Preview images turns Twitter into an advertiser’s dream, but also a user’s nightmare

Twitter Image PreivewRemember when Facebook and Twitter were two entirely different sites? Considering the changes both sites have made in recent times, a casual observer would be forgiven for thinking Twitter is a bite-sized version of Facebook. With the latest change bringing preview images and video clips to the news feed directly, the line separating the two blurs again. Image previews brings its own content problems, like the potential of a graphic video or image appearing on the site without warning, but that’s a topic in itself, so for now, let’s focus on the change itself.

If we’re going to be honest with ourselves, Twitter needs that association as it does have a growth problem. Taking inspiration from an incredibly popular site without compromising the core product is the best way to bring in a new audience, the biggest barriers for users joining the service is how much of a focus it places on creating your own content as well as discovering interesting accounts outside your own circle of friends, keeping your news feed fresh and interesting.

While the likes of @MagicRecs provides a possible solution for discovering content, getting new users in is a bigger problem. If they see that it’s focused on media – imagery is the most accessible medium online for a number of reasons – it will look more inclusive and will draw you in. Before now, Twitter was all text and hyperlinks, but if it can show the average person that it’s a hive of activity through imagery, that’s going to be a major hook for those sitting on the fence.

For those already signed up and using Twitter regularly, it’s another step to ensure you to stay on the main news feed at all times. All the recent changes can be attributed to this goal including threaded comments, bringing DMs to the main page on its website (but not on mobile since that would take you away from the news feed), turning @MagicRecs into a main app feature and now showing image previews in its news feed. Considering that its IPO is happening on Nov 6th, it’s a good time as ever to show potential investors that it’s making the effort to improve the experience.

It allows for a more inclusive experience, but what it also allows is for advertisers to offer more options when using promoted tweets, which I’ll be amazed if brands don’t start including images on them immediately. Just look at the first preview tweet in the main image as an example. This practically begs for companies to provide things like simple infographics to catch the eye of its target audience, but don’t be surprised when some brand accounts end up placing banner ads in its tweets.

Since Twitter is very careful with the number of ads its places in your feed (the one you will see very often is a promoted tweet located at or close to the top of your feed), your feed isn’t going to be disrupted by numerous ads. Bring video ads into the equation and Twitter is practically become an advertiser’s dream.

Users, on the other hand, mightn’t feel so enthusiastic about the change, and being bombarded with imagery is going to be a headache for many.  Having the option to switch previews off on mobile is a small relief, but the fact that it’s doesn’t allow Web users to do the same suggests that it’s so focused on mobile (if that wasn’t obvious enough already), it’s content by just keeping everyone on mobile happy since that’s where its main audience now lies.

How to stay (mostly) hidden on Facebook & keep things private

Facebook Like Sign(Image via Facebook)
If the last few months has taught us anything, it’s that users really value privacy and control. This is mostly thanks to revelations involving the NSA, but also it applies to the changes made in advertising, browsing and how we use technology in our day-to-day lives.

Now, the latest problem comes courtesy of Facebook as it posted a reminder about how its ‘Who can look up your Timeline by name?’ option is being removed, something that would have left a large number of users worried. In its defence, it had originally announced this back in December, but it’s still not a great situation for users who would prefer a degree of privacy and control.

Thankfully, there are a number of ways you can limit the amount of information revealed about you and ensure that only the right people find your account. Facebook has simplified privacy settings in recent times, but there are other important features that should be taken advantage of.

Quick edit

The easiest way to edit your privacy settings is to click the padlock icon at the top right hand corner of the screen. Through this, you can control who sees your account and timeline as well as block any unwanted friends.FB Privacy Quick Edit

While this is useful for quick adjustments, the real changes take place in your privacy settings, which can be accessed by clicking the cog located at the top-right hand corner of the page.

Limit who can see future and past posts

By default, all content posted on Facebook is made public. For most people, this won’t be good news as there are some posts we just want to share with our friends. While you can change the settings the next time you post an update (the option is right beside the ‘post’ button), you might be worried about posts from years ago.FB Who Can See Future Posts

It’s a pain to go through your entire timeline so instead, you can limit the audience by going into privacy and selecting it. However, once you do this, the only way to undo it is to go through each post individually, but that mightn’t be a bad thing.FB Limit Audience Old Posts

Disappear from search engines

Probably the most important change you can make as let’s face it, it’s more likely that people will find you. Turning this feature off prevents your Facebook profile from appearing on Google, Bing, Yahoo! and any other search engines. It won’t happen immediately, but within a day, your Facebook profile will no longer appear.FB Link Search Engines

Turn off follower option

Facebook has been pushing the subscriber function for quite a while now, trying to turn it from a site just for friends and family into the central hub for the Web. This meant that anyone can follow you, without having to become friends with you. By going into options and clicking on ‘followers’ on the left-hand side, you can turn off this option, giving you more control over who sees your profile and updates.FB Switch off followers

See how people view your profile

If you really want to know how much information you’re revealing to the public, you should really look at how your profile appears in public. By going into your profile and clicking the cog at the bottom right-hand corner of your cover photo, you will find the option to ‘view as’.

Not only can you find out what posts and info the public can see, but also people you’re friends with. Both are very useful in determining what kind of info and updates you want the world to see, which ties into the next point.Who Can View My Profile

Limit what appears on the About page

For Graph Search, context is everything. Although it will take a bit longer for them to find you, in theory someone could find you if they have your first name and one or two important details such as location and job.

When you’ve accessed your About page, you have the option to edit information there, but you can also limit the type of people who can see it. It’s a little time-consuming, but you can practically make all information only available to yourself.FB About Page

Why aiming for the heart is Snapchat’s best bet!

Snapchat Stories(Image via Snapchat)

Last week brought a number of developments in the social space. The majority were things that were coming for a long time like Twitter’s IPO and Instagram introducing ads, but the most exciting piece of news came from Snapchat and its introduction of Stories.

For those not familiar, Stories essentially adds a news feed to the app. While the basic premise only allows you to message one friend at a time, Stories lets you post to multiple friends, meaning that those images are available to view for 24 hours. The idea is that you’ll string together a number of photos, showing people how a day or event has unfolded and therefore adding to the fun nature of the app.

With 350 million photos posted per day on the app, it has a considerable audience to work from, and it’s pushing this through a number of trailers both through the platform and through YouTube. It’s quite clear that it’s an important part of its overall strategy and the quality of these trailers attests to this.

For one, it’s an incredibly smart idea that will drive up the number of snaps posted without compromising the ethos of the app. More snaps means more reasons to visit the app regularly. However, the real genius behind this isn’t the way it will boost numbers, but in how it will resonate with users, both old and new.

Thanks to self-destructing images and drawing tools, Snapchat has a playful side, which has won it so many users, but that’s something that will only get you so far.

If you consider the biggest social sites and apps that place a focus on imagery, they connect with people on an emotional level. Facebook allows you to stay connected with family and friends, Twitter lets you see events unfold in real-time, and Instagram captures moments and documents your life.

Snapchat doesn’t have that yet, but seeing moments that will only be witnessed by yourself and select friends adds an element of exclusivity. It’s in our nature to share, but more importantly, we want to know more than others, and witnessing moments that are for our eyes only makes us feel good as we’re included.

Of all the major players, the one that this could cause trouble for would be Instagram. Facebook and Twitter are diverse enough to continue relatively unaffected, but since Instagram only offers one real concept (let’s face it, video hasn’t really taken off on the platform as its inclusion was mostly in reaction to Vine), it’s under the most risk.

Since growth is more vital than ever to Instagram’s future, now that ads are appearing on the platform, a rival that’s both ad free and brings a fresh approach to storytelling could throw a major spanner in the works and slow down growth.

The real test for any social site isn’t just whether it can grow, but whether it can do enough to create an emotional bond between itself and its users. A good hook will bring people in, but it’s emotion that will keep them using it again and again. For Snapchat, that’s where the real fun begins.

(Update: Originally this piece said that Snapchat has 150m monthly active users. A mixup meant that it’s actually Instagram that has 150m monthly active users as Snapchat only revealed the number of photos posted per day. Thanks to Ben Cera for mentioning it.)

‘You Only Need To Do One Simple Thing To Go Viral’

Foil Arms And Hog(Image via FoilArmsAndHog/YouTube)

When starting off a new advertising campaign, one of the biggest aim for any company or brand is to create something that will go viral. Its meaning tends to differ from person to person – some would see 100,000 views as a respectable marker, while others would feel that you have to reach one million to qualify, but the objective is the same: create something that will be seen by as many people as possible for a minimal cost.

The hope is that if your video or product is good, it will create a ripple effect where people will share it and expose it to a larger audience who will then do the same thing. Working in digital marketing for any length of time will quickly teach you that as everyone (understandably) wants their content to become a hit.

Obviously, the reality is a lot more complex than that and there are numerous different strategies to help reach this point. While there are a number of factors that contribute to this, you only need to do one simple thing to go viral.

Be popular!

Normally when you say that, people treat it as a punchline and wait for you to give the real answer, but the size of your immediate audience is usually the defining factor. There are many other factors in play such as the quality of the idea, the execution, how much you pump into advertising and public reception – both positive and negative – but having a significant audience right in front of you will get you places. How you build that audience up is another story entirely, but some have it easier than others.

A great example of this emerged this week involving two videos, one by Irish sketch group Foil Arms and Hog (FA&H), and another by  Jimmy Fallon and Justin Timberlake. Both did comedy sketches involving the use of hashtags and were released at different times, but the results couldn’t be any more different.

Audience & Influence

From a comedic perspective, there doesn’t appear to be any real example of plagiarism involved as the two sketches approach a broad subject in different ways. Fallon’s sketch goes for longer and more extravagant hashtags, something that everyone on Twitter can relate to. The sketch is short and snappy, and is perfect for the TV audience it was designed to please.

On the other hand, FA&H creates a narrative and frames a lot of clever jokes around it. Since this sketch has more layers, it means that you’re more likely to catch one or two new jokes the next time you watch it, the background reaction to #badediting being a perfect example.

Both are funny in their own right, it just depends on whether you go for extravagant or subtle comedy. Personally, I like Foil Arms and Hog’s sketch more as they’re an incredibly funny group live but each to their own. However, we’re not here to read an in-depth analysis on comedy, which admittedly isn’t a strength of mine. Instead, we want to know why one became hugely popular while the other is only getting recognition now. Both release new videos and content regularly, some more successful than others, but what’s the difference?

If you haven’t guessed already, the key factor is immediate audience. Jimmy Fallon hosts one of the more popular shows in the U.S. and so combine that with a large and dedicated follower base online and you’ve got a large audience who will watch your video automatically, and more importantly, will share the video to their friends, creating a large ripple effect. And that’s excluding the impact TV viewership has on it. To put this into context (and apologies to FA&H for doing this), let’s compare the fan bases between Fallon, Late Night, Timberlake and FA&H. FA&H Vs Fallon & Timberlake (Note: Jimmy Fallon doesn’t have a YouTube channel but can be subscribed to as a topic)

To put it bluntly, once two sides end up with the same idea, the bigger side will almost always outshine the other and unless it’s a blatant ripoff, there’s not a whole lot you can do about it. It’s incredibly annoying when you see someone else do a similar idea and they get the credit for it, but the figures shows above that very few of the people sharing Fallon’s video would have even heard of FA&H, let alone its hashtag video.

It’s Not What You Know, It’s Who You Know!

Fallon’s sketch would have been popular in its own right, but the reason why it exploded was because of Justin Timberlake. To put it into context, his most popular video on YouTube, Mirrors, has over 110 million views after being released six months ago. The second biggest was What Comes Around… Goes Around with 77 million and was released four years ago.

Fallon’s team knew this – which is why it featured Timberlake in a week’s worth of sketches – and when a massively popular music artist takes part in a sketch that everyone can relate to, it’s going to be popular. While Timberlake’s PR team didn’t share the sketch on YouTube, Facebook and Twitter alone was enough to propel it into the stratosphere. If you have someone influential talking about your video, it’s going to have a significant impact on the overall view count.

It’s entirely possible that something obscure (obscure in global terms, that is) can go viral given the right circumstances, but these are rare cases. If something is good, it has a decent chance of making its way to the top, but that’s never guaranteed so the more popular you are, the easier it is to achieve this aim.

That said, since FA&H’s fans became vocal about the sketch and more people were made aware of it, it’s been covered by a number of media outlets, it made the top of Reddit’s videos page and has close to 70,000 views at the time of writing. And if it leads to bigger and better things for FA&H, then maybe it’s not a bad thing that the former sketch was so popular. Sometimes, the ripple effect can benefit more than one side.

The dumb strategy behind smartwatches

Pebble Vimeo(Image via getpebble/Vimeo)

Reading the latest reviews on the Samsung Galaxy Gear, it honestly doesn’t surprise me that the general consensus has been less than favourable, despite some nice ideas. Looking at the specs and features of each smartwatch that comes out, it’s hard not to think that companies are viewing it as a smartphone on your wrist.

That’s not necessarily a bad thing and it’s the direction technology has been heading for a while now, but it feels like those manufacturing these smartwatches have been heavily influenced by the likes of Knight Rider and James Bond Jr.

There are two main problems with this approach. The first is that there’s too great a focus on versatility instead of practicality. The aim of any wearable technology is for you to put it on and forget about it until you actually need it. If you have to be thinking about whether there’s enough charge left just to tell the time, then there’s a problem.

It’s true that the same thing happens to smartphones as well, but there’s a level of disconnect between the person and their smartphone. Putting on a watch just to take it off again on a daily basis to keep charging it is a small inconvenience, but it’s still inconvenient, especially when the functionality encourages you to wear it constantly.

The second is that each smartwatch is working in a closed garden. Samsung and Sony’s watches only link up to their own smartphones models so you’re already limited to the type of watch you can get. The closest to a proper smartwatch has been the Pebble, both for its design and ability to connect to both iOS and Android devices. Its overall use is hampered by providing this functionality, but it’s the reason why third-party companies could have a better chance of succeeding in this market.

That isn’t the worst part, unless you have it constantly connected to your phone via Bluetooth, you’re left with an expensive paperweight. It’s understandable that you need this for more advanced options like calls and notifications, but a watch that can’t tell the time without another device is a weird problem to have.

That said, it’s by trying and creating these products that we get closer to a better product, but so far it’s only Apple, and maybe one or two dark horses if we’re lucky, who have a chance to show where everyone has gone wrong. So tech companies, focus on the simple things first and create a product that you can forget about without consequence, everything else can follow later.

Some thoughts on Facebook Graph Search

Facebook Graph Search

(Image via Facebook)

With Facebook expanding Graph Search to include comments, posts and check-ins, the company’s project to track all content on the site is beginning to take shape. Search has been a weak spot of Facebook – not to mention social in general – so the roll out of this feature is good news. Well, good news for certain groups anyway.

It’s obvious that brands will welcome this as it means tracking conversations and mentions will be a lot easier. Facebook has already been courting TV stations with its data and you knew that once it started doing that, it found a way to track the vast amounts of content created on it daily. Combine that with the emotion tags that more and more people are including in their posts and already, you have the kind of sentiment analysis data that’s invaluable to companies.

Users, on the other hand, mightn’t feel that this change has any benefit to them or even care about it in the first place since they don’t have access to it. This poses a few questions.

– How many users have access to Graph Search? Anyone who has US English selected as a language automatically has access to it, but for the rest of the world, it’s still being rolled out. Considering that a vast number of users don’t have the new layout yet (announced as far back as March) and that Facebook is relatively slow with releasing new features – due to its insistence that things are close to perfect before general release – the only ones who will be getting excited about this are marketers.

– Apart from looking for pages and your own posts, how many use Graph Search for discovery? Speaking from personal experience, my use is limited to finding a page or person. Searching for keywords rarely happens as I don’t associate Facebook as a hub for public conversation (yet), just a way to catch up on what my friends and family are doing.

This is more down to Facebook’s original purpose being a way to keeping up to date with friends and it’s still evolving from that simple goal into the cornerstone of the Web. Facebook knows that it could suffer a significant backlash if it makes sudden, jarring changes and has to keep everyone, from the average user to advertisers to shareholders, happy.

– How many regular users actually know how Graph Search works? Tying into the last point, the average person knows if they type keywords into a Google search bar, it will figure out the rest and provide them with the answers they’re looking for. Graph Search works on a different level, requiring you to think in search terms like “friends who live in Dublin”. How you search and how results are provided means that users are required to think differently and until Facebook properly shows users the benefits to such a system, the majority will only scratch the surface of what it has to offer.

Currently, the potential of Graph Search to be something truly amazing is just that, potential! It will be a little while longer before the entire userbase have it and much longer before they really get to grips with the feature. Facebook knows that people view it as placing advertisers first and users second so convincing them that Graph Search is the future isn’t just good for users, it’s good for Facebook and its attempt to place a stranglehold on all things digital.

Well, This Is Weird…

Century_House_Attic_West

(Image via Wikipedia.org)

It’s been exactly two years since I last posted something here, and to be honest, it’s a little strange looking back on it. When I wrote here last, I was just out of college and was trying to build a portfolio in the hope I’d somehow get a job, let alone one that had me writing for a living.

A lot has changed since then. Now I’m two years into writing and editing Simply Zesty and with it are a lot of experiences and moments that helped me improve. Some of them were pretty hard and sometimes embarrassing lessons, but I feel I’ve emerged from it a much better writer than the me of two years ago.

Reading through everything I wrote here is like going through old stuff in the attic. Some things I look back with fondness, while others make me wonder what I was thinking. Either way, it’s made me want to revive the blog as a side-project, and bringing it from something that was just about videogames – something I used to play quite often two years ago but rarely touch now – to something more general.

So I’m promising myself that I’m going to revive and update this blog semi-regularly. The ideal aim would be weekly, but considering my schedule, bi-weekly might be a more reasonable aim.

Will I keep it up? Who knows, but I’m going to find out either way.

The nature of control


With the Wii U revealed at E3 earlier this month, one of the major talking points was of course its new controller. Many were expecting Nintendo to proceed with the same formula that earned the Wii its new audience and build upon its success by improving the Wii’s capabilities in terms of hardware. But Nintendo, maintaining the spark of innovation that the Wii what it is, surprised many by showcasing a touchscreen interface and controller alongside the usual features for its new console, the Wii U.

Coming across as a mesh between an iPad and an etch-a-sketch, the new controller will act similar to the DS duel screen as a way for more in game information to be presented to the player without taking up space on the main screen. Its second function is to act as an alternative main screen so that if someone switches channel or turns off the tv, whatever is happening on the main screen transfers to the touch screen allowing you to continue play.

It’s an interesting move from Nintendo and testament to the company’s forward thinking and creativity. While its rivals Sony and Microsoft have been plugging the Playstation Move and Kinect respectively, Nintendo put a fresh spin on motion control interface while maintaining the traditional elements of gamer interaction. Yet despite this, some questions arise with regards to Nintendo’s new feature.

The first question is will this tablet controller be integral to whatever games are released for the Wii U? The fact that the original Wii controllers, the Wiimote, featured in their trailer suggests that it won’t contrary to what is implied. If the answer is yes, the question that will immediately follow is how much will a controller cost? The cost of producing one may fall by the time the console is released but the touchscreen feature could potentially mean consumers would have to pay a significant price for the luxury of a second player participating simultaneously, not to mention the extra cost if you wanted to play a four player game.

[EDIT: Its seems that there will be only one tablet controller per Wii U instead of it being a traditional controller. The Wiimotes will still be used as the main controller. Cost may be the deciding factor behind that but it’s feels like a somewhat odd decision as there could be a lot of potential for using them for multiplayer.]

However, the introduction of this alongside other motion control interfaces and features alongside the success of the Wii had created a much clearer divide between the traditional and casual elements of games. The Wii, having a universal controller to cater to both spectrums, ended up seeing most of its potential unfulfilled through second and third party developers squandering its capabilities.

While Nintendo obviously utilised its motion sensor through its flagship titles as it needed to showcase what the console could do, most developers treated them as an afterthought, either clumsily tossing it into an existing IP without much thought or incorporating it into casual and forgettable mini-games, either in-game or featuring alongside other mini-games as a standalone product (a significant proportion of commercially successful Wii games followed the latter formula).

Mini games as standalone title

Wii Play was one of many examples of simplistic minigames being made into full standalone titles.

Ultimately it meant that a more casual audience was better catered for than those who would be views as more prominent gamers. Those who grew up with the Legend of Zelda, Goldeneye, and the Mario series were left looking to Sony and Microsoft for a more comprehensive interface and games that catered to their needs only to be greeted with Move and Kinect. Neither integral to either console but marketed to entice some of the audience that Nintendo acquired over to their side.

This year’s E3 has shown that, for better or worse, motion sensory technology has become the major focus for these companies, incorporating them into their core titles alongside the more traditional controls methods. While it’s exciting to see how this technology develops and what ideas developers congers up, adding more interaction and input to games while maintaining a smooth interface that doesn’t bog the player down will be a challenge for developers but not a new one, such a ordeal goes back to when games were very much in its infancy.

A controller has a simple purpose, to allow the player the maximum amount of control and influence on specific or broad elements in a game with minimum thought or effort. Roughly 20 years ago, when the Atari ST and Amiga were seen as both a major console and doubled up as home computers, their basic joystick had only two buttons, both fulfilling the same function.

Presumably this was to cater for both left and right handed people to use their preferred hand to control and their less dominant hand to press fire but it meant that the games in question were relatively simple affairs. The time it took to accustom yourself to whatever game you happened to play was at a minimum allowing you to focus on the more pressing task of obtaining a high score or defeating the end of level boss.

Back in the days when gaming was a simple affair

Back in the days when gaming was a simple affair.

When the technology improved, the complexity of gaming increased in conjunction and a greater degree of control was needed to keep up. More buttons, triggers and analogue sticks accompanied each successive leap technology made. Before long, the majority of games came included with tutorials or training segments to accustom you with each intricacy the game featured. Developers were faced with the challenge of making a game complex enough to engage in yet make the control system fluid enough for gamers to act with some degree of dexterity. Then the Wii came along and everyone went back to the drawing board.

But with the advent of the Wii and it unearthing of the riches brought by the casual market, the major players rethought their strategy and acted accordingly with Move and Kinect. Yet while Nintendo had the Wiimote to act as a traditional controller, Move and Kinect are severely limited as to what games they can host, it being unlikely that traditional elements of games requiring quick reactions or spatial movement or actions in game would transfer well alone.

Motion sensor controls hasn’t transformed the playing field but rather widened it. The reason for this change in audience isn’t down to accessibility, if this was the reason than the traditional gaming audience during the 80s and 90s would have been more than just teenagers and kids. Instead, it the shift in culture that brought this, one that’s has the online world embedded in its day to day business through computers, smart phones, MP3s and digital TV.

On a somewhat related note, you can get a stick-on joystick for your iphone to make touchscreen games much easier to play.

It’s hard to say whether this audience would have gotten into games had it stuck to the traditional boundaries but Nintendo recognised this market and adjusted its interface accordingly to cater for them. Now it has done the same to bridge the gap between casual and traditional markets, quite possibly creating a more comprehensive console for both ends and redefining how interactive our entertainment becomes.

You couldn’t remake it up

Despite not being as powerful as the PS3 or Xbox 360 or the fact that half its games are celebrity/show/product endorsed party mini-games, I still like the Wii. For the many people complaining about how Nintendo have negleted the core audience with casual games and cynical releases that capatilize upon this (Wii Fit and especially Wii Play), I would normally point to titles such as Resident Evil 4, the Metroid Prime series and No More Heroes as my defense.

Admittedly, it’s not a brilliant defence but I at least feel that dispite the cynical releases and lazy titles on the Wii, there are still quality games for it and that Nintendo hasn’t completely sold out and forgotten about the gamers who bought the SNES, N64 or Gamecube. But even my goodwill has a limit if pushed far enough so step forward Super Mario All-Stars (which for purposes of laziness I’ll abbreviate as SMAS).

Before we go into what’s wrong with this release, allow me to provide some background info. SMAS was released on the SNES back in 1993, presumably because the SNES wasn’t backwards compatable with NES games and Nintendo wanted to give games who missed the NES generation a second chance to expecience the classic Mario Bros series.

While fundamentally the same games, (Mario Bros 1, 2, 3 and the lost levels which was the real Super Mario Bros 2 but wasn’t released in America or Europe due to its high difficulty), the graphics were updated and minor tweaks were introduced making it a better and more complete experience.

Since Mario reached that 25 year mark, someone at Nintendo thought it’d be a good idea to commemorate this. You think fair enough, why wouldn’t they! From a business point of view, it wouldn’t hurt the balance sheet and gamers who missed playing these games could do so again. Yet you think with working on SMAS all those years ago and seeing the success that came with it, they would do the same with this, add small improvements to existing games and make it a must have collection. Unfortunately things didn’t work that way.

The part that bothers me greatly about this release, it’s the sheer laziness behind it. Nintendo had this fantastic opportunity to add in games like SM World, Yoshi’s Island, SM 64, Mario RPG, SM Sunshine to this and yet squandered the chance. It’s not like they had the excuse of too little space as they could have easily fit it onto the CD if they bothered to do so. When you compare it to other companies like Sega who have released far superiour compilation games on Xbox and PS3 this gripe is only highlighted further.

SMAS Wii is effectively the same game, only difference is that its on a CD and not a cartridge. So in case you haven’t gotten your head around that this is a 1993 remake of games released back in 1985,1988 and 1991 that’s been rereleased in 2010. That’s a 17 year gap since SMAS original release and the opportunity for innovation and improving the product was clearly there even if the idea was thought up of only a few months before release. Yet as well as not updating the collection, the best selling point they could come up with was “Play with just the Wii remote” (refer to picture above if you don’t believe me).

The worst part about this is that you can get each of these games without getting off your couch through Virtual Console. Roughly all NES games (and that what they are!) are 500 points which comes to €5. At the time of writing, Super Mario All-Stars  costs €30. So for a downgrade in graphics you can play the exact same game for €10 cheaper and €15 if you omit the lost levels which doesn’t do anything majorly different from the first game.

Nintendo had a brilliant chance to remind gamers how they got to the place they are now. Instead they’ve just reminded us what they’ve become.

Hitman 2: Silent Assassin (PC, PS2, Gamecube & Xbox – 2002)

Hitman 2 is by definition a puzzler disguised as a stealth action game. Sounds odd but not when you think about it for a moment. Each mission is practically a brainteaser as to how you complete a mission without raising suspicion. It’s like a really brutal rubik’s cube puzzle. There’s normally three or four ways to compete the mission, the proper stealthy way by not being noticed by anyone (solving it by yourself) picking off the numerous guards that get in your way one by one without anyone noticing (solving just one side and neglecting the rest) or resorting to pure wanton violence (slamming the rubik’s cube to the ground and telling it to go to hell).

All good stealth games require planning of some sort. Before each mission, you’re briefed as to what you need to do, being supplied with the appropriate documents and images needed to carry out the kill as well as a satellite map to work out guard routines and civilian placements as most missions take place in public areas.

In theory you could just get a machine gun and wade in taking out all who oppose you yet chances are you’ll be overwhelmed by guards in a few seconds. You could get a sniper rifle, climb to the top of a really high building and pick off your target from afar. But chances are the building will be surrounded and swarming with guards (getting the picture yet?) within moments making escape almost impossible. In these instances, a different approach comes into play, mainly concealment and disguise.

Sneaking up behind someone with the fiber wire is one way of silencing guards or potential witnesses

Sneaking up behind someone with the fiber wire is one way of silencing guards or potential witnesses

People will be suspicious of the shady bald man in a black suit if they were standing 20 feet away from them but won’t if he’s dressed up in guards or civilian clothing. Therefore when killing or knocking out a guard or civilian, taking their clothes is sometimes the only way to get into areas you couldn’t access by yourself.

The first level is a perfect example of this: there’s a mansion that you need to enter to kill a mafia leader and free a hostage. The main gates are being patrolled by guards, the first side entrance has a guard normally coming through to ‘relieve’ himself every now and again, there’s a postman nearby having a cigarette and there’s a courier delivering food to the kitchen.  One of the possibilities is hiding your weapons in the food and stealing either the postman or courier’s uniform and walk straight into the premises after being searched, collecting your weapons in the kitchen and wrecking havoc from the inside. There are many others options and methods but it all depends on how you approach the situation and what happens when you do.

Common sense comes into play as well when you obtain these disguises, you can’t be close to certain personnel otherwise they’ll discover you and wearing guard uniform is a no no if your face is visible. If you’re out of place, they’ll suspect you but only if you stay within their field of range. Pressing forward normally allows you to bypass  this unless you go into an area that’s out of bounds in which case you’ll be greeted with machine gun fire.

Obtaining disguises are normally a good way of getting through security. Just be sure to actually hide the bodies.

Also guards don’t suffer from Solid Snake syndrome (everyone suffering from collective amnesia when you’re out of sight for ten seconds), when you’re spotted, you’ll need some powerful weapons and a good vantage point to get out alive. They won’t forget you or your disguise and will search every nook and cranny until they find you which normally leads to some of Hitman 2 most thrilling moments.

But the greatest thrill is simply going in unnoticed disguised or otherwise, getting past security, performing your kill and getting out unnoticed. Trying to achieve the perfect kill is a mixture of tension and exhilaration as you carefully make your way through each situation without blowing your cover.

But the real joy is approaching each mission the way you want to, the game doesn’t penalize you so long as you complete each task, directly or indirectly . To be honest, there’s something liberating about breaking the rules and massacring an entire army because you didn’t want to hide in the shadows for half an hour but that’s missing the point. For those who want to break away from the norm and the Metal Gear solid definition of stealth, they’ll find themselves playing a thoughtful and clever action puzzler.