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AverageJoseph
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Member since: 10.02.2012

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    • More +
      24.11.2014 00:05
      Very helpful
      (Rating)

      Advantages

      • Cast
      • Plot
      • Addictive

      Disadvantages

      • "Slow Burner"
      • "Long Episodes"

      All Aboard The Crystal Ship

      The two differing periodic elements Bromine & Barium make up the clever logo, while Bryan Cranston & Aaron Paul form a superb on screen tag team, but neither could prepare you for the premise of the show.

      Cranston, famous for his hilarious role as the bumbling loved up idiot father, Hal in Malcolm in the Middle, but more recently, the nuclear supervisor in the awful new Godzilla movie stars as the enthusiastic chemistry teacher with his glory days of nobel prizes and prized scientific research, behind him. Working two low paying jobs in the high altitude region of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Walter White collapses on the job, awakening to the news that he has inoperable lung cancer, the day after his 50th birthday... After his diagnosis, he makes it his mission to support his family by any means necessary.

      Aaron Paul makes his name recognisable now thanks to his portrayal as Jesse Pinkman, a high school delinquent in Mr. Whites class, spends most of his days getting high with friends and selling meth as 'Cap 'N Cook'. Currently living in his late aunt's house, he evades the judgment of his parents due to his dingy lifestyle - that is until they reclaim the house and intend to sell it. Walt entices Jesse into forming a partnership, cooking in an ancient RV and selling the product. With his strong background in chemistry and Jesse's connections in the drug trade, the team seemed destined to flourish..

      White's brother in law is the spanner in the works and simultaneously, a deciding factor in his decision making. A DEA agent, Hank, takes Walt on a ride along for a drug bust, impressed by the amounts made by the dealers. Hank spends the majority of the series hot on the trail of the cartels and drug activity in Albuquerque, especially a new player known as Heisenberg who is selling a high strength blue meth.

      Crystal Meth, that horrible drug that turns you into a right loon with dirt brown, rotten teeth, is the focal point of this crime drama. Considering the family ties of the characters, you can see where all the lies and deceit creep into the plot too. Character progression seems well done here also as the main characters relationship gets put under unreal pressure and one becomes disillusioned and haunted by his actions whilst the other becomes more and more hostile and proud.

      In the end it felt somewhat anticlimactic to me. Perhaps it was the amount of time spent investing in the series or the standard being quite high throughout. The ending sequence of events just weren't as epic as others and seemed a bit of a cop out. Although it was still pretty raw with emotion and full of action. Breaking Bad clearly had me vaguely hooked from the first few hours, it's impeccable acting and thought provoking story deserved all the accolades it has garnered.

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    • Alien (DVD) / DVD / 7 Readings / 7 Ratings
      More +
      08.11.2014 13:09
      Very helpful
      (Rating)
      1 Comment

      Advantages

      • Soundtrack
      • "Set Design"
      • Cast/Characters
      • Original
      • "'That Scene'"

      Disadvantages

      • Dated
      • Length

      I Admire It's Purity

      This kind of film may have been attempted before, but never to such a grand scale. So much so that this has become the benchmark for horror/sci-fi's and although it probably wouldn't get rated an 18 now, it was certainly enough back then with a strong amount of gore and a huge dose of terror, inciting genuine feelings of terror amongst the audience. How fitting the film's tagline would be 'In space, no one can hear you scream'.

      Once the camera is done ogling the well crafted set of the spaceship 'Nostromo', we see the crew awaken from their super futuristic stasis pods. All the gadgetry, even today still looks classy, although admittedly dated. When a message from 'Mother' comes in about a nearby distress beacon, a new directive is initiated, one that ultimately results in unhappiness amongst the crew who believed they were headed home. Now, landing and searching for signs of life, Kane encounters a hostile parasitic organism that attaches to his face, penetrating his mouth, even through a chunky space suit helmet. More arguments about his quarantine and the safety of the others are ignored and this 'thing' is brought on board to operate on. They soon find that whatever it is, it aint letting go without taking the life of its host and that it contains some serious defence mechanisms.

      The events that follow would prove to shape not only the films direction but the future of the genre, along with a creature so fearsome original and sinister in appearance. From it's grisly, explosive entrance, it's relentless killing spree and it's desperate finale, H.R Giger's creation forever embedded itself in the memory of everyone watching. Some might say that it's a slow burner, building anxiety and a tense atmosphere, others would just say it's bloody long.

      A brilliantly diverse, ragtag team of conflicting personalities makes for some real drama aboard. Each engaging in their own quirky traits and quotes before they inevitably bite the dust. One of my favourite aspects of the film and it's characters is that I never got a sense of who was going to survive the ordeal, if any. It dithered on possibly being captain Dallas or the seemingly intellectual superior Ash. Its secret about one of the crew members also being an unexpected twist that shaped the plot. That and, unlike the majority of horror films today, had a crew that you didn't particularly want to see get torn apart - whereas films nowadays you typically want to see the highly polished, plastic, prats suffer their fate.

      Everything about the film feels designed to cause fear, the dark and dank, claustrophobic bowels of the ship, the exploration, the discovery, the erie soundtrack, the aliens birth, the aliens habits, the aliens body-just everything about the alien in general is pretty terrifying. A long, tough watch for newcomers, but still a classic worth seeing, perhaps not for the scare element but definitely for quality filming, possibly the mother of all sci-fi horrors.

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      • FIFA 14 (PS4) / Playstation 4 Game / 7 Readings / 6 Ratings
        More +
        03.11.2014 11:44
        Very helpful
        (Rating)

        Advantages

        • "Time Wasting "
        • Multiplayer

        Disadvantages

        • Price
        • AI
        • Music
        • "Online Features"
        • Graphics
        • Gameplay

        The £55 Scourge

        Why so expensive? The previous reason withheld, because they can charge what they like: Despite the fact that there is minimal change/improvement to gameplay and well that's it really... Plus, it would be far too easy for me to say that EA are evil...

        Co-op Seasons! That's right, you and your full RRP paying friends can now play the game mode that the majority didn't care about in the first place! Basically, this lets you play online seasons mode but with the choice to let your friend help out.

        13/14' Kits! That colour you like is now looking sharper than ever with its new advertising sponsor adorned all over it! It's at this stage that I'd like to point out how easy and honest it would be to release a DLC of this sort of thing to gamers, rather than get them to dish out more and more for the same game wrapped up in this seasons fashion.

        Up to date team rosters! Now you can save 10 minutes and let us assign the current players to your squad! Which ever player's had a good season will also get a boost to their stats as well as a slight enhancement to their appearance.

        Scouting! Sure the older games also had scouts for youth squads, but 14's scouts mean you can no longer search for players based on overall skill!

        However, what is really jarring is the removal of what made the game fun to play. You can no longer tackle the referee, you can no longer dive, you can adjust 'sliders' to effectively cheat the game, you can create custom players with an overall score of 99. Regardless, the core of this game is as predictable and boring as ever. The opposition continue the same tactics they've always used. Hoof the ball into the box from every set piece. There is also a blatant 'momentum engine' which has been present for years, which means the computer 'forces' goals whenever it desires.

        The only time your can guarantee a fair game. When you play against a friend - locally that is, you can't trust EA's servers' network connections. Team up against the AI however and you'll get the same ol' BS happening all over again, despicable referee calls, blind linesmen, delusional handballs and 6 month injures, to your players only. The best aspect of this game can be mutilated into an insult. What's more, the online play is costly, with an online pass necessary for one years worth of gaming and 'coins' to fuel the addiction of 'ultimate team' the gimmick that essentially gets people to spend real money in order to acquire virtual players for their online teams.

        The truth is, there is no difference. Graphical capabilities aside, the games feature no more content and bare the same achievements. It is for all the negatives mentioned, that I personally insist on waiting for a massive price drop before purchasing these games - £55 is unfathomable, at least, for this.

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      • More +
        28.10.2014 13:56
        Very helpful
        (Rating)
        1 Comment

        Advantages

        • GPS
        • Photos
        • Weight
        • Durable
        • Compact
        • Stability

        Disadvantages

        • "Battery Life"
        • Availability
        • Grain

        Steady On Sony

        Initially, it feels fairly heavy for a handheld, but when you use the strap against the rubber, it provides a steady and surprisingly comfortable grip. The focus 'button' is a dial easily situated on the front left side. Other important buttons are the zoom is a steady plastic doohicky on the top, at your finger tips - as with the reputation of this devices stability, the zoom is also incredibly smooth. There's mic and headphone input jacks, dedicated photo and record buttons, a Mini USB, HDMI slot, reset and night vision.

        Aside from viewing all your videos and photographs on screen, you get a wealth of other stuff to tinker around with, to suit your style of shooting and whether or not you need to be conservative. The most important thing, the quality of video, has 4 settings: FX utilises the maximum capabilities of the camera with 24 Mega-Pixels worth of recordings. FH Uses 17MP but still provides decent quality, with less data clogging up space. HDHQ alludes to, High Definition, High Quality, at 9MP. HDLP typically records in lower quality at a measly 5MP to preserve space and battery. As for photographs, there's 5: which adjust the size of files.

        The touchscreen itself is simple to use and clear, for navigating menus, swiping photos. It's clarity is so assured that in most cases, it's worth shooting via screen rather than the viewfinder. It has built in face & smile detection with sensitivity settings, so whilst on autofocus, you can capture the most important things. If you want in on a group photo, there's the self timer. The camcorders camera abilities don't end there though as it also features flash, red eye reduction and various controls that are commonplace in digital SLR's. The camera has built-in GPS so you'll know when and where you are when taking video/photo.

        The sony can handle the generic SD cards - although there's not much point dishing out more money because it has a whopping 240GB built in harddisk! Even when recording at the height of its powers, that is gunna take a long time to fill. The battery life on the other hand is by far this camcorders biggest downfall. A large battery variant will claim it can get 157 minutes worth of recording time.. which is a tad enthusiastic. The standard battery manages 97 minutes.

        I was really quite surprised with the video quality on this. It may be small and compact but quality is pin sharp, though it's the stability that gets the bragging rights. It can struggle in low light situations, perhaps that explains the inclusion of night vision. Audio is fairly standard, unpleasant in windy areas. Photographs are less impressive though, barely rivalling that of an entry level SLR - with poor depth of field. It is fairly difficult to find this exact model - there are various in both ascending and descending prices and specifications - but a quick search will fetch some results around the £500 bracket.

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        • More +
          22.10.2014 11:50
          Very helpful
          (Rating)

          Advantages

          • "Design "
          • Lock
          • "Both Stabilizers"
          • Zoom

          Disadvantages

          • "Auto-Focus "
          • Noise
          • Grain

          Zoom Zoom Zoom... Canon, not Mazda...

          At first glance, the Canon EF 70-300mm Telephoto Zoom Lens looks the part in a standard svelte black coating with ritzy gold ring and logo. At 480 grams it is also one lightweight model. It looks even more ridiculous when donning its ET-65B lens hood which manages to sell for an equally ridiculous £40. It features 4 switches: the default automatic focus/manual focus situated closest to the base of the lens and 3 others higher up - Stabilizer on/off, Stabilizer mode 1-2 and the locking mechanism that hold the lens at a specific focal depth. It's appearance is mired slightly when fully extended as the zoom barrel feels extremely delicate and has a cheap plastic shine to it.

          Seeing as the closest focusing distance is just under 1.5 metres, it isn't the worst lens on hand when needing to take a shot of something fairly close, however when trying to get sneakier shots of others unsuspecting aka natural shots or real life, this lens makes for an ideal second choice lens. It's 7cm in standard, 12cm fully extended. Shooting fine or small objects from a distance can prove troublesome however, as the lens can take its time focusing on a tiny subject - often scrolling through the entire scope of focus again. It also struggles to focus in darker surroundings - so it's at it's worst in dark environments, shooting distant tiny, moving points - something aided by one of the following stabilizers.

          The stabilizers make producing sharp images from afar, much easier thanks to the 2 differing options. Stabilizer 1, corrects vibrations in all directions and is best for shooting still objects - the bonus being better in slightly darkened areas - which is very hand if flash photography isn't allowed or if you don't want to use a faster shutter speed, you aren't ready/steady etc. No.2 is a bit more impressive - increasing the capability to take photographs of distant objects, often moving at speed. This means you can reel off several shots attempting to get some ever elusive wildlife or passing high speed cars - all in crisp detail. Without these, the lens' 300mm capability would be no better than the lens' from days of old where autofocus mechanisms were only in prototype stages.

          Regardless of its pitfalls, the 70-300 Canon is still a worthy addition to a camera bag, though not a walking around, default lens. For what it is capable of distance-wise - it's impressive in such a relatively small package for carrying around and for generic photography, it's near perfect for the high end side of shooting especially at the £250-£500 mark. A few things to note though, you wouldn't necessarily want this when shooting super jumpy wildlife that are easily spooked as the lens can kick out some cog grinding noise when quickly adjusting focus, depending on usage. So to sum up, a great budget, camera for sports and nature enthusiasts. Word Cap...

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        • More +
          20.10.2014 16:01
          Very helpful
          (Rating)

          Advantages

          • "High ISO"
          • Durability
          • Settings
          • Battery
          • "HD Video"
          • Grip
          • "Pop-Out Rotatable Touch-Screen"
          • Price

          Disadvantages

          • "Video Grain"
          • "Too Similar to 650D"
          • Lens
          • Flash

          Enter, The Professional

          Without a lens, it is severely chuckable - so lightweight its almost worth worrying about its legibility as a canon product. Most of the body is covered in a solid industrial resin feeling material along with some rubberized, leather-like grip around the right hand area and left steadying part. You get a fairly standard shooting mode wheel with the usual suspects. The Shutter button is well located and has good compression for delicate focusing, to taking the shot. The Buttons are laid out in default positions, optimized for ease and speed. A pleasant addition is the removal of video from the mode dial and instead a further notch on the on/off switch, along with a button that acts as record for video mode and live preview in photo. There's the standard dial for ISO setting scrolling, navigation plus the same lens and flash release buttons. Battery life is quite impressive - around 5 hours.

          Possibly the greatest part of the camera, the touchscreen is one handy little addition. Swipe photos, select camera settings and press and hold to focus on set points or faces and the real bonus being the swiveling rotations it can pull off. Boasts 11 different sections, all in the same layout as previous models so it's simple enough to navigate. It's worth mentioning that the software that comes with the camera new features a very useful application called 'Digital Photo Professional'. Easily the worst part of the package, the lens equipped feels cheap and chinsy as if found in a happy meal. It's only saving grace being the field of view. If you can find a body-only variant I suggest you do so as the standard lens included is as bad as they come. You can choose from 4 recording sizes - 640x25fps, 1280x50fps, 1920x24fps or 1920x25fps. Audio is average all things considered, then again there is that mic slot for improved sound as long as you have the equipment.

          With a decent lens equipped, you'll be impressed. Depth of field being a real strong point and high clarity results. In comparison to later, cheaper models, the very sound of the shutter is instantly more gratifying and chunky sounding. Thanks to the plethora of in-camera effects and filters, images can be cleaned and perfected before you take them off the card. Red Eye can be dealt with also, as can altering light. Images themselves can be upwards of 10MB and the RAW's twice that. Problems arise when in low light. Worst of all though is the flash - the camera releases a short burst of about 4 quick flashes whilst focusing, before taking the shot - this can be extremely unpleasant as it not only tricks your audience into believe you've taken several photographs, so they relax/move, but it also acts as some kind of blinding, epileptic fit inducing strobe light. It does this so it can get its bearings for focusing on a subject. There's minimal changes from the previous model. 500 word cap...

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        • More +
          19.10.2014 23:56
          Very helpful
          (Rating)
          1 Comment

          Advantages

          • Original
          • "Enhanced Graphics"
          • "DLC Included"
          • Achievements

          Disadvantages

          • "Unsubstantial Leap in Graphics"
          • "Bit of a Cash - In"

          Unnecessary Reboot of the Xbox's Finest

          Fable is the quintessential British role playing game in my eyes - your character, family slain by bandits in his youth, swears to become a hero, for better or worse.. In a land of rich environments that are a mix of medieval, rural and ancient - all with glorious scenic maps and various avenues to explore. A combat system based on melee weapons like swords and axes, outfits of armour and leather, an arsenal of magical spells bristling your fingertips... or right trigger, I should say.

          The thought of a sequel to a much loved game drew even more craving. Though it never lived up to its reputation - claiming a vastly superior experience to the first game, promising a dedicated multiplayer aspect (co-op) and various details that were, frankly, lied about by designer Peter Molyneux - it still managed to be a satisfying single player title. The world being far more open, it granted freedom and took away the homey, close, well crafted world of lore. It also did away with the brilliant armour system in favour of items that served only as altercations to appearance. That said, it's far easier to recall the games negatives and pitfalls as they were easily highlighted amongst a wide array of new additions to the Fable name.

          All about the marketing and boycotting any soul or true magic the original title had, Fable 3 was a micro-transaction p*ss-take with a thin story, lame progression and even lamer gameplay. At this point, my opinion of Lionhead Studios and their games couldn't sink much lower... That is until I witnessed the diabolical opportunist rubbish known as Fable: The Journey - Exclusively for Kinnect! an accessory loathed and detested by most of the gaming industry, let alone hardcore fans of a dwindling franchise desperate for a revival. The question is - Fable Anniversary - genuine 10 year revamp or shameless cash cow?

          The giant tacky sticker slapped on my pristine game case was not a good sign.. 'Bonus outfits weapons plus special avatar item!**' - It claims to utilise a brand new game engine - which is believable as it feels quicker and sharp. 'Use Xbox SmartGlass'.. no thank you. Achievements and lost chapters content? Yes please! The real puzzler however is the 'HD visuals' - character models aren't up to scratch for a 360 game. Perhaps the designers were trying to retain that feeling of the original or the cartoony look of characters - or maybe they were just too lazy to do much more. Luckily, the game feels totally unaltered and despite a few setbacks on the case and subtle inclusions in-game, remains true to the original. Intentions behind this remake aside, one positive outweighs all the negatives - people who missed the original have another chance - be they tainted by the likes of Fable 3 or it's gimmicky cousin, The Journey, they have the first, restored in all it's HD glory to cleanse them of such filth!

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          • Marshall Minor FX Earphones / Headset / 7 Readings / 6 Ratings
            More +
            15.10.2014 12:03
            Very helpful
            (Rating)

            Advantages

            • "Thread "
            • "Stylish Gold"

            Disadvantages

            • Weak
            • Expensive
            • "Fall out"
            • "Earbuds take getting used to"

            Broke in 3 weeks


            Earphones - A music lovers necessity.

            However if you're not one for these new fangeld 'inner ear' probes that well and truly penetrate your ear canal, Like me, you'd struggle to find a decent pair combining comfort and sound quality. Proper headphones that completely cover your ears tend to have both qualities, but not everyone can get away with donning them tin cans around your head - or being completely oblivious to the outside world (also a problem with those goddamn nasty ass inner ear pieces of crap:)
            Enter Marshall's alternative.
            Slick golden covered mini amplifier looking earphones with dodgey flange things,
            a threaded wire, engraved clasp and mic/pause button (both of which come in surprisingly handy). Can't lie, the arctic white and crispy gold where a major factor in my acquisition of these delightful looking earpieces - that and the brand is fairly well known manufacturer of guitar amps. Everything from the item itself to the box it comes in, reeks of crystal clear clarity. Unfortunately, that's where the positives end. Dishing out over the standard amount for such gear, they don't possess any major difference in sound. Sure, every so often you'll find a pair that aren't tinny sounding and lacking bass, these fit that bracket - but you would expect them to do more.
            The reason for the threaded rope style wire casing
            instead of rubber or a plastic was supposed to be a countermeasure to prevent any tangling wires. Marshall's attempt is in vein though as little parts get kinks in them and generally make for uncomfortable wear. Speaking of which, I should really mention the weird additional ear grip/clamp things. Included in the box are several ear grips, small, medium and large. These rubber pieces are hooked onto a plastic part of the earphones and effectively sit in your ear whilst the oval sliced shape phone lightly angles itself into your ear. At first there is slight discomfort from the grips but nothing majorly pressing. The downside of these though is the amount of times you take them out, only for the grips to come loose and hit the deck, or down the drain. Alas, my hunt for a superior set of earphones continues.

            Mine met there highly untimely end when walking home from the shop, one stop working properly and as such, they were tossed back into their snooty little box and remain there this I find time to fix them or bin them - I certainly won't be replacing them.
            at £35, you'd expect above average to decent durability.

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          • Dark Souls 2 (PC) / PC Game / 12 Readings / 9 Ratings
            More +
            12.06.2014 22:28
            Very helpful
            (Rating)
            1 Comment

            Advantages

            • " Equipment"
            • " Difficulty"
            • " No. of Bosses"
            • " Locations"
            • Graphics

            Disadvantages

            • " Luck Based"
            • " Boss Designs"
            • " Parrying"
            • PVP

            Dead Again

            LIFE The Dark Souls series returns with a meatier, deadlier, tougher offering of punishing gameplay, that attempts to rival the difficulty of previous installments, Demon''s Souls (PS3 Exclusive) and Dark Souls (Multiple Platforms). A promise of Bigger environments, Better graphics, Beastly adversaries - this is a sequel worthy of the name. So say all the official reviews and gaming sites.. Question is: Have FromSoftware played it safe and churned out a second, similar reckoning? Or genuinely attempted to make a better, tougher game? RECKONING As you can tell from the title, I went with the former. The developers would be mad to deviate from the original winning formula of dungeon crawling/grind rpg... something or other.. What with the extreme success of their second incarnation of the souls series. That being said, when you stick to your guns instead of going all out, you better seriously deliver, again. Dying is no longer the trial and error ''Oh well, better luck next time'' slap on the wrist but now a full on slap in the face as your feeble attempts will now be far more costly - depleting your health bar upon each death. No more cheap farming of souls from the weakest opponents - enemies no longer respawn in the same way, when they do, they are likened to a new game+. Your only saving grace is that of the new feature that allows stat management. RESURRECTION The Good - At first, the battle system is slightly alien compared to the first game, but in time becomes a quicker more stable reinvigoration. Weapons aren''t insanely difficult to improve anymore and you''re guided a little better in general improvement and boss soul use. The amount of bosses is staggering. The areas are still almost all connected. Weapons and Armour - all look better - new and old. Classy little touches like the plaque commemorating the number of deaths worldwide, the additional 2 slots to equipable rings and finally a real revamping of the dreaded ''New Game+'' which pits previously unseen enemies against you amongst the originals. The Bad - You are gifted the ''warp'' ability from the beginning (something well earned in the 1st). Your humanity is restored at any time you wish (makes it too easy to summon help). As with every DS game, the PVP invasions are rarely as advertised - instead of being matched against true advicery within 10 levels of your own, you get pitted against someone who''s blatantly completed the game, donning unknown armour sets and practically killing you in one hit - that or that just circle you in the vein attempt at trying to backstab you or wait for hours so they can parry you - BORING - easily the most vapid aspect of the game. There are also parts which require luck rather then skill, the ''memories of giants'' come to mind... Recycled bosses - there''s one who is an exact replica from the last game and another which is the same size and uses the same move set - CHEAP. ETERNAL Light is finally shed on the lore and story line - enter the land of Drangleic where the torrid curse is back and this time, taking your memories along with your humanity and sanity. The initial and only FMV of the whole game is long and well made, setting you up for the somewhat-story to follow. A chinsy tutorial area does not bode well to be honest and neither does the addition of elderly women in red robes cackling at your optimism. For me, someone who has spare weekends and the odd hour after work to seriously play a game, it took me near to the 50 hour mark to get through this one which is a satisfactory amount of time these days. DEATH I''ll say now, - I prefer the first Dark Souls - it''s environments were linked in a far more interesting fashion, the bosses were much more unique and it''s general experience was far more other worldly - attributes of a proper escapist video game. Expect even more frustratingly implausible bosses and patience pushing locations to delve into as FromSoftware take you down an all to familiar path of pain and suffering. Enjoy!

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            • Dark Souls 2 (PC) / PC Game / 3 Readings / 3 Ratings
              More +
              12.06.2014 22:27
              Very helpful
              (Rating)

              Advantages

              • " Equipment"
              • " Difficulty"
              • " No. of Bosses"
              • " Locations"
              • Graphics

              Disadvantages

              • " Luck Based"
              • " Boss Designs"
              • " Parrying"
              • PVP

              Dead Again

              LIFE The Dark Souls series returns with a meatier, deadlier, tougher offering of punishing gameplay, that attempts to rival the difficulty of previous installments, Demon''s Souls (PS3 Exclusive) and Dark Souls (Multiple Platforms). A promise of Bigger environments, Better graphics, Beastly adversaries - this is a sequel worthy of the name. So say all the official reviews and gaming sites.. Question is: Have FromSoftware played it safe and churned out a second, similar reckoning? Or genuinely attempted to make a better, tougher game? RECKONING As you can tell from the title, I went with the former. The developers would be mad to deviate from the original winning formula of dungeon crawling/grind rpg... something or other.. What with the extreme success of their second incarnation of the souls series. That being said, when you stick to your guns instead of going all out, you better seriously deliver, again. Dying is no longer the trial and error ''Oh well, better luck next time'' slap on the wrist but now a full on slap in the face as your feeble attempts will now be far more costly - depleting your health bar upon each death. No more cheap farming of souls from the weakest opponents - enemies no longer respawn in the same way, when they do, they are likened to a new game+. Your only saving grace is that of the new feature that allows stat management. RESURRECTION The Good - At first, the battle system is slightly alien compared to the first game, but in time becomes a quicker more stable reinvigoration. Weapons aren''t insanely difficult to improve anymore and you''re guided a little better in general improvement and boss soul use. The amount of bosses is staggering. The areas are still almost all connected. Weapons and Armour - all look better - new and old. Classy little touches like the plaque commemorating the number of deaths worldwide, the additional 2 slots to equipable rings and finally a real revamping of the dreaded ''New Game+'' which pits previously unseen enemies against you amongst the originals. The Bad - You are gifted the ''warp'' ability from the beginning (something well earned in the 1st). Your humanity is restored at any time you wish (makes it too easy to summon help). As with every DS game, the PVP invasions are rarely as advertised - instead of being matched against true advicery within 10 levels of your own, you get pitted against someone who''s blatantly completed the game, donning unknown armour sets and practically killing you in one hit - that or that just circle you in the vein attempt at trying to backstab you or wait for hours so they can parry you - BORING - easily the most vapid aspect of the game. There are also parts which require luck rather then skill, the ''memories of giants'' come to mind... Recycled bosses - there''s one who is an exact replica from the last game and another which is the same size and uses the same move set - CHEAP. ETERNAL Light is finally shed on the lore and story line - enter the land of Drangleic where the torrid curse is back and this time, taking your memories along with your humanity and sanity. The initial and only FMV of the whole game is long and well made, setting you up for the somewhat-story to follow. A chinsy tutorial area does not bode well to be honest and neither does the addition of elderly women in red robes cackling at your optimism. For me, someone who has spare weekends and the odd hour after work to seriously play a game, it took me near to the 50 hour mark to get through this one which is a satisfactory amount of time these days. DEATH I''ll say now, - I prefer the first Dark Souls - it''s environments were linked in a far more interesting fashion, the bosses were much more unique and it''s general experience was far more other worldly - attributes of a proper escapist video game. Expect even more frustratingly implausible bosses and patience pushing locations to delve into as FromSoftware take you down an all to familiar path of pain and suffering. Enjoy!

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            • More +
              18.03.2014 01:19
              Very helpful
              (Rating)
              2 Comments

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              More of the same from Jun Maeda, only shorter, better setting.

              Intro
              Jun Maeda, well known for previous teen drama efforts - Kanon and Clannad, has come up with another, shorter retelling, only this time with a much more interesting twist.. Kanon was all about character development and slowly divulging in each ones story, Clannad was more of the same, only more brutal in its story telling and delivery. Angel Beats! however, must capture its audience with half the number of episodes of 'Kanon' and 4 times less than that of 'Clannad'. So how does it fair?

              Story
              Yuzuru Otonashi, some teenage boy awakens to find himself at an unknown school. Completely oblivious to his surroundings, he stumbles across a girl wielding a rifle - squarely aimed at another girl. Right off the bat, it is revealed that the place they reside is effectively a purgatory, where students souls remain in limbo for having not lived a satisfactory life or having died with many regrets or unfinished business - either way, they're all teenagers so, lives cut short. It turns out that this girly dispute is due to a conflict of opinions, not much else. Before the girl with the sniper can exact some sort of punishment, Otonashi approaches the girl seen in the scope, only for her to brutally stab him through the chest. A pretty grim welcome, but it matters not as he finds himself in a bed in the infirmary... completely fine. It would appear that people in this world cannot die - their body feels pain, much to the annoyance (and amusement) of certain characters who die on a regular basis, but makes a full recovery sooner or later.

              It turns out that a group of kids are all united against this stabby girl (Tenshi) and have their own club which endures multiple embarrassing name changes. Every other student and teacher in the school is simply referred to as an NPC - A non playable character. The details are all a bit murky and the explanations vague but any in depth description would be a waste of time and far too serious for a 13 episode teen, drama, comedy.

              Main Characters
              Yuzuru Otonashi - is a pretty dull, standard lead. Most of the time he's the willing to help out anyone, slightly confused mug who is in the same position as the audience, standard. He does offer up some comedic value here and there though, often taking the piss when reacting to others crazy behaviours in the club. His backstory is one thats pretty quick, but holds a meaningful message that all should heed.

              Yuri Nakamura - AKA 'Yurippe'... awful name, admitted later on... is the leader of club as she was supposedly the first sent to this place. Her past is real grim, but she remains in control as the bossy leader who tends to just sit back and watch everything fall to pieces.

              Tenshi - the girl who seeks order amongst all students including those with souls, she has several forms of attacks and abilities which she announces (Mark 1, 2 ,3 etc). A tiny student council president, she seems emotionless and calm for the majority of the show, where her name and such get revealed. Oh and she really likes spicy food..

              Hideki Hinata - the class clown
              Ayato Naoi - the gay hypnotist in love with Otonashi
              TK - spouts random english words, usually irrelevant
              Matsushita - the fat judo guy
              Takeyama - the hacker nerd who insists on being called 'Christ'
              Takamatsu - glasses and a six pack
              Noda - crazy halberd wielding lunatic
              Eri Shiina - constantly says 'How unwise'
              Yui - foul mouthed, pink haired... say no more

              Music
              Both 'Kanon' and 'Clannad' also had Maeda working on the soundtracks, including the super catchy intro and outro themes. 'Angel Beats!' is no different with a classy piano track to begin with and an incredibly lovely/depressing end theme (this is the most heart-wrenching part to be honest - it's much sadder than the actual ending!). A few tracks pop up here and there that are worth a listen such as 'Today is OK' and 'School Days' - most laden with either electronic beats or modified piano tracks. The breaks where there would be adverts are quite cleanly done, with a single note on a piano played as the angel beats logo flashes past (a heart rate monitor line) clever. There is also a band called 'Girls Dead Monster' that crops up on occasion, a J-pop/punk chick trio - they're quite awful, as its very mushy upbeat trash really.

              End
              As with most anime, I preferred the Japanese voice actor over the heavily exaggerated American dub which makes every guy sound like a jock on the football team and each girl a bubblegum blowing air head, so subtitles it is. The ways several characters reveal the reasons to them being where they are, tend to be quite well thought out and deep, though they do play on your emotions and deliberately have some cold hearted situations. This anime is really highly rated in the anime community, so I would go ahead and say it is overrated as there is little time to grow attached to characters in so little time and yet still, the majority of episodes are spent dicking about with little to no story progression. Even so, it has its charms and the general story is well thought out and interesting. Worth a go.

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              • More +
                02.03.2014 15:02
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                No.6: More of the same, more of the game.

                History
                I first encountered the Gran Turismo series way back when the first Playstation was in it's prime in the late 90's. Apart from small metal models, I had little to no interest in cars prior to playing, but I had the second incarnation of GT in my possession regardless. It was difficult and expansive, therefore, rewarding - I often played it with friends for races and teamwork for the eye watering endurance races (which unfortunately have been neglected, possibly because they encourage playing a game for many MANY hours). But I digress - time went on, I disliked all PS2 versions of the game but returned to the series with a smile thanks to the fifth installment. The reason for getting no.6? General interest I suppose... One thing to remember about this series is this - it's the real deal, so much like EA's turgid FIFA football series, you wont find a more authentic sports game of this calibur (with all the legitimate brands). Unlike FIFA who whore's out its games to every platform though, Polyphony have made this one exclusive for the Playstations.

                3, 2, 1, Tire Squeal!
                Everyone knows what Gran Turismo brings to the table. It's tagline of _'The Real Driving Simulator' is an uncontested fact of life really. Now, in it's newest installment, GT6 has over 1200 cars, manufacturer videos, clothing options for your driver, including helmets and special outfits (like Ayrton Senna's) go-carts, custom wheels/colours, aero modifications like body kits and rear wings. I can only imagine how much better it would be with a steering wheel controller set-up, as I'm not that insane about gaming, let alone driving sims. I also prefer the 3rd person, rear view, Lotus Evora/Ferrari F40, hate the Nurburgring, Love Le Mans Circuit de la Sarthe. But enough about me! The point is, you can still get attached to things in this game, enough to be vaguely passionate about motorsport.

                Playing it Safe (Differences & Similarities)
                The ever increasing range of cars added to the roster is always a good thing for GT. The good and the bad, the down right nasty, all roll in with their respective specs as usual: weight, horsepower, powertrain, transmission, gear ratios, suspension and ride height, christ, just everything. The first noteworthy improvement I noticed when it came to the actual driving was that it was much more enjoyable to race with cars that can get the tail out - yes that's right, now, it's actually possible to control your car when it under/oversteers - unlike a lot of the older games where you'd simply be thrown off the track in a cloud of dust and shame. You can see damage on your car when you get into scuffles - like dents and scratches, nothing drastic. The graphics though aren't much to write home about - Yes the cars look great and that is what this game is about but when you actually look at the track, the sky and the spectators... they can do better. The majority of backdrops (sky, mountains, ocean) are all blatant, static photographs, poorly stitched together - no motion/realism.

                Like it's predecessors, the game struggles with random loading times - some tracks just take too long to load, all while you're staring at a seemingly frozen image of the track - so you're left in the dark as to whether the game has crashed or not. The music is trash, plain and simple. Sure there are the odd tracks that have been remixed from the older versions (which are delightfully nostalgic) but for the most part, the games BGM's are horrible dubstep influenced electro. Thankfully, like 5, you can rapidly switch to your custom music playlists and play some proper music. Another downside of that though, is the amount of times the game switches the track - racing is fine, but anywhere else and it's like you're skipping through albums every 20 seconds. Those boring races where you issue orders to an AI driver are gone - thank ***! What a waste of time, effort and achievements that was.

                6 has everything the old games had, like the licences (National A&B, International A,B,C and the fabled S), manufacturers (no Porsche, but they're bloody boring and covered by RUF anyway), prizes, tracks - that being said, there's not much new here... if you're a veteran GT player, that's probably music to your ears (not GT music) if not, then it sounds like every other video game with a number after it.

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              • Clannad: Collection 1 (DVD) / DVD / 20 Readings / 19 Ratings
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                28.02.2014 17:33
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                "So, it just falls off every now and then?" ..."I guess?" - "Fuko is completely shocked!"

                'Clannad' is exceptionally difficult to review without *SPOILERS*

                Hailed as one of the all time greats among anime series, Clannad, is the king of touchy feely romcom teen drama. Having a fairly stable outlook on life, tolerable stomach for emotions and quite level headed, I took up the challenge that is a very nearly, 50 episode television series. Originally a visual novel, Clannad was adapted into an anime series that carries many themes from the original - music, characters, voice actors and key events - so It's rather loyal to the game. As to whether it truly is a misery strewn minefield of feelings...

                Characters & Plot
                The story is centered around Tomoya Okazaki, a 'rough around the edges' delinquent in his last year at school. Sarcastic and selfless at the same time, he seems to find solace in helping out his friends - whilst taking the piss on the odd occasion. With no interest in school, no mother and a drunk for a father, he hates his home, the school, the city. Nagisa Furukawa is the quiet, low self esteem girl repeating a year of school due to illness. She's also the future love interest for Tomoya, whom she first met outside the school, while muttering something about sweet bean bread... Thanks to her meeting Tomoya, gains enough confidence to attempt restoring the drama club at her school (cause she's into that sort of thing) She has a loving family who own the local bakery - her father Akio an insane jerk who loves baseball and her mother, Sanae who concocts various types of bread - all disgusting - all mentioned, then legs it out the store crying :'(

                Tomoya's best buddy Yohei Sunohara - bit of a blonde perv, who fancies himself a tough guy/ladies man all in one, provides the laughs and is almost always on the receiving end of a few beatings - from both the burly rugby team and equally masculine/terrifying girls. He has a sister who pops up now and then, whose rather worried about him and his lack of interest in anything. Then we have Ryou and Kyou Fujibayashi - twin sisters, completely different personalities. Ryou a sweet, well meaning, tarrot card (playing cards) reading soft spoken younger sibling, Kyou a slightly psychotic, violent protector who owns a moped and a small boar called Botan...... yeah.... whatever... Tomoyo Sakagami not to be confused with the protagonist, is a second year student (who frequently kicks Sunohara) is the beyond confident girl running for president. Kotomi Ichinose is the genius girl sitting bare footed in the library who genuinely has little to no social schools - always deep in thought and books, she halfheartedly assumes people are bullies when she is questioned or even greeted.

                There are a couple of other characters who show up with smaller roles but the main one worth mentioning would be Fuko Ibuki. Now I'm not hugely into the whole 'kawaii' thing or manga/anime in general, however Fuko, would be the exception. A mysterious girl who appears in the school, carving stars.. sorry Starfish. She dozes off, probably dreaming about other sea creatures (this is when she is subject to Tomoya's genius pranks!) and has the attitude of a child - but somehow has her own 'weird' charm. She refers to herself in the third person and finds Tomoya to be a 'weird person' who is liken to a sea slug. Anything said about her role would be a spoiler.. She's just too cute really, including her theme tune.
                (most) of this lot of ragamuffins attend school, get into their respective stories and cause the viewer almost every emotion under the sun. However the integral theme, Family, ties into Nagisa and Tomoya's story - one that continues after the 23 episodes of the first series and into 'After Story' for another 24.

                Pros & Cons
                I felt the first series wore a little thin/had little impact on the story as a whole. There were also several moments when you can predict a certain song will play during the raw moments - which gets tedious (more so because it's actually a decent melody). It's dubbed but as with most anime, the original voice actors are better suited (its up to you if you find subtitles a negative, for me it aint - heavily American voices are far worse). I can either make you depressed of feel like a better human being afterwards - or both. The first theme song is a bit plain, the second much better (chokes me a bit, its that emotional). The first outro song is both embarrassing and heart warming, the second is just out of place.

                The End
                This is something that fans of the series have divided over - because it all depends on how you look at it as a whole. It's not a questionable end, nor a particularly confusing one, it's just that some people cannot handle the way things turn out (or how they would have turned out). This series is the meaning of a 'roller coaster ride' in drama, as it goes through a plethora of emotions in so little time, whilst attaching you to the cast and dragging you into their shoes.

                So if you fancy yourself an emotionless brick: try and take on this series and watch yourself turn to jelly. If you don't, you have no soul, it's as simple as that!

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                • Death Note - Volume 1 (DVD) / DVD / 17 Readings / 17 Ratings
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                  23.02.2014 23:36
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                  Life, Death, Criminals, Police & Apples.

                  Continuing the theme of nostalgic teenage interests...
                  The next anime up for review is a big one - Death Note. So giant that it has its humble roots in print (manga), rise to popularity in this anime and went further by having a video game and 3 live action films plus light novels. My only warning about the following is of possible spoilers as this series is 37 episodes long and has an equally large and intwining stories.

                  Story
                  Light Yagami, your average no.1 high school genius, popular with all the girls with his brains and brawn, youth tennis champion 2 years running... yeah not sounding like your average plot... Well this guy spots a lone diary sitting on the grass whilst attending school. Curious, he picks it up to find that it is called a 'Death Note' - a book with the power to kill anyone by merely writing the name of a person and knowing their face as it is written. It can also determine the circumstances in which a person dies - the standard being of a heart attack, but elaborate suicides and symbolic deaths are bound to occur.. However, there are rules to this process... Regardless, Light sees this as his opportunity to rid the world of evil and usher in a new dawn of kindness, in a world where he will be a God... Grand plan.... Anyway, his goal is one fraught with obstacles and soon, his reputation for disposing of wrong doers gets noticed by the police, media and eccentric individuals and is soon dubbed 'Kira'. This alias is both praised and revered - some see him as a man of justice, others a delusional killer.

                  Ryuk - a tall winged creature with jagged teeth, make up and a gimp like outfit. A 'Shinigami' aka a God of death (whom the diary belongs to). If anyone touches the notebook, they are instantly greeted with the sight of him. Harmless in nature, he tends to offer comic relief, stating that "Humans are interesting!" after hearing Light's ideas. From another world, he came to earth because he was bored - plus he promised to take Light's life when it reaches its climax. He can also offer him a deal that would see Light's life get halved but offer him a far greater power...

                  L - the eccentric individual I was referring to, he remains pretty much anonymous by name, a real prodigy who has solved some of the worlds most puzzling of cases. This is a tad grating for me as he often puts together illogical theories that just couldn't be comprehended by any means. He meets Light, making an unlikely friendship after an intense tennis match. Massive eyes, a slumped demeanour and about 6 sugars in his coffee, well you get the idea...

                  Misa Amane - A model who owns a second diary, 'dropped' by another Shinigami, has traded half her life for a most valuable ability - one which Light finds crucial in his plans. A bit of an airhead, she tends to only care about meeting 'Kira' (as she has reasons to worship him) and ends up dating... sorta. More comic relief really. Bit of a stereotypical girl role though.

                  Pros
                  It's refreshingly original for one, so it's fairly addictive throughout when it offers up possible twists and turns. The cast are also quite charming despite the death-inspired storyline and it engages your brain every now and then, making you think back to remember everything said and done as well as ponder the future of the anime. I'd take this over any other detective style series - CSI and all those other crummy american shows can suck it.

                  Cons
                  From the very beginning I have HATED the intro theme to this show. Like most anime, this song is a terrible unknown Japanese band that has zero sense of timing, rhythm or song writing - thank Shinigami they changed it halfway through to a hilariously loud hardcore-banzai-whats-up-people TUNE. Some of the decisions made by the characters are also questionable (they way they go about hiding details of themselves or attempting not to give away and clues that would reveal an identity - by bluffing or being ballsy enough not to etc). I also felt it was far too long at 37 episodes - I believe it would be better suited to around 25-30 - as there is a major change towards the later episodes that doesn't really deserve as much airtime as the earlier ones. Finally, the ending just pissed me off really. It could have been hugely original and/or gone against the norm. But no, it went with the cliche', in a quick and obvious way, yawn.

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                • More +
                  23.02.2014 13:45
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                  50/50

                  It's hard not to be swayed by Gopro's enticing advertisements..
                  Sure the people in the videos surf daily, have all the gear sold separately and have a massive ramp at the end of their garden which leads to a canal where they water-ski off the back of their friends speedboat, 24/7, 365 days of the year... ahhh where was I... BUT us normals can utilize these teensy weensy little cameras too, right??

                  9-5
                  I can imagine a lot of people would view these cameras as a niche product for a specific audience and occasion - I'm one of those people, yet I still ended up with one of these things... go figure... Still, I have an excuse of being somewhat in need as my job often requires various excursions into the woods and such to film various vehicles. Outside of the workplace, I'll admit to not putting this to much use (until recently). It has been plunked onto my dash in my car for filming a night drive home with all the lights of Guildford shimmering away (despite my shoddy camera placement). It's filmed unwitting family members play 'Just Dance' on the WIi and dance away like no ones watching, inside a Christmas tree. It's been strapped to the back of my Staffy's harness as he gets let loose over a massive common, encountering mass foliage, monstrous puddles and of course, other curious canines.

                  Specs
                  This little beast requires a decent SD card to be of any use (to be capable of handling a high frame rate) so a mark 10 card is recommended - the more the storage the better really (I stick with 32gb). There's a tiny screen about 2cm in height, 1.5cm in width, for you to get a vague image as to what the machine thinks you are trying to ascertain:
                  A chunky old school looking video camera/picnic table - video
                  an SLR camera - photos
                  many frames - continuous shots
                  SLR and clock- Time lapse
                  Timer - ...no idea...
                  spanner - options.
                  Video capability - VGA, 720, 960, 1080 - both at varying frame rate, the higher the quality, the more space taken and strain on SD card.
                  Video format - medium, wide, narrow.
                  Megapixels - 5,8 or 11.
                  Timer settings - length of intervals
                  Change of direction - rotation
                  LCD - turn off the annoying flashing red light.

                  More
                  There's a lot of useless stuff here but here's the basics: You get to turn off even more frustrating features like the beeps when taking shots, PAL vs. NTSC, LED brightness, Auto shutdown and..... a calendar.... for really anal people who MUST know the exact date and time a photo/video was taken - surely if you've got one of these carefree cameras...never mind.

                  Hardware
                  On the outside the Gopro hero 2 has an audio jack for headphones and one for a mic, plus the standard micro USB and even a HDMI port. An external microphone... on the bottom of all places... The outdoor version comes with various mounts (lumps of plastic with quickly degrading sticky pads) 2 plastic waterproof cages (one for when you inevitable give in and buy the wireless add on), a head-mount that makes you look a bit of a gimp/voyeur. Luckily when I'm working with these things, I've got a handful of grease monkeys who can easily apply an adhesive to the one use pads, as well as remove them from a surface if it really sticks..I left it on the vehicle on the drive home! I've tested the effectiveness of the cage by placing it in a wheel-arch of a prototype, whilst it plows through several massive puddles on pot holes. The resulting splash, may look cool on video but every now and then, the water doesn't bead off as it probably should. Battery could last longer - usually squeezing out around 3 hours at full chat.

                  The Digital Product
                  The videos themselves are of good quality when you retrieve them. There is a limit as to how much they can record in segments - usually around the half hour mark - making a file size of roughly 1.5GB. The wide angle lens means you can get away with various re-scaling and stretching if you're into editing the footage - so if you accidentally shot in portrait as opposed to landscape (no doubt because of those BLOODY MOUNTS!) then fear not, there is enough realistic 'give' to maintain realistic film. Sound isn't great though, unless its stationary and indoors. Outdoors, everything is inaudible even with the cages, due to wind which seems to amplify as it seeps into every orifice of the device. MP4 format, safe for 1080 & 720, fairly compatible format.

                  Negatives
                  My biggest gripe - it only has 2 buttons. One to scroll through the menu (one way) and no.2 for selecting/recording/shooting. It can be a laborious task to cycle through all the options until you find what you're looking for, although, it is all in there, as simplistic as it may be... Picture/Film quality, auto off, LCD choices, time lapse etc. No screen - you can view live video and photos via an iPhone app but... that would require a wireless back pack... an optional extra which increases the chunkosity of the device by about 5mm. In fact, ANY optional extra available is a negative for me when it comes to this thing, seems like they are extremely useful bits of equipment left out deliberately for another purchase.. crafty. Another issue I have is the mounts - they can be a bitch to properly get a decent angle and can build up if into an awkward stand of about 3 mounts if you struggle to get the view you want. It's also very frustrating that the mounts don't really offer a standard 'stuck on the bottom bit' option, it has to be some stupidly over the top, Pythagoras dimension of morose proportions, much like these adjectives.

                  Ok so there is some serious exaggeration going on as to what people actually do with their cameras but the point is you should be able to do whatever you want with them, as they are lightweight and durable, whilst offering an unbeatable quality for a fairly low costing bit of kit - so a great idea! Delivered scrupulously by a bastard company!

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