Monday 23 October 2017

Digital: New king of living room on the Horizon

Reviews: UPC Horizon service + this week's videogames

The UPC Horizon box
The UPC Horizon box
Papers, Please - a game for PC and Mac
Ronan Price

Ronan Price

ONE box to rule them all and with cable bind them, said Tolkien. Er, possibly not. But that's UPC's overarching ambition with its new Horizon service that connects to its fibre network to provide a triple whammy of TV, phone and superfast internet – all in one box.

The most popular bundle includes 100Mbps broadband (if your line supports it), a large selection of TV channels (some in HD) and a phone service with some free calls.

Horizon has an edge. The sleek black lozenge complements most TVs and lounge set-ups while consuming less power and spewing fewer wires than the usual TV box and modem combo.

The redesigned TV menu system isn't entirely successful. Though pleasing to the eye, it can feel counter-intuitive and annoying to navigate. A few moments of flakiness suggest the software may not be fully baked yet.

Much more impressive is the feat of recording up to four shows at once while you watch a fifth.

Equally, the ability to watch Horizon via an Android/iOS phone/tablet or on a computer gives great freedom around the house (up to two connections at once in addition to your TV). It's just a shame you can't watch it outside your own WiFi connection.

Comparisons with Sky's services are obvious. Sky does similar triple bundles but doesn't have a one-box solution. Nor can it record more than two shows at once. But you can view a lot of Sky content outside the home with an app or laptop.

UPC works out cheaper on a direct comparison but the full package may be overkill for some homes.

Horizon costs a not-insubstantial €73 a month – though new customers get a discount to €50pm for the first six months. www.upc.ie

GAMES

Papers, Please

Mac/PC

*****

STUDY the dictionary definition of 'games' and you won't find anything that describes Papers, Please. Instead, consider concepts such as the Nuremberg defence and the banality of evil.

You're a border guard at a bleak Soviet-esque border post whose only job is to scrutinise the credentials of would-be immigrants. What appears like a straightforward puzzle quickly becomes a test of your morality and willingness to blindly follow orders.

Is everything correct? Are they telling the truth? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. You have power over their life (and maybe death). Can you live with the heartbreak you wittingly cause?

Cleverly written and simply presented, Papers, Please isn't meant to be "entertaining" but for €10 you're getting a lesson in humanity.

The Wonderful 101

Wii U

****

BARMY, colourful and chaotic, Wonderful 101 springs from the same febrile imaginations that brought us classics such as Bayonetta and Viewtiful Joe.

They call it a "mass-hero action" game, which translates as controlling a swarm of superheroes in an alien-invasion plot swiped from Saturday-morning cartoons.

It echoes the play style of Pikmin but with the delicious twist that you can form your horde into shapes such as a hammer, sword or giant hand to perform special moves. The repetition quickly becomes wearying but Wonderful 101 is sustained by its novel gameplay.

Irish Independent

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