Saturday, 27 December 2008

Guitar Hero III

Not normally my cup of tea
I can't say that I'm too fond of its current incarnation (my living room is not big enough), but this version has enough charm to be a good play.

It wasn't meant for me, originally
I bought for the Xbox 360 as a present for my fiancé this Christmas. Currently we can't put the wireless control down.

Normal playing habits
I tend to play a lot of games, but most of them have a story. Now this version of Guitar Hero (my only real experience of the series) does some nice little bits put in, mostly with still pictures that are quite comic book-esque in style. The two tutors in the training modes also add a nice air to the piece, but are the only characters that have any depth in the game.

Room for improvement
Personally, I think the game's career mode (that has the comic book thing going on) would have been better with cut scenes similar to what can be found in Tony Hawk's Underground (THUG) 1 & 2. In fact, this would be quite doable, seeing as how both series are made by Neversoft.

Dexterity issues
As to playing this game, it's pretty well made, and admittedly I've only have the dexterity to play on Easy mode. To get quite good at this game, you've got to have a lot of free time on hand.

I want a second guitar
The most annoying thing about this game is that unless you have a second guitar controller you can't really play co-op career mode or battle mode against a friend. So you need to fork out for another controller.

Party game
I do recommend this game however, it's a lot of fun to play. Definitely a party game.

Related links
Official Guitar Hero site
Neversoft's web site

Monday, 8 December 2008


Originally, I had low expectations

So last night I watched a DVD copy of Juno. I had no expectations for the film, but I had been previously disappointed by Napoleon Dynamite (another flick that Fox Searchlight Pictures had picked up), so I was perhaps a little apprehensive of another film looking at teenage life in America that failed to deal with the issues put forward in the film itself.

I enjoyed the film
I found the film amazing. The film wasn't a straightforward comedy, but a comedy drama. You are presented with the very serious subject of teenage pregnancy, but the film is not all doom and gloom. Actually it was nice to watch a media text that dealt with teen pregnancy that was not entirely negative about the subject.

Last word
In all, Juno is a film that is really life affirming. Oh, and if you're wondering why Juno didn't get an abortion, well it's represented quite clearly just how unnerving she found the abortion clinic.

Related link
Official Juno site

Ways to Live Forever

I chose to read it

I picked up Ways to Live Forever, by Sally Nicholls, sometime last month. I knew that this children's/young adult's novel would probably make me cry, and despite having this foresight I was unable to stop the tears for quite some time when I got to the end.

Waterstone's made this their winner of their 2008 Children's Book Prize.

This novel follows a boy called Sam in his final months as he slowly dies from leukaemia. We're not treated to some third person narration, but a first person narrative that Nicholls has obviously carefully constructed from interviews and research she has done on the issue. The insights the reader gains into the feelings of the character's around Sam, such as his parents and little sister, also shows the level of research that Nicholls has put into the piece. It's all tastefully done.

The novel features some extremely thought provoking sections where there are inclusions of notes made by the character Sam (titled: 'Questions Nobody Answers'), these sections ask such things as 'Why does God make kids get ill?'

Related link
Official site for the novel

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Final Fantasy X

When you're ill, you're ill
I've been pretty ill this last week. I'd just about managed to get coursework done for my MA, and finish going to the Cornish Film Festival when I came down with one of the worst stomach bugs I had had in ages. So once I had gotten home, yesterday, I found that I was in too much pain to sleep, but didn't really want to do something I had to concentrate on.

Comfort Gaming
It was time for 'comfort gaming', (definition: where you play a game you've completed many times before, and you enjoy playing it, thus you don't have to concentrate on it too much, but you get to try out different tactics). I got my fiancé to hook up my old PS2, which hasn't seen much play time this year, and booted up SquareEnix's Final Fantasy X.

What is FFX?
Final Fantasy X was one of the best games to be released on the PS2 within the first year of the console's launch. The computer game is an RPG (Role Playing Game), and has the kind of game world that has levels of detail and background (cultures, religion, societies) that even now are often missing from RPGs. The detail within the game is on par with numerous best selling fantasy novels; it is a fantasy game.

Ignore the voice acting...
Just don't pay too much attention to the dialogue and voice acting in the English version. The story is pretty sound.

Story and plot
You play as Tidus who is 'transported' from one time to another through the carnage caused by the titan Sin. Tidus wakes up in a world, unlike his own and is soon battling to save it, whilst knowing who the true cause of the world's suffering is. He doesn't do this alone, there are six other characters: Wakka, Rikku, Lulu, Kimahri, Auron, and Yuna (the love interest). They all have unique weapons and abilities, but they can all become equally mastered in each other's skills.

Ground breaking
The graphics of the game pushed the console at the time. The battle system is one of the best in the series. Also, if you play the game quite thoroughly, you're looking at least a 120 hours of game time. This is a narrative, and levelling up heavy game.

How I love to play it. That's why it's a comfort game for me.

Related link
Official FFX European site

Monday, 3 November 2008


Another gaming weekend

I spent yesterday having a really long go on Spore. This computer game was only released in September, but I hadn't had a good play through it, despite having it for a month. Oh, and by good play through, I mean more than half-an-hour.

The game play is quite simple and highly addictive as each new stage in your species’ evolution unlocks new tasks and goals to complete and go for. Everything you do affects what your species will become: peaceful or warmongers, or fence sitters. During my play through yesterday I created and moulded a species of creature that were extremely violent and once they reached the civilisation age, wanted to do nothing but build nuclear weapons.

They haven't got the bomb... yet.

So Spore is?
This is a strategy based game to some extent, and there's no over arching story. There's just you, the creatures you design, and millions upon millions of years of evolution to get through.

It is a fun game to play, and that's what is most important.

Related link
Official Spore website

Friday, 31 October 2008

An observation on publishing for children and teenagers...

So, I wandered into my local big chain book store on Wednesday to have a look at the children and teenage fiction sections. Now, I haven't read a children's or teenager's novel since last year and the Deathly Hallows. In fact I haven't had a look at either section in years.

I was completely surprised by the amount of novels dealing with fantasy genre elements, and vampires and werewolves. There was a severe lack of novels set anywhere near the real world, except for the likes of Jacqueline Wilson in the kid's section (I never got on with her novels as a kid), and then the odd other novels set in the real world, for teenagers, such as the winner of Waterstone's 2008 Children's Book Prize: Sally Nicholls's Ways to Live Forever, and novels by Malorie Blackman, and Melvin Burgess.

Fallout (not the game, mind)
I suspect the fallout from Rowling's Harry Potter series, Whedon's Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel, and the bewitching Charmed, will continue to dictate publishing for children and teenagers for some years to come. Oh well.

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Dead Space

Average weekend
So, I've had a busy weekend. Got all my work done for the MA, went to the cinema and completed this game. Beware spoilers.

This is one of the scariest games I've ever played, and I'll admit that one of the reasons that I wanted to buy it was because of its use of third person, over the shoulder, perspective, which I liked in Resident Evil 4. Yes this is an action-adventure shooting game, but it has a cinematic quality that's greater a lot of other first person shooters.

Your character is sent on a retrieval mission with a small crew, to a huge ship that had been servicing an abandoned colony. As soon as you enter the ship your crew and you know something is not quite right and it goes to hell from there.

After been blown away by Bioshock on the Xbox 360, I had been looking around for another game to play that had a story full of twists and surprises. I had been waiting for Dead Space to come out for quite some time.

It didn't last as long as I hoped it would, but like with a lot of shooters the designers expect multiple plays to extend the life of the game. Me, I'm more of a story person so replaying this on harder difficulties doesn't really do anything for me.

In the end
If you've enjoyed games like RE4 and Bioshock and films such as Alien, Aliens and The Thing, you'll probably have a blast playing through this. Just remember to dismember and you'll have an easier time of it.

Related link
Portal to UK Dead Space website

Burn After Reading

The veteran

As a Coen Brothers veteran, I felt compelled to go and see their latest piece of mini-plot madness. So please beware of spoilers, as I take you through one of the better comedies of this year.

The numerous plots of this film resonate out from Osbourne Cox (John Malkovich) quitting the CIA and his decision to write his memoirs of being in the service. During the course of the film the audience is treated to seeing several affairs blow up, a black mail go sour and a woman's obsession with plastic surgery.

Typical Coen Brothers
Burn After Reading
follows the same sort of madness that has been exploited in other Coen brother's films, but their imagings of American society and culture are always a joy to watch. Things do get confusing in this latest offering and at times I felt the audience slipping, but fans of their older films would do well to watch this.

Related links
Offical Burn After Reading web site
Joel Coen profile on IMDB
Ethan coen profile on IMDB

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Recent graphic novels

Several of the most awesome things I've recently finished reading, are Batman: The Dark Knight Returns and Watchmen. Both of these were created and originally published in the 1980s and helped spark a revival in the popularity of comics and graphic novels in the West.

If you think comics and graphic novels are for kids, then I dare you to read this. Apart from the fact that you'd be very much mistaken if you believed it was all for kids, the characterisation for The Joker in the recent film The Dark Knight is based off of Miller's Joker in this novel (and Alan Moore's Joker in The Killing Joke (also a must read)).

Batman: The Dark Knight shows us just what happens after Batman retires from crime fighting and how it doesn't really work out.
Some of it's a bit dated, but it is over 20 years old. Supposedly Miller's yarn was responsible for reviving the Batman franchise.

most celebrated graphic novel of all time"
In anticipation of the movie adaptation of this that's being released next year, I found myself reading Watchmen last month. I've never read a graphic novel with plot that was not easy to guess. When I finally realised where the story was going I got goose bumps.

What was so fantastic about this graphic novel is that it's not really about superheroes; it's about vigilantes (all of the characters, except for one, do not have powers) and how the world reacts to them. Alan Moore is a really good storyteller and it's no surprise that the work he's done with Dave Gibbons over the years represents some of the best of English comics ever created.

Oh, I saw the trailer for Watchmen, when I went to see The Dark Knight, and that's when I realised that I needed to read the graphic novel.

Related links
DC Comics
Official Watchmen movie website
WATCHMEN - trailer version 1, with some guy at the end almost peeing himself