TMSD is blasted to the past with MOTORIX

iPad. If I hear another word about it, especially from the Daily Mail, I will resort to violence. And we all know how undignified that is.

Being faced with having to write about the f**king thing in order to get any traffic from the inevitable search spike, I’m going to drop this one by the wayside and write about what I want to write about. What iWant. Damn.

Here’s the story. Just earlier I was rooting through one of my many boxes of junk.

Fig. A: Junk, Box of.

These things are everywhere. What did I find inside, you ask? Well, back in the 90’s, Tonka Toys made a range of toys called Motorix. These consisted of several blocks and several bases which could be used to make any vehicle you liked. While each set came with parts for three set vehicles, any part could be mated with any other part to make some weird-ass vehicles.

Pristine in this box are some which I made many years ago. Lets examine.

The blocks could be used to make some fairly sensible things if you were a bit boring. Clearly I was when I made this. The engine, cab and nose-piece are all separate pieces of tiny plastic that stick on to the wheel base. For reference, this is just over two inches long.

I think this was one of the pre-made designs that came on the box. Lets ramp things up a little.

F**K YEAH, A FORMULA 1 SPACE SHUTTLE CAR.

I haven’t a bloody clue what this is. A plane? A submarine? A spaceship? Who knows. The top once played host to a spring loaded rocket launcher that was a fantastic tool for flinging hundreds of tiny plastic pieces about the place. It’s kind of a pity it’s gone. I miss you, spring loaded rocket launcher.

I should probably have apologised by now for my frankly disgusting carpet. I think it’s made of compressed navel fluff.

My 7-year-old alter ego was probably trying to combine as many sets as possible here. The end result is an underwater land-crawler that conveniently works in space.

Now I’m really lost. I’ll never understand why a rocket powered vehicle with no wheels would require three internal combustion engines.

Or giant tape decks on each side.

This was the colossus. The best piece. The piece with such awesomeness that not even my camera can capture it in focus. This s**t is powerful. This piece was one of the coolest in my set. For those who haven’t worked it out, it’s a walker. And it actually works, too. Wind it up with that little dial up there and it actually walks off while making one hell of a racket. Even now I think this is cool as hell but back in the day it was the one piece I used for absolutely everything. My God, it was awesome.

It’s a terrible shame that the spring inside is completely knackered. All it does now is wobble in a feeble manner. Still makes a horrible din.

In conclusion, it’s incredibly hard to find any information on these things. Googling Motorix brings up the website of a Taiwanese shock absorber manufacturer. Apparently these are still sold occasionally on eBay, so if you have an urge to try out one of the coolest toys of my childhood and damn the expense, go right ahead.

I’m off to go and whine about the iPad on as many message boards as I can find.

– Mr. Plant.

Disgo 3000 Part 2 : Six months on..

As regular readers will know, not too long ago I reviewed the Disgo net browser 3000, an extreme low-cost computer from memory manufacturer Disgo. Since then it has become by far the most popular article on TMSD, due to the inevietable interest in a computer that costs less than £83. At the time of writing, I had owned the unit for a matter of days. Now, however, I have been living and working with the Disgo computer for a period of six months.

Actually, that’s a lie. more accurately, I’ve been living with a Disgo computer for six months.

Let’s cut to the chase. The unit that I originally reviewed broke a few weeks later. Put simply, the power button ceased to have any function at all, and when the unit did switch on the screen’s colour depth had gone to hell. With the Disgo being my main method of taking notes for my AS level, I got it replaced right away.

Bizzarely enough, the second unit had several noticable differences to the first. It still looks roughly the same, but the speakers have moved, and the view of the mainboard through the vents on the bottom was completely different, indicating a somewhat major hardware revision. The software packaged had been altered too. Some of the worse engrish on various dialogues has been corrected and there is now a handy tool for handling ZIP and RAR files. The system startup has also changed, with an option to ‘upgrade system’ – which needs a pass code – implying that the operating system and embedded software can be upgraded or otherwise modified by authorised technicians.

The story behind the CBBC stickers is long and winding.

The unit isn’t actually Vista ready. I just didn’t want to waste a good sticker.

Cosmetically, the unit is identical to the first revision, with the same miniaturised keyboard and faux-stainless steel lid. The power switch is still on the outside – a daft place for it – and the mouse buttons are still joined in the middle, a move I fear was made due to cost cutting first and aesthetics second. The mobile phone-style power adapter has been swapped out for a different model – presumably because the old one had problems with the cable fraying like mine eventually did.

The unit still has the same 64 MB of RAM and 2 GB of storage, although it should be noted that the displayed processor speed has been reduced to 248 MHz from ~270MHz. I’ve not noticed a difference.

The unit is used every day – as you can see above as it’s absolutely filthy – and this has therefore been the ideal stress test for it. As a device, I made it part of my routine, and accepted its disadvantages such as the inability to install software and replaced them with the advantages, such as the tiny size.

Then a screw fell out.

It wasn’t a particularly important screw, and it doesn’t really matter, but it shows the Disgo’s Achilles heel. The main reason that it costs £82.99 is that the build quality is shameworthy. And this is the second model, which does feel much better in the hand than the previous, which felt like it would shatter under any form of pressure. This doesn’t really detract from the device – it’s still a fantastic little thing – but it does give the looming unpleasant thought that it is a little vulnerable.

As stated last time, I received the Disgo as a gift. If I hadn’t, would I buy one? For £82.99?

Naturally.

Read Part 3

Part 1Part 2 | Part 3

TMSD Reviews 4: Wipeout Pulse (PS2)

I’ve been sitting here for a good ten minutes with a rapidly dwindling laptop battery, wondering how on Earth to start this one. In fact, I’m still not even sure what I’m going to write about. Politics? I’ll vote for anybody who promises lightsabers for all. Technology? Even though it’s true that I am awash in technology right now, I’ve already talked about it all. At length. Ah yes! Why don’t I talk about the utterly miserable Cityhopper train I’m on right now? I can even link it in with the regular content if I like. How? Well, I’ve just passed through the station for Wavertree Technology Park, where, if memory serves me, the lovely local video game developer Psygnosis are based.

Or, as they’re named these days, the romantic sounding ‘Sony Computer Entertainment Europe – Liverpool’.

This works well for me. As I’ve said before, there’s nothing I like more than a good segue here at TMSD.

Wipeout.

Just about my all-time favourite racing series – and one I will defend to the hilt – Wipeout ticks all the boxes for me. Beautifully designed tracks, inspired scenery, controls from heaven, and the best vehicle designs I’ve ever seen in a game. Not to mention the fact that you can blast the arse off anybody who dares to cut across you. And it’s all made right here in sunny Liverpool.

Of course, since Psygnosis were absorbed into pan-global electronics giant Sony, all their games have been Playstation exclusives. This is intensely annoying for a PC gamer such as myself, but I see Sony’s strategy here. If I ever become crazy and actually buy a PS3 – In between the gnawing on walls and pissing out the window, of course – It will be because of Wipeout HD and only Wipeout HD.

There’s no respite with the handhelds either. I own a big ol’ silver DS and an iPod Touch. Not that racing games do anything but suck on the iPod, so maybe that’s the silver lining in Psygnosis taking the conglomerate shilling.

I don’t own a PSP, and nothing about the device makes me want to give a damn about this. But that’s another story. For another time.

What I do own, however, is a dusty old Playstation 2. I love this console. How couldn’t you? Ten years on, and they’re still releasing games for this thing. Granted, most are a succession of increasingly crap Wii ports, but that’s pretty impressive when you consider that there are releases planned for the console well in to next year. That’s the equivalent of commercial SNES games being released in 2002. It’s a feat that has only been matched by a few consoles.

We’re nearing the point here, in the same way my train isn’t nearing its destination.

Being British, and therefore European, I’ve been treated to a rather nice port of Wipeout Pulse for the PS2, which, for the princely sum of £16.99, was to be found on my doormat wrapped in a bubble-wrap envelope yesterday morning.

Playing it, I was expecting something very familiar to the Wipeout 3 I had been playing for weeks beforehand, so I dived straight in to ‘Single Race’ and attemped to play it in the same way. Ohoho, that was the wrong thing to do. In Wipeout 3, you start at the back, work your way to the front with relative ease, then stay there for the rest of race as nothing will really attempt to challenge you. In Pulse, you start at the back, crash in to everything, then remain at the back until the very end, where you lose. At this stage, the only pulse that I was experiencing was my throbbing temple in sheer anger about just how difficult it was to control in comparison with Wipeout 3.

To dispel any ideas that I might not like Pulse, I’m going to skip straght ahead to when I’d worked it all out. In Wipeout 3, you press a button to make you go left or right. This makes you turn left or right. In Pulse, steering is a much more precise art involving L1 and R1 – which are left and right air brakes – to keep you steady and on the racing line. Even in the FEISAR ship, which is the slowest and best handling, you still have to use this technique to avoid ploughing in to every single wall. It’s harder than before, sure, but it’s far more satisfying, and if you do it well you do get the feeling that it’s a skilled thing to have done.

After you master the cornering, there is the blistering speed to contend with. For the feeble, the default mode is relatively slow, with four difficulty modes that affect speed & handling. The AI difficulty is a separate option.

Pulse’s weapons are par for the Wipeout course, with everything from Fusion (and presumably Pure) returning. As with Pure, which I should probably mention I haven’t played, you regain sheild energy by ‘absorbing’ weapons, as opposed to earlier games which featured a pit lane.

There are several different game modes, such as the standard single race, multiplayer, and time trial, but also additional modes including Zone and Eliminator. The Zone mode has you piloting a ship with the accelerator permanently on full, with the top speed increasing slowly through a series of ‘zones’. Points are awarded for the length of time the player can pilot the ship before it runs out of sheild energy. I haven’t yet played Eliminator, but from what I understand it’s a sudden death mode with no shield recharging.

Wipeout Pulse is a game that tailors very well to both newcomers to the Wipeout series and long-time fans such as myself. If you’re either, take a look into it.

You won’t regret it.