E-Win Europe FLG-XL Gaming Chair (Hardware) Review

You can find this review in full at GBAtemp.net:

E-Win’s Flash series doesn’t seem all too different from the rest of their chairs, the higher price tag coming from the fact it’s more suitable for larger people and as such can support more weight. Having not weighed myself in several years, and going on the fact people enjoy calling me tall, I figured trying the FLG-XL (not the most memorable name) would be a good idea. If you want to take a look at their guide for which chair would suit you best, you can find it here.

Packaging and Assembly

The chair arrived in a reasonably-sized E-Win branded box. After hobbling up the stairs with it in my arms, I collapsed into my flat and proceeded to get it open and assembled. I’m not quite sure what I expected to find, but it somehow felt more assembled than I had first thought.

With the back, the seat cushion, and the base included, the task was as simple as binding them together using the included tools. Line it up, screw it in; simple and quick. The instructions included in the box had diagrams to show the order to assemble, and following it I faced no problems at all. The back first attached to the seat, wheels to the base, the base to the pole, and finally everything together. As somebody who has never so much as assembled IKEA furniture, it took me about 20 minutes. After assembly, I jumped into the finished product. It felt stable and secure, supporting my weight well and impressing me from the get-go.

What Makes an E-Winner?

It’s hard to say exactly what I love about the chair; it’s comfortable to a divine degree. Sporting some high density memory foam inside the seat and back, I feel as though I’m sinking into it, despite it offering ample resistance to support me nicely. I’m particularly surprised by just how much of a difference the two cushions make in my ability to be sat down for extended periods of time. The lower cushion in particular is something I’ve never had in a chair before, and it’s not something I notice all too much as I’m sat; it’s standing up that feels odd afterwards. Standing up from the chair for the first time, I was almost confused at the sudden lack of support for my back. The upper cushion is something I find conflict in. It restricts my ability to lean back fully, but supports my neck nicely in my usual position of sitting slightly forwards. If I do want to lean back for a while, the cushion does detach using a simple clip, so this isn’t all that much of an issue.

Each part of the chair can be tweaked for the sitter’s liking. The arms twist, raise, lower, and slide out and in; the back reclines to the point of feeling like a dentist’s chair; and the whole thing can of course be raised and lowered. The arms feel sturdy and the flat surface is a good place to use a wireless mouse if you find yourself watching films or playing something like Yu-Gi-Oh on the PC.

Can I recommend this specific chair? If you have the cash and are wanting something to support you as you work, one hundred percent. I can see this as an ideal choice for somebody working from home who needs to be sat at a computer for an extended period of time. For a gaming chair, it’s a little more difficult; it comes down to how much you can justify putting into your comfort. While this specific chair is currently on sale for £364, people with a smaller frame can look to the other models such as the Championship series for a similar experience. I recommend consulting the site’s guide if you’re interested to find the best chair for you.

Okami HD (Nintendo Switch) Review

You can find this review in full at GBAtemp.net:

Originally released in 2006 for the PS2, Capcom introduced the world to a story of gods and demons; wrapping it in the package of a traditional Japanese painting, Okami was unique. This tale retold across (console) generations, it has seen subsequent ports to the Wii, PS3, PC, PS4, Xbox One, and now to the Switch. This being my first time into the land of Nippon, I look to this 12 year old game questioning whether its once-unique style and substance can hold up to modern standards.

A Slow Start

Before you can really sink your teeth into the game, you’re struck with cutscene upon cutscene detailing the struggle that first sealed away the great Orochi, and the events that lead to its release. The story is wonderfully told, unravelling like an extravagant tapestry. It sets the world wonderfully and gets you excited to properly get started, but before you can do that, you have an introductory section. It ticks all the right boxes for an introductory section; basic concepts are explained through play, you walk and jump through a simple linear path, you get a skill to begin progression. It’s fine on paper, but when the scene has been set for a grand adventure, the pacing put me off to the point of questioning just how poorly the game had aged. Moving through Kamiki Village, these thoughts stayed with me. With how often I had heard Okami being compared to titles from the Zelda series, I had expected action, combat; swift and satisfying progression. Only when I got to Hana Valley and acquired my next brush skill did I realise the game wasn’t at fault, but my preconceptions about it.

The Bloom skill changed how I saw the game, and all for the better. As I painted a circle around my first withered sapling and watched the world explode into colour, I took a moment to simply watch. I took a moment to think about what I wanted from this experience; I took a moment to realise what was blatantly staring me in the face—this isn’t The Legend of Zelda.

Painting a Celestial Picture

Okami’s greatest strength lies in its visual presentation. Styled in such a way as to appear dated whilst still remaining strikingly vibrant and unique, they stand up to any modern standard in a way worthy of being called timeless. The game is made in such a way as to put its beauty at the forefront of progression, also offering it in ample amounts as reward for optional tasks. If there’s a stain on the world, you feel drawn to get rid of it. The actual benefit to doing this is fairly insignificant, giving you a few additional points to invest in growth, but the satisfaction of purging a scourge, of ridding the land of imperfection; it’s addicting.

The game uses its themes not only in crafting a beautiful world, but in aligning every part of itself to create as immersive an experience as can reasonably be expected. In place of a pause menu, you unravel a paper fan; in place of tutorials, you read scrolls acquired on your journey. Every part of it feels correct within the bounds of the world. Even things like area names being displayed are stylised to look as though they’re supposed to be there, despite floating high in the sky above each area. With the theme of painting coursing through the very essence of the game, you really do feel like a God wandering through your own brushwork come to life. It’s empowering, it gives you a real sense of belonging in the world and with it, a sense of responsibility for its well-being.

Dungeons and Dog-Fighting

Perhaps the game’s weakest points lie in its combat. Monster encounters are clearly marked on your quest, be it by ghostly floating tags, or cursed torii littering the land. Interacting with, or walking through in the second case, these will put you inside a barrier where you must purge the evil within for it to subside. Thematically it works well, and the lack of random encounters is something I welcome in a game with experience and levelling up not tied to progress. Where the issue lies is in the fighting itself. Your basic combat isn’t complex at all, and in this area I can understand a likening to the Zelda series; you hit Y to lunge towards an enemy and attack. As strange as it might sound, I might have preferred the game were it to maintain this simplicity. Where The Legend of Zelda can add items and enemies that by extension can be defeated by these items, Okami is limited to the use of its brush techniques. Again, this is a sound concept on paper, and should allow for a similar style of combat and evolution of enemies; though I tried to enjoy it, there was one thing really holding it back.

The difference between using an item in Zelda and a brush technique in Okami lies in each game’s controls. In the former game, you have the option to target an enemy. This keeps focus on them and allows you to freely use one hand for items, swordplay, whatever you want; Okami to the best of my knowledge lacks this. As minor as it may sound, confined to limited area presented for each battle, you too often find yourself fighting with the camera. This is made worse in handheld mode (my mode of preference for this game) by the fact you need to move one hand away from the controller to the touch screen for brush techniques. It ultimately makes for an unnecessarily awkward combat experience. As I continued playing, I was pleasantly surprised to find there were exceptions, these being the penultimate fights within dungeons.

Dungeons in Okami feel traditional. You enter, work your way through, fight a boss, and rid it of evil. They’re incredibly fun and are themed well, with a good balance of platforming and puzzles to keep neither from growing tiresome. While most of it is incredibly enjoyable, my favourite part by far quite unexpectedly comes from the boss encounters. Where individual enemies can feel cramped and awkward, boss fights explode into creative combat hosted within their larger lairs. Utilising new skills acquired, these boss fights each feel unique and most importantly give you the space to enjoy them, despite the limitations of the camera. Boss designs are equally brilliant, pulling from Japanese mythology and creating something genuinely menacing each time.

A Worthwhile Wolf?

Okami was a fantastic game when it first came out, and sadly one I missed. While I can’t speak for how it’s has changed over time, I can say with certainty that Okami HD is more than worth the meagre £16 ($20) Capcom is asking for it. In this divine package, you have a serene walk through picturesque lands, dungeons to explore, and mythical creations to slay. Okami is a game that despite being 12 years old, does not feel out of place in a modern marketplace, and one I can not recommend enough.

clockwork GameShell (Hardware) Review

You can find this review in full at GBAtemp.net:

Clockwork have created a console for the technically curious. Modular in design and highly customisable, it aims to deliver not just a handheld, but an experience; a journey of exploration and discovery. With a review unit in hand, I aim to look at this from a middling perspective; willing to tinker but not to any kind of extreme. I want something I know I can take apart whilst knowing I don’t necessarily have to, something stylish I can sit and play. Is the GameShell the console for me? 

What’s in the Box?

The box itself is striking and simple. A bright shade of yellow, it stands out straight away, with the design calling back to the age of a simpler system. This box houses five individual boxes of components, as well as trays of plastic to be assembled, an array of shells for the system, and a set of stickers to make it your own. It all looks rather professional, and I wasted no time in sprawling the contents onto the table to start putting it together.

For those interested, I’ll also list the system specs here:

  • Clockwork Pi development board
    • SoC – Alwinner R16-J quad core Cortex A7 processor @ 1.2 GHz with Mali-400MP2 GPU
    • System Memory – 512MB or 1GB (in future revision of the board)
    • Storage – 1x micro SDHC slot
    • Video Output / Display I/F – 18-bit RGB display interface, micro HDMI (planned in revision of the board),
    • Audio Output – Via HDMI, 3.5 mm stereo audio jack
    • Connectivity – 802.11 b/g/n WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0
    • USB – 1x micro USB port
    • Expansion – 14-pin header with UART, I2C, SPI, GPIO
    • Power Supply – 5V via micro USB port or 3.7V battery
    • Dimensions – 70×50 mm
  • Keypad board
    • MCU- Microchip Atmel ATMega160p MCU
    • 30-pin header with flat headers
    • ISP programming connector
    • I2C? interface to Clockwork Pi
    • micro USB connector
  • Display – 2.7″ RGB display with 320×240 @ 60 Hz
  • Stereo Speaker Module
  • Battery – 1,050 mAh good for 3 hours of continuous use, 100 hours standby
  • Weight – 195 grams


The instructions came in the form of a step by step images with no writing. I found them relatively clear, the standout struggles really being limited to finding the right parts on the table and cutting the plastic out from the tray. Following the instructions, I put together one module at a time, as well as the optional lightbar. It took around an hour in total, including a short break for my eyes to recover from staring at small parts for too long; considering my usual incompetence with this sort of thing, it should speak wonders for the simplicity and ease of the process.

Getting each module into the shell was again a simple process of connecting everything together, and lifting it into position. The shell has grooves for each part to slot into, making the real challenge into optimal cable management, and trying not to trap any as you put the front face on. Fully assembled, the GameShell looks marvellous. Each of the red, yellow, and grey faceplates strike their own unique vibe, with the transparent back serving as a constant reminder of what you’ve put together. The main board module remains partially exposed through the shell, this giving access to a headphone port, a micro USB port for charging, and the power button. It also serves well in keeping the system better ventilated, this being the only part I noticed getting warm. The way each component is encased in a plastic shell helps not only in organising the parts internally, but in protecting the screen once assembled; the contours of the shell also assisting. I’d feel comfortable with this in my pocket or bag knowing I’ll struggle to do it harm.

The buttons are something I’ve come to love. They fit perfectly into the shell and provide satisfying feedback from being pressed. The start and select buttons feel identical to a NES controller’s, with the rubbery press allowing for a pleasant sense of variance as you hit them. The D-Pad is where opinions may differ. A flat disc sat atop four rubber buttons, it feels soft to press, and easy to catch more than one input. It’s the kind of D-Pad where you can press into the middle and have all four inputs register; it grew on me, but I can certainly understand somebody not getting on with it.

Provided with the system, the lightbar module is considered an add-on, and provides five additional buttons to be mounted to the Lego shell. Giving you access to L and R buttons, it’s a great option to have, and from what I used, felt surprisingly pleasant despite its less than comfortable look. It of course comes with the trade-off of taking away from the system’s form factor and classic look, but given the focus on customisation and the quantity of people who would want this to experience great classic games, the additional buttons are a must, as well as the flexibility provided from the Lego shell.


With the system running Linux, you’re really spoiled for choice when it comes to what you want on it. Being the less explorative kind myself, I stuck with the bundled clockworkOS. Once the system has booted up, you come to a simple menu navigable with the handheld’s D-Pad and face buttons. Coming installed with Cave Story, a port of Doom, and RetroArch, it already had enough to keep me entertained. The menu itself is also quite easy to modify and tweak to your liking. Adding new icons and skins is as simple as creating files for them and rebooting the system. Even with my limited knowledge of Linux, I managed to create shortcuts for my Pokemon games to boot them through RetroArch.

Accessing files on the handheld is only really possible through a local connection, this however made incredibly easy using the included TinyCloud app. You connect to the same network, open the app, and follow the on-screen instructions. For a Windows user like myself, I had to type \\\games into explorer and I had access to my games folder. For full filesystem access to make menu changes and such, an FTP client is needed, but again this isn’t complicated. Despite hiding the micro SD card within the shell, clockwork put good effort into keeping the system accessible for those who want access to the files.

Retro games can be played three ways; either through the Retro Games menu, the shortcuts mentioned earlier, or directly through RetroArch. All of these methods launch the game using RetroArch, so the experience itself doesn’t differ, but it’s nice to have options for those not fond of RetroArch’s UI. As for the performance, the system’s capabilities are largely comparable to that of the Raspberry Pi 2B. Each of the games I tried, from Pokemon Crystal to Yoshi’s Island (SNES ver), the games stayed at a steady 60 FPS. Yoshi’s Island saw minor drops but they were infrequent to the point of not affecting the overall experience. I feel the real issue in emulation with this system comes from its screen size; some games simply don’t look right. This is evident in Super Mario World; the game feels and plays well, but it almost looks squashed on the display. To give an idea of what you might experience, I’ve included a video below playing a few different games. Overall, I am quite happy with how faster games like Mario play, but slower games like Pokemon Red or Pokemon Crystal almost feel like the screen is shuddering as it scrolls.


All in all, the system looks and feels great. To me, its greatest limitation lies beneath the shell in the battery module. Sporting a meagre 1050 mAh battery, you’re looking at three hours of continuous play—less than I get out of my Switch playing Breath of the Wild. It really is a shame, but considering the demographic for this product, it’s a problem that can be worked around by simply replacing the battery with something better. The GameShell is a system that has appeal to a lot of different audiences, and to each audience has different drawbacks. For somebody looking for some fun putting it together, then to crack on playing their retro games, the battery would be the killer. For somebody happy to replace parts and build onto the Lego case, smaller things like the micro SD being stuck inside the shell might become a pain. It’s a system that has a lot to give, and it’s one I’m happy to recommend if you can work past its faults. I had a great time putting it together, and its overall design and build quality, paired with its delightful OS will keep me using it despite its pitiful battery life. 

Octopath Traveler (Nintendo Switch) Review

You can find this review in full at GBAtemp.net:


Perhaps the most significant curiosity about the game is the premise itself—a world of disconnected travelers each with a tale to tell. Featuring eight intentionally unique characters, each with four story chapters, you have at face value a lengthy but largely broken-up adventure. With no clear overarching plot in the beginning, it’s easy to look at this as a mere collection of stunted narratives, a game of systematic progression repeated eight times. Octopath goes a long way in trying to avoid this without necessarily enforcing you play through it in one way or another. The game begins with you picking a character to use as your party’s leader, and subsequently playing through their first chapter. After that, you are free to explore the world and play through another character’s first chapter, or go onto your character’s second chapter. The catch is in the scaling of difficulty; if you wish to go straight into chapter two, you will need to train around 20 levels. Conversely, should you wish to go into another character’s first chapter, you’ll find the game far more forgiving, the recommended level much closer to what you will likely be. It’s interesting to observe the idea of freedom present here.

Octopath sets itself up to give you control of how you play; it holds nothing back for those eager to venture beyond warning signs and danger levels. If you felt particularly adventurous, you could explore the entire continent and add each city to your fast travel list before so much as meeting a second character. The game would do its best to stop such an endeavour with powerful monsters littering paths to far-away cities, but with patience and luck, as well as an absence of true walls to stop you, you would eventually break through and find success. Such freedom is something I find myself fond of seeing, but its true strength lies in conjunction with the structured experience you are choosing to avoid; the knowledge there is something brilliant waiting for you beyond your procrastination.

As mentioned, each character has a four-part storyline that each lasted me around 90 minutes. Running on this metric alone, you have 48 hours of oddly engaging and interesting content, and delightful voice acting. Of the JRPGs I’ve found myself playing, the storytelling in Octopath is quite simply different. It feels as though you are experiencing the world for all its virtues, not just moving from town to town until you defeat the great evil threatening the world. With side-quests in particular relying on you utilising the entirety of your party to their fullest extent, you find yourself talking to everybody, stealing from everybody, alluring, and guiding everybody. It’s brilliantly addicting, the way the game is laid out allowing for side-quests to give you less information than one might be accustomed to because you’re made to feel a part of the world. It’s not to say there aren’t dark forces lurking later into their stories, but it’s how the game portrays both small evils and grand evils in the same larger than life light I found the most joy in. It portrays an unexpected combat butler in the same manner as an otherworldly guardian, with both encounters finding equal difficulty and sense of intimidation. The buildup to each chapter’s conclusion varies from suspenseful shock encounter to a feeling of them throwing an enemy into the mix for the sake of rounding it off with a bang, but both scenarios carried some merit. Even where some bosses felt somewhat forced, the battle would feel grand and the wind-down after beating them would be consistently well-executed.

While much of the game remains detached as individual tales, Octopath rewards you for keeping a full party of travellers with its travel banter. At set points during a chapter, a notification appears alerting you of snippets of dialogue reacting or discussion recent events. These can range from a disconcerting sigh to reaffirming smaller character details mentioned in passing, and do a good job in giving your full party relevance outside of their own chapters. If I had to fault this system, it would be its lack of communication I put a harsh light on. With one piece of dialogue at an undisclosed part of each chapter for every character, and your party only able to accommodate three of your seven teammates, you have an incredible amount of trial and error if wanting to see everything. If you’re a completionist in this sense, I implore you to seek out a guide. It simply isn’t worth the aimless wandering.

Octopath Traveler works incredibly well in its storytelling as a whole, but cracks start to show when looking at each character’s motivations to function with the rest of the group. While it makes for a fuller and more diverse JRPG experience to have an interesting party of unique characters, none of them present any kind of reason to want to work with others; one of the character’s early plot points boldly stating how he doesn’t work with other people after a past incident. The benefits of this definitely outweigh the character inconsistencies, but it really does hammer home how much of an afterthought the interaction between characters was, and similarly, how the larger tale tying their fates together felt weak in comparison to the individual stories.

An Unreal JRPG

Though the eight paths stood out to me when playing, they weren’t what had me looking at Octopath in the first place. From so much as its first trailer, still titled Project OCTOPATH TRAVELER, it was the refreshing use of Unreal Engine 4 that turned my head. Flawlessly blending effects onto 2D sprites in an almost papercraft 3D environment lifted the game far beyond what it could have been as either a traditional 2D, or a modern 3D, JRPG. It felt like Square Enix were wanting to call back a sense of nostalgia from their older playerbase without forcing the game into a dated set of tropes and graphical cliches.

I’m glad to see the final game stay true to the wondrous first impression it gave off. With my playthrough using both docked and handheld mode, I noticed the sprites look slightly less crisp when portable, but it’s a minor criticism when compared to the still-striking visuals. Though something I’m not often fond of doing, there is a trove of screenshots below to give an idea of how the game looks. Whether it’s something for you is a matter of preference, but it left me in awe even as I was deep into the game.

Brave by Default

Octopath Traveler’s battle system features familiar JRPG elements thrust together. You have your standard turn-based action, blended with Bravely Default’s BP system to boost power to attacks using points that charge each turn, and a range of weapon types and elements, where each enemy has set weaknesses to these attacks. While it seems basic on the surface, the BP system in conjunction with the twelve job classes and their associated skills allows for diverse teambuilding and in turn, battles that feel entirely different depending on party composition. The depth here surprised me. It has what a traditional JRPG player is looking for with your warrior and mage classes, and their associated strengths and weaknesses, and there was some fun in that for me, but where I really started enjoying myself was in the niche options available. My favourite of these was to make use of the dancer, Primrose, and her skill Bewildering Grace. This skill changes the way battles play out; no longer do you have planned and coordinated attacks focusing on targeting your enemies’ weaknesses. In its place? An RNG fest where anything could happen. My team revolved around passing BP to Primrose and letting her use fully-charged Bewildering Graces as much as possible, preparing for and dealing with the negative effects as they came. Sometimes my party was poisoned, sometimes members of my party were instantly KO’d, sometimes the squad of enemies I was facing got fully healed. It all became part of the fun for me. I understand this isn’t how a lot of people would want to play a JRPG, or any game for that matter, but it’s a fantastic example of just how personal you can make your experience.

For those wanting to just build a party and play with your favourite characters, the ability to take on a second job lets you do just that. You have a chance to cover your weaknesses without being forced into using characters you dislike; if you want to use them later, you can just swap them in. With characters being able to swap their secondary job on the fly, you can also change your party composition for the area you’re currently in and adapt in the field if you constantly want to be hitting enemies with weapons they’re weak against. Everything about Octopath Traveler screams to craft your own adventure. There are eight stories to be told, but they’re stories to be told at your own pace and as you want them to be, in a world you’re free to explore. It is a tale yet unwritten of experiences yet to happen, a game that is as much as you make of it, and one I struggle not to recommend to any fan of JRPGs. The world of Orsterra is waiting.