Oh. My. Gosh.
Is that a non-video game review I see squeezed into the weekly Technobubble Wrap? Why yes, yes it is.
I admit, I haven’t been as prolific with the gadget reviews for some time. But I’ll try to squeeze more of the stuff in, especially now that the year-end video game rush is over.
Now let’s get this week’s game and gadget party started, shall we?
Disney Infinity 3.0 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Play Set
That’s actually something you ain’t gonna see in the campaign of the “Disney Infinity 3.0 Star Wars: The Force Awakens Play Set.” Thanks to a campaign that does its darned tootin’ best not to spoil as many details as possible from “Star Wars Episode 7: The Force Awakens” movie, fans of the blockbuster will find themselves having, well, a bit of a different experience.
Graphically, the game’s three main areas continue to be an improvement over the drab cityscapes of “Disney Infinity 2.0 Marvel Super Heroes.” Gameplay also remains solid, particularly for action lovers. Each character typically employs a unique fighting style that can be upgraded and customized via skill trees for adding combo extenders, powering up moves and beefing up a characters’ health bars, for example. I also like how the two base characters included in the playset play differently from each other. Rey, for example, is more of a melee character who especially benefits from improving his staff-based moves. Finn, on the other hand, is awesome with firearms — especially once upgrading his shooting skill tree. Folks who buy the extra packs also can get pilot Poe Dameron and the film’s resident emo force user, Kylo Ren.
If you liked the original Disney 3.0 experience, The Force Awakens Play Set gives you more of the same while allowing you to experience the franchise’s new characters. The not-exactly-canon story might disappoint some folks and the campaign itself is pretty short outside of the side missions. If you’re a fan of the series, however and are itching for more content to play or add to your Toy Box for 3.0, then this game gives you more of what you love.
- Rating: 3.5
- Cost: $35 for playset with Rey and Finn, $14 each for Kylo Ren and Poe Dameron
Minecraft Story Episode 4: A Block and Hard Place
After the Debbie Downer that was “Game of Thrones Episode 6: The Ice Dragon,” I needed some serious positivity to bring a much needed ray of sunshine into my life. After all, a man can only take so much soul-crushing sadness before he throws up his hands and says, “You know what? Those Morrissey songs weren’t as depressing as I thought.”
This makes “Minecraft Story Mode Episode 4: A Block and A Hard Place,” a much welcome change of pace. Oh, look at those cute blocky people doing cute blocky things. I think everything’s going to be just alright.
Not that Episode 4 doesn’t have its share of serious moments, mind you. In fact, it’s probably the most serious episode of the bunch and includes what’s arguably the most powerful moment of entire series. Even with all the serious stuff going on, though, the series still manages to sneak in some chuckles. It’s obvious that this is a game aiming to satisfy more than one audience, comprising of of Minecraft’s stalwart base of young kids on one side as well as older gamers who love their point-and-click adventuring.
It’s a double-edged sword to be sure as its propensity to please two masters makes it appeal to a wider audience but also blunts its storytelling impact in a way that, say, “Tales From the Borderlands” didn’t have to worry about. The end result is that it’s a great series for young Minecraft fans, who will like its familiar blocky look, item crafting nods and witty storytelling. The same can’t be said for older audiences, however, who might find it lacking the extra punch they expect in their story-driven games.
- Rating: 3.5
- Cost: $25 for five episodes; PC, PS3, PS4, X360, XB1, iOS, Android (Review based on Xbox One version)
Thonet and Vander Ratsel BT
We kick off the return of gadget reviews with the Ratsel BT speaker from Thonet and Vander. I remember positively gushing about the last Thonet and Vander speakers I reviewed in this space, the Kurbis BT. I actually really liked those. A lot.
As such, I had high expectations for the Ratsel BT, which diverges from the double speaker setup of the Kurbis and includes two mini towers and one serious looking subwoofer instead. So far so good. It even includes a control tower that lets you adjust volume, bass and treble settings separately, which is always a plus for control freaks like me.
Admittedly the speakers didn’t sound that great the first time I listened to them. After using them for about a week during the holiday season, however, the sound improved a lot. I know some folks say that speaker break-in is a myth and, honestly, I wonder myself sometimes but for whatever reason, it worked for this set of speakers. Obviously, it still won’t sound as good as some serious component speakers but for its size and class, the Ratsel BT stacks up well against its competitors. Having both wired and wireless options also are a plus.
One downside is that it appears to be prone to interference. I noticed a faint buzz, for example, when I placed it by my home workstation, where all my other gadgets and ginormous TV are. Placing it at a different corner, however, alleviated the problem. Another is the lack of input controls on the control tower. Instead, you have to use the remote to switch from wireless to wired, which is mightily inconvenient for some such as myself. It also means you’re screwed if you ever lose the remote.
If you don’t have any issues with those two main niggles, the Ratsel might still work for you. Otherwise, I recommend opting for the Kurbis instead.