Sunday 21 December 2014

Digital: Sibling rivalry can pay dividends

Review: Samsung Galaxy S3 Mini and Nokia Lumia 820

Published 22/02/2013 | 21:32

Little brothers, they're just annoying, right? Always unable to keep up, always too small, too weak. But we grow up and we usually realise they're not so bad. They have their uses.

Two such little brothers have just launched on to the mobile market: Samsung's Galaxy S3 Mini and Nokia's Lumia 820.

No prizes for guessing the Samsung's lineage. But while it inherits some of the features of its best-selling, iPhone-challenging sibling, the Mini feels like more of step-brother Android.

Its very existence is at least an admission that the giant screen of the S3 isn't for everyone. But it's more likely Samsung just wants to capitalise on the goodwill surrounding the S3 name at a cheaper price.

With a slower processor, a smaller, lower-res screen and a distinctly ordinary camera, it starts to sink back into the pack of the affordable mid-range Androids.

It's not that the S3 Mini is a |bad phone, it’s just a fairly average one that doesn't yet run the latest version of Android.

It costs, for instance, €90 on a €40 18-month contract with O2 or €360 on pre-pay.

Nokia delayed the full Irish launch of its latest Lumias so it could serve the UK market first. Two months late, the 820 arrives with its gigantic brother the Lumia 920.

Both run Windows Phone 8, which has done little to threaten Android and iPhone despite its elegance.

The 820 is much more hand-friendly than the huge, heavy bulk of the 920 but it still feels too weighty and a little anonymous compared to its latest rivals.

Performance-wise, though, it's much closer to the 920 than the Mini is to the S3. The screen and camera aren't in the same league but most people will be satisfied.

The Lumia costs €120 on a €40 18-month O2 contract, for instance, or €440 on pre-pay.

www.samsung.com/uk

www.nokia.ie

 

GAMES

Dead Space 3

****

X360/PS3/PC

The greatest terror comes from what you can't see, at least in my book.

The first two instalments of the Dead Space franchise — a gaming take on James Cameron's Alien — became less and less shy about throwing waves of gruesome monsters in your face.

DS3 abandons almost all pretence at tension-building and drags the player on a rollercoaster ride through dimly lit post-industrial corridors filled with murderous creatures.

With that decision, the scares of the earlier games have lost their power and now it's only a matter of when, not if, you'll be surrounded, rushed or jumped by the demons.

It remains an enjoyable experience, bolstered by a smart co-op campaign and some à la carte weapon construction.

But, drained of its terror, it's more akin to Call of Duty in space rather than the survival horror of its Lovecraftian origins.

Scribblenauts Unlimited

Wii U/Nintendo 3DS

***

The joy unconfined of the Scribblenauts universe is the ability to conjure almost any object into being to help the hero solve puzzles.

The game's dictionary includes tens of thousands of items from aardvarks to zoologists and the more creative you are the better.

Unlimited takes a step backwards — despite the title —murdered, in that many of the riddles require ridiculously simple solutions that take seconds to execute. Outrageous suggestions will often fail, unlike before.

That said, the artistic freedom to just mess about wondering what a “constipated hippo” or an “angry fork” would look like is difficult to resist.

Picross e2

Nintendo 3DS download

***

Six years after the original Sudoku-variant puzzler was released to acclaim, here's the same game with a new set of clothes but little else fresh.

Using Sudoku-style numeric clues, you fill in a grid of squares that form an image when completed. Er, that's it. Barely any effort has gone into the 3D effect.

Those who like their knotty number puzzles will find plenty of entertainment but as a concept Picross could do with a jolt of electricity on the creative front.

 

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