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I'm not sure how I ever coped with the normal default headphones for my ipod shuffle anymore. I use these on the tube and they cancel out all background noise meaning that I don't need to have the volume very loud to be able to hear my music. They also contain the sound very well so others don't have to listen to your music.
The headphones come with three different sized buds to suit your ear size, I found the smallest worked best for me and they fit very snugly in my ear. The chord is of a standard length expected for headphones. They look quite cool once they are fitted in the ear as well, no corny logo or anything like that. I would say that the build quality is fairly standard and what you would expect from Sony, the wiring is still a little fragile near the headphone bud, but this seems to be the case with all headphones.
I mostly listen to metal and heavy rock and these headphones carry the sound very well, crisp guitar sounds and thudding bass drums. In-ear headphones are generally very poor for this type of music so I was pleasantly surprised. Highly recommended and very grateful that I purchased these, a bargain too.
Candy Crush is a switcher style puzzle game requiring you to match sweets in rows or columns of 3 or more by switching adjacent sweets one at a time. This is a tried and tested formula that has been used to success in many previous games such as Bejewelled and Zoo Keeper. Candy Crush adds a few of its own twists on the genre, specifically geared towards a freemium product but that help to create a hugely addictive and competitive game.
I play Candy Crush on both Facebook and Android phone and have no preference as to which I play. It is very easy to play and well suited to both touchscreen and mouse controls. The graphics and bright and cheerful and there is a great sense of achievement on completing a level thanks to some slick user interface work.
The game is played through a series of levels, all set on the switcher board mentioned before, but with different tasks that need to be completed in order to pass the level. These goals can be things like score x amount in 30 moves or Clear all the Jelly, which can be done by matching candy in all of the squares that contain additional candy. There are lots of other cool features further along in the game such as stone blocks that need to be broken, chocolate, which spreads around the board if you don't get rid of it, timed candy which must be destroyed within a set amount of time and some crazy board setups where falling candy will appear in another place in the game. These things all make for a strategic game where the emphasis is generally on the player's ability to look ahead and read the game, rather than frantically making as many matches as possible.
Candy Crush is a free-to-play product which can be freely downloaded and played by anyone on facebook, android or iPhone. There are various ways in which the game will tempt you into paying in order to progress however, these will be things like
* Buy additional moves to complete a level
* Buy special candy that will create special effects to enable you to destroy more candy in the game
* Buy extra lives (You only get 5 lives which will re-generate over time (every 20 minutes I think)
* Progress after Level 35 and every subsequent 10 levels ( alternately, ask your facebook friends to allow you through)
I find that I can get by without buying powerups or extra lives (it is usually time to take a break then anyway!) but instead of bugging my facebook friends, I am happy to pay the 69p to unlock the next 10 levels. The powerups range in price from 69p to about £2.00. There are also other powerups you can buy to increase you live count and similar boosters, these cost considerably more, upwards of £10.
This game is extremely addictive, and you won't have to pay a penny if you don't want to, so you have nothing to lose! Give it a go, loads of your Facebook friends are probably already playing, so you can compete with them!
The bumbo seat is a small potty-sized soft yet solid seat suitable for babies that are able to hold their head up. The idea, I believe, is that the baby is forced to sit in a certain way to help strengthen their spines. There are two leg holes at the front and the babies bum will fit in a slightly lowered seat section.
My little girl is approaching 6 months now and we have periodically tried her out in this seat over the past 2 months without much success. We also have the tray attachment but rarely manage to ever get her to sit in it long enough and upright enough to be able to make any use of it.
Basically, she will either flop completely to one side or she will lift up one of her legs to try and keep her upright a bit more (this doesn't work too well with the tray attached). She looks very uncomfortable in it, no matter how much we try to arrange her in it. We are also completely unable to leave her alone in it since she will very quickly and very easily fling herself out backwards over the top of it.
We received this chair from a friend who claimed that their children only fell out of it 'once or twice' so perhaps that should've been a warning sign to us.
I updated from an HTC desire to the Samsung Galaxy S3 and although I was more than happy with my desire, the leap up to the S3 is significant.
The thing that will strike you the most is the screen quality. Not only is it big, but it is very sharp too, excellent for watching videos on and playing games. The second thing is likely the speed. It is very quick to boot (a full restart will take less than 20 seconds) and (assuming you have Power Saving off) it is very fast to navigate through menus and apps. No more pausing for a couple of seconds whilst typing messages, something I see happen a lot on other Android phones. In terms of playing games, I have never suffered any kind of slow-down at all and have tried out a fair variety of games from the store too.
The stock headphones that come with the phone were certainly adequate enough for me, although those more accustomed to bassy music may wish to use their own. There is plenty of storage space, I have the 16gb model and have put my own 16gb micro sd card in, which is enough for lots of games and several hours worth of music.
My only gripe about this phone is the battery life. This is still a big problem in mobile phones and you are still unlikely to get more than a full day's worth out of one charge. I charge my phone fully in the morning and am usually looking for a charger again at about 8pm at night, although I do use my phone quite regularly.
Overall, I recommend this phone for anyone that wants a high-spec phone. If, like me, you are locked into a 2 year contract, you can feel confident that this phone will easily see you through the 2 years and possibly beyond.
For those that have never played mario kart before, you are seriously missing out! The Mario Kart series appears to be loved by all that play it and the DS version fits into the Mario Kart collection nicely doing a grand job. The basic premise of Mario Kart is that it is a racing game where you are given a generous supply of power-ups that you can use against other racers or to give yourself boosts. These power-ups form a key part of the Mario Kart experience and make for great combative fun.
It plays very similarly to Mario Kart Double Dash on the Gamecube or even Mario Kart Wii (if you use the classic controller). Handling is excellent and there are a vast array of pickups that are the same as mariokart wii. The difficulty balancing seems spot-on in this version, something that could've potentially been a source of great frustration given that single-player is probably the mode that gets played the most on DS.
By far the best feature of this version is the ability to play with other DS users who are nearby using only the 1 cartridge! I would highly recommend trying this out because Mario Kart is at its most fun by far when playing with friends.
Plants Vs Zombies has been around for some time and has appeared on multiple platforms, but I believe that the DS is a perfect platform for this game and that this is the best version of it available.
Unfortunately, the graphics have not done so well in this conversion and the colour palette appears to be quite restricted here supplying more drab visuals than seen in other versions, which is a shame but is not a deal breaker.
The main quest is obviously available here, along with the ability to play against a friend (via wifi), a new Zen mode, the ability to create your own zombies, survival mode and minigames to expand the lifespan of this product, all of which I found fun to play other than the zen mode, which is just a cutback version of the main game where all you do is cultivate your garden for points.
This game can be enjoyed by a wide range of abilities, although some players may start to get frustrated with the main quest after 2/3 hours of playing since it soon starts to get hard, with many plates to spin, and you will have to re-do a level when you lose, which can be up to 15 minutes of playtime. Fortunately, there is enough else on offer here to distract you long enough from the main quest.
Every now and then a title comes along that is a little bit special. Heavy Rain is one of those titles.
Exclusive to the PS3, Heavy Rain experiments with the idea of an interactive movie, although you will be a lot more hands on than you think in the game. The overall story is about a child that has disappeared whilst there are deaths reported around the town and pieces of origami placed by their bodies. The game follows 4 separate characters working through this story, each with their own backstory, their own objectives and their own quite distinct personalities. The game will switch you between each of these 4 characters as the game progresses and you will be in control of the character during each phase.
Movement is performed on the 6-axis controller, although it is fairly simplified. You move characters around using the left analogue stick and you interact with things by performing gestures which are shown to you on-screen. These can be anything from hammering L / R buttons and performing sweeping semi-circles with the analogue sticks. These actions can be chained together to, for example, open a fridge, pick up a carton of milk, and drink it. But you will need to hone your skills for more challenging actions later on as you get involved in fights, car chases and running for your life.
Throughout the game, you get to talk to people and the story can fork at a few different places, meaning that the game's outcome will depend on your actions in the game and this is a fairly exciting concept that is played out well here.
Overall, I would recommend this game for everyone, it is even the type of game you can easily play at home on the TV and others will be happy to watch and may even want to get involved! I had great fun playing this game, as has everyone I have ever spoken to about it.
ID Software are often famed as the studio that introduced us to First Person Shooters, with games such as Wolfenstein, Doom, Heretic, Hexen and Quake exploring the newly created FPS space in different ways.
Jump ahead a few years and the developer has created Rage, a vastly expanded experience from the previous games. In a nutshell, you play a survivor in a futuristic world which has been mostly destroyed by an asteroid. The environments carry a kind of wild-west steampunk feel to them for a fairly unique setting.
Rather than this being a linear FPS, ID software have attempted to install elements of games like Zelda and Skyrim to create a more RPG / Adventure style game with FPS elements. You are expected to perform quests for people whilst also keeping on the look out for bandits which flood the environment. Each character in the game feels distinct and has their own personality and you can interact with them and talk to them to obtain information, plot filling and for performing quests.
In addition to the overworld / dungeon feel to the game, there is also a big emphasize on driving, where you are able to customise your vehicle to travel between sections of the map to enable you to better take out bandits. There are also races you can participate in to win yourself upgrades.
Overall, this feels like a strange mish-mash of games that doesn't really excel in any one area. The unique feel to the game is welcomed but in the end, it just feels repetitive and there isn't any great urgency to see what happens next.
Bulletstorm is a crazy game. It is just all out insanity and thrills from the start right up to the end, with some crude-humour, quirkiness and over-the-top gore chucked in for good measure.
Without getting into the storyline, you play the part of a soldier fighting through alien planets with your cyborg friend (and later another co-operative player). You are equipped with a leash which you can use to pull targets towards you, fling players up into the air, into cactii and perform other moves with hilarious consequences.
What makes this game stand out from other FPS games is that you are awarded for increasingly creative and ridiculous deaths. For instance, you are rewarded for flinging players into the air with your leash and then shooting them in the balls. This makes for an interesting side-mission in which you are constantly monitoring your side-objectives to find new ways of killing people.
The feel of the game is just pure insanity and there are some great stand-out moments in the game that will have you chuckling and talking about with your mates; although I won't go into spoilers here.
As you can probably imagine, the novelty of the game can start to wear a bit thin; as any players of the studio's previous release Painkiller will be aware. But I still found this a thoroughly enjoyable experience and would certainly at least recommend renting it
I had a lot of fun with Excite Truck when I first played it. There is little here that is original, but there is something very exhilarating about racing through some of the courses in this game.
The controls are as you would expect; hold buttons for break and accelerate and tilt the controller to steer. There is also a boost facility which you must use wisely to get the most out of it. The game isn't all just about winning races, the longevity of the game is improved by having side-quests that require users to gather stars by performing certain feats in the game such as super-long drifts, long air-time, performing air stunts and narrowly missing trees.
The tracks feel very wide, even though the actual road part is generally the width you would expect in a driving game, there actually permissible driving areas extend much further left and right to give a great feeling of openess. This is especially evident when performing very high jumps allowing you to see big sections of the track ahead as a vast map. It is possible to perform twisting stunts in the air by shaking the wiimote in certain ways, this is explained well in the tutorial section.
There are a fair amount of tracks and cars to race through and all in all I would say that you could spend a fun couple of afternoons with this game and then a few multiplayer games with friends (local only) but it won't take forever to bore of this game. Maybe rent before you buy.
This is essentially a very simple trivia game involving a wheel to spin. There are different game modes requiring you to make sure you're confident about answering the question before you buzz-in etc. but it all boils down to how good are you at answering trivia questions.
There are a few extra features in the game to help make things interesting such as the ability to play cards to alter the way questions are answered and there is also a dancing minigame available on the board which simply requires the wheel spinner to dance for a little while to gain a points multiplier, all a little tacked-on but provides a brief moment of comic relief all the same.
My friends, family and I have had a lot of fun with this game and I would recommend it to anyone that is likely to be hosting a party where people will be happy to pass the time asking questions.
The latest iteration of Mario-Kart sees quite a big shift towards family gaming, there is something here for everyone. I have seen complete non-gamers able to launch themselves straight into Mario Kart Wii and manage to get along reasonably well with it, which is probably a first for Mario Kart. Nintendo have also managed to ensure that the more serious gamer is still well entertained and challenged at the same time thanks to some clever difficulty balancing.
There are 16 standard tracks to choose from and 16 classic tracks to try. There is also an online multiplayer option for increased longevity. In addition to this, battle mode is still here, with 3 different game types, that still never manage to be as compelling as the original SNES battle mode, but are far better here than in double dash.
The controls are fairly easy to get to grips with when using the wiimote tilt controls, and would be my recommended choice for new users. I personally prefer to play with a classic controller for closer control over drifting, an option for more advanced users. The enclosed wheel is not worth bothering with in my opinion and neither have I ever seen other players favour it after having a go with it. It is essentially just a hunk of plastic that goes around your wiimote and offers very little to the game rather than the annoyance of attaching and detaching and then finding somewhere to store it!
The inclusion of some old tracks from previous incarnations of Mario Kart is a very welcome addition, although I am a little disappointed at the choice of tracks here given the huge variety that could've been chosen from. However, this is a minor complaint because all of the tracks here do play very well and fit the modernised gameplay well.
Overall, this is a great game that is far better played in groups and caters for a wide range of abilities. A perfect way to spend a Christmas afternoon.
This is certainly right up there as one of the best FPS games on the Wii, although the competition is not exceptionally strong on this platform given that most of those titles are ports of popular franchises with wii controls tacked on and networking features greatly removed.
Without getting into the storyline (this can be read elsewhere) this is a fairly standard shooter with no real surprises but it may help to fill a void felt by more hardcore gamers who own a Wii. I found myself constantly shifting between motion + and classic controller control methods before finally settling on using motion + controls, although the benefits for this I found to be fairly minimal, it does offer a slightly better experience overall once you have got used to it.
The environments look a bit more interesting than in previous versions and it is usually pretty clear where you need to get to next. The boss battles were a little long for my liking but reasonably interesting. Overall the single player experience is a little short but is a bit better than the previous game.
The multiplayer has all of the usual game modes one would expect and allows up to four players to play locally too. There is a great deal of customisation available and overall the experience is good. There is also an on-rails shooter section to add some more variety and this is a welcome addition.
Overall, I would say that this is a game that you would be better off renting unless you are really keen to try and get your FPS fix on Wii.
Book of Spells is the first game for the new PlayStation 3 peripheral WonderBook. The game is set in the same universe as J.K Rowling's series of Harry Potter books, as the player becomes a student at the Hogwarts School and is taught all the famous spells from the books such as Lumos, Incendio and Expecto Patronum. This is not a Harry Potter game (it is actually set some 200 years before the books), and none of the central characters such as Harry appear, but it definitely feels authentic to the Harry Potter world and the school of Hogwarts is beautifully recreated.
The gameplay of Book of Spells is quite unique, the player can see themselves and their book on their TV screen at all times and the images that appear on the book come to life to teach the player the various spells. These are cast by performing simple gestures using the PlayStation Move controller. It is not a complicated game and all the gestures are easy to perform, no one should have any problems sitting down to play this and finding themselves stuck or unsure of how to play. There is also a narrator character that is always on hand to guide the player to what they should do next and offer amusing comments.
The gameplay follows fairly repetitive pattern; there are five chapters, each with four spells. The player is presented with a new spell to learn and told of the origins of the spell through small amusing anecdotes, written by J.K Rowling herself, presented in wonderful pop-up theatre visuals on your book. The player is then told the gesture to perform the spell, given the chance to practice it, and then tested by actually using the spell. For example the Wingardium Leviosa spell allows the player to levitate objects, the player is asked to levitate a jar of eyeballs that appears on the book and land it successfully. Once all four spells for that chapter have been learnt the player is then given a test for the entire chapter where they will need to use all the spells they have learnt. These chapter tests are definitely the most interesting and challenging parts of the game, and it's a shame there are only five of them. The tests include activities such as answering riddles from a Sphinx, and trying to retrieve a stolen dragon egg from mischievous pixies.
Unfortunately the game is quite short and it shouldn't take too long to finish, but the appeal of Book of Spells isn't in its longevity but rather the unique experience of playing it. It is wonderful to see the pages of the book come to life such as when a paper dragon begins moving on the page and bursts from it and into 3D flying around the player, then breathing fire onto the book and setting the pages on fire (not literally of course, you will need a water making spell to handle it rather than a fire extinguisher!) It is very different to most other games and while it is a game intended for children it can be enjoyed by the whole family.
Book of Spells comes packaged with the WonderBook book that you require to play, but also be aware you will also need a PlayStation Eye camera and PlayStation Move controller to play this game. There are two bundles you can buy of the game, one that comes with just the game and book, and another that comes with the game and all the necessary peripherals. Both bundles are very reasonably priced and well worth the money as the book, camera and Move controller can all be used with other games as well as this one.
The WonderBook peripheral itself is very well made, it feels very durable and a quality product. Book of Spells has several sections that require you to brush and pat the pages, or picking up and moving the book around, but book is very sturdy and should stand up well to whatever it is put through. The book itself is actually 12 "pages" of augmented reality card patterns that the PlayStation Eye camera can track, the pages are then transformed into the wonderful images you see on your screen. While this technology itself isn't terribly advanced or new, the use of a book to present it makes it far more appealing to use and easy to understand, everybody is familiar with a book and it is very intuitive to use, and the tactile nature of the peripheral is perfect for children.
Book of Spells it the first game to use the WonderBook peripheral but more are due to be released next year, and all games will use the same book you purchase with this game, so you won't have to purchase another with each new game. It is a simple but fun game that children especially should enjoy, it is a fairly short but unique experience and fans of J.K. Rowling's wizarding world will love watching all their favourite spells come to life.
During a two week trip around Japan we stayed at the Khaosan Samurai Hostel for our first three nights. Coming straight from Narita airport we made our way to Ueno station and then on foot to the hostel which took roughly 25-30 minutes. There are actually a couple of stations 5-10 minutes walk away from the hostel, in particular the Asakusa stop on the Ginza line which is useful for those using the Japan Rail Pass looking for JR operated lines.
There are actually four Khaosan hostels located in this area and we arrived at the nearby Annex first but were quickly redirected to the nearby Samurai hostel. Check in is from 3pm and despite arriving an hour early the staff were very welcoming and quickly made sure our room was ready and allowed us to check in early. The staff were very courteous and polite and offered lots of information about the area, providing maps and leaflets to help us find our way around. Shoes had to be left in the lobby of the reception but, unlike many hotels, slippers were not provided for indoors.
We stayed in a twin room which consisted of a bunk bed and a shower shared with the rest of the floor. The room was cheap, costing approximately £33 a night for both of us, and also very clean and tidy; consistent with the rest of the hostel. The beds were comfortable and there were no problems with noise in the area or hostel itself, where it is made clear that noise should be kept to a minimum after 11pm, which made for a peaceful night's sleep. There is a dining room/kitchen area (with balcony) for eating and socialising with other guests, all of whom during our stay were very friendly and happy to talk. The hostel also provides free Wi-Fi for all guests.
We had originally booked in for two nights but on the second day asked to stay for an extra night which was arranged very quickly and the staff ensured we could remain in our existing room instead of needing to change.
The surrounding area felt very safe and fairly quiet compared to the rest of Tokyo which was a nice change of pace whenever we arrived back at the hostel. The Tokyo Skytree and wonderful Asakusa market are both within walking distance and worth seeing, and there are a host of restaurants and bars in the area. The hostel chain also provides a bar that is a short walk away, offering a free drink to each guest and a good place to meet fellow travellers. The main attractions of Tokyo however are a little further away and will require a little time travelling around by train to get to, however we didn't find this a problem.
Overall this was an excellent hostel, very cheap, in a nice location, well maintained and with very friendly staff. I would definitely recommend it.