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I've being going through a really difficult time these last few weeks. You see I've been trying to catch up on a lot of the classic movies that I've missed; which in itself is a very good thing and I've really enjoyed myself. However my problem is, that after watching so many classic films I've forgotten how to review a simple popcorn movie. A film like Charlie's Angels: Full Throttle though was probably the worst place to start, but I felt like a challenge, so I decided that this would be the next film I would review. Where to begin then? The plot of the movie was; oh wait, it was none existent. The characters; if I'm allowed to call them that, better resembled cutouts from the Sports Illustrated Swim Suite edition in both their appearance and emotion. Maybe I should stop here for a second and explain that last comment before the feminist movement takes me to court. I was not degrading women, nor was I claiming that attractive women can not have personalities, rather I was saying that if you cut the pictures out of a magazine you end up with an attractive image that lacks anything remotely resembling a personality. Sorry guys, but you know that they're lurking everywhere and you have to be very careful how you word these things nowadays. Anyway I'm getting a little sidetracked here, I was supposed to be telling you about the characters. A group of 3 cutouts from a swimsuit magazine who also know kung fu. The obvious exception to this rule is the character of Bosley. He definitely didn't look like a swimsuit model, At least not one I'd imagine being popular, and so he is forced to bring a little comic timing to his jokes. I liked the physical way that Bill Murrey played the character in the first film, but I like Big Macs more verbal approach even more. There are some hilarious gags at his expense as he plays a Cleuso like idiot who occasionally bumps into clues for the angels. Mac has a confidence for his role and it comes across like he's having as much fun as the rest of the cast. Although sadly I can imagine him now being typecast into this role, and while I don't really think he could have much range, I can still see him becoming annoying if he's given an entire film. Sadly though, as good as Bosley was, he was as underused as he was in the first one. The majority of the film focuses more on the three girls who are only interested in having a good time. They come across with a natural charm, and really seem to be enjoying themselves, but they don't bring any of their talents to the roles. I've seen them all give decent performances in popcorn movies before but director Mc G was honestly not interested in their talents. He was more interested in making the most action packed film he could and what we're left with is one of those films. A film that gives all the hallmarks of female empowerment, while at the same time making those same females spend the whole time in increasingly skimpy costumes. That's the tone of the film though, girls in Bikini's getting into action. It's got those 2 important ingredients for an action film; Bikini's and Explosions, but not much else. Therein though lies the charm of Full Throttle. It's a blockbuster without pretense, a film that sets out to entertain the masses but decides to be fun while doing it. There's no hackneyed attempt at a love story, and certainly none of the pretenses of depth found in The Matrix Trilogy. It's simply a film that knows what it is, and is confident enough in that fact to have a laugh and make the film fun. It's still trash, but at least it's fun trash.
You know some companies are just too cheap!!! It doesn't really matter whether it's video-games, music or movies, because you can pretty much guarantee that they are all the same. They treat their products like a poor farmer treats that good strong cow. They sell the milk and then; rather use the money to buy a new cow, they simply milk it and milk it until they can milk it no more. In the course of history nobody has been as guilty of this as Capcom. They have not only been milking the same cow for well over 20 years, but that cow represents; not a series, but an individual game. That game is Street Fighter II, sequel to the less than classic Street Fighter and followed up by Street Fighter II: Champion Edition, Street Fighter II: Turbo, Super Street Fighter II: The New Challengers, and Super Street Fighter II Turbo. Since then we have had 3 Street fighter Alpha games, 3 Street Fighter Ex games, at least 3 Street Fighter III games and countless spin offs involving the likes of Marvel Super heroes and Capcom's own rival company SNK. Needless to say this poor cow is now producing more blood then milk, but will Capcom ease up on the milking? I doubt it!!! Either way one thing is certain, and that is that they have decided to give that second game one last, hard, cow killing tug with Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition. (Yes they are aware as to how convoluted these names are getting and they are doing it on purpose) The strangest thing about all of this is that I couldn't be happier about it. The fact is that Street Fighter II is the grandaddy of all modern beat-em-ups. Without that one little bug that allowed sneaky players to combine two moves into one the combo system would never have been invented. Tekken, Virtual Fighter, Soul Blade and many others would never be viable and we would be stuck in a hell of constant Way Of The Exploding Fist clones. Though in this critics humble opinion the many years of 3Dimensional competitors; not to mention a few updates, will never really impact the simple quality of the 2D Street Fighter system. That system is the very definition of the phrase "Simple but effective" as all you do is select your favorite character, fly them to an exotic part of the world and then kick somebodies head in. However rather than try for the intense realism that 3D games are now aiming for the early Street Fighter incarnations used a nice family friendly form of cartoon violence. Characters battle with punches and kicks only in emergencies with the majority of damage being caused by big balls of energy and other such over the top moves. Those moves are not of the clunky Mortal Kombat variety though, but rather they are require smooth motions on the part of the player; a quarter circle on the D-pad, a charge away from the screen and a smooth push forward, or for the really strong characters a full 360 degree spin that needs to be done at lightning speeds to prevent the character from merely skipping on the spot and losing. Of course if that all sounds a little hard then there are a few characters designed for the new generation of Street Fighters (pathetic amateurs that you are) that involve nothing more than hammering away at a single button to produce a decently powered attack. Of course these kind of unholy tactics are easily countered by those of us who are; how you say, unbeatable. I do feel that this smooth control system is the reason that the Street Fighter style has survived to become the standard for 2 Dimensional fighting. Yet the fact remains that amidst all of the clones Street Fighter II remains the best. At a guess I'd put this down to the wonderful range of quirky characters who vary in size, and while a lot have similar moves, still vary in tactics too. You'll have the classics of Ken and Ryu who are the fan favorite fireball throwers, and then you'll get Sagat. He utilizes the exact same motions for his move list but; because of his being stronger but slower, requires very different tactics for both those playing as, and against him. Then you have other characters like Blanka who requires a more defensive stance to beat, followed by Chun-Li who again utilizes the same button mashing move but this time requires an all out assault if you want you best shot at victory. That is just the beginners though and once you get to mastering the really hard characters like Vega you'll find a fresh experience with every round. Of course the question remains as to what this new anniversary milk feast actually is. Capcom says that it's a combination of every Street Fighter II game of the past, which it is. You can finally settle those arguments over whether the original Vega would stand a chance against Super's fireball throwing Chun-Li. (No seriously we have had these arguments) You simply choose your character as usual, but then go on to select which game you want that character to come from and play through using the appropriate moves, animations and voice acting. Skeptical as to how this makes it worthy as an all new game? So am I, but truth be told the games presentation is so polished that I just couldn't care less. Rather than re-release Street Fighter II with a wider selection of characters Capcom have actually gone to town in order to ensure the game can stand its ground in the 21st Century. You just have to see this thing in motion. Complimenting the classic selection of theme tunes is a speed that can rival the Alpha games. You have to set it yourself, but once you've put the speed up to Turbo four you will find a game that moves fast enough to please even the most seasoned gamer, with just the very occasional slowdown interfering with the otherwise fantastic new pace. It also seemed, to me at least, that the character sprites were now much larger. Still lacking the detail and classy animation of the Street Fighter Alpha games; this isn't those games afterall, the characters in this anniversary edition seemed to fill the screen much better than the tiny sprites I was used to from the arcade machine in the local chip shop. It may seem shallow but thanks to the new speed and minor graphical enhancements Hyper Street Fighter II: The Anniversary Edition takes the best designed Street Fighter game and once again turns it into the most playable. It may not be worth full price but then you wont be paying full price for it anyway. Considering that for a cheap price I was able to get one of my all time favorite games, plus was able to silence the employee at a local game shop who claimed to be an elite player ( 6 fights to 0 in case you were wondering) then I'd say that it was certainly worth the price. Definitely a five star game. Welcome back my old friend, now please let that cow rest in peace.
I can't be too sure but I seem to recall reading The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe way back when I was in primary school. I say 'can't be to sure' because I can remember the title, and quite a bit about a magical wardrobe being a doorway to another world, but other than that, nothing. For those in my boat The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe tells the story of a group of 4 children who are sent to live at the house of a strange professor while their parents fight in the second world war. While playing in this house the children discover a wardrobe that transports them to the magical world of Narnia, a world of fantasy creatures that has been plagued by an unending winter for the last 100 years. The inhabitants of this world have been waiting this last hundred years for the prophesied 4 humans who will defeat the white witch and remove the curse over the land. Now how much of this story was taken from the original text, and how much was cut I can't say. However what I can say is that as a film this is one of the biggest let downs in years. It's not that I don't like fantasy, or even childrens fantasy for that matter, it's just that, unlike other similar films of late, The Chronicles Of Narnia lacks any real heart. There's nothing in the film to really make you care about it's characters, or the situation they find themselves in. I think that a large part of this may be down to the sheer amount of suspension of disbelief expected of the audience. In other fantasy stories (see Lord Of The Rings or Harry Potter) we were able to believe that the most inexperienced characters could achieve their goals through sheer luck, and a little help from their allies. Yet here we have a story that expects us to believe a child can enter a wardrobe, get a sword from Santa (no seriously) before becoming this great military strategist because a talking lion claimed to have faith in him. This is a fact that also proves to make the "big" battle scenes a lot less spectacular than they should have been. Still if you already knew the story before reading this then you'll likely want me to shut up and tell you how it was made. Well, personally I would have to say that it was, erm, ok. The supporting cast certainly did well; Liam Neeson's voice was both authoritive and calm enough for the role of Aslan. Tilda Swinton's White Witch was intimidating enough, and Ray Winstone made a nice bit of comic relief as a talking beaver. Unfortunately the main cast, the children themselves, were terrible. It's a common misconception that all English people are good actors, and here that factor has been proven wrong by kids who are forcing a posh accent through, and then phoning in the delivery of their dialogue as if this material was somehow beneath them. On a visual scale I would say that the film succeeded though. The CGI in this film was very good, particularly the work on Aslan the lion, and the effects used to merge man with beast (centaurs, fawns, and the like). The locations themselves had their moments to shine with vast sweeping shots along an ice palace, a breathtaking castle, a melting waterfall ect... It's just unfortunate that all this was done with CGI, and none with model work because the moments where characters walk around these areas are a lot less spectacular. Ultimately I suppose this is not even close to the worst film ever made, but still it's not worth the money spent on it, and doesn't deserve the praise I suspect it will receive. It's a shame really because if more time had been spent developing the character transformations, and less time on a fairly meaningless Christian allegory; oh and had better actors been cast, then the film could have been another superb fantasy. Instead it's just another run of the mill effects blockbuster with little to no actual heart.
When the sinister Palpatine began grooming young Anakin Skywalker in Star Wars: The Revenge Of the Sith many fans became intrigued by his mention of a Sith lord named Darth Plagueis. Who was this very secretive character and how did he relate to the experiences in the films? All answers were finally revealed with the release of this book. The book provides the explanation that Darth Plagueis was none other than the master to Darth Sidius (The Emperor) as many had previously theorized. It opens with the culmination of a battle between the two for the mantle of Dark Lord, before flashing back to his own history. Darth Plagueis was a Sith apprentice unsatisfied with Darth Bane's rule of two, who wanted to team up with another Sith as equals in order to overthrow the Jedi. Taking an opportunity to kill his own master Plagueis then sets out investigating the mysteries behind the midiclorians in order to extend his own life. He also tries to find a cunning individual capable of becoming his equal in the use of The Dark Side. He finds this in a young Naboo royalist named Palpatine who he proceeds to groom in the ways of the Sith. I really liked this book. It flowed at a very nice pace and featured some nice characterization. Fans of the movies will no doubt be interesting in reading about the origins of some of the characters from the prequel trilogy; including Count Dooku's dissatisfaction with the Jedi order, and even the birth of Darth Maul himself. It answers a lot of questions left over from the films and sheds light on plot points that were previously left a mystery. Although I personally was a little disappointed that it left certain important questions unanswered. As a Star Wars book this is one of the better entries. I always enjoy the Sith Lord books as the darker characters tend to be a lot more fleshed out than the often bland heroes of the universe. This is no exception. Both Plagueis and Sideous are portrayed as intriguing characters with interesting motives that are able to cunningly manipulate the political scene for their own ends. Throughout the book you can never quite predict what these sinister characters will do next, even with your foreknowledge of the outcome. I would recommend reading the Darth Bane trilogy before you read this book as it often references the characters involved. That is probably the only fault I could lay against the story though. As a singular narrative it works well on its own, even when it is running parallel with the films. A lot of the revelations will prove more impactful if you've seen the films, but then again the book will hold a lot more mystery if you haven't. Nevertheless the characters are well developed, and the sinister games work very well. Another strong entry into the darker side of the Star Wars universe that fans will no doubt enjoy.
Apollo Justice is the fourth (proper) entry into Capcom's fantastic Ace Attorney series. The first entry designed exclusively for the DS Apollo Justice sees a new hero rising through the ranks of the world's defence attorneys. The game is set 7 years after the last game in the series and sees a cocky young defence attorney named Apollo Justice taking on his first major case. His task; to defend the legendary defence attorney Phoenix Wright (hero of the previous games) who has found his way back into the court room as a murder suspect. Fans of the series to date will be able to jump straight into the game as very little has actually changed over the years. The game is a fun courtroom romp that shamelessly flaunts its anime stylings in order to thrill and delight your senses. Inside the courtroom your task is simple. Listen to a Witness give evidence for the prosecution and then 'cross examine' them. This involves listening to the same statements, but with the option of interrupting them any time you want further information. The trick is to find something in your evidence folder that contradicts something that the witness is saying. This may sound dull on paper, but these cross examinations are never quite what they seem. The music invariably kicks up a gear as you highlight that one peace of evidence you've been hoarding, and evil prosecutors will howl in pain as you tare their cases apart. You'll thrill as you interrupt these wacky characters with the series trademark 'Objection!' screams, and delight as you uncover the real culprits. Invariably something as simple as being able to prove that a witness really does enjoy noodles could trigger a chain of events that leads you into proving that the judge was the real killer all along. If all of that wasn't enough for you Apollo Justice has one ability that Phoenix never had. Get stuck on a particularly troubling witness and Apollo can become hyper aware as you scan the witness for nervous twitches that could be used to prove that deception is afoot. It may not be realistic to call a witness out for having sweaty arm pits, but boring it ain't Outside of the courtroom the game becomes a more traditional 'point and click' adventure as you head out to the crime scenes to interview witnesses and gather evidence for your courtroom shenanigans. The pace in these sections is far more sedate, but it keeps things entertaining thanks to an almost infinite array of wacky characters through all 4 of the games cases. These include a world famous rock-star prosecutor who is easily the best foe since Miles Edgworth entered the fray back in game one. So all in all it's business as usual for the Ace Attorney series, and fans will truthfully never get bored. New subscribers however should prepare themselves for what to expect. Graphically the game features some absolutely stunning artwork, but still features the same static sprites that the series has had since day one. If you like the series then you'll appreciate why this works so well, but please don't be expecting a hi def 3D masterpiece!!! The same could be said of the audio. Once again the game features low bit tunes to wonderful effect in creating a courtroom of unparalleled excitement and adventure, but it's hardly the kind of thing you expect when booting up a 3DS at dawn. I guess what I'm saying is that this game wont be pushing the DS to the height of its abilities. It does what it needs to do perfectly, but it may not be doing what you expect it too, so prepare yourself. If you can accept a hilariously off the wall adventure that will tax your brain while tickling your funny bone, then you'll find Apollo Justice well worth the money. It's another fantastic entry into the Ace Attorney series that features a cracking story spread across 4 intriguing cases. The only drawback is that Apollo will never be as cool a character as Phoenix, but he's not a bad lad at all, and his first game is a rousing success.
What does this software do? Photoshop Elements 3 is an image editing software with a wealth of available options. You can use it to touch up your home photos in order to remove Red Eyes and airbrush away any distracting flaws in your appearance. It can also be used in a more professional basis to create brand new images, maybe a poster for an up and coming film, an advertisement for the latest brand of zit cream, or maybe even to simply humiliate that ex girl friend who wont stop calling. However the use most people will find for this program will be humor. A little satire here, a little spoofery there, and sometimes even a little down right disgusting innuendo. Ever seen any of those pictures of Sadam sitting in the Queer Eye For The Straight Guy Chair? Maybe you've noticed how George Bush and Tony Blair have been dancing a lot lately, or how Darth Vader was spotted hunting Jar Jar Binks across the surface of the moon? Chances are that someone's been playing with there photoshop again. Ease Of Use This is the biggest stumbling block for Photoshop Elements 3, it's just way to difficult for a beginner to pick up, and way too pointless for them to bother advancing with. The central layout of the window was too cluttered with options that could have easily been left in drop down boxes, and as a result leaving you with just a small window with which to actually edit your images. Once you've done a little exploring you can remove all that nonsense about gradients, all those layer thumb nails, and pretty soon you have a nice and large area to play in. Yet still the basic functions of Photoshop Elements took a little more practice than I'm used to. The magic eraser tool was nice and simple (click on a background section of the layer and it disappears leaving you with a perfect cut out of the image you want) but tended to get unreliable when the picture wanted had a similar color to the background, and as a result I was forced to use the standard eraser tool. In this case the tool lacked basic functions that I'm used to, such as I can left click on a layer to remove sections, but if I remove too much then the only way to get it back is with the undo command, which means deleting parts of the background one click at a time. The biggest offender though was when I tried to insert some text into an image. I found one or two nice effects in this section that were available, but then simple things like different textures, colors ect... in a letter were unavailable. The help option eventually showed me that I could give my text a gradient by simply writing it in a different layer, add the gradient, cut it out, blah blah , I gave up as it just seemed like too much hard work to do something that every other image editing software allows you to do at the touch of a button! Pros The biggest plus point in favor of Photoshop Elements are some of the options available. The magic eraser tool allows you to completely erase background details such as sky, grass, concrete ect... in the blink of an eye. The magic wand ability allows you to select only the part of a picture you want, say a person or something, and then cut them out without the need to erase any extra background materials. Some of the effects are also quite nice, and varied to. You make a picture look like it was penciled in, done with chalk, heck if you like you can make it look like it was done with hot wax. You can add glowing effects to certain areas of your pic, so if you've ever been photographed with a toy light sabre then you can go on to make it a real one, and heck you can even age the photo by a few hundred years in case you want to appear on a few wanted ads in the old west. Cons Ah, well, you see I still have that old copy of Paint Shop Pro 7 lying around and it still works for me better than Photoshop Elements 3. On top of the not so user friendly interface is a program with less options, less tools, and less effects than the other program. The range of fonts is almost identical to that of a word processor and lacks anything really fancy enough for an image editing program. I found a lot of the tools didn't do anything noticeable, and the range of brush sizes to be too small. Heck even my original pros become a double edged sword when doing anything other than very basic pictures. The magic eraser tends to erase half a persons face whenever they are standing near a similar color, and the magic wand tool only likes to highlight small sections of that person. Heck even in simple things like speech bubbles it would highlight the bubble, but then leave a big gap where the text was. A minor inconvenience, but an inconvenience all the same. It should also be noted that photoshop is a real resource hog. Now my computer is, in all honesty, severely outdated, but still I'd expect to be able to edit images without much hassle. Photoshop Elements 3 works for me, but it takes an age to load, slows down my cursour movements, and prevents me from using anything else until it's shut down. Price Tag This is where Photoshop Elements 3 redeems itself, apparently. See it's regular retail price is only around £100, and can be found on some sites for as low as £30. Still seems pretty expensive for someone just looking for a laugh, but if you did want to get into image editing for a profession or something then this is one of the cheapest image editors available. Oh, but if you are just looking for a laugh, like me, then I say go for a free program like Gimp instead of forking over so much cash for what is really a sub standard product anyway. Overall Sorry Epinions. I appreciate the gift, I swear I do. It's just that I can't see myself recommending this program to anybody. It's still to expensive for casual use, and has nowhere near enough features for professional use. So either you'll pay the extra cash for a better version of photoshop, or you'll go for a free image editor that has just as many, if not more, options. Me, I like to use it occasionally to support Paint Shop Pro 7, but I'm just lucky I guess.
With the recent release of this years superb summer blockbuster The Dark Knight I decided it was fast time for me to look back into some of the comics that influenced it. My first stop was The Killing Joke as it is the book quoted by both Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger as the main influence for their very different portrayals of The Joker. It is also the book that is universally lauded as the best Joker story ever written. The Killing Joke opens with Batman paying a visit to Arkham Asylum for a quick heart to heart with his old nemesis The Joker. It seems Batman is concerned with the way their 'relationship' is progressing, and wants to make sure he at least tries to talk out their differences before it ends with one of them killing the other. The problem quickly becomes apparent that The Joker in this cell is a fake, the real deal has once again escaped captivity and who knows what horrendous actions he's got planned this time. Well The Joker's first step after escaping Arkham is to acquire himself a derelict theme park, no longer safe for public amusement, but positively perfect for Joker's fun and games. The next step is to pay a visit to the home of the Commissioner of police Jim Gordon. Gaining access to his house Joker shoots Gordon's daughter Barbara (formerly Batgirl) through the spine, makes a few jokes about her condition and then kidnaps Gordon himself. Barbara is found hours later dying, stripped completely naked with no signs of sexual assault. The only clue left by the perpetrator being a lens cap discarded at the scene of the crime. The doctors are able to save her life, but she'll be left physically crippled for the rest of her life. When she finally does wake up Barbara is able to confirm that The Joker was the shooter who took Commissioner Gordon, but the only motive she could get out of him before passing out was that 'he wants to prove a point.' This story is interspersed with a flashback event as The Joker reminisces about his own past. Back to a time when he was a simple failed stand up comedian desperate to provide for his pregnant girlfriend. He get's mixed in with the a major job for an unidentified mob family, but is unable to get out of the job after his girlfriend dies during child birth. All in all he ends up having a really crappy day that ends with him becoming a permanently disfigured psychopath. Now, all these years later he feels the need to prove to the world that all it takes is one really bad day to turn a good citizen into himself, and he's willing to push Commissioner Gordon to his very limits in order to prove this. So the question really remains, why is The Killing Joke considered so good by pretty much everyone who's ever read it? There's a fairly simple answer really, and that is that The Killing Joke is a complicated story that isn't afraid to mess with your head. There's very little Batman in this tale, appearing very briefly at the beginning and end respectively, but otherwise leaving The Joker to take center stage in his own book. A fact that only works so well because The Joker really is the most twisted sociopath in Batman's rogues gallery, possibly even in comics as a whole. I'd love to say that his murder of the fairground owner at the start of the book was a highlite, but really that was just Joker being Joker. The shooting of Barbara Gordon however was incredibly jarring. Mainly because the first time I read the book I didn't know it was coming, and she was such a big part of both Batman and Gordon's life prior to the incident. The way her shooting was used was what startled me the most though. Not just the way Joker proceeded to mock the dying girl, but as he later used photo's of Commissioner Gordon's only daughter naked and dying in his torturous games really highlited how sadistic a villain The Joker is. That is the secret to the books success. The way the story attempts to give you a look into The Joker's head. It does provide The Joker with a sympathetic backstory, but by juxtaposing this story with some of The Joker's most heinous crimes writer Alan Moore (V For Vendetta) ensures that Joker never feels like a Two Face type of tragedy. Instead you're treated to a look into the thinking process of pure evil. The whole point of the story being that Joker considers himself the Yang to Batman's Yin, mirror images of the same damaged psyche who have reacted to their psychoses in very different ways. "You had a bad day once, am I right? Why else would you dress up like a flying rat?" Says Joker when he and Batman are finally reunited, thereby showing the sinister motives behind his most recent crimes. To push Jim Gordon to the very edge of insanity and see how he reacts, and maybe even, if he's lucky, push Batman far enough to finally take his life. To prove to the whole world that Batman is the killer that everyone already knows The Joker is. It's worth noting that while this book does present one possible origin for The Joker, that the book itself presents Joker as an unreliable narrator. He openly admits at one point that he sometimes remembers things very differently, as he prefers to keep his history multiple choice. However this is the Joker origin that seems to have become the most widely embraced. Possibly because of the tragic loss of an innocents family so closely mirrors the origin of Batman himself. Luckily, for a story as dark as this the artwork has held up incredibly well. First published in 1988 Brian Bolland's pencil work still looks as good as some of the comics released in the last few years. Some of the imagery he evokes feels genuinely unsettling, not least of which would be the creepy reveal of the disfigured body of the fairground's former owner after the Joker negotiated a 'free' exchange. It helps somewhat that Bolland has touched up his coloring for the latest release, presenting the flashbacks in black and white and cleaning up the colors of certain shots. I've never actually seen any of the earlier releases for comparison, but the dark coloring of this release is absolutely fantastic. So, will The Joker succeed in proving his point? Will he turn Jim Gordon into a killer? Will he be able to push Batman far enough to kill him this time? IF you want to find out then it's definitely worth picking up the book to do so. It's one of the most intriguing stories in the Batman library and is a must read for anyone who's even remotely interested in the character of The Joker. If nothing else the impact this one shot has had on the DC universe with the crippling of Batgirl makes it a must read. I'd have to say it's a tad too dark for the munchkins though. You should also be forwarned that anyone looking for a simple High adventure/murder mystery Batman story is going to find that not all that much happens in this story.
I've long been a fan of the Nintendo DS console due to the fact that it focuses more attention on family friendly content and mind stimulating puzzle games than it does on violence and gore. However I was hesitant to upgrade to the 3DS due to a lack of interest in the 3D screen and a budgetary concern that couldn't be ignored. This was where the Nintendo 2DS came in handy. Nintendo's latest entry into the DS family is a budget friendly stepchild with all of the power of a 3DS and none of the motion sickness drawbacks. Aesthetically speaking the 2DS doesn't initially seem to be all that. Gone is the 'clam shell' design of previous consoles,and instead you have a single unit that can not be closed. I do admit to having my concerns in this regard as some of the older DS games (Hotel Dusk) used the closing feature in a number of important puzzles. Games like that will become impossible on the 2DS! However this is only a minor drawback that has not affected any of the games that I have purchased since buying the unit. After getting over the shock of the new design however it quickly grew on me. The Blue and Black colour scheme that I chose gave the console a stylish look that nicely hides the cheaper nature of the plastic. The new 'Cake Slice' shape of the console looked pretty enough and all of the buttons seemed to be placed decently. Unfortunately using the machine with this new shape is not always the easiest of tasks. When holding the machine in such a way as to access the rear trigger buttons it can feel like you lack a stable hold, and whenever you're playing touch-screen games it can be so easy to slip your finger over the single speaker and totally block out all of the sounds. It's also worth noting that this new design means that; while the actual screens are the same size as the pocket friendly DSI/3DS, the unit size is as bulky as a DSIXL/3DSXL and will not fit into your pockets. This drawback however is to be expected when considering the price that you'll be paying. In order to cut the costs of the console over the 3DS Nintendo have used cheaper plastics for the case, and cut the number of screens down to one. There is a piece of plastic that draws a line between the top and bottom screens, but in actuality you have just one screen. One screen means no hinges between screens, and no hinges means a new design is required. Once I accepted that fact I found myself adequately satisfied with the feel of the new machine. The analogue stick runs smoothly, the triggers are not overly sensitive and the weight is just right for extended bouts of game-play For me however these sacrifices were well worthwhile. Priced at just £89.99 the console is significantly cheaper than either the 3DS or the 3DSXL and yet is able to play all of the games from every single DS console ever released. This opens up a range of fantastic possibilities for Platforming (Donkey Kong Country/New Super Mario Bros.), Puzzle (Professor Layton), adventure (Ace Attorney) and much much more. The range of games that Nintendo have available is staggering and easily trumps the FPS focused antics of the home console markets. If that wasn't enough the console also comes with a very stable wi-fi connection that enables you to download and play a host of other games. These can range from classic titles (Super Mario World) to indie classics (Shift) to full priced new releases. It must be said that the value of the latter is diminished due to the fact that they cost the same as the physical copies do, but without the option of reselling. However the shop is otherwise a fantastic addition that opens up a world of smaller/cheaper games, and enables you to download demos for any games that you're not quite sure of. So yes, I was very happy with my purchase. This does not mean that I am blind to the consoles faults however. The single speaker has adequate sound but would never win out as a music player. The single screen looks very clear, but has no high def bells and whistles. It is also insanely hard to find decent accessories for the thing. Other than the bog standard Nintendo sleeves there seem to be no other carry cases available for the 2DS. Other than those; admittedly strong, drawbacks however this is a very solid piece of equipment. The resistive touch screen is very responsive and will work with any DS style styluses you can find. The battery life is very nice, and the range of games unmatchable. It also has a few bonus options such as front and rear cameras that can take 0.3 mega pixel shots and can be used for building an avatar for the online world. Obviously the online multi-player and connectivity to any other DS has also been included. All of this for a fairly powerful machine that still costs under £100. It's the console to go for if you want to upgrade but are on a budget, or worried about the effects of 3D on your children's eyes. PS- One thing I was confused about. Nintendo have decided to keep a feature in that enables the gamer to take 3D photos of their environment These photos can only be viewed in 2D unless they are transferred to an SD card and into a 3DS, so I'm not too sure why Nintendo stuck with these fancy cameras. They could have lowered the price even more by removing this seemingly useless feature, but it's not something I'll dwell on.
Professor Layton and The Lost Future is the third game in a charming series of puzzle games for the DS but the first one that I have had the pleasure of playing through. The game could best be described as a point and click adventure in which you take control of an intrepid gentleman and his teenage sidekick Luke, who are struggling to uncover the mystery behind a letter from the future. It all started after the 2 witnessed an explosion at a time travel experiment gone wrong and received a letter from someone claiming to be Luke 10 years in the future. However this is far simpler to play than the average point and click as there are generally no hidden objects to hoard. Instead your intrepid gentleman is a professor in puzzle-ology and so the only thing you'll be collecting will be the puzzles that are scattered throughout the environment. The format is simple. Controlling both Layton and Luke you will wonder in between a picturesque London town and its sinister future counterpart. Along the way you will encounter plenty of interesting characters who spend all of their lives designing puzzles for you to share with them. These puzzles range from mathematical problems, visual/spacial tricks, logic teasers and a wealth of other puzzles. These puzzles range from the simple to the decidedly dastardly, and you will have to think outside the box in order to solve most of them. To be fair the pace throughout the game is always very laid back. Any puzzles you encounter can be exited and returned too later, but ultimately you will need to solve enough of them to see the story proceed. It's worth taking your time too as each puzzle that you get wrong will reduce the number of points you get for solving the puzzle later, and you'll need a full set of points in order to unlock some of the games extra features. These can range from character bios to some exceedingly difficult extra puzzles, so it's worth going for full scores. Thankfully the game does come packed to the gills with findable 'hint coins' that can help you to adjust your thinking on some of the harder puzzles, and using these does not reduce your score at all. Although you will run out if you use them all the time!!! Truthfully that is about all there is too the game. It is in no way a fast paced game, but it's cleverly designed brain teasers will get the brain matter flowing and work as a pleasurable way to while away a few hours. Graphically speaking I was pleasantly surprised by the quality on display. Most of the game is made up of intricately drawn static backdrops with characters sitting on top. However as the story develops it does so through a series of stunning anime cut scenes that hinted at far higher production values than one would have suspected. The sound however is where the game really draws you in. Beautifully selected pieces of music intersperse the background scenes, while puzzle tunes mix it up between the sedate lullabies of a logic puzzle, to the adventurous chorus that thunders through the games Tetris inspired visual/spacial creations. It really does give each and every puzzle a unique feel and made the entire 12 hour experience a joy to play. Unfortunately I feel compelled to express my disappointment with some of the games extra content. Packaged with the game are a series of downloadable puzzles that should boost the games lifespan. In actuality these puzzles are stored on the game already and you just download the free code needed to play them. Alas, since this is an original DS game it will only connect to your Wi-Fi if you tend to leave your Wi-Fi unsecured. Since there is no charge for these puzzles, and they were already programmed onto the cartridge before release, I fail to see why Nintendo bothered to lock them and prevent anyone without the required Wi-Fi from enjoying them. This is a very minor gripe however in an otherwise fantastic game. So in conclusion who should buy this game? Needless to say the Call of Duty crowd need not apply. However if you are the type of person to sit on a train doing crosswords/logic puzzles then you'll find that the dastardly brain teasers of The Lost Future will enthrall you from beginning to end.
Lego Marvel Superheroes is the latest game in the Lego franchise and pits the heroes of the Marvel Universe against their entire roster of supervillains in a battle for the world. Like all of the previous Lego games the story on offer is incredibly basic. The Silver Surfer has arrived on Earth and his board has been shattered by the sinister Doctor Doom. It seems that Doom and Loki are now in cahoots as they employ every other major villain to collect the fragments of the Surfers board. Nick Fury responds in typical S.H.I.E.L.D manner by throwing every hero he can find at this threat. Sure it's not exactly complicated stuff, but then it's fun in that way that only a Lego game can ever truly be. As anyone familiar with the Lego series will attest you can't really pigeon hole this game into an established genre. There's no platforming, very little adventuring, and it scrapes by with the most basic puzzles imaginable. I suppose colectathon is the best way to describe the gameplay. Throughout the game you will be asked to collect, and collect a lot! There're Gold Bricks, Red Bricks, Batteries, Stan Lees, and many other assorted goodies to find. Each level will be themed after a Marvel location and see you running around with a selection of heroes. Each hero has an established power and so you'll need to learn to switch between these heroes in order to manipulate the environment in order to reach the end. Along the way waves of enemies will come at you but these are generally fairly easy to dispatch and merely serve as excuses to gain more coins. Coins are the main thing you'll be collecting as you destroy everything in your environment to release them by the bucketload. At the end of a level you'll receive a special commendation if you collected enough coins. Each level is tied together by an open world recreation of New York city that can be explored with any character you choose. Further collectables are scattered around every building and a few hidden levels are there for the finding. Once story levels have been completed you are free to return to those same locations and replay the level with any characters you bring along. This opens up further collectables as well as a few opportunities to rescue Stan Lee from danger. So it's all very run of the mill Lego, and is truthfully never a challenging game. Still, it is always an incredibly fun game. The simple controls leave you with few concerns as you breeze through this intricately developed world. This leaves you open to enjoy the expertly timed self referential humour and site gags. I doubt I'll ever stop chuckling at the site of The Hulk doing an M C Hammer dance, and the fact that Greg Clarke was game for the voice of Coulson adds a familiar comfort to the whole thing. So overall the game is a phenomenal success. The graphics are surprisingly well rendered for a Lego game and the sound effects hilarious The music selection fit in well and kept the breezy atmosphere that made the levels such a joy to experience. I mean sure there are a few glitches here and there, and the end of level bosses are all very basic and repetitive. Nevertheless the game remains a fun ride throughout. I was personally never bored and would love to see some expansions being released soon.
I love Uno! That simple statement sums up this entire review. Uno is a card game from Matel that plays similarly to a game called Rummy that my nan used to play. (She told me it was called Rummy so if the name is wrong I'm sorry) The rules are incredibly simple. Each deck of cards has a selection of 4 coloured card numbered 1-9, and a few face cards with differing values. Some face cards can be used to reverse the flow of a game, to make an opponent skip a go, or to make an opponent pick up extra cards. Essentially each player is dealt a selection of 8 cards and one card is placed in the centre Players then take turns placing a card on top of the pile if; and only if, one of their cards corresponds to either the colour or number on the top card; or if they have the special face card that can be used to alter the colour of the cards being used. If no card is available then the player must pick up an extra card. A round ends when one player has managed to remove all of his cards from play. All other players must then add up the total points for their cards, and the game ends when one player hits a predetermined score. The winner is the player with the least points. That low scoring twist is what makes Uno such a great game to play. Players will always strive to rid themselves of high scoring cards, but it's sometimes worth holding on to face cards (25 points each) in order to use them tactically. For instance a +2 card may be a tempting offer, but it is also worth holding on to it so that if; if anyone else uses one against you, then you can play the card and get someone else to pick up 4. Of course the big 'use anywhere' card is worth 50 points and you don't want it at the end of a round, but if you can keep hold of it for your last card then victory is certain. These kind of tactics add a deceptive layer of depth to Uno that other card games can't match, but what really makes it so fun is the competitive nature. When you get your hands on any + cards then the person next to you becomes a deadly opponent and rivalries can quickly escalate. I have had many arguments with my sister in law over using these cards against her. I mean really, the cards only flow one way so who else would I use them against??? These rivalries merely add to the fun of the game and there shouldn't be any hard feelings afterwards Overall Uno is a fantastic game. Simple to play with no extra parts to lose. If you can shuffle a deck of cards and know how to count then you'll have a blast. The only negative is that your game is worthless if you lose a single card, but at $5 this is a bargain!
After trying my luck with the very budget Vimicron Supertab I decided that I would try to get something a little fancier for my next tablet. I quickly decided that my eyesight wasn't bad enough to necessitate a 10" Tablet, and settled on the Samsung Galaxy Tab 2 7". As a tablet this is a fairly sturdy device with enough built in features to satisfy the average user. Once again my primary concern was in the tablets ability to read PDFs and Ebooks so that I could use it to study everything that I needed to. I quickly found this to be even better for this use. The 7.6" frame of the Galaxy is the perfect size for a reader on the go. The entire tablet is taken up by the screen with most front facing buttons working through the touchscreen. This means that the tablet can retain a small enough size to fit in my inner jacket pocket, and as such I can carry important books with me for studying on the bus. Obviously the drawback to this is that a smaller size means smaller text which can be difficult for those with poorer eyesight than mine. To be fair though I don't have the best eyesight and I never really struggle to read important books as the 1024X600 display renders them in a high enough resolution to keep things clear. Plus the zoom feature can help if I'm reading PDFs with a slightly smaller font. To be honest the only time I have had any problems is when reading comics through Marvel's Marvel Unlimited Ap. As these comics are already low resolution then you cannot zoom in on a picture and so double page spreads become unreadable. This is a minor fault however unless you really really want to read every word in a comic on a small screen. In all other areas however the Galaxy Tab's screen works wonders. It's more responsive than the really cheap tablets and works wonders with the gentlest swipe of the fingers. I have been able to use the tab to quietly make notes during meetings, and even my wife Vicky (who has muscle degradation in her hands) can use this touchscreen without issue. The weight of the Galaxy Tab is also a bonus as the fairly slim and compact unit weighs just ¾ of a pound so holding it for up to 2 hours is rarely uncomfortable. This is something that I regularly do at my meetings and so I was very pleased to discover that both the weight and battery life were able to easily accommodate this time frame. This seems to be what the Galaxy Tab has been designed for. It offers very little in the way of extra features. There are no HDMI ports and just the one available port for connecting to your charger. It also comes with a fairly standard audio port for plugging in headphones or extra speakers. However there are otherwise no bells and whistles to this tablet. That suited me just fine though. I was more than pleased that the tablet had duel touch functionality as this made gaming a sweeter prospect, and the download times of the wi-fi were more than fast enough to please. If I had to nit-pick a few problems with the Galaxy tab I could find fault with the fact that it is sometimes difficult to highlight text. Due to the smaller screen I would find that occasionally the unit would confuse trying to highlight a portion of text with trying to change page (which you can do by tapping the screen on either side.) This, and the aforementioned comics scenario were the only problems that I encountered however. The Galaxy Tab 2 7" has all of the bells and whistles you would want from an android tablet, but with a smaller portable size. At just £140 I find it to be a real bargain and I would rate it as one of the best value tablets around. Others would disagree and go with its larger cousin, but the price hike for the extra 3 inches is considerable.
Batman: Arkham Origins is the prequel to Rocksteady's two classic Batman games, but is slightly misleading in that it not only skips over the origins of Arkham Asylum, but doesn't even pass the merest mention of the establishment. Arkham Origins tells a story set in the 2nd year of Batman's war on crime. The timeline seems to be a few months after the events of The Long Halloween only with a Batman who has not yet developed a friendship with Captain Gordon. Distrustful of this vigilante Gordon heads up a task force to hunt The Batman down. It is in this setting that a sinister Gangster nicknamed The Black Mask has put a 50 million dollar bounty on Batman's head and various Assassins have flooded Gotham city. So begins the age of the Super villain, and what starts out as a fairly small scale story soon escalates through a series of expertly revealed plot twists. While the first few hours were admittedly a little dull I soon found myself dragged into a tightly woven story that ended up being the best Arkham verse story yet. Alas, while new developers Warner have managed to nail the story elements of Arkham City the rest of the game ends up feeling a little disappointing. Don't get me wrong it's still a great game it just doesn't really push the boat out in the same way that Arkham City did a few years ago. The game world is significantly larger; featuring all of Gotham City to run around in, yet there is somehow less to do. There are now no people in the city other than the random thugs you beat up (how come there were more innocents to save in the prison than in the city???) and the architecture of Gotham City feels very cut and paste. Worse yet; in a shocking Joel Schumacher turn of events, Gotham City has become a far more bright and lively place. Predator missions; while still fun, no longer feel as intense because you can't understand why none of the gunmen see Batman swinging around the now well illuminated rafters a few feet above their heads. Other problems include a terrible camera that interferes with combat sections, and a few tedious boss battles that are really nothing more than glorified quick time events. Still it would be very easy to get overly caught up on the negatives. The truth is that Arkham Origins is still a very good game. The fluid combat engine is as fun as ever and the predator missions were never going to be boring. There are plenty of fun side quests and an amazing story to navigate through. It was a little tedious at times, and some of the gadgets you encounter don't make much sense, but this is never a less than fun game. The characterization of the villains is spot on, including a new Bane who dominates the story for most of the game, and the younger more aggressive Batman was an interesting way to avoid comparisons to Kevin Conroy. One thing the game did that I particularly liked was to use Batman's detective vision in order to do some actual detective work. At certain points in the story bodies will be found and you will have to examine the crime scene. After locating and scanning all of the relevant evidence then Batman will be able to playback a holographic recreation of the crime to aid in its solution. Nevertheless it's a game that cannot escape from the shadows of its predecessors. At its best it does what Rocksteady's games did well, and at its worst it knocks its reputation down a peg. I can never forget the negatives, but I still don't find myself focusing on them.
After the recent influx of Superhero movies from Marvel the rules for the Superhero genre have once again changed. Many fans have wondered whether the more grounded approach of Christopher Nolan's Batman legacy could still hack it, and therefore wondered whether Zack Snyder's Man of Steel would be able to compete for this year's box office revenue. If you have had any similar reservations regarding Man of Steel then I would urge you to cast them aside now because I can tell you confidently that this film is; not just a resounding success, but the best on screen interpretation of the Superman mythos yet. The true beauty of Man of Steel is that it doesn't try to hit all of the same notes as Superman the Movie did way back when. Rather; as all good reboots should, the film tells a fresh story that manages to hit the most important notes while still treading fresh ground for a new audience. Man of Steel tells the tried and tested story of Jor El's efforts to send his new-born son away from the slowly disintegrating planet of Krypton. Jor El's efforts are slightly delayed when his former friend General Zodd leads a rebellion and murders a number of Kryptonians. However once Zodd is captured and sentenced to imprisonment in The Negative Zone (A black hole) Jor El is able to send his son to the distant Planet of Earth minutes before Krypton is destroyed. On Earth the child grows to gain fantastic powers from the Earth's yellow son, but manages to keep this a secret from almost everyone except roving reporter Lois Lane. This is until General Zodd arrives on earth and reveals the existence of an extra-terrestrial in our midst. His demands are clear; hand over the Kryptonian or the Earth dies! To put it bluntly I loved this film! Zack Snyder's visual style has been put to good use in crafting a number of stunning shots. In fact, the first time Clarke dons the famous blue outfit and takes to flight will probably be my favourite piece of cinematography this year. Yet more than just looking pretty Man of Steel proves to be a work of substance. The pacing is deliberately slow and the characters fleshed out wonderfully so that Snyder's cinematography can be more impactful than his usual fare. I was more than pleased with this as it has resulted in a solid portrayal of key characters that are generally portrayed in a flat and lifeless way on screen. I refer of course to that key character of Lois Lane who seems to have become less and less likeable as the films/TV shows have evolved. Here though Amy Adam's gives a strong willed but eminently empathetic performance that does justice to the character from the comics. Similarly Henry Cavill seemed to own the screen whether he was in costume or not, but somehow still seemed to find the time to throw in all of the quiet meekness that will define his eventual secret identity. On the opposite end of the spectrum came Michael Shannon; who dominated the screen with his portrayal of the fearsome General Zodd, and an extremely scary performance from Antje Traue as his lead Hench woman. Truth be told I could spend many hours writing about this fantastic ensemble that includes everyone from Russell Crowe, Kevin Costner, and Laurence Fishburn. However it's enough to state that everyone gives it their all for a wonderful team effort that makes this the best acted Superman movie yet. This was important because this is not a film that could rest on its laurels. It features some superb fight scenes, but these don't come until later in the game. It's also very light on humor so that the film relies on its sense of drama to tell its tale, and the cast have pulled this off with aplomb. It's definitely better than last year's Dark Knight Rises, although; truth be told, I still prefer the more light hearted approach that Disney has been taking. Nevertheless Man of Steel remains a fantastic film in its own right. Well-acted, well directed, and visually stunning, this is by far the best on screen portrayal of Superman that the world has ever seen!
To say that I was intrigued the first time I spotted a bottle of Lynx Excite was a bit of an understatement. My dictionary defines the word 'excite' as "To rouse an emotional response" and I couldn't help but wonder whether this shower gel would accomplish this, or whether it would be another shoddy marketing ploy from the company that gave us "The Lynx Effect!" Needless to say this shower gel did not elicit any genuine excitement in the same way that it didn't force Vicky to mindlessly attack me. Nevertheless it remained a pleasant shower gel that performed the task it was actually expected to do admirably! Lynx excite is once again packaged in a bold black bottle with stylish grooves and an easily clicked grey cap on the lid. Clicking the cap releases a very pleasant berry scent with a surprisingly strong overture of coconut. With the slightest squeeze of the bottle a thin gel like product drizzles out in a rich grape purple colour that immediately made it stand out from its peers. After pouring the smallest sample onto a body scrub it lathered up incredibly and successfully covered me from head to toe. As a I scrubbed I couldn't help but notice that the coconut scent became ever more prominent as it eased me into the day ahead. After washing off I found that my skin had the merest hint of a coconut smell, and my whole body felt fresh and revitalised. With a little experimentation I was able to discover that this Lynx works just as well when applied directly to the hands, and so will be a suitable gel for baths and showers alike. As with all Lynx gels the initial RRP of £2.99 can be a bit of a sting, but this is a gel worth getting in a large bottle for £3.05 as you will be more than happy with the results. It also seems to be on offer with frightening regularity (why even mark up the RRP???) and so is well worth picking up wherever you happen to find it.