Features

Night in the Woods: Brilliant indie game you should try

Wish I’d played it sooner!

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I know, I know. It’s been over a year since the first release of Night in the Woods, but if you need little bit more than just a release and a trailer to give an indie game a try, let me tell you here and now: This game deserves to be on your must-play list and I’ll tell you why in this review.

Night in the Woods has been nominated for many awards since its release and to this day, has been earning critics’ and players’ acclaim for its story and design. It won the Writing in a Comedy award at the National Academy of Video Game Trade Reviewers Awards and has recently rightfully earned Excellence in Narrative at the Independent Games Festival Competition Awards at the Game Developer’s Conference this year.

The game’s design is charmingly simplistic, the music score is unforgettable, and the cryptic story line leaves you wanting more; but when you sink your teeth into it, it will leave you feeling strangely reflective. If you let it, this game will stick to you even long after you’ve finished playing.

What will pull you in

Whether you’ve installed the game with high expectations or none at all, the game will stun you with its characters. In Night in the Woods, you play as Mae, a college drop-out who returns to her hometown, Possum Springs. Her return shifts the dynamic the town has sustained since she left for school.

And, that’s not all. When you explore the world of Possum Springs, you not only reunite with family and reignite your friendships, but you also slowly encounter strange ambiguous pieces of darkness hidden within the town.

There are a lot of mysteriously vague loose storylines at the beginning that come at you when you start off talking to people in the town. The game begins with you in a bus stop having left college behind. When Mae comes back to the town, she’s forced to walk back home — her father forgets the day she’d be back. You wander off the next day to meet her friends only to find one of them, Casey, missing.

That’s a striking contrast to the most charming part of the game which is the characters. From broad-daylight stargazing with your high school professor; to late-night diner adventures with friends; to spending time by the train tracks with a new-found friend, Night in the Woods will tug at your heartstrings with its earnest characters.

Subtleties that pull at heartstrings

Night in the Woods will reel you in with stunningly reflective moments wherein characters develop into intimate conversations. How much they tell you of their story will depend on how often you converse and hang out with them every day.

It’s good to note though that there’s more to just talking to your three friends. While playing, I highly recommend wandering around the town. The game gives you so much time and space to wander about and if anything, this is what makes this game amazing.

You can wander outside the area, hop around rooftops, and make new friends. The town definitely changes day after day and you’ll find yourself meeting surprising characters if you’re meticulous enough to notice.

Slow-paced but beautifully so

You’ll realize quickly that this game is not as action-packed as most and it can feel a bit of a drag once you get used to the town. I found myself struggling to care when I began playing but over time, I’d gotten hooked. Much to the title’s credit though, it puts so much effort on the little subtle stories within the town. You can really notice the time and effort put into the game’s storyboard and it pays off.

If you’re feeling a bit bored from the general routine you’ve built in the game, that’s fine. This may be a sign you should visit parts of the town you didn’t know you could. Even when you’re told to not do things, it’s fine to jump on reckless parts of the town — maybe even hop on the electric wires even after being told not to.

Fun games within the game

Luckily, if you’re not feeling like talking to your friends or people in the town, there are mini-games within the main title that might suck you deeper into the game. I can take back the lack of action in Night in the Woods with the mini-game, Demon Tower. It’s an arcade hack ‘n’ slash game that’s installed into Mae’s laptop where you can also have her chat with friends.

This game is addictive, and sometimes too much so, that you forget you’re in another game — game-ception, I swear.

Another mini-game you can play is a music rhythm game with your bass in Mae’s room. Mae plays the bass and aside from getting to play during practice with your friends, you get to practice in your room whenever you feel like mastering a song before performing with your friends. This one was a bit of a challenge to play on a controller — here we go with excuses again. But, really.

This game is properly tough and challenging so if you manage to perfect every song I send you all of my undoubted respect.

What reels you back into it

If you think you’re beginning to lose interest in the game, it dumps you straight back into the plot. There are moments that stick out when you go about your daily life and you think the game has had its run. Then, something happens and it kicks you back into the seeping darkness that lurks in the town. It brings you straight back into the main plot after allowing you to explore the town for a while.

There is something wrong with the town and you learn that through Mae’s dreams and little hints while you speak with people in the town. There are instances that characters around you begin to have a resounding sense of resignation to the growing troubles of the place. This, more than anything, had me running around every inch of the town being straight-up investigative and borderline paranoid.

Tears through real-world dilemmas

Night in the Woods deals with a lot of real-life and relatable subjects. From the struggles to have ends meet with financials, the wearing friendship due to unresolved jealousy, the existential crises wrapping itself around you day after day, and even the honest urge to leave the town to start anew. Much of the game is wonderfully written and it manages to throw hilarious lines from beginning to end, without making anything that happens in the world feel out of place.

You can undoubtedly feel for each character in what they’re going through and that is pretty ballsy to say seeing as most of the characters in the game are anthropomorphic animals. Night in the Woods is just an overall well-thought-out game. No character feels forced. Even in many cases, you have a false sense of control of Mae when she talks since you control her dialogue.

But, that doesn’t stop her from being the pesky brat that she is. Your choices are limited as well, and she will do things you didn’t sign up for. Even I caught myself feeling like there wasn’t much else to do besides watch and laugh at the train-wreck she’s so recklessly created.

Calls for a replay

If you’re a full-fledged completionist, I wish you the best of luck because this game is tough to complete all the achievements for. This game will require a second playthrough and maybe even more. There are so many secrets in the game and looking for them is a bit of a headache. On the bright side, you learn more and more about every single person in the town.

Night in the Woods rewards you with depth when you put the time into playing the game. The game calls for your attention without forcing it upon the player. At first, the ambiguity will frustrate you and will make you feel like creating a limp story behind all the unexplainable hints, but playing it a second time will be refreshing. You won’t run out of spots to explore in the town on your second run. I was genuinely surprised to have missed so many conversations on my first go at the game.

Is this your game match?

This game is undeniably gorgeous. It has characters that you feel for — if not relate to on a deeper level. The story is haunting, the design is stunning, and the music is catchy. It’s a game you should most definitely try out. There are so many parts that stole my heart so quickly. I caught myself relating to every character in the game — even the struggle of missed opportunities.

Although it’s slow-paced when it comes to building back into the main plot, it’s only because it’s space for you to rediscover the town you left behind for college — and that’s great. Even if exploring lore, character build, and clever design bore you over time, that’s perfectly fine. This game is still worth a try. Playing it with a friend will most definitely help.

If you want to give it a go, the game is on Steam for US$ 19.99.

SEE ALSO: Small Talk: A new beautifully engaging indie game

SEE ALSO: God of War: An older Kratos needs a wiser you

Features

9 Best Gaming Smartphones (Q2 2018)

Choose your weapon for mobile gaming!

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We’re almost midway through the year, so it’s time to update our Best Gaming Smartphones list! Our initial list during the first quarter of 2018 included six suggested phones, but for the second quarter, we now have nine. Some have stayed, and there are definitely new entries.

Without further ado, here are our top picks for the best gaming smartphones:

Apple iPhone 8

Whether you like iOS or not, you can’t deny that iPhones (especially the latest releases) are one of, if not the best mobile gaming platform. Apple’s devices run smoothly and are favored by developers so it’s a no-brainer that games released for iOS are guaranteed to be in tip-top shape. We chose the iPhone 8 Plus here because of its larger display at 5.5 inches and bigger battery compared to the iPhone 8’s, and it doesn’t have a notch that gets in the way like with the iPhone X.

SEE ALSO: Apple iPhone 8 and iPhone 8 Plus Review

Motorola Moto Z2 Play

Motorola’s game-changing Moto Mod accessories make their Moto Z series special. If you pair the Moto Z2 Play with the Gamepad Moto Mod, it’ll be an instant portable console. The Gamepad adds dual control sticks, a D-pad, and four tactile action buttons which mean you don’t have to rely on touch controls anymore. Also, the Moto Mod magnetically attaches to the phone with no wireless pairing required and has its own built-in battery. The gaming accessory works with the powerful Moto Z2 Force, as well. The phone is already due for an update, and the Moto Z3 Play’s announcement is just around the corner.

SEE ALSO: Moto Z2 Play Review: To mod or not to mod

Nokia 7 Plus

Nokia is definitely back in the game and the Nokia 7 Plus is our choice from their arsenal. Why? It’s got a flagship-grade processor and it runs pure Android. It’s like having a Pixel-like device but at a fraction of the cost. The tall aspect ratio is also a good feature for better gaming.

SEE ALSO: Nokia 7 Plus: The Android One midranger

OnePlus 6

The latest OnePlus 6 phone is now out and it’s definitely one of the best smartphones you can buy for gaming. It’s powered by the latest Snapdragon 845 processor and comes with 6GB of memory — a combo that’ll surely deliver without hiccups and lags. The display notch can get in the way of your game though, but that can easily be fixed in the Settings menu.

SEE ALSO: OnePlus 6 is officially a complete Android flagship phone

Razer Phone

When we were shortlisting our gaming smartphones, the Razer Phone was already on the top of the list. The phone is focused on being a true gaming smartphone since it’s made by Razer. It’s got the latest specifications to play popular and demanding games, a 5.7-inch IGZO panel with a smooth 120Hz refresh rate, front-facing stereo speakers, and a long-lasting battery. It also has other features to make it a daily driver, but you can immediately tell that the Razer Phone is built for gaming.

SEE ALSO: Razer Phone Review: Best smartphone for gaming?

Samsung Galaxy S9+

We’re replacing the Galaxy Note 8 with the latest Galaxy S9+. The premium Galaxy phone comes with the latest specifications — may it be the Snapdragon or Exynos variant. It also has one of the most beautiful phone displays with curved edges that make gaming more immersive.

SEE ALSO: Samsung Galaxy S9 and S9+ Hands-On: AR Emoji and super slow-mo

Sony Xperia XZ2

Another fresh entry on the list is Sony with the Xperia XZ2. It has powerful specifications and a gorgeous HDR display just like the other phones here, but it has something that makes it standout: the Dynamic Vibration System. You can feel the game (or even video) on the Xperia XZ2 thanks to its DualShock-like vibration system that mimics a similar experience on PlayStation controllers.

SEE ALSO: Sony Xperia XZ2 Review: Flexing more camera muscles

Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S

When Xiaomi launched their latest borderless flagship phone earlier this year, it was the fastest Android phone on AnTuTu’s test and even in real-world usage! Packed with the latest Snapdragon 845 processor and up to 8GB of memory, the Mi Mix 2S will be able to run even the most demanding mobile games. It’s also priced competitively just like the OnePlus 6, but this one doesn’t have a notch. 😉

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Mi Mix 2S Review: Faster, smarter

Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 (AI)

We’re putting two Xiaomi phones on the list, because why not? While we wait for the successor to the Mi Max 2, the best budget-midrange phone from Xiaomi is the Redmi Note 5. It can handle the latest titles, although they might not be at the highest settings. For a budget phone, it’s already an impressive feat to be able to run popular titles, so no complaints here.

SEE ALSO: Xiaomi Redmi Note 5 Hands-on: The new budget smartphone king?

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Accessories

Xiaomi Haul: Spring Edition

Xiaomi is not just about smartphones

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Xiaomi is primarily known for their value-for-money smartphones that sell like hotcakes during online flash sales. But like CEO Lei Jun said in an open letter recently, Xiaomi is more than a hardware company; they are an innovation-driven internet company.

Much to my excitement, the Chinese company started opening physical Mi stores all around Asia in recent years selling not just smartphones, but also products ranging from smart home tech to toys to fashion items.

Fast forward to 2018, Xiaomi now has a whole ecosystem of products from startups and companies that they funded. In the last few months, I’ve acquired a few of them from trips abroad and the mall so now it’s time to unbox and start using them.

Amazfit Pace, CNY 799 / PhP 6,200

Xiaomi produces its own fitness trackers but they look like, well, a fitness tracker that doesn’t look good on most people’s wrists. Amazfit Pace is also one of the smartwatches available at Mi stores, and arguably one of the better looking ones. It has a heart rate sensor and GPS built-in, modes for running, walking, biking, and more. It promises 5 days of battery life, and you can even sync your data through the Strava app.

The box comes with the watch, user guide and warranty information, a micro-USB cable (sigh), and a charging dock.

Functions are honestly quite limited for it to be a full-fledged smartwatch; there are no other apps available for download right now since it runs on its own OS. And, it still looks very much like a sports watch so it’s not something I would wear everyday to work or to my brother’s wedding. But if I were to get really serious about tracking my activities and fitness goals, I’d still rather wear something that looks like a watch and not a hideous band of rubber.

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Reviews

ASUS ZenFone Max (M1) Unboxing and Review

The battery prince

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These days, you’d be hard-pressed to find a smartphone with really poor battery life even if devices are getting smaller and slimmer.

Although every now and then, big-battery devices come along and make our super-slim phones feel inadequate. The latest smartphone to do so is ASUS’ budget smartphone, the ZenFone Max (M1). Is this your GadgetMatch?

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