Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure Review

Marc Ecko's Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure

Oddball pairings have always managed to deliver interesting and entertaining ideas. The joint projects have been successful in all walks of life including politics and entertainment. Actually… aren’t those two concepts related in some shape or form? This time around, the unusual pairing includes fashion mogul Marc Ecko and mega video game publisher Atari. The result is Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure (developed by Ecko Unltd Games and The Collective) for the PC, PlayStation 2 and Xbox.

In Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under pressure, you play the character of Coltrane Trane Crowley, a young graffiti artist whose goal is to start an underground revolution against the oppressive government of the city of New Radius. Trane’s weapon of choice against this governmental injustice is tagging, which is better known as street graffiti. As your character tries to get his name all over the city, he’ll be confronted not only by city authorities, but also by rival gangs.

The sound work in the game is phenomenal. Getting Up features one of the strongest cast of characters voiced by the likes of Rosario Dawson (Sin City, Rent and Clerks 2), Giovanni Ribisi (Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room and Lost in Translation) and Adam West (60’s Batman), among others. The game’s score features heavy hitters from various styles of music which includes tracks by Jane’s Addiction, Isaac Hayes and Del Tha Funkee Homosapien.

Visually, the game looks sharp and depicts the underground of New Radius as a bleak, worn down city. For a current-gen (or last-gen) title, Getting Up looks pretty good and has a distinct old-school film look. The game’s character articulation is detailed and looks quite realistic. The only complaint I would have in this department stems from the fact that the game’s city can look bland and boring with its brownish and gray colors. Some of your foes look similar and after a while, you feel as though you’re fighting a bunch of generic looking opponents.

As for gameplay, Getting up is an action title at heart that blends elements from some of the best fighting games on the market with the acrobatics of such titles as Prince of Persia and Ninja Gaiden. The intricate tagging system is what actually sets this game apart from others. Sure, the game’s control scheme might be a little overwhelming at first, but with patience, you’ll be maneuvering and tagging your way like a pro through the city of New Radius.

The game definitely gets better as you play. Sure, some of the game’s early scenarios might be tiresome, but one’s tolerance will be rewarded as you progress, thanks to the game’s eloquent story and detail. Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure is one of those games that improves considerably as you proceed.

In an industry dominated by sequels, a game like Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure shouldn’t be overlooked. This is a surefire sign that the gaming industry still has some form of originality under its sleeve. The game might not be perfect, but it’s an attempt to break new ground and introduce new elements in the tired action genre.

Overall, the game is entertaining. If you’re not sure, at least rent the game and if you like it, do yourself a favor and pick it up for the PC, PS2 or Xbox. Marc Ecko’s Getting Up: Contents Under Pressure receives an 7.5 (out of 10) rating.

Book Review: PSP Hacks

PSP Hacks

Want a little more use out of your PlayStation Portable (PSP), but don’t know how? Well O’Reilly has a solution for you thanks to writer C.K Sample III’s PSP Hacks: Tips and Tools for Your Mobile Gaming and Entertainment Handheld. The book features over 50 tips, tricks and hacks from various subject ranging from taking apart your PSP to hacking the colour of your handheld’s activity LED.

The book is actually a great companion for PSP owners as it features more in-depth information about the product itself than what’s offered in the owner’s manual that comes bundled with the handheld. Most, if not all, of the basic how to procedures are covered in the book.

PSP Hacks is separated into six chapters with several tips, tricks and hacks for each of them.

The first chapter is -The Basics- and includes insightful items on basic PSP procedures such as managing your handheld’s saved games to keeping the device sparkling clean.

The second chapter, -PSP Gear-, is dedicated to creating custom hardware for your portable gaming console. You learn how to create your own protective case, recycle well-known items for UMD disk storage and construct a wireless antenna, among other things.

The third chapter, -Multimedia-, features various tips on expanding your PSP’s multimedia capabilities. Readers will not only get tips on how to add audio, video and pictures on their PlayStation Portable, but they’ll also learn how to use the handheld as an ebook and comic book reader, as well as how to use the device for map viewing.

The fourth chapter, titled -Games-, is devoted to the gaming aspect of the PSP. The hacks in this chapter more or less covers the multiplayer aspect of the handheld by offering such tips as how to play games over the Internet and how to experience multiplayer gameplay using a single UMD disk. The chapter also explains how gamers can use homebrew software on the handheld.

Chapter 5, dubbed -Networking and the Web- encompasses tips on how to exploit the networking capabilities of the device. Here, you’ll get the scoop on various online items that can be useful for PSP owners. Among other things, readers will learn how to create a personal web portal formatted specifically for the PlayStation Portable and how to use the unit to control your home.

The book’s final chapter is named -Eye Candy- and is dedicated to tips and tricks that will help embellish the look of the system. The chapter includes hacks detailing how 1.5 firmware owners can change background images and how to change the colour of various LED’s on the handheld.

Like previous books in the O’Reilly Hacks series, PSP Hacks features three complexity thermometer icons that indicate the ease of the hack. The three levels are; beginner, moderate and expert, which technically means that this book is accessible to all, and bears no prejudice to your expertise level.

Head on over to http://www.oreilly.com/catalog/psphks/chapter/index.html to view five complimentary sample hacks from the book. The suggested retail price for PSP Hacks is $41.99CDN, but you can easily find the book for less than $30CDN through your favourite online retailer. A must have for any PSP owner.

Griffin iFM and iTrip PSP Reviewed

iTrip PSP

Griffin, known for their iPod accessories, has released their first line of Sony PlayStation Portable (PSP) items. The company delivered a version of their popular iTrip FM transmitter for the PSP and unleashed the handheld’s first FM radio receiver: the iFM.

As noted previously, iFM is a radio receiver that lets PSP owners listen to their favorite radio stations. The device also acts as a remote control for the unit’s multimedia capabilities. The iFM radio tuner also comes bundled with a small protective carrying case.

The iFM plugs into your PSP’s headphone port and takes its power consumption directly from the PSP, so there’s no need to carry extra batteries. The accessory’s low power consumption also ensures that you won’t need to worry about the FM receiver draining your PSP’s battery life.

The iFM receiver is small (24mm x 70mm x 13mm) and can fit easily in one’s pocket. The device sports the same black and grey acrylic look used by the PSP. The iFM also has a display that shows the frequency of the current FM transmissions.

The receiver uses a switch for users to change between FM and remote modes. When in FM mode, the navigation wheel is used to seek out transmissions and to control volume levels. On the remote setting, the iFM receiver acts like a standard PSP remote control.

On the down side, there’s no way for users to mix radio and gameplay, which means you can either listen to the radio or listen to what’s playing on your PSP. Also, iFM doesn’t let you save your favorite frequencies, so each time you’ll plug in the receiver, you’ll have to seek out your frequency of choice. It would have been nice to be be able to save those frequencies to a memory stick for future access.

If you want to add an extra media capability to your PSP, then iFM is an accessory for you. But with the growing quantity of quality audio content available for download on the Internet, the need for such a device is debatable. The iFM receiver retails for $59.99CDN.

On the other hand, the iTrip FM transmitter is a very useful device for PSP users that use all of the handheld’s multimedia capabilities. With the iTrip add-on, you can now broadcast your PSP’s audio to any FM radio within proximity.

The iTrip snaps on the bottom of your PSP without adding any major bulk to the unit. The playability of the PSP isn’t compromised when the iTrip is connected, as you can comfortably play your games while transmitting. Like the iFM receiver, the iTrip features a black acrylic look with a grey trim that matches the PSP.

When it comes to the quality of transmission, the short range broadcasts sound great and are easily comparable to other popular transmitters. When playing a UMD movie, the sound quality was similar to that of a drive-in theatre. As for music, it sounded like an FM broadcast, which is somewhat expected. All in all, depending on your stereo setup, you’ll get a better sounding product than what’s coming out of the PSP’s built-in speakers.

According to the manufacturer’s technical specifications, the iTrip’s operating range is between 10 and 30 feet. That’s pretty good for folks who have their stereo set up in the far corner of their living space.

Unlike the iFM, the iTrip doesn’t use the PSP as its power source and requires a set of 2 AA batteries. The iTrip doesn’t seem to steal any additional juice from the PSP, so you might not have to worry about power draining issues.

The iTrip also features an AC adapter input that enables you to charge your PSP while using the add-on. But for one reason or another, Griffin didn’t not include an AC input for the iTrip itself, which means users will have to lug around spare batteries for those long car trips.

The device lets you program three of your preferred frequencies. This way, you can easily switch to another channel if you’re receiving external interference.

The iTrip PSP FM transmitter is a great product for people who wish to expand the PSP’s audio range. Whether you’re in your car or at home, the iTrip transmitter is an easy and effective way to wirelessly listen to your PSP’s content on a more pronounced stereo system. The iTrip PSP will set you back $59.99CDN.

Overall, Griffin’s initial PSP add-ons are useful, but a few tweaks here and there would make both products must-haves for PSP owners. And perhaps one day there will be a product that combines both technologies in one package. To purchase the products, or to receive additional information, visit Griffin’s official site at http://www.griffintechnology.com.

 

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max Review

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max Review

Get ready to hear Ryu and company belt out the infamous Hadouken scream as the Street Fighter franchise arrives on the PlayStation Portable (PSP). Capcom has released a near-perfect arcade conversion of the classic fighter Street Fighter Alpha 3 (SFA 3) for the PSP. The newly re-dubbed Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max is the second version of the fighter to appear on a handheld with the first being a Game Boy Advance (GBA) release.

Sure, the GBA release was great, but it didn’t feature all of the fighters’ levels, nor was the soundtrack up to par with other home console adaptations. The game was also limited due to the lack of buttons on the GBA. Now, does the PSP version fair any better?

The answer is yes, and surprisingly no. The game itself is a perfect port of the arcade version. It looks and feels like the famed Dreamcast rendition, which was, up to now, the best version of SFA 3. The audio is top notch, something you’d naturally come to expect out of a Capcom fighter. So what’s wrong? Let just say it’s not the game, but the PSP itself.

Sony’s handheld wasn’t really designed with fighters in mind. The D-pad is pretty inadequate, which translates in hard to reproduce combos and special moves. Gamers who’ve had the opportunity to experience the game on other platforms will wish they had the opportunity to use a more precise D-pad. Don’t even think of trying to play SFA 3 Max using the so-called PSP analog stick as it’s rather unpleasant, and quite frankly, unplayable.

You could always scour the Internet and attempt to find one of the adhesive D-pad covers that were issued by Capcom as a pre-order bonus, but who would really want to permanently modify their PSP for a single game? Also, a PSP Grip add-on also helps quite a bit when playing marathon sessions of SFA 3 Max.

Controls aside, Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max is probably the best looking version of the game, something that has a lot to do with the PSP’s LCD display. Every color and pixel look crystal clear in comparison to its former PS One incarnation. The attention to detail for the characters and backgrounds are just phenomenal. The anime style of SFA 3 has never looked so good.

The visuals can also be enjoyed either in wide or normal mode settings. The wide setting presents, or stretches, the game in a wide screen mode, while the original option shrinks down action to be viewed the way Capcom originally intended it to be.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max contains a total of 15 game modes. Besides the traditional Arcade and Practice modes, the game offers two-on-one battles in the form of Dramatic (play with an AI-controlled character) and Reverse-Dramatic (play against two computer-controlled opponents) modes. One of the most interesting game types is World Tour. In World Tour, you get to fight in various locales across the world in order to level-up your character, which can then be imported into other game types.

The SFA 3 Max soundtrack is also faithful to its original source. Every song from the arcade version is included in the PSP iteration. This is definitely a game that you will enjoy playing with your favorite set of headphones. A custom soundtrack feature would have been a welcomed option. Imagine being able to fight an opponent while listening to your favorite tunes. I guess we’ll have to wait for Street Fighter II Hyper Fighting on Xbox Live Arcade for the ability to play to the sound of our favorite songs.

A total of 37 playable characters are available out of the box. The game includes all of your favorite cast from Street Fighter 2 mixed in with characters from previous Alpha titles and various Capcom franchises. Four new faces are introduced in this version of Street Fighter Alpha 3. Three of the new characters (Yun, Maki, and Eagle) hail from Capcom vs. SNK 2, with one character (Ingrid) hailing from the forgettable Capcom Fighting Evolution.

SFA 3 Max also features an Ad-Hoc Wi-Fi functionality, which lets you duke it out with a few friends within close proximity. You can single, league and tournament games in VS Mode and Team Battle. The game also includes Variable and Dramatic Battle where you can either host or play as a guest.

Sadly, no online play was included with the game. Third party applications such as Xlink Kai Evolution VII can get you playing against others across the globe, but be warned the application can be a little difficult to setup. An official online mode would have definitely made the game a lot more interesting.

Street Fighter Alpha 3 Max definitely delivers, and if it wasn’t for the PSP control scheme, the game would have been perfect. SFA 3 Max will surely be a favorite in your PSP collection. I definitely won’t shy away from recommending this title, a definitive four out of five star game.

Connect360, an iLife-to-Xbox 360 media solution

Connect 360

One of the most interesting features of Microsoft’s Xbox 360 at launch was its ability to connect to a Windows XP-based personal computer in order to stream digital content such as music and photos to the console. And as usual, Mac users got the cold shoulder. The only simple solution for them was to use an iPod as a form of content mediator. For many, whose media collection exceeded that of their iPod, this was not the best method for getting their music from their preferred digital hub to an Xbox 360 gaming system. That is, until Nullriver Software released Connect360, a piece of software that does exactly what the Windows Media Connect feature did on the Windows XP side of things, except better.

Nullriver first got on the gaming scene with the release of its user friendly PlayStation Portable content manager PSPware. PSPware used a simple Mac interface that fit perfectly with Apple’s iLife vision. The independent developer brought the same amount of attention to Connect360, and gave the software a distinct look and feel that surely doesn’t seem out of place on a Macintosh computer.

Installing Connect360 is simple as the program practically configures itself. The only thing you’ll need to do is to make sure that the internal OS X firewall is configured for the use of the software and that either port 1900 or 9335 is open on your network router.

After the program is up and running, Connect360 automatically indexes your iTunes and iPhoto libraries in order for them to be viewable on Microsoft’s gaming console. Afterwards, you’ll need to configure your Xbox 360 in order to view your computer’s media. All you need to do is open-up your Xbox Dashboard and go to your Media blade, then choose the music option and select the information that relates to your Macintosh computer. Simple and easy!

The current version of Connect360 (version 3.23) automatically updates your iTunes play count and play date for songs played through your Xbox 360. This is a great option for those who enjoy tracking their listening habits.

Sadly, due to digital rights management issues, you won’t be able to listen to songs you’ve purchased through the iTunes. Besides that, you’ll be able to stream MP3, WAV, AIFF, unprotected AAC and Apple Lossless files without a hitch.

With Connect360 you’ll also be able to view your iPhoto library on your television screen. The software supports several formats including jpeg and RAW images. A great way to share memories with friends and family.

Another nice Connect360 feature is its ability to function on both wired and wireless networks. In other words, any form of network that connects to a Mac OS X 10.3.9 (or better) system is compatible with Connect360.

Currently, Connect360 does not offer any form of video streaming. Hopefully, if Microsoft opens up the format for viewing on the Xbox 360, the function will be opened up in a future update. (UPDATE: Connect360 now supports streaming video. Supported codecs include WMV+WMA, AVI (DIVX/XVID), H.264 and MPEG4)

Interested parties can purchase Connect360 for $20USD through Nullriver’s website. The software is definitely a bargain when comparing it with TwonkyVision’s TwonkyMedia, which sells its basic software package for $39.95USD. If you still aren’t sure about the program, Nullriver has a trial version available for download.

Nullriver’s Connect360 is the must have application to extend your Macintosh digital hub away from the home office. And for $20, this is surely the cheapest solution for your multimedia needs. Check out Connect360 at http://www.nullriver.com/index/products/connect360. Connect360 gets a perfect 5 out of 5 star rating.

System requirements:

  • Mac OS X 10.3.9 or later
  • An Xbox 360 with a network connection
  • iTunes for music sharing (free download from Apple’s site)
  • iPhoto for photo sharing (part of Apple’s iLife)

Review edited on 01/07/08, added a streaming video update and changed the product’s pricing.

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