Technological World for February 3: Nokia smartphones released, Imagine Van Gogh in Vancouver, Stadia game dev studios shuttered, Mass Effect Legendary Edition release date announced, The Medium's split-screen world

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This week, Imagine Van Gogh projects the master’s artworks on a massive scale, Google shutters Stadia development studios, Mass Effect Legendary Edition gets a release date, and The Medium brings an interesting mechanic to a horror adventure. But first, Nokia has two new budget smartphones available in Canada.

Two new Nokia smartphones released in Canada

Once upon a time, Nokia made the most advanced cellular phones available. That aspect of the Finnish company’s business was sold to Microsoft to jumpstart Microsoft Mobile, and Nokia would continue advancing telecommunications infrastructure, and is a key player in the 5G mobile standard.

Nokia smartphones are a thing again, though, through another Finnish company, HMD Global, which bought the mobile business from Microsoft.

Last week, two new Nokia Android devices were released in Canada.

The Nokia 2.4 is a budget smartphone priced at $230 and available at Best Buy Canada.

It’s got a battery that should last you a couple of days, passable camera lenses, and a fingerprint unlock.

For those in Quebec, Videotron has the Nokia 3.4 ($280), which has a better Qualcomm processor, an extra wide-angle camera, and biometric face unlock functionality.

Imagine Van Gogh exhibition arrives in Vancouver

This presentation of art by Vincent Van Gogh has already been in Toronto, and is scheduled to open in Vancouver in March.

Imagine Van Gogh takes the Dutch Master’s paintings and projects them on the surfaces of large spaces, essentially painting the walls, floor, and ceiling and immersing audiences in his art.

The exhibition is accompanied by a soundtrack of classical music from composers including Prokofiev, Bach, Mozart, and Satie.

Imagine Van Gogh takes over the Vancouver Convention Centre starting on March 19 and scheduled to run through April 23.

Covid-19 protocols are in place so masks are mandatory, and a limited number of people are being allowed into the space at any one time. Tickets are being sold according to a schedule.

Ticket pricing is $45 for those aged 16 and up, $40 for ages 4 to 15.

Google shutters Stadia game development studios

Google may have deep pockets, but the company doesn’t seem to have the patience required to make a video game.

Gaming website Kotaku broke the news on Monday that Google Stadia was closing its development studios.

Editor-in-chief Stephen Totilo, reported that studios in Los Angeles and Montreal were closed, and game executive Jade Raymond was leaving Google.

Stadia general manager Phil Harrison wrote in a blog post that the Stadia service would continue to deliver games streamed from cloud servers to user devices, but that Google would focus on “business partnerships” to get games on the service, instead of making games themselves.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition releases on May 14

Mass Effect, a legendary trilogy of action role-playing games, is soon to be available for an entirely new audience.

Mass Effect Legendary Edition will be available for PS4, Windows, and Xbox One, and on PS5 and Xbox Series X/S through forward compatibility. The collection releases on May 14.

Included in the Legendary Edition are all three games in the original trilogy that began in 2007 as well as some 40 downloadable content packs that were released, all remastered in 4K, ultra high definition.

Mass Effect was groundbreaking in a number of ways. It gave players the opportunity to choose the gender of their protagonist. It allowed players to form relationships with characters of any gender. It blended action, shooter, and role-playing elements in ways that had never really been tried before.

And the story, a space opera about humanity finding a place among the stars and all the other creatures that live there, is compelling.

I don’t really replay games. Who’s got the time? But I’m looking forward to becoming Commander Shepard again.

Horror adventure game The Medium introduces intriguing split screen world

A new psychological horror game makes use of an interesting split-screen display to tell the story of a woman with the abiilty to see and interact with the spirit world, an eerrie mirror to her own.

The Medium was developed and published by Poland’s Bloober Team. It’s available now for Windows and Xbox X/S and is part of the Xbox Games Pass program.

Marianne is the medium of the title and is able to interact with spirits. After helping her foster father pass on, she finds herself exploring a deserted Polish resort where some kind of massacre led to the abandonment years before.

The innovation that the Medium introduces is the split-screen view, so that we can see Marianne in her world and her spirit-world analogue in that world. She can force herself into an out-of-body state in which she leaves her real world body behind and can move freely through the spirit world, but she can only do this for a limited time before she can’t get back to her real body.

The swapping back and forth between the two worlds provides an interesting method to solve the environmental puzzles that block your path through the game. Sometimes you need to interact with an object in the spirit world and come back to the real world. Other times you need to go fully into the spirit world to find something you need to clear an obstacle in the real world. And at times, you need to protect yourself from a danger in the spirit world that doesn’t even appear in the real world.

The split-screen display, though, posed a problem because you can only really focus on one world at a time. Especially in a survival horror game where the cues you see or miss can make the difference between life and death, having to attend to two worlds at the same time is too difficult.

There’s no combat in the Medium, but there are moments when Marianne needs to escape from a malevolent force at the heart of the danger, and these chase sequences are also challenging because there are not enough cues to help players understand what they need to do to escape. Instead, these sequences require endless trial-and-error which is frustrating if you have to replay too much of the game.

The atmosphere created here is suitably unearthly, the characters are interesting, and the narrative comes together in the end, although it requires players to work to find some of the connections along the way.

The Medium will satisfy fans of psychological horror who don’t need to fight their way through the scares. If you’ve got a subscription to Xbox Game Pass, it’s absolutely worth trying.

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