Latest reviews

5 stars
Sehr gut geschüttelt, nicht gerührt  de

Von einem James Bond Film erwarte ich keine überzeugende Handlung oder sonstige cineastische Höhenflüge. Ich möchte gut unterhalten werden, viel Action auf der Leinwand sehen und die üblichen Beigaben, die James Bond Filme seit mehreren Jahrzehnten ausmachen.

Die Action ist gut gelungen, reichlich eingesetzt und passt gut in die jeweilige Lokation. Nicht fehlen darf ein umgebauter Aston Martin, der selbst den schlimmsten Angriffen der fiesesten Bösewichter widerstehen kann und dann mit einem eingebauten Arsenal an Waffen zurückschlägt.

Die Handlungsorte sind, wie fast immer, weltweit zu finden und meist von ausgesuchter Schönheit. Dies gilt auch für die sogenannten Bond-Girls. Wobei diesen schon seit einige Filmen mehr zugedacht ist als nur die Rolle des schmückenden Beiwerks.

Für eine kurzweilige Unterhaltung, wobei davon bei einer Laufzeit von 163 Minuten keine Rede sein kann, ist gesorgt. Der Film bietet perfektes Popcornkino und ist meiner Meinung nach eine würdige Verabschiedung von Daniel Craig als Superagent.

3 stars
Big e-reader running modified Android

This is a 13,3" e-reader, which puts it almost to the size of an A4 paper. At ~900 USD it’s not a cheap device.

A4 paper for comparison. (Own work. License: CC-BY-SA.)


Hardware-wise the device is great. The big e-ink screen is perfect for reading studies etc. pdf-format documents. The slight size deviation from A4 doesn’t matter in practice. You can adjust the backlight brightness and tone to your liking, or just turn it off and read in sunlight. There’s also a stylus which can be used to annotate documents, or you can just take a blanc paper and start drawing. Overall the device feels sturdy.


The software solutions are a bit double edged. On one hand it runs Android, which is obviously better than any custom OS’. However, it’s quite heavily modified version of Android, and some of the choices are rather questionable. But of course Android isn’t going to work nicely on a slow black and white e-ink screen without some modifications, so lets keep that in mind.

The device has it’s own package repository, which contains some basic free apps. It’s possible to access Google Play but it’s not enabled by default, and the process is more complicated than just flipping a switch. Nonetheless it can be done pretty easily and it’s well documented.

The stock reading app is overall good and it sure has a ton of features, like cropping and annotating for example. One complaint is that turning a page requires a really long swipe. It’s like the distance would have been just scaled up with the screen size. (Of course you can turn a page other ways too.) The UI design is also little weird. The numerous features are hidden in different toolbars, in not particularly obvious way. But anyway the app gets the job done and you can download a different one if you don’t like it.

Similar UI oddities can be found elsewhere in the system as well. For example there’s a floating quickball enabled by default. Why on earth would I want some shortcut-smudge floating on the paper I’m reading? Luckily it can be disabled. The UI has an adhoc feeling to it. All in all I think that hiring one more UI designer wouldn’t have hurt. Or alternatively just making minimal modifications to stock Android to begin with.

Now one aspect that really is to my liking. The system exposes a lot of settings for tinkerers like me. Most notably there are a ton of settings about the screen and “colors”. And these settings really come in handy because 3rd party apps are typically designed for quick and colorful LCD displays, and look dark on e-ink. I like the settings, but I understand that they can be overwhelming if you’re the type of person who expects electronics to just work.

But Onyx doesn’t leave you alone with complexity. There is a brilliant documentation available here. IMO these kinds of comprehensive manuals are really underrated. I recommend scrolling through the document if you want to get a better idea of the available features.

To sum up

It’s great for reading PDFs. There are some shortcomings on the software side but it’s less of a problem because you have the freedoms offered by Android. You are given the tools to fix your own problems so to speak. That said, I’d expect a 900$ device to feel more polished.

4 stars
One of the few publishers with no 100% DRM

Image is one of the bigger classic comic publishers. They are probably most know for The Walking Dead, but they publish a really wide range of comics. A lot of indie stuff included. Of course you can get their comics on print, but where they really stand out is the digital realm.

Image is one of the few comic publishers who offer comics without DRM. Though I should note that this does not cover their whole catalogue! (That’s why I dropped the fifth star.) They don’t have a dedicated online store but you can find their comics for example from Comixology. Just make sure to check the DRM-status before hitting buy!

Finally a couple personal recommendations from Image:

  • Lady Mechanika, the best steampunk series there is.

  • Monstress, a magical world shadowed by ancient Lovecraftian horrors.

4 stars
Too short but still sweet visit to another world

As if Aidan didn’t already have his hands full! Now his father has gone missing. The single, unemployed dad of a highly energetic little daughter is barely out of bed when he begins to discover the first clues in his father’s workshop as to what may have happened.

What on Earth is “Clonfira”, and what do the strange patterns on the wall mean? Suffice it to say that Aidan’s father has discovered a way to visit another world, and Aidan and his daughter will soon follow in his footsteps.

The Little Acre by Irish indie developer Pewter Games is a point-and-click adventure. The game’s credentials are boosted by Executive Producer Charles Cecil, a grandmaster of the genre (Lure of the Temptress, Broken Sword).

Worlds brought to life

You play as Aidan and as his daughter Lily. The controls are as simple as it gets: you click on hotspots and sometimes combine items in your inventory with what’s currently on the screen. Many puzzles are contained within a single scene, keeping typical point-and-click frustrations (backtracking, a large inventory) to a minimum.

Most puzzles make sense at least in retrospect, even if you sometimes have to behave nonsensically to progress (scare a cat → cat smashes flower pot → smashed flower pot reveals hidden item you need). Built-in hints may help if you do get stuck.

The main character Aidan is surrounded by a body of liquid and looking upon a bridge made from plants that look like mushrooms or thick lily pads.
Once Aidan enters the alternative dimension where his father may have gone missing, he transforms into a chibi (small and cute) version of himself. (Credit: Pewter Game Studios. Fair use.)

The game’s worlds are brought to life in excellent art and animation. Whenever you solve a puzzle, you’re likely to see a fully animated little scene. Even when you’re not doing anything, much of the game is visually captivating, and the world feels alive. Some cut scenes are almost of cinematic quality.

The game’s music is catchy and enjoyable, albeit a bit repetitive. The Little Acre is fully voice-acted as well. For some reason, the two main characters narrate their actions in the past tense, which doesn’t always make sense. There are no dialog trees and few interactions between characters.

A rushed adventure

It’s all over very quickly: a full playthrough is likely to take you between 1-2 hours. Some adventure games manage to deliver a powerful experience in a short playtime (think Loom or the more recent What Remains of Edith Finch). The Little Acre unfortunately feels very rushed.

Scenes that should have emotional power aren’t given the room they need. The villain’s motivations are insufficiently explained. A new character is introduced but given very little to do. Switches between Aidan and Lily happen too quickly. The ending is abrupt and delivers limited emotional payoff.

At the same time, the game’s amusing animations, cutely drawn characters, and relative simplicity make it a good family activity, if you don’t mind that it also deals with grief and loss. Kids may be more ready to forgive the game’s weaknesses, and to fill in the blanks with their own imagination.

Overall I would give The Little Acre 3.5 stars, rounded up because Dougal the dog is a very good boy. It’s often on sale for $5 or less, and that’s a good price to pay for it.

Technical notes:

The game has a native Linux version. It crashed for me a couple of times, but auto-saved at the beginning of each scene, so I did not lose any progress.

2 stars
History drama that tries to juggle too many balls at once

We. The Revolution is a fictionalised historical drama set during the Reign of Terror in revolutionary France. You play as an upstart judge, and with your ruling power, you will decide over life and death. Who is innocent? Who is counter-revolutionary? Who goes free? Who gets sent to the gallows?
During these uncertain times, you want to make it big, but you also have to protect your family, and yourself, of course.

The daily routine

The core gameplay loop revolves around different tasks that you have to do every day. You usually start with judging over a case in court, part-take in the execution (if that was your ruling), and manage relations with your family and friends. This is interspersed with the occasional story event. And over time, the daily routine gets more complicated. After a while, you even command a militia to defend and expand your territory within Paris. You even get the ability to plan conspiracies against your competitors for power over the city.

The court sessions are clearly the main attraction. You are given an investigation report regarding the person on trial. From this report, you can use the contained clues to unlock and extract statements from the defendant or a witness. Interestingly, you can choose which statements to pursue, and different ones will influence the jury’s opinion of the case. Theoretically, you could convince the jury that a totally guilty person is actually innocent just by choosing all the statements that paint them in a positive light.

Different sections of Parisian society will have expectations regarding your rulings. You will have to balance the goodwill of your family, the common people, the revolutionaries, and the aristocracy. If a faction gets too displeased with you, they’ll send an assassin after you—game over.
These groups are almost always at odds. There comes a point in the game where you always calculate the ramifications of your ruling beyond the defendant’s actual guilt. This is one of the very intriguing elements of the game. It shows you how you are just as much politician as other characters in the game, even though you are a judge by profession.

The brief good moments

Warning: The text below contains spoilers.

There are some great moments at the beginning of the game. They come about by the developers cleverly using established mechanics/moments in the game.
During chapter one, every time you let the guillotine blade fall, there is a gruesome scene afterwards, where a blood-soaked blade is strung up again, slowly overlooking a shocked crowd of spectators. Once chapter one ends, that scene is gone. The executions haven’t stopped—they have just become so commonplace they seize to be shocking.
Another such moment is when your son is murdered, you’ll receive a huge stack of condolence letters the day after on your desk during the trial.
Also great is when it is announced that imprisonment is not an option for punishment any more. Your options for rulings at this point are only freedom or the guillotine.

These small moments work well, and it is all the more intriguing to see how you climb the hierarchy of power in the game over time as your rivals get eliminated (often by you)—really showing how the Reign of Terror got its name. However, it is a shame how few of these moments are in the game overall—actually, I pretty much named them all.

Everything else

Huge parts of this game are clearly inspired by Papers, Please, which I remember as a focused and fun exploration of the game’s setting by playing a bureaucratic cog in the machine. We. The Revolution is not that. More and more responsibilities get added over time until the court sections seem like just another side attraction. It’s very unfortunate because while they don’t have much depth, they are the most interesting and deep aspect of the game. But as time goes on, you will spend more of it on positioning your militia on the map, convincing others to aid you in your conspiracies, and so on.
Over the hours of sticking with the game, I gradually lost interest. Once chapter three came about, I quit. The narrative revelation at the end of chapter two was simply not enough to keep me playing.

The only other positive thing that I can say about this game is that its art style is striking and fitting. Pixel art seems to be exhausted in its aesthetic capabilities at this point, so this mosaic art style was genuinely refreshing and looked great. It gives the game a simultaneously sharp but abstract look. Very fitting, I think, and I hope more games will use it in the future.

Heated court scene, shown in a kind of mosaic visual style.
(Credit: Klabater/Polyslash. Fair use.)

Otherwise, the game gets bogged down by many weird technical issues. The game plays like a not so great mobile port. In fact, most moments in the game seem almost designed for a touch screen. I was surprised to find out this game wasn’t released on the iPad or a similar platform.
The game takes quite a bit of time to transition from one part of the daily routine to another, when really, for a 2D game, they should be instantaneous.

The UI has a weird bug where during questioning of a defendant you can’t fully scroll up the list of questions. Generally, the UI design is inconsistent and lacks indicators for navigation. More than once was I stuck in some menu for several minutes figuring out how to make the game do what I wanted it to.
Another thing regarding the UI: the text is really small, and there is no option for increasing the font size. To play this game on the Switch in handheld mode, I had to figure out how to use the Switch’s accessibility zoom feature.


I’m really let down. This should have been exactly my type of game, but its lack of focus and unnecessary technical quirks turn it into a test of patience instead of an exploration of the psychology of the leaders of a revolution during uncertain times. There are hints of a much better and good game present during chapter one, and it is a shame it can’t live up to any of that.


5 stars
Offline Wiktionary

This is just brilliant offline dictionary app. It uses dictionary files generated from Wiktionary, so the data is top notch. The UI simple and straightforward. No bloat.

PS. If you ever need good dictionary-files, you can download the ones used by this app from here.

3 stars
Dreams, overshadowed

To the Moon (2011) is one of the most beloved indie narrative adventure games of all time. In it, two scientists travel into a dying man’s memories to fulfill his final wish. Into A Dream (2020), created by solo developer Filipe F. Thomaz, has a similar premise.

You play a man named John Stevens who finds himself in the dream world of another man, Luke Williams. Luke appears to be experiencing a mental health crisis, and you receive a message from the outside world tasking you with investigating its origins.

One of the unfortunate side effects of the dream insertion procedure is that John doesn’t have access to his own memories. So, just like the player, he knows nothing about the people he meets or the specifics of Luke’s life. John meets him and his family at different points in their lives.

Luke, it turns out, is an entrepreneur who is pursuing a vision of ubiquitous renewable energy. Exhausted by work, he reaches his breaking point after the early death of his mother. His wife Rita and his daughter Anne pay the price as Luke grows increasingly distant from them.

Platforms in the way

You view the dream world from its side, and everything is rendered in silhouette, as in a shadow play. As is typical for narrative adventure games, you spend a lot of time talking to characters you meet. The game also has simple platformer sequences (jump & climb), inventory fetch quests, and one puzzle that depends on precise timing.

The game’s action sequences and puzzles are rarely clever or original—they serve as speedbumps that prevent you from rushing through the story. Into A Dream lacks the qualities that make a great platformer (quick animations, optimized hit zones, responsive controls), so this is the single most frustrating aspect of play. Fortunately, you can’t die permanently, and you can save and resume anywhere.

Into A Dream makes excellent use of changing background colors, lighting, and other effects to convey the sense of an unstable yet beautiful inner world. The game is accompanied by Thomaz’ piano music, which suits the game’s atmosphere well. The presentation falls short in other ways.

When it doesn’t get in its own way, the game depicts a world that is suitably dreamlike, at times serene and beautiful, at times shockingly unstable. (Credit: Filipe F. Thomaz. Fair use.)

Inconsistent execution

Close-up views of objects (such as a children’s doll or a tombstone) look amateurish. Characters you meet are only rendered in one or two poses. For example, you’ll always encounter Luke’s wife sitting cross-legged or talking on the phone.

Animation is in short supply, too. Nobody other than you ever moves around—they just dissolve when a scene ends. The presentation gets in the way of the gameplay when you have to figure out what to do next: Where’s the exit? What’s that black object in the foreground? Can I interact with that door?

The game is fully voice acted by a diverse cast, at varying levels of quality: sometimes energetic, sometimes inaudible, sometimes overwrought or cartoonish. Given the game’s tiny budget (it raised less than $3,000 in an Indiegogo campaign), it would be unkind to be too critical here.

I found the story engaging, and the writing is generally good. There are a few spelling and grammar errors that could have been caught (such as the repeated spelling “murdured” instead of “murdered”), and a simplistic heaven/hell theme in the late game that distracts from the main story.

The Verdict

Into A Dream immerses the player in a world that is at times tantalizingly beautiful, but it frustrates them with clunky platformer sequences and immersion-breaking inconsistencies in its presentation. For a work mainly driven by a single developer, it’s an impressive achievement regardless, and I’ll certainly be interested in Thomaz’ future work.

I wouldn’t recommend Into A Dream at its full price of $15, but discounted below $5 it’s an interesting enough experience over 3 hours or so, if you’re willing to forgive its more frustrating parts. 3.5 stars, rounded down because of one especially annoying stealth sequence in the late game.

5 stars
Very friendly hostel at the Corniche

Hostel with very friendly staff at a very central location. Rooms are clean, there are two connected huge community rooms and a community kitchen. The beds are spacious. Big For the price of LE/EGP 200 per night there are options for single rooms in hotels nearby – one might choose depending on the preferences.

4 stars
Friendly local hotel

Very friendly staff, speaks Arabic and English with varying proficiency. Room is clean. There are two Wi-Fis, one is very sluggish, the other one works fine. I haven’t found any non-smoking area, staff is easygoing. Towels are handed over upon request. The place provides what is necessary.

4 stars
Very useful bidirectional online dictionary for Egyptian, Levantine and Maghrebi Arabic

(This is a probably very subjective review by a novice student of Ammiya (colloquial variety of Arabic).) Though – of course – not exhaustive the website is a very useful dictionary for looking up words or phrases in Egyptian, Levantine and Maghrebi Arabic. Arabic words are given with Tashkil and plurals are provided. Partly, very colloquial words or phrases can be found, which is especially useful.
Things that could be better:

  • The data isn’t published under an open license, but “All rights reserved” (unlike for Wiktionary).
  • The direction of language of input isn’t recognized automatically, so it has to be set and possibly switched manually.
  • The source of the data isn’t really clear to me. is only partly helpful. It seems the main author, Hossam Abouzahr, isn’t a philologist, that might be an advantage, but also a risk so to say. And unlike for Lane’s Lexicon which is quoted on the page this dictionary hasn’t been printed by a 19th-century publishing house. So here we don’t have any external warrantor for the accuracy of the information. Also, what are the criteria for a word or phrase to be added? Are there any corpora used? Would be good to know.
  • The roots take to much space, on a small (phone) screen this means a lot of scrolling and less overview.
  • JavaScript is needed for the website to work (unlike for Wiktionary).
  • The website sends data to Google.
  • Abbreviations like “ECA” (Egyptian Colloquial Arabic), “S”, “P” etc. should be linked to some place or use the <abbr> HTML tag to resolve them. There should at least be a list of them and their full representation.
  • British English spelling like “labour” doesn’t find anything.

Specific advantages:

  • Handy implementation of (parallel or single) variety lookup. Keyboard navigation isn’t possible to select the checkboxes though.
  • Website without (external) ads.

There is also an app for Android and iOS (the latter for $3.99 in the US App Store), seemingly also no open source version of the app.

Altogether, for me, the website has become indispensable for studying and to augment my vocabulary of spoken Arabic. As is good on itself, but especially good in the face of the sparseness of alternatives for the varieties of Arabic.