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Product Reviews

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  1.  Give it a watch you si!


    I don't claim to be an expert on football hooliganism, nor do I live in London, but I am aware of the rivalry and gang problems it causes. This film is 90 minutes of pure blood, swearing, and face pounding - and I love it.

    The film starts off well, 4 minutes in the "F" word has already been muttered 7 or so times, and a brawl starts in which about firty or so millwall fans get the stuffing knocked aht of 'em. From then on in, the film goes all over the place, and introduces you to the seedy underworld and camaraderie in "the firm", a particular gang of chelsea supporters who are in it particularly for the fighting.
    The characterisation is good and strong, and quite a few individual plotlines are followed, whether it be Zebedee and his mate's thieving tendencies, Billy Bright's disdain and contempt for just about everyone, or Rob and his new high-class piece (along with Tommy's loathing of this), there's always plenty to follow.

    The acting is great, and very convincing at most points in the film. Of particular note are Billy Bright's character, who has to be one of the funniest, most kick-ass characters I've ever seen in a movie like this, and an excellent performance from Tommy's war-vet Grandpa.

    Overall, it's an awesome movie and if you're looking for a quality film on one of those nights in (whether it be 'cos you didn't want to go out, or simply have nothing to do) this is the film to watch (not with the missus though). Start to finish, this film had me cracking up at the awesome dialogue and hilarious little set-pieces that occur, my particular favourite being "Oh ey, then say 'ello to Stanley!" - Watch it and you'll know what I mean!

    Yeah, just superb - £2.99 is a killer price too.

  2.  2D castlevania is the way to go - proven 3 times now.


    You may have figured by now that I really like these 2D castlevania games, so with great fervour I pre-ordered this upon release, and guess what? I was glued to my DS for 8 hours straight, the time it took me to finish this 24 karat gold piece of gaming.

    The gameplay is typically 2D castlevania fare. You scramble around the maps, solving the odd platforming puzzle and teabagging the almighty minions of dracula, broken up by the odd (and damn difficult) boss fight. New additions are a map system, where you pick a level from the world map, and the glyph system.
    The first is an excellent edition, and cuts back on much of the tedious and unneccassary backtracking that plagued "Portrait of Ruin" and its predecessor, "Dawn of Sorrow". The second is an excellent addition. Instead of obtaining new weapons for the same style (i.e. iron spear, long spear, wind spear etc), Shanoa obtains low, medium, and high power versions of weapon 'glyphs'. She can wield a 'glyph' in each hand, and can wield a support glyph on her shoulder. Wielding glyphs in each hand enables you to string together complex combos if wielding two of the same glyph, or unique glyphs allow for strategisation (lance for long range hits, and a sword for close range combat). On top of this, the two glyphs can be combined to use your heart points in "Glyph union", a powerful magic attack that deals lots of damage, but is limited both in the combination (You have to experiment for effective ones) and your available casting points. The support glyph will usually boost Shanoas attack power, call down friendly forces to lend a hand, anything like that really (hence the name).

    The gameplay is also made a bit more strategic now in that you can only strike a limited number of times before your stamina goes down, and most enemies have resistance to certain glyph types. It forces you to strategise, plan your attacks, and the real beauty is that it prevents "spamming" of bosses, since you make a few strikes then peg it to let your stamina refill for a few seconds.

    The game looks gorgeous, and as usual the environments are grand and have a medieval watercolour style to them. Enemy graphics and animations are superb as always, and there is less recycled material in this game (PoR I'm looking at you). The music and sounds are top notch, music of particular note is typical gothic rock-electro style of castlevanias past.

    The real show-stopper is the amazing boss fights, which are stacked with Hit points and can take you down in a few hits. The beauty is that in this game you are forced to learn their attack patterns, choose the best weapon for the situation, and play with your best skills to have any hope of beating them.

    On top of that, you have multiple endings, a huge map to explore for secret items, and dozens of side-quests to reward you with better armour and weapons.

    So overall, it doesn't really add much to the beloved castlevania series, but it is another step toward perfection for the 2D castlevania formula. Anyone who enjoys skillful, hardcore old-skool gaming, step right up with your 25 notes and purchase this little beauty - you won't be dissapointed. 9/10

    + Beautiful graphics.
    + New layer of strategy to combat.
    + Bosses are some of the best in the series yet!
    + Plenty of extra features.
    + Map system is convenient and welcomed.
    + Brilliant soundtrack and voice acting.

    - Over too quickly.
    - Wi-fi features feel like an afterthought.
    - May be too difficult for newcomers.
    - A few cases of dodgy collision detection with enemies.

  3.  The best RPG ever made is reborn...


    I am led to believe from many claims of friends and professionals alike, that "Chrono Trigger is one of the best RPG's ever made, if not THE best". Having never had the chance to play it, I disdained and shrugged this statement aside for almost 10 years, and recently decided to pick it up for DS on a whim (as those of us who are earning usually do =/ ). Now, which side did I pick? "Nothing special", or "best RPG ever"? Besides the fact that I doubt the first group exists, I have indeed joined the latter.

    For a start, the game manages to pull out a fairly decent storyline that allows you to care for the characters, and really gives some point to the quests that stand in your way between you and the final goal. Despite Crono's lack of speech, the other characters referencing / referring to traits of his gives the character some flesh (One of the main characters is actually his childhood friend). Whether it be the disgraced Frog, compassionate Lucca, or upbeat Marle, you're sure to find someone you can empathise with here - and none of them are annoying like some RPG characters these days. The storyline is superb really, and drives you back and forth between multiple time periods - the other strong point being that it's always obvious what is required of you by the game and you should rarely find yourself stuck with nowhere to go.

    The locations and music are sublime, whether it be Guardia forest (taking on duller shades of green further back in time) and it's soft, heartwarming melody, to the post-apocalyptic proto domes of 2300 AD with the desolate music of those without hope, the setting and sound of the game is spot on. It will set the scene for you, and it really draws you into the situation - peace in the past, the plights of the future.

    Gameplay is mainly split up over searching around the world for your way to the next goal, solving puzzles, and defeating bad guys while doing so. Fighting is never a chore, and most battles are different every time. Fighting is ATB (Guage fills, you take your turn), but enemy units are seen on the map, allowing you to choose your fights. What's more, enemies react and change formation throughout the battle with your three heroes, giving you strategic leverage (for instance leaving Crono active until those three blobs line up for one wind slash :D ) to manipulate the battle in your favour. All of the characters have significant use too, and none of them are redundant. Whether it be powerhouses Crono and Robo, healer Marle, long range fighter Lucca, or the versatile Frog, you will find a combination that works. Overall, the battle system is action packed, and really keeps you on your toes (I reccommend you play it on active, i.e. while you choose your actions, enemies are still able to attack).

    So overall, what is there left to say about this game? It's an utter classic, and if you've never played it before, there's never been a better time to invest in such gold. If you have, why not reinvest in a trip down delicous memory lane. Every minute of this is essential, trust me. 10/10

    + Sublime battle system.
    + Varied and well-realised settings keep it all fresh.
    + Powerful storyline with strong characterisation.
    + Time travelling mechanic is intelligent and well used.
    + 13 different endings dependent on your actions.
    + Perfectly pitched difficulty with little need to grind.
    + Tons of DS extras.
    + Epic soundtrack.
    + Perfect conversion of it's retro ancestor.

    - Why'd it have to take so damn long to reach us?!

  4.  Inspiring and tear-jerking, a modern classic.


    Ok, I never heard of Chris Gardiner nor the book by the same name of the movie, but having watched this 3 times now, I can see it is one of the most inspiring and beautiful films I've seen in years and years.

    Poor old Chris Gardiner is nothing but a devoted family man, going around his own world trying to sell a bunch of medical scanners that he took the chance on with his and his wife's life savings. As things go from bad to worse, and Chris ends up so down on his luck that he has to run from job interviews from jail, fined for parking his own boss' car incorrectly, and more, you will feel gutted for the poor guy. Will Smith plays Gardiner superbly, and has an amazing chemistry alongside his on-screen (and real-life) son Jaden Smith, who plays the part of the kid perfectly, trying to help his dad along through the hardships, no matter how difficult he is finding it at such a young age. The whole cast shines, with superb performance also from Thandie Newton as the wife who is trying to stick by her husband, but worked to the bone so much she can't handle it anymore.

    The backing soundtrack is excellently suited too, of particular note is the exceptional gospel song performed near the end, which shook me - the song itself, and Gardiner's reaction to it playing out as he despairs on his and his son's futures is an incredibly powerful scene, and I defy you to sit there solid-heartedly, unmoved by it.

    All the right moments in the film are perfectly shot, acted, and sountracked, and there really are so many standout moments that will make you empathise with the poor guy. Best of all is the superb ending scene in which Chris gets his big break and lands himself a well-paying and stable job as a stockbroker, and that really did bring a tear to my eye - and I like to think I'm quite solid too.

    This really is such a superb movie, and if you ever need inspiration then this is where I point you to, it's just that emotion evoking.

  5.  Action/Horror movies with a little thought?


    And the best part is, the sequel is almost as good as the first (better in my opinion, but my family tried to hurt me when I suggested that =l )

    Both films are very similar, following an unspectacular but tight plot, involving the struggle between the main hero guy in each case, and a souped up super-camouflaged alien dude with cool dreadlocks who hunts humans for sport. What follows in each is a gore filled ride soaked with bullets and some awesome action scenes (And I swear Predator 1 has the award for most bullets fired in a single scene ever, it's hilarious!). What is notably different between the two is the style of main conflict going on. Predator I involves Arnie at his best, going toe to toe with the Predator in a feral hands-on battle in the jungle. It's purely instinctual and awe-inspiring to watch, and also has some of the most gut-wrenching tension on poor Arnie's behalf!
    Conversely, the second movie is more of a typical action movie as the main cop plays around with his guns and attempts to beat the predator at his own shooting game on the rooftops of LA, an epic showdown that runs in total over about 20 tension filled minutes!

    Both films are classics, and the special effects (Despite looking dated) are still impressive bearing in mind that the first especially is over 20 years old now! These movies truly do hark back to the days when most of the action was raw and done by the actors, the special effects were done using proper blood and animal meat, and well, you can't help but love predator - so cool!

    I guess it really speaks volumes about these when I first saw them in 2008 and enjoyed them more than I enjoyed most movies released in the last couple of years.

  6.  Chaplin and co. got their mojo back.


    Don't get me wrong, I liked Under the Iron sea, but it was just a wee bit dreary and far too much like hopes and fears wasn't it? Well, after a period off and what appears to be some major rethinking, Keane have come back with a stellar performance here.

    This album seems to have a slightly electric, almost techno-inspired feel to it, and I have to say the new attempt is very fresh.
    The album starts off with techno-fest weirdness "Spiralling", a superb little track, before slowing down to a very thoughtful little number "The lovers are losing". The album follows this all the way throughout and it's all good, despite there only being a few other really standout pieces. "Pretend that you're alone", and "Love is the end", also give me a little reminiscence of some of their work from "Hopes and Fears", and it's nice to see the original style hasn't been completely canned.

    All in all, it's an excellent album and a return to form, but those used to the first 2 albums of this group must be prepared for change if you want any enjoyment from it, because it's a whole world different this time!

  7.  Superb - Just about all the best David Gray


    I know many people say that David Gray is a boring artist, but I really have to disagree. If you take time to listen to the lyrics of most of these pieces, and the excellent instrumentation, you might realise that this is some incredibly uplifting and "sweet" music. Admittedly, it is going to appeal most to young couples and whatnot, but all the same it is well written, cheerful stuff.

    From the slow, romantic ballad "This years love", to the more upbeat "Hospital food", the incredibly sweet "Be mine", or that ol' classic Sunday morning song "Babylon", there's barely a bad track on here. "You're the World to Me", and "Alibi" are stunning, and really at a price like this you'd be mad to miss this compilation (Assuming you like the guy's music of course!)

    I might also add that the sleeve contains quite an amusing and insightful description of each song by the man himself, going through it's conception, recording, reception, and his view of the song itself.

    All in all, love it - a must for David Gray fans, but then you probably already guessed that right?

  8.  Alone in the dark is an unlucky subject of being overhyped.


    Ever since the game was announced, along with all of it's awesome features and pioneering gameplay mechanics, the media and public elevated this game to a pedestal of incredible hype. Naturally, when a game like that finally arrives, it's never going to live up to that hype, and Alone in the Dark of course is one of those - What I can tell you, is that like any game, it's a flawed gem. If you stick with it through the odd flawed moment, then you'll find a rewarding and deeply immersive experience.

    In this game, you follow the story of long time series protagonist, Edward Carnby. In a fusion of 1st Person and 3rd Person gameplay, you must save New York from the horrors and demons that are popping up from all over central park.

    From the get go, this game screams one thing at you: EPIC. There are so many brilliant set-pieces (which I won't spoil), which see you climbing or running from your life from various creatures or hazards. The noises and soundtracks are fantastic and fit the bill perfectly, drawing you right into the tense story and action scenes that are offered to you.

    The rest of the time, you will be solving environmental puzzles using your intuition and a selection of handy objects, driving around central park, eliminating some of the beasties, or fighting bosses. It's certainly an eclectic mix of gameplay, and the switches between always work really well, not just introducing a variety of gameplay skills to you, but constantly keeping the experience fresh and interesting.

    One of the real hallowed features of this game is the chapter select, allowing you to skip bits that are "too hard", or too difficult. I would severly advise against this though. I'm not a hardcore gamer and I don't get to play often, but I managed it all, and found that sticking with a puzzle or a particularly difficult section was rewarding and incredibly satisfying - barely ever do you require trial and error, you just need to use your brain.

    Which is where the frankly superb item combination and inventory system comes in. Throughout the game, Carnby's awesome leather jacket allows you to hold a gun and flashlight, 5 small items in the left side, and 4 bottle like / large items in the right. Whether it be for fights or to solve puzzles, you are continously encouraged to improvise with the little items you pick up around the environment and use them for survival. You can make petrol bombs, sticky bombs, flamethrowers, Glowstick bombs, fire bullets...anything you can imagine. Since many of the puzzles can be solved by more than one combination, it's up to you to experiment and use your brain. The system doesn't let you pause to do this, so it can be a bit clunky in the heat of combat, but a shortcut system allows you to store your favourite 4 combinations, and if you have materials handy, make them at the press of a button.

    So now I've raved, I unfortunately have to come to the few flaws. My first is that sometimes, the game does not actually give you infinite items for a situation, so using your items inefficiently can get you stuck and you have to restart. The healing system is also good, but can be annoying if you have no bandages to hand (giving you 6 minutes to live). Chapters 8 and 9 also represent a bit of a dull time, where you have to drive around central park solving numerous puzzles in aid of burning roots, and this section is not just difficult, but a bit more boring that the rest of the game.

    However, if you stick with the game past these few flaws you'll no doubt find a deep and enriching experience that is not just satisfying to play, but also fresh and new, and you know what? Atari deserve praise for trying to revive such a convoluted games market.

  9.  Square Enix strike four with this new DS FF :)


    Although not quite in the same style as the main Final fantasies, Square Enix's deviations into SRPG (Strategy RPG) with the franchise have always proven to stand on their own as quality games. Those of you who have experienced the marvellous revenant wings, or indeed the original FF Tactics (Or FFTA for the Advance) will realise this. So, having decided Ivalice as a good place to set many more games, have Square Enix created another solid FF for the DS?

    The game takes place in Ivalice (as I said), following the events of FFTA. Young Luso finds himself trapped in this mysterious land, and joins a clan in order to survive the bandits, monsters, and competitive clans that litter it's continents. The story is good (as good as the previous), and while it doesn't match up to those of the main Final Fantasies, it is competent and well enough told that it will hold your attention.

    The battles take place on "Gridded" landscapes, and are viewed on an isometric plane. The graphics and detail are very good, and while not pushing the DS to it's limits, they do their function and they do it well enough. Mission goals vary from protecting an NPC for 5 turns or assisting them to kill a super strong monster, to eliminating all members of a rival clan or looking for alchemy ingredients in the field. The variety of missions is nice, and really breaks up the combat heavy emphasis of the game.

    In this environment, you can pick up to 6 units from your clan who will form your fighting party. There are 54 classes to choose from, and here is the game's best selling point. The depth is just incredible, and all of the classes have specific equippable weapons, masterable skills, and their own stat growths. You can train units up in any class that their race is allowed to use (usually a good 12 classes or more per race), and even mix & match abilities from different classes to get the best of your warriors (for instance, creating a combat heavy unit with healing magic!). It is this customisation that is so excellent and really drives you to get experience and take as many optional quests as possible (of which there are PLENTY!) since you will become enthralled in developing your characters exactly as you want to. You choose when you want them to learn abilities, which ones to learn, and which ones you'll mix. It's a finely executed system, and one that really adds tons of depth and strategy to this fine game.

    Other improvements from the predecessor include refinement of the judge system (no more jail or stat punishments, you are just forsaken the use of revive for the battle and bonus items if you break the law), stronger characterisation, and infinite mission item capacity (meaning you can do every sidequest no matter what).

    Overall, this is an incredible game and for those who like their RPGs strategic and deep, you can't go wrong. I appreciate how much more I could have told you, but most of the beauty is in discovering it for yourself. Buy it, love it, and appreciate every awesome little detail hidden in this wonderful game.

    + Excellent spell and technique effects.
    + Combat is refined and strategic without being overly complex.
    + Huge range of classes to choose from.
    + Over 300 quests to complete, for hours upon hours of gameplay.
    + Customise units to your specific desire.
    + Great quality soundtrack.
    + New "Boss" enemies that take up multiple tiles.
    + MASSIVELY improved Law / Judge system.
    + Some excellent cameos (including Vaan!)

    - Takes a while to unlock the best classes.
    - Graphics haven't really improved over the first game.
    - Storyline is a bit underdeveloped by FF standards.
    - Weapon / Armour crafting system takes some getting used to.

  10.  A diamond in the rough indeed.


    Having long awaited the release of this game, I can finally tell you that it was definately worth the wait.

    Chances are those of you that want this will have played NG1, but if you didn't, a basic synopsis would go something like "you play a kickass techno ninja who has to bring down an evil corporation and fight lots of mean assed bosses".

    You play as Ryu Hayabusa, legendary Dragon Ninja. The Black Spider Clan has stolen an ancient statue in protection in the Dragon Village which allows them to ressurrect greater fiends, and then the archfiend (that's bad...)
    Following a loose storyline, you play Ryu's travels around the world as he attempts to put a stop to the madness and prevent the awakening of the archfiend.

    The gameplay in this title is split between 2 main veins. The major one is combat (and there's lots of it!). Enemies usually attack you in swarms and it's up to you to bring them down with only your speed and reflexes to count on. There are 8 different primary weapons, four secondary weapons, and four ninpo (Magical spells) to use, so there are weapons for every situation and enemy, and a new "on the fly" equipment switching system really makes the game more accessible. The game is really REALLY difficult, and if the droves of spawning enemies aren't enough, then the ridiculously huge and relentless bosses will be the ones to hand your ass to you, crispy and well done.

    The other main gameplay element is exploration and platforming, but it never gets frustrating due to the tight control system and completely adjustable camera angles.

    This game's blood and violence is uncensored, and now you can wound some enemies by lopping off vital body parts. Once you've done this, you can initiate an "obliteration technique" that finishes your enemies off in sick style, netting you more points and even more gore.

    Graphics are absolutely sublime, and you get to visit all sorts of real world locations (including I think Venice and Russia) and New York. The wind effects streaming over the airship on Chapter 7 are amazing, and I won't spoil the epic ending to the level for you.

    The game is also extremely long, I am at chapter 8 and have spent 6.5 hours already out of 15 (I am told!) chapters. Along the way you can undertake optional challenges for extra achievement points and secret upgrade items to help your survival in later levels.

    Another neat feature I would like to add is auto health regeneration. Between battles, any lost health is refilled, but cumulative damage reduces the "refillable" portion of the health bar (e.g. fatal wounds). This makes the game more accessible to newcomers, but to veterans the difficulty is not compromised, since the enemies have been made deliberately harder to compensate.

    All in all, Tecmo have done an awesome job on this, but I would like to REALLY stress that it is difficult. For those who know, it makes DMC4 on SoS mode seem like a walk in the park. So, NG2 is a worthy sequel to NG1, and although it doesn't surpass it, both games can be held in equal regard. If you have a 360 you need this game.

    + HUGE selection of weapons.
    + Slick and tight combat controls.
    + Gorgeous graphics and sound.
    + Refreshingly violent.
    + Lots of optional challenges and extras.
    + Four difficulty levels.
    + New gameplay features make the game incredibly accessible.
    + Awesome boss fights.

    - May still be too difficult even for seasoned gamers.
    - Being swarmed by gaggles of enemies sometimes seems ridiculously unfair.
    - Some minor balance issues with later enemies.
    - A lot more linear than it's predecessor.