16 September 2010

Mana Potion Vs Sleep [feat. Halo Reach] [by @NLi10] (CyberCandy Birmingham)

When I reviewed the Harcos Labs Health Potion some time back I really enjoyed the flavour but had severely underestimated how strong it would be and drank it all in one go on a work night - it disrupted my sleep and gave me bags of energy but due to drinking it on an ordinary evening I had an abundance of energy an no use for it. I bought another health potion (which I used on an outward bounds activity day at GoApe Wire Forest some 40ft up in the air to great effect) and a Mana potion. The makers say that Mana potions are stronger than health potions, and from experience they are essentially 40ml of weaponised caffeine, so I put it away for a special occasion where its powers could be put to good use.
The launch of Halo Reach for the Xbox 360 seemed the perfect opportunity for trying out this concoction. The premise - go to the midnight launch and then come home and play until I was no longer capable. I even booked the day off work just for this. I shall attempt to recount the whole experience on an hour-by-hour basis, like Jack Bauer's weedy younger brother.

12:00 - I got to the launch a bit early, but there was already a large queue. At 12:45 I had picked up my new Halo 360 with the game, and got ample free things from the crew at GameStation New Street in Birmingham (thanks guys - you throw an excellent launch party!). I got a taxi home.

1:00 - got back just after 1 and set up the console and took a few pictures. While I was sorting everything out I transferred my old games using a larger USB stick and installed the game to the hard drive for more efficient playing. I also lined up my snacks which were a bunch of grapes - anything more snacky or sustaining may taint the science behind this experiment.

2:00 - Finally started playing on Heroic mode which is the game series equivalent of Hard (my GamerTag is nli10 - and I also tweeted for a lot of the night as @nli10 if you want to read as my sanity disappears). Grapes were eaten throughout the evening but not recorded. They were green ones.

3:00 - By this point I'd powered through the first proper level and got a couple of achievements. This is the point at which I would have ordinarily gone to bed as I was pretty tired - I also probably wouldn't have spent so long setting everything up. I took my first few sips of the mana potion. The flavour is sourer than the health potion, and tasted like a stronger version of the blue slush puppy. There are a few other flavours in there I'm sure too.

4:00 - I'd got over my sleepiness and got back into the groove and was starting to remember the controls a lot more. The third chapter was a lot harder than I'd expected and I died quite a lot. I took a celebratory swig of the potion to take it down to half when I finished the level. The same herbal undertones as the health potion were more noticeable this time and it gave the flavour a bigger zing. I'd need all the alertness I could get for the next part.

5:00 - After a brief comfort break I jumped into the multiplayer modes. Now I'm a fan of Halo but I wouldn't consider myself to be a great player, I loose pretty much all matches but have a great time. I decided on Rumble Pit as my playlist as this is all solo games and speedy, I took sips of the potion between rounds. Over the hour I came (out of 8) 8th, 8th, joint 3rd with 6 other people , 5th, 7th 5th, and then I stopped keeping track. My Halo online record thinks I won a match but I don't remember this! I was having fun but everyone else was clearly more skilled so I went back to single player.

6:00 - back on the campaign mode as the sun started to rise I found that the multiplayer had knocked some of the ring rust off my skills - I was back on form. Despite this burst at 6:30 I was really starting to flag again so I finished the remains of the blue potion and almost immediately was more alert. I was on Chapter 4 and progress was slow as there were new things to contend with (no spoilers from me!)

7:00 - Still on chapter 4 I was very physically awake but my brain was flagging - I was losing in some odd places and suspect my mind was wandering. At 7:30 I finally passed it and much air punching and celebrating was done. This seemed to kick my brain back into gear and I decided to play around with the other modes and get some of the easier achievements.

8:00 - I had decided before starting that I'd have breakfast at my (roughly) normal time of 8 O'clock so had cereal and Builders Tea (to be reviewed soon) which added to my feeling of normality. I decided to go back to chapter 2 to get a simple achievement for doing the level in a very specific way on an easier difficulty. I chose the easiest possible (in my sleep addled state not reading that you can't earn anything on that mode) and started. As I wandered around the level it seemed like I was going in circles and my eyes began to get blinky. At one point I found myself waking up as the controller started to slip out of my hands and I decided this was the end point of the experiment. By the time I'd switched off and made it to bed it was 9:15 meaning that a mana potion adds about 6 hours to my ability to concentrate and stay awake.

After 4 hours sleep I got up and resumed play - something I'd have never done without the aid of the stimulants in my system. While due to my tiredness I found it really hard to think tactically or shoot straight towards the end I think it's a thumbs up for the mana potion. While the health potion would still be my favourite I think that mana is great for situations where you need that bit more enthusiasm or awakeness. It'd be perfect for late night clubbing, and playing on the normal difficulty I'd have got a lot further than I did on Heroic. The flavour is unusual, but nice enough that you are happy to drink it, and sipping it over the evening was a much better way to take it than all-in-one, although the lovely glugging noise the bottle makes was less noticeable. I'll probably buy these again.
by @NLi10

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