Seeking Girl Scout Cookies? There’s an app for that!

It’s Girl Scout Cookie time again!

If none of your co-workers or family members have girls in the Girl Scouts, you might find it a little tricky to track down Girl Scout Cookies.

Not if you have a smartphone.

There are a pair of apps — each available for iOS and Android — that allow you to search and find Girl Scout Cookie sales in your area.

One, from Kellogg’s, does a reasonable job of letting you know where the sales are by date and location.

The other, from the Girl Scouts themselves, is a little more robust.

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Review: Temple Run 2 is a blockbuster sequel to the hit mobile game

By Beau Yarbrough

“Temple Run 2,” the sequel to the ubiquitous mobile game, is also the fastest mobile game to reach 50 million downloads,  doing so in just in 13 days since the sequel’s release on Jan. 18.

It’s not hard to see why. The original game has been downloaded more than 170 million times, according to franchise developers Imangi Studios. They’re free and, unlike many “free” games, the in-app purchases – extra coins in the original and coins and gems in the sequel – aren’t required to enjoy the game. I’d even argue that buying the extras probably makes the games a little less fun. (Don’t worry about Imangi making their money back: They’ve turned the brand into a franchise, leading to board games, card games and branded spin-offs like Temple Run: Brave along with the inevitable t-shirts and so on.)

The game – and its sequel – are simple. Remember the scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark, where Indiana Jones has to run for his life, trying to escape a giant rolling stone ball trap? That’s the game, although Temple Run replaces the iconic stone ball with skull-faced gorillas (a pack of them in the original, a single gigantic one in the sequel).

Along the way, your hero – a red-headed Indiana Jones look-alike named Guy Dangerous – has to leap over and duck under obstacles or cling to precarious ledges. If he runs into too many obstacles or stumbles too many times, his pursuers will catch up to him and devour him. He always loses in the end, but the fun is in seeing if you can get just a bit further the next time, or if you can collect enough coins to unlock better or more frequent power-ups.

Temple Run 2 dramatically improves upon the original’s graphics and trades running through ruins in a tropical rain forest for gorgeous ruins seemingly based on Machu Picchu, high in the Peruvian Andes. (Machu Picchu has traps that shoot jets of flame and giant rolling cylinders covered in spikes, right?) The player will also have to help Guy leap over mountain streams and sheer drop-offs, run along narrow cliffs and duck under logs and chunks of fallen masonry. The sequel also adds ziplines for Guy to slide down and an occasional mine cart sequence that has been my downfall more often than not.

The game runs best on mobile devices released in the last year or two, but should run OK on all but the oldest devices. (And if it doesn’t run well, the original almost surely will.) This is a no-brainer of a download: It’s free, playable in quick 30-second bursts while waiting in line or for an appointment, but is addictive enough to swallow a whole Saturday afternoon if you let it.

The hero’s name may be Guy Dangerous, but this is easily the best Indiana Jones adventure since that business with the Holy Grail.

Temple Run 2
Imangi Studios
iOS/Android/Amazon (Reviewed iOS)
Rated 9+ 

 

 

Review: Hitman: Absolution

Hitman: Absolution

By Neil Nisperos

The sight of silently creeping up on prey, hidden in the shadows, and pouncing on a sentry – a popular trope of the action genre – appeals to the hunter in all of us.

But unless you have a license to kill,  you can’t do this in real life. So it’s with great fun that in Io’s new Hitman: Absolution,  one can waste hours with garrote wire,  perfecting and honing the deadly craft of eliminating prey.

The game means the return of the bald-headed anti-hero Agent 47, who here gets a large toolbox to ply his trade through a number of villainous hideouts and sticky situations.

Absolution harkens back to the primordial instincts of our hunter ancestors. It’s just fun to creep in the shadows and wait for the right time to strike.

A feature in the game you’ll want to use a lot is instinct mode, which shows Agent 47 where all of the enemies are on the map. A key skill is to implement various electronic switches or to throw objects, which attract enemies and spread them out. Agent 47 can hide and they can get picked off one by one. Always remember to hide your dirty work in a nearby container or closet.

Level design and music are top-notch. The understated tension of low strings, brass notes, and the sudden plink of a piano key provided the appropriate mood as I took my hero past a bevy of enemy sentries, guards, and baddies. You know when you’re in the hit man zone when you find yourself taking deep meditative breaths as you creep through environments swarming with enemies.

Overall, Hitman is a beautifully rendered game of patience and strategy that doesn’t disappoint.  Infiltration was never more fun. Here’s hoping the developers behind Hitman: Absolution make a proper ninja game set in feudal Japan with the same great design.

Hitman: Absolution
Io Interactive/Square Enix
PC, PlayStation 3, XBox 360
Rated M for Mature 

Review: Madden 13 is enjoyable, but shows signs of stagnation

Madden NFL 13, adds a new physics engine to the annual franchise, but the game’s improvements feel more incremental than groundbreaking.

By Jahmal Peters
Contributor

As the story goes, legendary NFL coach John Madden played a significant role in shaping the video game series that would assume his namesake for nearly a quarter century.

As reported in an IGN history of the “Madden NFL” series, the developers who worked on the first version of the game tried to adapt to the hardware limitations of the time by designing the game as a seven-on-seven version of football.

Madden, however, wanted nothing to do with a scaled-down representation of the game.

“If it isn’t 11 on 11, it isn’t real football,” Madden is quoted as saying in the article. “I’m not putting my name on it if it’s not real.”

One can only wonder what might have been had the Hall of Fame coach not exerted his authority over the creative direction of the product and forced it to be as authentic as possible.

This brings us to “Madden NFL 13,” a game that is enjoyable on its own merit but is the latest iteration of a series that has shown glaring signs of stagnation and has been devoid of any revolutionary features that once set the series apart in years past.

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$19 unlimited wireless phone plan is a reality

Looking to save a a bundle on your wireless phone service?

Republic Wireless, which offers its “members” a $19 unlimited talk, text and data plan, recently entered open beta.

That means anyone can join.

Of course, there’s gotta be a catch, and there is. The company wants you to connect to Wi-Fi for the majority of your calling, texting and Internet access.

That shouldn’t be a problem for those of us who have Wi-Fi access at work and at home, but for others, that could be a dealbreaker.

Of course, you still have service when you’re not connected to a hotspot. Calls, texts and Internet get routed through Sprint’s CDMA cell network when you’re out and about, and the company remains committed to unlimited access for everyone.

There are a few caveats, however.

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Review: Mass Effect 3: Leviathan DLC

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The new “Leviathan” DLC pack for “Mass Effect 3″ falls so far below this reviewer’s expectations that everyone at BioWare and EA Games who had a role in developing or marketing this add-on needs to pull out a dictionary and look up the word “promise.”

Webster’s New World College Dictionary (Fourth Edition) defines a promise as “1. An oral or written agreement to do or not to something; vow. 2. Indication, as of a successful prospect or future; basis for expectation 3. Something promised.”

In a sentence: “The Leviathan DLC for Mass Effect 3 does not deliver what its advertising promised.”

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Review: “Sleeping Dogs” (PS3)

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By Neil Nisperos

Staff Writer

For those who have ever dreamed of being in a Kung Fu movie or Hong Kong crime thriller, Square Enix’s new “Sleeping Dogs” offers that kind of experience, even if it is not a perfect sandbox game.

Sleeping Dogs allows players to explore the complex and labyrinthine environs of Hong Kong while assuming the role of Wei Shen. Shen is a fearless Hong Kong police officer who infiltrates a Hong Kong Triad criminal organization. Going undercover in the game’s version of Hong Kong means players enter a world of high-speed chases, shady business deals, shakedowns and bone-breaking beat downs.

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Farewell, Mr. Armstrong, and Thank You

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Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon, has died today at the age of 81 due to complications following heart surgery earlier this month.

Uttering the immortal words “That’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.”, Neil Armstrong and his crew became heroes to more than just a nation but to the world.

Armstrong’s self-made accomplishments were many, even before reaching the Moon. He had served as a Navy pilot having paid for flight lessons with a clerk’s job and fought during the Korean War, earned his degree in aeronautical engineering with top marks (and went on after his astronaut days to earn a Masters degree in the same field), became a test pilot, and had even directed a musical for his fraternity. He also holds honorary doctorates from a number of institutions.

Cool under pressure, he demonstrated his knack for doing his best in any situation during a dramatic episode during the Gemini 8 mission when he saved the capsule from an out-of-control spin. Armstrong and his partner, David Scott, guided the Gemini safely back to Earth having survived the ordeal.

After his astronaut days, Armstrong would go on to become a professor at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio teaching for eight years up until 1979. Afterwards, he would be a spokesperson for several companies and would heed the call of his nation when they needed him again at NASA to help investigate the Challenger disaster in 1986.

He quietly took himself away from the public spectacle in the last few years, but the impact of his life and that of his contributions to science won’t be forgotten. He once said “”As a boy, because I was born and raised in Ohio, about 60 miles north of Dayton, the legends of the Wrights have been in my memories as long as I can remember.”

I’ve little doubt that many others will continue to go on in being inspired by his life, and those of his fellow astronauts, in much the same way. Thank you, and good journey, Mr. Armstrong.

Review: Sleeping Dogs (X360)

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Sleeping Dogs might never have come out if Square-Enix hadn’t snagged United Front Games’ latest project after Activision axed it. It was a bold move. The relatively young development house had only ModNation Racers to their name and they were working in territory urban sandbox specialists Rockstar and Volition called home. It wasn’t hard to see why Activision suddenly developed a case of cold feet over its prospects -  even when some of UFG’s members had cut their teeth within those same studios. But then again, no one thought that Rocksteady could pull off as legendary a take on the Dark Knight not once – but twice – with about as much on their resume, either.

UFG’s crime drama takes players to Hong Kong as Wei Chen, an undercover cop on loan from the States working to bring down the Sun On Yee triad. Having grown up along the city’s rough and tumble side streets before his family moved to America, his early education with the swagger and bark of its worst before graduating grade school make him a valuable weapon to his new HKPD boss. 
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Review: Darksiders II (X360)

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In 2010, the first thing that Darksiders did was to destroy the world. It brought on the Apocalypse reserving players a front row seat as one of the Four Horsemen. Humanity was dead, and War was on the march.

Fueled by the vision of comics industry veteran, Joe Madureira, and his team at Vigil Games, it took the charred building blocks of a Biblical end and gleefully twisted them into a vast adventure battling through the aftermath as angels and demons fought over the bones of what was left. But like any good story, there’s always more to tell. And like any good sequel, there’s always more than one way to improve on the original.

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