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Tom Standage

A Game, a Gadget and an App

Letting wine breathe, learning about London and playing a masterpiece

Tom Standage | March/April 2013

A GAME  Dishonoured
Set in a fantasy steampunk world, rendered in an almost painterly style, "Dishonored" (and no, the spelling has not been Anglicised) instantly draws you into a believable and immersive universe. You play Corvo, bodyguard to the empress, who is wrongly accused of a terrible crime and sets out to clear his name and save his rat-infested city. It may sound formulaic, but "Dishonored" manages to transcend the tropes of the genre through its distinctive look, flexible gameplay and sheer attention to detail. As in the "Metal Gear Solid" series and the cult classic "Thief", the action is based on stealth, not just hack-and-slash combat, but the balance between the two is up to you. Each mission can be completed in a non-lethal manner, silently knocking out enemies, avoiding them or stunning them with tranquilliser darts. Sneaking past guards is almost unbearably thrilling, and the non-lethal route is far more satisfying than open combat (as well as affecting the denouement). Magical powers, bestowed by a mysterious Outsider, let you teleport over short distances, sense enemies through walls, and even slow time. There’s convincing dialogue between minor characters and top-notch voice acting from Susan Sarandon, among others. "Dishonored" is a masterpiece.
Dishonored for Xbox 360, PS3 and PC: about £25

A GADGET The Menu Wine Breather
It’s a first-world problem: a bottle of red wine from the cellar tastes cold and closed unless you find time to warm it up and let it breathe. Some people resort to hand-whisks or blenders, but a more elegant alternative is the Menu Wine Breather. Open the wine, slot the upside-down carafe onto the bottle and invert the whole thing. It’s scary the first time you do it, but the wine takes a minute or so to flow into the carafe, running gently down its sides and absorbing oxygen as it goes. You can then invert the bottle and carafe again, further aerating the wine and letting you serve it from the original bottle. But I prefer to deviate from the script and put the filled carafe in the microwave on medium power for a minute. Voilà: aerated wine at just the right temperature. You’ll be amazed how much it improves the flavour and body, and it’s much easier than putting your Bordeaux in the blender. The decanter looks good on the table too.
Menu Wine Breather around £45

AN APP London: A City Through Time
This gorgeous app repackages and expands the Pan Macmillan "London Encyclopaedia" as an iPad and iPhone app. The result is a trove of information that you can call up as you move around London, revealing the history of wherever you happen to be. Browse the entries via a map to discover unexpected treasures nearby, and if you’re underground there’s a list of points of interest near each station. There are audio walking tours, 70 stunning 360-degree panoramas (including the view from the top of the Shard, now open as a tourist attraction), "spinnable" 3D objects from the Museum of London and my favourite feature, a collection of historical panoramas and maps. It’s like having a pair of magic spectacles that reveal London’s hidden history.
London: A City Through Time £9.99 for iPad and iPhone

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