Friday, 27 February 2009

Vampires and zombies

No, I'm not playing some new computer game that involves the two, but I'm certainly getting my fair share of the two with my current reading and gaming activities. Seriously.

TWILIGHT, so far
Has been interesting to read. I'm near the end of the first book, and have been enjoying it. More to come on that next week.

RESIDENT EVIL 0, so far
This game hasn't been giving me nightmares yet, but I get pretty freaked out whilst playing it. Again, I'll be finished on that sometime next week.

Something is getting in the way
I had a mole removed from my left arm earlier this week. I wasn't aware of how difficult it would make doing things, having it removed. I'm having difficulty typing this. Reading and playing games has also been on the rather painful side, (let alone taking notes in uni).

Related links
Stephenie Meyer's official website on Twilight
Wiki entry on Twilight series
Official Resident Evil website
Wiki entry on the Resident Evil franchise

Monday, 23 February 2009

Rezzing it up

RESIDENT EVIL
To mark the launch of Resident Evil 5 in the next few weeks, I shall be diligently working on reviews of the past games.

So look out for reviews of one of the best game series to ever come out of Japan (named Biohazard over there). Survival horror at its best.

I'm trying to review all of the main games in chronological order, so the roster is:
Resident Evil 0
Resident Evil 1
Resident Evil 3
Resident Evil: Code Veronica X
Resident Evil 4
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles

And once it's out:

Resident Evil 5


And maybe even Resident Evil: Degeneration a CG movie tie-in to the game series that details some events between 4 and 5.

Remember, the live action Resident Evil films, starring the lovely Mila Jovovich, are only loosely based on the games, and are not actually canon.

For the time being, check out the related links.

Related links
Official Resident Evil website
Wiki entry on the Resident Evil franchise

The Orange Box pt. 3: Portal

What the heck is that?
That, my friends, is an ill-fated 'Companion Cube'. It's an object you come across in the action-adventure-puzzle game Portal.

PORTAL
Was first released as a part of The Orange Box, by Valve, in 2007. It takes place in Aperture Science Laboratories, which we learn a small amount about in Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

This game created some of the most wide spread and strangest Internet phenomena of the last few years. If anyone has ever said to you 'The cake is a lie', they are directly quoting from this game. And you know what... the cake is a lie.

What happens?
The game has a very limited story, but you appear to play as a young woman who wakes up in the laboratories, and a robotic voice orders you to complete numerous tasks using 'portals'. Portals in this game are openings through the space and dimensions of reality that allow for the rapid travel of an individual between two points.

If that makes any sense, let me know.

However, during the course of the game, you find out that not all is at it seems, after being first convinced that you're just helping out with some experiments, it soon becomes clear that that is not all your testers want of you. Your life is put into jeopardy quite a bit.

What do you like about it?
It has some really ingenious puzzles, especially after you get the 'portal gun', which is a gun that enables your character to create their own portals.

There's also some real sinister aspects that creep into the game, and into you, as you realise just how bad off the character is. The robotic voice that directs you is eerie, and when you finally meet its source, you need to be prepared to fend for your life.

Recommend?
If, for some reason you haven't played this game yet, go play it. It's not like the other games in The Orange Box as it's not about surviving with the use of guns, for here you only have your wits and the portal gun to defend you. The puzzles are fun, if sometimes frustrating, and it's a game that makes you 'think', in a nice way.

And if you have already played it, go and play it again, just do some of the challenging modes this time. Or at least to listen to the song that plays during the end credits.

Concluding notes
That's my final review for The Orange Box. If you want to read the other reviews see:

Half-Life 2 review
Half-Life 2: Episode 1 review
Getting stuck in Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Half-Life 2: Episode 2 review

I won't be reviewing Team Fortress 2, as I don't have an XBox Live Gold account, which is needed for the online play of this game, and this game is all pretty much all online play.

Related links
Official The Orange Box website
Official Valve website
Wiki entry on Portal

Thursday, 19 February 2009

I'm not going to criticise this anymore...

... until I've read it
Yes, I am going to get hold of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight series and read the damn novels before I try to criticise it any further.

How do you...
Yeah, yeah, OK so I've been doing a typical critic thing on a podcast I contribute to, and I've been criticising the movie and the novels without having properly experienced them in any way or form. Seeing how the movie isn't on at the cinema any more, I'll get hold of the novels first.

But you're not a teenager!
True, but it wasn't that long ago that I still was, and I do have experience in reading novels aimed at teenagers, and vampire fiction, so I'm used to it in general. Shouldn't be too hard to get through, well I hope it won't be.

Exactly why are you doing this?
It has become an aim on this podcast (see links below for site), for us to not talk about things that no one has seen, played or read. So I will take the fall, and I will read these novels. I'm taking one for the team.

Podcast?
Well, I say podcast, but it's not going to be for much sooner. We're working on turning it into a vodcast (having video instead of just sound), we have the equipment and editing facilites and the technical know how, and we've finally come up with a format as well.

Related links
Stephenie Meyer's official website on Twilight
Wiki entry on Twilight series
Caster's Kitchen podcasts on Cornish Sci-Fi Supplement

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Someone get me a copy

Pardon?
Philip K. Dick's last wife, Tessa Dick, has written and self-published a version of a novel that Dick was working on before his death. The novel is entitled The Owl in Daylight.

Full story from Guardian here.

Philip K. Dick fan then?
I do like his writing quite a bit. Out of the several science fiction writers I've had a gander at over the years, I find his fiction some of the best examples of the 'speculative fiction' side of science fiction. Sure, the scary political and war scenarios that exist in his short stories and novels may not noticeably exist, but there are definitely some similarities between his fictional worlds and our own. Think paranoia, wars no one really knows why they're fighting, and misuse of technology.

Plus his ponderings on the human condition that are present in his novels and short stories are pretty good as well.

So you want a copy of the book?
Well, yeah. However, I think it's going to be hard to get hold of a copy due to the thing being self-published. Oh well.

Related links
Guardian article
Official Philip K. Dick website
Wiki entry on Philip K Dick

Monday, 16 February 2009

Watchmen Countdown


The countdown has begun. Seriously this movie better be a decent adaptation of the graphic novel. I'll cry if it isn't.

Friday, 13 February 2009

He's Just Not That Into You

I went to see a 'romantic'/'chick flick' film
Yeah... I don't feel proud about it. Though they have been promoting this film for not falling into numerous clich├ęs chick flicks tend to tumble down into.

Did I actually like it?
Well, I found it a bit hard to get into, because I'm not used to dealing with films that have their story/stories arranged into a load of miniplots. OK, so I watched Burn After Reading last year, but the miniplots in that film had greater links between them.

Uh, what are 'miniplots'?
A film with miniplots, is a film that doesn't have a single main character, and a single main story to be told. Films structured out of miniplots tend to have one theme that all the stories within it follow, and most of the characters presented are of equal importance.

So, what's it about?
A load of people who just aren't that good at relationships with the opposite sex.

Would I recommend it?
It's sort of a date film, but not for couples who haven't been going out for very long... mostly due to the amount of break-ups that place in the film. If you want to have a romantic Valentine's Day with someone special, don't go and see this film, unless you want to see something that breaks with convention.

Oh, and supposedly it's an adaptation from a popular novel.

Related links
Offcial website
IMDB entry on He's Just Not That Into You

Batwoman is coming back!

Yes, she's coming back!
Batwoman is returning to Gotham in order to step into Batman's shoes, after his 'demise' last November.

Where'd you hear about this?

BBC item that was linked in a publishing newsletter that I receive. Read BBC article here.


Why are you excited?
Well, supposedly the character is a but more diverse than the usual comic book fodder so I'm taking an interest.

Related links
BBC Entertainment article
Official DC Universe website

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

People are finally speaking out?

Please say the end is nigh for boring books that teach kids how to read
Slowly a low rumbling noise over the issue is rolling out across the land. Take a look here for the dissent that is finally being heard.

I have something against books such as these
When I was in primary school, I learnt to read a bit from these sorts of books, but quickly found them to be boring and uninteresting. Only my grandparents and I had the foresight to let me read more mainstream novels for children, and so I ended up with a pretty advanced reading age when I left primary school.

However, I repeatedly had to fight for the right to read books that I wanted to read when I was in primary school. They relented a little when they saw that I was reading things such as Dinotopia, The Secret Garden and The Fox Busters.

So what do I say?
I would only use structured books to teach some of the basics of books and then just go on to more commercial books for children. The set learning books are truly boring and they do stop children from enjoying reading, and I should know, I was one of those children.

Related links
Times Online article 'Look out, Kipper! These books are deadly!'
The Oxford books in question
Wiki entry on Dinotopia
Wiki entry on The Secret Garden
Wiki entry on the author of The Fox Busters

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Half-Life 2: Episode 2

Y'know...
I don't always need catharsis, but dang, I do now.

I'm missing it already
So after one of the most gut wrenching cliff hangers I have ever witnessed a game ending on, I now find myself wanting to be playing the as-of-yet non-existent Half-Life 2: Episode 3.

Over the last month I have found myself become increasingly fond of Half-Life's main protagonist: Gordon Freeman. After all, everyone wants to play as the man who pretty much ends the human world, right?

Were there puzzles?
Well, this sequel seemed to be shorter than the previous games, and lacked puzzles of the same magnitude, but it was nice to play it just to see how the story developed.

So you got the rocket launcher?
Yes. A friend gave me a hint at how to get the thing. Launching Freeman into the air via the use of a grenade and a metal flap worked wonders.

Any more of the ORANGE BOX left?
I've got Portal to play next, but I'm not playing Team Fortress 2 as I lack a Gold Live account for my XBox 360.

Main criticism?
The way the game ended. You just shouldn't do that to a player! It's cruel and unusual. Obviously it left it right open for another sequel, but considering how long Valve (the developers) like to take when developing things... I'd be stupid to hold my breath.

Final words...
The game is worth at least one play through, but I would say that the original Half-Life 2 is the only one out of the recent (well, if you can call just over 4 years ago 'recent') games in the series that have any re-playability. The Orange Box is still an essential gaming purchase if you own a XBox 360 or a PC.

Related links
Official Orange Box website
Wikipedia entry for Half-Life 2
Valve's website

Monday, 9 February 2009

Chobits

You mentioned this last week?
Yes, I did. I've now read the whole manga, and was surprised by the last two volumes.

Surprised?
It's not everyday that you read a series that ties-in with one you had previously dismissed. Turns out the storyline of Chobits is in fact linked with another manga by Clamp, called Angelic Layer, which previously I had only read the first volume of and seen the first two episodes of the anime.

Back to the CHOBITS
There may be tonnes of pandering to a male audience in this manga, but the story is incredibly sweet and enduring. Hideki, a 19 year old cram school student and part time restaurant worker, finds what he believes is a persocom in the trash not far from where he lives. In Chobits persocoms are often human shaped robots that can compile everyday mundane computer tasks and far more advanced ones that lead to some people in the world of Chobits having them as companions.

Hideki is surprised by his luck, and takes the persocom home. Soon he learns that the persocom is not a normal persocom, and after naming her Chi, decides to find out more about her with the help of his friends.

Why should we read this?
It may not be the best manga in the world, but it's one of the nicest out there. The artwork is superb, and watching Hideki change into an adult over the course of the story is sweet. If you like reading a romance with a bit of science ficiton thrown in, it's also a good read.

Related links
Wikipedia entry for Chobits
Official Tokyo Pop Chobits site, need to be a registered user to navigate around
Wikipedia entry for Clamp

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Being stuck in the snow...

Where I live it rarely snows in the winter. When it does, it brings the entire county to its knees.

So, quite predictably I have spent the last two days stuck in a friend's house, after being marooned there on Monday afternoon. Other than coursework, what did I get up to?

Thankfully, myself and my other-half had the pleasure of staying with a couple equally into games, SF, fantasy, anime, manga, graphic novels, films and snowball fights. Thank goodness I had my laptop with me.
TWIN TOWN
A Welsh film I had never heard of until I got stuck
in my friend's house. Brought out in 1997, it has a very young Rhys Ifans in one of the main roles. There's a lot of sex, drugs and swearing for a film set in Swansea, but this is a pretty decent film. It follows two brothers (not actually twins), who constantly re-offend whilst on probation, and end-up rubbing one of the local runners of organised crime up the wrong way. Cue all hell being unleashed.
SPORE
Yep, I ended up on Spore on my laptop PC. Admittedly I haven't purchased the latest, and first, expansion pack for it, but I had another good play
through on it. The only problem is that I keep whimping out on playing the Space Stage, which is the final stage of the game.
ELDER SCROLLS III: MORROWIND (with expansion packs, on PC)
A Western RPG (role playing game) by Bethesda. It's set on an island, where you can pretty much roam wherever you want. Lots of magic and swords. I started a new game on it, but I didn't get very far as the game is huge. Some claim there's over 500 hours of play time on it with the expansion packs.
CHOBITS
This is a Japanese manga that was first published between 2001 to 2002. It was created by the gals at Clamp. Set in the near future it follows cram school student Hideki as he stubles across what he first thinks is an everyday android, left out in the trash, but soon turns out to be much more than that. This manga was Clamp's first one for guys (they normally write for girls), so there is a lot of 'fanservice', but it is a good read.

A full review will follow in the future.

Ehhh, what's manga?
Manga is a term derived from Japanese to classify comic-books created and originally published in Japan. They tend to be printed in black and white, and are drawin in a style that tends to be noticably different from Western comic-books and graphic novels. Quite often when they're published after being translated the layout remains the same, i.e. the panels are arranged from right to left and must be read as such.

When manga is published in Western territories it's usually released in volumes, unlike in Japan where most mangas are originally published in weekly and monthly publications containing a selection of different mangas, but these publications are targeted at different markets. Young and old, male and female: there's a huge market for manga in Japan.

Right, so what's 'fanservice'?
This is a term used to describe certain characteristics in both manga, anime (a manga that has been turned into an animated show or movie), and some Japanese computer games aimed at teenage boys, young men, and perhaps even older men. The characteristics mostly revolve around a noticeable focus on female characters' panties, busts and other noticeable sexual aspects around the female characters.

So, you weren't bored?
Certainly not.

Related links
IMDB entry for Twin Town
Official Spore web site
Elder Scrolls official web site
Wikipedia entry for Chobits