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Release Calendar: November 2014

November 04:
Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare (PC, PS3, PS3, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Never Alone (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
Rocksmith 2014 Edition (PS4, Xbox One)

November 07:
Football Manager 2015 (PC)

November 11:
Halo: The Master Chief Collection (Xbox One)
LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Sonic Boom (3DS)
Assassin's Creed Unity (PC, PS4, Xbox One)

November 13:
Pro Evolution Soccer 2015 (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
World of Warcraft: Warlords of Draenor (PC)

November 18:
WWE 2K15 (PS4, Xbox One)
LittleBigPlanet 3 (PS3, PS4)
Company of Heroes 2: Ardennes Assault (PC)
Dragon Age 3: Inquisition (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Escape Dead Island (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Far Cry 4 (PC, Ps3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Grand Theft Auto V (Xbox One)
Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor (PS3, Xbox 360)

November 21:
Pokemon Alpha Sapphire (3DS)
Pokemon Omega Ruby (3DS)
Super Smash Bros. for Wii U (Wii U)

November 25:
Geometry Wars 3 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

Mirewood Manor - Part 2

For the month of October, I will be publishing a choose your own adventure.  Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will see a new post based on the most popular decision.  The goal is for everyone to reach the end of the story by surviving the month.  Cast your votes by Straw Poll.


Taking the lantern from the backseat of the car, you confidently declare your intent to conquer the ancient halls of Mirewood Manor.  You’ll climb that spire where the Lady Fletch hung from her broken neck and light the lantern as proof.  With the cheers and shocked gasps of your friends lending you renewed strength, you stride past the towering wrought iron gates and down the gravel driveway.

Mirewood Manor - Part 1

For the month of October, I will be publishing a choose your own adventure.  Every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday will see a new post based on the most popular decision.  The goal is for everyone to reach the end of the story by surviving the month.  Cast your votes by replying on the post itself, Facebook, Twitter, or Straw Poll.

The tale of Mirewood Manor was well known throughout town well before your birth.  While it may have had some roots in factual, worldly events, time has a way of twisting and perverting the truth.  By the time you heard it on your first camping trip all those years ago, several decades had passed, but your friends held their collective breath right along with you.

Release Calendar: October 2014

October 07:
Alien: Isolation (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Dragon Age 3: Inquisition (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
DriveClub (PS4)
NBA 2K15 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
NBA Live 15 (PS4, Xbox One)

October 14:
Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

October 21:
Disney Fantasia: Music Evolved (Xbox 360, Xbox One)
The Evil Within (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

October 28:
Sunset Overdrive (Xbox One)
Assassin's Creed Unity (PC, PS4, Xbox One)
WWE 2K15 (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

Release Calendar: September 2014

September 02:
Danganronpa 2: Goodbye Despair (Vita)
Stronghold Crusader II (PC)
The Sims 4 (PC)

September 09:
Destiny (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

September 16:
Theatrhythm Final Fantasy Curtain Call (3DS)

September 19:
Meridian: New World (PC)

September 23:
Fairy Fencer F (PS3)

September 26:
Hyrule Warriors (Wii U)
FIFA 15 (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4, Wii, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

September 30:
Forza Horizon 2 (Xbox 360, Xbox One)

Live boldly.  Love fiercely.  Regret nothing.  There is no promise of tomorrow.  Live fully and without reservation.  Never let your head hit the pillow with the thought "I wish I would have..."

Bing: An Experiment in Search


For the past several weeks, I've been experimenting.  For as long as I can remember, Google has been my go-to search engine.  The only other one that I can remember before that was Ask Jeeves (now reduced to the Ask atrocity) and before that was AOL (needing to go the way of the dodo).  In 2009, Microsoft announced its own search engine, Bing.  Ever since, the engine has been panned by the general public and critics alike.  In my own personal experience, it's looked upon as highly as Windows Vista and Windows 8.  Not ever having had used the engine myself, I thought it was time to give it a go.

First Impressions: Sanctum 2


Over the past few years, I've found myself getting pulled deeper into the tower defense genre.  This is largely thanks to its abundance on the mobile platforms that seemingly everyone has with them.  Throw in some pretty lights like those found in geoDefense and riotous gameplay and I can easily kiss the next half hour goodbye.

Borderlands: A Comparison


With Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel set to be released later this October, publisher 2K Games has offered the previous two installments at ludicrously low rates on Steam.  Currently, both game of the year editions can be had for a paltry total of $17.  This includes both core games and all available DLC.  It's an incredibly good deal for a pair of games that breathed fresh air into the stagnating FPS genre.

Thoughts on Free-to-Play Multiplayer Games

Recently, I was asked for my thoughts on free-to-play multiplayer games.  Not to toot my own horn, but I was rather satisfied with my response.  toot toot

Now, for your first question.  I saved it for last as it is a large question.  I know that the free-to-play market has grown drastically in the past several years.  It appears to have followed the trend of casual games becoming more popular that are also free to play.  One could also argue that it ties into culture as well.  People are always expecting more for less.  Also, with several economic slumps, people tend to cut back on entertainment.  When times are good, a $15 a month subscription isn't terrible, but that’s also a lot of money when it adds up over the years.  Given the choice of a free-to-play game that is close to what is offered with a subscription-based title, people will tend to go with the free option.

But, if it weren't a successful business model, development studios and publishers wouldn't opt for producing free-to-play titles.  More and more games are following the free-to-play model and several have boasted increased revenue as a result of the switch.  While there are still a handful of titles that require an initial purchase or subscription fee, the vast majority are moving to or have moved to the free-to-play model.

What this does is flood the market with all manner of games.  From incredibly well made titles like Path of Exile to the laughably bad like League of Angels, there are a plethora of titles to choose from.  In my past experiences, it depends on the market and target audience.  For the most part, the vast majority are of a low to mediocre quality.  These titles tend to originate from the Asian markets and drunkenly stagger over the line of intellectual theft and outright plagiarism.  That being said, there are some marvelous titles that make it easy to forget those other lackluster releases.

The other concern I have with the rise in free-to-play multiplayer titles is the fragmentation of an audience.  Gamers are always looking for the next big thing.  Couple that with our society’s shrinking attention span and you’ll be inclined to agree that most folks usually play several titles simultaneously.  This can make it hard for a developer to foster a community within their own game.  But it also serves as motivation to continually provide compelling content to players in effort to retain them and boost their own revenue.


That all being said, a game is a game.  They can be terrible or they can be brilliant.  I feel it is the responsibility of the person covering the game to present how it plays and what players can expect in the fairest manner possible.  While I may not personally like a game for aesthetic reasons or a character motivations I don’t agree with, I am only one person.  My job as a writer is to educate my audience.  And in that, I strive to do my absolute best.

Release Calendar: August 2014

August 01:
Blackbay Asylum (PC)
Eidolon (PC)
Epigenesis (PC)
Residue: Final Cut (PC)
Z: Steel Soldiers (PC)

August 04:
Guns and Robots (PC)
The Tower: 2015 Edition (PC)

August 05:
Mind: Path to Thalamus (PC)
Rex Rocket (PC)
Table Top Racing (Vita)
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (3DS)
The Counting Kingdom (Mac, PC)
The Expendabros (PC)
The Swapper (PS3, PS4, Vita)

August 06:
Akiba's Trip: Undead and Undressed (PS3, Vita)
Back to Bed (Mac, PC)
Battle Islands (PC)
Kingdom Tales 2 (PC)
OTTTD (Mac, PC)
Cloud Chamber (PC)

August 07:
Frontline: Road to Moscow (PC)
Kingdom Tales 2 (Mac)
Orbital Gear (Mac, PC)

August 08:
Cricket Captain 2014 (PC)
Dungeons: The Eye of Draconus (PC)
GamersGoMakers (PC)
Psichodelya (Mac, PC)
Victory at Sea (Mac, PC)

August 11:
Depression Quest (Mac, PC)
Global Outbreak: Doomsday Edition (PC)

August 12:
Blinding Dark (Mac, PC)
Hohokum (PS4)

August 13:
Surgeon Simulator: Anniversary Edition (PS4)
King's Bounty: Dark Side (PC)

August 18:
Detective Grimoire (PC)
Five Nights at Freddy's (PC)

August 19:
Crimsonland (Vita)
Diablo III: Reapoer of Souls - Ultimate Evil Edition (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
Hotline Miami (PS4)
Plants vs. Zombies: Garden Warfare (PS3)
The Last Tinker: City of colors (PS4)
Heroes & Legends: Conquerors of Kolhar (PC)

August 25:
Super Time Force Ultra (PC)

August 26:
Dark Souls II: The Crown of the Old Iron King (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Infamous: First Light (PS4)
Madden NFL 15: (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)
The Evil Within (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

August 27:
Lethal League (PC)
Toast Time (PC)

Tinkering with Bamboo Paper

I recently downloaded Bamboo Paper for my Windows 8 devices and have fallen in love with it.  I've been using it exclusively on my Asus Windows RT tablet and have been blown away.  I'm still working out all of the nuances and what it has to offer, but I'm quite impressed with the clean lines, variety of tools, and the way it handles color.  I've been using my finger versus a stylus, but hopefully will have a new stylus in soon to really test the full functionality of the app.  I've worked up some simple pieces as I play with it.  While there isn't an option for layers or syncing, it's a fun app to use on the go.  And it's easy enough to export the file to something like OneDrive and then import on another machine.  Expect a full review soon.



Fix It! HP Officejet Pro 8600 Won't Print Photos


Picture it...you're a proud parent with access to a decent printer, high quality photo paper, and pictures of your adorable baby that absolutely have to be printed with no questions asked.  So you fire up that printer, load up your high quality, costs-an-absurd-amount-of-money photo paper, select the photo of your baby that you painstakingly adjusted, tweaked, and edited to Hell and back, and press print.

Suddenly, the printer whirs to life, things are moving, and you get that flutter of butterflies in your stomach like you cast a magical spell that would make Merlin himself envious.  A minute goes by, everything is still whirring away.  You're a little nervous now.  What could be going on?  Is it thinking about how best to capture the magic of my baby?  Is it even capable of capturing the grandeur of my baby?

Release Calendar: July 2014

July 01:
Momodora III (PC)
Monsters Ate My Birthday Cake (Mac, PC)
Ship Simulator: Maritime Search and Rescue (PC)
Sniper Elite III (PS3, Xbox 360)
TriBlaster (Mac, PC)
World War I: Centennial Edition (PC)

July 02:
Real Boxing (PC)
Run for Rum: A Pirate Tale (PC)
Sunrider: First Arrival (Mac, PC)

July 03:
Shattered Planet (PC)

July 04:
Battleplan: American Civil War (PC)
Fist of Awesome (Mac, PC)
Lexica (PC)
Second Chance Heroes (Mac, PC)

July 07:
Claire (PC)
Contraption Maker (Mac, PC)
Long Night, Episode 1: Alone I Break (PC)

July 08:
Deponia: The Complete Journey (PC)
MouseCraft (Mac, PC, PS3, Vita)
OnePiece: Unlimited World Red (3DS, PS3)
Q*bert Rebooted (Mac, PC)
The Wolf Among Us: Episode 5 - "Cry Wolf" (Mac, PC, PS3, Xbox 360)

July 09:
Zoo Rampage (Mac, PC)

July 10:
Deadstone (PC)
Quest for Infamy (Mac, PC)

July 17:
So Many Me (PC)

July 29:
The Last of Us: Remastered (PS3, PS4)

Release Calendar: June 2014

June 03:
MotoGP 14 (PC, PS3, PS4, Vita, Xbox 360)
Murdered: Soul Suspect (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
Wild Star (PC)

June 06:
Tomodachi Life (3DS)

June 10:
enemy Front (PC, Ps3, Xbox 360)
How to Train Your Dragon 2 (3DS, PS3, Wii, Wii U, Xbox 360)

June 17:
EA Sports UFC (Xbox One)

June 19:
Pushmo World (Wii U)

June 20:
Original Sin (Mac, PC)

June 24:
Atelier Rorona Plus: The Alchemist of Arland (Vita)
Grid Autosport (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
XBlaze Code: Embryo (PS3, Vita)

June 30:
Tropico 5 (Xbox 360)

Release Calendar: May 2014

May 01:
Chaos Domain (PC)
GunZ 2: the Second Duel (PC)
Jet Car Stunts (PC)
Project Root (PC)

May 02:
Kirby Triple Deluxe (3DS)
Mario Golf: World Tour (3DS)

May 06: 
God of War Collection (Vita)
MLB 13: The Show (PS4)

May 07:
Aerena: Clash of Champions (Mac, PC)
Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsengumi (PS3)
Raven's Cry (PC)
1849 (Mac)
Bound by Flame (PC)

May 08:
The Agent Saga: Rover Rescue (PC)
The Impossible Game (PC)

May 09:
Bound by Flame (PS3, PS4, Xbox 360)
Killer is Dead: Nightmare Edition (PC)

May 12:
The Last Tinker: City of Colors (PC)

May 13:
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends - Complete Edition (PC)

May 20:
Drakengard 3 (PS3)
Nancy Drew: The Shattered Medallion (Mac, PC)
Project Temporatility (PC)
Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments (PS3, Xbox 360)

May 21:
Red Faction Collection (PS3)

May 23:
Tropico 5 (PC)

May 27:
Planetary Annihilation (Mac, PC)
Watch Dogs (PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

Release Calendar: April 2014

April 01:
Goat Simulator (PC)
MLB 14: The Show (PS3, PS4, Vita)
Ragnarok Odyssey Ace (PS3)

April 02:
Batman: Arkham Origins - Blackgate Edition (PC, PS3, Wii U, Xbox 360)

April 04: 
The Elder Scrolls Online  (Mac, PC)

April 08:
Kinect Sports Rivals (Xbox One)
LEGO The Hobbit (3DS, Mac, PC, PS3, Wii U, Vita, Xbox 360)

April 11:
Disney Magical World (3DS)

April 15:
Conception II: Children of the Seven Stars (3DS, Vita)
Mechanic Escape (PC)
War of the Vikings (PC)

April 22:
Demon Gaze (Vita)
LEGO Friends (DS)

April 23:
Hakuoki: Stories of the Shinsegumi (PS3)

April 24: 
The Blackwell Epiphany (PC)

April 25:
Dark Souls II (PC)

April 29:
The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (3DS, PC, PS3, PS4, Wii U, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

April 30:
Red Faction Collection (PS3)

Flesh Bot

Babies.  Babies are great.  Tiny human beings created from the collision of sweaty, frothy genitals.  They are the apple of our eyes, our pride and joy, and our sole biological reason for existing.  They are also our wardens on sanity and the new time keepers for sleep.  They constantly demand attention.  While humans as a whole are selfish beings, we’re never more demanding than when we’re infants. 

“Feed me!  Pace the hall for hours until I fall asleep!  Figure out the puzzle of how my liquid shit has breached every seal of this diaper even though you swore it was nice and tight!  Repeat this process several times over with only a few hours of sleep!”

The Gods of Smite: Aphrodite

Of all the gods and goddesses battling in Smite, few seem as out of place as Aphrodite.  Emerging as a fully grown woman from the sea, Aphrodite was instantly desired be all.  To prevent the gods from quarreling over her affections, Zeus decreed that she marry the smith of the gods, Hephaestus.  The humorless, even tempered god known for his hideous appearance would not draw the ire of the others for possessing the rapturous Aphrodite.  However, this didn't prevent Aphrodite from seeking the affection of many gods and mortals alike.  More than any other, Aphrodite was responsible for the Trojan War due to her tampering with Paris’ affection for Helen.

So why is a goddess renown for being a lover entering a war amongst the gods?  Apparently she’s keeping her allies alive through the power of love itself.  Unlike many of the others, Aphrodite’s abilities require pairing with another god for full effect.  She fills the support role like no other and is a great addition to any team.

Her passive ability, Loving Embrace, grants 30% of all mana gained by Aphrodite to her soul mate.  Kiss is Aphrodite’s first ability and arguably her most important one.  By blowing a kiss to a friendly god, the two become soul mates.  Linked by an ethereal band, both Aphrodite and her soul mate move at an increased rate.  Blowing a kiss to an enemy god stuns them and increases damage by Aphrodite’s soul mate for eight seconds.  Kiss should be the first skill purchased as every other ability relies on it.  The dual purpose of stunning and buffing attack power is only more reason to invest in it right away.

Release Calendar: March 2014

March 04:
Awesomenauts Assemble! (PS4)
South Park: The Stick of Truth (PC, PS3, Xbox 360)
The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 2 (PC)

March 05:
Ragnarok Odyssey Ace (PS3)
The Walking Dead: Season 2, Episode 2 (Xbox 360)

March 06: 
F1 2013 (Mac)
Infested Planet (PC)

March 07:
Atelier Escha & Logy Alchemists of the Dusk Sky (PS3)

March 11:
Dark Souls II (PS3, Xbox 360)
Putty Squad (PS3)
TitanFall (PC, Xbox 360, Xbox One)

March 14:
Yoshi's New Island (3DS)

March 18:
Final Fantasy X/X-2 HD Remaster (PS3, Vita)
Madagascar 3: The Video Game/The Croods: Prehistoric Party! Combo Pack (DS, 3DS, Wii)
Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes (PS3, Xbox 360)
Yaiba: Ninja Gaiden Z (PC)

March 21:
Infamous: Second Son (PS4)

March 24:
Darksiders II (PS3)

March 25:
BlazBlue: Chrono Phantasma (PS3)
Cut the Rope: Triple Threat (3DS)
Deus Ex: The Fall (PC)
Diablo III: Reaper of Souls (Mac, PC)
Jett Tailfin Racers (Wii U)
The Witch and the Hundred Knight (PS3)

March 26:
Dynasty Warriors 8: Xtreme Legends (Ps3)

March 28:
We Sing UK Hits (Wii)

Zero Lives - Episode 013: Dead Space 3

Preview: League of Angels


Casual and free-to-play games have surged in popularity over the past several years.  There’s no denying their ability to hook people who may have never picked up a controller in their life.  And when it comes to free-to-play games, many developers and publishers strive to find the next concoction that will whip the world into a frenzy.  And then there are those that decide to throw everything and the kitchen sink into their game.  By following the latter approach, did publisher Reality Squared Games spell success or doom for their new title, League of Angels?

Preview: Magic Barrage


What do you get with equal mixes of bullet hell shooter, odd 16-bit nostalgia, and a slathering of stereotypical fantasy?  A mess.  You get a mess.  Magic Barrage could be compared to Frankenstein’s monster when thinking about the parts that went into its creation.  So it’s little surprise that playing the culmination is just as horrific.  Developed by Gameguyz and published by Reality Squared Games, Magic Barrage entered beta on December 17th.

Scarlet Blade Unveils the Cyberblade


Faithful readers may recall that in February 2013, Gaming Climax was invited to preview an upcoming title from publisher Aeria Games called Scarlet Blade.  It earned a favorable preview and since then has seen final release.  One of the questions I had during the event was if players would ever see a male addition to the entirely female Arkana classes.  There were plenty of non-committal answers of “maybe” and “it’s possible”.  Fast forward to November and Scarlet Blade’s first playable male character has made his debut.

Preview: Aura Kingdom


With so many games constantly being released, it’s hard for players to pick just one title and play it exclusively.  And due to the nature of the typical MMORPG, the amount of time invested can range from a few hours a week to something more like a part time job.  And that’s why it’s so important to pick a game worth that time.  Because with the responsibilities of day to day life, folks don’t want to waste their precious time on a bad game.  And it seems that publisher, Aeria Games, has designed their latest title, Aura Kingdom, with this in mind.

There are certain key points that any enjoyable MMO has to hit on to make it just that, an enjoyable game.  And as I spent time with the game in its pre-closed beta state, I found myself having a grand time.  The polished writing of the quest dialogue, the pleasant and cheery visuals, the light-hearted music, and the engaging gameplay all culminated in quite the enjoyable experience.


Taking Aura Kingdom at face value, it seems to follow the standard MMO formula.  A fantasy setting with high adventure, fantastic action, and a heart-warming bond with an NPC.  But that’s not to say that Aura Kingdom is an average game or plays by the rules too much.  What it does, it does extremely well.  The hours that I spent playing were simple, pure, and most importantly, fun.  

The Gods of Smite: Thanatos



Every culture has their own embodiment of death.  Anubis and Osiris filled this role jointly for the ancient Egyptians.  Hel and Freya took on similar roles in Norse mythology.  Even today, we have the Grim Reaper with his black cloak and scythe.  But in the times of the ancient Greeks, one deity alone claimed the lives of the fallen, Thanatos.

While Thanatos is a fearsome individual, he rarely appeared in Greek mythology.  The son of Nyx and Erebos, Thanatos had multiple siblings whom were also embodiments of all things negative.  Despite being the physical embodiment of death and full of hate towards all beings, Thanatos has been outwitted on occasion.  But things didn’t end well for that individual and to this day Sisyphus is still rolling that boulder.

Thanatos fills the role of an assassin in Smite.  He is able to move swiftly about the battlefield and just as quickly eliminate players who fail to tread carefully.  Even prepared players can have a hard time fending off Death itself as his attacks are among the most powerful in the game.  His passive ability, Harvester of Souls, allows Thanatos to see enemy gods that are low enough on health to be killed by his ultimate ability, Hovering Death.  Killing an enemy also rewards Thanatos with health based on the maximum amount of HP his enemy had.  Enemy gods yield 20% while minions only yield half that.

App of the Week: UrzaGatherer

UrzaGatherer
Publisher: David Catuhe
Platform: Windows 8, Windows RT
Price: Free!


Anyone that has played a handful of Magic: The Gathering Games can tell you the importance of having some form of counters.  There are so many statistics to track: life points, poison counters, buffs and debuffs, etc.  It can quickly become overwhelming, especially if a life gain deck is going against a beast deck full of buffs.  I've seen everything form using other cards, poker chips, and even change jars used as counters.

UrzaGatherer is a fantastic solution to the serious player's woes.  My primary use of the app has been as a life tracker.  More players than I would ever want to tangle with can be tracked on a single screen with both life and poison counters and color coding for each name.  There are dice rollers and coin tosses, further eliminating the need for any extras.  And if you're using a touch screen, it makes too much sense to keep UrzaGatherer up and running during a match.

If being a counter app was enough, UrzaGatherer would succeed with flying colors.  But it does so much more.  The primary feature is that of card management.  Spanning from the very first expansion to the most recent, players can track their collection of cards in a simple, easy to use, interface.  As cards are added, it also tracks the estimated value of a collection.  And as anyone who has even dabbled in MTG can tell you, keeping track of cards is incredibly useful.  And to make it even better, you can even recreate your decks within the app.  I can't think of anything that UrzaGatherer is missing.  It even allows importing and exporting data across devices for multi-platform management.

If you have Windows 8, like playing MTG, and have been looking for a great app that integrates the two, look no further.

Zero Lives - Episode 012: Dead Space 3

App of the Week: Gym PocketGuide

Gym PocketGuide
Publisher: Dominic W.
Platform: Windows Phone 8
Price: Free!

When it came to resolutions for this year, I shared one with many others: lose weight.  Shed pounds.  Shrink my fat ass.  I knew what I wanted to do, I just wasn't sure how to do it.  So I did what many others do, I looked for an app.  A few months in and I can say that I'm very happy with the results Gym PocketGuide has provided.

App of the Week: HERE Drive+

HERE Drive+
Publisher: HERE Europe BV
Platform: Windows Phone 8
Price: Free!



When it comes to smart phones, they're the go to, all in one, must have it because it contains the sum of human knowledge in my pocket device.  And on top of that, if you have a Windows Phone, it can even tell you where you want to go with narrated turn by turn directions.

Zero Lives - Episode 010: Amnesia: The Dark Descent Part 3

App of the Week: Skype

Skype
Publisher: Microsoft
Platform: Windows Phone
Price: Free!


For years now, people have been chatting through IM, holding video conferences, or just chatting with friends around the world.  Over the years, one application has arguably risen to the top of this combative pile.  Hundreds of millions of people use Skype because of it's ease of use and wide availability.  It's a terrific application (when it works).

So with Windows Phone, it only makes sense that a quality app by their in-house team would be available.  After having used it extensively for several months, I can say I'm quite pleased with the current version.  In the past, the largest issue was that conversations and times would fall out of sync across devices.  It was a nuisance that kept the app uninstalled for months.  But now I can't go a day without using the app.  It's such a  convenient way to stay in touch with friends and family.  And since it's always running on my phone, I have immediate access to IMs, calls, and video messages even when the app isn't open.

Despite not coming preloaded onto the phone, Skype offers plenty of integration for those invested in the Microsoft ecosystem.  Skype contacts easily merge with existing contacts and are readily accessed from the People Hub.

With a decent signal or on a WiFi connection, video calls are broadcast in HD.  The full bevy of Skype controls are available and the recent addition of video messages is terrific.  So with a majority of the bugs worked out, if you have Skype and a Windows Phone, it's time you installed this app.

Update (2/9/2014):

After working with Skype further, I've found several issues which make using the app less than pleasant to work with.  The first of which is the delay in sending messages.  Despite having a strong connection over WiFi or on LTE, there are inexplicable delays in sending messages out.  It doesn't matter if it's only one or a dozen, there are times where the loading wheel hangs at the end of each response, taunting me.  And I have yet to find a reliable way of pushing the messages through.  Eventually the messages do go through, but it's a major inconvenience to see Skype tripping all over itself when trying to send out a simple message.

The second issue is present when sending video messages.  Video messages are a relatively new addition to the Skype wheelhouse.  They're a fun, simple way of keeping in touch with someone.  But much like the text messages, the video messages will hang and take an incredibly long time to process and send out.  Unfortunately, that's the best outcome when sending a video message.  On numerous occasions, the entire Skype app will crash while processing the video.  When launching Skype once more, there isn't any indication that the message was sent out.  When the entire app is designed around communicating with someone and they can't effectively, what's the point of the app?

Lastly, the third major issue is Skype puts a massive load on the processor.  This drains the battery at an astonishingly rapid rate and causes the phone to become very hot.  It's almost uncomfortable to hold. 

So, Skype isn't nearly as perfect as I had first thought.  On average, it works.  But the glaring issues make it a nuisance to use.  Unfortunately, I've yet to find a better alternative.  And because of Skype's widespread use, there may not be another like it for some time. 

App of the Week: Mint

Mint
Publisher: Intuit
Platform: Windows Phone, Windows 8
Price: Free!


In keeping with the theme of New Year resolutions and self-improvement, this week's app is Mint.  Because when it comes to tracking money, folks typically need all the help they can get.  Fortunately, Intuit, the world leader in bookkeeping software like QuickBooks has provided Windows 8 and Windows Phone users alike with Mint.  Mint is a simple, free, and easy to use app that takes the hassle out of tracking finances.

The biggest issue that many will have to overcome is trusting someone with their online banking credentials.  How you clear this hurdle is entirely up to you.  I'm not here to sell a product.  But once you clear this hurdle, you'll be glad you did.  Mint collates all of your financial accounts into one place, making it incredibly easy to track the flow of money.  Mint is capable of sending account alerts, creating a budget, setting bill reminders, and even fraud alerts.

Each transaction can be categorized which then is reflected in the pie charts and bar graphs used to break down spending.  It's a brilliantly effective way of seeing just how much money is being spent in one particular activity.

The Mint app also syncs across devices once you've logged into your mint.com account.  Something this obvious is often overlooked with other apps, so it's worth mentioning when it's used and implemented correctly.  For added security, the app can be protected with a unique pass code.   And in case your device is stolen, there is the option to disable access to the app from the mint.com profile page.  So if you're looking for a free and easy way to get your finances in order, give Mint a try.

Windows Phone Users Get Extra 20 GB Of Free SkyDrive Storage



Just a reminder to all Windows Phone users: you have until January 31 to claim an extra 20 GB of free storage with SkyDrive.  I received an email from Microsoft in late December regarding the free additional storage as I'm sure many other Windows Phone users did.  With only two weeks left to redeem it, hop to if you haven't already!

App of the Week: Weight Tracker

Weight Tracker
Publisher: Pixel Pix
Platform: Windows Phone
Price: Free!


With the ringing in of the new year comes a slew of resolutions and goals.  The most common of these is "I'm going to lose weight!"  And like many others, I've vowed to shed those extra pounds so I look less like a gluttonous beast.  Greek god would be nice, but that would be setting myself up for failure.  I digress.  To aid in the goal of losing a set amount of weight, I needed a way of tracking my progress.  Enter Weight Tracker.

Weight Tracker is a free, simple app designed to track weight and the desired goal weight and completion date.  Opening the app brings up a list of weights and dates and is where one enters their current weight.  Moving to the right displays a graph which gives a visual representation of weight lost and gained in relation to the goal weight.  It presents this over a timeline, so it's easy to see the progress you need to make.  Moving right again shows the progress pane where the data is represented in a form of clock.  Below that is the weight lost, weight to lose, days elapsed, and days remaining.

The app is simple and there aren't many features, but there doesn't need to be.  I'm not tracking body fat percentages; just my weight and deadline.  It's a great way to check several times a day and remind myself of the goals I've set.  That and it doesn't judge me like the Wii Fit Balance Board.

App of the Week: MetroTube

MetroTube
Publisher: Lazyworm Applications Ltd.
Platform: Windows Phone
Price: $0.99


With what seems like a never-ending battle between Google and Microsoft over the YouTube app for Windows Phone, the only one on the losing end is the user.  So I say that we should take the two tech giants out of the equation so we can get to what is really important: watching cat videos online.

MetroTube is the premier YouTube client for Windows Phone.  It offers an ad supported free version and a paid version.  The paid version is only $0.99, which is definitely worth the price of entry.  After signing into your account, MetroTube can manage your subscriptions, save videos for later, preload video, manage uploaded videos, and essentially do far better than any other YouTub app on the marketplace.  It's painfully easy to use and can sync with the Xbox Music & Video app.  MetroTube is a must have app for any Windows Phone user.

Release Calendar: January 2014

January 07:
Secrets of Raetikon (PC)

January 09:
Chibi Robo: Photo Finder (3DS)

January 10:
Wii Fit U (Wii U)

January 14:
Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD (PSN)
Europa Universalis IV: Conquest of Paradise (PC)
The Banner Saga (Mac, PC)

January 15:
Assassin's Creed: Liberation HD (XBLA)

January 28:
Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Z (PS3, Vita, Xbox 360)
Tomb Raider: Definitive Version (PC)