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August 5th was the day I finally stepped out of the stone ages and caught up with modern technology. It was the day I got a new laptop, watch and eventually a new phone. It was my 21st birthday (Sadly I'm not that rich to go out and buy a load of new cool stuff!) hence the influx of new gear. I was on the lookout for a new phone to go with my current O2 simplicity contract (£10 a month, unlimited text and 300 minutes). I wasn't going to splash out £300, £400 or even £500 for an iphone but instead I was looking for a new, up to date and decent touch screen. My brother pointed me in the direction of the 5230 and so far I have been thoroughly impressed by it. On with the review
I bought the Nokia 5230 from carphone warehouse. I bought it for £89 on T mobile and had to pay the automatic £10 top up to begin with. So in all it's cost me £100 but the phone was readily unlocked so all I had to do was slot my sim card in. Buying this phone sim free can cost £130-£140 depending on where you go and on pay as you go it can vary from £80-£110 depending on which company you sign up with. The phone can be obtained free if you sign up for a contract with any of the major phone companies (O2, orange, Vodafone etc). Monthly contracts start at about £15 a month but can go up if you have improved contracts. All together it's a fairly cheap phone; for a £100 I've got a lot for my money. In the box came a sat nav holder for your car, a pair of headphones, an extra back cover, a wrist strap with stylus and the phone already had a 2GB memory card built in. The phone also came with 24 months warranty.
What you get
The Nokia 5230 is a touchscreen smart phone. It has built in 3G, Bluetooth and data transfer (Internet). It however hasn't got Wi-Fi. I'm pretty sure there's a more expensive version of the phone which has Wi-Fi included however I didn't feel the need for this. The 5230 comes with Ovi maps which is a neat GPS system as well Real Player. Other additions are a 2 Megapixel camera/video camera and a few decent games. The camera is of a decent quality and the video is pretty smooth and clear. The built in games were a roller coaster game, DJ mix tour, rock n blocks and pro golf 2010. These are all a lot of fun and more can be bought from the Ovi store. The battery life is typically good for a nokia phone. You should be able to go 3-4 days without turning it off before needing to charge it again. You can get about 7+ hours of call time too. Connection speeds to the internet are pretty decent; you shouldn't be waiting around too long for pages to load and downloads are pretty nippy. You can still however continue to use the phone whilst downloads happen in the background
The phone is pretty slick looking. It's available in black or pink so naturally being a bloke I went for black. It's not quite as snazzy looking as an iphone but it's definitely one of the better looking phones out there. It's plain and simple but cool because of this. The phone is a little bit bigger and heavier than other phones on the market. This is by no means a bad thing. Personally for me I want a phone to feel sturdy so that I can hold it firmly. It's not bulky or heavy but not slim and light like other smart phones out there. For me this is the right balance and it is pleasant to hold and use but not too bulky to fit in your pocket. The screen is very long but not as wide as other smart phones. However I've never felt restricted by it being a little bit thinner this way. The only negative I can comment on about the screen is that I've already noticed some small scratches. I happen to keep my phone and keys in the same pocket which wasn't an issue with my old (rubbish) phone however now I've got to be more careful where I keep this phone.
The 5230 only has a few buttons. There are 3 main buttons located on the front for accepting/rejecting a call as well as the main menu button. All the texting is done on screen. Other buttons include a media button on the side which automatically takes you to the camera/video function. The lock button is a slide bar on the slide which is easy to use to unlock and lock your phone. There's also a volume button on the side as well as a power button on top to complete the phone. The sim card and memory card slot into the side of the phone which means you don't always have to take the battery out to change them. Headphones, USB and power cables all attach into the top. So far I've had no problems with plugging any cables into the phone or removing the battery.
The interface is very user friendly. The home screen has 4 shortcuts; facebook, messages, ovi maps and the ovi store. There are also options for viewing/adding contacts as well as the normal telephone. I've also added my Hotmail email account so the home page. It's pretty customizable so you can have what you want on here. You can have your most used contacts on your home page for ease of access whilst when you play songs/videos a mini menu will appear so you don't have to go back to the media centre.
The menu is a little bit daunting at first but after a couple of hours of use it quickly becomes very familiar. All the usual aspects of a phone are here and are clearly listed (Calendar, contacts, phone log, internet, gallery, music. Settings, apps etc). It can be a little bit fiddly at first adjusting what you want but you'll soon get the hang of things. The only difficult I've had is using Ovi related systems. All new nokia phones are linked to ovi.com which requires you to set up accounts and download a lot of stuff. At the moment I don't have unlimited data transfer so I'm not 100% sure when it's charging me to do certain things. Until my contract updates at the beginning I haven't properly explored the full wealth of content available in the Ovi store. I have however downloaded the Ovi music player for my computer to transfer music between PC and phone and this was very easy to do. So for now I'm sort of leaving all the fun bits alone but there are tonnes of pictures, songs, backgrounds, apps, games and fun bits to be downloaded from the Ovi store (And a lot for free!)
However the rest of the phone is a breeze to use. Whether its adding people, playing songs, taking pictures, writing messages or making calls it's all very simple. The manual is nice and detailed and runs through all the basics you need to know. It doesn't quite cover all of the Ovi stuff so you'll need to suss this stuff out yourself. The most impressive thing about this phone is the touch screen itself. It's very responsive and I've had no problems with it what so ever. Writing messages in traditional text format or a qwerty keyboard is very easy and I've had no problems adjusting to using a touch screen (This is my first). The phone can be used vertically or horizontally and the sensor that detects which way up you're holding it is very reliable. Sometimes it switches by accident but simply lifting the phone forward changes it back. I personally prefer it vertically (As well as standard texting) but the horizontal interface is just as easy to use too. The phone vibrates a tiny amount every time you touch a button which is a very useful addition. It just confirms you're pressing the button and makes using the phone much easier.
All together this is a very good phone at a very good price. It's very easy to use and has lots of handy features to go with it. It's not as powerful as the high tech smart phones (iphone, blackberry etc) and doesn't have Wi fi but for those who want an up to date phone without breaking the bank the Nokia 5230 is perfect. The ovi store/system is a little bit confusing to begin with but once you get into it and spend some time playing about it all comes clear. Ovi maps is a very handy tool and considering it's free it's incredibly useful. Just make sure you have unlimited data transfer with this phone otherwise you'll be missing out on a lot of handy features
I was given Nosh 4 Students as a present by my mum and dad 3 years ago just before I started University. I'm still not quite sure if it was meant as a joke or if they were genuinely worried that I wasn't going to be able to feed myself! Either way since then I've put the book to good use and its come in handy on more than one or two occasions
In general the book is nice and clear and easy to follow. Each recipe is given its own page with a nice large picture to accompany it. There is often a line or two to describe to the meal offering more information (Such as how healthy it is) or extra tips on what to add to the meal. The ingredients are listed clearly and the instructions are numbered in a step by step process. They are clear and concise and I've never had any problems following a recipe. Each recipe also explains the number of people it can serve and gives an estimate of preparation/cooking time. A 5 star rating system also explains how difficult each recipe is to make where 1 star is the easiest and 5 star the hardest. This is a nice little system for beginners to choose the simpler meals before tackling the more difficult recipes. A vegetarian meal also has a nice clear vegetarian symbol next to it so that vegetarians can clearly identify the meals they need
What makes this book stand out for students (And any other beginner cookers) is the first set of pages going over the basics. A list of utensils comes in the first few pages which is a nice touch. All the recipes have been designed so that you don't need fancy cookware. This includes the amounts of each ingredient. Very rarely do you have to do any exact weighing; it makes the whole cooking process a lot easier. A lot of the meals are also designed to last more than one meal. This is a key aspect for student cooking I have found and is good to see that the author has considered this when writing the recipes. Many times do I find myself cooking 2-3 portions at once and freezing the left overs.
All the important basics and some nice little touches are included in the beginning. To a lot of people these can seem a tad obvious but this book caters for everyone so it's a clever little addition for those who are unfamiliar in the cooking world. The golden rules section covers things like time management, planning, cleanliness, health and safety and do's and don'ts. There's a section on advice when buying food. This includes tips for shopping but goes as far to provide sample shopping lists for the week. It is quite difficult to stick to a set list like this but for those really struggling it's a very useful list to have and can guide those who have no idea what to do.
These tips/advice pages continue to cover sell by dates. 'How long can I keep this before it kills me?' is an incredibly useful page. I just wish I had read this page at the beginning of university! Although food never acts the same each time it's nice to have a rough set of times to refer to when handling food. The 'What do I do if???' page is another handy page with general tips and advice for certain situations
In between tips/advice and the recipes is a set of basics. Again although a lot of it seems obvious now there is handy information on how to get the first stages right in cooking. These pages include cooking times for different types of vegetables, pasta, rice, sauces and how to cook the perfect jacket potato, omelette, eggs and pancakes.
The book covers a wide range of foods and recipes. Included are meals for soups, sausages, meats, fun foods, chicken, vegetarian, fish, salads and cakes & desserts. Using the 5 star system it is easy to start with simple meals before moving onto more challenging meals. On the whole the food is very 'British'. There are a lot of family favourites such as spag bol, chilli con carne, Shepard's pie, lasagne, pasta bakes, hot pots and casseroles. However the book does go on to cover noodle dishes, risottos and slightly more exotic meals. It's not the most adventurous book for those who want to spice up their cooking skills; it is more intended to teach you classic dishes.
In summary it is a very good book for those who are terrified of cooking. I myself was comfortable in the kitchen before reading this book. I'm not the most adventurous cook however I already knew how to do a few decent meals as a student. However using this book as given me the ability to cook some simple classic dishes that I'd never really considered doing. I've mostly profited from the dessert section as I didn't have a clue what to do for a good pudding before reading this book. My personal favourite dishes are the sausage pie, creamy chicken and the squidgy chocolate pudding
I've owned the Casio FX-83ES for as long as I can remember. I actually own the solar panel version but in principal it is the same calculator. The FX-83 has served me through my GCSE's, A-Levels and through my first 3 years of university and unless something drastically changes it will be there throughout my fourth and final year of university.
There are numerous reasons why I've stuck by this calculator for so long. In short; it has a fine balance between simplicity and ease of use but also offering more complex advanced abilities to those who study more difficult topics. The calculator comes packaged with a handy manual but for anyone who regularly uses a calculator knows that the best way to understand one is to use it repeatedly. Within minutes of first using it I was able to accomplish everything I needed.
The replay function is very handy and lets you work back through a calculation if something went wrong. It stores at least 10 of your previous commands (Without you having to save them) so you can always flick back to see what you've done in the past. The calculator comes equipped with 7 memory slots which should be more than enough for students. The calculator naturally expresses the answer in either fraction or square root form which means the accuracy is always of the highest order. I know a lot of people don't like this; they much prefer the answer as 31.34848 for example. However the press of one button will change the answer from exact form to a regular number.
The calculator itself looks pretty snazzy. I know calculators aren't exactly a fashion trend but comparing this to other calculators out there it looks modern and slick. There are some horribly retro looking ones out there which make them look like a brick. This one is slim and lightweight and the sliding cover doesn't stick. The dark background and buttons is also much nicer than the light coloured ones which normally have bright green/pink buttons.
The buttons are cleverly colour coded for ease of use. Cancel/delete are red whilst all the options/menu/control buttons are in blue. The numbers and basic functions (Add, subtract etc) are in dark black whilst more advanced functions (Trigonometry, log, square root etc) are smaller and in a dark shade of blue. This makes finding the right button a doddle. The buttons are clearly labelled including their shift/alpha alternatives.
It's also worth mentioning that these labels don't fade. I've had my current calculator for about 5 years and none of the paint work has come off or scratched. As a device it is generally very robust. There are no signs of wear and tear. None of the plastic has been damaged or started to crack. Often the case begins to show signs of heavy use but the FX-83ES is strong and can withstand a bit of a beating. It's a similar story for the battery life. I have mentioned that mine is the version with the solar panels however I doubt they add that much extra life. The battery has yet to fail in over 5 years of use. At school I studied Physics, Maths and Further Maths and I've gone onto to study Engineering at University so as you can imagine I've spent a fair few hours using this calculator! I always carry a back up for exams but so far there's been no need for it
Having studied the subjects mentioned I've needed a high quality calculator with a lot of functions and so far the FX-83ES has yet to fail me. Whether its advanced trigonometry (Sinh, cosh etc), logarithmic equations or working in radians the calculator has been an absolute breeze to use. Not once have I needed a more advanced calculator. The FX-83ES isn't a graphic calculator which is probably it's only set back however a graphic calculator is only realistically by a small group of people. What's best about this calculator is it meets the legal requirements for GCSE, A Level and University exams. The laws for what you can and can't take into an exam are becoming increasingly finicky but the FX-83ES meets all the requirements meaning exams are just that little bit easier with one of these by your side.
So in summary it is a very useful calculator that is very easy to use. It is appropriate for school students as well as University students. The battery life is huge so buying just the one could last you 5-6 years. It's very accurate and exact but not too daunting and scary for younger children who want a simple answer. And for those who like to muck about on a calculator you can write any letter in the alphabet apart from T or V (Don't deny it, we all have before at some point!)
I haven't written a review for a few weeks now. There's a good reason for this and that reason is Mass Effect 2. Any free time I've had recently has been spent on this game. I have been saying to myself I'll get on dooyoo and write a review or two but instead I get lured into playing more Mass Effect 2. Let me tell you why...
You play as Shepard (Male or Female). Shepard is the hero of the first game having saved the galaxy from destruction once already. This time Shepard works for a mysterious organization called Cerberus led by the Illusive man. Human colonies have been disappearing all across the galaxy and you've been put in charge to assemble a team to uncover the problem and remove any potential danger to the galaxy. There is a huge backstory from ME1 however there is a handy Codex log which gives you everything you need to know. You may feel out of place to begin with if you haven't played the first but you'll soon get up to speed and know your quarians from your turians.
Mass effect is a third person Action/RPG set in the distant future. Most websites and magazines will probably describe Mass Effect as a straight RPG however the combat plays out more like Gears of War than a traditional RPG. It is fast paced, tense, full of action and uses the traditional cover system now seen in most 3rd person shooters to good effect. Mass effect is free roaming and you can travel from planet to planet when ever you choose. Main quests and side quests are separated whilst you are free to roam around a few cities to shop, socialize and gain extra experience. The game however isn't fully open ended. You only gain experience through doing missions; not by fighting. You can only enter combat zones whilst on a mission meaning certain areas of the game are only accessible once. If you miss something during a mission that's it; you won't be able to come back again. Thankfully the in game display highlights anything of interest from enemies, items, money and even explodable crates. It means you shouldn't miss too much if you go looking.
Your characters level up in a traditional RPG sense. Every time you reach a new level you are allocated squad points which can be spent on abilities and skills. The levelling up aspects of Mass Effect 2 are very dumbed down. You only have a few abilities to level up and each ability only goes up to Level 4. It's more of a case of just gaining experience to max out abilities like a hack n slash game. It's not like a normal RPG where you can customise, mix n match and choose how your characters progress. Accompanying combat and levelling up is a resource based mini game. Through playing the game you will find and unlock upgrades for weapons, armour and special abilities. These upgrades require natural resources (One of Element Zero, iridium, palladium or platinum) to obtain it. Resources are found by scanning planets in the galaxy and sending probes down to collect the resources. This is a vital part of the game because if you don't research upgrades your characters will be very weak
Where Mass Effect 2 becomes a stand out game is the world itself. There is a hugely in depth conversation system. Whilst engaging in a conversation with someone you are often presented with 3 different ways to respond. One being paragon (Good), one being renegade (Evil) and the other being neutral. Through conversations you gain paragon and renegade points. The more points you gain the more conversation options you unlock which can make tricky conversations much easier. They will also unlock interrupt options where you can stop a conversation with a physical action. What's good here is that it's not one or the other. You can gain both paragon or renegade points at the same time. It's not a one way system.
The world (Or should I say Galaxy) of Mass Effect is incredibly impressive. There are various races in the game each with their own history, politics, religion and story to accompany the main story. The amount of time and effort the creators must have put in to make this game must be massive. It is so detailed and everything is linked together. You couldn't have asked for a better setting for a game. It is simple a joy to be a part of
At first glance Mass Effect may not blow you away. On a second glance the game is visually stunning. Cut scenes are no Final Fantasy master pieces but they are incredibly well presented. They are perfectly suited for an action packed sci-fi film. The likes of star trek/star wars has clearly influenced the game but that's only a good thing; watching spaceships attack each other is seriously cool stuff. In game graphics are also highly impressive. Some of the planets/cities you explore are beautifully drawn. Especially the Citadel and Illium. They look the part and are very believable
Music wise the sounds are dramatic, tense and fitting to an epic sci-fi adventure. Again it would be fitting for any sci-fi flick out there. Mass Effect 2 however surpasses everything so far with some of the best voice acting you will ever see in a video game. There must be near a hundred talking characters in the game and they are all brilliant. All the voices are spot on; it's difficult to explain how good they are but if you can picture that Mass Effect 2 features at least 10 alien races that are all unique getting the voices right is a difficult job. Yet here it is perfect. The conservations are more than believable; you fully understand how these characters feel and act around each other. Whether it is hate, anger, love or sadness emotions are portrayed beautifully here.
The game itself is a heck of a lot of fun to play. Combat as previously said is 3rd person shooter style but with extra special abilities thrown in. These includes the ability to levitate, freeze, burn and confuse enemies as well as special ammo to increase your gun damage. There aren't many gun types in the game; only 2 or 3 guns per class (Pistol, shotgun etc). The same goes for abilities. Shepard will have at least 5 abilities (6 on a 2nd play through) and side characters will have only 3. Mass effect 2 is team based so you will always be accompanied by 2 team mates which does freshen up the combat however. Despite the limited weapons/abilities you never notice it. It's so much fun to play with all the abilities and the gun play stands up to other 3rd person shooters on it's own. The result is a fine action game. It's not super fast paced but not slow and tactical. It's a nice blend between action and tactics.
The difficulty is also spot on. On normal you will probably die somewhere between 5-10 times on one play through. However the game has regular checkpoints so it is never a big deal when you find yourself down and out. Enemies are very diverse and are much more than bog standard gunmen. Certain opponents will have special classes similar to Shepard (Engineer, Vanguard, Sentinel etc) so they will also have special abilities that you have access to. It makes them the game a lot tougher but a lot better in turn
You will have about 10 team mates to chose from by the end of the game (More if you download the extra content). This is a good and bad thing. Each character has different abilities meaning they bring a different way of fighting to combat. It freshens up the game nicely however certain characters are fairly useless to you dependent on your own class. For example if you chose to be a Vanguard then you already have 2 out of 3 of Jacks abilities. This in turn makes Miranda a very useful character because she has useful abilities that you won't have access to. I'm not sure if there was any need for so many characters. Despite them all being incredibly diverse and interesting they have no bearing on the main story line. You're also likely to pick your two favourites and use them instead of the others
The use of so many team mates was an interesting and risky move. Let me explain a little first. The game itself only has about 5 'core' main quests that are relevant to the story (Of missing human colonies). The rest of the main quests come from recruiting , and then later gaining their loyalty, members of your team. This means the actual story itself, despite being fantastically well portrayed, is actually incredibly short. The game itself will take about 30 hours but most of this will be spent not saving the galaxy. This isn't necessarily a bad thing; Oblivion and Fable both had very short stories. However it's the way it is portrayed. You feel a little bit cheated with only 5 missions. There is going to be a ME3 and after finishing ME2 you're likely to realise that this game is a series filler. What does happen is fantastic and a joy but there's no denying the focus of the story is all on ME3.
It is a common feeling throughout the game. What is here is beyond good but it could have been even better. The combat is impressive but the shallow RPG elements hold it back. The same goes for the length of the game. The mass effect universe is huge. The number of planets are in the 100's and every single planet has it's own mini description and data base. But the problem is you can do nothing on these planets apart from mine them for materials. Certain planets will have side missions available however these are few and far between. The side missions also happen to be very short and insignificant. Some do interlink and carry on from each other but there's still not enough of them. A game of this size should have heaps and heaps of side quests. The weak RPG elements are probably the reason behind this. There is potential for a massive RPG game here but it's been cut down to keep casual fans happy. I have never played ME1 however I know it had stronger RPG elements. It's a real shame this game has been stripped down because you know it should be so much more
One final gripe is the scanning/mining resource mini game. It is slow, dull and unbalanced. Scanning planets isn't fun in the slightest and you will have to do a lot of it to get the resources you need. You do unlock an upgrade which speeds up the process but it doesn't reduce the pain that much. One of the expansion packs contains a set of missions where you can dig up resources using a mini spaceship. This extra bit is so much fun and an absolute laugh. Why they didn't use this for the main game I do not know because scanning planets is so tedious. It's also incredibly frustrating. For some reason you always have too much iridium and palladium but never enough Platinum. Many a time I've had over 100000 irridium/palladium yet no platinum what so ever. It's incredibly frustrating.
I have moaned a little at the end but I like a good rant! But in all seriousness this game is an absolute joy to play from start to finish. I just wish it went on for longer because I don't want to stop playing it. At 30 hours you are getting your moneys worth. It has at least a second play through in it. I've completed it twice now, once opting for a paragon character the second time with a renegade character. The different classes are also worth a play through as they significantly change the way you play the game. I bought ME2 for £25 a few weeks ago so it is well worth picking up at this price. I'm giving this game 5 stars but it's more of a 9/10. It's not perfect but 8/10 doesn't give it justice. Having played it twice it's the journey what matters here. You'll quickly be sucked into the ME universe and you will never want to leave. Live it, breath it and enjoy it. Make friends, fall in love and kick some alien ass; I sure well did!
Shadow Complex tries to prove there is still life in the 2D shooter. What was once one of the most popular genre of games has now been replaced by modern powerful 3D shooters. Shadow Complex aims to reinvent the genre with a few clever changes to breath life into the genre. Shadow Complex sells for 1200 MS points on the Market place but I managed to bag this for 800 points in a 33% off deal of the week!
----- Story -----
You play as Jason Flemming who's agreed to go on an adventurous date in a set of caves with the new woman in his life, Claire. Shortly after arriving Claire is captured by a group of mysterious men who take her into a huge underground complex. As Jason you must fight your way through the Complex to rescue Claire and uncover what the secret organization are up to. As you can see the story is very simple and minimal however being an arcade game the focus is on the gameplay, not the story
----- Graphics -----
For a 2D shooter the graphics are top notch. The lighting is fantastic and the complex is very well portrayed. From research labs, training grounds, underground paths and lush greenery on the surface the complex looks very good on screen. Explosions, gun fire and animations are equally as impressive. The developers have gone a long way to ensure Shadow Complex looks the part and fits in well with modern games. The cut scenes are nothing to rave about however they still look decent and hold up well compared to full £40 games
----- Sound -----
There aren't many cut scenes however the voice acting in the few that do appear is well done. The dialogue isn't particularly in depth due to a lack of story however the voices are fitting and what is said by Jason and Claire is very believable. Sound effects from guns, explosions and robots is spot on. It gives it that arcadey 2D shooter feel like old times but still feels modern and in touch with new games. There is little music to accompany the game but again what is in here is very appropriate and fitting.
----- Gameplay -----
So what makes Shadow Complex stand out? There are 2 main areas which gives Shadow Complex a unique feel. The first off is that the game isn't technically 2D. It's more like 2.5D. As well as aiming to the left and right of the screen you can also aim 'into' the screen. Traditionally you will have enemies in front and behind you but now you also have enemies to the side of you. It's a little tricky getting the hang of the aiming system at first but after a little while of playing you'll have no problem targeting enemies across the game. It doesn't sound like a drastic change but it gives the game a greater dynamic feel and is much more entertaining.
The second change is the use of color coding. As you play through the game certain doors/walls/panels will be highlighted in either bright yellow, green, purple, blue or red. This is done by using your flash light. A highlighted panel means it can be destroyed by the corresponding weapon of that color. So for example a yellow panel means a regular gun can break through whilst green doors need grenades to blow them up. These sections are littered everywhere throughout the complex; you'll come across red doors early on in the game which you will return later on in the game when you've unlocked the right weapon/item.
If you hadn't guessed it by now this means Shadow Complex is all about collecting stuff. There are weapon upgrades, armor upgrades and other bits n bobs to pick up throughout the complex. They are hidden literally everywhere. You'll return to old areas naturally as you progress throughout the game however if you want to collect everything you'll need to do a bit of hunting on the side. You are rewarded for your efforts as the upgrades are very useful. If you go all out and collecting the gold bars or key passes you are rewarded to two very special treats. Because of this Shadow Complex naturally suits the completionist type who like to hunt out extras and spend time wandering about. But don't let this put you off; this game can still be enjoyed for those who aren't fussed about extras and 100%'s.
The game itself is a great laugh to play through. Running n gunning is very fun stuff and it's very easy to get used to. There's no steep learning curve here. The feel of the guns is spot and you gradually find newer, better and cooler pieces of weaponry. You only start with a pistol but by the end of the game you'll have some swanky pieces of gear. Playing the game as its intended will give you things like jet packs, freeze guns and boots which make you run super fast. The whole lot make the game a bundle of fun. They add to the game a great deal and make it more than just running, jumping and shooting. You'll be able to pull off some pretty cool kills towards the end of the game. Accompanying all of this are some light RPG elements. Jason gradually levels up as you play through upgrading things like accuracy, damage and stamina however these are here more to just give you a sense of reward. It's unlikely you'll notice the effect of leveling up but it's nice to have it adding to the game
My only gripe with the game is that it's a bit on the easy side. It's by no means short but rarely will you be challenged. 2D shooters are known for being traditionally hard but it's the complete opposite here. You will rarely die on your first play through (In fact I can't remember if I died once). There is a hard and insane difficulty however these aren't much of a step up. On insane you need to be a little bit more aware but you can still get through it with a few more attempts
----- Lifespan -----
One play through of Shadow Complex will take you about 10 hours or so. Considering this is an arcade game that is pretty good going. However I've played this game on normal, hard, insane and easy at least once. I've probably put in over 30 hours or so into this. Well worth my money; however that is because I'm the completionist type who wanted to get 100% items and 200 GS. For those who aren't too fussed with finishing the game completely I think you'll only get 2 play throughs out of it before getting bored.
There is however a proving ground which is a nice extra. These are a series of challenges for you complete testing certain skills. You are awarded bronze, silver, gold and Platinum medals for your performance. These are a nice extra accompanying the main game. Your main story score can be recorded and put on Xbox live and this is another thing you can compare against your friends. Aside from regular achievements there are also in game unique Shadow Complex achievements. These are an extra 5 achievements which don't reward gamerpoints however they will test the most elite gamers. An example is completing the game in a few hours with 100% items on the Insane difficulty. I have 2 of these by accident however the last 3 will really push you.
----- Overall ------
A fine game that breaths life into the 2D shooter. If you are a completionist or just a normal gamer Shadow Complex has something to offer. The extras can keep you entertained well beyond into 40 hours if you're that type of person. It's just a shame the game is a bit easy playing through as a normal game. A sequel has been rumored and I'd love to see one come out. I would give it 5 stars but I think normal gamers who aren't fussed about obtaining 200 GS would not rate this that high. It is more suited to the people who don't sleep until they've done everything (Like me) so for that reason I can't give it the full score
I'd nagged my parents for years to get a wide screen TV with no success until one holiday break when I came home from University I found this black box sitting in our living room. Naturally I was very excited however does it compare to other flat screens of a similar size? The TV is at least a couple of years old now so it wont be as up to date as other flat screens but it could be worth a look in if the price is right
- Picture Enhancement - DNIe
- Contrast - 8000 : 1 (Dynamic)
- Sound type - SRS Trusurround XT
- Inputs - 3xHDMI, 2xSCART, 1xComponent, 1xPC
- Visible Screen Size - 31.5"
- Wide Colour Enhancer - showing true colours
- Game mode - optimised settings for gaming
First off the TV itself looks pretty stylish sitting in our living room. The all black TV doesn't have any fancy pattern or markings on it. Even the model number is hidden away on the back. It has a blue light which only lights up when the TV is on which is pretty cool. So in all its fairly simple but pretty slick looking. Comparing it to a few of my friends televisions of similar sizes this one stands out from the bunch. The TV is pretty sturdy; the base is solid and we've had no problems with it wobbling. I've had to move it about a few times and disassembling and reassembling the TV was very straight forward. It's nice and easy to separate the monitor from the base and vice versa.
As a simple normal family television this Samsung model isn't the easiest to use. It comes with built in freeview all in the normal order which is nice but actually browsing through the channels quickly never happens. The built in freeview is slow when changing from channel to channel and it isn't as advanced as others. It's not easy to see what is coming up on each channel later in the day (Or week). The menu's are slow and clunky and generally off putting. I find myself using the 'Whats on TV?' magazine or the internet to find what's on. The remote is also a little awkward to use. Swapping between different sources/components and getting everything set up right is always a slow and difficult process. The remote has loads of little tiny buttons which is always off putting. Comparing this to my LG remote for my monitor it's much more annoying. Due to the awkwardness of the freeview we ended up buying a separate freeview box. Admittedly it isn't much of a improvement (Great buy Dad thanks!) but I feel that most people who own this TV will do the same
The sound quality is pretty good to be fair. It's a very loud television; often late at night when I'm on my own I can have the TV as low as 4 or 5 on the volume and I can still hear it crystal clear. At higher volumes the sound quality doesn't deteriorate or crackle. It's suitable for both films and sports.
The picture quality is good but not great. The 8000:1 contrast ratio is relatively low in comparison to brand new flat screens. You'll definitely notice a different between this television and other flatscreens of a similar size. I have a 19 inch LG TV in my room which is much nicer to watch. The Samsung is by no means poor quality; it's just not the best. Films and sport are acceptable to watch but if you want the perfect viewing experience you need to look elsewhere. Out of normal tv, films and sports I'd have to say that football comes out the worse. The picture quality however has been very reliable. In 2-3 years of solid use the TV hasn't deteriorated in any shape or form.
As a gaming TV it fairs better than a regular television. I've hooked up my Xbox 360 a few times and the games look fantastic on it. The HD for gaming (And TV) is definitely noticeable compared to the regular quality and is much more impressive quality. The TV has plenty of ports on the back which is handy but it does mean if you use them all you can have a bit of a cable nightmare
Last year the TV could be bought for about £400. Currently the TV is difficult to get hold; it is a few years out of date after all. A very similar model LE32R87BD is currently available for about £275. Up to date new Samsung models are in the region of £300-£350. Other brands (Like LG) can go up to and over £400. So it is cheaper at the moment but for a good reason. The quality isn't the best and there are easier to use televisions. My honest advice is to fork out the extra £100 for a better model. Typically you buy televisions quite rarely so you want one which you're happy with. If you bought this and were annoyed with it you don't 3-4 years of being frustrated by it
I was given the Fuji Film Fine Pix A345 a while back for free by my brother. Its a few years out of date now and not so easily available as the new cameras on the market so is it still worth getting hold of?
First off, the specifications:
* Dimensions (WxDxH): 9 cm x 3 cm x 6 cm
* Weight: 0.1 kg
* Flash Memory: 16 MB
* Supported Flash Memory: xD-Picture Card, xD-Picture Card Type H, xD-Picture Card Type M
* Sensor Resolution: 4.1 Megapixel
* Shooting Modes: Frame movie mode
* Lens Aperture: F/2.8-4.7
* Focus Adjustment: Automatic
* Min Focus Range: 60 cm
* Focal Length: 5.8 mm - 17.4 mm
* Camera Flash: Built-in flash
* Red Eye Reduction: Built-in
* Microphone: Microphone - built-in
* Viewfinder: Optical - real-image zoom
* Display: LCD display - TFT active matrix - 1.7" - colour
* Supported Battery: 2 x AA alkaline battery ( included ) ¦ 2 x AA NiMH rechargeable battery ( optional )
The camera itself is a nice size and weight. It's not bulky and heavy but at the same time it's not as slim or as light as some of the new cameras available. It's big enough so that people who want a firm grasp (Like me) will be happy with it. It's small enough to fit into your pocket although if you have tight trouser pockets it won't be comfortable getting it in and out. However coat pockets will have no problem holding it. It is suitable for taking out and about but it's probably not appropriate for girls who want something smaller. It's also not the nicest looking camera. It's not ugly; the plain silver is quite nice but it does look very plain. Those who want a camera to look cool won't be happy here. It could do with a bit of color on it. The camera is also pretty robust; I've dropped it a few times (I seem to have a habit of this!) and there's no sign of damage to any part of the camera
The camera comes included with a 16MB memory card however at full quality (4 Mega pixels) this will only hold 7 photos. So if you do own this camera you will need to buy a larger memory card if you want to store a decent amount of photos as well as a respectful amount of video. However if you're not concerned about quality of the photos the 16MB can store quite a lot at the lower resolutions. The camera supports a variety of memory card types so you should have no problem picking up a decent memory card for it. They're also not too expensive so it won't cost you the earth to upgrade from the 16MB card. I have a 1GB card and I've never had to worry about filling it with photos or videos. The camera also comes equipped with a wrist strap so it shouldn't fall off your arm too easily. Also packaged is the USB cable to hook it up to your computer
The camera is described to have easy navigation for beginners. I have to say this is very true. The on screen menu is very easy to use. Having been given this for free I was given no manual/instruction guide with it but there is simply no need for it. Within minutes I knew exactly what I was doing. I'm normally useless with cameras but this was an absolute doddle to work with. It is kept simple with by having only a few clearly labeled buttons. Anyone who picks up the camera will have no problem switching between photos, video, saved images and adjusting all the technical details (Image quality, brightness etc). The 1.7 inch screen is a nice size and makes navigation even easier. Transporting your photos onto your computer is also very easy. Just plug in the USB cable and away you go. The time it takes to exchange your photos is nice and quick so you don't have to wait around for ages for your photos to upload.
The practicality of this camera is clearly very good but being a few years old the quality is obviously not up to scratch. Up to date cameras can hit 12 mega pixels which is 3 times greater than the max of 4 here. However that doesn't mean the highest quality for this camera is necessarily poor. The photos come out nice and clear whilst the video is also of a good quality. Yes they're not the best but if you're not a photography snob the 4 mega pixel camera here will do just fine. The second highest setting is still very good here which means you can take more photos for the same storage space. The 3x zoom is very handy and photos still come out of a good quality at max zoom.
Currently the camera is widely available due to new higher quality camera being released. It can be picked up from Amazon for about £30 at the moment which is an absolute bargain compared to current cameras. Brand new digital cameras, depending on which type you get, have prices starting at £80-£100. These often rise to £130-£150 (And these aren't the high zoom cameras)
So it doesn't look as slick as new cameras and isn't as small and slim as others but it is very easy to use and perfect for people who don't want a fancy camera. The 4 Mega Pixel quality can't compare with new cameras but it is by no means of a poor quality. Just remember a few years ago people were raving about this high quality! Not easily available but they are so cheap now it's worth it for a first camera
I've had the Microsoft Life Cam VX-1000 for about 3 years now. I got it free when setting up my student account with Natwest (Don't worry this wasn't the main reason why I signed up with them!). I knew this wasn't going to be the best webcam on earth but I already had a distinctly average webcam at the time so I at least had something to compare it to
The webcam is current available for £8.65 on Amazon. Its original price was £25 which demonstrates this was a fairly decent product when it came out. With the progress of laptops I know built in webcams have become quite popular but there is definitely still a market for external webcams.
The Lifecam is nice and easy to set up. It comes packaged with a CD for the drivers/software to get it working. Just plug the webcam into a USB port and put the CD in and away you go. The software should be installed and ready to use in a matter of minutes. The program itself is also very straight forward. It's very easy to take pictures and record your own videos. It nicely syncs with your Documents folder and anything you want to keep is easy to find. This might sound all very normal for a webcam however my previous one had very complicated software making it a hassle to save photos and record videos. It's an absolute breeze here
The Lifecam is useable with all the common messenger programs. I've used it several times with MSN messenger with no problems at all. I've also used it a few times with Skype. The Lifecam has a built in microphone which makes it very handy for video calls. It saves you having to buy a headset if you're a regular skype user.
The webcam has a clever base which can rotate and clip onto the top of laptops/monitors (Or external hard drives in my case!). I regular move between university and home and take this with me; not once have I had a problem with setting it up each time. Some webcams can be very awkward but that isn't the case here. Having moved it about several times you might expect some small damage but that isn't the case. I admittedly don't give it much care when I throw it into a box and so far after 3 years it's shown no sign of wear and tear. The webcam itself all in black looks pretty cool next to your laptop. It looks a little bit basic but it will fit well on any desk
So it all seems good for the Lifecam but I've left the most important area till last; its image quality. The quality of the pictures/videos for the Lifecam is good but nothing special. Pictures are clear but could be better. Any pictures taken will be of a decent quality as long as you're not moving. The video quality is also a similar situation. Recording videos offline are pretty good to be honest. Only very rapid movements will be blurry which is to be expected of a webcam of this price. Using the webcam in a messenger naturally reduces the video quality as it relies on a good internet connection however I've used it several times through MSN and the quality on screen has been good. I've also had no problems with the microphone. It records any sounds clearly (Apart from music) and transmits your voice well across messenger programs.
Currently you can buy an improved version of the VX-1000 called the 64L-0002. This version costs £32 and is supposed to offer better quality videos and photos. Having used the Lifecam it's definitely possible to improve its quality so for the those who are less fussed about price and more concerned about quality then I'd recommend opting for the 64L. However the standard VX-1000 is by no means a poor quality webcam. My previous one (Afraid I don't know what it was) was much worse than this for photos and videos. This brings the review to a close. If you want a decent quality webcam without all the fuss for a good price the VX-1000 is perfect for you
The Apple ipod video is now a few years out of date. I bought my 80GB using money I got for my A-Level results; I've just finished my 3rd year at university. I've never really needed the whole 80GB but back then this ipod was the best available on the market and appropriately was the same amount as the money I received. 3 years on it is a shadow of its former self where the ipod touch and iphone are way more advanced. Its even got to the point where the rich/up to date people look down upon my ipod because it's so out of date (Not kidding). On with the review
The 80GB video is not to be confused with the 80GB classic ipod. There's very little difference between the two but the classic is slightly more modern and up to date. The most obvious is the on screen menus. The menu for the classic takes up half of the screen where the other half is taken up by a picture/image (Almost like a changing background for a computer). This isn't the case for the video ipod where the whole screen is taken up by the menu.
The ipod comes packaged with the appropriate cable to hook it up to your laptop as well as the standard apple ipod earphones. The regular earphones are good but not great. They will last about 6 months before slowly beginning to fall apart. The small metal grating often falls off along with the plastic rim that goes around them. The sound quality also deteriorates slowly over time. However up until this point the headphones are generally of a good quality. Hooking your ipod up to the computer is nice and easy. It should sync within a minute or so and automatically start transferring your songs/videos/photos across. The menu options (On your laptop) can be a little fiddly at first however after a quick inspection they are easy to understand so you should be able to transport exactly what you want across in no time
The ipod itself despite being an outdated version still looks cool and slick. I have a white front and silver back which is much nicer looking than the standard black one you see. It also very reliable and will last a long time unless you take a hammer to it. I've dropped mine countless times and it hasn't harmed it so far. There's a few scratch marks on the back but with this being a silver back they aren't as bad as they might sound. The screen itself is much tougher than an itouch/iphone. I've heard so many people having problems with screens cracking by accident. This is very unlikely to happen here and will can take a real beating before affecting it's quality (And this is only in the case of videos).
The screen is only 2.5 inches which doesn't sound like much but I've watched tens and tens of films on mine and the screen does it job fine. The LCD screen isn't best for high paced actions films (Tranformers is not a great watch on this!) but for animations, comedies and dramas the ipod holds up fine. It's perfect for watching a quick episode of the simpsons, family guy or futurama etc.
Navigation is quick and easy using the wheel pad. It's responsive, quick and firm. After 3 years of constant use (and abuse) it's never failed me. I know the wheel pad isn't everyone's favorite choice of searching method but the one here is superb. I had a 4GB mini before this 80GB ipod and the difference in wheel quality is very noticeable. It's much better here
At 80GB this video ipod is mainly suited to the music boffins. I've never filled more than 30GB so realistically this ipod isn't suited for me however as I've previously said I had a 4GB mini before this which wasn't enough. It's nice knowing I never have to worry about filling it and fiddling about with what I want on it at a particular time. I often have 15-20 films on it at once and it easily handles this. I've never had any problems with slowdown, glitches or anything along those lines.
So there's nothing really wrong with this ipod so should you invest in one? Depends on who you are. They're difficult to get hold of brand new now as the classic has replaced this model. You can get 2nd hand ones off amazon for under £100 (And some under £90) which is a very good buy assuming it's in good condition. If you wanted an ipod touch of similar capacity (64GB) it would set you back over £270. So if you are the type with tones of music who doesn't care about flashy touch screens and fancy apps then there is still a place for the 80GB (Or even 120/160 GB) video. A 80GB classic will cost you anything in the region of £130 to £170. So for a slightly out of date model (Which at a core level is exactly the same) you can save at least £30-£40.
What is a shockball? The shockball is a small round plastic ball with a number of small metal plates on the surface. When the shockball is turned on these metal plates emit a small, but noticeable, electric shock from time to time. The shockball is mainly advertised as an alternative to hot potato but also is supposed to have 'hundreds' of other uses. We`ll see about that.......
I bought one of these back for Christmas for £20 with £5 P&P. The only place at the time that was selling them was Argos. I searched well over a dozen stores and they were all sold out. It was still available in the USA however I wasn't going to fork out extra money for one of these. I'm assuming the limited availability was due to increased Christmas demand. They are easier to get hold of now. Currently they are available for £18 on Amazon brand new.
The shockball requires 2 AAA batteries to work. It comes packaged with a handy plastic poking device (No other name for it!) which is used to turn it on and off. You will however need a very small screw driver, or a useful alternative, to undo and tighten the screw on the battery pack. The plastic poking device is small and annoyingly doesn't fit onto the ball for transport so it's quite likely you will lose it (As I have done). However anything small will do the job fine
So is it any fun? So far I've only ever used this as already suggested; a new way of playing hot potato. To be fair it is one heck of a lot of fun playing with it in this way. It's very tense and nervy when passing it between friends. The shock will only affect your hands/arms; it will feel like a little sting but certainly will cause you no harm. The shock is about the right strength. It can cause you to drop it when caught off guard but 'tough' people will be able to survive it. The timing of the shock has also been programmed right. When turned on a small red light will shine inside. When the ball is sending an electric shock through the metal plates the light becomes bigger and brighter and flashes. There is a period of about 20 seconds of nothing and then it will shock 3 times in about a space of 5 seconds before repeating the cycle. It is predictable; the timing never changes, however in the heat of the moment trying to count/remember the cycle will never happen.
The ball is relatively heavy for its size. This means you can't just throw it about aimlessly. It has the potential to break anything delicate in your room and would most definitely leave a dent in your wall. This also means you have to be careful when passing it between friends as it could seriously hurt if it hit you in the head. This does restrict its fun a fair bit. You need an open space without anything important lying about and can't just throw it about for fun between friends. However on the plus side of being heavy it is very sturdy. As you can imagine you're going to drop it a lot. I've dropped it countless times on a solid wooden floor and there is no sign of even a scratch mark on it. It's built to last and you'd really have to throw it hard to even come close to breaking it.
The real key here is the longevity of it. In short 15-20 minutes it's a lot of fun but sadly that's about it. There's little reason to come back to it time and time again. Once you've had a few rounds of hot potato there's little more to do with it. The packaging said 'hundreds of uses' but that's a big fat lie to be honest. Apart form hot potato I've yet to use (Or even think of) a different use for it. It can be thrown between friends casually but that makes it just a lazy man's hot potato. Being a student I have tried incorporating a drinking game into it which to be fair can work but again it's not appropriate as you're likely to have bottles/cups/glasses about which are bound to be knocked over
Overall its fun for a while. The shock is at the right strength and the timing works well. It's tough so won't be broken but isn't appropriate in most bedrooms/living rooms. The fun doesn't last long and there aren't many uses for it. If anyone has come up with any other clever uses for it please leave a comment and let me know! Btw I apologise for the terrible headline!
I've had an on going problem with headphones over the last few years. I would buy a pair; use them for a while before breaking after a couple of months. I'd buy a new pair slightly more expensive than the last hoping to discover a cheap but reliable pair. It never happened. So after getting a terrible pair for Christmas that lasted me no longer than a month I decided to invest in a proper pair of earphones that would last a while and finally spend a bit of cash. The end product is the Sony MDR E828LP.
The earphones cost me £25 from Amazon back in January and are still available at that price. They are reduced from £35 so (For me personally) this is quite an expensive pair. However I can safely say they are worth every penny. The headphones have yet to fail me once on any front.
The earphones fit snug into your ear. They are not the traditional round circle instead form to a soft point at one end of a circle. This shape looks a little bit peculiar and I was a little worried when I used them for the first time but this slight change of shape means they are some of the most comfortable ear phones I have ever used. I very rarely notice they are in my ears and almost never fall out of my ear. In fact they fit too well so that when I try to remove them by shaking my head they still sit in my ear!
The quality of the sound is fantastic. All of my songs from my ipod come out crystal clear. My previous pair of earphones required the volume on my ipod to be near max however with these I now only need the volume somewhere between third to a half. This means they can reach some incredibly loud noises. So does it blast out everyone else around you? Nope not a single bit. Even after 6 months of use I've still yet to adjust to how controlled the sound is. Even when the music is near deafening in your ears no one around you can hear a thing. I spent a lot of time working a silent library for my exams and regularly held them and waist level to check if I was playing music too loudly but I could never hear a thing.
My usual problem was that earphones would break and fall apart after a while. After 6 months there is absolutely no sign of that happening here. None of the ear cases/protectors have fallen off. In fact they are so well made the paint has yet to fade at all. I've grown used to the R and L signs on earphones fading but that just hasn't happened here. I imagine I will be using these for another 6 months if not longer as they haven't given any indication of breaking
There are a few negative points but they are very minor. The length of the lead isn't the longest. It's by no means small but for someone like me at 6`3 I have to be careful not to jerk my head everywhere. For most (shorter) people this probably isn't a problem. The plug that goes into your audio device is also at 90 degrees to the cable itself. This means it can catch on pockets when moving your MP3 player in and out. However this does create a more steady and sturdy connection that doesn't break. The earphones do look a little bit out of date. The black and silver colors don't look as slick as the apple ear phones. They look a little normal in comparison to some of the swankier designs
Overall these minor problems are nothing serious. These earphones at £25 are a must buy. Brilliant quality and will last a long long time
The LG Flatron M1994D (Will refer to it as the Flatron from now on) is just under 2 years old now but it is my first flat screen monitor that I have owned; hence the review.
First off; the specifications:
* Device Type: LCD display / TFT active matrix
* Built-in Devices: Stereo speakers
* Diagonal Size: 19" - widescreen
* Dot Pitch / Pixel Pitch: 0.282 mm
* Max Resolution: 1440 x 900
* Display Positions Adjustments: Tilt
* Colour support: 24-bit (16.7 million colours)
* Response Time: 5 ms
* Image Brightness: 300 cd/m2
* Image Contrast Ratio: 20000:1 (dynamic)
* Digital Video Standard: High-Definition Multimedia Interface (HDMI)
* Audio Output: Speaker(s) - stereo
* Signal Input: HDMI, DVI-D, VGA
* Digital TV Tuner: DVB-T
* Microsoft Certification: Certified for Windows Vista
* Compliant Standards: FCC Class B certified, CE, UL, TUV GS, cUL, ISO 13406-2, SEMKO
* Environmental Standards: ENERGY STAR Qualified
The flatiron is a very stylish and slick looking monitor. Compared to my 4 year old laptop this monitor looks way ahead of everything else around it. The stand it comes with is also aesthetically pleasing on the eye and provides a solid and firm base for the monitor to sit on. Not once in a year of owning it has the flatiron ever come close to toppling over. It also very easy to attach/disassemble. I regular move this between my house at university and home and I haven't had a single problem shifting it. It fits nicely in a thin box and hasn't got stupid amounts of long cables to deal with
The Flatron comes with an RGB cable (Used to connecting up to a computer/laptop) as well as an audio cable (Again mainly used for connecting to a laptop to play the sound from the laptop through the monitor). I mainly use the flatron as a second monitor and it was incredibly easy setting it up. Just plugged in the RGB cable and away I went. Admittedly I can't get my desktop to fit the screen without being blurry however enough of it fits the screen to still look nice. On the setting up front in general the whole thing was a breeze. The instruction guide was very simple and clear and I had it working in a matter of minutes. The built in freeview is very easy to get setting up and has step by step instructions to get it working. As a television the freeview is very easy to use. Menus are user friendly and the remote control is nice and clear. It might sound silly commenting on the remote however an awkward remote control can be a real pain. That isn't the case here
I often use the Flatron in conjunction with my Xbox 360 and as a gaming screen it is very good. The picture quality is fantastic (For television as well). It is really crisp and clear; can't complain a bit. The 19 inch screen is a perfect size to fit on desks and small tables. The LCD TFT screen has a max resolution of 1440 x 900 which does its job well. The sound quality from the stereo speakers is top quality too. The Flatron has 2 HDMI ports and 2 AV ports along with DVI, component and Audio RF ports meaning it has many uses
The only negative point I can think of is that it is now 2 years old. It is likely you can get something slightly better for a similar price. The Flatron should be available for under 150 pounds at the moment. It is also only 19 inch so if you want something bigger to fit a living room this isn't suitable. It however is perfect for a bedroom TV/monitor
The Microsoft mobile mouse 3000 is the first wireless mouse I have ever bought myself. The only other one I have used was one owned by my Dad which I found clunky, awkward and uncomfortable to use. I wanted something small, lightweight and responsive but also not breaking the bank (I'm a bit of a cheap skate!). The Microsoft Mobile Mouse 3000 (MMM3000 from now on) provided all of that.
At £7.89 (From Amazon) the MMM3000 is an absolute bargain. It originally used to cost in the region of £30.00 which demonstrates that this is actually a very good quality mouse. The mouse is nice and small and comfortably fits my hands. I have rather large hands but this fits quite snug in my palm. People with smaller hands will be able to get a firm grasp on it where as for me I'm just able to glide with it. It is aesthetically pleasing on the eye. In black it looks very slick and tidy. It doesn't look as modern/cool as the new apple mouse however it won't look out of place sitting next to the newest computers on the market.
The mouse was easy to set up and get going. The instructions were clear and easy to use. Once the USB connector was put in it took a few seconds to sync with the mouse before working. The connection is very stable; very rarely does it go down. From time to time it might struggle a little bit however within seconds it will sync back again and work fine. If the mouse does lose connection it is easy enough to push the sync button on the bottom and it will reconnect quickly.
The mouse has the standard left and right buttons along with a scroll wheel and a 4th middle button. The 2 main buttons are comfortable to use whilst the scroll wheel isn't stiff in the slightest. It is very easy to use. The 4th button is originally programmed to be a back button for internet browsers however this can be programmed through the Microsoft website to perform different things. This is a nice little addition and allows you to have a mouse to do what you want. Personally I've left it on the default setting as I find it quite useful being a back button.
The other clever thing with this mouse is how the USB connector fits into the bottom of the mouse. When not using it all you do is pull it out of your computer and slot it back into the mouse itself. This means you don't waste any battery when not using the mouse itself and also means moving the mouse from place to place (e.g. home to work) very easy and compact. The mouse only needs one AA battery to work and this should last a long time assuming you put the USB connector back in overnight
The only downside to this mouse is that it's not very robust. During my exams at university I used to take this mouse with me to the library in my laptop bag. After doing this for about 5 or 6 weeks I've noticed that the plastic shell has begun to deform a little. It's nothing drastic and hasn't damaged the mouse to stop it from working properly however it is clearly visible. In some places the plastic has torn, frayed and almost looks like it has melted in other areas. This problem will only occur for those who move about a lot so it might not be a problem for a lot of people
I regard Final Fantasy 9 as one of my all time favorite games. I played it for the first time when I was 11. Now I'm almost 21 and I recently started up a new game to experience the World of Gaia one more time. It's nearly 10 years since it came out so the question is; does it still create that magical wonderful experience? In short; I think I love this game more than ever.
Being a Final Fantasy the plot is long and detailed covering a traditional Good vs Evil story with an evil villain trying to dominate the world. FF9 focuses on the story of Zidane, a young thief from Lindblum, and his friends and companions as they travel the world trying to stop the impending doom that awaits. The plot starts off slow and steady on a small scale before erupting into a dramatic climax where the fate of the world rests in their hands. The characters start off relatively insignificant but become the hero's and savior's of the world of Gaia.
Accompanying Zidane are a bunch of diverse characters. There's Garnet; the Princess of Alexandria, Vivi; a small black mage, Steiner; Captain of the Pluto Knights whose role is to protect Garnet at any costs; Freya; A dragon knight from Burmecia, Quina; a complicated and random character whose main interest is eating; Eiko; a small girl with the powerful ability to summon eidolons and Amarant; a mysterious red headed character whose motives and interests are unclear.
The story is full of sub stories, extra characters, twists, turns and more. You can't sum up the games plot in a review. In short it's a wonderful journey from start to end with plenty of extra stories accompanying the main quest. The 8 characters you control bring their own unique flavor to the game. FF9 features some of the most bizarre characters in the series. Where as FF8 and the following ones took a more serious approach to the role playing genre FF9 took a quirky, cartoony and weird approach to it. This is perfectly summed up by Quina; a fat round blue 'thing' with a giant floppy nose who only cares about food; even in the face of great danger.
This quirky world is full of random and peculiar races. Oglops, dragons, dwarves and black mages are some of the most recognizable. Even the regular humans are all different from each other. For example Zidane has a tail, some are tall and thin whilst others are fat and round. One man even has 4 arms! This weird world is rather odd but gives it's own personal charm. It makes the game more light hearted and is much easier to hop in and enjoy. It doesn't take itself too seriously so it's very funny in places but manages to portray serious emotion and feelings between characters. You might look at some of the characters and giggle a little but will always understand the difficult situations they are in and feel for them when they are down and upset.
It's a Playstation 1 game so let's face it, they are not up to scratch in 2010! At the time FF9 was one of the most beautiful games to grace the PS1 and funnily enough the cut scenes still look stunning and are a joy to watch. The regular in game graphics are nothing special but the world of Gaia is still beautiful to roam around and has been brilliantly drawn. You still feel the grandness of the castles in the game whilst Treno, the city of the Nobles, still feels as posh as ever.
Being on the PS1 the characters don't speak but this doesn't hold the game back. One of the joys of the earlier Final Fantasies was that the voices would be up to your imagination. What Quina and Vivi sound like we will never know but everyone will have their own version for it.
The music that accompanies the game is perfect. In times of peace it is relaxing, calm and soothing where as in the heat of battle it is typically quirky and very Japanese influenced. It might be 10 years old but the music is still some of the best in a game. Certain tracks may be a little repetitive for certain areas but these are few and far between. I still love the funny music that accompanies a Chocobo whilst the music that plays when you fly in an airship genuinely puts a smile on your face
I've waffled far enough now so time to get down to the bare bones of the game. FF9 is a typical turn based RPG game. You control 4 characters at once in a battle. Battles are random in areas where combat can happen. Each character has 4 commands to choose from in a fight. Attack and Item are available for every character whilst the other 2 are dependant on the character. Unlike other Final Fantasies there is no room for change on this front. For example only Vivi can cast Black Magic, Dagger and Eiko only White Magic and so on. Each character has unique abilities which can't be learnt by other characters. At first this seems like a bad thing because it reduces customization however this means each character is unique and offers something different to a battle. Often where you can chose what people learn every character ends up being the same which is a bit boring.
Where you have control over your characters come in the form of abilities which you can equip to take into battle. Each character can equip up to 5 different pieces of armor/weapons which alters their features (Strength, Defense, Spirit, Magic, Speed, Evade etc). Each piece of armor/weapon enables a character to learn different abilities. There are loads and loads of abilities to learn. To give an example some include Auto-Haste (Automatically casts haste at the beginning of a battle), Bug Killer (Deal stronger damage to bug type enemies) and Antibody (Makes you immune to Poison and Venom). Different characters will learn different abilities from the same item meaning a certain item is of more use to certain characters.
What abilities you equip depend on your characters max ability points. As you level up your characters max ability points increase enabling you to equip more abilities. The customization in FF9 comes from what armor you chose and what abilities you equip. It's a fairly simple system but also a very effective one. It's easy to get to grips with but very enjoyable to progress with throughout the game. You can make some very tactical decisions later on the game with your abilities and it's vital you equip the right ones.
Combat is fun but not too challenging. Unless you are seriously under leveled or accidentally hit a high level area you shouldn't die too often (Or at all) throughout the game. This means it's accessible for all but it still has hidden bosses for the people who enjoy a tougher challenge.
So the core aspects, combat and character development, are spot on. But what about the rest? There's a lot to cover here so I won't try to talk about everything. The balance between combat and cut scenes is fair. You won't have to sit there for hours on end listening to drab dialogue before getting back into the thick of it. You're regularly involved so you will never get bored. The story is deep and enjoyable and will keep on your toes. Character interaction is fantastic and is often very entertaining. The world of Gaia is wonderful to explore. The open world game is huge and has plenty of places to explore and plenty of things to do
The extras (Things not associated with the main story) is one of the highlights and low points of the game. The 2 main mini games are Card games and Chocobos. The card game is probably the only disappointing aspect of the game. In FF8 the card game was fantastic. Easy to pick up and play and had a long life span as well as being very rewarding. Sadly in FF9 it is the complete opposite. It's complicated and confusing; even 10 years later I still don't understand it properly. There is also little to no reward to progressing with it. It's a shame as there was a lot of potential there
On the other hand the use of Chocobos here is brilliant. Chocobos regularly feature in the FF series however here their role is spot on. Riding a chocobo is no longer just a handy transport method but now a clever treasure hunting game. There are now 3 areas where you can play a hot and cold digging game as well as hunting for treasurer across the whole world map. At first it sounds too hard but once you get into it is very rewarding and entertaining. It is one of the best mini games to have ever graced a FF game.
Aside these two there's plenty more to do. Stellazio coin collecting, frog catching, ultimate weapons, coffee bean hunting, Quina's Blue Magic, Moogle's Mail. This is all on top of living and enjoying the game world; talking to people, treasure chest hunting and learning about the history of the world of Gaia. People you meet early on the game will make appearances later on in the game and it's an absolute joy to see how non playable characters who have no impact on the main story develop. It makes the game a very believable world and fun to just be part of
Being a Final Fantasy this is no quick game, believe you me. Following just the primary story line ignoring the extras (Which is very difficult as they are very tempting and addictive) will you take you at least 24 hours of solid playing. My first time play through 10 years ago was well into the 60-70 hour region. It's so easy to get lost in the game. If you're a completionist it's very easy to play over 100 hours. There is a challenge in the game to reach an area on the 4th disc in under 12 hours however you have to take a few nifty short cuts to do this. By doing this you also ruin the point of the game. Basically, it's a very very long game and is well worth the money
A truly magical game. I'm currently playing it at the moment and despite being 10 years old I still love it. It's so much fun and such an enjoyable experience to play through. It's a little bit quirky but that's what separate it from the bunch of very unoriginal RPG's out there. It's probably a bit easier than most RPG's but that doesn't stop it from being a lot of fun. Apart from the card game any time you pour into this game is well rewarded. I can not recommend it any higher. The last review for this game was written in 2001 but the fact I'm still playing it now should indicate it's a must play game
Before watching this film the first question asked was, where the hell is Bruges? One friend said Germany, the other Austria whilst I vouched for Belgium. Turns out my European geography isn't that bad after all. Anyway on with the film. This is just a review of the film as it was only a rental last week. My friend who brought the film round said the trailer had 'Lots of guns' in it. It wasn't long before he regretted that comment as In Bruges is no where near being an action film. The trailer is slightly misleading however it should demonstrate the funny side to this film.
Ray and Ken are two Irish hit men who have been sent to hide out in Bruges after Ray's first job in London went wrong. They are sent by their boss, Harry Waters, and are told to await further instructions.
I'm afraid on the core plot line that is all I can say as anymore would be revealing. The film follows the two different attitudes taken by Ray and Ken to Bruges and their lifestyle as hit men. Ken is older and settles well in Bruges taking in the sites and culture. Ray is uncomfortable in his new surroundings and is struggling to deal with his past mistakes. Whilst in Bruges Ray comes across a beautiful drug dealer, Chloë, who helps supply drugs for a dwarf film actor, Jimmy. In Bruges follows the story of Ray, Ken and Harry but also the development of the relationship between Ray and Chloe and Jimmy.
Ray - Colin Farrell
Ken - Brendan Gleeson
Harry - Ralph Fiennes
Chloe - Clemence Posey
Jimmy - Jordan Prentice
Film Length - 107 minutes
So if the trailer is misleading what type of film is this exactly? In Bruges is a slow paced dark comedy. It doesn't have the America/Hollywood tag attached to it but instead was the opening film for the 2008 Sundance Film Festival. In Bruges doesn't get the hype and media attention big films gain but that is no reason to miss out on this one. It is one of the most surprising films I've watched in the past few months; I thoroughly enjoyed it and burst out laughing on several occasions.
The jokes are a mix of physical and verbal but all had me in stitches. It is a dark comedy so it will not be to everyone's liking. A lot of stereotypical groups were on the end of jokes throughout the film. We noticed that blacks, dwarfs, fat people, Americans and women were all on the receiving end of some pretty harsh jokes. The only group it didn't seem to offend would be gays and lesbians; the film really touches all aspects of comedy.
The main reason why the film is so funny is due to the performance of Colin Farrell. He is absolutely superb here. Before watching In Bruges I didn't have high hopes for the film as I am not a fan of his. I've only seen him in his big American films (Phone booth and SWAT) so his Irish accent was a small surprise to begin with. He and Brendan Gleeson play off each other superbly and the relationship between the two develops to make a fascinating film. It's almost a mixture of young and old when the two are together. Ray is rebellious, naughty and cheeky whilst Ken is laid back, calm and prefers a slower pace to life. The accents really add to the film; normally I hate accents of any type in a film but as this is how both Farrell and Gleeson normally speak it merely adds to the comedy.
The performance of Ralph Fiennes cannot be forgotten either. Harry is a typical cockney, rich, big time mob boss and Fiennes suits the role perfectly. At the back of my mind I kept thinking 'It's Christopher Eccleston!' but then with a bit of research I realized it was actually Voldermort from Harry Potter where I recognized him from. Although Harry is the villain of the film he still has some loyal and decent morals which make him a very believable but also likeable character.
In Bruges received several good reviews and was nominated for several awards however I know this film isn't everyone's cup of tea. 3 of us watched this film, I said it was 'Brilliant', one said it was 'Good' and the other said it was 'Pretty terrible'. Although it is hilarious it isn't perfect. The pace of the film really lets it down. It's a very slow moving film and doesn't pick up until the second half towards the end. My description of the plot is very small and that's because the main twist in the film doesn't come for a long time.
The first half of the film is used to develop the characters of Ken and Ray which is a nice touch however the plot doesn't move a single inch. Literally the first 45 minutes makes no development in the main plot line. Side stories are developed however you will still be waiting for the film to kick into gear. The story needed to develop quicker to keep every viewer entertained. Due to the slow moving story the 'point' in the film doesn't become clear until the end. I felt it was a fairly predictable twist in the story so there would have been no harm in putting it near the beginning and building from this. You can be forgiven for feeling a little bored at times throughout the film
The film has an 18 rating but I think a 15 rating may have been more appropriate. It does contain one heck of a lot of swearing but besides that it didn't feel too bad. There are a few scenes which contain a bit of blood but we are not talking Saw/Hostel style blood and guts. An 18 rating is a safe way to rate the film however when compared to Drag Me to Hell and Shaun of the Dead (Which both received a 15 rating) it does seem a little harsh.
An extremely funnily film which is easy to miss due to limited release in the USA. Being an independent film it did not get the huge attention it deserves. The cast is actually quite impressive and all give fantastic performances in the film. Right down to Clemence Posey and Jordan Prentice the acting is superb. The only downside is the plot. Very slow moving and a lot of people will argue there is little point to the film. Maybe not for the older audiences as the amount of swearing and the number of groups offended is quite high