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Super Mario Run on mobile: big for fans

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The first Nintendo game on iOS, Super Mario Run, has now made its way to Android. TIANA CLINE sacrifices beach time to give it a … walkthrough?

Nintendo’s first non-Nintendo Mario game is here. Now available on iOS and Android, this Mushroom Kingdom-themed runner is everything you would expect from the moustached plumber series – a kidnapped princess, golden coins, bonus levels.

But there’s more to Super Mario Run, besides the fact that Mario, well, just keeps on running. At the same time, it’s not really a quintessential endless runner. There’s a Farmville-esque home screen (called Kingdom Builder) to restore the castle and place decorations, buildings and special items as you level up. Fast-paced online rallies through levels you’ve already completed to pick up colourful toads.

There’s actually quite a bit to do, over and above the World Tour mode which consists of six worlds, each containing four side-scrolling levels.

Each level is familiar which stays true to all the Mario games. You start in a world of pipes and blocks, continue under ground, fly through the air bouncing on giant mushrooms, escape spiky sand-dwellers and battle it out in the castle, fire included. There are ghost mansions and pirate ships, the only scene that’s missing is a flying fish-filled underwater level and I’m actually fine with that because those were always the toughest to master.

There are coins to gather, but these (from what I’ve seen) are primarily used for buying stuff to rebuild the castle. In each level, there are five pink coins to collect. Collect them all and there will more five (more difficult) purple coins to work towards. Got all five? They’re now black. This adds a lot of replayability to the levels because you not only get rewarded for hunting down all the coins (hello rally tickets!), you get to know the ins and outs which really comes in hand when competing in an online rally. And if you connect with friends, you’ll also be able to see how well they did on the different world levels.

A new update to the app means you can even play a friendly-run through with them.

Unlike other mobile runners (Temple Run is the first which pops into my head) where the speed increases in conjunction with the difficulty of the game, Mario sprints along at the same reliable, carefully thought-out pace. He does die, but Nintendo have included two back-to-life bubbles where Mario magically reappears from the ether like Glinda the Good Witch and you can pop him down where you want so he can get back to the race. Time will stand still, just don’t let him fly to the beginning of the map as you’ll definitely run out of time. You can also use these bubbles as and when you want to go back and take a different path or try for a special coin, just tap the on-screen icon.

The only movement you control is jumping. Mario can do high leaps if you press the screen a bit longer, backwards jumps with a slight swipe and wall jumps to. And you’ll have to conquer all of his acrobatic moves if you want to get through the last of the World Tour levels.

I’m really enjoyed Super Mario Run, but do I miss the secrets that you get to uncover in other Mario platformers. The mysterious pipes, magic beanstalks, being able to stop and breathe… if anything I’m still nostalgic for the innovations last seen in Super Mario Bros. 3. (Is a raccoon suit really that hard to add to a game?)

But that said, Super Mario Run does have its quirks. Connect to your Nintendo profile, for example, and you’ll be able to change the player character and download other items. And because you’re forever online (something Mario fans are not happy with) there are continuous and seasonal surprises. I had a Christmas Tree in my Kingdom and am sure more exclusives will come up with time.

And in true Nintendo-style, the Animal Crossing guilt trip which popped up when I closed a rally by mistake was almost expected. (Really Nintendo? One mistake in Toad Rally and my toads are feeling sad and don’t want to stay in my kingdom anymore? Did the 35 odd tickets I spent yesterday on rallies instead of going to the beach mean nothing to you?)

Each mode of Super Mario Run works together – you’ll need to complete the levels to earn rally tickets. If you don’t compete in rallies, you won’t pick up toads. No toads and you won’t be able to level up or place certain items. And you’ll also want the bonus toad houses and whatnot because they replenish and give you more chances at getting rally tickets.

Even when you’ve finished the worlds, something you can probably do in half a day if you just run through each one, you’ll want to go back to learn them and earn tickets. I just wish there was something more you could do with your gold coins because they build up quickly.

The only low-point with Super Mario Run is the price, R150/$10 is expensive for a mobile game. And the fact that you need to be online ALL THE TIME to play it? That also sucks. Goodbye data. I also find myself wondering if this sort of game would have been more successful if Nintendo went the micro-transactions route because, quite frankly, some of the best iOS and Android mobile games come in cheaper than Super Mario Run’s price point. And once you’ve bought the whole game, it can be over pretty quickly if you’re not competitive or collecting everything obsessed.

That said, Super Mario Run is nothing new, but it is a lot of fun. The graphics are crisp, Mario is as you would expect and the level design is brilliant, intricate and planned with the platform in mind. It’s truly exhilarating to speed through certain levels (World 4-2: Slope to Success was my favourite) while others can be tricky at times.

Overall, Super Mario Run is a good (but expensive) add-on to a franchise we know and love. Don’t love Mario? Don’t pay for the game. Rather just download the intro levels and see how you go. But if you’re a fan, you’ll really enjoy Super Mario run. Playing with one hand is only a bonus.

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Did an earthquake take out SA Internet?

Seabed avalanches caused by an earthquake could have cut several undersea cables, leading to one of South Africa’s biggest Internet outages yet, writes ARTHUR GOLDSTUCK.

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Picture by TooMuchCoffeeMan from pixabay.com

There is still no official explanation for freak breaks 11 days ago in two separate undersea cables that provide international access to South Africa’s Internet users. However, as reported in the Sunday Times yesterday, the most common causes of such breaks are damage by ship anchors and earthquakes at sea.

However, the freak occurrence of two separate cables being cut simultaneously far out at sea, as happened on the morning of 16 January, can only be explained by sea-bed activity.  One of the cables was cut in two places, and it is widely believed that a third major cable was also cut.

The cable damage mostly occurred in or near an area called the Congo Canyon, which starts inland and extends 220km into the sea. It is known for having the world’s strongest “turbidity currents”, underwater sediment avalanches over hundreds of kilometers, which are known to destroy undersea cables.

The most likely culprit is a 5.6 magnitude earthquake that struck the Atlantic Ocean near Ascension Island shortly before the cables were cut on the morning of 16 January. The earthquake occurred just before 8am South African time, and local ISPs reported losing international access from just before 10am. The epicentre of the earthquake was more than a thousand kilometres off the coast of Africa, but disturbances caused by seismic activity at sea become more powerful as they approach the coast. Combined with turbidity currents, this could well have taken out all cables in the area.

The West Africa Cable System (WACS) was cut in two places, and the South Atlantic 3 (SAT3) cable in one location. Industry insiders believe that the Africa Coast to Europe (ACE) cable was also cut, but it has not been publicly confirmed.

South Africa is connected to the global Internet via seven such cables, with a total capacity of 42.3 terabits per second (tbps).  These cables, in turn, connect to additional cables connecting the West and East coasts of Africa, with a single cable running from Angola to Brazil providing another 40 tbps.

However, it emerged in the past week that smaller ISPs in South Africa had bought capacity on only one or two cables. In a freak occurrence, two of the most commonly used cables, the WACS and SAT 3 cables, were cut simultaneously, plunging millions of Internet users into data darkness.

Customers of the major mobile network operators – Vodacom and MTN – were largely unaffected, as these tend to have both part-ownership and access to most of the cables running up both the East and West coasts of Africa.

Visit the next page to read about how ISPs have battled to reroute access, how massive resources are needed to deal with these kinds of outages, and when the ship will reach the breakage points.

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Lenovo express-delivers new range from CES to SA

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Lenovo has unveiled its new range of ThinkBook laptops, barely two weeks after they were showcased at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas. 

The company’s newest sub-brand, ThinkBook, is intended to meet the demand for more aesthetically pleasing, yet agile and powerful devices.

The new range is aimed at small and medium enterprises. According to the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA), there are more than 2-million SMEs in South Africa – although there are only 667,433 in the formal sector. This tallies with estimates in recent editions of SME Survey, produced by World Wide Worx, which suggest 650,000 active, formal businesses in South Africa. These SMEs employ about 14% of the South African workforce. 

Lenovo argues that access to affordable, yet efficient, technology is a crucial factor in aiding business success and contributing towards the success of the nation. The company has found, in its own research, that younger people prefer working, creating and communicating online “with stylish devices that make a statement”. This means they require streamlined laptops which can be used to collaborate from any remote location, to enhance productivity.

Lenovo said in a statement on Thursday night: “Backed by customer research, ThinkBook is specially designed for SMEs, who typically purchase consumer laptops for perceived design and price advantages but can no longer rationalise their lack of extended services and warranties – core needs of any business. ThinkBook allows growing firms to keep a competitive edge in attracting today’s young tech-savvy execs with trendy yet cost-effective devices. 

Thibault Dousson, general manager of  Lenovo for Europe, Middle East and Africa, said at the launch event: “With the capacity, SMEs have to grow and upskill the country’s workforce, they are perfectly positioned to bridge the gap between the public sector and large enterprise. Bearing in mind the demands of the digital economy, this sector needs skills and resources in order to compete, and that is where devices such as the ThinkBook come in.”

In South Africa, ThinkBook laptops are now available in 13-, 14- and 15-inch variants. The flagship ThinkBook 14 and ThinkBook 15 devices are powered by Windows 10 Pro and up to 10th Gen Intel Core processing, which Lenovo says combines high performance with intuitive, time-saving features. Options include Intel Optane memory, WiFi 6, and discrete graphics.

The ThinkBook 15 comes at just 18.9mm thin, while the ThinkBook 14 is a mere 17.9mm, both with FHD displays and two Dolby Audio speakers, dual-array, Skype certified microphones and a USB 3.1 (Gen2, Type-C) port.

Lenovo has also introduced the ThinkBook S series, including an elegant 13.3-inch ThinkBook 13s. The sleek and light device is constructed of a metallic finish on an all-aluminium chassis, alongside a narrow bezel display. As with the ThinkBook 14 and 15, the ThinkBook 13s also features advanced Intel processing and an FHD display, Dolby Vision and Harman speakers with Dolby Audio.

Visit the next page to read about the design and features of the new ThinkBook range.

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