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Dungeon Keeper is one of those games that breaks the mould.
There are countless games where you control heroes going into the evil dungeon to vanquish some unspeakable evil. DK reverses those roles, you ARE the unspeakable evil trying to lay waste to the land of do-gooders!
From the opening sequence to the narrated level descriptions the game has its tongue planted firmly in its cheek.
At its simplest level all you have to do is mine yourself an entire dungeon and defend it against incursions of heroes coming in to spoil your fun! Then the Lord of the Land approaches, once your have suitably hacked him into small pieces there is nothing to stop you laying waste to the surface.
Occasionally there are other Keepers that need to be disposed of as well, after all there can only be ONE unspeakable evil cant there?
On top of this there are a few hidden levels which have time limits that can give you special bonuses down the line which can help a bit IF you manage to complete them.
To help you in your tasks there are a number of creatures to populate you dungeon a few of which are listed below
Imps: They do all the work in your dungeon from tunnelling to mining gold.
Beetles, spiders and flies: Basic creatures found early on in the game, even if the spider do eat all your flies
Warlocks: Fireball flinging maniacs
Dark Mistresses: Leather clad girlies of pain!
You can pick you creature up an d move them around you dungeon, or if they are not working hard enough you can even give them a good slapping yourself!
You can even bring the heroes over to your side if you wish, by telling your creatures just to knock them out, then you can take them to prison and torture them. If that doesn't bring them over to your side they'll die and you may get a skeleton or ghost on your side!!
I'd say this is a great game and really will bring an EVIL GRIN to your face!
Ring of Red is one of those games that is so simplistic as to be a great game.
The setting of the game is based on an alternate history where Japan was divided up after World War 2 in much the same way as Germany was. Another twist is that primitive walkers (mechs) were used as all terrain combat platforms in WWII, (they have video footage to prove it too!).
The game plays out the next stage in Japan's "history" set in the 1960s you take on the role of Weidegger, an AFW (the game term for mechs), a hot shot test pilot who gets thrust into real combat after a new prototype AFW gets stolen. This is just the start of the plot and as far as I've got (and it took me the best part of 3 hours to get that far).
The game play is very simplistic, combining a turn based strategy component for movement, and a real-time combat component for the actual fighting. Each element is very simple is its nature, but like a lot of other games there are numerous permutations that go into each battle, even before it starts, and this element will keep you engrossed in trying to work out the best combination of troops and AFWs for each battle.
In the turn-based part the graphics are very well presented and functional, fancy graphics are not needed for this part. The gem comes when you enter real-time combat, the graphics of the AFW and their supporting troops are wonderfully drawn and move smoothly.
The only major let down is the music, although very well done, it can get quite repetitive. And in this day and age it wouldn't have hurt to voice act the cast either, FFX is making the transition, why cant the rest of them?
At the end of the day I would say this is a great game for strategy lovers, mech lovers, and people looking for something slightly different.
Good work Konami
This is the third instalment of Blizzards popular real time strategy series. WarCraft 3: Reign of Chaos continues the story of the series, detailing the apocalyptic events affecting of the Orc and Human population of Azeroth.
The game in essence remains faithful to both its predecessors and other games in its genre. The conept of the RTS is very simple, you control a small army, you build a base, gather resources, produce a bigger army, and basically try and destroy the enemy. With a varied number of units, how you do this is completely up to you.
Moving on from WarCraft 2 Blizzard have added two more playable races, the Night Elves, who are adept at move unseen during the night, and eliminating enemies from afar. The other new faction would be the Undead Scourge, specialising in necromancy, the Undead can raise corpses to create skeletons, quickly amassing a whole new army in the middle of a battle.
Just to give you some idea of what kind of units each side has.
Footmen: Your basic armoured soldier
Riflemen: Dwarven riflemen ... good for attacking from a distance, and good for air defence
Knights: Mounted Knights .... good as a central core of your army.
Priestess: Can heal your units in the middle of a battle .... always useful
Archer: Basic unit, similar role to the Riflemen
Huntress: Panther mounted unit, short ranged attack can bounce its attacks of the original target to hit other enemies.
Druids: Shapechanging unit, can inflict large amount of damage.
Grunt: Basic footsoldier .... can take a lot of damage compared to the others.
Troll HeadHunter: throws spears, similar to Riflemen
Shaman: Can make his allies go into a frenzy, increasing the amount of damage they can do.
Raiders: Wolf mounted unit, can throw nets over airborne units, bringing them down so ground forces can hit them.
Ghoul: Basic unit, can eat corpses to heal itself
Abomination: Heavy combat unit, can emit a poisious cloud.
Necromancer: Can Raise the dead, providing free troops in the middle of the battlefield.
Banshee: Can possess troops, permanently making them change sides.
One addition to the system is Heroes. These are extremely powerful units, that can gain even more power as the game progresses, and at their most powerful can turn the tide of a battle by themselves.
The single player campaign game has a very rich story line, cycling through all factions as the plot unfolds. The story evolves through the use of narratives between each mission and occasionally during the course of a battle.
Where this game comes into its own is its online possibilities. Blizzard has done a great job with Battle.Net for WarCraft 3. They have implemented a random opponent matching system, which will pair you up with an opponent of similar ability, and you will be automatically entered into the Blizzard ranking system. You can even team up with your friends and enter the ranking system as a pair.
There are many types of online game you can play.
1v1: The simplest game ..... just you and your opponent
2v2,3v3,4v4: Team games, you get matched up with random team mates and get to have it out on a really large scale battle.
Arranged Team: You and prearranged friend(s) go head to head with another arranged team.
Free for All: up to 5 players duke it out .... no alliances, just enemies on all sides
Overall I'd say this is a great game you will probably spend far too much time playing.
"What is a baby nest?" I hear you ask ...
Imagine an inflatable ring, similar to one you might give a small child in a swimming pool, put it inside a colourful fabric sleeve and put a "floor" in the hole.
Voila! - One baby nest.
But what do you do with it?
Put your baby in it of course.
Basically the ring encourages your bundle of joy (or any other names you decide to call your child) to sit up.
At first, looking at your child in the nest you might decide that they look a little uncomfortable, but soon they get the idea that with all the support that the nest provides that they can sit up by themselves (see later on for smaller babies), with hands free to play with any toys they happen to have in there with them.
The particular nest my daughter has, is very brightly coloured so as to be visually stimulating, and had various different textures around its rim for her to feel. Also some areas have crinkly material and squeakers inside to provide auditory stimulation.
I would say the main advantage of this nest is that you child can sit upright and get a good look around their environment "the right way up" rather than seeing everything from lying on the floor or pointing one direction strapped into a chair. Once they get the hang of sitting up in the nest they can quite easily turn around to face any direction.
There are no restraints to confine your child so once your child can crawl or maybe some advanced rolling they may be able to clamber over the rim of the nest, and on to further trouble, so it not really somewhere where you can leave your child unsupervised for any length of time.
A smaller/newborn baby could quite easily snuggle up in the floor of the nest and fall asleep so is probably quite a good place for an impromptu nap, although I can't say this as a certainty having only got the nest when Erin was 6 months old. However as the nest is in Galts "First Years" range and is described as being from 0 months onwards, I feel quite safe in saying this.
The ring is quite easliy assembled, by inserting the ring into the cover and then inflating it, unless of course like my wife and her mother you inflate the ring first! To dissasemble and transport you can then just deflate the ring. The cover is also washable, which does mean that any baby "spillages" of any description can be cleaned up easily and as an extra bonus does not goes over the carpet/sofa/cushions.
These nests seem to retail for around £25-£30 which I think is a very good price considering the amount of time Erin spends in hers!
They can be ordered direct from Galt at www.galt.co.uk or can be purchased from most baby product selling stores (if not you will be able to find a similar product).
More expensive versions of this also have flexible arches over the top of the nest, in a similar manner to some playmats, with more toys to play with dangling form them, for this you can be expected to shell out around £40.
If you are looking to get one cheap, at the time of writing this there were a few for sale on eBay , I would just make sure you wash the cover well first. Or possibly you might be able to pick one up even cheaper at a car boot sale like my parents did!
Overall, I would highly recommend this, almost to the point of saying no baby should be without one!
Being a latent comic book fan, the cover of this game immediately attracted my attention, looking like the cover of a Marvel comic with the Freedom Force logo emblazoned across the top and the 5 heroes of the game in a typical superhero pose.
Flipping the case over I then proceed to find a little more about the game
"The Fate of the World is in Your Hands"
Or so it proclaims.
"From a distant corner of the galaxy, an evil alien race sets in motion a sinister plan to conquer Earth. It unleashed a powerful catalyst - ENERGY X - that imbued the planet's worst miscreants with super-powers to bring the planet to its knees. Now Earth's only hope lies with a new breed of heroes ... The Freedom Force"
The game descibes itself as a "Herioc Tactical RPG" - loosely translated this means it is a little like a real time strategy game (i.e Command & Conquer, Total Annihilation), but you control a team of Super Heroes instead. If that still doesn't illuminate you as to the simplicy to the game, all you have to do is click on your character and tell him where to move/attack, and he will run off and do it.
Popping the CD and running the Install program (this happens automatically if you have autorun enabled), brings up the Freedom Force lanch program which allows you to do a number of things.
1) Play the game (Assuming you have the game installed)
2) Install the game (obviously the first thing to do)
3) Uninstall (once you've finished with the game and want to free up some disk space)
4) Direct X (this sets you up with Direct X version 8.1 if you do not already have a better version)
5) View the Read Me file ( most games have a readme file of some description, these should always be read as they contain important infomration about changes made to the software after the manual was printed. They can also contain technical data which can help you sort out any problems you may have running the game)
6) Go to the Freedom Force Website (which is just as comic book as the game)
7) EA Help (Lauches the Electronic Arts help application containing support numbers etc)
8) Exit - Quits the Launch program
Well I want to play the game so I'm going to have to install it first. Clicking on the install gives you an option of 3 languages (English/French/German) and the starts up the install routine. After a little bit of disc whirring you are the asked for your CD-Key (a code on the back of the manual), once thats in you get an option of 3 install type
Typical - recommended for most people.
Compact - low disk space installation - runs mostly from the CD - only use this if you have a fast CD-ROM
Custom - a mix of the two above
I chose the compact one as I have a fast CD-ROM and it took about a minute to install!
You are then asked to if you want to register the game.
Bingo - game installed!
The game itself
Clicking on play launches the Freedom Force game itself. After cycling through the logos of the three companies involved in the games creation (EA/Crave/Irrational), you are treated to a comic book/1960's Batman style intro - including the cheesy voice-over man. This sets the mood for the rest of the game which is presented in a very episodic format.
Once the intro is out of they way you get to the main menu which presents you with 8 options
1) New Campaign - The story of Freedom Force begins there
2) Load game - Allows you to restart a saved game
3) Multiplayer - Lets you have hero fights with your friends
4) Character - Lets you create you own superheroes, either for use in the multiplayer game or they can even be brought into the main game alongside the main hero.
5) Options - Allows you to tweak the graphics and sound settings of the game.
6) Quit - Leaves the game and takes you back to Windows
7) Replay intro - So you can see the wonderful intro again
8) View credits - find out who did what whilst making the game
Obviously to start with you will want to plunge straight into a new campaign (possibly after creating a new hero but I'll touch base on that later).
Starting a new campaign treats you to to the next episode entitled "The Secret Origin of MinuteMan" (stop the sniggering thats Minute as in 60 seconds not as in tiny!), in which you find out how Frank Stiles became MinuteMan. After that installment of cheesy comic book goodness you are then propelled into your first mission. This is basically a tutorial so tell you how to play the game, explaining how you move and fight, and is a nice gentle opener to the game. Once you have finished the mission you get some more comic book style story and get to do some stuff between missions. Once you complete a mission you are awarded Prestige points and experience points, Experience is used to keep track of how good your heroes are and if you have enough point your character will go up a level and you get a chance to increase your powers. Prestige points can be used to recruit new heroes, the more powerful the hero the more prestige points you will need to recruit this hero, so keep this in mind when making your own heroes (see below)
Once you have done that it's onto the next episode of "Freedom Force" where the story carries on.
The story is well written for a computer game and wouldn't be out of place on the shelf in your local comic book store, and the fact that the game is presented as such makes is a very enjoyable and light-hearted game to play
The main game aside, the other fun part is making your own hero, they are a little sexist here as there are about 6 basic looks for male heroes and 2 for females, but the Freedom Force website (http://www.myfreedomforce.com) has plenty of other hero types to download. You can choose both the costume (much spandexy goodness here) and your powers (you too can be Wolverrine or Cyclops from the X-Men). Although you won't be able to play as your created hero as the main character you can bring him into the game at a later stage, you can also use him to beat up your friends heroes in a multiplayer game. Each created hero has a value in prestige points, the more powerful the hero he greater his value, this has two effects, how much he will cost to bring into the campaign game (if you make a very powerful one you may not be able to recruit him till very near then end) and the value is also used to try and keep the sides fair in a multiplayer game (i.e. each side is only allowed 10,000 points worth of heroes)
The story is well written for a computer game and wouldn't be out of place on the shelf in your local comic book store, and the fact that the game is presented as such makes is a very enjoyable and light-hearted game to play.
The graphics are simple yet amazingly effective, the in-mission graphics have been wonderfully modelled and look like what a 3D representation of a comic should be. Theres even old style Batman "KAPOW"s and "THWACK"s as your Heroes strive to save the day. Out of the missions as I have stated before its like reading a comic book, the pictures are wonderfully drawn and the fonts used are classic comic book typesetting.
The music is very atmospheric, you notice it there but it does not overpower the sounds effect as it seems to in so many games, for once I could leave the music volume at its default volume rather than fade it down so I could hear the sound effects (this would be done in the options menu from the main menu of the game). The sound effect are fantastic, from the thwaks and kapows to the voice acting from Mr Cheesy VoiceoverMan and My StereoType CommieTraitor, with tremendously great war cries like "For freedom! .... for justice!"
The game interface is very simplisyic and by the time the tutorial mission is over it will all feel second nature. The majority of the game is controlled with the mouse, by selecting from menus, but there also a whole ream of keyboard shortcuts if you want to use them, all conveniently displayed in the manual.
>Level of violence
I know a lot of parents are concerned with the level of violence present to thier children in video games these days, in this game I would say its level of voilence is comic book level, to fit the style of the game. If you are comfortable letting your children watch superhero catroons or reading the mainstream Marvel/DC comics, you should be alright letting your children play the game.
The game comes in a DVD style case, like most PC games nowadays, containing the Freedom Force CD, the manual, and an easy install pamphlet.
The manual is a very easy read and breaks down the game into logical sections so it easy to find what you are looking for.
It does appear that they may have been a few bugs in the main release but there is a patch with can be downloaded from the Freedom Force Website mentioned above
OS - Windows 98/2000/ME/XP
CPU - 300 MHz (Intel PII recommended but it works fine on my AMD)
Memory - 96 MB
Hard Drive - 31 MB
CD-ROM - 4 Speed
Graphics - 16 MB (Direct 3D compatible accellerator required)
Direct X - Version 8.1 or higher
Input - Mouse/Keyboard
Netowrk - TCP/IP Compliant
Internet - 56.6 Kb/s
For many a year I have had a love affair with this drink. I remember, many moons ago I had my first drink of the mysterious Dr.P absolutely loved it and then to my dismay it seemed to be on sale absolutely nowhere. From that point it got relegated to the back of my mind, until a trip to the USA about 7 years ago.
I was in heaven, they had free flowing Dr. Pepper everywhere!
The good news now is that it is just as popular over here now as the more prolific fizzy drinks.
So the big question is.
Just what flavour is Dr. Pepper?
Well according to the side of the can/bottle it is "fruit flavoured" and thats about as much as they tell you. You might as well ask what flavour Coke is! Some people think theres a hint of almonds in there but im not convinced
It's closest taste is probably Vimto, but from the taste I would say that there is more of berry style fruits than there are in Vimto which taste a little more grapey. Colour wise it's not that different to Coke.
The ingredients look pretty much like those in any other fizzy drink, mainly being Carbonated water,sugar, and whatever else is in thier syrup mix. Surprisingly there is caffiene in Dr. P so be careful if you are sensitive to it.
It come in all the common size varieties, 330ml cans, 500ml/2l bottles so most thirst appetites are catered for.
Dr Pepper is also available in a diet variety with its normal white writing on a dark red background inverted to red on white.
Last on the list, a little twist on an old favorite. Try a JD and Dr.P instead of JD and Coke. If you like Dr.P you'll like this.
Picture the scene, a UFO screams across the sahara desert, hotly pursued by two XCOM-Interceptors, who file off a barrage for rockets at it, bringing crashing into the dunes. An hour or so later, another aircraft appears on the scene, and the soldiers within start, ready thier firearms and start to disembark, only to come under alien laser fire.
Thus starts another day for the soldiers of the eXtra-terrestrial COMbat (X-COM) force.
In the early 90's UFO: Enemy Unknown was released to the unsuspecting public, an absolute masterpiece for its time.
The basic plot is that the UFO's have started to appear in the Earths skies and are not exactly friendly. Your role is the leader of the fledgling X-COM organisation.
The game is played on 3 levels.
The first is that of the management of X-COM, from buying in supplies and personell to building bases to make sure that wherever an UFO may appear in the world you can respond to it (very difficult when you can only have one base to start with). You must also manage the reasearch and manufacture of alien technology that you manage to salvage.
The second level is that of a small and basic real time air to air combat, although you can only select the style that your aircraft use to fight.
The third level and that which makes up the majority of the game is that of ground combat.
Borrowed heavily from a previous release from the creators (Laser Squad), ground combat is a turn based affair, taking turns between the forces of X-COM and the aliens. Just to add a bit off spice you can save part of your allotted turn, so that your soldiers can react and shoot at aliens that run from cover to cover. Of course, they can do the same to you to.
As you get deeper into the game, the enemy UFOs get larger and better armoured, and you must keep up with reasearching alien technology if you are to be able to repel these bigger UFOs. Once the aliens realise you are on to them they up the stakes, setting up bases and invading cities, both of which you must resolve as soon as possible.
Money is also a large aspect of the game, each country giving you funding, although if you perform poorly in thier country, they may well reduce funding, or in extreme circumstances cut it all together. Although this funding isn't your only source of income, it is very important as it is the onyl automatic income you have. Once you have reasearched alien technology you can build it for your own use (very handy when you have lasers) and also to sell outside your organisation for some extra capital.
Although this game is over 10 years old now, if you can find a modern PC that can play it without making the game run around 50 times faster than it should, I highly recommend it.
If current coders concentrated on gameplay as much as they they did back when UFO: Enemy Unknown was created games would be far better.
The best news of recent times ..... a remake is on the way
A long ago I decided it was time to re-evaluate my current account, after plodding along with Barclays for many a year it was time for a change.
Being the 'net-head that I am a good online service was the highest on my list of priorities.
After a few days worth of research I took the plunge and applied for a Smile current account. Not only did they have a good online presence, and an interest rate comparable to their savings account, they also practice ethical investment, more details on their investment policies can be found on their website at www.smile.co.uk
--The application process
The application process was harmless enough, filling in various forms with personal data, plus about 5 security questions (birthplace, memorable name, etc). The whole process only took about 10 minutes.
Once the application is complete they set up a secure message area for you (which is accessed via their website) so they can leave you messages regarding the progress of your application, sending you an email whenever there is a new message. This secure message area is also used when your account is open.
Once of the big hassles of changing current account is moving all your direct debits around. To get rid of this headache Smile offers an account switching service. Basically this involves signing a form which they send to you that gives them permission to request all the direct debit details from your old current account provider. They then contact all the companies and set the new direct debits up for you. I think I only had to manually switch a few myself.
The online service itself is very good allowing you to view all your smile product details in one place (if you have more than one that is) and get details on all your accounts. There are also facilities to view all your direct debits and standing orders, very helpful if you want to see when all your money is going to desert you for another company! The bill payment system is also available, allowing you to pay bills to any company in the UK. A money transfer option can be used to, so if you know the sort code and account number of another bank account you can move money to it with a few clicks of your mouse. With these last two options the Smile system remembers the details you entered, and these become options you can just click on send 'X' amount of money to, cutting down the amount of time you spend managing you money. You can send secure message to smile from here as well, but like most people if I want to contact the bank I prefer to phone, and this option is available as well.
-- What you get with your current account
Just the usual I'm afraid, a cheque book and a debit card, both emblazoned with the Smile logo (a black smile on a pink background). Sometimes you feel a bit odd handing out pink cheques but you get used to it. The debit card is the usual flavour, being a pastel/metallic blue colour with the Smile logo in the corner along with all the relevant numbers.
The card had VISA/Delta facilities as well, indicated by their appropriate logos as well.
-- Paying money in
Obviously with no branches paying in actual physical money in (cheques or cash) could be a problem. However these days most bank will allow you to deposit money for other banks in thier branches. Also Smile have a nice agreement with the Post office so you can pay money in there as well. You can also order freepost envelopes so you can send cheques in by mail accompanied by one of the paying in slips handily provided in the back of your cheque book.
--The final say
Overall I don't think I could have asked for a more suited current account.
- A few last comments about Smile
Smile is this internet banking arm of the Co-Operative Bank so you know you are entering in to a long standing firm, not just the latest fad.
If you decide you want to take a look you can find Smile not in the High Street but at