Backyard Monsters is a strategy game in which players create and manage their own monster town on a small plot of grassland. This base is part of a larger world with many other players, who can attack each other to steal resources. Build your base today!
PS Vita (Sony)There’s no denying that the PlayStation Vita is an incredible piece of technology. Loaded for bear with a slick OLED screen, dual analog sticks and pretty much every bell and whistle you can imagine, it’s a gadget lover’s dream (and the launch game lineup is nothing to scoff at, either).
But that doesn’t mean there aren’t a few things that drive us crazy.
We appreciate that it’s a technical marvel, and we understand the realities of both marketing and flexibility. Still, Sony, couldn’t you have rethought a few of these things before shipping?
- That looping background music
The minute you turn on your Vita, you’re welcomed with a soothing music that puts you in a happy mood. It’s a nice introduction to the system.
But it never turns off! After a short while, that music that put a smile on your face gives you a facial tik as you frantically search for a way to get rid of it. It’s possible — and not that difficult to do so through the system’s setting (just go to the sounds and displays option) – but was it really necessary to put it on an endless loop originally?
- Cutting out of cut-scenes
You may be the type to skip through unplayable cut-scenes in games. But if you’re not, you could be in for a surprise the first time you play Uncharted: Golden Abyss.
The Vita kicks into screensaver mode after a mere one minute of inactivity under its default settings. So if you’re simply holding the device, watching a game set up its storyline before you dive into the action, the system will occasionally seem to turn itself off.
Again, you can change the time frame for these sorts of actions, but really, who thought it was a good idea to have one minute as the default setting?
- Time to recharge
Don’t expect any marathon gameplay sessions on the Vita. It’s not that the games aren’t worthy of them. It’s the fact that the system’s battery just can’t hold a charge for an extended period of time.
The Vita only lasts three hours or so per charge when you’re playing games (though Sony says it will sometimes last as long as five). In other words, if you were planning to bring one along for a cross-country flight, you might want to have another entertainment option at your disposal as well. Even worse? Fully charging a drained Vita battery will take 2 hours and 40 minutes.
The Vita’s advanced graphics chip and blissfully indulgent OLED screen team up to create a gaming experience that’s almost on par visually with the PS3. In fact, by subtly encouraging the comparisons, Sony has helped build interest in the device.
Unfortunately, like its home console cousin, the Vita is plagued by repeated system updates. Since we got our Vita to begin testing, we’ve had to update it three times. Regular, mandatory system updates (which are never short affairs) have been a pain in the neck for PS3 owners for years. Will Vita owners be subjected to the same annoyance?
- The pricing problem
Sony knew the Vita would face plenty of competition from Apple — specifically when it came to software pricing. While no one expected Vita retail games to match the ridiculously low pricing of the App Store, we did expect downloadable games to be more competitive.
So far, that’s not proving true. Take the omnipresent Plants vs. Zombies. On the iPhone, it’s $3. iPad owners will pay $7. Want it for the Vita? That’s gonna run you $15.
- Ow! My thumbnail!
Gamers are pretty universal in their praise for the look and feel of the Vita. It’s quite sleek and Sony seems to have thought out every detail…
…except the slot where you insert games. The cover does a good job of keeping dust out. Unfortunately, it’s nearly effective at keeping users out, too. If you don’t have sturdy fingernails, prying the thing open can be a frustrating, challenging experience. Our friends at Wired note they had to resort to using a small knife.
- Too touchy
The Vita’s rear-touch pad seems like a killer feature — and perhaps one day, it will be. But for many of the launch titles, rear-touch is an oversized, overly sensitive nuisance.
Accidentally let your finger slide over the pad (which, incidentally, is where your fingers naturally want to rest) and you run the risk of taking an errant shot on goal in FIFA. While many games let you disable rear-touch, a hardware solution would have been a nice alternative. Perhaps some way to cover it up?
Forget golf: today’s retirees should be playing video games.
Or at least World of Warcraft.
A new study out of North Carolina State University finds that the massively-multiplayer behemoth can have a beneficial impact on the brains of elderly players.
Researchers examined two groups of seniors between the ages of 60 and 77. One of those groups did nothing, while the other picked a side with the Alliance or the Horde and played WoW for about 14 hours over two weeks. (Not exactly the marathon sessions of some WoW enthusiasts, but still a respectable amount.)
When the two groups were retested, researchers found that the gamers showed a significant increase in cognitive functioning — specifically, spatial ability and focus.
“We chose World of Warcraft because it has attributes we felt may produce benefits — it is a cognitively challenging game in a socially interactive environment that presents users with novel situations,” says Dr. Anne McLaughlin, assistant professor of psychology at NC State and co-author of the study’s report. “We found there were improvements, but it depended on each participant’s baseline cognitive functioning level.”
“The people who needed it most — those who performed the worst on the initial testing — saw the most improvement,” adds Dr. Jason Allaire, associate professor of psychology at NC State and another co-author of the paper.
World of Warcraft isn’t the only game that researchers have found to have cognitive benefits. In early 2011, the University of Toronto sat players down in front of Medal of Honor: Pacific Assault and had them play sessions lasting up to 10 hours. The study found that after playing, the subjects tended to be more focused, said researcher Jing Feng, who oversaw the testing.
And earlier this year, a study published in the current American Journal of Preventive Medicine found that select exercise-based video games may have positive mental benefits for older adults — and could help stave off dementia.
Looks like Azeroth might need to open a senior center.
Welcome to the city of Columbia. Floating amongst the clouds, cruising far above sea level, this is a place unlike any you’ve ever seen. Please enjoy your voyage…
The third game in the popular Bioshock series, BioShock Infinite breaks away from the underwater setting of the first two games to take players into a floating city held aloft by dirigibles. The game is set in 1912. You play as Booker DeWitt, a disgraced former private detective who’s picked up a new case. Your goal is to find Elizabeth, a young woman who’s gone missing and return her unharmed. The only problem is that she’s being kept on this flying city. Columbia was once a symbol of America’s success as a nation, floating around t
he world as a traveling World’s Fair, a marvel of human innovation. But strange things have happened since Columbia’s unveiling in 1900, and now the city has disappeared into the clouds
. DeWitt knows how to find it, but over the years stories have been told about Columbia having unlawful heavy armament and deranged citizenry. Do not expect this to be a pleasure cruise.
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