A City Sleeps review: A rhythmic, heavenly twist on bullet-hell shooters

A City Sleeps is a phoenix, albeit a phoenix that looks nothing like its predecessor. If you missed the story, it goes like this: Harmonix wanted to make a rhythm-based first-person shooter, called Chroma. After running a beta earlier this year, however, Harmonix realized Chroma was maybe too ambitious, maybe too weird, maybe too whatever-regardless, it wasn’t going to get made.

Most of the time the story would end there, but a small group of Chroma survivors got together and said “Well if not a 3D shooter…what about a 2D shooter? A shoot-em-up, maybe?” And thus mere months later we get A City Sleeps, which holds onto the rhythm aspects of Chroma but with a different aesthetic.

Orchestrated nightmares

A City Sleeps is a 2D side-scrolling, rhythm-based shoot-em-up, or SHMUP. What that means is that at any given moment there are about a billion different bullets for you to avoid to stay alive. Seriously, look at this screenshot:

And that’s the first level on the lowest difficulty level.

I’m going to let Harmonix describe the game’s plot because it’s pretty obtuse:

A City Sleeps follows Poe, youngest member of The Silk, an ancient clan of dream exorcists that can enter the minds of sleeping hosts to rid their dreams of demons. When the residents of SanLo fall into an endless slumber, only Poe can rescue them from a never-ending nightmare.”

To be honest, the plot doesn’t matter much. It seems capably written, but it’s all couched in cyberpunk-heavy text notes on the level launch screen. Why did this person turn into a floating heart made out of feathers? Why is this boss an enormous mandibled beast? Who are these ninjas that keep appearing? Who are the people I’m rescuing? I don’t know. I don’t think I need to know.

In any case, it doesn’t affect how you play the game. A City Sleeps feels distinctly old-school, like those text snippets are what you used to see on an arcade cabinet’s video pre-roll while it’s idling. Then you leap into the game itself and the plot sort of falls away in a haze of reflexes.

Controlling Poe has aspects of a twin-stick shooter. The left analog stick flies Poe around, while the right fires her weapon. Get in close to an enemy and that right stick attack turns into a melee move, which charges up Poe’s ultimate weapon-an enormous sword made out of shadows that you control by spinning the right stick in circles. Don’t even ask me about mouse and keyboard controls. I think they might exist, as you can certainly launch the game by hitting Enter when it asks you to hit A, but there’s no glossary of mouse and keyboard controls and all the tutorials assume you’re using a gamepad.

At various points you’ll be supported by Idols, which can house one of the ghosts Poe carries around. Throw the Mercy ghost into an Idol, for instance, and it’ll heal you. On the other hand, the Mercy ghost makes the game “easier” and so using it will incur a penalty to your score multiplier. Other ghosts will fire at enemies or freeze them in place, and you’ll unlock more as you progress through the levels.

It’s a bunch of disparate systems, but they’re all tied together by what Harmonix does best. Remember when I said this was a rhythm game?

It starts with the backing track, which acts as the foundation for the level. From it, you’ll be able to discern the basic rhythm of the level, be able to sense when the action is about to get more intense, et cetera.

The next layer is Poe. Poe’s weapon isn’t just for show. Each shot you fire triggers percussion noises, whether it’s the sweep of brushes across a snare drum or what sounds like two metal rods clanging together. Stop firing and the rhythm section also stops.

When the rhythm speeds up, Poe’s shots speed up. When the rhythm slows down, her shots are correspondingly slow. This leaves you subconsciously listening to the backing track for clues as to how Poe will control at any given time, especially when it comes to the lengthy (and difficult) boss battles. You could play A City Sleeps with the sound off, or without paying attention to the music, but you’re probably doing yourself a disservice.

Luckily, enemies play by the same rules. Enemies appear in bursts of sound, live to add to the soundtrack, and die with another burst. Chimes, synths-enemies are the third layer and provide much of the music’s richness. Seeing the massive onslaught of projectiles a boss releases as a result of a saw synth is impressive, but you’re just as likely to die from a hellish cloud of bullets made up of tiny, non-threatening bell noises.

Idols add a fourth layer, when present, and one that changes based on whichever ghost is in play. Of course, the music is also important for cluing in when the Idols will activate-for instance, knowing when you should be on top of the Mercy-activated Idol to receive a burst of healing, and then flying away before enemy bullets can rip through you.

The way Harmonix ties the music into the visual patterns is what makes this a gorgeous and fulfilling experience. It’s a lot like playing Soundodger but with more thematic consistency, or like playing a more polished and streamlined version of Beatbuddy.

My only sticking point is that there are “only three levels.”

Now, each level comes with five different difficulties, and each difficulty is an entirely different set-up in terms of enemy placement, patterns, et cetera. You’re still experiencing the “same three levels” though in terms of boss battles, backgrounds, and music. Considering how often you’re going to be repeating the content, I would’ve appreciated a bit more diversity.

On the other hand, the game is fifteen dollars. It’s not a huge asking price.

Bottom line

A City Sleeps is a shoot-em-up that can appeal even to people who don’t normally love bullet-hell games. It certainly roped me in with Harmonix’s fantastic-as-usual audio hooks. Could it be expanded? Sure.

But A City Sleeps is a tight, polished experience that’s at times overwhelmingly beautiful-even if, like the archetypal femme fatale, this pretty thing is constantly trying to kill you.

Drupal releases patch for severe SQL injection flaw

Drupal has released a patch for a highly critical flaw in its content management system, which could allow rogue code to run.

Drupal, which is a volunteer open-source project whose software is used by websites such as The White House and the Economist, said all of 7.x releases prior to 7.32 are affected, according to an advisory.

Administrators should update to version 7.32. If that is not possible, a patch is available for the “database.inc” file that fixes the problem.

Drupal uses a database abstraction API (application programming interface) that filters harmful SQL (structure query language) queries, but the vulnerability (CVE-2014-3704) can allow an attacker to send malicious queries that could be executed. These so-called SQL injection attacks are among the most common type of attacks against a website.

“Depending on the content of the request this can lead to privilege escalation, arbitrary PHP execution or other attacks,” Drupal wrote.

The flaw can be exploited by anonymous users, and there are now proof-of-concept instructions circulating that show how to exploit it, according to a FAQ document.

“While we do not have reports of actual usage, the nature of this vulnerability is such that the attack can be difficult to detect,” it said.

The vulnerability was reported last month by Sektion Eins, which is a PHP-focused security firm in Germany that was hired by an unnamed client to audit its code, Drupal wrote. Drupal’s security team often gets reports from those kind of audits, it said.

Drupal debated whether to release a patch early, but opted to stick to its normal schedule for releasing security updates due to its Amsterdam conference at the end of September.

“We felt that it would be better to use the regularly scheduled date which also happened to be the first date when the Drupal community would be likely to have time to focus on the upgrade,” the organization wrote.

Black Friday 2014: PS4 & Xbox One Deals

Thanks to the existence of Black Fridays, discounts could’ve never been more generous. At this point, the big day after Thanksgiving is just around the corner, waiting for doorbusters and early birds!

With all these deals popping up everywhere, prospect buyers may have already prepped their shopping list. Holidays are free days, and we’ve covered official deals for those itching to get their hands on the latest consoles and games — right on sale.

PlayStation’s official blog announced that it will offer two Black Friday PS4 bundles: the “Grand Theft Auto V” bundle and another that brings a 500 GB PS4, “LEGO Batman 3: Beyond Gotham” and “LittleBigPlanet 3″ in a single discounted purchase.

The Grand Theft Auto V PS4 Black Friday Bundle comes with a 500 GB PS4, “Grand Theft Auto V” copy and a digital download voucher for “The Last of Us Remastered.” The bundle is priced at $399.99 USD / $449.99 CAD. The second bundle is also offered at similar price.

According to Gamespot, “Grand Theft Auto V” arrives on the PS4 and Xbox One on Nov. 18. The PC gets it a little later, saving the date on Jan. 2015. The outlet also announced that PlayStation’s second PS4 bundle offering comes on Nov. 18.

Meanwhile, Polygon reported that Toys R Us’ Black Friday deals went into leak, where we spot the Xbox One console with Kinect retailing for $429.99. In addition, the Xbox One “Assassin’s Creed Unity” bundle is priced at $329.99.

Also offering an Xbox One bundle is Walmart, wrote Gotta Be Mobile. According to the outlet, the retailer will be selling the Xbox One and “Halo: The Master Chief Collection” for $329. Walmart is also offering the Xbox One with a game of choice, plus a 12-month Xbox Live card for $379 on Thanksgiving.

Christian Today reported that Target also offers an Xbox One bundle for Black Friday. Priced at $330, the bundle includes a 500 GB Xbox One console, digital copies of “Assassin’s Creed Unity” and “Assassin’s Creed: Black Flag” and a $50 Target GiftCard. The outlet said Best Buy also offers the same bundle, but doesn’t include the gift card.

The same outlet added that Walmart is offering a PS4 Mega Console Bundle with a camera, controller and a game of choice for $509.

If you’re not a fan of bundles and would just like to get a new console, CNET said in an earlier report that Microsoft is selling the Xbox One under a $50 price cut. Hence, the standalone console is down from $399 to $349. The version sporting Kinect drops from $499 to $449.

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Are Xbox 360 Black Friday 2014 Deals Worth Buying?

Microsoft’s Xbox One gets the most attention from just about everyone these days. Gamers love it because it is quickly becoming the relatively cheaper next-generation console that offers a lot of functionality. Entertainment lovers focus on it because it has hardware that enables users to watch television and never interact directly with their cable box or satellite equipment. Very slowly, a lot of people are forgetting about Microsoft’s Xbox 360 console.

With Xbox 360 Black Friday deals multiplying, whether it’s a good idea to take advantage of them is certainly a relevant question. Furthermore it’s only sure to get more relevant as the number of retailers slashing prices on the console expands over time. Are Xbox 360 Black Friday deals worth taking advantage of? Absolutely.

Wal-Mart – Xbox 360e 4GB for $99

The most popular of these Xbox 360 Black Friday deals is going to be with the world’s largest retailer: Wal-Mart. For Black Friday 2014 Wal-Mart isn’t just slashing prices on everything from clothing to Christmas trees. There the Xbox 360e with 4GB of storage will cost just $99. The retailer will start selling the consoles on Thursday at 6 PM on Thanksgiving Day November 27th, and it’ll only be while supplies last.

This deal only includes an Xbox 360 with 4GB of storage, but its great for all kinds of people. First, the casual gamer in your life will love it because there are tons of Xbox 360 games available at increasingly cheap prices. They run the gamut from hardcore high-profile shooters like Call of Duty, to fun and family friendly games like Sonic and Forza Horizon.

The Xbox 360 started out as a gaming system, but every quickly it turned into a gaming and entertainment system. That’s another reason why it makes a good Black Friday 2014 purchase. Many cable channels and video services have an app on the Xbox 360. Verizon allows users to completely replace their cable box with an Xbox 360. The Verizon app for Xbox 360 includes live television channels. The Comcast Xfinity app doesn’t have live television, but there are tons of on-demand content available through the service. There are apps for Netflix and Hulu Plus meant for cable cutters too.

[ View Wal-Mart’s Black Friday 2014 Deals ]

Target – Xbox 360e 4GB with Kinect Sensor for $179

The Xbox 360 is pretty easy to use for anyone who has handled a gaming controller in the past. There are roughly fourteen buttons on an Xbox 360 controller though and almost all of them change function depending on where you are and what you are doing. For kids and adults that controller can be a bit daunting.

Thankfully, many games and apps come with support for the Kinect sensor. Originally announced back in 2010, the Kinect sensor gives the Xbox 360 eyes and ears. It can see users move their hands and feet and move their characters accordingly in some games. It can hear users tell it that they want to open an app or pause the video they are watching. It cant control television sets and audio equipment like the Kinect 2 sensor that backs up the Xbox One, but it’s good enough for basic use. The Xbox 360e 4GB with Kinect sensor normally costs $249, but Target will have the complete bundle on sale for $179 during it’s Black Friday 2014 Door Buster deals. Again, this is definitely a good buy.

[ View Target’s Black Friday 2014 Deals ]

Those are the two Black Friday 2014 Xbox 360 deals that stick out the most. With them users save a ton. They can then pocket that savings or put it towards other Black Friday 2014 deals.

Remember to stay on the lookout for more Xbox 360 Black Friday deals. GameStop, the largest games retailer in the United States hasn’t yet revealed what it will be offering shoppers this holiday. That being said its hard not to imagine that it won’t whip up some last minute savings on the Xbox 360. The retailer takes console trade-ins and has been known to offer big discounts and savings on used consoles. Presumably, it’ll do so again this year.

What you are looking for in an Xbox 360 Black Friday deal are free games or free accessories. Deep pricing discounts aren’t unwelcome either. In an ideal sale you’d get all three, but usually its two out of the three. Remember to look up the price of each Xbox 360 game included in a potential deal on its own to see how much money you are actually saving. A game that costs $5 or $10 independently isn’t worth getting up early for. That being said, a game that normally costs $59 is definitely worth investigating more and possibly rushing into a store for.

It’s also important that you remember the nature of Black Friday deals themselves. Most retailers don’t offer rainchecks and deals are only good while supplies last. If you over sleep or they run out of consoles, you will be out

Aaron Gordon out indefinitely with fractured foot

Rookie forward Aaron Gordon fractured the fifth metatarsal in his left foot on Saturday night against the Washington Wizards and will be out indefinitely. The severity of Gordon’s injury is not yet known; it may be a simple fracture or a more troubling one like a Jones fracture, which is what Kevin Durant is dealing with right now and doesn’t necessarily allow for an exact timetable to be put in place as every player’s body deals with the injury and subsequent surgery differently. According to Yahoo! Sports’ Marc Spears, Gordon will see a foot specialist in Charlotte this week to get a more detailed diagnosis.

It is rough to see anybody go down with an injury right now given that Orlando just got Victor Oladipo back after starting off the season a bit short-handed, but it’s even worse to have the 4th overall pick go down just 11 games into his career. Gordon wasn’t lighting the world on fire but he had played well in his 11 appearances off the bench, giving the team a boost defensively and with his electric hops on the offensive end.

It’s hard to tell whether or not this injury will be all that serious at this juncture, but it can be said that foot injuries for big men tend to be troubling long past the initial recovery and return. Hopefully Gordon’s injury is not as bothersome as other fractured foot injuries for NBA players have been in the past and Gordon is able to return to the floor quickly.

If there is any silver lining to this horrible news, it’d be that Maurice Harkless should be in for more playing time now that Gordon is out. Harkless has seemingly made an impact any time he’s come on the floor this season but Jacque Vaughn has been hesitant to commit a permanent rotation spot to him. Big man Kyle O’Quinn is still dealing with his ankle injury, but assuming he returns within the next week, he will also snatch up some of Gordon’s minutes as well.

Even still, getting Harkless on the floor doesn’t make Gordon’s injury a positive by any means, and with Elfrid Payton going through a slump, Orlando’s pair of lottery picks will be seeing even less game action in the coming weeks.

Big iPad, iPhone Black Friday deals start soon

Black Friday deals begin soon. Among the biggest upcoming iPad deals is the one at Best Buy that starts on November 20, according to a November 11 report in ZDNet. While this deal is a doorbuster event that begins at 5 p.m in-store., consumers can apparently snatch it anytime on Thanksgiving day via the Best Buy website.

In this big Black Friday iPad deal, customers can get Apple’s newest iPad Air 2 for $100.00 off the regular price. It seems that this deal is for any new iPad Air 2, regardless of storage size. Storage size for an iPad Air 2 storage comes in 16GB, 64GB and 128GB models. The Black Friday price for an iPad Air 2, 16GB Wi-Fi is $399.99, for example.

Best Buy is also offering a big deal on the new iPad mini 3 with $75.00 off any model. (16GB, 64GB and 128GB) with prices starting at $324.99 each. The iPad mini 3 Wi-Fi 16GB model is usually $399.99.

The iPhone 6 Black Friday deal at Best Buy is amazing considering the iPhone 6 is Apple’s brand new model–and beats Target’s Black Friday iPhone offer hands-down. Best Buy is offering Apple’s iPhone 6 for just $99.99 with contract when a customer trades in a working iPhone. The iPhone 5s (last year’s model) is just $1.00 after trade-in and contract (Yes, just $1.00). Be sure to visit a Best Buy store before this event to confirm that your working iPhone qualifies for a trade-in.

Sam’s Club is also offering big Black Friday deals on Apple’s iPad-but only on last year’s iPad Air (not the new iPad Air 2 like at Best Buy). Still, with a $100.00 discount it is a big saving on what still is a powerful iPad that can run the newest iOS.

Regularly $399.99, Sam’s Club is offering the iPad Air for just $299.00 starting on Black Friday at 7 a.m. Consumers can get a big jump of this Black Friday deal because it is also available on November 15. Quantities are extremely limited.

Target has a good Black Friday deal on iPads. With an iPad purchase a customer gets a gift card that in effect, reduces the price the customer pays.

An iPad mini 2, 16GB Wi-Fi is $299.00 comes with a $100.00 gift card. The iPad mini 2 is last year’s version of Apple’s smaller tablet. The new iPad mini 3 is $399.00 and also comes with a $100.00 gift card.

Target Black Friday deals cover the iPad mini’s larger sibling too. The iPad Air, 16GB Wi-Fi model is $399.99 with a $100.00 gift card (but again, the iPad Air is last year’s model). The iPad Air 2 is $499.00 for the 16GB, Wi-Fi version, but comes with a $140.00 gift card. Consumers can grab these Black Friday Target deals on iPads starting on November 27 at the Target website.

Apple iPad Event 2014 News: Apple to Unveil the Future of iPad and Mac

By Claire Taylor On October 16, 2014

Mike Deerkoski via Creative Commons

The clock’s ticking and avid consumers of all things Apple, the Apple iPad Event 2014 is just a few hours away from the big announcement.

After Apple revealed surprising new products in an event early in September this year, it seems like the best isn’t over yet. And according to their CEO Tim Cook, there’s more where that came from.

Suffice to say that two new editions of iPhone and a smart watch isn’t enough for the technology giant, it is scheduled to have another big event today at 10 a.m. Pacific Time at its headquarters in Cupertino, California.

The campus provides a more low-key venue than its previous launchings in the 2,405-seat Flint Center, where it held the September event that debuted the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Things have been kept under wraps for the past couple of months, but many industry observers believe that the ‘executive presentation’, which was indicated in the invitation to the Apple iPad Event 2014, would include brand new developments on Apple’s hardware, software and products.

Since it’s almost been a year since the last edition of iPad, which have successfully sold over 200 million units as of June 2014, speculations are revolving around the release of another iPad generation, especially since announcements usually come around this time of the year. This Apple Event news comes while it’s already nearing the holidays.

Aside from the new iPads, it has also been inferred that a series of updates for its Mac line of desktop computers will also be unveiled in the October 16 th event.

Apple has teased to the media and spectators that ‘it’s been way too long’. Thankfully, it won’t have to be anymore.

For those missing out on the Apple iPad Event 2014, don’t worry. This can also be live-streamed on Apple’s website, but in order to view it, you’ll need at least Safari Browser 5.1.10 or a later update or on Mac OSX v.10.6.8.

The clock’s ticking and avid consumers of all things Apple, the Apple iPad Event 2014 is just a few hours away from the big announcement.

After Apple revealed surprising new products in an event early in September this year, it seems like the best isn’t over yet. And according to their CEO Tim Cook, there’s more where that came from.

Suffice to say that two new editions of iPhone and a smart watch isn’t enough for the technology giant, it is scheduled to have another big event today at 10 a.m. Pacific Time at its headquarters in Cupertino, California.

The campus provides a more low-key venue than its previous launchings in the 2,405-seat Flint Center, where it held the September event that debuted the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus.

Things have been kept under wraps for the past couple of months, but many industry observers believe that the ‘executive presentation’, which was indicated in the invitation to the Apple iPad Event 2014, would include brand new developments on Apple’s hardware, software and products.

Since it’s almost been a year since the last edition of iPad, which have successfully sold over 200 million units as of June 2014, speculations are revolving around the release of another iPad generation, especially since announcements usually come around this time of the year. This Apple Event news comes while it’s already nearing the holidays.

Aside from the new iPads, it has also been inferred that a series of updates for its Mac line of desktop computers will also be unveiled in the October 16 th event.

Apple has teased to the media and spectators that ‘it’s been way too long’. Thankfully, it won’t have to be anymore.

For those missing out on the Apple iPad Event 2014, don’t worry. This can also be live-streamed on Apple’s website, but in order to view it, you’ll need at least Safari Browser 5.1.10 or a later update or on Mac OSX v.10.6.8.