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Tom Standage

A Game, a Gadget and an App

With superior swordplay, then curl up with a good e-book

Tom Standage | January/February 2012

A GAME The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword
Every Zelda game has essentially the same plot: you play Link, a sword-wielding boy in green garb, who has to solve puzzles, defeat bad guys and rescue Princess Zelda. The added twist in the franchise’s latest instalment is the ability to control every swing and slash of Link’s sword using the Wii’s wand-like motion controller, something Zelda fans have been waiting for since Nintendo launched the Wii five years ago. Back then its controller was unable to support direct mapping of its movements onto a swishing on-screen sword, making the Wii’s first Zelda title, “Twilight Princess”, something of a disappointment. Since then, however, Nintendo has introduced the improved “MotionPlus” controller, opening the way to proper swordplay, and more besides. “Skyward Sword” has been built specifically for the new controller, which serves as a sword, butterfly net and whip, among other things. Combat is a much more subtle affair, with some baddies vulnerable only to slashes in particular directions. All this adds some refreshing new elements to the usual Zelda formula. Link and Zelda took their time to arrive on the Wii properly, and the Wii is now showing its age: its successor, the Wii U, is due in 2012. But “Skyward Sword” was worth the wait.
The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword on Wii only: £48 (with MotionPlus controller) or £35 (game only)

A GADGET The new Kindle
2011 was a breakthrough year for electronic books, with Amazon’s Kindle e-reader leading the pack. The original Kindle, launched in 2007, looked rather clunky, but subsequent models have refined the design and the latest version—called, rather unhelpfully, the new Kindle—is the best yet. It does away with the keyboard found on previous models, making it small and light enough to fit into a coat pocket. The paper-like screen is also improved, with better contrast, faster response and the annoying “blink” effect when you turn the page greatly reduced. Books are swiftly downloaded over Wi-Fi, with no computer required. The Kindle is light enough to hold in one hand for long periods, unlike certain tablet computers I could mention. The battery seems to last for ever. And the lack of support for e-mail, Twitter and “Angry Birds” means there are no distractions to come between you and the text. If you’ve been waiting to make the leap to e-reading, now’s the time, and this is the device.
New Kindle, £89 from Amazon.co.uk

AN APP iF Poems
Here is a poetry anthology reimagined for the multimedia age. There are 230 classic poems, from “The Owl and the Pussycat” to “Dulce et Decorum Est” and, of course, “If”, organised by category, poet and age group. Helena Bonham Carter and Bill Nighy provide audio versions of many of the poems—his sonorous with glimmers of irony, hers mischievous and at times gleefully unhinged. You can record your own renditions to practise your reading and memorising, and find a brief biography of each poet. Install this app and let your children discover it.
iF Poems for iPhone & iPod Touch: £1.99; for iPad: £2.99

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