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Categories Consumer technology | Corus Radio Network

This week on The Shift, Shane Hewitt and I talked about the voice cloning AI that was demonstrated by Amazon’s Alexa last week, Twitter Notes for longform writing, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge, Samsung and Xbox partnering, and Nintendo’s summer road trip.

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Categories Video games |

Montreal’s Tribute Games plays on nostalgia with Shredder’s Revenge, playing Xbox games without a console on new Samsung TVs, and Nintendo’s summer road trip is back.

Shredder’s Revenge is a delightful throwback to the era of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

If you’re of a certain age, you’re going to be sure that you played Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge when you were a kid. That’s how convincingly Montreal’s Tribute Games has recreated the era of ’80s brawler video games.

Published by Dotemu for Nintendo Switch, PS4, Windows, and Xbox One, Shredder’s Revenge is effectively the sequel to TMNT that was a hit in arcades in 1989. The voice actors from the television cartoon series reprise their roles here, and the tone and humour of the series is perfectly matched.

The side-scrolling beat-em-up action lets you play as either of the four turtles – Leonardo, Raphael, Michelangelo, or Donatello – or as Master Splinter, April O’Neil, and Casey Jones (who is unlockable).

Each of the characters has different specs and different moves, and you can execute clever combos with other players.

Up to six players can play at a time (only four on the PS4) and the game scales the number of enemies so you’ve always got a challenge but aren’t overwhelmed.

Which makes it a perfect game to play with friends who want to have fun but may not be the most skilled gamers.

If you want more of a challenge, the arcade mode restricts the number of lives you have and does not save your progression. It’s a true arcade experience in which you try to see how far you can get.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Shredder’s Revenge is furious, frantic fun.

Play Xbox games on your new Samsung TV without needing a console

Ever since Xbox and Playstation started exploring cloud-based gaming, we’ve been wondering when consoles might become irrelevant.

That future gets closer every day.

Samsung recently revealed that it’s Game Hub, which is part of all 2022 smart televisions, will include the Xbox app.

With an Xbox Game Pass subscription and an Xbox controller, you can now play hundreds of Xbox games on your Samsung screen without needing a console.

Yes, you can already play plenty of games without needing a game console. But now you can play the latest Forza and Halo games without needing an Xbox.

Even if you have an Xbox console, with a 2022 Samsung smart television, you’ll be able to play wherever that screen is, even if the console is connected somewhere else.

Nintendo’s summer road trip is happening again

Prior to the covid-19 pandemic, Nintendo Canada often hosted events across the country where people could try out Nintendo systems and games.

This summer marks a return of the idea.

At the Nintendo Switch Summer Experience, Canadians will be able to try some of the fun games available for the Switch, including Mario Strikers, Nintendo Switch Sports, and Kirby and the Forgotten Land.

At some of the events, registration will be required.

The Summer Experience in Canada starts at Carnaval del Sol in Vancouver the weekend of July 9, and will be at many of the big summer festivals across the country.

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Categories Consumer technology |

Amazon wants Alexa to connect with you on an emotional level; Twitter experimenting with longform writing.

Amazon’s re:Mars conference shocks with demonstration of voice cloning

Amazon’s conference about machine learning, automation, robotics, and space was in the news last week because of a moment during the keynote address by Amazon’s Rohit Prasad.

Prasad runs the research into artificial intelligence for the Alexa program, and in his presentation he talked about how machine learning would allow Alexa to use an audio recording of a real person to mimic that voice. In the demonstration, a boy has Alexa read a book in his grandmother’s voice.

It’s called voice cloning and it’s been around for as long (longer?) as we’ve had deepfake videos, and it’s been used to recreate Anthony Bourdain’s voice as well as Val Kilmer’s voice in Top Gun: Maverick.

Twitter testing new longform functioning in Canada

Twitter is expanding the number of characters that a select group of writers can use in their posts with the new Notes function.

Notes allows posts to include images, animated gifs, videos, and other Twitter posts. And they can be edited by writers.

While readers cannot – yet – comment directly on the note, you can thread comments under Twitter posts promoting the Note.

The new functionality is being tested by writers from Canada, the U.S., the UK, and Ghana, but Notes published by these individuals can be seen anywhere. Canadian writers participating in the initiative include Bee Quammie, who posted a Note about trying to find a mommy blog written by Black Canadian mothers, Alethea Arnaquq-Baril, who republished a commentary about the importance of Inuit instutitions being led by Inuit, and Terese Mason Pierre, writing about finishing a poetry manuscript.

At the moment, Notes feel like a return to blogging platforms from ten years ago, and that’s kind of how Twitter got started, by providing a place where longform content published elsewhere could be promoted and aggregated. The difference now is that you can read the full post on Twitter, instead of having to go elsewhere online.

And the people who are publishing Notes are an interesting group that has been carefully curated by the Twitter Write editors. I’m curious to see who else gets invited to publish Notes. Just how wide will this new functionality go?

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Categories Video games |

Mario, Peach, and the rest of the Mushroom Kingdom characters get to trash talking in Battle League, getting into the game library this summer, Samsung’s racing sim rig, Xbox Canada and the Blue Jays.

Raucous, hilarious Mario Strikers: Battle League shines with personality

Coming from Vancouver’s Next Level Games, Mario Strikers pits two teams against each other in a stylized, arcade-style sport called Strike.

Strike resembles soccer but borrows a bit from the chaos that is roller derby, and in the short Battle League games you’ll play you can step into the boots of one of ten Mushroom Kingdom characters including Mario and Luigi and their alters, Wario and Waluigi, Peach and Rosalina, Yoshi and Toad, Bowser, and Donkey Kong.

Each of the characters has a special “hyper strike” that is accompanied by stylized animation and its in these and the taunts that the characters throw at their opponents where Next Level really celebrates the individual personalities. You can also equip them with gear to improve their abilities.

I expect that Nintendo will release more characters through downloadable content in the coming months. What’s not easy to update, though, is how limiting it is to play Mario Strikers with friends.

You can only play with one other person on the same system, and online you can only go two versus two. The game accommodates up to eight players with local wireless, but only if you’ve connected four Nintendo Switches.

Nintendo seems to be encouraging players to play online in the Strikers Club where you can create a club with up to 19 other players to compete against other clubs.

But it’s too bad that our family can’t play two-on-two on our Switch. Because there would be some serious trash talking then.

Why I’ve gone back to Horizon Forbidden West

I’ve been writing – and talking – for months about how the video game industry has been impacted by the covid-19 pandemic. Shifts in how the work was getting done and interruptions in the supply chain are only a couple of examples.

One of the consequences is that games we expected last year were pushed into this year, and games we hoped would come out this year are pushing into next year, and beyond.

Which is a perfect opportunity to consider games you may have overlooked, or to spend more time with games you may have started and abandoned.

For me, the recent lull has given me a chance to go back to Horizon Forbidden West. I’ve now put some 80 hours into Aloy’s story, and I haven’t even finished the main narrative.

The far future Earth that is the setting for the Horizon games is compelling to me (there are interesting parallels with Neal Stephenson’s novel, Seveneves), and the writers at Guerrilla Games created side missions that have an impact on the world, and with characters who seem entirely real.

I’ll probably be finished Forbidden West in the next couple of weeks, and it just may be the first game that I fully complete.

Then I’ll have to wait for Horizon: Call of the Mountain, the virtual reality experience developed for PS VR2. There’s currently no release date for that.

Playstation Plus Premium library is extensive, and hard to navigate

Another way to deal with the slowdown of new gaming releases is to dig into a catalogue and find something you missed.

Which is easy to do with Playstation’s new library of games available through the Playstation Plus subscriptions.

The basic, Essential service ($70 a year) gives you a couple of games a month you can play. These are often back catalogue titles, but if you’ve got a PS5 you can get must-play games like Bloodborne, God of War, and the Last of Us.

Upgrading to Extra ($115 a year) gives you access to hundreds of more games, including recent hits like Assassin’s Creed Valhalla, Control, Ghost of Tsushima, Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy, and Returnal.

The Premium upgrade ($140 a year) adds games that Playstation has deemed “classics”, some of which were released on the original Playstation console (itself released in 1994).

Some of the highlights include Ape Escape, Enslaved: Odyssey to the West, the original God of War trilogy, Infamous, and Resistance 3.

The number of truly old-school games available through Premium is limited, but it provides a nice nostalgia trip.

And a number of those older games are only playable by streaming from cloud servers, so you should keep that in mind.

What’s harder to get past is the confusing way that you can view and access these games on your console. It’s difficult to find anything, which will limit what people ultimately choose to play. I hope that a lack of engagement isn’t used as evidence that there’s no demand for those games when the problem is that people couldn’t find them.

Step into a high-tech car racing simulator courtesy of Samsung

If you’re in Toronto at any point this summer, consider visiting the Samsung Experience Store at Eaton Centre to drive a virtual race car in a unique racing rig.

Samsung put three 65-inch Neo QLED 8K screens and a Q990B soundbar into this set up, which includes rigging and seating from Advanced SimRacing.

You’ll need to clutch and shift, accelerate using foot pedals, and get bumped around by the hydrolics in the system. It’s the kind of experience you’re not likely to get at home, and sitting in that cockpit is the closest you’re going to get to actually driving a Formula 1 machine.

Get a special, in-person Blue Jays experience thanks to Xbox Canada

Xbox Canada’s official sponsorship with the Toronto Blue Jays means that Canadian gamers are getting a chance this summer to get Access Unlocked.

Four prizes are being awarded through the summer, and the prize packs include things like brunch in the dugout, swinging a bat in the batting cages, and playing Xbox games on the massive video screen.

If you’re not within 300 km of Toronto, you’ll also get flight and hotel.

The first prize period ends on June 30, so get your name in the hat.

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