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Tom Standage

A Game, a Gadget and an App

Defuse a bomb, hop through fire, and make sure the snaps look good

Tom Standage | January/February 2016

A GAME Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes
Ever fancied trying to defuse a ticking bomb? That’s what you do in this game, and it’s far more fun than you might expect. It’s not so much a video game as a party game for two or more players that happens to involve a computer. One player, the defuser, manipulates an on-screen bomb by cutting wires, pressing buttons and so forth, while the other players, equipped with a complicated bomb-defusal manual, either printed out or displayed on another screen, provide advice on what to do next. The catch is that they can’t see the bomb, and the defuser can’t see the manual, so it’s like an action movie in which the hero has to be guided over the phone. Oh, and the clock is ticking, and too many wrong moves will cause the bomb to go off. The challenge is to keep calm and convey information as precisely as possible, without descending into panic and shouting. Think of it as a high-tech version of charades, with occasional explosions.

Keep Talking and Nobody Explodes for PC: £10.99/$15 (via Steam); Mac version on its way. Also available for Samsung Gear VR. keeptalkinggame.com

A GADGET Amazon Fire TV Stick
More and more people are watching television without a TV. Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime and iTunes all offer vast libraries of films and TV shows, but they’re most easily accessed via phone, laptop or tablet; getting them to work on your actual TV can be a fiddle. You have to buy a special box, or install apps on your TV or games console. If that all sounds like too much bother, the Fire TV Stick is for you. It’s not much bigger than a USB memory stick, and it slots into the HDMI port on your TV. Plug in a power wire, hook it up to your Wi-Fi, and it just works. There’s a separate remote control, and everything is logical and easy to navigate as you call up streaming video from Netflix (subscription required), iPlayer and Amazon Prime (but not iTunes). It doesn’t clutter up the space under the TV and is small enough to take on holiday. There’s even a decent collection of games. And, like the device itself, the price is microscopic.

Amazon Fire TV Stick: £34.99 from amazon.co.uk

AN APP VSCO Cam
Smartphones are now the most widely used cameras, because they’re always with you – and because they make it so easy to manipulate and adjust images before sharing them. New photo-editing apps come along all the time, but the one I keep going back to is VSCO Cam (it rhymes with “disco”), which is powerful without being too complicated. It has a range of filters a bit like Instagram’s, only classier – and you can download more if you want. There are tools to adjust brightness, contrast, sharpness, saturation and so forth. Having tweaked one photo to make it sing, you can easily apply the same changes to several more before posting to your social network of choice.

VSCO Cam for iOS and Android: Free, but you have to pay for some filters

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