CorsixTH

Taking a look at Two Point Hospital reminded me to look back at the original Theme Hospital, which is currently on sale at gog for $1.49 or at its regular price on EA’s Origin for $5. What with EA being the company that bought Bullfrog and drove it straight into the ground you might want to buy it from gog who *checks notes* routinely hires shitlords to manage their twitter account. Ah, well, at least it’s cheap.

Either way, you can play Theme Hospital through the Dosbox variations gog and Origin provide, or via an open-source engine called CorsixTH. That engine is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, and Android. Just be prepared for ancient video intros and lots of midi music blaring through your brain.

Baba is Fun

Hempuli Oy’s Baba is You came out last month and has received nothing but praise, since. Baba is a puzzle game that is about re-writing the language of the game itself when you (Baba,Baba is You, remember?) move blocks of words. The developer, Arvi Teikari, is behind a ton of other games.

PC Gamer’s Philippa Warr enjoyed Baba is You as did RPS’ John Walker, who said:

I think one of my absolute favourite things about this, beyond being a completely original and utterly brilliant puzzler, is how meticulously balanced it is in terms of offering progress. The difficulty curves up in each set of levels, getting pretty steep toward each groups’ end, but it unlocks the next set before you’ve completed them all. The difficulty of the next group dips back down again as it also introduces new rules, meaning that even if you’ve become completely stuck in one place, there’s likely somewhere else you can continue playing. Offering both super-difficulty and progress is all too rare, and something to celebrate.

Baba is You is $15 on the Nintendo Switch, and the same price on Humble, itch, and Steam, for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

Two-Point Hospital is Good

Somehow I never got around to writing about the launch of Two-Point Hospital last year. It’s the silly hospital administration game from some ex-developers of the beloved classic from Bullfrog, Theme Hospital. Both have similarities in their management of the hospital you build and in the silly ailments that patients are seeking remedies for.

Two-Point Studios have already added a bunch of free updates including workshop support and two paid DLC packs. One on a tropical island and the other in a colder climate.

I finally got a chance to try Two-Point Hospital during a free weekend on Steam and had quite a bit of fun with it. It is a lot like Theme Hospital, except not running in DosBox and that really helps when you’re trying to play a game without watching your monitor throw a fit attempting to reach the old resolutions.

PC Gamer’s Fraser Brown liked Two-Point Hospital quite a bit in his review. As did James Swinbanks for Gamespot and TJ Hafer at IGN. The only real complaint I’ve seen is that the Hospital game is perhaps a little too easy until the later stages.

I really liked James Swinbanks’ description of that goofy attitude:

Part of Two Point Hospital’s overwhelming charm is its sense of humor, which permeates every corner of the game, from the fantastically funny radio station–complete with fake ads and feature segments–to the pun-laden disease names like Jest Infection or 8-bitten. Someone suffering Mock Star shuffles about with the look and swagger of Freddie Mercury, requiring a session with the psychiatrist to pull them out of it. Equally funny are the contraptions used to cure some of the rarer conditions. The Extract-a-Pan treats Pandemic and is a giant magnet on the end of a tube that pulls the pan off the top of the patient’s head. The writing throughout is sharp and witty, with the descriptions of various ailments being a particular high point.

But just discovering those diseases and their often darkly funny symptoms, as well as watching your staff and patients go about their day, feels rewarding enough. Everything moves with the look and flow of a cartoon pantomime; patients will die only to come back as ghosts and haunt your hallways until a janitor can come along and suck them up with a vacuum cleaner. At one point my receptionist got up from his desk, vomited in front of patients because he was disgusted by something, then left to pour a coffee in the break room before demanding a pay raise. It nails the Theme Hospital nostalgia and is so good that even the 20th time you hear the announcer ask patients “not to die in the hallways” is hilarious.


Two-Point Hospital is kind of unique these days, the Theme Hospital type of sillyness is rare. Heck, any kind of genuinely funny games are so rare.

Unfortunately the free weekend and sale are over on Steam, and the game is back up to $35. It does support macOS and Linux as well as Windows.

New AirPods

Updated AirPods are finally available. Announced way back in 2017, alongside the still absent AirPower oval charging mat. Apple says the 2nd generation of AirPods have a new H1 SOC that replaces the W1 chip in the first generation, faster connection times, support the “Hey Siri” wakeword/hotword without having your iPhone out, and have longer battery life but only for “talk time.”

The physical appearance of the AirPods hasn’t changed beyond a new light on the front that is only on the Qi-compatible Wireless case.

I loved the AirPods when I got them, but as a first generation product they’re not without issues. I have a few more issues now than I did two years ago.

  • These days I am frequently wondering if the batteries are wearing down, as all batteries do over time, when I have to plug in the case to charge it more often than I used to.
  • The process of connecting them to a Mac is so poor that various third-party utilities have been made to smooth things over. I use one, it isn’t great, because you have to put both AirPods back in the case and then open the case before the utility will give you a chance to pair them to your Mac.
  • I don’t know if it’s because of the humidity here or what, but the case is also absolutely disgusting on my set. There’s a rim of grossness around the top of the case that is difficult to keep clean.
  • You can use the Find My iPhone app to locate missing AirPods, but only if they’re out of the charging case. They once fell into a little nook in the back of my office chair only to be lost for two months because who would ever think to look there and they were in their case so I couldn’t use the Find My iPhone app to make them make noise.
  • I don’t know how often it is, but I sometimes have issues connecting the AirPods to my iPhone. Sometimes it seems like the entire Bluetooth stack has gone off the deep end and the only way to get them to pair is to turn off Bluetooth and then re-enable it. Which you now have to do in the Settings app because the control-center widget only disables new Bluetooth connections instead of halting the entire stack.
  • Rarely, I hear the “connection ding” alert sound but I have no idea what the AirPods have connected to because the audio I’m trying to listen to comes out of my iPhone’s speakers.
  • Finally, anyone that has ever dropped the AirPods case is happy with how durable it is, but unhappy because it has a tendency to open the lid and eject the AirPods.

The new AirPods could fix many of those issues, but I don’t see any big reason for me to upgrade yet. The only Qi chargers I have access to are at an angle that wouldn’t work with the wireless charging case, which requires more of a lay-down mat. If you haven’t gotten a pair of AirPods yet, there’s no reason to wait, but if you’re considering upgrading I would wait for reviews of the 2nd generation.

The new AirPods come in at two price points. $160 without the Qi compatible charging case, or $200 with the ability to charge on any Qi charging pad. The new wireless charging case is also available separately for $80 and is compatible with the original AirPods.

New (old) iMac Day

Well, not as old as yesterday’s iPads. But the non-pro iMac finally received an update to its internals after a little more than a year and a half. This update was also delivered via press-release, ahead of Apple’s upcoming press event on the 25th which is rumored to be exclusively about their video streaming service.

Jason Snell has some disappointments with the new iMacs, specifically with the fact that the $1300 base-model iMac still includes a traditional disk drive:

Not to belabor the point, but the iMac is the only remaining new Apple product that features a spinning hard drive. It’s also the only Mac in a couple of years to receive an update and not include an Apple-designed ARM processor for security and other features. (The two are probably related—so far as I can tell, Apple has designed the T2 to only use flash storage.)

Spinning disks had a good run, but they’re old tech. They’re far less reliable than flash storage drives, and are also generally much slower. The $1299 base-model 4K iMac ships with a slow 5400 rpm spinning disk. It’s almost unforgiveable.

I agree with Snell, it isn’t fair for Apple’s most price-sensitive customers to end up with unreliable and outdated storage methods. You can’t easily upgrade that storage at home, once you realize how slow that 5200 RPM drive is.

There is still a non-Retina, 21”, iMac at $1100. That iMac joins the non-Retina MacBook Air in the land of Macs that Apple forgot.

This may well be the year of the Mac Pro, but it is extremely unlikely that the successor to the trashcan  Mac Pro (I actually thought it looked kind of cool) will be below $5,000. It’s still a frustration that there aren’t reasonably priced, modular, Macs that can compete for desktop performance without the built-in displays of the iMac line, or the workstation parts, and price, of the Pro-lineup of desktops.

We’ll see what happens at the WWDC keynote in early June when the new Mac Pro will most likely be announced. I’m not sure the attendees who paid $1600 for the non-transferrable ticket, and thousands more for hotel rooms, will care that much about the high prices of these Mac Pros.

It’s New (Old) iPad Day

New iPad air and iPad mini with Apple Pencil

If you don’t want to waste time at an upcoming event by talking about updates to old products that nobody will think about for too long, you do it in a press release.

As rumored, that’s what Apple has done with this press-release update to their iPad lineup. The iPad Mini has been updated for the first time in almost 4 years, and the iPad Air  has been revived as a higher-end alternative to the iPad Cheap. Both devices got Apple Pencil support… sort of.

The iPad Mini 5 is the 7.9 inch device that can fit into the pocket of your Jnco Jeans, as long as you can track a pair down. Unfortunately the Jnco Jeans business doesn’t appear to be going well and their website is offline.

The iPad Air was last updated almost 5 years ago, with the 2nd generation model and is suspiciously 10.5”. You might remember a 10.5” iPad Pro that was replaced with the 11” model last October. That’s where this 3rd generation iPad Air form-factor is from.

Both devices get the A12 system-on-a-chip (SOC) from the latest iPhones, but not the A12X from the latest iPad Pros. So they won’t be quite as powerful, and we won’t have any benchmarks or information about clockspeeds and amount of RAM until reviewers get their hands on these updated models.

Both devices also get support for Apple’s stylus, but not the cool new one from the 2018 iPad Pros.

Both new-old hybrid iPads have the classic big-bezel design, not the new iPad Pro/iPhone X design with minimal bezels around the edges that’s neccessary for 2nd-generation Apple Pencil stylus.

That new Apple Pencil charges and when it is magnetically held-in-place to one side of those new Pros. The new Apple Pencil also has one flat side, so it won’t roll off a table. The 1st generation Apple Pencil supported by these newly updated tablets with old form-factors still has all of those first-generation Apple Pencil issues and is ready and willing to roll off your table and get lost under the couch.

Not receiving any updates today is the 2018 iPad Cheapwhich still has an A10 SOC, older (pre-Air 2) display technology, and the same 1st generation Apple Pencil support.

This old Apple Pencil support is almost vindictive at this point. Why does Apple want to punish lower-end iPad users with a worse stylus experience? Why sell people a stylus that probably won’t work with the next iPad they buy?

If these iPads are the future of labor, entertainment, and creative expression, Apple needs to treat the people buying these devices better. All iPads should have a similar design, and flat sides so they can support the same stylus that won’t roll off the table.

Lets revisit our oldest friend, with an updated logo, the table of confusing iPad decisions:

The logo for The Table of Confusing iPad Decisions

  • 2018 iPad Cheap at 9.7″
    • non-laminated (thicker) display
    • A10 SOC
    • 2GB RAM
    • Supports the ($100) Apple Pencil.
    • Old-ass 1st generation Touch ID.
    • 32GB ($330) or 128 GB ($430) wifi only
    • 32GB ($460) and 128GB ($560) with cellular
  • iPad Mini 5 at 7.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • 1st-gen Apple Pencil Support
    • 2nd (presumably)-generation Touch ID
    • A12 SOC
    • ?GB RAM
    • 64GB ($400) for the WiFi-only model, 256GB ($550)
    • 64GB with Cellular ($530), 256GB with Cellular ($680)
  • iPad Air 3 at 10.5″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • 2017-era iPad Pro Smart Connector
    • 1st-gen Apple Pencil Support
    • 2nd (presumably)-generation Touch ID
    • A12 Processor
    • ?GB RAM
    • 64GB ($500) for the WiFi-only model, 256GB ($650)
    • 64GB with Cellular ($630), 256GB ($780)
  • iPad Pro at 12.9″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • Face ID
    • A12X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • 2018 Smart connector
    • 2nd-gen Apple Pencil Support
    • WiFi Only: 64GB ($1000) 256GB ($1150) 512GB ($1350) 1TB ($1750)
    • Cellular: 64GB ($1150) 256GB ($1300) 512GB ($1500) 1TB ($1900)
  • iPad Pro at 11″
    • laminated (thinner) display
    • Wide color gamut (for professional color accuracy and better looking photos and videos)
    • True tone (makes the screen match the color temperature of the environment like a sheet of paper would)
    • ProMotion (variable frame rate)
    • Face ID
    • A12X processor
    • 4GB RAM
    • 2018 Smart connector
    • 2nd-gen Apple Pencil Support
    • WiFi Only: 64GB ($800) 256GB ($950) 512GB ($1150) 1TB ($1550)
    • With Cellular: 64GB ($950) 256GB ($1100) 512GB ($1300) 1TB ($1700)

All of the new models are available now in most countries.

It’s good that the iPad Mini form-factor has finally been updated, and there’s a mid-tier for people who want a 10-ish-inch iPad with better parts than the iPad Cheap, without spending the $800 for an 11” iPad Pro. This is a complicated line-up, but there are finally clear “best” iPads with the Pro devices which have the ProMotion variable frame-rate that make for an extremely smooth visual experience. Scrolling through app icons on the home screen is ridiculous on devices with that high framerate.

The year-old iPad Cheap with it’s A10 SOC is probably still fine for most people, but I would think twice before buying it for myself.

The cheapest option for an iPad will always be a refurbished or used model, but I would steer clear of the 5 and 4-year-old previous models of iPad Mini 4 and iPad Air 2. ProMotion is also on the older 2017 iPad Pro models.

Hopefully this year’s WWDC event will bring some announcements of changes in iOS 13 to properly support more advanced workflows beyond the simple Siri Shortcuts available to us today. These devices have never been more unbalanced in terms of how much functionality the hardware could support, and how little iOS is taking advantage of the hardware.

Xbox One S All-Digital Edition Rumored for May

If this actually ships with this name it probably won’t be the worst-named product Microsoft has ever shipped, but it will be close. The Xbox One S All-Digital Edition has been rumored to come out in May without a disc drive. Jez Corden of Windows Central has the sources and more details.

As I’ve remarked before, the Xbox One is such an odd console. Every exclusive game I want for it is now either available on Windows 10 or will be. Sunset Overdrive is even finally available on Steam for Windows. Still, I keep the Xbox One because of the backwards compatibility features for some 360 and original Xbox discs. However, the 360 games I’d like to play with my family are Kinect games that won’t work on the One.

I don’t know what a disc-less machine really offers anyone picking out a console besides, possibly, being slightly cheaper and more reliable. It will be interesting to see how Microsoft makes the pitch for this revision, if it happens.

Ape Out is Loose

An Ape has escaped, but he isn’t a friendly little hominid with a siren. No, this is a vicious one from Gabe Cuzzillo, Matt Boch, and Bennett Foddy, oddly enough. Ape Out is an overhead smash-em-up with noisy drums and it looks like much fun for anyone who enjoys escapism.

Alice Bell of RPS enjoyed Ape Out:

The whole game has an algorithmic masterpiece of a score by Matt Boch, frenetic drums that grow louder and faster as the violence increases, or dip into a lull at times of calm. Each death is greeted by a triumphant crash of cymbals, so you feel like a conductor in your own mad orchestra of carnage. You, somehow, feel part of the creative process. The way you smashed three men together, just so, leaving a blush of red over the blue carpet, and adding just a soupçon of orange viscera from your own wounds. “Ah, exquisite,” you think. “Perhaps I was always meant to be a great improvisational artist.” But there is no time to pause and admire your work, for you must knuckle on and create another.

Ape Out is $15 on the Nintendo Switch, and various stores for Windows, like itch.io, Humble, and Steam.

Housing the Houseless

Jeremy Hobson for WBUR interviewing Martha Kegel (executive director of a non-profit) on how New Orleans reduced their number of houseless people by 90%:

And lastly, she says, the team took a “Housing First” approach, which is “simply the idea that you accept people as they are,” whether they are sober or not.

“You just accept them as they are and you provide the housing first,” Kegel says. “Then, once they’re in their apartment, you immediately wrap all the services around them that they need to stay stable and live the highest quality life that they can live.”

This article is tough to read, even with the positive news, but there are some really important basic fact checks in here for people who aren’t convinced that housing people is the first solution to houselessness. In relating an anecdote about someone who turned down help, Kegel says: “…which isn’t actually the typical thing, most homeless people want to be housed.”