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

Automotive

Stranger Things 3: What exactly is an ignition cable?

Possessed Billy knew what he was doing

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By now, you’ve probably seen the third and newest season of Stranger Things on Netflix. If you still haven’t, it goes without saying that there are spoilers ahead and you should stay away from this article.

Seeing a pop culture reference such as Stranger Things together with the seemingly unrelated world of automotive in one writeup such as this could be strange (pun intended) for some. We really don’t mind and thought it would be a fun and unique way to talk about the show and learn a few things from it, as well.


So we ask the question: What exactly is an ignition cable?

The ignition cable is part of a vehicle’s ignition system. In simplest terms, it’s a mechanism that starts the engine. By generating a high voltage from the car’s battery to the spark plugs in its engine, it causes them to ignite the engine’s combustion chambers and get it up and running.

And in order to transfer that voltage from the source to the engine, you’ll need an ignition cable as it’s like a subway system that acts as pathways for the voltage to pass through. So if the ignition cable is not present, there’s no way to start the car.

Back to Stranger Things, Billy (although already possessed by the Mind Flayer) obviously still had his knowledge on cars so he took away the ignition cable trapping our favorite gang at Starcourt Mall’s parking lot.

Just to further stress the importance of an ignition cable and the whole ignition system for that matter, we’d like to visit other possibilities and ask, “What if Billy didn’t take it away?”

Well, the plan was for Eleven and her group to go to Bauman’s secret place and stay safe while Joyce, Hopper, and the rest try to close the portal and render the Mind Flayer powerless. If their ignition cable was intact, they’d be a lot safer away from the Mind Flayer although we wouldn’t be able to see that amazing fireworks scene inside the mall.

Through this, we see the importance of that one small part under the hood of the car. In real life, it really pays to make sure that everything is in good working condition and that one faulty cable could mean trouble for you if remained unaddressed — unless there’s a car on display inside a mall somewhere that you can take spare parts from!

 

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Features

Is this the chip for the ROG Phone 2? [Weekend Rewind]

Reports say yes!

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Here are the top stories on GadgetMatch this week.

1. Is this the chip for the ROG Phone 2?

We’re entering the second wave of smartphone flagships for 2019. What better way to do so than news on the chip that will power all these new phones.


Enter the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 plus. It’s not quite the chip we were expecting but it’ll still provide significant performance boosts.

The chip promises a 15 percent improvement on overall graphic performance. That’s perfect for gaming which is why reports of the chip debuting on the ROG Phone 2 is a welcome development. The chip should also provide improvements on AR, VR, and AI features.

We also expect to see the chip on the Samsung Galaxy Note 10, the Google Pixel 4, and the OnePlus 7T.

2. Huawei firing hundreds of workers

The latest chapter in the US vs Huawei saga sees the Chinese company in panic mode.

A report from the Wall Street Journal says the company will fire hundreds of employees from a pool of 850 workers. Most of which will come from their research and development division called Futurewei Technologies.

China-born employees have the option to go back to their home country and still be employed by Huawei. The same is not the case though for their American employees.

The layoffs come from the continued pressure by the US government. This, despite the optimism created by the earlier ban’s lifting.

Huawei is still preparing for the worst. They continue to work on their own OS and are building resistance to potential geopolitical threats in the future.

3. Sony’s A7R IV has a massive 61MP sensor

This wasn’t the announcement we were hoping for, but  it still has plenty going for it.

Sony just launched the latest on the R-series of their full-frame mirrorless cameras – The Sony A7R IV. It has the world’s first 61MP sensor on a full-frame camera. This helps you capture images that don’t lose detail even when you zoom in.

Other improvements include, a 15-stop dynamic range, five-axis optical in-body image stabilization, as well as 10FPS shooting with continuous autofocus. The real-time eye-tracking autofocus also makes its way to video recording for the first time.

The A7R IV also comes with new tech that captures digital audio signal. To take advantage, Sony also introduced a shotgun mic and an XLR mic adapter kit to pair with the camera.

This was a serious flex by Sony. Following the release of the Canon EOS R as well as the Nikon E6 and E7 — both of which are mirrorless cameras — the A7R IV is Sony sending a message that they still hold the crown when it comes to full-frame mirrorless cameras.

4. The Galaxy S8 is a lifesaver

Smartphones saving lives is a headline we didn’t expect to see this week but here we are.

A boat in Cebu in the Philippines that was transporting local and foreign divers to a diving spot capsized. Emergency responders were quick to respond to a call saving the lives of all the passengers and crew members. 

The call was made using a Samsung Galaxy S8 — but not just any S8 — it’s one that has been submerged in seawater for 30 minutes.

“Only my S8 was able to connect… and worked all the way until we made it to land. It stayed alive for much longer than I thought possible and it really made the difference,” said the phone’s owner

In case you were wondering, the Samsung Galaxy S8 sports an IP68 rating. Typically, it can survive five feet underwater for up to 30 minutes. We hope to hear more good news like this!

5. FaceApp goes viral again, raises security concerns

If you’re seeing a lot of your friends’ aged faces on social media, well, you’re not alone.

The FaceApp, for some reason, has gone viral again with celebrities, YouTubers, and NBA stars joining in on the fun posting what they’ll look like if they ever make it past 60 years old.

Using the app is pretty straightforward. Just pick a photo and apply whatever filter you like that’s anywhere from beauty filters to gender swaps, and of course, the old age filter.

While it’s all fun and games on social media, this has actually raised security concerns. A report on Fast Company indicates the Russian company behind the app saves the photos uploaded by transmitting it to their servers. The US government takes it even further saying it poses some security threat and ordered the FBI to investigate the Russian startup.

FaceApp has denied the allegations saying that images are deleted from their servers within 48 hours from the upload date.

It’s worth noting though that this is not that different from Google and Facebook taking more information than we realize. But if you’re still concerned, the best option is to steer clear of these photo editing apps.


Weekend Rewind is our roundup of top news and features you might have missed for the week. We know the world of technology can be overwhelming and not everyone has the time to get up to speed with everything — and that includes us. So sit back, relax, and enjoy the rewind.

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Automotive

2019 Honda Brio RS: The sporty baby Jazz

A fun ride through and through

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For today’s millennials and young professionals, choosing which car to buy could be a tough choice to make. For some, it has to pass certain requirements like fuel efficiency, ride comfort, space, if it looks good, and more importantly if it fits the budget. This is what first came to my mind when we got to test the 2019 Honda Brio RS. I think it has all the criteria most of us need for our daily commute and I’ll tell you why.

At first glance, it will give you the impression of a baby Jazz as it follows traditional Honda design cues.  It looks far better than its competing compact hatchbacks and is definitely a big design upgrade than the previous generation Brio.  From the front, this car looks aggressive and masculine for its size. The rear, however, still leans on the conservative side. Together with its sporty side skirts, the side profile is sleek with forward-tilting character lines giving it a sense of action and speed.


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Being an RS variant, there are additional design upgrades which include the black roof, blacked-out honeycomb grille, a rear spoiler with mounted third brake light, 15-inch RS design alloy rims, and of course, the bright red RS badges plastered all over. These positively add to the sportiness of the vehicle.

Its Phoenix Orange Pearl body looked glowing hot when the sun hits and we like it

Hopping in, you will immediately notice the orange accents running through the air vents, glove box, and side panels, plus the orange stitching and patterns on the seats. Next, we see the 7-inch touch-enabled infotainment system at the center of the dash which is connected to six speakers. Although that’s the case, we still weren’t impressed with the sound quality as it felt a bit short on bass.

Whether as the driver or passenger, you are seated in a low orientation and feel very close and planted to the ground. The height of the steering wheel and dashboard takes some getting used to if you always drive tall cars. But don’t get the idea that it’s cramped up inside. The seats up front are spacious with plenty of headroom to spare while at the back we have a decent amount of legroom for the average Asian. The trunk was large enough to carry our equipment along with other stuff. It was impressively spacious for a car this size.

We drove to our favorite scenic route of the Sierra Madre mountains, putting the car through its paces. The Brio is powered by a 1.2-liter SOHC i-VTEC engine which I think is sufficient enough for a car this small. It is then mated to a Continuously Variable Transmission (CVT) with sport mode and the company’s Earth Dreams Technology.

This car gives you a smooth and quiet ride even at high speeds. The cabin is astonishingly quiet with very minimal wind noise and vibrations. Thanks to its CVT implementation, this car is so smooth that I didn’t realize I was already going 90 on a 50kph road.

You cannot ask it to drive like its more spirited cousins, though. It is not the fastest accelerating car and pushing down the gas pedal when overtaking or driving up a steep road takes the CVT some time to adjust and you won’t get that instant punch you were expecting.

The Brio also lacks traction control and other basic features like rear sensors and reverse camera. It doesn’t even have a center console box and an armrest, but these are things we can brush aside. In terms of fuel efficiency, we were able to average 11.1km/liter which is not bad considering we drove it aggressively through the winding and steep roads of Tanay, Rizal. Steering was light and handled tight corners remarkably.  Overall, this car gets the job done. It gets you where you need to go and is reliable, economical, safe, and don’t forget that it’s such a looker.

Will I recommend the Brio RS? In the city, this car would be perfect. Although it’s not the most powerful more so for long drives. I can tell you one thing, though, it sure is fun to drive. I’m actually not a big fan of small hatchbacks but it all boils down to the company’s target market. The Brio is tuned to be sporty and modernly stylish so it might appeal to those looking for something that looks fun and doesn’t break the bank.

With those, I could confidently say that the Brio RS has the edge over its small hatchback competitors in terms of performance and design. You won’t go wrong with this car.

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