Archive for the ‘Opinion’ Category


Danmaku 2 vs Aftershock

November 12, 2013

danmaku 2 pic 0880 Motörhead_Aftershock







Purely out of boredom, during the flight from Birmingham to Larnaca a couple of weeks ago, I played Danmaku Unlimited 2 while listening to Motorhead’s new album, Aftershock. Completely nuts and easily one of the most intense ways to entertain oneself during a flight.

If you fancy trying this, and you should, remember to turn off the game’s own music or you’re going to implode. 


Spelunky (2013) – PC – not quite a review

August 16, 2013

Spelunky 2013-08-16 19-42-08-89

I played a lot of the original Spelunky (Spelunky World website link) and I was excited to find out there was an updated version coming out. The new version (on Steam here) has the same Roguelike platforming as the original with improved visuals and a lot of small additions and enhancements to the gameplay. Unlockable characters, shortcuts to later levels that you have to earn and a larger variety of enemies are some of the highlights.

Spelunky 2013-08-16 19-58-49-02The shortcut to the second zone (jungle) has to be earned by completing the mine level 3 times and agreeing to provide the tunnel worker with various items so that he can complete his shortcut cavern. It’s a great reward when you eventually get it, as it allows immediate access to the jungle with your full quota of lives.

Spelunky 2013-08-16 21-13-24-64Spelunky in both forms is a great deal of fun, but once you get this version I don’t think you would ever have any reason to go back to the original.

Spelunky 2013-08-16 19-46-08-71

Spelunky 2013-08-16 21-08-13-98

Spelunky 2013-08-16 21-06-56-60


My best rating system ever

January 1, 2013

It’s the first day of a new year, so I don’t know why you’re looking so surprised. Of course I’m going to radically alter my rating system. Why? Because the old one was seriously flawed, that’s why.

First of all, why the hell did I include “Sound” and give it as much influence over the final rating as “Fun” or “Content”? Who knows? It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. As for the final ratings, they were generally way too high and way too inconsistent. Arcadelife’s average review score is somewhere around 80%. Great news for most of the games I reviewed but suggestive of a very lenient and probably less than informative scoring system. Either that, or almost every game I reviewed was very good. Yeah, I didn’t think so either.

So … Here’s what you’re getting in 2013. It’s going to be a much better rating system, at least until 2014 when I decide it was rubbish. Probably.

The Sound category is OUT. I don’t care about Sound. Actually I do, but I am creating a replacement category called Presentation. The Presentation category will cover a lot of things, including sound, but will also focus on stuff like the menu system, tutorial (is there one? is it any good? is it needed?), slickness and overall polish. Damn, yeah, ok, I mentioned the word polish. The other categories are staying, because they make sense, although “Visuals” will now specifically mean the in-game graphics and not how pretty the menus are.

Numbers, don’t you just love them? I wanted to ditch the final rating score altogether and just use one of ten words or phrases, which we’ll come to soon, but then I realised this would screw up how the Arcadelife reviews appear on the iPhone Quality Index. They need a score in numeric form and I don’t want to burden them with the jolly task of deciphering a number from my rating words so I’ll use this principle:

The final rating (number) will appear but will be directly derived from the word I use to rate the game. Now, I know what you’re thinking – what the bloody hell is he rambling on about? It’s fairly straightforward really and I think most people will understand it, although they won’t necessarily like it. The solution, if you don’t like it, would obviously be to set up your own review site and go through this nightmare yourself, or just wait until I eventually create the ultimate best ever rating system and use that.

The final ratings and their numbers are as follows:

  • Best Game Ever – 10
  • Excellent – 9
  • Very Good – 8
  • Good – 7
  • Quite Good – 6
  • Mediocre – 5
  • Disappointing – 4
  • Poor – 3
  • Pathetic – 2
  • Atrocious – 1

“Best Game Ever” is a bit of an in-joke that evolved from discussions and text messages between me and my friend Ben, where we manage to find at least one BGE every week, if not every day. It doesn’t mean the game is the best game ever, obviously, just that it qualifies as one for at least the short period of time that we played it. The way I see it, developers and publishers are going to enjoy putting that in their app store description if it is ever awarded to a game, even if it’s not exactly a unique accolade.

I’ve also changed the scoring from a percentage to a score out of 10, mostly because there’s a universal fear of awarding a game 100% because “no game is perfect” and blah blah blah. People seem perfectly happy seeing a game get 10/10, so I’ll follow that trend, just don’t expect to see many games getting 10!

Now I just need to review a game to see how this works out…


Far Cry 3 – Holiday Photos

December 18, 2012

Here are some pictures I took during my recent holiday, sitting in front of my PC:














Sorry, but it wasn’t my fault.

September 14, 2012

Apologies to anyone who was expecting a review, news item or anything at all to appear on Arcadelife recently. My Internet Service Provider has been spectacularly failing to provide any kind of a service for almost three whole days which, as we all know, is a lifetime on the internet.

So, Virgin Media, no thanks at all for that. They can expect a communication from me very shortly stating exactly why I’ll be getting a refund. The stupefyingly annoying voice of the woman reciting the same uninformative phone message for three whole days should be worth a full year’s refund on its own.

Customer service? What the hell is that? At least I’m bothering to explain where this website has been since Tuesday and, last time I checked, nobody is paying me to do any of this.

I’ll get a review posted as soon as I can.


Best free iPad calculator

July 25, 2012

For no particular reason other than I wanted to get a decent free calculator for my iPad, I downloaded a folder full of top-rated (iTunes ratings) free calculator apps and did a fairly quick comparison of them all.

If you have a folder full of free calculator apps and you’re not going to delete all but one very soon, there’s something wrong and you should seek help!

In case it’s any use to someone else, I decided to use the results for a comparison review feature on Arcadelife. Review criteria – pretty simple; I’m not concerned about lots of scientific functions, I want a calculator that loads quickly, looks nice, isn’t swamped with adverts or nags, and calculates percentages and repeated presses of the equals key properly. What I mean by “properly” is the same way the calculator on the iPhone works, and also the majority of hardware calculators.

Example 1 – I want to enter “125 + 50% =”  and get the answer 187.5. Seeing the calculated percentage value (62.5) as an intermediate figure is nice to have.
Example 2 – I want to enter “2 x 2” and have each subsequent press of the equals button display the previous result multiplied by 2. E,g, 2, 4, 8, 16, 32, etc.

Some of the following calculators perform both those calculations as described above. Many others that I tried did not. Some even gave the result of  “125 + 50% =” as 125.5

I’ll list a few basic facts and some pros & cons for each app that made it to my final list. I’m not going to talk about features that are available as IAPs or that only exists in the full (bought) version of any of these free calculators. If you click the app icon for any calculator, it will take you to the iTunes page for that app.


File size: 42.3mb
Default skin is very similar to iPhone calculator.
Includes two other skins but they are not very nice.
Percentage key is only available in landscape mode.
Adverts appear at the bottom of the screen.

Verdict – Very large file size, nasty additional skins and lack of percentage button in portrait mode undermine a basically decent calculator app. It does show the intermediate value when adding on a percentage.

Calculator LCD Free

File size: 1.5mb
No adverts apart from permanent prompt to get the full version, top right corner of screen.
Nag prompt every time it starts, asking you to get the full version.
Doesn’t use “equals” as the end of a calculation. Entering a new number will include that number with the previous calculation unless you specifically press the cancel key. If that doesn’t make sense, download the app and try it for yourself. Enter 2+2=. You get 4. Now enter “6”, press equals or any other function key and you get 10. It added 6 to 4 without being told to do so.

Verdict – One of the best looking calculators I tried, very clean graphics and nice big display area. The adverts aren’t particularly annoying but I don’t like the way it doesn’t interpret “equals” as the end of the current calculation. If you like gimmicks, it even dims the fake LCD display if you cover the fake solar panel with your finger.

Calculator for iPad Free

File size – 5.3mb
Log of calculations.
Freehand notes feature.
Intermediate percentage value displayed (and added to log).
Nice skin – metal/glass effect calculator in leather wallet.
Upgrade prompt has “Do not show this again” as an option.
Small adverts appear at bottom of screen.

I’m not entirely sure how much use the freehand notepad feature is, but it’s easy to hide if you don’t need it

Verdict – One of my favourites, but is it the one I chose over all the others? You’ll have to wait, or scroll down to the end of this post, to find out. A very smart, clean looking calculator with plenty of features, an upgrade nag that can be turned off and a very handy log of your calculations.

CalcMadeEasy Free

File size: 6.3mb
Log & Notepad (calculation log and free keyboard entry).
Copy/paste in display line, including results history.
List of universal constants.
Extensive help/tips within app.
All buttons available in portrait and landscape.
No adverts.
Doesn’t repeat equals, meaning if you enter 2×2 and press equals more than once the result stays at 4. Personally, I prefer it to work the proper way.

Verdict – Apart from my own gripe about equals not performing a repeat function of the previous calculation, this is easily one of the best free calculator apps available. Some of the functions are not immediately apparent, but the built-in help is very good.

Calculator Free

File size: 3.3mb
Results log.
Full calculation displayed under main display line.
No percentage button in portrait mode.
Adverts displayed at bottom of screen.

Verdict – Very good, apart from the lack of a percentage button in portrait mode.

Calculator HD+ Free

File size: 4mb
Three workspaces (separate calculation areas)
Results displayed and updated in separate log zone while typing.
Unique visual style.
Undo button.
Adverts displayed at bottom of screen.
Doesn’t repeat equals, meaning if you enter 2×2 and press equals more than once the result stays at 4. Personally, I prefer it to work the proper way.

Verdict – If you’re looking for a fully functional calculator app with its own unique visual style, this would probably be the one to go for. I’d prefer repeated presses of equals to repeat the last function on the previous result, but this one doesn’t do that.

Calc Pro HD Free

File size: 23.7mb
Switch between standard & scientific without altering orientation.
Tape (log) of calculation steps.
Doesn’t repeat equals, meaning if you enter 2×2 and press equals more than once the result stays at 4. Personally, I prefer it to work the proper way.

Verdict – Decent enough, but doesn’t do much to make it a must have over some of the others. The file size is also a lot larger than similar (and better) calculators.

Big Calculator Free

File size: 14.6mb
Paper tape (calculation log).
Memory contents displayed in a button.
Standard calculator only – no scientific or advanced maths functions.
No adverts, but IAP functions are permanently displayed when in landscape mode.

Verdict – Nice basic (non scientific) calculator with a few extra features such as the paper tape (useful) and the memory amount being displayed on the MR button.

And the winner is…

For me, it came down to a choice between Big Calculator Free (the last one in the list above) and Calculator for iPad Free (the one with the metal/glass in a leather wallet look) and, of course, I went for the one that I thought looked nicer. Because that’s what it’s going to be about when you choose, unless one of them has some weird gimmicky function that you just can’t live without!

Congratulations – this one will be the one I keep on my iPad, for a week at least:


Diablo 3 Hardcore Level 60 Achievement

July 18, 2012

After the rather disappointing death of my first hardcore Barbarian at level 58, I started another one. Because that’s what you have to do! So Miss ‘Suicidal’ was created and she’s done rather well…

I’m very pleased to announce that she has managed to fight her way to level 60 after a far less eventful journey than her predecessor, and some extreme shopping on the auction house. Here’s a video of the final minutes of level 59, including the achievement notifications for Level 60 and Level 60 [Hardcore].

Instead of simply replicating exactly what I did on Rollins (the dead character) I concentrated on a far more simplified set of skills and an emphasis on having the highest damage weapons I could get. One advantage of already having taken a character to 58 was that I had a fair bit of gold and some stored gear and gems.

Although Rollins died purely because I made a rather silly mistake (follow the link at the bottom if you want to know more about that) he was always a bit of an experiment and I got a lot of things wrong as far as his skills, gear and levelling progress were concerned. That all helped a lot with Suicidal, who stuck with relatively basic skills and levelled quicker than Rollins by using the best XP farming spots as soon as she was able to reach them in each difficulty level.

In the inventory picture above, you can see Suicidal’s basic stats at level 59, as they were at the start of the final run through “A Royal Audience” before reaching level 60. The only really significant piece of gear there is the spear that has a DPS rating of over 700, making a large contribution to that 10k+ damage statistic.

The skills I used were simple and I didn’t change anything around much unless it was to change a rune. At the start, I assigned two primary skills to the mouse buttons instead of primary and secondary, using Bash and Cleave until Frenzy became available. Later on, I stuck with the following skills once they were all available, only changing a couple at the very end to speed up the risk-free grinding of “A Royal Audience”.

LMB – Frenzy with Sidearm
RMB – Furious Charge with Merciless Assault
1 – Ground Stomp with Wrenching Smash
2 – Revenge with Provocation (Vengeance is Mine earlier)
3 – War Cry with Invigorate
4 – Earthquake with The Mountain’s Call

There’s no Leap or Wrath of the Berserker there and Suicidal didn’t use either of those, or any other skills, because I found them unnecessary based on the way I was playing. I’m not saying this is the “best build” or anything like that, because it isn’t. It just suited the way I was playing on this character. Anything that was too hard to just run up and start hitting, I would kite them into a doorway or narrow path and drop Earthquake and then stun them with Ground Stomp. Occasionally, I’d lure them up to a portal or dungeon entrance, drop Earthquake, enter the portal, wait, go back out and collect the loot.

XP farming spots, which worked best for me during June/July 2012:

Act 1 – The start of the act, up to the point where you go into the door of the cathedral but don’t don’t port into the blue mist.
Act 1 – Crypt of the Ancients (Festering Woods). Clear this while the associated ‘Drowned Temple’ quest is active – don’t pick up the blue glowing quest item – then quit and resume and you will start inside the crypt. On Hell difficulty, this is slightly risky but only in very exceptional circumstances when a very bad elite spawns close to the exit and there’s a very bad champ pack outside the crypt exit – I saw this once in all the time I was doing it.
Act 1 – Leoric’s Manor. Get to the start of the Imprisoned Angel quest. Resuming will place you safely at the door near the waypoint inside the manor. Repeatedly clear the manor in about 60 seconds for a lot of xp.

Act 2 – City of Blood quest, up to and including killing Maghda.
Act 2 – A Royal Audience. Useful at each difficulty level. In Hell, at 59, I was getting over 100k xp approximately every 3 minutes, including quitting and restarting. This is very safe, far safer than trying to complete the Zoltun Kulle missions in those underground zones full of dead ends and dangerous elites & champs.

Act 3 – The start of the act, up to the end of the area where you have to raise the catapults. – Loads of enemies, lots of xp.

Thanks for reading – good luck and don’t forget to pause when it gets too intense!

[Diablo 3 Hardcore Diary – Previous character died at 58]