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You Should Play: Travel through time in two-part mystery The Silent Age

These days, keeping up with games can be a full-time job. So how do you separate the signal from the noise, the wheat from the chaff, the Temple Runs from the Temple Jumps? Allow us to help by regularly selecting a gameYou Should Play.

House on Fires The Silent Age is actually a two-part game: The first episode, which is free to play, was released in early 2013, while the second episode, which costs $5, was released just a few weeks ago. You should think of the entire game as a $5 investment, though, because I guarantee you wont be able to stop after episode ones cliffhanger.

The Silent Age is a point-and-tap adventure game that takes place in two different erasyour characters present-day 1972, and a thirty-year leap to the eerie, post-apocalyptic 2012. Without giving away too much of the plot, you play as an unassuming janitor at a large corporation who stumbles upon a time-traveler from the future. The time-traveler asks you to warn him about this meeting... and then dies, leaving you with a pocket-sized time-travel machine that you can use to flick between 1972 and 2012.

Youre then left to solve the puzzle of what the heck happened to this guy, by using a combination of your time machine (which keeps you in the same place, just changes the time) and various objects you find in the environment. While many point-and-tap adventure games can feel overly relaxed, The Silent Age expertly weaves an intriguing storyline around its puzzles to give you a sense of urgency. Its the most fast-paced point-and-tap puzzler Ive played, and thats only one of the reasons you should check it out. Here are three more reasons you should play this game.

A well-designed puzzle game: I play a lot of puzzle games, and Im especially a fan of escape the room games, in which you have to use various objects to solve puzzles and work your way out of a locked room. The Silent Age plays very similarly to escape the room games, and the story line involves a lot of escaping from (and breaking into) locked rooms.

However, unlike many escape the room games, The Silent Ages puzzles are both clever and logical. The objects you pick up, and the ways in which you use them, make perfect sensefor example, covering broken glass with a blanket, or distracting a bartender by ordering a complicated drink. Its not one of those games that was hastily put together (perhaps this is obviousthe second episode came a year and a half after the first). The games time travel element also plays heavily into puzzle solving. For example, lots of doors are open in one time, but not in the other, so youll find yourself switching back and forth quite regularly.

The Silent Ages puzzles add to the story lineyoull have to complete tasks, like distracting the bartender, so you can get into another room.

Atmosphere is everything: Theres no getting around itThe Silent Age is visually gorgeous. The bright, vibrant colors of the games 1972 contrast perfectly with the dystopian, muted grays and greens of the games 2012, and every small detail appears deliberate. The game denotes objects you can pick up by making them ever so slightly brighter than the surrounding piecesgiving you a subtle hint without distracting from the games overall atmosphere.

The Silent Age is a nicely put-together package of artwork, soundtrack, and smooth, distraction-free controls. The opening screen suggests you play the game with headphones, and I second that suggestion: The soundtrack, while not particularly exciting, is everything it needs to be. Much of it is eerie ambient noise peppered with sound effects, which makes for a slightly unsettling atmosphere (and that seems to be exactly how the game wants you to feelunsettled). The soundtrack does have a few bright spots, such as the pumping music inside a nightclub. Use your headphones, and youll definitely forget that youre in present-day 2014.

See this image? This is 1972. This storys main image is this same scene, but from 2012.

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You Should Play: Travel through time in two-part mystery The Silent Age

The Games You Never Stop Playing

Like everything else in life, video games come and go. Or, at least, some do. Others stay with you for years at a time. The truly special ones never leave. What are the games you never stop playing?

I started thinking about this question earlier this week when I was riding on the subway. I pulled out my phone, as I so often do these days, to start playing Threes. After getting some truly pathetic scores, it occurred to me that despite playing Threes for months now, I haven't really gotten any better. Nor do I have an specific goal I'm trying to achieve by playing it. But I don't see myself stopping anytime soon. I just, I it?

I've continued to play a lot of my favorite 2014 games in a similar waythe new-gen version of Diablo III, The Sims 4, Tomodachi Life. Sometimes this fits nicely within Kotaku's new reporting methodology of covering games on an ongoing basis. But other times, I just keep playing games because I love them so much that I don't want to stop. I still race around in Mario Kart 8 despite the fact that its online multiplayer has become depressingly lonely, and I can't seem to pull myself away from Shadow of Mordor despite the fact that I've technically "finished" all of the narrative bits of the game.

But still: these are all games that came out this year. The games that I hold on to on an ongoing basis are much smaller in number. Gamers have precious time to sink into an already time-intensive hobby, after all, so we have to be very selective when choosing the games we hold near and dear to our hearts. What are some of yours?

I'll get us started with one of my all-time favorite shooters. Take this example we can all use as a template:

Game: Gears of War (horde mode in Gears of War 3, specifically)

What keeps me coming back: I wrote about this back in May already, but it bears repeating. In my humble opinion, Gears of War is still the best shooter out there. Everything about it is just so expertly balanced. Each of the guns serves a unique purpose, so there's no bloat or inefficiency in its core systemthat system being shooting gross sickly white monsters in the face. The same can be said of its bad guys. Everything from the tiny drones known as "Tickers" to the cave troll-esque Brumaks provides a unique challenge that must be met in its own special way. Explosive tickers force you out of cover, for instance, while the priest-like Kantus class undermines all of your diligent sniping by reviving other wounded members of the locust horde.

It might be an third-person shooter, but this ever-changing combination of enemies and weapons often makes it feel more like a puzzle game. A very, very gory puzzle game. I think this is why horde mode is particular fantastic. The endless waves of increasingly challenging bad guys force you to always think on your feet, and master all the nuances of the various weapons you have at your disposal as well as the nooks and crannies of the terrain itself. Maybe it's just because nobody else has bothered to make a solid shooter with local co-op, but I still play one level in Gears of War 3's horde mode on a weekly basis.

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The Games You Never Stop Playing

The best chess puzzles #11 The fastest possible stalemate from the starting position + a surprise:) – Video

The best chess puzzles #11 The fastest possible stalemate from the starting position + a surprise:)
Construct a game from the starting position that ends in a stalemate as soon as possible.

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The best chess puzzles #11 The fastest possible stalemate from the starting position + a surprise:) - Video

Consensus Statement Questions Science Behind Brain-Training Claims

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DETROIT The American population is aging. With advanced age comes concern about declining cognitive function. Can anything be done to slow or stop this decline?

Vendors of so-called brain-training software claim their products can, but internationally renowned experts on the brain and cognitive aging disagree. According to a statement issued on Oct. 21 by the Stanford Center on Longevity in Palo Alto, California, and the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, and signed by 70 scientists from the worlds leading centers devoted to studying the aging brain, there is no evidence brain games prevent or alleviate dementia.

According to the statement, which was based on multiple empirical studies, brain games may indeed significantly improve performance on a specific task in persons of all ages, but there is no consistent indication that the improvement on a particular skill extends into the realm of broad abilities such as reasoning and problem solving. There is even less evidence of improvement relevant to real-world functioning. Should scientists and older adults stop trying to mitigate the effects of aging on the brain and cognition?

Naftali Raz, professor of psychology and director of Lifespan Cognitive Neuroscience Program at the Institute of Gerontology at Wayne State University, does not think so. The purpose of the statement is not to close the book on cognitive training research, said Raz, a signatory on the current consensus statement as well as a similar one issued in 2008. On the contrary, we are in the midst of a painstaking search for effective intervention strategies aimed at mitigating age-related declines in cognitive functioning. Some of the colleagues who signed the statement actively participate in various ventures aimed at developing effective cognitive training programs for older adults. However, we are still far from producing results that would merit definitive recommendations to the public.

For those who enjoy playing brain games, Raz has this advice. Make a list of activities on which you would like to spend your spare time, energy and financial resources. If playing brain games winds up at the top of the list, by all means go for it. But be aware that this activity is unlikely to slow or undo age-related changes in real-life cognitive functioning. If you think your time is better spent reading, playing with your grandchildren or learning a foreign language, give brain games a pass.

Will anything benefit an older adult who hopes to delay cognitive declines? There is no magic bullet, Raz said. We do know that people who maintain healthy levels of blood sugar and normal blood pressure, make moderate exercise part of their life, are socially engaged, and do not experience high levels of stress and depression are less likely to develop significant cognitive difficulties as they age.

Unfortunately, Raz said, its easier to harm the brains function than improve it. Cardiovascular disease, diabetes, lack of physical activity and obesity are among established risk factors for cognitive decline, and reducing any one of them is a very good idea Raz said. But adding brain games is unlikely to buy extra protection.

To interview Dr. Raz, please contact Cheryl Deep at, or at 313-664-2607.


Consensus Statement Questions Science Behind Brain-Training Claims

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