Friday, January 31, 2014

Ace of Hearts on X1000

Hi all and Happy New Year 2014! I am back from my trip to Japan, and fired up my X1000 for the first time in 2014 to find out a new game has been released for AmigaOS4 - Ace of Hearts!

Ace of Hearts is a Poker card game created by Cherry Darling. It has been released for most common formats - PC, iPhone, etc, but there is also a AmigaOS4 version available!

Excited by having a new game to try out, I quickly bought it from their website here, you can also download the demo version from their website or from os4depot if you want to try it out first.

If you buy Ace of Hearts, you will receive an email containing the link to download the full version of the game. It costs 5,90Euro to purchase it.

After downloading the full version archive and extracting it, you get some nicely drawn icons to run the game from, and a read me.txt file too. Given this is now 2014, I decided to change my 2013 Workbench background on the X1000 to another of DJ Nicks backdrops that I didn't use yet (Click to expand):

 Two for the price of one - you get the AmigaOS4 version and the MorphOS version in the same archive:

The read me.txt contains some information about some recommended MorphOS version settings and some notes for the AmigaOS4 version. Although it mentions some potential performance issues, I didn't encounter these on my X1000 in testing it:

Once the game is launched for the first time, you have to put in your alias and email address to be able to post scores in the online scoreboard for the game. (You can also select the language for the game). I am glad to see this online scores feature in the game as online scoreboards are great motivators to try for a higher score against other Amiga players!

You then receive an email which you need to click on the link to activate your account to post online scores.

Once you click okay you are presented with the Main Menu for the game:

4 different game modes are able to be run, including The Royal Casino, 10 Minutes Challenge, 30 Minutes Challenge and Ultimate 24 hour Marathon! Not sure I want to play continuously for 24 hours though!

Under the options menu you can modify the music and sound effect volume, as well as whether the game runs full screen or in a window:

On the Main Menu, the Achievements option shows you all the achievements you can earn through the game, and your progress in getting them!

Back on the Main Menu, I decided to try out the Royal Casino game. when selected you see this information screen prior to starting the game - you start with $100 to bet with.

You can also click on the Top 10 and Online Rankings to see how you compare to the best players:

I clicked on New Game, and it walks you through the game screen and how to do things, as shown below:

These helpful tips are just shown for the first hand so you can get the hang of what to do, but it is fairly easy to pickup for anyone who has played Poker before:

So we get into the first hand, which is not so great for me - a pair of 2's is not a great start:

Progressing through the first hand and helpful tips, the game moves along quite smoothly:

I won my first game, which was great - you can choose to risk your winnings or cash it:

I decide to Risk my winnings, and unlock an achievement for getting three of a kind as well:

As this is the first time I have done the risk section, the help appears again to explain what to do:

Amazingly I got another achievement before I even played the Street-shuffle risk game!

You have to guess which position the red queen card is in after shuffling, which is definitely not easy to track, but I got it right first time out!

So, back to the main game screen, and I selected to increase my per hand bet from $1 to $10.

I was lucky enough to win a few hands:

I even got a Full House! When you lose games and lose the Risk section (which I did a lot), there is a luck bar at the top of the screen which increases each time, making it more likely you will get a good hand the next time.

I then got too aggressive with the risk sections after each hand that I won, and lost all my money, which apparently you get an achievement award for as well!

Game over I am afraid, no more money:

I did play the game for a while and found it enjoyable, although the music gets repetitive quickly (fortunately you can turn it off). The nature of poker play made me lose interest when I was not doing so well, but I guess I have to get better at it! 

I realise card games are not for everyone, but the graphics are good quality, spot effects are ok, and the authors have gone to some trouble to make Ace of Hearts a well presented and polished game for AmigaOS. The online ranking feature is very welcome, and the price is reasonable.

I am glad to start 2014 being able to play a new AmigaOS4 game on my X1000!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Tokyo Station Illumination event

While in Japan on my latest trip, Tokyo Station was running a special New Years Illumination event in December 2013 with some quite stunning illuminations of train wheels and tracks outside Tokyo Station. Despite the cold it was very busy each night and I had to go and see it!

Plenty of ushers were outside Tokyo Station to direct me and the crowds to the correct path to walk - turns out you have to walk around the block to get to the display, even though it is across the road from the station!

I guess it thins out the crowds around the display to a manageable amount. Once I got there, it was truly amazing. The train wheels and rails change the colour often and wheel type changes to various different Japanese train wheels types with suitable background music and train sounds.

An example of the train wheel type changes can be seen below:

It really was a remarkable sight, and walking around the display was busy, with the occasional smoke generated from the rails to keep things interesting!

I have never seen an illumination of train wheels and tracks like this before, and I have to say it was very impressive:

In the next few shots you can see Tokyo Station illuminated in the background, making a wonderful scene even more stunning to look at:

Here a shot of the smoke rising from the rails periodically, accompanied with steam train sounds and the background music which changes mood depending on the era of train wheels being showcased:

At the end of the rails, the rails curl up towards the sky:

As you can probably tell, I was very impressed with the detail that went into the illumination around Tokyo Station this year, especially the train wheels and rail section and best of all it was all free!

Former Manseibashi Station Platform Reopened in Tokyo

In 2013 the remaining section of the old Manseibashi Station platform in Tokyo was renovated and reopened to the public as a shopping destination. It has plenty of reminders of it's past left in situ, and a new glass covered viewing platform on the former Manseibashi Station platform for a very up close view of passing Tokyo trains! I heard about it from NHK news before coming to Japan and I had to take a look!

First, a little history. Manseibashi Station was a substantial railway station built in the early 1900's between the present JR Akihabara and Kanda Railway Stations in Tokyo. Not only did it service train lines as the terminus, but served as an interchange for streetcar trams as well. Inside the restored platform building structure, there is a nice diorama that shows this past appearance and use quite well. The building looks like a smaller version of the current Tokyo Railway Station:

During the Great Kanto Earthquake in 1923, Manseibashi Station was destroyed and was not rebuilt. The platform area was re-used for the train lines going through this area, leaving a small stop over section for trains and disused platform as the only hint to it's past use as a station. Coming to the present day, the remaining platform section is visible from the Manseibashi bridge nearby, which used to serve trams too until they were stopped:

The view of the former Manseibashi Station from the nearby Manseibashi bridge:

 Once at the old structure, you can see the original 1912 era staircase which leads to the original Manseibashi station platform on top of it. Today, there is a cafe and viewing area built on it:

And here is the Manseibashi Station platform viewing area, which is free to enter. but flash photography is not allowed as it is blinding for the passing train drivers!

Every few minutes a JR commuter train travels down one side or the other of the platform, which is quite exciting as of course they don't stop or slow down! Here is some photos of the trains passing Manseibashi Station:

Coming back outside Manseibashi station again down the 1912 era original stairs, the photo below is taken from a position where the original Railway Station would have stood all those years ago...Under the platform today is a bunch of arts and craft shops, some restaurants and even a railway souvenir shop!

Near here is a plaque which explains a little more about the Earthquake and Manseibashi Station History in Japanese and English (click to expand):

Here is some closeups of the Manseibashi bridge structure today:

You can see Manseibashi inscribed into the structure:

I really wanted to see this on my trip to Tokyo, and I am really glad that I did!