New Super Luigi U Actually Stressed Me Out (But Not Really)

First off, let me apologize for talking about a platformer again on my second post for From A to Zelda, but it’s actually a game I’ve just finished so I’lll just write about it while it’s fresh on my mind. New Super Mario Bros. U was, you know, a fun game and all, and I enjoyed it as much as I could. It’s just that while it’s fun to bring all those retro-esque formulas that make a Mario game a, well, Mario game, I couldn’t bring myself to absolutely love it after the fun that was New Super Mario Bros., New Super Mario Bros. Wii, New Super Mario Bros. 2, yada, yada, yada, you get me. This week, however, my dad dropped twenty bucks in my bank account and told me to buy the Mario U DLC available on the Wii U store with the generous gift (THANKS DAD YOU’RE THE BEST I’LL MAKE YOU PROUD). I searched through the store to try to find it, which to be honest was really difficult to find because Nintendo did this thing where you have to have Mario U in your console, you have to activate the game, you have to open the store through the game, then you can download it. Cool, thanks, Nintendo. So I found it, and there it was fifteen minutes later, downloaded to my system: New Super Luigi U. Continue reading

My Phone is Better Than Yours––And it Always Will Be: A Tale of Brand Loyalty

It was an outrage. They weren’t taking pre-orders. After years of snatching up my hastily-reserved devices like clockwork, I was going to be subjected to languishing in mobs that would reinforce my high-school algebra teacher’s assertion that a segment is a finite length, but a line goes on…forever. I may not get the color I want! I may not get the right capacity! Apple had betrayed me. Somehow, though, they still got my business. They still got me excited. The uncannily accurate specs (and even the names) of the new 2013 iPhones had leaked out months ago. Did that stop me from get my fanboy undies in a bunch? I’ll let the Apple stickers plastering my stereo system speak to that, but there were actual reasons for excitement.

Let’s face it: this was me. Okay, I may have jumped a little higher.

The iPhone 5c and 5s heralded a new direction for the next generation of devices for the fruity tech giant. They frothed news anchors to a frenzy, and set the stock market on fire. In a marketplace where there are more hip new phones than hip new people to use them, I sometimes wonder why I always go back to one brand for the device that I use the most. It’s insane. Android users advocate for their platform harder than anyone I’ve ever known. Within that clique are a dozen different factions, comprised of manufacturer preferences, operating system tweaks, and yes, even down to which keyboard is best. In true Apple fashion, I had always called this divisive loyalty “Android fragmentation.” They had so many choices that they were blinded to the big picture. I had considered switching, sometimes, briefly, like one considers jumping their car into a lake instead of going to their physics lab, but never seriously. I had never truly thought about abandoning my beloved Apple–– Until something life-changing happened.

Last month, I murdered my iPhone 4s in Lake Texoma. Amidst the sad, empty void that was my life without a smartphone, I began to think. I was free. Free! Free from Apple’s “walled garden” mentality and overbearing restrictions! Free from the tyranny of small screens and tinny speakers! I could do anything. I could do the unthinkable. I could… (Wait for it.) Switch to Android. I had been spoon-fed enough of Apple’s masterful ads, shiny surfaces, and eloquent British designers. I was done! Do you hear me?! Done!! This led me on a quest to research which Google Box was king of all wireless rectangles. Was it the Samsung Galaxy S IV? The HTC One? How about the Moto X? I consulted with AT&T. Their return policy was clear: fourteen days from purchase. That landed me right about at the announcement of the new iPhone. An idea began to form in my head: I could buy my favorite Android phone, test it out for two weeks, then, if I loved it, I would keep it. If not, then I would return it, and hop back on the Apple band-wagon, fresh new iPhone in hand. It was flawless. Elated by my stroke of genius, I consulted with friends and, of course, the internet.

Excuse me while my chronic indecision paralyzes me.

“Which Android phone is best?” I Googled. Some sites recommended Samsung’s newest Galaxy offering. Some said that HTC had rallied its flagging creativity, and returned to dominate all smartphones with the One. My research was relentless. I checked camera reviews, measuring the megapixels, low-light performance, and pixelation. I compared screen size and dpi (dots-per-inch). I watched those stupid “drop tests” that flood YouTube every time a new phone launches. It was exhaustive––and also exhausting. What every website said, without exemption, was that it came down to personal preference. No, I thought. I have to find the BEST Android phone. It had to be out there. So the search continued.

After several days, I had landed on the HTC One: a beast of a phone, with a quad-core processor, imposing rear camera, and devilish industrial design. Its screen was huge. It dwarfed my old iPhone, at 4.7″ diagonally vs. 3.5″. Everything about this phone screamed better. I had a handful of close friends who had already jumped onboard HTC’s aluminum flagship, and set sail for Smartphone Paradise. My mind was made. I unboxed the cellular monster and got to work fiddling with it. The Beats soundbars were phenomenal. Stereo, high-fidelity sound blasted from above and below the screen, waking me up instantly. The front and rear cameras were gorgeous, if a little prone to favoring blues. I hurriedly downloaded a new launcher for my home screen, new backgrounds, the Google keyboard, apps for notifications, apps for user control, widgets to show weather, news, and phone statistics. I told everyone I knew that I had options! I had options! Look at all my options! It was heaven.

It’s like a refrigerator and Starscream had a lovechild.

Then, something curious happened: one day, a friend texted me.

“Why is your iMessage turned off?” she asked. I told her that I no longer had iMessage. I was using Android.

“Oh. That’s a shame,” she said. “I miss seeing you type when you’re composing a message.”

I didn’t think much of it at the time. Such a little thing couldn’t possibly bother me when I had the raw, bull-like power of the HTC One to play with in the virtual pasture of Google’s app store. Yet, the longer I kept the One, the more I missed seeing the little “typing” bubble in iMessage. I missed having iCloud sync with my Mac. I missed the smaller screen of the iPhone, which let me easily use it with one hand. Something had happened to the powerful HTC One: The sheen wore off. I had options. I had options. I had… Too many options. I no longer wanted to fiddle with it. No one made cases for the phone, and just in everyday use, I had nicked and scratched the pretty, beveled edges into oblivion. The gorgeous camera began to feel a little too gorgeous, to the point of looking fake. Finally, after trying to FaceTime someone and obviously failing, I admitted it: I missed Apple.

Okay, Steve. You got me.

Fast-forward two weeks. I’m typing this article, and beside me, on my desk, sits my new iPhone 5s, like that Yellow Version Pikachu that has been in the family for years. It doesn’t have the biggest screen. It doesn’t have the most megapixels. The memory isn’t that big, and there are no speakers on the front. It isn’t very customizable. It is nothing like the HTC One. By all accounts, I should have enjoyed the One more than I enjoy this phone. But I don’t. I love my iPhone. And you know what? At the end of the day, all of the fanboys, from Apple to Google, and even those three kids with Windows phones, will go home with the handsets of their choosing, because that phone is what works for them. It’s what they love, and that’s okay. I am invested in an ecosystem that I am comfortable with, and the same goes for every other loyal customer of every brand, ever. So, the next time someone harangues you for not using their (phone/tablet/TV/computer/knitting needle) brand of choice, just tell them that their phone is excellent because it is their phone; your phone is excellent because it is your phone. That will always hold true.

…Unless you own a BlackBerry.

~Thomas

Wednesday Poll

Every Wednesday we will be doing a poll to see what is going on in your heads.

This week it’s pretty simple, if you could be a super hero for a day who would you be?

Also look at these 8-bit dudes:

superheroes_cast

Make it Thrifty: 5 Tips for Secondhand Finds

What used to be your mom’s embarrassing back-to-school budget-cutter is now a national trend in shopping.

thrift-sho

Thrift shopping is more popular than ever in the U.S. About 20 percent of people shop in thrift stores regularly, up from 14 percent in 2008, said Britt Beemer, founder and chairman of America’s Research Group, in USA Today. He attributed much of the growth to young shoppers turning their attentions away from the mall.

But it’s no trip to your average commercial retail center.

“It’s a treasure hunt,” said Richard Guerra, manager at Savers on North Mesa. “You don’t know what you’re going to come across from one day to the next.”

From amazingly priced brand-name items to finds from decades ago, the beauty of thrift shopping is in the discoveries. You can find a retro top in a trendy color for a great price all while remaining fashion forward.

So if you’re looking to make a statement with your style without crying over your credit card statement, hit up your area thrift store. Here are some tips to help you make it thrifty.

Get Crafty

• Maybe those mom jeans look a little dated, but with a pair of scissors they can be a perfect pair of high-waisted shorts.

• Try shopping in the men’s sections if you’re a girl, and vice versa for boys. Women’s shirts or blazers offer a wider selection of colors and patterns than the men’s section does. (Try to imagine what the item would look like tweaked with a few items from your own closet.) And for women, oversized men’s shirts paired with belt can make cute shirt dresses for the summer.

• Think outside the box while sorting through items. “I’ve bought denim jackets, cut the sleeves off and made them into vests,” said Bryan Lugo, a local thrifter. “With certain shirts that you really like, you can buy some dye at Walmart and just dye it whatever color you want.” If you’re not the creative type, a trip to the tailors can make that $5 blazer look extra classy.

Ask about sales

Don’t be afraid to save more money. Goodwill has a Facebook app that allows you to either share the link to save 25 percent on your next purchase or keep it to yourself to save 20 percent. The Family Thrift Center has 50-percent sales every day on specified colored tags and departments. Savers has a featured tag everyday that goes for 50 percent off or for 99 cents. Savers also gives daily discounts to military, senior citizens and college students. “Never spend too much – I wouldn’t go above $5,” said Vicky Camacho, owner of Golden Goose Vintage, an online Etsy vendor.

Don’t rush

If you plan on finding something great, take your time. There will be times when the perfect item pops up within the first five minutes, but most often you’ll have to dig. Take your time and sort through items with a keen eye. It helps if you go into the store with a specific item in mind. One day, look through the furniture section, and the next, look through the shirt racks. This can help make the seemingly endless amount of merchandise less intimidating.

Try it on!

Most thrift stores have no return policy, so make sure it fits. Wear form-fitting clothes so if there isn’t a dressing room available, you can improvise. If you know it’s not going to fit, save your money and leave it for someone else to find.

Explore the entire store

You can find those final touches to your home or dorm room just by expanding your horizons by stepping out of the clothing section. Put on your creative goggles while shopping through the furniture section. You may see an ugly painting that has the frame you’ve been searching for. The possibilities are endless.

 

Via Cora Davis

PMG Presents: Three Games by Edmund McMillen

I am the Poor Man’s Gamer, here to give PC gamers the most for their limited funds and limited hardware.  Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses and I will show them gaming paradise.

-Yours Truly,

PMG

Edmund_McMillen_-_Game_Developers_Conference_2010_-_Day_2_cropped

I am the Poor Man’s Gamer, here to help PC gamers get the best games for their money and their PCs.  Today I would like to share with you three games developed by the brilliant Edmund McMillen.

Most people may not be familiar with McMillen, but I hope that many of you reading this will at least be familiar with his masterpiece, Super Meat Boy.  For those of you who don’t know, Super Meat Boy is a platformer, to put it simply.  To put it in more complex terms, Super Meat Boy is a ridiculously difficult, fast-paced, highly addictive platformer about a boy with no skin who tries to save his girlfriend (who is made of bandages) from a fetus in a jar.  Take a minute for the bizarreness of that statement to sink in.  [PAUSE] This is quintessential Edmund McMillen.

Super Meat Boy began its life as a flash game on Newgrounds.com to great acclaim.  The acclaim was so great that soon McMillen was approached to make a version of the game for home consoles and PCs.  In 2009 McMillen, along with Tommy Refenes, began work on the new version of ‘Meat Boy.’  It was released nearly two years later after countless struggles against time the game was released[*].

The finished game was built with simple gameplay, tight controls, and an incrementally small margin for error (think the Dark Souls of platformers).  The game is a ruthless beating which you will return to again and again, in agony as you try in vain to progress “one more level.”

I will say one thing I have against the game on PC is how hard it is to control with the arrow keys on a keyboard opposed to say a joystick on a Xbox 360 controller.  Super Meat Boy requires directional precision when it comes to running and jumping at a million miles per second that cannot be offered by arrow keys.  I saw an immense change when I moved over from my keyboard to a controller.  Levels that I thought were impassable suddenly became easier than Baby’s First Super Mario Bros.

Still if you can get past the button mashing or if you have a 360 controller to plug into your computer I would say get this game.  I dare you to try and beat it in one sitting.  In terms of hardware, Super Meat Boy should work on just about everything, PC and Mac, so don’t worry about how old or slow your computer is.  It retails on Steam for $14.99, but you should really wait for it to go on sale, because it goes on sale frequently, probably once a month, and for anywhere from 50% to 80% off.  You are a fool to buy it at full price.

 

Next on my list of McMillen greats is a little game called The Binding of Isaac.  In this game you play as Isaac, a small, bald-headed, crying boy whose mother is out to kill him after being spoken to by God.  Isaac runs away from his mother into the basement where he discovers his deformed and mutilated brothers and sisters.  The game is a rogue-like which entails moving through dungeons (reminiscent of the original Legend of Zelda) shooting your tears at your damned brethren and mutilating yourself to gain even greater powers and abilities.  At the end of each dungeon you face a boss and kill them to move on. Each time you play the dungeons and items you pick up are randomly generated so no experience is ever the same as another.

The way you win The Binding of Isaac is with luck, nothing more, nothing less.  You can do a playthrough where you get nothing but items which make you a walking tank, and then you can die accidentally and play another game where you die on the first level because you ran into a fly.  There is no leveling up and the only way to go further in the game is to get better at it, which is not an easy task.

But still there is no denying that Binding of Isaac is fun and with less frustration than Super Meat Boy, but not that much less.  This game will, like most McMillen games, run on absolutely everything, probably even most graphing calculators, and the fact is it retails for only $4.99, so even when it’s not on sale it is cheap.  One note I have is that there is currently DLC available for The Binding of Isaac, but I would not recommend it.  It doesn’t add anything that really changes the game, just more enemies, more items, more bosses.  It may sound like a lot, but in a game where there are over 100 items, over 50 enemies, and over 20 bosses, the additions seem pretty boring.  In the days I’ve spent playing The Binding of Isaac I still haven’t seen everything from the vanilla game.  If you are still interested, the DLC is called Wrath of Lamb and it costs $2.99 on Steam.

 

Last of all is a group of games that have a special place in my heart.

I first came in contact with Edmund McMillen while I was still in highschool, playing flash games online.  One of my favorites was a little game called Time Fcuk (and I did spell that right).  It was a platformer about a man who travels into other timelines and other dimensions platforming his way towards the end with a sentient growth named ‘Steve.’  I loved this game and played through it probably five times.  At the time I just thought it was a cool game, I had no idea Edmund McMillen had anything to do with it.  I also remember playing games like Aether and Coil, they were just so unique that to this day I remember them as being more fun than a barrel full of monkeys and more unique than a jellyfish clown party.

After I got into Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac I discovered The Basement Collection, a collection of 7 of McMillen’s classic flash games, including Meat Boy, Aether, Time Fcuk, Spewer, Grey Matter, Coil, and Triachnid, all of which are like no other game around.

Also included in this bundle is a treasure chest of drawings and videos of and by McMillen, as well as 2 unlockable games.  It will give you tons of enjoyment if you are a McMillen junkie, but if you’re not and you only want to dip your feet into the world of early McMillen, then I would suggest just going onto Newgrounds.com and playing the flash versions of all these games.  If you were to buy it, it retails for $3.99 on Steam.

 

Of all these games I think The Binding of Isaac is clearly the best deal and the most fun.  It seems less ruthless than Super Meat Boy while retaining the replayability and the fun.  If you find that you are deeply intrigued by Edmund McMillen, then there is one more game for you: Gish.  It is one of McMillen’s first games and probably the strangest.  It’s a game about a strange ball of slime.  Sadly I can’t give you my personal opinion on it, having not played it.  If you choose to buy it, it retails for $9.99 on Steam.

 

 Meatboy  Isaac

Super Meat Boy

The Binding of Isaac

$14.99

Core Game – $4.99

Wrath of Lamb DLC -$2.99

Indie, Platformer

Action, Adventure, RPG, Indie

 

 TheBasementCollection  Gish

The Basement Collection

Gish

$3.99

$9.99

Adventure, Strategy, Indie, Platformer

Indie

 


[*] For a more complete record check out Indie Game: The Movie.  I highly recommend it.

The Wii U is the Best: A Herald of Hope from “Rayman Legends”

…………………………………..

…………………………………..

Zzz… Hm? Wha…? You woke me up!

Will you check the clock for me?

What time is it?

[Day REALLY LATE O’CLOCK]

What? Really Late O’Clock?

>YES

How many minutes?

[TOO MANY. GET UP]

Whoa! Too many min.?

>OMG YES PLZ GET UP

DAY REALLY LATE TOO MANY MIN. O’CLOCK! I overslept!

Hello! Sorry to keep you waiting with that reference to Pokemon Gold and Silver. I’m Trey, and you’re reading my first post from my section of The Geekon Record, “From A to Zelda“! I’ll be posting about Nintendo-centric things every so often, so if you’re a fan of formulaic platformers, adventures containing lava, water, and grass worlds in every game, or enjoy a good laugh at an obscure reference to Nintendo’s past flops, check this out! Continue reading