Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Disney Infinity Announces Power Discs

 So, maybe it's the Disney fan in me, (I go to Disneyland at least once a month), but I'm super-excited for the upcoming Disney Infinity title coming out in just a few weeks!  I already collected a few extra characters from E3 that I can't wait to drop into the universe.

Today, Disney unveiled a new trailer focusing on the Power Discs feature.  The Power Discs are additional "discs" that you can place on your base station under a character to grant them special abilities in-game.  The idea behind enhancing game-play with powers from other characters/worlds is especially intriguing given the range of Disney/Pixar titles to choose from.

To make things more interesting, the Power Discs will be handled like trading cards.  Sealed in mystery packaging, you never know which discs you will get.  With 3-series currently planned and about 20 discs (and a few "rare" discs) in each set, they're trying to invoke a sense of sharing/trading amongst friends.  In concept, that sounds cool, but since I don't have any friends at my age, and I wouldn't let my 4 year old son give away his stuff, I will end up just buying them all.

Sunday, July 28, 2013

Bracketron's NanoTek Stand holds tight and doesn't let go

Bracketron has provided me with another phone mount from their product line, the NanoTek Stand, and not like the Mi-T grip we previously reviewed, this one is for your desk. This desktop mount uses NanoTek mounting technology to securely hold my phone to the mount that just so happens to grip the desk as well and the conduit between the two is an aircraft grade aluminum stand in silver or black. The stand is built to hold mobile devices in either vertical or horizontal positions, so lets see if it ever loses it’s grip.
The NanoTek Stand is a great accessory for most any desktop as I love cases with a kickstand for this very reason, but most of them are an eyesore, so rather than using a kickstand case, you simply touch your phone to this little stand and it is not going anywhere. I have seen similar, much cheaper, versions of this type of stand, as corporate promotional swag, but none of them had an incorporated cable management that is built to hold most any charging cable and most certainly were not built with the stylish looking aircraft grade aluminum. I have been using for about a week now and there are two items in which I wished were changed in production, the first would be the sharp edges, if they were rounded  it wouldn’t feel so sharp. This is also the case for the cable management system, the sharp edges make me worry the next time I pull on the cable for slack, it will be the time I strip the cable from the rubber coating.  
In the end, this is a great stand as is holds the same style and overall appearance of apple’s aluminum build and never once disappointed when I placed my phone against it. A nice added plus to this stand is that it holds most anything to the NanoTek material as long as it is a smooth non-porous surface. Should the surface get dirty over time, all you need to do in order to clean the surface is simply use a piece of tape on the surface to restore suction to when it was fresh out of the box. Lastly, the NanoTek stand is strong enough to hold the iPad Mini, which makes streaming shows from the desktop easy without using my computer’s resources. The NanoTek stand is available now for the price of $29.95.

Razer's Atrox: The last fightstick I will ever use

Next up we have the fighting fan’s dream in which I had the pleasure of getting my hands on at E3 but not hooked up to a console to see how well it plays. I am talking about Razer’s latest fightstick, named the Atrox and this Xbox 360 fighting accessory was obviously made by a large fighting fan. The arcade fightstick is the luxury accessory for fighting and many arcade games as the Atrox comes packed with components hand picked by the professionals and built to allow modifications to the top panel, 10 Sanwa Denshi buttons and joystick, all accessed by a push of a button. After getting some time with numerous fighting games on the Xbox 360 and some of the HD remake XBLA titles, it is time to break down the Atrox and see how this bad boy held up to the beat down.
Razer's Artox is one seriously badass piece of equipment for the fighting enthusiast, from the build to the parts and topped with the customization abilities, quality was not compromised. There is a solid weight to the fightstick and a seriously effective non slip bottom for use on lap or table top. The moving parts is what makes this my favorite fightstick because the joystick has a nice recoil and click while the buttons have a light resistance without the click when pressed to know for sure that the command was recognized. In terms of customization you can design the top from a free downloadable template,  egg or ball shaped joystick tops, and rearrange buttons or upgrade easily from the flip up top. The Atrox is wired, so of course my first question was how much cable, and stored away, so, under the hood  stored a 13 foot USB cable.
On the downside, there were a couple of things I felt needed improvement and the first has to do with  the shock on the lid to open and close smoothly. It is only on one side, so you have to be a bit careful with the lid, if not paying attention closing it seems rather easy to do some damage to the top cover or hinge. The other item in which I had hoped so dearly for would be the capability to play on either console. Most of my fighting library is on the PS3 because I despise the Xbox controller for fighters, but after this experience I wanted to toss the controller and ultimately having to get Injustice and MVC3 on the Xbox 360.
The Atrox is the one and only fightstick for me, after using a couple wireless fightsticks in the past. Sure, it may not be wireless but with how fast the current fighting titles are, you do not want a delayed response when playing online and 13 feet was more than long enough for my use. The customization was a big part of my praise with the ability to place custom artwork on the top panel and then swap out the buttons to match. Here is where some may gasp, the retail price is $199.99, but also be cautious to the fact that this is a tournament grade fightstick designed by the professionals, and may likely be the last fightstick you ever buy.

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Zooka is Carbon Audio's stand and wireless speaker

This next Bluetooth speaker review comes from Carbon Audio in the form of the Zooka for the iPad. What makes the Zooka special is it’s unique design, as not only does it offer wireless playback but it also includes a kickstand and grips to the side of the iPad making for a nice fit while holding the tablet. This speaker is built with a silicone design for a safe, fingerprint free, comfortable grip while on the iPad. On the opposite side from the grip lies the microphone and controls which consist of power, track, volume and sync buttons. It's time to see how this Bluetooth speaker holds up to wireless speakers past.
This is a sleek little speaker, compact and easy to carry around with me in my laptop bag and the kickstand just adds to the numerous ways in which this speaker works well with apple devices. One of my favorite ways to use was placing along the side of the iPad to make the tablet easier to hold while reading for long periods of time. When the Zooka was not holding my iPad upright, it was placed on the top of my MacBook Pro and with the cutout for the iDevices home button it did not cover the front facing camera, making for great conference calls with the microphone and louder speakers. You can tell when the buttons are pressed as they click when pressed, which I hugely prefer; mainly because most wireless speakers use touch sensors making it hard to tell if the input was recognized.
On the other hand, the sound quality was less than what I was expecting, it does not improve the quality per se, but more along the lines of increasing the volume output of what your tablet or laptop is currently capable of. The only other issue I had was with the build quality, the reason to call this out was that the silicone wrap did not line up right, slightly covering the already small charging port. Downfalls aside, Carbon Audio’s Zooka is incredibly versatile, with a handful of devices in which it is capable of grabbing hold of and the additional volume it provides without need of a cable making this a portable speaker a great buy with the price tag of $99.99.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Snow Lizard's SLXtreme allows you to take your iPhone 4/4s virtually anywhere

Snow Lizard is out for blood and that blood would be the title of being the toughest damn case for the iPhone 4/4S. The SLXtreme is the latest in rugged cases  that goes one step further, but before I get to that, this case is  both waterproof and built to take the shock of a fall up to six feet. That little extra is not only a battery that doubles the life between charges but you can also recharge while out and about with the built in solar charger without eliminating the ability to take pictures in the elements, including underwater. Lets see if Snow Lizard's new SLXtreme can handle what I have to throw at it or if I will end up having to take advantage of my insurance replacement program.
The SLXtreme is one solid in case of just about anything polycarbonate case so that you will have no reason to be without your phone or miss a picture due to fear or getting wet or dropping. Sure it is bulky, but my mind was always at ease while my phone was enclosed in this multi purpose outdoor dream. The reason I felt so secure was due to the double-locking latch to seal the phone inside and a screw close latch to keep the charging port dry. Also while afloat, I did not notice a difference or loss in signal like I had with some of the previous cases reviewed, I steadily had strong Wifi signal from the my backyard and was also streaming music via Bluetooth without interruption. Lastly, living in Arizona where there is 300+ days of sunlight, what better feature is there than a solar charger? If out and about, all I had to do is throw it up on the dashboard.
On the other hand it is a bit on the unsightly side with the added bulk, but of course in order to be waterproof and impact resistant. The assortment of colors also make sure that if the size doesn’t draw attention, the urban camo, safety yellow, and signal orange colors scream look at me. Also, the charging port is a bit inconvenient to unscrew and access without a screwdriver handy. A lot of this bulk over other all purpose cases like The Lifeproof comes from having the spare battery and solar charger, so yes there are other smaller waterproof cases, but in order the have the added functionality, size had to be sacrificed.

As an owner of a pool, someone that enjoys the outdoors, and lives where there is no shortage of sunlight, the SLXtreme was a perfect case for me. I always had enough power to use my phone throughout the day and never once did I feel unsure about submerging my phone or using it to take pictures underwater. Sure I was not a fan of the available colors, but because this was not my daily case I did not mind, in fact because mine was the safety yellow color, it was a hell of alot easier to locate my misplaced phone at a glance. Snow Lizard's SLXtreme is available now for the price of $129.99.

Roccat's Isku goes beyond with Isku FX

We have another PC gaming review from the Germans at Roccat, known for their solid gaming accessories, and this time around we have the gaming keyboard, Isku FX. Similar to it's predecessor, the FX offers the same great features as the Isku, but this time around, for a nominal fee, it also provides different keys and now illuminates in a variety colors. Also new is the Roccat Talk FX feature which lights the keyboard effects based on in game actions to enhance the gaming experience in dark settings. Much like the Isku before it, you still get the 3 Easy-Shift[+] Zones, 3 Thumbster key, an incorporated wrist guard, and Macro Live! Recording. Time to swap the Isku out for the Isku FX and see how it goes.
Of course the most noticeable feature out of the box aside from being able to change the colors in which the keyboard glows would be that the keys are easier to see when not lit, although with six brightness levels and a total of 16.8 million different colors, there is almost no reason to not light it up. The Roccat Talk FX is really damn cool how the lighting effects change based on attacks, damage, on screen events, and matchmaking. The driver interface as always is smooth as butter, making it fast and easy to change settings, layout,  colors, and achievements. Speaking of achievements, I was not so keen this time around when deep in concentration and volume cranked and then flying out of my seat when being told what acheivement I just got.

In the end, if you are already a proud owner of the Isku and it is still fully functional, I would not suggest purchasing the FX. However, if you are in the market for a gaming keyboard upgrade, I would highly recommend putting down the extra money for the AMG version of the Mercedes of gaming peripherals. Please note that this is not a mechanical keyboard, but each button press has a nice feel to it and once again, I will say this until I am blue in the face, but the Isku FX driver does not support Mac, sure it works but you do not get the same customization options. The Isku FX is is available now for the price of $109.99.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Mashbuttons takes some Demon Blades on the go | Muramasa Rebirth PS Vita Review

I've had the PS Vita since December of 2012, and to be honest it doesn't get much use.  Yes, I know - there are a lot of games out there, there are PS One games, the free games with PS Plus, but so far, at least to me, there hasn't been a singular game that gives me reason to pick it up over my iPhone or iPad for quick gaming on the go.

Enter, Muramasa Rebirth a re-issue of the 2009 Wii title Muramasa: The Demon Blade, released for the PS Vita on June 25th.  We already reviewed the Wii version here, so we'll be focusing on the PS Vita version only.

In Muramasa Rebirth, you play either as Kisuke or Momohime.  Initially, there doesn't appear to be any difference, but they each have their own stories to uncover.  The characters each are on the search for 108 "demon blades" that you either can find or forge using gathered materials.  Billed as an "action-RPG", the normal layout of the levels are like that of Metroid, or Castlevania - in where you move from "tile to tile" as opposed to a large overall level.  This introduces the ability to backtrack once you unlock certain skills, or are of a higher level.  As you move from panel to panel, you may be attacked by various enemy types.  The early stages of the game walk you through some basic moves to battle your opponents on the screen.  You can string multiple combos together for more XP at the end of the round.  And like a lot of RPG's, once you've defeated the enemies on screen, there's a splash that comes up with stats like time, enemies killed, XP points gathered, and any other bonus stats that increase your XP towards the next level-up.

As you progress through the levels, you gather items, equipment, and even ingredients to make recipes, and forge new swords.  You equip three swords at a time, and each has some unique aspect to it as well as they grow in strength.  Part of the strategy to playing is swapping between the swords during fights to string together combos as well as allow broken blades to "heal" when they're sheathed.  Yes, it may seem strange, but over time your blades will break...and to fix, why just put that sword away and in a few minutes, all will be well.

If you're familiar with the developer, Vanillaware - you may be familiar with their art style.  They use hand-drawn backgrounds and animations that are simply beautiful on the 5-inch Vita display.  Also being a game rooted in Japanese lore, the voices are in Japanese, with an english subtitle track in place, that could turn off some players who may dismiss it as not a worthy title, but that shouldn't detract anyone.  Gameplay is solid, controls are superbly tight, and there are even two difficulties if you get stuck and aren't familiar with the type of difficulty a game like this may be used to.

Muramasa Rebirth is not perfect however, sometimes you can go a few panels without any action occurring, which just seemed like a strange way to make the world seem "bigger" - and they use some seemingly recycled backgrounds to accomplish this as well. 

All in all, for a system (Vita) that is ripe for a killer app, Muramas Rebirth goes a long way in trying to achieve that perfect balance of quick pick up and play with deep RPG elements.  Mashbuttons.com gives Muramasa Rebirth an 8 out of 10.

Sunday, July 7, 2013

MashButtons spends some alone time with the mouthy merc Deadpool

Activision has provided me with the latest console game review and this one gets my inner geek going, being a big comic book fan and that this is a title based on my favorite comic book character. Deadpool is the title at hand and my copy is for play on the Playstation 3. Being that it is a comic book title I was rather skeptical that it would be a letdown as a lot of comic book titles are disappointing. Luckily, High Moon was up to the task and for those unfamiliar with their works, they are the artists behind the entertaining Transformer games for the current gen consoles. Deadpool is a third person action game packed with weapons and cameos.
Admittedly I was apprehensive about this release as a number of comic licensed titles start off with a bang once announced but fizzled by the time release comes around. There are few exceptions to the rule, mine being X-Men Legends and the Batman Arkham Titles, and after playing through Deadpool, it was a fun, bloody, good time. It has a quick playthrough, shy of 10 hours but well written and provides enough character development to keep me from getting bored throughout the story. While most of the humor is of course crude bathroom humor, so thankfully it was Rated M, because a title based on the loudmouth merc rated any less than Mature would would not a game about Deadpool.
It wasn’t all blood and sass, some jokes just drag on and I found myself thinking the writers were running on empty or simply could not put some of the witty banter passed the ESRB. While I was happy that there was finally a game based on this anti hero, however it is fairly short and linear, making it difficult to go back and play after completion. Replayability aside, Deadpool is a fun title from start to finish with a couple speed bumps. The cameos and Easter eggs partnered well with the potty mouth filled humor all while completely destroying extras and villains that I have grown up reading about. Deadpool was fun from start to finish, not that same type of fun as say Portal, Bioshock, or a more thought provoking game, but stupid fun where you can give your brain a break and enjoy the simple things.

Hotline Miami moves from PC to the Vita

Here is a review on a title that is not so much in the way of new, Hotline Miami has been out for a while on Steam and GOG, but now this award winning indie title is available on the Vita. Known for it’s brutal story and gameplay, Hotline Miami takes place in 1989 sporting the retro look from the decade and the player takes on the role of a mysterious person that goes on rampages at the request of an answering machine. Packed with 20 unique fast paced levels, 35 highly effective weapons, 1,000 different sprites, and 25 animal masks that tweak gameplay. Lets see if Hotline Miami is that trying-too-hard brutal game overflowing with blood and violence or if it is a great game tailored to the dark side of every gamer.
This is as much strategy as it is bloody retro top down action. Stealth isn't relied on heavily but does make weapon decisions tougher as quiet is only effective at close range but guns are powerful and tend to draw a crowd. Gameplay is fast and very difficult, each stage is rather short, but took numerous attempts to complete each of the stages, I am talking Demon Souls level of frustration, making completion oh so sweet. In terms of the graphics, the retro look works incredibly well and plays similar to that of the original top down Grand Theft Auto titles. Aiming was the most frustrating part of the gameplay and twitching the joysticks while hitting the right buttons at breakneck speeds often resulting in pressing X to retry. The story is gritty, dark, and twisted which would be downright creepy had it used this generation's realistic graphics.

When all is said and done, I am very surprised that my Vita, it’s pricetag was the only thing saving this portable. It has been a long time since I played such a simplistic and difficult game that was so easy to lose yourself to  hours of cursing the small handheld while cheering and celebrating each stage’s completion. At first, I had no intention of going back for more, but after unlocking weapons and masks to change playstyle, it is a lot of fun to go back and work my way up the leaderboards. It is easy to pick up and play if you only have a couple minutes to kill, the bad part of that is you will be hard pressed to put down and find yourself playing until you beat the stage or have to recharge.

iLuv brings the speaker dock back with the aud5

iLuv is bringing speaker docks back with the release of the Aud 5, built for charging and playback for the iPhone 5 with the swiveling lightning connector. This sleek dock is meant to be a centerpoint of any room with it’s sleek look, glossy black top, and ability to charge your phone while listening. In terms of sound, the aud5 comes packing jAura sound technology that is accompanied by four active drivers and since everyone else is doing it nowaways, a passive radiator for added bass. The onboard controls consist of power, play, pause, volume, and track control.
While I have reviewed a number of wireless speaker for room filling sound and just a couple docks, mostly for the iPad. This time we have a dock that doesn’t only play and charge the device, but it also has the lightning connector for the iPhone 5. On top of having a convenient place to charge without having to get another lightning connector you get some great sounds that is both loud and full. At about sixty percent volume, it is easily loud enough to fill a room, at eighty percent you can fill a yard with sound. Whether at low or high volume, the lyrics are loud and clear without distortion and the bass is deep without being overpowering and adding a noticeable amount of depth.
While it sounds nice, there are a couple items in which I felt could have been different or at least making it a little more convenient to use. I really wish that this came with a remote, so unless you don’t plan on changing the song or volume, do not go far. I also learned why there is a rubber pad where the back of my phone rested, the passive radiator is in the center, so when you are playing loud and I was listening to bass heavy music, the iPhone bounces against the aud5, like dribbling a basketball. Lastly, there isn’t only two devices that use the lightning connector, the aud5 should have supported the iPad Mini as well.
In the end, I abused the hell out of this thing, I don’t know if it was the recent Duck Dynasty marathon or delusion from the 120 degree heat, but low and behold, iLuv’s aud5 took it like a champ. Hell, even when I took the Dremel to the dock so that it would now support all lightning connected devices. I was not expecting the levels of sound that came from this dock after seeing the very affordable price tag, it is pool party loud while also making a nice nightstand charger, I just wish it came with a remote so you don’t need to be so close to change tracks, pause, or crank up the jams.

iBattz shows off their Mojo Refuels for the iPhone 5

After upgrading to the iPhone 5, I was no longer able to use my iBattz case, luckily the folks at iBattz were kind enough to send out a box of goodies. The contents of the box included the Refuel and Refuel Armor i5 cases, one that is slim and sleek and the other, well...the other is just begging to have the crap beaten out of it. iBattz is also pretty liberal as to what is included in the package allowing for long periods of use and variety as both come with two battery packs and the Refuel came with two bumpers, one red and the other was silver. The staple of Mojo Refuel is the battery pack as it is the first charging case with a removeable battery and whats better is that it charges by a micro USB cable and the battery is slim.
First up is the Mojo Refuel and much like the Mojo Vogue it is a slim case that is easy to get your phone in and out of while holding it securely to the juice backpack. What I liked most was how slim the case is, as it does not add much bulk to your pocket while quickly recharging. By the way, since it is for the iPhone 5 and you likely only have one lightning cable, the Refuel takes a micro USB and I have a handful of those so it was rarely without charge and when on the road I know that I have a full charge before I have to worry. Since it does piece together with plastic materials, I was worried about rattles and the battery cover being removed too easily, luckily the case is solid and secure out of the box. Ditching the gloss finish and going with a rubber texture prevents scratches, it does pick up fingerprints and oils off my hands, but the good side is that the texture prevents scratches.
Next is the Mojo Refuel Armour and this bad boy didn't come to mess around, it uses the same battery pack but that is it, no bumpers here, just a rugged face plate with plastic screen and a rubber case that wraps the iPhone snugly providing shock resistance for anyone that works outside or is just plain rough with their tech toys. To add sprinkles to that delicious treat, all ports seal closed to keep dust and water (light splashes) out, sorry bathroom users it likely would not survive a fall in the can, but do you really want to put it back against your face even it it does survive? My only concern was the added bulk that comes with the case and the difficulty of removing when cleaning and swapping batteries.

Once again, iBattz has provided a sleek and reliable case that really comes through in a pinch, even though it showed up after I needed it most, E3 always sucks a phone dry in a matter of hours. While the Armour was a solid case I use out riding in the desert, skateboarding, or any time I think my screen could be in danger. The Refuel is the daily driver case as it fits in my pocket, quickly snaps on and off and allows for variety with different colored bumpers. One item that took some getting used to was the location of the home button and slide to unlock as the case extends the length of an already long phone, especially if you are just upgrading from the 4/4S.