Does Club Penguin Island Live Up To The Hype?

Anyone over 30 probably isn’t aware of what Club Penguin was, but younger people have fond memories of the web based MMO game. Designed exclusively for children, it was designed as a safe place children could play online. It’s been an online staple until just a couple of days ago, when the web servers were shut down for good. In its place, owners Disney have introduced the mobile app Club Penguin Island.

Switching to an app makes sense in a lot of ways. Back in 2004, when Club Penguin was introduced, you’d expect children experiencing the internet to do it on a PC or laptop. Nowadays though, we’re much more likely to see children using phones or tablets in order to do so.

When the announcement that Club Penguin was shutting down was made, though, there was an outcry from a lot of long time fans. They felt as though the game may lose a lot of its charm and fun if it made the switch to mobile. On 29th March, users flocked to the site in order to be there when the servers were shut down. It seems that even after all this time, the game was still loved.

It’s easy to see why. As a children’s MMO, it was somewhere children could play online safely. Parents and guardians could let their kids loose on it, knowing that they wouldn’t run into material or language that could be harmful to them. This was achieved by a mixture of restrictive language filters and moderators. This, of course, lead to some players trying to cheat the system, often with hilarious results.

Now that the app is here, is there any difference between it and it’s predecessor? On the surface, it doesn’t appear so. There are still strict language filters in place, with one Kotaku writer finding that they implement a ‘three strikes and you’re out’ policy, eventually getting banned. You can still pay a membership fee to get full access to the game, although it is possible to play for free without the full access membership provides. There are still games to play, and quests to complete.

However, it seems that the app isn’t giving the full experience that the web based game provided. Users have reported that several of the games are missing, and that the experience is much more stripped down. Worse, it seems as though on launch the servers were unstable. Users reported that they were being kicked off every few minutes as they tried to play.

While this is bad, it probably won’t be the end for Club Penguin Island. As with many app games, more features will likely be implemented over time. As for the servers, they will eventually become stable over time. It draws a lot of comparisons to Pokémon Go, where launch day issues and apparent lack of game play were addressed in the following months.

It’s very early days, so it’s not possible to gauge whether Club Penguin Island has become a success yet. Only time will tell.

Shout Around: A Social Media App Just For Con Attendees?

It’s well known that app technology is bringing people together in more ways than ever before. What with dating apps such as Tinder, gaming apps that require you to work with your friends, and even games such as Pokémon Go which take you to spots where you’ll find like minded people, there’s lots of ways to stay in touch.

The newest app looking to get funding on Kickstarter is Shout Around. The difference with this app is that it’s designed specifically for convention goers. Using geolocation, not unlike apps such as Tinder, you can find other people with the same interests as you and get to know them. It will allow you to connect with friends by adding them with QR codes, so you don’t have to give out any personal information. You can create ‘shouts’, so you can tell people where you’ll be and invite them to hang out with you. You can even collect badges for checking into different locations.

The app will be a free to use app, with adverts slotted into feeds much like how Instagram handles them.

When you examine Shout Around, it feels like an odd combination of Tinder and Facebook. The idea of a ‘shout’ feature is something that many con goers will love. There’s often times where you would want to invite people to come join in on a card game, or just come and have a drink in the bar after a long day at the con itself. This app promises to make this aspect on con going much easier than trying to arrange meetups on existing social media.

The rest of the features are something that may not be needed, though. Yes, adding friends sounds like it’s a good way to keep in touch, but would users eventually add them to Facebook anyway? Unless Shout Around introduces a robust social media feed to go with the rest of their services, it may not be worth having. Of course, Shout Around will offer the option to private message your friends, but again that can be done through Facebook or Whatsapp.

At time of writing, Shout Around hasn’t met it’s fundraising goal yet, so we won’t know if they’re even going to be creating this app. We won’t really see how useful it is for con attendees unless it’s made and out in the marketplace, so right now all we can do is wait and see.

The Nintendo Switch Release Roundup

The Nintendo Switch has been out for a few days now, and we’re beginning to see all the exciting, annoying, and downright odd news that’s coming from the fans that bought a console on release day. Here’s the roundup of everything you need to know so far.

Don’t lick your cartridges

Have you been seeing people on Youtube or Twitter licking their brand new Switch game cartridges? Don’t worry, it’s not a new fad that you need to understand. the phenomenon has come about as Nintendo announced that the cartridges are coated with denatonium benzoate, which is a bittering agent. Why? To discourage young children from swallowing them. It presumably works, but adults haven’t been able to help but try it for themselves. The result, it seems, is that they really do taste awful.

Issues with dead pixels

Many users have been reporting that their screens are showing dead pixels right out of the box. Nintendo have claimed they have no responsibility for this, saying ‘these are characteristic of LCD screens.’ They won’t replace any Switch consoles that have this issue. Gamers are recommending you take your console back to the store you bought it from, if it’s having these issues.

Secret messages in your pro controller

People who have bought the £59.99 pro controller have discovered an Easter egg hidden within it. If you push the right analogue stick down, you can see the message ‘Thnx2 allgamefans!’ hidden under the semi transparent plastic.

Joy Cons and hand size

When the Switch was announced, there was a lot of speculation that the Joy Cons would be too small, and they may have been founded. A Kotaku reporter has said that they love them as their hands are rather small, and larger controllers have given them trouble. Compared to other, larger handed people in the office though, they’re in the minority. It seems that they can be a pain to use once they’re detached from the console.

Save files can’t be transferred

While you can insert a microSD card into your Switch, you can’t transfer save files, Nintendo has confirmed. That means if your Switch breaks in the future, you can’t transfer those saves via microSD to another console. However, there’s not been word on how that will work with cloud saves yet.

HD rumble has been praised by blind gamer

Reports are coming in that 1-2 Switch, one of the release titles for the Switch, has been a surprise hit with blind gamers. It’s all down to the HD rumble, which allows them to get involved with the game as they don’t need to be looking at a screen. Gamers with disabilities will be glad to hear of this, as it means there’s more games out there that they can enjoy.

The Nokia 3310 Has Made A Surprise Comeback

Everyone has fond memories of their first phone. For me, it was the Nokia 5510. It had changeable covers, Snake, and the ability to compose your own ringtones, thanks to the compositions you could find on dedicated websites back around the year 2000. The newer and sturdier cousin to the 5510, the Nokia 3310, has seen a surprise comeback this week and it’s come as a surprise to say the least.

The 3310 is beloved by all people of a certain age, and for good reason. It had fantastic battery life, the sturdiest hardware known to man, and of course, Snake. You can see, then, why HMD Global have decided to bring the 3310 back to the masses.

Of course, 17 years after its debut, there are some changes that had to be made. The screen is new larger and in colour, something the original wasn’t capable of. You can buy the new model in four different colours, and for the first time the 3310 will have internet connectivity.

The new iteration of the 3310 is being sold as a ‘feature phone’, as it won’t work like the smartphones that we’re all now used to. There’s no app store, and the internet will only connect via 2.5G, which means it’s much slower than regular phones. At a push, your may be able to run Twitter and Facebook, but that’s it. There’s a camera that’s been added, but it’ll only take 2 megapixel photos, so it won’t be the phone for you if you’re addicted to Instagram. It will, though, have Snake.

HMD Global have been talking about the new 3310 as a ‘digital detox’ or holiday phone. They reason that most people want their phones to stop beeping with emails and social media updates sometimes. Every now and then, they just need a break. That’s why a second phone, they reason, could be the answer. If you can’t access your apps, they can’t bother you.

There is some sense in this. Everyone, at some point, has got sick of their phone pinging every five minutes. It’s hard to relax when you know you can just reach over and have a quick check of your emails. A phone that can’t do any of that does sound appealing.

However, the fact is that your smartphone can do that too. All you have to do is turn off the wifi and 4G, and no more notifications can come through.

There are times where the new 3310 can be very useful, though. It would make a great mobile phone for an elderly relative, as it has real buttons on it and no extra features that they won’t need or use. It’s also perfect for giving to a child in case of emergencies, or keeping in your car as a spare should you break down.

The 3310 is slated to be released for £41, so it should actually be an excellent budget phone. If you need the internet on your phone and aren’t taken in by nostalgia though, you may be better off looking elsewhere for a new phone.

Why Are Users Uninstalling Your App?

Every smartphone user has, at one point or another, uninstalled apps from their phone. There’s plenty of reasons why, and developers are always looking for ways to keep users engaged with their own applications. When the uninstall rate for apps is around 60-80% within the 90 days though, that’s a tough battle to fight. Even Pokemon Go, arguably one of the most popular recent apps, has seen a sharp decline in users. So, why do users uninstall apps?

They’re not interesting

An app may look interesting when the user sees it in the app store, but now they’ve downloaded it they realise they just don’t find it interesting enough to use. Look at your app’s download and uninstall numbers. If you’re losing a good percentage of users, it may be that the app isn’t holding their attention. It may be time to dig deeper and find out why.

They take too long to set up

Most apps require some sort of set up process. However, if it takes too long then users may become frustrated or bored, and just uninstall the app instead. If your app requires the user to fill out forms or create user accounts before being able to use it, you may need to streamline the process or even remove it entirely.

They take up too much space

This is a simple issue but one that’s all too common. Phones only come with a finite amount of space. Preloaded apps and updates eat away at it, so it’s often the case that users are facing the fact there’s no more room on their phone. When this happens, apps have got to be deleted, and yours may have to be sacrificed. A good way of avoiding this happening is to allow your app to be moved to the SD card, freeing up storage space.

It’s too repetitive

This often happens with app games. As good as your game may be, users may find that it’s just too repetitive to hold their interest. If they’re being asked to do the same actions every time they log in, then they’re not going to continue to do so. If your game can be changed up in any way, now may be the time to do so.

The app is asking for money

This problem was most recently encountered by Super Mario Run players, who found that they could play a certain amount for free, but would have to pay out to unlock the rest of the game. It was reasonable to ask for this fee, considering the work that went into it. However, the way the fee was asked for could have been better. Players don’t want to feel as if they’re being ripped off. If you want to charge for your app, you’re better off asking for it upfront in the app store.

So as you can see, there are several reasons why a user may uninstall an app. Your job as developer is to understand why they’re doing so, and take steps to ensure that they don’t do so again.

Is The Death Of Steam Greenlight Paving The Way For Better Games?

Anyone who plays games using the Steam service will have an opinion about Steam Greenlight. The service, meant to allow up and coming developers to get their work onto the service, hasn’t come out with the quality games that we were all hoping for. Steam have apparently had enough of it too, as they’ve just announced that they will be scrapping it and replacing it with a new service called Steam Direct.

This sounds as though it’s going to be a more direct way of developers publishing their games, and hopefully should offer more quality control. In their press release, Steam said that any developers will have to file paperwork with them, in a similar manner to opening a bank account. This could include tax details, company documents, and verification details. They will then need to pay a fee for each game they wish to put on sale, which should be recoupable with their sales figures. The idea is that it reduces the noise in the current flow of new games, and lead to better quality games.

Whether this will work remains to be seen, but it sounds promising. The idea of Steam Greenlight was a great idea, as it gave the power to gamers themselves. A game would be put in their queue, and they would be asked’ are you interested in this game?’ If enough people voted ‘Yes’, then the game would be allowed to go up for sale.

While this should have worked to keep most of the terrible games off Steam, it didn’t seem to work that way. There’s plenty of terrible games available at the moment if you look on Steam, and the press around it proves that the experiment didn’t work. The work of developers Digital Homicide drove critic Jim Sterling to distraction, leading to a full out legal war that ended in Digital Homicide having to cease developing games (to the relief of many). There’s even a whole streaming programme by LoadingReadyRun called ‘Watch & Play’, which is dedicated to playing the worst games they can find. They often come from Steam.

That doesn’t mean that all bad games came out of Steam Greenlight, there were plenty of gems as well. Recent examples include unusual time bending shooter Super Hot, and daft truck traversing platformer Cluster Truck. There’s plenty coming out of Steam Greenlight that’s new, interesting, and doing new things with the medium of gaming.

Will Steam Direct cut the rubbish out of independent games on Steam? Only time will tell. However, it has to be better than what’s currently available.

What We Don’t Miss About Old School Video Games

Plenty of gamers bemoan the loss of the ‘good old days’, where games were an actual challenge and creativity abounded. There’s a lot to be said for the early days of gaming and the legacy they created. However, there’s plenty more that we really don’t miss. Here’s all the elements of old school gaming that you should be glad to see the back of.

Save points

Now, there’s a lot to be said in favour of save points, and Kotaku recently argued in favour of them. However, they were, in all fairness, a pain. You would have to find the save point, making sure you didn’t die on the way. If you did, it was guaranteed that you had a long slog ahead of you to get back where you where through no fault of your own. Resident Evil 7 seems to be trying to bring the save point back. No thanks.

Blowing into Nintendo cartridges

Everyone knows that if your NES game won’t load correctly, then you should do is blow into it to blow the dust out that’s blocking the pins. Despite the evidence that it actually makes the problem worse, we all still do it. It’s not great.

Ringing a hint hotline

Nowadays we have the internet, so if we’re ever stuck then all we have to do is quickly Google what the problem is. Someone, somewhere, will have an answer for you. However, back in the 80’s and early 90’s we didn’t have access to the internet at home. Instead, we would have to ring an expensive hint helpline just to get past that last dungeon or boss.

Huge manuals

Back in the day there weren’t in game tutorials that would guide you through the mechanics of the game. Instead, you’d get huge manuals, often in multiple languages, which you would have to study. Don’t know how to do something? You’d better hope it’s in the manual!

Controller tangles

Arguably the best advance in gaming was when controllers became wireless as default. Before then, if you had multiple controllers you’d often be untangling them as they got snarled together. Nothing was worse than wanting to play a game, but having to spend ten minutes trying to free a controller first.

The long waits for a new console

Nowadays, consoles get released days apart in Japan, the US and the UK. Back in the day though, you’d be waiting a year at least for a new console. Then you’d be waiting years for the best game on that console to hit our shores. Brr. Let’s not do that again, thanks.

Loading screens that lasted forever

You’d be sitting in the living room for hours watching that loading screen inch it’s way closer to completion. If you wanted to play a game, you’d boot it up and commit to it. We don’t know how good we have it these days, with games that load up almost instantly.

Resident Evil 7 Takes One Step Back But Two Steps Forward For Horror

Resident Evil 7 came out last week and horror gamers have been scaring themselves silly playing it. Capcom themselves said they were looking to bring the franchise back to its roots, so have they succeeded?

It’s no secret that Resident Evil 7 is a massive departure for the series in many ways. The game uses a first person perspective for the first time, and the main character Ethan isn’t an army veteran or special agent. He’s just a normal guy looking for his missing wife, and gets caught up in the horror of the surroundings.

The story and settings have been stripped back too. The whole game takes place in the same grounds. It’s a mansion, nodding back to the original Resident Evil, but it’s still one house. The bad guys aren’t a shadowy agency either, just one family comprised of really scary people. Even Grandma. Especially Grandma.

While none of this sounds like Resident Evil, there’s still plenty of the franchise in the game’s DNA. Doors are unlocked via complicated puzzles and bizarre locking mechnaisms. There’s talk of viruses and serums. Inventory space is limited, and you need to manage what you carry. The safe rooms are even back, although you save on a tape player rather than a typewriter.

You can see the influence modern horror has had on the game, too. There’s more than a whiff of Outlast, as you run and hide from the monsters when your weapons are taken away from you. There’s also the inclusion of VR support, something that fellow horror title Alien: Isolation used to great effect.

Overall, it feels as though Resident Evil 7 has attempted to go back to the feeling of constant dread that permeated the earlier titles. You’re outnumbered, outgunned, and painfully vulnerable. As a horror title, it works incredibly well. Early players have reported online that they’re terrified to play. One online guide even gives readers ways to play it if they find themselves too scared to try it.

Does this mean it’s reinvented horror gaming? Far from it. However, it shows that there’s much more to horror gaming than cheap jump scares and mountains of gore. There’s a place for both in Resident Evil 7, but they’re never over used. Instead, the fear comes from an enemy that’s’ almost impossible to kill and the claustrophobic feel of the level design.

Now that Resident Evil 7 has done so well, we’re sure to see other horror games follow suit. The one problem with 7 is that it follows the now trite formula of a man looking for his missing wife. Hopefully we’ll see new and exciting plots to go with a new breed of horror titles.

What You Need To Know About The Release Of The Nintendo Switch

Now we’ve finally seen the Nintendo Switch in all it’s glory, what are gaming fans looking forward to the most? Here’s a rundown of everything you need to know about the latest Nintendo console.

Release date and price

First things first, how much is it and when you can buy it? Nintendo revealed that the Switch will come on sale on the 3rd March 2017, and will cost £279.99 here in the UK. Many news outlets have slammed the price as being too high, especially in comparison to previous Nintendo consoles. Also the add ons available are looking rather pricey. For example, a traditional style controller will be £57.50.

The Joy-Con controllers

The Switch has lots of innovative features, the first of which being the Joy-Con controllers. These controllers can be used in several different ways, depending on what you’re playing or how you want to play. They can be attached to a Joy-Con Grip, making them one traditional style controller. They can also be used as separate controllers in their own right, much like the Wii controllers. They can even be attached to the pull out screen for on the go gaming. The reveal showed that they are motion sensitive, have a ‘HD rumble’ feature, and that they have a motion IR camera built in.

Online gaming

This time around, Nintendo appear to be ditching the friend codes and other paraphernalia of their previous consoles to emulate other big consoles. To play online, you’ll now need to pay a monthly fee to access the service. This brings them in line with Sony and Microsoft, and their online systems. Paying for this service will give you access to a classic Nintendo game every month, although the game will be taken away and replaced with another one when the month is up.

The games line up

The release day line up of games is looking rather slim, but most gamers know that that’s usually the case for any new console. However, there do seem to be some gems hiding in the games on offer.

The Legend Of Zelda: Breath Of The Wild is the latest in the series of hugely popular RPGs. You’ll again play Link in an open world environment, and this time there seems to be survival gameplay involved.

1-2 Switch is a game not unlike Wii Sports, in that it introduces players to how the Joy-Con works. Two players take a controller each, and they use it in quick fire games such as Rock, Paper, Scissors. The players point at each other, rather than at the screen.

There’s games being ported for the Switch, too. Punishing PC game The Binding Of Isaac will come for Nintendo players for the first time, as will RPG I Am Setsuna.

The Best New Gadgets Of CES 2017

So CES 2017 has just wrapped up, and just as always, it’s brought us the cutting edge in new technology and gadgets. Here are some of our favourites that showed up on the showroom floor this year.

Kuri The Robot Nanny

There’s plenty of ‘nanny cams’ out there, but this one takes it to the next level. This robot roams your house, watching your kids and pets when you can’t be there. It’s an interesting, mobile take on the concept, and we’d like to see how it manages to follow your children (or resist sabotage by them!). It’s also got a cute face too, so there’s that.

AirTV Play

Streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime are great places to find new and interesting TV shows, but they can’t show you local live broadcasts. If you’ve cut the cord on local TV services, this wireless box lets you catch up with local and live TV via streaming. The box is a little bit Fisher Price, but there’s a lot of people who’d be happy to put up with that so they can catch The Great British Bake Off when it’s on TV.

Acer Predator 21x Gaming Laptop

Gaming laptops have come a long way recently, but they’re not as beefy as this one is going to be. It has a 21 inch curved screen, an eye tracking camera, and nine heat pipes to cool the massive engine beneath the hood. The whole thing weighs 19.4 pounds, so maybe don’t actually put it on your lap.

LeEco Smart Bikes

LeEco are doing for bikes what the invention of sat nav did for cars. These bikes have a 4 inch Android screen embedded between the handlebars. Cyclists can use them for navigation, music, or communicating with other users.

Sleep Number 360 Smart Bed

Sometimes an idea is so simple that we can’t believe that it’s never been thought of before. This smart bed solves the problem of getting cold feet when you’re trying to snuggle up in bed. It senses when your feet are cold and heats up the bottom of the mattress to warm them up again. It also raises the head of the bed if it hears you snoring. No results on whether that works yet, but it’s worth a try.

Moxi Stroller and Phone Charger

A great example of sustainable energy on a small scale, this charger will be a lifesaver for parents. The Moxi stroller gathers kinetic energy from the rolling wheels of the pushchair, and uses it charge up your phone or any other device of your choosing. This is another one to file under ‘Why have we never thought of this before?’

Those are just a few of our favourite gadgets, but there were hundreds more on offer. What were your favourites?