The 404 Box

A Random, infrequent Blog

So, I've known, but recently reaffirmed that, if you own an iPhone or Samsung galaxy phone, getting a case in any form factor or customized feature is a walk in the park. Getting even a simple phone case for pretty much anything else is a struggle.

That's why I was pleasantly surprised to find, whom offer a wide selection of phone model compatibility for their custom made cases. On visiting their site you're asked what kind of phone case you'd like and are pushed to a very simple yet powerful editor in which you can upload your own photos and customize how your new phone case will look with just about every detail to your liking.

This is what I created with those tools for my Sony Xperia Z3 phone:

Each hole in the case is perfectly carved into the large one piece case to accommodate for every port or area that needs accessed on the case. One special thing to note is that they even left the magnetic charge port uncovered, meaning I can drop my phone into a dock and have it charge that way instead of plugging in via micro-USB, which is a step up from the case I had before this, which covered that feature.

The end result is a slim, form fitting case to your liking that screams whatever you want it to scream. Add in the option for free shipping (and reasonably priced quicker shipping options) you've got a pretty damn good deal going on here. I'm already planning another case to be ordered from them!

Check them out if you're looking for a custom case at and make sure to use code: CLH001 if you'd like $10 off your first purchase!

It's no shock, if you know me, that I'm not huge into online gaming. I simply prefer, for the most part, to play alone or in a 'same room' environment with friend(s) or family member(s). That's completely fine, right? In the modern world of gaming we still have single-player and multi-player games or at least sections for each within those games, so one can chose which realm they want to spend their time with. But, I've started noticing a new annoyance in every one of my gaming systems wanting to be online and persistently reminding me that my gaming friends are doing this and that, playing this game and the other, achieving, sharing, befriending, posting on leader boards and what-have-you. It's got me to the point that I miss just sitting down and playing a game for the sake of playing a game... you know... where you lose yourself in a title for hours and experience it for what it is.

To be honest, I don't need a notification every time I achieve a new silly little goal in a game. I don't need to know when every one of my friends signs into PSN, XBL, Steam or (insert other platform here). I don't need to know every time someone starts a game, I don't need to know that someone's liked something of mine via some kind of social feature built into each system. I don't need to connect my games or systems to social media sites like facebook or twitter. Hell, I don't even need to know that a download has finished or a patch is available. I certainly don't need to have an IM/email length conversation with people every time I log into my gaming platform. Lastly, I feel it completely pointless to build an ever more micro-social system into a platform that already has this. I'm looking at EA, Ubisoft and WB specifically for their login systems that require you make accounts with them to offer features like this (as well as weird useless awards based on this idea) as a separate system built into each game for you to keep track of, regardless of platform.

I find myself, more and more often, playing games on my PC or older gaming systems that have no kind of online connection requirement (OR forcing my newer ones offline while I game). This includes emulators (one good thing about fan made stuff, it's usually not trying to shoe-horn you into giving them money), PC games pre-Steam/Origin, games from (which doesn't force you into all this connected stuff) and just about anything else I can get my hands on. Or, again, I force those gaming platforms into offline mode and disable as many notification settings as I can.

AND It's wonderful. I'm enjoying games again. I'm exploring the wastelands of Fallout, dealing with the quirkiness of Advent Rising, exploding demons in (Brutal) Doom, helping Mario get to his princess and leveling up my character in Star Ocean. All while focused mainly on my game and not the notifications of whatever my systems deems important enough to take me out of my gaming zone and quite possibly ruin an experience of that game for me.

Makes me wonder though. When did gaming become more about about instant gratification, with Achievements and constant updates about everything going on in the realm of the gaming microsphere? When did we stop enjoying ourselves and care more about the above? Which brings up another point: Why does Nintendo get so much slack for holding back on adopting this model? It's actually one thing I've wondered about for a while and now am kind of proud that Nintendo has lacked some of these features in their gaming systems. I'm actually looking forward to getting a WiiU at some point and just enjoying the games without a lot of this other crap getting in the way.

So simple. Clean of notification. Just playing a game.

The name 'Sword Art Online' didn't exactly spring confidence in myself as something I would enjoy viewing. I am, after all, very picky when it comes to content I enjoy, that ringing true for anime the same as most mediums. However, during the end run of a illness that kicked my butt with a high level of success, I was left browsing Netflix for something to pass the time before sleep once again beckoned to me. SAO was chosen in a "Ehh, why not try it out" decisive click and the next two days, 25 episodes later, I'm officially a fan.

In SAO, we're introduced to Kirito Kirigaya, a gamer in the near future whom is plugging into a virtual reality MMO game on it's launch day, excited to get back into the game after participating in it's beta testing. Once he and the other almost 10,000 gamers log on and try out the system they're addressed by the game's creator whom tells them that they can't log out, if anyone tries to remove their VR headsets in the real world, they die, if they die in the game... they also die; the only way to escape the game world with your life is if one player can clear the game's 100 floors of increasingly challenging boss battles, thus completing the game.

It's not that crazy of an idea to think about, but the execution goes rather well. The character, Kirito is an interesting one as are many of the side characters he meets, teams up with or develops relationships with. It's in these relationships that the game tends to take on a stronger role than just that of a play thing. Characters start living as if this new life is their own, embracing it and giving up on the main point of the entire title itself (that of battling to become stronger and defeat the game). Some settle into roles of shop keepers, cooks, fishermen and what have you. Characters get married, start families and start living full lives... all in the realms of a fantasy world. The above aspect is incredibly interesting and I think is what pulled me into the experience. The idea of escaping into a different realm where an entire difference ecosystem exists is something I rather enjoy and find only in a few gems of universes, regardless of medium (be it books, movies, games etc). Which in of itself, is interesting too because I have yet to play an MMO game where I've felt something like that.

The story arc bugged me a little... as the entire concept from beginning to the conclusion of that story is finished in about 15 episodes, while the remaining 10 episodes, without revealing what happens in the arc of the first 15 episodes, pick up a continued story that has a different arc (yet with ties to the first). In the grand scheme of the anime's concept, it makes sense, but I question the staying power of the series if they jump story arcs that quickly. Regardless of that, I really enjoyed a lot of the characters, the themes they touched on as a series (Friendship, love, self confidence as well as death, loss and acceptance all work into it) and the connection that all made in such a short sprint of time.

I'm also excited for season 2 to finish getting made (and hopefully dubbed, as I enjoyed the English version). I nabbed a Vita game, titled 'SAO: Hollow Fragment', to help me stick with the universe until season 2 gets out, but so far, rather impressed with this series. Worth checking out :)

OMG Zombies is one of those games I seem to keep coming back to. I first found this little gem back in the PSP Mini's library and really enjoy it's unique style and strategic gameplay. I later purchased the upgraded title for my Vita and enjoyed it over once again. So of course I jumped at the idea of getting into the beta for the steam version and found myself playing it more than ever.

In OMG Zombies you take the role of a survivor/shooter, perched on top of something higher than the Zombie horde below you on a 2D single screen, encompassing the various obstacles and challenges of each map. Armed with just a sniper rifle and 3 bullets (which you can upgrade to 6 as you earn cash by completing levels), you are tasked with taking out the entire screen's worth of undead. An impossible task if one bullet equaled one zombie death, but this is where OMGZ's strategy comes into play.

Each and every zombie in the game has a chain reaction ability which helps take out other zombies around it. Some explode, some fire off gunshots of their own, others run through the level screaming (taking out others at their destination), some even melt into acid; all of which helps clear the screen and earn you the higher ranking, providing you with more cash and allowing you to beef up your abilities.

Each level has a Bronze, Silver, Gold and Platinum medal to acquire, each earning you more cash for upgrades. Don't get discouraged if you can only pull off the lower medal awards at first, it'll become easier once you've spent some of that award money on upgrades. Better medals open up more and more of the 100 levels included and you can go back any time to any level and try for a higher score; some levels being clear-able in a single shot if timed right.

Thankfully the mouse is the most precise tool for the shooting, giving you an advantage over it's previous versions (on PSP/Vita). The game runs wonderfully in windowed mode and goes along at such a pace that you can continually go back to it between browsing and chatting if you prefer (which I liked during my play for this review).

What unfolds is a game that feels a little over-powering at first, as you clamor to get even a silver medal, then opens up and gives you the upper hand as you progress, only to keep challenging you with levels that make you wonder how even 6 bullets will help you be victorious. Sometimes timing is key and you can sit there with hand on mouse for what feels like forever, trying to line up the perfect chain reaction.

Then when you've completed all 100 levels on platinum, you have the choice to start all over again in a prestige mode, in which you lose all your upgrades and must start from level 1 again. Reminding yourself just how hard it was starting out. If you're brave enough and have some serious time to dedicate to it, the game has an achievement for prestige-ing 20 times over.

The game isn't a super action romp and you shouldn't get it thinking it is. It's a strategic game that employs a very well ramped difficulty curve which makes for an engaging and addicting experience. I've enjoyed my time with it and feel it's well worth the asking price.

It's not too often I go into a game with a certain mindset or assumption of what it is and I end up playing something that unravels in a completely different way... but Gone Home has completely blindsided me in this manner and has left me impressed.

On first look, Gone Home seems to be a first person exploring horror title, not unlike titles like Frictional Games' Amnesia or Penumbra series', in which you're left to your own wit to solve puzzles and survive whatever evils are lurking around every corner. I started in on the game with this mindset and with a backdrop of a dark, seemingly empty house, raging thunder storm outside and hints at the house being haunted by it's former owner, it would seem to fit that very build. What unfolds is something far more interesting, touching and real.

One takes on the role of Katie, an every-day American girl whom has been away on a trip through Europe, returning to her families newly moved into home to find it seemingly abandoned. Dropping her baggage, I begin to explore the house, picking through cupboards, reading notes, listening to answering machines as I look around for some kind of clue as to why none of Katie's family is around to greet her. The entire house is littered with little clues to the story, items to pick up and examine, some of which work into puzzles strewn throughout. Katie reminisces when she finds things from her life growing up with her family and more specifically her relationship with her younger sister, Sam.

It's through Sam that most of the story unfolds, her audio journals speaking directly to Katie as if she was telling you the story. It's in this, that I began to suspect that the haunted house idea is indeed the 'soon to rear it's head' thing to deal with, with the death of the previous owner and the spookiness of the house is mentioned quite often. Later, secret panels, stairways and flickering lights give further suspicion and while it does indeed play a part in the over all story, it's much less than one would think. The real core of the story revolves around Sam and her life growing up in the area.

Each of Sam's diary entries bring you closer to the to final point of the entire narrative and I found myself lost in the story that unfolds as I explore the house. Sam and Katie's voice over pieces are very well done and help to add validity to this real feel of the tale. I also found myself excited to recognize items throughout the house as things from my childhood. Things like VHS tapes labeled with movies like 'Ghostbusters', 'BeetleJuice' and 'RoboCop' or the abundance of 'X-Files' references. SNES carts housing fake, but very well done mock ups of games made me smile and Street Fighter II references are made all over the place (the Chun-Li fighting combo list was extra special). All of which kind of brought me back to the past and added yet another layer of realism for me.

By the end of the game, I had spent just over 2 hours playing... which might be generous as I did explore quite extensively, making sure to read everything and listen to each audio log with great attention. It's not really the length of the game that matters though, but what feelings it stirs up and the way it gets you to weave your own visualizations of the stories that Sam unravels, which matters more. I found myself forgetting I was playing a game where I was exploring a house, concerned about spirits and other possible plot twists and instead felt as though I was reading a book that jumped around all of these experiences which Sam describes to her confidant, Katie. This, to me, is a lot more special and thus, more memorable than it would of been, had I played a game where I simply tried to survive some evil with my gaming skills.

The game's writing, nostalgic embrace and extra care to make the game about the story and the characters, rather than the player's skill to stay alive has made me a fan. I liken it to a beautiful short story, than that of a larger winding narrative and more of an experience than a full blown game in the normal sense of the word, but if you open your mind and play it for what it is, you may just enjoy it. I know I did.

I jumped into the single player campaign on Killzone Shadow Fall on my PS4 the other day on something like Chapter 6 or 7, where I find myself navigating a structure that seems to be a kind of slums for the helghan people whom are oppressed by their government.

On entering the building, I'm given the choice to make a quick button press to prevent a man from sending a bullet through his scull at the protest of his wife. I instantly act, without knowing much about this man, to remove the gun from his hand and send him falling back with a smack. I kind of smile, pleased with the fact that I was able to help him out, as he's obviously distraught by his current living situation.

However, I then make my way up some stairs to a group of people laying or sitting around, some injured. A woman pleads with me to help her save her husband, to help in any way I can, as he lays on the floor bleeding. I walk around the couple looking for a button prompt that would allow me to somehow help (like in the previous situation), then look around the area for some kind of med kit or something to help the man. There is nothing. So I stand there, large assault rifle in hand, a bit mad that there is no way to help. Then, the wife changes attitude and in anger growls about my character (and his alliance) being just like the rest, that we're scum and don't care about the little people.

I put a bullet in her head.

Her body slumped over the husbands' and I was left, both a little surprised that the developers allowed me full control of my weapon (some games would prevent that in such a situation) and then even more surprised that my first reaction to an attack on my character, even verbally, was to pop off a shot to silence it. Sure, the game is a shooter and the helghast are the enemy, but it just kind of made me think when I so quickly popped off that round, about how that rings through my core.

If nothing else, it's something to ponder about.

Ahh, so things are heating up in gaming, as both Microsoft and Sony shoehorn out their next entertainment boxes. I got my hands on my PS4... a little later than I would of liked (I blame amazon for slopping shipping practices) and haven't spent a ton of time with it just yet (thanks to work and other obligations), but have played around with it enough to give a view on it.

The UI and over all experience is snappy and generally easy to use. Sadly, I'm missing all the little options and categorical menus of my PS3. I can't (yet, they say the UI is a work in progress) organize my games, dump un-used apps (music/video - unlimited springs to mind) into a folder Im never going to look at, or bring up option menus for stuff like I use to. I hope they work on that. The PSN store is really snappy and quick (looks like the PS3 upgrade, but much more streamlined), jumping in and out of games is painless and instant, grabbing video/screens to share is just as snappy. Updates start downloading automatically and only prevent you from playing online with the game if you dont have the update applied. Installs take a mere few mins and actually impressed me with their speed. I turned off the menu music and am considering doing so for the menu chime... it's not bad, I just prefer not to have chimes/music when Im using anything (be it phone or game system). One silly thing I ran into is weird artifacting and blockiness in the menus, which a little google hunting later, I found out was an issue with my TV and not the PS4; updated the firmware of my TV (yeah... I wasn't aware that was a thing either) and everything smoothed out and worked as planned.

The hardware itself actually looks kind of sleek and I'm surprised how little space it takes up. In comparison my PS3 (Slim ver 1) looks bulkier. The touch sensitive power/reset buttons hardly look like they're there and they hide the USB ports in the bevel/crack on the front design. An LED light strikes across the actual system itself to indicate power, standby, downloads, errors etc... its not bad looking, but I wonder if it'll distract during gameplay at night. The controller is... different. Feels wider, the grips have a nice finish, but feel much diff than the DS3 (which I guess Im just use to), the sticks feel better (both the top feel and movement), Dpad and the rest of teh buttons are good. The Share/Options buttons do indeed feel a little too flush with the controller and I have found myself clicking the touch pad in the middle, thinking its the options button. Little gripes, stuff I have to get use to. Sadly the new controller uses a Micro-B USB port and thus my old DS3 controller cables aren't useful, will need to buy some new cables for charging.

I only got 2 games (the lack of Watch Dogs and Infamous pained me) at retail, being Killzone Shadow Fall and Need for Speed Rivals. Killzone looks nice, but seem to follow a more pulled back story (something akin to Mercenaries on PSV?) compared to the other 'Epic Stuff' storylines of the other Killzones. Will stick with it, see how I like it. Best looking game thus far, IMO. Rivals is alright. So far it looks and plays like other Criterion NFS games (Yeah, I know Ghosts devd it, but you can tell a lot of criterion is in it)... which isnt bad, just not new. Not overly impressed visually.

I've also downloaded Reso-Gun and Contrast, both available for free on PS+, neither of which I've gotten to try as of yet.

While I'm glad to have the hardware and excited for the future of the system, improvements to the UI and such, the games coming along; I have so few games atm to really dig into that I find myself going back to my PS3 and loading up one of the hundreds (literally) of options of I have there, be it PS1, PS2, PS3 or PSN games. Soul Calibur 2 HD just hit on that system and I'm excited to rip into that nostalgia fest.

Cool system, love the snappiness, just need some additional control over the UI and for more games to roll out.
Lets get the hell out of here any way possible

So, I'm making a conscious decision to pull back from the world of gaming in the sense of giving two shits about what people bicker about on the internet. I've been pulling back more and more over the years, cutting out forums, avoiding stupid places where people bicker about systems, comparing games and the like, but I feel like I need to pull back ever further because it just annoys me and ruins the fun of games for me.

As Microsoft/Sony join in with their new consoles for the foreseeable future, you've got PC elitist shouting profanities and putting said systems down (even before they're out), you've got fans looking forward to those systems shitting on the WiiU in a similar manner and even the small WiiU crowd digging in on things when they can.

My only question is... why?

1080p this and 60fps that, this game has better textures that game runs smoother, this port sucks, that port has cut content. Forget it, I'm done. I don't care. If a game I'm looking forward to boasts large specs and it happens to improve the game, awesome, besides that I just don't care. I'll be getting my PS4 this November, don't yet have enough confidence in the titles I've seen for the WiiU to purchase that and want nothing to do with the XB1. That's how my tastes are directing me and I'll enjoy the hell out of it my own way.

Peace. I'm off to enjoy gaming for what it is and forget the rest.
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