Features

5 must-have Nintendo Switch games that aren’t Zelda

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When the Nintendo Switch launched, one game dominated all conversation: The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild. The highly anticipated flagship title captured hearts everywhere with its “open-air” freedom and ability to approach situations from any angle imaginable. Gamers were transported back to their school days of sharing secrets and trading stories on the playground — “You did what to kill what?” and “I didn’t know you could use that to do that!”

But that was well over a month ago, and if you got the Breath of the Wild then, your time in Zelda’s fantasy world of Hyrule is probably winding down. Or maybe you’d like to put off beating Ganon and see what else the Switch has to offer. Luckily, the system has plenty of games to complement one of the greatest ever made.

Snipperclips

We included Snipperclips in our list of the best games of 2017 so far, and for good reason. The Switch exclusive is the other killer app of the launch lineup, and is able to provoke shouts of annoyance and delight in equal measure. You play as two pieces of paper that can cut each other into any shape to solve different puzzle types. The closest game to Snipperclips is Crayon Physics or Scribblenauts in the amount of leeway in solutions that it affords the players.

Snipperclips is ideal for two, and is the showcase for the Switch’s built-in multiplayer — even Snip and Clip, the player characters, evoke the shape of the Joy-Con controllers themselves. Because the game comprises a series of brainteasers, casual and even non-gamers can join the fun. Early on, the solutions to the puzzles were fairly one-note, although this could be indicative of our lack of creativity. Our solutions usually involved variations of turning each other into bowls or combining ourselves into one big bowl (see the screenshot above). But eventually, the game opens up with variety; you and your partner must use your lateral thinking abilities to the utmost. If you always have a ready Player 2, Snipperclips is essential for your Nintendo Switch library.

Fast RMX

Consoles have typically launched with a racing game that pushes the hardware; Fast RMX — a futuristic arcade racer like F-Zero or Wipeout — fits the bill for the Switch. Digital Foundry has called the Switch exclusive “perhaps the most beautiful portable game ever,” and it’s easy to see why. Fast RMX has twelve racing machines blitzing along at hundreds of kilometers per hour on tracks with tornadoes and thunderstorms. The visuals work in concert with the sound design and HD rumble (you can feel those tornadoes vibrating in a circle in your hands) for a multisensory spectacle.

The game is a technical marvel. In handheld mode, Fast RMX runs at the Switch’s native resolution (720p) at 60 frames per second. When docked, the game runs at a dynamic resolution (but mostly 1080p), still at 60 frames per second. Even more impressively, these specs are maintained when played in splitscreen two-player and even four-player modes, which is just sheer technological wizardry. If you’re going to buy one game from this list, get Fast RMX. Its full-fledged single- and (online!) multiplayer modes, with time attack in a future patch, provide almost infinite replay value. Not bad for something developed by five people.

Graceful Explosion Machine

Shoot-em-ups are perfect games to be entranced by, and Graceful Explosion Machine is a beautiful and engaging exemplar of the genre. A timed exclusive for Switch, the game is a side-scrolling shooter where you pilot a spaceship through four planets to get home — these aren’t games that you play for the story, but for the mechanics. And Graceful Explosion Machine delivers the mechanics in spades. It kits you out with all the gear at the start: a basic gun, a melee energy sword, screen-clearing homing missiles, and a long-distance Kamehameha-like blast. Then, the game leaves you to figure out how to chain together explosions with grace and efficiency.

The result is a score attack game as good as Geometry Wars and Resogun. The frantic, in-the-zone chase after the combo multiplier, as well the drive to be stylish in weapon use, is reminiscent of Bayonetta or any of Platinum’s masterpieces. It helps that Graceful Explosion Machine’s art direction is clean and easy to parse no matter how hectic the chaos becomes; HD rumble also provides a unique feel for each weapon. A ranking system (that peaks at S+ for a perfect run — no hits and an unbroken multiplier) plus global leaderboards round out the package. Earning an S+ and seeing that you’re only 27th in the world keeps you coming back for more.

Snake Pass

Snake Pass is a mascot platformer with a mascot who can’t jump. A 3D collectathon to rival Yooka-Laylee, Snake Pass puts all of its challenge in what is usually the most intuitive part of platformers: moving the player character. Every minute detail of controlling Noodle the snake’s movement is in your control, from the orientation of his head to whether he’s gripping a surface. It’s a puzzle platformer where your body is the puzzle — Banjo Kazooie and Captain Toad meet QWOP and Octodad.

The Dark Souls of snake-based games, Snake Pass is equal to From Software’s skill-based series in providing both frustration and relaxation. But once you get past this high initial learning curve — it’s a bit like driving a weird, heavy, ropey car — the game becomes more deliberate, and is a matter of planning where you want to slither next. Noodle’s ridiculous contortions are greatly enhanced by the game’s production values, which show the effectiveness of Unreal Engine 4 in rendering cartoon visuals (and the ease with which the Switch supports an off-the-shelf engine). A soundtrack by David Wise of Rare fame transports you to the Nintendo 64 era, when you played these games for the sheer fun that they entailed.

Lego City Undercover

The only non-indie on this list, Lego City Undercover is the best the Lego series has to offer. While other Lego games practically required you to be familiar with the fandoms they spoofed, Lego City Undercover shines on its own merits with an original story that stars supercop Chase McCain as he infiltrates the criminal underworld of the titular Lego City. The game is a Grand Theft Auto that, as trite as the phrase may be, truly is fun for the whole family. Its pop culture references range from Columbo to The Shawshank Redemption to, of course, The Matrix. Dad jokes abound.

Originally a Wii U exclusive, Lego City Undercover returns on the Switch with a bevy of improvements that include a 1080p presentation when docked, vastly improved lighting, and — perhaps most important of all for a Lego game — local co-op. You will need an extra pair of Joy-Con or a Pro Controller to get in on the two-player action, though. The open world of Lego City is nowhere near the breadth of that of Breath of the Wild, but sometimes it’s just comforting to play a game that tells you what to do. Best of all, the Switch’s portability makes Lego City Undercover the most complete handheld Lego game to date, and allows you to snap up the game’s hundreds and hundreds of collectibles wherever you are.

SEE ALSO: Demon’s Souls to Dark Souls III: Ranking the Series

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Her GadgetMatch

Why Instagram is doing the right thing by removing the like count

We need to change this ugly culture we created

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Instagram used to be a space where you can get inspiration to nourish your creativity. It was also a place to connect with people through disappearing photos and videos called Stories. However, the platform took a different turn throughout the years and became an arena — a battlefield where people show off who has the most perfect life.

People started curating their feeds to make them stand out. The age of curation dawned upon Instagrammers, bearing unto the world themes and grids to reflect the user’s personality and aesthetics. Instagram fuelled perfectionism, too.

What used to be a space to share mundane moments of your everyday life became a place where you show your glamorous life which, frankly, only happens every once in a while for most users. Admittedly, I also succumbed to the perfectionism and the pressure. I would post only the photos where I looked like I was having the time of my life. I mean, there’s nothing wrong with putting your best foot forward, right?

Increasing cases of depression and anxiety

Apparently, not everyone thinks the way I do. In a study published in 2017 by the Royal Society for Public Health in the United Kingdom, social media — particularly Instagram — is a major contributor to the increasing cases of depression and anxiety among the youth today. The rise of influencers and other people with seemingly perfect lives made a lot of users feel inadequate.

“What used to be a space to share mundane moments in your everyday life became a place where you show your glamorous life which, frankly, only happens every once in a while for most users.”

RSPH Chief Executive Shirley Cramer said, “it’s interesting to see Instagram and Snapchat ranking as the worst for mental health and wellbeing – both platforms are very image-focused and it appears they may be driving feelings of inadequacy and anxiety in young people.”

Technology companies’ response

With this worrisome situation on the youth’s mental health, companies made an effort to help through technology. There’s Android’s Digital Wellbeing feature which tracks the amount of time you spend on social media, although it still requires a conscious effort to break your social media addiction.

In the crusade against depression and anxiety caused by social media, Instagram recently made a daunting move. The social media giant has started testing the removal of like counts in some countries, removing the user’s ability to see how many likes have been racked up by a certain person in their feeds.

People in dire need of too much validation, fret not. The feature will let you still see who liked your posts. Think of it as your usual form of public affirmation, but you get it in private.

Just like our stories, only we can see who viewed and reacted. In this scenario, only we can see who liked our posts. While this recent move can put a dent on someone’s ego especially when they crave external validation, this can have real benefits for some users’ mental health.

In a country like the Philippines, where social media consumes a chunk of Filipino’s time, Instagram is a big contributor in rising cases of mental illnesses plaguing today’s youth like the common cold.

The social media age has created a culture where people value their smartphones, social media accounts, and the content they create rather than socializing offline and establishing real-life connections. The youth measure their self-worth through likes and other forms of metrics that it’s taking a toll on their mental health.

If this is the ugly culture we developed, Instagram is doing the right thing of removing the like count. At the very least, they can stop other people from comparing their worth and relying on external validation to feel better.

“I personally don’t mind if the feature comes here or not, but I’m sure a few of my friends would care.” — Patricia Medina, a medical practitioner in the Philippines

However, some people won’t be able to accept the upcoming feature should it arrive in the Philippines, similar to how we all panicked when Instagram removed our ability to see the viewers of our stories after 24 hours. Despite the outcry, we adapted and got used to it.

Likes are not the only measure of influence

It may be hard to believe, but Instagram is on the right track. Aside from tackling mental health and fixing the problem their app posed in our society, they’re reshaping the marketing and advertising industry. Some influencers might be affected by the like count removal, particularly those who buy fake likes and followers, as well as those who became walking billboards for brands and agencies.

But for content creators like Ceej Tantengco, removing the like count won’t have much of an impact, rather it will reinforce her influence among her audience. “The brand partnerships I tend to get are with sustainable fashion and brands running women empowerment campaigns. These brands are less about pure numbers and more about connecting with brand ambassadors who truly share their cause and can speak about it with sincerity,” Tantengco said.

“The chase for likes has led to a sort of cookie-cutter templating of content based on what the algorithm rewards or what is easiest to generate likes. We live in a world where a selfie gets 800+ likes and a photo of what book the person is reading gets only 50. But like-bait content isn’t always the most thoughtful, and we need to be careful to not equate the number of likes to whether the brand message was communicated effectively,” Tantengco added.

On the other hand, Castro Communications PR Director Janlee Dungca is unbothered by the like count removal. Dungca, who works primarily with content creators and influencers, will still approach a campaign based on a brand’s goals and objectives. Likes aren’t the only form of visible metrics available since comments still count as a way to measure engagement rate.

Macro-influencers — accounts with more than 100,000 followers — tend to have higher reach but lower engagement, thus she opts for micro-influencers whose accounts range from 10,000 to 50,000 followers to get higher engagement for the brand.

“We live in a world where a selfie gets 800+ likes and a photo of what book the person is reading gets only 50.” — Ceej Tantengco

With this sudden change in the marketing landscape, people — not just influencers — might be more keen on engaging with other people through comments. People might start to make an effort to share their thoughts and interact, rather than just dropping an emoji of fire, heart, or a star-eyed face.

Additionally, people might not be as conscious of what they post anymore. Tantengco affirmed, “this move is great for people with advocacies because we can speak about them without worrying so much about ‘how do I package this to get the maximum number of likes’ and just say what we want to say. This feels very freeing.”

Moving forward, we might start to see posts of what people really care about again should Instagram proceed with removing the like count forever. There will be people though who will try to game the algorithm by leaving comments on each other’s posts and uploading video clips instead of still photos for validation as Instagram has not said anything about removing the view count.

Nonetheless, the future is bright for Instagram. I can’t wait to see moments where people embrace their natural selves and flaunt the things they’re passionate about again.

Illustrations by MJ Jucutan

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Automotive

Mercedes-Benz GLC and V-Class: Living the fly life

Smooth sailing on the GLC 200 and V-Class 220d

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When we hear the words “upper class” in a market segment, we usually think of luxury lifestyle, extravagant vacations, fine dining, and everything fancy. So when it comes to their means of transportation, we expect nothing less than utmost grandiosity.

With this in mind, some premium car brands will naturally come to mind and one of them is Mercedes-Benz.  This was the idea that Auto Nation Group, the official distributor of Mercedes-Benz in the Philippines, had in mind when they hosted the Media Ride and Drive — a day-long activity that offered participants the choice to drive the new GLC 200 and V-Class 220d or enjoy the comfortable ride and amenities offered inside both these new models.

Mercedes-Benz GLC 200

Instead of usual technical reviews, it was their goal for the participants to experience the affluent life — to be driven to where their consumers would go and do activities they would commonly do.

Scuba diving and the GLC

Of course, I took an underwater selfie

The first activity was a 3-hour course in scuba diving led by accredited PADI diver Igor Subora.  Held at the indoor scuba facilities of The Upper Deck Sports and Lifestyle Center in Ortigas, the activity aimed to give a glimpse into the lifestyle of someone with a spirit of adventure – a persona that perfectly matches the personality and performance of the new GLC.

According to Joseph Ayllon, head of PR Communications, the new GLC is a great match for confident go-getters in life determined to achieve goals. He says that it’s the right vehicle to take out of town or to a quick getaway within the city – like taking the morning off to go scuba diving.

The GLC remains as the best-selling Mercedes-Benz for 10 years with more than 1.6 million units sold. Priced at PhP 4,290,000.00, the GLC 200 is a robust adventure luxury SUV that delivers 197hp and 320Nm of torque from a 2.0 turbo petrol engine mated to a 9G-TRONIC 9-speed automatic transmission.

Its interior is wrapped in premium soft-touch materials, leather, and brushed metal accents. The soft leather seats were exceptionally comfortable, with plenty of head and legroom. In addition, the Burmester surround audio system is impressive and gave crisp & immersive sound.

Looking at the dashboard, it boasts a high-definition all-digital instrument panel along with their intelligent voice command LINGUATRONIC with “Hey, Mercedes” functionality which we found quite useful for a hands-free driving experience.

Sitting at the back, this SUV felt smooth and cabin noise was well isolated. Overall, this SUV is a perfect fusion of adventure and luxury.

R&R with the V-Class

After our scuba diving training and certification, we went our way to our lunch venue at Misto Seda-Vertis North onboard the 2019 Mercedes-Benz V-Class 220d. Priced at PhP 4,690,000.00, this lounge on wheels puts out 163hp and 380Nm of torque from a 2.2-liter diesel engine mated to a 7G-TRONIC PLUS 7-speed automatic transmission.

Mercedes-Benz V-Class 220d

As a passenger sitting on the third row, it didn’t feel like you were in a van; the cabin was unbelievably quiet and immensely comfortable. Everywhere you touch is made of premium quality material and the leather-wrapped captain seats just give you a sense of grandeur — almost like sitting on Queen Elizabeth’s throne.

The interior is spacious with abundant head and legroom. In addition, this model boasts swivel seats with a built-in pullout folding table. Looking out, I just loved how you are surrounded by huge & bright windows, perfect for scenic road-trips.

I have never felt more comfortable riding a third-row seat from a vehicle of this segment. You just feel pampered and EDSA traffic suddenly wasn’t so stressful.

After our bounteous buffet lunch at Misto, it was time to head to the last destination and the day was wrapped up with a relaxing full body massage at the Upper Deck Recovery Spa.

End of the day thoughts

As we ended this unique drive, one thing was made crystal clear to me: Mercedes-Benz really knows who their products are for and the new GLC 200 and new V-Class 220d truly cater to the needs and demands of this market segment.

I have to admit that I was easily spoiled by the activities the company has prepared — kicking it off with a fun diving experience, having a feast, and ending the day with a massage. Although, that’s exactly what they want their customers to feel with these new offerings — pampered and spoiled while getting from point A to point B.

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Camera Shootouts

Huawei Mate 30 Pro vs iPhone 11 Pro Max: Camera shootout

Which big phone takes better photos?

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The year is almost over but we’re not done comparing smartphones. In this shootout, we’re pitting the Huawei Mate 30 Pro against the iPhone 11 Pro Max. All photos are shot in Auto Mode using the main cameras, except for a few to test their ultra-wide angle cameras, night modes, and portrait modes. The photos have also been resized so the images can load faster.

Get your pen and paper ready as this is a blind shootout. Make sure to take note of your picks. The answers to this test are found at the bottom of the page. Let’s start.

#1

#2

#3

#4

#5

#6

#7

#8

#9

#10

#11

#12

#13

#14

#15, Ultra Wide Angle

#16, Ultra Wide Angle

#17, Portrait Mode

#18, Night Mode

#19, Night Mode

#20, Night Mode

#1
Photo A: Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Photo B: iPhone 11 Pro Max

#2
Photo A: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Photo B: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

#3
Photo A: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Photo B: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

#4
Photo A: Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Photo B: iPhone 11 Pro Max

#5
Photo A: Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Photo B: iPhone 11 Pro Max

#6
Photo A: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Photo B: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

#7
Photo A: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Photo B: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

#8
Photo A: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Photo B: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

#09
Photo A: Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Photo B: iPhone 11 Pro Max

#10
Photo A: Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Photo B: iPhone 11 Pro Max

#11
Photo A: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Photo B: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

#12
Photo A: Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Photo B: iPhone 11 Pro Max

#13
Photo A: Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Photo B: iPhone 11 Pro Max

#14
Photo A: Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Photo B: iPhone 11 Pro Max

#15, Ultra Wide Angle
Photo A: Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Photo B: iPhone 11 Pro Max

#16, Ultra Wide Angle
Photo A: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Photo B: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

#17, Portrait Mode
Photo A: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Photo B: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

#18, Night Mode
Photo A: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Photo B: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

#19, Night Mode
Photo A: iPhone 11 Pro Max
Photo B: Huawei Mate 30 Pro

#20, Night Mode
Photo A: Huawei Mate 30 Pro
Photo B: iPhone 11 Pro Max

This is one of the closest shootouts we’ve done. Results could have gone either way for a lot of scenarios. For the photos that look drastically different — my choices all boiled down to preference. I personally don’t like how the Mate 30 Pro washes out skintones and blows out highlights, but I like the colors it produced better during sunsets. I don’t like how some of the iPhone photos turn out a little dull, but they were more of than not closer to real life colors.

If you’re like me who color corrects photos before sharing them, you can’t go wrong with either phones if cameras are your priority — they’re both able to capture details even in low light situations and can be post-processed whichever way you prefer.

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