Downwell Review: A Leap of Faith Worth Taking (PC, iOS, Android)

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As Downwell begins, you find yourself in control of a nondescript white humanoid, lounging in a state of relaxation.

Perhaps he’s lying on the bench, or sitting against a tree, or perched, legs dangling over the edge of a well. Press a button and he jumps to life. You can hang around at the top of the well as long as you’d like, but you’ll find there’s nothing to do, nothing with which you can interact.

Downwell never explicitly tells you, “Jump into the well to begin the game” but you know that’s what you have to do. I hope it’s a leap of faith you’ll take, because Downwell is one of the best – and most unappreciated – games of 2015.
Downwell22 Continue reading Downwell Review: A Leap of Faith Worth Taking (PC, iOS, Android)

Distance – PC Early Access Review

 

I’ve always preferred my racing games more on the arcade side of the sim/arcade dichotomy. Racing games aren’t particularly high on my list of favorite genres but there have been some over the years that I’ve spent considerable time with, such as F-Zero, Wipeout XL, and Burnout 3: Takedown.

Distance, a new PC title available via Stream Early Access, feels not unlike the unholy spawn of those games, but with a focus on solo survival racing with a liberal dash of the Tron aesthetic. Oh, and a twisted, insane track designer and even crazier community making free tracks through Steam Workshop and included track editor.

About that Early Access tag: I generally don’t advocate buying Early Access titles, but based on the overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam for this title, I gave it a shot anyway. I’m glad I did. If the developer stopped working on this game today, I’d still feel I had gotten my money’s worth.  Why?

Let’s start with the game’s visuals.

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Continue reading Distance – PC Early Access Review

PC Gaming: The Return of the Couch

Until recently, local multi-player gaming – meaning playing games with your friends, on your couch – had become almost the exclusive domain of the videogame console. Have friends over and looking to game? Grab your Playstation, XBox, or Nintendo. This isn’t to say that PC gaming isn’t multi-player focused, but rather that the expectation there was that players were battling online, not against their friends.

In a nutshell: PCs were for the desk, consoles for the living room.

A number of factors have started to change this viewpoint, so much so in fact that some of the best local multi-player games to come out recently have been on the PC, not the console. With Valve pushing couch PC gaming with their Steam Big Picture mode, Steambox initiative, and Steam Link streaming box, I expect this trend to continue for the foreseeable future. The ever-shrinking form factor of the PC now lets PC gamers pack components that far exceed the capability of today’s consoles into a console-esque form factor.

If you already have a PC or a PC streaming device connected to a common area in your home where you can game with friends, you may be looking for some games designed to play with friends, perhaps with a range of gaming experience.

Even if you don’t, though, you may be surprised with what you can do even with non-gaming PCs.

Today, I’ll give you four of my picks for the most enjoyable competitive local multi-player PC games, including:

  • Starwhal
  • Towerfall: Ascension
  • Lethal League
  • Nidhogg

Continue reading PC Gaming: The Return of the Couch

HP Stream 7 Review and Minecraft Test

 

The HP Stream 7 is a tablet running full Windows 8.1 which includes a year subscription to Office 365 Personal, all from a relatively respected OEM, and priced at under $100.

Is it really possible to get a good Windows experience for under a hundred bucks?

If that’s all you’re here for, I’ll make this easy:  the answer is not really, no. Some of this has to do with the Stream 7, and some has to do with Windows 8.1 itself.

Still, the HP Stream 7 is cheap enough, and decent enough at a wide enough range of tasks, that it somehow becomes a compelling device despite its limitations.

Here is my long time coming, and long-winded, review of the HP Stream 7.

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Asus X205TA – Laptop Review and Minecraft Test

Intro – Sub-$200 Windows PCs

This Fall, we’re seeing the first full Windows laptops hitting the market at or below the $199.99 MSRP price point, part of Microsoft’s initiative to push back against Google’s Chromebooks and Chrome OS.  One of the first of these was the HP Stream 11, which I reviewed and did a follow-up on. In short, it is a surprisingly solid first effort by HP with some great value add items included, but is somewhat marred by a poor trackpad and a questionable set of color choices, both of which should be fairly easy for HP to fix if they so desire.

Right behind the Stream 11 comes the Asus X205TA, which launched at $199.99 but quickly dropped to $179.99 online at most retailers including Best Buy and Amazon. Like the HP Stream 11, this is a full Windows 8.1 laptop running Windows 8.1 with Bing. However, there are a number of differences in terms of specs, design, and what is included in the full package.

For this review, I’m going to focus on looking at the X205TA mostly unto itself, with some comparisons to rivals at this price point where appropriate. I’ll also talk about my experiences with Windows 8.1 itself as they relate to this computer.

Let’s get familiar with the X205TA.

Asus XT205 Unboxed

Asus XT205 Unboxed 2

Continue reading Asus X205TA – Laptop Review and Minecraft Test

Steam Summer Sale – Sunday, 6/22 Recap, HP14 Woot! Offer, HumbleBundle Audio Books

Good afternoon!  Today just a quick recap of the games on sale as part of the Steam Summer Sale as of 1 PM today, 6/22/14 along with a couple other deals happening now from Woot! and HumbleBundle.

Steam Summer Sale

Battleblock Theater – $3.74 (75% off)

This game has been out for some time now on XB360 but is a more recent release on Steam. By the creators of Castle Crashers, it is a somewhat similar game but has far more emphasis on puzzles, platforming, and humor. It features local and online multiplayer and a TON of content for the price.  Strongly recommend it at this price.

Borderlands 2 – $4.99 (75% off) / Game of the Year Edition $9.99 (75% off)

First, please note that the Borderlands 2 Game of the Year (GOTY) edition is ALSO on sale for 75% off, making it $9.99 – and that is DEFINITELY the one to buy, as for $5 more you’re getting an absurd amount of additional content. The one on the front store page is just the game itself.

If you haven’t played Borderlands 2, it is basically the Diablo/Torchlight of FPS games, though Borderlands 2 has more story and humor than the first. The shooting mechanics themselves are still a bit lacking in impact but I loved this game and highly recommend it if you haven’t played it. Definitely playable solo but far better with 2-4 player online co-op.  For $10, if you have one or more friends you can talk into buying this as well, buy it.  This is the cheapest price I’ve ever seen on this game.

Continue reading Steam Summer Sale – Sunday, 6/22 Recap, HP14 Woot! Offer, HumbleBundle Audio Books

Steam In-Home Streaming on an HP14 Chromebook

Today, a very brief guide on how to set up in-home streaming using Steam’s service, which recently came out of beta.

In order for this to work, you need the following:

  • A computer running Windows, OS X, or Linux to act as the host; this is typically going to be a more powerful PC and should be connected to the internet via a Wired connection.
  • A computer running Windows, OS X, or Linux to connect to the host computer; for our purposes, we’re going to be using an HP14 Chromebook running Ubuntu 14.04
  • A sufficiently fast network connection for both devices; I’ve been able to get this working at 50 Mb download / 25 Mb upload, but if I run much slower things start to lag*
  • In order to run Ubuntu on your Chromebook, you need to have Crouton installed or have set your Chromebook to dual-boot into Ubuntu

If you have a PC to act as the host and have a Chromebook, but haven’t installed Ubuntu on it yet, see here for instructions on how to get Ubuntu and Steam running on your Chromebook.  At this point I recommend installing Ubuntu 14.04 as it is fully compatible with Crouton.

Continue reading Steam In-Home Streaming on an HP14 Chromebook

Deals! 5/19/14 (PC Games, Electronics)

If you’re looking for some new PC games, go over to HumbleBundle and start at the store page…

Games!

It is actually almost over now, but HumbleBundle has been running an awesome Spring sale on PC games for the past week and a half. While it looks like the Flash sales are over, they brought back a ton of the better sales for a final day.  Check these out:

  • Batman: Arkham Origins $8.99
  • Far Cry 3 Deluxe $9.99
  • Rogue Legacy $4.99
  • Outlast $4.99
  • Prison Architect $11.99
  • Kerbal Space Program $16.19
  • Tomb Raider GOTY $7.49
  • Monaco $3.74
  • Papers, Please $4.99
  • Octodad: Dadliest Catch $8.99
  • Halo: Spartan Assault $2.49
  • Shadow Warrior (2013) $9.99
  • Risk of Rain $4.99
  • FTL Advanced Edition $6.66
  • Mercenary Kings $9.99
  • Broforce $13.49
  • Kentucky Route Zero $12.49
  • Chivalry: Medieval Warfare $6.24
  • Nidhogg $9.99
  • Space Hulk $7.49
  • Scribblenaughts  Unmasked $4.99
  • Metro: Last Light Completed Edition $13.32

Continue reading Deals! 5/19/14 (PC Games, Electronics)

Deals! 4/17/14 (PC Games, Chromebooks, Wii U, Movies, Music)

It’s almost the weekend again, so let’s kick it off right with some deals!

PC Games!

HumbleBundle has two nice deals going right now, one for mobile (Android) and one for PC. 

This week’s Weekly Sale is a nice collection of games from Devolver Digital:   https://www.humblebundle.com/weekly 

Name your price gets you: 

  • The Real Texas (Destructoid: 8.5/10)
  • Cryptic Sea EP
  • Dungeon Hearts (Destructoid: 7/10)

Stepping up to $6 gets you: 

  • Foul Play (Destructoid: 5.5/10)
  • Legend of Dungeon (Destructoid: 7/10)
  • Krunch (Destructoid: 8/10)

Finally, $10 gets you: 

  • Tower of Guns (Destructoid: 8.5/10)

If you have any interest at all in Tower of Guns, which is a very well-received blend of twitch-shooter FPS and rogue-like genres, go for the $10 level, as Tower of Guns alone is normally $14.99. Of the rest, I’ve only played Foul Play, and despite the low score from Destructoid (which was the lowest on Metacritic), I found it to be a fun co-op brawler along the lines of Castle Crashers. As you can see above, most of these games have solid review scores. 

As always with HumbleBundle, you’re getting Steam copies plus DRM-free copies, for multiple platforms where applicable, and some of your purchase price is going to support charity (amounts at your discretion).
 

 

In addition, they’ve also got some deals on the Humble Store, including:

  • Red Faction Collection $9.99
  • Darksiders $4.99
  • Darksiders 2 $7.49
  • Titan Quest Gold $4.99
  • Supreme Commander Gold $4.99

GamersGate has sales on Tropico and Fallout titles, including:

  • Fallout 3 $3.99
  • Fallout: New Vegas $3.99
  • Tropico 4 $4.00

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Continue reading Deals! 4/17/14 (PC Games, Chromebooks, Wii U, Movies, Music)

Chromebooks, Part 3: Beyond Chrome OS – Ubuntu and Crouton

Note:  This is part three of a multi-part series about Chromebooks, consisting of the following:

Part 1:  What is a Chromebook?

Part 2:  What Can I Do with a Chromebook?

Part 3: Beyond Chrome OS – Ubuntu and Crouton


Intro

Before we get started, a few points.  If you’re starting here, I’m going to assume you’re already familiar with the concept of Chromebooks. If that isn’t the case, skip back to one of the earlier parts and then come back.

I’m also going to assume you have a passing familiarity with Linux and Ubuntu – not how they work, perhaps, but what they are.  If not, here’s a great intro you may want to check out before proceeding:

Introduction to Ubuntu

 

Expanding your Chromebook’s Horizons

I’ve written about what Chromebooks can and cannot do in the first two parts of this series, and for the vast majority of Chromebook users, this part is going to be superfluous.  If you’re looking for a laptop mainly for using the web, that also has some ability to open and edit basic Office files, and has great battery life and a cheap price, a Chromebook is a great option for you.  Similarly for those who don’t want or need to deal with the hassles of managing a Windows PC, or just can’t do so, a Chromebook is an ideal option for entertainment and light productivity.

But, if you’re willing to invest a little time and energy, your Chromebook can actually be more.  A LOT more.  In fact, it can do some of the things that I said a Chromebook can’t do:

  • You can install Steam for Linux and play native Linux games, or directly install Linux games via download from HumbleBundle
  • You can run some .exe files meaning you have access to some Windows software
  • You may be able to print to your network printer (ignoring the Google Cloud Printing nonsense)
  • You can install native Linux programs for far more advanced music, video, movie, photo, and programming options than you have in Chrome OS

Basically, you can “unlock” your Chromebook from Chrome OS into a full-on desktop environment that works much like Windows or OSX, giving you a full file management system, the ability to use other browsers like Firebox and Internet Explorer, and a full library of software you can’t find in Chrome OS.

For me, it was all about the games.

Here’s what the Unity 13.04 desktop looks like on a Chromebook.  Note how similar this looks to a more traditional PC or Mac experience:

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I’m Interested, Tell me More

If you’re still with me, let’s start to talk options and decisions.

Continue reading Chromebooks, Part 3: Beyond Chrome OS – Ubuntu and Crouton