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Mass Effect 3 statistics revealed: gamers still love being good guys

March 29, 2013 1 comment

Mass Effect 3 Commander Shepard

Last week, BioWare used the PAX East gaming convention to unveil the collected statistics for some of the key decisions players made in Mass Effect 3, the choice-driven space opera that has drawn much praise for its morality-based storyline.

Based on the infographic, the results are more shocking and uplifting than you might expect.
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Warcraft movie may succeed where other video game adaptations failed

February 9, 2013 1 comment

Blizzard World of Warcraft Burning Crusade races

With Duncan Jones attached to direct and Fall 2013 as the target date to begin filming, the movie adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment’s wildly successful Warcraft franchise is suddenly becoming a very real possibility. But where all other video game movies have failed, can Warcraft be the first to successfully leap from gamers’ hands to the big screen?

The track record for video game adaptations ranges from mediocre to downright atrocious, but the story-focused Warcraft franchise may be uniquely positioned to avoid the pitfalls that have stripped up so many others.
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6 voice actors you love (but have never heard of)

January 25, 2013 Leave a comment

Luke Skywalker Mark Hamill Joker in Batman

It’s a rare and special thing when an actor so embodies a character that he or she becomes that character in your mind forevermore. You may watch that person go on to play dozens of other roles, but for you they will always be that character you remember best.

Maybe you’ll always see Harrison Ford as Han Solo, or as Indiana Jones. Perhaps Bruce Willis is forever John McClane, and maybe Mark Hamill will always be Luke Skywalker.

But for many people, Mark Hamill will always be the voice of the Joker, even if some of those people don’t know he’s the man behind the voice.

That’s right: after playing the hero in Star Wars, Mark Hamill turned in a few forgettable live action roles before becoming an extremely prolific voice actor who has given life to the Joker, the Hobgoblin, Wolverine, and countless other cartoon and video game characters. He’s one of the best in the business, but there are many others like him who you’ve never seen.

There are many supremely talented voice actors who embody some of your favourite video game and cartoon characters, yet their credits flash past you and you don’t blink an eye. Their voices can be iconic or instantly identifiable, but you know them only by the other characters they have played – not by their names.

These are some of the true titans of the voice acting industry. You’ve heard some, if not all, of them, because a good voice actor can rack up credits at a ridiculous pace.

Take a look – for the first time – at some of your favourite voice actors.

1. Jennifer Hale

Female Commander Shepard redhead from Mass Effect 3 with Omni-blade

This one is a personal favourite. She’s Ms. Marvel. She’s Felecia Hardy/Black Cat. She’s Commander Shepard, and this is her favourite store on the Citadel.

If you’re a superhero cartoon fan or a video gamer worth your salt, you’ve heard Jennifer Hale more than once.

She excels at voicing strong, kick-ass women with a touch of sex appeal and a no-nonsense attitude, and her crowning achievement thus far has been as the Mass Effect franchise’s female player character, Commander Shepard.

Voice Actor Jennifer Hale aka female Shepard from Mass Effect

Jennifer Hale.

Her other hardnosed video game heroines include Samus Aran from Metroid Prime, Jedi Bastila Shan in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic, and Naomi Hunter in the Metal Gear Solid series.

In cartoons she’s been tough girl Twi’lek Jedi Aayla Secura on Star Wars: The Clone Wars, Hal Jordan’s girlfriend Carol Ferris on Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and sweetheart Cinderella in Cinderella II: Dreams Come True.

There are too many appearances to count, quite frankly.

Check out the many voices of Jennifer Hale below.

2. Frank Welker

Transformers 1980s cartoon Decepticon leader Megatron with Michael Bay Megatron head voiced by Frank Welker

If you’re a child of the ’80s, this guy is evil incarnate. He’s equally famous for providing the voices of Dr. Claw in Inspector Gadget and Megatron – among others – in Transformers. Add in the role of lead monster Stripe in Gremlins, and he may well have haunted your childhood. But, if you’re a child of the ’90s, this guy is “reary, reary scared, Raggy,” because he’s given up his evil ways and become the voice of Scooby Doo.

Voice Actor Frank Welker at Transformers premiere

So this is what Dr. Claw looks like.

Frank Welker’s throaty, raspy growl has netted him many cartoon villain roles, but it’s also made him the most prolific dog voice in the business.

Seriously. Check out his highlight reel.

His talents started at a young age, when he found he could dupe animals by mimicking their sounds. No wonder, then, that he become such a spectacular animal substitute.

Welker’s voice sounded too “old” to reprise Megatron in Michael Bay’s Transformers, but he later got the chance to return to the franchise as Soundwave.

It’s not as if Welker needed the work, though. In 2011, Hollywood calculated the top-grossing box office actors, and Welker was in the top 10.

Well, the top 5.

Okay, Frank Welker was the number 1 box office earner, beating out Samuel L. Jackson at 2 and Tom Hanks at number 3.

Pretty good for a guy who does animal voices.

3. Jim Cummings

Winnie the Pooh voiced by Jim Cummings

Jim Cummings has been the voice of Winnie the Pooh since 1988, and he’s been Tigger for nearly as long. He doesn’t rest on his Hundred Acre Wood royalties, though; the man is an absolute vocal chameleon, and he does secondary roles in far too many television shows to count.

Jim Cummings

Jim Cummings.

Cummings started as a singer and river boat deckhand before moving to California to take up his voice acting career. Since then, he’s become one of the very best voices in the business.

His first Disney role was in Aladdin. Disney loved him, and it shows: he was the only actor to work in every animated Disney television show in the ’90s, and he’s been in multiple Disney movies every year since his debut. Cummings was even the go-to backup for Jeremy Irons on The Lion King. Irons had some trouble with the singing, so Cummings tagged in wherever Irons needed him.

Even with the whole stable of Disney properties ready to use his voice, he continues to spread his talents around. He dabbled in video games for a while before catching on with some of the biggest releases of the last five years, including The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, Mass Effect 2, World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria and Star Wars: The Old Republic.

Check out the many talents of Jim Cummings below.

4. Cree Summer

Penny from Inspector Gadget voiced by Cree Summer

Better keep Cree Summer and Frank Welker apart; Welker’s was Dr. Claw, while Summer’s first role was as Dr. Claw’s true nemesis, Penny, who routinely saved her bumbling uncle Inspector Gadget from Claw’s plots.

Don’t limit her to little girl roles, though, because Cree’s got range. She was the sexy Foxxy Love in Drawn Together, the adorable Susie Carmichael in Rugrats and the wise Princess Kida in Atlantis: The Lost Empire.

Voice Actor Cree Summer

Cree Summer, enjoying summer.

Penny was Summer’s first voice role, but she later made the jump to live action in the Cosby Show spin-off, A Different World. She made a few more guest appearances on shows through the ’80s and ’90s before settling into the voice career.

And, like many on this list, she’s hit the video game circuit in the last decade. Catch her as the Archangel Auriel in Diablo III and Executor Selendis in StarCraft II. Once you recognize her, you’ll never miss her again.

Summer’s throaty, energetic voice stands out instantly. She is the definition of “that girl who did the voice of that other girl…”

Check out her highlights below.

5. Tara Strong

Batman Arkham City voiced by Tara Strong

The term “geek cred” is a great way to explain an actor’s niche appeal. Most of the people on this list have some level of geek cred for their cartoon and video game roles. Tara Strong gets plenty of it for playing the Joker’s psycho girlfriend Harley Quinn in Batman: Arkham City, and a little more for playing zombie-killing cheerleader Juliet Starling in Lollipop Chainsaw.

But no one else on this last has what Tara Strong has: Brony cred.

Tara Strong is the voice of Twilight Sparkle (the purple pony) on My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic.

“So what, big deal,” for most; “BIG DEAL!” for others.

Just check out this forum where a bunch of grown men praise, slam and otherwise debate the merits of Strong doing some Twilight Sparkle cosplay.

“Our Brony Queen is truly awesome,” says Chuck Belcher in the comments.

Voice actor Tara Strong

Tara Strong, the voice that launched a thousand Bronies.

Strong started her career as a vocalist in a Toronto Yiddish theatre at age 4 and went to a performing arts school at 13 to hone her craft. She soon made the jump to voicing cartoons and, later, video games. She was baby Dil Pickles in Rugrats, Bubbles in Powerpuff Girls, and the singing voice of Meg in Family Guy.

And about that geek cred?

It doesn’t stop at Harley and Juliet. She’s also lent her voice to the Ratchet & Clank, Final Fantasy and Metal Gear Solid franchises.

Strong is also no stranger to cartoons, with a pile of credits to her name.

Check out her achievements below.

6. Keith David

Gargoyles Goliath Keith David

You may know him from his film work, but you love him for his voice acting.

Unlike most of the people on this list, Keith David has a formidable live action resume to go along with his voice acting credits. He was in Crash, The Thing, and Pitch Black; he helped Charlie Sheen get high in Platoon, and since then, he’s been cast in secondary military roles time and time again. Chances are if you recognize him in a movie, he’s wearing a general’s uniform and telling everyone how dire the situation is.

Billy Bob Thornton and Keith David in Armageddon

Keith David (left) is getting sick of Billy Bob Thornton’s BS in Armageddon.

While he tends to fly under the radar and play secondary roles in film and on television, he really excels when the focus is his voice. He’s done plenty of singing on Broadway, and he regularly provides narration for commercials, promos and television shows. He’s been on Adult Swim, Robot Chicken, 1000 Ways to Die and Justice League, among other things.

But if there’s one role he’ll always be associated with, it’s as the noble gargoyle leader Goliath in Gargoyles.

Keith David’s voice is deep, commanding and powerful, and he can twist it to make it sinister or noble. That versatility has allowed him to play many heroes and villains in cartoons and video games.

Gamers may know him as the Covenant’s Arbiter in the Halo series, Captain Anderson in Mass Effect or gang leader Julius Little in the Saints Row series.

Aside from Gargoyles, his most notable animated roles have been as the title character in Spawn, the black cat in Coraline and the villainous voodoo witch doctor Shadow Man in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog. He doesn’t have nearly the credits of the others on this list, but every role has been huge.

If you don’t mind some swearing, listen to Keith David’s Julius Little lines dubbed over his Arbiter character in Halo.

If you live and breathe, listen to his awesomeness as Goliath in the Gargoyles intro.

Six great iPhone games for the simulation lover

December 27, 2012 Leave a comment

If nothing excites you more than holding a little world in the palm of your hand, then these iOS apps are right for you: each one is a cheap or free game that’s just as thrilling for the hardcore mobile gamer as for the casual iPhone user. With these apps you can conquer the world, run a successful mall or win the championship with your sports franchise – and you can do it all on your iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch.

Click the icon to visit the iTunes page for each app below.

1. Plague Inc.


Plague Inc. Ndemic Creations iOS iPhone iPad iTunes Apple

It’s the holiday season and the flu is going around. Rather than popping cough drops and swilling NyQuil, take charge of the virus with Plague Inc..

Plague Inc world map virus spread Ndemic Creations iTunes

Plague Inc. is a virus simulator at its most perverse: you control the disease, spend DNA points to evolve its symptoms and control how it spreads. you can strike terror into the human race and bring the world to its knees with a whole host of vile symptoms. Nasty effects like internal hemorrhaging, dysentery and pulmonary oedema are yours to command. Spread your plague by air, water, blood, or through animal transmission. Mutate antibiotic resistance to prevent humans from developing a cure or foiling your infection techniques.

Plague Inc. is an extremely reasonable $0.99 and takes about 20 minutes to run through. Each victory unlocks new genes and new plague types.

Developer Ndemic Creations has remain active in updating and expanding Plague Inc., meaning this already spectacular game continues to receive fine-tuning updates on a regular basis.

2. Tiny Tower


iTunes Tiny Tower Nimblebit

Tiny Tower is a building management game that runs in real time. It’s simple, quick at first and extraordinarily addictive as it progresses. You run a tower where cute little pixelated people live and work, and it’s your job to build and manage the various stores in the tower.

Tiny Tower Nimblebit iTunes iPhone iPad iPod Apple iOS

You’ll move in people, give them jobs, tell them what to produce and wait while they produce it. This is easy at first, but as more expensive options open up, you’ll find yourself waiting hours, not minutes, for jobs to complete. It soon becomes a time management game, meaning it will keep you hooked on the next move you’re waiting to make.

Nimblebit’s Tiny Tower will always call you back, as there will always be a store to restock, a new item to produce, and a new shop to staff. It’s extraordinarily addictive. It’s also completely free.

3. Pocket Planes

Pocket Planes Nimblebit iTunes

Speaking of Nimblebit and real time games, Pocket Planes is Nimblebit’s latest endeavour that’s also worth a look. Pocket Planes puts you in charge of a small regional airline and challenges you to connect the world with your airplanes.

Pocket Planes map view Nimblebit iPhone iPad iTunes iOS Apple

Build planes out of aircraft parts, upgrade them and load up passengers and cargo to earn money and unlock bigger and better things. Bi-weekly worldwide tasks keep you coming back for special rewards, and hour-long flights assure you’ll be peeking in to see that all your passengers made it to their destination safely.

Like Tiny Tower, Pocket Planes is free. Nimblebit makes its money off selling bux, which are used to purchase aircraft in the game. Don’t let that put you off, though: bux are easily obtainable without paying. Money simply accelerates your progress.

Pocket Planes is a cute and fun simulator that will give you a crash course in world geography as you open airports to connect your flights and stretch your service across the globe.

4. Mega Mall Story

Kairosoft Mega Mall Story iTunes iOS

If Tiny Tower tickles your fancy, then Mega Mall Story will make you think you died and went to capitalist heaven. You manage a little strip mall and build it up into a megaplex, complete with underground levels, a subway, bus routes and a helicopter pad.

Mega Mall Story iTunes Kairosoft Apple

Court the locals with high quality stores and varied merchandise and they’ll become regulars and reward you. Invest in the surrounding community to bring in new opportunities and develop your customer base. Earn rare stores and combine shops into complementary strings to really boost your sales. Mega Mall Story is a shopping mall simulator that you’ll never want to put down.

Developer Kairosoft has got to be one of the best mobile game companies around. They’ve got a great stable of simulator games all based around a similar structure, but with enough variation and unique elements to make each game worth it in its own right. Kairosoft knows it, too: their apps are not cheap, as each one (including Mega Mall Story) will set you back $3.99.

Fortunately, the Lite version is available for free. If you enjoy Mega Mall Story, be sure to check out the other Lite offerings from Kairosoft to really get a sense of how good they’ve gotten at developing mobile games.

5. Lux Touch

Lux Touch iTunes Sillysoft Games Risk clone

If you’ve ever harbored secret delusions of world domination, or if you’ve agonized over trying to conquer Asia in the classic board game Risk, then Lux Touch is for you. It’s a Risk clone for the casual strategist, easily playable in five minutes and not nearly as graphic-intensive or statistically-reliant as the actual EA Games Risk app (which hits harder in the pocketbook and takes a good chunk out of your device’s battery life).

Lux Touch doesn’t show the dice rolls, the men or the territory names. It only keeps the important stuff, like victory cards and continent bonuses, so you’ll still want to get your hands on Asia and you may want to hole up in Australia. Lux Touch is pared right down to a basic world conquest format, and one simple rule change makes it run at breakneck speed.

Lux Touch by Sillysoft Games Risk clone on Apple iTunes

Instead of attacking only once per turn with a bundle of armies, you’re free to build up a pack of men and go on a worldwide rampage. This means that if you can secure a bonus territory early, you can build up a squad and sweep your enemies right to the brink of the ocean and push them off with the blue tide of your army.

Lux Touch is completely free and a fun way to kill a few minutes of waiting around wherever you are.

6. iOOTP Baseball 2012

iOOTP Baseball 2012 iTunes Apple

For the armchair general manager and sports fan there’s iOOTP 2012 Baseball, a fantasy sports simulator that makes you the brains of your very own baseball organization. You control the roster, coach the team, manage contracts and trade players.

iOOTP 2012 Baseball simulator fantasy sports general manager GM

Console sports games all come with a general manager mode. If you’re the kind of player who simulates through the actual games and focuses on the big picture roster moves, then iOOTP Baseball 2012 is the game for you. It takes all the fun of general manager mode and trims out the graphic-intensive gameplay to create a pure management simulator for you to play on your phone.

Best of all, you don’t need to be a baseball fan to enjoy this. The stats differ from football, basketball or hockey, but once you identify the kinds of players you need, it’s not hard to work through the statistics. Before long, you can be playing your own version of Moneyball with iOOTP Baseball 2012.

iOOTP Baseball 2012 is $1.99 on the app store, but well worth the price for anyone with sports management aspirations.

Video Game Review: FTL: Faster Than Light

December 15, 2012 Leave a comment

FTL: Faster Than Light Kestrel

FTL: Faster Than Light is a star-hopping adventure that captures the appeal of space exploration and the excitement of running a crew of people in real time. If you’re a fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Firefly or Battlestar Galactica, this space flight simulator is absolutely for you.

The game mechanics are simple. You command a ship with rooms housing the various systems that you have installed. Man the guns, fly the ship, run the shields and keep the oxygen flowing to keep your crew alive. Instruct your crew to make repairs, put out fires and battle intruders. If those intruders teleport onto your ship beside an airlock, you can vent the oxygen and watch them suffocate.

Later in the game, you get the opportunity to install more advanced systems like drone control, a teleporter, and a cloaking device. The enemies get progressively difficult as you jump from star to star through eight different systems before facing off against the Federation Mothership at the end. You’ve got the Federation fleet hot on your heels the whole way, so it takes some strategic thinking to hit as many stars as possible without being overtaken by the fleet.

It’s easy to nail down the basics and difficult to master the intricacies of FTL. No matter how good you get, this roguelike game also requires some luck, as each star system is a randomly generated series of encounters and multiple choice events with randomized outcomes. Like a losing gambler at the roulette table, the chance element will keep you coming back, determined to do better next time.

And even when you beat the game with the default human cruiser, there are alien ships and alien species to keep you coming back for more space exploration.

There are 9 different ships to pilot, but they’re not all available right away. Each one is unlocked by performing some feat or completing a quest. The quest unlocks can be particularly frustrating, as they, too, are randomized. The Crystalline Cruiser is especially difficult to obtain because it requires three different random events to occur early enough for you to complete each one.

The aliens are a little easier to recruit. There are 6 basic species and one rare crystal alien available to you. Humans are the most basic, while each alien has a different special ability and weakness. Rock men are tough and immune to fire; slugs can telepathically detect enemies; Engi are fantastic at repairing your ship. Alien crew also occasionally provide you with special options in multiple choice events.

FTL debuted in September and is available for PC and Mac on Steam for just $10. It was made by Subset Games and assisted by Kickstarter. As a result, there are many Easter eggs for donors (including the aforementioned crystal alien and ship). And the investment was well worth it: FTL is an inventive little game with a lot of imagination and great game mechanics.

FTL is wonderfully simple at first and entrancingly complex after a playthrough or two. It’ll quickly rope you in with its small, star-by-star encounter format, sweeping you along to the mantra of “just one more jump.”