17 December 2010

Just... no... time

I've wanted to post new things over the last couple of months about migrating an OS, installing a RAID, new job and so on, but the new job, while part time, actually has taken all of my time +5. I shall bid my reader (mainly me) a happy Christmas and a prosperous new year.

17 October 2010

Striking over retirement is like...

Today we went into Bordeaux to watch some movies and as part of the French national tradition the streets were crowded with poor deluded people "manifesting" for keeping the retirement age at 60.  I'm sorry, is there something I don't understand? You're demonstrating to have a higher tax burden? What's worse is that these people have convinced young folk to join in - people who will be paying for the organisers' extended retirement. Singapore has just abolished statutory retirement and while I'm not saying that's right either, this seems to be more ridiculous. Some of the people were chanting that they wanted no change! LIFE IS CHANGE!

I am not an economist and might probably have it completely wrong, but it seems to me that if you have an ageing population and a very good public health service, coupled with an increased life expectancy, isn't it only logical to expect people to contribute to the state's coffers for a little longer? Otherwise, where is the money going to come from to look after the aged, to pay for retirement funds and healthcare if it's not taxes? So, fine, the current generation want to live forty years sponging off the state and leave their kids and grandkids picking up the bill? I think that's disgusting, particularly at a time of financial crisis in the world.

The retirement age was set at 60 in a time when people were expected to live to 70. Now, someone living to 100 is less miraculous an event and will become more and more commonplace over the coming years with improvements in healthcare and if people still want to retire at 60 they'd need to pay as much in tax as they receive in their pay packet to fund it! I'm sure they'd complain about rises in income tax, or VAT.

This is not my most thought out blog post but I am severely pissed off with a whole bunch of French people today (and on all the other days where such retirement strikes occur). For me striking over the retirement age is as stupid as complaining your car's new square wheels don't roll very well.

6 September 2010

Third open water dive, but actually fourth

Yesterday I did my third dive at Cap Ferret and spoke to the monitor of the club, Marc Bazot, who said that they'd count my first abortive dive as a dive, so I'll get my level 1 cert for Scuba! The dive was with a different guy again, this time Cyril Tabary, another excellent chap. He took very good care of me since again I had problems getting down to the water, and getting back up the beach after the dive. I need to find a way around the issue - perhaps some kind of travois?

Anyway, the dive was excellent. I had the same wetsuit as last time and wore a t-shirt under and was plenty warm. This time I remembered my socks and I also wore a pair of gardening gloves to protect my fingers. I used my knife twice for cutting through fishing line, once because I was entangled. We saw the usual suspects below like sole, squid, crabs and shoals and shoals of small fish enjoying the warm water. The visibility was pretty good though Cyril had no lamp with which we could probe crevices.

I have been going backwards and forwards on whether to do my Niveau II this year. It's expensive and my MS will prevent me from going too deep in any case, but it would mean more autonomy and there will be diving from a boat, which has got to be easier than the death march up and down the beach? I enjoy doing it so much that I'd really like to improve my abilities while I can and money's only money, right?

27 August 2010

Review: Picross 3D

I really enjoyed playing the 2D version of this when it came out. I picked it up as a bargain knowing little about it and didn't play it for a while then got really hooked. Not only that but I also got my wife hooked on it. So when the news of a version in 3D filtered out, being that I work in 3D as well, I was very pleased.

I bought this new version as soon as it was available in France. I was pleased to see the four slots for players but the stylus-only navigation was a bit slow. Playing the games themselves was fine - you have to chip away at a large block gradually revealing the shape concealed within using logic and deduction. Since you only have five chances, you cannot simply guess at whether a block can be destroyed or not.

Rather than the patterning given in the 2D version, where a column would be headed by a sequence of numbers (3, 2, 5, 5) and you would have to determine where the spaces lay, with Picross 3D you are only given one digit on a side of a block and that digit carries through the row, column or side. There are two exceptions. Numbers in circles represent not a solid block of the number shown but split into two not necessarily equal halves. Numbers in squares mean that the group is split into at least three sections. Now for a 2 in a circle or a 3 in a square this is simple enough - you know that the blocks on either side of a block you have selected cannot be used, so they can be destroyed. It gets more complicated when you have larger numbers in circles or squares and usually you find them by process of elimination - once you have cleared the single section blocks they become more obvious.

Sometimes you can recognise the object you are slowly revealing and you can chip away knowing that the object is symmetrical, but in the later levels the objects cannot be counted on for their symmetry. Often times in later levels you have no inkling of what you are trying to uncover so only brute force can reveal it. Obviously, in later levels where the puzzles can consist of as many as 1,000 blocks you are going to need to be able to navigate in rows and columns in the interior of the block to uncover your object and a red and blue slider will help you narrow down the sides, but there is no third slider to go from top to bottom.

The game is very addictive, like its predecessor, but it feels like more of a grind - you spend ages robotically using the sliders to go through the block picking off individual blocks or marking them up and sometimes it just feels like a slog - it doesn't stop you from playing hence the addictive bit, but the other downfall is that the progression is very stepped - the order hasn't been arranged carefully enough to give you a real sense of achievement, some of the puzzles on the very last level feel easier than ones two levels down. Of course, it may just be that by the end you are such a Picross expert that the levels just "feel" easier, but that still shouldn't be the case. Also, I had completed two levels of the tutorial right at the start of the game and it said "congrats, the easy puzzles are now open", so I went and did those, then the Normal ones and then the hard and yet although I had competed the game, there were some puzzle collections that were incomplete and I was at 344 puzzles when the box said "over 350 puzzles" and I wasn't sure why. Upon revisiting the Tutorial section after attempting to tease out the remaining puzzles from the game's Random Puzzle function, I found that there are in fact additional levels to the Tutorial section and a total of 369 puzzles to play.

If you have finished the game, it's still not over since you can build your own puzzles with the included editor or go for some downloadable content in the form of additional puzzles from Nintendo or other players and challenges online (I haven't tried those although I have reduced my router to having no security for WiFi for the time it takes to download a new batch of puzzles before putting the WPA2 PSK-TKIP walls back up).

I've written a lot of words for a game that left me less satisfied than the 2D original. It's still a very addictive game but I guess I wanted more from it - not more puzzles, but more challenge. 3/5

PS. There is a website where you can try bits and bobs and see a trailer for the game

26 August 2010

Skype goodies

Just a quick post (I still need to do reviews of the Harmony 700 universal remote, Picross 3D and the Philips BDP-3100 Blu-Ray player). Since I am a journalist for various publications I use Skype all the time for conducting interviews. Text chatting is great because it means that you can copy and paste quotes directly but understandably people don't have all day to type, so I found two things to help...

The first is the excellent MP3 Skype recorder. This free bit of software does exactly what its name implies and records a conversation of any length to your hard drive in a quality that is good enough to transcribe (you can up the quality if you'd like, but you don't need to, the default is perfectly fine). Now all I need is automatic transcription software that's free and works... :D

The second is perhaps even better. Ring2Skype gives you a real phone number in over 100 cities in the world and you can have as many as you like for nothing. The phone number costs you nothing and it means that your contacts should only have to pay for a local phone call to get to you, cutting down their costs too. In combination with the MP3 recorder it makes a perfect duo for journalists.

21 August 2010

Second scuba dive

Same place as before, just the one dive this afternoon and everyone was really kind to me, making sure that my bottle was taken care of so I didn't have to trudge through the sand, etc. Down at 20.1 m this time for 45 mins and again I felt completely at home. The visibility was still not great although it had apparently been really good this morning (there were speedboats around all day, that can't have helped). Saw pretty much the same stuff today, apart from the additions of a jellyfish (that I didn't go near since I was diving without gloves or socks today) and a lionfish. We also saw some triggerfish that François who guided me last time told me bite if they get riled and they really dig in deep, so I'm glad I just gazed at them and went "ooh" (in my head) rather than tried to make a new best friend. Talking of which, spent some time with squid and was amazed to see how fast they changed colour, it really is instant not the slow flow from one shade to the next I was expecting.

Many thanks to Bruno Pommepuy who was my guide today. There was a misunderstanding about my medical certificate. I had asked if the one I had been issued in June was okay, he'd said yes, but it was only afterwards I thought he'd meant that that one would be fine if I re-presented it, but I had already given it over to the club's monitor, Marc Bazot, the first time I dived. I had a sinking feeling that the fact that I didn't have it with me (because Marc had it) meant that I wouldn't be able to dive but Bruno said he'd sort it, hurrah!

Only two more dives to go now to get my Level 1 qualification. The question is if I can afford to do Level 2 in both money and time?

6 June 2010

First open water SCUBA dive!

View Diving in a larger map

Yesterday was my first open water (that's to say not in a swimming pool) dive. It was actually supposed to be two dives, one in the morning, one in the afternoon. Got up at 0630 for shower and shave to leave at 0730. My lift, the lovely Dominique and Sonia were a little late and we had to get another diver Françoise from the Stade Nautique (the swimming pool we train in). So we were a little late getting to our rendezvous on Cap Ferret, but we weren't the most tardy. We unloaded the car as close to the water as possible and Dominique (who wasn't diving) went and parked the car elsewhere since there's no organised parking per se.

Getting your gear on takes a good few minutes, having to heave and pull on the neoprene so you already work up a sweat just doing that. Once you have your scuba outfit on, which for me consisted of my trunks, then the first layer of neoprene wetsuit at 4.5 mm thick (weight about 6kg), then a second layer with short sleeves and legs and a hood at about 3 mm thick (weight at about 3kg), then a weight belt for me. My weight is about 78 kg, but the neoprene floats so you need roughly an extra kilo of weight per ten kilos (8kg) again to keep your "balance" in the water - null buoyancy. In total I weighed 95 kg, and I hadn't got my stabilising vest and bottle on yet. You can figure an extra 30kg for that lot. So I now weighed nearly twice my normal weight. My flexibility was severely restricted by the layers of neoprene and my balance is shit anyway (because of the MS) - and I had to walk about 150 m in soft sand.

Just to add to the fun, I was carrying a potentially explosive device on my back - that bottle is about 2400 litres of air compressed in a space that can hold 15 litres, so if I fell and hit it on a rock, more than likely it could explode. Anyway, I made it to the edge of the water with help from various people (thank you people!) and got in. I was going to be diving with Marc Bazot our monitor (that's the highest qualification of scuba diver) and he explained what we would do and see. We headed out gingerly to where we could actually swim at which point I felt hugely more at ease, but then the problems started. My bottle wanted me on my back the whole time! I had to really fight to stay on my stomach, even "standing" in the water was difficult. Next problem, I couldn't actually dive! Every time I tried to go down under the water, expelling as much of the air from my lungs as possible, I'd just bob back up, on my back. It was very frustrating for me and it must have been for Marc as well. In the end we stopped and went back to shore where I was completely exhausted. Everyone else has to take my bottle, flippers mask and snorkel - it was all I could do to even walk back to the car.

So then we had a big break during which there was lunch aplenty. I had thought that we would want to have something light so had only brought stuff to make sandwiches, fruit juice, apples and nuts and raisins - you know, healthy sporty stuff - but the experienced divers were all munching down on barbecue and drinking wine! For the next dive I need to make sure I take my chair, a glass and cutlery! All I had was my Opinel, which isn't ideal for eating salad. To be honest I was completely depressed by my lack of success in the morning and didn't have much appetite anyway. I still ate and drank a lot to make sure I would have enough energy for a second try that afternoon. The next dive was to start at 1700 and we were eating lunch at about 1230 so we had a few hours of R&R. A lot of the people took a siesta on towels in the sand in the shade while others chatted desultorily. I sat and read my book. Sonia and Dominique went for a swim, Françoise looked after our equipment, setting stuff out to dry a bit.

I took a spell for her on the equipment while she came and sat at the table to guard it and Dominique's video camera, and then it was time to try again. This time I had François as my guide, a chap that I had never trained with in the pool, although I have with his wife Christel, who's lovely. François suggested I ditch the outer layer of the wetsuit since the water wasn't that cold, but just to give me an extra layer he lent me Christel's thin sweater to put on under the wetsuit - this would get soaked, otherwise I could have worn my own t-shirt. This time I walked down to the water's edge and fell over twice, once just on the sand, little risk, but once on the rocks. I managed to cushion my fall by directing it slightly towards a boat, so I hope it's alright. After that, my stabilising vest and tank was removed :) and I got down to the water's edge with no further incident. My vest was inflated so the tank could just be floated out to where I could put it on and then we checked whether I needed to turn on my back the whole time or anything. It seemed okay! I was a bit overweighted now, so I had to keep adjusting the amount of air in my vest, but that was easy enough, and so we started to swim...

The slope down that we followed seemed gentle enough, but I made sure that I kept doing Val Salva - a manoeuvre where you pinch your nose and blow out through it that pops your ears - and soon enough it was quite dark. François showed me his dive computer and we were already 10 m deep! The first thing we saw was a sole darting between piles of sand and burying itself, until we disturbed it and it darted off again. We saw shoals of indeterminate small fish, smelts I would guess but of what species I don't know. We saw prawns, about 7 cm long and grey, difficult to spot until they moved to get out of our way and we were still descending the slope. We saw mussels and François showed me why I might want to get a knife and he picked a mussel up, cracked it open and pulled out the flesh to grab a bite - can't get much fresher seafood than that!

We were now down at around 15 m and in among a load of rocks where we saw sea spiders, squid, cuttlefish and even a sunfish I guess? It was certainly that shape and I felt completely at ease, there was nothing more natural to me than doing this. Adjusting my buoyancy, doing the Val Salva, coping with the current, being aware of the 3D space around me - the fact that there could be obstacles or other divers above or below me, not just in front, behind to the left or right, it was all effortless. Well not effortless, but certainly not an effort that I had to consciously evaluate continuously.

We turned again, following François' compass and headed back for where we started from and I was exhilarated! I has done a dive, but now it was the hell of getting back to the beach and clambering up the rocks and getting back to the car. François and others helped me out so much, so all I had to do was get my wobbly self back in my wetsuit with weights, everything else was taken care of.

There was still food left from lunch and we all sat and chatted and ate and drank (and now I permitted myself some wine and pastis in addition to copious quantities of water and fruit juice) and then it was time for home. It's about an hour's drive to Cap Ferret from here and there wasn't much talking in the car on the way back, we were all tired. Fatigué mais très heureux you could say.

5 May 2010

Review: Logitech Performance MX mouse

My Mx 1000 died on me about a month ago. It was the finest mouse I'd ever used, so I wanted to get another. Of course, the march of time waits for no man and Logitech had ditched it and gone with an update, the MX-1100, which didn't seem to be an improvement to me. Nevertheless as a Logitech stalwart, I thought I might give it a go and I noticed that Logitech have a very cool offer on their UK, France and Germany site that gives you a postage paid label to send back your old Logitech stuff and they'll give you a 20% discount voucher on any purchase made from their site of €50 or more. There was a problem with my voucher and when I called up the nice folk at Logitech they checked it from their side and apologised and sent me a new voucher by email for 35%. This meant I could justify getting the €100 Performance MX mouse.

First impressions
The box the Performance MX comes in is very nice and contains the mouse, the universal USB receiver and a little leatherette carry pouch for transporting the mouse, dongle and charging gubbins around - a nice touch. The mouse has a non-standard USB port at the top end (where the cable would be on a cabled mouse) and the supplied USB charging cable can either be plugged into your computer or into a small electrical plug. Obviously, if you don't leave your machine on all the time you'll use the electrical charger more than using your machine to recharge the mouse, but you can still use it attached to the USB cable, so you could just pretend you'd bought an extremely expensive cabled mouse while charging.

The build quality is very good, with nice travel on all the buttons, but there is a slight problem with the wheel tilt as the following pic will explain:

It means that while it's easy to scroll left, pushing the wheel to the right is a more delicate operation that often means an unwanted LMB click. Also missing from the MX-1000 are the cruise buttons that were on either side of the wheel. The freewheeling wheel that replaces them cannot be assigned different functionality depending on its state so you've lost two buttons. You do get a "zoom" button below the Forward/Back navigation buttons and then there's also the Performance MX's Application Switcher button, which is embedded into the thumbrest on the left side of the mouse (this is a mouse uniquely for right-handed people).

Like the MX1000 before it, this is a very comfortable mouse to use. The thumbrest is ideal for an adult male to use and the additional buttons speed up workflow a lot. I'm even getting used to using the Application Switcher rather than alt-tabbing (or Win-tabbing), since it gives a more OS X Exposé feel presenting all your apps where you can simply move your mouse over the app that you want to switch to and it gives you the name of the app as well.

On the other side, the option to switch between a clicky scroll wheel and a freewheeling one seems a little more gimmicky to me - it's not often I'll be scrolling through massive long documents trying to find a specific passage, and even if I do I'll use the Find function.

The Performance MX uses a "Darkfield" sensor, rather than the visible red light we are used to seeing under optical mice and apparently it will even work on surfaces like glass, which are notoriously difficult for normal optical mice. This may be true, but it's not something I tested extensively.

The other topic worth mentioning for everyday use is battery life. The Performance MX comes with a user-replaceable 2000mAh AA Li-Ion rechargeable battery, much better than the MX-1000's sealed unit pill-type battery. I've been using the mouse for fairly long days for about a week with needing to recharge so far, and the battery level indicator is on two bars out of three.

The Perfomance MX comes with SetPoint 6, rather than the 4.8 I've been using for ages and the best new addition to this software suite is the ability to set preferences for individual apps, however, don't uninstall UberOptions just yet since you can't assign some of the buttons differently for different apps using SetPoint:

Oh yeah, and the other thing that SetPoint 6 does is update all the imagery onscreen for when you change volume, skip forward a track, mute and so on. Where previously everything was 90's TV-looking and bright green, now it's all grey and flash.

The Performance MX is a very nice mouse - would I have paid €100 for it? Almost certainly not, although I would probably have spent the fifty on the poorer replacement for my MX1000. I shall have to see if in the longer term it's a good replacement for the MX1000, especially since the lack of button customisation using the default Setpoint isn't great. 4/5

4 May 2010

Datebk6 and iCal together at last!

I'm a dinosaur I know. I've been a Palm user since the late nineties and still am today, although I was finding it more and more of a chore to keep separate calendars - all I did on my Palm was read my vast collection of ebooks. Anyway, it looks like that might be changing. Pimlico Software, the makers of the Datebk Palm app, which has held my schedule for the past ten years, have been busy beavering away on a new PIM app called Pimlical. It has all the power of Datebk 6, and indeed more, and best of all it integrates .ical format calendars, meaning that Google Calendar that I actually see most often can now be on my Palm (provided I hotsync regularly). Best of all, my Datebk stuff can also be in my Google Calendar - all those people's birthdays, anniversaries and regular appointments. Pimlical is a bit "oldskool" in appearance, with little of the flash of Google or Apple, but since I don't even really need to use it to act as a conduit to my Palm (just starting it up, letting it sync my Google calendars and shutting it down is enough) it means I can just carry on using Google or the Palm and only need Pimlical when my appointment is complex.

In fact, although Pimlical is buyable for roughly 20 bucks, I'm not even sure why? I will buy it when I have the cash to help the gorillas.

Have a look at the screenshots for yourself: http://www.pimlicosoftware.com/pimlicalscreenshots.html

14 February 2010

Review: Microsoft LifeCam Cinema

Please excuse me Microsoft for just stealing an image from your site, I just want to say that my last two purchases from Microsoft have been excellent value for money - first Windows 7 Home Premium with both 32- and 64-bit versions for fifty quid, and now the camera you can see to the left for fifty euro.

I only needed a new webcam because while the Logitech one I had was fine it was too big to sit on my monitor, which is sitting under a shelf with only about 5 cm clearance, meaning that any video conversation I had with someone involved me having to look to one side of the monitor. I have had Logitech webcams since webcams were an everyday thing to have on a computer (to go with my Logitech mice and keyboards) and have been very happy with them, so I didn't buy one from another manufacturer lightly...

Too much packaging, but very nicely done. It takes a while to get the camera out of its nest of plastic and cardboard, and then the usb plug has the end covered with a friendly reminder to not unsheath it until you have installed the accompanying drivers. My machine runs 32-bit Vista Home Premium still since I haven't yet installed my Windows 7 in 64-bit and I do not know if this camera's software will run under 64-bit (I have seen reports on websites that suggest it will).

This camera oozes quality, even at the price. While you probably won't be fondling it all the time unless there's something odd about you, the aluminium construction is solid and sturdy and a nice thoughtful touch is that the flexible strap for the back of the monitor can also double as a stand for the camera if the monitor top is just a bit too high (as it might be in my case, not sure yet). The cable to the USB plug has a built-in plastic wire tidy that's very nicely done too. The camera captures 720p video at 30fps according to the blurb and the built-in microphone situated on the top of the camera has noise cancelling features that seem to have worked well in test conversations I have conducted with innocent vict willing test subjects.

The Lifecam 3.0 software weighs in a just over 300 MB on the CD, which seems excessive even for those used to Logitech's bloatware, but the Camera settings that pop up on the taskbar whenever the camera is in use - I will be almost exclusively using it with Skype - allows quite a few Augmented Reality-type tricks, like the stars that rotate above my head wherever it is in frame as shown below:


These, along with pan and tilt and zoom controls are available through the little settings window that appears when you left or right click on the taskbar icon. As you can see I have made my head teeny here:

You can get a much better impression of these in motion obviously. There is an odd lack in the software however. My Logitech camera offered the possibility to reverse the image to make it easier to indicate things without having to think too much (since we're all used to our mirror images), the Microsoft software doesn't have this feature.

This is a lovely bit of kit. Skype's video quality depends on processor power as well as camera quality meaning that since I don't have a superfast machine, the video I have displayed to others on Skype calls isn't very high resolution or sharp and so hard to judge against my previous camera. Even so, the fact that it can sit above or below my monitor and the quality of the built-in mic meaning I can do away with the headset if desired meaning that it was a worthy use of my money. 5/5

12 February 2010

One calendar to rule them all

I've been trying to locate a way to link my Datebk6 calendar on my Palm (a Treo 680) with some kind of .ical-compatible calendar on the PC so that I can have all my appointments, etc. wherever I am. I do use the Google Calendar since GMail is such an important hub for my work, so that's the one I'd like to work with.

Things I've tried so far:
  • Airset - would work if I could use Palm Desktop 4.1.4. I can't I have to use 6.x because the Treo won't sync to the older version, otherwise Airset's cloud-based computer with built-in calendar app that syncs to .ical would be ideal.
  • I found someone saying that the Yahoo calendar syncs to Palm Desktop, but again only the older 4.1.4 version
  • I found software called DBA2CSV/Palm2Google, which looked ideal on first blush, but it's really a one-way thing for people migrating from a Palm platform to something that supports the .ical standard. The author replied to my query very rapidly though, so I can recommend it for the responsiveness of the author if you do want to migrate (although it does seem to really be a one-use tool and thus somewhat expensive)
  • If I could get Palm Desktop to export my calendar data in .vcs format, the standard from Microsoft used for Outlook that .ics the .ical standard is mainly an evolution of, things would be better, but the option to export as .vcs is ghosted on my Palm Desktop - I wonder if it's because I don't have Outlook?
  • Thunderbird 3 now has a new calendar extension called Lightning that can optionally understand .vcs files, so if I could translate my Datebk entries to .vcs, then into Lightning where they could be synced through .ical to Google Calendar that would tortuously solve the issue - after all, it's not like I'd need them to be so synced I'd need it OTA, I don't want OTA, just to sync with palm Desktop.
Dang! Since the Treo is dead tech, it seems that the only alternative to stay with some kind of PalmOS is to get a Palm Pre, but the cost is out of my budget for now, especially if bought on a contract. Gah

3 February 2010

Review: Max and the Magic Marker


It's not often I buy a WiiWare game. For my money the only one worth the Wii points has been World of Goo (though I did buy Swords and Soldiers and Bomberman Blast). World of Goo is now joined by Max and the Magic Marker.

Max is the story of a young boy who receives a marker pen in the post without any explanation to its function. He draws a monster with it and this monster comes to life and escapes from the paper! Max now needs to get him back and you might need to use that magic marker to help you with the puzzles along your way...

The game is ideal for the Wii. It uses the Wiimote as the marker pen, and the Nunchuk as the joystick to direct Max where you need him to go. Its standard platformer action is good enough as it is, but then there are areas that are too difficult to reach with the normal jumping behaviour and this is where the magic marker comes in to play. You can draw a staircase for Max to climb, or a block to drop on the head of the pesky purple monsters. It gets more intricate though, if you draw multiple lines that cross they get "glued" together to form a single object to enable you to go a bit further with the designs needed and then there's another twist. You can hold down the A and B buttons to freeze the action whereupon the graphics transform into a kid's drawing style. At this point you can draw at your leisure and when you unfreeze your drawing is in there already. This allows you to jump in the air, freeze, draw a box under Max, unfreeze and have him land on the box. He could then jump again, you freeze and draw an additional platform under Max's feet and so climb up the screen in this way.

The learning curve is well-adjusted. My son Finn who is nearly seven loves it and it makes a nice change from shooting games. With the simple introduction of the puzzles including signposts giving you a hint what to do the first few times you encounter a new puzzle, the fun of the game is not tempered by the frustration of failing to know what to do to reach your objective.

The game has crashed a couple of times, and a couple of times the camera has zoomed off to an area where you can no longer see Max or your marker and your only recourse is to restart the level you are on, but even this doesn't stop the game from being extremely polished in only 40MB (the maximum allowed on the WiiWare shop). The graphics are pretty and clear in both the normal and frozen "kid's drawing" versions, and the sound effects and music are very well-chosen.

Lastly, on the Press Play website there is a demo of Max playable on your computer (not on the Wii itself), that uses the free 3D engine Unity. Have a look and I'm prepared to bet that you too will shell out the 1,000 Wii points necessary to buy the game... 4/5