Wednesday, August 21, 2013

CNN's 20 Biggest Travel Mistakes

We came across this article today, and admit to making mistake number 2:

2. Not buying something you like as soon as you see it.You think you're gonna circle back to that shop.
You think you'll see a cheaper, better version somewhere else.
You won't.
That evocative street painting or those Metallica nesting dolls you didn't buy? Now not having them will haunt you for the rest of your life.
When you see something you like, just buy it and live without regret.

Ah well. Happens to us a lot, especially when visiting some place for the first time. Like our last trip, which was to Japan.

While we were the one to plan the itinerary for this trip, and have made it such that we'd only cover different areas every day, and yet we still find ourself going, "Oh that looks nice. OK, we'll KIV that to get later on our way back."

When we ought to have realised that we usually never, ever, go back by the same way, or we would have forgotten all about it much later on.

Not always because we worry we might be paying too much for whatever caught our eye (that one may be so when we are shopping in a street market or something, like when in Chatuchak) but more because we worry we may quickly overspend and end up not having enough cash much later on, and then if we see something we want then, we can't afford to buy it.

Especially when in Japan where, hoo boy, there are loads of things one can buy. Cutesy stuff, gadgets galore,'s like the first time we walked into Daiso when it first opened, but on a far larger scale.

And the funny thing is...while we know we always say, "We'll come back for it later," (and don't), we can't help but to keep doing it. Even when the Chief points it out to us (whether to prevent us lamenting about it much later on or to egg us on to buying more things), it doesn't necessarily push us over the edge to buy it.

But we guess it was rather prudent to hold back when in Japan - there were too many things we could have fancied getting (what more when walking into Tokyu Hands!), and the KIV measure does help us in a way: if we don't remember to get it, it's probably a fleeting impulse and not that important to us.

Or we could have just forgotten to get it. Ahhhhh!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Prince Of Persia: The Shadow & The Flame

So last Thursday the old-new Prince Of Persia 2: The Shadow & The Flame was released! Just in time for the long weekend.

POP2 on MS-DOS in the 90s was both fun and frustrating but it certainly was memorable for us, so we were rather keen to see how this remake stood up especially since it was stated that the levels were all redesigned.

Logging onto the iTunes App Store, what impressed us first was that the app was under 50MB. Considering how the first remake, Prince Of Persia Classic, is over 200MB (we bought the HD version), and even Prince Of Persia Retro is nearly 80MB, so one that doesn't require any wait to download is rather welcome (also makes us wonder how the content fares compared to the earlier games).

Next thing that made us happy? The app is universal. Great because we find, while it's much more accessible for us to play this on the go on the iPhone, the graphics are best enjoyed on the iPad.

So what can we say about this remake? We, unfortunately, can't help but compare this to the original (but then again, that was the reason why we bought this game).

Visuals are stunning. The Prince does sport his look from the Trilogy, changing depending on how far you've progressed. Only...for the storytelling, we think graphics actually do not present the story well when compared to the storyboard of the older game. Otherwise we like how the perspective means that you don't only see the left wall but not the right like in the old games.

Music could have been better. We were lucky to have played the old POP2 with a Soundblaster sound card, and in addition to sound effect and speech, the stages had background music that reflected the area rather well. Now, there isn't any BGM except for during battles and specific encounters (with a BGM being a throwback to the Rope Bridge encounter!). Oh well, maybe that's why the app size is under 50MB.

Controls work superbly well for swipe controls! We opted for the virtual keypad at first due to habit, thinking buttons would offer slightly more precise controls when it came to timing that jump etc. However, the swipe controls work perfectly for movement, so we never really had those tense moments where we had to time a jump or edge carefully to a ledge. We soon learn that combat has been simplified to a timing game, which sorts of suits the touch interface because button mashing a touchscreen really makes for a lousy gaming experience.

Gameplay was shorter than remembered, possibly because the Prince moves much more fluid than before and because the game isn't as punishing as the old one - the death traps are very visible so you don't accidentally run into a spiked wall or fall into a pit where a wall grinds closer to crush you with no escape. It's less frustrating and more fun, and that's why it's short. The older game had us replaying the stages over and over as we kept dying as we figured out how to get to the exits (often rage quitting too), and it took months (and that was after we got hold of a guidebook, shy) while this new game was done in 3 days (sooner if we weren't concerned at how fast our battery dropped while playing).

Speaking of which, while there are less emphasis for perfect timing and such, there're also less puzzles to figure out in this game. There's only one puzzle and that had to do with what looks like the Chief Priest in the Temple Of The Flame. Other than that, there's not much to figure out although the game has a focus on exploration. Even the 4-Gate puzzle in the Temple because a pretty much linear progression romp in this new version instead of the multistorey maze it used to be. Granted, they've also done away with the more mind-bending ones like the Rope Bridge and what to do when you reach the Sacred Flame...

The storyline is...well, while the story never changed, the presentation this time is rather lacking. The previous one did a great job immersing you into what was going on with the Prince, Jaffar and Princess, so from the start when the Prince jumps out the window you know why and what to do. The 'ooh' moment in the intro when the Prince was magically replaced by Jaffar in disguise is gone. There used to be a sense of accomplishment when you manage to ride the magic carpet/horse, watching the cinematic that follows was rather rewarding, but not this time. Then again, we rather hoped the story could have improved, as Jordan Mechner's POP2 bible had quite a fair bit more info. It's never really been explained how the Temple Of The Flame was involved, though. Well, the gist of the storyline of POP2 is still there but doesn't build any connection to the player, we feel - you don't care about the Prince, nor the Princess dying, or even Jaffar.

Then we remember how the game is under 50MB and we gloss over this fact - we can always replay back the DOS version if we wanted to watch the story.

As for the store where you spend in-game coins...well, just get the combo upgrades. You'll probably get enough to upgrade two out of three in the first run-through of the entire game. The others don't matter unless you're out for achievements.

All in all we found the game fun and think it was good to have re-designed the levels, although the game only lasted 3 days instead of 3 weeks (well, we're still replaying for the sake of getting all the achievements before removing the app!). Perhaps we can also have back the old levels as a separate challenge?

Tuesday, July 02, 2013

iOS Cardgaming

Christmas must have come early: Magic: The Gathering: Duels Of The Planeswalkers 2014 came out last Tuesday, which saw us scrabbling to clear out some space on our meagre 16GB iPad so we have space to install the new game while still hanging on to Duels 2013 because we haven't finished the game yet (also, if they put the expansions on sale we can finally get then).

Now there are cards that have dynamic moving artwork similar to the trailers Wizards do for the expansion launches!

Then on Thursday night, Ascension gets an update and the Immortal Heroes expansion. This one cheaper at $2.99 and available in the same app (Duels cost $9.99 for the complete game!). And we spend lots more time on Ascension than we do on Duels!

We love how you can mix and match whichever expansions you like.

Unfortunately for us, both apps are disk space, battery and time sappers. Even more than before!

How we really need more hours in a day...also, a higher capacity iPad Mini might not go amiss...

Thursday, June 20, 2013

iOS7...Coming This Fall

While it's always exciting to follow the WWDC to see what's coming in the next iOS, we always forget how we're then set up for another long wait for the actual iOS to be available.

And after 6 iOS versions with the same UI, we can't wait for the fresh new look. We do agree that the UI is polarising, given the colour scheme, but overall what the new UI means for us is the amount of time we'll spend Macturbating once more. From the photobox-like parallax effect, to browsing moments and collections in the Photo app (although, given that memory space is still limited, those photos won't be permanently on the iPhone), to rearranging apps into different pages in a folder...hoo yeah, iOS 7 should keep us occupied until next year when iOS 8 will come out.

It's a shame iOS 7 still doesn't allow us to manually place app icons anywhere on the grid but still auto-arranges it from top to bottom, left to right. Personalisation still not fully there yet.

After the initial excitement at the iOS 7 video and the brand new 'pop'-ish look, what are we looking forward to in the new iOS? When iOS 2 came out, we happily paid up USD10 to upgrade our iPod Touch and have a look through the App Store - although we held out from paying for any apps for a long time. When iOS 3 came out, there was cut, copy, paste, video recording and MMS to finally made the iPhone a decent phone to consider (when compared to the Nokias then that already had all these features...).

iOS 4 had multitasking and folders (woo less home screen pages!) and iOS 5 brought the Notification Centre (finally), iCloud and iMessage. Stuff that we would definitely use every day on the iPhone.

With iOS 6...probably the only thing we were really interested in was Facebook integration. Not Maps - we don't use the Maps feature every day. What's more, Flyover wasn't a global feature, only for select places (and even then, we can expect Singapore and Bangkok to get those features first, like Street View on Google Maps or even 3D buildings). And Facebook integration - well, the only plus point really was being able to see birthdays from the Notification Centre. Otherwise it pretty much screwed up our Contact List by renaming them to their Facebook profile names (and this after we spend time unifying facebook contacts to those in our address book) even though we specifically chose the Address Book name to be displayed instead. There was also an instance when, instead of texting a contact, an email was sent to his Facebook email instead.

Gave up on Facebook integration (at least, integration with our contacts). And with MAS the only app using Passbook...pfft.
For us, iOS 6 didn't have that 'standout feature' to get us excited to upgrade immediately (not to mention, many held off upgrading because of Google Maps which weren't available in the Malaysian App Store).

So. iOS 7! Control Centre is definitely welcomed (Android!). The new look of the Photos app is great, too - finally some sort of organised look to all the photos! New look to multitasking (WebOS!) and an easier 'flick to close' gesture. AirDrop...well, until everyone uses an iPhone 5, we'll still be sending this via iMessage or email (and capped at 5 photos per email still?) while others go around the room bumping their phones with others. Don't think we'll be making use of iTunes Radio (data and battery life!) much if at all, too.
So...really, we guess the feature we'd be looking out for most of all in iOS 7? The new look and feel. That's it, heh. Simple expectations.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

iOS Boredgaming

Given how we've not been able to join the friday night board game group much (if at all), we've been eyeing the App Store for games that have managed to make the transition to digital form. And there's been quite a fair few, much to our surprise actually!

We think one of the first board games based on a physical version we ever came across in the App Store would be Zooloretto. Visuals-wise, this looked better with animal sprites instead of tiles and lots of animal noises. That time we'd only an iPod Touch (no iPhone yet and the iPad hasn't existed) and it was a good start. AI was decent and we spent a fair amount of time playing that (among other iOS games, of course).

Then we got our iPhone, and Carcassone was announced. Carcassone was the first board game we actually bought too, and the introductory price of $4.99 was tempting (and turns out to be a good thing too, the price of the game never dropped from the usual $9.99 as far as we know!). Another plus point? Universal app. Looks great on both iPhone and iPad and still a mainstay on both devices (although to be honest we only play this as a multiplayer with the Chief occasionally).

Bang! was announced, we tried the Lite version featuring the founding fathers but somehow Bang! in essence is still best played in person (how else can one lie to the Sheriff?).

When Ascension was announced, we tried the lite version and was soon hooked. Couldn't bring ourself to shell out $9.99, though, not until they updated the app to include the expansions. Then we basically threw our money, buying the expansions. It's still one of our most-played iOS games, even though we rarely go online for multiplayer games.

Hey, That's My Fish! is a great game for introducing friends to board games when played on the iPad, although we suppose they'll assume it's just an iOS game instead of being a digital version of the board game. Come to think of it we wouldn't actually want to buy the physical version of Hey, That's My Fish! We'd go crazy setting up the tiles after a while!

Bought Neuroshima Hex, but we're not to keen on the setting of the game, hence after a game or two we tend to leave the game aside.

Ticket To Ride initially was announced for the iPad, but we were already spoilt by iOS app pricing and somehow can't bring ourself to pay for the app. Then Ticket To Ride Pocket for the iPhone was announced at 99¢ and we snapped that up immediately. It's a great game, the small screen might take a bit of getting used to but we're ok with that.

Caylus came out and it was an impulse buy for us...only to be stung a few days later when the game went on sale. But now we finally get to figure out how the mid-game and late-game works. When the board game first came out, we understood what to do for the early game but somehow lost our way by the mid-game. We figure this was because we never bothered much with checking the costs of the expensive buildings that earn lots of victory points. Amazing how the game works on the iPhone decently too with a bit of scrolling.

Le Havre we bought when it was on sale, and while its an interesting game we honestly did not want to spend the time learning the functions of the different buildings. It does have an Agricola-ish feel, though.

Magic: The Gathering - Duels Of The Planeswalker 2013 was announced with iPad support and we were rather excited for that, because we got Duels 2012 when it was on sale on Steam and we found it to satisfy our MtG itch quite well. Even though the decks are limited to the theme decks, it's still good enough and way cheaper than spending on the actual card game. Duels 2013 even had expansion decks based on the Ravnican guilds (without their guild mechanics, sadly, but the decks were themed appropriately still) and while we paid for the first expansion, we're holding off from buying the rest just yet (who knows, they may drop the price when Duels 2014 comes out, hur hur).

We bought Puerto Rico earlier this year, honestly for the only reason that we were on a trip, we were craving to play PR and we had no access to the PR Evolver Excel file where we've always been playing. We weren't really keen to get PR because it was only for the iPad (with the exception of Duels 2013, every other game could be played on the iPhone), but now that we've got it on the iPad, gameplay is ok. We still get our quick fixes using the excel file, but the upside of the app compared to the excel file is that we can randomise the starting position of players.


Lately we had the itch for some quick game to play on our phone. Ascension's still our default when we have a few minutes but a game takes some 5-10 minutes, while we were looking for something shorter. Granted, there're plenty of iOS games out there, we could play Bejewelled Blitz (not Tetris Blitz though, the game was spoiled with all the in-your-face power ups pop-ups that the game try to get you to spend with the in-game currency that we lost interest in playing "one more time") or a level of Angry Birds but we wanted something that was short but didn't have us racing against a timer, didn't require us to focus too much on sliding our finger on the screen like Ticket To Ride Pocket (in case our attention was divided elsewhere), or replaying the stage (as we do with Angry Birds until we nail that 3 stars!).

And so we ended up getting Lost Cities yesterday. Verdict? Good choice. The game is short, the rules understood within a game, and there's replayability!

Actually, heck, for all our reasons we might have just wanted to BUY an app for the sake of retail therapy. At least it's a game that we're happy with!

Next, we wait for Agricola to finally be released. It's been delayed, we hear.

Friday, June 07, 2013

Social Tedium

It's been ages (again) since we've last looked to Blogger. What with all the various forms of social media and the fact that typing on a mobile device is no walk in the park (we're using the iPad for this as we don't think our thumbs are ready to type out a full post...but then again what is a full post), we've pretty much left this blog like a diary stuck in a drawer in the attic.

While posting on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram is far quicker and easier,'s certainly not a great way to remember things that happen.

Navigate Facebook's timeline? Very much dependant on our Internet connection, as if we're trying to search for something that happened vaguely in the second or third quarter of either 2010 or 2009, we'd have to click on the month and start scrolling down to the older posts (and hope that our connection doesn't drop and stop Facebook from further loading old posts).

Let's not even bother looking for old stuff on Twitter.

OK we've actually stopped typing out this post on the iPad, and have actually switched over to typing on the PC because why the hell are we using the iPad to do this when we have a proper keyboard to hammer on in the first place, we have no idea. Probably to prevent ourself from going on a typing diarrhoea.

So. If we're going to maintain this blog, shall we further integrate it with the rest of our social media? We can just imagine it now, using a photo post as an example:
1. Take photo.
2. Edit as necessary using Instagram.
3. Type out quick post, add in whatever hashtags as we see fit.
4. Copy text of said post.
5. Get Instagram to post to Facebook, and probably Tumblr.
6. Go to either our Photos or the Twitter app, and draft same post. Edit text to fit 160 character limitation if necessary. Post.
7. Go to the Google+ app, repeat process.
8. Go to the Blogger app, repeat process. Elaborate text as we see fit.

Facepalm. But we think what we'll do is to wait for the new iPad Mini, then get a Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover for that...that is, if we still blog by the time the new iPad Mini launches.