Digital: The big screen with a small price
Review: Huawei Ascend G510
The Android platform runs the gamut from sleek and powerful superphones to youth-friendly little waifs – spanning all points in between.
Unlike the closed world of iPhone – two choices, like it or lump it – Android offers myriad options for all budgets.
What's more, features from the expensive high-end mobiles often migrate down the line to the more affordable phones. The only practical difference in some cases is that the build quality at the low end can't compare.
Chinese maker Huawei made a splash with its debut budget series, the Ascend G300, a fabulous piece of kit that gave established rivals a run for their money.
Now it's back with the Ascend G510, an attempt to muscle in on the trend for huge screens.
But this is a less-assured assault on the big boys. The slightly anonymous design resembles a Samsung Galaxy S2 (or, at a squint, an iPhone) but at least has been solidly constructed around its sizeable 4.5-inch screen.
More problematic is how Huawei has modified the standard Android software.
Opting for an iPhone-like grid of all apps/folders isn't as attractive that of other Androids.
But Huawei's tinkering itself seems to have slowed Android considerably.
Launching and switching between apps can take several seconds. Most operations feel a tad sluggish.
Along with its decent screen, respectable camera and reasonable battery life, the Ascend G510's best asset is, naturally, its price. At €150 on pre-pay or free on contract (both Vodafone only), it's the most-affordable big-screen phone around – just not a very fast one.
Google Street View is a good candidate for one of the modern wonders of the world, but wait until you try Hyperlapse, which enables you to string together a journey on Google Maps as a video.
It needs a fast computer and a modern browser such as Safari or Chrome – but the results are amazing.
Fire Emblem: Awakening
Now in its 13th instalment, the tactical Fire Emblem series – in the same vein as Advance Wars – has rarely made it outside its home turf of Japan.
But Awakening must be lucky 13 because this 3DS title delivers a rich strategy game, layered with humour, pathos and beauty.
Rather like a portable version of Lord of the Rings, you command a raggle-taggle bunch of characters on a quest to save a peaceful land from war and protect the titular emblem.
The storyline may be a little hokey, but the turn-based strategic combat places great emphasis on the interaction between characters. You're encouraged to build their relationships (to the point where some will get married) with the reward being that they assist each other in battle.
And what battles. The enemy ruthlessly targets weaker members of the party, so strategic positioning becomes vital as the difficulty ramps up.
Inventory management is cumbersome and – in a graphic oddity – none of the characters seem to have feet. But Awakening is an addictive stew of strategy and story.
Clearly inspired by noirish sci-fi such as Blade Runner, GR reboots a PC point-and-click adventure for the iOS generation.
It looks like something out of the 1980s too, all retro eight-bit graphics and hidebound conventions of verb+object interaction.
But fully voiced by a good cast, it spools out a cyberpunk-fuelled yarn and reels you back in with a mix of puzzles, shooting and exploration.
Modern gamers may be bemused by its old-school design, but beneath its rough surface lives a compelling experience.
From a developer known for its surreal (um, barking mad) wit, Battleblock Theater ladles on the absurdity with a trowel.
Your avatar is a weird little puppet stranded on an island ruled by evil cats. Quite.
Aside from the genuine laughs, BT serves up a hectic but clever platformer that sees you competing or cooperating to reach the end of the anarchic levels. Breathless fun, beautifully done.