Blast https://blastmagazine.com A magazine for the discerning broke American Wed, 16 May 2018 15:23:22 +0000 en-US hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.9.5 Could You Base Your Entire Company’s Operations on the Cloud? https://blastmagazine.com/2018/05/16/could-you-base-your-entire-companys-operations-on-the-cloud/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/05/16/could-you-base-your-entire-companys-operations-on-the-cloud/#respond Wed, 16 May 2018 15:23:22 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100375 Companies nowadays depend more and more on technology, not only in terms of the products they sell or the services they provide but also in terms of serving their operations and maintaining their infrastructure. It is impossible to think of an industry or a workplace where computers and software do not run the game, from […]

The post Could You Base Your Entire Company’s Operations on the Cloud? appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Companies nowadays depend more and more on technology, not only in terms of the products they sell or the services they provide but also in terms of serving their operations and maintaining their infrastructure. It is impossible to think of an industry or a workplace where computers and software do not run the game, from the simplest tasks like communicating with clients or setting up meetings to more complex processes like auditing. Businesses who want to stay on top of their game are used to identifying tech solutions that could save them effort and money – and cloud computing lately seems to stand out amongst them.

The Cloud Revolution

A quiet revolution seems to have taken place lately: cloud computing, namely the use of hosted services over the Web for storage, applications and processing, arrived and has gradually yet surely conquered the business world. There is no enterprise today that does not make use of cloud services instead of building and maintaining their own computing facilities for several major processes of everyday operations. The question is: could a company only use cloud services for its main infrastructure, avoiding desktop software versions altogether? The answer is a resounding yes – which only goes to show that cloud environments are leading the way.

Basic Operations Can Easily Migrate to Cloud Environment

In fact, according to Forbes, cloud computing will rise from $67 billion in 2015 to roughly $162 billion by 2020, demonstrating a 19% rate of compound annual growth, while global public cloud provision was projected to reach almost $247 billion last year, up 18% from a little under $210 billion back in 2016. Cloud is very popular for its virtually unlimited storage capacities, with the most well-known services like GoogleDrive and Dropbox offering their basic services for free. Microsoft has also caught up and released its Office365 version of the popular Office suite, allowing clients to work on the cloud all the time. Amazon, where cloud drives profit, as its Amazon Web Services (AWS) provided 10% of the company’s revenue and 72% of its operating income during Q1 2018, has even released a cloud desktop service called Amazon WorkSpaces, which allows users to access their desktop, complete with data and apps, from any device at any time.

Infographic: Cloud Business Still Drives Amazon's Profits | Statista You will find more infographics at Statista

Cloud Shows the Future of Business

Using exclusively cloud-based software is still not the rule so businesses need to pay attention to detail when it comes to IT and security issues. This means that necessary tools like a web application firewall (WAF) are a top priority in order to secure your cloud-based web applications and make sure that your company complies with regulatory standards, including PCI, HIPAA, SOX and FISMA, as is employee training to proactively ensure that everything runs smoothly. But cloud solutions also have significant advantages for enterprises, the most obvious perhaps being the absolute mobility that this approach promises. Basically, you can set up shop anywhere from scratch and just open any computer and access everything you need, which is perfect for industries where people need to be on the move a lot. It also offers increased protection, as you can always access a backup version of your work on the cloud.

So, could you build your entire company’s infrastructure on the cloud? As far as we are concerned, the question is not whether you could, but how quickly you should. Cloud is the future – but it is happening now.

The post Could You Base Your Entire Company’s Operations on the Cloud? appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/05/16/could-you-base-your-entire-companys-operations-on-the-cloud/feed/ 0
Mac Quayle: The Blast Interview https://blastmagazine.com/2018/05/11/mac-quayle-the-blast-interview/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/05/11/mac-quayle-the-blast-interview/#respond Fri, 11 May 2018 20:53:40 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100290 As a composer, producer, remixer, and keyboardist, Mac Quayle has captivated audiences worldwide with his unique musical stylings and innovative arrangements. Best known for his work on recent Ryan Murphy productions, such as Feud: Bette and Joan, American Horror Story, and Scream Queens, as well as the USA Network series Mr. Robot, Quayle has worked […]

The post Mac Quayle: The Blast Interview appeared first on Blast.

]]>
As a composer, producer, remixer, and keyboardist, Mac Quayle has captivated audiences worldwide with his unique musical stylings and innovative arrangements. Best known for his work on recent Ryan Murphy productions, such as Feud: Bette and Joan, American Horror Story, and Scream Queens, as well as the USA Network series Mr. Robot, Quayle has worked tirelessly to establish himself as one of the prominent composers in the modern television landscape. His dedication and passion for his craft has earned him an Emmy win as well as a Grammy nomination.

Recently, Mac was able to take a break from scoring Mr. Robot to speak with Blast Magazine about the experience of working on some of the most exhilarating shows on television today.

Blast Magazine: You’re currently scoring the third season of the beloved USA Network series, Mr. Robot. The show has so many twists and turns that keep the audience continuously guessing and wondering. How do you feel that the music for the show has changed from the first season to now?

Mac Quayle: Season 1 started with an almost completely electronic sound. For that season, the only thing close to a real instrument was the sound of the piano. With seasons 2 and 3, more organic sounds have been added, including strings, woodwinds, and a more natural piano sound. The core of the sound is still electronic but it has been expanded upon with more organic sounds.

Blast Magazine: Because Mr. Robot has so many dramatic reveals and secrets, is it a challenge to ensure that the music doesn’t give away anything in the story?

Quayle: It is. It’s a fine line because sometimes the idea is for the music to actually hint at what might be coming. Not in a way that gives the story away, but that in hindsight, you realize that the music was going to tell you it was coming and you didn’t notice it. There have been songs in the show where the lyrics tell what is going to be happening several episodes later. It’s a fine line to not give it away but to give hints in hindsight.

Blast Magazine: Another of your recent television projects, Feud: Bette and Joan, focused on the story of two influential, powerful women, Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. What was your process like creating the themes for each of these strong female characters?

Quayle: It was a very different type of score. The period orchestral score was meant to evoke old Hollywood in the 60’s. There was a lot of writing about the relationship between the women which was filled with mostly two emotions, tension and sadness. Various themes were written to describe the emotions between them. I think it was quite a sad story, both their relationship with each other and how they were treated by Hollywood.

Blast Magazine: American Horror Story is a unique series in that each season has a distinctive plot and brand-new characters. Do you enjoy the challenge of creating a new musical universe for each season or do you prefer composing for shows that have a continuously running storyline?

Quayle: Both have their pros and cons. It is pretty exciting to start over fresh each season with American Horror Story. It is almost like starting a completely new show. However, it’s also quite challenging to go back to the drawing board each time. With Mr. Robot, we have a music universe that continues and expands a bit each season. There is something kind of familiar and comfortable about going into a new season with a starting point and evolving more from that. I truly enjoy working on both types of projects.

Blast Magazine: You seem to be attracted to stories that are based in reality, having now composed for The People v. O.J. Simpson, The Assassination of Gianni Versace, Feud: Bette and Joan, and The Normal Heart. What is it about these stories that draws you in and makes you want to create music for them?

Quayle: My involvement with those stories is really through my involvement with Ryan Murphy. Ever since I started working with him on American Horror Story: Freak Show, I’ve followed him and written music for all of the projects he has created since then. He’s interested in true stories and there is something special in all of his projects. With the true stories, Ryan tells the story you think you know on the surface but pulls out all these other socially relevant issues. I find that quite interesting. It’s been very fulfilling to work with him on these projects and watch him tell these stories in a deeper way.

Mac Quayle with Matt Bomer at the premiere of The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story (Credit: Impact24 PR)

Blast Magazine: You’ve had the opportunity to work alongside a variety of showrunners in the past. Do you prefer the ones who are more involved and hands-on or those who let you have free reign?

Quayle: No one has given me completely free reign and I don’t want to have that. I compose music to try to express myself and be as artistic as I can but at the end of the day, I’m helping showrunners tell their stories. They know how to tell their stories better than anyone. I have a good idea of how to help them but I don’t know exactly how they want to tell their story so I need their input. I need them to help me craft the music to be just what they want for their story. Sometimes, that means I almost have free reign and I’m doing a lot. Other times, they give me a lot of notes to shape it to what they want. Either way, I’m a collaborator, so collaborating with showrunners is what I enjoy.

Blast Magazine: You’ve had an interesting career journey, having worked as a composer, keyboardist, re-mixer, and producer. Do you approach records and songs the same way you do television shows and films? If not, how does your process differ?

Quayle: There are similarities and differences. When I was producing music, I did a lot of remixing and worked mostly with dance music. I remixed existing songs and produced new songs. In those cases, music was there to support and tell the story of whatever the song is trying to say. The singer sings a melody and lyrics with the music providing a foundation for them. When writing for film and television, music is there to help tell the story of the show. There is no singer but the action on screen coupled with the actor and their dialogue serve in a similar role as the lead vocalist on a song. In that way, both tasks are similar. A song has a pretty definitive beginning and end. They tend to be certain lengths and follow specific formulas.  A score is quite different in that it can be anything – all types of lengths, shapes, and forms. I’ve been using technology throughout my career so the tools I’m using now are quite similar. To me, it was a pretty natural evolution to move to film and television.

Blast Magazine: What is the one piece of advice you would give to an aspiring composer?

Quayle: One of the most important things to remember as a composer for media is that we help to tell stories. We serve the people that are telling these stories. It’s wonderful to write music and express yourself, but at the end of the day, we have to give our showrunners what they want. It’s important to keep that front and center. We always have to remember that while we may think we have created masterpieces, our showrunners may ask us to change it into something new and that’s what we do.

The post Mac Quayle: The Blast Interview appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/05/11/mac-quayle-the-blast-interview/feed/ 0
Gamer Music Guru Gordy Haab: The Blast Interview https://blastmagazine.com/2018/05/04/gamer-music-guru-gordy-haab-the-blast-interview/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/05/04/gamer-music-guru-gordy-haab-the-blast-interview/#comments Fri, 04 May 2018 13:41:26 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100284 Gordy Haab’s masterful understanding of the orchestra coupled with his unique ability to blend contemporary and traditional sounds has led to his well-deserved title of multi-award-winning composer. During his career, he has had the opportunity to compose for some of the most well-known video games, films, and television programs. Two of his most recent projects, […]

The post Gamer Music Guru Gordy Haab: The Blast Interview appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Gordy Haab’s masterful understanding of the orchestra coupled with his unique ability to blend contemporary and traditional sounds has led to his well-deserved title of multi-award-winning composer. During his career, he has had the opportunity to compose for some of the most well-known video games, films, and television programs. Two of his most recent projects, Star Wars: Battlefront II and Star Wars: Battlefront brought his music to millions of gamers worldwide and his work on the first game led to “Music of the Year”, “Best Interactive Score”, and “Best Instrumental Score” awards at the 2016 GDC G.A.N.G. Awards. His work can also be heard in The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct game, the television series Scream Queens, and the film Kinect Star Wars: Duel, among many others.

Blast Magazine was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to chat with Gordy about his exposure to media composition, his Star Wars experiences, and his passion for music.

Blast Magazine: During your impressive composing career, you have had the opportunity to write music for many well-known video games. What sparked your interest in composing for this type of media?

Gordy Haab: When I was six years old, my family thought it was interesting that I was unable to recall the names of characters in the film, ET, but I was able to identify all of the characters’ musical themes. I would sing them or pick them out on my dad’s old guitar. From that age, I journeyed into music composition. Ever since I had the opportunity to compose for Activision/AMC’s The Walking Dead: Survival Instinct, I have enjoyed the challenge of composing for video games and I’m grateful that I now get to do that for my favorite franchise.

Gordy Haab’s masterful understanding of the orchestra coupled with his unique ability to blend contemporary and traditional sounds has led to his well-deserved title of multi-award-winning composer.

Gordy Haab’s masterful understanding of the orchestra coupled with his unique ability to blend contemporary and traditional sounds has led to his well-deserved title of multi-award-winning composer (Credit: DefiantPR)

Blast Magazine: Besides video games, you have also written music for various film and television projects. How, if at all, is your process different for each of these endeavors?

Haab: In film and TV, music is composed to a fixed and finite timeline; the hero fights the bad guys for a few minutes, wins, and returns home. But in a video game, the timing and plotlines can constantly change and I need to factor in all possibilities in order to reflect that. It’s a bit like a “choose your own adventure” book set to music. For example, I’ll typically write battle scene music so that the entire piece can seamlessly repeat itself. But I’ll also incorporate transitions that would smoothly jump into alternate versions of the battle music when triggered. An example of this is if a player is three minutes into a battle and suddenly starts losing. This will trigger a transition to an alternate “losing” version of the music. Depending on whether the player wins or loses the battle, the last 10 seconds will play either a victory fanfare or a darker ending.

Blast Magazine: You have now scored both Star Wars: Battlefront II and Star Wars: Battlefront. The Star Wars universe has such a rich, deep character and music history. Do you draw on past versions of Star Wars stories when you are creating your music or do you prefer to approach it independently?

Haab: As a Star Wars fan myself, I know how much emotional attachment there is to the scores and musical themes of the franchise. When approaching a franchise that has such an impact on cinematic music, I feel a responsibility to score music that fans would instantly recognize while also taking advantage of new storylines and characters to put my own stamp on the Star Wars universe.

Blast Magazine: Star Wars: Battlefront II introduced players to a new character, Iden Versio. What was the process like composing her unique musical theme?

Haab: Iden is an important character to the game, so we wanted to create something that was powerful and dynamic but also something that is instantly recognizable and memorable. In order for themes to work, they need to be interesting, simple, and heard numerous times. The “Imperial March” theme is memorable because it’s a simple melody that plays numerous times throughout The Empire Strikes Back. I took this approach and scattered many variations of “Iden’s Theme” throughout the game. I made sure the melody itself was versatile enough to be played in many different styles and emotions, and did so in a way that felt musically natural.

Blast Magazine: When you are trying to evoke certain emotions and reactions from the audience, are there specific instruments or sounds you turn to more often?

Haab: Certainly, although I’m always looking for ways to break from convention in this regard. But it’s difficult to argue with certain musical truths that have existed for hundreds of years. For example, a full string section can always bring a sense of hearty human emotion. Depending on the music itself, strings alone can give a feeling of longing, love, melancholy, or sorrow. The full brass section can offer complete awe and power. Trumpets alone – regality. French horns alone – nobility. I could go on forever on all the stereotypes and even longer on how every instrument of the orchestra can surprise us by breaking from its traditional role and lending completely different emotions from its more common savoir faire. This barely scratches the surface of what’s possible when you combine instruments. For example, a violin section playing a sweeping melody can feel light and airy but if you add a solo oboe to the violins playing the same melody, It’s suddenly darker and has a greater sense of weight and importance.

Blast Magazine: What do you think is something that people are unaware of when it comes to composing music?

Haab: The immediate thing that comes to mind is the writing pace for large projects. Not much can prepare aspiring composers for how much material needs to be generated in a short timeframe. I learned a lot about organization and being creative under pressure from early experiences in the industry.

Blast Magazine: How do you feel that your score for Star Wars: Battlefront II differs from the one you created for its predecessor, Star Wars: Battlefront?

Haab: The music of Star Wars: Battlefront was more rooted in the tone of the original trilogy, while I was able to spread out more for Star Wars: Battlefront II. New characters were introduced to the Star Wars universe, such as Iden, which gave me the opportunity to compose many new character themes and variations of each. Another major difference between the two scores was the inclusion of multiple eras from the Star Wars universe in the multiplayer side of the game. In addition to contributing my own voice through the themes of the new characters, I also drew inspiration from all of John Williams’ great scores from the films.

Blast Magazine: The score for the second Star Wars: Battlefront II was performed with the London Symphony Orchestra. What was that experience like for you?

Haab: I had previously worked with the London Symphony Orchestra on Star Wars: Battlefront, and both times have been extremely memorable. This is the orchestra that recorded the original Star Wars scores, and in turn, was part of my inspiration to pursue composing in the first place. Seeing some of the most talented and incredible musicians in the world play something that I wrote for a franchise I deeply love has been nothing short of amazing and humbling.

Blast Magazine: What would be your best advice for an aspiring composer?

Haab: When I was studying at the University of Southern California, a mentor said to a room of composers hoping to break into the industry, “You’re all very good but 90% of you will fail. The 10% who will succeed will be the ones who didn’t leave [referring to “Hollywood”].” According to him, the 90% who fail would be the ones who convinced themselves it was too difficult or created excuses as to why it wasn’t in the cards for them. I took its meaning a bit more broadly as, “Do or do not. There is no try!”

In addition to that, I would say that all successful composers are lifelong students of music. Be true to whatever process works for you, but always be open to learning and growing your craft. The moment you stop learning, another composer has already surpassed you. Stay humble, and keep at it.

The post Gamer Music Guru Gordy Haab: The Blast Interview appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/05/04/gamer-music-guru-gordy-haab-the-blast-interview/feed/ 1
5 Fun Things To Do On The Internet When You’re Bored https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/23/5-fun-things-to-do-on-the-internet-when-youre-bored/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/23/5-fun-things-to-do-on-the-internet-when-youre-bored/#comments Mon, 23 Apr 2018 14:21:07 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100281 Back in the day, it feels like people used to spend a lot more time seeking out new, fun websites to kill time on the internet. These days, a handful of sites and apps have a pretty big monopoly over our time and attention. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat or another app/site, people are […]

The post 5 Fun Things To Do On The Internet When You’re Bored appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Back in the day, it feels like people used to spend a lot more time seeking out new, fun websites to kill time on the internet. These days, a handful of sites and apps have a pretty big monopoly over our time and attention. Whether it’s Twitter, Facebook, Reddit, Snapchat or another app/site, people are pretty dialed-in to their usual online habits these days, but that doesn’t mean you can’t break out of that habit and find some new stuff online.

Here’s a list of 6 different fun things you can do online anytime!

5. Weave Silk

This is a fun site where you can doodle with your mouse on a black screen, and it creates incredible looking art. You can visit WeaveSilk.com to check out the desktop version, or download their app for iOS in the App Store.

The screen is mirrored down the middle, so whatever you draw on one side is show up on the opposite side. Clicking and dragging the mouse up, down, left, and right will add lines to the image, and their complexity and design will depend on how quickly you are moving your mouse cursor.

You can spend a few minutes getting the hang of it, and have some real fun with this site. Don’t forget to take a screenshot and save your creation!

4. Learn a Semi-Useful Skill

It can take a lifetime to master some of the more impressive skills that exist on this planet, but you can master some slightly less impressive skills in a lot less time, like learning to tie a shoe in just one second, for instance.

Here’s a Youtube video that demonstrates exactly how to do that:

3. Betting on Sports/Gambling

If you’re an adult, and it’s legal where you live, this can be a fun way to kill some time. There are a lot of popular online casino sites out there, where you can get the thrill of a wager without having to leave your house. Obviously, this can also be bad news for people with very addictive personalities or that have a hard time knowing when to stop, so please make sure you’re playing in a responsible way, and never with more money than you can afford to lose.

As long as you’re playing responsibly, and having fun, and never betting more than you can afford to lose, this can be a good way to add some extra excitement to a sporting event, or even just playing the number of different online slots or table games out there.

2. Play Simon

Remember that old toy Simon, where there was a circle consisting of 4 buttons, and you had to repeat the pattern in which each button would light up? It starts pretty easy, but gets overwhelming very soon. FreeSimon.org lets you play this iconic game for free.

This is a very useful way to stay sharp, you can play a couple of rounds per day to really exercise your memory, and beyond that, it’s almost a form of meditation when you get really into it.

1. Make a Song

You don’t have to be able to play an instrument to have fun playing with sounds. Granted, musical background will make your song a lot more cohesive, but at Patatap.com there aren’t any rules. This is a fun little browser-based app where you press any letter on your keyboard, from A to Z, and each letter plays a different unique sound.

It’s really simple and straightforward, and a lot of fun when you find some interesting combinations of sounds, even if you’re not a trained musician in the slightest. You can also press the Spacebar to switch to a different set of sounds to play around with.

Do you know any other fun sites to visit that don’t necessarily always show up on your usual social media feeds? Hopefully this list will help you relax, learn something new, blow off some steam, improve your memory, or find a new creative outlet!

The post 5 Fun Things To Do On The Internet When You’re Bored appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/23/5-fun-things-to-do-on-the-internet-when-youre-bored/feed/ 2
Mister Rogers Neighborhood in Theaters Soon https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/18/mister-rogers-neighborhood-in-theaters-soon/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/18/mister-rogers-neighborhood-in-theaters-soon/#respond Wed, 18 Apr 2018 15:07:00 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100276 Documentary, "Won't You Be My Neighbor?", chronicles the innovative and legendary show created by Fred Rogers.

The post Mister Rogers Neighborhood in Theaters Soon appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Nostalgia or fact: is your typical neighborhood not what it once was? You’ll often hear people over the age of 30 recall a time when they would leave their home in the morning and come back at dinner time. The parents didn’t know where they were and weren’t too concerned as long as the kids returned when the supper bell rang. Another common lament in America today is that we’ve lost a sense of neighborliness, that neighborhood bonds are not as strong as they once were. We’re more locked inside than ever before, on our TVs, computers, and tablets. And if we are outside, we might be walking around with our nose in our smart phones.

Well, let’s go back to a time and a man who emphasized more personal, human connections. Let’s go back to Fred Rogers and Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

Focus Features is touting the June release of the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor? with an upcoming push in April at Las Vegas’s CinemaCon.

The documentary details the creation of the show by the mild mannered but visionary Fred Rogers who sought a simple and decidedly non-flashy way to connect with children. His quiet, humble style was a staple of television for four decades, and Won’t You Be My Neighbor? shows not only how he entertained millions of adults and children with journeys to imaginary places, but also how he approached more serious subjects and social issues.

Perhaps we can’t go back to the good old days of our youth and the neighborhoods we remember, but Won’t You Be My Neighbor? might help us relive just a piece of both.

The post Mister Rogers Neighborhood in Theaters Soon appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/18/mister-rogers-neighborhood-in-theaters-soon/feed/ 0
Como Audio: Solo — Wireless Music System Review https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/16/como-audio-solo-wireless-music-system-review/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/16/como-audio-solo-wireless-music-system-review/#respond Mon, 16 Apr 2018 18:06:21 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100271 The thing about internet-connected home audio products is that you have more choices than maybe you want for your listening experience. Most importantly, you have Alexa and Google taking over the world. No one is wiring their homes for audio anymore. You have smart devices, and everything is connected to the internet. When Blast started […]

The post Como Audio: Solo — Wireless Music System Review appeared first on Blast.

]]>
The thing about internet-connected home audio products is that you have more choices than maybe you want for your listening experience.

Most importantly, you have Alexa and Google taking over the world. No one is wiring their homes for audio anymore. You have smart devices, and everything is connected to the internet. When Blast started reviewing audio products in 2007, the challenge was in finding a place to plug your device into ethernet or making sure your WiFi signal was strong enough. Those challenges are gone now, and we are perhaps burdened with an overabundance.

Some of the major players have switched things up. Cambridge Soundworks is all but done. Altec Lansing has moved to rugged outdoor products in a big way. iHome remains a home appliance manufacturer with its makeup mirror products.

For audiophiles, this has left some fertile ground for boutique companies like Como.

Despite dragging my feet for far too long, I recently had the chance to play with the gorgeous, piano black Como Audio: Solo internet speaker, and it reminds me so much of 10-year-old Logitech Squeezebox Boom that I’m a bit nostalgic for my old Boston Globe tech review column. Now, that sounded like a dig, comparing the Solo to a decade-old product. It’s not. I loved the “Boom” so much. I loved how it looked, and I liked how it sounded. The Solo looks gorgeous and backs up the looks with a sound that is worthy of its $349 price tag.

The Solo is Squeezebox meets Sonos, and that’s where things get tricky. Sonos supports Alexa right out of the box, but the Solo needs an Alexa Dot to work with the voice service. Both the Solo and the competing Sonos systems have serviceable if a bit clunky app features that remove the need for a remote or on-board controls. The Solo gives on-board controls that Sonos products are lacking, so there’s that.

The problem I have is that the Solo is most comparable to the Sonos Play:1 at more than twice the price, and it’s nearly twice the price of the brand new Sonos One next generation single-unit connected speaker.

The Como Audio: Solo is better than 99 percent of the stuff on the market right now, but my bottom line is that it doesn’t quote match the utility provided by Sonos. The Solo it’s a better piece of furniture, and the sound fills a room beautifully. But Sonos makes a more versatile appliance.

This is not going to please either company, but here is where I come down on the products: If you need one, buy the Como Audio: Solo. It’s gorgeous, easy to set up, and sounds terrific. If you need six rooms worth of speakers and a TV audio solution, buy Sonos. With the Playbar reigning supreme, subwoofer options, and the new low $149 price of the aging but dependable Play:1, it’s hard to beat. This is especially true when you get into the services. Internet radio is widely available, and virtually all of the products on the market offer virtually all of the services. That leaves ease of use, sound quality, looks, and — of course — price.

The post Como Audio: Solo — Wireless Music System Review appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/16/como-audio-solo-wireless-music-system-review/feed/ 0
PAX East 2018: Genesis Alpha One Hands-on https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/10/pax-east-2018-genesis-alpha-one-hands-on/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/10/pax-east-2018-genesis-alpha-one-hands-on/#comments Tue, 10 Apr 2018 13:00:14 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100252 If you like sci-fi games, farming simulators, roguelikes, and first person shooters, chances are you will love Genesis Alpha One. Developed by Radiation Blue, this ambitious title blends the best of all these genres and gives you full control to play it how you like. Just playing it made us feel like we were the […]

The post PAX East 2018: Genesis Alpha One Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
If you like sci-fi games, farming simulators, roguelikes, and first person shooters, chances are you will love Genesis Alpha One. Developed by Radiation Blue, this ambitious title blends the best of all these genres and gives you full control to play it how you like. Just playing it made us feel like we were the captains of our ship because, well, we were!

Genesis takes place during a time when Earth’s societies are collapsing and the only way for humankind to continue is to venture into space and find a new home to continue their existence. In order to survive in space, you will need to engineer your station, manage your crew members, and mine resources wisely so that you can continue your mission and explore as much of the unknown universe as you can. Think of the game like a 3D version of FTL but with a lot more action.

When you begin a game, you can choose how many crew members you want to start out with and other perks. You can then build parts of your ship and place chambers wherever you like. These include greenhouses, workshops, and even cloning facilities. You can’t build too many things at first since expanding your ship requires resources you need to collect later. One way you can do this is by surveying faraway planets and transporting what you find back to your ship like they do in Star Trek. These take some time to gather so the best approach to actually mine resources is sending your crew members to planets to see what they can find.

During these randomly-generated missions, you can choose to venture with your team or send them alone. If you’re smart and equip them with the necessary weapons and armor, then chances are they’ll be fine. But send them alone and they may not come back alive. To ensure they’re successful, you’ll want to join them and venture to these strange planets where the game shifts and feels more like a first-person shooter than a simulator. We landed on a dark planet where we found plenty of rare metals and ore, but when we went farther away from our ship, we discovered insect-like aliens that pounced on us instantly adding an impressive layer of suspense to our experience.

Another feature we really enjoyed about these missions is that after you finish and head back to your base, the threat can still continue as some creatures can hijack your ship and sneak aboard. You’ll need to search the small crevices of your ship to make sure you take out any alien before it reproduces and lays eggs, further endangering you ship and all your resources. Nothing is scarier than crawling around your ship’s air vents and noticing a nest layered with shell husks.

Of course, like any roguelike game, you can easily die if you aren’t careful. When you do, another one of your crew members will get promoted as captain as long as you have enough people aboard to continue your mission. If you really want to survive, you need to use the enemy DNA you forage to your advantage. Aliens have unique abilities that can help you survive in foreign environments so you can actually create your own species by combining their cells with human strands. We didn’t get too much time with this feature, but we can only imagine the possibilities.

Possibilities is what Genesis Alpha One is all about, and you’ll need to use everything the game throws at you and play around with it until you find something that works. With plenty of content in store, we can only imagine how players will create their own space adventures and spend their time as captains of their ship. Be on the lookout for the game when it releases later this year on Steam and consoles.

The post PAX East 2018: Genesis Alpha One Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/10/pax-east-2018-genesis-alpha-one-hands-on/feed/ 1
PAX East 2018 in Pictures https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/09/pax-east-2018-in-pictures/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/09/pax-east-2018-in-pictures/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 13:00:46 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100215 PAX East 2018 was four days filled with panels, cosplayers, and oh so many video games to play. See below for some of the photos we captured of the exhibition hall featuring great games, companies, and fans that made their way to Boston for the show.

The post PAX East 2018 in Pictures appeared first on Blast.

]]>
PAX East 2018 was four days filled with panels, cosplayers, and oh so many video games to play. See below for some of the photos we captured of the exhibition hall featuring great games, companies, and fans that made their way to Boston for the show.

The post PAX East 2018 in Pictures appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/09/pax-east-2018-in-pictures/feed/ 0
PAX East 2018: Rend preview https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/08/pax-east-2018-rend-preview/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/08/pax-east-2018-rend-preview/#respond Mon, 09 Apr 2018 02:05:13 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100211 One of the biggest titles we go to see at PAX East wasn’t one we were able to play but simply a game that we watched in action. Developed by Frostkeep Studios, Rend is an upcoming survival game that combines common elements of the genre and brings it online. We got to sit down with […]

The post PAX East 2018: Rend preview appeared first on Blast.

]]>
One of the biggest titles we go to see at PAX East wasn’t one we were able to play but simply a game that we watched in action. Developed by Frostkeep Studios, Rend is an upcoming survival game that combines common elements of the genre and brings it online. We got to sit down with developer David Talley as we walked us through the a pre-alpha build of the game and showed us what we are in for.

Rend takes place on a large triangular map where rival factions occupy each corner. When you start a game, you get to choose which faction to play on—the Conclave, the Order, or the Revenant. For now, it doesn’t make a difference which faction you join but each one can hold up to 20 players. Everyone starts off on a corner of the map, but eventually you’ll need to venture closer to its center and even on enemy territory as you progress through the game. Certain ingredients, for example, can only be found outside your biome and will require planning to survive.

The game itself is based off Norse mythology and each faction is essentially offering souls to the creator. This basically means with every enemy you kill, your faction gets closer to ascending to the heavens and being crown the winner. To make it even more of a spectacle, the giant tree Ygdrassil stands in the center of the map and indicates which faction is closer to winning with their giant symbol on its trunk.

Twice a week, the game will also have a period of time called the Reckoning when your faction’s shields will go down forcing opposing sides to attack one another in combat. Servers themselves will also hold different Reckoning times so you can decide which one works best for your schedule before joining.

Each game is planned to last two months, and after a winner is declared, the servers will reset and players can start over. David told us his team is still considering on finding the ideal length of time for the game. You don’t want to spend too much time playing a survival game and then watch everything you did get taken away, but you also don’t want it to go away too soon before you can really invest some time into it.

A survival game at heart, Rend will let you craft nearly anything. From weapons to armor to special private chests—you can build anything as long you have the resources for it. This also means you need supplies like food and water to avoid dying. If you do, you’ll be resurrected as a spirit and will need to find your body where you last left it—hopefully, with your items still intact. And that’s the beauty of the game too. Your weapon and armor will not deteriorate after you build them so even latecomers can pick up some really strong weapons at any point in time.

Considering it’s a team-based game, your entire faction has access to the resources you gather, and you can determine how you will contribute. Skill trees allow you to level up your character and focus on four different character classes like an assassin, soldier, survivalist, or a mystic—each with unique abilities and talents. Additionally, doing certain tasks like cutting wood or sewing clothes can influence separate skills which you can also increase. Figuring out what you will be focusing on looks to be an important part of the game considering your faction will depend on each player’s individual impact.

Even if you’re not an expert in the genre, the developers plan to include helpful balancing components to make the game more fair and to make it inviting to all skill levels. You don’t have to focus on combat if you don’t want to, for example, and simply focus on crafting and foraging for items will still help your team when soldiers are going into battle. If one faction is in first place, random events like meteors or an increased number of monsters will also appear in their area to let other players catch up.

From what we saw, Rend seems like it will be an epic-sized game. Still in pre-alpha, its map looked massive and the random creatures roaming everywhere made the world really come alive. Just imagine that with 60 players running around trying to kill each other.

Rend is set to enter Steam Early Access later this year. You can also sign up for the game’s upcoming invite-only alpha by heading to Frostkeep’s website.

The post PAX East 2018: Rend preview appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/08/pax-east-2018-rend-preview/feed/ 0
PAX East 2018: The Gardens Between Hands-on https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/08/pax-east-2018-the-gardens-between-hands-on/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/08/pax-east-2018-the-gardens-between-hands-on/#respond Sun, 08 Apr 2018 23:39:20 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100208 A game about the flow of time and memories, the Gardens Between is an evocative puzzler that is sure to draw you in as soon as you pick up the controller. Not only does it feature unique controls, but its detailed environments, characters, and charming design made it one of our highlights from this year’s […]

The post PAX East 2018: The Gardens Between Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
A game about the flow of time and memories, the Gardens Between is an evocative puzzler that is sure to draw you in as soon as you pick up the controller. Not only does it feature unique controls, but its detailed environments, characters, and charming design made it one of our highlights from this year’s PAX East.

Right away you’ll realize you don’t control protagonists Arina and Frendt, but rather, you control the flow of time. You can make time go forward or backwards depending on which direction you press and are essentially watching these two friends navigate their way through island-like gardens figuring out where to go. Another great quality of the game is the winding camera that follows you upwards and around providing some verticality and depth to your ascent.

Moving time forward isn’t the only way to make progress in each garden and you’ll soon discover Arina and Frendt possess abilities that are crucial to their journey. Arina , for example, carries a lantern that holds light needed to open the gate to the next garden. Your path isn’t straightforward, however, as plants that steal this light dot your way so you need to play with time and use Frendt’s bell to disable them every now and then. Arina’s light not only dispels clouds that can act as platforms but it also activates bridges. As you can tell, you’ll need to play with these actions at the right time to successfully complete each garden.

Your environment is also alive and will feature moving parts and even animated blocks that are keys to solving each garden. You can leave your lantern on these blocks and they will jump to a different part of the stage with it letting you travel through areas where your light would have been taken. Other items like a saw, dominoes, and a VCR can be interacted with at the just the right time to change your environment or provide the footing you need to move forward.

These random items further build on the theme of memories and each level itself is like a physical manifestation of these characters’ pasts. Gardens are made up of remnants of the real world and feature clothes lines, picnic tables, and even board games. A thick mist surrounds each garden but you can make out windows, chairs, and other objects in the distance that seem out of place but add to the whimsical nature of each world. There was no text or dialogue in the levels we played, but we could make out a semblance of a story through these motifs.

It’s these mysterious elements along with the soothing nature of its gameplay that makes the Gardens Between a wonderful experience. Despite our brief time with it, we were able to understand the core components of the game and watch it get more complex as it progressed. We can’t wait to see more when the game comes out later this year for PlayStation 4 and Steam.

The post PAX East 2018: The Gardens Between Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/08/pax-east-2018-the-gardens-between-hands-on/feed/ 0
PAX East 2018: Hyper Jam Hands-on https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/07/pax-east-2018-hyper-jam-hands-on/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/07/pax-east-2018-hyper-jam-hands-on/#respond Sun, 08 Apr 2018 01:23:14 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100205 Hyper Jam caught our eyes at PAX East as it stood out as one of the many multiplayer games we just wanted to keep playing. Developed by Bit Dragon, this stylish twin-stick arena brawler pits two to four players against each other to see who comes out on top. Filled with 80’s neon nostalgia, the […]

The post PAX East 2018: Hyper Jam Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Hyper Jam caught our eyes at PAX East as it stood out as one of the many multiplayer games we just wanted to keep playing. Developed by Bit Dragon, this stylish twin-stick arena brawler pits two to four players against each other to see who comes out on top.

Filled with 80’s neon nostalgia, the game takes places on arenas like a Miami rooftop or a subway station where the objective is to defeat your opponents and win rounds using weapons you pick up on the map. Once the match starts, you’ll need to act fast and pick up the weapon you want or else someone else will. Rocket launchers, bows, and pistols give you long-range firepower but our favorite weapon of choice was the lethal katana and other melee gems that got us up close and personal with our foes.

Expect a lot of flash and bang during every round too as the stages themselves can turn on you especially as you near sudden death. During this phase, unique stage effects come into play such as incoming explosions or a force field that slowly makes the stage smaller by the second. Even when you die during a round, you can still get revenge by firing a laser anywhere on the map further damaging those still alive. There’s a lot of action going on during a match making for some thrilling moments and close calls.

When someone wins a round, all players can select perks for the next one. Those in last place get first dibs so the game does throw you a bone if you aren’t doing so well. Perks themselves can make your next round a lot easier and include health regen, speed boosts, and even a cool vampire mode that sucks the health out of anyone you hit. Win enough rounds and be the last player standing and you’ll win the game–a simple outcome after a thrilling journey.

Though it may seem like any old brawler, Hyper Jam features enough action–local or online–that will switch on your competitive side each time you play. Based on what we saw, the game is shaping up to be one neon-soaked good time. Expect it out for PC this year.

The post PAX East 2018: Hyper Jam Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/07/pax-east-2018-hyper-jam-hands-on/feed/ 0
PAX East 2018: Horizon Chase Turbo Hands-on https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/07/pax-east-2018-horizon-chase-turbo-hands-on/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/07/pax-east-2018-horizon-chase-turbo-hands-on/#respond Sat, 07 Apr 2018 23:12:51 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100202 Regarded by many as one of the best racing games on mobile devices, Horizon Chase took fans around the world with its retro-inspired visuals, soundtrack, and simple controls that were reminiscent of arcade games of the 80s and 90s. Three years later, Aquiris is bringing those feels to consoles with all new features and plenty […]

The post PAX East 2018: Horizon Chase Turbo Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Regarded by many as one of the best racing games on mobile devices, Horizon Chase took fans around the world with its retro-inspired visuals, soundtrack, and simple controls that were reminiscent of arcade games of the 80s and 90s. Three years later, Aquiris is bringing those feels to consoles with all new features and plenty of reasons to take this baby out for a spin.

Expanding on the original, Turbo features 110 tracks and three modes to choose from—Tournament, Endurance, and Ghost. Tournament lets you select tracks to compete in, Endurance challenges you to complete as many back-to-back races while meeting certain placement objectives, and Ghost lets you challenge record track times. Each race you go on features 19 other cars battling it out for first place on tracks inspired by real-world locations like Atacama desert, Redwood Forest, or even the plains of the Sahara. Cel-shaded backdrops and 3D renderings bring each location to life and look stunning on the big screen.

Races themselves are a blend of tight turns, curves, and various undulations depending on the course; each one feels unique and comes with its own set of challenges to master. You need to manage your fuel and pick up refills before you run out mid-race. Nitro boost feel good, too, but you only get a few per race so you need to use them wisely. Races also require a certain number of tokens for you to pick up before proceeding to the next one so you need to keep your eyes peeled during every lap. As you can tell, you have your work cut out for you if you want to be the best. Completionists will love collecting them all as they also unlock new cars each with unique specs and handling stats.

Turbo further builds on the original with intense four-player split-screen and online multiplayer–something the mobile version could not accomplish on its own. What’s more, multiplayer is also available in Tournament and Endurance modes meaning you can team up with friends to add to your placement score after each race. Multiplayer makes sense for this type of game and it feels great to finally be able to go head to head against friends in person or online.

There’s a lot to love about the game–over 100 tracks, some catchy music, and 26 cars to unlock–and we instantly fell in love demoing it at PAX East. A beautiful tribute to classic arcade racers, Horizon Chase Turbo is one you’ll want to have on your radar too. Look for the game soon on PlayStation 4 and Steam.

The post PAX East 2018: Horizon Chase Turbo Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/07/pax-east-2018-horizon-chase-turbo-hands-on/feed/ 0
PAX East 2018: Planet Alpha Hands-on https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/07/pax-east-2018-planet-alpha-hands-on/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/07/pax-east-2018-planet-alpha-hands-on/#respond Sat, 07 Apr 2018 12:07:39 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100199 Planet Alpha is a beautiful platformer that takes place on a mysterious alien planet. The demo we played at PAX East didn’t present a story or any clues as to what we were in for, but the experience was one that pulled us in wanting to see more. At its core, the game lets you […]

The post PAX East 2018: Planet Alpha Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Planet Alpha is a beautiful platformer that takes place on a mysterious alien planet. The demo we played at PAX East didn’t present a story or any clues as to what we were in for, but the experience was one that pulled us in wanting to see more.

At its core, the game lets you play as the protagonist who awakens on a strange world and needs to venture forth to stay alive. We were told the game’s story is still under wraps, but based on our playthrough, it’s quite apparent that exploration and staying alive are the basis of the game. There are platforming elements that require you to time your jumps, navigate up and down vines, and crouch beneath tight spaces, but what makes Planet Alpha special is the ability to control the planet’s day and night cycles.

At any point during your progress, you can press a button and the planet will spin causing night to turn into day affecting various changes to your environment. Alien flowers will bloom during the day allowing you to use them for cover, and at night, mushrooms will sprout on cliffs providing some footing on your climbs. There were parts in our demo where giant land masses would shift when we played with the time and even creatures would come and go depending on the time of day. Stealth was also an important part our playthrough as we had no weapons to defend ourselves with so avoiding alien insects was the best approach.

Not only can you control your platforming environments, but our demo also featured some puzzles and enemies that could only be defeated at certain times of the day. We were also told that boss battles would involve using the planet against them–an experience we cannot wait to see in action.

Despite its brevity, our time with Planet Alpha really prepared us for future developments with the game and left us with some questions. Where is the protagonist heading to? What secrets does the planet hold? And why can you all of a sudden control the planet? We can’t wait to learn more. Expect Planet Alpha this year on Steam and consoles.

The post PAX East 2018: Planet Alpha Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/07/pax-east-2018-planet-alpha-hands-on/feed/ 0
PAX East 2018: Antigraviator Hands-on https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/06/pax-east-2018-antigraviator-hands-on/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/06/pax-east-2018-antigraviator-hands-on/#respond Fri, 06 Apr 2018 05:14:04 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100196 Fans of breakneck speeds are sure to enjoy Antigraviator, Cybernetic Walrus’s sleek futuristic racer gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “pretty fast”. In fact, the developers did away with a speed cap meaning you can see for yourself just how blurry things can get when you’re flying at 9,000 kilometers per hour. We […]

The post PAX East 2018: Antigraviator Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Fans of breakneck speeds are sure to enjoy Antigraviator, Cybernetic Walrus’s sleek futuristic racer gives a whole new meaning to the phrase “pretty fast”. In fact, the developers did away with a speed cap meaning you can see for yourself just how blurry things can get when you’re flying at 9,000 kilometers per hour. We tried the game ourselves and can safely say fast is good.

Antigraviator features three different modes in online or local four-player multiplayer where the objective is to be the first one to cross the finish line. In addition to collecting energy and boosting your way past your rivals, the game also features traps you can activate which act like power-ups in other racing games. You can send rockets to track down the player in front of you, for instance, or trigger a rock slide. Using traps also grants you a temporary shield allowing you to use them defensively as well. You can also be aggressive and roll your vehicle onto your enemies to further damage and slow them down.

Of course, you want to go as fast as you can to both win each race and to knock out any time trial record you encounter so you also need to drift around corners and catch every boost you can along the way. A couple of the tracks we played had us flying over large gaps so if your movement was off, you could easily end up flying off to your doom.

Featuring twelve gorgeous tracks across four environments like a lush rainforest and arctic mountain, the game is truly a sight to behold. Even at top speeds, this racer maintains a smooth framerate that further highlights its sleek visuals. You have three vehicles to choose from and each one can be customized to your needs meaning  you can make a speedy glass cannon or a robust tank that has stable acceleration. Skins can also be unlocked with each track you unlock.

With its smooth controls, gorgeous visuals, and thrilling racetracks, Antigraviator is shaping up to be one impressive racer. We enjoyed the freedom of going super fast and leaving our opponents in the dust. Expect the game out soon this year on Steam and console.

The post PAX East 2018: Antigraviator Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/06/pax-east-2018-antigraviator-hands-on/feed/ 0
PAX East 2018: Joggernauts Hands-on https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/06/pax-east-2018-joggernauts-hands-on/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/06/pax-east-2018-joggernauts-hands-on/#respond Fri, 06 Apr 2018 04:01:32 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100192 Unlike most party games where friends go head to head to see who comes out on top, Space Mace’s Joggernauts puts teamwork at the forefront of survival. We found this out the hard way when we went hands-on with the game and discovered the importance of communication. Joggernauts lets up to four players free-run in […]

The post PAX East 2018: Joggernauts Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Unlike most party games where friends go head to head to see who comes out on top, Space Mace’s Joggernauts puts teamwork at the forefront of survival. We found this out the hard way when we went hands-on with the game and discovered the importance of communication.

Joggernauts lets up to four players free-run in line through various platforming levels. You can press a button to jump or press a button to switch places with the leader and warp to the front of the line. This is important as you’ll run into obstacles that only a specific player can clear or activate meaning you’ll constantly need to be switch places to move forward. Too many misses and it’s game over.

Controls are very simple, but because you are also relying on your teammates, you may need to shout out directions or else you’ll mistime your jumps or incorrectly switch when you shouldn’t. There were times when we switched places too soon and the player behind us ran into a wall because he was not expecting it. Then there were times when we panicked and our twitchy fingers got the best of us. Let’s just say we died a lot!

In addition to simply making it to the end of the level, you can also challenge yourself even further by completing each level and collecting every orb you encounter. These are also color-specific and require a godlike level of coordination with your friends. There is also a single-player mode, but we didn’t get to try this out. Rest assured, playing it with others sounds was a blast.

With its adorable characters and increasingly challenging levels, Joggernauts is charming auto-runner that is sure to make you appreciate good old fashioned teamwork. Bring on a night full of laughs, yelling, and cheering! Look for the game sometime this year on PC and consoles.

The post PAX East 2018: Joggernauts Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/06/pax-east-2018-joggernauts-hands-on/feed/ 0
PAX East 2018: Guacamelee! 2 Hands-on https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/05/pax-east-2018-guacamelee-2-hands-on/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/05/pax-east-2018-guacamelee-2-hands-on/#comments Fri, 06 Apr 2018 02:35:13 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100186 Drinkbox’s Mexican-inspired Metroidvania goodness returns in Guacamelee! 2 and brings with it even more characters, colorful settings, and, yes, chickens! We had a chance to try out a demo of the game at PAX East and can happily say the game picks up right after the first one left off and expands what made it […]

The post PAX East 2018: Guacamelee! 2 Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Drinkbox’s Mexican-inspired Metroidvania goodness returns in Guacamelee! 2 and brings with it even more characters, colorful settings, and, yes, chickens! We had a chance to try out a demo of the game at PAX East and can happily say the game picks up right after the first one left off and expands what made it so much fun in the first place.

Picking up seven years after he saved Mexico from an evil menace, the sequel follows luchador Juan Aguacate on a quest to save the entire world. As you progress through the game, you will unlock special abilities and fighting moves, which amp up your combos but also allow you to reach areas you couldn’t the first time you passed them. This is where the Metroidvania component of the game comes into play, and there are far more abilities to discover this time around too. We didn’t get to see this feature in action, but you’ll now also be able to customize Juan’s abilities to suit your playstyle.

The demo we played had us making our way through areas where we had to rely on our reflexes to grapple on to points on the map and fling our way upwards. This “eagle boost” took some getting used to, but be prepared to master this skill when you are running away from enemies and even stage mechanics that play with different dimensions and bring forth unique platforming challenges.

Another familiar concept is the ability to transform into a chicken to squeeze through various paths. This time, your chicken self has more power and unique abilities—even transforming into a monster bird to stomp everyone around you. You’ll need to swap to and from your chicken form often to solve special platforming puzzles too, adding to the game’s varied gameplay.

Up to four people can play together in couch co-op, which is a blessing to those who aren’t that confident with platformers. Even if only one person reaches the exit, everyone instantly teleports to the next checkpoint making it easy for players to help one another when the game’s difficulty kicks up, which very well does during some group encounters and boss fights.

Judging by what we played, Guacamelee! 2 is set to be a strong sequel filled with even more humor, strong platforming, and plenty of levels that will mesmerize and challenge you too. Look for the game on PlayStation 4 and Steam sometime soon!

The post PAX East 2018: Guacamelee! 2 Hands-on appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/05/pax-east-2018-guacamelee-2-hands-on/feed/ 1
Things to Consider When Choosing Learning Games https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/05/things-to-consider-when-choosing-learning-games/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/05/things-to-consider-when-choosing-learning-games/#comments Thu, 05 Apr 2018 11:09:58 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100183 The gaming universe is peppered with plenty of exciting learning games. Some of these games can be arranged into neat categories, but many of them straddle the lines. Educational technology has advanced so rapidly over the years that many of these games encompass strategy-based elements, skill and dexterity, mathematical computations, and common sense. Whether it’s […]

The post Things to Consider When Choosing Learning Games appeared first on Blast.

]]>
The gaming universe is peppered with plenty of exciting learning games. Some of these games can be arranged into neat categories, but many of them straddle the lines. Educational technology has advanced so rapidly over the years that many of these games encompass strategy-based elements, skill and dexterity, mathematical computations, and common sense. Whether it’s a logic game, a creative game, or a mathematical game – learning games are designed to develop a person’s grey matter by enhancing their skills and abilities. Multiple factors must be considered when discussing learning games.

Perhaps the most important question to ask is the following: How can a game be used to enhance learning?

Educators are front and centre when it comes to learning games. They often use didactic entertainment gaming options to educate students. While video game developers have no time limitations to bear in mind when designing and developing games, teachers have to complete gaming sessions in set periods of time. There are many examples of fantastic video games that tend to go on ad nauseam. Consider games like Super Mario Brothers, Pac-Man, Street Fighter, and the like. While these are not educational games per se, they utilize skill and dexterity, memory and learned ability throughout. Players are required to spend significant amounts of time mastering the skills and abilities needed to complete levels, missions, and gaming sessions.

From an educational standpoint, there is a world of difference between long-form games and short-form games. If a learning session in the classroom is restricted to 40 minutes, the entire educational game cannot take more than 20 minutes – 30 minutes to complete. Students need time to get settled, understand the rules of play, and to vacate the classroom in time for the next lesson. The criteria for evaluating the efficacy of a game differs markedly when comparing educational games and multi-period style games. The way short-form games are selected is entirely different to the way long-form games are chosen. Top examples of short form games include Reach for the Sun, Wuzzit Trouble, Mars Generation One: Arguebot Academy, and the like.

Quality mathematical games are like precision mathematical instruments. Except in this case, they are complex digital options that provide instant feedback to players. From an educational standpoint, a high-quality mathematics game teaches the player a lot about numbers. Game-based learning is a powerful way to help students understand real-world problems. Game designers are actively creating powerful mechanisms to help players learn the concepts needed to solve puzzles, riddles, complex equations, and logic problems. Game-style learning is geared towards fostering literacy and comprehension. Experiential instruction is offered, and teachers are merely the facilitators of such knowledge. Games are considered systems in the broader environment, and students must make the connection between real-world situations and the in-game mechanics.

What type of game genres currently exist?

Perhaps the most popular game type of all is puzzlers. Puzzle-style games are challenging, immersive, and rewarding. They require players to arrange shapes, figures, blocks, or other objects in a pattern, or according to a complex rule base. These puzzle-style games are the most popular educational games on the net. Consider the worldwide popularity of Tetris – a basic shape shifting puzzle game that requires players to slot pieces into one another to clear levels. Of course, there are multiple puzzle-style games available, including Sudoku, Mah-Jongg, Solitaire, and various cube-style games.

The cube, or block, is particularly fascinating. Game designers have exploited this geometric shape to great effect. Puzzle games often fuse strategy and logic to create interactive leveling-up adventures for players. These types of strategy games often take the form of Blast Games where players are required to match combinations of cubes to blast them from a level. Once the cubes have been eliminated through spectacular game effects (rockets, bombs and color wheels), players quickly learn what associations are needed to initiate these features. This experiential learning and puzzle solving ability translates into real-world applications too.

The post Things to Consider When Choosing Learning Games appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/05/things-to-consider-when-choosing-learning-games/feed/ 1
HyperX Cloud Stinger review https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/03/hyperx-cloud-stinger-review/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/03/hyperx-cloud-stinger-review/#respond Tue, 03 Apr 2018 13:00:54 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100259 If you are looking for a headset that won’t break the bank but still offers you solid performance for any of your gaming or music listening needs, the HyperX Cloud Stinger has you covered. An entry-level model in Hyper X’s line of gaming headsets, the Stinger won’t give you extra or unique features, but for […]

The post HyperX Cloud Stinger review appeared first on Blast.

]]>
If you are looking for a headset that won’t break the bank but still offers you solid performance for any of your gaming or music listening needs, the HyperX Cloud Stinger has you covered. An entry-level model in Hyper X’s line of gaming headsets, the Stinger won’t give you extra or unique features, but for $50, it offers enough oomph that takes it a level above other headsets in this price range. We think you’ll be quite pleased with what you get.

Despite it being made entirely out of plastic (with the exception of its steel headband sliders), the Stinger doesn’t feel cheap or flimsy. It weighs in at 275 grams and features matte surfaces that won’t slip or get sweaty. The ear cups also rotate and give your ears a comfortable pocket when in use. We would say it hits the sweet spot for how it feels on your head—it’s not heavy enough to give you any problems if you wear it for long periods of time, but it also holds firmly on your head and is quite sturdy.

Its microphone piece is attached to a flexible arm that comes out of its left ear cup allowing you adjust it to whichever angle you like. There is no mute button so you simply need to swivel the microphone up to turn off any outgoing noise. If you need to turn down the incoming volume, simply lower the slider on the right ear cup.

The headset cable is comfortably 4.5 foot in length and ends in a 3.5 mm plug allowing you to connect it to PCs, mobile devices, and even your PlayStation 4 and Xbox One controllers. If you have an older computer that has separate audio and mic ports, a 3.5 foot extension cable is also included with the needed jacks.

To test its output, we played a few different games in different volumes and settings on both PC and PlayStation 4. We also then plugged in the headset into an iPhone 8 and played a few different songs to get a feel of its bass and frequency capabilities. Here’s what we found.

Overwatch was our PC game of choice for the headset and we found that it did a great job showing off the game’s frenetic nature. Gunshots sounded clear and crisp, and even small ambient noises like bird chirping in the distance or the subtle sound bites of a character’s abilities and footsteps were rather good. You can definitely hear sounds going from left to right like when someone is coming around a corner or running up right next to you, but don’t expect a high level of surround sound as it wasn’t very noticeable.

Chatting with teammates via the microphone is as easy as a flick of the mic piece too. We also recorded our voice using the mic, and it doesn’t sound bad but it does has a nasally tone to it on the other end. The closer you put it to your mouth, though, the clearer we found the sound to be. During matches, we had no issues communicating with our teammates so nothing was really lost. When you’re playing intense team-based game, one of your main priorities is communicating effectively and clearly with your teams. The good news is the Stinger makes sure you get your message across.

On PlayStation 4, we popped in Tekken 7 and really felt the headset give us robust sounds whenever we threw a punch or whenever someone crashed on the ground. The Stinger handles low frequencies better, so we had no issues hearing these explosive sounds at any point during our gameplay. Even the game’s various electronic and dubstep tracks played well.

You may not be getting a Stinger to use as another pair of music headphones, but if you do, you won’t be disappointed either. We played through various tracks from EDM, to rock, to country and we could definitely hear the bass and the distinction between the instrumental and the vocal tracks. One thing to note is that higher frequencies aren’t captured that well on this headset so certain higher pitched vocals or even sound effects when gaming won’t come out as clear.

Sturdy and dependable, the HyperX Cloud Stinger provides what you want in an affordable model without compromising too much on what other more expensive products offer. You may sacrifice certain design features and sound nuances here and there, but the Stinger definitely won’t let you down during your playthroughs.

HyperX provided us with a HyperX Cloud Stinger for the purposes of this review. Get yours here.

HyperX Cloud Stinger review
Quality85%
Design90%
Performance85%
Value100%
90%Overall Score
Reader Rating: (0 Votes)
0%

The post HyperX Cloud Stinger review appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/04/03/hyperx-cloud-stinger-review/feed/ 0
Ready Player One – Movie Review https://blastmagazine.com/2018/03/29/ready-player-one-movie-review/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/03/29/ready-player-one-movie-review/#comments Thu, 29 Mar 2018 11:00:40 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100174 Ready Player One is an effective ode to video games, movies, and virtual reality.

The post Ready Player One – Movie Review appeared first on Blast.

]]>
When CGI technology debuted in movies audiences were awestruck. One would often hear, “…the story was weak but it looked amazing.” As audiences grew more accustomed to CGI films that kind of excuse began to wear thin, and a movie couldn’t skate by on appearance alone. I was certainly one pounding this drum, repeatedly getting irritated that I was supposed to overlook an incomprehensible plot and a thin story because the movie had great effects. 

After seeing Ready Player One, Steven Spielberg’s long-anticipated movie about virtually reality and gaming, I’m going to eat a little crow. The plot is incomprehensible and the story is thin, but gosh darn it, it looked amazing, and the unrelenting pace and humor of the picture papered over much of the believability issues.

Ready Player One is aching to be one of those You Tube memes with the title, ‘Everything wrong with this movie in 10 minutes.’ So it would be very difficult to describe the plot of the film, which is an ode to the visual entertainment of the past (fledgling video games), the present (movies), and the future (online and virtual reality). The best I can do to describe the story succinctly is to brand it a mash-up of Avatar, Indiana Jones and The Last Crusade, The Goonies, and, for the heck of it, I’ll throw in The Manhattan Project. If you have to have more crumbs than that, it’s about a bunch of kids taking on corporate baddies in virtual reality and saving the world. Full stop.

For film and gaming geeks, it has so many references and side jokes, it will take years for the nerds among us to dissect and compile them all. There are the obvious such as Back to the Future, King Kong, and The Shining (which was the best sequence of the film) and then the abstruse, such as Excalibur. And then there are probably dozens I missed.

I’m not sure giving Ready Player One more serious consideration is appropriate. It’s supposed to be fun (and it is) and silly, not just a popcorn movie but a two-bin popcorn binge with candy and soda to boot. Yet it’s also clear, the filmmakers tried to inject some kind of message into it. This effort is a muddle, and the central thread of the film has an inherent contradiction that goes unnoticed by its creators.

In the story, most of humanity spends its time in a virtual reality world, called ‘The Oasis’ created by a genius named James Halliday. Halliday is played by the always brilliant Mark Rylance, and the character is himself a mash up of Steve Jobs, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates. He’s presented as a benevolent, withdrawn genius who invented something billions of people love. The real world of Ready Player One, at least as we are shown, is a husk, an economic and environmental wasteland, and people would rather be in The Oasis than anywhere. But the man responsible for turning people into virtual reality addicts, Halliday, is universally loved, while the CEO of a corporation looking to take over The Oasis is all mustache-twisting and finger-steepling evil.

You can’t have it both ways, Mr. Spielberg. Can the CEO of Facebook be beloved while the CEO of Apple reviled? After two hours and twenty minutes (not to mention a budget of $175 million), we are given a cheap homily about how it’s good to unplug once in a while. The US Forest Service (Unplug!) and the NFL (Play 60) have better campaigns for this goal, and you would think the man who invented a game space where so many have wasted their lives would be held to account. But alas, it’s only the “bad” CEO who is marched off in ignominy at the film’s conclusion. Nor was the dystopian world improved at least as far as I could tell, except The Oasis was taken over by a benign Politburo of kids. And what was the take away for real audiences: will the average film-goer walk away from this movie thinking he or she needs to exercise more, or will they run for the nearest Oculus device to get lost in a fantasy?

As with most big action spectacles these days, the filmmakers were more interested in creating a visual world with plot, character, and story coming later—and to clichéd effect. Yet something about Ready Player One’s pinache and insouciance was able to overcome its deficits, and all the quadrants this movie was intended to hit will have a pleasant, escapist experience. That’s why we go to the movies anyway, right?

3 of 4 stars

Director:        Steven Spielberg

Cast:              Tye Sheridan, Olivia Cooke, Ben Mendelsohn, T.J.                                 Miller, Simon Pegg and Mark Rylance

Running Time:        138 min.

Rating:                     PG-13

The post Ready Player One – Movie Review appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/03/29/ready-player-one-movie-review/feed/ 1
5 TV shows that reinvented the science fiction genre https://blastmagazine.com/2018/03/27/5-tv-shows-that-reinvented-the-science-fiction-genre/ https://blastmagazine.com/2018/03/27/5-tv-shows-that-reinvented-the-science-fiction-genre/#comments Tue, 27 Mar 2018 20:25:03 +0000 https://blastmagazine.com/?p=100171 Love sci-fi? Then you’ve probably seen the majority of these TV shows. However, did you realize just how much some of them really changed the genre? While science fiction shows get cancelled all of the time, we think that these five deserve a great deal of praise. We must warn that this article (and some […]

The post 5 TV shows that reinvented the science fiction genre appeared first on Blast.

]]>
Love sci-fi? Then you’ve probably seen the majority of these TV shows. However, did you realize just how much some of them really changed the genre? While science fiction shows get cancelled all of the time, we think that these five deserve a great deal of praise. We must warn that this article (and some of its links) may contain spoilers…

  1. Fringe

It may have been placed on the “Friday night death slot” on U.S. television, but that didn’t stop Fringe from gaining a cult following. It follows the Fringe Division, a Joint Federal Task Force that investigates cases relating to fringe science such as transhumanist experiments gone wrong or the possibility of parallel universes. It was able to breathe new life into the sci-fi genre by being unapologetic about its bizarre elements while still keeping up with a philosophical bent. It also, somehow, managed to make us sympathize with the archetypal mad scientist that we know has done terrible things.

  1. Orphan Black

For a show about a group of clones, there are tons of things that make Orphan Black unique. It details a complex conspiracy theory about the ethics of science and the moral dimensions involved in human cloning. Each clone is played by one actress (Tatiana Maslany) who manages to give a distinct personality to each character, something that takes the show to a whole new level.

  1. Sense8

This Netflix original show tells the story of a group of strangers who are psychically linked.  Under the sci-fi umbrella, it brings together issues of race, sexuality and gender identity, with queer and transgender characters taking center stage unlike any other show of the genre. It is exactly this that makes it a pioneering sci-fi effort of original streaming content.

  1. Doctor Who

It may have existed since 1963, but when it was reborn in 2005, it was a fantasy mixed with a soap opera. Now, the Doctor’s companions have very little trouble keeping one foot in their present-day existences while the TARDIS allows them to visit strange planets and parallel universes. Alongside its spin-offs Torchwood and The Sarah Jane Adventures, it was also one of the first to have three shows in the same universe, linking continuity but aimed at different audiences. This is an impressive feat for the genre. Doctor Who fans are still learning all about their favorite show via sites such as The Who Shop.

  1. Black Mirror

The history of science fiction has long dealt with people’s fears of technology, but arguably until Black Mirror, it was unable to bring it to our screens in such a potent and dark way. By presenting a series of dystopian scenarios, it focuses on largely believable advances in technology and how society embraces them gormlessly. In the Black Mirror universe, this leads to nightmarish situations that often leave us disturbed, hanging on the edge of our seats.

 

 

The post 5 TV shows that reinvented the science fiction genre appeared first on Blast.

]]>
https://blastmagazine.com/2018/03/27/5-tv-shows-that-reinvented-the-science-fiction-genre/feed/ 1