2017 will go down in history as one of the best years in gaming. Here are 10 excellent reasons, with number one being GadgetMatch’s game of the year.
10. Persona 5
Persona 5 isn’t the best game of the year, but it makes a good case for being the most game of the year. It takes around 100+ hours to beat; it has deep dungeon crawling with puzzle-solving; it’s got robust turn-based combat; and it’s also a light high-school simulator with a suite of social activities! The story tackles all sorts of societal ills, from child abuse to corruption in politics.
It stumbles on some aspects, most notably the hit-or-miss English localization, the sluggish pacing in the final stretch, and the portrayal of some of the women and queer characters. It soars, however, in its supreme sense of style, acid jazz symphonic string-funk soundtrack, and infectious rebellious spirit.
9. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus
Video games can be a great escape from the maddening realities of life, especially with 2017’s barrage of bad news. They let us indulge in power fantasies when we feel weak and helpless. Wolfenstein II: The New Colossus couldn’t have come at a better time with its vicious takedown of fascism via ultraviolence, toilet humor teetering towards the absurd, and intense introspection.
And while slaughtering virtual Nazis with hatchets and guns akimbo is cathartic as hell, Wolfenstein II hits the hardest when it highlights its diverse characters. Militant black activists, an alien conspiracy nut, Southern socialists, and a boyband-loving ex-Nazi codebreaker join the party of oddities from the previous game, and it results in the most dynamic cast that serves as inspiration for collective resistance in real life.
8. Super Mario Odyssey
If there’s one word that encapsulates Super Mario Odyssey, it’s joy. Unabashed, honest-to-goodness joy. From its many candy-colored kingdoms to the cute creatures that inhabit them to the head-bobbing rhythms that play in each level, just being in Super Mario Odyssey is a treat.
What makes the game great though is that the joy of “being” extends to what you are doing. In Mario’s cliched quest to save Princess Peach from Bowser one more time, the joy is in discovering novel ways to interact with the world through the help of your hat buddy Cappy (and the bodies of enemies and friendlies you basically possess!). Super Mario Odyssey rewards that natural curiosity with in-game progression, sure, but it never forgets that the mere act of playing should be fun on its own.
Getting a glimpse of Cuphead and thinking it’s an old-timey cartoon is an incredibly easy mistake to make. Studio MDHR, the brand new creative force behind Cuphead, showed impeccable dedication to recreating the wild and mesmerizing aesthetic pioneered in the 1930s by cartoonist Max Fleischer. While there is debate to be had about the game ignoring that art style’s racist history, there is no argument over Cuphead elevating the good parts of that distinct look to hypnotic heights.
Cuphead’s beauty isn’t just skin deep, either. Its retro visuals and big band/ragtime soundtrack pair perfectly with its brutally hard throwback run ‘n’ gun shoot ’em up gameplay reminiscent of Contra. Thanks to the super-tight controls, varied weapons and upgrades, and the astonishing multi-phase boss fights, beating Cuphead is even more rewarding than seeing it in action for the first time.
6. What Remains of Edith Finch
Much has been said about video games’ ability to tell stories. When so many rely on cinematics or pages of text to deliver their narratives, it feels like what makes the medium special is wasted. What Remains of Edith Finch harnesses that singular strength of interactivity to tell not just one story but a whole clan’s history in ways only video games can.
The player takes an active role in each tale, reliving the last moments of every Finch family member through surreal sequences that never stop surprising. These imaginative vignettes blur reality with flights of fancy and call upon the player to navigate the spaces between. Most importantly, What Remains of Edith Finch makes the case as to why humans need to tell stories: to cope with grief, to make sense of chaos, to learn from mistakes, and to keep precious memories alive.
5. Horizon Zero Dawn
A lot of elements in Horizon Zero Dawn feel familiar, especially if you’ve been playing a lot of big budget games in the past decade. It has a massive open world filled with so much stuff. It has a light RPG upgrade system with unlockable skills. It has collecting and crafting. Even its setting sounds predictable: It’s in a post-apocalyptic future, sentient machines roam the world, the hero has a special connection to the mysterious forces that brought about the end of the previous world, and it’s up to her to discover the truth.
And yet Horizon Zero Dawn manages to defy expectations. It’s the most picturesque AAA game on consoles. Clans with different cultures populate the land, and the characters you meet from each one tell personal tales that weave into the larger political landscape. Completing side quests factor into the main plot’s climax. The narrative deftly deviates from where you think it’s heading while still making complete sense. You play as a clever, badass woman with relatable vulnerabilities and motivations! Oh and yes, fighting giant robot dinosaurs is a tactical, terrifying, and ultimately satisfying experience like nothing else in the genre.
It’s a strange combination, framing sports gameplay within a visual novel. Pyre is a triumphant slam dunk for succeeding at both ends. The 3v3 basketball-but-with-powers game is layered in its systems, kinetic in action, and exhilarating in execution. The writing is rich with both characterization and world-building. It also helps that the art is absolutely gorgeous and expressive. Staring at mostly static character portraits while reading text has never been so absorbing.
The true magic happens when these two parts come together. Depending on who you choose to have on your team and the opponents you face, the characters react accordingly to each other before, during, and after a match. Win or lose, the story continues, and people will come and go based on the outcome. Dire, unfair circumstances brought on by an oppressive regime make for game-changing, heartbreaking choices that will resonate with players uniquely.
3. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild
There aren’t many prestigious and influential series that continue to have long-standing success over three decades. The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild throws out almost everything those 30+ years have proven to be profitable, replacing the rigid linearity of the past for an “open air” adventure. It was a bold move by Nintendo, but like the company’s innovation with the Switch, it resulted in a revitalizing way to play.
It’s in the way the sight lines always have something that’s singularly grand off in the distance that make you want to travel the vast distances. It’s in the way the physical laws of the world apply to everyone and everything, inviting experimentation just to see what happens. It’s in the way the game just gives you one ultimate goal and lets you tackle it however you want. It’s liberating.
2. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds
Who saw this coming? A rather bland-looking military-style multiplayer shooter inspired by a cult Japanese film taking the gaming world by storm? With a horrible title like that? None of these negatives really matters when PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is that good.
The sheer scale of having 100 players fight is exciting. Trying to account for the behavior of 99 other humans while considering the randomness in where equipment can be found and which zones in a sprawling island are safe sounds impossible! Yet 25 million people and counting keep trying. Because the thrill in the nervous anticipation, the bullets that break the silence, the explosive gun battles, the wacky car chases, the first taste of that delicious chicken dinner, and countless other short stories is revelatory.
1. Nier: Automata
Nier: Automata isn’t perfect. Its open world looks like a slightly souped-up PS3-era level. The default difficulty setting doesn’t encourage mixing up your play style, leading to many tedious combat sections. A chunk of the middle could have been edited to remove unnecessary repetition. It could’ve done without allowing players to perv on one of the main characters.
But it’s the flaws that Nier: Automata is interested in examining. It blurs the arbitrary lines we humans set to define gender, humanity, and divinity, much like how it seamlessly switches gameplay modes and perspectives. It zeroes in on the irrational motivations humans have to determine self-worth even when it hurts through its cast of sad, funny robots and ass-kicking, angst-ridden androids.
It also reminds us that we’re all we’ve really got in this crazy world, and that we have the choice to lend our hands and voices to help one another and rise above our differences.
[irp posts=”25414″ name=”10 offline free-to-play mobile games on iOS and Android”]
GadgetMatch Awards: Best of CES 2021
Flying cars, rolling phones, and Ice Cream right at home
CES has always been the place for dreaming about the future of tech and this year, despite the annual convention being held virtually instead of in Las Vegas like usual, is no different.
We saw plenty of exciting innovations ranging from stuff that we can purchase soon, something for the new normal, and an effin flying car. Yes. If that doesn’t get your gears running we don’t know what will.
So here are our favorites from the tech show.
Best Gaming Laptop: ROG Flow X13
Gaming laptops have been getting slimmer and slimmer over the years but this one — it’s a gaming laptop the size of an Ultrabook. ASUS managed to pack gaming power — AMD Ryzen 9/Cezanne-HS mobile processor, RTX 3080 — in a 15mm thin and 1.35kg body.
To heighten the gaming experience further, you can pair it with the ROG XG Mobile GPU that gives the Flow X13 the power of a full-sized gaming rig. That’s bonkers.
Best Auto Concept: GM flying Cadillac Taxi
The idea of flying cars has long intrigued the human race. You need not look far than the prevalence of such a vehicle in sci-fi pop culture to see how much we long for it.
General Motors’ flying Cadillac taxi concept is a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) vehicle, eliminating the need for any runway. It’ll run on a 90kWh battery with 56mph top speed. New flying regulations will have to come but we can’t wait for this to take to the skies.
Best New Smartphone Form Factor: LG Rollable
Smartphones are going through a period of change. What once was just a rectangular piece of slab has seen itself fold, flip, and now… roll.
We’ve seen LG showcase a rollable concept before but the LG Rollable could be the closest thing that might actually… roll out to the market. Details are scarce for now but expect plenty of news and rumors to build up as it gets closer to launch.
Best Laptop: ASUS ZenBook Duo
The ZenBook Duo, first showcased at Computex 2019, sort of took a gap year in 2020. What we saw instead was a gaming version with the Zephyrus Duo. It makes a comeback now more refined and with internals fit for the new year.
The new ASUS ZenBook Duo is a refinement of this new laptop form factor in every way imaginable — one that, theoretically, should be much more useful than its predecessor.
Best Chromebook: Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2
The Samsung Galaxy Chromebook 2 has all the bells and whistles of the first generation but it now comes with a QLED panel. Yep, Samsung’s TV display tech has made its way to a notebook. This could just be the beginning.
Buds, Plus, Live, and now Pro — not exactly the progression that makes the most sense name-wise but Samsung may now finally have the TWS that can go toe-to-toe against the AirPods Pro and Freebuds Pro.
The Galaxy Buds Pro promises intelligent ANC that adjusts according to your environment and a playtime that’s par for the course for the other buds it’s going up against.
Best Wearable: MaskFone
Ever since the pandemic hit, face masks have come in all shapes, sizes and features — the MaskFone is no exception.
The MaskFone has a mic in the facepiece and two earbuds hanging on wires by the earloops. The mask is made of a water-resistant, breathable, and washable material and includes a pocket for PM2.5 filters. As far as tech goes, this one’s pretty in your face.
Best Kitchen Appliance: ColdSnap
What’s better than getting sweet, icy treats on a dreary day? It’s making those sweet, icy treats at your own home with ColdSnap.
It works like coffee pod machines but instead of coffee, it serves ice cream and other frozen treats from recyclable aluminium pods. Now, you can Ice Cream and chill at your leisure.
Best Smart TV: Samsung NEO QLED
Samsung’s QLED was already pretty good but turning things up to eleven is their Neo QLED. With this new display tech, Samsung promises improved picture quality — dark areas are darker, bright areas brighter, and so on. Of course, we’ll have to see it for ourselves but it already sounds promising.
Best Wellness Device: Lora DiCarlo Drift, Tilt, Sway
If you can get past snickering like a tween, you’ll realize this offers many… benefits. Inspired by human warmth, the new model mimics the heat we experience from our partners’ bodies. Lora DiCarlo used a nylon-based thermally conductive polymer and its WarmSense Technology, simulating body temperature.
I’m sure we can all use some warmth in these cold nights.
Best Cleaning Device: Samsung JetBot 90 AI+
Keeping your place squeaky clean doesn’t get any smarter than this. The JetBot 90 AI+ is a vacuum cleaner that uses object recognition technology to identify and classify objects to decide the best cleaning path. LiDAR and 3D sensors allow JetBot 90 AI+ to avoid cables and small objects, while still cleaning hard-to-reach corners in your home.
Best Camera/Drone: Airpeak
Professional videographers who’s weapon of choice are Sony Alphas are probably dying to have their hands on Airpeak. It’s a drone that can be equipped with Sony’s professional grade, mirrorless cameras. This opens up new possibilities in terms of aerial footage.
Best Monitor: Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved WUHD
It appears we’re facing a future that’ll have us sitting in front of monitors for longer than we realize. That’s why having one that’s easy on the eyes could be extra beneficial. The ComfortView Plus on the Dell UltraSharp 40 Curved WUHD monitor can help with that. Not to mention, it is color accurate and should aid you nicely in your work-from-home setup.
Tech controversies of 2020
It’s been a long year for everyone
Though everyone stayed at home this year, 2020 was still a highly controversial year. From the COVID-19 pandemic in March to the U.S. elections in November, a lot happened in 2020. However, if you’ve heard enough about the political or the healthcare scene this year, the technology industry was also popping.
As we do every year, let’s run through the best (or worst, depending on your outlook) tech controversies of 2020.
The shadiness of 5G
With everyone at home and on their Wi-Fi, you might not have noticed the advent of 5G technology. More and more smartphones are touting compatibility with 5G networks. Coinciding with the spread of 5G smartphones, 5G networks are also rising, albeit slowly.
However, despite the promises of superfast internet, 5G adoption is anything but smooth. For one, everyone is fighting over who should usher in the new era. Huawei, the de facto leader in building 5G infrastructure, is currently crumbling all over the world. Especially in the United States, countries don’t trust the Chinese company to protect everyone’s cybersecurity interests. In other countries, Nokia and Ericsson are rising with their own infrastructure, likewise banning Huawei from their soil.
If the political slant wasn’t enough, conspiracy theorists are also falsely claiming that the new technology is responsible for spreading the coronavirus. Though the false claims haven’t reached any significant traction, the conspiracy theories have dented the smooth transition from 4G to 5G.
Tick tock for TikTok
Speaking of Chinese geopolitical issues, ByteDance’s TikTok, another Chinese company, is currently under fire for the same reasons as Huawei. Earlier this year, the American government and security researchers accused the short-form video-sharing platform as a hive for Chinese malware and information spying. Making its case worse, U.S. TikTok users successfully trolled President Donald Trump in his reelection campaign, buying out seats in his rallies.
Soon after, the American government issued an ultimatum, supposedly ending in November, for the platform: get out of the country or find an American buyer. Throughout the latter half of the year, TikTok rushed to find a buyer, volleying between Microsoft, Apple, and Facebook. Ultimately, Oracle won out in a bid to acquire the company. Though the controversy is still technically on, the issue essentially sputtered out of the limelight. TikTok is still in the United States.
The end of big tech
Amid the ongoing crusade against Chinese companies and platforms, the American government is also placing its biggest tech companies under the microscope. During the pandemic, lawmakers grilled them, especially Facebook, over information security and anti-competition practices.
For sure, these companies have often found themselves involved in numerous hacks, leaks, and security problems in the past. However, this is one of the rare times that the government is actually doing something about it,
Besides cybersecurity, the government is also questioning the companies for stifling competitors or straight-up acquiring them. The strategy is supposedly aimed to prevent the smaller companies from posing a threat to the current tech oligopoly.
Oftentimes, the companies’ head honchos found themselves speechless under severe pressure from grilling lawmakers, such as the case with Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg.
Despite the excitement surrounding the release, the newly released iPhone 12 series was controversial at best. Besides the rumored delays, several rumors preceding the launch predicted the removal of the traditionally free charging adapters and wired earphones.
During the launch, Apple defended the decision as an ecofriendly drive towards carbon neutral status by 2030. However, the new package also has profound effects for the company’s logistics and profit structures. For example, the smaller package can fit in larger numbers for a single shipment of iPhones. Apple can ship more iPhones around the world.
Additionally, Apple can sell more charging adapters, especially to those who haven’t stockpiled old chargers before. Even then, the new iPhone 12 series is starting new charging standards including a faster wired charging solution and a new wireless standard.
Though the spotlight shone on Apple for most of the time, other rivals also popped up in the conversation. For example, Samsung, who mocked Apple for removing their free peripherals, is consistently piling up rumors and evidence that they are also removing their chargers. Xiaomi, for its part, has already confirmed its own charger-less smartphone box starting next year. If 2020 is Apple’s chargergate scandal, 2021 might well be everyone else copying Apple’s decision.
Cyberpunk 2077 was arguably the most anticipated game of 2020 (emphasis on arguably). But it was delayed. Twice. When it did launch, users of last generation consoles weren’t too thrilled with the Night City they ended up in — the graphics was just downright bad and the game was mostly buggy.
Things were looking up at first with reports coming in that CD Projekt Red had raked in profits just on pre-orders alone. However, the barely working versions on the PS4 and Xbox One prompted the team to issue refunds where they can. It’s gotten so bad that some executives are in hot water over the botched launch.
Regardless, PC players with higher-end rigs are still able to enjoy the game, and the next gen console versions are also coming soon.
COVID-19 dominates 2020
As expected, COVID-19 takes the cake for 2020. Most of the events (or lack thereof) this year stems from the worst pandemic in contemporary history. Since January, long-standing events, including CES, MWC, IFA, and numerous Comic Cons, either postponed, reduced attendance, or outright canceled their dates this year.
Though it doesn’t seem like it at face value, the coronavirus has drastically affected the tech industry. Outside of events, differing priorities has shifted logistics away from device production and distribution. Some devices in the past, and still today, have been rumored to suffer delays. At the moment, the most prominent COVID-19-borne delays are during the ongoing PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S crisis.
As vaccines are finally rolling out the countries all over the world, the logistics world will still go through a lot of problems going into and throughout 2021, especially with specific requirements for specific vaccines.
Further, even with vaccinations, no one knows how events will go next year. For sure, mask-wearing and social distancing won’t go away any time soon. As 2020 finally ends, 2021 will start with a glimmer of hope. But make no mistake: the lessons of 2020 can (and should) still inform the events of 2021.
Best of 2020: Our favorite iPhone cases
Stylish, protective, and functional!
As always, iPhones are the easiest to dress up with stylish cases. They’re clean, simple, and doesn’t come with loud, gradient designs that make it hard for you to cover them up.
There are a lot of gorgeous cases to choose from, and here are our favorite iPhone cases in 2020.
Apple’s Silicone Case with MagSafe
Apple’s Silicone Case with MagSafe is a delightful way to protect your iPhone. Its silky, soft-touch finish feels great, and it has built-in magnets for quick attachment and faster wireless charging. Shop here.
Mujjo’s Full Leather Wallet Case
Mujjo’s Full Leather Wallet Case speaks convenience and efficiency, without forsaking style. Its cardholder can carry up to three cards, and the case comes in a durable yet gorgeous leather design producing a beautiful patina over time. Shop here.
LifeProof’s WĀKE is crafted from salvaged fishing gear, made up of over 85 percent ocean-based recycled plastic. In a sea of sustainable phone cases, this one stands atop the ocean. It has a DropProof rating up to six feet and works with Apple’s MagSafe charger and other Qi wireless charging. More importantly, you get to donate a dollar to a water-conscious nonprofit partner when you purchase their case. Shop here.
OtterBox Otter + Pop Symmetry Clear
Keeping it clear and functional, but with a little bit of pizazz with its Stardust design — that’s OtterBox’s theme for this year with its Otter + Pop Symmetry clear case. Shop here.
Pela Eco-Friendly iPhone Case
Pela’s Eco-friendly iPhone cases are soft, flexible, smooth, and made of environment-friendly material, making these cases 100 percent compostable. They also donate a percentage of their sales to Ocean Cleanup and Preservation Initiatives to help lessen plastic pollution. Shop here.
For those who like it protected, Spigen’s MagArmor might be the one to suit up your iPhone. It looks sleek with its slim, grip-friendly design and slick matte finish, and it has a built-in magnetic ring for MagSafe. It covers all your protective needs without looking bland. Shop here.
Native Union Clic Canvas
Instead of going after a plain case to cover up your plain iPhone, add some character with Native Union’s Clic Canvas. Its cases are slim, durable, and has a unique tactile finish using a woven fabric. Shop here.
Nomad Rugged Folio
The best case, for those who want to be taken seriously, would be Nomad’s Rugged Folio case. It’s built with a high-grade polycarbonate body with an internal shock absorption bumper and offers ample storage — three card slots and one cash slot — for your essentials. Its supple Horween leather develops a patina with time and will look gorgeous as it grows old with you. Shop here.
Chanel case with Chain
If you’re feeling fancy and have a lot of spare cash to splurge on a designer phone case, then look no further. Chanel came up with a smartphone case with chains for added protection — without forsaking style. The case uses a black grained lambskin together with gold-tone metal. Shop here.
Awsaccy Emily in Paris Phone Case
Ever wished you can roam and shine like Emily Cooper? Make sure you sport Awsaccy’s Emily in Paris phone case, Emily’s vintage camera-like phone case in the Netflix’s Emily in Paris. Shop here.
For those looking after functionality and versatility, Singaporean brand Uniq offers an ultimate hands-free experience with its Transforma series. It has an integrated foldable stand — perfect for when you’re texting, having a video call, or watching movies. It’s also drop certified up to six feet. Shop here.
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