Batman Arkham VR review

I’m a big fan of Batman, VR and reasonably priced games, so Batman Arkham VR was a perfect proposition for me.

It was one of the first games I downloaded and tried when I got my PSVR and it truly didn’t disappoint. It isn’t perfect but it is great. It is essentially an interactive 90-minute story featuring you, the Batman, being the world’s greatest detective. Sadly you are also not also the world’s greatest ass-kicker because most of the scenes are static and the action takes place off stage. You move from point to point and then look around. This may sound dull and negative but this is actually a superb game and one I highly recommend. If you have played any of Rocksteady’s other Batman games, you will be aware that they are pretty damn good at this.

I can’t talk much about the story without giving it away. And this is mostly a story. Happily, it is a really good one.

What makes this game so worth it is the experience of being Batman, the detective work, and the high-quality VR. You also get cool gadgets – a scanner, a grappling hook, and unlimited batamarangs. I was still new to the whole VR thing when I played this, so it was a pleasant surprise to see just how damned immersive it can be when you use move controllers and the headset tracking. At one point, I was on a fire escape and found that I could lean forward and peer into someone’s apartment. Later I was in a morgue and used the controllers to pick up charts and interact with a variety of objects, all of which I could peer under and around. Finally, of course, there is a moment where you look at yourself in a mirror and you are Batman. Then you make Batman dance like an idiot. (I hope I wasn’t the only one.) As a relative VR noob, it was well worth it.

I thoroughly enjoyed Batman Arkham VR and hope they make it a full game. Ideally, a game where you also get to punch someone, although this may result in a load of hilarious real-life injuries. If you have just bought a PSVR and are looking for a fun experience for about £15, then give this a go. Also, try Rush of Blood.

In case you are still uncertain, here is a trailer:

 

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Incredible thumb magic

How the hell does he do this? Ok, I guess everyone knows how this guy does the old ‘disappearing thumb’ trick, it is as old as – probably the thumb. Babies and early hominids are wowed by this trick, but no one else. Until now! Ok, I am building the whole thing up a bit but it is pretty cool and probably the finest display of thumb magic I have seen. And I have travelled extensively. If you have 20 seconds, check this out:

Neil deGrasse Tyson on Science in America

This is a great video featuring the always watchable Neil deGrasse Tyson about what science is and why it is important. It is also slightly depressing. Essentially, if you are against science, you probably don’t understand what science is. From a purely personal point of view, I would also like to add that you are an idiot who needs to assess the way you get information. Science is simply a way to find out information. To test stuff. To learn.

I remember a friend of mine whose mother sold crystals that allegedly helped plants grow. I was young enough to think this was amazing but old enough to be slightly sceptical. I assumed that this had been tested and that was why people spent so much cash on them. But I then discovered that they hadn’t been tested and everyone bought into it on belief alone. Even then, (I was around 10,) I was baffled about this. I wanted to get some identical plants and put crystals in half and see what happens. Sadly I didn’t have enough cash to try this myself and I soon found out that my questioning was actively discouraged. People, especially the people who sold or bought the crystals, didn’t want it tested. It was a valuable lesson.

If you are against science, you are against the kind of progress that allows you to read this on a computer anywhere in the world. I guess it just annoys me that so many are wilfully choosing ignorance and opinion over facts. Actually, I am getting pissed off just writing about it so I will hand over to someone more eloquent – Neil deGrasse Tyson.

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NASA Images and Video Library

This is bloody superb. NASA has opened an archive site that hosts 140,000 files of space-related awesomeness. It should keep you in screensaver images for a long time – possibly forever as they said they will continue to add to it.

There are great pictures here and as we launch ever cooler and more sophisticated satellites, this site should just keep on giving.

You can access all the pictures here.

The full address is: https://images.nasa.gov/#/

As always NASA – if you read this and need a writer/blogger/good-looking-journalist adventurer type to go into space, I fully volunteer. I am in perfect health and have never even had a filling.

Anyway, check it out their site. Here are some samples to whet your astronomical appetite. Enjoy:

 

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Until Dawn: Rush of Blood review

I finally got my PSVR headset (about a month ago) and have been loving it. So I thought I might as well review one of the few games I have played thus. Until Dawn: Rush of Blood is a lot of fun for the price. Not brilliant, but certainly enjoyable and a good intro to VR. Costs vary but I paid around £15, which seems about right.

Here is the plot in as much as there is one: You are on a rollercoaster on your own and some crazy guy injects you with a drug, possibly, that makes you see crazy things. And there are psychopaths loose around the ride. And there may be ghosts. You also might be descending into Hell. Alright, fuck it, there isn’t much plot. I haven’t played any other Until Dawn games so frankly, I have no idea what is going on.

Basically, Rush of Blood is a horror shooter on a rollercoaster. I highly recommend using Move controllers because they make the shooting experience more immersive, interactive, and a lot more fun. There are quite a few jump scares and a lot of gore, so if you don’t like either then maybe this isn’t for you. To be honest, I am not that bothered either way when it comes to scares or blood, yet I really enjoyed myself. The controls are responsive, the visuals are clear and sharp, and the shooting itself is immense fun. Even at the start, where you are mostly shooting at balloons and pottery, it is a pretty good laugh. Things just amp up from there.

I have played a couple of other PSVR games and have enjoyed them all to various degrees. It is possible that if I was more experienced in VR then Rush of Blood might be less impressive. As it is, if you are a newb, then give it a go. I wouldn’t pay much more than  £15 and if you can get it for less than that, definitely go for it. There are a few moments where the roller coaster speeds up that might give you motion sickness, but I didn’t find any problems. Possibly because I was focussed on keeping an eye out for zombies, bats, or giant pigs.

To conclude: I don’t think Rush of Blood is a classic in any way but if you are looking for a new game to try out VR, then it is worth a go. Here is a trailer:

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People are Photoshopping Mr Bean into everything

I think this is one of the greatest things I have seen on the internet. People are photoshopping Mr Bean’s superb face into everything from movies to politicians to classical works of art. It has caused me to grin like a loon for about an hour now, so I thought I would share. This is an internet meme I fully support.

I know technically it is actually Rowan Atkinson’s face, but it is clearly Mr Bean. Mr Atkinson is so awesome that you can actually differentiate his character’s faces, even though they all technically have the same face. If you get what I mean. I have travelled a lot and Mr Bean is everywhere as he doesn’t really speak and his brand of logical insanity has a universal appeal. I even had beers in a Mr Bean cafe / bar in Ho Chi Min. Anyway, enough waffle.

Let’s start with the classics:

Now let’s get political by mocking a famous figure of hatred! BeanLaden.

There are a ton more but I think the movie ones are my favourite. I would watch the hell out of any of these. Enjoy.

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Stunning flight over Mars using NASA images

A highly talented and possibly slightly bored fellow called Jan Fröjdman has taken lots of detailed photos from the Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter and put them together to create an amazing flyover of the red/brown planet.

For the past 12 years, the Orbiter has taken over 50,000 images using its HiRISE camera, which are available to anyone online. Mr Fröjdman then coloured these images, edited them together, and turned the result into something that resembles a high definition flyover of the planet. It took him 3 months and is stunning. I would love to go to Mars but will probably wait until they have organised return flights.

Check out the video here:

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Baby Driver by Edgar Wright

I keep meaning to post fewer trailers but then great looking trailers keep coming along. If Baby Driver wasn’t by writer/director Edgar Wright (Spaced, Shaun of the Dead, etc) I would probably just think it looked quite fun and has a great cast –  Ansel Elgort, Kevin Spacey, Lily James, Jon Bernthal, Eiza González, Jon Hamm and Jamie Foxx. But it was directed by Edgar Wright, so hurrah.

The film is due out in August 2017 but has actually already premiered at the South by Southwest film festival the other day. Even more excitingly, those who saw it have rated Baby Driver incredibly well. It’s a bit frustrating that the rest of us have to wait so long.

I could waffle on more but there is no need. Here is the International trailer for Baby Driver:

 

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Worst Catfish Ever

In case you didn’t know, to catfish is when someone pretends to be someone else online (usually someone way more attractive) and then strings some poor sod along. Sometimes it’s for money, other times because… I don’t know, people are weird. It is often a sad story involving really lonely people who are ridiculously gullible and really nasty sociopaths who will get their comeuppance if there turns out to be an afterlife. Sometimes people are just bored morons.

So is it ok to make jokes about it? I think yes. You should be able to satirise things and if you are intelligent enough, you will realise that mocking something isn’t the same as condoning it. Also, the more it is mentioned, the more someone might think twice before falling for a complete stranger online and then sending them money and pictures of their arse. I’m in my 40s and have never made a new friend online, so I feel pretty safe. I have reached an age where frankly, I know enough people already and don’t care about meeting more.

So having said all that here is the ‘Worst catfish ever’. It made me laugh.

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Sir Patrick Stewart reads 1-star reviews of famous monuments

I saw this on some site or other and had to share. (It is a GQ video.) Sir Patrick Stewart is a legend and I am not just saying that as a huge Trekkie. Essentially this clip just mocks things really dumb people have said but with a classically trained Shakespearean actor delivering the words. Which is great, right?

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What it’s like to land on Pluto

Pluto

If we ever stop dicking about being mean to each other on this planet, we may start exploring space. Or maybe the lunatics taking over the asylum (aka Earth) will give science the impetus to escape our gravity well and start over elsewhere. Either way, I spend a lot of time dreaming about going to other planets. Or even dwarf planets.

It seems NASA is much the same as they have stitched together 100 photos from the New Horizons flyby in 2015 to give an idea of what it would be like to land on Pluto. In colour! Enjoy.

 

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Gatebox – Japanese Virtual Home Assistant and girlfriend

I stumbled across this video by Gatebox on Digg and found it slightly creepy and a little sad. I have never been to Japan (the airport doesn’t really count) but there seems to be something wrong with with their birthrate and there are debates as to why. I’m sure you have read articles about increasing numbers of people retreating into their personal space, interacting solely through the internet and no longer being interested in having sex. (Or at least relationships.) Then there are the articles that say this is bollocks. The fact remains the birthrate in Japan, and increasingly in other developed countries, is dropping.

I then read the Youtube comments, which is always a cogent reminder of why the birthrate dropping is probably a good thing. Apparently this retreating from the world and only interacting with people through a screen has, predictably, a lot of subsets and splinter factions and millions of fucking acronyms.

In response to videos like the Gatebox one below – featuring, broadly speaking, a virtual girlfriend – there was a lot of defence from a group that calls itself MGTOW (Men Going Their Own Way). Apparently this is a huge thing happening all over and I somehow missed it until now. As far as I can tell, it is an extension of what is happening in Japan but is occurring mostly to Western men. It is not a counter to femininism, it is just men who no longer want to be in a relationship and want out of the whole dynamic. Like all ‘movements’ some argue it is not a movement, some seem quite rational and intelligent, and some are batshit crazy and hate women. It isn’t something that would particularly ‘float my boat’, but the world is a big and complex place. I’m not going to comment on it because gender issues are an inflammatory topic and I can’t be arsed to debate issues on the internet because doing so is utterly, utterly pointless. Treat everyone equally and be nice to each other. It’s not that complicated.

Anyway, see what you think of the video below by Gatebox. I feel it says something about a society where this is appealing to enough people that it has been made. You may think it is sad and creepy and an example of the increasingly isolated modern world. Or maybe you think that if people want to retreat into their own space, fair play to them, society shouldn’t dictate how individuals want to live their lives and if this becomes more popular then it will be increasingly normal. I think if people are lucky enough to have a choice, they should live the lives they want. In this particular case however, I think that the guy seems really, really lonely and I hope his virtual girlfriend helps. (I’m aware he is an actor.)

Here is the Japanese Virtual Assistant by Gatebox:

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Scooter Trouble by Nikolai Lockertsen on an Ipad

Scooter Trouble by Nikolai Lockertsen

I have an iPad Pro and pestered my local Apple shop on an almost daily basis as to when they were going to stock the Apple Pencil. I was going to teach myself to draw because I am so damned creative. Probably. I finally got the pencil but my art career has, sadly, yet to take off. The iPad has paid for itself from what I have written on it, so it wasn’t a total waste and I regularly use the pencil to take notes and practice writing Thai. It is also big and lovely and shiny. But my art and drawing skills remain on par with my music – I can do a tiny, tiny bit of each but thank god for my writing or I would be broke and starving in a gutter. (I will be plugging more fiction soon but for now click on this.)

I then saw a video on Facebook and I am feeling inspired. An artist called Nikolai Lockertsen creates amazing art on an iPad Pro using an iPad pencil. His other art is superb but I saw this video of him drawing a piece called ‘Scooter Trouble’ and felt a creative stirring. I have the Procreate app because I impulsively downloaded nearly all the art apps as doing so would make me more arty owing to some kind of osmosis. (It didn’t really work.) I feel I should point out that I get nothing from Nikolai Lockertsen or Apple or Procreate for writing all this. I just thought I would share as it is incredible and inspirational. (If Lockertsen or Apple or Procreate want in on some kind of affiliate deal, I am totally willing to sell out  – email me.) I have added links below if you want to follow this up a bit more.

Here is the video, apparently it took 16-20 hours:

Art Study Online’s website:
http://www.artstudyonline.com

Nikolai Lockertsen website:
http://www.lockertsen.net

Procreate (app) website:
http://www.procreate.si

 

 

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Happy Chinese New Year!

Happy Chinese New Year!

I was born in Hong Kong and lived there for 21 years, so I have celebrated a lot of Chinese New Years. I was born in the very exciting and glamorous Year of the Rat. My wife is half Chinese and is out celebrating it right now. So I thought I might as well spread the good cheer.

Happy CNY my awesome readers! May you be healthy, wealthy, and wise. Or more than you are already at least.

As they say in Hong Kong (the Cantonese speakers anyway):

Gung hei fat choy!

Spellings vary, obviously, but the main message is basically – have a good one! Go eat some noodles and drink Tsing Tao! Enjoy.

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All Pixar movies are connected

Pixar is all connected

There have been loads of weird theories about Pixar movies. (Well loads of movies actually, people are bored.) I read one that suggested Toy Story 3 was about the holocaust, for a miserable example. There was another floating around that all their movies all exist in the same universe and are linked somehow. There are certainly plenty of easter eggs – most notably the Pizza Planet Truck:

Pizza planet truck

But there are tons more and you probably missed them. I love Pixar and have watched their movies repeatedly and was nowhere near spotting most of these references. Well, Disney got in on this theory and basically confirmed it. All Pixar movies are linked – sometimes it is vague and tenuous but there are references to other films in all the films. If you get what I mean. If not, or you want proof, watch this video. Enjoy.

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Alan Partridge: Nomad

I am a massive Alan Partridge fan but I have never read any of his books as I assumed they wouldn’t work as well as the TV show and were just cashing in. I was colossally wrong. Alan Partridge: Nomad appeared on some recommendation page or other and it had such good reviews that I impulsively downloaded it. I am exciting that way.

The intention was to have something amusing to read while I was waiting for a train or out with someone boring. Once it had landed on my phone however, I thought I would just read a little to see what it was like. I had to stop 5 minutes later because I was laughing too hard and frankly it was embarrassing as I was on train. In the end I just had to look like a lunatic as I sniggered my way home reading. I read the book in two sittings (I had to meet someone exciting which interrupted it).

Nomad is one of the funniest books I have ever read. I guess it helps if you know Alan Partridge as his voice read the book in my head and was all the funnier for it. This is now literally the case as I have also downloaded the audiobook (read by Coogan/ Partridge). It might also help if you studied British D-list celebrities as Alan recounts a lot of run ins. Especially Noel Edmunds.

Alan Partridge: Nomad is the story of Alan doing a walk called the “Footsteps of my Father” where he follows the route taken by his father when he went from Norfolk to Dungeness to get a job at a nuclear power plant. I cannot stress how much more funny it is than that sounds.

Unless you hate laughter and looking like a giggling nutcase, I highly recommend this book. It is superb. Long live Partridge.

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Happy New Year 2017

Happy New Year fantastic Word of Ward readers! About 20 years ago I made the resolution to not to do the whole New Year resolution thing as it seemed like a recipe for disappointment. I have stuck with it ever since because I have a will of iron. However, I do have a series of ‘habits’ that are occasionally added to or changed, often around new year or birthdays, which don’t count. I have two apps/programs in particular that help me with this – Habitbull and Wunderlist. Wunderlist is mostly for targets, goals, and articles I have to write for work. Habitbull is more a serious of habits (surprisingly) which daily encourages me to write 1000 words of fiction, spend 20 minutes practicing Thai, or a number of other things.

I mention these apps because I have been asked about writing habits and these keep prompting me to do things which are achievable on a daily basis. Rather than ‘I will write a book’, trying to hit 1000 words a day is much better. You can do that then play playstation or go to the pub  (to pick random examples that may apply more to me than you).

If you do have new year resolutions, then good luck. Don’t come complaining to me on on this year’s Blue Monday – the most depressing day of the year. This year it will be the 16th January so mark that in your disappointment riddled diaries.

One thing that will hopefully hold true is that 2017 will be better than 2016. The UK is out of Europe and Trump has been voted in already. Bowie can only die once. Surely there isn’t much more to come in 2017 that can be that bad. So hooray for 2017! On that note, I will leave you with a cool horror film trailer that someone made about 2016. It is really well done. Enjoy yourselves everyone, everywhere and happy new year!

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Happy Winter Festival or Christmas

Whatever your culture or religion (and feel free to keep that to yourself), it is likely that you will be celebrating something today. So from all of us here at the shining Word of Ward publishing towers, Happy Winter Festival and/or Christmas and/or Festivus/Yule/Saturnalia/Sunday! Drink (if you are allowed), eat lots (if you are lucky enough), be nice to your family (if you have some) and generally have a great day. Santa gave me the gift of Battlefield 1, so it is about to be a very explosion filled Christmas. Good times.

Happy Christmas!

santa-claus-with-wine-glass-funny-christmashappy-saturnaliamerryyulefestivus-the-airing-of-grievances

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Japanese Rock, Paper, Scissors competition

You know how exciting it is to watch professional-level rock, paper, scissors in an arena? Me either. But in Japan they do and they somehow make it seem really exciting. Take a deep breath and check out this short clip:
Derren Brown would obviously win that competition, um, hands down… Sorry. There is also a robot hand that someone built for some reason that always wins. It is clearly an important sport.
Now, to ramp up the competition, they should play the next level of the game. Rock, paper, scissors, lizard, Spock. The rules are explained in the Big Bang Theory. You might want to write it down:

Bohemian Rhapsody acted out is a noir-ish thriller

Someone was clearly stoned and/or drunk and was listening to Queen’s Bohemian Rhapsody and thought “Dude, that could totally be made into a short film.” So they did just that. Surprisingly, given that a lot of Bohemian Rhapsody seems like gibberish, it actually works pretty well and makes sense. There is one scene where they have to say “No” and “Galileo Figaro” and “Bismillah” and other randomness where it falls down a bit, but otherwise it is fun.

Good, not great, but definitely worth 4 minutes of your time if you happen to be at work. Turning songs into short films should become a new internet meme. Here is Bohemian Rhapsody as gritty (and occasionally silly) thriller. Magnifico! Enjoy.