Archive for the ‘Reviews’ Category

Is it really 3D?

May 24, 2011 Leave a comment
By RJ Refeurzo
Let’s get a couple of things out of the way: for one, Nintendo’s newest handheld, the 3DS, is NOT simply an update of their DS line, a la the DS Lite and DSi. The 3DS is a technological powerhouse compared to the previous generation and has an abundance of features that place it head and shoulders above its brethren. Secondly, despite its namesake, the 3DS’s claim to fame isn’t its 3D functionality, but rather the myriad updates and enhancements Nintendo has managed to cram into this device.
With that in mind, has the handheld made a sufficient enough leap to justify its hefty $250 price tag? Not today, or even in the first several months, but I believe it will. With the Wii, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 each selling an iteration of its hardware for less than the 3DS, Nintendo’s little monster has its work cut out for it, especially with the lack of software to compliment the impressive hardware. Albeit, Nintendo promises great first- and third-party support in the upcoming months, but dropping top dollar for “potential” is tough to justify. Luckily, innovation is the name of the game, and we’ve seen this story before with the Wii: Five years and 84 million units later, Nintendo’s risk is still in the lead with sales.

Perhaps the most intuitive addition is the 3D depth slider located on the far right of the top half; because the device is glasses-free, it relies on the user’s ability to see two images at the same time. Not everyone sees images at the same depth level, and that’s where the depth slider comes into play. Each individual can move the slider and find a depth that they are comfortable with. 
The big question  about the 3D: Does it work? The simple answer is yes; it’s a very cool experience, and something that can open the floodgates for innovation. It’s easier to gauge distances in racing games, and the depth adds a new dynamic to the device’s already stellar graphics. However, because the 3D requires the user to view the screen in an unconventional way (it forces your eyes to combine see two slightly different images into one), eye strain becomes inevitable over time. This varies from person to person, and can range from five minutes to hours. Personally, I can use it for about 25 to 30 minutes before I need a break. The bottom line is that the 3D is, at least for the time being, a novelty; the 3DS’s superior graphics and new additions more than make the experience worthwhile.
My biggest complaints reside with battery life and the current software lineup. Using the 3DS for DS and DSi titles handles like you would expect: The lifespan is from eight to fourteen hours, depending on your brightness, and this is on par with the previous generations. 
As for the launch titles, they range from 3D platformers to racing games to the fighting genre, but the ones that are worth picking up are few and far between. The only game I decided to pick up was Super Street Fighter IV, a port of the console fighting game on 360 and PS3 of the same name. Perhaps it’s the smaller screen, but this game looks incredible on the device. As an avid SSFIV player, the game looks and plays like its console counterpart. 
Whether it’s the stereoscopic 3D, improved specs, hardware advancements, full backwards compatibility, or impressive software, Nintendo’s 3DS is a definitive step forward for its handheld line. It may be hard to justify right away, but if you want to experience the next generation of portable gaming, the 3DS and Super Street Fighter IV will blow you away. One only needs to see it to believe it.
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True Grit: Old and New

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Paula Eberle

On Christmas 2010 a new version of the 1969 film True Grit came out in theaters.  To many fans of originals, newer versions are frequently looked on as never being “as good as the original.”  Having seen both, I beg to differ.  While the original was a classic western film, it couldn’t keep my attention as well as the newer version.

Both movies follow a headstrong young girl named Mattie Ross, and her adventures as she hunts down Tom Chaney. Accompanying her are Rooster Cogburn, a US Marshal with “true grit” who works for the county and La Boeuf, a Texas Ranger, as they follow Chaney and his gang.

While both films were adapted from the same novel, they provided different outlooks on western life.  In the 1969 version everyone is portrayed as nice and the setting is light and colorful. The tone in the newer film is much darker and foreboding, which adds an eerie feeling that something is about to happen.While Jeff Bridges and John Wayne were close in talent, Bridges performed just that much better.

While both films had their strengths and weaknesses, the 2010 version was a better portrayal of what the story is all about.  The 1969 version of True Grit earns 3 out of 5 and the 2010 version earns 5 out of 5.

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Shovelware or garbage goes there?

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Ryan Love

2010 was a huge year in gaming. From the epic and adventurous tale of ex-outlaw John Marston in Red Dead Redemption, to the fast paced and high octane action in the blockbuster Call of Duty: Black Ops, there was something new for every type of gamer. But unfortunately, as for everything good in this world, there is always something bad. Some games last year were so bad, you just have to ask yourself: what were they thinking?!
Prior to its release, EA’s attempted revival of its first-person-shooter franchise Medal of Honor was surrounded in controversy due to its use of the Taliban in its multiplayer component. Commercials and advertisements claimed that industry giant Call of Duty had “met its match” and that it was the most realistic FPS ever made. They even used a few of Linkin Park’s songs in a trailer, just to try to hype it up. It sold 1.5 million units in five days, about 25 percent of what Call of Duty: Black Ops sold in its first 12 hours of release. Not only did it have terrible sales, it featured an extremely short, lackluster, and clichéd campaign, and a god-awful Call of Duty rip-off multiplayer component. If anyone reading this is thinking about giving this game a try, DON’T. Just stick with Black Ops and Halo: Reach, or heck, even Bad Company 2, just for good measure….please.
Imagine the sick and twisted fantasies of every teenage boy rolled up into one creepy and perverted package, and then turned into a video game; Dead or Alive: Paradise for the PSP is precisely what you would get. The entire objective of the game is to convince scantily-clad women to allow you to take pictures of them doing ridiculous tasks like beach volleyball, pool hopping, and playing poker. To win their affection, you do things like give them new swimsuits to wear during photo shoots. Honestly, I cannot understand what kind of sick, low-life perverts would even make this disgraceful abomination of a video game.
As Kung Fu Rider for the PS3 begins, you assume the role of one of two characters: Toby, a private investigator, or his secretary Karin. The entire point is to escape the slums of Hong Kong by rolling down hills on an office chair, yes that’s right-an office chair. Why, you ask? Because it’s the single most ridiculous choice on the face of the planet. How about a skateboard, or a shopping cart, or even a scooter? The functionality of the Playstation Move only reaffirms my belief that motion gaming is just a cheap, lack lustered rip off of way of the industry just trying to make money. Half the time the movements of the controller don’t even register. There are only six different tracks to race down in the game, all of which are basically the same and unlocked fairly quickly. However, there is one relatively entertaining aspect of the game: when you crash, the Playstation Eye takes a picture of your face and shows it on the screen as you crash in-game. Honestly, the only question for this game is, why? Why does it exist? Why is he trying to escape from Hong Kong in the first place? And why the heck is he using an office chair?!

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Nevermore Review

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Kayla Kohlmeister

I am always excited to tear through a new paranormal romance, especially one that has the potential to be quite exciting. While cruising along the shelves of Barnes and Noble I happened to stumble upon the book Nevermore by Kelly Creagh. The depressing title certainly fits the story, since it focuses on Edgar Allen Poe’s stories.

It centers on cheerleader Isobel and gothic Varren. They are thrown together as English partners and grow closer. Isobel learns more about Varren’s secret writings in his journal. The story interlaces Edgar Allen Poe’s poems into narrative supernatural occurrences. The main story used in the book would be The Raven, but they also use The Masque of the Red Death, and The Tell-Tale Heart. Like anything else in the world, this book is not perfect. Isobel‘s friends are portrayed too stereotypical for my taste. One confusing message that the author presents would be the complicated narrative writings by Poe which were used in the story.

This book requires patience and slow reading. If you love it when opposites attract, then you will certainly enjoy the book Nevermore. If you have trouble with poetry then you may want to think twice about picking it up. Overall, I give this book a 4 out of 5.

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Delicious meals on wheels: Taco trucks

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Erin Lynch

As teenagers, we tend to be both short on cash and time. This limits the venues we choose to eat at and usually the quality of what we eat. But with just a few dollars in my pocket, I was able to get a pretty decent lunch at some of the local taco trucks around South City.

El Tacotote is located on McLellan Drive, parked on the side of the road next to undeveloped land near Trader Joe’s. The location is easily accessible for El Camino High School students. Prices vary from one dollar for a taco, to five dollars for a big burrito. The menu doesn’t have as much variety as a traditional taqueria, but you do get more than what you pay for compared to the cheap, unhealthy fast food served at restaurants like McDonalds.

After ordering, I only waited about five minutes. I first tried their tacos. The tacos are small and filled with your choice of chicken, beef or pork, and your choice of condiments. I really enjoyed them, but preferred the beef over any of the others. The next thing I tried was their burritos. Their bean and cheese burritos are simple, but still tasty.

This is the perfect place for teenagers on a budget to visit for quick meal. El Tacotote deserves three out of five stars.

I then visited a second taco truck, Ruddy’s Taco Truck located down the street from Tanforan on El Camino Real & Bayhill, to compare the prices and quality of both.

Again, I ordered the largest bean and cheese burrito which is simple, but it had a better taste than the one I had ordered at El Tacotote, so I assumed it was just better quality food, but equal in price for just five dollars.

Ruddy’s Taco Truck deserves 5 out of 5 stars, and if your willing to go a little farther than outside of school, it will definitely be worth it. I recommend Ruddy’s Taco Truck over El Tacotote any day.

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Dr. Who: Bigger on the Inside

March 11, 2011 Leave a comment

By Shannon Keach

Although many Americans have never heard of it, Doctor Who is the longest running science fiction television series in history. The series has influenced generations of youth in the United Kingdom has quite the cult following in the United States and with good reason. Not many science fiction series have such the wide array of depth that can be found in a single Doctor Who episode, and that’s what makes them truly great. The series really does have something for all ages with its quirky humor and sometimes insane pacing it is the poster child for escapist television.

Doctor Who, which takes place mostly in England, although it has plotlines all over the universe, is about the Doctor, a 907 year old Time Lord from the planet Gallifrey who is the last of his species taking refuge mostly on Earth. While traveling through all of time and space the Doctor and his human companions become mediators for all kinds of intergalactic conflicts using a time machine called the TARDIS. Over the course of the series, the part of the Doctor has been played by 11 different actors, this means that the Doctor was “regenerated” 11 times each time becoming a new man in order to cheat death. The most recent incarnation of the Doctor is played by Matt Smith, who is quickly becoming a popular rendition of the age old alien as he begins to make the series his own.

What makes this series great is its timelessness. The Doctor is an ever evolving character, changing from actor to actor yet still remaining odd at the same time. Perhaps one of the greatest attributes of the show is that conflicts are solved without resorting to violence. By promoting nonviolence, the show is highly family orientated. However, just because it lacks the inherent gruesome violence of most modern television series doesn’t mean that the show doesn’t have some aspects of horror in it. This talent shows through in the fifth season episode “Time of the Angels” as the Doctor battles an army of the frighteningly murderous statues called the Weeping Angels while keeping up surprisingly witty banter with his companions. The superb writing in the show is successfully brought to life with the performances of Matt Smith and Karen Gillan. Smith does an excellent job of showing these values by giving the Doctor a new whimsical quality that hasn’t been seen in his previous incarnations. All the while Gillan’s performance as the fiery Amy Pond gives the viewers a spunky no nonsense heroine.

When new viewers watch this show, something that they should always keep in mind is that the show that does not really take itself too seriously. Sure, there are many episodes in the series that are grand and well written, but there are also episodes that are really horrible. For some, this will be a definite turn off if the series is not first approached with an open mind. Another fore warning to new viewers, as the series has been around for nearly 50 years there are certain references that new viewers will miss. However, picking up the series in the fifth season with Matt Smith is an excellent place to start because the more confusing aspects of the series are usually explained when there is a new Doctor or when he picks up a new companion.

Doctor Who really is an excellent series that has many years experience by bringing its viewers entertainment and joy. If you are interested in experiencing something different from anything that is on television then this show is for you. The fifth season is available on DVD for a relatively low price online. In short, keep a look out for the new season that premiers this spring. This truly a great show to watch and I highly recommend that everyone give it a chance. Much like the TARDIS, the series is bigger on the inside, containing much more depth and charm than first meets the eye.

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Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare Review

December 10, 2010 Leave a comment

By Ryan Kratsas-Love

Last May, I and many others were awestruck by Rockstar Games’ newest release Red Dead Redemption. Red Dead Redemption chronicles the story of John Marston, a formal outlaw that is paying his dues for his past deeds, for the return on his family from the U.S. government. Upon playing this game, I thought that it was a complete experience. It turns out I was wrong. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare, a new downloadable content pack, adds a spooky and exciting new element to the game that I am glad to say, is one hell of an experience.

John Marston is back in the saddle as seemingly overnight, a plague that “Is turning people into flesh-eating, crazies” in the words of Seth, the lovable grave robbing psychopath that helps you in your journey, is unleashed upon the frontier. You are woken in the night only to discover that your farm hand Uncle has turned into a zombie. While you are running to get your shotgun, Uncle bites your wife Abigail who then bites your son Jack. Both are turned into zombies and you tie them up and set out to find a cure for the mysterious plague. The ending to the story is interesting and very unexpected and thee free roam element after the campaign is completed is something I’ve never seen before.

The 8-10 hour story mode adds a great new; close quarters, gameplay mechanic that seamlessly transitions from the old style of play. It’s as if they took the movie Zombieland, turned it into a video game, and set it 100 years ago. Surprisingly, the dialogue in the campaign is uproariously funny and witty. I found myself laughing at nearly every cutscene. There is an excessive amount of gore due to the fact that the only way to put the undead back into their graves is a clean shot to the head, which often leaves no head left. A new weapon is also incorporated into the story, the Blunderbuss, a supernaturally modified version of an 1850s shotgun. When fired, the Blunderbuss leaves only a red mist where you undead foes used to be. It’s kind of creepy.

Although it is exhilarating and fresh, the campaign isn’t perfect. Most of the time all you are doing is going around saving towns from the undead hordes, which at first is amazingly fun, but after a while it gets repetitive.

There is another element to the DLC pack that caught me by surprise, Undead Overrun. Undead Overrun is an online cooperative mode that pits you and three companions against unlimited waves of undead hordes. It is fun, frustrating, and terrifying all at the same time. I you are the last person alive, you actually feel scared of the zombies as they run after you.
Overall, Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare is a terrifying new addition to a near perfect game that will keep you playing for hours on end. Red Dead Redemption: Undead Nightmare gets 5 out of 5.