Review

Review: Pokemon Go!

Pokémon GO
Android and iOS
Nintendo

A fun, educational, social, motivational and adventurous game app that may finally alleviate the ‘stay in and play’ restrictions of decades of gaming, or simply be a flash in the pan novelty? Steve Penfold (35) hits the streets of London to hunt some Pocket Monsters.

Stranger Things has just started on Netflix, a sci-fi thriller series set in the eighties. I’m an adult (I’ve been told) so I can watch anything I like so ratings have long since stopped meaning much to me. The reason I was surprised to discover that the series is rated G for Guidance, aside from the genuinely scary tension and a kid being hounded by a mysterious monster in the street the opening episode features kids riding around on their bikes, on their own, looking for clues. What are you crazy?!

Pokémon GO represents a step back in human behaviour that many 21st Century parents may find alarming. Described as a Real World Game, it encourages the user to go out into the real world, explore and discover things around them. Every aspect of the game is designed to get you on your feet and moving. Using the existing GPS, wifi and video apps on any mobile device, a virtual map of the local area is created populated by Pocket Monsters (or Pokémon), as well as Poké-gyms, power ups and equipment. A circle of influence, much like radar surrounds your on-screen character and while many details are marked on the map it is not until you physically move into the object, character or gyms ‘real world’ field of influence that you can interact with it, and most importantly, capture it. True to the original ‘gotta catch them all’ tag-line, your primary mission is to capture, train, power-up and unleash your Pokémon.

L-R: (Top) Beware the Gyarados; looking for new prey; surface may be slippery at Liverpool Street station, a freshly smoking Pokeball, post catch and the parent-pleaseing POI feature.

L-R: (Top) Beware the Gyarados; looking for new prey; surface may be slippery at Liverpool Street station, a freshly smoking Pokeball, post catch and the parent-pleaseing POI feature.

The Real World Test
Having downloaded the app and switching it on you are immediately presented with the friendly warning to ‘Remember to be alert at all times. Stay aware of your surroundings.’ To add emphasis a silhouette of a cap wearing gamer wandering along a bridge while a gigantic, blue, grimacing, toothy sea serpent Gyarados (one of the more terrifying and powerful incarnations of Pokémon) rears up above him. In a world where real world threats are all too regularly communicated inaccurately to young people this sets the right tone. Basically, get out there and hunt but don’t walk into heavy traffic. No doubt a corporate requirement like most warnings to make sure that the first time that a Pokemon enthusiast gets hit by a car / ends up in a 100m deep mine shaft or locates a dead body (all online reports seen since this app was launched), it only adds to the excitement of a great big world to discover and survive, filled with adventure and potential dangers. This, I feel, is the truly exciting aspect of the game, depending on your fearfulness of the world outside. The shameless encouragement for players to take responsibility for themselves, get out there, discover and have fun.

Further into the game itself, following an admittedly limited appearance options menu (you’d better like gym gear and spiky hair or you’re going to be disappointed) you are propelled into a map of the world around you, revealing the first Pokémon available to you and a simplified, cartoonish world map with your avatar at it’s centre. It’s hard to know how similar each online map is, and whether the occurrence of Pokemon are the same for all parties but I found a Squirtle in my bed, which I assume no one else is coming looking for. Automatically transferring to my video app the ‘Tiny Turtle’ Pokémon was standing on my duvet in the sunlight from my bedroom window, staring straight at me and gesturing and twitching. This moment, for a small child (or anyone with a willing imagination) is a magical and exciting one as the virtual and real merge pretty seamlessly. The intuitive controls encourage you to flick a Pokéball (the easily carried red and white spherical pseudo-prison cell for your unfortunate prey ) and if it bounces just right, your Pokémon gets sucked right up into it, added to your in-app Pokedex (exactly what it sounds like) ready for future battles.

One of the effects of the astonishing popularity of Pokémon GO is that you look at people wandering around with their mobile phones raised in a completely different way. They are potential competitors for one, as Pokémon GO allows you to pit your captured pets against others. Littered around the virtual world map are Gyms and Arenas, where you can train and fight other Pokémon (though your friendly trainer appears to let you know you can only do so after level 5). But more than that, they are fellow gamers. Previously, the voices at the other end of headsets as you batter your way through a multiplayer Halo level are now right in front of you, hunting in the real world. Just yesterday, on my wanderings (which were extended simply because I was playing the app) I suspected one older gentleman coming from the side of my block of flats of having just snagged a Poliwag, but more convincingly, saw GO on the screen of a young player outside Kings Cross station, whom I kindly directed to a nearby quarry, much to his surprise, heard the music playing as I walked past two young guys in their twenties in Romford high street, heard two others talking about catching the ‘orange one’ in the market and even found a hastily printed sign on A4 paper in a local pub reading ‘Pokéstop here!!! Grab a drink and top up your Pokéballs!’ I know the landlord however and it’s odds on as to whether there’s any Pokémon inside.

Psyduck appears to take a whack from a passing cyclist ay a busy junction outside Kings Cross station

Psyduck appears to take a whack from a passing cyclist ay a busy junction outside Kings Cross station

I picked up a Hypno by the busses and a Rattatta by the newsagents, as well as an extra Squirtle at Liverpool Street Station platform 16, much to the bemusement of two station staff. I discovered a route back to Kings Cross station that I was previously unaware of as a result of trying to hunt the base of a Poké-gym, discovering a quiet alleyway and square. The Gym’s base was apparently at the centre of the square which suggested that the larger points on the map are very deliberately placed.

But the best part for me I found was the ‘features’. As I wandered up the street towrads Romford station, the app forced me to stop, open a point of interest and forced my focus onto a ‘Havering Wall art’. It later directed me to a historical plaque I’d ignored on the way to and from work and most profoundly, drew my attention to a bronze statue I walk passed almost every day. Giving the option of further detail, it revealed that the statue was a tribute to all those who helped 20,000 Jewish and other children escape Nazi persecution. As a dad, I have to say that imbedding something that for all it’s positive features can be dismissed as spurious and time-wasting with the opportunity to understand details of the world surrounding children is a genuinely nice touch.

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GLITCHES
There were times when the GPS meant that I couldn’t grab a Zubat as it was imedded in a wall or the field of influence extended only to the wrong side of the road (opposite to where I was actually standing). Also, as a result of capturing a Drowzee, both myself and a colleague who should know better found ourselves standing in the road, albeit a quiet one-way street. This, added to the fact that I captured a Psyduck standing in the road at one of the most busy junctions in London, seconds after it appeared to be ‘run over’ by a cyclist weathered the point that it has the potential to be dangerous. Having said this, while the Psyduck was apparently taking it’s life in it’s flippers I was standing safely on the kerb, well within range to sling it into a Pokéball.

Arriving home, the wifi dropped below the level I needed to display the details of the game and I was left wandering on an empty map during what I had hoped would be an eventful walk home passed a church yard, bars and shops. This persisted for hours until it magically returned. This may have been the servers but the absence of an off-line set of features means it lacks the all-round distraction capabilities of games such as Plants vs Zombies.

Summing up, this is a revolutionary game, clearly heavily and meticulously tested. Simple enough to be easily grasped and used by anyone, complicated and broad enough to offer potentially thousands of gaming hours. The fact that distance covered in the real defines your progress in the game makes the nature of this game adventurous, positive and definitively cheerful – not to mention the answer to many criticisms of games in relation to childhood obesity and fear of the outside world. Again, subject to your own feelings of the dangers of the outside world – to me it appears to be a cheerful clarion call to go out and have fun!!

 

TV Review tester 2

Bacon ipsum dolor amet alcatra landjaeger picanha ball tip tenderloin shankle pancetta meatball pork loin. Corned beef filet mignon hamburger strip steak fatback prosciutto alcatra salami tongue landjaeger ham. Short ribs prosciutto alcatra andouille frankfurter landjaeger kevin beef shoulder drumstick ball tip pancetta turkey. Venison bresaola bacon shoulder pork t-bone. Pig rump bacon cupim shoulder leberkas beef ribs kevin pork. Hamburger shankle prosciutto strip steak rump kevin, tri-tip venison chicken andouille pork belly doner. Ground round venison leberkas tenderloin kevin sausage.

Meatloaf drumstick chuck brisket swine, kielbasa tail jowl short loin frankfurter. Turducken pork chop drumstick shankle hamburger, corned beef rump sirloin pastrami prosciutto filet mignon leberkas. Capicola kevin prosciutto, drumstick hamburger ribeye swine short ribs flank picanha boudin cow fatback sirloin. Beef ribs shoulder picanha pastrami, ball tip turkey andouille chicken hamburger ham hock brisket venison drumstick tongue. Hamburger pig filet mignon jowl meatball capicola kevin shank rump spare ribs tail.

Shoulder chuck pork chop sausage pastrami brisket, drumstick corned beef capicola tongue pancetta filet mignon frankfurter. Pork belly brisket pork sausage bacon. Picanha turkey pastrami, spare ribs pork filet mignon tenderloin. Kielbasa pork hamburger sausage jerky, biltong pancetta boudin. Short ribs chicken spare ribs ground round. Pork chop pastrami leberkas turducken, pork loin ham turkey frankfurter shank drumstick andouille short ribs.

Bresaola ham corned beef pork chop shank tri-tip frankfurter shankle chuck strip steak pig tenderloin. Porchetta tail ball tip, pork brisket pig andouille sausage drumstick t-bone bresaola strip steak. Cupim ribeye meatball, spare ribs boudin tenderloin shank porchetta hamburger pork rump short ribs cow salami jerky. Beef pork loin tri-tip biltong rump frankfurter. Turkey pancetta doner, drumstick meatloaf cow kevin short loin shankle pork chop tenderloin shank tongue bresaola.

TV Review tester

Bacon ipsum dolor amet alcatra landjaeger picanha ball tip tenderloin shankle pancetta meatball pork loin. Corned beef filet mignon hamburger strip steak fatback prosciutto alcatra salami tongue landjaeger ham. Short ribs prosciutto alcatra andouille frankfurter landjaeger kevin beef shoulder drumstick ball tip pancetta turkey. Venison bresaola bacon shoulder pork t-bone. Pig rump bacon cupim shoulder leberkas beef ribs kevin pork. Hamburger shankle prosciutto strip steak rump kevin, tri-tip venison chicken andouille pork belly doner. Ground round venison leberkas tenderloin kevin sausage.

Meatloaf drumstick chuck brisket swine, kielbasa tail jowl short loin frankfurter. Turducken pork chop drumstick shankle hamburger, corned beef rump sirloin pastrami prosciutto filet mignon leberkas. Capicola kevin prosciutto, drumstick hamburger ribeye swine short ribs flank picanha boudin cow fatback sirloin. Beef ribs shoulder picanha pastrami, ball tip turkey andouille chicken hamburger ham hock brisket venison drumstick tongue. Hamburger pig filet mignon jowl meatball capicola kevin shank rump spare ribs tail.

The Tale of Captain Jack Sparrow – New Lonely Island Album Has Dropped

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GI6CfKcMhjY&w=560&h=349]

I know this isn’t strictly geek related but it is both comedy and pirate related so I think it counts. The new album from Grammy-nominated fake rap group The Lonely Island comes out today. It’s called Turtleneck & Chain and it’s well worth a download. For the uninitiated, Lonely Island are a three piece rap group who began life on Saturday Night Live and have since gone on to work with everyone from Justin Timberlake to Natalie Portman. They’ve also been known to be on a boat.

Lonely Island’s shtick is basically to do funny rap songs with massive production values and big name guest artists and in that regard Turtleneck delivers. I can’t decide yet whether it’s better than Incredibad or not but I’m leaning towards ‘probably not’. The Rhianna track is basically just a rehash of the joke from the Jack Black song on the last album and there are a couple of tracks that are longer than they need to be but on the whole the good far outweighs to bad. Plus, who doesn’t want to own a song in which Michael Bolton professes his love for Captain Jack Sparrow?

Ok, that’s the closest you’re gonna get to a review out of me! Just listen to the damn thing! 😉

D
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Paintballing: Delta Force

Went Paintballing yesterday. My girlfriend (fiancee) bought me a Paintball for two Sporting Gift. Literally the only ‘sporting gift’ I could’ve been bought. Once I’d opened it and because of the young couple beaming out from below their visors – lifted up in a clear breach of their own health and safety guidelines – leaning on a log, paintball guns in hand – I assumed, wrongly that this was intended for us to both go together. I thought that her later attempts to suggest I should go with my mate were sheer thoughtfulness however it was because she never really wanted to go. This continued on until the day before when she told me she’d never really wanted to go and my guilt about not being sure she would enjoy it was entirely redundant the whole time.

We used a Paintball for Two Sporting Gift from the Activity Superstore. Tori bought it from Debenhams and it provides you with a code at the website. Once entered you can choose from a number of real world sites belonging to Delta Force Paintballing (http://www.paintballgames.co.uk/) the biggest paintballing company in Britain, originally founded in South Africa (FYI). Bringng up the map online of possible sites its an impressive sight – offering three types of location -Red. Minimum age 10 (easy pickings), Yellow. Minimum age 12 (XBox trained), and National Paintball Centre (the only one in Ireland (minimum age 16 – surly). According to the site ‘90% of UK’s population liv(e) within 1 hour of a Delta Force Paintball Centre.’ They’re the Ribena of Paintball centres.

I tested this out and found one within 20 minutes of my house, and another only 40 minutes away. We opted for the closer one as it is a 9.15am start which is insane if you ain’t sporty. Having booked, I got a phonecall from a smiley, and slightly sexy female voice checking to make sure everything was okay with the booking and a text reminding me of the booking and offering me a number if I wanted more people to join up. My cynical mind kicked in. ‘They’re not busy at this time of year,’ I figured ‘, so they up the marketing schmoosiness in order to get more people. Charlatans.’

THE DAY

It was easy enough to find and collect your kit, visor, overalls and paintball cannister and 100 paintballs. It was cold as I’d heard it can be at that time in the morning and I was getting nervous I’d be found face down in a frozen ditch, my first paintball locked frozen in the barrel. The place was rammed. 400 people piled in and started gearing up. At that time in the morning there’s a tension in the air, not least coming from Tori as she put on the body armour (offered to Women and Children but not men who want to go all SWAT). I became wary of people with pony tails – always aware that people with ponytails are often good at things like paintballing and hunting down and killing small animals. Tori and I disappointed when it turned out that 30 children aged 11-12 were not bearing green arm bands (masking tape) and so were not our opponents.

We, bearing the mark of the original paintballers, wore plain masking tape and were the browns. After the safety talk in which Tori discovered that paintballs travel at 186 miles an hour and ‘will blind you.’ they even revealed their own Stig, the Aveley Terminator. His job; to march out onto the battlefield and challenge someone of his choice by pointing both weapons at them.

The first battle was in a copse with two bases and was straight annihalation. Noone got annihalated. Eventually, after some sheepish ducking, the adrenaline started to kick back in for everyone and my legs remembered how to crouch and the game was on. I got increasingly aggressive verbally, barking that ‘I f@cking hit you, now f@ck off,’ to at least two cowering individuals probably just checking to see if the paintball had broken on them. I took two in the stomach from an unseen assaillant.

Second was the Vietcong Village, a territorial dust up involving five huts, one central. This was aggressive stuff, requiring a charge into heavy fire to begin with. It could’ve done with a chopper drop to get things going and sniper rounds from the long grass but otherwise it didn’t ring like a battle in a B&Q Garden ornmaent section that it could do, it actually took on the shape of a proper conflict with people darting from one position to another, dodging overhaed fire and manoeuvring from hut to hut and trying to take out the opposition while watching their own flanks. Whoever had the most huts at the end was the victor (just like Vietnam). We took the central hut immediately (thanks to orders from me) and one further on their side and overwhelmed them in the second taking all five huts!! I was fortunate enough to take the fifth hut and the feeling of success is pretty cool, though lacking the relief a proper soldier does that he didn’t get shot in the face. In spite of my orders, noone was hung up by their nipples and summary executions were not enforced.

Deltaforce uses Flashbang fireworks (bangers), smoke grenades and paint grenades and I never got my hands on one but they were effective. Flashbang’s did stop the field in their tracks but tended to scare the guy who threw it so didn’t really affect the state of play. A smoke grenade was thrown later but kind of acted as a clear sign they were coming through that way, which seemed to put the opposition off, having announced it just before with pink smoke. I never saw a paint grenade fired but its unlikely they’re as effective in real life as they are in my head and that entire rooms are sprayed in multicolour shades, anyone inside falling out of door rubbing their eyes covered entirely in Dulux thick colour but they all add up to the scene and make it as close to battle as possible without having to pull the dead over your head to protect you from indiscriminate shelling and death gangs.

The third was an airfield assault, one side having to place a bomb inside an airplane shell that was defended by the other side. The scale of this one was impressive, with a plane shell, armoured vehicles and a command tower. Placed ahead of the incoming attack one detail of Delta Force became clearly more entertaining. At other paintball places a hit to the gun or your head is a kill shot; Delta Force allow head shots and gun hits which means you’e in the game at all times. This makes you braver and allows for pitched gun battles from vantage points.

Here, the most exciting moment took place. I’d managed to convince the team (in a moment that caused Tori to wander off out of embarrassment) that we had to push forwards in two big groups, firing wildly and cover as much ground as possible. We identified the quickest (slimmest) among us and identified the set of barrels I’d been hiding behind, just short of the plane itself as the best opportunity to get close enough to the plane to get the runner in and drop the bomb through the tail window. But it was a close one, the opposition could get their quicker unless we kept them at bay. e did. Charging forwards and firing at any head that moved, the greens instinctively ducked away allowing three of us to gain access to the rear of the barrels. While those behind us laid down suppressing fire and attempted to take out the Greens as best as possible I discovered I’d exhausted all of my paintballs in the initial assault. Speedy (as he will now be known) was beside me, staying down, with the barrel bomb in his hands. The only option was clear. I would run interference as he made a break in the opposite direction for the tail window. I called out to others to stand and fire all at once on my word which presented itself, unsurprisingly to anyone who works with me / lives with me as a guttural roar. The back positions rose and opened fire simultaneously as myself and Speedy made a break for it. While I confused a few and took several hits, firing blanks at the uncertain greens, Speedy darted expertly across the field, along the wing of the plane and threw the barrel into the window. As he was hit by (he claimed) 15 paintballs as he attempted this his aim was slightly off and the barrel clattered off the window frame and onto the floor below the wing. My game was over, as was Speedies but the Brown’s were not done yet. A second push was made shortly afterwards – with someone managing to grab the bomb barrel and hurl it into the plane window – winning the game.

It was this point I was asked for my name by the marshall. I was up for Best Player which was worth +1 to the team the winner was on. I was pretty chuffed as you can probably tell (see below). I was never to pick up a prize though as my day had come to an end.

After a quick kit check, both myself and Tori were out of balls at this point, with half a cannister between us but we ploughed into the next game. One fraught with Political espionage and national security!

The President (a selected member of the team) was in town and had to make his way across a battlefield and into a bus on the far side, avoiding heavy fire from the opposition. His soldiers had to protect the President at all costs and could regenerate by touching the derelict bus on their own side (just like A Few Good Men). The President of the Green Nation decided on a mad dash, carrying, obscurely, a barrel, which only really served to slow him down allowing a kill shot. In the reverse game we opted for a hgolding position, the smallest member of the team pinioned between two crack shots behind the most central barrels. Covered from both sides by more troops who would hold position and one other marksman behind central cover to pick off any attempts from either side to get around the defenses. It was impressive and fairly futile as both sides sat there and waited for the other to make their move. My cannister empty I unloaded imaginary paintball pellets for several minutes before making a dash in the dying moments to add a bit of spontaniety to the proceedings. I took one in the leg about 4 feet from the bus.

At the risk of sounding like an advert for a Museum of historical games involving circles, It was a great day all round. Both myself and Tori found something to like about it (myself from behaving like a 4 star general and Tori by being able to go at her own pace because of the scale, layout and the well organised games). We got a Pizza lunch, 4 out of 6 games and a fair bit of excitement. I’d recommend it to anyone as its more inclusive than some of the other indy sites in the UK and it allows people to play at varying pace and get something out of their day. Also; rules in place such as minimum three metre shooting distance means that Dan would be thrown off site for shooting me in the arse like he did last time we went. Which is great.

Minimum Carnage

I’ve been trying to get back into reading monthly comics again, following a couple of years of being (like Steve) a strictly trades man. I’m pretty out of the loop on current storylines so it’s been rather nice to wander into a comic shop and just see what grabs me. Of course, getting back into Marvel or DC in these days of decompressed storylines and mega-crossovers can be a little daunting – I’ve already spent far too much pocket money on back issues of the various Avengers books and attempted to work out what the hell’s going on, with varying degrees of success (Iron Man feels like putting on a comfy old hoodie that I’d forgotten I owned while Shadowland may as well be written in Japanese). So I was rather surprised to see that on the very month that I was setting to work on building my collection again, a new mini series was starting up centring on a true guilty pleasure of mine.

Ok, let’s get this clear right from the off: I know Carnage is rubbish. He’s a shameless knock off, he has all the depth of an earwig’s paddling pool and his entire gimmick (that he, you know, creates carnage) is hopelessly neutered by the fact that he inhabits a teen rated book. But the fact is that I am a child of the 90s (or more specifically an early teen of the 90s) and as such am as hopelessly wed to Venom and Carnage as they are to…well I won’t make a dumb symbiont gag. As much as the cynical adult in me wants to run a mile from “The return of Carnage”, the kid in me won’t let it happen. If the book has symbionts in, it’s going on my pull list.

Which leads me to my second surprise, Carnage #1 is actually rather good. Clayton Crain’s art is really well suited to the tone and it turns out that goofy 90s villains actually look pretty scary when you’re not drawing them in goofy 90s colours. I’ve not encountered Zeb Wells before, but he seems to be from the school of super hero writing that I like, fun but high stakes. Maybe it’s the art style but it actually reminds me a little of Iron Man or Captain America, which can never be a bad thing. There is one minor issue with this Carnage story…Carnage is actually in it. Not yet anyway. This either means that the book is building its bases carefully ready to open up with a big payoff once the big gun arrives (like a good game of Starcraft) or this issue was a one off and as soon as everybody’s second favourite alien shows up it’ll descend into a mess of tentacles and brawling (like a good game of Starcraft). Time will tell, but for now I feel like I’m in safe hands and while it probably won’t be a classic, it’s nice to know that I’ve got something fun to follow while I work out what the hell is going on in X-Force these days.

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