Tuesday 26 September 2017

Digital: Wire-free speaker corners the convenience market

The iFrogz Boost Plus speaker
The iFrogz Boost Plus speaker
ZAGGkeys ProPlus iPad keyboard
The Cave - videogame on Wii U, PS3 and Xbox 360
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

Convenience is king for most people. Low-quality MP3 won over high-fidelity CD replacements such as DVD-Audio. Streaming video kicks the ass of Blu-ray. Hell, we even tolerate horsemeat in our convenient ready meals.

OK, maybe not the last one.

So when you're seeking a portable speaker for some quick tunes, maybe sound quality isn't an issue. Maybe pure ease of use and minimal fuss scores highest.

With the iFrogz Boost Plus, there's no mucking about with cables, no laborious Bluetooth pairing, no incantation of oaths.

This small portable speaker requires nothing more than for you to lay down your iPhone or Android (or, realistically, anything with its own speaker) on top of it.

The Boost Plus instantly amplifies the audio by a factor of two or three times, without much distortion. Clearly, you're not getting studio-grade tunes here. In fact, it sounds a little tinny and liable to pops and clicks.

But hey, check that convenience. The €55 Boost Plus runs off AA batteries or USB power, plus there's a line input if the whole near-field amplification thing doesn't rock your world.


Plenty of people love their iPads but most hate typing on them. A protective case with a built-in keyboard is a sensible idea and the choices are legion. Me, I'd go for one of Logitech's wide range.

But the new ZAGGkeys PROplus (points deducted for murdering the English language already) has a distinguishing trick: backlit keys. In most other ways, it's identical to the Logitech Ultrathin Keyboard Cover.

Built of a solid slice of aluminium, the €130PROplus doesn't protect the rear of the iPad and detaches far too easily when set up for typing.

Still, the typing experience is good (except for the tiny delete key) and if working in dark rooms is your thing, go for it.

But Logitech gives you more or less the same for €30 less.




The Cave


Wii U/X360/PS3 download

You young 'uns mightn't remember the name Ron Gilbert, but you've probably heard of The Secret of Monkey Island and Maniac Mansion, games from the late 1980s and early 1990s that defined the adventure genre.

Gilbert teams here with his spiritual heirs at Double Fine, helmed by the equally legendary Tim Schafer.

Even though The Cave fails to capture the heady days of Gilbert and Schafer's finest hours, it still sparkles with enough wit and invention to be worth a whirl.

Seven adventurers explore a sentient cave hiding dark secrets about itself and themselves. A droll voiceover sets the tone with its snarky humour and, even though the platforming and puzzles revolve around far too much laborious fetching and carrying, there's plenty to get your teeth into.

Each play involves only three of seven adventurers, so some replay value is built in, though your patience for the repetitive legwork may wane.

Table Top Racing



We’d expect big things from the people who help bring us PlayStation classic WipEout, but Table Top Racing is a little more generic than hoped.

A Mario Kart clone with a dash of the miniaturisation of Micro Machines, TTR dresses the part, with shiny toy cars careening around domestic situations (tables, BBQs, etc.

But it's short on content (only eight tracks) and lacks fresh ideas of its own at a risky iOS price of €2.50. Still, though, TTR ekes enough from a well-worn idea to justify a punt.

Skulls of the Shogun

X360 download


A neat attempt at the age-old turn-based strategy wargame comes unstuck in the modernisation of the usual conventions.

Going into battle with a powerful samurai and his acolytes looks visually pleasing with plenty of options, but in the heat of the skirmishes it gets bloody hard to tell what's going on.

The visual clutter detracts from the sheer playability and sarky humour of SotS. But as it's a rare entry in the strategy genre on Xbox, we can cut it some slack.

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