In his latest pick of a game, a gadget and an app, Tom Standage finds pure escapism in a search for lost treasure and a webcam that sends text alerts...
A GAME Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception
With games, as with films and books, there are times when you want pure entertainment without having to think too hard. Having spent weeks with a complicated and absorbing role-playing game (“Skyrim”, since you ask), I have been taking a breather lately with the ludic equivalent of an airport thriller: “Uncharted 3” on the PlayStation 3. You play Nathan Drake, the lantern-jawed, designer-stubbled descendant of Francis Drake, as he goes around the world searching for lost treasure (in this instalment of the franchise, a lost city in Arabia) while trying to stay one step ahead of the besuited bad guys. It’s all very much in the swashbuckling Indiana Jones/Tomb Raider/Dan Brown tradition, with a combination of exploration, puzzle-solving and combat sequences, interspersed with expository cut-scenes and plot twists. None of which is groundbreaking, but it’s all so perfectly paced and slickly put together that you can’t help enjoying yourself. There’s a cinematic quality to the script, graphics and camera angles, and the acting is, well, easily as good as that in “Indiana Jones”. Yes, compared with “open world” games in which you can roam around and do whatever you like, the gameplay is very linear, leading you from one set-piece chase or fight scene to another. But as rollercoaster fans know, linear can be fun — and “Uncharted 3” is a thrilling ride from start to finish.
Uncharted 3: Drake’s Deception only on PlayStation 3, about £40
A GADGET Jabbakam
No relation to the slug-like mobster from “Return of the Jedi”, the Jabbakam is an unusual kind of webcam. It is designed to be installed in a particular place and to send an e-mail or text alert, and record a brief clip, when its motion sensor is triggered. Setting it up involves plugging it into a broadband connection (annoyingly, this must be done with a cable, not Wi-Fi). Its tiny camera is then managed entirely through a website, so no PC or software installation is required, and you can access it from anywhere. All this makes the Jabbakam ideal as a security camera in a studio, workshop or weekend home, or to keep an eye on a backyard or a bird feeder. Its web-based operation means there’s a monthly subscription fee, and the camera can’t do live video — when triggered, it records a series of stills. But for many simple applications, its slimmed-down approach is ideal.
Jabbakam £59.95, then from £5.95 a month
AN APP Snapseed
When Annie Leibovitz was asked recently to recommend a camera for general use, her answer was surprising: the iPhone. “It’s the snapshot camera of today,” she told MSNBC. “It’s the wallet with the family pictures.” The latest smartphones can hold their own against point-and-shoot cameras, and they allow you to manipulate images, adding a vintage-film look, a tilt-shift effect, or just adjusting the colour or contrast. Of the many new photo-editing apps, the pick is Snapseed, with its wide range of effects and clever touch-based interface: you slide your finger from left to right to adjust the intensity of the effect, or drag “control points” around for more advanced tweaks.
Snapseed for iPad, iPhone & Android 4.0 tablets: £2.99
Tom Standage is digital editor of The Economist and author of "An Edible History of Humanity"