Console commandos

Console commandos
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First Published: Tue, Apr 14 2009. 08 48 PM IST

Updated: Tue, Apr 14 2009. 08 48 PM IST
Just in case all those books, news reports and films on global warming haven’t jerked your conscience into action, here’s your chance to chip in and save planet earth. A slew of new computer and console games, complete with interesting graphics and sound effects, have taken this very grave and real threat and transformed it into a living experience. We take a look at five games that have broken the mould and brought into action the environment, the planet and the very apparent threat to life itself.
Flower
From a “video-game version of a poem” to “feeling the breeze”, Flower is one of the most difficult games to describe. Instead of weapons, cars or city creation, it takes you into the life of a flower living precariously in a small pot on the ledge of a high-rise metal and glass building. You need to take control of a petal, guiding it towards dry, desolate and degraded expanses, all of which transform into meadows and valleys full of life after coming in contact with the petal.
The theme is simple—making human progress and nature coexist is difficult, but the effort is worth life itself. Unlike An Inconvenient Truth, Flower doesn’t preach; it just lets you experience the beauty of nature that was once in perfect harmony with humans.
Available on: PlayStation 3.
flOw
flOw doesn’t let you forget that life on earth started from the oceans. In this game, you take control of a geometric aquatic microorganism, guiding its path through the depths of the ocean as it looks for prey and evolves into a more complex entity.
But it’s not all about eating and swimming. As you help the microorganism evolve, you need to save it from faster and larger organisms hidden in the deep crevices of the ocean floor. Unlike most action-packed adventures, flOw isn’t about how fast you move about, but how smartly you do. As the game progresses, you need to control an increasingly complex life form that needs more food and must survive competition. The trick is to keenly observe other life forms and defeat them to ensure that you live.
The lesson here is simple: It is easy to wreak havoc on the delicate balance that ensures life, but maintaining that balance requires a whole world of work.
Available on: PlayStation 3 and for the PC.
Fracture
Here’s the situation: The ocean level is rising and super storms are raging across the earth. The US has been divided into two—by the waters of the Pacific and the Atlantic. It gets complicated from here on: While one side is concentrating on developing technology, the other is busy augmenting the human genome. With xenophobia and uncertainty taking over the planet, it’s not long before war erupts. At this point, you need to take control of Sergeant Jet Brody, an Atlantic soldier sent to fend off the Pacific factions.
While the end-of-the-world scenario isn’t unusual for “shoot ’em up” games, Fracture, unlike previous titles, lets you maul and kill Pacific soldiers with a gun that doesn’t shoot bullets. Instead, it changes the terrain. This means you can raise a patch of land to reach higher areas, or simply move the ground beneath your enemy’s feet.
Apart from that, though, the camera views and player control retain the feel of fighting on a dying planet.
Available on: PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360.
PowerUp
This online world takes the environmental message to the extreme. Built for children and teens, it’s a peep into a world which is precariously low on power and where polluted air is threatening the very existence of humanity. Like all heroic exploits, you need to enter the world and learn how to harness the ailing wind- and water-based power plants in order to make the planet in-habitable again.
Built by IBM and the TryScience project team at the New York Hall of Science, PowerUp leverages the power of the Internet to spread awareness about the environment.
Available on: To download, visit www.powerupthegame.org
Fuel
Set in an alternative present where the environment has been destroyed by excessive fossil fuel consumption, Fuel takes you into a racing zone where you must drive through rusting industrial environments ravaged by tornadoes, sandstorms, thunderstorms, torrential rain and glaring sunlight. Unlike other games, there is no fixed track and top-of-the-line cars just don’t exist any more. You have to make do with rugged, home-built two- and four-wheelers trying to beat other players at death-defying stunts and of course, looking for alternative sources of fuel. The lack of any track means that you are let loose in a world that is effectively over 14,000 sq. km in size, covering everything from tsunami-ravaged coastlines to stripped-bare treacherous mountain paths. But it’s not just about the ugly landscapes and a constant push of the throttle.
In Fuel, the weather affects the racing so severely that you need to strategize with every little change in order to beat the competition.
Available on: PC, PlayStation3 and Xbox 360 in May.
LISTEN
Unlike Apple’s iPod, SanDisk’s new slotRadio player comes with a micro SD card that has been preloaded with 1,000 songs arranged into various playlists, including “workout” and “chill out” modes. It has a 1.5-inch Oled screen, an FM radio and basic control functions. While you own your music, your songs are locked to the card so you can’t play your tunes on non-Sansa-approved devices. The slotRadio provides up to 13 hours of music playback. ©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
WATCH
Garmin is releasing the 310XT ($400 with heart monitor), an update to its Forerunner 305 GPS Watch. It has a built-in GPS receiver and an optional heart-rate monitor. It is waterproof till 50m, which means it can take part in the swimming portion of a triathlon. This newer model has improved calorie consumption measurement software as well as a “virtual partner”, a program that simulates running with—or against—a partner of similar fitness and speed. The watch can beam exercise information wirelessly to your computer, allowing you to map workouts on a Mac or PC. ©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
HEAR
Need a neat looking, no frills, affordable speaker dock for your iPod or iPhone? Check out the Logitech Pure-Fi Express Plus (Rs5,995). Portable and lightweight, its omnidirectional acoustics deliver fairly decent audio. Bare bones functionality only allows for an alarm clock with a large luminous display. You won’t find any AM/FM radio here. A tiny remote tweaks volume, play/pause, etc. Plop in 6 AA cells to get 9-10 hours of power—when you want to lug the device outdoors or for that impending rafting trip/picnic. Ashish Bhatia
KNOW
Both Stand By and Hibernate are power-saving modes that put the computer to “sleep” without fully shutting it down. Although it turns off the monitor and hard drive to conserve energy, Stand By keeps programs and files open on the desktop and in the PC’s memory. Hibernate needs a chunk of hard-drive space to work because it saves an image of all the open programs and files to the disk before turning the computer off. Because of this hard-drive activity, it takes longer to get into and out of Hibernate mode than Stand By, but your work is safer and the computer saves more power. ©2009/THE NEW YORK TIMES
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First Published: Tue, Apr 14 2009. 08 48 PM IST
More Topics: Console | Computer games | flOw | Flower | Fuel |