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Archive for November, 2011

Review of Active Life Magical Carnival for Wii

Active Life Magic Carnival by
Platform: Wii
Rated:E
3 of 5 stars – Not nearly as good as Active Life Outdoor Adventure or Active Life Explorer.
by ,
Written on November 30, 2011

For those of you who watch Star Trek movies, you’ll recognize a phenomenon where every even-numbered movie was a huge success, while every odd-numbered movie was a dud. With the Active Life series, Namco seems to be following a similar pattern. The first Active Life game, Outdoor Adventure, was a groundbreaking title that was among the first to introduce “fun” active kid’s gaming to the Wii. The follow-up, Extreme Adventure, was by most accounts a sub-par game. The third title, Explorer, was once again a fantastic game, full of imaginative use of the mat controller.

With Active Life: Magical Carnival, it feels that the series is running out of gas a little bit again. It’s a collection of 24 mini-games. I’ve grown to become very suspicious of games that jam in as many mini-games as possible, as if the game publisher were hoping that more quantity would make up for less quality. I get that impression here.

Like the other Active Life games, this one uses a special floor mat controller from Namco that you plug into the Gamecube connectors of the top of the Wii. The mats work similar to mats used by Dance Dance Revolution, but are not compatible.

With this game, you enter a virtual theme park. Various games support 1, 2, or 4 players. Unfortunately, as with previous Active Life games, all the players have to squeeze on one controller and/or take turns playing; there’s no way to use two controllers. With small kids this isn’t a problem, but with grown-ups it starts resembling a bad game of Twister.

You can play an “adventure mode” which isn’t much of an adventure, you just play as many different activities as you can to fill up a sticker booklet which will make your park more “popular”. Or, you can play each of the mini-games individually. As with previous Active Life games, you can play as your Mii (they’ll attach a weird looking human body to it), or as one of their default creepy characters with the Little Orphan Annie lack of eyeballs.

Here are all the mini-games, broken into five different “Zones”:

Fantasy Zone:

1) Flying Carpet (up to 2 players). Here, you get on your hands and knees and press buttons to steer or accelerate a flying carpet, similar to Aladdin. This one is hard on the neck, as you need to really strain your neck to see the TV.

2) Magic Lesson (up to 4 players). This is a pattern matching game like “Simon” where you have to memorize sequences of buttons given to you by a magician.

3) Ballroom Dancing (up to 2 players). This was a game where you have to press certain buttons with your feet in time to a waltz beat in a ballroom strangely reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast. Not a bad concept, but the execution isn’t great–the music is terribly non-distinctive, which means there’ll be a lot of trial-and-error before you get it right.

4) Flying Broom (up to 2 players). Once again you’re flying through the air chasing a fairy, reminiscent of Tinkerbell. You need to have good reflects to press buttons to turn or to avoid walls.

Haunted Zone

1) Monster Panic (up to 2 players). Here’s another game where you’re kneeling on the floor and have to press buttons to flip switches.

2) Haunted House (up to 2 players). Finally, a game that uses the mat controller for walking. You need to tiptoe through a haunted house to avoid waking up ghosts, and then avoid obstacles by running or jumping. This one came closest to what the Active Life series should be all about, although some of the obstacles seemed frustratingly random.

3) Who’s the Ghost (up to 4 players). An interesting “spot the intruder” game where you have to memorize a group of Miis in the room. The screen goes blank and then you need to spot who wasn’t there before and press on the appropriate mat button.

4) Ghost Hunder (up to 2 players). This is a “Ghostbusters” type game where you use the Wii remote to snag a ghost and then press the square buttons with your feel to “reel it in”. The concept was done before and much better by Nintendo in Wii Motion Party.

Circus Zone:

1) Ball Balance (up to 2 players). Another button-stomping game where you need to match random sequences of buttons in time to stay balanced on a ball. Very similar to other games in the previous Active Life games.

2) Trampoline Tricks (up to 2 players). Another button stomping game where you need to jump and then mash the correct sequence of buttons before you land. This one has also been done, but I do appreciate the use of the mat controller in this one.

3) Rope Crossing (up to 2 players). You’re on a tightrope and need to balance yourself using the Wii remote and walk by pressing the square buttons. Again, I do like the use of the mat controller for this, but conceptually the concept was done better in Wii Fit Plus.

4) Giant Swing (up to 2 players). This is another timing/reaction game where you need to jump on the right set of two buttons with precise timing to get your player to go from swing to swing. This one was an exercise in frustration, as it took a long time to get the timing right.

5) Lion Show (up to 2 players). A game where you have spot the pattern by which a lion is charging you and crouch (by standing on the square buttons and holding the top arrow buttons) or jump accordingly. Not a great game for people with big bodies.

6) Spinning Wheels (up to 2 players). A game where you basically run in place and jump when you see clowns in your way. Another exercise in frustration, and the clowns will come out of seemingly nowhere.

7) Motorbike Challenge (up to 2 players). A game where you steer a motorbike in a cage by standing on the square buttons. The more balloons you collect, the better you’ll do.

8) Clown Show (up to 2 players). A rather incongruous activity where you can string up to three random activities under “Circus Zone” together.

Carnival Zone

1) Hammer Strike (up to 4 players). Here, you mash the blue button as much as you can, which will dictate the force by which your hammer swings to ring a bell. This was decent, although the use of the game pad seemed forced–this (as well as all the carnival games) would have been much better just using the Wii remote.

2) Frog Jump (up to 4 players). Another game where you get on your hands and knees and swing a hammer by pressing on the blue left button to try to get a frog to jump onto a moving lilypad.

3) Balloon Maker (up to 4 players). A carnival game where balloons will inflate, and you need to stop the gas flow before the balloon pops. This was was fun, but again the Wii remote would have made infinite more sense.

4) Ball Rolling challenge (up to 4 players). A well-executed game where you roll a ball onto a curved rail and try to use just enough force that it ends up in the designated spot.

Pirate Zone

1) Chase the Monkey (up to 2 players). A running game where you run in place on the mat and jump to avoid obstacles in your pursuit of a runaway monkey.

2) Bomb Panic (up to 2 players). A “hot potato” game where you press a button on the mat to pass a ticking time bomb to the next player.

3) Pirate’s Duel (up to 2 players). A game where you press the up arrow and down arrow that’s displayed on the screen with the proper timing to defect a sword wielding pirate.

4) Pirate Adventures (up to 2 players). A game that uses a lot of different controls. Run in place to climb up a mast and run, step on the square buttons to turn a wheel, and mash a bunch of random buttons to prevent skeletons from boarding the ship. This was a fun one, very similar to the “runaway train” game from Explorer, although there were times the controls weren’t as responsive as I’d have liked.

From an aesthetic perspective, the game is pretty and colorful. From a gameplay perspective, the controls are pretty responsive. And if you have multiple kids in the house, this is still one of the stronger multiplayer games out there.

The biggest beef I have with this game is that it just seems to lack the imagination that made #1 and #3 so strong. Many of the games are weak copies of other games that have been done elsewhere on the Wii. And virtually all the gameplay involves fairly and contrived generic button mashing that doesn’t feel very natural and/or is a thinly veiled imitation of what’s already been done in previous Active Life games, just in a different environment. I would have hoped that with new evolutions of the Active Life series would come new and innovative ways to use the mat and truly bring “active gaming” forward. Instead, it feels like a rehash of everything that’s been done before.

Not only are there practically no new ways of using the mat, as I pointed out multiple times above, in certain cases the use of the mat is almost superfluous–the same game would have been much stronger using the Wii remote.

I also get the strong sense that the game developers were trying more to play “catch up” with other games. The theme-park concept is being done right now in Kinect Disneyland Adventures for the Xbox and Carnival Island on the Playstation. There’s even a part of this game where you “take your picture”. Of course, the Wii doesn’t have a camera, so the “picture” that’s taken is of your avatar. There’s a clown that says “Ha Ha, You look so ridiculous”. It might as well have said “Ha Ha, our developers are trying to copy the photo-taking capabilities of the Xbox and PS3 on a system with no camera”.

This is sad in a way, because I think the mat controller that Namco introduced is a very strong one whose potential hasn’t even come close to being fully tapped and which can accomplish gameplay that the Wii remote, Balance Board and even the Kinect and Move can’t.

I will say that if you already have a mat and have enjoyed the first three games, at $29.99, this is a relatively cheap way to extend the use of your mat. But if this will be your first Active Life game, I would definitely recommending skipping this one and going with either Outdoor Life or Explorer. While I’d easily stand by my earlier ratings of both of those games of 5 out of 5 stars, with this one I can only muster a 3. It’s OK, but not earth-shattering.

Thoughts on the Playstation 3D Monitor – Announcing 3DPlaystation.Net

One thing I’m very excited about is the release of the new Playstation 3D Display. So excited, in fact, that I’ve started a new blog called 3DPlaystation.Net.

I won’t be updating it as often nor as fastidiously as PS3Fitness.Com, but I figured it was a good place to share my thoughts on the new 3D hardware with those of you who might be interested. Feel free to swing by and share your comments.

I did get a chance to play Medieval Moves: Deadmun’s Quest and the demo for Happy Feet 2 in 3D, and I have to say that it is a phenomenal experience. If you’re planning to install a PS3 for fitness in your workout room/den, that monitor is just about the perfect size for it.

Okay, enough 3D talk…back to the fitness games 🙂

Wii vs. Xbox 360 vs. PS3 – The 2012 Edition

One year ago today I published my comparison between the Xbox Kinect, the Playstation Move, and the Wii based on my early experiences with the systems. I thought it might be a good time to give an update, especially with Christmas approaching.

I’ll use the same grading system I used a year ago.

Technology:
Wii: C
Playstation Move: A
Kinect: A

I had to dock the Wii a letter grade for technology. In a world where the PS3 and Xbox are both doing cool things with video and motion detection, the Wii seems almost passe nowadays. Nintendo is not sitting still, and they’ll be releasing the Nintendo Wii U in 2012, which will greatly boost the processing power but still remain backwards-compatible with the Wii.

Graphics:
Wii: C
Playstation Move: A
Kinect: B

In terms of the sheer beauty of the graphics, the PS3 still reigns supreme in its crisp and clear 1080p output. As the only console with Blu-Ray disc support and 3D game play, it’s still the one to beat.

Games:
Wii: C
Playstation Move: D
Kinect: A

This was the biggest shift in ratings from last year. In 2011, it seems that innovative game designs for the Wii simply disappeared. And the number of “active” games designed for the PS3 remains woefully low (most developers are incorporating the Move controls within existing games rather than developing whole new games around it). On the other hand, the Xbox has simply exploded. Whether you want to wield a light saber, visit Disneyland, or dance with the Muppets, there’s an app for that.

Precision and Response of Controller:
Wii: C
Playstation Move: A
Kinect: B

I’ve had a year to try each system out, and it’s very clear to me where each system shines from a controller perspective.

The Xbox Kinect is best for games that benefit from “full body tracking”, such as dance games and workout games. On the other hand, it’s almost ridiculously inadequate for games that involve holding a virtual piece of equipment, such as a sword, a gun, a baseball bat or a pool cue. Also, while full motion tracking is a cool thing, for many games, the overall graphics seem a little sluggish when compared to the instant response of the PS3 or the Wii.

The PS3 Move, on the other hand, excels at those things. One year later I still find it amazing that I can hold a ping pong paddle in my hand and control the angle and rotation precisely. And unlike the Kinect, even if my room is pitch dark it still reads my movements perfectly.

Group Play:
Wii: A
Playstation Move: B
Kinect: C

Seems that the poor Wii isn’t doing so well this year, but here is where the Wii still shines brightly. With both the Playstation and the Xbox, you’re physically limited to the number of people that can fit within the camera’s range. There have been various attempts to expand the playing space, such as the Nyko Zoom for Kinect, but these have been lacking, meaning that for both the PS3 and the Xbox you still have to move furniture out of the way and stay confined in a small area. With the Wii, on the other hand, you can have players sitting on sofas, sitting on the floor, and you can just toss the controller to them when it’s their turn.

Fun:
Wii: A
Playstation Move: B
Kinect: B+

To me, this is the most important criteria. Once the “wow” factor is done with, how much fun is each system to play? This, of course, is a subjective thing which varies from game to game. But having all three systems, I find that the games I still play over and over again are strangely enough on the Wii, especially when I’m in a group, from Super Mario Kart to Just Dance 3 to the newly released Zelda. For all the advances that the PS3 and Xbox have made in graphics and technology, this is proof that good storytelling and crisp, quick gameplay will always reign supreme.

Affordability:
Wii: A
Playstation Move: C
Kinect: C

The Wii is still anywhere from 30% to 50% cheaper than what the Playstation 3 with Move and Xbox with Kinect cost out of the gate. Factor in that Xbox and PS3 games tend to cost anywhere from $40-60 each (compared to $20-50 for Wii games), and you’ll find that the Wii is still much, much more affordable over time.

And so when tallying up the grades, here are the results:

Wii: B (87/100)
PlayStation 3 with PlayStation Move Bundle: B+ (89/100)
Xbox 360 with Kinect: B+ (90/100)

So the very slight edge goes to the Xbox, mostly due to the huge influx of games that are being released for the Kinect. But overall, I’d say it’s still a three-way tie, with each system excelling in its own very specific way.

As I did last year, I’ll close with a word of advice. When choosing a system for yourself, decide for yourself which of the attributes above are most relevant to your needs, and weigh and judge them accordingly. I’ve seen people defend their choice of video game systems with near-religious ferocity and for good reason–after calculating the cost of the console and all the accessories and games you’ll buy, it can easily turn into an investment in the thousands of dollars.

But at the end of the day, it really comes down to what your preferences are. Do you want to play games with all members of your family at once? The Wii is the perfect choice for you. Do you like first-person shooter games or games where you’re holding a piece of virtual equipment such as a baseball bat or a sword? Go with the PS3. Do you want the “coolness” factor of having your whole body detected in dance games and exercise games? The Xbox is perfect for you.

So which system configurations to buy?

A question I hear a lot for each of these systems is which configurations to buy. It gets confusing, because most of the game companies sell different configurations, with or without motion controllers. Here are the ones to get:

For the Xbox Kinect, I would recommend the Xbox 360 250GB with Kinect. It comes with the Xbox 360 console, a handheld controller, the Kinect camera, a headset, the awful Kinect Adventures game, AC cable, AV cable, and a built-in 250 GB hard drive (you can save some money by buying the 4 GB version).

For the Playstation, I would recommend the PlayStation 3 320GB Move Bundle. It comes with the Playstation 3 console, a handheld controller, a Move controller, the Playstation Eye camera, the excellent Sports Champion game, an AC power cord, an AV cable, and a USB cable.

For the Wii, I’d just get the Wii Console with Mario Kart Wii Bundle, which comes with the console, a MotionPlus-enabled Wii remote, a nunchuk, Mario Kart and a wheel, sensor bar, AC cable, and AV cable.

Great Thanksgiving sale on PS3 Move at Best Buy

If you’ve been looking to “Moveify” your PS3, head on over to Best Buy where you can get a PlayStation Move Bundle for PlayStation 3 for 79.99. Surf around and you’ll also find additional Move controllers for $24.99, Navigation controllers for $14.99, and Sports Champions for under $10.

If you’re looking for a complete system, Amazon has their Black Friday 2011 Bundle with LittleBigPlanet 2 and Rachet and Clank for only $199.99.

Review of Zumba Fitness 2 for Wii

Zumba Fitness 2 by
Platform: Wii
Rated:E
4.5 of 5 stars – A much improved version of Zumba than the first version.
by ,
Written on November 23, 2011


The original Zumba Fitness for Wii was a runaway success, selling over three million copies. While I enjoyed the game, it wasn’t without its flaws. It seemed a game more suited for seasoned Zumba enthusiasts who could just jump right into playing. But for newbies, the dance moves were just too fast and the tutorials were weak. In addition, the way the game was organized was very confusing.

What a difference a year makes. I’m happy to say that the developers of this title must have been reading our reviews, because they fixed all of this and more. As a result, Zumba Fitness 2 is a game I wholeheartedly recommend.

When starting up the game, you see a catchy opening video of people doing Zumba. It definitely puts you in the mood.

The menu options are delightfully simple. They are:

Single Song
Full Class
Learn the Steps
Progress Tracker
Options

With Single Song, you can jump right into a song. You first create a profile by entering a seven-character nickname and input your height, weight, and birthdate. The default profile is a 4’11” woman who weighs 110 pounds and was born on 01.01.1990, so I had to go through the painful process of changing it (as usual, it seems like I was pressing the “up” button forever!)

You can then select from a list of 32 songs, listed alphabetically, with their intensity level and in-game “location” listed. They are:

Activao (Cumbia) – Low Intensity – NY Nightclub
Aires Habaneros (Tango / Salsa) – High Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Bubuzela Masala (Samba / Hindu) – High Intensity – NY Nightclub
Caipirinha (Batucada) – High Intensity – NY Nightclub
Chilin Bombom Guajira – Medium Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
Como Es Que Se Llama (Cumbia) – High Intensity – Miami Yacht Party
Dance Dance Dance (Hip-Hop) – High Intensity – LA Rooftop
Don’t Let Me Down (Swing) – High Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
El Merengazo (Merengue) – High Intensity – Miami Yacht Party
Hundu-Cumen (Hindu / Cha Cha Cha) – Medium Intensity – VIP Pool Party
I Know You Like It (Hip-Hop) – Medium Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
I Wanna Move (Hip-Hop) – Medium Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
I’m Going On (R&B Ballad) – Low Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
La Matanga (Cumbia / Warm-Up) – Low Intensity – VIP Pool Party
La Rumba De La Papaya (Flamenco) – High Intensity – LA Rooftop
Mi Vecina (Bachata / Cumbia) – Medium Intensity – LA Rooftop
New Day (Slow Swing) – Low Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Pause (Urban Latino Dance) – Medium Intensity – NY Nightclub
Poison (Electronic / Dance) – High Intensity – LA Rooftop
Que Onda (Axe) – High Intensity – Miami Yacht Party
Que Te Pasa (Cumbia / Reggaeton) – Medium Intensity – LA Rooftop
Quebra As Cadeira (Axe) – Medium Intensity – Miami Yacht Party
Quiebralo Bob (Quebradita / Ragga) – High Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Sukumbiarabe (Indian / Cumbia) – Medium Intensity – LA Rooftop
Ta Picao (Calypso) – High Intensity – Zumba Dance Studio
Tigre (Merengue / Warm Up) – Medium Intensity – Miami Yacht Party
Tu Remedio (Cha Cha Cha) – Low Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Un Corazon (Pop Ballad) – Low Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Un Solo Pueblo (Salsa) – Medium Intensity – LA Rooftop
We Speak No Americano (Swing House / Electro-Swing) – High Intensity – NY Nightclub
Zoka Zumba (Calypso) – High Intensity – VIP Pool Party
Zu Bailaito (Quebradita) – High Intensity – LA Rooftop

There aren’t that many familiar songs, but there are more licensed songs than the last version (the hip among us might recognize “Poison” by Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls or “Pause” by rapper Pitbull). But all are definitely catchy and very appropriate to Zumba dance. I would have liked to see the option for using your own music or downloadable content, but I didn’t see either.

As with the original Zumba Fitness, you put on your Zumba belt (included with the package) so that the slot for the Wii remote is at your hip. After making all your menu selections, you’ll be placing the Wii remote in the belt with the buttons facing outward, and the power button of the Wii remote on TOP (the first few times I played I put the remote in top-first, and got rewarded with a bunch of scores of zero).

In the style that games like Just Dance and Dance Central have made popular, you’ll see an animated figure of a Zumba dancer demonstrating the moves to you and your job is to mimic the moves as if viewing a mirror. There’s the added bonus of a small animated figure in a rectangle that’ll highlight upcoming moves.

Loading the player …

I don’t know if my Zumba-ing has gotten better or the choreography has gotten simpler, or the presentation has gotten better (probably a combination of all three), but the dance moves were surprisingly easy to follow. There was a healthy amount of repetition and the arms and legs of the dancer are very clearly displayed at all times. It only took me 3-4 repetitions to get to a fairly good approximation of the dances, even at high intensity level. In the background are animations of dozens of others doing the same moves, which really helps make you feel like you’re in a real Zumba session, and also helps reinforce the moves you have to make.

The motion detection is surprisingly accurate as well. As an experiment, I tried dancing to the “real” moves first, and then I tried just shaking my remote. When dancing the “real” moves I got a 91%, and when shaking the remote, I got 12%. In other words, they put a lot of effort into getting the accuracy right.

Granted, the scoring might be a little TOO generous, given that it’s not really detecting your arm movements or the precise position of your foot and torso movements. But if your goal is to get a workout first and worry about the score later, you won’t mind so much. Each song lasts for about 5-6 minutes, and each one is a pretty good workout in itself.

With “Full Class”, you have the option of choosing one of 10 Short Classes, 10 Mid-Length Classes, 10 Full-Length Classes, or 8 Custom Playsets which you can design yourself. Each class takes place in one of five virtual locations: an LA Pool Party, a Miami Yacht Party, a NY Nightclub, a VIP Pool Party, and the Zumba Dance Studio.

I tried a short class, and it consisted of 5 songs, clocking in at a total of 25 minutes! I was completely wiped out. Needless to say, I haven’t tried a mid-length or full-length class yet!

Loading the player …

“Learn the Steps” is the tutorial portion of the game. It is much, much improved over the first version of the game, which had a tendency to sweep you through the lessons without teaching you much of anything. Here, you’ll go through a tutorial of basic dance moves. The dance moves aren’t comprehensive, but at the very least you can master the basics that are used in many Zumba dances. They are:

Salsa: Sidestep, Forward and Back, Travel, Backstep
Merengue: March, Two Step, Six Count, Zumba Shuffle
Cumbia: Two Step, Forward and Back, Sleepy Leg, Sugar Cane
Reggaeton: Stomp, Knee Lift, Destroza, Bounce

You can practice the steps at slow speed and then speed it up to normal speed once you get the moves right.

Loading the player …

The “Progress Tracker” will tell you how many days you’ve played the game, how many minutes you’ve played this month, your average score for the week. Then, it’ll allow you to view graphs of your weight (no Balance Board support, so you need to manually enter it each time), time played, technique, and calories burned. It’ll also show you how many of the 26 medals you’ve earned, and allow you to collect “extras” by earning stars on each song (the first extra you unlock is a cool “behind the scenes” video of concept art for the Miami scene). Long story short, there are definitely a lot of incentives to keep you dancing.

All in all, I’m very impressed by Zumba Fitness 2. Majesco could have easily phoned in the sequel and still sold a lot of copies, but it looks like they put real time and effort into making this a genuine improvement. If you’re a Zumba fan, this is a must-have. If you’ve always been curious about Zumba, unlike the last version I can wholeheartedly recommend this one.

Best Price for Wii for Black Friday 2011 is happening on Thursday!

Nintendo Nintendo Wii Console (Black) with New Super Mario Bros Wii Game and Music CDIf you’ve been in the market for a new Wii (say, for your home gym or rec room…or for that friend who’s always coming over and playing yours), Best Buy has the best deal I’ve ever seen. For only $99, you can get a Nintendo Nintendo Wii Console (Black) with New Super Mario Bros Wii Game and Music CD.

Here’s the kicker–you can’t buy this in the stores. You need to be online at BestBuy.com on Thursday, at which time the price will drop for the day. I have a feeling this one is going to go fast, so I’d recommend getting there at midnight Eastern time on Thanksgiving morning.

When you consider that the New Super Mario Bros Wii game is selling for $44 on Amazon, and a new Wii Remote Plus is going for $36, that’s like getting the console for $19!

Good luck snagging this one! 🙂

Great Deal on Just Dance 3 for Wii at Best Buy

For a very limited time, you can get Just Dance 3 on sale at Best Buy, plus a $10 gift card. Since it’s on sale for $35, the effective price after you get the gift card is $25. That’s as good a deal as any that’ll be available on Black Friday. But hurry, it’s only good for a very short time (look for the “$10 Gift Card with Purchase” link on the product page under “Special Offers” too see if it’s still on).

For those who don’t know, I just named Just Dance 3 as the top Wii exercise game for this Christmas. As a bonus, you get two extra Katy Perry tracks when you buy through Best Buy. Jump on this deal while you can!

Using a PC and Watching YouTube in 3D with the Playstation 3D Display

One of the first things I tried with my new Playstation 3D display was hooking up the display to my laptop. My laptop is a Toshiba F755-S5219 which happens to have an HDMI connector, as well as an NVIDIA video card which is capable of 3D output.

Setup could not possibly have been easier. I plugged an HDMI cable on one end to the laptop, and the other end to the “HDMI2” connector on the Playstation Display. I used the buttons on back to switch the input to HDMI2. Lo and behold, I saw my computer screen on the Playstation monitor.

my PC on my playstation

The picture quality was excellent, the screen was bright and the colors brilliant.

Sadly, even though I have a laptop that supposedly has 3D capabilities, I tried for hours and hours to get the 3D to output to the Playstation 3D Display, but with no luck. It’s a Toshiba laptop with very outdated video drivers (which haven’t been updated in months), so my guess is that this has something to do with it. I called Toshiba’s customer support which was beyond useless. In one case I sat on the phone for 40 minutes only to a rep that had no idea what was going on, only to be hung up on after the end of my wait time. Put bluntly, I am not happy with Toshiba at the moment.

Anyway, happily I did find a way to view 3D on the Playstation 3D Display, even without a 3D card. Here’s how.

1) Ensure your computer is plugged into your Playstation Monitor and make sure that your Windows settings is to “clone displays” so you can see the same screen on your main monitor and your Playstation monitor.

2) Go to the YouTube 3D Channel at http://www.youtube.com/user/3D

3) Choose a 3D-encoded movie. You can identify these when you see a red “3D” in the lower right-hand corner:

watching youtube 3d on playstation 3d display

4) Click on the red 3D indicator. A pop-up will appear. Make sure that “Side By Side” is listed as the 3D method (if the HTML5 option is enabled, it means your video card is capable of supporting 3D on its own)

youtube 3d on ps3

5) Ensure that the video is set to the highest resolution possible, preferably 1080p.

youtube 3d on ps3 display4. Press the “Full Screen” icon.

youtube on ps3

If all goes well, both monitors will show a split screen image that looks like this.

split screen 3d

Now, on the Playstation 3D Display, press the “3D” button on the back (it’s the button all the way on the bottom). It’ll toggle between three options: 3D auto, 3D side-by-side, and 3D top-to-bottom. Choose 3D side-by-side.

Miraculously, the picture on the Playstation Display will now be in glorious 3D, which will be fully viewable with your glasses.

Now when you finish viewing the movie and the screen is no longer full-screen, you’ll see a garbled picture. This is why it’s important to have the screen cloned on your main monitor, so you can navigate to other 3D movies.

There are already a lot of great movies, trailers, demos and other videos all over YouTube for you to spend a lot of time watching.

Enjoy!

Playstation 3D Display: A Complete Review

Like many of you, I spent a lot of money for my LCD TV several years ago. When Sony announced their firmware update that allowed for 3D gaming and viewing of 3D Blu-Ray movies, I was tempted to buy another widescreen TV, but couldn’t justify shelling out a few thousand more dollars for it. 3D would have to wait.

Sony did something clever with this product. They bundled a 24″ monitor with 3D glasses, the game Motorstorm Apocalypse, and an HDMI cable and priced it under $500. Suddenly it was a lot more affordable.

The monitor comes packaged in a large box with a carrying handle (another benefit of ordering a smaller TV is that you don’t need a crew of people to carry it upstairs).

Playstation 3D Display Box

Opening it up, you’ll find everything very tightly and impeccably packed, with the HDMI cable, Motorstorm Apocalypse game, documentation, and cardboard box with 3D glasses inside.

opening the playstation 3d box

Underneath this is the Playstation Display panel wrapped in a protective bag, with the stand underneath it.

playstation monitor in protective bag

Taking the display out of the bag reveals the beautiful, shiny display.

playstation sleek black display

It’s much thinner than I thought it would be, about the width of a dime.

thin playstation display

There’s a slight amount of assembly required, which is a snap (literally). You attach the monitor to a stand…

playstation stand

…and the stand to the base. The parts only fit one way, so it’s quite simple. The only thing you need to be careful of is not to drop or scratch the unit (if you have another person in the room, it’d be good to ask for help).

Then, you just plug it into AC (the power cord is only about 5 feet, which was a bit small for my needs), and then plug the HDMI cable from your PS3 to the unit.

It took me a while to find the power button, which is on the back of the unit to the right. There are six buttons in total: a power button, an input selector button (which switches between two HDMI connectors and one set of component (yPbPr) connectors), two volume buttons, a menu button, and a 3D button. They’re all pretty generically shaped and lined up in one column, but to help you out an on-screen diagram will pop up when you press one to make sure you’re pressing the right one. From the menu you can adjust the picture, including Backlight (0 to 10) and Picture Mode (dynamic, standard, cinema). You can also define a custom picture mode, setting your own brightness, contrast, color, hue, sharpness, and color temperature. It can be quite a pain to adjust menu settings with the buttons behind the unit, but you get used to it soon enough.

The PS3 recognized the monitor immediately. The PS3 was already open to the Playstation Store I was pleasantly surprised by the crispness of the display. The blues were the richest I’ve seen on a monitor.

beautiful blue display

The colors and clarity on the LED display were definitely deeper and crisper than my current LCD TV. Likewise, the sound was powerful (it has 2 channel stereo output at 3W and a subwoofer at 5W built in).

The 3D glasses come in a separate felt pouch, and the lenses come protected with some plastic over them. You pull off the plastic with convenient pull-tabs, which I was a little skittish of at first, but realized that there was no way I could scratch or damage the lens if I just gently pulled on the tab.

3d glasses

It took me a while to figure out how to turn them on–there’s a power switch on the inside for “battery” and then a separate power button on top, both of which need to be switched on. I was very happy to see a mini-USB connector on top (you need to pry open a little door to see it). I was afraid that like other Sony 3D glasses it’d be powered by a watch battery, but it looks like these glasses can be charged (there’s even a small USB-to-mini-USB cable). I wear glasses, but the 3D glasses fit comfortably over them.

I popped in the game “MLB: The Show 11” to test it out. No 3D. I went to the menu options, and the 3D option was greyed out. I finally realized that I had to go to the PS3 menu under “Settings”, and select Video Output Settings > HDMI > Auto and set the screen to 24 inches before 3D would be enabled. Once I did that I returned to the game where now I saw all kinds of new disclaimer screens I didn’t see before referencing 3D.

Within the game, I adjusted the 3D settings. The first settings I tried had a lot of ghosting. But by adjusting the sliders a little I finally got a picture that was absolutely perfect. I wish that Sony had a “universal” setting instead of having us control it game-by-game, but bottom line, if the game developer did it right you will have control over the depth of 3D you can see.

Next, I tried a 3D Blu-Ray which I happened to get today in the mail, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1. The disc started up and went right into 3D mode, with the opening menu gloriously popping out of the screen. It was a clean, crisp picture with no ghosting as far as I could tell. As is typical with these active 3D glasses, the picture was very dark even with the backlight set at maximum (it’s like watching a TV screen with sunglasses). But if you sit close enough to the TV and/or adjust the menu settings, you should find a viewing setting that’s comfortable.

Last, I tried connecting it to my laptop, which happens to have an HDMI output jack. To my delight, I was able to go to YouTube’s 3D channel, play videos with the “side by side” viewing method, adjust the 3D mode of the TV, and see the videos in full 3D! Not surprisingly, the picture quality, resolution and color fidelity were excellent. I hadn’t planned on it, but I will be most likely be making this my second computer monitor of choice.

The set does support “SimulView”, which allows two people to play a game watching the same screen with both players seeing their own (2D) view of the game. I wasn’t able to test because I didn’t buy a second pair of glasses (which is kind of pricey at $70), but I’ll update this review once I do.

To sum up, I was honestly a little afraid that at this price Sony might try to push a cheap TV on the masses. But everything about this set screams high quality, from the crisp picture, to the 176/176 viewing angle (meaning that multiple people can be between 2-8 feet from the screen and still see perfect 3D as long as they all have the 3D glasses), to the 5000:1 contrast ratio and 240 Hz refresh rate. Aesthetically, it’s quite gorgeous too–the black, polished screen really looks distinctive, especially next to the sleek lines of the PS3 itself. And surprisingly, I put the 24″ TV next to my 42″ LCD and didn’t really miss the fact too much that it was smaller (granted, I grew up watching a 25″ cathode ray tube TV).

The one possible caveat I’d have about this set is what I’d have about all 3D sets–there are some people who might experience some mild-to-severe nausea. For this reason, I’d recommend you play at a friend’s house or spend a good couple of minutes in front of a store display to make sure you’re not one of those who are affected. For me, I experienced a tiny bit of nausea, but I’ll admit that the coolness factor definitely made up for it. Worst comes to worst, you can switch off the 3D and still have a very high quality LED display.

One other thing to note is that this isn’t a “TV”, as there’s no TV tuner. But with the extra HDMI connector, you can easily plug in a TiVo or a cable box. Ironically, I also plugged in an Xbox 360 using the component cables, and that picture looks crisp as well.

Long story short, if you’ve been tempted to try out 3D, this makes an excellent entry-level display. Interested in purchasing? Here are the best places you can buy it for Christmas 2011:

The best deal I can find right now is from GameStop who has a free copy of the $59.99 game Uncharted 3 with purchaseicon. As you could read in earlier blog posts, this is the one I got.

If you already have that game or aren’t interested, Best Buy has a deal where you can get 50% Off a Second Pair of 3D Glasses with PlayStation 3D Display Bundle. That’s a $35 value.

If you don’t care about extras, Buy.Com has the lowest base price at $469.99, a $30 savings over everyone else.
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As word catches on about how great a system this is, I have a feeling it’s going to be harder to find in stock as Christmas approaches, so jump on while you can!

Amazon messes up, screws up, and fouls up Playstation 3D Display Pre-Orders

So, I’m patiently waiting for the Playstation 3D Display I ordered from Amazon to arrive. I’d placed my pre-order back on September 1. As I’ve mentioned before on this blog, by pre-ordering, I was guaranteed to receive the game Resistance 3 as a bonus. Sony themselves promised this on their blog.

This is what my invoice looked like on September 1:

why amazon sucks

Everything looks fine, right? So, the Playstation 3D Display finally launches on 11/15/11. I’m literally waiting by my door to receive it. And then I get this email.

amazon cancels playstation pre-order

My jaw dropped to the ground. So I call Amazon’s customer service number (it’s  800-201-7575 in case you can’t find it hidden on their site). I miraculously get a guy with an American accent named “Bill C” and I explain the situation.

He explains to me that when I ordered it on the site, it was marked as $4.99 and then as $49.99. I explained to him that no, when I ordered it it was $499.99, and I have the original invoice to prove it. I tell him I just want the product I ordered at the price I ordered, with the bonus game I was promised.

At first he sounds pretty sympathetic to my case, but he says  sorry, he’s not “authorized” to make any decisions regarding a product that costs that much money. He says he has to “check with his manager” and we hang up.

Minutes later, I get this email.

amazon really sucks

At this point I have steam coming out of my ears. After all, I CLEARLY explained to “Bill C.” several times that I did NOT want to product at the “incorrect price” which I never saw in the first place. I just wanted to system at the price I paid ($499.99) with the bonus Resistance 3 game. But he was of absolutely no help. I wasn’t about to place an order now that I’m at the end of the waiting list, and to add insult to injury I wouldn’t get my Resistance 3 game because I’m ordering after October 1.

My guess at what happened is that hundreds (if not thousands) of us ordered at the correct price. At some point, some boneheaded employee at Amazon typed in the price without a decimal point, and that triggered all our orders to be recalculated based on their “pre-order guarantee”. But now that it was a price mistake, Amazon couldn’t honor it and cancelled all the orders. What galls me the most is that I understand that mistakes happen, and I understand that people pounce on price mistakes all the time trying to take advantage. But in this case, all of us who pre-ordered ordered it at the CORRECT price.

At this point I consider calling back, but instead I decide to go to the Gamestop Home Page and go to the upper left-hand corner to look up a store near me. Lo and behold there were two within two and a half miles. I drove to my nearest one, and happily, they had them in stock. Not only that, they have a promotion where the Playstation 3D Display comes bundled with Uncharted 3icon that runs until 12/20/11. As much as I’ve heard cool things about Resistance 3, I’ve played the first Uncharted and would much rather have Uncharted 3.

Since I live in New York, the system with tax costs the same at GameStop as it would have at Amazon. And I had it in my hands that day.

For all the hype that Amazon has built up around its “pre-order guarantee” and its “release date delivery”, this incident has shown me one thing. That there’s nothing like a good old fashioned brick-and-mortar store to assure that you’ll get it.

As a last ditch shot, I’m going to reach out to Sony to see what they intend to do about Amazon breaching their promise for hundreds, if not thousands of customers. As for Amazon, I’m going to think a few times before buying another pre-order game from them. Sites like Gamestop and Toys R Us have pretty good deals of their own, and the tax advantage that Amazon has in most states may be going away soon if the Congress gets its way. Amazon would do best to stop the slide in its customer service before that happens, or they may be in for a very rude awakening.