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We’re back with a whole mess of words that we want to just pour into your earholes.

I struggle to play fighting games with a standard controller. The dexterity requirements are simply too much for my lonely thumb navigating the face buttons, and I refuse to adapt the ‘claw’ technique of using fingers on the top. I’ve muddled away with Killer Instinct, and Dead Or Alive 5: Last Round for a while, since all my arcade sticks are for the Xbox 360. But, with the announcement of backwards compatibility for Xbox 360 titles, it started to make some sense to buy a new arcade stick to play the significant back catalogue of arcade titles that played well with a stick.

So, after having the Razer Atrox sit in my virtual shopping trolley with Mighty Ape (it was on sale) and watching their stock slowly deplete by about one a week until there was just one left, I pulled the trigger and bought it.

There’s a lot to like about it, from the genuine Sanwa parts, to the fact that you can press a button to pop it open, and a compressed-gas lever-arm thingy will keep it open and in place until you close it again. Unfortunately, before even plugging it in, I could hear the infuriating noise that could only be a screw loose inside the casing. Worse, on painstaking inspection, the screw clearly wasn’t just rattling around in the easily accessible open area

“This is the hidden price you pay for buying something on sale,” I told myself. The last stick I bought, the Mad Catz Arcade Fight Stick SOUL Tournament Edition isn’t a matter of public record, but I bought it for a relative pittance ($80) and had to invest a significant amount of time testing and correcting some serious issues with both the buttons and the sticks. Sure, returning is an option, and the folks at Mighty Ape are nothing if not friendly and reasonable (their Banana Points rewards system is ridiculously out of date to the point of offending long-time customers, but they’re great) but that involves setting aside social anxieties and engaging with humans, whereas fixing the issue could be as simple as me, the machine, and some time.

The Atrox comes with ccustomisation as part of the design, and has a wee double-ended screwdriver fitted on the inside of the case. Other things to be found on the inside: a bat-top which can substitute the ball-top which comes fitted standard for the stick, and the detachable 4m cable with a fancy braided outer layer. The screw driver isn’t the total solution, though, since the shaft of the screwdriver is quite short, and the rogue screw just happens to be trapped in behind the front bumper, which some deep holes, too narrow to reach the screws. My fiancee thankfully has a pink hammer with several screwdrivers concealed in the handle, so with a bit of force the screw was recovered and the need to confront anyone with my mild customer dissatisfaction was averted.

The screw had somehow dislodged (or, for all I knew, never been properly in) from one of the pins that holds on the detachable face plate – a feature that I’m thankful for if only because the stock artwork on the top is generically ugly, a mash of the Razer logo which I’m not fond of and green circuit boards, which is about aesthetically pleasing as a still of the weird downward flowing glyph-codes from The Matrix.

Removing the face plate to get at the artwork actually involves unwiring all of the buttons so they can be popped out, and unscrewing the ball-top; an ordeal I haven’t gone through with yet partly because the “quick connect” connections on the Sanwa buttons require more force than I’m comfortable exerting on something I’ve just bought, and the surface area of the artwork is larger in both dimensions than a piece of A4 paper, so I have no easy way to replace it with anything.

In Practise

Jumping straight into Killer Instinct, the Atrox’s benefits became immediately apparent, and the Dojo training challenges that I’d given up achieving on the standard pad came together in one session. The button layout is such that you already have the standard rows of punches and kicks, ascending in severity from left to right. This means that RB and RT (R standing for “Right” for the unaware) are actually placed to the left of LB and LT. Upon noticing this, I made a mental note to compensate for this should the occasion arise, as LB and RT often get used to navigate left and right respectively… but no need! Upon playing around in some non-game situations, I discovered that this very thing was foreseen by the software engineers, and the buttons are flipped for the purposes of navigation.

Sadly, the Atrox isn’t designed as a “use where and if you can; the console will think it’s a gamepad” device, and it seems the software has to be written specifically to support it. I tried loading up Shovel Knight, and was greeted by a message saying “No gamepads present, please connect a controller to proceed”, and buttoning past the prompt only causes it to spring back up. Worse still, I attempted some backwards compatible games (remember, the original impetus for purchasing?), N+ and Alien Hominid HD, neither of which, and I’m willing to form a blanket rule based on this anecdotal evidence, took any input from the stick. The whole backwards compatibility aspect is still in preview for now, but I don’t consider this a good sign.

Sumary

I don’t regret purchasing the Razer Atrox, it’s made Killer Instinct fun to play to a degree that I didn’t actually expect, but I find myself fervently hoping that the backwards compatibility for 360 titles starts supporting non-standard game devices.

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Getting stuck into the first of a third century, and maybe I had a little beer to celebrate.  Or for some reason, anyway.   We talk Origin, iOS, PS3 nitty-gritties and Smartglass.

Last week at Gamecom, Sony announced Cross Buy, an initiative that allows a purchased PS Vita game to be played on the PS3 and vice versa on supported titles. It’s a fantastic precedent to be setting, not only from a consumer standpoint, but to validate the argument against used sales that games are more than just the discs they’re printed on. Cross Buy joins a host of other “Cross” initiatives: Cross Save, for transferring saves between Vita and PS3, Cross Play, for multiplayer between the devices, Cross Goods, for the interaction of virtual goods between games on both devices, and Cross Control, for using the Vita as a controller. Supporting titles are limited to a few at the moment, but this is a step in the right direction for sure.

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Day Z, video game films, Battlefield 3 (yes, still), ME3 DLC, things to do with Steam, Halo, Lego, and also other things.

What?  Why yes, it is Buttonmasher Podcast number one hundred and eighty six.

Metservice

While it’s hardly the sexiest subject in the world, the weather is probably one of the most widely discussed topics of conversation in every day life. It often affects our ability to perform activities we had planned, can spoil or enhance events we are attending, and is even proven to affect our mood. Well now “there’s an App for that”.

MetService has just released the Metservice app, available on both iOS and Android. This is a review of the iOS app, but the Android app was developed in conjunction and is also functionally identical. The iOS app was designed by Shift (creators of the beautifully looking Herald iPad app) and developed by Wellington-based PaperKite (the team behind the Official All Blacks App as well as the “I can’t believe they made it” NZ Budget 2012″ App). MetService already has an excellent and informative free website, as well as a “mobile-optimised” version of the same site for smaller screens, so is it worth spending the $2.59 on this new release app?

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My thoughts on Kinect have always been pretty clear – I just don’t really get what the fuss is all about. The tech looked highly promising – the final implementation never impressed me much and nothing has changed to convince me otherwise yet.

LEAP into the future – the near future in fact – and dreams of a Minority Report control system could be just around the corner. LEAP Motion have showcased their upcoming product which could have you gesturing in thin air to control aspects of your computing, with potential gaming applications far beyond what Kinect has shown itself to be capable of. Claimed to be accurate down to “1/100th of a millimetre”, the tiny device aims to allow you to use not only your arms like Kinect, but also your hands and fingers. You can even grip a pen and “write” with it – the LEAP can apparently map those fine movements as if you were using a tablet.

Check out the video below which demonstrates what the LEAP aims to achieve. Whether you believe it to be real or just a mockup is up to you but pre-orders have opened for a limited number at the impossibly low price of USD $70 (under NZD $100). Will you be pre-ordering one for the launch of late 2012/early 2013?

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Following in the footsteps of excellent Sparrow for Mac which we reviewed earlier, Sparrow for iPhone seeks to bring the same superb minimalist email to the iOS platform. The challenges go beyond adapting Sparrow to the smaller screen of the iPhone/iPod touch however, with Apple restrictions meaning compromises needed to be made, with certain much desired features reluctantly omitted.

Sparrow for iPhone currently only supports IMAP mail, so it is not an option for users of Hotmail and other POP accounts. Setting up accounts is relatively straight-forward, and completed you land in a unified inbox that looks on the surface much the same as any other mail app.

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Bannermars

Wind the clock back a decade and if I told you that one of the “Best in Market” software programs was made by Microsoft and it was free and you’d have had me committed. Fast forward to 2012 and against all expectations Microsoft offers Windows users not only one but two very useful and free applications – the highly acclaimed Microsoft Security Essentials, and the WYSIWYG blogging tool Windows Live Writer. Powerful enough to satisfy the needs of most casual bloggers, WLW is a pleasure to use and has become the standard by which other blogging software is compared against.

The problem with WLW is that it is available for Windows only, and Mac users need to perform fancy tricks by dual booting or running Parallels to use it. For many Mac users it remains the one last bastion of holding onto the Windows OS, but with MarsEdit 3 the long awaited WLW equivalent for Mac may answer their prayers.

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When I first read that Toyota has introduced DS connectivity to their vehicles, I thought they had gone and done what Nintendo failed to do with the Wii and offer some cool and useful connectivity features using the DS. Alas, while what they have come up with is definitely somewhat “cool”, it certainly isn’t going to make anyone rush out and buy a new Toyota and the required hardware.

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Toyota have introduced a new Satellite Navigation system in their vehicles with allows users to use the DS as a remote and enter a destination in the GPS system. The DS can display a map and sightseeing information, as well as saving “Favourite” locations. Miis apparently feature in the system, and real-time vehicle speed is also available on the DS when connected. Connectivity requires a bluetooth radio in the form of a game card.

The Sat-Nav system costs (and this is cool) around $3500, while the game card is priced at around $120. Somehow I don’t expect this pretty gimmicky system to fly off the Toyota parts centre shelves. >> via TG Daily