Blast http://blastmagazine.com A magazine for the discerning broke American Sat, 28 Feb 2015 05:37:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.1.1 McFarland, USA – Movie Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/28/mcfarland-usa-movie-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/28/mcfarland-usa-movie-review/#comments Sat, 28 Feb 2015 05:37:32 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96763 Photo Credit: Ron Phillips/Disney In 1987 Boise, Idaho, high school football coach Jim White threw an athletic shoe at a player whose ego far outweighed his measure of respect.  The shoe bounced off of a locker and on to his face, drawing blood.  Upon watching this scenario unfold, you intuitively know this is the end […]

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Photo Credit: Ron Phillips/Disney

In 1987 Boise, Idaho, high school football coach Jim White threw an athletic shoe at a player whose ego far outweighed his measure of respect.  The shoe bounced off of a locker and on to his face, drawing blood.  Upon watching this scenario unfold, you intuitively know this is the end of the road for Coach White, at least at this particular school.  This locker room scene serves as the opening for the film “McFarland, USA.”

“McFarland USA” is based on the real-life story of coach Jim White (portrayed by Academy Award-winner Kevin Costner).  White ends up taking a job as a physical education teacher at the only school who is willing to hire him, McFarland High School.  He packs up his wife and two young daughters and reluctantly transitions out of middle class Idaho and into a California community heavily populated by poor Mexican field workers dubbed “Pickers.”

White discovers that a great number of his students also work in the fields before coming to school, with their only mode of transportation being the strength of their own two legs and feet. They run. In particular are the three Diaz brothers: David, Damacio, and Danny.  White approaches the principal of the school with the idea of developing a team of cross country runners. The principle resists the proposal but acquiesces after White proves to him that there is state funding for the sport.

White and his team of untried runners meet with their share of trials. The state of California is brimming over with tried and proven cross country runners from the most elite schools.  But White presses on.  He realizes after their first run and subsequent loss that he himself had failed the boys by not scoping out the course prior to their run.  He realizes that his best runner Thomas (Carlos Pratts) could have edged out his opponents had he been properly trained for uphill challenges.  With this is mind, he takes the boys onto a yard of colossal almond mounds where they proceed to get their uphill training.  It pays off as the boys unexpectedly win the next meet.

The success of the McFarland boys is pretty much immediate. With nothing to lose and everything to gain, White begins to encourage the boys that the future is ripe with opportunities for them as they continue to gain ground as an up-and-coming cross country team. Eventually the young McFarland cross country novices end up qualifying for the state championships.

Along the way White and his family not only adjust and acclimate to their new surroundings, but they soon enough come to appreciate the rich culture of the community.  White even works with the community to throw a surprise quinceanera celebration for his 15-year-old daughter after missing the family celebration on her actual birthday due to being preoccupied with his runners.

The quinceanera celebration goes slightly awry, but subsequently serves to cement White’s ties to the community, so much so that White continues to call the Mexican community of McFarland his home even today. Ten years into his retirement from coaching the cross country team, Jim White still lives in the very same house that he and his family reluctantly moved into nearly 30 years ago.  His dedication fashioned a poor community of farm workers into a community of national heroes, many of whom went on to graduate college and give back to the McFarland community.

Costner’s portrayal of White is muted and charming.  His on-screen presence alone anchors this production. 60-year-old Costner has transitioned from a handsome, young ’80s heartthrob to an maturing artist who seems comfortable in his own skin.  He isn’t sporting obvious plastic surgery nor hair pieces for this thinning hair.  He’s refreshing to watch onscreen and remains as sexy as he was in “The Untouchables”, “Field of Dreams”, and “Bull Durham.”

Maria Bello co-stars as Jim’s wife Cheryl.  While her part in this production is small, her performance is potent and the character is an essential component of the White family dynamic. Like Costner, Bello too seems to progress on in her career as an ageless beauty. She’s a solid performer who jives well alongside Costner.

“McFarland,USA” is indeed a feel-good story that champions the underdog.  We’ve seem them all before.  That being said, “McFarland, USA” is warm without being overly schmaltzy.  It remains a production that is thoroughly laced with enough testosterone for men to enjoy without having to be dragged into the theaters by their girlfriends in order to see it.  Women as well will find favor with the side storyline involving Cheryl White and their young daughters. This includes a blossoming romance between White’s oldest daughter Julie (the lovely Morgan Saylor) and his star runner, Thomas.

Rated PG and running for a comfortable 129 minutes,  “McFarland, USA” is well worth the price of admission.

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Back Bay’s Forum Restaurant Closing Down http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/25/forum-restaurant-once-damaged-in-boston-marathon-bombing-closing-down/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/25/forum-restaurant-once-damaged-in-boston-marathon-bombing-closing-down/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:50:10 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96744 Forum Bar and Restaurant, a Back Bay restaurant damaged during the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings, is closing it doors, as reported in the Boston Globe. The restaurant, which is owned by Boston Nightlife Ventures, is shutting down because of a hike in rent price, said Euz Azedo, the president of Ventures, to the Globe. The […]

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Forum Bar and Restaurant, a Back Bay restaurant damaged during the 2013 Boston Marathon Bombings, is closing it doors, as reported in the Boston Globe.

The restaurant, which is owned by Boston Nightlife Ventures, is shutting down because of a hike in rent price, said Euz Azedo, the president of Ventures, to the Globe.

The restaurant became a local success story when it reopened after repairs.

“The hardworking employees of the Forum suffered a great deal, but preserved and gave the entire region hope and inspiration by opening their doors,” Luz told the Globe. “We’re saddened by the fact that they will no long be in business, but we will never forget what they stood for.”

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More of the Same: A Review of “Smoke + Mirrors” http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/25/more-of-the-same-a-review-of-smoke-mirrors/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/25/more-of-the-same-a-review-of-smoke-mirrors/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:27:43 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96739 With their newest release, Smoke + Mirrors, Imagine Dragons can already claim commercial success as their album is en route to topping the Billboard 200 Chart after just over one week of sales. Expectations were high for the rock band, whose debut   album earned a double platinum status, selling over 2.4 million copies sold […]

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With their newest release, Smoke + Mirrors, Imagine Dragons can already claim commercial success as their album is en route to topping the Billboard 200 Chart after just over one week of sales.

Expectations were high for the rock band, whose debut   album earned a double platinum status, selling over 2.4 million copies sold since 2012. Smoke_and_Mirrors_album_cover

 Imagine Dragons faces the challenge of bringing rock back     into the mainstream. It’s no secret that the genre has not done too well in recent years, but with this album, the band seems to continue their trend of creating rock music that appeals to all sorts of people. This likely draws from their eclectic influences, which include folk and hip-hop, and anthem-like choruses rather than their “rock” sound.

  This approach worked well with their last album, and it seems the band has done the same this time around. While the two albums are not carbon copies, the similarities are clearly visible. The hit songs from this record are incredibly similar to the best ones from Night Visions. All contain uplifting choruses, a strong beat, and catchy lyrics that have audiences singing along after only a few listens. While this latest effort fails to take the band in any radical new directions, it reaffirms Imagine Dragon’s identity as a group with an entirely unique sound. They’ve set themselves apart as an experimental and creative collective, writing songs with a characteristically “epic” vibe that still are universally appreciated.

Smoke + Mirrors is not incredible, nor is it terrible. Some tracks deserve praise for Dan Reynolds’ impressive vocal range. In songs like “Trouble” and “I Bet My Life”, Reynolds pulls in the listener with gentle vocals before launching into a fast-paced chorus. Other songs do not fare as well. “Polaroid” stands out as one of the weakest songs on the album and comes off as somewhat grating.

In this instance, the familiar pressures that accompany a sophomore release had a special intensity, given the popularity of the band’s first album. Imagine Dragons played it safe, retuning with an album similar in style and quality to their last. There are some hits and some duds, but there is no doubt that, given the elevated platform from which they began this latest endeavor, the band will find even more success with Smoke+Mirrors than they did with their last record.

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10 Things that Killed RadioShack http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/25/10-things-that-killed-radioshack/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/25/10-things-that-killed-radioshack/#comments Thu, 26 Feb 2015 00:16:48 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96729 I love RadioShack. I love going into the stores. Love checking out the bins of parts and electronics so much that I bought one of the parts bins from my local shop, which is closing forever tomorrow. RadioShack is in the process of closing 1,784+ stores as it is going through bankruptcy. Another chunk of […]

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I love RadioShack.

I love going into the stores. Love checking out the bins of parts and electronics so much that I bought one of the parts bins from my local shop, which is closing forever tomorrow.

RadioShack is in the process of closing 1,784+ stores as it is going through bankruptcy. Another chunk of stores, under an agreement with Sprint, will be converted into dual RadioShack/Sprint stores.

I hate cell phone stores.

That got me thinking. Here are my 10 reasons why I believe RadioShack is going bust:

1. The Employees

First of all, let me say this: It’s not the employees’ fault. But how many times have you walked into a RadioShack in the past, oh, 10 years and asked a specific question about a technological topic that you did not understand, only to have the employee look at you all doe-eyed as if they had no idea what the difference was between a diode and a resistor?

Again, that is not necessarily the fault of the individual employees. I have had some great customer service experiences at RadioShack, with employees going out of their way to try to help me. But the operative word is try. RadioShack simply failed to adequately train its employees on new, old, and emerging technological trends.

But they know everything about the latest cell phones and rate plans, don’t they?

2. Best Buy

Not 2015 Best Buy, but 2005 Best Buy and 2010 Best Buy.

Go back a bit. The big blue box simply crushed RadioShack, both with its ability to compete for the lowest prices on major items like televisions, home audio receivers, and home theater speakers, and with GeekSquad, which, in its heyday, had everything that RadioShack employees didn’t, including bona fide nerd speak, in which they could tell you everything about a television, television manufacturers, color quality, black levels, inputs, outputs, and contrast ratio.

Best Buy bettered RadioShack when it came to training its employees — at least when Best Buy was doing well. Best Buy didn’t (just) bet on cell phones.

3. HDTV

When HDTVs and flat-panel displays first came out, they were extraordinarily expensive, and nobody was going to RadioShack to purchase one. They were going to Best Buy, Circuit City, Macy’s, and their other trusted department stores. The flat panel television is an appliance, not a gadget, and RadioShack never got market share in the high definition television market.

And their effort reflected as much.

They’ve never had a selection of the top brands, and I cannot ever remember the company doing a good job showcasing the emerging tech. When is the last time you saw a 3D TV demonstration or one of those new curved TVs at a RadioShack? I don’t like either one of those, but it would show that RadioShack has “the new.”

The odds are, if you bought a TV at RadioShack, it was probably three-year-old technology, and you probably paid more than you would pay at Best Buy or Amazon or any of the bevy of online retailers.

Part of it is real estate. Televisions take up a lot of room in a store. Maybe if they devoted front-of-store space to TVs instead of cell phones?

4. Cheap Computers

The second you could buy a Dell from Dell.com for $299, RadioShack was doomed.

Because today, if your computer (or printer, monitor, television, radio or speaker system for that matter) breaks, you throw it away and buy a new one for less than the price of replacing a few of the parts.

Even some hardcore hobbyists and true computer nerds don’t bother upgrading their computers anymore, because they could buy a brand new PC for less than the price of a replacement video card. That is not good news when you sell thermal compound, case fans, power supplies, and soldering guns. We don’t even take our cell phones apart anymore. Apple and Samsung sell us sealed units that aren’t meant to be tinkered with by adding parts, antennas, or even new batteries in some cases. That’s BAD for a store that sells those parts.

How do you not love the old logo? Like the old Miller Lite can.

How do you not love the old logo? Like the old Miller Lite can.

 

5. The slow progressive death of the personal computer

Beyond the prices. RadioShack has always been known for DIY, but as the computer is turned into a tablet, or smart TV, or the smart phone, RadioShack simply never expanded its brand beyond the “computer and radio parts store.”

As a result, if you needed a part for something for your smart device, and you didn’t just buy a new device, you went online for it.

When computers were hot, RadioShack was hot. But there’s no excitement left in computers. The Pentium giving rise to the Pentium II isn’t happening again. No one cares if they have an i5 or an i7, and if you’re just using Office, Quicken, and email, you don’t even need that!

Think back. In the 1990s, when the CD-ROM drive bundle was a $500 upgrade that somebody would make for their $4,000 IBM PS/2 computer, RadioShack made money. Now there’s nothing left to do.

6. The failure of DIY

DIY electronics never got the critical mass of customers needed to keep a store like RadioShack in business. Things were actually much better in the 1980s. Sure, there have been a variety of new, exciting ways to make electronics: solar technology has gotten better and components are better, faster, cheaper, and more reliable. There’s really never been a better time for a parent to teach their child, or a high school student to teach themselves, or a college student to pick up the hobby of how to build your own electronics. The trouble is, nobody bothered.

RadioShack is left quite literally holding the bag when it comes to DIY electronics.

Nobody breaks out the soldering iron to fix a broken radio. It’s cheaper, easier, and more reliable to buy a ready-made gadget, and throw it away when you’re done with it. And, really, that’s a shame. It’s kind of a pitiful reflection on the direction our country is going. I’m curious to research how this trend is going in the UK or China, Japan, Singapore or South Korea right now, but I would venture to guess that the DIY trend is much more alive and well in Europe and Asia than it is in the U.S. And nobody is playing with Arduino or Raspberry Pi, beyond a small techie niche.

And for that matter…

7. The failure of Raspberry Pi.

Raspberry Pi should have been a revolution. A way for anyone to build connected devices. But it hasn’t gone mainstream. No “Microsoft” or “Samsung” has marketed a way for this technology to appeal to “regular” people, and that’s nothing more than the assumption, on the part of tech companies, that we wouldn’t be interested. Maybe that’s true, but Raspberry Pi should have changed the way we “do” computing and electronics. It didn’t.

Raspberry Pi never got beyond the niche group of nerds, geeks, and tinkerers who decided to play around with it. It’s been confined to computer engineering students and people that really want to learn how to do something themselves and those people are few and far between. Raspberry Pi could have been the 21st Century Renaissance at RadioShack.

8. Lack of faith in the home brand

The RadioShack brand no longer means anything.

Take police scanners, for example. The guts of a RadioShack police scanner is exactly the same as the guts of one that costs twice as much. However, people are willing to pay companies like Whistler, GRE, and Uniden two, three or even four times more than a RadioShack brand police scanner. That is because the perception is that it’s inferior.

Why?

This is that because RadioShack’s branded products feel cheap and plasticky, and it often seems as if you would break it by touching it too hard. It didn’t used to be like that, and it’s a cardinal sin.

$_35This wasn’t always the case. My mother, for example, purchased a metal RadioShack EC-306 checkbook calculator in the mid-80s. It still works. It still holds my parents checkbook balance in its internal memory. My mother refuses to use anything else to balance her checkbook.

A brand that was once as respected as RadioShack should have continued building its products with more metal than plastic. They should have built them more durable and advertised them as “better” than the competitors — better and cheaper.

Instead, RadioShack has become for electronics what Home Depot and Lowe’s have become for hardware and tools: cheap, inexpensive, plastic-replacing-metal, poorly made.

But Home Depot and Lowes can get away with it! You need a shower head or a faucet or a a power drill, so you’ll go to Home Depot and spend half as much as you would spend at a contractor’s store or niche hardware shop.

Trouble is, you don’t necessarily need a police scanner or a crank weather radio, and if you don’t feel like it’s well-made and you’re getting good value for your money, you’re not going to bother buying a police scanner or a crank weather radio. Same applies for cell phones.

9. Cell Phones

Nobody ever waited in line for an hour or six to buy a cell phone at RadioShack.

RadioShack never should have gone in the cell phone direction. This is one of the main reasons why the store is failing. RadioShack invested in cell phones, and it could not lure customers.

RadioShack turned itself into a cheap mall cell phone kiosk, and it killed the brand.

In one move, RadioShack alienated the nerds and geeks who were hopelessly loyal to RadioShack for components and parts for decades and never really made high-dollar phone customers comfortable enough to come in.

They became kind of a wallflower at the prom.

As a result you have a few people buying cheap non-top-of-the-line phones because RadioShack was forced to lower prices and got desperate to compete in a market that they never even came close to being in.

10. Cell Phones, Cell Phones, Cell Phones! (And Apple)

Let’s come back to something I said a minute ago: Why the hell wasn’t RadioShack doing everything in its power to get people to line up for days to buy the next iPhone? Where was it during the rise of Apple? Why couldn’t RadioShack get Apple to let them sell an Apple TV for $98 instead of $99, instead of not selling it AT ALL in their stores?

Why couldn’t you go into RadioShack and buy an iMac or PowerBook or an iPad, or any of the bevy of super products that Apple has put out in the last, oh I don’t know, 10 years?

You want to sell phones? Take the best Samsung phones, the top three iPhones, the Fire Phone, one “value” phone and that’s IT. Line them up. Make sure they are in stock. And tell people: “Have at it. No need to push. Plenty go go around.”

You want DIY? Why wasn’t RadioShack, in 2011, hosting classes teaching people how to make their own Apple and Android apps?

RadioShack went quantity over quality. You can’t have a million stores and not train employees on the products you sell. You can’t champion a DIY movement if you aren’t part of it.

These are just my opinions. I’m sure there’s plenty of argument to be had. Share your thoughts below.

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The Blast Interview: Andy Grammer http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/25/the-blast-interview-andy-grammar/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/25/the-blast-interview-andy-grammar/#comments Wed, 25 Feb 2015 23:55:35 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96732 Currently on tour with Alex and Sierra, Andy Grammer sat down with Blast’s Madeline Knutson to speak about his tour plans, his latest album, and his love for his fans. Grammer released his self-titled album in 2011, which led to his single, “Keep Your Head Up,” gaining platinum certification. This past August, he released his […]

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Currently on tour with Alex and Sierra, Andy Grammer sat down with Blast’s Madeline Knutson to speak about his tour plans, his latest album, and his love for his fans.

Grammer released his self-titled album in 2011, which led to his single, “Keep Your Head Up,” gaining platinum certification. This past August, he released his latest collection of songs under the album title, “Magazines or Novels.”

Blast: Your song “Keep Your Head Up” came out in 2011. It’s all about positivity and finding the good in every situation. Are you a naturally positive person? What makes you happy?

Grammer: Yeah, I definitely lean to the positive side. I’m a pretty happy dude. Really good music and lyrics makes me happy. When a crowd all sings something together, whether it’s my lyrics or not, that is really amazing. There is this bond with everyone because you all love the same music and are all there in that moment.

Blast: You’re really fan friendly. It’s made evident by the tweets and Instagram posts on the front page of your website. What has been your best interaction with a fan?

Grammer: The most memorable interaction happened in LA. A girl came up to me in a diner and told me that I saved her life. I asked her what she meant. She said that she was on a bridge in her car and was ready to drive off and end her life. Suddenly, “Keep Your Head Up” came on the radio and she listened to, it changed her mind about the whole thing, and she drove home. That was an incredible moment for me.

Blast: Your latest album Magazines or Novels came out in August. Where did you come up with that title and what song do you feel is the best representation of the album?

Grammer: I enjoy messing with sounds that are outside my comfort zone. I like pop and almost-pop sounds. However, often what comes with that is that the song has a quick burn or cheesy lyrics. I wanted to make an album that was shiny and grabbed your attention with its sounds but also had music that I cared about. I tried to walk the line between those two. A magazine is something you read and throw away and a novel is something you treasure and hold onto. I wanted to be both of those. The album is a pretty varied landscape. There is some hip-hop, some folk rock, and some rock. I really can’t pick just one song honestly. “Honey, I’m Good” is doing really well and that gets across my idea. It is pretty pop-y but about a deeper topic.

Blast: The music video for “Honey, I’m Good” has a lot of fans in it and overall a very personal feel. Who came up with that idea? And was it your favorite video to make so far?

Grammer: My manager and I were trying to come up with an idea to get the point of the song across. It’s almost risqué, because it’s like a love song but you are singing it to someone else. The song is about staying with someone that you love and we wanted to celebrate that bond so we had my fans show how long they had been married. For my music videos, I have two favorites. Feeling-wise, it would be “Honey, I’m Good” because it always makes me feel really good when I listen to it. Production-wise, it would have to be “Back Home”.

Blast: You are about to start your tour with Alex and Sierra soon. What is your favorite part of touring and what is your favorite song to perform?

Grammer: I love performing “Back Home” because it is such a big song, but I feel like “Honey, I’m Good” is going to be fun to perform too. I love that I can just be me. I get to run around the country and be in a room with everyone that loves the same music. The hardest part is the lack of sleep and not having a routine, like at home.

Blast: What is the best piece of advice you have ever been given and what would be your best piece of advice to our readers?

Grammer: The best piece of advice I was given was from my dad when I was entering high school. He told me that all the cool people change, so be nice to everybody. My best advice would be that it’s all about service. If you can create something that makes people happy, that’s what it’s all about. It’s about what you can do with someone else, as opposed to your own ego and how “cool” you are. Can you make someone’s night?

Blast: Most of your songs tell a story and listeners can really relate to them. Do you write based on things that have happened to you and what inspires your lyrics?

Grammer: I write about my own life as much as I can. I wrote 100 songs, but after a while, I got tapped out on my own stuff. I pull from different people in my life. My inspiration is like Newton with gravity. He was the first one to write about what that was, but everyone agreed after that that they had always felt it. A good song does that somehow. I want to capture that feeling, whether I’ve had it or someone else has.

Be sure to check out Andy Grammer on tour with Alex and Sierra. They will be hitting Boston on March 19 at the House of Blues. Also, follow Andy on Twitter at @AndyGrammer and check out his latest album Magazines or Novels.

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Halo: Nightfall Trailer for DVD Release http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/24/halo-nightfall-trailer-for-dvd-release/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/24/halo-nightfall-trailer-for-dvd-release/#comments Tue, 24 Feb 2015 21:24:06 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96721 The five-part webseries “Halo: Nightfall” hits DVD March 17. The announcement made yesterday coincided with the release of the trailer below. The story revolves around the Jameson Locke, legendary manhunter and agent of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Locke and his team are tasked with investigating the distant colony world of Sedra. Jameson Locke will also be […]

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The five-part webseries “Halo: Nightfall” hits DVD March 17. The announcement made yesterday coincided with the release of the trailer below.

The story revolves around the Jameson Locke, legendary manhunter and agent of the Office of Naval Intelligence (ONI). Locke and his team are tasked with investigating the distant colony world of Sedra.

Jameson Locke will also be a playable secondary character in “Halo 5: Guardians,” which is set to release this year.

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Excave Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/23/excave-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/23/excave-review/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 22:33:46 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96715 Excave ReviewSoundsStoryGameplayVisualsLasting AppealWhat Worked?The 2D art for the characters was cute.What Didn't Work?Everything Else1.6Overall ScoreReader Rating: (1 Vote)If there was a genre of 3DS games that needed to be added to, it’s the dungeon crawler genre. Excave, the first of a trilogy to be brought to America, looks to fill that that void and takes […]

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Excave Review
Sounds
Story
Gameplay
Visuals
Lasting Appeal
What Worked?
  • The 2D art for the characters was cute.
What Didn't Work?
  • Everything Else
1.6Overall Score
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

If there was a genre of 3DS games that needed to be added to, it’s the dungeon crawler genre. Excave, the first of a trilogy to be brought to America, looks to fill that that void and takes its best shot at doing so. Though the question still stands, is it fun to play?

The game starts out so laden with tropes that it appears more like a parody: Black screen, text introducing the ‘story’, fade out. Immediately you’re given the option to jump into the game without any type of introduction to mechanics or any type of tutorial beyond hints left around in the first set of dungeons. Immediately the first thing that stood out were the only enemy you fight for the first four dungeons; Slimes. It’s a bit boring and frankly disappointing that all that is offered to us is a set of uninspired monsters whose largest variation is their color. The monsters featured in the game never become particularly interesting, giving us a full catalogue of creeps and creatures we’ve already seen a thousand times over both within and outside of the very same genre. The most interest of Excave artistically would be the bosses, which really aren’t anything to write home about. By far the most interesting area of the game would be either a period of dungeons laden with traps or the final set of dungeons filled with lizard men and living statues.

Excave_FrontBoxArt Excave_Screen01 Excave_Screen02

Mechanically the game is incredibly simple, which is a bit of a disappointment even for a game as cheap as this. Clunky is the best way to describe Excave’s mechanics. Combos are boring and generic, which is no surprise given that the player has an option of mashing A to swing their weapon or pressing B to raise their shield/use a potion/cast a spell. This is a problem further exacerbated by the delay between the button input and the actual action taking place and as a result it’s very easy become staggered by the enemy and lose all momentum you may have. Boss fights are trivial due to the shield completely nullifying any attack so long as you’re facing the attacker, removing any sense of accomplishment for every minor and major boss battle. The difficulty within the game is primarily artificial, the game solving the difficulty curve by simply throwing more and more projectiles at you until the game begins to resemble a poorly designed bullet hell. Perhaps the greatest crime mechanically isn’t the clunky and stale fighting, but the poorly designed touch screen menu that requires players to have a third arm jutting out of their
chest to properly use.

Beyond the introduction telling you that there’s bad things afoot in the magical lab, there’s nothing that actually gives context for that other than chests sprinkled through the game that allude to mysterious bad things. It seems that the best context the game designers were willing to give was an afterthought to the game which is really just a “go hunt for treasure” story. In this generic hack and slash that lacks all of the fun of hack and slash games, there is no reason to progress and no real drive to continue fighting baddies when the only objective is to get better loot to kill tougher enemies.

Excave succeeds in providing a dull addition to a genre that desperately needs life. It’s only made more unfortunate that Excave’s greatest flaw isn’t bugs or glitches. It’s not the lack of a pause button or the lack of a map in the drab maze-like levels. It’s how horribly dull it is.

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Drake “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/23/drake-if-youre-reading-this-its-too-late-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/23/drake-if-youre-reading-this-its-too-late-review/#comments Mon, 23 Feb 2015 13:36:14 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96710 The first major blow in the battle for 2015’s rap crown has landed, and it dropped on a completely unsuspecting Internet. The mixtape responsible, entitled “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” comes courtesy of Toronto’s own Aubrey Drake Graham. The title is fitting for a mixtape that took the Internet entirely by surprise. It […]

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The first major blow in the battle for 2015’s rap crown has landed, and it dropped on a completely unsuspecting Internet. The mixtape responsible, entitled “If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late,” comes courtesy of Toronto’s own Aubrey Drake Graham.

The title is fitting for a mixtape that took the Internet entirely by surprise. It is rare that a project by an artist of Drake’s caliber comes without fanfare. The only comparable release was Beyonce’s eponymous album that shut down the Internet at the end of 2013. Perhaps it’s unfair to say that it was completely unexpected; there were rumors of a Drake mixtape coming out for a few weeks, but putting a major artist’s tape out at 11 p.m. on a Thursday is unprecedented. Take into account the fact that he has an album (“Views From the 6”) due this spring, and Mr. Graham had little reason to put out a 17 track mixtape.

And yet here we are. The biggest full length rap release since J. Cole’s “2014 Forest Hills Drive” last December. And despite Cole’s best efforts, 2014 belonged to Drake. He didn’t release a full length effort, but the rapper-singer dominated hip-hop and rap radio with singles “0 to 100/The Catch Up” and “6 God” along with features on OB O’Brien’s “2 On/Thotful” and ILOVEMAKONNEN’s ubiquitous “Tuesday”, among countless other songs.

The joke with Drake is that he has a split personality. He either goes in on beats (see: the bitter, blustery “Worst Behavior”), or he goes soft (see: the smooth, thoughtful, romantic “Hold On, We’re Going Home”). You see it in his song titles. There’s a slash in “0 to 100/The Catch Up”! The beat changes halfway through, from a banger to a slow, introspective song. You never know which Drake will show up on a song, which makes listening to a Drake release for the first time an entertaining endeavor. And it’s not like you want one Drake over the other; both sides of him are equally talented and palatable.

drake_press-2013-650a“If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late” seems to start with soft Drake. The beat is restrained, but if you listen to the lyrics of “Legend”, it’s like Drake has been replaced with Kanye West. “Oh my god, oh my god, if I die, I’m a legend,” he proclaims, “I’m the one…. 6 God, I’m the holy one”. Has he reached “I Am A God” level? Not quite. Drake recognizes and acknowledges his flaws, and he doesn’t hit the ridiculous highs that his Chicago counterpart hits on a daily basis.

The production on the entire mixtape is deceptive. Most of the beats are mellow; there isn’t a point where you have to turn your headphones down. But Drake undeniably goes hard on three-quarters of the tape. There isn’t a whole lot of “classic Drake” on “If You’re Reading This…” (that side of Drake makes an appearance on the latter half of the tape). One of the things that makes Drake unique is that he doesn’t depend on the energy of the tracks to deliver boasts and disses. His flow is almost better suited for the beats we see on this tape. Drake knows who he is. He knows his strengths as a rapper. And perhaps more importantly, his production team knows his strengths, and consistently gives him beats that he can kill.

High points on the mixtape include “No Tellin”, the previously released “6 God”, and the finale “6PM In New York”. On “No Tellin”, Drake calls out rappers everywhere over a simple six note synth pattern. With “6 God”, Drake exhibits a newfound swagger, unleashing a single cocky verse. It reads like a diss track, with Drake repeatedly taking shots at an unnamed “has-been” rapper. Finally, on “6PM In New York”, he’s claiming “the game is all mine and I’m mighty possessive”. Drake knows he’s on top, and goes so far as to challenge Kanye and west coast rapper Kendrick Lamar.

The mixtape is solid. It’s not a classic by any means. “If You’re Reading This…” serves to keep the status quo. Drake’s likely motivation for dropping the tape is to remind everyone who’s in charge. It’s more a primer for his upcoming album; a taste of what’s to come. The classic is going to come this spring. The classic needs to come if Drake wants to stay on top.

Up to this point in 2015, Drake’s “only” action was the hook and a verse on a collaboration with Big Sean and Kanye, titled “Blessings”. It’s a song “only” featuring the two biggest names in rap, Kanye and Drake, and Sean, one of the best up-and-comers in the game.

Along with Drake’s “Views From the 6”, Kanye, Sean, and Kendrick are all scheduled to release albums in 2015. By dropping his project first, the 6 God has started the fight on his own terms, and will be able to watch the battle unfold from his throne in Toronto. Based on his output over the last year and a half, perhaps a better title for his next album would be “Views From the Top”; after all, that’s where Drake currently sits.

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The 87th Oscars Live Blog! http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/22/the-87th-oscars-live-blog/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/22/the-87th-oscars-live-blog/#comments Sun, 22 Feb 2015 23:44:23 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96620 Well, that’s the end my friends! Thank you for enjoying our live blog and thanks for supporting the site. Have a good night, I’m Tony Dupre of Blast Magazing signing off. Good night!   I am so happy right now! Congratulations cast and crew of Birdman!   You’ve all been waiting for it. Sean Penn […]

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12:08 – That’s All Folks!

Well, that’s the end my friends! Thank you for enjoying our live blog and thanks for supporting the site. Have a good night, I’m Tony Dupre of Blast Magazing signing off.

Good night!

 

12:05

I am so happy right now!

Congratulations cast and crew of Birdman!

 

12:03 – Best Picture

You’ve all been waiting for it. Sean Penn is here to tell us what’s what!

As I said before, Birdman should win but American Sniper will win because…politics.

I do want Richard Linklater to win an Oscar though.

And the Oscar goes to…BIRDMAN!!

 

Midnight

Alright, all that’s left is Best Picture. Now, Neil is going to open his prediction briefcase from the Box of Mystery.

 

11:53 – Best Actress

Matthew McConaughey is up! Alright alright alright…

I think Julianne Moore should win and I think she will.

And the award goes to…Julianne Moore!

 

11:52

Eddie Redmayne is 33?! He looks like he’s 16.

 

11:48 – Best Actor

Cate Blanchett presents the award.

I think Bradley Cooper will win but I want Michael Keaton.

Or my boy Benedict Cumberbatch!

And the winner is…Eddie Redmayne! He really did give a brilliant performance.

 

11:41 – Best Director

Ben Affleck presents the award!

And the Oscar goes to…Alejandro González Iñárritu!

Definitely the most deserving!

 

11:37

I’ve been doing this for four hours now, bruh. Oof…

 

11:34 – Best Adapted Screenplay

Inherent Vice should win.

And the Oscar goes to…The Imitation Game!

 

11:33

Queue Oprah. How many cars will she give away?!

I hate Oprah.

 

11:29 – Best Original Screenplay

Here comes Eddie Murphy!

I think Nightcrawler should win, or Birdman.

And the Oscar goes to…Birdman!

 

11:24

He also did the score for Godzilla, which was awesome.

 

11:20 – Best Original Score

Julie Andrews aka Everyone’s Nanny is presenting the award!

I really hope Interstellar wins, but I think Grand Budapest Hotel will win.

And the Oscar goes to…Alexandre Desplat for Grand Budapest Hotel!

 

11:16

Wow…she looks beautiful and sounds even more beautiful. Forgive me for speaking too soon! I was dead wrong.

 

11:15

Lady Gaga is doing a The Sound of Music performance

 

11:13

Scarlet Johansson, will you marry me? Please and thank you!

 

11:09

All that’s left is a performance by Lady Gaga (ugh…God save me) and the awards for Best Actor, Actress, and Picture!

 

11:04 – Best Original Song

John Travola and Idina Menzel present the award. Neil’s joke about Benedict Cumberbatch was really funny. Also Benedict’s face was priceless.

And the Oscar goes to…Glory!

 

10:57

Octavia Spencer presents the performance of Glory from Selma by Common and John Legend

 

10:49 – Best Documentary Feature

Jennifer Anniston and David Oyelowo present the award.

And the Oscar goes to…Citizenfour!

 

10:46 – Some More Best Picture Nominees

Here comes Terrence Howard!

Uh…he’s basically pausing a lot for way too long, calling each nominee……..amazing….

Uh oh something happened with the audio. Is there a money in the speaker system?!

Alright it’s fine now.

 

10:43 – Achievement in Film Editing

Naomi Watts and Sherl- I mean Benedict Cumberbatch present the award!

And the Oscar goes to…Whiplash!

 

10:36

Holy crap…I didn’t know Bob Hoskins died…

 

10:31

She’s presenting the In Memoriam. Get ready to cry when they show Robin Williams.

 

10:30

Here comes Meryl Streep! <3

 

10:24 – Achievement in Cinematography

Idris Elba and Jessica Chastain present the award.

I really want Birdman to win for its unique look, but I think Grand Budapest Hotel will win.

Oh, wow, Birdman did win!

 

10:20 – Achievement in Production Design

Chris Pratt and Felicity Jones are here to present the award.

The award goes to…Grand Budapest Hotel!

 

10:18

The president of the Academy is giving a speech about storytelling and filmmaking and that no one’s voices or opinions should be brought down or threatened. Film should protect freedom of expression. She talks about brave filmmakers who risk it to express themselves. The ceremony is being shown in over 100 countries and that we are all bound together by our love of cinema. She wants to thank everyone there and all the moviegoers around the world.

 

10:13 – What Do I Think?

Alright so, as a writer and filmmaker, I love watching the Academy Awards every year. The problem is, each year they get more and more political and pandering and just…meh. So far this ceremony has been pretty bland. Nothing is worse than when Michelle Obama presented the award for Best Picture but I can imagine if American Sniper wins tonight, they’ll be doing some stupid political showboat event.

 

10:09 – Best Animated Feature

Zo Saldana and The Rock present the award.

I think it’s a complete crime and sin that The Lego Movie is not nominated. Hmph. Whatever.

The winner is Big Hero 6.

No. I am not happy about it. Next category.

 

10:06 – Best Animated Short

I never understood how anyone thought Kevin Hart was all that funny. Anna Kendrick however is super cute. Anywho, they’re presenting the award. Let’s see who wins!

The winner is…Feast!

Loved that short!

 

10:05 -Another Hope/Prediction Thingy

I’m not sure who will win for Best Original Score, but I really hope Hans Zimmer wins for Interstellar. Lately his work has been kind of meh but he really came back with something beautiful and unique with Interstellar.

 

10:02 – Achievement in Visual Effects

Two kids I’ve never heard of are presenting the award. Sorry guys, I forgot their names!

I think either Guardians or Interstellar will win.

And the winner is…Interstellar! Called it!

 

10 O’Clock

Here comes Josh Hutcherson! Hopefully he doesn’t try and kill the audience in order to win some sort of deranged tournament.

Rita Ora performs the song Grateful

9:56

I am very much for equal wages for women, but what at all does that have to do with filmmaking or your performance? Sit down Patricia Arquette, sit down!

Save your activist speeches for another night. That goes for everyone!

 

9:51 – Best Actress in a Supporting Role

Jared Leto aka The Joker presents the award!

HAHAHAHAHAHA

Also, Emma Stone needs to keep that white hair because she looks FINE

Alright here we go:

And the winner is…Patricia Arquette for Boyhood!

 

9:49 – Best Sound Editing

American Sniper wins

 

9:46 – Best Sound Mixing

And the winner is…Whiplash!

 

9:45 – Best Actor Prediction

Honestly, I think and also hope that Michael Keaton will win the award for Best Actor in a Lead Role

 

9:44

I already forgot the names of these presenters but they’re recapping the Technical Awards

 

9:43

Aaaand Neil is wearing tighty-whities haha

 

9:25

Gwyneth Paltrow presents Tim McGraw’s performance of I’m Not Gonna Miss You

 

9:31 – Governor’s Awards

Viola Davis presents

 

9:28 – Best Short Documentary

Same people present.

And the winner is…Crisis Hotline: Veterans Press 1

 

9:25 – Best Short Film

Kerry Washington and Jason Bateman present the award.

And the winner is…The Phone Call!

 

9:18

The Lonely Island, among many others, is performing Everything is Awesome. It’s pretty funny and great.

 

9:17

Marion Cotillard presents the performance of Everything is Awesome

 

9:16

Neil is interviewing some of the audience, very funny.

 

9:13 – Another Best Picture Nominee

Shirley MacLaine is presenting some more nominees for Best Picture

 

9:09 – Best Foreign Language Film

Nicole Kidman and Chiwetel Ejiofor present the award.

And the winner is…Ida!

 

9:03 – Team Oscar Search

Channing Tatum is presenting

 

9:00 – Achievement in Makeup and Hair

Reese Witherspoon presents the award to Grand Budapest Hotel

 

8:58

And the winner is…Milena Canonero for Grand Budapest Hotel!

 

8:57 – Achievement in Costume Design

Jennifer Lopez and Chris Pine are up to present the award.

 

8:52

Commercial break, people! The things I would do to be as attractive as the people in this audience…

 

8:50

Maroon 5 is performing

 

8:46 – Best Picture Nominees

Liam Neeson is up presenting the nominees for Best Picture.

 

8:45

Neil is talking about his magical briefcases of predictions that is locked in a clear case. It’s pretty hilarious.

 

8:40

And the winner is…J.K. Simmons!

 

8:39 – Actor in a Supporting Role

Lupita Nyong’o is up presenting the award.

(also, just saw Zedd in the audience!)

 

8:33

So far loving this intro. A lot.

 

8:31

NPH should have hosted this as Dr. Horrible

 

8:30 – It Begins!

Heeeeere’s Neil!

 

8:26 – J.K. Simmons

Super excited that this is J.K. Simmons’ first ever Oscar nomination.

x700 (jk)

8:25 – Five Minutes to Showtime

Five minutes, people! Here’s how Best Actor Nominee Michael Keaton is looking tonight.

x700

8:19

Big surprise, Lady Gaga is wearing something ugly.

 

8:16 – Best Picture Prediction

Best Picture - As for some predictions, we all know the Academy Awards are a very political process and I honestly think that American Sniper will win this year.

 

8:13 – My Dinner Tonight

In case you were wondering, I’m about to go to town on some pizza and curly fries.

20150222_200944

 

8:07

Just under thirty minutes until this thing starts!

 

7:25

Jimmy Kimmel wins Best Dressed (just kidding)

 

Before the Show

Hey everyone, Tony here. I’m throwing a large cheese pizza in the oven and prepping for tonight’s Oscars because I’ll be live-blogging it all night! Get updates here and follow me @theboneshackles on Twitter and @thatsquacktastic on Instagram for even more info! See you at 8:30!

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The Blast Interview: Ryan Demars of The Expendables http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/20/the-blast-interview-ryan-demars-of-the-expendables/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/20/the-blast-interview-ryan-demars-of-the-expendables/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 23:37:31 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96610 At this point in their career, The Expendables know what they’re doing. Hailing from Santa Cruz, Calif., the band was formed in 1997 by four long-time friends, and have been touring and releasing albums ever since. In 2007 they signed with Stoopid Records, a label founded by the members of Slightly Stoopid, another California band […]

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At this point in their career, The Expendables know what they’re doing.

Hailing from Santa Cruz, Calif., the band was formed in 1997 by four long-time friends, and have been touring and releasing albums ever since. In 2007 they signed with Stoopid Records, a label founded by the members of Slightly Stoopid, another California band that The Expendables have performed with plenty of times in the past. Says bassist Ryan Demars, the band’s sound draws not only from their skater background, but from the broad variety of music that he and his fellow band members enjoy.

“The police, Bob Marley, reggae, lots of metal like Iron Maiden, lots of blues like Eric Clapton” have all contributed to their sound, says Demars.

On Sunday, February 22, the Expendables will be at Pardise Rock Club supporting their 7th album, Sand in the Sky. A few days before, Demars spoke on the phone with Blast editor Audrey Cooney for a short interview:

 

Q: Your first three albums were released completely independently. How did that experience differ from working with a label, and why did you choose to release independently?

A: Our first three albums we were still pretty young, and we didn’t really have any options so we just sort of did it for ourselves. That was when Myspace kind of was taking over, before Facebook was really a thing, and our music was getting shared on that and people were sharing it like crazy, so we didn’t even need a record a label really.

 

Q: And how is working with a label different from creating an album entirely by yourself?

A: More or less they just give you money to record the album, whereas without a record label you must have to come up with it yourself…. Plus you’re tied into their network as far as distribution, as well as anything else that’s included with the label.

 

Q: You have a pretty lengthy discography at this point. How do you choose which songs to play each night?

A: We’ve been able to figure out people like the most, whether it’s from playing so many shows or just clicking on Spotify or iTunes to see what songs people like, songs people don’t really like… We have our big guns like “Bowl for Two,” “Sacrifice,” “Ganga Smuggling,” “Down Down Down,” and then we have songs that maybe aren’t on the list but are still kind of popular.

 Q: Sand in the Sky is your first full-length album in five years. Would you say the band has come back from this break from recording with a new approach to writing and creating an album?

A: We kind of just approached this album just like any other album. But I would say that every time we record we learn from the previous time what to do and what not to do. Every time we record an album we feel like we know what we’re doing more than last time.

 

Q: You and your fellow band members are all from Santa Cruz. What effect has your hometown had on your music?

A: Santa Cruz is very surf, skate influenced town, so we had that growing up, so it’s sort of a natural thing to write songs about. Skate culture was what we knew, so it had a lot to do with our sound.

 

Q: You’ve spent plenty of time both touring and in the studio, but what would you say is the best part of being in a band?

A: Playing live, connecting with the people that pretty much fund your career is pretty cool. It’s always cool to see different places, different foods, different scenery… It’s a lot of fun.

 

Be sure to catch The Expendables February 22 at Paradise Rock Club.

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Get the Most Out of Your Video Conferencing Platform http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/20/get-the-most-out-of-your-video-conferencing-platform/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/20/get-the-most-out-of-your-video-conferencing-platform/#comments Fri, 20 Feb 2015 19:31:43 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96607 With technologies being constantly invented, changed and updated, there’s a whole barrage of choices that exist out there. This is undoubtedly true for web conferencing technologies. If you want a bit of help in getting your hands on the web conferencing tool that suits you and your team best, read through our top picks from […]

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With technologies being constantly invented, changed and updated, there’s a whole barrage of choices that exist out there. This is undoubtedly true for web conferencing technologies. If you want a bit of help in getting your hands on the web conferencing tool that suits you and your team best, read through our top picks from sites such as the Search Engine Journal, Tech Hive and Digital Trends.

Blue Jeans

Loaded with a ton of features, this web based platform provides flexible web conferencing solutions in the collaboration space. For content sharing features, Blue Jeans has the following:

  • HD screen sharing: The resolution can go as high as 1080 pixels. With so much resolution on your hands, it’s easy to see every single thing that happens on on-screen. You won’t have to worry about missing a word or a telling glance. Whether you’re meeting with clients or talking to your team, you can be sure you can see everything as clear as though you were right there beside them.
  • Real-time sharing: Because everything happens in real time, timely and rapid-fire feedback is possible. There are no lag times between one shot and the next. Everything proceeds in a natural fashion, in much the same way as ordinary conversations go.
  • This quick response time is crucial. It allows teams to adjust and modify products and deliverables in accordance with the feedback given. For client meetings, it helps you adjust and customize your sales pitch, one tailored to appeal and interest the client, based on the reception—and non-verbal cues—you’re getting.
  • Video window scaling: Also possible are scalable video meetings from Blue Jeans. This makes it possible for users to enjoy every bit of the content sharing experience they have with Blue Jeans.
  • Recording and playback: Teams can take advantage of this by recording meetings and repurposing them into seminars. It’s going to be easy to build a wealth of visual references you and your team can watch and observe later on. It’s also a handy tool to train new hires with.

Tango

If you value simplicity in your web conferencing app, then this could be the ideal third party video chat service for you. No need to think clever and hard to decipher passwords. Just enter your phone number when you log into the app. Input that along with your email address and first name. That’s all it takes for you to get your own account. Take advantage of a number of features: video chat with friends, send voice calls and connect to everyone on your Tango contact list via instant messaging.

And because all these are free, you can connect to your heart’s content without worrying about having to spend extra shekels on the app. There are paid features though but the chat feature is already a pretty good deal, considering it allows you to share content such as pictures, vids and audio files. You can also add up the entire gang on chat. That feature, however, doesn’t extend to video chat. You can also play a few rounds of darts, tic-tac-toe and reverse with any contacts you happen to be talking to. However, you’d have to pay to play.

Google Hangouts

As far as new kids on the block are concerned, Google Hangouts is the best one out there. With features that include basic voice and chat features, it’s more than adequate as a communication platform. The connection works on Wi-Fi as well as on mobile networks. It’s mobile friendly, which is a plus, given the growing popularity of smartphone usage. Those with Google+ accounts will find it easy to integrate the app into their profiles, if that’s something they want. Users can share pictures as well as emojis on the app. There is, however, one small problem. Web chats are designed to handle only as much as ten people. So if your team has more than ten people, you’re out of luck. Still, Google Hangouts remain a great option for small teams. Another caveat though: be prepared to deal with constant updates as well as changes and tweaks in the system. Because it’s a relatively young service, it’s highly unlikely that Google will stop rolling out changes any time soon.

Take Your Pick

These are just three of the best web conferencing platforms you can explore. From basic to advanced features, these three choices already offer you range of picks to choose from. However, in terms of getting the most out of your video conferencing experience, you’ll have to decide whether getting the most is what you need. If a basic package is enough, then go with that. After all, not everyone needs a ton of features. However, if you need video conferencing solutions for your business, then going with the choice that offers you the best in terms of flexibility and features—especially content sharing features—isn’t just smart, it’s practical hands down.

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Cloudbuilt: First Look http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/19/cloudbuilt-first-look/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/19/cloudbuilt-first-look/#comments Thu, 19 Feb 2015 17:57:33 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96602 Indie developer Coilworks has delivered a speedrunner fan’s wet dream with their new game “Cloudbuilt.” The developers have utilized an art style similar to that of the Borderlands series with this upcoming game and it pays off quite nice for them. Core gameplay involves navigating through broken up terrain with the use of a gun […]

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Indie developer Coilworks has delivered a speedrunner fan’s wet dream with their new game “Cloudbuilt.” The developers have utilized an art style similar to that of the Borderlands series with this upcoming game and it pays off quite nice for them.

Core gameplay involves navigating through broken up terrain with the use of a gun and a bar of fuel that recharges when not spending it or jumping. The fuel can be used to do a variety of things like exploding forward, jet packing up a wall, or wall running. The most difficult challenge of mastery is mostly getting the hang of wall running. That can mean to jump from wall to wall, attack creatures while wall running, or avoid mines on the wall. A fun feature is that in every level you can obtain a personal checkpoint, which you can place anywhere in the level. Additionally, if you have less than six lives remaining it ups it back to six when placed.

The game starts off with some fragments of a story as you follow a friendly glowing ball through what appears to be ruins as you are taught the basic controls. Besides what I learnt from that tutorial and maybe one or two levels later, those are the mechanics that the player works with throughout the entire game. By no means is this a negative, for the mechanics are difficult to master.

When you choose a level you do so as a ghost of the main character accessing her thoughts as she lies half-dead on a bed. Every time you enter this room the protagonist will share a thought blurb on the situation and you can also access a bit of lore details via a computer nearby. On the level select screen each level is marked with a difficulty of one to ten. During my playthrough I was able to play a mission of all difficulties and can certainly say the level ten was no joke.

The overall structure of a mission can be determined by where it is on the map. The levels in the darkest, foggiest parts of the map are filled with many devices that can cause harm to you where those in the whitest are normally vacant of enemies but have more of a focus on climbing and the potential to fall off.

The game opens with some faint glimmers of a story, but as one progresses that hope for a story fades as nothing new seems to be introduced. There is never a cutscene or a lost character who tells you what is going on. All the enemies are robots so that does not really help and the protagonist is the only human the player ever sees. The game is supposed to be the playing of memories but never do those memories fill the player in on what exactly is going on. Perhaps the very ending of the game but definitely not the middle bulk.

Despite a lack of story, the game at its core succeeds as a fast-paced platformer. It has everything a speedrunner could want with tons of extra jet fuel in overly difficult but potentially faster directions that I seldom utilized because I was more so just trying to complete each level. Every level had several directions that the player could choose to go and that is where the game shined most. In most situations, if I kept dying down one path I could simply find another route to take. The game is filled with what felt like a hundred levels, making it extremely impressive that each two-five minute level can be done in a large number of ways.

Cloudbuilt is available March 20th on Steam.

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Reload review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/17/reload-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/17/reload-review/#comments Wed, 18 Feb 2015 02:19:04 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96595 Reload is what you would get if a bowling alley arcade shooter crawled its way into your computer. Steam has recently encountered the issue of games slipping through Early Access and Greenlight while being poorly adapted for the PC, a buggy mess, or just plain bad. Unfortunately Reload has managed to wholeheartedly fit that bill. […]

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Reload is what you would get if a bowling alley arcade shooter crawled its way into your computer. Steam has recently encountered the issue of games slipping through Early Access and Greenlight while being poorly adapted for the PC, a buggy mess, or just plain bad. Unfortunately Reload has managed to wholeheartedly fit that bill.

Police Trainer was a classic arcade shooter many of us grew up playing in arcades, bars, and bowling alleys and Reload does its best to follow the model of arcade game while lacking what made it great. Reload strips down the genre to its barest, giving players a series of training scenarios where players must use their mouse and occasionally their keyboard to shoot their way through the clunky and ill designed levels. Mouse acceleration is a tremendous issue and in any game where pinpoint accuracy is an absolute necessity the quality of gameplay suffers greatly.

In game screenshot Reload Title Screen Steam Post Regarding Greenlight

The game doesn’t follow through with its claim of being “a realistic weapons and tactics trainer”, everything the game presents claiming the opposite effect. During every ‘training’ scenario, excluding the sniper rifle scenarios, players must fire from their hip while utilizing the swaying reticle that zips across your screen due to the aforementioned mouse acceleration. Feedback from the weapons is exactly what should be expected from a mobile game: a large lack of recoil and dull sound design. When a game about guns has nothing but uninspired gunplay, what’s the point?

Reload is a game that belongs on the Google Play Store and iTunes for 99 cents, not on Steam for $4.99. Reload’s place on the Steam store might very well have to do with its history in Steam Greenlight and the promise to provide Steam Codes in exchange for votes to get the game into the store. This has been a practice used by developers to get their games up on the storefront in order to ship as many copies as possible before negative reviews pile up while Greenlight voters are given a copy of the game for being a helping hand. This practice in itself has recently become such a large problem that Valve came out and made a statement discouraging Greenlight Submitters to do giveaways in exchange for votes.

 

 

Reload review
Sounds
Visuals
Story
Gameplay
Lasting Appeal
What Worked
  • An arcade style shooter with reasonably varied scenarios
What didn't Work
  • Poor sound design
  • Dull gunplay and clunky gameplay
  • Mouse Acceleration
1.7Overall
Reader Rating: (1 Vote)

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Touch Speaker Pro makes it easier than other Bluetooth speakers http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/13/touch-speaker-pro-easier-bluetooth-speaker/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/13/touch-speaker-pro-easier-bluetooth-speaker/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 23:52:00 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96589 Everyone has tried their hand at Bluetooth contraptions. They are weirdly hard to set up and take up time and patience with the average person. And who has time to call Geek Squad? The new portable speaker is sort of like a Bluetooth speaker… but is not. It is better. All the user has to […]

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Everyone has tried their hand at Bluetooth contraptions. They are weirdly hard to set up and take up time and patience with the average person. And who has time to call Geek Squad?

The new portable speaker is sort of like a Bluetooth speaker… but is not. It is better. All the user has to do is put their phone on top of the speaker and go. Hence the name of the newest contraption: Touch Speaker Pro. All you have to do to get your party or study session ready is touch your phone to the speaker and go.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 6.45.08 PM

The speaker uses “the latest wireless technology to instantly amplify your phone’s sound” and really, truly, honestly all you have to do is put your phone on top of the speaker. There is no synching it to iTunes or having to download an application on your phone for it to work. That is really it.

This new speaker plays 3W sound, is lightweight and portable. The Touch Speaker Pro takes either batteries or an USB cable to be charged and is 15.8 x 6 x 7.5cm so it is perfectly portable to put in your purse or backpack when you are on the go.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 6.45.29 PM

The Touch Speaker Pro comes only in the light blue and can be purchased here.

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A card game with the likes of Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity is launched on Kickstarter http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/13/card-game-likes-apples-apples-cards-humanity-launched-kickstarter/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/13/card-game-likes-apples-apples-cards-humanity-launched-kickstarter/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 20:53:42 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96581 WTF? As in What The Fact. Yet another Kickstarter has been launched to support the funds for a party card game but this game is unique in a sense that it has social media components to help players earn points. To play, the initials of every person playing is written on a dice, then there […]

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WTF? As in What The Fact. Yet another Kickstarter has been launched to support the funds for a party card game but this game is unique in a sense that it has social media components to help players earn points.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.34.07 PM

To play, the initials of every person playing is written on a dice, then there are “answer cards,” with words like “XTC Pills,” then there are the “fact cards,” like “In public restrooms I talk to people about [blank].” The dice is thrown in order to place a player’s name into the fact card.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.33.50 PM

The game works like Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity where the best, most “outrageous” answer card is chosen to win that round. To make the game even more interesting, players can tweet out their fact and answer card and even actually execute the card in real life to earn more points.

Screen Shot 2015-02-13 at 3.34.19 PM

Overall, What The Fact looks hilariously funny and is sure to bring out the giggles when playing with close friends, like when playing Apples to Apples and Cards Against Humanity.

The creator, Oliver Smith, is a lawyer “by day” and by night he is a game creator. This is Smith’s first game to be funded on Kickstarter. There are still 25 days to back the project.

 

 

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Domestic Abuse – A Well Kept Secret http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/13/domestic-abuse-well-kept-secret/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/13/domestic-abuse-well-kept-secret/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 14:55:05 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96571 Why is it that it takes a well-publicized domestic violence case such as Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, knocking his fiancée (now wife) out in an elevator, to shine the light on domestic abuse? As if that wasn’t enough, it was reported the next week that the NFL currently has other cases of domestic […]

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Why is it that it takes a well-publicized domestic violence case such as Ray Rice of the Baltimore Ravens, knocking his fiancée (now wife) out in an elevator, to shine the light on domestic abuse? As if that wasn’t enough, it was reported the next week that the NFL currently has other cases of domestic abuse, including Ray McDonald, a San Francisco Fourty Niner,  who abused his pregnant  fiancé,  Greg Hardy, Carolina Panthers, assaulted his girlfriend, and Minnesota Vikings Adrian Peterson had been indicted by a Grand Jury for child abuse . Does this mean domestic abuse is running ramped in sports? Possibly, yet victims can be of any age, social, culture or financial background and happens to women, children and even men.

What is Domestic Abuse?

Although by definition, domestic abuse includes actions such as emotional, psychological, economic abuse, or isolation from family and friends, this article will only focus on physical abuse (not including sexual abuse, which is a whole other issue).

Every nine seconds a woman in the United States is assaulted or beaten. Around the world, at least one in every three women has been beaten, coerced into sex or otherwise abused in her lifetime, most often by a family member or significant other.  Every day, in the US three women are killed by their husbands or boyfriends. Alarmingly, based on reports from ten major countries, fifty-five to ninety-five percent of women abused by their partners had never reported it to non-government agencies, shelters or the police! What’s more, these statistics don’t include domestic partner abuses, (male or female) or those related to children.

Breaking Old Beliefs

It has been a long held belief that the Cycle of Domestic Violence begins over a period of months or years, with periods of calm between abusive behaviors. However, recent studies show that the Cycle of domestic Violence does not have time frames and does not follow a pattern such as abuse followed up by apologies, promises it won’t happen again, followed by a calm period before the cycle starts again. There is no stereotypical pattern of type of abuse and abusers are not just relationship partners; they can be parents or even a person’s own children.

Causes for abuse depend on the partner, ranging from inadequacy, bad tempers, (often worsened by drugs and alcohol), and can be brought on by as little as a look they didn’t like.  The size of the abuser doesn’t matter, just the severity of their rage.  But no matter what the cause, there is a need for power and degradation of the partner.

Why Don’t The Abused Leave?

Why don’t women report it?  Why do they put up with it? Why do they stay with or go back with their abusers? A classic well publicized example was Rhianna and Chris Brown. Women stay for a variety of reasons; the husband or boyfriend has threatened to kill them or harm their children if they leave, many have Stockholm Syndrome, others don’t have anywhere to go or money to live on, their mate has convinced them it’s their fault, they don’t have skills necessary to support themselves, they are afraid the abuser will find them and it will be worse if they return under duress, or they just don’t know what to do.  National statistics say that of the women who eventually get out of abusive situations, they leave the abuser seven times before doing anything to officially break the ties! According to the U.S. Department of Justice and its National Crime Victim Survey, the most dangerous time for an abused woman is when she tries to leave or break off the relationship, so the escape must be well planned.

What You Can Do

What then to do? There are mixed opinions on getting a personal protection order, with some saying they work, while others having found the abuser doesn’t pay attention to them. The best bet is finding a shelter for victims of domestic or sexual violence. While the location of shelters is kept secret for the protection of the residents, the police, local hospitals, or the Domestic Violence Hotline can help. Shelters provide programs and services not limited to, but including; danger and lethality assessments, emergency shelter, 24/7 Crisis Hot Lines, legal advocacy, individual and group counseling, outreach counseling (non-residents), as well as relocation and crime victim assistance. If you are in a situation that scares you, there are sources on the internet for information on domestic violence and abuse. Each state has its own Domestic Violence Hotline number and you should know yours and keep it handy.  Being prepared could save your life.

Chances are that some of the women reading this article are victims of domestic abuse or know women who are.  Help break the cycle of violence. Don’t be a victim. Remember, you are not alone. It’s not your fault. Help is available. Have the courage to reach out and take it!

 

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Atari to recreate Asteroids as an open world survival sandbox game http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/13/atari-recreate-asteroids-open-world-survival-sandbox-game/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/13/atari-recreate-asteroids-open-world-survival-sandbox-game/#comments Fri, 13 Feb 2015 12:13:18 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96567 Remember the 1979 game Asteroids, which involved a simple 2D ship fending off waves of 2D asteroids with the occasional passing UFO? Atari has decided that its high-time to return to the series with an announcement for their spiritual sequel “Asteroids: Outpost.” Instead of getting another classic top-down asteroid shooter, Atari is looking to deliver […]

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Remember the 1979 game Asteroids, which involved a simple 2D ship fending off waves of 2D asteroids with the occasional passing UFO? Atari has decided that its high-time to return to the series with an announcement for their spiritual sequel “Asteroids: Outpost.”

Instead of getting another classic top-down asteroid shooter, Atari is looking to deliver an open world survival sandbox game. Though there’s no reason to worry about the series straying from its roots: It takes place on an asteroid. From the announcement it looks like the game willl follow in the wake of the success of recent open world survival games such as Rust and Space Engineers. Players are to expect “exploring the asteroid, collecting resources, scavenging for ore, crafting equipment, and expanding their territory as they build highly customized bases – all while forming alliances and fighting off other players in challenging multiplayer gameplay.”

Outpost is being developed by Salty Games and is claimed to pay homage to original game and will include aspects of the original game with asteroid showers which will require players to blast asteroids and expand their wealth.

Currently only a few screenshots have been released and with the game “Coming Soon” we should expect to see gameplay in the coming months.

asteroids_concept art1 asteroids_conceptart3

 

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Bryston unveils gorgeous new subwoofer http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/11/bryston-unveils-gorgeous-new-subwoofer/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/11/bryston-unveils-gorgeous-new-subwoofer/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 12:50:21 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96561 Here’s a quick look at the new Model A Subwoofer, introduced today by Bryston. We’d like to see it uncovered, but what we do know is that this is Bryston’s first subwoofer that does not use 8-inch drivers. The Model A is powered by two opposing long-throw 10-inch woofers, which means your neighbors will simply […]

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Here’s a quick look at the new Model A Subwoofer, introduced today by Bryston.

Model A Sub2 Model A Sub1 Model A Sub3

We’d like to see it uncovered, but what we do know is that this is Bryston’s first subwoofer that does not use 8-inch drivers. The Model A is powered by two opposing long-throw 10-inch woofers, which means your neighbors will simply hate you.

The opposing drivers allow the Mode A to remain in a compact cabinet, so it looks to deliver a huge punch without a huge footprint.

It also features a 400-watt internal amplifier.

“Bryston had a very specific goal in mind with the conception of the Model A subwoofer,” said James Tanner, Vice President of Sales for Bryston, in a statement. “Our Model T subwoofers are a taller column form factor, and our dealers felt that they needed a high-performance, smaller, discreet subwoofer solution to accommodate some room designs. The Model A subwoofer delivers superlative performance from a compact enclosure,” Tanner added.

The Model A is $2,000, and it’s available now to add some thunder to your home theater or musical man cave/she cave.

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Marvel Cinematic Universe to Add Spider-Man http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/10/marvel-cinematic-universe-add-spiderman/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/10/marvel-cinematic-universe-add-spiderman/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 05:51:56 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96550 Photo: 20th Century Fox via comicvine.com To the Spider-Man fans who have long bemoaned their favorite hero’s exclusion from the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe series: the wait is over. Marvel.com reports that the MCU (the product of Marvel Studios) will finally adopt the web-slinging super into its films. The MCU, which features the likes of Iron Man, Thor […]

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Photo: 20th Century Fox via comicvine.com

To the Spider-Man fans who have long bemoaned their favorite hero’s exclusion from the popular Marvel Cinematic Universe series: the wait is over. Marvel.com reports that the MCU (the product of Marvel Studios) will finally adopt the web-slinging super into its films.

The MCU, which features the likes of Iron Man, Thor and Captain America, along with many of their Avengers teammates, has always had an awkward spidey-sized hole. Despite his involvement with the Avengers in the comics, Spider-Man has never been able to appear in the franchise because Sony Pictures owns the film rights to the character. It’s the same reason the X-Men, whose film rights belong to 20th Century Fox, live off in their own little bubble of cinematic continuity.

However, on July 8, 2017, the world of superhero movies will take its first step towards peace and unity with the release of the long-desired MCU Spider-Man film. The film will be the sixth live-action Spider-Man adaptation since 2002, not counting the Broadway musical. Sony Pictures will still retain the film rights to the character.

For more information, head over to Marvel.com:

http://marvel.com/news/movies/24062/sony_pictures_entertainment_brings_marvel_studios_into_the_amazing_world_of_spider-man

 

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Jupiter Ascending – Movie Review http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/09/jupiter-ascending-movie-review/ http://blastmagazine.com/2015/02/09/jupiter-ascending-movie-review/#comments Tue, 10 Feb 2015 04:10:49 +0000 http://blastmagazine.com/?p=96511    Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment    I’ve been looking forward to “Jupiter Ascending” since I learned it was an original property created by the Wachowskis. The last decade has been an amazing time for sci-fi movies, but most of the big ones have been adaptations or reboots. A high profile sci-fi blockbuster that someone actually thought up […]

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   Photo: Warner Bros. Entertainment

   I’ve been looking forward to “Jupiter Ascending” since I learned it was an original property created by the Wachowskis. The last decade has been an amazing time for sci-fi movies, but most of the big ones have been adaptations or reboots. A high profile sci-fi blockbuster that someone actually thought up in this decade sounded like a great idea.

   After seeing “Jupiter Ascending”, I have to be honest with myself: the adaptions are better.

   Now, I wouldn’t call “Jupiter Ascending” a complete miss. I walked away entertained and pleased, and the film has an element or two where it truly excels. But, in the crowded world of sci-fi blockbuster, it just doesn’t have the plot or characters to keep up with its competitors.

   In defense of “Jupiter Ascending”, it is very, very pretty. I don’t say this to condescend. It is an impressively, memorably beautiful movie. The special effects are pretty, with an interesting use of bright color during the fight scenes. The costumes are pretty, particularly Jupiter’s stunning pink and white headdress and gown. Even the people are pretty, with Channing Tatum somehow pulling off his weird wolf-person make-up. It’s not, perhaps, the complement a director is hoping for, but the beauty is a definite boon to the film.

   Once you look past the visuals, however, things get a bit uglier. The dialogue is often a mess and the romance between leads Caine (Channing Tatum) and Jupiter (Mila Kunis) is laughably underdeveloped. The Abrasax siblings add an interesting dynamic to Jupiter’s adventures and outshine the bland leads, but they’re underutilized, particularly in the case of Kalique (Tuppence Middleton). If the film leads to a franchise, I hope we’ll see more of her and get some insight into her motivations, which, like most of the film’s concepts, are not developed or explained well.

   Eddie Redmayne is worlds away here from his Oscar-nominated role as Stephen Hawking (“The Theory of Everything”), playing the villainous Abrasax brother, Balem. He’s fully committed, although I’m not quite sure what to. It’s just a really weird, confusing role, with raspy, whispered lines and sudden outburst of screaming and hysterics, but’s it’s so disconcertingly not Eddie Redmayne that I have to name him MVP of the film. He has an impressive range as an actor.

   Overall, “Jupiter Ascending” exceeded my expectations in terms of design and world-building , but had very little memorable in the plot department.

   For instance, I can describe to you in perfect detail the stunning deer ears and black jumpsuit that Gugu Mbatha-Raw’s character wore, but I’ll be damned if I could tell you her name.

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