Friday, July 26, 2013

Halo: Spartan Assault review

When Microsoft Studios first announced Halo: Spartan Assault on Windows Phone 8, I almost reeked with disgust. Here was a franchise which gameplay was deeply rooted as a first shooter genre. I admit that I have a deep seated biased against developers who attempt to shoehorn a gameplay designed for consoles onto smartphones. It would be unplayable.

Thankfully, the developer Vanguard alongside Microsoft Studios seems to have realised that and designed the Halo: Spartan Assault around a smartphone's more limited input options. The result is something beautiful and is easily one of the best tactical based shooter available on any smartphone. This isn't yet another Halo first person shooter. The huge difference in gameplay mechanics, not to mention the platform, Halo: Spartan Assault deserves a proper examination.
In Halo: Spartan Assault, you play a series of missions/campaigns using a UNSC training simulator (yes, it's a game withing a game!) fighting off an invasion of a bunch of Covenant thingies. The biggest change over its console and PC cousins is the change from first person's perspective to overhead camera. While there is no analog pad on Windows Phone to assist in aiming or movement, the game makes do with two virtual twin sticks which while aren't as accurate as a proper analog pad, is serviceable. It is by no means a perfect solution to a long standing problem but until Microsoft adopts a universal gaming pad for Windows Phone 8 platform, this is the best we can do. According to Microsoft, gamepad support is coming to the Windows 8 version.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

CBS Outdoor's new London Underground game: 150 Brands

Londoners will know how waiting for their Tube train even for two minutes can lead to utter boredom (such is the fast paced lifestyle we've adopted here), so anything to distract or engage our brains is always welcomed.

So when ad agency CBS Outdoor UK launched the Look for Longer game last year, we all lapped it up. The game, based on cryptic visual clues, was brilliant, addictive and engaging - everything an advertising campaign should be about.

Now CBS Outdoor has launched a follow up game called 150 Brands. It may not be brain teasing Look for Longerer, but after spending a brief time on the game testing my pop culture knowledge on brands, I can honestly say it's a worthy follow up. Just as long as you don't cheat.
Much like the previous game, 150 Brands game will be a cross-platform campaign, featuring heavily on the Tube network as well as the internet. Launched to celebrate 150 years of advertising on the London Underground, the game aims to engage Londoners at guessing the brands based on both products snapshots and strapline-based clues such as 'Never Knowingly Undersold' and 'Think Different'.

Players interested in entering can do so at Prizes includes to up to a year's worth of free travel, so how about that?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Competition: Kenwood House's Live by the Lake

Kenwood House at Hampstead, North London is one of my favourite public building in London. The former stately home, now owned by the English Heritage, hosts a number of paintings including those by Rembrandt and Johann Vermeer. Sadly it is closed for renovation for the time being, but that doesn't mean you can't enjoy the Palladian style house from the outside.

Every summer the estate hosts a number of pop and classical concerts called Live by the Lake. These live performances are situated by the lake within the Kenwood House estate inside Hampstead Heath. This year from 23-25 August and 30 August to 1 September, artists and performers such as Suede, British Sea Power, Keane, Laura Mvula, the Royal Philharmonic Concert Orchestra and the English National Opera will be performing on the ground. In addition to live music, a film screening of Singing in the Rain will also be shown on 30 August and a live performance of Gershwin starring Michael Ball on 1 September.

We have two tickets to give away to you dear readers. The prize will be a pair of tickets to the Opera Alfresco featuring Latin Grammy Award winning soprano Ana María Martínez on Saturday 31 August.

To enter, simply email the answer to the following question on

Where is Kenwood House located?

Competition closes on 23 August 2013 with a random winner notified soon after via the e-mail address provided. Winners will be responsible for their own travel arrangements and accommodations.

Good luck!

Thursday, July 18, 2013

HTC 8X gets Windows Phone 8 GDR2 OS update

5-10 minutes + 2 hours
To owners of unbranded HTC 8X, you should be receiving Windows Phone 8 GDR2 update now. The OS update is being seeded alongside a new firmware update.

The update would normally take 5-10 minutes to apply, unless you encounter a 'spinning cog' bug, in which case you may have to wait up to a couple of hours while fearing you may have bricked your device. Unfortunately for my 8X, the dreaded spinning cogs bug hit and it took two hours of sweating nervously before the installation was successful. So have patience.

Once the update applies the OS version should read 8.0.10327.77 and firmware version 3030.0.33501.401.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Five Guys & Shake Shack London burger joints review

The last couple of years has seen the rise of good burger joints. The surprising thing is it has took so long for people and restaurateurs to realise that people want good quality burgers with proper meat than the bland we've grown used to from either fast food or pub chains like Weatherspoon. And we are willing to pay for it.

We in the South East are blessed as fine burger joints in the form of Meat Liquor, Lucky Chip, Patty & Bun, Mother Flipper, Honest Burger and many others open shop around London serving their own style of awesome burger. You will never have a bad burger at either joints but they are all different enough to have their own band of burger fans. Just don't ask me which is my favourite as I love them all equally (okay, some more than others but hush now!).

Last week saw the opening of two new burger joints in London. Both are established American chains operating on the upper end of the fast food burger market. Will these two big name burger chains be enough to take on London's burgeoning indie burger scene?
First up, Five Guys. With over a thousand restaurants and a thousand more in development, they are the fastest growing fast food chain in the US. Their new restaurant in Long Acre (on the site of the former The Long Acre bar) is their UK's first and no doubt more shops will follow if it proves to be a success.