Home Blog Page 3

Best Console Video Games of 2017

0
Horizon Zero Dawn
Horizon Zero Dawn

It’s that time of year again, where all the magazines and websites go through all of their games and figure out which games are the top games of the year for 2017.  For the first time, I’m going to do this on this website as well.  I play a ton of games (and have for 30+ years) and like games from about every genre except horror.  So without wasting to much more time here, here are the Best Console Video Games of 2017.  Only games that I personally played will be on here, so if you’re favorite game isn’t on here, I probably didn’t get a chance to play it.

  1.  Horizon Zero Dawn.  Without a doubt, this is the best game I played this year.  The story, the gameplay, the huge robot dinosaurs, etc were all amazing.  One of the few PS4 games I played this year, but it was unquestionably the best game I played.  I highly recommend this game, probably the best game I’ve played since the Witcher 3.
  2. Shadow of War.  When this initially came out, I thought ‘eh’.  I liked the first one, but would I really get into the second one?  It took about 10 minutes and I was hooked on this game, played it nonstop till I beat it.  It just has a ton of character and is just flat out fun.  There are a wide variety of missions that don’t seem too repetitive, and tons of collectibles to get.  Online missions are featured too.

    Shadow of War
    Shadow of War
  3. Persona 5.  I played this game a ton.  It’s LONG.  So long that I still haven’t beaten it yet.  Probably put 60 hours into it and still have a ton of stuff to go in order to get to the end.  It’s definitely a weird game, not for everyone.  It has the horrible save system from the 90’s era PS1 games, and has a ton of weird things happening all the time.  The combat is pretty fun, and overall the game isn’t too difficult or otherwise the save system would be maddening.
  4. Halo Wars 2.  This game kind of fell under the radar after it released in February and was followed by all those blockbusters in March.  It’s the best real time strategy game on the console pretty easily.  The whole game is really fun, makes me remember playing Command and Conquer back in 1995 for the first time.  Good videos, fun action, etc.

    Halo Wars 2
    Halo Wars 2
  5. Pillars of Eternity: Complete Edition.  This game came out on the PC a couple years ago and I actually bought it there but never got into it.  Once I saw it was on the Xbox I rebought it as I knew I would be a lot more likely to finish it there (and I was right).  I played this game for a long time before I finally beat it.  Still never beat some of those ridiculous dragons in certain places, they were just too hard.  If you liked the Baldur’s Game series on the PC, you’ll love Pillars of Eternity.  I also played through the expansion I liked it so much.

Honorable Mention

These are games I played but didn’t make my Top 5.

Cuphead.  Fun, very hard, not my cup of tea.

NBA2k18.  I actually played this game a lot but it really doesn’t do that much more than NBA2k17.  If you like basketball it’s a must have.

Super Mario Odyssey.  Everyone says this is 97% rated game, it’s ok but honestly it’s not that much different than any of the other Mario’s of the past 15 years.  Super annoying to beat a boss and then not move to the next level because you’re out of moon gas, lol.

Legend Of Zelda:  Breath of the Wild.  Another game everyone thinks is 97%.  I think if you haven’t played many games in the past 10 years, you’d probably think it was amazing.  I thought it kind of paled compared to Horizon Zero Dawn and the Witcher 3.  Do my weapons have to break every time I look at them wrong?  And it’s 2017, it’s story and production values are very low compared to most Triple A titles.

ARMS:  I actually really like this game.  However, Nintendo’s network doesn’t work with my internet provider (PS network and Xbox Live work fine) so I can’t play it online unless I use my hotspot on my phone.  Great 2 player game.

Splatoon 2:  A game that’s pretty good but not great compared to other games in the genre.  Not as good as Overwatch online, single player is pretty limited, but it’s still probably your best online game on the Switch currently (along with Mario Kart).

Star Wars Battlefront II:  I really liked the campaign, the multiplayer though is ‘eh’.  I feel like I’m at a disadvantage every time I play because I don’t have some power up card that people who have been playing a lot have.

These are the games I wasn’t that impressed with

Assassin’s Creed Origins.  People were saying how they thought this game was so I had a lot of anticipation.  After playing it 10 hours, I actually prefer the one before it, AC: Syndicate by a large margin.  AC: Origins is just kind of boring with no really motivating characters or quests.

South Park:  The Fractured But Whole.  Loved the first game, played all the way through it and beat it.  This one though I just can’t get into, it’s a little boring.  I may get back to it later to play if I have time.

COD: WWII:  Probably the worst campaign in the past several years.  I don’t play multiplayer in this game anymore, but that aspect seemed fine in the few games I played.  The campaign was just really boring and not really that exciting.  Part of it may have been that I previous played all the COD’s that were WWII back 10 years.  This just felt like a rehash of that.

These are the games that released last year but I still played this year

Overwatch.  Still the best multiplayer shooter game on the console.  Endless fun.

Rocksmith 2014.  If you want to learn how to play the real guitar, this game is phenomenal.  I think I’ve spent like $500 on DLC for this game, and I don’t buy DLC for any game normally (only other game I’ve bought DLC for in the past few years is the Witcher 3)

Ori and the Blind Forest.  I didn’t play this when it first came out, but it’s actually a great game.  I was about 1/2 way through when I got stuck in one place and couldn’t get out.  Eventually I need to get back and finish this game.

Conclusion

Hopefully you enjoyed my Best Console Video Games of 2017.  Obviously everyone’s tastes are different, but if there’s one game you should play it should be Horizon Zero Dawn.  I also think the Switch games are overrated IF you’ve been playing games continuously the past few years (blasphemy I know).  They’re good games but only great if you don’t have perspective on how good everything else has gotten.

 

DropMix Review

0
DropMix Box
DropMix Box

Ever since the Guitar Hero and Rock Band phase fell apart about 5 years ago, music games have been somewhat scarce.  Rocksmith 2014 is probably the best music game going currently, but what if you just want to play for fun and not devote a ton of time into learning an instrument?  The new Guitar Hero and Rock Band that were released a year or two ago haven’t been very successful which is where this DropMix review comes in.

DropMix is made by the same company that worked on a lot of your music games, Harmonix.  Instead of being on a console, DropMix is an interactive Bluetooth game that syncs up with your phone or ipad.  Instead of buying DLC, you buy decks of expansion cards that add more songs to play with.

Setup

Setup is a fairly easy process.  It involves:

  • Downloading the app on your phone or ipad
  • Connecting the Bluetooth Game board to your device
  • Opening all the decks of cards for use
  • Watching some training videos (you can skip them but I wouldn’t)

Once it’s all setup, you’re ready to play.  My favorite mode so far is the score challenge, it’s fun to see if you and some friends can score the highest.  In the time I’ve played it, I’ve noticed that every time I play it I score slightly higher.

 

DropMix Empty Board
DropMix Empty Board

 

The game comes with 60 cards to start which is quite a bit since you don’t seem to use all of them every time you play, usually you only get to about 30% to 50% of them.  I’m sure that if you played quite a bit you would get to know all of them by heart but after the few hours I’ve played, I still haven’t tired of the existing deck.  Expansion decks are available like the one pictured below:

Playing the Game

DropMix is played by putting cards on a Bluetooth playing board that has slots for 5 cards.  Each of the five slots has a color(s) associated with it.  The slot colors are:

  • Yellow/pink
  • Pink
  • Pink/blue
  • Blue
  • Blue/Green

The slots that have two colors mean that you can put either color card in the slot.  Looking at the slots above, you can see that you’ll be playing a lot more pink and blue cards than the other colors.  In addition to the colors, each card has a volume level and an instrument associated with it.  During a round, the app will ask you to put down a certain instrument, color, or volume level and then it’s your job to find that card in your hand and play it in the time allotted.  It’s a little confusing the first time you play but after that it gets a lot easier.

There are three different game modes with the game.  They are:

  • Clash
  • Party
  • Freestyle

Clash

Clash is the first mode of the game.  It’s basically a 2 to 4 player VS game where you take turns placing cards on the board.  After playing this a couple times it wasn’t immediately clear to me why sometimes you got more points than others.  When you play a card, you get a point.  If that card is a white card, it sometimes has extra attributes with it that can cause points to be added or taken away, depending on what other things are going on.  The game doesn’t do a great job of animating why exactly you’re getting extra points or losing points unfortunately, you basically just have to keep playing until you figure it out.

Party

This is my favorite mode of the game.  Basically you partner with 1 to 5 people in order to create the highest score.  It then becomes kind of a coordination between you and your partners to figure who’s going to play and what.  At first it was kind of difficult but after a few games it became a lot easier.  At first you’re going to make a lot of mistakes for -1000 points as you put cards that are too low in volume over others or play the wrong color cards.  That all goes away a few games in and the music starts to come together.  When you’re playing some of the mixes that you come up with are quite entertaining.

DropMix Board with cards
DropMix Board with cards

If you like the mixes you come up with, you can save them off in the game as well.  Most of the time the vocals stand out more than anything else, some of the guitar and drum additions don’t feel like they do much.  As a result, I think I’d rather have a lot more of the yellow vocal cards than anything else.  My kids also seemed to like the vocals more than the other cards.

Freestyle

This is just a mode where you try out different combinations of cards to see what cool remix you can come up with.  I didn’t really spend much time in this mode. You can kind of do this when you first fire it up, any cards placed on the board automatically start playing.  You can save off your remixes to show friends and family, some of them can be pretty cool.  How much time you spend in this mode depends on how much you’re into being a DJ.  I made a video showing the different modes below.

 

Expansion Sets

Beyond the base 60 cards that come with the game, you can buy expansion sets for the game too.  These sets are typically priced about $1 a card, sometimes more if you buy fewer cards and sometimes less if they’re on sale.  They come in small 5 card packs and larger 16 card packs, kind of like baseball cards to a degree.  It feels a little expensive but licensing isn’t cheap either so I’m guessing they couldn’t really make it much cheaper.

Conclusion

DropMix is the best music game to come out in the past few years.  Finally something that’s a little different than playing plastic instruments.  I’m hoping that they add more modes to the app, the current 3 modes is a little lacking for longer term appeal.  I could see after the initial 4 or 5 hours you play this that it might only come out when friends come over.  However, that’s kind of like all the music based games, they’re all better with friends.

 

 

 

Gran Board 2 Review

0
Gran Board 2 Dart Board
Gran Board 2 Dart Board

I’m sure a lot of you were unaware that online darts were a thing now, I actually was unaware until a couple of months ago.  For my life, darts has been played one of two ways, either on a wooden dart board where you keep score manually or on a digital dart board where it keeps the score for you and offers a bunch of different games.  Now there are several options for online darts including the Gran Board 2, Darts Pro, and Darts Connect.  The Gran Board 2 though is the top rated of the three, there’s a reason it’s rated the best dart board.

I bought mine from Amazon, it’s pretty hard to find online sometimes.  Amazon had the best price and was in stock so it made the decision easy.  I’ve included my Amazon affiliate link below if you want to take a look at the reviews or buy it:

Gran Board 2 at Amazon

Unboxing

The box for the Gran Board 2 is fairly empty.  It comes with screws, a couple sheets of paper to help with mounting, and the board itself.  One thing to note is that the board itself has a lot larger diameter than most dart boards.  The regulation wooden dart board has a diameter of 17 3/4 inches, so the 22″ diameter of the Gran Board 2 makes it a lot harder to fit into standard cabinets.

Gran Board 2 box
Gran Board 2 box

I actually had a major issue finding a cabinet that would fit the board, in fact I had to make one as a result.  You can find how I made my dart board wall here:

DIY Dart Board Wall

I built it 4′ x 4′ to help protect the walls.  If you’ve played with any first time dart players you understand the value of making a large protection area.

One thing to note is, the Gran Board 2 only comes with 3 darts and they’re rather fragile.  Make sure you order some if you order the board or else you’ll quickly be unable to play once the darts fall apart.

It does come with mounting screws and a nice piece of paper to help mount the board up.  I used those to put it up on my DIY wall.

App and Setup

I have an iPhone so I downloaded the app from the app store and fired it up.  The dart board connected to the iPhone right away, not too hard at all.  It initially prompts you for a login account, I skipped this to start but eventually made an account.  It features a ton of games, including:

  • 12 Practice games
  • 301, 501, 701, 901
  • Cricket
  • Medley
  • Animal Battle
  • Party Modes

There are really two different awesome features, stat tracking and online.  The cool thing is that all the scores are kept on your phone, so it tracks your stats as you play.  It’s the first time you can actually see if you’re getting better or worse over time, where your holes are, etc.  It also solves the problem of not having a person to play against as there are always matches available.  I have a video below of how it all works together.

 

Playing Locally

When you’re playing locally you can play with up to 4 people.  You basically just hook up your phone or tablet via Bluetooth to the app and then start playing.  All scores and stats are then tracked on the phone.  If you don’t have an account you can just play as a guest.  Initially that’s all my friends and I did.  After a while though I finally created an account to start tracking everything.  To create an account, all you need is an email address and gamertag.  You can also add a picture if you like, I think most people online do.

Playing Online

I haven’t gotten to try this yet as of this review (I’ll update it when I do) but essentially the board uses your cell phone camera to play darts with someone else.  The mode is currently in Beta so you have to apply to be able to use it.  There are videos online of people doing it which are pretty cool.  The best part of this would probably be if one of your friends had the same dart board, then you could play darts with them without actually having to be in the same room.

Display

In addition to just displaying on your ipad, iphone, or android device, you can use an HDMI output from them to display everything on a TV screen.  This option takes the display to a whole new level, way better than anything else on the market.  I ordered an HDMI converter on my iPhone to do it, it’s this device from Amazon affiliate:

HDMI iPhone/iPad output from Amazon

I’ll try and post a video when it comes in.

Stats

The Gran Board 2 keeps a wide array of statistics for every game mode you play.  Things like points per round when playing 301, how many things you clear in cricket per round, etc.  This allows you to see if you’re improving or not as you play.

As you can see, there’s more information there than has ever been available when playing darts in the past.  The serious dart player in your life would really appreciate all this information.  Unfortunately I’m not the best player so a lot of that information doesn’t help me quite yet.  As I get better though I’m sure it will be helpful.  At the very least, it would be nice to have some historical data to look at over the years.  I took some screenshots to show the various stat screens:

Country Rankings for 301 Dart Game
Country Rankings for 301 Dart Game

"<yoastmark

"<yoastmark

"<yoastmark

Conclusion

The Gran Board 2 is the best dart board I’ve ever played on, and that’s including all the commercial ones at bars.  The stat tracking, the online play, the easy to use interface, etc all make it a fantastic package.  It’s really mind blowing how much more advanced it is compared to dart boards from a few years ago, it’s a huge leap forward that basically makes all other electronic dart boards obsolete.  Instead of just thinking you’re a good player, you can actually compare yourself to players around the world for various rankings.  Some of those guys are ridiculously good.

DIY Reclaimed Wood Dart Board Wall

0
dart board wall final setup
dart board wall final setup

If you’re looking for a dart board wall or cabinet, you’ve probably noticed that there aren’t a lot of good options, especially if you’re looking for something for a larger dart board.  Almost all the available options out there are made for smaller dart boards (less than 20 inch diameter) and almost none of them work for larger electronic dart boards.

I bought a Gran Board 2 Dart Board and it’s 22 inches across.  At that diameter, it didn’t fit into any standard cabinet I looked at.  Most of the cabinets were like this one at my Amazon affiliate link:

NFL Dart Cabinet at Amazon

Basically, too narrow on the inside to fit the dart board.  And if they were wide and long enough, often they weren’t deep enough for something like the Gran Board 2.

I finally got fed up with this and decided to make my own.  I knew that I needed to make it fairly large as I’ve seen how terrible a lot of people are at hitting the board, you usually need about a foot around the board to protect the walls.  Any less than that and you’ll end up with wall marks from time to time.

I decided to make mine 4 foot by 4 foot.  Since my dart board was 22 inches across, this would give me a little over a foot on all sides of the board to protect the walls, plus provide a nice aesthetic.  4 foot also provide a nice round number for cutting boards that normally come in 4′ and 8′ lengths, I figured that I could either cut 8′ boards or assemble 4′ boards with minimal effort and cutting.

I searched online for reclaimed wood, hoping to figure out some way to assemble the thing.  Lowes didn’t seem to have anything when I searched.  Home Depot though had exactly what I was looking for, a box of artificially created reclaimed wood for $25 a box (around 10 square feet).  I’ve linked the product below:

Weathered wood at Home Depot

I also bought an 8′ board of reclaimed wood that I used to make the cross pieces on the back.  Looking back at it, I probably could have used the same 4′ pieces from the box I linked above instead of buying a separate piece.  Probably the only advantage of the 8′ board is that it was a lot thicker than the other boards so my 1″ nails didn’t go all the way through both boards.

Once I had the wood, I went home to assemble it.  I was basically these steps:

  1. Cut the 8′ board to 47″ pieces (they have to be slightly shorter than 4′)
  2. Assemble the 4′ boards on top of the 47″ pieces to form a wall
  3. Nail the 4′ boards to the 47″ pieces to complete the wall
assembling the reclaimed wood dart board backing
assembling the reclaimed wood dart board backing
horizontal reclaimed wood wall
horizontal reclaimed wood wall

That’s it.  I included a picture of what it looks like horizontally just in case someone was thinking about doing it that way.  I have a video below that shows more:

Once the wall was assembled, it was time to go install it in my Game Room.  This is probably the hardest part of this whole deal, since you have to try and get the dart board at the right height (and you’ll want the dart board to be centered on the wall, so there’s a lot of factors in play).

installing the dart board on the wall
installing the dart board on the wall

I first put a screw in a stud to hang the dart board wall on.  This allowed me to correctly situate the wall (on the wall, lol).  Once I had it level and in the right spot, I screwed both the top and bottom into the stud in the middle.  I thought two screws (plus the one it was resting on) would be enough for my particular setup since I used very long screws, however you may need more depending on your situation.

I have a video of the final installation.

Actually after I made this video, I installed a bottom shelf with one of the 4′ pieces.  I simply just screwed it into the bottom of the dart board wall.  I can now put all the darts and other things on that ledge while playing.  Here’s a picture of it:

reclaimed wood dart board wall final
reclaimed wood dart board wall final

The dart board I have in this video is the Gran Board 2.  I highly recommend it as it connects to your phone or tablet and then uses that as a scoreboard.  Much better than any other dart board I’ve ever played plus it offers online play and a ton of other games that aren’t available normally.  You can buy it from Amazon through my affiliate link here:

Gran Board 2 Bluetooth Electronic Dart Board

Hopefully this will help you in your quest to find a nice dart board backing.  The options are pretty lacking commercially but this is a good way to do it at minimal effort and cost.  If you have any questions post a comment or email me.

Adding a Subwoofer to your Pinball Machine

0

One of the shortcomings of most pinball machines is that they lack bass in the default speaker system.  Most of the time manufacturers install the cheapest possible speaker options in order to make more money instead of trying to produce a better sounding experience.  That’s opened up the market for a lot of different aftermarket solutions including replacing the cabinet subwoofer with a much better one and installing an external subwoofer which hooks into the game.  I’m going to detail this second option today but have used both options in the past.  Let’s dive into pinball machine subwoofers now.

Parts Needed

The first thing you need is to buy an external subwoofer.  The most popular one by far is this Polk one I’ve linked below through my Amazon affiliate.

Polk Subwoofer from Amazon

Typically it’s $99 but sometimes it’s on sale, that’s the best time to jump on the deal.  Once you’ve got a subwoofer, now it’s time to get the Pinnovators kit for your particular machine.  The game I installed it on was an NBA Fastbreak, so I bought this kit:

Williams DCS kit from Pinnovators

It comes with the adapter and wiring you need in order to make this work with the subwoofer above.

Once you’ve got the parts above, you’re ready to move to the installation portion.

Installation

Depending on your machine, installation will probably be slightly different than the NBA Fastbreak I installed mine on.  First thing to do is to remove the two existing speaker plugs and plug in the Pinnovators adapter.  I have a picture of what it will look like below after everything is assembled plus the mini-jack cord plugged in.

Pinnovators Williams DCS adapter
Pinnovators Williams DCS adapter

After that is done, it’s time to route the cord.  Initially I tried to route it between the head and the body but the latch in the back wouldn’t close unfortunately.  I came up with a secondary option in the back of the head, lowering the grate at the top.  With that lowered, I was able to easily route my wire through.  Reversible and easy to do.  Once the wire is routed, you can hook it up to the subwoofer via the red and white RCA plugs.  I have a picture and a video below of the process:

Routing the pinball subwoofer cable
Routing the pinball subwoofer cable

Trying it out

Once you’ve got it installed, it’s time to try it out.  I made a video below showing what it sounds like with and without it on, there’s a pretty big difference:

I’ve also used the cabinet subwoofers in the past on multiple games.  I’m sure you’re wondering “How does this compare?”.  Well, it doesn’t, the external subwoofer sound is way better when actually using it.  However, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t drawbacks.  First, having the integrated sub makes it a more seamless process.  There’s also a little more shaking of the cabinet itself with the internal sub.  That’s about where the advantages stop though.  The external sub isn’t tied to any particular game and can be used for up to four games, which makes it a lot cheaper.  It can also be adjusted or turned off a lot easier if it’s late at night and you don’t want to wake anyone up.

Conclusion

If you’re looking to upgrade the bass in your pinball machine, there’s no better choice than adding an external subwoofer.  Hopefully you’re able to add your pinball machine subwoofer as easy as I was.  If you have any questions, feel free to email me or post a comment below.