Su­per slates

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - Front Page - MIKE WIL­COX

For $ 20 more than an Ap­ple iPad, you can buy ViewSonic’s big­gest tablet. The View­Pad 10s is a 10-inch ( 25.4cm) model with sim­i­lar spec­i­fi­ca­tions to its Ap­ple ri­val, in­clud­ing a 1GHz dual-core pro­ces­sor and 512MB RAM. It of­fers a 1.3-megapixel front-fac­ing cam­era, USB and HDMI ports, plus room for a 32GB Mi­croSD mem­ory card. But us­ing this View­Pad is hard work. Its 1024x600 screen fades to black on a mod­est an­gle, web brows­ing is buggy, it’s stuck on last year’s Google An­droid re­lease ( Froyo) and its re­tooled Google An­droid menu sys­tem seems in­com­plete. A tablet for less than $ 200? Even the poke-and­prod cheap­ies from Tel­stra and Op­tus teetered on the $ 300 bar­rier. And the Agora tablet of­fers more than you may ex­pect for the price. For starters, its 7-inch ( 17.78cm) screen is a ca­pac­i­tive ( not re­sis­tive) touch­screen, so you do not have to jab it to se­lect apps. Fur­ther­more, this tablet is run by a 1.2GHz chip, fea­tures HDMI and Mini USB con­nec­tions, a 2-megapixel, front-fac­ing cam­era, a Mi­croSD card slot to boost its 4GB mem­ory and it con­nects to the net by wi-fi ( no 3G op­tion). HOW do you fol­low up one of the most crit­i­cally ac­claimed video games of all time?

This was un­doubt­edly the ques­tion on Valve Cor­po­ra­tion’s mind in the four years since mak­ing Por­tal.

Nonethe­less, the brains trust used this time wisely and has de­liv­ered per­haps not quite the same ground­break­ing achieve­ment as the first, but cer­tainly a wor­thy suc­ces­sor in Por­tal 2.

Kick­ing off in the same lo­cale as the first game, only a few hun­dred years later, Por­tal 2 once again tasks you with es­cap­ing from Aper­ture Lab­o­ra­to­ries’ labyrinth of rooms.

Ev­ery­thing fans loved about the first game makes a re­turn, in­clud­ing the blue and orange por­tals, tur­rets, the com­pan­ion cube and cun­ning physics-based puzzles to solve.

How­ever, you’ll also use a new com­pan­ion cube that changes the direc­tion of laser beams, a new plate to cat­a­pult you and other ob­jects long dis­tances, and then most of the later lev­els re­quire the use of three new gel-like sub­stances which can be ap­plied to sur­faces to change the way you in­ter­act with them.

Also new to Por­tal 2 is a chal­leng­ing co-op­er­a­tive two-player mode. Ei­ther lo­cally on the same con­sole or play­ing on­line across the world, you and a com­rade can tackle a col­lec­tion of new lev­els which have been de­signed with team­work in mind. A head­set with mi­cro­phone is highly ad­vis­able if play­ing on­line, as the abil­ity to talk to­gether is vi­tal.

Sec­ond to the ac­tual game­play, hu­mour is one of Por­tal 2’ s big­gest strengths, thanks to su­perb voice acting and a fault­less script filled with witty, self-dep­re­cat­ing quips, sar­cas­tic digs, and laugh-out-loud one-lin­ers aimed squarely at gamers.

I found my­self more en­gaged with Por­tal 2’ s three ro­botic char­ac­ters than many of those por­trayed as hu­mans in other games. As a bonus, PS3 own­ers re­ceive a free down­load of the game to play on Mac or PC through Valve’s Steam ser­vice.

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