geek in you, you will be pleased to hear that the thumb panel is illuminated when in use, and you can choose which colour you want it to be from an incredible 16 million different tones. Or at least, it’s 16 million according to the press release. You can also decide if you would like the illumination to pulse, cycle through all of the colours or glow continually if you so wish.

Ticking all the right boxes for comfort, performance, illuminated panels and above all else, more buttons than the average keyboard sorts, this is a demon of a mouse. Designed especially for those long gaming sessions, the G600 is everything an online gamer could want out of a mouse, and then some.

Priced at £69.99 the G600 hits the shops at the beginning of July. For more information visit www.logitech.com.

Elgato Game Capture HD: For gamers who don’t play around

Some people like to think that after they die they live on through their work. But now it’s possible to live on through your play with Elgato’s Game Capture HD – designed to immortalise you. If you’ve even seen the Frogger episode of Seinfeld (where George realises his high score on an arcade game might be his greatest achievement in his life) you’ll understand the importance of preserving your “legacy”.

Elgate-Game-Capture-HD

The Game Capture HD, a simple solution for recording and sharing PlayStation or Xbox gameplay using a Mac or PC. If you’ve been over to YouTube recently, you’ll see it’s peppered with videos of young people making other young people feel bad about themselves with their superior gameplay. Now you can join in on that fun. With software specifically tailored to the needs of gamers and a built-in H.264 encoder it’s pretty easy to record, edit and share a gameplay video.

“Gameplay videos created on the Mac or PC are reporting explosive growth, especially on YouTube. Elgato Game Capture HD offers the community an unrivalled and efficient way to create gameplay videos in maximum quality with minimum effort. It brings together years of video-encoding and editing experience.”
Adam Steinberg, Vice President Marketing at Elgato.

The H.264 hardware encoding means Elgato Game Capture HD records in HD quality without burdening the hard disk with large files. And as someone who records as lot of high definition DSLR video footage, believe me this is a good thing. I’ve shelled out on far too many hard drives in my time and it’s getting old. Set up is pretty simply using a single cable from the XBox 360 or the PS3, capturing all your gameplay through the magic of HDMI.

Elgato Game Capture HD lets gamers focus on what matters – family, friends, the world outside … I’m kidding obvious. Making recording simple means you can focus wholeheartedly on dominating at Fallout or whatever it is the kids are playing these days.

Thanks to the unique Flashback Recording feature, Elgato Game Capture HD remembers the gameplay that has preceded it, even if the record button wasn?t pressed. The gamer can then simply revert to the start of the scene they want to record and begin recording retroactively. With a single click, videos can be shared with friends and fans on YouTube, Facebook or Twitter. And with Elgato Game Capture HD software, it’s even possible to trim gameplay videos for later editing using a video-editing program.

Elgato Game Capture HD will be available from the start of June from Elgato, Amazon, and selected retailers for £179.95 including VAT.

Eyes right with the GUNNAR glasses

Do you spend hours staring at a computer screen, whether it’s working or playing games? Do you find yourself with aching eyes after a long session in front of a laptop?

Then you might be interested in the latest glasses to come to the market. The makers (GUNNAR Optiks,pioneers in the development of digital eyewear) claim these glasses can reduce screen eyestrain, minimise eye fatigue and visual stress while helping to improving contrast, comfort and focus.

Gunnar-gaming-glasses

According to the Vision Council of America, 90% of those who use a computer at least 3 hours a day suffer from symptoms of CVS (Computer Vision Syndrome) – with symptoms including blurred vision, difficulty changing focus; redness, burning sensation, soreness, stinging, itchiness, dryness, excessive tearing, eye fatigue, eyestrain, light sensitivity, and contact lens discomfort.

GUNNAR Computer Protective Glasses are designed to eliminate the constant refocusing effort eyes undergo when staring for long periods at a computer screen. And now for the science part – apparently the glasses use GUNNAR’s i-AMP lens technology, which relaxes the ocular muscles that strain to look at images and text at close distances. The glasses also have an i-Fi lens coating that filters the glare from artificial lighting, sunlight and the computer screen itself. The coating is scratch resistant and anti-reflective and GUNNAR claims it cuts out 99.7% of glare.

And there’s more – GUNNARS fRACTYL lens geometry helps the eyes to focus because it pre-focuses the light rays before they hit the eye, letting the ciliary muscles that shape the lens of the eye relax. Plus the iONic lens tint keeps the adverse effect of artificial lighting to a minimum.

Do they work? Well Gunnar Optiks’ surveyed 5,000 people and found that all of them reported improved ease of viewing while 96% reported reduction in eyestrain.

The glasses are already popular in the US and are now available to order from Sunglassesuk.com at http://www.sunglassesuk.com/brands/gunnar-advanced-gaming-eyewear-1. Prices start at £79.

Note: Anyone using a screen for any period of time should ensure the take regular breaks away from the screen, whatever eyewear they are using.