Save Time by Dictating Everything: Grab a Dictanote Pro Deal

Love writing, but can't type quickly on a keyboard? Wish you could take notes with your voice so you can multitask as you do something else? You don't have to spend a fortune on dictation software: Dictanote can take care of this for you.

Dictanote is a great dictation tool that you can score a deal on through MakeUseOf Deals. Let's take a look at what it offers.

Dictanote is a browser-based notebook software that features advanced speech recognition. Its main application is allowing you to type with your voice. Simply click the microphone icon or use the appropriate keyboard shortcut, and you can start talking to enter text.

The uses of this are many; a few scenarios include:

  • Journalists and other authors speaking out articles
  • Podcasters writing notes or keeping a text log of their episode content
  • Students who want to record notes by voice
  • Multitasking by taking voice notes as you type something out by hand
  • Anyone who can't type for long periods of time due to disability, injury, or similar

The software boasts 92 percent speech recognition accuracy, so you can have confidence that it will work when you need it.

Dictanote Commands

Aside from just entering text, Dictanote has a long list of commands that you can use for more robust typing. These include:

  • "New line" to insert a line break
  • "New paragraph" to start a new paragraph
  • "Smiley" (as well as other faces) to insert emoticons
  • "Undo" to remove your last statement
  • "Insert percent" (or other symbols like "dollar sign" or "at") to insert common symbols

Speak a language other than English? Dictanote has you covered there. The service works in 48 different languages, including English, French, Spanish, Japanese, and Russian. It also supports over 50 dialects, so chances are anything you speak will work in the software.

If you're not sure about it, Dictanote offers a free demo on its website. Use it to test the software's speech recognition capabilities and see if it will work for your needs.

Should you decide you like Dictanote, you can choose between two plans. The Free plan includes a single notebook with unlimited notes, with support for all languages and basic voice commands. Dictanote Pro, which normally costs $3/month when billed annually, includes unlimited notebooks, all voice commands, and priority support when you need it.

In addition, Dictanote Pro members have access to the company's transcription service. For $0.10 per minute, you can upload any recorded audio (such as interviews, recorded notes, speeches, and similar) and Dictanote will send you a transcription via email within a few hours. It's a great bonus if you have some old audio that you want in text form in your notes.

If you're interested in the service, head over to MakeUseOf Deals to get a lifetime subscription to Dictanote Pro for just $19. That's right; for less than the cost of an annual subscription, you can access this service as much as you want forever.

Give it a try and see how voice notes change your workflow!

Image credit: Frank11/Shutterstock


The Best Steam Games You Can Beat In Under 10 Hours | MakeUseOf

Modern video games are more impressive than ever, but this has also led to games that take way too long to complete. Not everyone has 50 or 100 hours to sink into a epic RPG or an open world game with hundreds of quests.

Thankfully, there are plenty of short games that aren't as big of a time commitment. Let's look at some of the best Steam games you can complete in under 10 hours.

Gunpoint is a puzzle game with an emphasis on stealth. You play as a spy who has to break into buildings to steal data. Your main gadget is the Crosslink, which lets you view and rewire the building's systems.

For example, you can change a light switch to open a door. Using this, you can sneak into the building and get what you need without alerting any guards.

With a slick noir story, open-ended gameplay, and rewards for playing in different ways, Gunpoint is a blast if you enjoy "puzzle box" gameplay like this. It takes about three hours to beat, or almost seven if you go for everything.

The Far Cry games have tons of content to plough through, so most of them aren't a fit for this list. However, Far Cry 3: Blood Dragon is a spinoff title that's a much more condensed experience.

Like most Far Cry games, the first-person shooter gameplay revolves around completing story missions, liberating bases, and collecting trinkets. Blood Dragon takes place in a 1980s view of the future, complete with a gamer-friendly synthwave soundtrack and VHS scanlines in the sky. It also has a good dose of humor, with the protagonist being a cheesy wisecracking tough guy.

You can complete Blood Dragon in about five hours, or spend about nine hours for 100 percent completion. It's a much more palatable alternative to the dozens of hours other Far Cry games require.

If you haven't played Portal, you must remedy that. It's one of the most well-crafted games ever made, and you can finish it in a reasonable amount of time.

Portal takes place in Aperture Science Laboratories, where you are a test subject who gets to use the Portal gun. This tool lets you shoot two portals, which you can warp between by walking through them.

You'll use this ability to progress through the lab's various test chambers. While it starts out simple, you'll soon have to deal with movement-based puzzles, hostile turrets, and other obstacles. All the while, the lab's central AI, GLaDOS, taunts you.

Portal takes about three hours to complete the basics, or just under 10 hours if you want to do everything available. Once you finish it, the chances are you'll want to play Portal 2 next, which is a bit longer.

SUPERHOT is an innovative shooter where time only moves when you do. Everything is represented with simple polygonal graphics: objects you can interact with are black, while enemies appear as red.

This simple style and movement-based gameplay leads SUPERHOT to feel more like a puzzle than a straightforward shooter. You'll need to keep restarting levels to figure out the optimal path to defeat everyone without taking a hit yourself.

You can complete the main story in around three to five hours, with extra modes to dive into if you want more afterwards.

If you liked Portal, you'll love The Swapper too. It's an atmospheric 2D puzzle game where you have a tool that lets you swap your consciousness between bodies. You must use this to solve various puzzles and progress.

In addition to a unique mechanic, The Swapper features beautiful graphics thanks to its art, which uses clay models and real-life materials. It also features a thoughtful story that will leave you wondering.

While some of the puzzles might stump you for a while, most people complete The Swapper in five to six hours.

Gato Roboto is a short and sweet Metroidvania game with retro graphics. You play as a scientist's cat who must navigate an alien planet. While you can sneak into small spaces as the cat, you don't have any method of attack. Thankfully, you can use a mech suit to gain some firepower.

The game is straightforward, taking only around four to five hours to complete. You'll explore a few segmented areas and collect upgrades, as well as hidden collectibles that change the graphical filter.

It falls short of being one of the best Metroidvania games since it's so small; the map can't match the immersion of larger titles. But Gato Roboto is a simple romp that doesn't take a huge commitment, so it's still worth your time.

Gorogoa is a puzzle game, but not like any you've seen before. It presents you with several storybook panels, which you must interact with to progress the story. For instance, you might have to rearrange them to provide a path for the boy you're directing to walk across a chasm.

Since you can zoom in on various elements in each panel, you'll have to consider carefully what your next move is. It never gets frustrating, though, as there are only a handful of elements to interact with at any given time. Gorogoa only takes about two hours to complete, but packs a lot of great puzzle-solving into that time.

Shovel Knight is a Kickstarter success story that's become one of the best-known indie games of this generation. It brings elements of retro games like Mega Man, DuckTales, and Super Mario Bros. 3 together into one excellent platforming package.

The complete Shovel Knight: Treasure Trove package contains four individual campaigns, each of which takes under 10 hours to complete. You can buy most of them individually, but Treasure Trove represents the best value for money.

Each campaign features a different playable character with a unique playstyle, so the bundle is worth the cost for several short, well-crafted experiences you can enjoy over time.

Thomas Was Alone is a short platformer with a minimalist art style. You control a group of rectangles whose shapes each grant them different abilities, such as floating in water.

It's a simple game, but actually packs more heart than you might think. The narration is excellent, and by the end you'll be more invested in a set of shapes than you ever thought possible. The adventure shouldn't take you more than four hours to wrap up.

VVVVVV is a challenging platformer with one primary mechanic: instead of jumping, you can reverse gravity at any time. You play as Captain Viridian, who must find his friends on his ship after they go missing.

The game is simple, with no power-ups or locked doors. You can go wherever you like, with only the challenges in each room serving as roadblocks. Thankfully, regular checkpoints keep it from getting too frustrating, and the great chiptune soundtrack sets the mood well.

For just $5, you'll have a fun three to five hours completing the challenges VVVVVV throws at you.

These games prove that you don't have to slog through 100-hour experiences to enjoy a game. Each title features fun gameplay concepts but doesn't overstay its welcome. And because they're lighter on content, they don't cost as much either.

For more like this, you can also find games on Steam that are fun in short bursts.

Image Credit: PixelChoice/Shutterstock


The 8 Coolest New Features of Android 11 | MakeUseOf

Android 11 is the latest version of Google's mobile operating system, available first for select devices, such as Pixel phones. As usual, the latest update brings a bundle of new features to play around with.

While there's nothing groundbreaking this year, Android's latest still has some neat tricks up its sleeve. Let's take a look at the features you should try in Android 11.

While you'll find several great Android screen recorders on the Play Store, that functionality always felt like something Google should have baked into Android. With Android 11, you won't need a third-party app for screen recordings anymore, as it's available natively.

The new screen recorder tool appears in the Quick Settings panel, accessible by swiping down from the top of the screen twice (or once with two fingers). It doesn't appear by default, so you must tap the Pencil icon at the bottom-left of Quick Settings to edit it. Scroll to the bottom and find the tile for Screen Record, then drag it into the list at the top anywhere you like to make it accessible from the menu.

When you tap the option, you'll see a warning reminding you that the recording will capture sensitive information on-screen, such as passwords and payment details. Enable Record audio if you want; use the dropdown menu to pick whether it records from your microphone, your device audio, or both. Turn on Show touches on screen if you want to display markers where you touch.

You'll see a countdown on the status bar at the top of the screen, followed by a red dot to let you know recording is in progress. When you're done, swipe down to open the notification tray and tap the Screen Recorder entry to stop recording.

The recording saves to a new Movies file in your system storage. You can find them in the Library tab of Google Photos under Movies, where you can share or edit your recordings.

Until now, messaging notifications in Android didn't stand out much. You could have an important text message conversation mixed up with a dozen unimportant alerts. In Android 11, the OS makes it easier to keep track of your conversations.

Whether from your SMS app, chat apps like WhatsApp, or direct messages on social media apps, conversations now appear at the top of your notification shade in a new Conversations section. This makes it easier to see them and helps avoid losing them in the noise of notifications.

In addition, you can now mark certain conversations as priority. Press and hold on a conversation notification (or slide it to the side and tap the Gear icon) and you can choose a new Priority option. This shows the conversation at the top of the list, enables bubbles (see below), and displays on the lock screen.

You can't tell Android that certain apps are conversations, but you can remove an app from the Conversations menu if needed. To do this, visit Setting > Apps & notifications > Conversations to see all the conversations you've made changes to. Select one and choose Not a conversation to remove it from that section.

If you use Facebook Messenger, you're probably noticed the "Chat Heads" feature that shows little icons over whatever app you're working in. These allow you to open or minimize a conversation while you're doing something else. Android 11 brings them to all chat apps.

To activate a bubble for a conversation (aside from setting it as priority, as mentioned above), tap the icon in the bottom-right corner of its notification---it shows an arrow pointing at a small dot. This will load the chat into a bubble, which you can drag around the screen as you wish.

When you tap the bubble, it will open the conversation in a smaller window so you can reply without leaving your current app. Once you're done, tap the bubble again to collapse it. You can drag bubbles to the X that appears at the bottom of the screen to remove them.

To change bubble settings for an app, head to Settings > Apps & notifications > See all X apps and choose the app you want to make changes for. Select Notifications and you'll see a Bubbles entry. This lets you choose whether all conversations from the app should bubble, only certain ones, or none.

If you dislike bubbles, visit Settings > Apps & notifications > Notifications > Bubbles to turn them off.

As smart home devices become more widespread, Android wants to make it easier for you to access them. Android 11 puts the underutilized power menu to use with shortcuts to any smart home tools you've connected to your phone.

To access it, just press and hold the Power button for a moment. You'll see devices under the name of your home, and can tap them to interact with them. If you have multiple homes, use the text at the top to switch between them. You can also use the three-dot menu button to add new controls or edit the existing ones.

The exact controls each panel gives will depend on the device. For example, you can unlock a door, change the brightness of a lamp, or adjust the thermostat temperature. If you don't see your smart home devices show up here, you'll need to add and configure them in the Google Home app first.

Android permissions are important, as they allow you to control what apps can access on your phone. Android 11 provides more options so you don't give anything away unnecessarily.

Now when you see a prompt asking for permission, there's a new Only this time option. Select this, and Android will allow the app to use the permission only until you close it. Once it's no longer open, the app can't use that permission again without asking.

To change this for existing apps, go to Settings > Privacy > Permission manager and choose a permission type. Not all of them support one-time permissions, but many (such as Location, Microphone, and Camera) do. Change the option to Ask every time to make Android revoke the permission until you grant it again.

Android can now also automatically remove permissions from apps if you don't use them for a while. Browse to an app via Settings > Apps & notifications > See all X apps and tap Permissions on its info page. At the bottom, you'll see a Remove permissions if app isn't used.

If you have this enabled, Android will clear all permissions for the app after you don't use it for a few months. Finally, as a nice touch, when you deny a permission several times in a row, the app won't be able to keep asking for it.

It's all too easy to accidentally swipe away a notification and have no idea what it said. Android 11 provides a handy notification history menu to help prevent this problem. You'll need to enable it before it starts collecting all notifications, so you should do it as soon as possible to avoid missing anything.

To enable it, go to Settings > Apps & notifications > Notifications > Notification history and turn on Use notification history. This will list all notifications from the last 24 hours, including any that you dismissed. Tap one to open it like you would normally.

Android 11 lets you control media playback more conveniently right from the Quick Settings menu. Instead of a notification, music playback is now its own panel in Quick Settings. If you have multiple sources of audio playing at once (such as music from Spotify and a podcast), you can swipe between them to control them individually.

Aside from a more convenient location, you can also easily change what output device each audio source uses. Tap the name at the top-right of the notification (such as Phone speaker) to select another output, like Bluetooth headphones or a Google Home speaker.

Not everything Android 11 brings is a huge change. Here are a few of the neat smaller tweaks.

Google Play System updates now arrive through Google Play (despite the name, they didn't previously), meaning more people will get important security patches faster. Also, these updates will install when your phone is idle, so you won't have to reboot to apply them.

Android's share sheet can get pretty messy if you have a lot of apps installed, so one of Android 11's smaller tricks is to let you pin apps to it. Just press and hold an app on the share sheet and choose Pin [app] to keep it at the top.

If you use Android Auto, you might be happy to know that it now works wirelessly on all phones running Android 11. You'll need a car with a wireless-capable head unit too, but at least your phone is no longer a roadblock.

Finally, our favorite tiny tweak is that when you have Bluetooth headphones connected to your device, turning on Airplane mode will no longer disconnect them. Airplane mode will still disable Wi-Fi and other wireless functions, but this saves you from having to toggle Bluetooth back on manually.

Android 11 makes a lot of small improvements that will help your daily workflow. To see if it's available for your phone, head to Settings > System > Advanced > System update to check for the latest version. Only Pixels and certain other devices will get it at first, so you may have to wait a while.

In the meantime, Android 10 brought a lot of great features too, so why not check those out while you wait?


How to Organize the Slack Sidebar | MakeUseOf

The sidebar is one of the most important elements in Slack, as it houses all your channels, direct messages, app integrations, and more. And if your Slack workspace has dozens of items across these categories, it's easy to feel overwhelmed by them all.

We'll show you the most important ways to organize and customize your Slack sidebar for better productivity.

The two main types of links on the Slack sidebar are channels and direct messages. DMs appear below channels, and by default, they're each in a big alphabetical list.

To easily keep track of your favorite channels, DMs, and apps, you can star them. At the top of every section, you'll see a star outline. Click this, and the channel will jump to the top of your sidebar in a new section called Starred. To unstar a channel, just click the star icon that appears in the same place.

You can change a few sidebar display options by clicking your workspace name at the top-left of Slack and choosing Preferences. Select the Sidebar tab, and you can choose which items show at the top of the bar. Uncheck anything you don't want to show all the time; those items will appear under More.

If you check List private channels separately, private channels will appear after all public channels, instead of being mixed in with them. This is useful if you're in a lot of both and want a clear separation between them. Remember that public channels show with a hash (#) icon, while private channels use a lock.

Workspaces on Slack's Standard plan or above have much more freedom to customize the sidebar through custom sections. These let you sort all Slack channels, DMs, and other content into as many groups as you like.

Note that you can only create sections in Slack on your desktop, but they will sync to your mobile devices.

To start, mouse over the Channels link in the sidebar and you'll see a three-dot menu appear. Click this and choose Create new section to make a new one.

You'll need to give it a name, and can also assign an emoji to help you identify it quickly. Slack will suggest some category ideas, like Priority and Social.

You can create as many as you want, so feel free to come up with your own ideas too. Consider Low Priority for channels that you mute, or VIP for managers and other people you contact often.

Once you've made some sections, you can start sorting existing channels and DMs into them. Simply click and drag any item from your sidebar into another section to move it.

You can also right-click an item and choose Move conversation to give it a new home. At the bottom of that list, choose Remove from [section] to put it back to its default place.

If you have a lot of moving to do, click the three-dot button (or right-click) on any section and choose Edit sidebar. This places a checkbox next to all items, allowing you to select multiple entries and choose Move to at the bottom to relocate them all at once.

You can adjust sections just like the items inside them. To relocate a section, click and drag it around the sidebar. Right-clicking on a section also gives you the option to rename it (which includes changing the emoji) or delete it.

When you want to reduce Slack clutter, click the emoji to the left of a section (this shows as an arrow if you didn't use an emoji) to collapse and expand it. If you want to collapse or expand all sections at once, hold Alt (on Windows) or Option (on macOS) while you click.

Aside from what sections go where, inside each section, you can change the ordering and even which channels display. Right-click on a section to change options for it.

Select Mute all to prevent everything inside from lighting up when it has new messages. They'll appear grayed out, but still show number badges when you're mentioned.

Under Show, if you select Unread conversations only, Slack will hide all channels with no new messages. This is great if you're an inbox zero person who only wants to see items that need your attention.

Slack offers three options to Sort channels as well. The default is Alphabetically, but you can also select Recent activity or Priority. The latter option sorts based on the conversations you interact with the most, so it's personalized for how you use Slack.

Slack also has a few small resizing options you should know about, which can come in handy when you want to maximize screen real estate. Press Ctrl + Shift + D on Windows or Command + Shift + D on a Mac to collapse or show the sidebar.

You can also click and drag the edge of the sidebar to set how wide it is. Double-click on the edge to quickly set it to the width of the longest item.

While not a proper organization technique, you can have a bit of fun with the sidebar by customizing its colors. If you belong to several Slack workspaces, this is an easy way to differentiate between them at a glance.

Click your workspace name in the top-left and choose Preferences to open the options menu, then click the Themes tab. Here you can choose between dark and light modes. Scroll down to Colors to pick from some of Slack's built-in color combos.

These appear under categories, such as Tried and true or Dark and dramatic. Select one to instantly apply it.

If you don't like any of the existing themes, select Create a custom theme under the Colors header. This lets you enter hex values for each of the interface elements. You can set these yourself, or visit the Slack Themes site to find dozens of other options.

Select a theme you like, then copy the hex values from the bar at the bottom and paste them into the box in Slack to apply that theme.

It's easy for Slack to get out of hand fast. With these tips, you can keep your sidebar tidy no matter how many channels you're in. Use sections and other organization tools wisely and you won't feel lost in your own environment!

Aside from the sidebar, there are many other tips hiding beneath the surface of Slack that are worth mastering to get more out of the service.

Image credit: oliver_schulz/Shutterstock


The Best Metroidvania Games for Fans of the Genre | MakeUseOf

Metroidvania games are a special genre. They give you a giant world full of collectibles to explore that slowly opens up as you collect upgrades. And thanks to talented indie developers, there are tons of them to enjoy.

Let's look at some of the best Metroidvania games you can play on modern systems, and what makes each of them so great.

Hollow Knight is a standout Metroidvania, and one of the best indie games you can buy on Steam. You control The Knight as he explores the world of Hallownest after it has been ruined by The Infection.

Hollow Knight is notable for its focus on exploration. Unlike other Metroidvania games, you don't start with a map and an objective marker right away. You must explore on your own to build your map. There's also a steep punishment for death: return to the point where you died to defeat your ghost, or else you'll lose all the money you had.

With hand-drawn graphics, touching music, tough bosses, and a ton of content for the price, every Metroidvania fan should definitely play Hollow Knight. It's a world to get lost in with challenging combat to match.

Buy: Hollow Knight for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO

Axiom Verge borrows a lot from the Metroid series, with its sci-fi setting and gadgets for navigation. You play as a scientist injured in an accident who ends up in an alien world, and there's more of a plot to discover than a lot of other games in the genre.

While the world is quite vast, the game breaks it into manageable areas to assist with navigation. There are also tons of upgrades to collect.

Speaking of which, Axiom Verge is also notable for its intentional use of "glitches," such as the glitch gun which corrupts enemies and walls. Impressively, the developer, Thomas Happ, created the game all by himself.

It can be a little difficult to figure out where to go at times, but Axiom Verge is one of the best Metroidvania games for gamers who don't want their hand held.

Buy: Axiom Verge for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO

This sequel to Ori and the Blind Forest is even better than the original. Like the first game, it's a beautiful adventure through a stunning forest that features calming music and a touching story.

However, the game makes many improvements for an even better experience. In addition to the returning intense escape sequences, Will of the Wisps features proper boss fights. It also has improved combat offering more moves, and drops the self-made checkpoints of the original for predetermined checkpoint locations.

Both Ori games are worth playing and provide more direction than the above titles, so they're good if you're not too familiar with the genre.

Buy: Ori and the Will of the Wisps for PC | XBO

When you first start The Messenger, it doesn't play like a Metroidvania. The game takes you through several levels of classic platforming action, similar to the Ninja Gaiden titles. But then partway through the game, it opens up and becomes a proper Metroidvania with free exploration, new upgrades, and secrets to find.

Aside from this twist, The Messenger is unique in that it features two graphical styles. While it starts in 8-bit, "The Future" appears in 16-bit and you have to switch between them to progress through some areas.

With a lot of humor from the shopkeeper and a rocking retro soundtrack, The Messenger is a hybrid Metroidvania worth checking out.

Buy: The Messenger for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO

While most Metroidvania games take the form of a standard 2D platformer, Yoku's Island Express plays like a pinball game. You control Yoku, a postmaster dung beetle who pushes around his ball, and must use flippers and other pinball elements to guide him around.

Some Metroidvanias can get pretty intense, but Yoku's Island Express is more lighthearted thanks to the island theme and accompanying music. Plus, the pinball theme keeps the gameplay fresh; give it a try if you're tired of the usual platformers.

Buy: Yoku's Island Express for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO

Guacamelee! is a luchador-themed adventure with plenty of humor. You play as Juan, who finds a legendary mask and must stop the villain from merging the worlds of the living and dead.

Unlike some Metroidvanias, Guacamelee! has a heavy emphasis on combat. New abilities you collect help you both navigate around the world as well as provide new options to take down your foes. Being able to switch between the living and dead worlds also brings a puzzle mechanic to the experience.

While we highlight the first game here, Guacamelee! 2 is largely more of the same with some refinements, so you should play them both. Note that the definitive version of the original title is called Guacamelee! Super Turbo Championship Edition, which includes some enhancements and DLC.

Buy: Guacamelee! for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO

Buy: Guacamelee! 2 for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO

While SteamWorld Dig was a procedurally generated platformer with Metroidvania influences, SteamWorld Dig 2 is a full-blown Metroidvania title. You dig through underground caverns in a steampunk-inspired Western setting and upgrade your abilities to explore further and dig through the dirt more efficiently.

For instance, upgrading your lantern lets you spend more time underground without it getting dark. And items new to the sequel make it more enjoyable to get around.

SteamWorld Dig 2 is a pleasant game that isn't too difficult and doesn't overstay its welcome, making it another good choice for newcomers.

Buy: SteamWorld Dig 2 for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO

While the Shantae series is full of enjoyable games, Pirate's Curse takes the crown for its level design and abilities. In this title, Shantae loses her trademark magic that lets her transform into various animals, so she has to team up with her nemesis and use pirate gear as power-ups instead.

Like all of the Shantae games, the Pirate's Curse features a cute art style, charming characters, great music, and lots of upgrades to find.

Buy: Shantae and the Pirate's Curse for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO

A lot of Metroidvania games lean more into the Metroid influence than the Castlevania roots. If you prefer the latter, Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night is for you. Koji Igarashi, who worked on Castlevania: Symphony of the Night, led the development team for this title, so you can be sure it's an authentic successor.

As you'd expect, Ritual of the Night has more of an emphasis on combat, withplenty of monsters and bosses to defeat. Your magic bar dictates how many skills you can use, and you also gain new equipment throughout the adventure to boost your attack and defense.

Symphony of the Night is considered one of the best Metroidvanias of all time, so if you've played it and want more, try Ritual of the Night.

Buy: Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night for PC | Switch | PS4 | XBO

Supraland offers something a little different. It's a first-person game that describes itself as "a mix between Portal, Zelda, and Metroid." Like other Metroidvanias, you must explore the world to find upgrades that let you access new areas. There's also an emphasis on puzzle solving, which you'll appreciate if you like games such as The Talos Principle.

The developers explain that they didn't include any puzzles that reminded them of content from other games. With overwhelmingly positive reviews on Steam and a free demo available, it's worth checking out if you want to see the genre applied to a different format.

Buy: Supraland for PC

We've taken a look at the best Metroidvania games available on modern systems. These will have you exploring, upgrading, and hunting for secrets for hours to come.

In case you haven't played them, don't forget that the grandfathers of the genre are readily available too.

You can play Super Metroid on Nintendo Switch through the Switch Online service, as long as you have a subscription. And Castlevania: Symphony of the Night is available on PS4 as a combo pack, as well as on XBO through the Xbox 360 version.

And if you're not sure what to play next, why not look into some other niche video game genres?

Image Credit: DisobeyArt/Shutterstock


The 15 Best Indie Games to Play on Nintendo Switch | MakeUseOf

The Nintendo Switch is home to many excellent first-party Nintendo games, as well as titles from third-party developers. But there's another huge category worth exploring on the eShop: indie games.

Let's take a look at some of the best indie games you can play on your Nintendo Switch. Whether they're ports of classic indie titles or new experiences exclusive to the Switch, there's a lot to explore here.

Shovel Knight is a 2D platformer that's been going strong since its release in 2014. The Treasure Trove edition gets you all four full campaigns, including the original Shovel of Hope plus three additional games where you play as some of the bosses.

Each one has their own unique platforming style and story to explore. With extras including a Super Smash Bros.-esque fighting mode and challenges for each character, there's a lot to love here. The game's soundtrack is also a pleasure.

Ever wanted to manage your own farm from scratch? Stardew Valley lets you live that dream. It's a simulation game where you take on tasks like raising crops, mining for resources, and mingling with people in your town (including getting married).

Stardew Valley has limited time in each day, but is open-ended. It has seen tons of updates over time, including multiplayer support. If you like laid-back management games, this is one to try.

An homage to 1930s "rubber hose" animation, Cuphead is a boss rush game that sees you trying to defeat a wild group of baddies. While the game's hand-drawn animation is absolutely stunning and the catchy jazz soundtrack is fitting to the period, don't underestimate it.

Cuphead is quite difficult; you'll have to challenge the bosses many times to learn their patterns and overcome them. If you're up for it, this experience is a must-play.

Undertale is a unique RPG with a great sense of humor, lovable characters, and fantastic music. Anyone who's a fan of RPGs should experience it at least once. But do yourself a favor and go in completely blind; spoilers will ruin the experience.

Celeste is a challenging 2D platformer about a girl named Madeline who works to climb a mountain. Your difficulty as a player is mirrored by Madeline's battle against her inner voice that tells her she can't complete the task.

The relatable story, fine-tuned controls, and catchy music all add up to a phenomenal platformer. There are additional challenge levels if you want to really test your skills, plus an assist mode if you need some help.

Similar to Mario Golf on Game Boy Color, Golf Story is a light RPG that revolves around the game of golf. You play as a man returning to the sport after the death of his father and work to win tournaments at various courses.

Even if you don't care for golf, this is still a fun adventure. It adds mechanics that change up the golf courses, plus minigames to break up the tournaments. Golf Story is a laid-back adventure with humor that anyone can enjoy.

Hollow Knight is one of the best Metroidvania (one of the lesser-known video game genres) titles of the generation. It doesn't hold your hand as you wander through the land of Hallownest---you don't even start with a map at the beginning.

As you explore, you'll find dozens of bosses to fight and lots of upgrades to equip. The amount of content for a budget price is staggering, so this is a great world to get invested in.

If you enjoy turn-based strategy games like Advance Wars, Wargroove is for you. It's a tactics game where you control commanders and have to complete various objectives to overwhelm the enemy.

In addition to a campaign, there's a wealth of extra modes to explore, including online multiplayer. The game even features a full editing tool: you can make your own levels, connect them however you want on a world map, then share your levels with others.

One of the most unique games on this list, Crypt of the NecroDancer combines the roguelike and rhythm genres for an interesting mashup. Like many other roguelikes, the main gameplay involves descending through a randomly generated dungeon full of enemies, picking up items and restarting from scratch if you die.

Crypt of the NecroDancer is unique, however, in that you must move to the beat of the music to be effective. If you step out of time, you'll lose valuable multipliers that help you survive.

This is a challenging game for sure, but it's rewarding to finally conquer a level that gave you tons of trouble. Plus, there are several variations of the soundtrack to check out, including chiptune and rock.

SUPERHOT is a first-person shooter with a unique twist: time only moves when you do. In most scenarios, you're totally outnumbered and so must think carefully about when to move, fire, and throw melee weapons at enemies.

The game uses a minimalist art style for simplicity and offers some extra modes upon completion. As one of the most innovative shooters in years, SUPERHOT is definitely one to check out if you've been itching for an FPS on your Switch.

If you enjoy puzzle games, Gorogoa will be right up your alley. The game presents you with four storybook-like panels that you must manipulate to guide a boy through the various locales. You'll interact with both the position of the panels themselves and their content to figure out how to proceed.

The game only takes a few hours, but uses some really clever puzzle setups that bring "eureka" moments when you finally figure them out.

The Messenger starts out as an enjoyable level-based 8-bit action platformer, similar to the Ninja Gaiden games. After some time, however, the game opens up into a Metroidvania and lets you explore new parts of areas you visited earlier.

Even cooler, this gameplay switch comes with an aesthetic upgrade too. Once you get to that part, you're able to switch between 8-bit and 16-bit versions of the worlds to aid in exploring. Add in an excellent soundtrack, enjoyable humor, and a free DLC expansion, and you have a winning package.

In this game, which takes place in the early 1800s, the titular ship suddenly turns up after five years of being lost at sea. You play as an insurance investigator sent to find out what happened to everyone onboard.

To do this, you use your Memento Mortem stopwatch, which lets you replay the moment of death for people on the ship. Using the logbook information you have, you must determine how each passenger died.

The game uses a simple graphical style that mimics the look of old computer games, and takes a good bit of logical reasoning to piece together. It's a great choice if you prefer holistic puzzles to bite-sized brainteasers.

Bug Fables is an RPG that takes heavy inspiration from the beloved first two games in the Paper Mario series. You control a team of three explorer bugs who set out to claim treasures for the queen.

Like Paper Mario, the battle system uses action commands, which are small prompts you complete to deal extra damage or reduce incoming damage. In addition to the charming story, there's plenty of optional content to take on. Whether you're a Paper Mario fan or not, this is a Switch RPG you'll enjoy.

Baba Is You is a puzzle game in which you push blocks containing words to change the rules of the level. For example, if three blocks forming the phrase "Wall is stop" appear in the stage, pushing "stop" away will let you walk through walls. Using other blocks like "win", you must manipulate the rules to complete the win condition.

It requires a lot of thinking, so you may start scratching your head in the later levels. But if you enjoy logic and breaking the rules, you'll have a good time here.

These indie titles across a variety of genres are some of the best experiences you can have on your Nintendo Switch. While there are many more worthwhile indie games on the eShop, these stand out as the absolute best.

We picked games that mostly revolve around single-player, but don't forget that there are tons of great multiplayer offering available on the Switch, too.

Image Credit: Jc valenzuela/Shutterstock


PlayStation Now vs. Xbox Game Pass: Which Is Better? | MakeUseOf

While all-you-can-stream services like Netflix and Spotify have largely replaced owning media in the movie and music spheres, video games haven't quite caught up to this new normal.

However, both Sony and Microsoft do offer their own subscription services in the form of PlayStation Now and Xbox Game Pass, respectively.

Let's compare PS Now and Xbox Game Pass to see which offers the better value for money. As these services become more integrated in future consoles, they could help you decide which one to buy.

PlayStation Now is Sony's game subscription service, available for both PS4 and PC. It offers a collection of PS4, PS3, and PS2 titles.

To play the included games on your PS4, use the PS Now app on your system. You'll need an internet connection that can handle the service; Sony recommends at least 5 Mbps for streaming.

When streaming games, the resolution is capped at 720p, and you may experience input lag since you're not playing the game locally. Game audio is also only available in stereo, with no option for surround sound.

Otherwise, PS Now lets you enjoy games as you normally would. You can earn Trophies, and online multiplayer is included for all PS Now games even if you don't have PlayStation Plus. Since there's no data for the game on your hard drive, your saves all stay in PS Now's cloud storage.

PS Now is not available in all regions. While you can use it in the US, UK, and Canada, it's not currently available in Australia or India.

While it started as a streaming-only service, PS Now now lets you download titles to your PS4 as well. According to Sony, "almost all" PS4 games, as well as most PS2 games, are available to download.

When you download a game, it will output at full resolution. You can purchase DLC for the game, use any included PS VR modes, and access similar extra features.

You can download as many games as you have space for, but your system will check in with PSN every seven days to make sure your subscription is still valid. If you go too long without connecting, you can't use your downloaded games until you're back online.

PS Now also works on Windows PCs, whether you have a PS4 or not. You'll need a PSN account and the free PS Now PC app to get started. If you play on both platforms, you can access your save data easily thanks to cloud storage.

While Sony advises that PC play requires a DualShock 4 controller, people report that other PC-compatible gamepads like the Xbox One controller will work too. However, you won't be able to use DS4-specific functions, such as the touchpad or motion controls.

We've looked at the best PS4 controllers if you need to pick one up.

Have a look at the bottom of Sony's PS Now on PC page for details on system requirements. If you play other games on your PC, you should have no problem meeting these. Keep in mind that you can't download PS Now games on your PC, though.

Xbox Game Pass is available for Xbox One and Windows 10 PCs. It's similar to PS Now, but stands out in a few ways.

The biggest difference is that Game Pass doesn't offer game streaming; all titles are download-only. This means that all the games you download work as if you bought them on disc or digitally---they can take advantage of Xbox One X hardware and let you buy DLC. However, you'll still need Xbox Live Gold to play Game Pass games online.

Otherwise, Game Pass for Xbox is pretty straightforward. It offers Xbox One, Xbox 360, and original Xbox games. You can download as many titles as you want, as long as your system has enough room---consider buying an external hard drive for your Xbox if you need more space.

Your console must check in with Xbox Live every 30 days to make sure that your Game Pass subscription is still valid. Game Pass also offers a discount if you choose to buy a game in the catalog (or its DLC).

Notably, Xbox Game Pass is available in more regions than PS Now. You can access it in Australia, India, and many more countries.

When you sign up for Game Pass, you'll need to choose whether you want to subscribe to the console or PC service. Unlike PS Now, you don't get access to everything on both platforms with one subscription.

The catalog of games differs depending on platform. Some games are available on both Xbox One and PC, while others only support one platform or the other. Otherwise, it works just like it does on Xbox---unlimited access to download as much as you can fit on your computer.

You'll need to download the new Xbox app for Windows 10 to take advantage of Game Pass on PC. And unlike PS Now, you don't need a controller to play these games.

The PC versions are built for PC, not streamed, so they control with a mouse and keyboard (though that may not be the optimal method for all games, such as platformers).

From September 15th, 2020, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate (see below) will also include access to much of the catalog on Android phones and tablets at no additional cost. Unlike the rest of Game Pass, these games are offered through streaming, not downloads.

You'll need a device with Android 6 or above, the Xbox Game Pass Android app, and a Bluetooth-enabled Xbox One controller since most games don't support touch controls. Microsoft also recommends a 5Ghz Wi-Fi or mobile data connection that's at least 10 Mbps down.

PlayStation Now has three straightforward pricing plans. You can pay monthly at $9.99/month, get three months for $24.99, or pay yearly at $59.99 for 12 months.

For Xbox Game Pass, the PC and console plans each cost $9.99/month, with no discount for paying yearly. However, there's a third option: Xbox Game Pass Ultimate.

For $14.99/month, Ultimate gives you full access to Game Pass on both PC and Xbox One. In addition, Ultimate includes Xbox Live Gold, which normally costs $9.99/month or $60/year. If you're not familiar, Xbox Live Gold is required for online multiplayer on Xbox One, plus it gives you free Games with Gold each month.

So, if you play games on both Xbox and PC, Ultimate is a pretty great deal.

Neither service would be worth your time if the games on offer are lousy. Thankfully, both platforms offer a wide selection of games, with new ones coming all the time. However, games are removed from both on occasion.

Keep in mind that if a game disappears from the catalog on either service, you won't be able to play it again unless you buy it on disc or digitally. Your saved data and any DLC you bought for the game will stick around, but you can't use them until you own the title.

PS Now boasts over 800 games in its catalog across PS4, PS3, and PS2 games. Some are only available until a specific date, while others marked with "Ongoing access" should stick around for the foreseeable future.

Some of the titles on offer at the time of writing include:

  • Hitman 2
  • Dead Cells
  • Dishonored 2
  • Doom (2016)
  • Ratchet and Clank: A Crack in Time
  • Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain

Have a look at the list of all PS Now games to see the rest.

Though PS Now offers hundreds more games than Xbox Game Pass, it's missing a lot of killer titles. Headline PS4 games like God of War (2018), Persona 5 Royal, and Spider-Man are missing from the lineup.

There's definitely a lot to play here, but you have to dig through a lot of filler and you'll be disappointed if you're looking for the greatest hits of the last few years.

Xbox Game Pass' Catalog

At the time of writing, Xbox Game Pass had 380 games on offer, with 245 on console and 200 for PC (some are on both).

Xbox Game Pass Games

Some highlight titles include:

  • Gears 5 (Both)
  • Halo: The Master Chief Collection (PC)
  • The Outer Worlds (PC)
  • Hollow Knight (Xbox)
  • Forza Horizon 4 (Both)
  • Minecraft (Xbox)

See the full list of Xbox Game Pass Games for more.

You'll notice that Xbox Game Pass has more recent high-profile games than PS Now; this is because all Xbox Game Studio titles come to Game Pass on the day of their release. This is the case with the 2020 release of Battletoads, for example.

Which service is better mostly depends on the games you want to play. If you're a PC gamer who wants to access PlayStation exclusives without buying a PS4, then PS Now makes the most sense. For someone who plays on both Xbox One and PC, Xbox Game Pass Ultimate is definitely the best option.

Overall, we'd say Xbox Game Pass has the edge thanks to its focus on quality over quantity. Getting high-profile releases on day one is a huge draw, and the service has more games that most people actually want to play.

Sure, it's more expensive, but if you're sold on all-you-can-play services, Microsoft's approach seems set up to be the future of gaming.

Image Credit: Anton27/Shutterstock


Want to Read Hundreds of Books Per Year? It’s Easier Than You Think

If you want to read more books, what's stopping you? Maybe you don't have enough time, can't find books that you enjoy reading, or just end up getting distracted.

But reading is important---it can do everything from helping you learn new skills to changing your outlook on life, making it essential for anyone who wants to grow as a person.

For those who want to make a serious effort to read more, the Become a Speed Reading Machine course is a great investment. Let's look at what it includes and how you can join now at a discount through MakeUseOf Deals.

This Speed Reading course is taught by Brandon Hakim, the founder of Insider School. Hakim's mission is to bring you an education unlike what you receive in schools. He took learning into his own hands when he was upset with the education he was receiving in college.

Brandon Hakim's philosophy is that people who really succeed in life have more knowledge than just what you learn in school. He now helps others condense huge amounts of reading into more manageable bits so they can learn much more and be more productive.

When you purchase the speed reading course, you'll gain lifetime access to 2.5 hours of content across 43 lectures. The lectures are broken down into simple categories, like The Learning Machine Framework and What To Read (and When).

Each video is on average just a few minutes long, making it easy to fit them in when you have a short break. In the lectures, you'll learn the types of books you should read, the benefits of reading most people miss, how to remember what you read, and other practical tips.

You can access the content via streaming on your mobile device or desktop, making it easy to learn no matter what you're using. And since this course is for all experience levels, you don't have to be a learning expert to get value from it.

You might wonder what the point of something like this is---after all, if you can read, you can understand what's in a book, right? The idea is that you can both extract more value and spend less time on reading with the right mindset.

Think about what you could learn by reading 100 books every year instead of a dozen or two. And consider how many books you've read where you forgot most of the important points a week weeks after finishing it.

If you feel frustrated at that wasted time, it's smart to rethink your approach to reading to make it more efficient. That's what this course is all about.

Interested in what you're hearing? Right now, you can sign up for the Become A Speed Reading Machine course at a much lower price than usual. Through MakeUseOf Deals, you'll get lifetime access for just $25, which is an 87% savings off the usual $195 price.

For the price of just a few books, you can learn skills that will affect every book you read in the future. We'd say that's a pretty good investment!


Rezi Resume Software: Pro Lifetime Subscription | MakeUseOf

Whether you're looking for your first job or it's time to switch career paths, you're probably dreading working on your resume. Not only is it difficult to word everything properly and concisely on your resume, but there's a good chance that a human won't even read it.

If you've felt lost when working on your resume in the past, Rezi is the service you need. Let's take a look at what it offers and how you can use it to beef up your resume with a helping hand.

Rezi is an AI-powered resume builder. It helps you efficiently create your resume, in addition to tweaking it for specific job listings.

Because many companies today use automated hiring systems, there's a good chance that your resume won't actually make it to a person's desk. Thus, you need to stand out to the software to get a shot at an interview.

In case you doubt that it works, Rezi resumes have gotten people interviews at top companies like Google, Microsoft, and Spotify. Those are huge succeses!

Rezi makes creating your document easy by walking you through the items on your resume one-by-one. For example, it will ask you what companies you've worked for, how long you were there, what your role was, and similar.

These simple fill-in-the-blank fields make it easy to craft a resume without worrying about formatting. Speaking of which, you don't have to come up with a clever layout on your own, either. Rezi includes several templates to get your resume looking great with minimal work.

Resume creation is just the start of what Rezi offers, however. After building your resume, the service lets you upload a job description for a position you're looking at. The software will analyze the description, and based on that, identify important keywords that your resume should include.

You'll also see the Rezi Score, which checks your resume against several criteria to ensure it's of the highest quality possible. It will catch issues such as missing punctuation, use of buzzwords, and similar. Rezi also allows you to duplicate and tweak your document to use on different applications.

This all gives you a better chance of passing the automated check and landing an actual interview. And once you're done, you can export your resume to a Word document, PDF, or even to Google Docs.

You can get started with Rezi by making one free resume at no charge. But for those who want to go further, Rezi Pro is required to access many of the features above. Pro allows you to create unlimited resumes, provides access to all the analysis tools mentioned above, and allows for exporting to all formats.

Rezi Pro also includes a few free resume reviews each month. With this, an expert will take a look at your document and help you get it into perfect shape. This normally costs anywhere from $8 to $40 depending on the deadline you set, so getting two free reviews is quite valuable.

At MakeUseOf Deals, you can pick up a lifetime subscription to Rezi Pro for just $29. Since this is the same price that a month of the pro service usually costs, it's a great deal. The lifetime plan gives you one free review per month, plus everything else discussed above. And since it's a web app, you can use it on any device you like.

Try Rezi today and give your resume the edge it needs!


Get a Better Night’s Sleep With a Restflix Subscription

Chances are that you could do with a little more rest at night. Getting a full night of sleep leads to better mental clarity, physical well-being, and other benefits throughout your day, but it's difficult to enjoy these consistently if you have trouble falling asleep.

Enter Restflix: a subscription designed to help you get the rest you need. Let's look at what this service offers and how you can save big on it with MakeUseOf Deals.

Restflix is a streaming service that offers a wealth of content to help you fall asleep quickly and get a good night's rest. The service provides more than 20 channels for this, including calming music, sleep meditations, and children's bedtime stories.

To achieve this, it uses binaural beats: a system where each of your ears hears a slightly different tone. This helps your brain put you in a state of relaxation.

While you can access music for sleeping on other services like Spotify or YouTube, Restflix is designed for this purpose, leading to better results. It's also free of ads and other interruptions you might find when using other platforms for the purpose.

Restflix offers its sleep-assisting music and content on all the devices you use. In addition to web, Android, and iOS apps, you can watch and listen on Apple TV, Roku, and Fire TV devices. It also regularly adds new content, so you can look forward to fresh music for continued use.

The range of available platforms means your Restflix subscription goes wherever you do. If your child has trouble falling asleep at home, you can put Restflix content up on the TV and sit with them on the couch. Likewise, if you want help resting on a flight, you can open the app and listen to the calming music with your Bluetooth headphones.

Whether you can't sleep due to stress, insomnia, tinnitus, or another issue, Restflix has music or video content designed to take the edge off and let you slip into slumber.

If you'd like to invest in better sleep, MakeUseOf Deals has a great offer on Restflix.

Right now, you can sign up for a two-year Restflix subscription at just $49.99, which is half off the usual price of $99. This includes full access for two years, plus all new content that the service adds during that time. You can access Restflix on up to three devices at once, too.

If you're not interested in two years, there are other plans available, too. Try one year for just $29.99, down from the usual $49. And if you're really interested, you can get a three-year subscription for $59.99 instead of the standard $149.

Don't spend a bunch of money on a white noise machine or sort through a mess of sleeping content on YouTube---try Restflix today and you'll always have something to bring you a better night's sleep. Investing in your overall health like this is always worthwhile.