"Blurring" the Lines Between Gaming and Cleaning
By Jim Bray
Keep your "ion" this column if you want to blur the ugly reality of cleaning things with the fantasy of competition driving in which you can zap the competition right off the track.
Huh, you say? Well, this column is about two very different products that are aimed at very different markets: the Ionic Clean system and "Blur" the video game, and I had to tie them together somehow. The connection: the word Blur itself.
As defined by Webster's Unabridged Dictionary, blur can mean both "to obscure or sully (something) by smearing or with a smeary substance" and "to become indistinct: Everything blurred as she ran".
The first definition could describe dirt, a problem you undoubtedly want to correct – perhaps with the Ionic Clean system. The second definition could describe the experience of playing the video game of the same name.
Ionic Clean claims to deliver streak-and-spot-free cleaning of cars and homes, and the system consists of a tank-like "Base unit" with its ionic filter, a 20 foot hose, telescoping pole, brush with nozzle and a filter-life tester. It's easy to assemble and to use, and the tank-like base unit has a handle mounted on it for easy, well easier, hauling around.
The manufacturer, HomeRight, bills it as a "better, faster way to wash cars, trucks, boat, RV's and home surfaces such as windows and siding", using "the power of commercial cleaning technology". The idea is to use the Ionic Clean to wash and then rinse the filthy things mentioned above, with its special rinse setting de-ionizing the water passing through the tank to remove the minerals.
Here's how the HomeRight describes it: "As water flows through the Ionic Clean chamber, impurities are removed. As water sprays over the surface you are cleaning, dirt and grime attach to the purified, de-ionized water and rinse away, leaving an ultra-clean, spot-free surface. The de-ionized water even leaves an ionic charge that actually repels dirt and keeps the surface cleaner longer – and all this with no need for drying!"
I can vouch for that repelling dirt part. After I used the Ionic Clean on my car I couldn't get within five feet of it again!
Anyway, the system is very easy to use and works well as long as you don't mind getting wet. I got soaked to the skin using it on my house's upstairs windows, mostly because I was too lazy to get a proper ladder and had to stretch onto my tippy toes, which left me standing virtually directly below the water-spewing brush and the runoff.
On the upside, once I was nicely de-ionized and dirt was repelled from me, I didn't have to bathe again for a month. Just ask my wife!
I like the idea of washing the car and not having to dry it afterwards – let alone not having to use soap or other cleaning stuff – and the Ionic Clean did a nice job. Ditto for our windows. They didn't end up 100 per cent spot and/or streak free but they were certainly close enough for argument's sake – better than when I'd done it by hand using other stuff – and the job was quick and easy and relatively painless.
The base unit is operated by a selector knob that gives you the option of using regular, unfiltered (read "disgusting") water for the initial cleaning and de-ionized water for the final, spot-free rinse. This is supposed to extend the life of the filter, and probably does.
It had better. HomeRight sells replacement filters on their website for $49 each, or $196 for a four pack – and doesn't it always pay to buy in bulk?
Despite the system working pretty much as advertised, I'm a little concerned for their quality control. I ended up using two systems for my review because the little plastic quick connect that attaches the garden hose to the base unit broke the first time I tried it. I asked for a replacement quick connect and they sent me a whole new unit and, when I fired it up, it leaked all over the place from around the point where the hose goes into the tank.
So I stuck the new quick connect onto the original unit and it worked fine. Between the two Ionic Cleans I got the jobs done and was quite happy with the results.
It still seems like work, though. Perhaps they should also include a robot that will actually do the cleaning for you…
I'm not sure I'd pay $249 for the unit – let alone the replacement cost of the filters – but if it fits into your lifestyle and budget you'll probably find its performance quite satisfactory.
And on the other hand, the manufacturer claims the same, or at least similar, de-ionizing technology is used in "commercial ultra-purification processes for cleaning applications, with machines that cost several thousand dollars", so maybe it's a steal.
Mario Kart Redux
As for that second definition of Blur outlined above, Activision's new driving game lets you scream through various scenarios at rates of speed high enough to nearly bring on a virtual red mist.
It also requires you to dodge weapons trained on you by the other competitors, lest you be slowed down by some kind of electric shock or, worse, blasted right off the course by various other weaponry.
The Bizarre Creations game is – and even advertises itself on TV as – very much like Mario Kart, but with a more "bad" demeanor. The press material claims it's "the ultimate powered-up racing experience, where players collect addictive and intense Power-ups throughout each course, including the ability to blast other cars out of the way with huge bursts of energy, boost speed with Nitros, drop Mines and even generate defensive shields to fend off other racers."
And that about describes it. If you're into racing simulations like Grand Turismo, you might find the shooting and maiming get in the way of the driving. On the other hand, perhaps you've always missed that kind of action in Grand Turismo...
I fit into the former category and so was a tad nonplussed by Blur, but it's fun enough once you figure out which power up does what (and how to exploit them) – and, of course, how to avoid other players' power ups, which is more difficult still. I prefer a driving simulator like GT 5 Prologue, but Blur is an interesting diversion nonetheless.
Your goal is to beat your fellow competitors, not surprisingly, and you're given a series of races you have to complete and objectives to meet (including grabbing a certain amount of power ups, pleasing a certain amount of fans, etc.) before you can move on and/or access even more interesting vehicles and stuff.
You can play in single player or online mode; I stuck to single player because, as a casual gamer, I generally last about five seconds against the online community and I like having a fighting chance. That's also why I generally review games in "easy" (or, as I like to call it, "Bozo") mode: I want to make enough progress in a reasonable length of time to make for a fair review.
The game's sense of speed is quite convincing and the cars' dynamics are fairly good. I was very disappointed to discover that the game would only let me use the wheel part of my Logitech racing wheel/pedal combo, which meant I had to use buttons for the gas and brake instead of the real gas and brake, buttons that are a long stretch away from the nine-and-three o'clock hand position. What's with that?
I checked out several online reviews, from people who actually seem to live this stuff, and they are generally very positive about Blur, especially for its online facet, which figures. So I guess the upshot is that it may not be GT5, but it's a heckuva lot of fun anyway if you like this type of game.
The graphics are good, though I was disappointed to discover the game (I played the PS3 version) is only in 720p. In reality, I was only disappointed because I'm a video snob; the detail and rendering is very good. I played it on a 50 inch plasma and the only way I could really tell it wasn't 1080p was to look at my TV's display.
Audio is also good, though I would've liked more low frequency effects channels (read "booms and explosions") and surround, but overall it's it works well.
Besides the "regular" online component, Blur also lets you reach out to your little friends and minions via Facebook and Twitter, sharing your achievements with anyone who cares – and possibly many who don't.
Blur's a pretty neat game overall and, though I'd rather play a more "realistic" racing simulator I can see why people will enjoy this game.
Now where the heck is the full version of Gran Turismo 5?
Copyright 2010 Jim Bray
Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.
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