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Mmmmm, protein shakes...ok, ok, they are not that nice, although some are better than others, but I'm sure, that to most people they sound horrible. However, if you are at all into fitness, or weights, these shakes can really make a difference in helping your muscles repair, and grow.
I have been going to the gym for a couple of years now, and after a while I started taking a few supplements like protein shakes to see if they made any difference. At first, I simply mixed up some milk and whey powder in a measuring jug, and whisked it up...for ages, and no matter how hard i whisked, there would still be lumps that I couldn't get rid of. Next I tried using a hand blender, which worked far better, but it was a bit of a pain having to wash it so often.
At some point, I decided to buy a protein shaker, and I picked up one of these Maximuscle ones in the supermarket, simply because it was the only brand that ASDA seemed to have at the time. It cost me about £4, and was a bit of an impulse buy (it's kind of sad when your impulse buying is reduced to plastic beakers...), but you can pick them up for £3 from Amazon.
The shaker consists of a 700ml beaker, with embossed measurements up the side, to help judge how much liquid you need, a lid with an odd shaped spout, with a flip-top cap, and a thin plastic mesh disc that fits inside the beaker to help mix the ingredients.
All the parts feel pretty solid and sturdy, and the shaker can certainly withstand rumbling about in a bag full of sports gear without getting damaged. Al the parts clean easily, just make sure you give the mesh disc a good scrub. Despite often daily use and cleaning, after a year it still looks in pretty good nick. I can't comment on dishwasher cleaning, since I don't have one I'm afraid :(
The shaker works by simply adding your ingredients into the cup, placing the mesh disc over the top, the sealing the screw-down lid over the top. Make sure the flip-top lid it also sealed, then shake it...and keep shaking it. I found that using the shaker, with its mesh disc, was by far the most effective method I have tried for mixing up these drinks. It can take a while, and I still get a few lumps, but far less than I used to get with a whisk or fork.
The most important thing to do before you start shaking all the liquid about is to make sure its properly sealed, otherwise it starts to leak at the seal between the cup, and the lid. It shouldn't burst out in a spray, but if you are shaking vigorously, and it leaks, it will cover you in drops of shake! This happened to me the first couple of times I used it, but once you learn the knack of sealing it, it seems to work fine. The other thing I tend to do is to keep my thumb over the cap on the spout, in case it pops of mid-shake. This has never happened, but would prove messy if it did.
The spout, although kind of odd looking, is easy to drink out of, and doesn't tend to drip. One thing I would say is, never fill this beaker up, and then put it in your bag, as the flip top on the spout is only designed to seal whilst shaking, not for storage: it will come loose if knocked.
One other thing you can do, is fill this shaker up with Chocolate Brownie Frijj Milkshake, and drink it whilst hanging around the outside of a gym, and pretend you are really fit...
Overall, I found this shaker cup worked well for its purpose. It's not the prettiest thing in the world, but it is sturdily made, and will last for a fair while. The leaking can be messy and annoying, so always make sure you seal it properly.
The juicy what now? I can hear some of you asking right now. Yes, thats right, it's the Juicy Salif, a lemon squeezer designed by Philippe Starck for the design company Alessi in 1990. Alessi, if you have never of them are an Italian design house who specialise in household items. They frequently work with famous designers to create some rather wacky and unique product that tend to cost a fortune. Step into any high-end design shop and you are sure to find a few shelves dedicated to them.
Many moons ago I studied design at art school, and at the time Philippe Starck was a bit of a design celebrity, I even wrote an essay on him! During a study (ahem...) trip to New York in 2001, I was looking to buy a couple of rather unique souvenirs by which to remember my trip. Whilst visiting the MOMA (Museum Of Modern Art), I happened upon the Juicy Salif in its shop. Now, the Juicy Salif has nothing to do with New York, but it's such a unique shaped design, that every time I see it, it reminds me of my great time in NY. At the time I believe it cost me approx. $80, which at the time with a reasonable exchange rate worked out at about £50. This is still approx. the price they go for these days, but you can find them online for £40 or so if you are lucky.
I guess before I discuss how it actually works, I have to talk about the look of this object. Is it a three legged space spider? Is it a rather disturbingly shaped sex toy? Who knows what Monsieur Starck's inspiration was? I have to agree that its design is not exactly standard for a lemon squeezer, but that is why I love it! It may be over twenty years old now, but its sci-fi curves and polished aluminium finish won't look out of place in even the most ultra-modern kitchen. There were also black, and gold versions created, but they are pretty had to come by these days.
So how does it actually work? Well, have you ever heard of the term 'Form follows function'? Basically, this famous design mentality suggests that in every item, its function, and how well it preforms said function should always come before the look of the object. I.e. make it work well before you go making it look pretty. It's safe to say that Philippe Starck does not adhere to this philosophy, as the aesthetics of this lemon squeezer were defiantly put before its function.
To use the squeezer, you have to place it over a cup or tumbler, preferably on as tall and as wide as the space under its legs will allow, and squeeze the lemon over the top of the ridged, teardrop shaped part. The juice then drips down into the cup. Or at least that's the plan...in practice it's not as simple as that. The lemon juice has a habit of going everywhere...down the legs, and down the side of the cup. The other problem is that the seeds will often fall into the cup, as there is no strainer to catch them. Its not always messy, its just a bit pot luck if the lemon juice goes where its ment.
My problem in this review is - how do I rate a design classic, that looks fantastic, is still in demand twenty plus years after is creation, but functions rather poorly? I love this object, for me it's as much a piece of sculpture, a conversation starter ("WTF is that three legged thing in your kitchen!?") and a reminder of a great holiday, sorry I mean study trip to New York. Sometimes an object can transcend its original purpose to become something more. (Hmm, that sounds like some arty rubbish I used to write years ago at uni...) It's certainly not cheap either, especially considering sticking a fork into half a lemon and wiggling it about does pretty much the same job.
Sod it. I'm going to give it 5 starts because it looks ace! (Sorry to all the level-headed people out there)
We live in a flat with a shared garden, this means that the clothes line space is on a first come first served basis. It's safe to say that I am never there first, so we tend to rely on our two Minky Trio clothes dryers to get most of our washing done.
We got our two from our local Asda for about £20, and currently Amazon is selling them for the same price. They are supplied fully assembled in a clear plastic wrapping, and once this is removed, the dryer is ready to use. The frame is made from tubular metal, so it's fairly sturdy. It weighs 3.4kg, and states it can hold a max of 20kg. I can't say I have ever weighed my wet washing, but no load I have ever set up on the rack has ever looked unsafe or over-heavy. The build quality is pretty good: the frame is solid, and there are plastic buffers on the bottom, so it won't scratch your floor. The tiers are held in place by rivets, and over the years ours have never come loose. It could be damaged if you were to be harsh with it - the tubular frame may be sturdy but could collapse if over-stressed, however under normal circumstances this shouldn't happen.
The rack is supplied collapsed, and extends up into a three tier rack, and stands approx. 4 ½ ft. tall. The rack takes up approx. 3ft square area of floor space, so make sure you have a good bit of space to set it up in. Each tier has two 'wings' each with four rows of hanging space. This, according to Minky, this adds up to a total of 15m of drying space. I find that this is usually just about enough space for a full load of clothes, although sometimes a few socks end up on the radiator. The rack is best suited to clothes and underware, as larger towels or bed sheets will not fit on it unless you fold them over.
There are also four plastic hangers at the top corners that can unfold. Once unfolded, these hangers have ridges on them that you can catch a piece of clothes on a clothes-hanger on, or other hanging rack upon. I can't say I have really used these corner hangers as they are actually quite hard to open up. Maybe it's because I don't have any nails, or maybe I'm just a big wimp! The only thing I found is that you have to be careful not to make the rack too top heavy with wet clothes. Since the frame is quite light, it could be knocked of balance if all the weight was to the top.
The rack is held in its extended position by two plastic handles which lock it into place. To release and collapse the rack, you simply have to lift the handles up slightly, to move a couple of catches out of their corresponding notches. Once released, it folds up neatly into a nearly flat shape, which can easily be stored away when not in use. This is all very simple to do, however, I did have one incident when collapsing a rack, when the rivet that works as the catch, slid along the handle, and pinched a chunk of my palm skin under it. I was literally stuck to the rack for over 10 minutes! It was kind of comical, but also a little bit painful. Thankfully, nobody took any pictures of it. I finally extracted myself but unfortunately I lost a fair amount of dignity in the process.
Overall I have found these dryers invaluable considering our frequent lack of outside line. I should also say that at one point a few years ago I bought a cheapy Asda own-brand copy of this rack, but it was a poor imitation of the Minky. It was less sturdy, and poorly constructed. This cheap model lasted less than a year, whilst our Minky's have lasted three years plus, and are still in perfect condition. Considering that these racks are not exactly expensive, I don't recommend buying cheaper copies. If you need a drying rack for inside, these are the perfect solution. Just don't get stuck to one like I did...
Galaxy on Fire 2 is a multi-format sci-fi shooter initially released for the iPhone, then Android, and now there are HD versions for iPad, Android, Mac and PC.
= = = So what is it ? = = =
As you might have gathered from the game title, Galaxy on Fire 2 is a sci-fi themed game. You spend most of it rocketing about the galaxy in various lethal models of space ship. You do not need to be familiar with the original Galaxy on Fire, as this doesn't really link much with it, apart from the returning hero Keith T. Maxwell, who's back-story is pretty much inconsequential to this game.
You see, poor Mr Maxwell has been accidentally sent through space and time thanks to a faulty hyperdrive on his ship. Awakening from stasis, he is 35 years and a few million miles away from home. Despite his attempts to get back, he ends up getting involved is the desperate struggle of the galaxies inhabitants to avoid the attacks of a mysterious alien race. This is where you step in. The game is basically a RPG space flight shooter, with pretty much all of the action taking place in outer space. You do land on various space stations, but you don't actually get to walk about them, instead interacting with a menu interface once docked.
= = = So, how does it play? = = =
The main goal of this game is, of course, to save the galaxy. However that doesn't mean Keith doesn't have spare time between missions, and you can use this time to do quite a few different things. Since you start of the game in a rust-bucket of a spaceship, with about as much firepower as a pee-shooter, you soon realise you will need to earn some money to progress as the missions get harder. Acting as a mercenary, you have the freedom to fly about various solar systems, picking up a selection of missions, ranging from rather unglamorous tasks such as blowing up space junk, to the more heroic jobs of saving a space station from a pirate attack or defending a convoy of cargo ships.
= = = Anything else? = = =
Well, actually, yes. Apart from the main and sub missions, you can get involved in the import and export market, picking up and dropping of various goods, hopefully selling them of for a tidy profit. You can also mine asteroids for ore, which in turn you can use as parts towards building up special or upgraded weapons to kit out your latest ship. As in games such as Skyrim, for some people, these side games can take up as much time as the main missions, or you can choose to completely ignore them.
= = = How do I fly my ship? = = =
The controls of this game are a bit like a few of the driving games of the iPad/iPhone, in that you tilt the phone from left to right to steer, and up and down to climb or loose altitude. This can make it a bit tricky to fly accurately, but on the whole it works well. Soon you will be zipping about dogfights, and blowing up huge battleships. I have always enjoyed this style of control, as it makes you feel a bit more in touch with the ship you are flying. Extra controls are done via the touch screen, speed controls are adjusted by sliding your finger up and down the screen, and the ability to dodge quickly left or right can be performed by flicking you finger in the appropriate direction on the screen. Your main weapons can be fired manually, or set to auto-fire. I recommend this, otherwise you spend the whole game tapping the screen just trying to shot something down.
= = = Does it look and sound nice? = = =
Given that the game is a couple of years old now, the graphics are not exactly cutting edge, given that many new iPad games coming out almost match console levels of detail now. However they are more than adequate and the game is full of epic space vistas, with different area all having different features and planets in the background, adding to the richness of the games look. This is coupled with a great selection of well-designed space ships, many with very unique looks.
Sound quality is probably one of the games bigger weaknesses of the game. The voice acting is suitable cheesy, but it's the sound effects that can grate a bit. Whilst shooting you weapons on auto mode, the repetitive gun sounds were pretty irritating, and I mainly played this game on mute.
= = = So is it worth playing? = = =
I realise that a RPG space shooter is not everyone's cup of tea. But if it is, then this game is probably the best of its kind on the iPhone, or indeed any platform really, given that there have been very few space sims made in many years. The game has a pretty big sandbox to play within, and there are loads of missions to complete. Extra options like buying or building weapon and ship upgrades give it extra mileage. My main issue is given the size of the game universe, there is a surprising lack of main story missions, and once they are complete, all you are left with is random, but increasingly similar side missions. If you are determined to finish all the games achievements you will need this extra time, but many people will lose steam by this point.
There are a couple in in app purchases available. The add on pack 'Valkyrie' Opens up a few more solar systems, and about 10 or so new main missions. Like the first main story, they are fun, but too short lived, and you are quickly back to floating about wondering what to do. The other upgrade you can get is an upgrade to buy your very own space station. This is basically a giant garage, so that you can collect as many ships as you like and swap between them as missions require. This would have been handier if there had been more main missions, but the idea soon becomes redundant given the games lack of depth. There is also a new add on pack called 'Supernova' which has extra missions and ships etc, but I have yet to try this one out.
I have had problems with the game occasionally crashing, but this is usually whilst landing at a space port rather than in the middle of a mission. It does get a bit annoying at times, but thankfully, the games auto-save feature always kicks in whenever you dock at a station, so I have never actually lost any progress. To be fair, I am unsure whether these crashes occur due to the game, or the fact that I am playing it on a rather out-dated IPhone 3G. The Android version I played on a Nexus 7 Tablet seemed fine.
= = = My Final Verdict = = =
If you enjoy sci-fi games, then I certainly recommend Galaxy on Fire 2, and if you happen to be an achievement completionist, then this game will give you many hours' worth of play. It may be a couple of years old, but it holds its own. The graphics are nice, and the controls are fun. Some people may find the main story a bit lacking in depth. It is still worth looking into if you prefer something a bit more action packed than Angry Birds. I just wish it had been a little less crash prone.
I would give it 3.5 stars if I was able to, but I will be generous, and give it 4.
My partner and I stayed in the Ashling Hotel Dublin this summer in July for 6 nights. At this time of the year it cost us ~ Euro95 per night for a superior double room (this was part of an upgrade special offer at the time).
The Ashling is a four star hotel in Dublin, situated at the west end of the city on Parkgate street. This is about a 5 min walk from Heuston Station, and the Luas tram line runs right by it, with a stop just a few minutes down the road. If you are flying into Dublin, the 'Airlink' bus service stops at Heuston station. Simply head north from the station stop, crossing a small bridge over the River Liffey and you are there.
It has a 100 space multi-story secure car park which costs extra per night, but since we didn't use this facility, I can't really comment on it.
Location for tourists:
Although the hotel is in the west-end of the city, is not hard to get into the centre, since the trams are very frequent and reliable (they can be a bit packed at times though). It's about a 10-15min ride into town from the nearest stop.
In the surrounding area there are quite a few tourist attractions within walking distance. Not five minutes away, there is the Collins Barracks National Decorative Arts & History Museum. It's also close to Phoenix park, and the Zoo within it. Plus, the Guinness factory & the IMMA, the Irish Museum of Modern Art are also near-by. All are definitely worth a visit.
Inside the hotel:
The front foyer of the Ashling is fairly impressive. It is big and spacious, with high ceilings, and a large front desk, and lots of black sparkly tiles on the floor. To your left is the Chesterfields Brassiere, their restaurant, which also doubles up as their breakfast area, and to your right is the Iveagh Bar. There are quite a few sofas and arm chairs to sit at, and all the décor is stylish and modern. There is often a doorman during the day to open the front door for you.
Our check-in was fairly quick, and we were given two key-cards for our room, though we weren't offered assistance with our bags. The double room we were given was clean, and attractive, with a large floor to ceiling window taking up one wall. For a 'superior' room we thought it was a bit on the small side, with the large king-size bed taking up most of the floor space (it was very comfy). Otherwise the room was well equipped, all the furniture was modern, and styled in a dark wood finish. There was a decent sized desk area, with a large well illuminated mirror behind it, with plenty of plugs in the area. The TV was an approx. 32" flat screen, with a selection of Irish and BBC Northern Irish channels, alongside the normal news channels. Watch some Gaelic football or hurling on the TV some time...its mental! Under the TV was a stand with a kettle, and a selection of tea/coffee/milk/sugar etc. plus some biscuits, and a small safe underneath all that.
The room was warm, and heating was provided by manual controlled air conditioning. Our unit was pretty noisy, and had a funny squeak, but we didn't do anything about it. There is free WIFI available, which was slow compared to what I have at home, but it was fine for checking emails and browsing website on our laptop. If you ever have problems connecting to it, check to see if the password has changed since you got one, as they update it every few days it seems.
The bathroom was nice and clean, with a modern wall hung toilet and basin, some toiletries, a decent size bath with a powerful shower, and a rather large clunky wall mounted hair dryer, which kind of resembled a cyberman.
Our room was serviced daily, and towels were also replaced daily, also the toiletries were replaced if they were starting to run out. Also provided, were menus for the bar & restaurant, as well as the room service menu. If you were looking for some tourist info, there was a folder with various tourist attractions, along with useful numbers you may need.
Eating at the hotel:
We never actually got a chance to dine at the Chesterfield restaurant, given that there are so many placse to eat in Dublin. The menu there looked good, but it was fairly expensive. Most main courses varied from Euro18-30, but then in Dublin, eating out is rarely cheap.
We did dine at the Bar a couple of nights, and the food here was a bit more reasonable @ Euro10-20 per main course. The food provided here was of good quality, I had a really nice steak & ale pie on my first night. However the service within the bar area was not as good as I was hoping: the staff seemed at times inattentive, and food was pretty slow to come. I think they forgot our order one time, and just made a few excuses as to why it was delayed, but of course, I can't prove that! To be fair, it was always very busy, but I wasn't impressed.
If the service at the bar was disappointing, the breakfast service more than made up for it. The breakfast times were pretty long, starting from before seven if I remember (I was never up that early!) to eleven am. There was a choice of a cold or hot breakfast. The cooked breakfast was Euro12 per person, which is pretty expensive, but by this point you just have to accept this in Dublin. Apart from the price, the food in the mornings was very good. There was an impressive array of popular cooked items to suit any fry-up combination you wanted, along with cereals, cold meats, fruit, cereals, and some lovely fresh baked goods. We rarely needed to have much for lunch after filling up here in the mornings. Its funny how my regular bowl of cereal at home becomes a three course meal when its a nice buffet breakfast!
Both the restaurant, and the bar areas look very impressive, and luxurious, with glossy black tiled floors, and modern décor.
Other features on offer at the hotel included meeting rooms, which we never used, and a couple of pay per use PC's with printer access. We did use the printers as my partner was presenting at a conference, and although I cant remember how much it cost, it was pretty expensive per page.
Should you stay here?
Overall, I was pretty happy with our stay it the Ashling. Its west end location meant the traffic nearby wasn't too busy or noisy, plus were found it very easy to get to and from the airport via the Airlink bus stop nearby. In general the hotel was of high quality, looked impressive, and was well looked after. My main gripe, as I mentioned earlier was the rather poor service we got on more than one night at the bar. Other than that, I would certainly stay there again, and would recommend it to others who fancy a short stay in Dublin.
Since my mid-teens (more years ago than I wish) I have been using various products in my hair to sustain my ever so cool hair style. I have pretty much tried every conceivable type of gel, wax, crème and goo going about. My problem has always been that may hair is very fine, and what happens is that gels clumps my hair together, and you see too much of my scalp, making me look bald. Plus due to my hair being so fine, the spikes tend to 'droop' with the weight of the gel before it properly dries in. Nightmare.
At one point a few years ago I bought some Brylcreem Strong Wax, and I haven't looked back. This stuff is probably the most extreme hold hair-stuff I have ever seen, plus because it's a wax and not a gel, my hair looks more textured than with a gel.
As far as packaging goes it's pretty simple. The top twists of to reveal the rather unattractively coloured wax inside. It's a kind of yellow-white stuff that is actually set quite hard. However once you scoop up a little on your fingers, and work it together, it quickly softens and you can apply it to your hair. Now I said scoop up a little, and I mean it, unless you're going for the John Travolta Greased Lightning look. I've read a few reviews that say it smells horrible, now maybe I'm just used to it after all these years, but I honestly can't say it smells of very much at all.
Being a wax, it can feel a bit greasy, and if you overload your hair it doesn't look good. However, assuming you have got a sensible amount on your hair, you can pretty much go to town and do whatever you want to it. Flatten it, spike it, mess it up, this stuff just holds it however you want, without going rock solid. You can even re-style it over time, and it still works. Don't however expect your partner to lovingly run their fingers through your hair, as this stuff will leave a greasy residue on their fingers!
Some people have complained that this stuff is hard to wash out, but I can't say I agree, maybe it's down to you hair type, but after a wash with "Generic-all-in-one-shampoo / conditioner"​, my hair is soon back to its fine, fluffy old ways.
One of the few problems I have had with the stuff is availability. Boots stocks it, but I have found many supermarkets to be hit and miss, sometime stocking it, sometimes not. In boots its about £3.99, but you can get it cheaper if you care to look about. One good thing is that since you dont use much per use, a tub lasts for ages.
It's funny, I'm reading back this review, and it doesn't actually sound particularly positive, in fact it kind of sounds horrible! But honestly, believe me, touchy feely partner's aside, this stuff is great for styling short to medium hair however you like it. It just holds forever, and I will continue to use it as long as it is still on the shelves.
Have you ever had one of those years when everything expensive you own needs replacing? Well I seem to be going through that this year, with a multitude of essential things all breaking down, melting, leaking, etc, you get the idea...
Well, one of the items I need to replace is my mattress, but to be honest, I can't afford a decent new one at the moment (its low down on a looong list). One day a friend recommend a mattress topper, and to be honest I had never heard of this before, but it sounded like a reasonable short term solution to my lumpy mattress woes.
Having no idea where to start looking I went with a quick search with the first company that sprung to mind: Silentnight. Who doesn't love sleepy hippos with small, feathered bed partners? I quickly found their 'Impress' range of memory foam mattress toppers, available in all standard sizes from single up to king-size. The retail price for these are about £80, but after a bit of shopping online, the best price I could find was ASDA Direct, at £45 for the standard double size.
Once I got the topper delivered, I eagerly stripped the bed (I think it's the first time I have ever 'eagerly' stripped & made the bed...) and took a look inside the box. Within you will find a very tightly rolled sheet of memory foam, and a washable fabric sheet with elasticated corners. The sheet is used to cover over the foam before you put down a conventional bed-sheet.
The mattress topper itself was a rather mildly disappointing looking thing once I unrolled it and lay it out on the mattress. Although I'm not quite sure what I was expecting to be honest. It sort of looks like I have rolled a large sheet of pastry over my mattress. However, if I had rolled a bit of pastry over the mattress, I would have at least made sure it reached all the edges, which this sheet doesn't. It stops about an inch short on both long sides, which is a bit annoying, but since I don't sleep that close to the edge (unless my girlfriend starts elbowing me in her sleep) it isn't a major issue. According to the packaging, memory foam was developed by NASA, so it must be good...(I was going to insert a joke about expecting a heavenly sleep, but I decided against it)
After I placed the topper and cover over my mattress, for the sake of all Dooyoo readers I had to test it out. So I took upon myself the hardship of lying on my bed and rolling over a couple of times. I may also have dozed for a few minutes. Before fitting the topper, sleeping on my mattress was a bit like camping and finding a few stones underneath your roll mat. Quite a few springs had started to stick up, and had a bad habit of sticking right into your kidneys, or other tender areas, but I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised that although the topper was a bit thinner than I was expecting, it covered over the lumps well, and to a certain degree made it feel like a new mattress. The memory foam moulds to your shape, and I found this quite comfortable whilst sleeping on my side. My partner also agreed that it was far comfier than before. I have also read that memory foam is good for people that suffer from bad backs, as it allows you to sleep in a more natural position. Since I don't tend to have many issues with my back, I can't really comment on this, but I can certainly understand how it could help, since I do feel the mattress supports me a bit better now.
One side effect I have noticed is that the memory foam layer makes it far warmer in bed now. I can only assume that the foam better insulates your body heat, rather than it spreading through the mattress. Whilst this is fine now that it is getting colder, I imagine I will get over-warm come next summer (yes, it will be warm next summer, I promise...)
Overall, I have been pretty pleased with my Silentnight mattress topper. To be honest, it will never be as good as a brand new memory foam mattress, but it does work well as a short term stop-gap. It has defiantly improved the comfy-ness of my mattress, and has smoothed over the lumps and bumps. I do worry about how long it will last before it starts to get too flattened to work effectively, but hopefully by then I will have bought a new mattress.
A few years back I bought a cheap set of Kitchen Devil knives on offer at ASDA. They were razor-sharp at first, but after a couple of months it was starting to get to the point where using a desert spoon to cut meat would have been more effective than using the knives, since they blunted pretty quickly. I guess they were cheap for a reason...
I didn't want to splash out on any more knives (and I certainly didn't want to use my spoons), so we thought we would try to pick up a knife sharpener instead. Despite being rather wary of the Kitchen Devil brand at this point, we picked up this sharpener, again from ASDA for about £8. The price varies a fair bit depending on where you get it, and as usual, online prices can be a fair bit cheaper.
This item is plastic, and doesn't exactly look or feel expensive. However the handle is sturdy, slightly textured, and easy to grip. I guess I would have to recommend making sure your hands were dry before handling it, in case your grip slips, but I really hope that is common sense!
The actual sharpening stones, of which there are two, are ceramic, and are set a a slight angle from the line of the handle, this ensures that both sides of the inserted blade gets evenly treated. These ceramic parts are guarded by a clear plastic shield, with a slot in the middle to put the knife in. This is pretty handy, as it keeps your knife in the correct position, and makes sure it doesn't slip left or right. I have never even come close to slicing of a finger whilst sharpening, so it must work fine (finger slicing whilst cutting is another issue altogether that I won't go into here). This guard can be removed to access the sharpening blades if required, but so far I have never had to do this, and don't intend to if I can help it.
The device is suitable for any straight edged knife. Don't try to use any serrated blades on it, as it will just ruin them. I have found that long knife blades are easier to sharpen than small paring knives, for example. The clear plastic guard I mentioned is fairly bulky, and if the knife handle is also thick, you may struggle to get the area of blade nearest the handle to run along the ceramic sharpeners.
The instructions recommend swiping the knife a half dozen times or so in each direction (back and fore) in order to be effective, but I always give it a good few extra swipes each way (for luck). I do find that the sharpening doesn't last that long, but I reckon that is more to do with the rather cheap nature of my knives, and possibly because we cut all out meat on a glass board. Maybe a softer material to rub against the blades would prolong them? Maybe I shouldn't buy such rubbish knives?
My, um, thriftiness, towards knives aside, so far this little device has kept four knives well in service about two years longer than they would have otherwise lasted, so for eight quid, I would say that's pretty good value. It is guaranteed for ten years, so hopefully I will get many more years use out of it, although I may have to buy some new knives by then, or I will be sharpening little stumps.
I own a PC. I own an XBox 360. I am told I play too much on both. This is probably true.
I actually tend to play most of my games on my PC, I guess I am a bit old-school like that. However, I love the controller for my 360, and I really wanted to use it for certain games on my computer. I just recon that it suits some games better than a mouse & keyboard. Basically, I had two options: first, I could have bought a new XBox 360 controller designed for PC use, or I could buy this little gizmo, a Wireless Gaming Receiver for Windows, and use my existing controller.
Given that this receiver costs approx. £18, and a new controller costs approx. £28 (and it's not wireless), it was a no-brainer. You can buy them from stores such as PC World or Curry's, but as usual they are cheaper online from the likes of Amazon.
This little piece of kit is a small receiver which plugs into your cumputer via a USB connection. It's cable is approx. 2m long, which I found more than sufficient, since mines sits right next to my PC tower. It came with a mini CD with driver software on it, but I am pretty sure that I simply plugged it in and Windows installed the drivers for me. It does require at least Windows XP to operate, and personally I am using it on a Vista 64 Bit version.
The receiver is pretty discreet (approx. 75x40x20mm), and doesn't stand out too much, which is perfect. It has a small green light to highlight a connection, a small button to detect any possible peripherals and an XBOX 360 logo. When I got mine, you could only get a white colour version, but you can now get a black one to match the more recent XBox versions. I probably would have got black version if I could have, since my PC, and peripherals are all black, but that a pretty minor issue.
Operation is very simple: you power up the XBox controller by pressing the logo in the middle. The receiver may take a few seconds, but it should quickly recognise the controller. From there, you can use the controller as you please. If the receiver doesn't instantly pick up the controller, you can press the small button on the receiver, and this will make it search for any possible wireless signals, and this has always worked for me. One issue I did come across was if you happen to have an Xbox in the same room as your PC/receiver, switching on the controller by default switches on the Xbox, rather than locate the receiver, so I found I had to switch my console of at the wall before I used the controller for the computer. If they happen to be in different rooms there isn't a problem
Pretty much every game I have tried that will recognise a standard hand-held controller can be played with your XBox controller, and any 'Games for Windows' branded games often have a specific set-up for this controller. I have noticed a few very old games that didn't work, but there were 10+ year old ones that I installed more out of nostalgia than anything else, so I never expected them to work anyway. There are however, ways around this, as you can install software such as Xpadder to map out keyboard settings to the controller inputs if you find some software that doesn't work as intended.
The instructions state that it has a 10m effective range to receive signals. I guess anyone that can stand 10m away from their PC and still see what's going on must have bionic eyes! My living room is approx. 5x5m, and it works from any angle in that room. Going through into the next room does unsurprisingly cause interference, but I recon the physical wall interferes with my ability to play more than a poor signal would!
Siting up close to the receiver the controller works perfectly, and I have noticed no lag or cutting of the signal. Even holding the controller under my PC desk, out of line-of-sight, doesn't prove an issue.
Another benefit of this device is that it can recognise any wireless XBox peripheral, so I was able to buy a wireless XBox headset, and use it for both the PC and console as well. This was a nice bonus. Unfortunately I found the headset doesn't seem to have such a steady signal with the receiver, and can occasionally blip on and off for a split second. However the same happens when I use the headset for the console, so it is probably an issue of the headset, not the PC receiver.
Overall, I have been very pleased with the performance of this little white box. It works perfectly to receive signals from the XBox controller, which is what I got it to do, and it saved me buying a more expensive PC dedicated controller. It also has the ability to be used for various other XBox wireless peripherals, which is also handy.
We decided to go for the Dyson DC25 after our previous vacuum cleaner lost the will to suck. Since our then defunct vacuum was a cheap and rather poor model, we decided to splash out a bit and go for a Dyson. We had always heard good things about them, and at the time Curry's had a promotion on all Dyson cleaners. We decided to go for the DC25 All-floor model as we have various floor surfaces in our flat, from carpet, to lino and tiles. At the time, if I remember correctly, we got over £70 off our DC25, but it normally costs approx. £250.
Our model was in stock at the depot, so we were able to take it straight home. It was well packaged, and nothing was damaged upon our first inspection. I have to admit, my first impressions of the Dyson were sceptical at best. It feels and looks very plastic. I wasn't particularly convinced that it would last very well in the long term. Regardless, we put it straight to use.
I guess the most important feature of any vacuum cleaner is how well it removes dirt from surfaces. Well it's safe to say that the DC25 sucks, in the best way of-course. Apart from washing our carpets, they have never looked cleaner than when using this vacuum. It has very powerful suction, and the info about the bag-less vacuums not losing power as they fill up is true. My old vacuum had bags to empty, and it got less and less efficient as the bag filled. This Dyson sustains its excellent suction as the canister fills. The only problem is that, even in our small flat, it seems to fill up very quickly, so needs emptying often. It also works well on lino and tiles, sucking up all the dust before we mop these surfaces.
The DC25 is one of the Dyson Ball range, and I have to say that this technology really makes a big difference in a small apartment. It's actually quite a heavy vacuum cleaner, but the addition of the ball makes it pretty nimble, and allows you to spin in quite tight circles. We have quite a lot of awkward spaces to get into, and this Dyson copes well. I found its lack of wheels meant it can adapt well to any layout. It's definitely one of the models best features.
The (pretty frequent) emptying of the Dyson is fairly simple: a button on top of the dirt holding canister is depressed, and this releases it from the cleaner. At this point be very careful not to release the release catch for the canister to empty, unless you are over a bin, as it releases the dirt from a door on the bottom. Releasing the dirt can be a bit messy at times, as dust can swirl out and into the air (try not to breath in at this point), and occasionally you may need to manually remove portions of dirt that can get stuck halfway up the tube. However, the fact that you don't need to hunt down hard to find hoover bags any more, makes up for this slight hassle.
Apart from the main head for vacuuming carpets etc, the DC25 comes with a detachable hose that can be used for all those awkward corners and edges. The hose is cleverly incorporated into the main handle of the machine, and pulls up and out with the release of a top catch. Also attached to the vacuum are a couple of attachments for this hose, which include an upholstery head, and a narrow nozzle, with a further attachable brush head. Cleverly, this brush head is incorporated onto the nozzle, and simply slides back when not required, meaning you don't have to keep on re-attaching it. My only problem with this hose is that it's rather stiff (no sniggering!), and this makes it a bit of a pain to manoeuvre about, especially for using it for things above ground level.
My only issues are that the DC25 is pretty noisy, and fairly heavy. Most vacuums have a fairly loud 'whooshing' sound to them, but this one has a very weird almost rasping sound to it. I don't own any animals, but I would imagine this would scare the bejesus out of any dogs etc! It's not really a major problem though, and you do get used to it. The weight issue again isn't really a big problem for me, but lifting it about could be a hassle for someone older, or with poor strength. It does have a rather sturdy lifting handle though, so it's not hard to hold onto, if you have to lift it up.
I mentioned at the start of the review that I was concerned that my Dyson looked a bit plastic-y, however, after over two years, my fears have proved unfounded. The DC25 still works perfectly, and none of the many plastic catches, buttons, or hinges has yet to break. In fact the whole thing is a miracle of modern plastic engineering if I'm being honest. The suction is still top notch, and on the whole I can say that the expensive asking price for the machines is, in my opinion, justified when the product preforms perfectly without issue for years of repeated use. I don't mind spending a bit more for quality. The 'Ball' is more than just a cheap gimmick, and really does make this rather heavy vacuum a breeze to use.
It's a testament to Dyson that most modern vacuum cleaners have changed drastically over the last few years to mimic their designs. It's a bit like the introduction of the iPhone to the mobile phone market. I'm sure some of the other vacuum manufacturers can offer similar but cheaper results these days, but I don't regret my Dyson purchase.
Ahh Mars, we met again, my long time love affair. You have always been there for me from the start. Sure, I know I have played about with Twix's from time to time, and I can admit to a weakness for Matlesers, but I have always come back to you...
Ahem...sorry I was miles away there. I should start this by saying I have a sweet tooth, a very sweet tooth in fact. I've had to tone it down over the years, but I still can't resist the occasional treat (I certainly don't have one-a-day regardless of how much I wish to work rest or play). However, when the notion takes me for something sweet, Cadburys may be the UK's most popular chocolate brand, but for me it's always been Mars, and the ubiquitous Mars Bar.
As far as I know, or at least as long as I can remember, Mars Bars have always had the same wrapper: a simple black background, with red and gold handwritten style text, simply saying 'Mars'. They are surely one of the most recognisable sweets, simply because they have never really changed this style much (it was changed temporarily to 'Believe' during 2006 world cup, and a few other such events have had custom wrappers).
You don't want me to give the ingredients list do you? Ok...it's made from chewy goodness. Or more accurately, nougat, soft caramel, and covered in milk chocolate. If you are at all worried about healthy eating in a big way, look away now - a standard UK 58g Bar contains 260 calories, 10g of fat, and 35g of sugar. Ouch, but let's be honest, if you have already made the decision to eat a Mars Bar, you already know they (along with most chocolate sweets) are not good for you.
The main flavours of a Mars Bars are chocolate and caramel, and the texture, apart from the chocolate coating, is very soft and chewy. Don't leave one out in the sun for more than a few minutes, or it will turn into a gooey mass of brown paste very quickly.
To some people, and I can understand why, the Mars is simply too stodgy and sweet to eat in one sitting. They are very sweet, and this can make them a bit sickly. Thankfully, trained professionals such as me are able to overcome such issues, and simply enjoy them. King-size Mars Bars though: suicide, pure and simple, they will make even the most hard-core Mars fan sick. Best stick to the normal bar.
There have been various limited editions over the years, such as Mars Dark, which was a dark chocolate version, and the current edition, Mars Caramel, which is basically a Mars Bar...but without the nougat...I felt cheated when I tried one last night. Again best stick to the original.
Other than simply eating them as they are, you can melt them down to be used in cakes, crispy bakes, and other such nice things. If you are feeling particularly lacking in fat, then you could try the famous Scottish invention (which originated about 20 miles from where I sit now) deep fried Mars Bar, oh yes Scotland, wear that badge with pride...
Anyway, I think I have said the words 'Mars', and 'sweet' enough for you to get the gist of this snack by now. You either love them or hate them, but to me they will always be the best!
Given that I recently reviewed waterstones.co.uk, I figured it was only fair to look at their actual high street stores as well, since I always try to support shops I like using.
Waterstone's isn't really one of those 'small companies' as its owned by EMI, who also own HMV, but as I mentioned in an earlier review, I really believe you should try to support high street brands that you enjoy shopping in, otherwise our streets are going to get even more depressing! This is a review based on my experiences of the stores in Aberdeen, Scotland.
It would be hypocritical of me to say this without admitting, that like most people, I shop online a fair bit. There are, however, some items I'd rather to buy in a proper shop. Since I still prefer to read the rather 'old fashioned' paperback, it seems only fitting that I still like to wander about the 'dated' Waterstone's high street stores!
On our high street, there are two Waterstone's, located weirdly close to each other, but since one is a bit closer I tend to shop at it. This one used to be an Ottakar's (remember them?). The store is on two levels, with the ground floor mainly housing fiction & history, and on the upper floor, its collections of non-fictions, plus a Costa Coffee shop.
One of the main things I like about my local Waterstone's is the friendliness of the staff. It's refreshing to find knowledgeable, helpful staff, that actually seem to enjoy what they sell, rather than the usual collection of bored looking teenagers you get in some shops! The staff have often help me find a book I am after, either showing me where it is, informing me if the other local depot has it, or offering to order it in for me. If there is one thing that keeps me coming back to a shop, its small things like this.
When it comes to books, our local store has a pretty good selection. I have been in bigger Waterstone's in my travels, but ours have a fairly large stock. The main ground floor section as you walk in has the usual tables filled with special offers, and seasonal themed stacks (i.e. Father's day suggestions and summer holiday reads). There is a large section on crime novels, in fact it's almost as large as the general fiction area. This is my girlfriends favourite bit of the store, as she loves her Scandi-Crime. The crime section is certainly comprehensive. It does tend towards the more modern, but there are still plenty of the likes of Agatha Christie, and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.
Being a Sci-fi and fantasy fan, I often head straight to this section, however it's probably not as big as I would prefer. Sometimes I can't find a certain book, or sometimes a certain novel in a series is missing, which can be annoying, but often the other local depot has it.
Other than that, there is a local and national interest section, which since I'm in Aberdeen, often tends to focus on the history of the oil industry, but it also includes stuff on Orkney and Shetland, as well as general Scottish interest. There are also sizable classics, history and kids/teens sections. My girlfriend can't help stopping at the kids section to buy books for her young niece!
Upstairs, the non-fiction section although smaller, is still fairly comprehensive. A recent trip had me looking for a book on gardening for my Mum, and since I know zero about the topic, I was baffled by the selection. Thankfully, a few staff-selected books had been highlighted, and I picked up one of these. My Mum was delighted with the book (Phew). I like the staff-selection shelves, as they can help show off a few choice books; I have tried quite a few, and a few books I have been given as gifts have been staff recommendations, and in general they are decent books.
I can't say I am a fan of coffee (I know, I know...) so have never used the upstairs coffee shop, but there is always a few people in it, though it's never packed.
These days I guess one of the biggest problems with using a high street store, as opposed to shopping online is the prices. Working in a kitchen showroom, I know how depressing it can be when a customer can buy stuff online for hundreds cheaper than I can sell it for. Waterstone's stores tend to sell their books for the RRP price on the back, so they are not always that competitive. They used to run a 3 for 2 offer that I quite liked, since I would often buy a few books at a time anyway, but they have stopped that in favour of bore basic % discounts on certain books. Its seems though that these days, whatever I buy is rarely on offer. I guess I'm not main-stream enough. Despite this I still do try to but books here, since I kind of see books as luxury items, so I don't mind spending a little more here and there.
There are occasional book signings to be had, but never anyone recently that I would go to meet. I would recon that being in the north of Scotland probably deters quite a few bigger authors from heading up this way (the horse & cart recently got re-fitted, so come on up!) We have gone to a couple of talks which have been held at the store. These are often very popular, and the last on I was at, a presentation about photographs about the islands of St Kilda, was packed to the rafters.
Despite my attempts at support for store like this, I can't help but think their time will be up soon. It can be hard to compete with online retailers, with their vast warehouses of stock. It's a shame, but I'm not sure what they can do about it. It's hard to innovate when you sell books I guess, however I think prices should come down. Since eBooks are often just as expensive as 'real' books (this still makes no sense to me anyway), the only way to compete is to lower their prices, and put on better offers in store.
I will still continue to shop for books as long as I can, and I still enjoy just browsing book stores. I'm sure that there will always be some kind of bookstore hanging about for a while to come, but will it still be Waterstone's in ten years' time? Sadly, I'm not so sure.
Over the last few years I have been on something of a health kick, which has seen me become a member of a local PureGym (why do all these fittness companies have to mash two words together to make a name?!). As someone who has to research the hell out of anything I do or buy (that's how I ended up here), I got to looking into protein supplements and similar products to see if they would help my on-going performance. I started buying some whey protein from local health store like Holland & Barrett, but the stuff they sell, mainly Maximuscle, is very expensive, even with their frequent promos. I couldn't afford to spend a fortune on this stuff, since at the end of the day it really just an experiment in vanity (I blame watching too many superhero films with muscly guys in them!). So I went online and very quickly found MyProtein, a UK based online retailer with a huge range of well-priced health & fitness supplements.
So huge a range in fact, that to the total beginner, it can soon overwhelm and confuse you. I mean, do you get Hurricane XS, with its all in one formula, or Total Protein, with extra Flax seed powder (?). To a seasoned pro (the guys who put me to shame at the gym), I sure it's easy to know what stuff you need, but I was rather lost in a sea of creatine and whey protein.
Thankfully, their site contains sub sections based on what your goals are, or what your main focus is on, i.e. weight loss, general fitness, muscle building etc. From here they suggest more specific products, which does help narrow things down a bit.
After a bit more research, I found some products I reckoned would have me out-bench-pressing Arnie in no time (yeah...). Choosing, for example, Impact Whey Protein (their best-selling protein product) gives you the option of choosing between three size options 1, 2.5, & 5KG, do not underestimate how much powder 2.5KG actually is! It's more than you think. You also get a large selection of rather tasty sounding flavours, with options as such as Bannoffe, chocolate mint and peaches & cream. I have to admit, it's an impressive selection given the usual three flavours available for similar items.
Since I'm not reviewing any specific product, I won't go in to too much detail, but the flavours I have tried were actually pretty nice, as far as protein shakes go; the Mint Choc tasted like Mint Aero! The shakes mix fairly easily, and don't tend to leave many lumps. If you want, you can always spruce them up a bit by blending fruit into them.
When it comes to prices, I recon MyProtein are one of the best value suppliers available. A 1 KG bag of Strawberry Cream flavour Impact Whey Protein costs £14.99, which is over half the price of Maximuscle ProMax Protein @ 35.99 for 908g, but contains a very similar amount of protein (20.5g v's 23g per portion). As you buy multiple amounts of an item, the price goes down per unit, so if you can afford to buy in bulk, you can save a fair bit. Going along the same bulk buy theme, they have a £50 minimum for free postage, anything under costs £4.95 extra. £50 seems a bit high to me, but even if you add that charge on, it's still cheaper than most other suppliers.
In order to keep costs down, they are pretty no-frills when it comes to their packaging. Protein shakes and other powders generally come in re-sealable plastic pouches rather than tubs, and they don't include measuring scoops. Extras like that are sold separately, but once you have bought one, you don't really need another. The pouches are fairly hard wearing, but the zip-lock seal on mine tend to wear out before you can finish the stuff inside, so I would recommend decanting it into a re-sealable Tupperware box or something.
You have to set up an account in order to buy anything from them, but this is no different than many online stones these days anyway, it just means yet another password to remember. The most annoying issue I have had with them is that since registering, I have had a flurry of spam promo-offer emails from them, and despite my best efforts I still seem to get at least a couple of emails every week.
I have read a fair few mixed reviews online regarding their customer service levels; everything for glowing reports to damning rants. All I can say is that I have not had any issues regarding orders, payments or deliveries as long as I have used them, which is admittedly only three times so far.
Delivery is pretty prompt, with orders getting dispatched the same or next working day. My deliveries tend to arrive within 3 days. They have been pretty well packaged, arriving in cardboard boxes in good condition, and nothing has ever been missing, or burst.
Overall, I have found MyProtein to be very much of the 'stack 'em high, sell 'em low' type of seller. They are certainly no-frills, but they do offer a pretty immense selection of health and fitness products, and then some, and all at very competitive prices. I don't really have much to say against them to be honest. I would like to see them package their products in more robust containers, but I guess any change there would simply push up prices, so I can understand why they do it, considering how cheap they are.
They are mainly geared towards bulk-buying, so trying to pick up a small tub of multi-vitamins may not work out the best value, but stack a few things together, and you can get a bargain. The spam mails are pretty much the only other annoying thing I have as a negative. I appreciate that this kind of online store has a fairly specialised target market, but if you ever need to pick up some health/fitness supplements, it's certainly worth a look.
I have always enjoyed reading, and I read on a daily basis. Now, I have to admit although I love gadgets and gizmos, I refuse to buy into eReaders. I've tried a kindle, and I just don't like it, there is just something about the humble paperback, that just seem to feel right when it comes to reading.
Unfortunately, most of the world seems to disagree with me, and over the last ten years my home city has seen most of its bookshops vanish. All that is really left is two Waterstone's and a W H Smith. I really don't like shopping in W H Smiths, so I usually buy from Waterstone's. However there are times when despite two large stores, they don't have the book I want.
My first instinct is to hop on to Amazon whenever it comes to buying, well, almost anything online, but since my girlfriend has a Waterstone's card, I try to use waterstones.co.uk whenever possible.
= = = The website = = =
The website is easy to use, assuming you are familiar with any other online shopping sites (of course you are!) The top banner contains a search tool for looking for specific books, and a pop up menu on the left allows you to jump to specific genres. Elsewhere on the home page there is a best sellers list, and various special offers, along with current trending books. there is also a fairly comprehensive range of ebooks available now, but as you can imagine, I haven't really looked that much into that area.
Once you have selected a specific book, you are able to view an image of the cover, and read the synopsis, as well as any bookseller, and reader reviews that have been posted up. below all this is a selection of other books from the same author, as well as suggested books that others who got this book also bought. I have found quite a few good books this way, and its nice to find a similar book to what you like, especially if you never heard of it before.
= = = Price = = =
As far as price is concerned, waterstones.co.uk is fairly competetive. A recent Sci-Fi novel I ordered 'Caliban's War' was about 40p cheaper on here than Amazon. If you are concerned about price then it's always worth checking a few sources out. However, as I mentioned earlier, we have a Waterstone's card, which can also be used online, so as long as the price isnt to way out, we use Waterstone's.
= = = Delivery = = =
Delivery is reasonable but not amazing: A recent book I ordered was dispatched the next day, and arrived about five days later. In comparison, a couple of art books I ordered from Amazon arrived within three days on the free super saver option. At least delivery is free (within the UK).
I have had one slight problem regarding delivery. I often like my books to be delivered to my work, since sometimes nobody is at home during the day, but, unless I'm being really thick (it's been known to happen), I cant seem to set a different delivery from my home address, since they require the address your card is registered to. If anyone knows if you can have alternate addresses, let me know!
One area I don't like about waterstones.co.uk is the packaging its books. I like Amazon's cardboard packages; they always protect the books I order well. Waterstone's, in comparison tend to use Jiffy Bags. To be fair, I have never had a badly damaged book yet, but it seems a bit second rate to me.
= = = In Summary = = =
Despite a few concerns with its packaging, I still continue to use Waterstone's online. It may not be the best or quickest, but they have, at least to me, been reliable, and I have never have a missing or overdue order. There is also the fact that if you have a Waterstone's card, you can still use it online to gain points. I should also add that I recently signed up to Quidco, and you get 4% cash-back with online purchases from waterstones.co.uk through them.
I have an iPhone 3Gs, which being an older model nowadays, sometimes throws up the problem of being a bit too dated for some newer game apps. So when I find a great game I am always chuffed, especially when it's a 59p one!
One such game I got a few months ago was Cute the Rope by Zeptolab. It was designed initially for smartphones (iOS first then later Android) , but is now available for tablets, the Nintendo DSi, and also a browser based version for the PC. There is also a sequel titled Cut the Rope: Experiments now available. However, I will be looking at the original version for the iPhone.
= = = What is it? = = =
Cut the rope is essentially a physics-based puzzle game. The story goes that you are left a small cardboard box on your doorstep, and this contains On Nom, a rather cute little monster, with an insatiable appetite for candy. The game is slit up into various 'boxes', which to date are: Cardboard Box, Fabric Box, Foil Box, Magic Box, Valentine Box, Toy Box, Gift Box, Cosmic Box, Tool Box, Buzz box, DJ Box, and the most recent one Spooky Box. Many of these boxes have been released as updates.
The boxes contains 25 levels, each of which earn you points, and between a zero, and 3 star rating on completion.
Each level involves you having to feed little Om Nom with a piece of candy, tied to a piece (or pieces) of string. You have to interact with the screen with one or two fingers depending on the challenge, and guide the swinging piece of candy towards Om's ever hungry mouth.
As you may have guessed, this involves your finger(s) become an invisible blade which you swipe across the screen to 'cut the rope' to which the candy is attached, guiding it through a maze of fiendish traps and hazards, all the while trying to swing it over 3 stars placed carefully over the screen.
The various boxes offer up different themes for the levels contained within, the DJ box, for example has you spinning records around to help solve the puzzles, whilst the Cosmic box levels often include a big red button which inverts gravity. These themes certainly keep your interest up as you progress through the game, always giving you a new challenge.
= = = How does it play? = = =
The initial levels of the starter zone, cardboard box, start of fairly easy, teaching you the various tricks you may need to progress, but they quickly become harder and harder, and some will have you going crazy at their complexity. That's not to say that any of the levels are impossible, but like many puzzle games, the addictive pull of this game is in the need to complete each level with the highest score, and best star rating possible.
I have seen me spend try after frustrating try to achieve a top star rating, only to give up, and come back a few days later and somehow breeze past my previous stumbling block. It's that kind of game.
Everything runs smoothly, and I have never found the game to slow down, or stutter. In fact I don't actually recall it ever crashing, which is something that the likes of Angry Birds sometimes suffers from (even if it is rare)
= = = Graphics = = =
The graphics have a simple 2D cartoon look to them, which fits in perfectly with the style and theme of the game. Everything looks crisp and polished, even down to the animation of Om Nom's little mouth opening with anticipation when some candy swings close by, or his look of despair if you smash or drop his favourite morsel.
= = = Anything nasty or offensive? = = =
Nope, not here, unless you include me swearing in frustration. This game is perfectly suitable for kids, although younger children may struggle with some of the more fiendish levels (and some, I'm quite sure could beat every one of my scores!)
= = = Verdict = = =
This game has scored very well in many reviews, and I have to agree with them. The puzzles are hard, but not impossible, the game looks and plays great, and it is as perfect for passing 10 minutes here or there, as it is for spending a few hours on if you are determined enough.
If you like puzzle games such as World of Goo, and Angry Birds, then you should love Cut the Rope. I found myself coming back to this game over and over to improve my scores, and is seems I have become a little but OCD about getting three star ratings on every. single. level.