- Cool Websites and Tools [May 5th]
- Play Your Part In The UEFA Champions League With Heineken Star Player [iOS & Facebook]
- 5 Weird Windows Bugs & Easter Eggs You Have To See
- How To Remove Ambient Noise From Your Audio Files Using Audacity
- Hot Tech Deals – Asus RT-N13U 802.11n Wireless-N Router + more
- ctrlQ: The Search Engine To Find The Best RSS Feeds
- Check Out Debt & Fraud Near You With Equifax Mobile [iPhone & Android]
- How To Create Your Own Music Stream With Icecast [Linux]
- Build Your Own Personalized Web Magazine With Pressjack
- 3 Great Alternatives To Portal 2 When You’ve Finished Playing It
- Spotify Takes Aim At iTunes, Mobile App Now Free To All [News]
Posted: 05 May 2011 08:31 PM PDT
These are just half of the websites that we discovered in the last couple of days. If you want us to send you daily round-ups of all cool websites we come across, leave your email here. Or follow us via RSS feed.
More articles about: cool web apps
Posted: 05 May 2011 06:31 PM PDT
Football games generally require management, a fair understanding of the beautiful game or some impressive reaction times. Star Player is slightly different, and plays out in real time alongside the football match you’re watching at home, in the pub or round a friend’s house. Heineken calls it “dual screening” – sitting in front of the TV, watching the match and fiddling with your mobile. Now you can marry the two with Star Player, a free Facebook and iOS app that tests your knowledge and judgement, in real time.
Please note that landscape images depict the Facebook version and portrait images depict the iPhone version.
How It Works
The Star Player app only allows you to play along when the football is on. Unfortunately this will not be for all major football matches, so forget playing along with the Premiership, Bundesliga and so on – this is top-notch European football only, and that’s because Heineken sponsors it.
10 minutes prior to the big match, players are able to join and wait in queue for kick off to begin. Once kick off begins, a timer appears on the screen (be it your PC via Facebook or your iOS device) which is synchronised with the time shown on your television. Whilst there can be slight inaccuracies in the time on your iOS device or laptop, you’re only at a disadvantage if your clock is behind; and it’s easy to re-sync.
Heineken Star Player is human controlled, and not an automated process. For each and every game there is an expert behind the scenes, controlling what appears on your screen.
During the match you will be presented with a number of Match Moments where input is required from yourself regarding a moment of play. For example, when the ball goes out for a corner you might be prompted to choose one of four options – Goal, Saved, Cleared and Missed. All you’ve got to do is second-guess the game, and if you’re right you get some points.
There’s also a 30 Second Goal button with 8 chances (plus one extra via a power up) per match. If you think someone’s about to score (either team) and you’ve hit your 30 second goal button, you’ll be glued to the TV willing your overpaid idols to score. The earlier you hit the button, the more points you get.
You might also (during duller moments of the game) get a few trivia questions pop-up. These are generally Heineken-tinged, but fun nonetheless – did you know it takes 78 regular-sized bottles of Heineken to fill the UEFA Champions League trophy? Nor did I, but it was a lucky guess.
Points, Power Ups & Badges
Your points are not only added to your Star Player profile, allowing you to keep track of your progress, but also help rank you amongst your friends. As well as a global leaderboard, fans are able to create their own 24-man leagues from within the app. These are free and unfortunately do not offer prizes; just a chance to brag. If your mates have already established a league, it’s easy to join too.
In order to aid you on your trivia quest, 2 Who Wants To Be A Millionaire-style “Power Ups” are provided to help you – a 50:50 (taking away two wrong answers) and Max Points (if you’re sure of your answer use it and you’ll score top marks). Your final power-up is an additional 30 Second Goal chance – use them wisely.
As you complete certain criteria, you will be awarded Badges (a bit like Xbox Live Achievements and Foursquare Badges). These are displayed on your profile, and whilst they don’t really serve any external purpose it’s fun to keep track of your performances.
Tactics or Guesswork?
The real question is whether the game relies on tactics or complete luck – and it probably depends how much you like football. If you eat, sleep and breathe the beautiful game then you’ll probably find Star Player tests both knowledge of football and your ability to read the game you’re watching.
Waiting to find out exactly who will be taking the free kick, penalty or corner pays off (provided you’re familiar with the players). The 30 Second Goal button becomes hard to resist when you see a textbook cross, promising run or simply feel that goal is just round the corner.
Then again if you’re not a massive football fan, the game holds some promise there too. You don’t need any knowledge of the game to play along and the most you have to choose from in one action is four options – so you’ve got a 25% chance on every question.
The fact that Star Player is free is as good a reason as any to try out some pretty impressive, real time tech. There’s not an awful lot left of this year’s Champions League, but the Star Player app will continue next year giving you plenty of time to rack up the points.
Star Player makes for a great companion to a football match, without being too distracting. Well-timed Match Moments, fun trivia questions and a great competitive element should appeal to football fans and casual viewers alike.
One quick last tip – if you’re playing on an iPhone or similar, you’ll need a fair chunk of battery (50%) to make it through the full 90 minutes (maybe more if it goes to extra time and penalties).
Are you interested in real time football games? Will you try out Star Player? Who will win the 2011 UEFA Champions League? Let us know in the comments below.
More articles about: Facebook, football, iOS, online games, sports
Posted: 05 May 2011 04:31 PM PDT
But apart from plain old errors, there are also some bugs and Easter Eggs hidden in all versions of Windows. Care to discover 5 of them?
1. Naming & Renaming Folders
For the first one, try to create a folder named CON and you will see the following thing happening:
The same thing happens when you try any of the following names:
PRN, LPT1, LPT2, (…), LPT9, NUL, COM1, (…), COM9, and CLOCK$
All of the above names are reserved device names, which cannot be used as file names or folder names, regardless of the file extension. This is a relic from DOS, which has made its way through all versions of Windows, including Windows 7.
2. Advanced Calculations
Let’s do some basic maths together. Please use your head first. Highlight the next two lines to see the respective answers.
What is the square root of four? It’s two, isn’t it?
And what do you get if you subtract two from two? Zero, right?
Now let’s do the above calculation using the Windows calculator. Type in 4, take the square root and from the result subtract 2. What do you get now?
See why they don’t want you to use calculators at school?
To my knowledge, there is no explanation for this result. The operation returns different numbers in different versions of Windows, so it’s possibly a bug by design or an Easter Egg and not some weird functional error. What was your result?
3. Notepad Bug (XP Only)
This bug no longer works in Windows Vista or Windows 7, but if you’re still running Windows XP, give it a try.
Launch Notepad and type the following sentence: Bush hid the facts
Now save the file as anything you like, close it and open it again. What do you see?
If you did this in Windows XP, you probably see some weird unicode characters or Chinese characters like in the screenshot above. By the way, I have to admit that I ‘forged’ the screenshot because I no longer run Windows XP.
The explanation for this bug lies in the Windows function ‘IsTextUnicode’. When a text file is encoded in Windows-1252 it is interpreted as UTF-16LE, resulting in the so-called mojibake. It means that Notepad recognizes unicode characters representing Chinese characters and translates them back into Chinese characters.
4. Microsoft Word Trick
Open Microsoft Word and type the following: =rand (5,10)
What happens is that Word creates 5 paragraphs, each containing 10 identical sentences. The sentence will vary, depending on the primary language of your operating system. On English Windows, you will see this sentence: The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog.
This is not a bug, it’s a feature! Many of you certainly know that the above sentence contains all letters of the alphabet. In this case it’s nothing more than a dummy or placeholder. Depending on the numbers you pick, you can make it appear in many more paragraphs and copies. The trick is also known as =rand (200,99).
5. Solitaire Bug (XP Only)
Here is another trick that apparently disappeared in Windows 7. Please try it if you have Windows XP.
Open Solitaire and click the following key combination: [ALT] + [SHIFT] + 
When you click the above key combination, the game ends right there and you see the cards jumping to the front in waves, as they do when a game is completed successfully.
What did you see when you tried to reproduce the above bugs and what are your favorite Windows Easter Eggs?
Image credits: Antonov Roman
More articles about: fun, geek, geeky fun
Posted: 05 May 2011 02:31 PM PDT
Audacity is a free program available for Mac, Windows and Linux, so most people should be able to download this and use it to clean up their recordings. Today we’ll take you through a few simple steps you can use on all recordings to remove background noise from audio.
When you’ve downloaded Audacity, you’ll notice that it’s able to be used to import or record music and vocal tracks and can be used to mix tracks together for other purposes. This makes it very useful to musicians and podcasters alike, whether you are an amateur or a professional. It’s very easy to isolate sections of each individual track and use the editing features to remove the ambient noise in the background.
Import Or Record Audio
Either import the audio file you wish to clean up, or use Audacity as the recording tool. In Mac you need to go to Project > Import Audio, whereas in Windows you’d use File > Import > Audio.
Isolate A Quiet Moment
After importing, you’ll see the tracks of the audio file as separate lines in Audacity. This shows the waveform of the track. Flat sections are quiet while big vertical lines indicate the noisy sections.
Zoom in until you can find a moment where there was no deliberate sound in the track (the flattest bit you can find), such as when you paused for a moment. Go to View > Zoom In. Then highlight the flat section by clicking and dragging with your mouse across that part of the track. Audacity suggests this selection shouldn’t be longer than a half a second.
This will isolate a moment where all you recorded was the ambient background noise. By letting Audacity know precisely how much background noise there was, it can calculate how to remove it from the rest of the track.
Step 1 – Get Noise Profile
Once you’ve selected the quiet part of the track, go to select Effect > Noise Removal.
This opens up a dialogue to remove the noise. You’re performing Step 1 here, so click on “Get Noise Profile” and the dialogue will disappear. You can do this again at any time and it will overwrite the previous selection. What happens next is a little confusing, as it has already acknowledged your quiet section of your audio track and simply shut the window on you.
Step 2 – Apply Noise Reduction
Now Audacity needs to know which parts of the audio track you want to apply the noise reduction to. Most likely, you’ll want to apply the reduction to the whole project, so click CTRL-A or CMD-A to select all. If you want to select just a portion of the track or just one track, place your cursor at the start of your desired selection and go to Edit > Select > Cursor to End. Then, to remove ambient noise from the selection, go to Effect > Noise Removal again.
We’ve done step 1, so skip to step 2 now. Move the slider to indicate how aggressively you want Audacity to strip the background noise from your track. Many people tend towards the lower end, since stripping out too much sound can make voices sound quite tinny and weird. You can preview the sound or go straight to “Remove Noise“. If you don’t like it later, you can undo it. Make sure you listen to it before you go on to make more changes.
When you view your tracks, you should be able to see that the peaks are not quite as high, and the flat sections are far flatter now.
If you’re dealing with a special case, such as removing noise from cassette audio, take a look at the full Audacity wiki page on noise removal. There’s some great tips.
See also these great articles on Audacity:
Image Credit: ShutterStock
More articles about: audio, audio converter, audio editors, recording
Posted: 05 May 2011 01:30 PM PDT
For more fresh hot deals, visit our Hot Tech Deals page, which is constantly updated.
NEW: Download MakeUseOf iPhone App. FREE!
More articles about: deals
Posted: 05 May 2011 12:31 PM PDT
RSS, or Really Simple Syndication, is still the best way to keep up with a particular news source, even if social networking is closing in. Far too often however, RSS feeds for a particular website are buried and hard to find, if they can be found at all. That's when it's nice to search for a given feed directly.
We've highlighted a number of RSS search engines in the past, but none as clean as ctrlQ.org. As recently announced by Digital Inspiration, this site uses the Google Feeds API to make searching for a particular RSS feed not only possible but simple.
Using this search engine isn't all that different from using Google or Bing; just type what you're looking for. Unlike other engines though, you're not looking for a specific page: you're looking for a specific feed. For example, you might be looking for the greatest podcast in the history of humanity:
As an aside, this particular podcast is much easier to find here than anywhere else, I should add, because of the Times of London's poorly done paywall. Their New York namesake did a much better job with their paywall.
Once you find a particular RSS feed, you can preview its contents:
I like this feature; it's a good way to check for new articles when I'm away from my feedreader.
Do you use a cloud-based feedreader? Good news: there's a simple way to add feeds you find:
Use these buttons to quickly add your feed. If you use a desktop reader, sadly, you'll need to do some copying and pasting, but that's not so terrible a burden.
Search Like A Pro
If this were everything here I don't think I'd write up this site. Happily it isn't. With the use of a few clever search modifiers, you can use this tool to find all kinds of obscure feeds you never knew existed. For example, did you know that the New York Times has an ice hockey feed?
Me neither, but it does. You can search any site for any topic this way; just use the prefix “site:” followed by a particular website, as shown above.
There are other clever uses, of course. One example given on ctrlQ’s homepage is “google inurl:twitter.com”, which allows you to find all of the Google employees on Twitter. How does this work? It shows every Twitter feed with “Google” in the profile. The prefix “inurl” means a given word in the URL of a given feed.
Another useful prefix is “allintitle:”, which allows you to find the best RSS feeds with a given word in the title.
This is going to be my new go-to place to find particular RSS feeds, including podcasts. I'm interested – can you think of a use for such a service? Let me know in the comments below. Also feel free to share the best RSS feeds you find with the service; we love discovering new things.
More articles about: feeds, RSS, search, search engine
Posted: 05 May 2011 11:31 AM PDT
With that said, Equifax is changing that with a shiny new mobile app called Equifax Mobile. About half of the application is intended for customers who have an Equifax account and desire instant access to personal credit information, the other half of the application doesn’t require an account at all. It’s actually a standalone feature that you can use to check out the level of debt, average mortgage payments and even levels of debt fraud in your local area.
We’ve covered a lot about debt here at MUO – from the Creditable web app that helps you manage your credit, to three great blogs that help you become credit educated. This useful mobile app is available for both Android and iPhone, and it’s perfect for real estate agents, house hunters, journalists, academics and more. The data is pulled straight out of the Equifax credit database. I’d imagine there would be some privacy considerations involved, but for the time being, no one has complained.
Equifax Lets You See The Community Credit Standing
Once you install the application to your phone, you’ll see two buttons – Equifax Places and Member Log In. The free section of this app is Equifax Places.
The first thing you’ll see when you click on Equifax Places is the default view of local average debt levels. You’ll see a map of debt averages per town, and even in a few cases a few averages per town. I was pretty shocked to see some of the debt levels in my local area. Keep in mind that the default view includes things like mortgages, car loans and credit card loans all under the umbrella of “average debt.”
To change this setting, just touch the “Change” button. You can fine-tune what types of debt are displayed on the map.
I tried changing to “Average Mortgage Payment” to see what most people are paying for their mortgages around here. I discovered that everyone else pays a lot less than we do! Then again, this is an aggregate of everything from new homes to old homes as well as one bedroom shacks to luxurious mansions. So, take the numbers with a grain of salt.
If you’re done sifting through the local financial health of your community, you can move on to the level of financial unhealthy behaviors by going back to the menu and choosing credit fraud. Fraud includes improperly filling out loan applications in order to secure credit. I expected to find lots of fraud in the local low-income community, but was pleasantly surprised to see fairly low levels throughout the area.
You can enter in any city and zip code to see the map of debt and credit health for any community in the United States. I checked the local city here, Portland, and learned that Portland residents are pretty healthy in terms of credit applications. Surprisingly, one of the wealthiest communities on the coast – Falmouth – had high levels of credit fraud. Interesting!
You can filter the credit fraud display by a number of demographics like Age, Gender, Income or Credit Score.
This innocent-looking application is actually an impressive window into the private financial information of entire communities. It collects the individual credit worthiness of credit customers, and accumulates it all into an anonymous, but highly informative snapshot of what the area debt situation looks like.
Credit health tells you a lot about people, and it tells you a lot about a community. When you’re house hunting, starting a business or looking for a good place to rent, this information can be very helpful. That isn’t to say that people with poor credit are bad, but that communities that have a lot of people with poor credit, probably have difficulty collecting taxes and paying for important things like good roads and schools.
Give Equifax Mobile a try. Did you learn anything new about your neighbors? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.
Image Credit : Andres Rueda
More articles about: banking, finance, google android, iphone, Mobile Apps, money
Posted: 05 May 2011 10:31 AM PDT
Icecast is actually just the service that will stream the audio that is played by another music daemon. In this article we’ll be using mpd, which is an accepted combination by most people. The instructions will, for the most part, work in any Linux distribution, though I will be specifically covering Ubuntu and Fedora. Unless there are major differences in the commands, Ubuntu users will need to add “sudo” to the front of each command that I cover where root permissions are needed (which is a large portion). All commands will not include the quotation marks.
These instructions are for a simple setup, and is not the securest way to do things. If you wish to create your own music stream and share it publicly and not within your network, please make sure that you follow appropriate security measures.
Installing & Configuring MPD
The first thing is to install mpd, so fire up your terminal. Fedora users need to switch to root by typing “su -” and entering their passwords. Then, in Fedora, issue the command “yum install mpd“, while Ubuntu users use “sudo apt-get install mpd“. Once that completes, use your favorite terminal editor (such as nano) to edit the file at /etc/mpd.conf.
In the first couple of lines, find the following and replace them with your regular username (or create a new user specifically for Icecast and use that instead):
Soon after that chunk of text will be a small line, where you again need to replace the user with the one you wish to use:
Next, find the following text and make sure it matches:
Finally, find a large chunk that looks similar to this (in Fedora, it is the third “audio_output” group in the default configuration file):
Change the information in your own configuration file to match them with the code above. For simple use, you can keep the “hackme” password, but if you wish to share your stream with the Internet, I highly recommend you change it. Once you are done editing the file, save it and close out of your editor.
Next, leave your root permissions (or drop off the sudo if you use Ubuntu) and type the following:
This creates the necessary folders that the mpd daemon needs as described in the configuration file.
Next we will install Icecast, so Fedora and Ubuntu users need to type (as root) “yum install icecast” and “sudo apt-get install icecast“, respectively.
If you didn’t change the password in mpd, then there’s no configuration needed for Icecast! However, if you did use a different password or want to change port numbers, you can change all instances of those in the configuration file, which is located at /etc/icecast.xml.
Installing & Configuring Pitchfork
Congratulations! You already have all of the background services installed and configured! However you still need an interface to configure mpd, else it won’t know what to play. I recommend that you use a Web-based configuration tool called Pitchfork. In order to be able to run that, we need to install some more packages.
In Fedora, we’ll type “yum install httpd mysql-server php php-mysql php-gd php-pear“. In Ubuntu, it’ll be “sudo apt-get install apache2 mysql-server libapache2-mod-php5 php5 php5-mysql php5-gd php5-pear“.
Once that finishes installing, download Pitchfork from here and extract the files into Apache’s default folder, which is either /var/www or /var/www/html depending on the system. In order to keep things easy for us, type the following:
Before we get to the more fun parts, we still need to start our services. We have three services, httpd (or apache2 in Ubuntu), Icecast, and mpd. So in Fedora, we’ll type “service <NAME> start“, replacing <NAME> with the service’s name. In Ubuntu, do the same for the command “sudo /etc/init.d/<NAME> start“.
Now fire up your favorite browser and head to localhost (or if you’ve been doing all these steps on a separate server, head to that server’s address). You should now be greeted by Pitchfork, and we can go ahead and configure it.
Under the configuration page, there’s actually not much you need to do. Just make sure that the address and port are the same as in mpd’s configuration file, and leave the password field blank. In the middle you can enter a login password so that access to Pitchfork can be restricted. Save and you’ll be sent back to the main page. Now you can add songs and have them play over Icecast!
If you want to connect to your stream, there’s an easy way to do so. Provided that you open port 8000, you can go to a different computer, go to a browser and type <IP_ADDRESS>:8000, and click on the M3U link. You’re finally done!
Please note that on Pitchfork the volume slider does not work. However, your media player should have one, so that shouldn’t be a problem. Also, when adding songs, they may not immediately appear. In this case you should simply refresh the page.
Considering the steps needed, I will provide some support in the comment section. If you have problems, ask for help there!
Icecast is a great way to get music on the go. Plus who doesn’t want their personal online radio station? Creating your own music stream can have its purposes and let you have some fun as well.
Do you think you’ll be creating a music stream? What do you like or not like about the idea? Let us know in the comments!
Image Credit: Shutterstock
More articles about: how, media server, mp3, music, songs, streaming music
Posted: 05 May 2011 09:31 AM PDT
There is no official standard of what the modern day publication should be like, but most people agree that iPad’s Flipboard and Zite are two great examples to follow. Big publishers pay professionals to redesign their publications to be more iPad friendly, while smaller ones try to do everything on their own or use ready-made templates like OnSwipe for WordPress.
If you are a fan of an iPad magazine layout and you want to publish your own, or if you just want to read your favorite news in this kind of layout, you could try Pressjack – a multi platform magazine publisher that will help you produce a web magazine from RSS feeds.
Pressjack is available for Windows and Mac. It works by collecting the RSS feeds of your choice and converting them into a nice e-magazine. The service is intended for publishers, but that doesn’t mean that ordinary people like us can’t try the app to create a bundle of our favorite feeds.
Pressjack is still in its very early beta with many “coming soon” features. But all the basic features are ready, and the 30-day trial version of the application is already available to download. In the near future, the developer will offer three pricing plans, including a free plan supported by advertisements.
The main window consists of three tabs: “Content“, “Articles“, and “Output“. Let’s start by building the content of the magazine. You can use the default “My Publication” or you could add more publications to the library.
When you add a new publication, the app will ask you to give a name to the publication. You could go with a general name or you could use the article source as the name, like MakeUseOf.
Next, add the feed by clicking the “+” button above the “Publication Feeds” table. Fill in the feeder’s name, category, and the feed’s URL.
After adding all the feeds that you want in the list, click the “Build” button under the feed list and Pressjack will start downloading the content of the feeds and building your magazine.
The Articles & The (Future) Features
You will find a list of all the articles from your feeds under the “Articles” tab. You can select one from the list and preview the text and other contents of the article in the right pane.
There are several article options which are disabled in the trial version. I think it means that they will be available in the future full version.
The “Output” tab is the place to preview the fully functional final result. It’s also the place to enable or disable features that you want to include in the magazine, such as Bookmarks, Print, Help, Fullscreen, and Statistics via Google Analytics.
You can also include the option to share the magazine via email and/or social networks.
Those who want to go further can customize the “Scripts” to fit their needs. Those who don’t know what they are doing had better leave these scripts alone.
Publishing The Magazine To The Web
The final product of Pressjack is an interactive web magazine. Publishers will be able to upload the magazines to their chosen web server and give access to their readers to read them online. Unfortunately, this feature is still disabled in the trial version. What users can do is upload the magazine to the Pressjack server, and the magazine will stay alive for 7 days.
This limitation will make the current version of Pressjack unusable for publishers who want to spread their magazines to the masses. However, individual news junkies can use the application to build their own personalized web magazines.
To upload the magazine to the web, press “Publish“. This process can take a while depending on how large the article collection is and how fast the internet connection is.
When the magazine has been uploaded, a small window with links to the online and offline versions of the magazine will appear. Even though the online version will only be available for about a week, you can keep the offline version forever.
This is what the web magazine looks like. Those who are familiar with Flipboard will see a resemblance in the interface between Pressjack and Flipboard.
The first page after the cover is the table of contents. You can jump into any article from this page, or you can flip through the pages like a normal magazine.
The magazine’s features are available at the top of every page. Hover the mouse over the features to know more about them.
Ironically, even though Pressjack designed the magazine layout to mimic iPad magazines, the result is not accessible from an iPad (or other iOS devices) because it uses Flash technology.
What do you think of the “iPad magazine layout” trend? Have you tried Pressjack? Do you know of other similar applications? Share your thoughts and opinions using the comments below.
More articles about: feeds, magazines, publishing, reading, RSS
Posted: 05 May 2011 08:31 AM PDT
If you've been similarly spurned by the fact that Portal 2 isn't infinite, give these five games a try. Honestly, they're not as great as Valve's masterpiece, but they're all solid games with their own unique mechanics.
Like Portal 2, booting up The Ball means learning a wild premise that is at first difficult to understand. The title of the game is perfectly descriptive, because the mechanics revolve around using a gigantic ball to solve puzzles, bust through obstacles and occasionally defeat enemies.
While The Ball uses a first-person perspective and focuses heavily on puzzle solving, the game is different from Portal 2 in other ways. The level design introduces massive spaces that only a few moments of Portal 2 can rival, and you will run into enemies that must be defeated using problem solving and The Ball.
Make no mistake; The Ball can't rival the excellent design and detail of the Portal games, but it offers an experience that is at one similar and unique, and it's easily one of the most polished and complex indie games around today.
Some gamers will disagree with me on this recommendation, but hear me out. While Super Meat Boy and Portal 2 have different perspectives and wildly different level design, they are both puzzle games at the core. It is impossible to beat Super Meat Boy without figuring out the underlying mechanics that make the level difficult.
Where Super Meat Boy deviates from Portal 2 is difficulty. I doubt I died more than five or six times throughout the entire game. Super Meat Boy is entirely the opposite. Once you move past the first world of levels, you'll likely die five or six times every level. You may need to try fifty times before beating the most difficult ones.
Sound frustrating? It can be, and that's part of the point. But like Portal 2, Super Meat Boy places you back to the beginning of the level when you die, and each individual level is short. It's no problem to put the game down for a while when you can't figure out a level, and indeed you should. This is not a game that you’re supposed to pound through in day-long marathon sessions, but rather one you dabble in twenty minutes at a time.
Franchises can be a blessing or a curse. If your franchise has a good reputation, simply slapping the franchise name on a box can guarantee sales. If your franchise is known for being shallow, however, you'll have a hard time convincing gamers that the latest title is actually a great action-puzzler.
Such is the case with Lara Croft and the Guardian of Light. Yes, this is still a Lara Croft title and yes, she's still a smoking virtual hottie. But remember, this game has two characters in its title. The second, the Guardian of Light, is an ancient tribesman who assists Lara in her adventure. His unique abilities make the game's puzzles solvable; for example, he has spears that can be used as a weapon or to help Lara.
You’ll be most interested in the game if you enjoyed Portal 2's co-op play. In this Croft puzzler the co-op mode gives one player control of Lara, while the other is given control of the Guardian of Light. Each player has unique abilities that must be utilized to defeat enemies and solve puzzles. Much of the game’s fun comes from using the two different characters well, so you’re missing out a bit when playing solo.
Personally, I think this are the three titles you should certainly check out if you enjoyed Portal 2. There are two titles that I didn't mention, however, that you might want to check out as well. These are Narbacular Drop and Tag: The Power of Paint.
Narbacular Drop is the game that originally inspired Portal, and Tag: The Power of Paint is the game that inspired the gel puzzles in Portal 2. Both of these games are student projects that are available for free. Obviously, they lack the polish of a professional retail release, and they’re also rather short, but it's fun to see where the ideas behind Portal 2 originated.
Let us know in the comments if you can suggest any other Portal 2 alternatives.
More articles about: better alternatives, game reviews
Posted: 05 May 2011 07:31 AM PDT
After halving the amount of music available to free users last month, music streaming service Spotify has declared another big shake-up: its own music store, complete with iPod management. All users could already purchase the songs they liked through Spotify, though the service was provided by another company, 7Digital.
Spotify also announced that their mobile app which was previously limited to premium members is now available for all to download and use. Don’t expect to be streaming any of Spotify’s 9 million songs on the go however, as free accounts are only able to sync existing audio files that you have imported into Spotify on your Windows or Mac PC.
The company claims that these changes will hopefully make Spotify “the only music player you’ll ever need”, though opinion is split on whether the green giant can take a bite out of Apple’s core.
Users will be able to sync their iPod classic, nano and shuffle players directly within the program itself, with your iDevice appearing in Spotify’s sidebar. Similarly iPhone, iPod Touch and Android users who download the mobile app will be able to wirelessly sync their own tunes (but again, no Spotify streaming without a premium account).
Pricing for Spotify’s new download service is designed to reflect the way users listen to music, with per-track downloads and playlist purchases starting from 50p per track (that’s 100 tracks for £50). In the UK 10 tracks will now cost you £7.99, 15 tracks £9.99 and 40 tracks for £25; the service has not yet been launched in the US but these recent changes suggest it probably won’t be too far off now.
90% of Spotify listeners opt for the free option, so the company has got its work cut out in order to convert the masses.
If you have previously purchased any music within Spotify whilst 7Digital were the content suppliers, you can still download your old 7Digital purchases via the company’s website or any of the mobile apps that 7Digital serves.
Do you use Spotify? Are you more likely to use Spotify now? Will this make any difference? Have your say in the comments.
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