Saturday, April 17, 2021

Oddworld: Soulstorm Review – A NEGATIVE Batch Of Brew

Playing Oddworld: Soulstorm is as arduous as Abe’s quest to liberate his Mudoken brethren from slavery. Each step is a supreme test of patience as you methodically guide your followers through challenging hazards, sweating over the fact that one slip-up could unravel all your effort. If you enjoy putting up with that old-school challenge, you might love this journey. However, if you’re a newcomer or a fan that believes this style of platformer hasn’t aged very well, turn back now. Soulstorm doesn’t do enough to modernize the series’ tedious gameplay, and a litany of severe technical hiccups spoil Abe’s attempted comeback. A reimagining of Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus, Soulstorm’s gameplay remains largely the same: you recruit and guide followers through 2D platforming stages littered with dangers. As charming as the classic Oddworld games are, they can be frustratingly difficult and that hasn’t changed much in Soulstorm. Most Slig enemies and other hazards mow Abe down instantly, and I was infuriated by how little wiggle room I had to correct course when things went sideways. Abe drops so fast that it makes the health meter seem like a cruel tease. While playing Soulstorm, I often felt like I was walking on eggshells because of that high price of failure, retracing every step, re-recruiting every Mudokon, and carefully guiding them through a gauntlet of foes is soul-crushing when it all falls apart in seconds. Dying to unexpected perils, like being suddenly gunned down by off-screen enemies, feels cheap and happens way too often. A crafting system serves as Soulstorm’s biggest addition, but it doesn’t feel necessary. You must repeatedly gather the same ingredients every time you die (by searching lockers, trash cans, and fallen foes), which wore me down in a hurry after repeatedly replaying certain sections. The crafted tools themselves, like proximity mines, smoke screens, even a flamethrower, do add a welcomed element of flexibility and improvisation to gameplay. Dropping smoke screens to create hiding spots anywhere is nice, but I wished I didn’t have to make these items myself and grew tired of digging around the same spots over and over.   Even when Soulstorm’s difficulty eases up, the gameplay is bland. The action feels largely the same from previous games in the series, and that formula doesn’t evolve significantly beyond the first few hours. Even the more interesting sequences, like facing down a giant mech aboard a speeding train, are far too punishing to be fun. I’m glad that Abe controls better now (he even has a double jump), but the controls still have a mushy unresponsiveness that makes entertaining actions, like possessing Sligs, feel like a hassle. The controls also lead to additional deaths because Abe doesn’t act as swiftly as you need him to, especially during the ill-fitting, overly demanding combat arenas that pit you against waves of baddies while you try to protect fleeing Mudokens. Soulstorm would be a tough recommendation for anyone outside of diehard fans if it performed flawlessly, but I encountered several progress-sabotaging bugs (even after installing the big day-one patch) that should scare off even those players. When I died, Mudokens sometimes failed to respawn alongside me even though my tally indicated they were still alive and under my command. That meant I lost out on turning in followers that I’d spent ages trying to safely liberate, which negatively affected my overall quarma – a vital metric in determining which of the four endings you get.  Abe occasionally gets stuck in environmental geometry, forcing a restart. At one point, I fell into an infinite loop. One escape portal permanently vanished once I reached it, forcing me to abandon followers. A gun in a late-game turret sequence failed to shoot despite working fine in previous segments. After multiple restarts, I randomly discovered that clicking the right stick “fixed” the weapon for some reason, allowing it to fire. I spent over an hour trying to lead a large group of followers through a particularly challenging area, but once I opened the exit door an invisible wall prevented me from moving forward. I was forced to restart this entire, lengthy sequence twice before the exit worked properly. Soulstorm’s gameplay pushed my patience to its limits, but these bugs sent me over the edge and made me nervous every time I started a new level. “What on Earth is going to screw me over this time?” I regularly asked myself. Soulstorm’s faults are a shame because its narrative and presentation brought a smile to my face. Abe and his pals are goofy, delightful underdogs I couldn’t help but root for. The enjoyable story is packed with heart, and the cutscenes look great. I wanted to welcome Abe into a new generation of gaming with open arms, but Soulstorm fails to make a case for why its brand of cinematic platforming works today. In fact, Soulstorm only reaffirmed that Abe’s past adventures are best viewed with rose-colored glasses.
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    Pakistan bans TikTok for hosting &#039 again;obscene' content

    Tiktok users in Pakistan won't be able to access the app yet again after the Peshawar High Court issued an order to ban the short-form video sharing platform in the country. According to Al Jazeera, Ary News TV and other local news outlets, the court made the ruling during a hearing into a petition against the app. TikTok had around 33 million users in Pakistan (out of a total of 100 million users) as of last month, App Annie told TechCrunch. After receiving the order from the court, Pakistan Telecom Authority (PTA) published a statement on Twitter confirming that it has issued directions to service providers "to immediately block access to the TikTok App" in compliance.  In respectful compliance to the orders of the Peshawar High Court, PTA has issued directions to the service providers to immediately block access to the TikTok App. During the hearing of a case today, the PHC has ordered for the blocking of App. — PTA (@PTAofficialpk) March 11, 2021 Chief Justice Qaiser Rashid Khan said TikTok videos "are peddling vulgarity in society," Ary News TV wrote, and that the platform hosts unethical and immoral content. He also decided that the app should remain blocked until TikTok cooperates with authorities after PTA told the court that it approached the company to have "objectionable and indecent" content removed to no avail. In a statement sent to Al Jazeera, a spokesperson defended the platform and its moderation practices: "TikTok is built upon the foundation of creative expression, with strong safeguards in place to keep inappropriate content off the platform. In Pakistan we have grown our local-language moderation team, and have mechanisms to report and remove content in violation of our community guidelines. We look forward to continuing to serve the millions of TikTok users and creators in Pakistan who have found a home for creativity and fun." This isn't the first time the app was banned in the country, which recently rolled out digital laws that give regulators the power to censor content. As Financial Times notes, the new laws require companies to remove offensive content, including ones that threaten the "integrity, security and defense of Pakistan." The first time TikTok was banned was before the new laws came out, though, after authorities decided that it hosted "immoral and indecent" videos. That said, PTA lifted the ban a few days later after TikTok promised to moderate clips according to Pakistani "societal norms" and laws. 

    TikTok forms an EU Safety Advisory Council following scrutiny from regulators

    TikTok has established a Safety Advisory Council for Europe that will shape its content moderation policies amid a buildup of complaints and probes against the app in the continent. The creation of the nine-member panel, which includes anti-bullying and mental health experts, follows the US Content Advisory Council the Chinese-owned platform formed last March.  TikTok's European delegates include academics and members of non-profits that specialize in dealing with child abuse, addiction, violent extremism, discrimination and cyber-bullying. It says the council will help it to develop "forward-looking policies" that address current and emerging challenges facing its thriving community. While the above issues aren't strictly limited to the video-sharing platform and affect all social networks alike, TikTok is facing heightened scrutiny in Europe over security and privacy concerns that relate to the welfare of its younger user base. EU watchdogs had already launched a glut of probes investigating its data-sharing practices before the app was hit with a massive consumer complaint last month. In it, a grouping of consumer watchdogs alleged it was breaking GDPR laws by hoarding personal information, hiding its policies behind vague terms and conditions and blurring the line between advertising and user-generated content.  At the time, TikTok said it was ready to meet with the consumer organizations (a collective known as the BEUC) to discuss their concerns. Despite some of its failings, its latest move is also aimed at engaging with regulators as it seeks to further promote its user safety policies.

    TikTok bans ads for fasting weight and apps loss supplements

    Sponsored Links Anatoliy Sizov via Getty Images TikTok is introducing a new policy that cracks down on ads that “promote a harmful or negative body image.” The app’s new rules ban companies from advertising fasting apps and weight loss supplements. Advertisers also have to adhere to new, tougher restrictions on weight loss ads that they can continue to run on the platform. For instance, ads prompting weight management products won’t be able to target users under the age of 18. TikTok is also partnering with the National Eating Disorders Association (NEDA) to connect its users to resources offered by the organization directly within the app. One aspect of the partnership will see TikTok redirect people to the NEDA hotline when they search for topics and hashtags flagged by the non-profit. “As a society, weight stigma and body shaming pose both individual and cultural challenges, and we know that the internet, if left unchecked, has the risk of exacerbating such issues,” the company said. “That's why we're focused on working to safeguard our community from harmful content and behavior while supporting an inclusive — and body-positive — environment.” While a step in the right direction, ads promoting unhealthy dieting are only part of TikTok’s body image problem. There’s also the issue of TikTok users who post that content. The app’s community guidelines ban videos that “promote eating habits that are likely to cause health issues,” but you can still find countless proana videos on the platform despite those rules. Then there’s the opaque algorithm that powers TikTok’s For You feed. Earlier this year, BuzzFeed News detailed how the app exposes people to content that glorifies unhealthy eating and weight loss habits through its home page. TikTok points out people can long-press on a video to stop similar content from showing up on their For You feed, but that doesn't solve the problem of that those types of videos showing up in the first place. In this article: body image, TikTok, ads, Social media, body positivity, social networking, Bytedance, advertising, news, gear All products recommended by Engadget are selected by our editorial team, independent of our parent company. Some of our stories include affiliate links. If you buy something through one of these links, we may earn an affiliate commission. Comments 83 Shares Share Tweet Share

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