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Camping Along With Your Portable Gadgets

One of my favorite summer activities is camping. If you’re like me, it can be difficult to detach yourself from your connected lifestyle. But thanks to portable gadgets such as netbooks, smartphones and handheld gaming consoles, it’s easier for one to leave the confines of his (or her) digital hub while enjoying a semi-disconnected sabbatical.

Protecting your devices from the elements is one of the most important things one must consider. Purchasing a waterproof case might be the ideal solution, but it might not be the most cost efficient option. If you already own a protective case for your gadget, why not invest in a $5 box of Ziploc Freezer bags. A well sealed Ziploc freezer bag will provide you with extra protection against the harmful effects of humidity.

Keeping your device powered might also be an issue while vacationing outdoors. Mind you, most campgrounds offer electricity as an option, this privilege is not available to those who choose to camp in the wilderness. If electricity is available, it would be wise to bring along a surge protector to avoid any damages due to voltage spikes. A $20 purchase might save you a few headaches down the road.

If electricity isn’t an option, investing in a car adapter (which plugs into your car lighter socket) or purchasing an inexpensive portable solar charger can be an excellent alternative for keeping your devices powered. A car adapter can be purchased for as low as $9.99, while a portable solar charger will set you back approximately $49.99 if you shop around.

If you desperately need to stay connected, accessing the Internet from your wireless handset might not be the most cost effective way to do so. Cellphone roaming costs could easily result in higher than expected usage charges. With this in mind, disabling your phone’s data roaming capabilities, and using public Wi-Fi hotspots to fuel your connected needs would be the ideal solution. These days, many campgrounds have free Wi-Fi access as an incentive to using their facilities. Local cafes might also offer Wi-Fi access as part of their service. A site, such as http://www.wifi.com will assist you in finding a hotspot in which ever area you are visiting.

These are just a few simple tips for using your favorite devices while vacationing. The most important tip of them all is to simply have fun, while knowing when to leave the gadgets behind. As much as you might enjoy the notion of having access to some of your preferred gadgets, keep in mind that those around you might simply prefer that you disconnect yourself temporarily from your digital routine. Always remember that vacation is defined as a period of suspension of work, study or other customary activities, so make sure your take the time to relax and enjoy yourself.

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Who are you going to call… Ghostbusters?

Ghostbusters__01

Obviously, the biggest title hitting store shelves this week is Atari’sGhostbusters: The Video Game“, which will be available on all major platforms. As you probably already know, this game is a sequel of sorts in which gamers get to play through moments from the first two movies.

I’m personally going to pickup the Xbox 360 version, but I’m also interested in seeing what the motion controls on the Wii have to offer. We’ve all dreamt of using on of those photon beam.

The game will be available on the PS2, PS3, Xbox 360, Wii, PC and DS and will start appearing in stores on June 16.

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Spore Now Available

Will Wright’s latest gaming masterpiece “Spore” is now available at retail outlets in North America. The main Spore title can be purchased for either the Mac or PC, while the spin-off titles “Spore Creatures” and “Spore Origins” are available for the Nintendo DS and iPhone/iPod Touch respectively. The game is rated “E” for Everyone.

No word on the once rumored Nintendo Wii version.

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New Super Mario Bros. Review (NDS)

New Super Mario Bros.

Bowser’s at it yet again, and this means Mario returns to the Mushroom Kingdom for yet another trek through eight levels of old-school gaming goodness in the “New Super Mario Bros.” for the Nintendo DS. The New Super Mario Bros. is the first new and original Super Mario platform title since 2002’s “Super Mario Sunshine.” The game also revisits its side-scrolling roots, which was last playable in 1995 with “Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island” for the Super Nintendo.

This new installment in the popular Nintendo franchise sees Princess Peach being kidnapped yet again. Mario embarks on an 80-level adventure, which is divided into the classic eight-world formula that was first introduced in the original Super Mario Bros. (SMB) in 1985. The levels are spread out on eight different maps (Plains, Desert, Tropical Island, Forest, Ice, Mountains, Sky and Bowser’s Lair), which are similar in both look and feel to the classic Mario titles.

The New Super Mario Bros. is one of the best-looking side-scrolling run and jump platformers. The game blends 3D characters and backdrops with classic 2D side-scrolling elements which creates a unique visual experience. The character animations are extraordinary and feature unsurpassed attention to detail (when it comes to video game animation of course). For example, you’ll actually see Mario crouch down as he’s entering a pipe from its side.

On the audio side, the game features familiar classic themes from the original titles. Everything from the music to the sound effects are reminiscent of the old-school SMB games. The game contains both new and retooled songs that fit the overall vibe of the series.

Mario also has a few new power-ups to work with. Our favourite plumber can now transform into Mega Mario, Mini Mario and Shell Mario, in addition to the familiar Super Mario and Fire Mario.

As Mega Mario, your character grows to a colossal size taking-up nearly half of the screen. For a limited amount of time, Mega Mario must smash his way through the level destroying everything in his way. Mini Mario is the total opposite of Mega Mario, in this form Mario can not only gain access to areas that were unaccessible as his regular self, but he can also jump higher and run on water. As Shell Mario, our main character can perform a shell dash to clear off enemies or hide in its shell to avoid enemy contact.

The New Super Mario Bros. has quite a bit of replay value. You’ll be revisiting levels in order to unlock all of the game’s bonuses and collect all Star Coins. The game also includes a multiplayer component called Mario Vs. Luigi, which can be played either through download or multi-card play. As a bonus, the game comes with all of the mini-games that were unlocakable in “Super Mario 64 DS”.

If you’re looking to pick-up a great Nintendo DS title, then look no further than the New Super Mario Bros. The game will instantly have you reminiscent about the golden age of gaming and how simple and entertaining video games used to be back in the day when side-scrolling titles were the craze. If you own a Nintendo DS, do yourself a favour and get the New Super Mario Bros. And if you don’t already own a Nintendo DS, then here’s your reason why you should get one.

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Nintendo unleashes Mario Kart DS (Review)

Rev-up those racing cart engines Nintendo DS owners as “Mario Kart DS” has arrived on your preferred hand-held. The latest Mario racer is also the first Nintendo product with online support. The big question is, how does the game fare in comparison to other entries in the series? Short answer, very good!

Lets start with the single player experience. Mario Kart DS offers five different game types where you compete against CPU-controlled opponents. The modes are Grand Prix, Time Trials, VS, Battle and Missions. The VS and Battle modes are also playable available for multiplayer challenges.

As noted previously, the infamous Grand Prix mode returns with new and classic tracks from past Mario Kart titles. As with previous titles in the series you get to select one of three classes to race in (50cc, 100cc and 150cc). After choosing which class to race and playable character, gamers are then left with the option of racing on the Nitro Grand Prix (Nintendo DS exclusive tracks) or the Retro Grand Prix (with popular tracks from the GBA, SNES, N64 and GameCube iterations).

Gamers can unlock hidden characters by completing specific gameplay objectives. The hidden characters are Princess Daisy, Dry Bones, Waluigi and R.O.B. The addition of unlockable characters adds some depth to the single player portion of the game.

The multiplayer mode is what everyone is talking about these days. Not only can you play with other DS owners who are in proximity (standard multiplayer mode), but you can also race with other gamers online using the Nintendo DS’s built-in Wi-Fi capabilities (Nintendo Wi-Fi).

The standard multiplayer mode can be played with up to eight different Nintendo DS owners. Gamers don’t even need to own a copy of the game as content can be downloaded to their hand-held using the Nintendo DS’s “DS Download Play” when playing in the simple multiplayer mode. On the downside, the simple mode limits you to a few courses and one character to choose from (Shy Guy). The normal proximity mode (each user has a copy of Mario Kart DS in their unit) offers all of the multiplayer content for everyone to enjoy.

The Nintendo Wi-Fi component of the game is what make Mario Kart DS so unique. For the first time in the Mario universe, gamers can experience online gameplay and challenge players worldwide. And the best part about it is that its so easy to setup your DS to go online (that is if you have a Nintendo supported router or an official Nintendo Wi-Fi USB dongle).

The online gameplay is everything that one would expect from a company like Nintendo. Its simple and fun! You can either play against friends (using the unique friends code feature) or let the game randomly select opponents from around the globe.

Up to four racers can compete against each other in online mode. Online stats (Wins and losses) are tabulated as you progress, which makes it easy for gamers to compare their skills with others.

The online play is lag free and games run very smoothly (the speeds are comparable with a single-player matchup). A few cutbacks were needed to achieve this lag free game state. As noted previously, only four racers can compete against each other (compared to eight in standard multiplayer). Also, some visual items have been removed (objects can no longer be seen following your character when they are picked-up) in order to speed up the gameplay.

Somethings could have been done better though. There is no lobby system implemented. Such a feature would have been a great way to meet new friends and to chat with potential challengers. Also, it would have been great if Nintendo would have added some form of peer-to-peer voice chat functionality so that gamers could trash talk each other while playing.

Still, Nintendo’s first official online offering is definitely a marvel in itself. With that in mind, Nintendo DS owners shouldn’t hesitate when considering Mario Kart DS. If Nintendo stays dedicated to the online platform and continues to offer a stellar online experience like the one showcased in Mario Kart DS, then gamers have a lot to look forward to when it comes to future online products by Nintendo.

André Barriault is currently a contributor for the Game Invasion channel on Chris Pirillo’s Lockergnome technology network. You can checkout Andre’s game-related blog at www.gamingcult.com – Article originally published in [here] magazine in Nov. 2005

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Previous News

Peggle on iPhone OS Available for $0.99

The iPhone OS version PopCap Games‘ highly addictive “Peggle” is available for $0.99 through the iTunes App Store. The catch is that you have until midnight on June 14 to make the purchase. Be warned though, you might have a hard time doing anything else but play Peggle on your iPhone/iPod Touch.

All Your Entertainment in One… Xbox

On June 1, 2009, Microsoft announced several entertainment focused add-ons to its Xbox Live Service during the Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles, California. Following the keynote, one thing seemed clear, the Redmond Software giant is poised to push its Xbox 360 platform as the media-centric device for your living room. “Our goal has been […]

Zune Marketplace Post on Decabled.com

Visit Decabled.com to view a post of mine that was published pertaining to the recent Xbox Live Entertainment announcements. Click here to go directly to the article.

E3 2009

E3 kicks off in a few days. I’m interested in seeing what will be brought to the table. Surely there will be alot to talk about in the next few days.

Fallout 3: The Pitt Now Available

This one’s for those looking for some extra “Fallout 3” playtime. The Xbox only downloadable content, “The Pitt” is available for purchase through the Xbox Live Marketplace for 800 Microsoft points and weighs in at 492MB . Below is a blurb taken from the XBLA Marketplace: “Pittsburgh was once the industrial center of the pre-war […]

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