Friday, December 26, 2008

Steam Sale is On

The image says it all. After a nervous few days thinking that it might not be happening at all this year, the Steam holiday sale has finally started. There's at least 10% off everything and lots of even better bargains on offer. If I didn't have them already, I'd definitely grab Portal (€3.74) and Beyond Good & Evil (€3.74). The id Super Pack is also superb value at €34.99, but I was looking for something on the cheaper side and I wasn't disappointed. Here's what I picked up:

Ultimate Doom (€0.99)

I never owned a PC version of the original Doom. It was finally time to right that wrong. The cheesy midi in this is so much better than the serious ambient soundtrack of the PS1 version.

Doom II & Master Levels for Doom II (€0.99)

I've always loved Doom II, so I thought I'd check out the Master Levels add-on. To my surprise it came bundled with the original game.

Half-Life: Opposing Force (€0.99)
Half-Life: Blue Shift (€0.99)

Believe it or not, I only played Half-Life for the first time last year on the PS2. I really enjoyed it, even though the used disc I was playing was scratched to hell, leading to all sorts of bizarre audio glitches. I've wanted to pick up these two ever since. No time like the present.

BioShock (€4.99)

I've heard lots of good things about this and for a fiver how can I resist? I'm not sure if it'll run too well on my PC but I guess I'll find out when it finishes downloading. Sometime next week. :D

EDIT: It plays okay at the very lowest settings, but it ain't pretty. Time for a graphics card upgrade, I think.

So there you have it. Five games (and an add on pack) for €8.95. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some things to shoot.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Cooking: Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese

If you're looking for some comfort food for these miserable winter days you can't go wrong with a bit of macaroni and cheese. Let's make some then!


8oz macaroni
8oz cheddar cheese (EDIT: On second thought, this is an illegal amount of cheese to be adding to this. :D You can totally cut this by half or maybe even three quarters without drastically impacting the flavour)
16 fl oz milk
2 Tablespoons flour
2 Tablespoons butter

  1. Cook the macaroni and drain it with a strainer. Press down on the pasta a little with a fork to get out more water if necessary.
  2. Grate the cheese and set it aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to about 180ºC/350ºF
  4. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour, mixing it into a smooth paste.
  5. Cook the mix for a few minutes, stirring to keep it from burning.
  6. Add in the milk and stir until the flour and butter paste is dissolved.
  7. Cook the mixture until it thickens. keep stirring it in case it starts to burn.
  8. Now, add in the cheese and stir the mixture until it's melted.
  9. Mix the cheese mixture and macaroni together in a suitably big casserole dish.
  10. Put the cover on the casserole dish and pop it in the oven for 20 minutes.
  11. Eat it, dammit! (EDIT: Ugh.)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Indiecater Records

I always say that you find the neatest things on the internet by accident. Last week, for example, I stumbled upon Indiecater Records, a little record label releasing compilations and deleted indie albums on-line for insanely low prices (€3.50 for albums, €4.50 for compilations). Better still, you can have a listen to the albums in their entirety before you fork over anything, using a flash-based player on the site.

After checking out some tracks, I really took a shine to "Friday Night" by The Brilliant Trees and decided to grab it. The album came in a RAR file, which I thought was a bit unusual, at least for a legal download ;) . Inside you get the tracks as 256kbps DRM-free MP3s, plus JPEGs of the front, back and sleeve of the album. I'm not sure if the images are at a high enough resolution to print, but they're nice to have anyway. The album itself is great, sounding kind of like a cross between The Super Furry Animals and The Stone Roses. I especially like the opening track, "The Perfect Crime".

Overall, I'm really impressed by my first experience with the site and with such good value on offer, I'll definitely be back for more soon.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Cooking: The Ultimate Brownie


I saw some one making brownies on TV the other week. It looked fairly straightforward, so I decided to give it a go. A quick search on Google for a recipe threw up one for The Ultimate Brownie. Straight away I knew there could be no other even worth considering and I set about conjuring up this confection of the Gods.

It turns out the recipe was a bit too ultimate for the crappy mixer I was using. As soon as I added a second helping of flour to the mix, I had to shut if off after it coughed out a puff of smoke. With another one having exploded last Christmas, it's not been the best year for kitchen appliances. :D

Having recovered from all that, I was able to kick back and enjoy one of the brownies and it was pretty awesome. Rich and chocolatey with a nice fudgey texture, I should have known that it would come at a price. I'll miss you Sir Mixalot (the mixer..., not the butt guy).

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Video: Running World Rally Fever in DOSBox 0.72

While I was able to get every other DOS game I had running with DOSBox a few years ago, there was one that just flat out refused to co-operate. That was "World Rally Fever", the kart racer I was harping on about a few weeks ago. It really ticks me off when there's something I can't get working, no matter what I try. >:|

Thankfully those saviours of retro gaming, the DOSBox team managed implement the functionality needed to play the game earlier in the year. Joy unbounded, I could finally play it for five minutes before leaving it to gather dust on my shelf again for years. :D

At the moment the version of the game I have is only playable by using one of the in-development (CVS) builds of the emulator, though I imagine that the next version will be able to run it in the same way. While it's probably playable in many of the later CVS builds, the one I'm using is from 06/01/08 and it runs the game very well on my PC.

The other day someone on YouTube asked how I managed to get it running, so I decided that it might be a good idea to put together a bit of a tutorial on the process for anyone that's wondering how to do it.

I've put up the CVS build of DOSBox I'm using here:

You can download DOSBox from the DOSBox site.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Acceptable in the 80's

80s Collection

Despite my dislike of The Daily Mail's unique brand of journalism, I'm a total bargain whore and in September they were running a pretty sweet promotion. Presumably to boost readership, they were giving away a complete 80's studio album every day for two weeks. To get the set for free you had to redeem a coupon in the paper that day at one of two chains of stores. Seeing as that would be a lot of hassle and saddle me with more inky toilet paper than was strictly necessary, I opted to collect seven tokens and send away for the full set instead.

It finally arrived yesterday in a long card envelope. The CDs all came in their own card sleeves featuring the front and back artwork of the original release. The discs themselves were all kept to a uniform design though. There's no artwork on the label, just the artist and album name in a common font and various record label logos.

Content-wise, it's a pretty nice collection, featuring several big albums from the time and at €9 and seven copies of the paper (€7), it's only a fraction of what it would cost to get them even as a digital download. I've only had a listen to some of the acts that I'm more familiar with yet. I quite enjoyed Dare! and Colour by Numbers and True by Spandau Ballet definitely has its moments. Now, time to crank up some Bonnie Tyler for maximum gravely-voiced power balladry. (EDIT: Well, that sucked :D)

Trauma Center Get!

€20 off. Now that's more like it.

I picked up the first Trauma Center for the Wii last week and ever since I've been up to my elbows in blood and guts. I've also been playing lots of Trauma Center. (*groans*) I'm really liking being a pretend surgeon so far. It's really an arcade game at heart, demanding skill and speed and rewarding rankings based on your scores. I find being ranked a "Rookie Doctor" for an operation is a real motivation to go back and try again, especially when you've familiarised yourself with the procedure.

Trauma Center may look like a casual game, but there isn't any hand holding here. You'll be told what to do once and expected to remember it for the next operation. We're talking five or six steps here that often need to be executed with speed, multiple times per operation. And just when you think you its going to be all plain sailing the game will throw a sudden crisis at you mid-procedure to really test you. In these types of high pressure scenarios especially, you need the motion controls to work well. Thankfully, for the most part they're accurate and responsive but there is one notable exception.

Up to now, I've had a lot of trouble trying to push the defibrillator towards the screen. Slow movements are needed for the action to register. When you need to concentrate on getting the controls to work rather than on the game, the sense of immersion the motion controls give rapidly vanishes. I hope that Wii Motion Plus can fix problems like this.

The story here kind of surprised me. I'm actually finding pretty interesting in a melodramatic, soapy kind of way. So far there's been a few surprising little twists and turns and it's quite a bit darker in places than I would have expected.

Overall, aside from the disappointing defibrillator, it's been really good so far and well worth the now budget price.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Poptastic! - Now 36

Bonus points for identifying the wallpaper.

Okay, I'll admit it. I've kind of got a thing for late 90's pop music. I can't stand most of the chart music around at the moment, even turning on the radio these days is liable to make me violently nauseous :D. Back then though, the radio in my trusty old Sony Walkman provided soundtrack to my life. And what an awesome soundtrack it was...... Not really though, there was still a lot of shit, just less than at the moment.

Anyway, in a fit of nostalgia I picked up Now 44 on eBay earlier in the year and I've continued to grab one now and again since. I'm mostly interested in 35-50 (51 being the exact point where music turned to crap, of course), but I'd quite like to pick up some of the earlier ones at some point too

The latest one to pop through my letterbox is Now 36 from March 1997. Let's see what we've got on that then (full track listing here). It's gets off to a pretty dodgy start with the Spice Girl slush fest "Mama". That's thankfully followed by a bunch of great tunes from the likes of Texas, The Beautiful South and Robert Miles. Disc 1 ends with swirling torrent of crap, featuring a load of boy band dross and Peter Andre to boot.

While the first disc is mostly pop, the second straddles the rock and dance camps, featuring the likes of The Prodigy, Mansun, Sash!, Monaco and The Divine Comedy. There's a pretty forgettable song from Cast, plus a pointless cover of Waterloo Sunset and I can't stand "You've Got The Love" by The Source after being bombarded by the remix of it everywhere a few years ago. Overall though, the second disc is pretty damn solid throughout. There's even a *shocker* semi-tolerable song from Ant & Dec (that I would have probably ignored had I known it was them at first :D).

It's definitely one of the stronger entries in the series from that time, but be warned, it does tend to sell for more than some of the others from the same period.

Cooking: Seafood Chowder


I was in the supermarket today and they were selling cartons of fresh shellfish at half price, so I picked up two to make some chowder with. With no idea where to begin, I had a look on the internet. I found a nice, simple recipe on My Sister's Kitchen that didn't require a bajilion obscure ingredients to make. I think I put in a bit too much flour, but it was really nice all the same. You can check it out here.

Oh, and I pretty sure 1c = 1 cup, in case you're similarly befuddled by it.

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Cooking: Pumpkin Pie

Who ate all the pie? That's a damn good question...

So, you've carved out a Jack O' Lantern and you're wondering to do with all the leftover Pumpkin flesh. Well, you're going to make a pie of course, so put on your frilliest apron and get your ass into that kitchen. We're going baking!

Now, as I understand it, the kind of Pumpkins used at Halloween aren't typically the type used to make pies with. But I've used them several times and to my unrefined palette, the end result tastes pretty damn good. Let's do this thing.

First you'll want to make the pie crust. I make mine using this recipe at for pecan custard tart. Just ignore everything after the third paragraph, you don't need to pre bake the crust and you don't want it filled with pecans. :)

Next you need to cook and purée the pumpkin flesh. I think the easiest way to cook it is to put it in a microwavable bowl and put it at full power for 10-15 minutes or until it's soft. Then take the cooked pumpkin and process it in a food processor until it's smooth.

Now, with the crust and pumpkin ready, you can use this recipe for making and baking the pie (scroll down to the bottom of the page). It's from a daytime TV show here and I've used it for the last two years. It's nice and easy and it's turned out well for me thus far.

Enjoy your pie and a belated happy Halloween to all!

Jack O' Lantern 08


Check me out! It's the Jack O' Lantern I carved out this year. It's nothing too special, naturally, but it does remind me of John McCain from a certain angle. Or maybe I'm just going mad. :)

I hope you had a good Halloween. Me, I watched Blair Witch 2: Book of Shadows, which actually wasn't as bad as I thought it would be and Oldboy, which was awesome.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Cooking: Roasted Pears

Too much butter, maybe?

Fruit trees seem like a great idea until you have a mountain of the stuff that nobody's interested in touching. In an effort to chip away at this fruity Kilimanjaro, I had a look around on the net for some pear recipes and went for this one.

I didn't manage to get to the "crisp-tender" stage, but I don't think the type of pears we have are actually suitable for cooking. Still though, they were pretty nice, if a bit rich. Worth trying out, I'd say.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

World Rally Fever Video

World Rally Fever is a old DOS racing game from Team 17, the Worms guys. I picked it up as a blind buy in 2001 and I was presently surprised by it. It's not the greatest racing game in the world, but it's good fun and I have a soft spot for the soundtrack.

I was searching on YouTube a few weeks ago for some videos to add to the game's Listal page and I was disappointed to discover that there weren't any with the music intact. So, I went and made my own. I had to rip the music from the CD and add it to the video mind you, but it's now there for your enjoyment.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Metroid Prime 3: Mission Final

So, I finally finished Metroid Prime 3 last night. My stats aren't anything to write home about as you can see above, but I thought I'd capture the moment for posterity anyway. :) Overall, it was a really enjoyable experience, but not without it's faults. I might put together a review when I get the chance (EDIT 14/02/16: Yeah, how's that coming? :D), but for now let's bask in my achievement. *starts basking*

Bargin Hunting 23/10/08

GameStop Buys 23/10/08

I went into GameStop yesterday for a quick rummage around the used PS2 games. It may be predominantly made up of old sports games games now, but there's still a gem or two to uncover if you look around for long enough. I managed to grab the copy of Final Fantasy XII that I've had my eye on for a while for €14.99, as well as picking up Jak & Daxter for €3.99.

Seeing as I'm working on FFX-2 on an on/off basis at the moment, FF XII is going right on my backlog. I've been playing Jak & Daxter a bit though. So far, it looks to be a nice, solid platformer. The graphics still hold up well IMO, but I'm a bit let down by the music.

For me, the music in a platformer needs to be a big, bold expression of fun. What I've heard so far in J&D is a couple of inconsequential, almost ambient tunes. It's a little disappointing, but it's not going to put me off too much. I guess I'm just going to have to hum some tracks from Super Mario Galaxy while I play. :)

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Free Stuff: Music

epic photoshop is epic

The other night I was listening to some Joy Zipper and I started wondering if they had any free tracks on the net. So, off I went off to Google.The band's site was gone, seemingly replaced by their MySpace page (Ugh, why does every band's MySpace page look like shit?). I didn't manage to find anything there, but in my search, I came across one on Music. Now, I've used that site to get hold of freeware and such before but I never knew this section even existed.

There's actually quite a nice selection of artists up there, with most having at least one DRM-free MP3 to download. Some of them are alternate versions or remixes but there's also plenty of proper album tracks available. By searching around, I was able to grab free and legal tracks from the likes of Rilo Kiley, Antony and the Johnsons, Patrick Wolf, Crystal Castles, Jenny Lewis, Klaxons, Super Furry Animals, We are Scientists, You Say Party! We Say Die! and more.

I think it's fair to say that the downloads available do veer a little more towards indie and alternative music, rather than chart stuff. But if that's what you're into, hypothetical reader, it's well worth a look.

Zack & Wiki Get!

A €5 reduction is a sale? Surely you jest.

Well, Internet, I finally caved into your peer pressure and picked up a copy of Zack & Wiki for the Wii today. :) I might be a bit late to the party, but so far I'm really enjoying it. It's bright and colourful, with a funny, light-hearted story and just like they've all been saying, it puts the motion controls to pretty good use.

Like some of the Wii games I've played, it can take a while to get the motions the game requires exactly right. Once you do though, the sense of immersion is wonderful. Look! Look! My movements are effecting that thing on screen!

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

New Fragile Trailer

Out of the three current gen consoles, I only have a Wii. While the last two years have been a bit on the patchy side as far as third party games go, there's a massive influx of promising new stuff coming out of Japan for the console. One of the games I've been following is Fragile, a neat looking action RPG from Namco, set in a post apocalyptic future. I'm kind of worried that the combat will let it down but the atmosphere and soundtrack look like they're going to be something special. I just saw this trailer and thought I'd share it. Damn, just listen to that music! (Wait until around the 0:50 mark.)

And We Ride

So there I was, heating up some curry and I thought to myself "Hey, you have some things of marginal interest to share with the world. Why not start a blog?". And here it is. *fanfare*

What will be about? Anything random that takes my fancy. When will it be updated? Infrequently. In fact, I'm guessing updates will be the very definition of infrequent. :)

I'll see you guys later.