Latest reviews

5 stars
An ode to the joy of free expression

You don’t know what to expect from the odd-looking wooden box which now holds pride of place in your living room. You turn it on and fumble with the controls for a while. Suddenly, the voice of an opera singer pierces the static.

It’s like magic, coming to you through the air, filling the world with possibility and wonder.

What is it like to witness the birth of an invention set to transform humanity? I was not around when radio was invented, but I did experience BBS culture and the early web of the 1990s. It was a time when millions of people were “coming online” for the very first time, without any idea of what that meant. The Internet, as David Bowie put it in 1999, was “an alien lifeform”.

The past that wasn’t

Hypnospace Outlaw is a 2019 indie game that lets you experience the birth of a surreal alternative reality version of the early web. The year is 1999. You are a community enforcer in hypnospace, a web-like network accessed through special headsets people wear during their sleeptime.

You play the game through a desktop environment that looks a bit like Windows 98, macOS and Microsoft Bob were put through a blender. It comes with a browser, an email-like messaging app, a virtual wallet, and a download manager.


You interact with the world of Hypnospace Outlaw through a desktop environment that combines the best and worst of computing around the turn of the millennium. Fortunately, downloads are a lot faster in this simulated reality. (Credit: Tendershoot. Fair use.)

Unlike the web, hypnospace is controlled by a single corporation, Merchantsoft. Its customers can create pages, which are organized into different communities like “The Cafe” and “Goodtime Valley”. On the surface, it resembles web communities like Geocities or its modern-day nonprofit successor, Neocities.

Yet, as the player, you are keenly aware that this is not the early web but an alternative history. You don’t know the rules of this world, but you are tasked with enforcing them. Soon, you receive your first assignment: to trawl hypnospace for copyright violations. Maybe this alternative reality isn’t so different after all…

Much of the gameplay is exploratory: browsing pages, downloading and trying little apps, getting rid of viruses that came with the apps you just tried, and so on. The assignments you receive guide you through the game’s larger narrative and timeline.

Rhythm of discovery

Music is everywhere in Hypnospace Outlaw. The game world is suffused with fictional bands and their creations, from the optimistic MIDI sound of the Millenium Anthem to hyper-commercial, autotuned “coolpunk”; from “Seepage” tracks that sound like Linkin Park demo tapes to the wonderful ridiculousness that is “The Chowder Man”.


The communities you interact with in the game are haplessly curated by the Merchantsoft corporation, though you’ll soon discover corners of hypnospace that have eluded its control. (Credit: Tendershoot. Fair use.)

It really does feel like you’re back in the late 1990s, building a library of MP3 files from dubious sources and trying to figure out what’s actually worth listening to when you can listen to anything.

Amidst the surrealism of it all, the game does have things to say: about commercial control over online communities, about critical thinking, and about the pure joy of free expression in a nascent medium. As I reached the end of the story, I found myself far more emotionally invested than I expected.

The Verdict

I recommend Hypnospace Outlaw without reservations; it truly is a small masterpiece of immersive storytelling. But I would suggest keeping it in your backlog until you have a few hours at your disposal and are ready to fully engage with its world.

This is not a game to rush through, but an experience to savor. As Fre3zer would put it: you gotta “chill it right”.


4 stars
Near perfect backpack pannier

Primer

Panniers are a staple for carrying stuff on your bike, but sometimes you need to lock your bike and continue on foot. Standard panniers tend to have some sort of carrying straps, but they aren’t very convenient off the rack. Ortlieb Vario PS rises to the challenge by doubling as a backpack!

The review

This isn’t the only backpack pannier out there, but based on my experience and research, it’s likely one of the best. Why? First off, the build quality is good, and being Ortlieb, it’s fully waterproof. As a pannier it functions just as one would expect. It’s really the backpack side that makes things interesting. And I say side for a reason. Unlike in many other backpack panniers, the rack mounts and the backpack straps are on different sides of the bag. This gives room for properly implementing both.

The only hiccup this product runs into is in the backpack mode. There’s a plastic bottom plate, which unfortunately has a tendency to burrow into one’s lower back. Unless remedied, this can make the backpack really painful under a heavier load. Luckily the bottom plate is detachable so one can just take it out, or put some padding to it’s edge. Still, this is a rather dumb design flaw in an otherwise great bag.


The bottom plate is shown in lighter grey. Otherwise one can see that the bag is quite roomy. (Credit: Ortlieb. Fair use)

The verdict

Despite the one flaw, Vario PS is still probably the best pannier backpack out there. If you’re ever riding with just one pannier, this is a near perfect choice.


4 stars
Clean and fast map application

Organic maps is FOSS and uses Open Street Map data. You can download regional maps for offline usage. All the basic mapping features are there, though some more advanced ones might still be lacking at this date.

Compared to Google Maps and the like, Organic maps respects your privacy.

Compared OsmAnd — which is the de facto mobile app for OSM — Organic is faster and has a cleaner UI. OsmAnd gets quite laggy when there are a lot of maps downloaded.


Yalla! Let's Learn Egyptian Colloquial Arabic Verbs
3 stars
Good resource with an unusal approach and some flaws

The review is based on the freely available extract of El Dik, Dina; Iskander, Emad (2021). Yalla! Let’s Learn Egyptian Colloquial Arabic Verbs. ISBN 978-977-416-909-0 available here.
The approach to give all the Egyptian Arabic verbs and their forms in Arabic script seems to be more or less unusual in the sphere of Egyptian Arabic grammar books. I think it is useful though as it gives morphological information that is harder to derive from romanizations. Moreover, the words can actually be found in real life in written form, so it is useful to learn them in Arabic script. This makes it easier to recognize them in such a context. On the other hand the book uses Arabic spellings adapted to pronunciation that are not found in written texts in the wild. Maybe a combination of Arabic script and transliterations would have been a superior approach.
Sorting the verbs by frequency of their usage looks like a very good order for studying the most common verbs first.
The “Grouping of ECA verbs” (pp. XI–XIV) in the introduction is a nice overview. Unfortunately, it might evoke the impression to list all existing patterns maybe with exception. This is not the case and should have been mentioned clearly I think. Many verbs with defective, hollow or doubled roots and as such their underlying patterns exist for forms where the given list leaves those out.
Quite some smaller mistakes in the introduction (“**Form I” should instead read “*Form II”, p. XIII; I think I’ve seen more that I failed to note down) undermine the trust in the reliability of the book that might appear at more critical content harder to spot).
The price of 25 GBP is sadly quite high.
Given the mentioned drawbacks, the books still looks like a helpful resource for students aiming to improve their understanding of Egyptian Arabic verbs, especially due to the used order by frequency and the use of Arabic script despite its artificial spelling.


Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive
5 stars
An accessible and awe-inspiring journey into our innermost defenses

Imagine you find an alien spacecraft crashed in your backyard. A door has cracked open. You carefully step inside. You discover a world beyond your comprehension. Objects appear before your eyes, only to disappear into thin air. Lights flash in colors you cannot see. It will take humanity’s brightest minds years—decades—to make sense of it all.

Biology is a science attempting to comprehend something no less strange or bizarre: the evolved nano-machinery that constitutes what we call life. We give our discoveries opaque names. Ribosomes. The Golgi apparatus. Neutrophils. When those get too long, we abbreviate. MHC class I and II. ACE2. CD24.

Here lies a wondrous and endlessly fascinating world. Understanding it better could enrich our lives and help immunize us against dangerous pseudoscience. If only we were better at describing this complex, seemingly impenetrable universe inside our own bodies!

Philipp Dettmer is no stranger to making the complex comprehensible. He founded a YouTube channel called Kurzgesagt (“in a nutshell”), which publishes lovingly crafted videos on subjects like wormholes, geoengineering, and brain-eating amoebas. Thanks to brilliant animation, epic music and a dark sense of humor, every video is a treat.

Immune: A Journey into the Mysterious System That Keeps You Alive is Dettmer’s first attempt to bring Kurzgesagt’s trademark educational approach into book form. On 341 pages, Immune sheds light on the incredibly complex macromolecular machinery that protects us against bacteria, viruses, and even snake venom and parasitic worms.


Most illustrations are more understated than the ones shown here, but this is not a book that shies away from depicting a Kiler T Cell saying “BLARGHL”. (Credit: Philipp Dettmer / Random House. Fair use.)

This is not a textbook. Nor is it the kind of pop science writing that tries to make science accessible by giving you lots of biographical detail about scientists. It’s strictly focused on the actual mechanics of the immune system, but written in a style that’s entirely Dettmer’s own. To give a small sample:

The Neutrophil is a bit of a simpler fellow. It exists to fight and to die for the collective. It is the crazy suicidal Spartan warrior of the immune system. Or if you want to stay in the animal kingdom, a chimp on coke with a bad temper and a machine gun. [p. 59]

Of course, Dettmer frequently reminds us that the immune system is not, in fact, sentient or intentional. It’s just that these kinds of analogies are too darn useful to refrain from using them. So, Dettmer talks about hot dog buns, display windows, and desert kingdoms as he helps us navigate the complex nano-scale landscape inside our bodies.

But analogies only go so far, and the book uses biological terms and plenty of straightforward illustrations. At the same time, Dettmer will often (a bit too often) emphasize that he’s still simplifying things greatly. The book is littered with entertaining footnotes that expand on the text.

Cells with two-factor authentication

The immune systems of humans and other animals don’t just have to kill invaders. They have to adapt to viruses they’ve never encountered before, detect cells that have been hijacked, calm down when a threat has been eliminated. To make matters worse, the attackers evolve rapidly!

Immune responses involve the innate immune system, a sort of standing army, and the adaptive immune system, which crafts specialized responses for novel threats. Together, they self-organize into a complex dance. Isolate the threat. Sample data. Ramp up immune responses. Kill or neutralize invaders. Detect cells that behave suspiciously. Mess with virus production.

Perhaps most fascinating is our bodies’ ability to learn and remember—to acquire immunity. At its heart is what Dettmer calls the largest library in the universe: T-cells. Wikipedia has a more understated but no less awe-inspiring description:

Each mature T cell will ultimately contain a unique T-cell receptor that reacts to a random pattern, allowing the immune system to recognize many different types of pathogens. This process is essential in developing immunity to threats that the immune system has not encountered before, since due to random variation there will always be at least one TCR to match any new pathogen.

It takes time for our adaptive immune system to find the perfect match for any given threat. But once it has done so, it switches into a kind of mass-production mode, to produce vast numbers of antibodies tailored to a specific enemy.

To avoid misfiring, cells perform complex verification dances. T-cells undergo a selection process that weeds out ones that might attack the body. And they must be matched with another cell type (B-cells) that have been activated by the same threat. Dettmer calls it a kind of two-factor authentication.

As someone working a lot with technology, I found these comparisons illuminating. Understanding the sophisticated evolved security responses of our bodies may very well inspire us to develop better ways to deal with novel threats of a more digital variety.

Knowledge as immunity

Our brain, in a way, is part of our immune response. Our decisions on what to eat and drink, what to do with our free time, how to prevent and how to treat illness—they profoundly influence our ability to stay healthy, and to get better. When we believe things that are patently false, it can literally kill us.

Dettmer spends the final sections of his book trying to convey how understanding our immune system can help us make better decisions.

He explains the remarkable accomplishment of vaccination as a way to train the body without hurting it: like a dojo where you learn to fight with weapons made of foam and paper. In contrast, parents who opt their kids out of vaccines are sending them to a “Nature Dojo”:

The philosophy of the head trainer is that kids should train with real weapons, real knives and swords, so they are better prepared for the real dangers of the world. After all, it is more natural and real life just is dangerous. From time to time, a student will get a deep cut and require stitches. And yeah, OK, there may be a lost eye and sometimes a kid may die. But it is the natural way! [p. 240]

He asks us to question dubious claims about “boosting your immunity”—reminding us of the immune system’s mind-boggling complexity and interplay of countless parts, where any actually effective intervention can have disastrous effects. He tells us to exercise (it’s obligatory in any book of this kind), and describes how stress can knock our immune system out of balance.

These final sections of the book sometimes get a bit rambling. The most muddled chapter discusses the popular misconception that hygiene has weakened our immunity against disease. Dettmer argues for preserving good hygiene while also embracing the role of nature and dirt in our lives—a reasonable argument that’s unfortunately not very coherently made.

The Verdict

With Immune, Dettmer has managed something very difficult: to write a long book almost entirely about the mind-boggling macromolecular and cellular machinery inside our bodies, without fluff, that’s entertaining to read. I would love to read similar books about subjects like epigenetics, metabolic pathways, or neurobiology!

Science books often have an incongruous approach to visual explanation. Immune is the rare exception—while it does not have as many illustrations as some readers might expect from the Kurzgesagt founder, what’s here supports the text perfectly in a consistent, pleasing style.

The latter parts of the book would have benefited from a bit more rigorous editing, but I’m glad that Dettmer’s funny and casual voice hasn’t been whittled down to science-journalism-speak.

All in all, I cannot recommend the book highly enough, and would give it a full 5 stars.


4 stars
Lecker Burger in ungewöhnlichem Ambiente  de

Auch wenn die Flut der Burgerläden schon länger vorbei ist öffnet doch noch ab und zu ein neuer Laden. Und diesmal hat er es in sich. Die Burger hier gehören meiner Meinung nach zu den besten, die es in Hannover gibt. Eine sehr kleine Speisekarte lasst erahnen, das es hier hohe Kompetenz in Sachen Burger und Co. geben kann. Und die Vermutung bestätigt sich. Was auf meinen Fotos (es liegt am Fotografen nicht am Burger) sehr unscheinbar aussieht ist ein sehr leckerer Burger. Frische Zutaten, reichlich verwendet und vor den Augen zubereitet. Dazu leckere, grob geschnittene Pommes und ein Getränk nach Wahl - fertig ist das Menü.


Burger und Pommes im Black Stork (Eigenes Werk. Lizenz: CC-BY-SA.)


Einzig das Ambiente vor Ort ist ein wenig ungewohnt. Der halb-offene Gastraum, wenn es denn so bezeichnet werden kann, an einer der Hauptverkehrsstraßen Hannovers ist gewöhnungsbedürftig. Im Sommer lässt es sich gut aushalten im Winter bleibt wohl nur die Mitnahme.


3 stars
The sequel we deserve

Hotline Miami 2 is easily one of the most remarkable instances of creators trolling their own fan base. This game is notorious for not living up to the expectations set by its predecessor. Yet, I don’t believe that this game is a failure of game creation but instead has been deliberately constructed to be the way it is. To understand why we have to look at what came before HM2.

Context

Hotline Miami is a hugely celebrated action game from 2012. It’s a simple and self-contained game. Split into several levels, you play as an on-demand hitman who goes to the places left on his answering machine and commits a massacre. These killing sprees make up the core gameplay loop. From a top-down view you move through the levels and kill dozens of people to an aggressive electronic soundtrack—beating them, slashing them, shooting them. The violence is visceral, blood goes everywhere, and feedback is immediate. It’s addicting.

However, when you’ve killed everyone, the music stops abruptly, and the game has you walking back through the level to your car—walking through the pools of blood and corpses you created. In this simple way, the game traps the player in addictive violence but then suddenly pauses and asks you to reflect on what you just did. The commentary on violent action games is obvious. And with, at the time, massively popular shooter series like Call of Duty and Battlefield loving to employ the trope of the Russian villain, the fact that the people you are killing are part of a Russian gang is probably not a coincidence. And I have to admit that killing people in this game is a tonne of fun. Hotline Miami triumphs in its simplicity.

It is then very unfortunate, that this game acquired a fandom that absolutely loved the violence and obsessed over the game’s obscure plot while closing their eyes to the game’s actual message. This is the group of people that Hotline Miami 2 seeks to troll.

Sequel

Hotline Miami 2 is a sequel for the fans of the original game in the bluntest form. People liked the combat? We need bigger levels, more violence, and more play styles! People loved the obscure story? Let’s give them more characters, elaborate backstories for those from the original, and a non-linearly told story that’s gonna take some real puzzle-solving to crack! It’s designed to deliver the fans of the original an overdose of the same.

Explaining sequels like this as the result of lacking creativity or as a cynical cash grab might be tempting, but it’s just not the case here. The creators proved their creativity and game design abilities with the original Hotline Miami. And on top of that, the creative leads, Jonathan Söderström and Dennis Wedin didn’t change between the two projects. And lastly, there is significantly more effort put into this game than the predecessor, which is clear to see. It seems very unlikely then that this is just a way of cashing in for the devs.
The elimination of these possibilities and looking at the game’s contents make me believe it is trolling—an artistic statement on their relationship with their fandom.

Story

Hotline Miami 2’s story is completely incomprehensible in the way it is told. And on top of that, once you partially decipher what is going on, the story is plainly ridiculous.
The game’s overall presentation isn’t very helpful in making the player understand what is going on. The whole experience is styled after movies. The game is split into “acts”, which are subdivided into “scenes”, which you select from a menu of VHS tapes. The multiple timelines in the narrative are jumped between by, of course, rewinding and fast-forwarding the tape. And to really mess with you within the game’s narrative, there is an actual movie being filmed. You act out some of its scenes, which are often indistinguishable from things that actually happen within the game world.
But somehow, it gets even more convoluted once the game introduces its backstory in act three. Apparently, the USA and USSR fought a war against each other on Hawaii. The conflict was brought to an end with a nuclear first strike by the Soviets. And this is why Russians are hated so much in this world. That’s certainly one way of addressing that question. If that sounds ridiculous to you, it should! It certainly does to me. It’s the point where you should realise that the creators are messing with you.

I would usually not feel comfortable just blankly calling an entire game trolling like this. It would be bad for criticism if just everything that is contradictory or seems ridiculous could be written off as mere trolling. So how is this game different?
Besides the ridiculousness of the setting, and specific story moments that attempt a critical commentary on Hotline Miami’s fandom, the creators themselves don’t seem to have much respect for their own work on this game. The most obvious point would be how, at the end, the entire world is destroyed. Everything was told and set up for nothing, it appears. But there is an even clearer indicator. The game’s acts in chronological order are called: Exposition, Rising, Climax, Falling, Intermission and Catastrophe. Except for Intermission, these are exactly the generic names for the acts in the five-act structure of a drama. In fact, it’s so generic, here is an illustration of this structure I found on Wikipedia:A rising and falling graph. It starts with 'introduction', rises to 'rise', peaks with 'climax', falls to 'return or fall' and ends with 'catastrophe'.
(Credit: SinjoroFoster. Public domain.)

While, clearly, a lot of writing effort went into this game, it’s not presented with a lot of heart. Combined with story moments that seemingly only exist to frustrate and confuse those that actually want to engage with the story, I think the case for this game being trolling is very straightforward. However, some moments do make sense if we understand them as commentary on the trolled audience. This goes for both the people that uncritically enjoyed the original‘s violence and those that obsessed over lore so much they missed the game’s actual point.

Hotline Miami 2 features a long list of characters that you play as. A lot, if not all, of these characters, are a meta-commentary on the game’s fandom. It highlights different nasty elements of that group.
The most obvious meta-commentary lies with a group of people that took inspiration from the player character in the original Hotline Miami for their streaks of mass murder. Like him, they wear different animal masks, but here they do all the time, unlike in HM, where they were only put on directly before a massacre. And just in case you didn’t get it, the game refers to this group as “The Fans” in its Achievements.
The Fans, unsurprisingly, kill for fun. Their final killing spree happens at the end of act three. Here you play as each one wiping out a floor of the building while an aggressive house track plays in the background. This is where all the people who The Fans represent get what they want. Except, at the end of the level, they all unceremoniously die. While the original game ends with some moral ambiguity, as the main character exacts his revenge on the mafia and triumphantly lights a cigarette, there is no justification or glory here.

Another character that loves the violence he’s enacting is a literal neo-Nazi. With the original‘s hints of ultra-nationalism (if you refuse to engage with metaphor), it’s not surprising that it appealed to a certain audience. You’re introduced to him as he shaves his head in the bathroom, and the moment you go into his living room, you immediately notice the flag of the Confederacy that is lying on his sofa like a blanket. After you are done carrying out his hateful killing, he tries to get a tattoo to celebrate the occasion but fails because he didn’t schedule an appointment. Here the creators are telling their Nazi fans to piss off, by showing them someone they can identify with and having him be a sad and pathetic loser.

Meta-commentary of the game extends beyond just commenting on the killing, however. Hotline Miami 2 starts out with a scene of sexual assault, where a murdering creep goes after a woman he thinks is his girlfriend. Initially, this looks like senseless provocation, but there’s more to it. You see, this scene is part of a film being filmed within the game’s narrative, which was inspired by the happenings of Hotline Miami. The actress, playing the victim in this scene, has a strong resemblance with a woman the main character in HM saves from the mafia. Actually, there is no clear indication that he is saving her. It might just as well have been a kidnapping. Either way, the woman lives with the main character from there on out. It’s not hard to imagine that this decision wasn’t entirely enthusiastic, or even a choice at all, considering the main character is a serial killer.
The movie plot in HM2 is a commentary on how not a lot of people got that you weren’t exactly a knight in shining armour in the original game. In a later scene, the creep is arrested because the woman reported him to the police. In the following level, you murder your way through the police station to where she is being interviewed. On entering the room, she shoots you and screams: “I am not your fucking girlfriend!” It’s clear what is being said here. And, again, just in case you didn’t get it, in the first level, where you play as one of the Fans, you are tasked with bringing the sister of another Fan home from a gang. You do what you do best—murder your way through to her—but she doesn’t want to go with you. You just murdered all her friends. Distressed and with a gun in her hands, she tells you to leave her and go. If you don’t listen and get closer, she shoots you, and you have to do the floor all over again. You get punished for not having learned your lesson.

Finally, the game’s story is a massive middle finger to those that obsessed over the original game’s lore while disregarding any of the game’s use of metaphor and allegory. This goes beyond the back story about the hot war between the USA and USSR being totally ridiculous. While the game gives these people a hugely convoluted story to unravel, it is all for nothing in the end. The game finishes in an outright nuclear war between the superpowers, using their capacity for mutually assured destruction to reduce the game world to ash.
Over the credits, you watch as every character that was introduced in the series (and is still alive) dying in a nuclear blast—one after the other. Did you have fun putting all the puzzle pieces together? Well, it’s gone now.

The final image you see of the game is the fictional start screen of “Hotline Miami 3”. In the background, you can see the ruins of the Floridian city. Of course, there is no narrative comeback from an ending like this. It’s not supposed to be an exciting teaser for another instalment in the Hotline Miami series. Instead, what it is doing is asking a question. You’ve just played through the sequel to Hotline Miami. How does the idea of another sequel make you feel?

The title screen for 'Hotline Miami 3', with a city in ruins in the background.
(Credit: Dennaton Games. Fair use.)

There is a mean-spiritedness to this all. The game uses metaphor and allegory to make fun of and comment on the people who didn’t get that about the original. Pulling the story into the ridiculous and referencing characters from the original isn’t going to make them realise anything—it will all just seem like an even greater puzzle to unravel. While those who get it laugh at them, they do in-depth theory crafting for a game that showed them the finger, but, of course, they didn’t recognise it as such. And looking at the wiki articles and lore videos made for this game, it seems like that’s exactly what happened. Hotline Miami 2 could have tried to communicate how many got the original wrong but instead reads much more like the self-indulgent product of pure spite.

Gameplay

The gameplay in this game is not all that interesting because, except for some superficial additions, it is largely unaltered from the original. The music still stops abruptly after you are finished killing everyone. It’s still the same trial and error per level. You step-by-step uncover the best strategy for getting through it consistently with the twist that the enemies have slightly different weapons on every attempt, so you always have to improvise somewhat.

While the story is fully developed with a clear through-line of what it is doing, the gameplay makes Hotline Miami 2 feel a lot more like the misguided sequel that many people think it is. The game now features a wide cast of characters—each with their own unique traits. And further, new enemy types. But what really sticks out is the difficulty.

The game is immediately more difficult than its predecessor. While the first level in Hotline Miami featured only goons with melee weapons to get you accustomed to how the game plays in a manageable way, in Hotline Miami 2, the first enemy in the first proper level has a gun. And not just the one. There are many more of them with wide-open spaces and corridors for you to get shot from off-screen. The difficulty escalates more quickly too. In level three, you can already not trust walls and corners anymore because there are windows everywhere for you to get shot through.

The primary factor in Hotline Miami 2’s higher difficulty are the much larger levels. Because as there are more things, more things vary and can go wrong. Beyond that, the levels are so big that enemies triggered by a gunshot can take up to 15-20 seconds to get to you from areas of the floor you weren’t even looking at, catching you off guard.

But ultimately, this is tame in comparison to the story. It’s a somewhat more difficult and frustrating version of the original with some easy additions that one would expect from a sequel. The ridiculous tones of the story really don’t shine through here. The gameplay would have been the prime place to further the meta-commentary already present. But for whatever reason, this aspect of Hotline Miami stays relatively untouched. The core gameplay sections just being more frustrating is a huge missed opportunity. Despite being harder, it’s nothing you couldn’t get accustomed to. With enough trial and error, you will be able to triumph over this game’s difficulty. And that’s the problem: the gameplay does not challange this way of engagement. It could have been a great way to complement the messaging of the story with the core component of Hotline Miami, the violence. But instead, it settles for, arguably, giving the fans it set out to troll precisely what they wanted.

Conclusion

Hotline Miami 2 is a very fascinating game. The trolling aspects make for intriguing creator-fandom dynamics, but the game being unwilling to touch its own gameplay for that purpose undercuts it significantly. The primary interactive component of HM2 being a more-frustrating-but-nothing-more experience is very disappointing.
The game’s trolling has some great isolated high points, but, in my opinion, the game didn’t go nearly far enough.

5/10


5 stars
Excellent narrated documentary about 4 ex-soldiers who have fought in the Angolan Civil War in the 80ies

This is an excellent narrated documentary about 4 ex-soldiers who have fought in the Angolan Civil War in the 80ies on different sides and come together to reflect about that traumatic time.

“There’s no son of any politician or leader that is fighting in war.”

I have to say that I am normally not very interested in documentaries. However, this one is hooking and at least very much completes fictional war movies.


4 stars
Potence-Tige ajustable : utile pour le confort au détriment de la performance.

KobraVario 25,4, produite par ErgoTec, est une potence à plongeur, angle ajustable et permet le maintien du cintre à l’aide de trois vis. Bien que destinée à un public varié, elle ne conviendra probablement pas à un usage plus musclé (2,7 W.kg⁻¹ dans mon cas). Suite à un remplacement par un vélociste, encore, ce dernier m’a vendu et installé cette potence sans tenir compte de mon profil d’utilisation. Après quelques mois d’utilisation au quotidien et plus de 5 ans plus tard, ce manque de considération se fait sentir. Sur la dizaine de vélos que j’ai pu avoir, c’est la première potence de ce genre que j’ai pu essayer et sûrement la dernière.

Potence plongeur

Aucun soucis particulier de ce côté, la tige est proposée à deux diamètres courants de 22,2 mm et 25,4 mm. Destinée à un remplacement sur un cadre Orbea Kronos3 de 1996, il fallait effectivement une potence à plongeur, même si l’apparence des ahead-set me séduit aujourd’hui, leur usage sur des cadres plus anciens requiert des adaptateurs que je n’avais pas sous la main et que je n’étais pas prêt à attendre de recevoir à l’époque.

Maintien du cintre

À la manière des ahead-set, le cintre est maintenue par une plaque serrée par trois vis. Sûrement moins solide que les modèles à quatre vis, je n’ai pas eu de problème particulier jusqu’alors avec ce modèle, le guidon est bien fixé et ne bouge pas. De façon intéressante, sur la page du produit est soulignée cette partie comme pouvant accueillir différents accessoires. À défaut de notices de montage et d’illustration, j’ai du mal à voir comment cela se goupillerait…

Angle ajustable

Atout à l’achat ou pour la vente, cette potence peut prendre différents angles pour s’adapter à différentes personnes. Le détail principal de ce produit. L’angle de la potence est ajustable selon un pas de 10° sur une gamme de -10° à 50°, bien qu’à priori rien ne vous empêche de retourner la potence sur la tige et doubler le nombre d’angles possibles. Bien qu’intéressant en théorie, peu de personnes en auront utilité au quotidien et j’ai des doutes quand aux conséquences que cela aurait sur la tension des câbles des freins et dérailleurs. Mon groupe Shimano RSX est particulièrement pointilleux sur les changements de vitesse.

Cet atout constitue également à mon avis la faiblesse majeure du produit en ajoutant une articulation, source de problèmes, supplémentaire. Probablement correct avec un cintre moustache en usage utilitaire, forcer un peu sur le guidon suffit à faire apparaître les problèmes. Au bout de quelques semaines d’usage, un jeu s’était développé au niveau de l’articulation et me suis jusqu’à présent. Fini la discrétion du vélo, bonjour les grincements. À partir du moment où je saisi le guidon jusqu’à la fin du trajet, chaque pression sur le guidon fait intervenir ce jeu qui provoque des grincements et un « mou » très désagréable dans la conduite. Seule, la vis à cale de serrage a bien du mal à supporter les forces exercées sur le guidon et la resserrer n’y change rien en plus de risquer d’endommager l’ensemble. Pas besoin de ça pour aller faire un tour chez le dentiste.

La potence KobraVario est un bon produit dont la première ligne du cahier des charges devait être « Grand public ». À vouloir toucher un public trop large, des inconvénients apparaissent clairement à l’usage. En l’occurrence et pour un usage plutôt sportif, je rappelle encore une fois que mon usage est loin de l’extrême du spectre en soi, l’articulation d’ajuster l’angle est un défaut de conception, pire encore qu’un gadget. Plutôt qu’un atout au quotidien, pouvoir ajuster l’angle de la potence est probablement plus utile au néophyte qui veut tester différentes position sur son vélo et trouver celle qui lui convient le mieux. Peut-être ainsi ce produit serait avant tout utile dans le cadre d’études posturales ? Pour autant, il m’est impossible d’accorder une mauvaise note à ce produit qui, bien que ne satisfaisant pas mes besoins, résulte plus d’une erreur de la part du vélociste (et de moi-même) que d’un problème structurel. Le fabricant lui même range cette potence dans la catégorie « Safety level » 2/6, juste un niveau au dessus des critères pour un vélo enfant.


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Vélociste incompétant à éviter  fr

Suite à des dégâts sur mon vélo, je me suis rendu dans cette boutique qui était à la fois plus proche de mon domicile que le centre-ville ainsi que du commissariat où j’ai du déposer plainte. Malgré mes compétences, je n’avais pas forcément le temps ni les outils à disposition pour faire le travail moi-même et ai préféré confier le travail à un professionnel. Erreur qui ne se reproduira pas.

Première visite : prise en charge

À ma première visite, j’ai été accueilli par une personne qui n’avait aucune idée des tarifs ou d’expérience dans la mécanique vélo malgré qu’elle soit en charge de la boutique en l’absence du patron. J’ai tout de même confié mon vélo et ai demandé a être recontacté pour le devis une fois les contrôles effectués.

Deuxième visite : devis

J’ai été rappelé le lendemain pour le devis. Annoncé à 150 €, mes deux jantes étaient à remplacer. À défaut de me l’envoyer par mail, j’ai également du me rendre sur place pour obtenir le-dit devis qui s’est révélé être un bout de papier griffonné, avec le tampon du commerce. Sur place, on me donne une estimation du temps de réparation à 1 h.

Troisième visite : demande de réparation

La troisième visite fût pour valider le devis et lancer les réparations. Après échanges avec mon assurance, j’ai finalement pu donner le feu vert pour les réparations. Le premier obstacle étant qu’il n’y a aucun moyen de contacter la boutique à distance, pas de téléphone ni d’adresse mail. J’ai bien essayé de rappeler au numéro utilisé pour me communiquer le montant du devis, et suis tombé sur la personne qui m’avait accueilli le premier jour, qui m’a indiqué ne plus y travailler et confirmé l’absence de moyen de contact. Je me suis rendu pour la troisième fois en boutique avec pour idée de pouvoir faire des courses en attendant. On m’annonce alors de devoir repasser le lendemain. Soit, démonter des roues pour changer la jante n’est pas des plus évidents et une urgence est vite arrivée.

Quatrième visite : Rien

Je suis revenu pour la quatrième fois décidé à repartir à vélo théoriquement, à pied en pratique. Ça fût rapide, à ma vue le patron m’a demandé de repasser le lendemain.

Cinquième visite : Toujours rien.

Comme la veille, j’y suis retourné et suis reparti à pied. Entre temps j’ai tout de même fait des recherches de mon côté savoir de quoi il en retournait et effectivement, les avis sur cette entreprise ne sont pas tendres. En particulier venant des personnes ayant souhaiter profiter de l’opération nationale Coup de Pouce vélo. J’ai également découvert que l’entreprise a changé de main en 2018 suite à la faillite de l’ancien propriétaire et que comme je le soupçonnais la personne actuellement en charge avait en réalité une formation pour deux roues motorisés uniquement.

Sixième visite : La fuite.

J’ai finalement récupéré mon vélo, en état de rouler. Appelé en début d’après-midi, on m’annonce que les réparations ont été faites et que je peux passer récupérer mon vélo. Détail, la maison ne prend que le liquide. Sur place, je ne m’attendais plus à rien et j’ai quand même été déçu. Non seulement la procédure avait été particulièrement longue, mais en plus, ce ne sont pas mes jantes mais l’intégralité de mes roues qui ont été remplacées. Refusant de faire traîner l’affaire, j’accepte mon sort et sors les billets. Je signale tout de même l’absence de catadioptres sur ces roues (Ce qui est illégal) et que j’aurais souhaité récupérer ceux de mes anciennes roues. Long balbutiement où on m’invite à me servir sur un des autres vélos présents, j’arrive à obtenir la promesse que mes catadioptres seront disponible le lendemain, encore… Oh, est-ce que j’ai précisé que les nouvelles roues n’ont rien de neuf ? La moindre des choses dans ce cas aurait été d’avertir, demander l’accord du client voire de cacher la chose correctement en enlevant l’aimant de compteur sur les rayons.

Septième visite : La fin.

J’ai finalement pu récupérer mes catadioptres, ainsi que mon attache rapide sécurisée, dans ce qui s’apparente à une décharge métallique dans l’arrière cour de l’établissement. À l’arrivée, une semaine après la dernière visite, le patron était tranquillement avachi sur sa chaise à jouer sur son smartphone et n’a même pas eu la décence de trouver une excuse quant à l’absence de catadioptres à l’accueil. Il m’a conduit jusqu’à la cour où il m’a tout simplement laissé me servir pendant qu’il retournait à ses occupations.

Venu pour un remplacement de jantes, on m’a fait revenir à maintes reprises pour qu’au final je paie à un prix exorbitant des roues d’occasions. Des réglages auraient été faits sur le vélo : les freins étaient inutilisables puisque frottaient sur le pneu plutôt que la jante, les changement de vitesses étaient impossibles et la roue arrière n’était pas alignée. J’ai voulu gagner du temps et avoir un service raisonnable, j’ai simplement pu sortir mes outils et refaire le travail moi-même.