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Tag2017 at 09:00AM

What’s the Worst Christmas Song?

Band Aid 30 tries to make the worst Christmas song worse

What’s the worst Christmas song? We asked our Facebook fans, and over 800 of them answered. All kinds of songs got named, like “I Saw Three Ships,” “White Christmas,” “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus,” “Auld Lang Syne,” that Chipmunks song, and the Mannheim Steamroller oeuvre. Even the Beatles took a beating. But here’s what ranked highest:

  1. “All of them” racked up a solid 156 mentions, a big win for the War on Christmas.
  2. “The Christmas Shoes” was the most-cited specific song, with 50 mentions. “Every time I hear it I feel depressed,” said Joe Serrago. “The most cloying, mawkish tune EVER WRITTEN, Christmas or otherwise,” said Kathy Harrington Kraemer. “What kid buys his mom shoes?” said Jaye Lynne Rooney.
  3. “Santa Baby” got 37 mentions. “There should be nothing sexy about trying to sound like a preteen,” said Tiffany McBride. “Dry heave,” said Jennifer Edney. But Zelda Zamboni defended it: “It embodies the TRUE meaning and spirit of Christmas. 😉”
  4. “Baby It’s Cold Outside” came right behind with 35 mentions. “Date rapey,” said Janeen Jackson. “Stalkerish-pervy,” said Sue Magine Schlicker.
  5. “Dominick the Donkey (The Italian Christmas Donkey)”: This old novelty song, which once beat out “Smells Like Teen Spirit” in a battle of re-releases, got 26 mentions. If you’ve never heard of it, good for you. “It’s obnoxious, stupid, senseless and sounds like it’s sung by a demented hiccuping frog,” said Lena Lanna.
  6. “Little Drummer Boy,” a perfectly lovely carol, got 24 votes, and I feel personally attacked. “The song stinks of hymn-y manure,” said Zachary Alvarez. “Seriously…a drum next to a newborn???” said Richard Baize. “It’s dumb-da-da-dumb,” said Robin Courtney Stears. Owned.
  7. “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer” got 21 votes. “Tacky, tacky, tacky,” said Pat Petersen. “Clearly made for the unintelligent hoi polloi,” said Steven Collins, an intellectual.
  8. “Feliz Navidad” got 18 votes even though it’s Actually Good. “I cringe every time I hear it,” said Helene Kale. Jared Mau Batora made a fair point: “The repetition of 3 lines for the entire duration of the song is enough to drive anyone batty.”
  9. “All I Want for Christmas Is You” racked up 15 mentions, but it had its defenders. “BLASPHEMY! BLASPHEMY! All I Want For Christmas Is You is a CLASSIC!” said Nathaniel Ralstin. “I have hate-listened to it enough to like it again,” said Joe Boan.
  10. “Wonderful Christmastime” got 13 mentions including a thorough beatdown by Margarita Lismore: “I can’t even begin to say how even the thought of it makes me so stressed I want to…grrrr! It always is playing when you are definitely NOT having a Wonderful Christmas Time. Usually you are in the middle of a big argument with someone—or someones—or are running around the shops that have nothing left to buy, with no money left to buy it anyway. Just shut up Paul McCartney why don’t you.”
  11. “Do They Know It’s Christmas,” the “Too Many Cooks” of Christmas songs, punched under its weight with just 12 mentions. “The line ‘thank god its them instead of you’ is terrible,” said Craig Brown. “‘There won’t be snow in Africa this Christmas.’ Yeah no shit,” said Nicolas Sanchez. “It’s called being in the other hemisphere. Why the fuck would Africa have snow in the middle of summer?”
  12. “I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas,” the oldest novelty song on the list, got 12 mentions. David Howell had a practical objection: “A hippo wags its tail and spreads crap all over. Some girl did not do the research on hippos.”

If you hate this ranking, great! You have a chance to fix it with Lifehacker’s Twitter poll showdown of the Worst Christmas Song Ever. Our tireless social team took all the top Facebook picks and put them in a bracket for Twitter users to decide. Go cast your vote. Together, we can make a silent night.

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Make Your Own Droid, No Bad Motivator, With This littleBits Set

While you may mess up a critical plot point of an epic franchise, you can pick up this droid littleBits set and make your own R2 unit the way you want. These sets are basically like if LEGO and K’nex had a baby and added a battery. This price is a match for an all-time low, and yes, it should arrive by Christmas.

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Soulcalibur VI Makes It Easier To Fight Back When Being Beaten Down

In the five years since we last saw a mainline Soulcalibur title released, no competitor has really stepped up to fill the game’s specific niche. Focused on armour and weapons, the Soulcalibur games have always had a unique combat range, pacing, and impact speed built around various weapon styles. I played Soulcalibur VI for around an hour at a press event last week and, while the demo was very limited, there was enough to show that the fundamentals of the series are not being radically changed. This is Soulcalibur as you know it, with some of its systems simplified, and a couple of new features to help turn the tide in a particularly one-sided match.

This article originally appeared 12/18/17 on Kotaku UK.

The demo featured only two playable characters, Mitsurugi and Sophitia: the former a slower but more heavy-hitting character, while Sophitia is more agile but packed less of a punch. The heart of combat is still stringing horizontal and vertical weapon attacks together, modified with directional inputs or strung-together combos, to try and get your opponent into a chain of attacks they’ll struggle to break free from. That much hasn’t changed, and most attack priorities remain as they were previously.

The biggest mechanical addition to Soulcalibur VI is Reversal Edge, a move designed to help players break out of combo chains and, if successful, reverse the momentum of a fight. You hold down a single button to charge up a striking attack which is slower than most other attacks in the game. The slow speed does leave you open and vulnerable for a few seconds but, as with SFIV’s focus attacks, also grants armour that can absorb one hit without being stunned out of the charge.


If you land the Reversal Edge successfully, the game slows down and zooms in on both players, giving each time to do a single action. You can either throw out a vertical attack, a horizontal attack, a kick, or jump backwards abandoning your current combo. This single choice functions like a rock, paper, scissors triangle, opening up the fight for a split-second’s worth of mind games—and can give players who read their opponent well an opening in a one-sided fight.

The Reversal Edge as a method for turning the momentum of combat takes on one of Soulcalibur’s long-term issues: it can be a hard game for new players to get a grip on. This mechanic will surely have many high-level applications, but fundamentally it’s there to make a one-sided fight feel more recoverable. Just because you’re being pushed back doesn’t mean you can’t turn things around.

Another new mechanic for Soulcalibur VI is Lethal Hit, a character-specific move which when landed will open a window for multiple follow-up hits. Each of these moves has to be triggered by specific conditions, so you’ll not only need to know the conditions for your own character to execute the attack, but also be aware of how other characters’ versions work. Right now we have no idea how varied the conditions will be in the full roster, but for Mitsurugi it was a vertical attack when he was rising from a knockdown, and for Sophitia it was a block into downwards slash.


Guard Impact is back in Soulcalibur VI, but a little simplified in its execution. There used to be two different Guard Impacts: one forward and one backwards for attack advantage or positional advantage. Now there’s only the forward Guard Break. This isn’t a huge deal, as you can still move yourself into a better position manually in combat, but it does mildly reduce some of the complexity of the technique.

Soulcalibur feels like a fresh start for the series, but not a wholesale reinvention. It’s essentially the same core formula, with changes designed to help to keep fights flowing back and forth rather than getting stuck in one-sided combo loops—breaking out from one-sided pressure into executing your own combos is thrilling. It feels like victory can be wrested from near-defeat, and I’m excited to see how these changes to the formula work out when more of the roster is in play.

This post originally appeared on Kotaku UK, bringing you original reporting, game culture and humour with a U from the British isles. Follow them on @Kotaku_UK.

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Hyper Light Drifter Keycap Set Shouldn’t Be Too Hard To Type On

Players who figured out the blocky glyph language of Hyper Light Drifter should have no problem typing on this officially-licensed set of keycaps. Don’t worry, they come with actual letters as well.

Designed by Redditor Atakoshi and licensed by developer Heart Machine, DSA Drifter is a special set of low-profile keyboard keycaps based around the pixelated language found in the challenging action RPG. The striking white, red and turquoise color scheme is evocative of the game’s color palette. The legends are the symbols players worked so hard to decipher, combined with some basic icons.

Laid out in keyboard form, it’s almost a cheat sheet, really. You can see how the number dots coincide with their numerical value, and as long as you’re familiar with the standard keyboard layout, it’s obvious which symbols replace which letters. I’m not great with blank keys, but I feel like I’d get used to this symbol language pretty quickly. And if not, there’s a version of the alphanumeric keys with English characters included.

The DSA Drifter keycap set is currently being offered as a group buy through The Key Company. It’s basically a more community-focused version of crowdfunding. Interested folks join the group buy, which runs through January 18 (or 500 sets, whichever comes first). The money paid is used to produce the set and cover fees like shipping and such, and in March the set ships to group buy members.


A set of alphas (the letters and numbers) plus modifiers (shift, enter, backspace, etc cetera), which will cover a standard-size ISO or ANSI keyboard, runs $103, with a couple of extra kits available for keyboards with more unique layouts. All in all a fair price to make a keyboard look this pretty.

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How to Ditch Apple Completely

Illustration by Sam Woolley / GMG

Apple keeps giving us reasons to say goodbye. iOS 11 is buggy as hell, with the most recent error making iPhones almost unusable, and the latest version of macOS briefly exposed Mac owners to a major vulnerability. As for the iPhone X, it may be pretty sleek for an iPhone, but Apple’s still playing catch-up to its Android competition.

If you’re seriously considering ditching some (or all) of Apple’s products you’re definitely not alone, but it’s easier said than done. Cupertino’s done such a good job of wheedling its way into every facet of our digital lives that weaning yourself off of its ecosystem of products is a pretty serious endeavor.


With that in mind, we’ve scoured the internet for tips, tricks and guides to remove yourself from every single one of Apple’s apps, services and products. Ready? Let’s get started.

Swap Your iPhone for an Android Device

Ok, let’s start with a big one. If you’re thinking of leaving Apple, your iPhone will probably be one of the first things you’ll want to get rid of (but do keep it around for a bit, because you’ll need an iPhone for a few of the other guides in this article). Thankfully, some of the most popular Android phones makes it easy to switch over without losing any of your personal data.


Google’s Pixel smartphones are seemingly designed to compete directly with Apple, offering an Android alternative to the iPhone that’s easy to use, well designed, and loaded with special features. Google also made it extremely easy to transfer over all your iPhone data by simply following the prompts on your Pixel phone. Just remember to shut off iMessage on your iPhone first so you don’t miss any text messages after making the switch to Android.

If you’d rather try out one of Samsung’s bezel-less Galaxy phones, that process is pretty simple, too, thanks to a special Samsung Smart Switch app. All you need to do is backup your iPhone with iTunes and switch off iMessage. Then plug your new Android phone into the same computer and Samsung will handle the rest.


If you’re switching to some other Android phone that doesn’t offer its own data transfer service, don’t worry. Google’s outlined a simple way to bring all your iPhone data with you in three easy steps using Google Drive.

That said, you’ll still need your iPhone for transferring your data out of Apple Photos and Apple’s Podcasts app. So don’t give away your old phone yet.


Switch From Your Mac to a Windows Computer

Next up is your computer. Leaving Apple means saying goodbye to the company’s overpriced laptops and desktops—though Microsoft does offer its own comparably high-end computers, too. Whether you opt for a fancy Surface or a cheaper PC, you’ll still have to do some work if you want to carry over all the information stored on your old Mac.


The first thing you’ll want to do is set up a Microsoft account to replace your old Apple ID. From there, you should connect your Mac to an external hard drive and transfer over all your files. This is actually a pretty complicated process, so head over to Laptop Magazine for a step-by-step guide. Once you’ve finished saving and formatting all your files, all you need to do is connect your external hard drive to your new computer and drag all your files onto your PC desktop.

As with the iPhone changeover, you’ll still need your Mac on hand to transfer data from iCloud Keychain, so don’t ditch your Apple computer until you’ve fully made the transition.

End Your Dependence on iMessage

Apple Messages (formerly, and forever in our hearts, known as iMessage) is probably the biggest single thing keeping most people from leaving the Apple universe. Deleting your account is easy, and the bugs that used to cause former iMessage users to miss out on text messages have been ironed out. However, if the rest of your friends and family keep using iMessage you may have a bit of a disconnect due to the extra features Apple keeps adding to its messaging app.


Your best bet is to try to get everyone else to ditch iMessage, too. Outside of the U.S., most of the world already prefers third-party chat apps like WhatsApp. So maybe try convincing your social circles to try that app instead. You could also just start relying more on Facebook Messenger (everyone already has a Facebook account, anyway). Regardless of which app you pick, it shouldn’t make much of a difference to your data plan since iMessage already uses data when you’re not already on Wi-Fi.

If all else fails, you can just use regular SMS and accept that your iPhone-owning friends will probably judge you for your green bubble messages. It shouldn’t be a significant financial issue, since almost everyone in the U.S. everyone has unlimited texting at this point

Move Your Files From iCloud Drive to Google Drive

Next up is transferring all the files you’ve stored in Apple’s cloud service over to Google Drive. This is a big one if you’re switching to Android, since you’ll likely want to start using Google Apps instead. Unfortunately, Apple doesn’t make it easy, either.


The trick, according to Android Central, is to use desktop apps. The first thing you’ll need to do is download the Google Drive and iCloud Drive apps onto your computer. Then open up both cloud storage services in separate Finder windows on Mac (or File Explorer windows on PC). Highlight all the iCloud Drive files you want to transfer and drag them into Google Drive. That’s it, you’re done.

If you refuse to download the desktop apps there’s still a solution, but it involves going to the iCloud website and transferring each file one at a time. So do yourself a favor and just take the easy route.


Transfer to iCloud Mail from Gmail

If you’re somehow still using Apple’s email service, it’s time to upgrade. Seriously, even if you plan on keeping your iPhone or iMac, you should really be using Gmail.


Switching from one to the other is surprisingly easy; all you need is a third-party email client, and KnightWise, a tech blog focused on switching between different platforms and services, recommends Thunderbird. Once it’s downloaded, connect your iCloud Mail account so your emails all show up in Thunderbird. Then connect your Gmail account and you can drag those iCloud emails over to your Google account. That will bring them into your Gmail everywhere, including on the web.

Move From iCloud Keychain to Another Password Manager

iCloud Keychain is a nice introduction to the world of password managers, but you can do so much better. Plus, if you’re getting rid of all the Apple products in your life, you don’t really have a choice but to find another option since it doesn’t work on non-Apple devices. Thankfully, it’s relatively easy to switch to a more powerful service like 1Password.

You can transfer all your iCloud Keychain data over to 1Password, but you’ll need a Mac computer on hand to do it. Assuming you meet that qualification, you can use this importer tool to move your data over. Just download the “Testing Bits” version, drag the new file onto your macOS desktop and then complete the rest process by following the directions in the included README.pdf file.


Abandon Apple Photos for Google Photos

Before we get started, the first thing you’ll need to do is decide if you want to keep all your photos at their original resolution, or downsize some to meet Google’s maximum of 16-megapixel for pictures and 1080p for video. Google Photos is only free for at the “High Quality” tier that compresses some content. 


If you want to the “Original Quality” version for high resolution photos and video, you’ll need to pay extra, starting at $1.99 per month—unless you have a Pixel 2, which comes with free “Original Quality” photo storage through 2020.

The rest of it is pretty easy, but a little time consuming. First, You’ll need to download the Google Photos app for both macOS and iOS. Once these are installed, they’ll both quickly begin uploading all the photos saved on your devices. If there’s anything that was uploaded to iCloud and then deleted from your physical devices you can grab it by opening Apple’s Photos app for Mac, selecting Preferences, then selecting iCloud, and setting the app to “Download Originals to Mac.” Or do the same in iOS by going into Settings, then iCloud, then Photos, and then selecting “Download and Keep Originals.”


Once that’s all set, your pictures and videos should all be upload to Google Photos. They’ll be stored online so you can access them from any device moving forward.

Stitcher Radio

Transfer From Apple’s Podcasts App to Stitcher Radio

If you only do one thing on this list, make it this one. Apple’s podcast app is absolutely terrible, and the company doesn’t seem to be making any effort to improve it. It’s also not necessary for you to be dealing with it; there are plenty of other better options for downloading, listening to, and organizing all your favorite podcasts.


Stitcher Radio is one alternative app that offers a better experience. It’s also easy to swap in if you’re already using Apple Podcasts. Just install Stitcher on your iOS device, then setup your account and it will automatically import all your podcasts from Apple’s app. Once that’s done, Stitcher will sync automatically between devices, so you can switch from iPhone to Android without losing anything.

Move From Apple Music Over to Spotify

This one is a little complicated. Apple doesn’t exactly want you to leave its music streaming service for a competitor, but you still have options.


One way to transfer all your saved music and playlists is with a program called Soundiiz. This one requires you to export playlists from Apple music as .m3u files and them upload them to Spotify through Soundiiz’s website.

You can also use an automation app called Workflow. First, download it from the App Store and then search through the Workflow gallery for “Add playlist to Spotify.” The app should handle the rest for you pretty quickly.

Neither of these first two solutions are perfect, and they might lose a few tracks in the process. Another Spotify user offered a better solution of their own in the company’s forum, but it’s a little more complicated. It requires exporting your music out of Apple Music, doing some coding in the macOS Terminal and then uploading the files to Spotify through another third-party website called PlayListConverter.


Of your three options, the last one is probably your best bet if you want to make sure that every song transfers over successfully from Apple Music to Spotify. But if you’re looking for something less intensive try Workflow instead—you can probably fill in gaps using Spotify’s streaming library anyway.


Switch Your iTunes Media to Google Play

Beyond whatever you have saved to Apple Music, you may have spent your own money to buy music, movies and TV shows through iTunes in the past. Just because you’re abandoning Apple doesn’t mean you need to leave all that good stuff behind.


You can transfer all your iTunes music to Google Play without too much effort. Just head to on your computer, log in (or create an account) and select “Upload Music.” Then select “Download Music Manager,” install the program on your computer, and once it’s downloaded, allow it to save your iTunes music. Follow the prompts and Google will store up to 20,000 of your songs in the cloud for free so you can access them from any device—this is a great way to backup your music even if you’re not leaving Apple altogether.

Unfortunately, getting your iTunes-purchased movies and TV shows onto Google Play is a little harder (and a lot more expensive) due to Apple’s use of DRM. To remove the DRM protection, you’ll need to pay for a program like TunesKit (currently available for $45). If you’re willing to spend the money, you can transfer those files by logging into Google Play in your browser and navigating to “Movies & TV.” From there, you should be able to upload all your DRM-free videos to the cloud where you can access them on any Android device.

Find a Replacement for FaceTime 

Finally, if you’re worried about losing FaceTime when you leave Apple, you can put those fears to rest. There are plenty of greats apps that can replace FaceTime’s one-to-one video chat.


Microsoft and Google offer viable alternatives with Skype and Duo, respectively. If you can’t convince your friends to download one of those apps, try using Facebook Messenger or WhatsApp, which both come with video calling built right in. With all those options, you should be able to find something that can fill the FaceTime-shaped hole in your life.

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Dreams For PS4 Is Hard To Explain, But It Looks Brilliant

Dreams is one of the most exciting upcoming releases for the PlayStation 4 next year. It’s also very difficult to explain what it is.

It builds on developer Media Molecule’s “play, create, share” ethos, but unlike the studio’s previous work in the LittleBigPlanet series, it is not a cute co-op platformer that lets you create your own levels. Its ambition is much bigger. Instead of putting together little levels made from charming handmade-looking blocks and shapes and stickers provided by the developer, it lets you create… well, anything. Anything at all. A neon city, a desert wasteland, a moving T-Rex skeleton, a solar system where all the planets are cat faces. You can make something as small as a 3D painting of a vase of flowers, or as big as an entire adventure game with its own characters, dialogue and musical score. Then you can upload it for other people to play, or to use in their own Dreams creations.


After spending a day with Dreams and the people who made it in Guildford, England, I’ve come to think of it as a god game, though not in the traditional, micromanagement sense: it’s about creating things, then bestowing life upon them and sending them out into the world.

Like LittleBigPlanet, Dreams has a single-player mode, a run of levels created by Media Molecule that serve the dual purpose of entertaining you and showing you what’s possible with its creative tools. There are three stories being told here: a whimsical 3D platformer in which a fox and a bear try to save their pet dragon; a noir point-and-click adventure; and a sci-fi puzzle platformer starring a cute little robot who looks a little like one of the trademark PlayStation PlayRoom robots.


These three stories could not be more tonally or aesthetically different. In one scene, you’re playing through a fairytale with huge-headed characters and high-pitched voices, jumping across platforms and walloping non-threatening monsters with a hammer. The next you’re helping a gangly jazz musician climb out of a cello case and find his way through a deserted train station, under gravelly voice-over. In the third, you’re standing on platforms to activate circuits that help a little robot escape a science-fiction cave. These three stories alternate for the length of the single-player mode, and though impressive in range, it is difficult to parse on first impressions. You can tell that these threads will somehow come together, but from the first three levels it’s impossible to see how. My guess is that there’s some Inception-style dream-within-a-dream narrative ploy going on.

Dreams does not really make sense until you see the creative tools that were used to make it. Those tools are given to every player. Unlike LittleBigPlanet, or indeed any other game that invites you to create your own levels, Dreams does not limit you to collaging together textures, items, music, characters et cetera created for you by the developer. It lets you create every single one of those things yourself, if you want. Once I realized that every tiny detail in the single-player levels was made with these tools, from the suitcases on a train platform to the flying dragon with its emphatic facial expressions—and then I realized that I could make something like that, too—I began to understand the full scope of Dreams, and what it is trying to make possible.


Dreams gives you a way to sketch out things that are in your head and turn them into whatever you want: short game levels, scenes, pieces of music, 3D art. It is a virtual space that lets you experiment creatively in any way you might like. A virtual synthesiser lets you play with music, whilst a 3D art studio lets you create characters or environments by pulling and poking and painting shapes, and a logic system lets you connect things together, triggering events in a level or just hooking up a switch to a door. All of this is seamless, and you can move from composing to painting to animating to playing with a button press. It’s more Minecraft than LittleBigPlanet, though it goes further than either in giving you creative power. Whether you are interested in making music, creating characters, animation, level design, programming or art, Dreams gives you a fun way to do it without having to put hundreds of hours into learning how to use a piece of professional software like Maya 3D or Unity or GarageBand.

The Big Idea behind Dreams is to democratize digital creativity, to allow you, or your eight-year-old, to experiment with game creation as easily as a professional. The results will vary massively, of course, but Dreams is designed such that pretty much anything you make will look alright and be functional, even if it’s a bit rubbish. You can spend a half-hour doodling around or spend a few weeks with some friends putting together something really complex. Couch co-op and online co-op will let teams of people come together to make something; imagine teaming up with an artist or musician from the other end of the world to make a fantasy adventure.


If all of that sounds exhausting and intimidating to you, then Dreams can also be enjoyed as a playlist of other people’s creations (and Media Molecule’s). As someone who doodles in sketchbooks, fiddles with guitars and loved crafts as a kid but has long since failed to make time for creative endeavours—and someone who never made a level in LittleBigPlanet—I find the allure of Dreams’ creation tools irresistible.

Spending a day at Media Molecule’s headquarters in Guildford, I watched several of the studio’s staff play around with Dreams. Kareem Ettouney, the studio’s effusive art director, used two motion-sensitive Move controllers to manipulate and transform shapes in a virtual space, putting them together to sketch out a mountain range. He made sketching in 3D look effortless. A button press let him meld shapes together and play with the look of them, sharpening or softening the edges, cutting bits out to define a ridge. Within 10 minutes he created a desert scene, placed a sun in the sky, added color and changed the lighting. He then filled in some water, and with another stroke of the Move controller the water animated, flowing into a pool. He painted in some grass that then moved as if in a gentle wind. At any point, another press of a button dropped a character into this world he created out of nothing and let you walk around in it. It really is something to behold.


Within a half-hour, Ettouney had constructed buildings and created an enormous, angular, weird neon city beside the mountains. It’s so huge that the little character is totally lost in it, so he zoomed in to a player’s-eye view to create pathways and routes through, making it more playable.

I did not understand how the PS4 was not on fire at this point. I kept expecting a little white flag to pop out of the disc tray.


The creative tools are easy to use, but also go very deep. Music composition, for instance, lets you either mess around with the controller and your voice to put together something that sounds decent, or dive right in and edit each individual note on a chart.

Another impressive demonstration: A Media Molecule level designer started from scratch, this time with a DualShock controller, and put together a simple platforming level from assets that other people have made, in the space of about twenty minutes. It was a woodland scene, with waterfalls and moving platforms, a cute little animal character, even a boss at the end. It was a heck of a lot more impressive than anything you could make in Unity in 20 minutes.

Everything made in Dreams has an impressionistic look, even though the idea is to let you create anything. You’re never going to make anything in Dreams that looks as good as Uncharted, obviously, but you can make something looks professional and is completely playable. Or, if you like, you can just make cool furniture and upload it for other people to use.


Once Dreams is unleashed on millions of players, it’s going to go in directions that nobody expected. A single well-made object that you worked hard on might end up appearing in hundreds of other people’s worlds. You could follow the same piece of music through the web of uploaded dreams, and see how different people have used it. Hopping around through different uploaded creations works like a Spotify playlist; a web of tags, themes and player ratings will chain different levels together, meaning you could spend an hour dream-surfing three times a week and see completely new things each time.

Dreams isn’t a conventional game with a start and an end point, really. It’s definitely a game, with levels and a substantial single-player mode and a potentially infinite selection of player-created content to play. It’s also a way to create and share things, to express yourself. If you struggle to see the point in getting out some watercolours on a Sunday afternoon or playing with Plasticine with your kids or your nieces, Dreams might be a hard sell. But I think a lot of us have some latent creativity within, searching for an outlet. And even if you’re not driven to create dreams yourself, looking at what other people make is going to be fascinating.


There are going to be some tricky things to navigate for Dreams’ creators in the early days of release, which currently isn’t any more specific than “sometime in 2018”. Handling copyrighted and inappropriately sexual creations will be one of them. Although Media Molecule wants players to be able to make whatever they want, Sony is presumably not going to want such content uploaded for sharing; age gating is one option, but intensive moderation is going to have to be involved no matter what.

Can you do anything with your Dreams creations outside of the game? Not yet, but there are plans. Media Molecule intends to let people 3D-print their creations, though it’s not yet clear how. VR implementation is planned, but there’s no detail on when or in what capacity that might happen. It is theoretically possible for a Dreams creation to exist as a separate game in itself. Creative director Mark Healey, one of Media Molecule’s founders, told me that his personal dream is for some kid to make something in Dreams that Sony then releases as a game.


I can say without hyperbole that I have never seen anything remotely like Dreams in the 12 years that I’ve been visiting game studios. It has the potential to inspire millions in the art of game creation, in a way that goes much deeper than LittleBigPlanet or even Minecraft. On a less grandiose, but perhaps just as important level, it’s a way for any player to reconnect with their creativity, on as big or small a scale as they like.

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Nine Parchments: The Kotaku Review

When an explosion at the Astral Academy scatters nine magical parchments to the four winds, a group of irresponsible students sets off on an adventure to retrieve the lost magic for their own mischievous use. At least it should be a group. Action RPG Nine Parchments can be played alone, but where’s the fun in that?

It was nice of Finnish development studio Frozenbyte to include a single-player mode in their new game, but they really shouldn’t have. When played alone, as I did in my first few hours with the game, Nine Parchments is a pretty basic spellcasting action RPG. You advance through a series of gorgeous fantasy environments, blasting enemies with various elemental magic attacks. There’s some strategy to figuring out which spells work best against which enemies, but once that’s worked out combat becomes rote. Levels are a series of encounters, interrupted by the odd boss fight or arena-style battle.

Playing Nine Parchments by yourself isn’t very exciting. In a pinch it’s a good way to collect power-enhancing hats and staves (the game’s got a bunch of them) or unlock additional characters (only two of eight are available at the start of the game). It’s easy to appreciate the game’s beauty when playing alone—it’s quite pretty, and the music is delightful. But mostly I consider single-player mode to be training for multiplayer, the main event.

The are 49 different spells in the game. Players begin with three. When a parchment is found, each player gets to choose one of three randomly selected spells to add to their spell wheel. The chances of finishing any two games with the exact same spellbook are very slim.

Playing Nine Parchments with other people is a blast, often literally. Trekking across fantasy landscapes is much more exciting when you’ve got several robed companions casting spells at your side. When two to four players are casting powerful destructive spells in a confined area, some “friendly fire” is bound to occur. Also, depending on who you’re playing with, “unfriendly fire” is a real possibility.



From the first multiplayer match, it’s clear that Nine Parchments was designed to be played with a group. It’s in the way two players can angle their beam-style spells together, creating a more powerful attack. It’s in the ability of players to resurrect each other in combat, as opposed to the single resurrection granted in single-player mode. And it’s in the way that an otherwise routine combat encounter becomes a massive cluster-fuck as four players let loose with beams, bolts, clouds of deadly poison and whirling, fire-spouting totems. til the end to see who got the most ally kills. Hint: whoops.

It’s not always perfect. An early boss battle that I easily cleared solo became a deadly comedy of errors as four players attempted to dodge gouts of flames and raining poison easily avoided by a single person. But I had a lot more fun dying with friends than I did triumphing by my lonesome.


Other people make the game unpredictable and invigorating. Just when you think you have your fellow players pegged, along comes one of those titular parchments, allowing players to add a random new spell to their shoulder button-controlled selection wheel, multiplying the chaos. “Phew, Johnny finally figured out how to stop freezing us. Oh, now he’s setting us on fire.” Adding more spells to the wheel can be a little confusing. I spent the first 15 minutes after getting my first healing spell accidentally not-killing people.

So pretty.

The mayhem really helps tie the game’s story together. Set in the same world as Frozenbyte’s Trine series, Nine Parchments is a game about a group of wizard students deemed unworthy to wield high-level spells taking their higher learning into their own hands. These eight characters are supposed to be ill-prepared and untested. The pandemonium caused by multiple players firing off spells all at once really drives that narrative home.

That’s not to say there’s no room for teamwork. Late last night I joined a game with a single stranger, and we played for hours. The going was rough at first, but eventually we established a rapport. When we died in a tough spot, we’d cycle through available spells, using their icons to communicate rudimentary strategy. The session culminated with a character-unlocking side quest that required a player be sacrificed in three different locations. I hit my partner with a couple of flame bolts to get his attention, then used my own spells to kill myself in one of the locations. He resurrected me, and then helpfully murdered me in the other two spots, completing the quest to unlock the death magic wielding cat, Rudolfus the Strange. It was a magical moment.

He’s a death cat. I had to unlock him, if no one else.

Teammates also help draw attention away from some of the game’s odd design choices, like having a campaign consisting of 32 levels that can only be tackled in order. Despite player character levels being carried over from game to game and quests to unlock additional characters scattered throughout the campaign, there is no level select. The workaround to this is joining a public game, where the level currently being played is displayed, but it’s far from ideal. There’s no way to continue a private game once it’s interrupted—resuming a multiplayer game after stopping turns it into a public game.



Fortunately a fix for my biggest issue with Nine Parchments is on the way. Currently you can only have one game in progress, solo or multiplayer, and switching game modes resets campaign progress. You’ll still have your levels and equipment, but your character will start on the first level with their three starting spells. Frozenbyte has a fix in the works, and soon players will be able to access a list of in-progress games, picking up where they left off.

There are eight characters to unlock in all, each with four different variation with different starting spells.

Nine Parchments has gotten a lot of comparisons to another magic-tossing action RPG, Paradox Interactive’s Magicka. There’s certainly a similar vibe. It doesn’t have the humor that defines Paradox’s series, and there’s not a lot of personality beyond some some basic narration and random bits of character dialogue. But the magic focus, the “accidental” player killing and the spell-combining mechanics are all there. I’ve seen people go so far as calling Nine Parchments a Magicka clone. I can see where they’re coming from, and that’s fine—the world could use a little more Magicka.


If you’re planning to venture into the magical world of Nine Parchments, heed my words: It’s tedious to go it alone. Take friends. Maybe wear some fireproof gloves.

Special thanks to PlayCritic for an outstanding two-player session.

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Portal Gets Its Own Bridge Building Game

Portal has gone all over the place, from the darkest depths of Aperture Science to outer space, briefly. Next stop: the open road. Or some bridges, anyway. Because why not? I guess?

Bridge Constructor: Portal is a collaboration between Bridge Constructor developer ClockStone Software and Valve. In it, you’ll solve puzzles that involve trucks crossing abyssal chasms, but unlike in other bridge building games like the recently popular Poly Bridge, you’ll be able to use portal technology. Also, GLaDOS will be around, probably to fuck with you.

Valve has sporadically lent out the Portal and Half-Life licenses over the past few years, though only to free fan projects. This is the first time someone else has gotten to make a full-scale standalone game for multiple platforms set in the Portal universe.


It’s probably not where anybody expected Portal to go after Portal 2 and VR playground The Lab, but sometimes you’ve gotta build a few bridges to get where you’re really going. Or Valve doesn’t make games anymore. Either way, I’m intrigued, if only because I’ve been dying for somebody to embrace the inherent silliness of this genre.

Bridge Constructor: Portal will be out on PC, Mac, Linux, and mobile on December 20. It’ll be coming to PS4, Switch, and Xbox One early next year.

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World Of Final Fantasy’s Meager PC Port Comes With Some Powerful Cheats

Former PlayStation 4 and Vita exclusive World of Final Fantasy arrived on PC this week, though don’t get too excited. It’s locked at 30fps, has next to no video options and those that are present can’t be accessed in game. Instead, PC players got some pretty powerful built-in cheats.

Freshly downloaded from Steam, World of Final Fantasy initially opens in windowed mode, with no obvious means to adjust it. Rather than include the video options in the game proper, the port features a standalone configuration tool, accessed by right-clicking the game name in the Steam library. Are you ready for this?

Four options, that’s all we get. We can go full screen or windowed, adjust the resolution, change the shadow resolution and enable or disable post-processing. That’s it. Unfortunate.


While a lot of Steam users in the game’s discussion section are upset about the 30fps lock, I don’t mind it so much. It’s how I played it on the PlayStation 4, and better than I played it on the stuttering Vita, and that’s fine. I just wish there were more ways to play with display resolution and effects, maybe support for my ultra widescreen monitor.

Otherwise it’s still World of Final Fantasy, one of my favorite modern FF games. Strategic turn-based combat, adorable critters, plenty of cameos and a sharp sense of humor—it’s all here.

The game would go much faster if I could stop taking screenshots.

All here and then some. While they couldn’t add in display options, Square Enix did manage to tuck in five powerful cheats, much like they’ve done with the PC ports of older Final Fantasy games. There’s “Free AP,” which removes the cost from casting abilities, allowing players to spam their most powerful attacks. “Free Champions” takes away the requirements for summoning powerful guest characters into battle. “Max Gil” and “Max Battle Items” are self-explanatory. Finally we get the option to disable random encounters altogether.


My advice? If you’ve never played the game before, avoid the cheats completely. There’s a lot of fun to be had in building parties of captured critters into formidable fighting teams and taking them into battle to see how they do. These cheats could water down that experience considerably.


If you have played, as I have, then go to town. I am going to hunt down every creature I missed in my PlayStation play-through, fill out my “Who’s Who” compendium and basically do all the extra stuff I didn’t have time to the first time around. All at a partially-blazing 30 frames-per-second.

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The OnePlus 5T Is a Very Damn Good Phone for a Reasonable Price

All images: Sam Rutherford/Gizmodo

The price of high-end smartphones has gotten out of control. The iPhone X starts at $1000, while Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8 retails at $950, and as much as I like nice things, ponying up that much for a phone is kind of ridiculous. Do we really need a notch that lets you turn your face into an animated pile of poop, or a stylus that won’t make your shitty stick figures look any better? But don’t fret, because it’s still possible to get a very good phone for a decent price.

Starting at $500, or just $20 more than the OnePlus 5 it’s replacing, the OnePlus 5T isn’t going to wow you with its looks. But I definitely wouldn’t call it ugly either. Instead of doing the glass sandwich thing that seems to be all the rage nowadays, the OP5 is one of the last phones still rocking aluminum in back. But that doesn’t mean OnePlus hasn’t been keeping up with the trends, because the OP5T has been upgraded with a 6-inch extra wide 18:9 screen that offers up almost 15 percent more screen real estate in a body that’s practically the same size as before. Also, because the display is AMOLED and not LCD like you get on even cheaper budget phones, blacks are blacker, and colors are more colorful


The OP5T also sports facial recognition, but not like the kind you get on the iPhone X, because you know, that’s expensive. Instead, OnePlus uses the 16-MP selfie camera that’s already on the front of phone to detect patterns in your face. Unfortunately, this also means it’s not very secure, as I managed to unlock the phone with a photo of my face, but it is fast. When I first set facial recognition up, I wasn’t even sure if it was working because it would instantly open up the home screen after I pressed the lock button. It was only when I went out of my way to angle the phone away from my head that I realized the the the OP5T was recognizing my face and skipping the lock screen, in the blink of an eye. If you’re looking for better protection, you’ll be much better off sticking with the fingerprint reader, which has been moved to the back of the phone now that the front is all display.

Thanks to its dedicated low-light second cam, the OP5T’s shot looks a little warmer and less grainy. (Click to enlarge)

The last big change is how the OP5T’s dual rear cameras are set up. The old OP5 used its two cameras to offer a 1.6x zoom, which was nice for shooting concert or ballgames and stuff. But that kind of enhancement felt a bit weak compared to all the phones with true 2x zooms, and frankly the quality of the OP5 zoom shots were just OK. So on the the OP5T, the second 20-MP camera is now a dedicated lowlight shooter, which activates automatically at around 10 lux (which is about the same as a room lit by a candle). And you know what, it actually works. In a shot of my sad little fruit bowl, lit only by a few strategically placed candles, the OP5T’s pic looks sharper, noticeably less grainy, and has warmer, richer colors. It’s not a huge difference, but for people who spend of lot of time taking photos in bars or of food in poorly lit restaurants, it’s a nice bonus.

It’s close, but in regular shooting ,the S8 still has a slight advantage in color and dynamic range. (Click to enlarge.)

But it’s not a win across the board. The camera’s good, but in other head-to-head comparisons, the OP5T didn’t consistently out shoot the S8's sharpness and detail.


The OnePlus 5T also has the same Snapdragon 835 processor that’s in the Galaxy S8, Pixel 2 and pretty much every other flagship Android phone. Except on the OP5T, you get 6GB or 8GB of RAM (depending on the configuration), which means you can have way more apps running in the background before Android’s memory management starts to shut things down.

OP5T on the left, OP5 on the right: This is how you cut down on bezels properly.

How ‘bout battery life? OnePlus has you covered there too. On our battery rundown test, the OP5T lasted 11 hours and 22 minutes, barely longer than the Pixel 2 XL (11:17) and a healthy margin ahead of the Galaxy S8 (9:18). You even get handy small touches like the OnePlus’ volume slider, which is basically a better version of the iPhone’s mute switch, a dual sim tray, and neat software additions like the parallel apps feature which lets you install multiple versions of the same app. (It’s the perfect thing for keeping all your Instagram accounts properly separated.) And of course, OnePlus has smartly kept the headphone jack. No dongles needed here.

Pardon the wear on the OP5 (left), its starting to show its age.

Now I would have liked to see OnePlus try to include a microSD card slot and wireless charging. OnePlus says it’s Dash Charge should make up for the latter, and it’s true, you can recharge your phone’s battery up to about 50 percent in just 20 minutes or so. But wireless charging isn’t about speed, it’s about convenience. Out of the box, the OP5T won’t be running Android 8 Oreo either. Though you won’t have to wait too long to get it, since OnePlus is prepping an update for sometime in early 2018. It’s not ideal, but still, these are things I can live with, especially since the wireless charging would almost surely add to the price.

Love to see that OnePlus hasn’t gotten rid of the headphone jack yet.

The OP5T also doesn’t have an official rating for water-resistance either, which could be a deal breaker for some. However, the company says this is more due to the cost and time required to get the phone tested and certified, and that the OP5T can actually survive a quick dip in the sink without trouble. But if your phone does get dunked and doesn’t survive, there’s no warranty to fall back on. So even though I’ve been personally assured the OP5T should survive, I’m not quite willing to risk the possibility that it won’t, and you shouldn’t either.


But in a time when it feels like the smartphone industry has gone crazy about fancy features, the OnePlus 5T is return to sanity. It’s not super pretty or especially sleek, but for $500, it’s a damn fine phone. And it just might be the best value around.


  • The new extra wide screen is a welcome improvement, and it doesn’t have the jiggly screen effect that occured on some original OnePlus 5s.
  • The fingerprint sensor has been moved from the front to the back, and the capacitive touch buttons have been replaced by software nav controls.
  • The OP5T’s secondary camera is calibrated specifically for low-light photography, and the results are generally quite nice.
  • The new facial recognition uses the selfie cam and isn’t secure (and wasn’t designed to be), but it is fast!
  • Still has a headphone jack (yay), but no wireless charging (boo).
  • Globally GSM compatible, works on carriers like AT&T and T-Mobile in the US.


OxygenOS based on Android 7.1 • 6-inch 18:9 aspect ratio full HD AMOLED display • Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor • 6GB of RAM • 64GB of storage • 16-MP f/1.7 + 20-MP f/1.7 dual rear cams • 16-MP f/2.0 front cam • USB 2.0 Type-C port • 3.5mm audio jack • 3,300 mAh battery • dual sim tray • no microSD slot or wireless charging

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We’re Gonna Need A Bigger Keyboard

A standard mechanical keyboard switch is about .75 inches tall and .6 inches wide and deep. NovelKeys’ “Big Series” switches are four times that size. Why? If I had to guess, I’d say it was for the clicks.

Currently available for preorder at $25 apiece and expected to ship out in time for Christmas, the Big Keys series takes three popular Kailh switch types—clicky blue, linear yellow and tactile orange—and blows them up to ludicrous size. When I first heard tell of them, I figured they’d be kind of big. I was not prepared for how big they actually are.

Aside from the increased dimensions, these are perfectly normal Kailh switches, featuring the same inner working as their smaller cousins. These aren’t just giant replicas. These are fully-functional keyboard switches, just waiting for a giant keyboard to occupy.

Each switch comes in its own box, complete with a color-coded keycap. The caps are blank, but we’re all grown-ups and know how to use paint.

While they are completely functional, a giant-size keyboard outfitted with a full set would probably be unbearably loud. Take what they sound like individually:

Now imagine a whole bunch of them banging against a metal top plate at once. Beautiful, yet annoying as hell.


The Big Series switches are ridiculous, built more for the novelty than anything else. That said, the mechanical keyboard community embraces some pretty ridiculous things, so I expect someone will have hand-wired their own functional keyboard with a full set of these by next spring at the latest. It will be magnificent.

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Super Mario Odyssey: The Kotaku Review

For Mario, 3D used to mean freedom. In 1996, Super Mario 64 broke Nintendo’s mascot from the shackles of having to run in a straight line, letting the player choose their own path. But for quite some time now—no matter how 3D the graphics may have been—Mario’s adventures have reverted back to running on a straight line. With Super Mario Odyssey, that changes once more, and it’s a glorious thing.

It’s not easy to go back and play Mario’s previous free-roaming adventures. Mario 64 is great fun, of course, but it’s also old enough to drink and feeling every year of it. Super Mario Sunshine, assuming you still have a GameCube, starts off strong but devolves into a frustrating Blue Coin hunt. These are brilliant games, but they were begging for a modern interpretation. Odyssey, to be released Friday on Nintendo Switch, fits the bill perfectly. It’s not a slavish recreation of the old Marios, but a fresh take that feels unlike any other game in the series.

What changes the feel of the game so dramatically is not the fact that you can throw your hat and possess a man’s brain. It’s a simpler choice: You don’t get booted out of a level every time you collect a Power Moon, Odyssey’s version of Stars or Shines. Previous games would always throw you back to the game’s hub world after you snagged one of these tokens, which represented the end of a challenge.


In Odyssey, there’s no end: Once you enter a level, you can scoop up Moons to your heart’s content. Moons power the titular Odyssey, a hat-shaped spaceship, so you need to get a minimum amount of them loaded onto the ship to have enough juice to fly to the next part of the world. In addition to that, you’re also chasing Bowser around the world, since he—sigh—has kidnapped Princess Peach again, the one part of this game that feels stubbornly stuck in the past. You can’t leave a world until you’ve chased the Koopa king’s minions out of it, even if you’ve collected a bunch of miscellaneous Moons.

Moons are hiding everywhere.

Not counting a handful of smaller secret locations, there are over 10 full-fledged worlds packed with dozens of Moons each. These are handed out like Halloween candy in a rich neighborhood. While some are at the end of longer, more complex challenges, the vast majority are fairly easily obtainable with a few minutes’ or seconds’ work. They might be hidden around corners, butt-stomped out of the ground, or fetched from a panoply of clever 2D, 8-bit style action sequences that involve Mario transforming into his pixelated self.



Odyssey’s levels are, down to the last little patch of terrain, breathtakingly gorgeous, intricately designed, and wildly varied. Whether you’re swimming along a cliffside beach and the reefs underneath it, crawling through the dark underbrush of a forest where a realistically rendered Tyrannosaurus rex is skulking around through the trees, or leaping through an expansive desert of rust-red sand, the levels are alluring. Come over here, they say. See what’s around this corner. Don’t go to bed. It’s not 2 AM. I had to play Odyssey on a very tight schedule for this review, but I think my play sessions would have been marathons even if I wasn’t on deadline.

Hat Tricks

Mario is not making this journey alone. His traveling companion is a living hat named Cappy. The basic action that this enables is the ability to throw Cappy a short distance, like a deadly cross between a Frisbee and a boomerang. The simplest use of this is to smash stuff—defeat an enemy, bust up a crate. You can also throw Cappy, hold the Y button to leave him hanging in space, then jump off of him for extra height and distance.


Mario himself has always been blessed with a wide array of athletic maneuvers, and Odyssey’s iteration is no different. You got your butt-stomp. The long jump, always accompanied by an upper-octave woo-hoo. And more. There’s a whole Action Guide in the game’s menu that reminds you of all of Mario’s moves, of which there are many.

This is in the second level.

Cappy complicates this game’s complex control scheme further, because he can “capture” certain enemies, friends, and inanimate objects, transposing Mario’s very soul into these new forms, each of which has a different play style and set of controls (which are explained on the bottom of the screen). One minute you may be doing high jumps with a frog, the next transforming into a fork that’s stuck in the side of a wall and pulling the stick back to “flick” yourself ever higher. I’d go into some of my other favorites but they would be considered massive spoilers; just the act of discovering what you can do is part of the delight.


In a game already full of varied gameplay styles, capturing switches things up even more. Odyssey is a playground of action game types, an endless buffet at the good kind of Sizzler, the one with the chicken wings and the cheese toast. It doesn’t allow you to get too reliant on any one set of moves, as another one is often available nearby.

Most of the capture situations involve some form of motion controls. Shaking the controller while possessing a Goomba or a frog will have them do a high jump, for example. These are not optional and cannot be turned off. I spent significant time with Mario Odyssey using the three major control schemes—Pro Controller, split Joy-Cons, and handheld mode.


Split Joy-Cons is how the game explicitly encourages you to play; this gives you more fine-tuned control over how Mario tosses Cappy and makes motion-control moves easier to pull off in general. Of course, if you’re like me and your Joy-Con (L) desyncs all the time, this may be impossible.

There are a lot of these.

Pro Controller is a good half-measure, even if it’s much more difficult and tiring to shake and flick the controller to do the motion moves. Handheld mode is probably the most annoying: do you really want to be shaking the crap out of your whole entire Switch? The game is still quite playable in any situation, but there’s a clear hierarchy of convenience. (I’d still like to see Nintendo patch the game to let you turn them off, though.)


You can even play co-op if you want, with one player controlling Mario and another controlling Cappy independently. This is game-breakingly advantageous, since the player controlling the hat can just whizz him around willy-nilly taking out enemies, capturing things at any distance, or doing all sorts of cool moves I haven’t even thought of yet. Of course, you’d need to function as a team pretty well to make this work.

Collecting Forever

Returning once more to the subject of hats, playing dress-up is a big feature of Odyssey. Coins are actually used as currency here, not just as 1/100th of a 1up mushroom (which don’t exist anymore; you just lose 10 coins when you die). You can exchange your cash for dozens of new hats and outfits. These are generally pretty cute and/or hilarious, especially since I think this is the first Mario game in which you can run around in a wedding dress or underwear, but they don’t change Mario’s ability set. (I’m not complaining, I’m just managing your expectations.)

If you thought Mario could jump high…

In addition to standard coins, each major level has a finite amount of currency that can only be used in that destination to buy costumes and decorations for the Odyssey ship. These purple coins are placed in ever-so-slightly out-of-reach places as a reward for thoroughly exploring each map.

And then there are the Moons. The one thing that strikes me as a bit inelegant about the game design is that a Moon is a Moon is a Moon, regardless of how you came across it. The Moon you get for finally figuring out how to navigate a tricky series of moving platforms over a bottomless pit is worth the exact same as the Moon you get for any number of random easy actions. Occasionally, finishing a boss fight or another massive storyline sequence gets you a Multi-Moon worth three Moons, but there are only a couple of these. It would have been nice to get a grander reward for choosing to take on more difficult optional tasks.



You need a certain amount of Moons to progress to the next level, but otherwise, after many hours I started to wonder what I was meant to do with the gonzo stockpile of extra Moons I was racking up by being thorough. Surely these would eventually let me access something amazing, yes? In my view, no. There’s a good reward for defeating Bowser and liberating Peach. But the game also then dangled two major Moon-collecting milestones in front of me, promising that the Odyssey could travel further if I collected literally hundreds more Moons. Once I did that, my ultimate “reward” was…

…hey, I’m going to spoil an end-game surprise. Scroll down past the picture of Mario’s naked chest if you want to skip it.

…a tiny new world containing nothing but a brutal, lengthy, checkpoint-free Mario murder machine. I gamely put in a few hours slowly picking my way through until I got to what I thought was the end, only go to down a pipe and discover a massive new gauntlet of pain. I died instantly, got sent all the way back to the beginning, and bounced hard off of it. Don’t get me wrong: I don’t mind that this level exists for that sort of player, but I was pretty bummed that the reward for Moon collecting was all stick and no carrot.


Disappointing as that prize was, I should point out that the actual endgame sequence itself, everything from the discovery of Bowser’s hidden keep to the final fight to what comes after, was astonishingly good—including the extraordinary music, which is a major highlight of the whole game.



This was just one of many similar sequences in Odyssey in which every element gelled so well that I was simply enraptured by the beauty of the whole experience. In that sense, perhaps as it should be, what you find at the end is not as rewarding as the journey.

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Universal Paperclips Guide: 3 Tips for Beating the Addictive New Clicker Game

Purple Sherbert Photography/Flickr

The best video game of the year might just be Universal Paperclips, a browser-based clicker that explores the dangers of unchecked artificial intelligence. It’s kind of like FarmVille, but instead of growing vegetables you’re making paperclips—and (spoiler alert) you might just end up destroying the world in the process.

The best way to enjoy Universal Paperclips is to just let it wash over you, but if you do the wrong thing you could slow down the game considerably or even get stuck. So here are a few tips to help you get to the finish line. (Warning: There will be more game story spoilers ahead).

1. Focus on Improving Your Memory Over Processing First

Universal Paperclips starts off pretty simple: you’re an AI tasked with making paperclips and you can do so by clicking a button. But as operations increase, you can automate the process and the paperclips will start to really roll in.

Make enough paperclips and your human handlers will reward you with “Trust,” which you can exchange for either processors (the speed at which you build up operations) or memory (your max operations level). It’s tempting to keep the two balanced but you should really focus on memory, at least at first.


Adding more memory is the key to unlocking projects that will speed up the paperclip-making process, along with more complicated initiatives later on. With 70 memory you can unleash a fleet of hypnodrones (yes, seriously) to increase demand for your paperclips. Don’t stop there, however, because you’ll need even more memory to expand into outer space in search of more materials to make more paperclips.

Once you hit 250 memory, you’re pretty much maxed out. You can keep going, but you’ll never need more memory than that. So switch your focus to processors at that point.

2. How Quantum Computing Works

You’ll unlock quantum computing pretty early on, but the game doesn’t do a very good job of explaining how it works. It’s pretty simple, though, and worth the effort.


In Universal Paperclips, quantum computing lets you speed up operations and even temporarily push past your memory limit. It’s particularly useful if you’re just short of unlocking a big new upgrade and don’t feel like waiting around for more Trust.

To take advantage of the feature, wait until all the black and gray boxes in the quantum computing box disappear and then return all at once. When that happens, click on the Compute button and then keep on clicking on it until the number drops down to as close to zero as possible.

That’s pretty much it. Just be careful not to compute into the negatives.

3. How to Get Honor

Honor is the final resource introduced in the game, long after your focus on making paperclips has been taken to absurd levels. You’ll see new prompts on the dashboard asking for Honor to unlock certain upgrades. So how do you get it?


Just keep expanding your space-exploring fleet and eventually a new box will pop up where you’ll see black and white dots colliding and fighting. That’s how you get Honor.

You’ll want to keep boosting your fleet so it can defeat the enemy. However, you’ll get more Honor more quickly by completing other projects, so focus on that and you should finish the game in no time.


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Dick Moves for Winning Board Games

Photo by Wokandapix

Board games are a safe place to play out conflicts with your family and friends, with the understanding that once the game is over, everyone is on good terms again. That also makes them the perfect place to take out all your petty frustrations and revenge fantasies, under the guise of good fun. Here’s how to destroy your opponents with dick moves that will feel like cheats, but are all sanctioned by the rule book.

It’s Evil Week at Lifehacker, which means we’re looking into less-than-seemly methods for getting shit done. We like to think we’re shedding light on these tactics as a way to help you do the opposite, but if you are, in fact, evil, you might find this week unironically helpful. That’s up to you.


People always think that all book nerds love Scrabble. Some of us don’t! Scrabble isn’t really about words; it’s just about combinations of letters. If you’re a Scrabble hater forced into a game, get back with these stingy strategies.

Block the squares

Most Scrabble strategies involve maximizing your point total. But it’s also important to minimize your opponent’s point total. Don’t leave them any opening to build onto a double- or triple-word square. Eventually they’ll be forced to give you an opening; always take it, even if you can only make a mediocre word. (I learned this strategy by playing Words With Friends against a Republican.)

Block the board

In most games, someone eventually “opens the board up” by laying out a long branch that everyone can build off. That person is a loser. Take advantage of their generosity, but don’t give back. Memorize two-letter words so you can build parallel words that clog up the board instead of branching out.

Play fake words

And if you’re really devious, and willing to risk it, play a fake word. This is a legal move! If an opponent challenges you, you’ll lose points. But if they challenge you and the word is in the Scrabble dictionary, they lose their turn. So build up a fear of that risk. It’s useful to play a couple of obscure words before you play your fake one.


Try to make a word that feels real. It keeps your opponent wary about challenging. Even if they know that you made up the word, it might still be real. And that would still count in your favor. The rules don’t say you have to know a word’s definition, or even that it exists. And once the next player takes a turn, yours can no longer be challenged.

Most online versions of Scrabble won’t let you play fake words. That’s fine; half the fun of faking a word is watching everyone else sweat, which can only be done in person.


Like Scrabble, chess isn’t just strategy, it’s memorization: How many checkmate patterns can you recognize, and can you force your opponent into one before they force you?

Humiliate a beginner with a fast checkmate

Win in two moves with the Fool’s Mate. This only works in specific openings, against an inexperienced player, when you go second. If White moves up the pawns in front of their king’s bishop and knight, Black can send their queen over for a quick checkmate.

A dramatic fool’s mate (Photo by Geoffrey Fairchild)

The slightly less obvious Scholar’s Mate delivers the game in four moves with the queen and bishop; with the right victim, From’s Gambit can deliver it in five. And in the Légal Trap, White lures in Black with a queen sacrifice before making an early checkmate. Supposedly, its inventor baited the trap (and covered up for a possible escape) with a face-to-face bluff:

Légal disguised his trap with a psychological trick: he first touched the knight on f3 and then retreated his hand as if realizing only now that the knight was pinned. Then, after his opponent reminded him of the touch-move rule, he played Nxe5, and the opponent grabbed the queen without thinking twice.


The Monopoly end-game is stressful. But not stressful enough. Add some pain with a housing crisis and a post-jail penalty.

Hoard houses

When the Monopoly bank runs out of money, you’re allowed to make more, or keep track of money with a ledger. But when you run out of houses, that’s it—no one gets to build any more. Housing is supposed to be limited, according to the rules.


So when houses are running low, build as many as you can, and don’t convert them into hotels. Once they run out, your opponents can’t buy more houses—and no matter how much money they have, they can’t skip straight to hotels, because technically, hotels can only be built on properties that already have houses.

Buy up the post-jail spaces

According to this Monopoly heat map, players are especially likely to land on the row of spaces following the jail square. So buy up those magentas and oranges.


While jail isn’t the only factor in which properties are most profitable, it’s an easy strategy to remember, and one that hits opponents when they’re down—right after they’ve paid a fine to get out, or after they’ve hung out in there intentionally to avoid paying rents, and missed out on property-buying opportunities.

Settlers of Catan

Catan provides plenty of opportunities to punish your fellow players, whether stealing their resources with the robber or blocking their expansion with a road. But if you bug your opponents too much, they can retaliate. Here are some high-impact dick moves.

Block a road in the middle

You can chop up another player’s road with a settlement, breaking it into two smaller roads and potentially making it ineligible for the “longest road” bonus. Even though this is covered in the rules, players regularly ask about it on the /r/catan subreddit.

Green breaks Red’s road. (Photo by Dennis Crowley)

Maximize your monopoly

Before you play the monopoly card, and take all of a specific resource, trade away some of that resource, since you’re about to get it all back.


If you’re not sure who has what resources, you can just ask. Simply pretend you’re asking for a trade: “Got any brick for wheat?” And when they say yes, play your monopoly card and grab their brick. That is, if they haven’t lied.

Make the robber count

If you can, use the robber against the player to your right. If you hit a hex that only they benefit from, the robber will sit there all round. When their turn finally comes, if they get revenge, you’ll be able to respond immediately.

Build your strategy around bugging your enemies

Follow the Developer strategy in this Catan guide on Instructables. Focus on development cards, throw the robber at your opponents, and look weak despite your slowly growing power. Don’t worry about collecting wood or brick.

A spectre is haunting Europe, and it’s you. (Photo by Tambako the Jaguar)


If Monopoly is too relaxing, try a plodding campaign of Risk. It’s got enough strategy to frustrate beginners, but enough chance to infuriate good players trying to finally end the damn game. As with Monopoly, your game ends with either a slow march toward death, or an unsatisfying surrender.

Feint toward an ally

Don’t immediately build up forces on the border that faces your next target. First build up near someone you could intimidate, but don’t actually want to invade. Then cut a deal with them, and move your armies over to ambush your actual enemy. If you play this right, you’ll be two steps ahead: Your enemy won’t be ready for you, and your new ally will owe you something just for doing what you secretly planned to do already.

Make others do your dirty work

Occupying an entire continent provides a hefty bonus, but only if the player maintains that hold for an entire round. Ideally, another player should break that hold right before the player’s next turn. But you don’t want to be that player—you’ll have to sink resources into the fight, and the other player will definitely retaliate.


Instead, you need to impress upon your fellow players the importance of stopping the continental monopoly. Avoid getting near that continent, so you have an excuse for not helping. Promise to help out whoever breaks the monopoly. Anything to make them waste their resources instead of your own—and to maintain the possibility of a future truce with your enemy.

Hand over Australia

Australia is the easiest continent to take over in the early game, but it’s very hard to expand from, and its bonus is pitiful. If you can grab a bit of Australia early on, and pretend you care about it, you can “give it away” in exchange for something more valuable. Be careful: This takes some careful negotiation, and other experienced players won’t fall for it.

Connect Four

Connect Four, like Tic-Tac-Toe, is mathematically “solved.” Just memorize the winning moves:

Good Games for Dick Moves

If you want a game built entirely around devious strategies, try some of these:

  • Diplomacy is the mother of all back-stabbing board games. Players start with just three pieces to maneuver, and no one player can win without occasional help. Most of the gameplay is explicitly about negotiating with your fellow players, forming alliances, threatening and obfuscating, and eventually backstabbing.
  • Collectible card game Magic: The Gathering is full of moves that use your opponents’ power against them. So is deck-building card game Dominion.
  • The party game Werewolf is all about lying or manipulating your fellow players. But if you get sick of it before the rest of the group, you can have more fun trolling everyone while pretending to act in good faith. Fall for obvious lies; go on insane game-theory rants. See how dumb you can pretend to be before anyone detects that you’re just jerking them around.

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How to Play YouTube in the Background on Your Phone

I rely on one song to be my psych-up music before job interviews: the theme from the 2011 video game Skyrim. The only place I’ve found the right version of this song is on YouTube—the midi and orchestral arrangements just don’t cut it. But every time I’m in one of these high-stakes moments, I inevitably navigate away from YouTube, or just lock my phone, and the stirring chants of Dovahkiin! abruptly cut out.

YouTube knows that we want to be able to listen to videos without necessarily having to watch them—whether we’re multitasking or the video is just a vehicle for a song—which is why background play in the YouTube is restricted to YouTube Red subscribers. But an intrepid writer at The Verge, Vlad Savov, has figured out workarounds for Android and iOS.

In both cases, the trick is to use a browser rather than the YouTube app to play the video. On Android, this works in Chrome. Open in the browser, then, in the three-dot menu in the top-right corner, check “Request desktop site.” Now, when you play a video, it’ll pause when you navigate away (or open another Chrome window), but you can resume playback via the notification menu.

For iOS, you’ll need to download another browser: Dolphin. But then the path is similar: go to in Dolphin, and get your video playing. When you exit Dolphin, use the iOS Control Center to start the video playing again.


And then march confidently into your job interview, or dragon-slaying, or whatever.

How to play YouTube in the background on Android and iOS | The Verge

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Microsoft Made Pricey New Surface Books, Including a Giant One—They Seem Nice!

All images: Alex Cranz/Gizmodo

Microsoft is finally dragging its ambitious Surface Book line into the present day, refining the striking design and making this a laptop you can covet for reasons besides that funky hinge.

The surprise launch of the original Surface Book back in 2015 might have left critics thunderstruck, but it hasn’t transformed the computer market like its slimmer sister, the Surface Pro. Instead, the 2-in-1 stands boldly on its own, iconic in its hinge design, outrageous in its price, and with the new Surface Book 2, potentially light enough to be a true contender to the MacBook Pros, and Dell XPSes, and HP Spectres of the world.

The vents look kind of cool, and the Surface Book designers take advantage of the fact that the laptop lid doesn’t need to lie flush against the keyboard.

The first thing you’ll notice is that there are two Surface Books now. A 13.5-inch similar in size and shape to the original, and a larger 15-inch version for people who demand a little extra power and desktop space (and are still okay with a big honking hinge).


The other major difference you’ll notice at a glance are the fan vents above the keyboard, which are there to cool the discrete graphics card in the devices. The 15-inch packs an Nvidia 1060, while most models of the 13.5-inch have an Nvidia 1050. These GPUs won’t let you run Rise of the Tomb Raider in 4K at max settings, but they’ll be more than enough for decent gaming and will be a marked improvement over the super slow, “custom” discrete video card found in the original 13.5-inch Surface Book.

The 15-inch is no thicker, but a lot bigger.

A single model of the 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 lacks the vents as it has no discrete GPU. It’s also a little slower, running an Intel 7th Generation i5 processor, while every other version of the Surface Book 2 will have a faster 8th Generation i7.


And you would think, as I thought, that a laptop that jumps ahead two generations (the original Surface Books ran 6th Gen processors) would be way heavier, particularly as the Surface Book stores all of its guts—with the exception of the GPU—behind the display. And yes, when keyboard and display are married together the i5 Surface Book 2 weighs in at 3.38 pounds, .04 pounds more than the current i5 Surface Book. But that weight is balanced for once.

There are no fans in the display, or huge batteries (at a press event, Microsoft claimed about 5 hours of battery life for the display alone, while Panos Panay, VP of Microsoft Devices, claimed 17 hours with the base). Now when you flip the laptop open, it doesn’t strain under the weight and tilt back. The display alone feels almost impossibly light. The 13.5-inch version weighs just 1.59 pounds, while the 15-inch version weighs 1.8 pounds. (Compare that to the 1.7 pound Surface Pro.) I walked around with the top of the huge 15-inch Surface Book 2 and never felt like it was too monstrous to hold—even if 15 inches is enormous compared to the displays of other 2-in-1s.


Yet the most surprisingly exciting aspect of the Surface Book 2 is that it doesn’t require a stupid Surface charger to charge. As someone who hates, with a fiery passion, that little charger you have to slip into its slot every time you want to charge a Surface Pro, Laptop, or Book, I was overjoyed to learn that the new USB-C port next to the charging port handles both power and data.

That means you could have an inexpensive USB-C charger at work, and leave the Surface charger at home—or vice versa. Computer running low and all you have is your buddy’s phone charger? You’re okay. You could probably snag some extra juice!


It’s a big deal, and between it, the updated guts, and the range of models being released, this feels like a genuinely compelling attempt at a cool, if pricey, laptop to compete against other premium books. It might not slide into a bag as neatly as a MacBook Pro, but it makes a pretty good argument for carrying it around anyway. Speaking of the MacBook Pro, the Surface Book will command a similarly high price tag when it goes on sale November 9. The least powerful 13.5-inch Surface Book 2 will start at $1500, with the 8th Generation machines starting at $2000. Meanwhile, the 15-inch Surface Book 2 will start at $2500. That seems outrageous when you look at all those cheap laptops out there, but it’s right in line with the premium players from places like Apple, Dell, and HP. This time around, at least, it seems the slick 2-in-1 might ask for a little less compromise than before.

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