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JamieJCO

JamieJCO
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Member since: 12.09.2008

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    • More +
      20.12.2009 20:45
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      A fun game, but is let down by some prevelant flaws.

      Tom Clancy's HAWX is set in a troublesome world in which privatised military companies have begun to replace government-funded forces. One such company has begun to exercise its superior weaponry and training to attack the United States; largely because of the tendency for these malicious and powerful companies, comparable to mercenaries, to fight for whichever side is paying the most. The story follows the path of a former United States Air Force pilot David Crenshaw and his moral dilemma as the company which employs him decides to attack the country to which at heart he is loyal too. This sets a fairly predictable backdrop to the game, although the air combat does give the plotline some originality.

      Gameplay revolves largely around 3 central goals, protecting targets, escorting convoys or simply destroying enemy targets and vehicles. These goals can be achieved in 50 different fully licensed fighter jets which have varying degrees of speed, manoeuvrability and durability as well as different accompanying weapon packs. The gameplay can become repetitive (lock-on, fire, repeat) and thus it is a bonus that there is a degree of variation between missions and the jets in which the players can complete missions. Notably there is also an experience-reward system so that players can keep note of how far they have progressed and what they are yet to achieve in the game. The controls can be conducted in 1st person or 3rd person, as well as in "Assistance On" or "Assistance Off" modes. Essentially "Assistance Off" increases the ability of a jet to make sudden, evasive and extreme manoeuvres, but makes it much more difficult for an inexperienced player to control their plane, to keep it from stalling and also to maintain missile lock on enemy planes. Thankfully these control schemes can be alternated between rapidly during play as a means of getting the best of both worlds and allow the player to enjoy their experience as much as possible.

      One major letdown of the game (especially for an Xbox 360 game) is that the game lacks an addictive or even an enjoyable multiplayer experience. Cliched Deathmatch modes provide an arena for players to face off against each other, however this provides a repetitive and unimaginitive place for players to fight off against one another. Quite rightly many reviews in gaming magazines and sites alike have described it as "stale".

      Graphically the game tends to be pleasing, with a suitable degree of detail applied to surrounds and most importantly to the player's various different jets. Critics have maintained that there is not much difference between many of the different generation of fighter jets and that there are many inaccuracies portrayed when compared to the real-life equivalents of the planes. Other, perhaps more prevalent problems occur in the more intense combat sequences, as this puts a strain upon the games engine and lowers the frame rate significantly. Also, there tends to be significant pixilation as the player flies at very low altitude and skims across the surface of the group. It is very rare that the player will find themselves having to do this though, and therefore it is not a major issue. On the other hand one of the things which the game has been praised for aesthetically is its use of satellite imaging when creating the environments and battlegrounds. This adds a definite feel of realism to the game, which arguably some other aspects of the game (such as the tactics used by AI) deprives the game of.

      Overall, this is one of the best flight-simulator type games available on the Xbox 360 and if you are a big fan of the genre then it is definitely worth purchasing if you are a fan. Nevertheless if you have only a casual interest in this type of game then I would advise that you rent it before you spend more money upon the purchase, as this experience is definitely not for everybody.

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      04.05.2009 23:18
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      My favourite websites.

      I find that I spend an excessive amount of time on the internet, in particular when I should be doing something else. However no matter how long I spend on my laptop there only ever seems to be a very limited selection of websites in my history and I have therefore compiled them in this list in an attempt to both make a few pence as well share my browsing history with you all!

      1. Dooyoo

      This actually isn't be trying to suck up to Dooyoo but I do find myself spending a lot of my web surfing time on Dooyoo, or at least having it tabbed in the background in case of any sudden review-related inspiration. For those of you who are perhaps a little new to Dooyoo then it's a review website full of user-generated articles used mainly to inform consumers of the latest products. It is also a great way for users to make a few quid on the side, even if it will never add up to a huge amount.

      2. Helium

      Yes okay, I guess I'm sticking my neck out a bit here but I also spend a lot of time browsing the channels on Helium and contributing every once in a while. I haven't had as much success as with Dooyoo as far as earning money goes however simultaneously I don't think I have put in as much effort overall. I have gathered up about $19 dollars so far within a two month period, and I write under the same name.

      3. YouTube

      YouTube has been one of my favourite sites for a really long time. I like watching some of the blogs such as "sxephil" as well as the videos created by "communitychannel" as they always have a few laughs in them. Another main thing which I love about YouTube is the ability to watch live videos of bands playing and I used to watch music videos on there too but because of the ridiculous copyright laws which seem to be limiting half the videos on YouTube recently it has dropped down my most visited list somewhat.

      4. Facebook

      This is a website which I use primarily as a way to keep in touch with people that I still know, rather than people who I used to go to school with and that sort of thing, as other people seem to do. It has a whole range of options including a few applications which I enjoy using such as the events tool as well as becoming fans of different artists and bands. I'm not too keen on the new layout however, although Facebook doesn't seem to take its users criticisms on board so I guess I'll just have to get used to it.

      5. Kongregate.com

      Kongregate is a very fun online gaming website, which I have actually written a review about here on Dooyoo. There are thousands of user-created games as well as some of the more famous ones from the internet. There is also a competitive points scheme for completing certain feats within games, which adds an addictive edge to the website which others do not have. Add this to the friendly community and rapidly updated server and you've got a great website for casual gaming and passing the time away.

      6. Xbox.com

      Using this website you can sign in using your gamercard and send messages to your friends, change important account information, watch trailers on upcoming games as well as monitoring your progress in games that you already own. It is a very sleek website, one which I try to log into every day or couple of days if I can to see any exciting news on games that are going to come out, or just to check up on my friends.

      7. eBay

      eBay is one of the most popular sites on the internet and with good reason. I occasionally purchase fairly random things from eBay, but otherwise I use it to buy things that are difficult to find anywhere else or not longer retail in the stores. I have only dabbled in selling on eBay, though as I have only recently activated a seller account. I also find it quite difficult choosing which things to sell that I already own, as well as finding it difficult to purchase things which can make profit. It's a work in progress, though!

      8. Amazon

      Yet another shopping website that I spend a lot of time and probably money on. There is always a huge selection of products from a wide variety of categories. A lot of these, especially in the video games and books category which is fortunately where I spend the large majority of my earnings from Dooyoo! I have once again only experimented with selling on Amazon and whilst I find it easier and more successful to sell on Amazon they do take quite a large commission, something which has put me off using them again. I would advise only using Amazon to sell if you are sure you will get a substantially higher price on here than on eBay or another similar site.

      9. Achieve360points.com

      This is a great website, especially for people who love to get achievement points of their Xbox 360's. There is a huge amount of information on the site, all of which is updated regularly and carefully moderated by the site owner as well as community members and other staff. There are also loads of forums for pretty much every single Xbox 360 game where you can go in order to ask questions and get help with a part of the game which is troubling you, or just to find a buddy to play with online to help you get some of the trickier achievements. This website was my home page for a while; however I gradually became more reliant on it when playing games and found I was taking the easy route out and enjoying games less so I tried to cut down.

      10. Wikipedia

      Wikipedia, despite its many criticisms is by far one of the most useful, informative and generally reliable references to use on the internet. There are always cool articles featured on the home page however it's almost guaranteed that there will be an article written on what you want to know about. There are over 2,800,000 articles in English, a number which is increasing all the time too. Wikipedia is site I use when I have issues with a review I want to write, for example to double check when a video game was release or the name of certain developer.

      These are the main websites that I use however others include the Heroes Wiki, for all the latest information about Heroes, the TV show. I also occasionally use iPlayer and the 4OD service. I also check the iTunes Store sometimes, but I suppose that that doesn't really count as a website.

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      • More +
        02.05.2009 14:55
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        A game which is excellent value for money and is a must buy for any gamer.

        Resident Evil 5 is the 19th game created by Capcom in the Resident Evil series, however Resident Evil 5 is the 4th "real" sequel which follows the story of the original Resident Evil game and because of this it has been long awaited by fans. The trailer sparked debate as to whether the game was racist when it was first seen in late 2008 and this caused much debate amongst critics as to whether the game should be redesigned or postponed until the game's nature had been fully investigated. Despite this hiccup in the advertising campaign the game hit out shelves with a bang on Friday 13th March 2009.

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        Story
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        The story features Chris Redfield, one of the main characters from the first game "Resident Evil". He sets off with his new partner Sheva Alomar on a simple recon mission to investigate some strange happenings in a rural village in Kijuju, an area in Western Africa. Sent by his new employers Bioterrorism Security Assessment Alliance (BSAA) he, as always, finds himself in more trouble than he expected and he soon finds himself in a frantic struggle to save the world from the evil Albert Wesker, the main antagonist from the previous title "Resident Evil 4". Many unexpected twists and turns also proceed along the way, which I shall leave undisclosed in order to preserve the surprise and enjoyment of the prospective consumer. Players which are new to the series need not worry, also, as the game requires no past knowledge of the series in order to thoroughly enjoy it.

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        Gameplay
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        The game once again uses the "over-the-shoulder" camera used in Resident Evil 4, which has also been used to great effect by separate developers Epic in the game series Gears of War. This camera angle drags the game into more of an action genre, rather than a horror one that has been experienced in previous games from the series. This is possibly because of the added firepower that the player feels that they have behind them, or maybe just feel more secure as you're closer to your character. The shift towards action is further reinforced by the new enemy; the majini. These are much faster and more intelligent than enemies which have been featured in previous titles, and so this game feels much more like a shooter rather than a horror game.

        The control scheme has also been retained from the previous game. This is a scheme which at first seems a little clumsy and counterintuitive, however with a little practice throughout the first few levels, as well as some activities which help the player adapt to the control scheme, you'll start to wish that your other games feature the layout as it is so precise and genuinely feels as if you have control over your character. There are times when the controls become a bit annoying, such as when you are trying to switch weapon during a battle. There are also a few things that take getting used to Resident Evil 5, the first is being unable to run whilst reloading, which is a nuisance when trying to flee and prepare yourself for a head-on fight with the zombies. The second thing which takes some getting used to is the way in which the player aims, you cannot move whilst aiming and there isn't a crosshair either. This means the player must rely entirely on instinct as well as the laser sight fitted to your gun, unless it is a scoped weapon. This gives the game a very realistic feel even if it did contribute towards putting people off the game when they downloaded the demo and didn't have enough time to adjust to it.

        The gameplay overall is very fast paced and the player has to think ahead and familiarise themselves with the environment in order to get an advantage over some of the bosses as well as the majini on the higher difficulties, as they will kill you in one attack on "Professional" which is only unlocked after some relatively simple play through the Veteran mode. You don't just have to rely on your tactical instinct during the progress of the game however as you can pick up treasures and gold in order to earn yourself some cash. This money can then in turn be used to purchase the character weapons and the upgrades for them, when these guns have been fully upgraded you can then go about adding infinite ammo to them, giving you a huge advantage. Best results in the story mode are achieved when you play with a buddy either split-screen or over Xbox Live. The story mode and it's various difficulties as well as all of the achievements will take you well in excess of 40 hours to complete making this game excellent value for money.

        There is also the Mercenaries mode which is a mode which is more arcade-like than the story mode and the simple goal is to kill as many zombies as possible. A recent addition to the Xbox Live Marketplace has also allowed players to face each other in deathmatch modes, complete with extra achievement points too.

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        Graphics
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        The graphics of the game are exceptional. The developers have really outdone themselves and the graphics featured in Resident Evil 5 are easily some of the best that have been featured on the console so far, making this at least a must-rent game for any gamer who loves to play through a game and admire the hard work put into a game by the graphical designers and the art teams.

        The graphics when the player controls the camera are really great; they let the player clearly see what is going on in the environment whilst packing the area full of detail and texture, making it a very interesting playthrough. The environments also vary widely from hidden temples and rural villages all the way through to futuristic underground laboratories full of daunting test subjects. The design of the bosses are also really great and were actually one of the things that I liked best about the game as I was always provided with something new and interesting to fight and hopefully survive against.

        The graphics of the cutscenes are also exceptional, even better than the ones which are presented in the gameplay itself. There are some very sleek animations and interaction during them and Capcom has ensured that you are paying attention by making many of them interactive, something which I enjoyed as it made me feel as if I was part of the story and gave me prerogative not just to skip past the cinematics.

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        Sound
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        The sound of the game is also of a very high standard. Due to the game taking a very action packed and dramatic turn the sounds are largely explosions, gunshots, fast-paced music and dying enemies. All of these manage to change varying on the surroundings and context as well providing a lot of depth to the game. There is nothing more fulfilling than setting up a successful trap and having a group of majini fly away from a pile of explosive barrels in a cacophony of noise and sparks.

        Despite the action packed nature of the game there are periods when all seems to be mysteriously still and eerie which packs moments full with tension in events which point back to the Resident Evil games of old. These moments are usually very exhilarating and get the player involved as well as getting their heart racing.

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        Conclusion
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        In conclusion this is one of the best games which I have played for a very long time and is one which I am truly addicted to. Fans of the series need not feel disappointed with the next instalment of the series, but new players need not have played the previous games to understand what is going in. This game is worthy of any gamers collection and should be purchased as soon as possible!

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      • More +
        30.04.2009 19:40
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        A great little console perfect for playing games on the move.

        The Gameboy Micro was a release by Nintendo in late 2005. The console was a smaller, sleeker version of the Gameboy SP which in turn was an improvement on the Gameboy Advance. The console plays Gameboy Advance games; however it cannot play Gameboy Colour or original Gameboy games due to the lack of supporting hardware installed on the console.

        The graphics of the console are obviously limited by the cartridges that it can play, although the screen is superior to both the Gameboy Advance and the SP due to its higher screen resolution, durability of the screen as well as a much better backlight behind the screen to improve visibility in both dark conditions as well as when there is glare on the screen. This allows much easier gameplay without the inconvenience of having to sit somewhere suitable, which is besides the point of portable gaming.

        That leads me neatly onto the next point, that the Gameboy Micro is the perfect portable gaming system it is light (only 80 grams without a cartridge inserted) and would easily fit in your pocket. There is a great selection of games that can be played on it, for example Super Mario, Pokémon, Advance Wars and a huge variety of other titles, most of which are now available at a discount price because of the Nintendo DS now proving itself to be a "better" successor. The Gameboy Micro seems like a very delicate piece of hardware at first although using the machine for only a short period of time you can tell that it is a hardy piece of kit that can resist most knocks and bumps to it, meaning you can put it in your pocket and take it with you wherever you go. There is even a 5 hour battery life that means the console if good even for the relatively long journeys and better still it is rechargeable so that you don't have to waste money on batteries which are also harmful for the environment if not recycled. Another good feature, which is infamously lacking on the Gameboy SP is the presence of a 3.5mm headphone jack, which allows you enjoy the full experience of the game without annoying the people around you.

        Gameboy Advance games I have always found are great to play when on the go, even more so than DS titles in my opinion, simply because they are so involving and yet can be played on such a casual basis. Whilst Nintendo DS games require the use of a stylus and even the voice (which can be embarrassing when on the move, especially in public transport) the Gameboy Micro requires no such involvement, it's a quick pick up and play gaming system that can be slid away back into your pocket when you are done.

        There are some problems that have been associated with the Gameboy Micro since release however, one of which is the awkward location it's Start and Select buttons, placed on the bottom of the console. This causes difficulty in games which require you to press these buttons at a fast paced, such as some action games. Whilst it doesn't cause too much trouble for most of the popular titles that are featured it may prove challenging for players who enjoy faster-paced games for the Gameboy Micro.

        Another problem of this console is that the screen is smaller than its predecessors, measuring a measly two inches in comparison to the original Gameboy Advance's three. However, as the saying goes it's not the size that matters it's what you do with it, and because of the exceptional quality of the screen that is on the Gameboy Micro it allows for great functionality of most titles anyway.

        A final problem, albeit not directly related to the design of the console, is that it is hard to find a Gameboy Micro. They are always up for auction on eBay as well as Amazon, however they always fetch prices in excess of £30-40, which for some people is too much to pay for a console which was released over 3 years ago and has since been succeeded by a newer model. The main reason for it's price is the relative rarity of the console, as they didn't sell as well as Nintendo might have expected due to the competitive SP which people were already pleased with and the poor advertising campaign that pre-empted it's release.

        In conclusion this is a very good console that is perfect for a casual gamer on the move, and so if you want a console that is both nice to look and features great titles then look no further than the Gameboy Micro, if you can get your hands on one of course.

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          16.04.2009 22:24
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          A great game for only 800MP

          Alien Hominid is a side-scrolling Xbox Live Arcade title that is also available on disc format for the Playstation 2 and the Nintendo GameCube. The game has its roots on the popular website "Newgrounds" where it is one of the most famous and popular games to appear. The claim was fairly highly acclaimed averaging scores of around 80% from a wide range of games websites and magazines.

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          Story
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          The story begins when your small, yellow, alien character is shot down by the FBI on its flight above the USA. Your spacecraft then crash lands in a suburban area of America where it is swiftly whisked away by men in suits and shades. It is then your mission to clear the path in front of you in order to reclaim your spaceship and escape the planet Earth. On Easy the game will perhaps take 3 or 4 hours to complete, however it will no doubt take longer on higher difficulties.

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          Gameplay
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          As previously mentioned game is in side-scrolling format, meaning essentially that it is 2D. Whilst this will almost certainly bring pessimistic views about this game it certainly doesn't detract from the fun of it. The game is fast paced and requires a lot of skill, namely in dodging bullets and in beating the extremely difficult bosses. The enemies that you face are generally government agents, from the FBI and the KGB namely. These can easily be defeated with one shot from your gun and aren't too challenging if you pay attention to where their bullets are flying. The bosses however are a different matter; they require observation of their patterns, strategic moves and rapid bashing of the X button to get enough shots in the limited time available to deal any worthwhile damage. The bosses are some of the hardest that I have come across in pretty much any game. Their difficulty is essentially in the amount of health they have rather than in their AI or their tactics. Unfortunately there are limited multiplayer features for this game besides co-operative play- a mode which does make the story considerably easier however as well as the online leaderboards.

          Your character dies after one shot, which makes the gameplay very challenging, however because of the arcade theme to the game you are given several lives and continues to use throughout the course of the game. There are also power-ups which you can find to change your weapon and they also give you a shield on the Easy difficulty.

          As well as the main story mode there are a few mini games that can be unlocked when playing through the game. These are very simple games reminiscent of games that were released at the very beginning of video games. They are fairly simple and there are some achievements for playing on them and reaching certain scores, there is a fan favourite PDA game which is addictive if not a bit simple and repetitive after a while. As well as mini-games to unlock there are a variety of hats which you can find for your alien to wear. This adds something to collect to the game and another achievement. Some of the hats are a bit random whereas some are cool looking and look fun on your character.


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          Graphics
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          The graphics for the game are 2D, with some simple drawings in the background to give the game some depth. These graphics, as you may have guessed, are extremely simple compared to some of the other titles for Xbox 360 or even for the Xbox for that matter. The graphics are colourful and vibrant which makes them interesting to look at. The scenery changes throughout the game, and there are 3 main different locations to play through; the Urban level, Russia and Area 51. Everything is easily seen so that you always know what's going on, which in some way can be perceived as an advantage over 3D games. Alien Hominid has been allowed to be so fast paced simply because you have a perception of exactly what is going on around you, rather than having to guess at what is going on in places which you cannot see.

          The graphics have a very hand drawn feeling, and this is because they are all based on Dan Paladin's original drawings of the game which he created for the internet. This gives the game character and makes it stand out from the other games available on the arcade.

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          Sound
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          The sounds are wacky as you would expect from a cartoon like game, and they suit the graphics and the overall feel of the game. There are several different sound effects for the different weapons and enemies as well as some background music in there as well. There are also some funny spoofs for the music which is featured in the mini-games. Overall however the sounds aren't anything special and they don't stand out particularly from the other arcade titles that are available.

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          Conclusion
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          Overall this game is very fun and addictive to play, it is one of the best arcade titles that I have purchased and at only 800MP (approximately £6) it is definitely worth the buy. This isn't a title that will yield a particularly easy 200GP but with some practice you should be able to get there. I would advise that you buy this game if you have some spare points even if the lifespan is probably only about 6-8 hours.

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            23.03.2009 23:24
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            Possible legalisation of a Class B drug.

            Cannabis, despite its relative safety has become one of the most controversial drugs around. Figures speculate that the use of cannabis is on the increase in the UK. This is frighteningly coupled with the fact that cannabis tends to be considerable more potent than it ever was in the past and it is often mixed with other chemical and drugs in order to make it either higher quality or cheaper to create for the ever elusive producer. Currently the law in the UK states that if you are found with cannabis once you will be cautioned, a second time another warning will be issued however on the third time being caught you may face a prison sentence or a fine. Dealing cannabis however is altogether different ball game as only one strike and you will be out, with a long term prison sentence and a fine that exceeds several thousand pounds.

            Firstly, cannabis has a large variety of effects, surprisingly for an illegal drug not all of them are negative; I shall focus on the negatives first though. To begin with cannabis can have a variety of mild symptoms when it is first taken this includes nausea, hunger (nicknamed the "munchies"), as well as potential harmful hallucinogenic effects. This is a very short list of negative side effects; you may say which is probably why so many people take the risk to take cannabis in order to achieve the relaxed effect which it has on the mind.

            With regular use of cannabis there comes a variety of more serious effects. This means that "all" a user has to do is only take it infrequently was it ever to become legal, however despite the widely believe opinion that cannabis is not addictive is in fact a fairly addictive substance and after prolonged use of the substances a dependency will be formed, resulting in deprivation which has the side effects of depression, loss of appetite and diarrhoea. The long term effects of continuing to use cannabis however are also very serious. Cannabis has for a long time been rightly associated with psychosomatic illnesses such as depression and paranoia. It also has the effect usually associated with smoking tobacco such as lung disease and cancers due to the smoke and carcinogens that are being breathed in during using the drug. It is for the long term effects why cannabis is currently listed as a Class B drug in the UK, and why I personally believe that it should be kept that way.

            Secondly, cannabis is rarely sold in its purest forms. It is often "diluted" with other products which increase the mass of cannabis that can be sold and the volume of THC which it contains (THC being the main chemical which contributes to the mental effects that are associated with cannabis). It has been known for cannabis to contain other things such as tranquilisers (potentially very deadly), henna (a largely useless herb in the drug context) and even animal faeces and turpentine have been found in some cases. This adds further health risks to smoke cannabis.

            It is my personal opinion however, that cannabis should be allowed for medicinal purposes, and people who suffer from illnesses which are very painful and are otherwise incurable should be allowed to smoke or take cannabis as a form of painkiller and/or relaxant. At least if it was used in the medicinal context it could be controlled as to what was in it and the amount in which people use and of course people who were using it could be monitored for any adverse effects. This would allow the use of the drug under controlled setting for responsible use.

            It can also be argued that as with all substances it is the persons choice as to whether they take the drug or not, especially since the drug is relatively safe to people other than the user when taken responsibly. By responsibly I do of course mean that people should not of course use the drug in situations when you would otherwise be prohibited to using a relaxant drug such as driving or operating machinery. I can see this point of view, but at the end of the day if the nation began to relax its laws on cannabis then inevitably more people would begin to use the drug, ultimately resulting in increased cost for the medical services such as the NHS and other charities set up to help people affected by drugs.

            In conclusion it is perhaps not the legalisation of cannabis which is the problem, it is the association that has been formed with smoking of tobacco and the smoking of cannabis, presumably due to the similar method of intake into the system. Tobacco is possibly just as harmful as cannabis in the long term and perhaps it is the tightening of the laws on other substances that should be introduced rather than a debate and the legalisation of one of the "weaker" drugs that are currently illegal, as there are just too many negative effects for it to be seriously considered, expect when taken in a strictly medical light.

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            • Helium.com / Internet Site / 100 Readings / 94 Ratings
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              22.03.2009 15:16
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              An excellent review site, just go and have a go, there's nothing to lose.

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              What is it?
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              Helium.com is essentially an American review website not too dissimilar to Dooyoo. There are many categories to which you can write ranging from Creative Writing to Computing. The website prides itself on high quality reviews, an innovative rating system and a dedicated community. It is free to sign up and only a few details have to be given in order to start up your account after receiving a conformation email.

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              Writing
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              The quality of the reviews and articles are genuinely to a very high standard and you can tell that people have put in a lot of time and effort, and often a lot of research as well, in order to get their reviews to the top of the read list. This makes Helium a genuinely useful resource to use when trying to find out about a product or even just the latest ethical debates. Where I have used Helium in the past to much success is in the Science section, there is a lot of information on various scientific issues in a variety of subjects. A particular favourite of mine are the chemical overviews of the different elements in the periodic table. These have helped me a lot being a chemistry student myself; I also contributed to these articles by writing an analysis of the chemical element Francium, which bagged me the $1 empty article bonus as well giving me a sense of contributing to the community.

              A negative of the articles being such a high standard however comes from a writer's point of view; popular articles become very competitive and it becomes a struggle to get into the top 25% of writers. It is important to be in the top 25 or 15 percent because you only qualify for payment if you are one of the best writers from that particular article. From my personal experience if you want to get to the number one spot you would have to write the equivalent of a Crowned article here on Dooyoo, and even then it is not guaranteed. There is the flipside of this argument though, of course. Because of the highly competitive nature of Helium only the better writers prevail and this really does make you a better writer, no doubt increasing your earning on other sites as well.

              Another "bonus" of Helium is that the word count for an article must exceed 400 words, so there are no churners on Helium whatsoever and anyone who has tried to churn on Helium would certainly write poor articles thus be forced to the bottom of the pile as far as writers go (I have only now just exceeded 400 words if you want to judge roughly how long articles are).

              As well as reviews on products in general websites often offer money rewards for articles which you write. A publisher will put a title onto the "Marketplace" and allocate a cash reward ranging from £4 to $200 based on the length of the article and the specialism needed to write a decent piece. Once again this can get very competitive and you will need a lot of luck, skill, style and experience to win one of rewards, I still contribute but more to further my writing skills in general than in hope of winning one of the prizes, but fingers crossed anyway.

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              The Rating's System
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              The ratings system which Helium is very unique and nothing like the other review sites which I have used, Ciao and Dooyoo. Rather than one article being rated on its own merits all of the articles are compared to one another and you are then forced to choose which article you believe is better, based on a 3 point scale either way. I.e. an article can be "Slightly", "More" or "By far" superior to the article which it is being compared to. After several comparisons by members your article will quickly find its place amongst the hierarchy.

              This is a quick and effective way for users to rate articles and judge which ones are better than the others. Members are rewarded with $3 if they have rated enough articles accurately over a 30 day period, although the number of articles you would have to read is fairly challenging so I have so far stuck to rating only about 100 articles a month, which keeps my contribution to the site fair but gives me enough time to write as well!

              Many people have criticised this rating system here on Dooyoo and I'll agree with what they are saying due to the fact that articles may be brilliant yet still not get to the top spot. I agree, but articles don't need to get to the top spot to earn money when competing in the reviews section in general they only have to get in the upper quartile. Personally I have grown to like the anonymous and simple approach to rating on Helium, but I am still a very big fan of the way it works on Dooyoo.

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              Earnings
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              As you may have noticed from the rest of the article all of your earnings will be in dollars. This doesn't have any effect on the way you earn or the system in general, you'll just have to be aware of the conversion rate at the time, which generally lingers around $2 = £1. A bad point of Helium is that you cannot start earning straight away. First you have to earn your first star, which is acquired by having at least 4 articles in the top 25%. At the end of the month however you will get paid based on the number of articles you have that are highly ranked and the number of starts you have. This starts at $0.50 and goes up to $2.50 when a five star rating is achieved, however a five star rating really will take a long time to get. This is a good feature though as it means that you earn something every month on the articles you have written rather than the onetime fee which you get on Dooyoo. Even though you haven't got your stars you would be reimbursed with the money you would have earned from your first few articles when you have got your first few stars.

              The first way in which you can earn is writing to a subject and having your piece reach the top 25%. You are then given a small amount of money each month or every few weeks based on how highly ranked your article is and whether the subject is a popular one on Helium. As well as this you get a reward of $1 if you are the first person to write to a subject.

              You can also earn varying amounts of money by writing to the marketplace, but unless you are a really good writer or have expertise in that particular area then there aren't good odds that your article will get picked. There is no harm in trying though however which is why I still contribute. There are similar articles which you can enter in the Writing Contests section, where a subject will be given and you win a cash prize if you are one of the better writers. This is once again very competitive and the standard is very high. The subjects tend to be on current ethical debates or things that are currently in the news, so you will need to be in the know about current affairs in order to contribute.

              Finally, you can earn by rating enough articles correctly, you will need to earn a five stars for rating within a thirty day period in order to be paid $3, however you have to rate around 500 articles accurately to get this, so it is questionable as to how worthwhile this is.

              Payment can be redeemed when you get to $25, and this does not have to be in vouchers, it is in cash!

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              Some Tips
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              1. Be a good writer: As blatantly obvious as this sounds since I have emphasised the competitive nature and high standards of Helium you will need to be one of the better writers here on Dooyoo in order to do well on Helium and whilst there are a lot of success stories roaming about on Helium there is still that bottom 75% that doesn't earn anything on an article.

              2. Sign up to PayPal- When you do reach $25 you will need PayPal in order to transfer your earnings into it, and then also put them into your bank account.

              3. Don't expect miracles- as with all of the review sites (Dooyoo included) you will not get rich, and you won't even have a bit of spending money particularly quickly. Chip away at the $25 gradually, write a few articles here and there and hope for the best.

              4. Research & Links- do some research on the internet before you write an article, this gives your article some credibility as well as an official feel. Helium has also given the writer an ability to add hyperlinks into text so you can link readers to useful websites which definitely increases the quality and reception of your reviews.

              5. Stay on Dooyoo!- despite a promising start for me on Helium there is no way that I am going to move away from Dooyoo as it is still the best review website, I am trying to contribute to both at the moment and it seems to be going pretty well. I can be found on Helium under the same name.

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              Conclusion
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              In conclusion Helium is a very good reviews website which is full of very good writers and a lot of interesting articles, it is well worth signing up and giving it a go.

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                18.03.2009 13:23
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                The reward system featured on the Xbox 360.

                Firstly I would like to point out that I made the suggestion for a review on the Xbox 360 Achievement Point system in general and Dooyoo has given me a completely unrelated topic, so kudos to them. I'm just going to write about the achievement system on Xbox 360 anyway as it is something a lot of people don't understand and want to know more about.

                Gamerpoints, achievement points or as Xbox 360 veterans like to call them "Those Things That Took Over My Life" were released by Microsoft as a reward system to give the players an sense on "achievement" as they played through their favourite video games. They weren't the main selling point of the console at the time, nor were they taken particularly seriously by games creators prepping their games to be the console's launch titles. Evidence of this lies in some of the earlier games such as King Kong and the first NBA games, where there are only a few achievement points for doing pretty dull things that you would have done anyway. It wasn't until (mainly) testosterone-driven males caught onto the scent of a competition did the Gamerpoints really catch on.

                Every full title has been given 1000GP and downloadable arcade titles were given a smaller 200GP for players to gain through completing certain tasks throughout the course of the game. Some of these are just for playing through the story mode, others for multiplayer triumph and some for just being plain lucky. However, because Gamerpoints are so addictive they increase games lifespan greatly. Games that you would otherwise complete and keep in a draw somewhere have been given a breath of life and a brand new edge that would have otherwise never existed.

                "But what's the point?" I hear you ask. Well firstly since the rapid expansion of Xbox Live and the huge amount of gamers that play it gives the "elite" players something to show off, whereas before people just had your word when you said you completed a game you know have thousands and thousands of points to show to everyone to show them how good you are! Joy!

                Another perhaps unforeseen consequence of giving the players achievements is the rapid building of community that it has allowed. Players stick together, actually put effort into their gaming, it gives people something to risk, something to strive for and something to work together in order to unlock. No longer is online gaming for computer geeks with nothing better to do, it's for your average Joe (or Josephine) who wants to make friends and experience things they never have before. This reaches far beyond the gaming console however, whole online communities, forums, blogs and websites have risen from the simple reinvention on the high score table. Xbox really is the hottest gaming experience at the moment.

                For those of you on the outside it now no doubt seems like a ridiculous concept, used only to fuel gamers into buying more games than they know what to do with. The dark, hidden and rarely accepted truth is that that is exactly what it's all about. So much so in fact that Playstation 3 realised just how much of a success achievement points were and had to build their own rewards system to accommodate this flaw in their system! Until you've tried it you won't understand it.

                However, I am very biased in this article. I am myself a "Gamerscore Whore" (with almost 50K if you don't mind me saying so). There is the flip side of this coin. People argue that Gamerpoints and achievements detrimentally affect the experience in games. This on the odd occasion is very true, especially in games where there are multiplayer achievements. You may want to just play a game with a few friends just for kicks, but the other team or members of your own team may want to unlock a certain achievement. This over time may limit the style of play that is seen in the games. A perfect example of this is Gears of War with the infamous "Seriously" achievement. This was unlocked for 10,000 online kills which was no easy feat. This achievement however limited the play that was seen online. It turned what was supposed to be a tactical progressive shooter into a blood thirsty experience raw with anger whenever a kill was stolen.

                I however, am willing to accept these flaws as it is merely human nature for some people to be over-competitive. If you don't particularly get achievement points or don't care about the kudos there are still major advantages to be considered. The achievement system has greatly improved the gaming market, especially in rental. BlockBusters for one now have a huge section dedicated to Xbox 360 games, as players like to rent games for a shot of Gamerpoints and then return them. Strangely this doesn't even detrimentally affect the sales of games either, as fans are just as willing to invest in games if they have excellent features which are more than just achievements. This means that game developers have to look past achievement points and run of the mill gaming or they won't sell many copies, they have to make something extra-ordinary in order to get sales, which can't be a bad thing for the consumer surely?

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                • Avocado / Plant / 44 Readings / 40 Ratings
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                  16.03.2009 21:17
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                  A very tasty snack!

                  Avocados originate from sprawling green trees in the lush forests of Mexico although they are also grown in tropical climates around the world namely the calm plantations of Florida; which I suppose is an overdramatic introduction to a fairly bland hard green fruit. The innards of an avocado if you've never seen or eaten one before are a very pale green colour (almost white) with a very large brown seed inside, the fruit almost resembles a pear.

                  Not only does the avocado have a unique (extremely tasty) butter like taste, but there are also a range of health benefits that can be gained by eating them. An interesting fact at this point would be that avocado trees are actually extremely poisonous to most mammals, even the bark having alleged toxic effects. Anyway, you have nothing to worry about on that front so long as you stick to the fruit. The main health advantage that can be gained by eating an "avocado rich diet" is a lowering in blood cholesterol levels, as well as a dramatic drop of the concentration of HDL's (High Density Lipids, they're the bad ones) in the blood up to 17% according to some studies. This makes avocados an idea snack for people who are prone to heart problems or atherosclerosis.

                  Another huge advantage of the avocado is that they have the highest percentage of fibre when compared to all other fruits. Fibre is essential in the diet to assist the digestive system and therefore it would be a good food to eat if you are prone to ailments such as constipation or simply as part of a healthy diet as fibre helps the absorption of minerals. That brings me neatly onto the next point; avocados are rich in essential minerals. They contain almost a 5th of the recommended daily intake of Vitamin C in just 100g, as well as having 60% more potassium (a chemical essential for proper brain and nerve function) than an equivalent portion of banana.

                  A final advantage of eating avocado is as a substitute to meat products in a vegetarian or vegan diet. This is due to the high fat content as well as a relatively large amount of protein in even the smallest doses. In a standard 100g serving there are approximately 13g of fat as well as 2g of protein. This makes it an excellent supplement, although most likely not a complete solution, to a lack of certain lipids in a diet that doesn't include meat.

                  In conclusion the avocado is a delicious and generally underrated fruit, most likely due to the lack of familiarity by the general public. This is unfortunate as there are some extremely useful health benefits from the inclusion of avocado in the diet, not to mention that it is an excellent snack!

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                  • Waste disposal / Discussion / 58 Readings / 53 Ratings
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                    14.03.2009 21:59
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                    There's not enough being done...

                    Waste disposal is a topic that has gained a lot of media attention recently due to environmental issues such as global warming and the looming threat of running out of oil and other natural resources in the foreseeable future. It has therefore been the government and local councils' responsibility to take action to secure a decent future for the world, out country and the most important (in my opinion) future generations.

                    The council has introduced many different schemes in order to deal with the amount of products that they waste via landfill. This has had many implications on the way in which the public deal with their waste and the products that they are encouraged to buy. I personally believe that these are poor attempts by the council and the government as a whole.

                    Firstly, no matter how effective the recycling service is it is all in vain if consumers are constantly being bombarded with unnecessary, costly and occasionally ineffective packaging. For example to buy a few apples or bananas we are forced to also purchase packaging, polystyrene bags as well as foam holders for fruits such as apples. What I find ironic is that fruit has evolved over millions of years to be as effective as possible to stay as relatively safe and clean as it can whilst it isn't being eaten. Why we feel the need to package certain goods is actually beyond me, and more than anything it is probably just to increase the price you can afford to charge for goods as well as make it easier to store for the supermarkets. Go into your local farmers market and you will find fruit and vegetables stored openly (with no need of being refrigerated I may add), chances are this tastes better anyway because of its freshness. Anyway, the point is that the consumer shouldn't be forced to purchase literally tonnes of packaging a year only then to be blamed for the amount that we throw away!

                    The waste disposal facilities over the years have gradually grown better, and I'll admit that the bins that I have been allocated for general waste, garden waste and recycling goods impress me. One flaw in this system for me is that it is far too much work for the homeowner, having to sort out the different materials into separate bags for them to be recycled. All of this effort is then for nothing, at least from my personal perspective as the only thing that I gain from it is a slightly lighter load on my shoulders when it comes to doing my bit for the environment. There is no scheme to reward or punish those who do varying amounts of recycling. It is therefore no surprise that there is still large percentage of people who do no recycling whatsoever. It should therefore be made either necessary for households to recycle a set amount of waste, a rewards system should be set up for people who recycle a percentage of their waste or finally it should just be made easier for us to recycle our waste.

                    There are some positives when it comes to this financial aspect of recycling however. Despite the UK being miles behind its European neighbours on the recycling "scene" there have been strict regulations imposed on companies to do their fair share for the environment. This is where environmental issues really matter for me, as no matter how many tin cans I recycle there isn't any point is giants such as Tesco and McDonalds are throwing away thousands of tonnes of waste away every year. It has therefore been made companies' financial prerogative to recycle as they will be fined if they do not recycle a set percentage of waste, which is usually evaluated by the council. This gives the businesses a definite reason to recycle beyond just giving them something to brag about in adverts.

                    Overall I think that the government is trying to do something about waste disposal but they simply aren't trying hard enough. It should be made easier for average citizens to recycle and we should stop being blamed for environmental issues that are so much bigger than just the public putting plastic in the bin.

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                      12.03.2009 18:25
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                      Try your best!

                      Writing a good review is a lot easier than it seems, however it's wring great reviews that is an art so many people have yet to master (myself included). There are some generally accepted guidelines that will help you write a good review that will be highly rated by the Dooyoo community.

                      1) Don't take reviewing too seriously- if you've got a good sense of humour and you think you can add some of it to your review go ahead and do so. Members who have been around a long time have most likely gotten sick of reading the same old reviews day in day out, but if you make yours stand out from the crowd by making it enjoyable to read you'll create some more publicity for yourself and most likely have more fun writing the review anyway.

                      2) Spelling and grammar- personally I get quite annoyed when there are reviews with poor grammar and spelling. A quick and easy fix for this is to write your reviews in Microsoft Word rather than straight onto the Dooyoo site. This makes it a lot easier to spell check your work as well as giving you some perspective as to what it will look like when you have published it to the site. Another tip that is obvious some people don't take notice of is to read your reviews before you send them off, if something doesn't make sense to you chances are it won't make sense to anyone else. Don't be lazy; correcting mistakes only takes a couple of minutes.

                      3) 150 is a minimum- it annoys me and most other Dooyoo users when people stick to the 150 word minimum and add an easy 500 points to their account whilst other people put in so much more effort. Don't waffle on about nothing at all, but make sure you have included everything you think is helpful and try your best to write a decent descriptive review. If you churn out dozens of poor quality reviews you will get the 500 Dooyoo miles but you won't get recognition from the Dooyoo community, nor will people rate your reviews.

                      4) Discussion Topics- don't be put off by the fact that you don't get 500 miles for publishing them, they generally get quite a few more reads as people find them more interesting than reviews on different products. Telling people about your beliefs and opinions is a great way to make some friends on Dooyoo as well as boost the amount of people that are willing to rate your reviews.

                      5) Layout- make sure your review is neatly laid out, maybe include some sub-headings to make it easier on the eye as well as just that little bit neater. Reviews which are a mess annoy me and I'm sure they annoy other people. Think of it as persuading people to stick round and read the rest of your review rather than getting sick and just moving on. Have a look at some of my later reviews for some ideas.

                      6) Headlines- give your review a catchy title and you're sure to reel in a few more readers. I'll admit that personally I'm not very good at this and I've found that people read the reviews even if they don't have an original title so don't delay publishing your review for more than a couple of minutes if you can't think of one.

                      7) Rating- I know this technically doesn't fall under the category of how to write to good reviews but I really cannot stress it enough. Make sure that you rate people back when they have rate your product. There is a list of people that have recently rated your reviews in the My Account section, and it really couldn't be easier. Leave a nice or constructive comment and you're bound to get more readers and gain the respect of the community as a whole.

                      In conclusion, just try to make your reviews as appeal to the Dooyoo community as much as possible, add some humour or some originality and you're bound to grow in popularity after a while. My biggest tip- have fun!

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                      • Mice / Pet / Animal / 40 Readings / 37 Ratings
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                        11.03.2009 17:29
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                        A great social pet, perfect for children and adults alike.

                        The mouse (Murinae Mus) was originally domesticated in the early Chinese empire, the earliest record being from around 1100BC, however their breeding achieved. In order to distinguish them from wild mice they have been given the name "Fancy Mice", although technically speaking they are the same species as their wild brethren. The general life expectancy is around 2-3 years in the average mouse.

                        The average pet mouse is on average 20cm long from head to tip of the tail, although the tail is usually the same length as the body, so it does skew the measurements somewhat. Perhaps a more accurate portrayal of size is by weight; an average mouse will weigh around 50g which is surprisingly light when you are holding them in your hand. Mice can have a wide variety of colours and patterns; from ones with a solid colour to ones with more of a "patchwork" effect on their hair. You should ask the breeder how large you expect them to grow as well as perhaps asking for a specific hair colour or type if you are "booking in advance" for your mice.

                        Mice are friendly yet shy creatures, however once they become adapted to interacting with humans are calm and sociable. It is perhaps unfortunate that mice as a whole have gained such a negative stereotype through TV and films as Fancy Mice are in fact very gentle creatures which are good to keep as pets. Despite mice being sociable it is almost impossible to form any real "attachment" with them, as they much prefer the company of their own species. This is a vital point for any future mouse owner, as mice should always be kept in small groups even if it is just of two or three mice. It is possible to teach mice a few "tricks", but they don't particularly enjoy them unless there is a food reward at the end of it. Training takes a lot of time and patience and there are many guides on the internet on how to do so, as simple Google search will bring up dozens of guides. An interesting thing that is actually fairly easy to teach, as well as useful, is to condition the mice to associate a particular noise with food. For example you may snap your fingers a few times when feeding them sunflower seeds or their favourite snack. After many times of doing this you should be able to click your fingers (or a similar noise) and the mice will come out of where they are if they are awake. This makes getting them out of the cage a lot easier.

                        Mice should always be kept within same sex groups however as otherwise you will have more mice than you know what to do with within a very limited period of time. The gestation period of a female mouse is actually only 20 days, and they begin breeding within 50 days of their own birth. As you may have figured out from these figures a very, very small mouse population will increase literally thousands given enough space within a very limited period of time. For novice mouse keepers however it would be advisable to keep female mice as they are generally cleaner and are less prone to fight with each other. It would also be sensible to buy related mice that have been kept together since birth or from a very good age, as mice that have never met before really aren't all that good at introductions.

                        As for housing mice need quite a large cage, your local pet shop will be able to advise you more exactly, but generally speaking the bigger the tank the better (if you have the patience to clean it out). You should line the cage with wood shavings, not fine sawdust as the fine particles can give the mice lung problems. It would also be advisable to invest in a small food ball and a simple hanging water bottle to hand or stick on the side of the enclosure. After this all you have to do if buy some cool toys for the mice to play with. If you can't find any items around the house are great substitutes. Cardboard tubes provide places for the mice to run through as well as hide, encouraging natural behaviour. You may also want to find a small cardboard box or a purpose built container to serve as the bed for the mice, which should be fairly large as they like to sleep in groups. It should then be filled with shredded newspaper or bedding material that can be purchased at most good pet shops. You should make sure this material isn't prone to tangling however as mice can hurt their limbs.

                        As for food you should be able to buy food from your local pet store; however it is difficult to find food which is purposely designed for mice, but for small animals in general. There is not usually a problem with this but some mice can have an allergic reaction to the peanuts which are contained within the foods that are suitable for other rodents. You may want to remove any peanuts from the food to begin with, or if any red blotches appear on the mice's skin then you should remove the peanuts from the food immediately as that is the most likely cause. If you yourself or one of your children is allergic to peanuts you may not want peanuts in the house at all in which case I would advise you look up some mixes that breeders have published onto the internet which ironically are actually better for the mice, usually cheaper and in studies have often been proved to increase the lifespan of mice. You may also want to supplement the mouse's diet with a vitamin block which are available cheaply in pet stores and in supermarkets, as this gives them something to chew as well as being healthy. Mice also like occasional snacks of fruit or vegetables, their favourites tend to be sunflower seeds, peas and small pieces of apple. Don't give them too large pieces though as high amounts of fresh fruit and vegetables in the diet can give them diarrhoea. You may also want to take not that they actually aren't that big on cheese despite popular belief, it is in fact fairly bad for them when it is included in their diet.

                        The final, important thing for keeping mice is that they are themselves very clean creatures. Their excrement however tends to be quite smelly so you should perhaps try to clean them out once a week, or maybe twice a week in a small cage where it can get quite smelly. If you are handling them they don't bite or scratch and are generally quite calm, but as with most animals they have very limited control over their bladder and bowels so they will still urinate (and defecate) on you. The urine in particular, despite being much more infrequent than the faeces, is very pungent. To solve this I advise you put on old tea towel over your lap when handling them and don't wear too expensive clothes when handling them. One thing I've tried is putting my mice straight back in the cage if they urinate on me, this has served as some kind of "punishment" if the urinate whilst out of their cage but it has only lowered the frequency very slightly, although this may also be due to age or the fact they've gotten used to being out of their cage as well as other factors I haven't taken into account. There really isn't too many problems with faeces however as they are solid blocks which unless they have problems with the digestive system won't be runny and won't stain your clothes, if you aren't too squeamish you can just pick off any faeces with your fingers and wrap it up in some kitchen roll. If you have a cage with separate compartments it is actually common for mice to allocate an area as a "toilet" and this makes cleaning of the whole cage much easier and less frequent, so you should also take this into account when buying an enclosure for your mice.

                        In conclusion, mice are great pets which are sociable and easy to look after. They require some cleaning although they themselves are very hygienic which makes them perfect for children to handle although I would still advise supervision when handling them. Don't expect a long term partner such as you would get in a dog, but expect some fun and mischief!

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                          09.03.2009 22:08
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                          Chances are it'll never happen :(

                          Despite the epic odds against winning the lottery everyone has their thoughts as to what they would do with the vast sums of money which you would get if you do manage to defy all mathematical reasoning. I'm not personally a member of the "Give most of it to charity" faction, as in my personal opinion there is such as thing as being too selfless. However that is not to say that I would be completely selfish and keep it all to myself.

                          Dependant on the amount I'd win I'd invest some of the money into a high interest savings account (not that there are many around these days). The interest that came of that sum each year I would then donate to a different charity each year. This gives the charity a tidy sum, whilst I still have than money available as a safety net in case something goes horribly wrong with the other amount of money. I wouldn't invest in large charities such as Oxfam or Unicef as I believe that they already gain enough funding as everyone knows about them. I would donate it to some smaller, local charities that have less media attention as they are probably in more need of the money and that way (call me selfish) I could get a feeling of pride when I actually see what work the charity has been able to do with the money I donated.

                          I would then invest some of the money in another bank account, or invest it in something else that promises financial gain with relatively little chance of loss. This money would then be saved for future generations of my family. For future children I wouldn't let them have the full sum all at once, I would only give them the interest of the bank account, which whilst still being a large sum of money it probably wouldn't be enough for a person to live off comfortably without doing any work. This encourages the children to still work hard for money, giving them a sense of responsibility. However once I die, they would inherit the full amount which they can do what they like.

                          With the remaining sum of money (which for arguments sake I am going to presume is still a large sum) I would spend it all. I would definitely buy a nice house and make a room with a really (really) big HDTV in to play video games. In the room would be a big speaker system and all that jazz. With lots of shelves to keep games and CD's on so it would look really cool. I'd also get some of those cool clap on clap-off lights, which probably aren't that expensive but I just think they're really cool. As you may have now noticed I'm a bit of a nerd. As well as this I would do the usual stuff such as helping pay off my families loans and mortgages, which if I think we're all going to be honest we'd just feel bad if we didn't do anyway.

                          For smaller lottery wins I guess I'd just save up to buy something cool, like a new PC or a video game depending on how much I win. The problems comes, I guess if you win a big amount of money that isn't really a big enough amount to retire on or buy big houses and flashy cars with.

                          Anyway, as I was saying the chances of ever winning the lottery are very, very small so for now I'm going to stick with the plan of either earning enough Dooyoo miles to afford all this stuff or just work hard until I get a good job! Wish me luck!

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                            04.03.2009 13:32
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                            A great FPS from Valve, the makers of Half-Life and Portal.

                            Left 4 Dead is a First Person Shooter game created by the game studio Valve, the same people who brought us Portal, Team Fortress and the epic Half-Life series. Needless to say expectations of this game were extremely high...

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                            Story
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                            The events of Left 4 Dead are set in present day America, when a contagious virus has broken out and a zombie horde has spawned itself across the globe. It is your job as one of the four immune survivors to run away as fast as possible. The game has 4 different chapters, each with a different setting and each chapter is divided into 5 different acts; each act may take 10-20 minutes depending on the difficulty which you play on. The aim of each chapter is basically to get out of there with as many of the four survivors still alive as possible.

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                            Gameplay
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                            The gameplay is smooth, and despite the lack of different levels avoids getting repetitive due to an A.I called "The Director" which controls where everything spawns. This adds a small degree of variation each time you play so you're always guessing as to what will happen next, even if you have played through the levels 4 or 5 times previous.

                            A past criticism of many a zombie game is that there is only one type of enemy to mindlessly slaughter- the traditional "can't-walk-in-a-straight-line" zombie. Left 4 Dead avoids this as not only are the "traditional" zombies clever and unusually agile they have mutated companions which help them too. There are five distinct types of less frequently occurring opponent. Firstly there are Smokers, which have long tongues to constrict the survivors from a distance and must be killed to set the survivor free. Then there are Hunters a stealthy yet powerful opponent that stalks the rooftops and alleys waiting to literally pounce out of the shadows and maul one of the survivors, leaving them helpless on the floor unless they are rescued. There are then Boomers, obese zombies with the ability to vomit on the survivors, as well as explode when they have received to many gunshots. This doesn't sound so bad; however the bile from these Boomers leaves you almost completely blind, as well as having a scent which attracts the entire zombie horde to you from all around. There are then two more "infamous" types of enemy too the "Tank" and the "Witch" these enemies are infrequent yet are completely devastating if you get in their way. The variation of enemies makes this game a good challenge and a lot of fun to play.

                            On criticism I have of the gameplay is that there isn't a huge variety of weaponry. There are 3 types of weapons- automatic, shotguns and rifles. There are only 5 types of weaponry that you can pick up, 6 including your secondary (duel-wieldable) pistol. There are also 2 types of grenade, but the variation can dampen the atmosphere, as I personally would have liked to play around with lots of different weapons.

                            The gameplay for some of the reasons above can get tedious after a little while, however the online co-op and multiplayer modes really resurrect the experience.

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                            Multiplayer
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                            The multiplayer experience is available for 8 players, whilst the co-operative is only available to 4 at a time. There are still only 4 maps available for online versus play; however the co-op mode really is one of the biggest selling points of this game. Working together, especially with a team that knows what they're doing, is fun, challenging and rewarding especially when played on the higher difficulties where you become especially susceptible to damage both from your own team and the enemy. Yes that's right, there's friendly fire but strangely enough there are only ever a few instances of it in gameplay, as the whole team is generally more concerned with staying alive versus the pending zombie apocalypse.

                            The online versus play is very limited in my personal opinion and (correct me if I'm mistaken) a large majority of the people playing online are aiming for the achievements rather than for prestige and victory. This can be annoying as it encourages play to be slightly limited, however there really is enough of an experience in the co-operative modes to prevent people becoming too upset at the poor online multiplayer.

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                            Graphics
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                            The graphics of the game are generally very good; they have a similar styling to Half-Life 2 especially in the sections in Ravenholm for those of you who have played the game. The darkness and the settings of the game do a lot to create a feeling of suspense, especially in some of the more claustrophobic indoor areas. Despite the darkness lighting in the game is also very cool, the player and his team will be equipped with a solitary flashlight which is somewhat unfulfilling when posed with an encroaching horde in a tight tunnel. There are also a few still working emergency lights in some of the settings such as the hospitals and tunnels, however these only add to the already dire atmosphere rather than supply the player with any comfort.

                            As you might expect however the game is generally very dark and grey due to the horror nature of its development. It is therefore essential that the developers try to keep it interesting despite the very dreary nature of the settings. Fortunately this is something that they have done very well and the settings are engaging especially because of the variation in where the weapons and health kits spawn.

                            The enemies also look great, despite the fact that the zombie horde looks similar to that of any other survival horror game the specialised enemies look genuinely freaky, especially the Witch with her shrivelled body that lures you into the false sense of superiority over her.

                            There are also some cool weapon effects, such as the fire from the Molotov cocktails and petrol containers (which are essential for survival at the higher difficulties). The fire spreads rapidly and with realistic purpose and it looks great too; lighting up the surroundings in a manic orange colour that does nothing to relieve any tension from the player.

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                            Sound
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                            The sound, although often an underrated aspect, can make or break a game and for me the sound was the absolute highlight of this game. For veterans of survival horror games you will all know just how tense a moment can become with the right sound effect or sombre piece of music.

                            Left 4 Dead utilises many of the characteristic effects used in all horror games, such as the moans and groans of the zombies however they are handled in such a mature and daunting way that they feel like something new and exciting. The noises made by the zombies vary dependant on where they are and even what they are currently doing.

                            Each of the special, stronger zombies has its characteristic sound effect when it is nearby, such as the high pitched scream of a leaping Hunter or the groans of a bloated Boomer. By far the scariest sound effect however is are the sobs of the Witch, which has alone instilled enough fear into players to make them switch of flashlights, crouch down low and watch where they fire. It really is a daunting sound to hear especially in some of the closer areas where there may be no escape.

                            On the contrary to most horror games the absence of sound actually gives the player time to breath as they know that there is (usually) nothing around to harm them; giving them a break from the normal frantically paced gameplay.

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                            Conclusion
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                            Left 4 Dead is an excellent game which is a great asset to any gamers' collection and is genuinely a lot of fun to play. The online co-op play is by far the most enjoyable part of this game especially when played with a team of friends. This is a very high quality game, perhaps let down by the poor versus multiplayer however it is still a worthy investment.

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                            • More +
                              03.03.2009 22:19
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                              One of the new flavours from Walkers crisps.

                              Some great, unsolvable questions have dwelled in the heads of man as time has gone by. When Walkers began their innovative campaign to invent some new experimental crisp flavours, they accidentally wandered into the realms of philosophy and gave mankind an answer to one of those previously unanswerable questions. "What would it taste like if I put a really (really, really) smelly candle in my mouth?".

                              That's right ladies and gentleman, Walker's Chilli and Chocolate crisps tastes exactly the way a candle shop smells like. For want of a more precise, yet less imaginative, description of taste, it is mildly spicy, with the strange musk of chocolate added. And in case you were wondering that's not one of the most fantastic tastes you're going to come across. However, if you don't believe me, feel free to enjoy the Walkers Crisp Company's new family-friendly investment into flagellation. It really is that bad.

                              I know I "may" have just over exaggerated the way they taste, but they really aren't a recommended purchase. I also know I should give you the other side of the argument which I suppose this product is entitled too. It is, I suppose, one of the more novel ideas for the flavours of crisps and provided me and my friends with a few laughs offering them to people.

                              The crisps aren't even especially healthy either, no doubt there are reams of reviews on Dooyoo telling you about just how much salt and fat are contained within these crisps. Unfortunately this brand is no different, as they contain an alarmingly high percentage of your recommend daily allowance of several of the groups and yes I know you've heard it before, but the main offender is (surprise surprise) the amount of fat in the packet, with a whopping 15.2g of grams per 46g pack!

                              One packet will cost you around 50p. However they are also available in packets of 6 for those of you who are feeling especially foolhardy, for approximately £1.50.

                              My personal advice regarding the new 6 flavours, invest in one of nicer (more "sane" sounding) flavours such as Onion Bhaji or Builders Breakfast.

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