The Evil Within 2 Initial Review

The Evil Within 2 is a survival horror game and the the second game in the series produced by Shinji Mikami. He is also known for creating other survival horror games like Resident Evil and Dino Crisis.

I played the first game, The Evil Within, previously. For that game, I did stop playing for nearly half a year because I just didn’t feel like playing it anymore. And when I did finish the game, I only felt a sense of relief that I finished a game but it wasn’t that memorable.

Yet, I decided to give The Evil Within 2 a try on Saturday, 6 Jan 2018, several months after it was released because I felt like playing some new games.

Until now, I have only finished up to chapter 3 and below are my thoughts so far.

Game Environment and Atmosphere

Like the first game, The Evil Within 2 has a great in-game environment. Almost every location as far as I have been to invoke the feeling of dread and trepidation.

The game also rely a quite a fair bit on foggy environment, which is not that different from Silent Hill.

The game also has a great deal amount of gore, blood, and violence. There are bodies and blood pools everywhere. All that contributes to the sense that the world is going mad. Since the game take place inside of a mind-like world and given the game title, the bodies and blood pools is quite fitting.

Game Creatures

There are different kind of enemies. Most of the time you will encounter zombie like creatures which can be quite tough to kill.

Then there are near un-killable creatures like the following that could appear during certain game moments or events.

It is usually enemies like this kind that send chills down your spine and you just want to run.

Story and Gameplay

I have not gone that far into the story. What I have experienced so far does feel like it’s been done before. It’s not that particularly interesting nor was it boring.

To tell the player a story, the game relies on flashbacks quite often. Those flashbacks show you what had happened during the in-game 3 year period and certain key moments from the first game. The transitions are very well-done. It was no different when the game attempts to move on to the next chapter. With that, the experience is not detracted in anyway.

The gameplay saw some minor changes in this new game.

For a start, weapon upgrade has changed. You get to craft items and upgrade weapons through the use of workbench. In the previous game, weapon upgrades can be done through the same menu used to upgrade your abilities when you go back to the safe room. With workbench, they are more numerous in the game world that allow you to upgrade more often. That is a good thing. With that, you don’t need to find the mirror, which serves as a portal between different areas of the game and make the jump.

The world is also more open that allow you to roam around. With that, you get to do side quests. That was something missing from the first game. With side quests, often you will get more ammunition, access to certain areas, find those locker keys, etc. The first game mostly forces you to move along a fixed path. Personally, I prefer a limited open-world setting rather than forcing you to go from point A to point B linearly. So the second game definitely is better with the current open-world implementation.

Graphics

The graphical settings are pretty much maxed out on the machine I play the game on. With that kind of settings, it did help to bring out the game atmosphere. Normally, for modern games, I would expect playing the game on 1440p will result in some choppiness in scenes with more action. Thus far, I haven’t faced any and that’s a good thing. This just show that the game engine is pretty well-polished by the game developer.

Overall

I think this game is better than the first. It is more polished, the gameplay felt that it has matured, and the characters are kind of better developed compared to the first game.

To me, this is a great example of what happens when a game studio focus on what make a survival horror game great instead of trying to appeal to a bigger market.

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Apple Magic Mouse 2 Review

It’s been more than a year since I last got the Apple Magic Mouse 2. I got it because I wanted a unified experience. It went into storage for a few months before coming out from storage again because I decided to give it another chance after using Razer DeathAdder Elite mouse for nearly a year.

Usability

I put the mouse in storage was due to its poor ergonomics. The mouse is too low and won’t be comfortable for someone to use if they grip their mouse like how one would when playing first-person shooter games. That’s how I use my mouse and didn’t know any other way.

The other issue was its capacitive touch surface. The mouse tends to send a whole bunch of signal to the computer that could cause the computer to perform a variety of unintended actions. For example, zooming on a webpage that you are reading, or having the context menu show up even though you performed a left click. If you are someone with sweaty hands, the mouse will also not respond very well.

Pricing

The price is another aspect of the mouse some of you may find fault with. For S$118, you could get a decent mice from a reputable company like the G603 gaming mouse from Logitech. Microsoft also makes equally functional and comfortable mice that cost much less like the Microsoft Modern Mouse or the Sculpt Comfort Mouse

Power

The mouse on a single full charge can last you anywhere between four weeks to six weeks depending on how often you use it. That’s a good thing. The charging method is a little unconventional and if you have the iPhone charging dock from Apple, it could make life easier. And when the mouse is on charge, you can’t use it but the charging time isn’t that long. A single charge of fifteen minutes allow you to use the mouse for at few hours.

On the topic of power, mouse like the Sculpt Comfort Mouse from Microsoft last about three weeks on two AA batteries. The only issue is you have to carry batteries with you. Gaming wireless mice are a whole different thing because of the high-powered lasers and won’t last longer than a week before needing a charge.

Overall design and size

The other good thing is its simplistic design and remains functional. If having a unified aesthetic is important to you, this mouse is for you because it matches very well with grey MacBook Pro or iMac. If you are using the new 2016 or 2017 MacBook Pro and have them in Space Grey, the mouse may look a little out of place. Gaming mice with good ergonomic don’t look that nice in my opinion.

Lastly, magic mouse 2 is small, smaller than some of the mouse I have used. That could be a saving grace too since it will fit nicely in a small carry case or even your laptop carrying pouch. But it is also not a good thing for those with bigger hands. In my case, it’s alright.

How I use it?

I have also since learned a new way to use the mouse and that’s by gripping it with my thumb and pinkie finger and the rest of the fingers rest on top.

IMG_6258

It’s surprisingly useable once you got use to the new way of holding your mouse. After you are comfortable with the new way, you can easily switch to using gestures if you enable them for your Mac or back to treating it like a normal mouse.

If you are using a MacBook Pro like me, the mouse is only useful if you want finer control like dragging stuff around in a document. If you are using a iMac, it’s the mouse that you get right out of the box. So you don’t really have much of a choice unless you decided to buy a different mouse.

Conclusion

You either hate or like it. To make any decision, you have to actually use it. But if you got it and discover that you don’t like it, you would have wasted your money. So it’s a catch-22 situation. So the general advice is this: get wireless mouse from Logitech, Razer or even Microsoft. Most bluetooth mouse should work fine with the Mac just fine.

But if you don’t mind spending the money, are willing to learn a new way to use the mouse and like the overall design of the mouse, then you should give Magic Mouse 2 a chance.

Apple AirPods Review (2 Weeks Later)

I have been using the AirPods for 2 weeks now. I brought it out with me on runs, when I go to work, when I watch movies and tv series on my MacBook and Apple TV.

So far, I have enjoyed using it though there were several times when the AirPods didn’t automatically pair and connect with my devices. Before I noticed it, I had already played music out from those device and they were blasting away from the inbuilt speakers, be it whether it’s the iPad Pro or iPhone 7 Plus that I have. It can get both annoying and embarrassing.

Other than that, the battery life is great and I hadn’t really found the need to charge that often. It’s something that I don’t have with the ATH-Sport4. I like the convenience and is definitely a good thing.

In terms of sound quality, it’s acceptable for me with its bass and mid-range reproduction. The music that I listens to have more bass and mid-range, so all good for me.

The lack of wires of any sort is both a good and bad thing. The lack of wires is good because it’s more convenient and I don’t have to worry about them getting entangle with people around me or things that I carry. It is also bad because there is nothing guaranteeing it remain secure on person and not flying off when it comes off my ears due to some kind of accident.

The AirPods are also comfortable to wear and my ears don’t feel stuffed or cramped. But that also meant that there isn’t any decent noise-cancellation. I generally hate to have to listen to environment sounds like trains chugging along, people talking or other people’s music. But that’s the kind of trade-off you have to live with. I do hope Apple release a better version of this AirPod with active noise cancellation. I believe the technology is already here for that.

Lastly, there is an occasional issue where there are crackling noises as I was using it. I suspect it could be both software and physical. By physical, I mean there are interfering signal around me like someone else’s bluetooth or radio transmitting information. I don’t know whether it is technically feasible to mitigate that, especially if it is a physical limitation of wireless technology. We are technically surrounded by electromagnetic waves ranging from microwave to light and possibly x-ray. So that’s another thing to live with.

Overall, I truly believe in a wireless future as Apple touted when they introduced the AirPods. I finally have a good wireless earphones that I feel great about, is convenient for me to use, long battery life, and has good sounds. This accessory has shown that if a company actually cares about making the world best products, cares deeply about how a user will use a product, anything can be achieved.

AIR+ Smart Mask with Micro-Ventilator Review

To deal with air pollution like cigarette smokes and vehicle exhausts, I bought the AIR+ Smart Mask with Micro-Ventilator from Watsons.

The mask is made by Innosparks, an ST Engineering Open Lab and is certified N95.

The main mask comes in a pack of three for a price of $7.90.

The micro-ventilator cost $25.90 and is necessary for effective use of the mask.

I wore the mask out when I in a non air-conditioned area like outdoors and it was helpful in a way. It was able to filter out a vast majority of the smell from second-hand smoke and vehicle exhausts. I think it has also filtered out the bigger particles associated with second-hand smoke. Overall, I didn’t feel particularly sick from walking outside and breathing in the air.

But note that I said “vast majority”. That’s because my nose is so sensitive that I was able to smell certain residual smell especially if I walked past an area which had second-hand smoke lingering around. If I’m not wrong, it’s benzene cause it’s the same smell from poorly filtered car exhaust.

During my use, the ventilator is helpful to expel moist, carbon dioxide, and heat from the inside of the mask. Without the ventilator, it actually does get difficult to breathe and very uncomfortable. The area around your mouth would most probably be covered in sweat or water vapor. It’s actually very disgusting if you think about it. I think that’s the case when you use other type of N95 mask like those from 3M, which I have never used but can pretty much extrapolate from my experience with this.

So, if you are looking for a good mask to deal with the environmental aerial toxins and smell associated with living in a dense city and you have a very sensitive nose, this mask is a pretty good investment.

Apple AirPods Review (Second Day) – Running

I took the AirPods out for a run today to see how well it works.

For once, I actually felt good going for a run with earphones because there are no wires of any sort lingering around my shoulders or neck. My previous ATH-Sport4 Earphones has pretty stiff cables that tend to get in the way when I turn or tilt my head. With the AirPods, it felt freer.

While running, I tend to change the tracks when the music being played isn’t matching my mood or tempo at the moment in time. Since I wear the Apple Watch series 2 out during my runs, I do try to switch tracks from it but the whole process isn’t smooth. To switch track via the watch, I need to bring it into view, switch app to the music player, change track before switching back to the running app so that I know how far and my pacing.

With the ATH-Sport4, there is a fast forward button that doubles as the change track button, so I will reach up and change track from there. But the buttons are behind my ears due to the way I wear it and there is a need to hold the button for roughly three-seconds before the track is changed. It’s not very ideal but it’s better.

The AirPods improved on the whole experience of track change process. Since it relies on accelerometer to detect double tapping, the primary way of interaction with the AirPods, it’s faster. Secondly, it doesn’t feel awkward.

As I go further on my run, the AirPods didn’t feel perfect enough. Due to the shape of my ears, combined with the shock and vibration that went through your body as you run, they got pretty lose. The situation was made worse by sweat. Every decameters or so, I had to shove the AirPods back into my ears to prevent them from flying out.

External noise cancellation is practically non-existent and I could hear the sound of vehicles around me, people talking, etc. But I suppose it’s not that big of an issue.

I suppose I will give it a try a few more times before deciding if I want to go back to using the ATH-Sport4 for my runs.

Apple AirPods Review (First Day)

Ever since the AirPods was announced by Apple back in 2016, I always wanted it but wasn’t sure if it would fit my use cases. I know people have qualms about the design but I don’t. I have been using earphones from Audio-technica because of their decent balance between bass, mid, treble, and price. The earphones that I owned also have decent noise cancellation and doesn’t fall out of my ears. Due to the shape of my ears, most earphones do fall out if I swing or shake my head hard enough.

So today, 25 November 2017, I decided to buy the AirPods and give it a try. I do have a wireless earphone from Audio-Technica and it’s the Ath-Sport4 model.

I bought that because I wanted a non-wired version that I can wear when I go for runs. I didn’t want the cables to dangle and interfere with my arm movements.

The Ath-Sport4 was a decent earphone for its price. The pain point that I have with it was the short battery life of three hours. I had to be very sure that I charged it full before I leave the house. I encountered a couple of times where my earphone ran out of battery while I was outside and couldn’t charge it. Not a very good experience for me.

The AirPods set me back by SG$238. Rather expensive but I suppose that’s the price that I pay for convenience. You see, I invest so much money into Apple because of their privacy stance, great products, the premium feel, and convenience. Due to the well optimize software and hardware and the tight integration, everything was as seamless as possible. It makes my life better. It reduces decision or mental fatigue.

Let me digress a bit.

Think about it. How often have your Windows PC and your myriad of devices gave you headaches because of difference in operating system, software support, connectivity, etc.?

Back to the review.

Let’s go with some pictures of the box and the actual device. I took this chance to practice taking photos of products.

Front of the box. The plastic wrapping is still on it.

Side of the box.

Back of the box.

Took off the plastic wrapping and unboxed it.

Removed the box containing the booklets and manuals reveal the actual device.

It look so much smaller than I thought and really does look like a dental floss box that I have. I love the minimalistic, white design.

I love how the top opens and snaps back. It felt so intuitive and remind me of those boxes carrying gums or sweets.

Taking it out of the box and opening the cap reveals two of the earphones. They do look kind of cute and fun, reminding me of some kind of sauropods emerging of their eggs.

Taking the earphones out, they look really weird but interesting. Fun in a way and the design is pretty minimalistic too. Love it.

So I took the earphones for a spin, pairing it with my iPhone 7 Plus and listening to some music.

I got to say, I actually like the bass and the mid-range. I don’t really listen to music with high treble and so I don’t think it will affect me that much. Generally, I like bass music.

I also paired it with my MacBook Pro and watched Netflix with it. It was decent but Netflix has this issue where the audio volume is actually softer when you are using the browser to watch shows.

The next few things I tried with the earphone was with iTunes and YouTube. So far I really love the sounds produced by the earphones.

There is another use case that I need to test and that’s running. I will update again once I test them out. For now, I don’t know whether they will fall out while I’m running. If they do, I may have to fall back to using the ATH-Sport4 when I go for runs and I won’t consider $238 that well-spent anymore.

Movie Review #1 – Kingsman: The Golden Circle

Please note that there may be some spoilers.

I went to watch Kingsman: The Golden Circle with my friends on Sept 23, 2017 at Shaw Lido. It came out in Singapore on the Sept 21. This is my quick review of the show.

Some background first. I watched the first movie, Kingsman: The Secret Service, when it came out in 2014. I loved the first show due to its over-the-top action sequence with the occasional comedic scenes. The funniest scenes were always when Samuel L. Jackson is on. In that movie, we saw Eggsy, portrayed by Taron Egerton, grew from an anti-social youth to become a respected young man capable of dishing out heavy punishment on the bad guys.

In Kingsman: The Golden Circle, we saw Eggsy as a mature agent, able to fight off his enemies with relative ease. And when he’s not fighting or on the job, he was able to maintain a cover of a young adult who has a girlfriend, hanging out with his friends in his house.

About quarter way of the show, we get to see the Kingsman wiped out except for a few survivors — Eggsy and Merlin were the only those survivors.

From then on, the movie was about the remaining Kingsmen working with Statesman, the American counterpart to stop the villain, Poppy Adams, portrayed by Julianne Moore. She’s pretty good at portraying her character’s eccentricities.

Elton John stars in the movie too as a captive and generally serve to replace Samuel L. Jackson in the sense that his scenes were rather funny.

The action scenes were like the first, over-the-top yet maintaining some sense of believability. It’s generally a fun movie. During certain parts of the show, the CGI was pretty obvious. I’m not sure if it was intentional or what. Generally CGI in most Hollywood shows have a certain polish till the point where you almost couldn’t tell the difference between real and fake.

I give the movie 4/5 stars.

Food and Restaurant Review # 1 – Hana

Restuarant

My friends and I went to the Hana restaurant located at Forum The Shopping Center for dinner on Sept 23, 2017. It is a Japanese restaurant with an integrated bar. Alcoholic drinks like beers, wine, and Japanese Sake can be ordered.

If you are going to eat there, do take note of the opening hours as follows:

Lunch: 12pm to 2.30pm

Dinner: 6pm to 9.30pm

Ideally, you should make a reservation if you don’t want to share tables with other people. The restaurant itself is also rather small and can fill up rather fast.

In terms of service, it was decent enough. The staff were friendly. Presentation wise, it was clean but not quite minimalistic.

Food

We ordered a Sashimi Platter, regular-sized, for the price of $48.

I don’t think it is worth the price since there were only a few slices of Yellowtails, Tuna, scallops, farmed salmon and spot prawn. I could get bigger portion of the sashimis in the form of Kaisen Chirashi Don for the price of ~$27 at The Sushi Bar. Freshness wise, it was acceptable.

One of my friend and I ordered the Flying Cha Soba with Maki, which cost $18 each.

It was one of the more unique dishes on the menu. One of my friend called it a gimmick, which I agree. At the end of the day, it’s just soba presented in a different way. The food itself wasn’t that particularly good or bad. The main soba sauce, despite us adding the quail egg, seaweed, and spring onion in, it was mostly tasteless. My friend went to add the fake wasabi in for additional flavor but it didn’t work. The sauce is just too bland. The other sesame-based with half-boiled egg sauce was better and added a little more flavor to the otherwise bland noodles. I didn’t get to taste any hint of green tea from the noodles though.

For drinks, I didn’t order any alcoholic drinks and I personally prefer coffee over anything else. So I ordered a cup of ice Americano for $5.

The first sip gave me a good coffee kick. I quite like the taste of the coffee as it has the right balance of bitterness and sourness. Comparable to the Cold Brew I always order from Starbucks.

Conclusion

The final bill was $142 for three person, which I would say is on the slightly more expensive side. If you are nearby, want to eat Japanese food, and don’t mind paying a little more, you can go there. I haven’t try the other dishes, so I don’t think it would be fair of me to outright reject that place. For me, I don’t think I will go out of my way just to eat there. There are other better restaurants around Orchard Road.

Daily Journal – Jun 30, 2017

This is my 90th journal.

I don’t really want to talk about work today. So I will skip that. Instead, I will focus on reviewing ramen.

My friend opened a ramen stall at Yue Hua Foodcourt at 108 Depot Road. The stall is called Tsubame Ramen. You can check out the Facebook page here.

As this is a store in a food court where the highest costing ramen is around SG$6, I’m not expecting restaurant standard.

For a start, the broth is especially important in a bowl of ramen and then follow by the noodles.

I ordered the King Shoyu Ramen, which is one of the signature dish. Here it is.

Being a Shoyu Ramen, I’m expecting the broth to carry a salty taste. It delivered but not to the point where you need to gulp down tons of water. But it’s still pretty salty (I mean if I can taste it, it’s pretty salty), therefore it is not for everyone.

As explained by my friend, it cost money to make a thick broth that’s rich in flavour. So she tried to find a decent balance between cost and quality. I applaud her effort. 4/5 for the broth.

Next is the noodle. At the start, the noodle is rather tough to chew. Considering that I have some issue with my jaw caused by previous d wisdom tooth extraction, I had some rather difficult time. However, after a while soaking in the broth, the noodle softened. Only then, I find it enjoyable. My friend explained to me that because the noodle can become extremely soft when left in the broth for too long and if she cook it any longer. Therefore, she only cooked it for a few seconds. It is to ensure the quality for people ordering ramen to go and don’t eat it immediately. 4/5 for the noodle.

For SG$6, there are four pieces of braised pork belly that is well cooked. However, as I’m someone who prefer a stronger tasting braised pork belly, I didn’t find it exceptional. I personally prefer the braised pork belly from Menya Sanji Ramen located at Orchid Hotel along 1 Trans Link. But then, Menya Sanji Ramen cost up to $15 including GST. So 3.5/5 for the pork bellies. The lava egg was a good attempt but for that kind of price, you can’t really complain. 3.5/5 for the lava egg.

If you do live around Depot Road or if you are in the area, do pay Tsubame Ramen a visit.

Here I conclude my journal for today.

Ogon Designs’s Stockholm V2 Smart Wallet Review

My original leather-based wallet was falling apart after one year.

So last Sunday, which is the 4th of June 2017, I decided that it was time for me to get a new one. This time, I wanted a more minimalistic, hard wallet. In a leather wallet, my cards tend to end up bent, which I dislike. In addition, with the increased use of contactless cards, preventing RFID scanning is important. I don’t want the possibility of having money deducted from my card without me knowing, although in Singapore, it is pretty safe.

But it does pay to be safe than sorry.

I went looking around online and found a company, Ogon Designs, which makes aluminium wallets. After browsing their catalogue, I found what I want and took an immediate liking to the Stockholm V2 Smart Wallet.

According to the company, the wallet itself is designed and made in France, which I thought is interesting, especially the latter. Most products these days are made in China and tend to be of a lower quality. Generally, I would prefer products that are made in their country of origin or in countries where the culture is such that the people is attentive to details and perfection. So without considering further, I ordered it from the website. It cost me about SG$137 and that included the DHL Express shipping fee.

The wallet arrived in Singapore on Friday, 9 June 2017, in a small brown box. Opening up the box revealed the wallet itself sitting in the middle of bubble wrap and white foam.

Here you can see the wallet itself encased in a clear case wrapped in plastic. I supposed the plastic case is to protect the aluminium body from scratches and dents.

Once you take the wallet out, it felt solid and compact in your hands. I love the black finish with the grooves along the front and back. The wallet is small enough that it actually fit in the palm of my hand. For an aluminium wallet, it felt light too, comparable to the leather wallet that I used.

Opening up the wallet revealed a small booklet with the OGON title in one of the slot. The interior was well-made and didn’t felt cheap in any sense.

Once you take the booklet out, you can see the wallet allows you to put up to six cards, which is fine by me as I don’t really have that many cards.

Although the wallet allows you to put cash in it, it wasn’t very feasible, especially in Singapore due to the use of polymer banknotes. It’s hard to fold those notes and if you have a lot of those, you will have a hard time closing the wallet. However, with Singapore moving towards being a cashless society, I supposed it is fine for me. Besides, I also rely more on my cards to make payment. Cash are only used at food stores in Singapore which still rely heavily on cash. Side Note: I’m personally not very happy with that.

But if you do need a bigger wallet to hold your cash and cards, then I suggest you get the Big Stockholm Wallet.