Saitek Cyborg V5 - PC Review

Okay, this isn't a game review, but I got a very cool new keyboard from my dad for my birthday back in May. Now that I've had some time with it, I figured I'd share my thoughts on it.

Saitek Cyborg V5 CCB44026N002/06/1 Black USB Wired Game Keyboard

Pros: Keys look good, quiet keyboard, good button layout
Cons: could be a bit brighter, kind of smallish space bar
The Bottom Line: This is an excellent illuminated keyboard. Even with heavy use, it works perfectly.

I picked this keyboard up about two months ago for a few reasons. One, the keys on my factor HP keyboard were starting to lose their spring, and the letters had all but rubbed off on about a quarter of the keys. One of my co-workers uses a back-lit keyboard at work, and it occurred to me that an illuminated keyboard would probably be excellent for me as well. I do most of my computing in a den where I keep the lights off and do not get much light from the windows - I prefer the dark room for seeing my monitors.

Most of the time, this is not an issue - I type very quickly and effectively, but there are times when I struggle to find some of the less commonly used keys, like the function ones, delete, scroll lock, etc. This really only comes up in gaming, which I do quite a bit of as well.

I did quite a bit of searching for illuminated keyboards and while the majority are blue or white, I found an image of this Saitek Cyborg V5 and noticed the glow was red - which happens to be my favorite color. After keeping an eye on the keyboard for a few weeks, I happened to catch it while on sale and decided to order it.

The keys feel very good - they're soft-press ones, so for those who like click or clack sounds from their keys, they will be disappointed, but I prefer the quieter keys. The only one that makes any significant sound as I type is the space bar.

It is a USB keyboard, so it has the somewhat standard volume up/down/mute buttons, which all work just like you would expect. This is a full size keyboard, which I use on my lap and fits very comfortably. The shape is a bit odd when you look at it, with elongated, rounded corners, but they don't really help or hurt how I use it since it is on my lap. If you use the keyboard on a desk, this is where the rubber pads are at for traction and as a test I tried it out and it seems to hold its position quite nicely. There is also an option wrist-rest snap-on piece that you can attach to the front of the keyboard and that I do use for wrist support. It is nothing special, but matches the rest of the black keyboard visually and is comfortable.

The real highlight however is the illumination. For starters, the keys show up great in daylight, which is one complaint I've seen for similar keyboards in the past. The letters and numbers show up as an easily visible white with no glare on them. Using the illumination at night works exactly as I had hoped. There's a single button that has 3 modes: bright, dim and off for the illumination and it is in the upper-right next to the audio control buttons.

The keys show up very well in the dark when lit, and help me to find those slightly lesser-used keys easily. The biggest cons I can think of is that I thought the keys would be a bit brighter than they are, and that the space bar is just a bit shorter than I'm used to - both both are very easy for me to overlook


Gaming thoughts - 11/24/11 - Thanksgiving....

First off, happy Thanksgiving everyone.

I know not everyone celebrates it, and those that do celebrate it differently, but this is probably my favorite holiday of the year. We stay home, I cook loads of food, I watch the Lions play (and usually lose, but they are certainly getting better) and I get a handful of days off of work, which is always a plus.

Likely I'll be doing lots of shopping tonight/tomorrow - my wife loves Black Friday. I hate shopping. H-A-T-E it. 99% of the time, I know what I am going to grab at a store before going in, and I'm done 5 minutes later. Or I just order it online. My wife? Not so much. She likes to browse. And then look over her browsings. And sometimes deliberate on those browsings she has looked over. When she first started going to Black Friday deals, she went with her aunt. Now? Now I go. But it's hard to argue with the value. There's some pretty good deals out there too, especially for gamers.

We're pretty... well, set on consoles. The only thing I'd consider is a 3DS at this point. And sure, I'd like another big shiny TV at a ridiculously low price, but I'll probably pass for now. I may investigate 3D tv's come spring though when I get my tax returns - anyone had any experiences (good or bad) with those yet?

Moving on - game deals. So, I have one kid who wants Bioshocks 1 & 2 - and I know that Walmart has part 2 for $10 on Black Friday. There's also Epic Mickey for $15. Walmart also has Battlefield 3, Infamous 2 and Batman Arkham City for $26. Mejier has NBA 2k12 for $30. So... I have some options. What about the rest of you?

Doing anything special for the holiday? Going to battle insane crowds for any shopping deals? Aware of any other great deals gamers in particular might be interested in? (If I go 3DS, I am totally looking at that Zelda packaged one for $200).

Game Deals for 11/23/11

Two sets of game deals right now are out there.

Amazon has downloaded games for 50% off or more here. For me, the new Might and Magic: Heroes title caught my eye.

And on the Steam front, they're kicking off their Autumn sale now and continuing to do new deals over the weekend. Some titles like Portal 2 are $10.

Both are probably worth a look if you're interested in downloadable titles for your PC.

Bob Came in Pieces - PC Review

Bob Came in Pieces is a charming little title that I got for free when I signed up for Steam last winter. It was not a game I would have gone out and gotten, but awhile back I decided to start going through more of my Steam backlog - and I started alphabetically, which put Bob here pretty close to the top.

The best way to describe this game is that it is a physics-based puzzler. You modify your ship to change how you fly and interact with your environment as you try to navigate the handful of puzzle-like landscapes you are attempting to navigate. Still, the question is - while free makes just about any game worthwhile, is this a title I would recommend to someone who actually has to buy it?

Graphics - 6:

Cute. Charming. Simple. These three adjectives really sum up most of what there is to say. Bright colors and clean but simple details represent Bob's trip. There is not a whole lot going on in the environment, but the game is cute in its own right.

Sound & Music - 5:

The cute and charming thing works better visually than aurally. Here there is just not enough interesting going on in the music or audio and the game feels somewhat empty to me as a result, which leaves me wanting a bit more engagement from the game.

Gameplay - 5:

I have to beat this game up a bit. The menu interface is fairly effective once you learn your way around it, but I didn't really enjoy customizing my ship. Too often the process felt cumbersome later in the game when you have too many options. On top of that, the ship handles so poorly at times. Of course, that is a part of the challenge, but I prefer my games not be so frustrating. I like a good brain teaser, but sometimes the controls left me wondering if my approach was completely wrong, slightly wrong or if I was just assembled wrong in the first place. Credit to the tutorial though, that does a good job of explaining the game's mechanics most of the time.

Intangibles - 6:

The game's not very long, and the parts of the game where I got held up were more frustrating than properly challenging. Too often it felt like any sense of true progression had simply ground to a halt. There are some Steam achievements to be had though for people who do enjoy the game and put the time into it.

Overall - 5.5:

A quick story: My youngest really enjoyed the game's graphics and wanted to play, so I set her up with it. She was very excited and shot through the first level or so in no time. However, about forty minutes later, I walked by to see how she was progressing and she was playing a different game. I asked her what she thought of Bob Came in Pieces and she said she didn't like it anymore because it was too hard.

The visuals and sound just seem at odds with the gameplay itself, and makes it a game that my nine year old just didn't enjoy despite the fact that at first glance, she thought it looked like a lot of fun. My overall impressions were better early on than later too - but I just was not enjoying the game much after a few levels - and then you realize that there's not many levels to begin with, and it's a title I'd have to suggest trying the Steam demo of before putting down your $10 on it.

Faerie Solitaire - PC Review

Solitaire's a pretty familiar game by now. It's been around forever and there are a ton of variants out there to be played. This was not a title I would have gone out of my way to acquire normally, but it was part of an indie fantasy package on Steam last winter and there were a few other titles in there I was interested in, and this was part of that deal.

After a few posts now talking about the violent, action-packed God of War games, I thought I'd go in a very different direction for a post or two.

The premise is pretty simple here. You have varying stacks of cards spread out on the playing table in different patterns. You have a deck at the bottom of your screen and a single card turned up. You can play any top-level card from the table that is directly above or below the value of the card down by the deck. Color/suit does not matter, so if you have a 5 of hearts down at the bottom, you can play and 4 or 6 from the table above. If you don't have a play, turn over a new card from the deck.

However, there are some fun variations to the formula as well. You can collect 'supplies' to grow pets/creatures, and you have several power-ups like the ability to build up the power to destroy a single face card from the top, or save special 'wild cards' from the side to put into play when you just really need a specific number to get a nice run. It is all tucked into a simple storyline that gives you the chance to earn more money to buy and unlock new things.

Graphics - 5:

I mean, there's not much going on here. And what there is does not look terribly impressive. They are cards with almost no animation to speak of, draped onto a fairly plain table. It gets the job done, but there is very little to be excited about here.

Sound & Music - 5:

I was a bit surprised that there was voice acting for the campaign mode. Not terribly great voice acting, but it is there. The sound effects are at least more varied than the graphics, but not by a whole lot. The music's actually pretty pleasant, but there it gets repetitive fairly early on in the campaign.

Gameplay - 8:

The game never gets in its own way. We're not talking about complicated combat combos or anything like that, but you can navigate the menus easily, and the basic card-shifting is very easy and fluid. The light RPG-like elements are solid and there are quite a few modes and challenges to keep the game from getting boring.

Intangibles - 8:

Touched on above, but with a lot of modes, some Steam achievements, an actual storyline - there is quite a bit of solitaire to be had here. Now, if you're not fond of the card game, I doubt there's anything in here that's going to sway you to suddenly want to play a few hundred hands. That said? I had fun evolving my creatures, buying power-ups and defeating almost every challenge the game had to offer.

Overall - 6.5:

This is a game that's going to appeal to a somewhat limited niche of players I suspect. My wife falls into that grouping. Most of my friends who heavily play video games? Probably not. I enjoyed the game though, and got through the entire campaign. It was light gaming, I was playing it while doing other things like working on my MUD or watching highlights from sports on the internet. If you like solitaire games, it's probably worth the pickup - if not, you probably won't be a convert because of this title.

Gaming Thoughts... 11/15/11 - Quick Poll

Not much to post here, just randomly adding a new poll - but what kind of game genre is your favorite:

- Action/platforming
- Simulation
- Strategy
- Sports
- First-person shooter
- Puzzle
- Fighter
- Other (maybe list in the comments)

Playstation Move - Final Thoughts

Final Thoughts? Sounds a bit foreboding huh? Well, there is a bit of a reason. With a dead PlayStation 3, I had to figure out how to replace it since it was the most heavily used system in our house. The PlayStation Move, having been free, was a great win - but the thing is, despite how good the tech is behind it, the titles to support it never seemed to interest me a lot. There were a couple of specific ones, and I got and reviewed those, but the scores were often somewhat middling.

The hardware's great, but even after E3 I didn't see many compelling titles for the Move. So, it was part of my trade-in toward the new PS3 Slim I got this summer. In truth, the Move and the PlayStation Eye were hardly ever used. A couple of times a month maybe. With the PS3 in the living room dead? Those devices were not getting used at all, so I decided to do without them. It was a fun experience, but not one that feels fully fleshed out and ready for prime time. There is a load of potential here, and maybe down the road I'll see some titles that make me regret the decision, but I doubt it at this point. The overall experience for me was probably about a 7 out of 10. Good diversion, but lacking in substance

Playstation Move - EyePet - Playstation 3 Review

Took a small break for the Halloween special I wrote up the other night, so let's get back into my evaluation of the Playstation Move, shall we?

This was one of the titles I was most excited to acquire once we knew we were getting the PlayStation Move. I knew that my youngest in particular would be fascinated with the idea of a virtual pet to take care of, but I had a feeling it might go over well with the other kids as well. They adore our cats, they all like the variousg 'virtual pets' games like Nintendogs or even Pokemon. The idea is pretty simple - you hatch a monkey-like EyePet and name it - and then you go about playing with and caring for it over time. Each new real life day brings about some new activities and challenges, giving you an incentive to come back to the game regularly.

All of this is done while integrating the PlayStation move in a variety of ways, from hosing the little guy down for a shower, warming and rocking his egg to get him to come out and more. This also integrates the PlayStation Eye by showing you and your living room - a sort of virtual world for your EyePet to play in.

Image 14
Graphics - 8:

The little EyePet is cute. Seriously, this game is saccharine sweet overload. He's all cute, and fluffy and playful. He's also a very expressive little guy, and he animates pretty well. The various toys and tools for interacting with him are pretty straightforward, but they do the job. The crazy professor like guy's overlaying video gets the job done, but I found him pretty freaking annoying to be honest with you.

Once again, the poor quality of the PlayStation Eye 'shines through' - delivering my living room in badly colored, hugely pixelated glory. Man that part looks rough. If the camera was better, the immersion would be so much better as well.

Image 15
Sound & Music - 7:

For better or for worse, the scientist/guide that talks you through things generally describes things pretty well, but he sort of bugs me at the same time. The EyePet himself makes little chirp and coo sounds that are cute, if sometimes a bit repetitive. The rest of the music and sound effects are not bad, but they are fairly forgettable.

Image 16
Gameplay - 8:

The Move controls once again show their precision as most of the mini-games and activities play out very nicely. They seem pretty accurate most of the times. There were a couple of activities where I was trying to get him to do things, and he would drag a bit, but for the most part the EyePet remained pretty engaging. The menus were a bit of a chore to get around in my opinion, and I sometimes did things without knowing what I was doing because the tutorial had not covered the activity yet. That did not happen real often, mostly because my youngest played the game a ton and was walking me through it.

Image 18
Intangibles - 7:

The formula for unlocking things and discovering more activities is actually a good one. The actual process of playing with your pet is more engaging than I expected - this is definitely not the type of game I normally play. Still, I'd rather wrestle and pet one of my cats, truth be told. The other problem - once you have played for quite awhile, and done what there is to do, there really is not much reason to go back to it. My younger two in particular played really regularly for about two weeks, an hour or so a day. Problem is, they've hardly played again since.

One small annoyance for me was setting up the PlayStation Eye - it was not meant to be as high off of the ground as where I have it set up for my other games, so my positioning in relation to it was a bit odd.

Image 19
Overall - 7.5:

If you are a fan of virtual pets or really just need cute pet overload and can't have the real thing, this experience is probably a bit more immersive than most. It's really, really not my cup of tea, but then I bought it for my kids, and all three played for varying lengths of time - though none of them 'completed' all of the objectives. I would probably say it is designed for a very specific audience and while an interesting sort of experiment, not something I would recommend paying full price for unless a kid really wants to try it.


Playstation Move - Beat Sketchers - Playstation Network Review

This is a pretty lightweight 'review' - this is not so much a game as an experience. I won't get into the technical breakdowns because quite frankly - most of them do not apply to this particular title. This is the only downloaded title we have acquired to date, and this one was at the request of my least game-playing kid, my oldest daughter.

Beat Sketcher Picture

The premise is sort of interesting - you use the move controller as a virtual pen/paintbrush/artistic 'wand' and draw on the screen. You can overlap/draw on images, and you can play it against different audio tracks. The number of tools are cool, and you can do quite a bit with it - including making movies to share or images to save. It works off of the Playstation Eye, which - as always - looks kind of like crap, though.

Beat Sketcher Picture

I'll be honest - it was more of a short diversion for me. There are some challenges set to music where you try to draw certain patterns out weighed against accuracy and time, and some easy trophies to get, but if I'm going to work with images or video, I'm going to use actual computer software where the results are something I would actually want someone to see. The kids seem to enjoy it from time-to-time, but it's a fifteen minute novelty, and as such would have had a lot more value at $5 than $10. I was not real impressed with the title, and even my oldest -the one who wanted it - has only played it a couple of dozen times so far. She seems to enjoy it, but your mileage will no doubt vary.

KotL - Summoner project - finished Chapter 1

I go back to this about every 2 weeks. Last week? I was playing a ton of games. This weekend? My son was needling me about getting this project going a bit - he's definitely been interested in playing. Problem was? I had the custom code mostly in place, but untested and I had all of the pretty but relatively useless intro stuff in place, but no real dungeons yet.

Now for anyone who's used RPG Maker XP, they know that the basic systems are... well, super basic. Combat is a fight/skill/defend/item affair. Now most of the scripts I used? I did not write them. I did however have to modify a lot of them to get them to play nicely with one another and my own customized stuff. So now the combat includes things like Overdrives, Summoning replacement creatures and gear that can have spells cast off of it. Getting all of that debugged was most of my Saturday evening.

The other thing that I decided to do was work in a lot of branching paths and choices - for example either, both or neither of your siblings may survive the early going, which obviously affects some of the cosmetics to the storyline, but also who becomes available in your party. Which reminds me - I need to work on the party switching script next...

Anyway, that said, even with me knowing right where to go, I would say the game took me about 20-25 minutes to get through chapter 1, and it took my son about 35-40 minutes when he ran through it. I figure if it reaches 3-5 hours in total, I met my goal. Anyway, the video's nothing special, but I put in the last stage of the first real playable cavern, showing off some of the scripted events and combat options.


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