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Origins was going to be a prequel to the original Rayman until somebody realised that only four people remember the plot of the original Rayman and the rest of us are surprised to discover that the original Rayman had a plot. So Rayman Origins has a brand new story! Rayman and his friends are noisy around a tree and then some bad guys take over. This may hardly seem like Shakespeare to you, but I'm sure that in ten years the prequel game Origins of Rayman Origins will finally give us the narrative catharsis all us gamers secretly crave with all our hearts.
Until we get that narrative catharsis, we might as well spend our time enjoying this brilliant platformer. Origins features great controls, superior gameplay to even the best Mario titles and the beautiful animated graphics and wonderful soundtrack make this possibly the greatest 2D platformer I've ever played. And I've played far, far too many.
Rayman controls like a dream, the game is fast paced and full of collectibles for the more obsessive gamer, but these can easily be ignored. However, don't be fooled into thinking this is a kids game. They'll enjoy it, sure, but this is one of the toughest games available for the 3DS. It starts simple enough but the difficulty curve soon ramps up to horrifying levels in which you'll have to play perfectly to complete levels. The infinite lives system means you're never set too far back, which some have said makes the game 'never frustrating'. As a counter argument to that 'never frustrating' claim, I'd like to present the amount of times I swore when failing some of the later levels (easily in the high hundreds) but that's probably more of a reflection on my young disrespectful vocal chords rather than the excellent game design. If you don't mind a challenge and like platformers then you should be playing Rayman Origins right now.
You play as Henry Hatsworth on the top screen, exploring several uninspired worlds in average platforming sections. The twist is that when Henry defeats enemies they are sent to the bottom screen to become blocks in what is essentially the game Puzzle League (which some of you may know as Tetris Attack). These blocks are slowly rising to the top screen, and if they reach it, they will respawn into the platformer. Pausing the game lets you play puzzle league and destroy these blocks first, killing the enemies properly and providing Henry with the occasional power up.
It's an average platformer combined with a good puzzle game. So why not an average score then? Because somehow Hatsworth is better than the sum of its parts.
This is because by blending two genres Henry Hatsworth is one of the few games which is able to have a puzzle game and a narrative work together in a simultaneous package. This is effective because finishing a games story is one of the biggest hooks a game has to keep you motivated to keep playing. This is not a bad thing. A fun game is more fun when you are looking forward to seeing where the story goes or just because you enjoy the humour in its cutscenes (the latter applies to Hatsworth, which features some great, genuinely funny dialogue).
Couldn't you just assign your own story to a puzzle game using your wonderful imagination? Tell yourself you're stacking the blocks in Tetris because they represent the rise of capitalism and you're just a corporate shill building towers for your uncaring master only to overthrow your Billionaire overlords with the long thin line of social justice even if it inevitably leads to economic collapse! Well no, that doesn't work because any puzzle game with a story is inevitably awful as I just demonstrated with that last sentence. That's because the link between a puzzle and a narrative is virtually non-existent. There's yet to be a great novel about the Rubix cube for a reason.
A platformer however, is much more suited to an in game narrative, and Henry Hatsworth's tale is a charming one. Slight, yes, but with plenty of character and ridiculousness (Henry is a dashing English gent and the scripted clashes with his nemesis are always a highlight). So even though it's not a great platformer, and you literally pause the platformer sections to play the puzzle sections, it works because you can enjoy the puzzle gameplay and be enticed to keep playing by the furthering of the story and the completion of the platformer adventure.
Now while this is effective, it only just works. Henry Hatsworth hasn't got the most engrossing story in the world and the gameplay is far from perfect. But it's still great fun and highly addictive, without the weariness you get from playing the average puzzle game for hours on end. Try it before you buy, but if you're a fan of puzzlers and wish they were a bit more than just a break from more complex, story driven games then this might just be the title for you.
Unlike most sequels which will settle for a nice number 2 in the title (or perhaps more accurately '3' as this is the third game in the series), Nintendo have added the word 'Super'. This seems a bit counter-intuitive to me as highlighting the sequel alone as the 'super' game is a bit like releasing a Half Life sequel called Half Life: Good Version.
Super Paper Mario's gimmick is that you can 'flip' to an alternate dimension (viewpoint) to see all the secrets and gameplay there (disappointingly, almost none). The 'flip' feature gets old fast and isn't helped by a stupid meter that needlessly punishes you if you stay in the alternate dimension for too long. There's no good reason to punish you for staying in the alternate dimension, it doesn't make the game any more challenging, other than too cynically draw out the length of a game that clearly had a rushed development cycle. Even ignoring the gimmicks, the basic platforming in SPM is uninspired, boring to play and way below the standards of your typical Mario platformer.
'Rushed' is very much the word that sums up Super Paper Mario. Here is a good game that clearly needed a few more months of development, but was probably released quickly in the early days of the Wii so people who had just paid £180 for a new console wouldn't start rioting in the streets at the lack of new games.
SPM was originally developed for the GameCube and if you think Twilight Princess was hastily ported to the Wii (which it was) then wait till you see this. I counted two uses of the Wiis motion controls. One was pointing at the TV screen to create a circle of light that could find hidden objects. That's not clever use of the Wii, that's a 'How To Use A Torch' simulator. The other was shaking the remote occasionally to unfreeze yourself. Yeah, this is a GameCube game.
Everything I like about this game is from the far superior GameCube title Paper Mario: The Thousand Year Door. All the good art assets and design (the new stuff is ugly and visually uninteresting) the clever design, the witty scripting. Super Paper Mario has its moments but it's a dull platformer sequel to an excellent RPG. If you're desperate for another Paper Mario game then you'll probably get something out of this but this should have been so much better. I don't doubt that give another few months of development time this would have been a fun platformer with a lot more to see and do, up there with the standards of its predecessor.
The world is crying out for a decent Doctor Who game and it isn't going to get one. Not until the licence is given to a competent game developer. A competent developer would be competent enough to competently realise that no one involved with a TV show should be allowed near the competent development of a competent game*. Great television writing doesn't correspond to great videogame writing and great TV writing has absolutely no idea what fun gameplay is. When I think Doctor Who game, I think of adventure, space exploration, maybe even horror. The developers at Supermassive games thought '2D platformer'.
You play as the Doctor and occasionally River Song, jumping through a bunch of boring, uninspired levels set in exciting locations like warehouses and bland ship interiors. The use of bland settings is because Supermassive games were limited in their level design choices to oh I don't know the entire universe and anything your imagination can come up with, so you can see why they just HAD to have a level set in a freaking warehouse.
'Puzzles' never get more inspired than 'push crate to other side of room to reach higher platform', so we finally get a Dr Who game that feels like time travelling, as level design and puzzles like that were last seen as fun somewhere around 1989. Occasionally you'll use the sonic screwdriver to open doors (these parts of the game really capture the intoxicating thrills of opening a door) and River has a rubbish gun which you can use on enemies to completely miss the point of a science fiction franchise about pacifism. A few enemies from the TV show crop up to do nothing interesting, but not as many as you'd expect.
Supermassive games did however make a new crap enemy of their own unique to their crappy game. For some reason they weren't interested in using more of the hundreds of iconic enemies from the series instead, unnecessary further proof that they were a particularly dumb choice for development of a Doctor Who game.
The game looks rubbish, which is at least consistent with the rubbish gameplay, unlike the decent voice acting. Matt Smith and Alex Kingston both reprise their roles and do a decent job but listening to sound bites from two decent actors doesn't make for a good game OMG LIKE NO WAY.
The story is worse than Curse of the Black Spot, so there goes the last possible reason to play this game, Doctor Who fan or not. Oh look, it's the first in a planned trilogy. Watch the TV show and pray Bioware somehow gets its hands on this licence before silence falls on the chances of us ever seeing a game worthy of the brilliant TV show. Ha ha! Did you spot my clever reference to 'silence falling' a recurring arc in the TV series!? I live alone.
*If you think my hilarious repeated use of the word competent isn't a hilarious jape and is in fact a cynical not at all hilarious way of padding out the also not hilarious required dooyoo review word count then you couldn't be more wrong. These sentences however, obviously are. How hilarious!
If you're a lonely gamer, unlike this handsome reviewer who has thousands of friends and that's why he spends his free time indoors reviewing videogames for peanuts shut up, then you may have considered playing The Sims, a game that perfectly simulates the horrors of being alive, social interaction and pretending you don't want to brutally slaughter every person you meet. You'd be better off avoiding The Sims and playing a loneliness simulator, something games are a lot better at. Enter Metroid Prime.
Metroid was a rubbish game for the NES that somehow became awesome on the Super NES and celebrated by being crap again on the Game Boy. So that's a bad game sandwich with an awesome game filler, just waiting to become a pile of sloppy inedible strained metaphor in the form of a 3D sequel. But against all odds, Metroid Prime is a modern classic.
Like in the previous games, you play Samus Aran, a bounty hunter investigating the mysterious semi-deserted planet of Tallon VI. It's worth noting here that even though there are far more words than planets in the solar system, marketing monsters of the future are giving planets identical names and then tacking on Roman numerals on the end to distract people from their laziness. I could give you at least three names for planets that I'm sure don't exist in just a few taps of the keyboard. In fact:
* Wub Wib Wab Wob
There, why couldn't you just call your planet something like that? But I digress. You're dumped on the planet of the start of the game with most of your weapons broken and are left to explore on your own. Enemies are everywhere, but this is far from a traditional shooter. Fighting enemies is more about strategy than the all guns blazing approach (which rarely, if ever, works in this game). Finding an enemy's weakness is done through scanning the creature, and many other items in the game can be scanned as well. This means the location can be as detailed and developed as the player wants. Want to learn more about Tallon VI? Get scanning! Don't want to learn about Tallon VI? Suit yourself moron.
It's an adventure game at heart, and could easily be described as a 'futuristic Zelda'. For example, notice how easily I just described it as a futuristic Zelda. See! I just did it again! Puzzles are challenging without ever seeming unfair and as you unlock more items the game encourages you to backtrack to previous locations to unlock parts of the map that were previously inaccessible. Stunningly, unlike 99% of games with backtracking, this is rarely annoying.
Where it fits with the loneliness simulator tag is in the emptiness and quietness of the planet you're exploring. There is very little dialogue in the game, your on your own throughout the adventure and there will be plenty of times when you have no idea where to go next (more out of personal stupidity than anything). The game has an excellent fully 3D map which really should be the standard for all maps in videogames by now. The game is more about exploration than shooting, and the wonderful visuals (even now, the GameCube version looks great) and intriguing story make it a joy to play.
Charles came into the room and his eyes filled with despair. For you see, Charles' best friend in all the known universe, Matt Denton, was playing 5O Cent: Blood in the Sand. Charles watched the dull, repetitive gameplay which simply consisted of shooting and running and shooting and running and at no point was it ever satisfying or fun. He observed the pitiful excuse for a story, which entailed a pricks quest to get a diamond skull when he really deserved to be shot and left in a ditch. Hot tears ran down his face as he tried to ignore the awful soundtrack, awful dialogue, awful everything. He felt himself cough as he noticed that the main characters were wearing their shades indoors to prove they were totes hardcore innit. The coughing got worse and worse until finally Charles felt his mouth fill with the all too familiar taste of blood. He looked at his former best friend.
"I'm sorry," said Matt. "I thought it might be fun."
Charles spat in Matt's face and left the room.
Being the poor work experience kid at Rockstar who is kept safely away from all the game development rooms so he doesn't spoil them on his badly spelt blog later and is instead confined to reading the endless hate speech from GTA 'fans' on forums and taking notes must be tough. For one, your atrocious acne and social skills ensure you probably won't start dating until your late twenties at best and for two, GTA fans, like all gaming fans, are more twice as evil as the Nazis and half as literate.
Fans of Grand Theft Auto seem to fit in to two camps. There are fans who like the gritty, edgy, realism of GTA4, a game so far up its own arse it barely warrants me ending this metaphor. Then there's the fans of the good ol' days, when the series was brightly coloured, the focus was on mayhem, dark humour and fun. Of the two camps I probably sit more in the Vice City playpen full of toys rather than the filthy bathtub full of grease and broken glass that is GTA4, but it's worth noting that Rockstar did try something new with one of the biggest franchises in gaming. Yes Niko Bellic wasn't exactly Mr Smileychops but do we have to play as Captain Quirky in every sandbox game?
Grand Theft Auto Chinatown Wars is very much in the Vice City playpen of ridiculous one-note characters, a stupid story and an emphasis on mayhem and destruction. At first it seems like this is a bit of a middle finger to handheld gaming as if Rockstar don't believe a deep and dramatic story can be achieved on a handheld (it can), but rather than deplore the game for what it's not let's praise it for what it is: absolutely brilliant.
You play as a man of Chinese descent (read the title of the game) and as usual I won't tell you who he or the plot of the game because that's something you should experience for yourself when you play it instead of being spoilt in a review. The writing not bad but it's not up to the series standard. There's a few good lines but nothing that will stick in the memory and it's all a bit too meta, such as one character, a corrupt cop with a drug problem. A corrupt cop character with a drug problem that's self-aware that he's a cliché is still a clichéd piece of writing. Why do so many recent games think that simply highlighting one of the games problems with a throwaway gag is better than simply taking the problem out of the game. Duke Nukem Forever ends with the Duke saying "what kind of BEEP ending was that?" hahahahahahahahaahahahahahaha THAT DOESN'T STOP THE ENDING FROM STILL BEING BEEPING BEEP IN THE BEEPING BEEP HOLE and likewise making jokes about how one dimensional and clichéd your characters are doesn't stop them from being one dimensional, clichéd and ultimately forgettable.
Didn't I claim this game was brilliant a mere paragraph ago? Oh yeah, well that would be down to the huge map (2 of the 3 islands from GTA4 are here, even if it is all from a top down might as well be 2D perspective), the excellent handling of all the cars and some for the most satisfying police chases this series has yet accomplished. Once you've ran over an innocent old lady to many you have to avoid the police and unlike the GTA's of old where you just fled the scene and hoped for the best, there's now a little more skill to it. Cause the police cars to crash when they're pursuing you and a huge cartoon X will go flying over the bonnet of their totalled vehicle and your wanted rating will dip slightly. This means car chases are now probably the most fun part of the game, so breaking the law (a.k.a. the point of GTA) is now encouraged, rather than frowned upon like in GTA4 which never understood why gamers wanted to do all that fun illegal stuff anyway when they could enjoy the tedium of taking their cousin bowling. Missions aren't bad bet the targeting on guns can be patchy at best, and although there's a decent amount of variety in here it's the driving missions and the rampage side quests that you'll probably get the most fun out of here.
One irritating little feature is the constant minigames you're forced to play to steal cars, open dumpsters, assemble guns, etc. These were crowbarred in for the DS version (and weren't great then) so it's not exactly filling me with joy to see I have to still play them every time I steal a parked car but now without touch screen controls. But how were Rockstar to know that repeated mini-games would eventually get frustrating and dull? They could only have discovered that by playing every other game that has repeated mini-games that has ever been released EVER. But I digress, the minigames get annoying and break the flow of the game sometimes but they add a bit of novelty value to the whole package and make police chases a bit more challenging (e.g. you can't just jump into any car while the police are in pursuit and drive off, you might have to hotwire it, losing precious seconds). Like I said before, the car chases are what really make this game exceptional.
I'd recommend the PSP version over the DS version, as the wider screen really does help (plus you get a few more missions and radio stations on PSP). Whatever platform you go for this is a great GTA game which feels more focused on fun than the series has been since Vice City.
The phrase 'best game of all time' is a stupid one, because 'of all time' implies that the thing you're reviewing will never be topped in the future (which it inevitably will). With that in mind, I'm going to throw my hat into the ring and say that the Phoenix Wright series is probably the best supernatural lawyer simulation of all time.
Faint praise indeed when you consider the non-existent competition but bypass this excellent game (a sort of point and click adventure with superior pacing) and you'll miss out on some of the best logic based gameplay and stunning writing to feature in the medium.
You play as Phoenix Wright, a defence lawyer tasked with saving some of the guiltiest looking suspects you could imagine. Gameplay consists of examining crime scenes, collecting evidence and then using it in court to prove your client innocent and identify the real guilty party. The courtroom is where the game gets interesting. None of the usual adventure game puzzles of 'combine object A with object B and hope for the love of God it gets you to the next stage' The 'puzzles' in Phoenix Wright come in the form of witness testimonies. It's your job to listen to the testimony and search through it for lies and contradictions. Once you've found a contradiction, you then have to present the right piece of evidence to prove your claim. For example, say a witness says that she 'saw the murder at 2pm', but you have an autopsy report that says the victim didn't die until 3pm, then you present the evidence at the witnesses statement (brilliantly, this can be done by screaming 'OBJECTION!!!' into the DS microphone) and then watch as they slowly break down as their story unravels. If shouting at people until they have nervous breakdowns doesn't sound like your idea of fun, well trust me, it will be after this game.
I'm not going to spoil any of the plot here, but the writing is fantastic, with lots of dialogue full of quotable lines and a great sense of humour. This is particularly surprising when you consider the game was published by Capcom, who know about as much about good writing as Hitler does about compassion and letting things go. All the characters have clever arcs and are interesting enough to keep you playing, the identities of the real murderer in cases is rarely that surprising but the truth behind the cases can be surprisingly moving. Yeah, that's right, I think a supernatural lawyer sim with cartoon graphics is genuinely moving, why don't you shut up and play it yourself before laughing at me? You might just find this to be one of your favourite games ever.
Before I get into the merits of the game, let's get one issue out of the way. The writing is crap, because Capcom are to scriptwriting what I am to success and large amounts of money and decent metaphors.
The game is set in a clear parody of Las Vegas called Fortune City, several months/years/like it matters after the first game and the zombie outbreak is now under control. Better yet, now we can use zombies for our cynical entertainment in cruel and demeaning game shows! Hey, when you've taken your entire situation from Dawn of The Dead you might as well steal ideas from Shaun of the Dead too. You play as Chuck Green, the kind of protagonist you end up with when you spend the night flicking snot at your co-writer and decide to name the games protagonist after that hilarious evening.
Chuck is a miserable participant in one of the aforementioned zombie game shows called Terror is Reality, wherein he must ride a motorbike with two chainsaws sticking out of it into crowds of zombies and whoever slaughters the most is declared the winner, instead of a terrible psychopath. Chuck isn't proud of taking part in the show but he needs the money to save the life of his little girl. She's been bitten by a zombie, and needs constant doses of expensive zombrex to keep her from turning into one of the walking dead. Unfortunately Chuck's daughter can't be saved from her fate as a child character in a Capcom game, dooming her to being unlikeable, uncharacterised and hard to care about.
Inevitably zombies break free, Fortune City is in chaos and Chuck must save survivors, find zombrex for his daughter and solve the mystery of what caused the outbreak in the first place (although the obvious cause of 'keeping highly contagious brain-dead cannibal alive in large numbers with low security' is never considered). You have 72 hours until the military shows up, and the game starts properly.
This is the closest you're ever going to get to feeling like a survivor in a zombie outbreak, as hundreds are always on screen at any one time. Zombies are weak and easily killed on their own, but in large numbers they become a significant threat. Almost anything can be used as a weapon, from practical things like knives and handguns to novelty items like traffic cones, golf clubs and gladiators style giant balls that you can roll around in, wiping out all the zombies in your path. Temporarily at least as all the weapons degrade after several hits, stopping you from relying on a few core weapons and ensuring that you're constantly mixing up the weapons you're using, smartly keeping the game varied throughout. New for this sequel is the brilliant weapon combination, where you can take two items and create new more powerful tools from them. The logic of these combinations is a little dubious (e.g. gems + torch = Lightsabers) but it doesn't matter in the least when it's this much fun. Every kill earns Chuck experience, making him more powerful and combined weapons reward you with more experience. Not enough games reward and encourage you for using their best features like Dead Rising 2.
Not that the experience system is anywhere near perfect mind. After Chuck gains a certain amount he'll level up, but the difficulty curve is far too steep for you to possibly level up to the appropriate level in time. For example, when the first few boss fights appear about seven hours in, you'll probably be just breaking into double figures level wise, meaning you'll barely take a pinch of health off the terrible, far too unfair bosses. Meanwhile these bosses will happily slaughter you with ease. The game counters this by letting you restart the story from scratch at any time with all the experience and levels you've gained through your current play through. A nice feature, but clearly Capcom have used it as an excuse not to balance the levelling properly. Survive till about level 13; be forced to restart the game and have to play several compulsory missions again before you can progress past the unfair difficulty spikes.
These are the biggest flaws in an otherwise excellent game. The weapons are satisfying and fun to experiment with, messing around in Fortune City's various locales is fun and the constant pressure of the 72 hour time limit (not real time, much faster) keeps the pacing strong. The sequel is a step up from the original in every way except for the lame protagonist. Chuck's aforementioned daughter and guilt over what he has to do to make money to save her is what drives the weak plot, but if Chuck is so miserable then why is he dressing up in a tube top and beating zombies with park benches just for the fun of it? Well he was when I played anyway but regardless of how you play the protagonists personality is in direct contrast to the actions you commit in the game. Compared to the hero of the first Dead Rising, photographer Fred West, who was just driven by his want for a big story, Chuck is a damp squib of a main character. A shame, but it won't stop you enjoying this ridiculously fun game, just make up your own story. In fact, I'll make one up for you:
'Hank Yellow is an untalented method actor pretending to care about a little girl in research for his next role as the lead in another remake of Cheaper by the Dozen . Hank is told by his agent that due to extreme rewrites, the film is now called Chomper of the Dozen, a zombie killing horror/warm hearted family comedy in Hollywood's latest dumb attempt to mesh together two overcrowded genres. Can Hank kill enough zombies and save enough daughters to get the part?'
You'll have hours of fun finding out in this excellent zombie apocalypse sim.
John Tanner, legendary driver and cop gets into a nasty accident and ends up in a coma. Like most comatose beings, Tanner has no idea that he's lying in a hospital bed flirting with death. Unlike most comatose beings, Tanner is dreaming that he's some sort of car ghost, capable of 'shifting' from his fleshy form into the body of any other driver in San Francisco. The story is ridiculous but why should that matter? When did you last buy a racing game based on the plot? If you want that watch Ryan Gosling in Drive and occasionally fiddle with the remote so you can pretend it's a story based driving game you pretentious twit.
Basically you're playing as a psychotic Google maps, and as gimmicks go that's a pretty good one. You can shift to another car mid-race and smash it into your opponent, or maybe you're about to crash horribly and decide you'd rather just steal another car and carry on non-wrecked in that one instead. The possibilities aren't endless, they're pretty much those two I mentioned there, but the game comes up with plenty of fun missions to keep the idea feeling fresh.
Some of these missions however, force you to use the car Tanner has warped into at the start and during a few races near the end of the game this very nearly made me give the game 1 star, using my blood for ink and scraping out the shape of the star with the shattered remains of my controller that I had smashed to bits after my car had swerved and started driving in the wrong DAMN direction for the FIFTIETH DAMN TIME. Yes I know you can warp into other cars and take down traffic, using them to win the race. Yes I know that some of the cars are designed for high speeds so it's realistic that they should spin out so easily. My point is that forcing players to use a car that they're not going to enjoy racing in (and trust me, after the fiftieth attempt at manoeuvring the thing I knew I would never enjoy driving it) is the sort of outdated feature you wouldn't expect in a modern racing game, particularly one as innovative as this. Besides, what are realistic cars doing in a game that makes Life on Mars look like The Wire? Still if that's your kind of thing there are plenty of fully licenced real world cars in the game for you to enjoy completely missing the point with.
The story is entertaining enough for you to want to see it through, even if the dramatic irony is layed on a bit thick ("What's going on?" asks Tanner as you scream "YOU'RE IN A COMA, YOU'RE IN A BLOODY COMA! WE'VE KNOWN THIS FOR ABOUT TEN LEVELS NOW!" at the screen). The writing is solid throughout, particularly the titbits of conversation you pick up when you shift into random civilian cars (Tanner will usually respond to at least half of the passengers in the game).
Not every mission is a winner and the map feels a bit empty considering the possibilities of the shift mechanic. There are tokens to collect and challenges all over the place but it could have injected a bit more personality, some destructive environments would have been nice, such as the Billboards from Burnout Paradise.
That's the main problem I have with the game, fun story and great gimmick aside this just isn't as good as the incredible Burnout Paradise. It's still a great game, and you'll get a lot out of it but when it comes to dumb fun racing Burnout Paradise has the edge in terms of speed, handling and crashes - which is pretty vital for a racing game. If you're looking for something new, try Driver San Francisco and I'm sure you'll have fun with it, but Burnout Paradise remains the best arcade racer of this console generation.
I'm not a fan of Robin Williams, and considering the majority of his recent Hollywood output, I'd be pretty surprised if Robin Williams is a fan of Robin Williams right now. Obligatory pop at A list comedian who makes safe choices safely out of the way, I can now tell you that Robin Williams is brilliant in this excellent dark comedy.
Williams plays Lance, an unpublished writer and unpopular schoolteacher, burdened with his horrible son Kyle (Daryl Sabara). If there was an Oscar for 'biggest prick in cinema' Sabara would win hands down. He plays the most horrible, perverted, unlikeable teenager imaginable and he plays it to perfection. This is even more entertaining if you remember Sabara as the innocent little ginger kid from Spy Kids. All the performances in the film are great but the relationship between the sad, toned-down Williams and his cocky prick of a son Sabara is excellent.
Now some might say the following plot synopsis is a spoiler, but considering it's what the whole movie is about I feel I need to talk about it if you are to understand why I'm recommending this film and what you're letting yourself in for if you choose to watch it. The awful, awful trailer avoids telling you this plot point but that seems to be advertising a different film altogether. So SPOILER WARNING Kyle dies. I won't say how he dies, but it's about as undignified a death as possible. Horrified, Lance makes his son's death look like suicide and writes a fake suicide note about how great Kyle thought his dad was.
What follows is some of the darkest laughs you'll ever see in a movie, as the suicide note leaks around the school and Kyle becomes a martyr. The film gets darker and darker as Lance gets pulled deeper into his web of lies, keeping up the pretence that his horrible stupid son was a misunderstood genius. The films message about the mystique we lay on the deceased is something I've never seen handled this well in a film before, least of all a comedy. This isn't always the easiest film to watch but I urge you to stick with it, as the payoff is fantastic. Don't be put off by the subject matter; this is an amazing comedy with something smart to say about a controversial subject matter. We need more of those.
Climbing buildings, making death defying leaps, standing atop locations that make Assassins Creed look like anthills. No trilogy offers platforming gameplay like this, and now all three titles are available in one HD collection. Though not perfect, it's still an essential purchase.
SANDS OF TIME
Sands of time is known best for it's central gimmick - the then revolutionary sands of time, which give you the ability to rewind time if you are killed by an enemy or fall to your death. A brilliant idea that a pathetically small amount of modern games take advantage of, this eases the frustration without ever making the game feel too easy.
What Sands of Time, and the whole trilogy for that matter, should be known for, is the near perfect controls. The prince backflips, wall runs, climbs jumps between platforms, all features we've seen in thousands of games - the difference is that this game uses them all masterfully. You never feel like you're anything less than in complete control of the prince.
The story takes place in an Arabian nights style world - the game has a really nice storybook feel to it, with the prince starting out as an obnoxious rich kid and slowly becoming more likeable throughout the game. He has an ACTUAL CHARACTER ARC and I'm hoping by using block capitals that GAME DEVELOPERS WILL ACTUALLY REALISE THIS IS WHAT GAME PROTAGONISTS NEED. It's an enchanting tale and will keep you playing even through the more frustrating parts.
Ah yes the frustrating parts. The combat is simplistic and it usually feels like there are too many enemies to get through in each area. You're not playing this to fight enemies; you're playing it for the platforming. Nonetheless, it rarely outstays its welcome too much and is hardly game ruining. What does have a good attempt at ruining the game however, is the sometimes awful camera. Easily the game's biggest problem, there will be occasions when the camera will happily show you a brick wall while the off screen prince tumbles to his death. Again, not game ruining, just frustrating.
But overall this is one of the best games of the last generation. So let's see what they screwed up for the sequel shall we?
Some gamers list this as one of the worst games of all time. While this is ridiculous, as this features gameplay better than Sands of Time, it becomes obvious right from the first cutscene where that criticism has come from. It seems some evil people in marketing decided the best way to make the game sell would be to fill it with violence, female nudity, rock music and swearing. Oh how I wish I was joking. Gone is the charming design and brilliant writing from The Sands of Time, now we have dominatrix's jiggling their buttocks to the camera and the prince's new catchphrase is 'you bitch'.
If you can look past that, you'll find the great gameplay form sands only better. New powers allow you to travel through time for some interesting puzzles, the game is longer and the combat has been greatly improved. Just a shame that it's nowhere near as charming as the original. Still, plenty of time to fix that for the trilogy closer eh?
THE TWO THRONES
Well at least they tried. Yes the prince is back to his Sands of Time persona and we can actually see daylight again (after the Goths paradise that was Warrior Within). We see the return of old characters and the aesthetics are more in keeping with the first game but it all feels like it's trying too hard to ape the original. The writing clearly isn't to the same standard as the first game, with all the subtlety of the characters hung out to dry. The prince just comes across as unlikeable and the less said about his 'dark self' (which sounds like a helium voiced nine year old trying to sound cool by doing a Clint Eastwood impression) the better.
Still this boasts the best gameplay of the series, proving that even though the marketing and writing departments spent the trilogy setting themselves on fire and running around screaming; the level designers learnt from the previous titles and made a game that feels like a real step up from Warrior Within. This features the same platforming form the first two, but taken to dizzying new heights. True, it now has some pointless chariot racing thrown in at certain points but overall this is a great package.
Which can easily be said for this collection. All the games look great in HD, the gameplay has aged wonderfully and the story problems can easily be overlooked. Buy it, and experience one of the greatest trilogies in gaming.
PS. There are versions of Warrior Within and The Two Thrones for the PSP (called 'Revelations' and 'Rival Swords' respectively). You might be wondering how Ubisoft managed to get those two games working on the PSP. The answer is that they didn't, they're both broken messes with glitches aplenty and horrible combat that is near impossible to get past. Avoid like the plague.
PPS. Some moron decided to 'reboot' the series for the Xbox 360 and PS3. It's called simply 'Prince of Persia' and features cel-shaded graphics. It is so inferior to the three games I have reviewed here that it barely warrants mentioning. Once again, avoid like the plague.
As a cheap food Connoisseur (poor person) I eat a lot of this basics range/ smart price stuff and unsurprisingly a lot of it is awful. What is a surprise is that these beans are pretty good. No one's going to say 'wow what amazing beans!' after eating them but people who think 'wow what amazing beans!' is something worth saying are best avoided anyway.
The beans taste pretty good, even if you microwave them (and if you do that the whole 'meal' takes four minutes at most to prepare). The sausages are perfectly edible, though considering what decrepit ingredients are in most expensive 'quality' sausages, you should probably do yourself a favour and not enquire as to what the specific ingredients of these are. If that makes you feel a little queasy you can just buy the beans by themselves, but don't you want some variety in your meals? Even if that variety is 'I wonder how much of this pig we can put in something, without going to prison'? I'll let you make your own minds up there.
33p is a more than reasonable price and the beans even come in a metal can ideal for storage. They can be stacked, put in a cupboard, raced down a hill, used to demonstrate to simpletons how a cylinder works, traced around to help draw circles, bashed with another object to make a slight noise, become the origins of an over rated Andy Warhol painting... the possibilities easily exceed the price.
As someone who's had to live off some slightly lacking meals of late, these beans and sausages were a refreshing surprise, and an indication that I may someday learn how to taste things again. Not a bad purchase. At 33p, you could do a lot worse. Although if you're buying 33p beans, you're probably not doing too great already.
You know when you see a deadbeat homeless man/woman lying in the street drinking a bottle of wine? Well I can never judge him/her again, because I promise you whatever that person is drinking shows they have better taste than myself, who has drank Sainsbury's Basics Cider.
It tastes awful, is not nearly strong enough to get you drunk, and so serves absolutely no merit whatsoever. I'm literally straining to think of reasons why you would spend £1.89 on a drink that makes cat urine look like champagne.
1. You've been invited to a fancy dinner party, but need to prove to the other guests you're a cheapskate quickly. Why not buy them Sainsbury's Basics Cider?
2. You're miserable in your relationship and it's your anniversary. What terrible gift could you get your man/woman that would ensure he/she broke up with you? Why not buy them Sainsbury's Basics Cider?
3.You're working alone in a very successful branch of Sainsbury's. You've sold almost every product in the shop. All except one bottle of you-know-what. Imagine how impressed the manager would be if he saw you'd sold everything! Why not buy the bottle of Sainsbury's Basics Cider?
You may have noticed that two of these reasons are ridiculous and one is heartbreakingly cruel. Therefore we can see that Sainsbury's Basics Cider is truly a drink without merit. It tastes excruciatingly bad and is too low a percentage to get you drunk (and you'll want to be very drunk after having some of this). Don't waste your money on this, drink responsibly elsewhere.
The Sainsbury's basics range has always seemed patronizing to a poor starving fool like me. We all know 'basics' range means 'you're poor, and this is what you have to eat now HA HA' range. This is the same reason we know that the real reason mums go to Iceland is because of terrible poverty, not to buy their Kentucky Fried Lasagne bites or whatever horrible variations they offer.
But I digress.
The bread then, and at 47p you know there has to be something wrong with it. That something is first indicated by the long list of chemicals listed on the back. Emulsifier (Mono- and Diacetyltartaric Acid Esters of Mono- and Diglycerides of Fatty Acids), Flour Treatment Agent (Ascorbic Acid (Vitamin C)). If that means anything to you then you're probably put off putting this bread anywhere near your mouth already. I don't think food packaging should this closely resemble the periodic table.
I'd review the taste of the bread but there doesn't seem to be one. It's bland and non-existent, but hard to get down, almost like a rice cake made out of dough. Weirdly when I tried eating it with soup, it tasted even worse. It's not horrible, but just bad enough that you'll be put off using it.
However, when I made toast with a decent amount of topping on it, it was functional. The bread is very thinly sliced so it toasts ok and while it doesn't suddenly become as good a product as oh-I-don't-know any other bread you could buy, it does the job and is perfectly edible. If you're planning to live off toast and write/rate reviews on dooyoo for the summer instead of getting a job (cough) you could do a lot worse.