Windows Phone Featured App: Nextgen Reader

NextgenReaderRSS is important for me.  It’s how I stay up-to-date on all my gaming news and gives me the info I need to create new posts for PowerUp.  It’s my morning newspaper with a cup of coffee.  As far as RSS readers go on Windows Phone, Nextgen Reader is easily the best I’ve put on my phone.  The application connects to a Feedly account and gives you access to the feeds that matter on the go.  While I’ll encourage you to support the developer and shell out the $1.99 the full app costs, it does feature an unlimited ad-free trial.

Nextgen Reader

Advertisements

Experiencing Nokia’s Lumia Icon

Q9cI will never shy away from the fact that I’m a Microsoft fanboy.  My home is well equipped with a number of devices that are powered by Microsoft software.  My first smartphone was the Motorola Moto Q9c.  While Windows Mobile may not have been the best of mobile phone operating systems, it supplied me with what I needed in my pocket:  Microsoft Office.  The reason I’ve stayed so dedicated to Microsoft’s mobile platform even in its more bloated iterations was the fact that I had Microsoft Word with me wherever I went.  As a writer, this was more important than any number of apps could ever be – syncing my documents to the cloud back before OneDrive was even SkyDrive (back in those days, your phone synced up with “Microsoft MyPhone” and Office Online was known as “Office Live”).

Thankfully, Microsoft has moved miles beyond what they were doing with Windows Mobile with the launch of the Windows Phone operating system.  Their partnership with Nokia has also helped to reinvent their image in the portable market by giving consumers highly durable, yet sleek mobile phones made by one of the most recognizable names in the cellphone world.  While Windows Phone 7 may not have set them up as an industry leader, it was a necessary step in providing their best mobile operating system yet, 2012’s Windows Phone 8.  Built on the same kernel running Windows 8 PCs, Windows Phone 8 provides a huge promise for what can be done on mobile phones.

Lumia928Verizon users looking to get a Windows Phone have, until relatively recently, been restricted in the hardware available to them.  While there were Windows Phone devices available, it wasn’t until the Nokia Lumia 928 was released that we really saw a powerful phone running Microsoft’s mobile OS.  The small footprint of Windows Phone 8 made the limited hardware less restricting, but users, understandably, wanted something more.  The 928 didn’t disappoint, either – it was a fast phone with a beautiful display, sleek yet durable design, and excellent imaging capabilities.  Nevertheless, technology can always be better.

Enter the Nokia Lumia Icon.  Originally leaked as the Lumia 929, Verizon’s new flagship Windows Phone is a marvelous piece of portable technology.  Side by side, the phones are almost identical in physical size – turn on the display, though, and you’ll see a huge difference.  The Lumia 928 features a 4.5” AMOLED display at 1280 x 768 resolution and a pixel density of 334 ppi.  An impressive screen and it, inarguably looks gorgeous.  Place it next to the Icon, though, and you’ll be ready for an upgrade.  The Lumia Icon screen is a 5” display with a resolution of 1920 x 1020 and a pixel density of 441 ppi.  That’s a noticeable difference.  Throw in an extra column for pinned apps on the start screen, and you’ll barely believe that they managed to put that all in a body the same size as last year’s 928.

IconAd

The display is absolutely gorgeous, too.  Everything I’ve seen on my new screen is vibrant and crisp.  Looking just at messages, the screen’s crispness is a whole new world as even under my closest inspection, it’s difficult to spot those pixelated “jaggies” around curves.  Contrast is also excellent as I’ve noticed a number of apps that have a distinct differentiation between a dark grey and a black that wasn’t nearly as noticeable on my 928.  I don’t doubt that I will at times pull my phone out just to stare at how clear it looks in my hand.

The .5” difference between the Icon and the 928 is immediately noticeable, too, as the display extends closer to the phone’s outer edge reducing the bezel to a thin black border.  Games, videos, and just apps in general look so much better on this larger, higher resolution screen.  That said, I think the thing I like most about my Icon’s larger display is Nokia managed to give me more screen space without bulking up the phone as a whole.

I don’t have large hands, and I don’t have large pockets.  I appreciate the idea behind the “phablet,” but I really don’t like the added bulk or the ridiculousness of sticking an oversized phone to my ear.  I want a portable device to be portable.  The Icon gives me the best of both worlds: I have a powerful phablet with a large, gorgeous display, but it all fits in the palm of my hand – and my pocket!  I, honestly, don’t think I can stress enough how thankful I am to have the option of a powerful phablet without having to handle the bulk of one.

BatteryOn the topic of power, the Lumia Icon is a beast.  I loved my 928 – it was easily the best device I could fit in my pocket up until the moment I left the store with my Icon.  It was fast, the battery was great, the screen was beautiful… but the Icon has shown me just how much better it can get.  Featuring a Snapdragon 800 – a “system on a chip” featuring a 2.2 GHz quad core CPU – along with 2 gigs of RAM, this phone clips right along.  I was surprised to see how much more responsive this phone felt in comparison to the 928 – a phone I felt was substantially fast already.  Opening apps, multitasking, and just simple navigation are hugely improved by how this system outperforms its impressive predecessor.  In spite of the powerful guts of this machine, the Icon boasts an impressive battery life with its 2420 mAh battery.

Another important talking point for the Icon is its 20MP camera.  While Nokia’s own Lumia 1020 is still the king of mobile phone cameras (featuring a 40MP camera), it’s only available through AT&T.  Verizon members looking for an impressive camera on their phone will still be plenty pleased with the Icon’s offering.  The image capture is truly impressive with the camera’s six lenses, and video capture is equally impressive with its crispness and sound quality.  The Icon features 4 microphones and reduces ambient noises to ensure that what you’re trying to record is what you are going to hear.  I haven’t had much opportunity to put the noise cancellation to the test, but the comparison video between the Icon and the Samsung Galaxy S4 is impressive.  I also noticed a huge improvement of zooming while recording videos compared to my 928.  While you will still see that zoom jitter that is seemingly inescapable with cellphone cameras, the Icon is noticeably smoother with zooming during video recording.

Honestly, my only one gripe with the Icon is the lack of support for the Glance screen.  Especially how excited I was to get my notifications on Glance with the Lumia Black update that (finally) hit Verizon.  Glance provides users with a quick look at important information like time and notifications.  Having no support and no words on an update to include Glance support for the Icon is disappointing, but I feel the good outweighs this minor complaint by a large margin.

Nokia never fails to impress with the quality of their devices, and the Icon is no slacker.  It’s an incredibly powerful phablet with a more manageable form factor easily fitting into any hand.  The screen is absolutely gorgeous and coming equipped with Lumia Black gives even more functionality to the Windows Phone OS.  If you’re looking to get a Windows Phone on Verizon, you can’t do better than the Lumia Icon.

Windows Phone Featured App: Lockmix

LockmixThe lock screen.  The first thing you see on your phone when the screen lights up.  Sure would be nice if it had some important information displayed on it.  With Lockmix, you get the benefit of pinning widgets to your lock screen.  While some widgets within the app do have a price attached to them, some of the most useful ones (like weather, battery life, and calendar) are available for free with the initial app download – which is also free.

Lockmix

RoboCop review

Remakes are always hard, especially if you are a fan of the original.  You don’t want them to mess with a great thing by ruining the story, but you also don’t want them to retread old ground.  You’re content with your “original” and feel like Hollywood should be working on developing new ideas instead of rehashing old ones.  Yes, remakes are bad and we all know it.  Reboots?  Well, that’s just a fancy name for a remake that bastardizes your fondest memories.

RoboCop was such a great 80s movie with its darkly satirical commentary and religious overtones contrasted by the ultraviolence of it all.  RoboCop is an incomparable piece of classic sci-fi cinema and remaking it would just be blasphemous, right?  I mean, the failed attempt at remaking Total Recall, another Paul Verhoeven classic, certainly doesn’t bode well for this modern retelling of the man in a machine – it doesn’t help that it bears the same PG-13 dumbing down that Total Recall received.  No, RoboCop as a modern film has to be a terrible idea.  Unless the idea is actually new.

Robocop3

I hate retreading old ground.  Adaptations, in general, fail to impress me if I’ve already experienced the story in its original medium because there’s nothing new – nothing fresh.  Films based on books are often punctuated with “the book was better” in the same manner that remakes are quickly branded as an uninspired rehash.  Let’s ignore the fact that there are several remakes that are considered “classic” films, because those were totally different.  I’m not saying that this year’s reboot of RoboCop is a classic, but it is definitely fresh.

robocop2In the original film, OmniCorp was already working on domestic grounds with the Detroit Police being under the control of OmniCorp as opposed to the city.  In the new film, OmniCorp has its drones and robots doing “peacekeeping” work in foreign territories while a bill is keeping them from patrolling domestic streets.  Michael Keaton plays a corporate Palpatine who decides to give one of his robots a face – something the American people can get behind – in order to expand his business and profits.  He’s a charming mastermind that presents himself as someone who is trying to better the world while all of his “behind the scenes” interactions paint the more accurate portrait of greed.  It’s a welcome update to the story and one that feels more relevant to our modern time.

We also see a very different Alex Murphy in the remake.  One who feels more “human” even inside the machine before a decision is made to override his humanity.  It poses some interesting questions about what makes us human.  Essentially, when you look at humans, they’re chemicals and electrical impulses – no different than a machine.  When you control those chemicals and impulses, is there still a soul underneath that?

robocop1

RoboCop presents a similar story to the original: a Detroit detective is murdered and reconstructed as a cyborg who is essentially controlled by his programming despite his human elements fighting for control.  It’s a story of what it means to be human interlaced with socio-political commentary, albeit a little more serious than its 1987 counterpart.  Despite telling a similar overall tale, all the other elements bring to life a completely different story.  One of corporate greed and politics.  One of human emotion and free will.  It’s a movie that is still darkly satirical, but it does it with a straight face – which just so happens to be the face of Samuel L Jackson.  Purists may leave the film disappointed, but after the TV series, the miniseries, and RoboCop 3, this fresh take on the franchise is a welcome breath of fresh air.

 

RoboCop: 3.5 out of 5

Writers needed!

It’s becoming more and more challenging to post regularly as I continuously work on other projects.  PowerUp is still something that I love doing, but I don’t have the time to commit to it that it really deserves… so I need your help.  Entertainment writers, game and film enthusiasts, people with strong opinions… I need you!  If you have any passion for the entertainment industry and are vocal about your passions and opinions, I’d love to hear from you.  Simply send an email with the subject line “Write For PowerUp” to “poweruponline AT outlook DOT com” and I’ll get in touch with you.  I’d like to hear your area of expertise; tell me your favorite movie, game, and band; and provide a brief writing sample in the body of the email.  ABSOLUTELY NO ATTACHMENTS!  Word documents, .pdf files, pictures… none of it.  If there is an attachment, you will not be considered in any capacity.

Please note this is not a paid position.  PowerUp does not have a revenue flow and is entirely for sharing your passions in entertainment.  What I’d really like to see is some more views that differ from my own (I’m primarily an Xbox gamer, I have a Windows Phone, and I’ve got Windows 8.1 running on all of my computers… so, anybody who is outside of that Microsoft loop would be a breath of fresh air for my readers, I’m sure).  I’d like to see PowerUp feature more mobile entries focusing on Apps as well as indie games.  Film and music are also areas of opportunity.

Thanks for your interest, and I look forward to hearing from you!

Andrew T.S. Bedgood

Netflix gets The Clone Wars

star-wars-logo

Netflix has announced that the animated Star Wars series that originally found life on Cartoon Network (before getting a worthy finale) will be coming to their streaming service.  Additionally, The Clone Wars will also be getting a sixth season on Netflix.  The sixth season was already well into production when the show was canceled after the Disney acquisition of Lucasfilm.

The Clone Wars is expected to hit Netflix on March 7.

Windows Phone Featured App: App Folder

AppFolderSomething included with the Lumia Black update available for Lumia devices on AT&T is the App Folder.  Sadly, Lumia Black isn’t available on Verizon phones – however, the App Folder application is.  I’ve been wanting app grouping on my Windows Phone similar to Windows 8’s app grouping since I got it.  That’s unlikely to happen.  However, having folders for my apps allows me to keep all of the apps I use on a daily basis on my Start Screen while reducing clutter.  You can create folders within the app and pin those folders to the Start Screen.  It does have some cons as it’s not as fast as just launching the app from the Start Screen, but the benefit of keeping things in order is certainly worth the minor inconvenience.

Nokia’s App Folder

Windows Phone featured apps

Windows8Logo

While it might not be the largest demographic of smartphone owners, Windows Phone does have a solid presence in the world of mobile computing.  That said, it’s not as heavily covered or supported as the iPhone or Android devices.  There’s still plenty available on the Windows Phone marketplace with, but there’s not nearly as much awareness for what’s out there.  Being the proud owner of a Nokia phone, I do what I can to discover what’s out on the marketplace and have made it my purpose to share my findings with you.  Apps that are deemed useful or just generally awesome by me will be featured in an article with a link to its location in the store for easy access.  I would also like to mention that I have an app currently being certified for Windows Phone devices and will totally feature it out of pure bias for myself and my upcoming web series.  That is all.

Fable Anniversary Re-Review

Fable Anniversary

It’s hard to think that ten years ago, now, I was taking my first trip to Albion – a curious land that would devour hours of my time and earn my devout allegiance.  Fable has never been known for a lengthy main campaign, but the games have always offered a substantial amount of side content and secrets that encourage players to invest more than the 10 or so hours it would take to just beat the game.  The franchise has been the victim of its own over-hyping, but nonetheless it’s a franchise I hold near and dear to my heart and I’m thrilled that I now have the opportunity to replay the first game, my personal favorite, fully remade.

Fable is an interesting beast.  As a friend of mine has described the games, “It’s very British.”  It’s a cheeky game with some great hit-or-miss humour but all wrapped in a charming package with a great story.  The storytelling in Fable has never been high art or anything of that sort, but the games always have a well-crafted, non-linear plot, something I appreciate.  The Fable universe has been keeping me entertained and intrigued for ten years now, and I’m pleased to say that the re-release more than does the premiere installment justice.

Fable Ann Compare 1I’ve really grown to appreciate how Microsoft handles their remakes.  While you see a ton of “HD” re-releases from the last console generation hitting the market from several other publishers, those games suffer from a severe case of “uprezzing.”  Little more is done with those titles than giving players new high-resolution textures and widescreen support to stare at – the visuals are still relatively unchanged from the initial game release.  Now new character models, no new particle effects, no new lighting, no new audio… it’s the same game but just a bit (and I mean a bit) shinier.

Microsoft Studios, on the other hand, completely remakes the game visually.  The original game content and experience is untouched (aside from maybe some new controller options) while the game’s visuals are rebuilt with maybe a healthy helping of new audio to go along with it (with Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary being a prime example of new audio really lending to the rebuilt experience).  It’s not just a high resolution copy of an already made game, it’s a complete visual reimagining of a world we’re already familiar with.  Perfect Dark and Halo really demonstrated that Microsoft was dedicated to nurturing its properties and giving fans more than just a recycled product.  Fable does the same.

While the gameplay may not hold up as well next to its more modern counterparts, the experience that I loved ten years ago is still there.  The belching, the farting, the questing… it’s still the classic Fable experience that so consumed much of my mid-to-late teen years and every moment I spend in the game is accompanied by a nostalgic high.  I love Fable and this is the game that always comes to mind when I think of revisiting Albion… I’m almost ashamed that it’s been so long since I’ve worked my way through the first game (which, I’ll admit, I haven’t played through since Fable II was released).  I’m not, though.  Playing through Fable Anniversary, in spite of the many, many times I’ve played through the first game, is, amidst the nostalgia, almost a new experience again since it has been so long.  It feels fresh, yet familiar and not just because of the visual update.

The visuals, though, are great.  It’s really nice to see that such a great amount of care went into rebuilding the world of Albion.  It is, however, hindered by the aged and clunky animations of the 2004 game hiding underneath.  While some things feel revamped and fluid, there are those awkward moments where characters will freeze and whip around robotically.  It’s jarring and takes from the experience ever so slightly – but as a whole, the game looks great and the love that went into recreating Albion is apparent in every screen.

Fable Ann Compare 2

I know I may be biased and looking at the game through rose-tinted glasses or whatever, but Fable Anniversary feels great.  Playing the game brings me some kind of gaming bliss and the new visuals should set a new standard for HD remakes – something I also said about Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary.  I feel like the folks working under the Microsoft Studios banner aren’t given enough credit for the work they do on their HD remakes – though that’s a topic for another time, I suppose.

Fable Anniversary is an old game dressed in new game clothing.  It’s as fun as it was ten years ago, but looks substantially better.  Giving loyal Xbox fans achievements to earn is another plus.  Fable is a piece of gaming history and this Anniversary re-release does it justice, it would be hard, even when not considering my bias, to not recommend this game… it’s just too much fun and the budget price makes it even more enticing.

 

Fable Anniversary: 4 out of 5

Amazon purchases Killer Instinct developer

KI_Logo

No, not Rare – Microsoft is likely to never give them up after the massive investment that purchased the studio back in 2002.  The developer of the new Killer Instinct title released on Microsoft’s Xbox One Double Helix has been acquired by Amazon and is a part of their push to “build innovative games for customers.”

The acquisition, unsurprisingly, does not affect Microsoft’s Killer Instinct property which remains theirs; the software giant has also announced that their internal KI team is unaffected and remains dedicated to supporting the game.  Microsoft will be working with a new partner going forward to support the Xbox One launch title and any additional entries in the franchise.  As a dedicated KI fan, this is the good news.  While I was thoroughly pleased with the latest entry in the franchise and commended Double Helix for resurrecting it, I have faith that Microsoft will do well by the fans in curating this fan favorite franchise.

Amazon’s move to acquire a game developer is not terribly surprising given rumors that the online retailer is working on a game console of their own.  At this point, it’s unclear if Double Helix will work on more major releases or “full” games or will be restructured to focus on casual games for Amazon’s Kindle Fire line of tablets.