Saturday, September 17, 2016

Pick-ups: So, XVMarketplace Had a Liqudation Sale

I may have gone too far in a few places.

"XVWhat?", you ask. I hadn't heard of it either up until a few months ago. As far as I can tell, it was an arm of Xtra-vision* that dealt in ex-rental and used games and DVDs. Hearing that they were liquidating their stock of PS3 and 360 games for €3 a pop, I hopped on to see if they had anything decent left. I was not left wanting, ending up with close to a hundred freakin' games by the time I was done. (I haven't even counted them yet!) Let's take a look.

*Kind of the Irish answer to Blockbuster, and doing just about as well at the moment. Yikes.

Somewhere Bobby Kotick is crying into a big pile of money. (Not because of this. Just in general. :D) With even used CoD games going for up to €20 still, €3 each was a steal for these. Having just played through the first Modern Warfare (Only the most current, cutting edge, tripe A games for me. As always.), and having quite enjoyed it (I guess I would have preferred it to be a little more open and a little less "cinematic", but damn, did it play well.), I'm really looking forward to getting stuck into these. Gears 2 and 3 less so, but like I said back at E3 time, they were €3; I couldn't resist! Haze, much like Perfect Dark Zero back in the day, I just need to know. I was a big fan of Free Radical's stuff in the early days; I need to see how it all fell apart, or hey, how Haze is actually a totally under-appreciated FPS gem. (It's not though, is it?)

More top-quality man-holding-gun cover art. With the exception of Quantum of Solace, this is all pretty well-regarded stuff. I do have a weird fascination with Bond games, so I had to grab that one no matter what though. Sadly they didn't have Blood Stone (RIP., Bizzare Creations). Quite interested to check out the 2009 Wolfenstein here - a game that's very much been overshadowed by The New Order, I think, but I remember the Giant Bomb guys at least liking it a fair bit. I think it's got some open world stuff too; should be interesting. Finally, Shadows of the Damned. Love me some Suda 51, not sure why I never got around to buying this back when it came out.

Yes! Finally I can weigh in that still-contentious Infamous v. Prototype debate. (Not even sure if Sony and Activision care at this point though. :D) Fleshed out my last-gen Rockstar collection a bit here too. After loving Read Dead, and being super bummed with the direction they took GTA IV, and even the DLC packs in, I'm not sure what to expect out of L.A. Noire and Max Payne 3. (Is it just me that finds that that guy holding the gun on the cover super out of place, and hilarious for some reason?)

Deus Ex: Human Revolution, I hope is working, because it's one of the more scratched-up discs of the lot, but also one of the games I'm most looking forward to playing (even if I never did get around to firing up the original on Steam). Also, a bit of Clanc. Like I've probably mentioned before, I've always liked the idea of Splinter Cell; it's the strict stealth that's always put me off. My understanding is that Blacklist is old Splinter Cell for babies who like Assassin's Creed, so maybe this is finally the Splinter Cell for me. (To be fair, I still need to try Conviction though.)

I told you I went too far! Yep, I picked up some Kinect games. And I don't even own a Kinect. And I'm positive that I don't have enough room for one. AND why would I ever want to play Fable: the Journey in the first place!? I can't even refuse to sign the wall at this point, and just write "NOPE" across Peter Molenuux's big bald head. :D

I do own a Move though, and all the associated paraphernalia. Still trying to justify that purchase, I picked up The Shoot and Sports Champions. (Tragically, they were sold out of the Danny Trejo pièce de résistance, The Fight: Lights Out.) Hey, I'm no motion control hater, but the Move is also no Wii Remote. I've got it to work great as a pointer in the few light gun games they put out for it, but anything requiring other motions? Forget it. I don't know what I'm doing wrong, if anything, but I thought both Child of Eden and Kung Fu Rider controlled like trash with the Move.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Another Bloody Reblog: Pick-ups 12/02/16

Originally posted on JiliK's Tumblr.

Had a couple of hours to kill last week, so I ventured into a GameStop for the first time in ages. Expected to find a lot of last-gen stuff going for clearance prices. But nah, not so much. €11/€12 was about the norm. If you were after uDraw games for the Wii though, boy did they have you covered. Nevertheless, I turned the place over in search of bargains.

Pretty happy to have turned up Singularity and Syndicate for €3.99 each. Of the myriad of shooters last gen, these were two of the few that piqued my interest. Grabbed Resistance too for €1.99. Not expecting much from that, but eh, €1.99. And for ninety nine cents, I picked up a copy of the XLBA compilation disc, that I think shipped with units of the Xbox 360 Arcade unit. Not exactly a knock-out collection, Pac-Man CE aside, though I’ve always been a bit curious to try out Boom Boom Rocket. Plus, there’s a demo for Surf’s Up apparently, so that’ll be exciting.

From the small shelf of PSP stuff remaining (Pour one out for UMD Video, you guys. The only thing left: a sole copy of Family Guy: Blue Harvest. :D), I picked out Wipeout Pure for €1.99, and coming in at the same price, I rounded things off with Project Rub aka Feel the Magic: XY/XX. I actually had a DS on me for once, so I managed to play that for a bit afterwards while I continued to kill time. That game is gloriously weird. Where’s it been all my life?

Can you tell I’ve been on a bit of a Doctor Who kick lately? :D From a very rocky start with Series 1 of the new show a few years ago, I’ve come to really love Doctor Who. Now that I’ve finished Series 9 (A few dodgy episodes, but very strong overall, I though. Not too upset to see Clara go though. I just never liked her much. *runs*), I’m slowly making my way through the Third Doctor’s run, and it’s great. It’s not so easy to come by though. I’ve recorded every episode the Horror Channel have the rights to at the moment, but to watch the serials in order, I’ve had to resort to buying some of the DVDs, which do have some great extras, but cost-wise, they really start adding up after a while. To make things worse, a bunch of them seem to be out of print now. Come on BBC, you’ve been milking cash out of these discs for aeons. How about putting together some larger, more budget-friendly sets? And I mean a seasons’s worth of serials for a reasonable price, not two for a few pounds less.

Also decided that I’m going to finally take the plunge watch Torchwood, which now that it’s left Netflix, is only possible on disc it seems. Haven’t started it yet and I’m not quite sure what to expect, to be honest. I really like Captain Jack as a character, but generally, people seem kind of down on the show, aside from the two mini-series. No turning back now though.

DeviantArt Catch-up 14/09/16

by Jilik © Jan 15, 2016

by Jilik © Jan 19, 2016

Flame and Shadow
by Jilik © Jan 19, 2016

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Nintendo Direct 01/09/2016 (EU): Not-so-live Impressions

A Direct I was going to skip, but having glanced at some spoilers a few hours ago, hoo boy did it look like they had some surprises to drop in this one. :D Let's watch!

  • 00:31 - That's where you're wrong, Mr. Shibata. My interest in Pokémon Go remains precisely zero. To be honest, my interest in seeing more Sun and Moon is about the same. :D
  • 00:45 - Rowlet is still pretty dope though.
  • 00:52 - Ohhhh! Litten - a fire kitten. Man, they're killing it with the Pokémon names in this one.

  • 03:24 - Still just looks like another Pokemon game though. :P Oh okay, I guess the regional pokémon are kind of a neat idea. And I do like the look of this 3DS. Wait, "software not included"? Come on, Nintendo, don't Battlefield 1 out on us.

  • 03:49 - Okay, I know what this is from earlier. You think it's going to be yet another New Super Mario Bros., but...

  • 03:55 - ...whaaaaat!? It's Mario Maker for the 3DS.

  • 04:01 - Super Mario Maker for Nintendo 3DS eh? I didn't think they could top Super Smash Bros for Wii U/3DS as a clunky name, but with the addition of "Nintendo" here, I think they've done it.

  • 04:12 - Ugh, spring blocks on top of spring blocks. I'm having horrible Course World flashbacks. 
  • 04:26 - You know, I've barley touched the Nintendo-made courses in the Wii U version. The ones I've played were decent, but they just seem so plain compared to the user-created levels. Granted, there are lots of bad user-created levels, but even those can often be interesting. I always think they're kind of like stepping inside someone else's brain. :D
  • 04:54 - Hold up. You can't search for a level with its Course ID in this version? Whoa! I presume the Mario Maker Bookmark site won't work either then. Damn. That's a huge part of the game to leave out. That'll stop anyone from loading up any specific level they want to check out - from forum threads, videos, Reddit, Twitch, whatever. They'll be left with only the randomness of the 100 Mario Challenge and the ever mysterious whims of the Recommended Courses. That's a genuine bummer.
  • 05:05 - Good to hear that every existing course will be available in this version at least (even if no one will ever find them).

  • 05:10 - I guess this version will feature the full-fledged level creation mode though. I'm looking to see if there any new tools in the menu here. Hm, don't think so, but they have broken out some of the things that you need to shake other items to get and given them their own slots, like the key and the skewer, and that weird skinny mushroom. Wouldn't be a bad update for the Wii U version, Nintendo. The Wii U set-up has gotten kind of weird and hard to keep track of at this stage.
  • 05:24 - No mystery mushroom? You know what, forget what I said earlier, this is clearly best version of Super Mario Maker. :D

  • 05:33 - Was this weird pigeon in the Wii U version? I wouldn't know, having no need to play through the tutorial. La-de-dah.

  • 06:00 - Oh, for fuck's sake, Nintendo. You can't even upload courses from this version!? :D No one's building close-knit Mario Maker communities via wireless; certainly not outside Japan. So this version of Mario Maker is basically a glorified 100 Mario Challenge app then? Boy, they better not be charging full price for this.

  • 06:51 - A new mode in Mario Party where everyone can play as a toad? Finally. I can't complain too much about this Mario Party though, not when they're using it as an excuse to release those awesome Mario series amiibos in a couple of months. Pre-orders down already? You bet.
  • 07:07 - Action-packed mini-games. That'll be a change for the series. :D

  • 08:19 - Fuck yes, look at that Diddy Kong amiibo! So, I have him, Daisy and Waluigi pre-ordered. DK and Wario, I don't think'll be  that hard to find. Boo, I'm still not sold on; maybe if there's a good deal on that one later on.

  • 08:23 - Who am I kidding? I'm definitely getting the Boo amiibo :D. I might still wait for a deal though. Amiibos don't seem to be hot ticket item they used to be. I was surprised to see a bunch of them being sold by Amazon for under £5 back in July.

And seeing quickly led to buying.

  • 09:14 - They're doing a free multiplayer client/single player demo for this? Goodness knows why, but I kind of want to give this a download.

  • 09:34 - Zelda? They're probably not going to announce the new orchestra CD or art book on this Direct, I'd imagine. Amiibos maybe?
  • 09:40 - No, wait. It's totally just going to be freakin' Hyrule Warriors Legends DLC, isn't it? :D

  • 09:37 - Oh. I guess this is the art book. Looking good. Meanwhile at the Metroid 30th anniversary: *tumbleweeds*

  • 10:06 - Fucking wait, WHAT?! Holy shit! YES! Finally!!! Zelda amiibos! Let's see what we have here. Pixel Link looks a bit derpy, but I'll have to pick him up, if only to put next to pixel Mario. OoT Link looks great. Wind Waker Link looks good; I kind of prefer the Smash Bros. one I already have though. Toon Zelda, I'm excited to finally have on the way, but - and this may be the saddest thing I've ever uttered - I'm a bit disappointed with her pose; I would have preferred her firing a light arrow, maybe. Still, there's no way I'm not putting down a pre-order for her as soon as possible. Love the gold bases too.
  • 10:16 - They'll work with Breath of the Wild? I wonder if any of them will unlock companion characters, like the Wolf Link amiibo. Running around with pixel Link as a companion would be... weird. :D Speaking of Breath of the Wild, finally saw Princess Mononoke last week - awesome movie, and damn, is there a bunch of stuff Nintendo cribbed from it in Breath of the Wild. Most surprisingly, the BotW trailer music that I liked so much back at E3. It's very close to some parts of the Mononoke score, like cease and desist close. Hopefully no one important notices. :D

  • 10:33 - Speaking of scores... I'd love to go see Symphony of the Goddesses, but I'd be stunned if it ever makes it here. Like I mentioned before though, at least we have another compilation to look forward to. The one that came bundled with Skyward Sword was great.

  • 10:44 - Wow, speak of the devil. :D Still have my copy from 2011 though. Not one of my favourites to be honest. Not because of the motion controls though, which I think work pretty well for the most part. It was the amount of filler and the lack of a propper overworld that didn't do it for me.

  • 10:55 - Huh? Are they going to put out the Famicom Disk System version of Zelda on the Virtual Console? That'd be kind of neat. Hey, they could even pull off the microphone stuff with the Wii U gamepad now.

  • 11:14 - No, it was just a lead-in to the NES Classic Mini. Pre-order down already? Oh, you bet. :D I probably need this even less than the amiibos though. It's mostly the size, the rad box design and the NES classic controller that are selling me on it so far. I think I have most of the games on it in some form already. I didn't even wait for a confirmation that they're not crappy PAL versions that look as bad as NES games on the Wii U. Hopefully not.

  • 12:05 - Pretty sure this is the trailer that's already been released for the NES Classic. "Do you remember the good old days?" Sure - playing all these games in Nesticle in the year 2000 while listening to trance and freakin' nu-metal. Your 80's, CRT-fuelled nostalgia holds no power over me, Nintendo.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Gardening with JiliK - Let's Grow All the Things Edition

Having now uh, thoroughly mastered the art of herb growing, clearly the next step in my gardening adventure was to move outdoors to try my hand at growing pretty much every vegetable I could think of. With only a few herb seedlings under my belt now, zero other experience and very little in the way of research, what could possibly go wrong?

So this is the first photo I have of my humble vegetable plot, from the 4th of May 2014: about two weeks after I'd prepared the spot here and sown a bunch of different vegetable seeds that I'd bought on the internet: kale, chard, lettuce, carrots, turnips, beans, radishes, beetroot, spinach - several of which I'd never eaten before, let alone grown.

This maybe wasn't the best spot for a garden though. The soil here was riddled with stones and there were some apple tree roots I had to work around, but I prepared it as best I could, single digging the drills, sprinkling in some vegetable fertiliser and taking out as many of the bigger stones as I could. At least at this early stage, my efforts looked to be paying off as the first seedlings started appearing:

Well, along with some weeds. This is the chard.

And these are some turnips, I think. I cobbled together some wire brackets and covered them with netting after noticing some feline interference in the plot.

If you look closely, you might be able to spot a possible suspect now.:D

As well as growing some general veggies out here, I decided to have a go at growing some pumpkins and courgettes in couple of drills a few feet away.

These guys, I'd started off in a propagator on my windowsill. Maybe it was just because I had more of an idea of what I was doing now, but they proved much easier to get growing than the herbs earlier in the year, and at this point, they had just outgrown the propagator. I wasn't too hopeful that we'd get a decent enough summer to grow either of these, but hey, you never know.

But wait, there's more. I also wanted to try growing a few tomatoes. Pretty sure that those needed a warmer environment than your typical Irish summer, I got myself this little plastic growhouse - products that all seem to have the worst reviews imaginable on the internet. After a lot of searching around, I eventually went for a Gardman Walk-in Greenhouse, solely because that sounded like a brand I'd heard of before. :D It turned out to be pretty sturdy though, and I'm still using it, though I do put it away into a shed over the winter. Otherwise, with some of the storms we've had lately, I'm sure it'd be a crumpled ball of metal piping by now.

Inside the growhouse are a few already biggish cherry tomato plants. These, I got as super frail little things in Aldi, I guess in February. I'd been growing them since then on a windowsill, eventually moving them in here when they got too big.

The same variety, but grown from seed this time, a year later. You get the idea. :D

These plants had actually gotten so big now that I could only fit three of the six plants I had inside the growhouse. The rest I had to leave to take their chances with the elements outside. We had had a pretty great run of weather up to this point though, so those ones were doing just fine at the moment.

BUT WAIT! There's more!. Also in Aldi, I picked up a pack of four bare root asparagus plants. These you needed to bury in a trench that you gradually filled in with soil as they grow (That's what I picked up from the instructions anyway.). These guys were having some trouble in that department though, again thanks to those pesky cats.

In an effort to keep their treacherous paws away from the the still fragile stems, I put these segments I'd cut out of a plastic bottle around them, and for extra protection, I covered the whole trench with a bit of netting.

It's the 15th of June now and things are actually coming along pretty well. In the leftmost drill,  the beans are up. Moving over to the right, we've got some mixed lettuce, some nice-looking radishes and some sturdy-looking turnips. In the middle drill, both the chard and kale are coming along, with some more turnips at the back. We've got a few carrots in the next drill (Not many though. Even now, I'm pretty sure that they were starting to get attacked by carrot rust fly and other bug-like bastards :D). Also in that drill: some spinach, a few beetroots and what I thought was probably the fennel I sowed, but was actually just a big weed. In the fifth drill, that I'd added on since the last picture, you can see some more radishes just coming up here. A little later I'd set some more carrots in the front of that drill and some more lettuce and spinach in the back.

Over in courgette town, things have been a little shaky. Some pretty full-on bouts of wind during May trashed several of the plants I'd planted here a few weeks ago. I had to get a few more going in the propagator to put in their place. The one on the bottom left is one of the originals though and it's getting pretty well-established now.

The plant second up on the right here is a actually a butternut squash. I hadn't really planned on setting any of those (I mean, they are just kind of mini pumpkins. Right?), but someone got me a pack of seeds so I thought I'd give them a go.

Checking back with the asparagus: I've successfully managed to keep the cats out long enough to fill in the trench now, probably a bit too quickly, but whatever. :D The asparagus ferns have grown tall enough  that I've had to give them support with some way too short bits of bamboo I had left over from propping up my tomato plants. Would I get any edible asparagus out of this little plot? It would be almost a year before I'd find out. (But the answer is yes. Not much, but yes.)

It's Mid-July, and it's a big day: my first courgette! Thankfully, the last month had been relatively calm. My courgettes and pumpkins are all well-established now, which was a big relief after the devastation back in May, but it also meant that things were starting to get a little cosy in the confined space that I was growing them in, between a hedge and some apple trees.

Apple trees that my pumpkin plants were rapidly advancing towards. Yeah, I'm sure this won't be a problem. :D

It's not super-easy to make out here, but you can just about see that the bottom courgette plant has gotten a bit of a ravaging from insects here. This became more and more of a problem around now, to the point where I had to spray the leaves a few times with an organic insecticide. Not something I was super keen on, but I really had no choice if I wanted to keep the plants in one piece. Those freakin' bugs can tear through these leaves like nobody's business.

Speaking of firsts, my first tomato was also ripening; on one of the plants I had to leave outside, no less, which should tell you just how nice the weather had been.

Inside the growhouse, no doubt helped by all the sunshine and some regular tomato feed, things have gotten a little out of hand. :D I'm sure there was some pruning I was supposed to do that I wasn't aware of, but the tomato plants in here have now sky-rocketed to the roof of the growhouse. I didn't really want to trim them though because even high up on all the stems there were flowers which, hey, might set into more tomatoes.

Over on the right, occupying the shelf that was now of very limited use thanks to the giant tomato plants. were a few marigolds that I'd bought, which I'd read were good at deterring insects that attack tomato plants. Here's hoping.

Underneath those were a few pepper plants I'd managed to grow in here. The leaves were a bit chewed up, but still. Marigolds: not so great for deterring slugs. :)

Over in the the veggie drills, things are, generally, ticking over nicely. There's been a big casualty since the last pic here though. The turnips are gone! I don't know if I sowed the seeds too early or what, but all of them bolted. New turnip seeds started forming at the top of each stem, while the turnips themselves got hard to the point of being inedible; not that I didn't try cooking them, but they weren't good.

Everything else is doing okay though. At this point, I'd already started using the chard (Check out the size of that chard in the top right!) and the lettuce. Some of the kale is looking a bit weedy here, but I'd imagine that was a result of the turnip leaves blocking the sunlight out from it.

A little further down, the beans are doing well.

And moving left up along the drills, my mini sweetcorn is up. No doubt thanks to the exceptionally hot Summer that pretty much had me watering everything, every day now. That was a bit more than I'd bargained for, to be honest, but I was managing. Just about.

That long scraggly plant behind the sweetcorn is part of the original batch of spinach I'd sowed. Clearly not having read the seed instructions carefully enough, I was disappointed to find that the leaves in this variety of spinach were pretty tiny. To try to get a bit more yield from these plants I left them grow as long as I could which at least resulted in a lot of small spinach leaves, though the wind played havoc with them whenever it appeared, so bamboo canes had to be employed once again.

It's the 8th of August now, and the pumpkins have finally arrived, this being the biggest of the bunch.

Also, the pumpkin plants themselves...

...have shown something of a growth spurt. I suppose they were all overdue for some type of pruning at this point, but I was so excited to finally have some pumpkins going that I didn't want to do anything to jeopardise them, so I just left the plants basically overrun the place.

Yeah. I'm not kidding. :D

Aside from the threat of pumpkin assimilation though, everything else is doing pretty well.

In the last month, the kale has filled in nicely,

the first beans have been ready for harvesting,...

...and the sweetcorn has been growing like crazy. I don't entirely recall what was up with the small one in the middle though. I think I must have planted one later than the others to replace a damaged one maybe.

On the other hand, my beetroot doesn't really seem to be thriving,

and my carrots - those have unfortunately been laid waste to by carrot rust fly, leaving, I'd say, only about fifth of the ones I planted in tact. The worst thing about this is that I had a pack of seeds for a carrot fly resistant variety (which I planted last year and they totally did the trick), but I opted to sow the bag of funky mixed colour carrots instead. I imagine those would have been fine though if I'd sprayed those little orange bastards as soon as I spotted them, but I didn't.

Over in courgette land, the plants are in full flow now. Thanks to the insecticide, the bugs are no longer a problem. Though I'm pretty sure it was around this time that I was starting to have some trouble with mould forming on the leaves. I managed to find this recipe for a homebrewed spray that worked wonders for that though. I'm pretty sure this pic was taken only a few days after applying it.

Insect damage from last month: yes, but the mould is gone. (Also, my sweet gardening Nikes.)

The courgettes themselves are reaching harvesting size now. Actually, this one's even a bit bigger than the size I harvest them at now, which is at about a foot long. At that size, at least with this variety (Verde Di Milano), you've got plenty of courgette to play around with, but the skin isn't tough enough yet that to have to remove it, and the seeds inside have only started forming so you don't need to worry about those either. Just slice it up and get some pickles or roast veggies going, or make a nice courgette and bacon soup (recipe incoming). Yum.