Thursday, January 26, 2012

CES 2012: MashButtons goes design happy with the Bamboo Create

It seems we are finally getting close to wrapping up our coverage from this year's Consumer Electronics Show and may have unintentionally left the best for last. Wacom has provided us with a review unit of the Bamboo Create and the available wireless accessory for the tablet. I have been using design products for the past two years for freelance graphic design work and have been rather curious as to whether a tablet would make a difference in the quality of work along with time spent on projects. The Bamboo Create is similar in regards to features to its smaller siblings, the Capture and the Connect, but where is differs is in the real estate with twice the workspace and some great introductory software, i.e. Photoshop Elements and Corel Painter Essentials.

For reference, I am using the Bamboo Create on this year's Macbook Pro connected to a 25 inch monitor and found the response to be great. The tablet also doubles as a trackpad when not being used for graphic design work supporting multi touch features so you can have the tablet in the workspace without having to rely on a mouse as well. I am in the lower majority being a south paw, but I found you can change the orientation depending on whether you are a lefty or righty. There is also a pen holder to help make sure it does not get misplaced...while we are talking about the pen, I had no problems with functionality and though I am quite heavy handed, the tablet surface did not have any etch marks or indents after numerous hours of photo editing and drawing with both the provided software and Photoshop CS5. Being able to use the pen for drawing, cropping, and erasing small errors was new to me and took a good two to three hours without feeling foreign and it is easy to locate your cursor as all you need to do is hold the pen about a quarter inch from the tablet's surface. There is a button that I did not get along with on the pen that can be mapped along with the four buttons on the tablet, that I had to turn off as with the way I used the pen the button kept accidentally getting pressed by my thumb.

Out of the box, the Create is not wireless and uses a micro USB to connect to your PC or Mac. This is fine and well for users who do not move their workstations, but when it comes to working on the go and making changes for clients or at school, it does get tiresome moving and setting up workstations. This is where the wireless option comes incredibly handy, as the accessory is moderately priced at $39.00, works on the Capture and Create models only, and lasts up to 15 hours with a 3 to 6 hour charge. The kit works amazingly and can be used while being charged but make portability much easier along with not being limited by a cord as to the positioning of the tablet when in use and using a micro wireless dongle. Unfortunately, the wireless option does not come packaged with the tablets, as much as I wish it would, but this is definitely a must have for users with portable workstations or multiple devices as this works for both the PC and Mac.

All in all, this is my designing go-to device now over my wireless mouse or iPad with stylus. Though this is my first tablet and after comparing prices and included software, Wacom pulled no punches bringing the Bamboo tablets to the marketplace for both beginner and intermediate designers. Aside from the little nuances such as the easily pressed button on the pen and an inconveniently short micro USB cable, I could not come up with any other issues. Hell, when using the pen, you can even rest your palm on the surface and not get any false detection on the display. I must say that if you are in the market to purchase a tablet and are novice designers looking to step your game up, I highly suggest the Bamboo Create and Capture products and be sure to add the wireless option and kiss your mouse goodbye.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Darkness II launch trailer is a heaping serving of Bad Ass

Last week we let you know that the Darkness II demo was available and if that was not enough to whet your whistle, there is now a launch trailer. This is no ordinary trailer as it features not only Jackie Estacado, but a montage of demons and bullets with a soundtrack from NIN. It has gotten to the point that I am now counting down to quad weilding on February 7th.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

CES 2012: MB reviews Valentine's Gift Ideas for Her

So this is a MashButtons first, but as we get closer to Valentine’s Day, I figured we look out for those that have to put up with us gamers. Lelo has provided us with one of their newest massagers, the Tiani™ in which will now be reviewed by my wife.  Tiani™ can use during intercourse or for hands-free fun and features SenseMotion™ technology with a wireless remote that possesses several vibration patterns and speeds. Tiani™ is made of waterproof silicone and has a smooth flexible form for absolute comfort to both partners and can be used for up to one hour at a time between charging along a 39 foot wireless range.  This intimate toy can be obtained in two attractive colors from their user-friendly website
When I first opened the Tiani™ I noticed and appreciated the smooth texture of the silicone.  In comparison to other silicone vibrators I have come in contact with, it was much smoother and did not possess that almost sticky silicone feel.  I could see that my husband was thrilled with the wireless remote option; he started considering all the possibilities.  Both the remote and the vibrator vibrate, which is great for 2 person play as the operator will be aware of how much vibration is going on and not rattle their partner’s teeth out.  The remote also allows the operator to have some fun, as tilting and moving it changes the intensity of the vibrations.  True to its claims, the vibration goes strong for an hour plus between charges and I found it only needs to be charged for approximately 5 to 10 minutes before it is ready for another round.  As someone who is easily frustrated by electronics, I found the written instructions to be clear and concise coupled with easy to understand pictures. I do not care for the noise of the vibrator as I feel that the point of a remote control vibrator is discretion in a public setting.  The noise is minimal for the vibrator, but still audible and the wireless control is a bit louder. 
The Tiani™ is a must-have with its fantastic texture and its smooth, multi-vibration settings.  I would keep it in the house or to a secluded setting where the noise cannot be heard, but all in all I was fully satisfied.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

CES: 2012 Styli Shootout…Length vs. Girth

Do I have your attention now? Good, because in this segment we put two tablet stylus’, styli, styluses given to us by Wacom and Ten1 Design against each other to see who will come out on top for my creative and note taking needs on the iPad. I will get some things out of the way before I begin, both styli are available now, the Bamboo Stylus from Wacom retails at $29.99 while the pogo sketch pro from Ten 1 Design retails at $24.95. Along with similar pricing points, both of these products have very similar features in opposite proportions, so lets see how they hold up.
We will begin with the pogo sketch pro, crafted from a solid piece of aluminum, being the longer and skinnier of the two, comes with two tips, pro and classic, and lastly a soft cloth pouch for portability and longevity. I do not know which tip is the pro or standard tip, but I found myself loving the softer, smooth tip for its sensitivity to detection from the iPad at every possible angle, whereas the firmer, rougher tip requires more pressure for detection. I especially appreciated the length, weight, and rubber grip makes it easier to use for longer sessions and note taking. I would have liked it more if it were the same thickness from top to bottom and were less easy to lose when not stowed behind my ear.
The other stylus that we received from the show was the Bamboo Stylus, which has more of a traditional pen feel. I definitely like the thickness of the stylus and the balanced feel in which it provides. The tip is also removable so you can easily replace when worm out rather than having to purchase a new stylus. You can also personalize it to your liking, as they are available in a handful of colors (see below). Unfortunately, I did feel like the stylus could have been at least a half an inch longer I like to choke up on it to make sure the side of my palm does not make content with the screen. This product was a lot more portable for me as it has a clip, which I used to attach to the apple case that isn’t but should be included when you buy an iPad, but I will save that for another article.
In comparison to the more affordable brands at about half the price point, these two are far and away worth difference in price as the additional weight and less pressure needed for detection provides a more pleasant experience. Lets face it, drawing and painting on the iPad is a lot easier on the iPad than taking notes, most likely due to having to keep your hand hovering about the screen by this southpaw, so it isn’t detected, as you will quickly learn that undo is your best friend. However, if it were possible, a very sexy love child (stylus) would be the outcome from the two…well that or a skinner, impractical, dwarfed stylus.

Friday, January 20, 2012

CES 2012: My iPhone's saving grace, the Boostcase Hybrid

For anyone that has attending a trade show knows that during the day, you will either need your phone charger to spend some time between meetings to rejuice your smart phone OR turn most apps, Wi-Fi, and backlighting off just to make it through the day with enough charge to keep on top of emails, appointments, text, and note taking. Well, after Boostcase provided me with their Hybrid case, there is no more need to worry.

The Hybrid case is essentially piggy backing a whole separate battery to the iPhone, which most of us know ads a ton of bulk to your handset while being ugly as all get out. But either their cases are sexy or I am just getting old and appreciating the function as this beast is a two piece life saver, consisting of a slim case and a battery pack that is slim and attaches itself to the case or to be left on your phone to be turned on and off as needed. To explain how well it works, the extended battery has a 1900MAH Li-Polymer battery that has enough charge to completely refill the phone in a matter of two hours, depending on what all you have running while charging, but I was able to drive to Phoenix from Vegas running my GPS and still seeing remaining charge go up while the GPS was still running. It also takes the same amount of time to charge as it would if using the Apple licensed charger. Lastly, for the gamers, the battery pack points the sounds towards you so no more worries about hearing what you play when the phone is turned horizontally.

There were a couple downsides, which could be due to the white Verizon iPhone being slightly different in size but when my phone is in it's gunmetal colored case, it does slide up and down a bit. Also the battery pack uses a micro USB rather than the 32-pin connector, so if you dock your iPhone to your car stereo or any dock that has the 32-pin connector you have to remove it from the case. But like it said, you are able to remove the battery pack from the phone for these situations along with turning the pack on and off when not in use so it truly performs in a pinch, quickly making you forget about these qualms.

CES: MashButtons sits down with Jeff Gomez of Starlight Runner

 Does the name Starlight Runner or Jeff Gomez ring any bells? It didn't for me and for that I had almost passed up an opportunity to privately talk with the man behind the transmedia storytelling. What transmedia is of course the million dollar question and that can be defined by the below definition from Starlight Runner themselves.

"Transmedia narrative is the technique of conveying messages, concepts and themes to a mass audience through systemic and concerted use of multiple media platforms. The implementation is designed to engage audience members individually, validating their involvement and positively reinforcing personal participation in the narrative. The result is intense loyalty, long-term engagement and a desire to share the experience. 

My time with Mr. Gomez was spent learning about the people that work on mixing the media we love so dearly here at MashButtons, movies and games. This process was described more as extension rather than a conversion; Halo Waypoint is a great example of this. The whole process begins with producers of licensed properties approaching Starlight Runner. Think of it as mediator between the things we love, providing more levels to the experience. The studio has been around for a decade now with ten employees in house along with some of their earliest work dating back to my first trip to E3.

My time spent with the man responsible for helping expand such universes as Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean, Prince of Persia and Tron, Microsoft's Halo, James Cameron's Avatar, Hasbro’s Transformers, Mattel’s Hot Wheels and Coca-Cola's Happiness Factory. I do not think I have enough time to go over the influence and projects that Jeff Gomez has been a part of but he has brought awareness to myself that hopefully more can come to appreciate.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

CES 2012: MB reviews Audiofly's AF33

Along with a plethora of iPhone and iPad cases were an equal amount of headphones, some entry level, others toting B-list celebrities, all boasting high end sound. Tucked away in the corner of the convention center floor was a headphone company by the name of Audiofly. This was a smaller booth with a wide variety of ear buds and some live music playing, with a lot of traffic. We got the pleasure of getting a tour from two very knowledgeable representatives and provided with the entry level AF33's which we were told retailed for $29.99. These were a rather impressive headphone for the price point, so I figured I would let you, our loyal readers have the chance to see what we thought.

To say these are cheap headphones would almost be blasphemy, though the price point for these buds are very competitive to a huge number other headphone and ear bud providers out there, as these outperformed almost all that we have reviewed at twice their price. The AF33's have a modern look and comfortable feel, but along with that have a 9mm driver and provide great noise isolation. The range was the meat and potatoes though, as they did not distort on 80 percent volume from my iPhone, listening to a range of music from Jazz to Rock and even a decent amount of bass from rap and hip-hop.

The only issue I had was with the right side staying in my ear, though the set I got only had one size of silicon tips, the retail version boasts three sets of tips, no word on if sizes vary. They also have a trademarked Clear-Talk technology that split the mic from the button for improved voice transfer. If these are only the entry level, I really want to see what the others bring to your ear holes.

Curio, the equally frustrating and addicting iPhone game review

Though this isn't a new title for the iPhone, it is however one that I can't stop playing. Curio is a horror title in which you play as "Ron Templeton III" and you must escape a mental asylum, by running, taking pills, and jumping over enemies. The gameplay is similar to that of let's say JetPack Joyride, but a lot more difficult.  
After numerous hours, and by numerous, I mean way more than I would like to admit for only getting to the fourth level. The only reason in which I relate it to the also addicting game Jetpack Joyride is because you must run through long corridors to get out of this messed up asylum, while jumping over enemies and collecting pills to keep you from losing your sanity, which is resembled by a screw in a board, get it? Once you have a screw loose, you go into an 8 bit, acid trip, bizarro world to try an obtain a gold star to bring you back to the asylum, but if you fail, it is game, I mean Sane Over.
I was not too fond of the game at first, but there is a great sense of satisfaction from each section you complete. But, there is a great narrative to listen to with the completion of each level that had me coming back for more to see what happens to Ron next. This is also a game that you really should use headphones for to get the creepy experience and listen for audio queues to help keep yourself from losing your marbles. The art style is also dark and twisted, whether you are in the asylum or in what I now refer to as the 8 bit last chance. This is not a title to be passed off as a rip off due to the amount of content that is unlocked with each chapter, which consists of some great artwork or even better narrative.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

CES: Case Mate blows our minds with Marvel Cases

This was our first year at CES and to our surprise there was an overwhelming presence for all things iPhone and iPad, from cases to portable chargers. Being a new enthusiast to Apple products, I am a bit of a whore to phone cases. One thing that sparked my interest was when I passed Case Mate's booth was that there were Marvel licensed cases. Though these weren't typical licensed cases, these were designed and made by fans from the detail of the work and the slim build, I was like a kid in a candy store. The Marvel cases are available now on Case Mate's site at forty dollars and fit the iPhone, iPod Touch, BlackBerry, and Samsung.

CES 2012 shows off Dailymotion's new presence on the Xbox

So it has been a couple days since getting back from CES 2012 and there are a few things I saw that relate to you our fellow gamer/readers. The first of my experiences to be discussed is in regards to Dailymotion and their free app now available on the Xbox 360, and previously released on both the iOS and Android.

Dailymotion is a video portal similar to youtube, with 114 million unique monthly viewers, and there is good reason for that number. That reason would be due to 20,000 new videos being uploaded per day. But the thing that had me downloading the app to my console was that there seemed to be more licensed videos and of course the HD playback. Now you will need an Xbox Gold membership in order to use the Kinect enabled app, but you will have full access to their 21 million videos. Feel free to download now and who knows, you may even eventually see our reviews on video there as well, that is if you want to see our mugs on the webs.

Yakuza Dead Souls is all about friends

We have gotten the new Yakuza Dead Souls trailer and it looks surprisingly fun and more so that is lost some of that serious tone and has gone in the way of Left 4 Dead. This isn't a bad thing as I liked both Left 4 Dead and the previous Yakuza titles. Dead Souls is scheduled to be released on March 13. Looks like the slow season may be dying down and it will be time to start saving for the upcoming AAA titles!

PS Vita tells Mortal Kombat Get Over Here!

This just in from the fine, yet twisted people at Warner Bros, the PS Vita will be getting Mortal Kombat for you gore loving fighters on the go. That is not all, we do not have a release date, but we do have a window of Spring 2012. NetherRealms claims that all the original features of the title released last year will be included along with features developed specifically for the Vita.

Darkness II Demo is Live!

That is right folks, the kind people at 2K Games has let us know that playable demo for the Darkness II is available for Xbox Live Gold members as of yesterday. But what about the rest of you? Well I am glad you asked as it will be available on January 25th for Windows Steam users and PlayStation 3 gamers. I have it downloading now, but with Spec Ops, Borderlands 2, and Darkness 2 coming this year, should be pretty exciting.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

BlueRevo is announced…but what is it?

BlueRevo just so happens to be short for BlazBlue Revolution, which just so happen to have a site that went live last month. BlueRevo is the biggest open invitation BlazBlue team tournament in Japan, but it is just now that the tournament has been opened up to North American entrants. A single team of three from the states will be chosen to participate in the prestigious finals on March 24th, 2012. So all you need to so is bring you’re A-game to the US Finals on February 25th in Los Angeles.

Also, there happens to be a BlazBlue: Continuum Shift Extend Limited Edition that will be released on Valentine’s Day for both the PS3 and the Xbox 360. The contents of said package can be fount below.

Absolution photos from Square Enix show the beauty that is the upcoming Hitman

So I get back from CES with some exciting news in my mailbox. The first piece of news is screenshots for Hitman: Absolution.  Now it has been a while since we last heard anything about this game and the little bit of time we did spend with it at E3 was stunning and beautiful. Looks like Square Enix has a lot under their hat as these images are a huge tease and I am stuck here wanting more.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

Mashbuttons hearts Geeks in this Nintendo DS review

I have come back home from a hectic Christmas full of traveling and gorging on food to find a review copy of I Heart Geeks for the Nintendo DS. This title is a puzzle game full of a hundred plus brainteasers for all ages to enjoy. The basis is simple and one that we have seen numerous times before, in which a less than popular kid in school must compete with the bullying jocks for the heart of the cheerleader, however this time it is visualized through the minds of the talented folks at Marc Ecko Entertainment and the puzzles strongly use mechanical and physics based principles for completion.

When I first started this title, I didn’t know what to think as it is clearly targeted for a younger demographic. The thing is however, that after playing through the tutorials and getting into the story, the puzzles get harder and harder, with the introduction of new items and multiple rules of level completion, it quickly goes from and easy problem solving game for your child to a game that your child will ask you for help with and you will find it hard to give back. The art style of the characters have that familiarity you find in some of Ecko’s work, but the puzzles do not have that same feelings. The puzzles are physics based and start off as basic as putting a platform here to getting a falling ball across the screen into a basket using a spring and a platform.

This title focuses heavily on the use of a stylus, and though you can use the buttons at times for fine tuning placement and rotating platforms enough that you will be able to complete the task at hand. Though I don’t fault the stylus-based gameplay, it just seems that this game was originally meant for another platform, one with multitouch and more screen real estate, particularly the iPad, as the game play principles could be easier executed on the platform. Lastly, the only other issue in which I had with this title, was the interface, as you have to select the item(s) in which you wish to use to complete the level, swap screens, place your items, start the physics in motion, and repeat to fine tune placement and restart until your goal is completed.

I had a rather pleasant time with I Heart Geeks and admittedly, I did fear that this game was targeted for a much younger audience, but given some time with the tutorial and beginning levels, you will quickly learn that the puzzle’s multiple solutions and increasing complexity will tax anyone’s mind. The concept is also one that is generally successful across the board as it is easy to pick up, complete a couple levels and put down, or play throughout that chick flick you had promised to watch with that special someone and you are looking for a way to make the time pass faster. Unfortunately the replay value was minimal as once you complete a number of the brain teasers, it is difficult to go back and try again, after already knowing how execute the sequence for a successful completion.