Sunday, December 13, 2009

deviantART Update: Evil Glow

As well as adding a couple of pictures in the post below to my deviantART gallery today, I also put up this. It's one of the crappy jack-o'-lantern photos I took 2007, screwed around with a bit in Paint Shop Pro.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Christmas Decorations: '08 Style

Man, I really didn't pick the best time to start that weekly gaming thing, partially because it's almost Christmas and, much to my dismay, those decorations had to go up sometime. This does, however, give me the perfect excuse to post a few pics I took of my jolified gaming room last year, like this one:

Christmas Decorations '08 - Bookshelf

First up is this finely-crafted, flat-pack bookshelf, which plays host to my (boxed) game collection circa January 2009, two Halloween figures still full of candy from 2007, some VHS tapes, The Bible Part 3 and an old copy of Arcade I'd bought on eBay earlier in the month. What better way to enhance this fine collection of stuff than by Sellotaping a set of LED lights to it?

Christmas Decorations '08- Bookshelf in the Dark

Rave time!

Christmas Decorations '08 - TV

Tinsel - a tasteful addition to any entertainment cabinet. It's my TV, complete with a variety of consoles. Outside we have some clear fairy lights attached to a wall via a creeping cotoneaster and on the window there's a lighting Merry Christmas sign.

Christmas Decorations '08 - Window

A close-up of the sign and the lights outside.

Christmas Decorations '08 - Santa

And finally, it's another window-mounted decoration from a different room. This one's Santa sitting on the moon and why wouldn't he?

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

This Week I 'Ave Been Mostly Playing...



You know, this would have worked so much better if I had posted this on Sunday. Well anyway, this is a new bit I'm hoping to do weekly (let's see how long that lasts EDIT: Jeez, one week. Surely a new low. :D), where I talk what I've been playing recently, so let's get to it.

With New Super Mario Bros. hopefully arriving on Friday (thanks to a super-late pre-order), I was pretty sure I wouldn't have time for many other games for a while after I got stuck into it, so I made a special effort to finish off as many old games first including:

ArtStyle: Cubello (WiiWare)

I'd already beaten seven or eight levels in this a few weeks ago, certainly enough to realise that the game's robot announcer was annoying the shit out of me; however there were still about 22 levels to go, so I muted that fucker, fired up a few podcasts and got going.

This is actually a great game to play while you're listening to something else - it's mindless, but fun and you're really not missing out on much by not being able to hear the sound. In it, you use the Wiimote to launch coloured blocks at a rotating structure of blocks; Match four blocks and they disappear, at which point you get four more random coloured blocks to launch. The aim of each level is to eliminate every block until all that's left is the big centre block, which I'm assuming is the "cubello" (Hey, it's not like I read the instructions or anything).

After a couple of nights, I managed to make my way to the end of the game. There were a few nasty levels in there, but they were mostly pretty manageable and as I played through it, I began to notice that the levels were usually set up so a certain strategy could be used to clear away the structure more efficiently, you just needed to keep your eyes open. One thing that really annoyed me, though, was that after you fail a level, the remaining mass of blocks come and bump into your TV screen. To me, it felt like a subtly obnoxious way calling you an idiot.

The Ultimate Doom (PC)

This wasn't even one of the games I was trying to finish last week, but I randomly started playing in the middle of the week and kept going to very end. I can't say it was because the game had me gripped though; If anything, I just wanted to get it out of the way now that I was back playing it again. I really loved Doom II back when I first played it in '98 and while I enjoyed the action just as much here, the endless wandering around, searching for which arbitrary door was opened by the switch I just activated drove me insane. Maybe I'm just not as patient now; maybe the level design just isn't as tight here. Either way, I was damn glad to see off that last Spiderdemon and leave Hell behind.

New Super Mario Bros. (Wii)

NSMBW actually arrived on Thursday, a full day early in all it's awesome, red-cased glory. I've been enjoying the hell out of it of far and I'm kind of surprised to see that it actually does pack a decent challenge, especially when it comes to grabbing the star coins in each level, which can sometimes require Super Mario World levels of platforming ingenuity. The level of fan service and affection for past Mario outings here is also really impressive; You can't help but smile when yet another seemingly forgotten enemy/obstacle/sound effect pops up and takes you right back to your misspent childhood, sitting in front of a TV, control pad in hand.

The music was the thing I was most worried about before the game landed on my doorstep. There's been so much fantastic music featured in the old games, but the little snatches of the soundtrack I heard in trailers and such didn't do much for me. While I still not in love with some of the more prominent tunes in the game, there's still a lot of great music in here, like the underwater theme, which is just godly.

I'm a bit disappointed by the boss fights so far though. While I'm happy to see the Koopa Kids back, the battles aren't too far removed from the ones you remember from the old days - stomp times three and you're done. With Kamek showing up to spruce things up before the final boss battle in each world, I kind of expect Yoshi's Island-kill-a-frog-from-the-inside levels of insanity, not minor alterations to the basic fight you just had a few levels ago.

And while I'm bitching, why can't Mario throw shells up any more? It was an awesome method of dealing with those pesky lakitus. I guess it's compensated by the fact that Yoshi can now swallow and throw back frikkin' hammers, but only just. :D

Overlord (PC)

After buying Overlord and its expansion for €4 the weekend before last, I finally finished downloading it last Saturday (Oh, the joys of a 1 Meg connection). I only wanted to see if it was working, but I ended up spending a good two hours playing. Sadly, my current hardware was only to play it with the graphics turned down significantly, but it ran pretty smoothly and I've had a lot of fun with it so far.

The game's very much like Pikmin, where you control a Sauron-style overlord who rolls around with his posse of minions, who you can command to do your bidding, well to a point anyway. You can target something, dispatch your minions and they'll kill or destroy the target and bring you back the spoils which can be gold, health or mana. You can also remotely control the movement of your minions by holding down the left and right mouse buttons and moving the mouse around to steer them. It's as clunky as it sounds, but it can be useful, especially for areas you can't reach.

In the game, I've decided to be a good guy, at least for the moment, so I'm leaving the townspeople alone and dealing with the evil halflings that are running amok instead. The last mission I did was retrieving the humans' stolen food food from a sizeable hobbit hole, er, I mean halfling dwelling. Basically, this consisted of killing every halfling in sight and just because I'm a dick, laying waste to anything that would break in there, which was pretty much everything.

Animal Crossing (Gamecube)

I decided to pay a visit to my long-abandoned town in the Cube version of Animal Crossing on Sunday, not least because there's still a bunch of NES games in it that I never unlocked. Since I started playing Let's Go to the City earlier in the year, I had been under the impression that very little had changed graphically between the two, but on my return to Wiiville (I got AC in late 2006, I was pretty excited), I was taken aback by how bad everything looked. I'd forgotten the blocky characters, blurry textures and low-res menus. I guess the Wii version has something going for it after all. :D

Well, not much had changed in the 99 weeks since I last showed my face in Wiiville, aside from a generous helping of weeds and some pissed off animals. I bought a bunch of stuff in Nookingtons to get raffle tickets and tried my luck at the fishing tourney, but none of my catches measured up. After that, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to time travel to the end of the month to check if there as actually a NES game on offer in Nook's end-of month raffle at all. There wasn't, which gives me the feeling it may be another 99 weeks until I check back again. :D

Kururin Squash! (Gamecube)

After I had finished with Animal Crossing on Sunday, I decided to whip out my copy of this and try to get past the level in World 5 I'd been stuck on for months. I could finally see that my problem was trying to collect as many coins in the level as possible, so I decided to just ignore the coins and make a beeline to the goal. Navigating my way through the narrow paths and tricky obstacles was no mean feat, but I finally cracked it after several attempts and moved onto the World 5 boss. As far as I could tell it was the main bad guy and from what I remember (it's been a while), I fought him a bunch of times before, but the cut scene after seemed to have an air of finality about it and sure enough, the credits rolled directly after it - another game down and I didn't even know I was near the end.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Cooking: Pear Pie

Time for pie!

If there was one thing I was determined to make with our pears this year, it was a pear pie. Maybe that was just because I'm a Pushing Daisies fanboy (*sob*), but with the latest Bombcast playing on my MP3 player, make one I did, and it turned out great, even without the mood-enhancing homoeopathic drugs. :D

I used the pie recipe here and I got a recipe for the crust from here. For some reason, pie dishes seem pretty hard to come by locally, so I busted out a new 9-inch silicon baking tin instead. It's not too deep, so it wasn't a bad substitute. I stuck fairly close to the recipe , but I didn't have any lemons at hand, so the peel wasn't an option and reading over it again, I see that I didn't dot the top of the pie with butter either (doh!). It turned out really well either way with a crumbly, buttery crust and a lovely, surypy, fruity filling. Damn, I'm hungry again now.

How Not to Photograph a Jack O' Lantern

How Not to Photograph a Jack O' Lantern
While we're still on the subject of jack o' lanterns, here's a selection of my botched attempts to take a decent photograph of one two years ago. I was making do with a crappy Vivitar camera at the time, which was always terrible in low light situations. When I couldn't take a decent shot with that, I resorted to the camera in my mobile phone. Why do you need to know any of this information? I have no idea. :D

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Jack-O'-Lantern Time

It's that time of year again, or at least it was a few days ago. Here's my latest attempt at pumpkin carving. I was sort of making the design up as I went along and you can really tell. :D Hope everyone had a fun Halloween!

Jack-O'-Lantern 09 C

Jack-O'-Lantern 09 B

Jack-O'-Lantern 09 A

Cooking: Pear Crumble

Pear Crumble

Autumn's just passed which means the mounds of apples and pears from the fruit trees outside are just about gone. This year I thought I'd try a few different things with the pears, beginning with a pear crumble. I got the recipe here, which usefully allows you to scale up or down the quantity of ingredients according to the number of servings you want. I scaled it up to four servings, grabbed some pears and got cracking on it.

I cut up eight smallish pears, which I thought would be about the same as six regular ones, put them in a casserole dish and mixed in the lemon juice. After I'd made the crumble (without nuts, which I didn't have :D), it was pretty clear that the crumble mix wouldn't even cover the pears fully, so I doubled the amount of everything in it. Well, except for the spices, I just put in a teaspoon of each in total. Once I had the crumble on, I popped the dish in the oven and hoped for the best.

The first batch was really tasty, but I thought the crumble was a bit too sweet, so I reduced the amount of sugar to half from then on. I've also tried adding some vanilla to the pears instead of the lemon juice, which was quite nice. I've yet to try adding the nuts back in, but I'm kind of sceptical about them adding much to the dish.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

deviantArt Update #2

Another DA upload. This time it's a new wallpaper I inadvertently made while messing around with an image in Paint Shop Pro.

Monday, October 19, 2009

deviantART Update

As well as adding the Arty Screensaver to my DA Gallery today, I put up this little guy, who I doodled in MS Paint with just the Airbrush tool around Christmas 2006. I've been trying to do something with him for a long time, but I finally gave up and decided to put up the original image. He kind of reminds me of a lecturer I had at the time actually. :D

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Arty Screensaver



TL;DR Version: I've remade a screensaver from my old site, get it here.

Back in the Spring of 2000 I was in the middle of finishing up my Junior Cert. art project. The theme I'd picked for it was "Summer Memories", so in the run-up to doing the final painting, graphic design, 3D and craft pieces I was cranking out practice drawings and paintings of flowers, butterflies and the like as well as design ideas for my final project submissions.

In the Summer of that year I took some of those drawings (and some other stuff) and made them into a little screen saver. I called it the Artwork Screensaver and uploaded it to my old web site on the soon-to-be-closed-down GeoCities.

A couple of months ago, I set about remaking that screensaver with higher resolution images and lots of new screens. I put the finishing touches to it a few weeks ago and popped it up on my web site, where you can grab it, should you feel the need to do so.

After I'd finished, I thought it would a nice idea to go through the saver screen by screen and give a little background on the bits and pieces of feeble artwork it contained. And that's exactly what we're going to do. Hey, come back!



Screen 1: How abstract. This comes from a not-so-great design I entered in Telecom Eireann's Design a CallCard competition in 1997, in which I was one of many, many runners up. Seriously, there were about seven in our school alone. For the original screensaver I scanned in a photocopy of the design (TE kept the original), cropped it to this and messed about with the image a bit in a program called Repligator, I think.



Screen 2: Two flowers I drew one day at home while I was messing around with some pastels. I'm pretty sure I was finished with the whole art project at that stage, so I guess these were done on my own time.



Screen 3:
A little drawing I did sometime early in 2000. After having seen this documentary on a modern artist one night, I decided that anyone could crank out the type of stuff he was doing. Within the next few days I set out to draw something as arty and pretentious as possible and this was what I came up with. I really liked the drawing so it got included as the third screen in my super-pretentious Artwork Screensaver. I think they call that "hypocrisy"

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Recent Game Pickups

Game Pick-ups August 09

It's been ages since I posted anything, so I thought I'd talk about a few of the games I picked up recently. Well, not about Pikmin 2 or The Munchables. They were pretty sweet deals at €23 and €18 respectively, but I just want to knuckle down and finish Super Mario RPG on the VC before I move on to anything else on the Wii. Just one more star to go!

Frequency:

I was in a local record shop to grab some headphones last week and I went to check out their small game section at the back. Sitting on the shelf was Frequency, Harmonix's first PS2 effort and a pretty damn expensive game to get hold of now, new for €9.99.

I really enjoyed Amplitude. It made you feel like you like you were mucking about on a mixing desk, building songs up from their basic components. I thought was always was interesting to hear what different combinations of those components sounded like.
Some of the later songs required crazy amounts of dexterity, but hitting the right combination of buttons at the right time and activating the track you were on was always extremely satisfying.

Frequency seems to pretty much the same as it's sequel, from what I've played. The graphics aren't quite as flashy and the track listing seems a bit more obscure, but I'm sure that I'll enjoy it equally.

Sonic Mega Collection Plus

While Sonic Mega Collection on the Cube is great, there is one major drawback. The lack of save states makes it pretty tough for a lazy game such as myself to beat any the games on it. Screw practising, I prefer to cheat my way to success. Thankfully, you can save away in the PS2/Xbox versions, so after spotting it in GameStop, I decided to double dip.

Just like the Cube version, this includes with all the major Sonic games from the Mega Drive, but you also get a bunch of (fairly ropey) Game Gear efforts. From what I've seen so far, there doesn't seem to be any 60Hz option, which is a big disappointment if true. On the bright side though, you can save anywhere you like by bringing up a menu with the L2 button. The only problem with that is that it takes forever for the game to save or load. A temporary quick save like in the PS2 version of Half-Life would have been a welcome inclusion, but it's better than nothing guess. Maybe I'll finally be able to get past the fucking Labyrinth Zone now. :D

Castlevania & Contra

Another compilation and one I had forgotten about until pretty recently. I already had the original Castlevania on the VC, but I didn't have the rest of the games here and with the cheap price it was going for on eBay, I decided to grab a copy.

What you're getting here are the three NES Castlevanias plus the NES versions of Contra and Super C, complete with customisable controls and save states. I was kind of worried that the game mightn't agree with Windows XP, but it worked fine and the emulation seems pretty good from what I've played.

The only problem I have is that in order to save or load, just like Sonic Mega Collection, you have to go into a menu to do it, there's no way to quick save or load by pressing certain keys. I mean, the time it takes to save or load a game on a PC is minimal and you've been able to do this in PC emulators for ages, so why not include it here? I guess I'll have to soldier on without it, but it would have been nice to have the option to use it for some of the more bastard-hard sections of the games. Medusa heads, I'm looking at you.

Perfect Dark Zero

I'm planning on picking up a 360 soon, so I decided to have a gander around the used section at GameStop to see if I could find anything interesting. Prefect Dark Zero immediately caught my eye. While I know it's not the greatest of games, I sunk a hell of a lot of time into Perfect Dark in the N64 days and I really wanted to check this out. And hey, it comes with a fake DataDyne security card thing. That's got to be worth €13 all on it's own.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Not-so-live Blogging Nintendo's E3 Conference



It's E3 once again and today was Nintendo's turn in the spotlight. I was going to take the massively original step of giving my impressions on Twitter as the inevitable train wreck unfolded. I ended up missing it when it was on live, but luckily for you, I opened up a Notepad window and jotted down my impressions as I watched it two hours later. Will we find out more about Cammie's son, will Ravi Drums return and most importantly, will Nintendo be bringing any smiles to this gamer's face. If you want to follow along, you can watch the conference here.

Let the madness begin...

  • 10:03:11AM And we're off. Look at how happy all those fake gamers look.
  • 10:03:49 Holy crap, might want to tone down the crazy flashing animations guys. I wouldn't want to have epilepsy right now.
  • 10:04:20 "Everyone's Game". Oh goody, lots of casual shovelware to look forward to, I suppose.
  • 10:04:28 Cammie! The stage is engulfed in what can only be described as "Gamecube purple". So sick of that colour from back in the day. I wonder if there are more Wiimakes on the way.
  • 10:05:17 Sales data incoming.
  • 10:06:00 Oh! Everyone's game. As in everyone is up for gaming. That's sort of clever.
  • 10:06:42 "A grin or a shout buried in the middle of a level." What?
  • 10:07:07 Mario reveal on the way. A little retrospective of Mario games begins.
  • 10:07:29 Super Mario World. Fuck yeah!
  • 10:08:04 Mario in the fourth dimension? Mario on PS3 confirmed!
  • 10:08:30 New Super Mario Bros. for Wii. Excite!!!
  • 10:09:24 So, Mario Four Swords then. I like how the Treehouse guys have shirts to match their characters.
More after the jump.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Feature: Inside the Toy Box

Before Christmas (2008), I came across an old box of toys that me and my brother had when we were kids. After more than ten years, I had half forgotten what was inside, so expecting to finds all sorts of weird and wonderful stuff, I grabbed a camera and got ready to have a good poke around.

Toy Box - The Box

Here's the box itself. It's from an an old Sharp microwave that recently expired in a plume of black smoke. I guess 15 years isn't too bad for an electrical appliance. Let's pop this sucker open.

Drum roll, please.

Toy Box - The Grand Opening

And what did I find inside? A bunch of toy cars of various types and states of decomposition belonging to my auto mobile-obsessed sibling.

Great.

Oh well, I don't know what I was expecting to see anyway. I was far too prone to loosing or breaking any toys I had to still have them in here. Let's press on anyway.

Toy Box - Mall Santa Present

First up is a crappy two-piece present from a mall Santa from about 1993. It's a turntable and a....lift thing (move over, Jeremy Clarkson) for small toy cars. I can't remember what I got from him, but I do remember that we got cardboard reindeer hats though. I guess they got binned.

Toy Box - Old Gloves

Ooh, it's something of mine. It's an tattered old pair of gloves that I used to ride my bike with. Not strictly necessary, but I thought they were pretty cool at the time.

This was a triumph.

Another of my brother's. It's a licensed toy from Gerry Anderson's short-lived 90's show, Space Precinct. I have no idea why he would have wanted this, neither of us were into the show, but he picked this as a Christmas present one year (1995, I think).

By then, Santa had seemingly gotten a bit lazy and decided to forgo the whole letter and workshop thing and let us pick what we wanted ourselves. Apparently he paid for the presents later through some sort arrangement with the shop. I wasn't buying it.

Toy Box - Tractor

A toy tractor my brother got as a present one year. He was totally thrilled, I mean who wouldn't be? It says "let's get to work!" when you push down the yellow bit on top for crying out loud!

Toy Box - Pepsi Hat

A blue Santa hat that they were giving away with Pepsi around Christmas 1996. If Pepsi got to redesign Santa, he'd wear this and probably have a goatee.

More bad jokes and dodgy camera work after the jump

Sunday, April 26, 2009

deviantART Update: Paint Doodles 2

Another deviantART update. This time I've put up a collage of odd little doodles I do sometimes in MS Paint - usually when the broadband is out and I'm back to waiting forever for stuff to load with dial-up. I've had these ones stored away for ages, but I finally whipped them into something reasonable looking over the last few weeks. Check it out here.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Gameboy Player

Game Boy Player

I've wanted one of these things forever and I was given the perfect excuse to pick one up last week when the screen on my GBA died. I was nearing the end of Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga, when the picture suddenly faded from the screen. I tried changing the batteries to no avail. It was pretty clear that the old launch model GBA had had it.

The GBP arrived on Friday in great condition, apart from a few scratches. Installing it was very simple, I just needed to take off the cover of the high speed port on the bottom of the Cube, slot the GBP in there and screw it into the console. The two screws are fixed to the GBP so you can't loose them. Of course, the unit itself is no good without the required software, which came on a pretty scratched-up GC disc. I popped it in and booted the Cube, hoping for the best. Thankfully, it all worked fine.

I was really impressed with how well the handheld games translate to TV screen, even old games from the original Gameboy look nice and sharp. The GBP presents the games in the middle of the screen, surrounded by a border in the style of a GBA or you can stretch the picture to fill about 2/3 of the TV screen. The second option leaves you with a smaller border and doesn't really impact on the picture quality of the game too much.

So far, I'm really happy with the GBP and I'm hoping it'll get me to check out some more GB/GBC/GBA games. Even though I've had a GBA for years, I've pretty much ignored it for most of that time. It's only within the last few years I've started to pick a few games for it, but given the fact that I just bought Donkey Kong '94 on eBay, I think the GBP may be working.

GameStop Pickups 24/04/09

GameStop Pickups 24/04/09

I popped into the local GameStop today for another raid on their used PS2 section. It hadn't been turning up too much of late - mostly old football games of various shapes and sizes. But the was plenty of good stuff on offer today - Dark Cloud 2, Destroy All Humans 2, Scarface and even a copy of the somewhat elusive God Hand (at a hefty €29.99 though). I had €24 to spend and decided that it was best put to use thusly:

Everybody's Tennis - €9.99

Looks like a nice, solid tennis game so far. There's more than a whiff of Wii-style inclusiveness in everything from the cute characters, the relaxing music to the menu design. I started off on the training mode, trying to hit panels on the opponent's side of the court, quite fun. The Challenge mode looks to be the where meat of the game is. For my first match I went for a little girl on girl action on the beach (sorry, I'll stop). The AI character put up pretty decent challenge. It's definitely not the lightweight casual game the presentation might suggest.

Second Sight - €6.99

For some reason, I woke up with a question this morning. I don't know what I was dreaming of, but I was trying to think what was the other PS2/Xbox telekinesis game besides Second Sight - Psi-Ops came to me after a while. Anyway, I really liked the TimeSplitters series and I've been meaning to check out Free Radical's other last gen offering for ages. I played the PC version of this on GameTap for a bit last year, but the voices were all screwed up for some reason and I've always found third person games tricky to control with the muse/keyboard combo -no such problems here.

Tony Hawk's Underground 2 - €5.99

It's been forever since I played a Tony Hawk's game and despite the dodgy reputation this one has, I decided to go for it given the budget price. I hear there are a number of ill advised additions that came in with the "Underground" moniker, but so far it seems like business as usual and I was pulling off a string of ludicrous combos in no time. Liking the soundtrack so far too - "That's Life" by Frank Sinatra was a pleasant surprise.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Site Update: Timesplitters 2/Soul Calibur Review...Thing


Today, I've stuck another old college assignment up on my web site. It's a sort of review I did in 2005, comparing two games of different genres in terms of physics, AI and collision detection. I picked TimeSplitters 2 and Soul Calibur II for mine. As well as that, we had to do a walkthrough for the first level of one of the games to prove we'd actually played them first. A move you might think unnecessary in a computing course, but there were a lot more non-gamers among us than I would have ever imagined.

You can check it out, in all its glory here.

Friday, March 27, 2009

deviantART Update 27/03/09

Yes, it does happen occasionally. I've put two more bits of art work (sort of) up on my deviantArt gallery last night - an old drawing I did in 2000 (above) and the logo I did for my Backloggery page during Christmas last year. Check out the full gallery here.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Don't Shit Your Pants

I guess that's one way to avoid it.

I thought I'd share this weird little flash game I came across on my travels. It's a simple text-based adventure game where you're only goal is to take a dump before filling your pants. How lovely. But with a door and a pesky pair of pants in the way, it's not going to be that easy. Do you have what it takes to earn all the game's achievements and become the shit king? Find out here.

More Compilations: Now 47, Shine 7

Now 47, Shine 7

I hit up eBay earlier this month in search of more Now compilations and after much deliberation, I decided to go with Now 47 from 2000 and in a surprise move, Shine 7, a 1996 entry from the Shine series - a short-lived series of indie compilations released in the mid to late 90s.

Now 47

This wasn't one of the Now entries that I was super excited about getting my hands on, but after giving it a listen, there's actually quite a few decent tracks on here. There's some great tunes from Texas, David Grey, Coldplay and Kylie, possibly the only decent All Saints song ever, a great guilty pleasure from LeAnn Rimes and a nice selection of dance tracks on disc 2, including a excellent Ibiza-fuelled cover of "Ordinary World" by Aurora with Naimee Coleman on vocals. Having said that, the compilation also plays host to that fucking awful musical atrocity,"Who Let the Dogs Out" and there's plenty dodgy tracks from all the usual suspects - Ronan Keating, Steps, S Club 7...you get the idea.

Shine 7
I really only bought this to get my hands on "Whatever" - the ever elusive Oasis single, now too expensive to pick up in it's original format and unavailable to download anywhere. However, there's plenty more to like on here besides that. There's several massive anthems from the time from the likes of Blur, Suede, Pulp and Radiohead and a bunch of great tracks from the likes of Babybird, Space, Placebo, Super Furry Animals and The Divine Comedy. Some of the stuff here was completely new to me - I really enjoyed "Twisted" by Skunk Anansie and Morrissey sound-alike My Life Story with "Sparkle". Of course, there's lots of bland pap from long forgotten acts bulking out the compilation, but you could do a lot worse than picking this up.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Purchases Round-up: January/Febuary

January/February 09 Pick-ups

Grand Theft Auto: Vice City Stories

As I was finishing up Final Fantasy X-2 and wondering what I'd turn my gaming attention to next, I felt the overwhelming urge to grab this off eBay and jump back into my favourite GTA locale - Vice City. The city, the style, the awesome soundtrack - they're all in place and despite a few shortcomings, it's another enjoyable crime-filled journey through the streets of Vice City.

The game does have a share of minor technical problems - The low res textures on far away buildings have a habit of not being swapped for hi res ones until you're right next to them. When there's too much going on there's the occasional framerate dip where everything moves as if it's floating in molasses. Sometimes all the cars disappear from the road - not helpful if you're stuck in the middle of nowhere and you've just trashed your ride.

I also can't help missing Tommy and his posse from the original VC. Vic is a bit of a sick in the mud in comparison and the likes of Kent Paul and Ken Rosenberg are nowhere to be seen. Thankfully though, all those niggles fade away into the background when you're careering through a sea of flaming Cholo cars with "Living On The Ceiling" by Blancmange blaring out of your speakers - I've missed you, Vice City.

Ghost Squad

I've been half meaning to pick this up for ages. I spotted it for a tenner after Christmas so I thought I'd give it a whirl. I don't have the Wii Zapper or any of the many gun shells on offer for the console, so I had to stick to the remote only. Playing without a gun and with the cursor enabled did feel like cheating a bit but it still proved to be a fun justice-dispensing romp.

As you'd expect for an arcade conversion, it's a bit on the short side, with a full play through possible in under an hour. Each of the three missions in the game offers a choice of paths at various points though, so there is some replay value there and new paths get unlocked as you replay the missions. The graphics aren't great and the voice acting is so bad that it must have been done that way intentionally, but all in all it's a nice, enjoyable rail shooter. I wouldn't pay more than €20 for it though.

X-Files Seasons 2, 3, 4

Although I was a fan of the show back in the day, I didn't actually start watching it until a few episodes into Season 5. How heck did I understand what was going on? I'm not entirely sure I did, actually. :) The Firefly box set had sort of put me in the mood for more TV on DVD and I saw that they were selling most of the X-Files seasons for about €23 on CD Wow, so I decided to start catching up. Sadly, season wasn't in stock, so I had to start off with Season 2.

So far, I'm about halfway through the Season 2 box set and really enjoying it. It is a bit strange watching the closing credits without having some obnoxious continuity announcer talking over them though. I grabbed Seasons 3 and 4 in February, but I've yet to get started on them.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

A Blast from the Past on Amazon

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In the midst of checking out the January sale on Amazon, I came across an old Listmania (surely a contradiction in terms) list I made in early 2006 of the DVDs I owned at the time. The comments are mostly still relevant, I think. I would argue that The Matrix Revolutions does have a real ending though, just a very lame one . :D

Take a look, 1 out of 3 people found it helpful!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Christmas Shopping Round-up

Christmas Purchases 2008

A bit late, but as far as I'm concerned the Christmas season isn't over until all the mince pies are gone. I'm sure there are still a few around here somewhere, so let's take a look at this lot...

Batman Begins/The Dark Knight


I've always wondered who bought these types of packs - a couple of regular DVDs in a new cardboard box. Now I understand. While everyone else was raving about The Dark Knight during the summer, I was only watching Batman Begins for the first time, rented admittedly a result of all the raving. I wasn't really expecting much, but I enjoyed it a lot and I knew I was going to have to get hold of TDK when it came out. This package was a handy way to get both for a little less, even if a single touch covers the shiny box in smudge marks. TDK was great, especially Heath Ledger's performance, but I've got to say that I still prefer Batman Begins.

Firefly

When forum chatter turns to favourite cancelled shows, Firefly inevitably comes up a lot. I never saw it before, but I spotted it on sale on Amazon.co.uk for about £8 on Christmas Eve. I wasn't sure I'd be into it, so I sneaked away from proceedings on Christmas Day and had a look at the pilot on the internet, which was infinitely more entertaining than listening to family members drone on and on for a few hours. (SPOILERS) When Kaylee got shot and I was thinking "You shot Kaylee, you asshole!", I knew I was going to love the series. I got the box set in the post on New Year's Eve and watched two or three episodes every night until it was over. A fun, well written show with a superb cast, wonderful characters and an interesting setting, cut tragically short.

Wonderfalls

I adore Pushing Daisies and after watching the whole first season again before Christmas, I decided to seek out one of the creator's earlier shows, Wonderfalls. It's not quite as surreal and quirky as PD but it's charming, funny dramedy with a cracking cast. Like Firefly, it was axed far too early by the boneheads at Fox. Not only that, but it didn't even get a Region 2 release. I picked the Region 1 box set from a UK seller on eBay to avoid any nasty customs charges.

Portal

I've had my eye on The Orange Box on Steam since I finally got a decent broadband connection in the Autumn and Portal was certainly the part of the package that I was most anxious to play. So I was in GameStop before Christmas, kind of in a rush and I spotted this on the PC rack for €19.99. I knew it wasn't great value but I was determined to pick up something and I went for it. Little did I know that it would be on sale for a pittance on Steam a week or so later. *grumble* *grumble*

Christmas Hits

I think it's been established that I have a thing for cheesy pop music and it doesn't get much cheesier than Christmas music. For some reason, radio stations have a habit of not playing any after about noon on Christmas Day, you know when I actually want to listen to it. I've been meaning to pick up one of these compilations for ages and I finally took the plunge this year. On the surface, this looks like the ultimate treasure trove of festive favourites (Yay alteration!). With four CD's how could it not be?

Sadly though, this compilation is rather like a tin of luxury biscuits that's been bulked up with cheapo custard creams and chocolate digestives. There's a lot of filler here, plenty of long forgotten (for good reason) songs and poor covers and the fourth CD consists entirely of carols. However, there are quite a few nice but less well known songs on here and it does have "Last Christmas" by Wham, which the clearly superior Now Xmas didn't. Obviously, the smart thing to do would be to download the songs you want instead, but it is nice to have them all together in one package.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Steam Sale: Second Pass


Just when I thought I was done with the Steam sale, I took another look through what was on offer, tried out a few demos and ended up buying this lot yesterday:

Ghost Master (€2.50)
This looked like it might be an interesting strategy game when it popped up on GOG a while ago, but for $9.99 I wasn't ready to take the plunge. After reading up on it a bit more, I thought it'd be worth a look for €2.50. It's downloading at the moment, so I guess I'll find out soon enough.

Reaxxion (€0.99)
A really nice Breakout clone. One of the interesting aspects of the gameplay is the ability to collect molten metal dropped out of some of blocks once they're broken. Collecting it adds to a reservoir of the stuff on your bat, making it wider. Once you have enough metal in reserve you can generate more balls at will. It's a dynamic that works well as safety net, preventing the loss of a life when all the balls in play have whizzed past you.

So far, it's been really enjoyable. It looks great and there are a ton of levels on offer. Worth full price, I'd say and a steal for 99 cents.

Bejeweled Deluxe (€0.99)
You may have heard of this one. :) I wasn't sure about whether to get it or not. It really didn't click with me right away, but after spending a bit of time with the demo I started to get a bit more into it and decided to pick it up.

Heavy Weapon Deluxe (€0.99)
A fun little arcade game where you blow up aircraft with a tank. How can you go wrong with that?

Luxor 2 (€0.99)
This one's quite similar to Puzzle Bobble/Bust a Move, but with a moving set balls to make disappear. The demo had me hooked instantly, so this one was a no-brainer.

A nice set of games for €6.45, I think. I'm kind of glad the sale's ending tomorrow though. I've got a gaming backlog as long as both arms at this stage. :D