Tag Archives: Entertainment

New & Free Online Games at Playberry!

GAMING: Fresh offerings from Playberry

As a games critic, I have to say that I am hugely impressed with the quality of both free online games and mobile games. There are of course hundreds of really unimpressive free online games, but if you know where to look, there are many gems among the rough that are certainly worth giving a bash.

One new website that offers some quality free online games, is Playberry. Described as a “social gaming website dedicated to bringing great gaming content to your browser”, Playberry both develops and handpicks some really great games. It is made by gamers, for gamers.

Playberry Website – Free Online Games

Playberry - Free Online Games

There is a great range of freebies on Playberry, from zombie shoot-em-ups such as In Death We Rise to off-road speedsters such as Renegade Racing. Games are also voted on by Playberry users, providing a user-generated list of the most popular choices.

Playberry covers every major genre of games – from action, adventure and shooters to puzzlers, sports and strategy. Best part is that all these games are free to play and require no registration of any kind. Just visit www.playberry.com and dive right in!

There are of course benefits to registering with Playberry, which is free and can simply be done using your Facebook account. You’ll receive updates of new releases, and I see that they are creating a forum whereby users can make suggestions for new releases. A great feature for any online gaming site.

Playberry is building up a steady following on Facebook, and if you register with your Facebook account, you’ll also have the option of sharing your gaming awesomeness and progress with your friends.

So if you are a gaming enthusiast and are looking for the latest offerings of free online games, check out Playberry and get your game-face on! These games are so nice and small – making them perfect for playing while waiting around or whenever you can sneak in a few minutes of quality playtime.

Walk Off The Earth: A YouTube Fairytale

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WOTE: A Fairytale of New York and YouTube

IT’S fantastic how more and more people are using the Internet to start and build their careers. It gives a strong indication of what the online public wants, it creates entrepreneurs and employment and it gives us more variety and choice when spending time on the Internet.

YouTube specifically is becoming the most impressive stage for career launching. Look at someone like Ray William Johnson who basically creates YouTube videos about YouTube videos and gets millions of views within days. He has a full production crew, merchandise, a charity and cool hair.

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Dear Esther Game Review (PC)

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** This review is spoiler free! **

Dear Esther,

I happened upon fragments of washed up letters found amongst the rubbish that the sea brings. Soggy parchments bring word that those on the mainland speak of my lonely plight as some sort of game.

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The Apple of my iPad


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APPLE IPAD: Hands-on, touch technology at its best

DIGITAL entertainment technology has a nasty habit of being released onto the market too soon — usually before it can be fully tested, optimised, fine-tuned and sold at a fair price. The Apple iPad, on the other hand, couldn’t have come soon enough, and is the perfect balance between a smartphone — such as the iPhone — and a netbook or MacBook. It is also one gadget being marketed at a very reasonable price.

Apple iPad iBook storeWe South Africans, however, may have to wait a little longer to get our eager hands on iPads and experience them for ourselves. Nonetheless, several bloggers and tech experts have been raving about the iPad since it’s unveiling on January 28; but not all of it has been positive.

Techsperts are arguing that the biggest downfall of the iPad is that it is trying to be the best at everything and failing to be the best at anything. It’s great if you already own a laptop and an iPhone, they say, but perhaps not so great as a stand-alone device.

I would argue differently, and propose that the iPad is perfect for people who own neither an iPhone nor a netbook — or any Apple product for that matter. For starters, you would only be paying for one gadget (it is the cheapest of the three), which is able to do what the netbook and iPhone can … even if not as well.

What is an Apple iPad?
The iPad is a tablet computer. It is a flat, magazine-sized device with a multi-touch screen that allows users to surf the web, watch video content, send emails and read online media and ebooks (electronic books), among other things.

The real technology lies in the high-resolution, multi-touch screen, which is essentially what the iPad is. It requires no input devices such as a keyboard and mouse; everything is performed with the touch or sweep of a finger. A virtual on-screen keyboard appears when wanting to type something such as an email.

The iPad really resembles a large iPhone, but does not have built-in phone capabilities. However, the iPad is not marketed as a phone and it is still possible to web chat and communicate using social media websites and services.

Size and specs
The iPad is two centimetres thin and weighs just 0,7 kg. It features an accelerometre, compass, speaker, microphone, headphone jack, dock connector, 802.11n WiFi networking, Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR, 16/32/64GB of storage, and Apple’s brand new, super-fast A4 1GHz processor.

That’s one tight package with a lot of talent. Some iPad models will also feature 3G connectivity to cellphone networks. Battery life is said to be 10 hours during active use and one month during standby.

What does the iPad do?
Apple CEO Steve Jobs punted the iPad’s capabilities as an electronic reader of books, newspapers and magazines. In this way, it operates in a similar manner to the Amazon Kindle; one is able to browse and download ebooks onto the device to be read on the screen. This saw the birth of the iBooks application, which users can use to find, purchase, and download e-books from the iBook Store using their iPads.

Users can also download podcasts and vidcasts or buy music, TV shows, movies and applications from the built-in iTunes Store and App Store. All applications that currently work on the iPhone will run in an iPhone-sized window or in a maximized view on the iPad. Apple’s latest iPad model — the SDK — will allow developers to further customise applications for the larger screen size.

iPad Apps
The iPad comes with several built-in applications, such as Safari, Mail, iCal, Address Book, Google Maps, YouTube, Photos, and Music (to name a few). All these applications (which already existed in the iPhone) have been redesigned and optimised for the large multi-touch iPad screen. Data can also be synchronised with a Mac or PC via USB cable.

iPad features and shortfalls
Jobs showed off various features of the iPad during the unveiling ceremony, which include browsing the web, checking email, working with spreadsheets and charts, playing videogames, listening to music and watching video. That’s a lot to ask for in just one device, yet it still lacks a couple of important capabilities.

Apple iPad - NY TimesSome critics predicted the iPad would become the best-selling electronics device of 2010, while others pointed to its shortfalls, complaining that it has no built-in camera, cannot multi-task, can’t be used as a phone and doesn’t support Adobe Flash.

The lack of Flash support is possibly the major shortfall, as many websites today incorporate Flash for rich media content. Several news websites make use of Flash video and banners, which simply cannot be viewed or accessed using an iPad.

iPad Pros
The iPhone has been hailed as a revolutionary device. Since its release, a huge library of thousands of applications has been developed and made available to iPhone users – for nominal fees, of course.

It is not incorrect to say that the iPhone acted as a sort of testing ground for new applications, as it was the only device that could make first and proper use of them. It is also not incorrect to state that many of the applications were borderline useless and often left iPhone users who had purchased the applications feeling a little ripped off.

The iPad, on the other hand, had the advantage of determining which iPhone applications were most successful and popular, and the best ones have been incorporated, with considerable upgrades to them.

What I would argue is the strongest selling point of the iPad from a consumer perspective is that it is simple and easy to use. Microsoft Surface showed how quickly all types of people can get to grips with hi-end technology by using natural hand gestures to operate it.

The iPad has no right or wrong way of being held — whatever is on the screen will rotate and orientate itself to how you hold it. Clicking on links, playing video content, resizing and zooming in on images, using Google Maps, playing games … is all done intuitively, using your fingers. It is hands-on technology at its best.

iPad Cons

“The iPad isn’t the transformational device so many Apple enthusiasts were hoping for. It won’t turn all the content industries upside down, it won’t be your primary computing device and it’s not even a bigger, better iPhone.” — Mashable.

Without Flash support the iPad is unfortunately not the best web browser, which is what Apple is claiming it to be. However, it is still highly capable and can do a lot more than just web-browsing. It is not meant to be used as your primary computing device and it will not replace your cellphone.

Battery life, however, may be an issue. There seems to be a major focus on making gadgets as small and lightweight as physically possible these days, which can hamper functionality. The Apple iPad is just two centimetres thick. Battery life is said to be 10 hours. I would much prefer a thicker device with a larger battery if that means I can use it for longer.

Yet the iPad’s ease-of-use appeal and links to Apple’s online music, book and applications stores will make it an entertainment gadget that appeals to a broader group of people than previous attempts to market tablet computers.

iPad Prices & Release Dates
Apple has said that the basic iPad would be available worldwide in late March at a starting price of $499 (roughly R4 000). A 32GB version will cost $599 and a 64GB version will cost $699.

All iPads can access the Internet using WiFi, but Apple will also be selling versions of the iPad that connect to high-speed 3G wireless networks. These will cost an additional $130 (roughly R1 000). It is important to note that the 3G versions will also require an Internet data plan.

If sales speak any truth
Steve Jobs said that due to iPods, iPhones, and MacBooks, Apple is the largest mobile devices business in the world today – generating more revenue than Sony, Samsung & Nokia. Add the iPad to that list and Apple seems unstoppable.

PS: I’m hoping to get my paws on an Apple iPad when they are released and write a proper, full review. Until then, watch this space …

Related post: Microsoft Surface – touch technology

Player Versus Player Digital Arena

NEW Gaming experience opens at Liberty Midlands Mall

AN exciting new entertainment venue opens in Pietermaritzburg’s Liberty Midlands Mall this weekend. PVP Digital Arena (short for Player Versus Player) will allow gamers to at last take advantage of some built-in features of the Xbox 360 that they have been denied up until now.

Previously Xbox owners have only been able to take advantage of around 30% of the capabilities of the Xbox, says Brendon Holder, who together with Paul Gilliver is responsible for dreaming up the idea for this ground-breaking store.

PvP Digital ArenaPVP is, apparently, the first of its kind in the country and the only electronic game specialist store in Pietermaritzburg. The store also retails a range of the best and latest games for Xbox, Playstation, PC and Nintendo consoles and Holder and Gilliver are available to give expert advice.

PVP will give gamers access to 20 networked  Xbox 360s connected to high definition LCD monitors, to play the latest games that include first person shooters such as Halo: Orbital Drop Shock Troopers and Call of Duty; third person shooters like Gears of War 2; real time strategy games such as Halo Wars; car racing and rally games that include Dirt 2, and car simulators like Forza 3; as well as a variety of “beat-em-up” games, and sports games like Fifa 10, rugby and golf.  

The real X-factor with PVP, however, is the fact that players can play against other players in the same room, giving the already convincingly rendered games, enhanced reality. Slow internet speeds in South Africa have meant that unlike other places in the world, live multiplayer gaming has not been a real option for gamers in SA. This has meant that possibly the most exciting aspect of electronic multiplayer games has yet to be experienced by locals.

“Playing Call of Duty is so much more real when you and your squad are in the same room, discussing strategy, while your opponents are on the other side of the room planning how to ambush you. The line between real and virtual is blurred.” – Holder

To further enhance the experience, PVP will hold competitions, elite tournaments for pro gamers, and in-store events, including the possibility of “moments of madness” where they will randomly give away PVP-branded gear and other prizes to players.

The eagerly anticipated store has already created a stir on PVP’s facebook page (PVP Digital Arena) and Liberty Midlands Mall centre manager Cassie Fourie says that there has been a lot of interest shown.

“Customers have been asking when PVP is opening and are extremely excited”, she said, “We welcome this new addition to the mall, which caters to the entertainment element.”

The best news though is that to get in on the action, it will cost players less than a ride in one of those peddle boats at the seaside, with prices starting at a mere R20 per 30 minutes.

Costs to play at PVP Digital Arena
      – R20 per 30 minutes
      – R35 per one hour
      – R60 per two hours

Events planned
After-hour “lock ins” will be organised for groups of 16 or more on request.
 Competitions for rankings, with prizes, to be held every month.
Elite tournaments for pro gamers to be held at PVP.
Various events to be held weekly, including “moments of madness”

Other goods on offer
PVP is also a retailer of the best electronic console games for Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo Wii and PC. Buyers can try games before they buy and get expert advice on game choices. There will be a game swopping facility available too.

Membership options are planned for the future, with loyalty cards that earn members points that can be redeemed for playing time, games or PVP merchandise.

Equipment
 Twenty networked Xbox 360s linked to HDMI.
23” LCD monitors, with headphones and comfortable tub chairs.
PVP will keep their equipment current and in future will even change to another console platform if a better one is released.

PVP Digital Arena is at Shop 93A at Pietermaritzburg’s Liberty Midlands Mall. Don’t miss their grand opening at 9am this Saturday, October 24. Get there early to claim your place. For inquiries call PVP at 033 342 6420 or email Brendon Holder: brendon@pvp-arena.co.za

Dancing for humanity

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The video “Where the Hell is Matt?” has seen over 21 million views to date, so you’re likely to have seen it before, but if you haven’t, you should give it a watch. It takes you to a place of magic and joy and wonder – a place where all the bad in the world is forgotten for 4mins 29secs. It is one of the most viewed viral videos of its time and one of my top dancing videos.

“14 months in the making, 42 countries, and a cast of thousands. Thanks to everyone who danced with me” – Matt Harding

Thanks Matt. You Rock.
Happy Friday!

Related video post: Playing for Change: Peace Through Music

Time to chair up

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ULTIMATE V3: It’s death by comfort

THEY say that we spend a third of our lives sleeping (presumably in a bed). Well, I reckon that we spend another third of our lives sitting in a chair, especially if you work in an office. Think about it. You get out of bed, sit at the breakfast table, drive seated to work, sit at your desk, drive home again, maybe sit and watch some television, perhaps sit at your computer and do some writing or surf the web and climb back into bed.
 
Some are more disciplined than that. I had a Swiss-German friend at varsity who couldn’t even sit through a movie because it involved too much sitting. It must be his German blood.

I find nothing more satisfying than sitting (even better — lying) on a comfortable couch. The funny thing about couches is that it is always the most stuffed, unattractive-looking couch in any house that is everyone’s favourite — the couch that is probably worth less than the amount of loose change that has fallen into it over the years.

An artist's impression of my dads favourite chair

An artist

My dad has a favourite couch back home, which I’m sure is a source of some embarrassment when visitors arrive. I wouldn’t be surprised if my mother has tried to incinerate it in a freak “coal-leaping-out-the-fire” accident. I’m sure it would go up in flames pretty quickly with the amount of body oil that has seeped into it over the centuries.

This off-white relic has coffee stains, tobacco burns and an imprint of my father’s behind in the centre. Yet, when seated in its mould, in front of an early winter’s fire and after some of Mother’s good home cooking, Father is as happy as Larry (however happy he is), usually fast asleep. He probably sleeps more in that couch than in his own bed.

So, if we do spend such a significant amount of our lives in beds and chairs, then why not make them decent ones. I’m always willing to spend a little extra on something that I know I’ll use every day and probably have for a lifetime.

I thought it was high time for me to chair up and buy myself a decent gaming chair — one that I could swivel around in freely and lean back and forth in. It’s a rather simple piece of furniture, although it was one heck of a science putting the thing together.

It came in attachable parts with a set of tools, a spider diagram, some Chinese instructions, and a note of encouragement. I half expected to find a small key, some coded message, a strange map and an enchan­ted ring. Without those one definitely needs a degree to put one of these pieces of technology together.

Although I now swivel contently in my “leather” chair, I still wanted to see what else was available on the market. This is what I found …

Ultimate Game Chair V3

The V3 Ultimate Gaming Chair can be jacked into your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. Photo: ultimategamechair.com

The V3 Ultimate Gaming Chair can be jacked into your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. Photo: ultimategamechair.com

There are a lot of fancy and alien-looking chairs out there — most of which have been designed for home entertainment. The simplest home theatre chairs have speakers mounted on the headrest and are basically REALLY comfortable and pleasant-smelling.

The most common gaming chairs, on the other hand, are designed to enhance the experience of simulators such as Flight Simulator. These have joysticks protruding out the armrests, which I imagine one could use to play a variety of games.

Racing chairs come with an adjustable chassis and have foot pedals and a steering wheel as part of their anatomy. The seats are designed to mimic the feeling of being in a Formula One car, and many even go the extra mile by vibrating as you ‘drive’ over rough roads.

Yet those chairs are old school now. You can get a close-enough experience at your local arcade. I was more intrigued by the Ultimate V3. This baby is co­vered in plugs and ports and is compatible with just about everything. To name a few, you can jack it up to your PC, Mac, Xbox, Game Cube, iPod, Playstation, or television. One reviewer had this to say:

“The V3 quite literally rocks your face off! From our experience from it, we were simply stunned. It is like getting a back massage while playing all your favourite games in a comfortable leather chair. It is simply amazing.” — ultimategamechair.com

It has 12 “strategically distributed” feedback monitors, adjustable 3D stereo speakers and a headset jack. It also vibrates and has “variable output on all three vibration sensation levels”. There are three vibration sensation levels? That takes the sensation of sitting in those vibrating chairs at the mall to a whole new le­vel.

 I imagine that one would never get out of this chair if seated in it. It would be death by comfort. So, I imagine that V3 owners have to be just as disciplined as those who are not fans of the couch.