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Top 10 Songs of 2012

Top 10 Songs of 2012

I don’t know if it’s a function of getting older with having less free time, but I find my music listening habits have made the transition from albums to almost completely track-based playlists. Part of it is due to the dearth of truly great albums by artists nowadays, and part of it is the simple fact that the best songs are often head and shoulders ahead of the other cuts on the LP.

So after being reminded by the Grammy’s last night that lists are fun to make and discuss, here’s my top 10 list of tracks from 2012 in no particular order. Some of these may look a little dated just by the nature of pop culture riding songs into the ground, but at the end of the day, my main criteria for a great song is the desire to hear it again after listening to it.

  • Walk The Moon – Anna Sun | Every time I hear this song, I just want to sing along – one of the most infectiously happy songs I’ve heard in a long time.
  • Usher – Climax | Next-level R&B by producer Diplo and Usher. Fun fact: there’s no actual climax or chorus in this song.
  • fun. – We Are Young | It’s an anthem perfectly made for graduating high-school seniors or those who wish they were there again.
  • Of Monsters and Men – Little Talks | Pop-folk from Iceland that always makes me envision life surrounded by rolling green hills.
  • Gossip – Perfect World | Imagine if Adele was in an indie-pop band and you might get something like this song.
  • Frank Ocean – Pyramids | Speaking of next-level R&B, this 9:33 long epic is so musically interesting and layered, that I rarely notice it being too long.
  • The Gaslight Anthem – Here Comes My Man | Maybe the video with Elisha Cuthbert is biasing me, but something about a good old-fashioned rock song with some “Shalalalas” appealed to me.
  • Japandroids – The House That Heaven Built | Just imagine hearing this song on a warm summer day outside rocking out alongside your best friends. This song was made for arenas.
  • PSY – Gangnam Style | I’m sure we’re all sick of this by now, but man, when I first saw the video for this song I literally had it on repeat for weeks. Frankly, I still get OP OP OP OPOP in my head randomly.
  • Cloud Nothings – Stay Useless | You don’t hear rock like this anymore, it’s got the raw energy of early 90’s alterna-grunge with the catchiness of a proto-Weezer. Yes, I just made up two hyphenated words.

Thanks to the magic of Spotify, sharing these lists got a whole lot easier. Check it out below:


Review: Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3

Full disclosure: I’m a huge comic book and video game geek and have loved the Marvel vs. Capcom series ever since I was a kid. I’d buy each and every release, even if they only add new characters and come up less than a year after the last one. It’s a really fun fight experience and I find the ridiculous speed and combos a nice change of pace from the more methodical Street Fighter or Tekken series.

That being said, I really wish Capcom would include a nice tutorial mode or something to make it easier for newcomers to get into the game. It’s a blast to play and there’s definitely a larger audience for this stuff now that Marvel’s successfully launched so many high profile films.

You can find my full review of the game on ComicsAlliance. I’d feel honored if you read the whole thing, but I’ll admit it’s a bit detailed for you impatient types out there.

If you’re one of those people, here are some tl;dr points:

If you skipped out on the original Marvel vs. Capcom 3 and love the characters and/or just love a good brawling game, then picking up Ultimate Marvel vs. Capcom 3 is a no-brainer. It’s strictly superior to the previous version in virtually every way. Even if you’re not normally a fighting game person, you may want to at least rent the game once just to experience your beloved characters brought to full interactive life (LifeTip for overworked readers: I’ve found that setting the game to an easy difficulty and breezing through arcade mode is a wonderful stress reliever).

As for those who own the first version, whether or not you’ll find the right value in UMvC3 depends on how often you play with others — either online or on the couch together. This is a game meant to be played competitively. Things will get very tiresome on your own once you’re done experimenting with the new characters. Feel free to skip UMvC3 if you got the idea the first go-around and have no desire to see the new characters. It doesn’t bring a whole lot new to the table.

Read the full review: ‘Ultimate Marvel Vs. Capcom 3’ review on ComicsAlliance.


Review: Scribblenauts Remix (iOS)

I never thought there would come a day when I would prefer playing a particular game title on my phone rather than a “real” portable game console from Sony or Nintendo.

Well, that day is here.

Developer 5th Cell’s port of its “indie” Nintendo DS hit, Scribblenauts Remix is an absolute joy to play on the iPhone and iPad and is one of the few iOS releases that had me hooked enough to want to complete the game in one day.

(To be fair, I also never thought that there would come a day where there would actually be a good licensed superhero video game. What can I say? We live in magical times.)

For those who are unfamiliar with the franchise, Scribblenauts is a puzzle/platforming game based on one core mechanic — your imagination. You see, you can bring in almost any object or living thing into the game world by simply typing it into Max’s notebook. It’s a very “wow”-inducing mechanic when you experience it for the first time because we’re so used to being limited to the constraints of what game designers have set for us.

The goal in each level is for Max to obtain a Starite by following the hints on screen. The first level’s Starite is dangling on a tree that is just out of reach. There’s many ways to solve the puzzle, depending on your level of creativity. Some might opt for the straightforward solution of creating a ladder for Max to climb. Me? My first inclination was to give Max a large chainsaw to cut down the tree, letting the Starite fall down to me, because I’m a f’in boss. You could also give Max a jetpack and have him float up there to reach it as well. Or maybe you could make a giant yellow beaver to gnaw down the tree.  I’m sure you get the idea by now.

The game has a portly database of over 20,000 words so chances are that the game will have a better chance of stumping you rather than the other way around. Unfortunately, this doesn’t include proper nouns or places (for obvious reasons) or vulgar terms. Believe me, I was disappointed that I could not make a flaming pile of poop, but hey, what’s that really going to help you do?

All of the levels are fairly straightforward, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. The danger with a game that provides so much freedom is in overwhelming the player with too many choices and possibilities. At no point in Scribblenauts Remix did I feel “lost.” The difficulty curve was nice and easy – almost too easy, in fact. Some of the more interesting levels have several “phases” involved, and I expected the levels to get more and more epic the further I progressed. Sadly, many levels remained very superficial in their goals. Fortunately, for those who want a more free form sandbox to play in, there’s a “Playground Mode” where you can just create objects and things and have them interact with each other.

One of the most exciting features about the game is that it supports iCloud for game saves. For people who own both an iPad and an iPhone, this feature is a godsend. I tend to play mobile games on my phone when I’m not home, but if I’m just lounging around, I’d rather use that larger screen real estate. Previously, you were essentially locked into choosing either the iPhone or iPad version to play, even if the game was a universal build. Sure, you could switch over, but you’d lose all of your gameplay progress to do so. And who would want to do that, other than shortsighted marketing folks who only look at features as checklist fodder?

There’s 50 levels included within the $4.99 universal iPhone/iPad release of Scribblenauts Remix. 40 of which are culled from the previous two Scribblenauts releases on the Nintendo DS. The remaining 10 are “exclusive” to the iOS version of the game. In full disclosure, I never finished the original game on the Nintendo DS because, quite honestly, I was annoyed by the controls in having to tap each word individually with my stylus on the onscreen keyboard. However, on iOS, inputting words is a joy because it’s a natural function of the device – just like writing a text message. A control pad isn’t necessary for this game since there’s no precision platforming to be done. Add it all up and you have a title that feels much more at home on a touch screen than on a portable game console.

Since I didn’t play the previous titles, I can’t say whether the “right” levels were picked or if the 10 new levels are worth the admission price for those who have already played the game on the DS. At $4.99, though, no one’s going to laugh at you for paying 50 cents a “new” level, especially since it’s quite apparent that 5th Cell will be adding additional level packs to the game as time goes on. For anyone who hasn’t played the DS games though, oh ho-ho are you going to have fun. Unless you don’t like words. In which case, I’ll direct you to this app instead.

The highest praise I can give to Scribblenauts Remix is that I was so enamored with the game that I wanted to not only complete the levels, but also obtain all the achievements as well. Think about it – how many games do you have on your phone? And how many do you actually want to finish, let alone get all the achievements on?

Scribblenauts Remix is available now as a universal iPhone/iPad build on the iTunes App Store.


These Are The Games To Pick From Sony’s List Of Free PS3/PSP Titles For PSN Outage Reparations

Sony’s finally begun the process of rolling out reparations for its millions of consumers that were affected by the Great PlayStation Network Hack Of 2011. Whether or not you’re happy with Sony’s response to the whole fiasco, they’re still offering up free stuff, so you may as well take advantage of it. Before we get to the fun stuff, be sure to enroll in the AllClear ID PLUS identity theft protection that Sony is paying for all PSN users. If you’re a PS3 user, you get to pick two out of the following titles: (We’ve included a quick one line description of each game)

  • Dead Nation – 2D twin stick action shooter kind of like Robotron or Geometry Wars with zombies
  • inFAMOUS – Third-Person open world action game. Think Grand Theft Auto if you were the only super hero in town.
  • LittleBigPlanet – A 2D platforming game (Think Super Mario Bros.) with up to 4 player cooperative play. You can design your own levels and play ones designed by other players.
  • Super Stardust HD – Traditional 2D twin stick action shooter in space with lasers and powerups.
  • Wipeout HD + Fury – A fast paced futuristic racer with weapons. Think Mario Kart meets F-Zero with even more speed.

All things being equal, we would pick up the titles in this order:

  1. LittleBigPlanet
  2. inFAMOUS
  3. WipeoutHD + Fury
  4. Super Stardust HD
  5. Dead Nation

For what it’s worth, inFAMOUS and LittleBigPlanet were originally $60 retail titles, while the other titles were downloadable games ranging  from $9.99 to $19.99. Despite that, all of the games Sony offers are all quite good and hit a wide variety of genres. At the end of the day, you can’t really go wrong with any of the titles – they’re all good games in their respective genres. If you’re in the mood for a racer, definitely pick up WipeoutHD because it’s quite possibly still the most thrilling racer on any video game system. If you’re looking for something to play with your kids or someone who doesn’t play video games all that often, be sure to pick up LittleBigPlanet because it’s essentially a cute 4-player Mario-like platforming game. PSP owners can choose from two of the following games:

  • LittleBigPlanet (PSP) – A portable version of the PS3 game – it’s got completely different levels if you were worried about getting both LittleBigPlanet titles.
  • ModNation Racers – A GoKart racer (Think Mario Kart), but with the ability to create and share your own racetracks like LittleBigPlanet levels.
  • Pursuit Force – An arcade combat-racer where you’re a rookie cop chasing criminals.
  • Killzone Liberation – A top-down isometric view action title with cover-based gameplay similar to Gears of War.

In full disclosure, of the available PSP titles, we’ve only played Killzone Liberation. However we can wholeheartedly recommend that title if you’re an action fan — it’s surprisingly provides similar gratification to playing a third-person shooter on a console. We’ve also read up on reviews for the other titles and if it were up to us we’d rank them in this order:

  1. LittleBigPlanet
  2. Killzone Liberation
  3. ModNation Racers
  4. Pursuit Force

Again, feel free to pick by your desired genre, though we think there may be a marked quality difference between the first two titles and the last two ones. Other than the games, Sony is also offering a package that includes the following:

  • A selection of “On Us” rental movie titles will be available to PlayStation Network customers over one weekend, where Video Service is available. Those titles will be announced soon.
  • 30 days free PlayStation Plus membership for non PlayStation Plus subscribers.
  • Existing PlayStation Plus subscribers will receive an additional 60 days of free subscription.
  • Existing Music Unlimited Premium Trial subscription members will receive an additional 30 days of free premium subscription.
  • Additional 30 days + time lost for existing members of Music Unlimited Premium/Basic subscription free of charge for existing Premium/Basic members.
  • To welcome users Home, PlayStation Home will be offering 100 free virtual items. Additional free content will be released soon, including the next addition to the Home Mansion personal space, and Ooblag’s Alien Casino, an exclusive game.

Since Sony hasn’t announced which movies will be available through the “On Us” program, we can’t really give any recommendations on that front. We can, however, still say that PlayStation Home is still a complete waste of time.


Anyone Surprised With How Sony Still Refuses To Take Responsibility For PSN Fiasco?

It’s been about a month since Colin Campbell’s take on how Sony should have responded to the PlayStation Network fiasco was published, and its pretty eerie how some of his predictions are playing out:

Here’s a little test for you. Which of the following statements are you most likely to agree with in one year’s time.

A: “Sony handled that situation amazingly. They held their hands up and took appropriate share of blame. They outlined a clear plan of action to remedy the situation and they made sure all stakeholders were recompensed beyond reasonable expectations. They showed their human side and came out of this a stronger company.”

B: “It just kinda went away, didn’t it? Sony entirely laid the blame on the hackers, launched a lot of legal flak, refused to take any responsibility, offered the minimum clarity and token recompense. But no-one cares any more. At least they’ve encrypted my personal data now.”

I’m going to go out on a limb here and predict that answer B is looking a whole lot more likely than answer A.

Sure, Sony has offered up some free games and enrollment in an identity theft program, but has it really made you believe that it’s truly sorry for what’s happened and that it will do its best to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

I didn’t think so.

Wired had a pretty funny list of ridiculous things that Sony could have used to compensate users for. It’s a silly read, but you know what? If Sony had the balls and/or humanity to take responsibility and show off their human side, why not pull off one of the stunts listed in the article? Pay the Kevin Butler actor to go to someones house and personally apologize. Make a whole media blitz out of it. Everyone has a laugh and Sony comes out with some great PR.

Instead, we get reports that Sony CEO Howard Stringer still doesn’t believe he has anything to apologize for.

From an interview last week:

Sony believed it had “good, robust security,” Stringer said. He rejected suggestions that the company is paying for a lack of vigilance and said he was unaware of the 2008 intrusion on the PlayStation Network.

“We have a network that gave people services free,” Stringer said. “It didn’t seem like the likeliest place for an attack.”

When the April incursion first started, he didn’t know how serious it was, Stringer said. “I really don’t think I could apologize for not knowing,” he said. “It’s a whole new experience for everybody at this scale.”

Seriously, dude? You didn’t think that a service with over 77 million users whose target demographic also happens to include the most computer savvy and vocally active people in the world could be the target of an attack? Sure it may be a whole new experience for your company at that scale, but you’re not the first people to have a massive database of users to take care of. If anything, you should have been more cautious and vigil because networked software solutions has not been your company’s strong suit in the past.

We may be forced to live on with Sony due to game developers being obligated to support a platform with such a huge userbase, but you can bet your ass that if we could still enjoy all of the exclusive content on the PS3 elsewhere, we’d be gone in a heartbeat.

via Gamasutra


Nintendo Confirms New Console To Succeed The Wii

Originally published on lalawag

(image credit: IGN)

Remember that Christmas of 2006 where finding a Wii was akin to finding the Holy Grail at retail? Well, get ready to relive those fun times soon because Nintendo just announced that its new gaming console will come out in 2012.

From a note posted to its investors this morning:

To whom it may concern:

Re: Wii’s successor system

Nintendo Co., Ltd. has decided to launch in 2012 a system to succeed Wii, which the company has sold 86.01 million units on a consolidated shipment basis between its launch in 2006 and the end of March 2011.

We will show a playable model of the new system and announce more specifications at the E3 Expo, which will be held June 7-9, 2011, in Los Angeles.

Sales of this new system have not been included in the financial forecasts announced today for the fiscal term ending March 2012.

(Gotta love their salutation: “To whom it may concern.” It really gives you a sense of warmth for investing in the company.)

While it’s not surprising that Nintendo has been working on a successor to the once-monolithic Wii, it does come as somewhat of a surprise that they will already have a playable version of the hardware (codenamed: Project Cafe) at E3 this year. But what’s the “gimmick” for this new system?

According to a quote in Reuters, Nintendo president Satoru Iwata hints that it probably won’t be 3D:

“We would like to propose a new approach to home video game consoles. It’s difficult to make 3-D images a key feature, because 3-D televisions haven’t obtained wide acceptance yet.”

If it’s not 3D, then what is it?

According to speculation by IGN, the controller will have “integrated touchscreens and be capable of streaming games to each controller.” Those who remember the VMU functionality of the Sega Dreamcast back in the late 90s will have an idea of what IGN is getting at, except the Project Cafe implementation will be far more advanced, with presumably HD color displays wirelessly streamed from the console and tighter integration with the games.

IGN’s sources also say that the console will be in full HD and more powerful than the Playstation 3 and Xbox 360:

Additionally, IGN has learned that the system will be based on a revamped version of AMD’s R700 GPU architecture, not AMD’s Fusion technology as previously believed, which will, as previously reported, out perform the PlayStation 3’s NVIDIA 7800GTX-based processor. Like the Xbox 360, the system’s CPU will be a custom-built triple-core IBM PowerPC chipset, but the clocking speeds will be faster. The system will support 1080p output with the potential for stereoscopic 3D as well, though it has not been determined whether that will be a staple feature.

In terms of the design of the console itself, the overall size will be comparable to that of the original Xbox 360 and the system is likely to resemble a modernized version of the Super Nintendo Entertainment System (SNES).

Hopefully, this won’t be too hard on our wallets. It sounds like Nintendo might not enjoy the same “budget priced console” market segment when this baby comes out.

via Kotaku


Who Are These Early Adopters Helping Nintendo Claim A Sales Record For The 3DS?

Lost in the midst of the hubbub over a possible iPhone 5 delay and Amazon’s launch of a cloud music playing service is the fact that Nintendo launched the first glasses-free 3D handheld console this past Sunday, the 3DS. According to a statement issued by The Big N, the first day unit sales of the 3DS were the highest of any Nintendo hand-held system in its history. That includes the original DS, DS Lite, Gameboys, you name it.

U.S. day-one sales numbers for Nintendo 3DS were the highest of any Nintendo hand-held system in our history. More details about U.S. sales numbers will be made public on April 14, when first-week U.S. sales figures will be tallied by the independent NPD Group. Nintendo worked hard to get as much product as possible to retailers on day one to meet demand, and we will continue with these efforts moving forward.

-Nintendo of America

It’s important to note that they are indeed talking about unit numbers, because at $249.99, the 3DS is undoubtedly the most expensive hand-held console Nintendo has ever launched. Reporting the gross revenue as a “new record” would be just… silly.

Personally, I’m just surprised at the number of early adopters Nintendo convinced to buy the 3DS. I’m a self-identified gadget fiend and even I had trouble talking myself into getting one. There just aren’t any titles out for it that justify the splurge for the 3DS. A quick look at Metacritic shows a sea of mediocrity with one stand out title (Super Street Fighter IV). Unfortunately, that title has already been released twice on a multitude of devices prior, so chances are that you’ve already played it in some incarnation.

Greg Miller of IGN also had similar sentiments on the quality of launch titles:

As I write this, 11 3DS games have been reviewed for IGN — I’m counting Nintendogs + Cats once — and the average review score is 6.7. That’s “Okay” on the IGN scale. Admittedly, most of the games reviewed landed in the 7 out of 10 range and just a few crappy games pulled down the average, but that’s still not stellar.

To add insult to injury, the 3DS shipped without internet browsing or Virtual Console support, taking a page out of Motorola’s playbook for its Honeycomb tablet Xoom. “Rush to ship now, patch in the promised features later” is a disturbing trend for hardware manufacturers to be following, but it’s the world we live in.

Like Android tablet, without any “killer apps,” you’re essentially buying the 3DS for its potential in the future. Now, being a betting type of man, I would actually expect there to be many reasons to own a 3DS in the future. Nintendo’s had a sterling track record of success, plus with these great day-one numbers, things are looking up for the 3DS to become a successful platform with a large user and developer support base.

But Nintendo’s also had a track record of refreshing their handheld hardware within a couple of years of the original devices’ launches. In the 3DS’s case, this hardware update cannot come soon enough, with battery life being reported at a scant 3-5 hours for the current device. Until we see a truly “must have” title for the 3DS, you’re better off waiting until one of those two things happen before diving in.

Originally posted on lalawag


Benn Jordan Infringes His Own Label’s Copyrights

So the hip thing to do these days is releasing your album for free online and operate on a “pay if you like it” business model. But what if you’re not a big, established artist (Radiohead, Trent Reznor, etc.) with the moneyhats to pay for bandwidth and other digital distribution costs?

You pirate your own music.

At least, that’s what Benn Jordan (aka The Flashbulb) has done with his newest album, Soundtrack to a Vacant Life. Jordan’s taken the liberty of uploading his own album to a couple of torrent trackers, including renowned oink “replacement”,

Why did he do this? According to his blog:

Well, they’ll be there in 24 hours anyway, and this way I can:
1. Be sure that people aren’t getting fakes.
2. Be sure that people aren’t getting bad rips (soooo many people have asked me about the “static track” on M³)
3. Be sure that people know where they can buy the album, or, “donate” to the artist by including an html file with a personal message.

Benn’s reasons certainly make sense from a practical standpoint. Any new album is going to find its way onto these torrent trackers soon after release, it’s just inevitable. And having information on how to buy the album from sanctioned sources is certainly better than having no information at all when your music is pirated. But is this a good business move for his fledgling record label?

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1 Goes On Demand

CBS owned social music site,, announced on Wednesday that they would begin offering full-length track streaming of over 150,000 songs including catalog from the four major record labels.The two major points of the release are:

  • On demand, ad-supported streaming via the website or client – 150,000+ licensed songs with a limitation of 3 plays per track per user
  • Pay-Per-Listen royalty scheme – artists/labels will get paid based on the number of times their songs have been streamed (independent artists will get paid directly from

First of all, I want to applaud CBS and for taking their service in this direction. I’ve used for a couple of years now and the number one wish I had was full-length track streaming. 30 second previews are simply useless as a music discovery tool. Like the recent fall of DRM, on demand free full-length track streaming seemed unattainable just one year ago. It’s good to see that progress is being made in catching up to actual consumer behavior. That being said, this service has a ways to go before it starts to become an indispensable music tool.
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Individual 2007 Top Ten Lists

Indulge me as I’m in a list making mood. After the jump I’ll list my lists. They’ll include top tens for music, comics, video games, movies, and television shows. Since I’m too burnt out now to write something for each entry, I won’t. I’ll be happy to conduct a civilized conversation in the comments or email though. Oh, and the lists will contain only things I have experienced in ’07. Stuff I didn’t get to until after the new year, but released near the end of last year (e.g. There Will Be Blood) will go on next year’s lists.
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