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In the Arcade Game "Fix it Felix Jr" Ralph is the bad guy. When the game's 30th Anniversary comes round Ralph is furious to find that the games namesake Felix Jr has had a party thrown in his honour. Crashing the party Ralph vows to all that he can be more than just a bad guy. He will prove it by being the first bad guy to win a medal by leaving the game and seeking his fortune elsewhere. However, if you leave your game and die you stay dead. What repercussions will Ralph leaving his game have on Fix it Felix and the Arcade as a whole?
"Wreck It Ralph" is an inspired idea by Disney. Characters coming to life has been done before of course with Toy Story being the perfect example and Disney's own Tron being one of the first examples of video games having a life of their own. However, just because an idea has been done before it doesn't mean it can't be done successfully again and this film is filmed with moments of absolute genius.
My initial fear was that this film would appeal solely to the video game playing market and while there is plenty of game jokes and retro references for nerds such of myself to get nostalgic over it never feels forced or unnecessary. Characters such as Sonic the Hedgehog, Kano from Mortal Kombat and Pacman will make gamers go all misty eyed but the film works because the non-gamer never feels excluded. The characters are integrated into the story, jokes are inclusive and the game cameos are always on the periphery allowing the story to progress.
Indeed, the story although based in games very quickly makes you forget all about the arcade. Ralph is a likable oaf fighting against the stigma of being labelled "The Bad Guy" and his developing relationship with the annoying and quick-witted kid Vanellope is both heart warming and funny. Sarah Silverman is particularly good as the voice of the outcast Vanellope and the plot has a number of twists and turns that you don't always see coming.
The films overriding message, that being different isn't bad and embracing your uniqueness is good is well pitched and never schmaltzy. As you would expect the animation is absolutely top notch but there are a number of nice little touches that take it above and beyond the standard animation. Older game characters move jerkily and are animated simplistically while newer characters show fluidity of movement and enhanced animation that hint at the graphical advances through the years.
Gamers will no doubt have a ball with the variety of game cameos in "Wreck It Ralph" but this film has so much more to offer to adults and children of all ages. It entertains, it engages and it is good fun from start to finish with a strong and positive message.
As you prepare yourself for your execution you glance skyward and see a vast shadow overhead, a dragon's huge wingspan blots out the landscape and attacks the town of Helgen. Using this distraction you make a break for freedom and begin your path to adventure.
Skyrim is everywhere. It is a phenomenon in gaming that hasn't been seen in many years as Bethseda have seemingly accomplished the impossible, a swords and sorcery Role Playing Game that everyone wants to play. Role Playing Games have always had a very dedicated but niche market, Skyrim's marketing machine has belied that and has overtaken the populace. The question remains though, is it actually any good?
The story begins in a thought provoking although perhaps cliched fashion. You are given numerous decisions to make early on. What race will you be? Will you be a warrior or a mage? Will you go down the rebel path or that or becoming a law abiding citizen? All of these decisions have varying effects and open up the game in various ways and that is the biggest strength of Skyrim. You make decisions and choose how you want to play. Of course there is a central story to follow but this is arguably the weakest part of the game as many of the side stories are far more enriching and interesting. You might decide to join the Mage Guild and study the arcane arts or be recruited by the Dark Brotherhood an elite group of assassins. Whatever paths you choose open up a whole new set of stories, quests, perils and rewards. The possibilities really are endless and it isn't an exaggeration to say that this is a game that you could play indefinitely.
However, the sheer size of the game does lead to a number of problems. Wandering around the humongous World of Skyrim while very satisfying is very daunting. It is also not as "free" as you are lead to believe. You character might be a multi-talented mage/warrior/assassin but expect to be frustrated by rocks and hillsides and punished in an unforgiving fashion for wandering from the designated paths. You might be able to summon the wrath of the God's but try not to conquer the almighty slightly steep hillside! It is a relatively minor gripe as it is still a pleasure to traverse the rich and varied landscape that is Skyrim and graphically the game is without equal. There are few things more majestic than standing a the throat of the World looking out at the Northern Lights and the whole game graphically is a thing of beauty.
Sadly, a much reported problem with the PS3 version of this game is freezing and lag and this is something I have experienced relatively frequently although not enough to spoil the enjoyment of the game. Certainly as you progress and the game demands more from your hardware there can be noticeable slowdown in texture rich and battle strewn areas although this is something that is said to be rectified in an upcoming update.
In terms of sound Skyrim is perfectly balanced with ominous and soaring orchestral scores and a huge raft of tailored audio. There are occasions were characters suffer from repetition but on the whole even the most minor of characters have rich personalities and react in a variety of ways depending on your behaviour. Everything in this game is about action and reaction and the audio enhances the experience as you hear a roaring dragon overhead signalling an impending attack or hear the chittering of a large insect someone out of sight.
Skyrim is incredibly atmospheric and cinematic in places and there are particular areas of the game were you feel totally immersed as if part of a movie. Particular highlights for me including horror scenes in a haunted house straight out of your worst nightmares and storming a citadel as part of a rebellious army. However, these things are merely the tip of the iceberg and the the variety of gameplay is what makes this game worth the purchase. You can approach the game as a simple hack and slash affair scything down goblins and chopping off a bandit chiefs head and indeed, there is a certain amount of visceral enjoyment to that. However, you can also get married and enjoyed all the advantages (and disadvantages!) therein, open a merchants stall, become a detective solving murders or even a singing bard. The devil really is in the detail in this game and it would be nigh on impossible to explain all the options available to you.
As I have mentioned earlier Skyrim is far from perfect in terms of gameplay although if one thing frustrates you, you can simply tackle something else. Combat in particular is very much a mixed bag. Unlike many Role Playing Games, Skyrim's combat system is largely stripped down to make it accessible meaning you have little variety in terms of attacks and defence with the enemy pulling off spectacular thrusts and spins while you look somewhat clumsy. This is compensated by some superb "kill sequences" which provide a Mortal Kombat-esque array of finish him moves. The use of magic also makes combat far more of a tactical affair as you summon warriors to fight by your side or use your raw powers to force enemies away from you.
In terms of difficulty, the freeform nature of the questing also leads to massive unpredictabilities in terms of what you are stumbling into. If you simply follow the main quests in a linear fashion you will likely get destroyed time and again as you enter dungeons and other areas woefully underprepared, underpowered and unequipped. The game doesn't tell you to go off and do a number of side quests to level up and as such unlock some decent attacks and find some decent equipment but after you get annihilated by a giant or bandit for the millionth time, it's a lesson you learn the hard way. Ironically, dragons the foe that are supposed to provide the main thrust and threat of the story are arguably one of the easiest foes to defeat as you pick them off easily with your bow.
I seem to be talking a lot about the problems with Skyrim but that doesn't mean I don't like it. In fact it's a great game that should have something that appeals to everyone. The only thing I would say is that because it does have something for everyone, it doesn't quite excel at anything. In aiming to appeal to the masses Skyrim is a watered down Role Playing Game but it is still a fine game and one I would recommend to anyone. It lacks the tight narrative of an Arkham City but when you get this much gameplay for your money, it's hard to care.
The superhero game genre has been largely destroyed by game developers who have time and again made half-hearted cash ins of movie licenses. Batman has fared better than most in the chequered history of super hero gaming with some passable titles released over the years. This is largely thanks to the lack of any "superpowers" making the game dynamics far easier to translate. However, it was only when Batman: Arkham Asylum moved entirely away from any movie or cartoon tie in that Batman really came into his own.
The main reason Arkham Asylum in 2009 was such an engrossing experience is that it immediately sucked you into a rich and intense storyline and Btaman: Arkham City continues in the same vein. However, gone are the claustrophobic walls and corridors of an Asylum and instead you are treated to a whole locked down City to explore. Think Escape from New York with Batman instead of Kurt Russell and you are not too wide of the mark. However, this game is all about humanising Batman and as such you are initially thrust into the action not as the caped crusader but rather, as Bruce Wayne. This introduction intentionally throws you off kilter a little but builds the tension beautifully as you are thrown into a microcosm of corrupt city life complete with thugs and super villains. From here the story simply takes off and builds to a unique climax that I will not spoil for you all.
The gameplay is far more varied this time round with a lot more freeplay despite a strong central theme throughout. You can choose to steadfastly follow the main story or you might hear a cry for help from a political prisoner and decide to investigate or even stumble across a fiendish sub plot by such villains as Penguin, Ra's al Guhl and many others. Whereas in Arkham Asylum the goal was always relatively linear, this time round you are encouraged, rewarded and punished in equal measure for exploration. There are clues and riddle littered throughout Arkham City and the scope of gameplay is vast. The main storyline alone is epic but with the plethora of sidequests and secrets to uncover there really is an almost endless longevity to this game.
Batman is far more equipped this time round with many of his trademark gadgets readily available and upgradeable. You feel genuinely like a lean mean crimefighting machine as you eavesdrop, solve puzzles, stealth attack and distract enemies with a variety of weaponry from batarangs to freeze grenades. Hand to hand combat has been improved even further with some genuinely intuitive button bashing combinations justly rewarded with explosive knockdown and animations. However, the game really excels when Batman has to use his stealth and ability to strike fear to take down heavily armed and clever adversaries. Will you hide in a great and drag surprise them? How about throwing a sonic batarang to throw them off your scent? Either way however it is not a foregone conclusion that you will be victorious and it is much tougher this time round to dispatch the bad guys. Your enemy actually tries to outwit you destroying vantage points and checking ledges as they go. Even the most base thugs involved in the various turf wars will learn and adapt. This game gives an assumption that you will be au fait with the various gadgetry and tactics Batman can deploy and for the rookie it can be very unforgiving but equally rewarding.
Everything about Arkham City is polished from the flawless voice acting to the stunning graphics. The voice acting in particular shines through and the attention to detail as thugs around Gotham comment on your actions and their subsequent consequences draws you in and makes you feel like you are having an effect. I can't emphasise enough how much you feel like you are Batman as you play this game and this is helped along by intuitive controls that make both combat and exploration seamless. Of course, this is all helped along by a stunning soundtrack and flawless sound throughout.
There are no real criticisms I can make of this game as even on completion the availability of challenge modes, side missions and unlockable characters make the game almost endless. The various versions available give you extra storylines to play with Catwoman in particular tying seamlessly into the main story although I was disappointed by Robin's rather brief appearance. Many have stated that there should have been an online mode but I honestly cannot see what that would accomplish and it would have felt tagged on for me. All in all Arkham City is the most rounded game available on the PS3 at this time and I include Skyrim in this. It's storyline is second to none and it is simply the ultimate single player experience. In 2009 Arkham Asylum was the best single player game I had ever played. Three years later and along comes Arkham City to go one better.
When future King Fabious's bride to be is kidnapped by an evil sorcerer he vows to rescue her. Unfortunately, he is forced to bring his lazy brother Thadeus along as their father threatens to cut him off if he does not prove his worth as a hero. Can Fabious rescue his love before "The Fuckening" begins and will Thadeus find his inner hero?
No you are not dreaming, "Your Highness" is a film in which our heroes have to stop "The Fuckening". Hilarious right? No and that is sadly as funny as this film gets as we are treated to an array of knob gags and nudity. Imagine if you will, if America tried to remake Monty Python and The Holy Grail. This film would be the end result. It lacks wit or satire, and despite clearly having a love for the fantasy genre, is an insult to it.
It has been many years since a parody movie has worked and "Your Highness" never gets close to being successful. The gags are very predictable and often offensive with a fair dose of homophobia littered throughout the film, it lacks any sort of subtlety but has none of the charm of say a "Carry On" movie and the characters are all unlikeable.
Bizarrely, this film boasts a decent array of acting talent that is totally wasted. Natalie Portman, Zooey Deschanel and Charles Dance are all actors you would never expect to be involved in such a total catastrophe with Portman in particular playing a straight role well in perhaps the only decent performance. Deschanel on the other hand gurns and whimpers throughout and is incredibly irritating. You have to wonder whether these actors even acknowledge the script before they take on the role. I have to admit being buggered by a Minotaur sounds funnier when you write it down!
However, maybe the worst thing about the film is James Franco as Thadeous. His stoner character is one of the most irritating you will ever see and he lacks any of the likable qualities a Seth Rogen or Jack Black would have brought to the role. It's just really hard to care about what happens to him and his transformation into a hero is insincere and unconvincing.
Watching a fantasy parody you don't expect depth but you then have to have a film full of laughs and I can honestly say I didn't laugh once. Ironically the film works best doing the big budget action sequences which are close to enjoyable. The rest of the film misses the mark entirely and you have to wonder what exactly they were thinking when they made this. A massive blot on the copybook of every single person involved.
When Asgard is infiltrated by Frost Giants, Thor is determined to seek retribution and glory by leading his team into their lands and seeking violent retribution. His father Odin is furious to find that Thor has broken an uneasy truce going back centuries. Stripping Thor of his powers, he casts him out of Asgard and exiles him to Earth were a still arrogant Thor must find redemption. Can he return to Asgard and help stop a war that threatens to tear apart the universe?
Thor is stupid, it's total nonsense and it is also an absolute bucketload of fun. The superhero genre has been done to death but the most enjoyable outings such as Iron Man and Spiderman, tend to not take themselves too seriously and Thor definitely falls into this category. Marvel comics are often full of massively over the top characters and Thor is certainly evidence of that as he blusters his way through this film.
Any film directed by Kenneth Brannagh is bound to be big and bold and this film appears almost operatic in terms of theme and costume. Asgard is as grandiose as you could imagine and the characters are all kitted out in ridiculously extravagant and impractical outfits which match their personalities. Anthony Hopkins plays an aging and frustrated Odin with the gravitas you would expect and you find him more often than not bellowing out epic speeches to anyone who will listen. Granted, Hopkins isn't exactly being stretched in terms of range but he performs his part well. Similarly, Chris Hemsworth is the perfect choice for Thor. He plays the title role with a suitable amount of hamming it up while giving a cockiness and charm to the role that works perfectly in terms of the silliness of the movie. This is tempered perfectly by Natalie Portman in the straight role as Thor's love interest on Earth. The chemistry between them works well and there are some real moments of humour that add to the light hearted nature of the film.
Although the action sequences on Asgard are undoubtedly extravagant and fun, the real enjoyment in this film is when Thor is cast down to Earth. The film swiftly switches from action to comedy and there are some great lines and slapstick moments here as Thor tries to become accustomed to this strange new environment. As with all Marvel films, it is also littered with references to other characters within the Marvel Universe which fans will lap up so watch out for subtle references to a certain Bruce Banner and Tony Stark. The fact this film clearly sets up for the forthcoming Avengers and Captain America also means you should keep a lookout for hints and watch all the way to the end.
A satisfying and silly hero movie, Thor is enjoyable from start to finish. The lavish production, over the top acting and laugh out loud comedy make this the perfect bit of guilty escapism and comes highly recommended.
When Babydoll is wrongly institutionalized by her wicked stepfather with the help of a corrupt orderly, she begins the descent into madness. As the threat of lobotomy looms Babydoll retreats further into a fantasy world were she, along with her friends battle for their freedom using an array of weird and wonderful weaponry. As Babydoll progresses across a war torn landscape it becomes clear that there is an element of reality in her fantasy world. Can she escape the madness that surrounds her and make a break for freedom?
Style over substance seems to be the newest fad in modern cinema and it is one of the many things I cannot get into. Sucker Punch is one of the worst examples of this as it becomes little more than an explosive music video for long periods. The premise is interesting enough and it all starts off with real promise with a grim and gothic setting giving a sombre tone. However, it soon descends into little more than an excuse for as much anime style shooting and sword wielding as can be feasibly fitted in to a film. These scenes are exciting certainly, but they are also totally nonsensical and despite there being short scenes were the lead character Babydoll provides some explanation for the various settings which seem to be a medieval Japan, World War 1 and the future amongst others none of them really make sense. The whole thing hangs loose around the backdrop of Babydoll's perceived madness.
The scenes within the asylum are by far the most interesting in terms of giving a genuine understanding of the various characters mentalities and backgrounds, However, they are not lengthy enough to give more than a fleeting idea as to their motivations. This is a shame as there are some potentially good performances here especially from Oscar Isaac as the corrupt orderly who seems like he is just about to get his teeth into a good old bad guy role before it is pulled away from him in favour of a bang, crash, wallop approach.
Is Sucker Punch supposed to be sexy? The fantasy sequences are set in some sort of Moulin Rouge style brothel with showgirls dancing for the pleasure of their masters. The lead character Babydoll is apparently so good at this that it sends men into a trance. This in turn for some reason leads her into the pre-described fantasy world were she and her friends are kitted out in fetish gear, guns and swords. Whatever Director Zack Snyder was aiming at, it was definitely a swing and a miss. It is more sordid than sexy, more confusing than intriguing and the action while accomplished, is messy and full of pseudo intelligent claptrap complete with a narrator who insists on doing his best impression of Star Trek's Spock throughout.
Sucker Punch suffers in never knowing quite what it is supposed to be. Is it supposed to be cerebral like Inception? Zen like action like The Matrix? Gothic like Batman? It is ends up being a little of all of these but the whole is far away from being greater than the sum of its parts. The performances are largely dialed in and any of interest are not given the screen time to shine. Even the action just didn't hold my attention and this isn't helped by the fact everything is so damn loud, particularly the soundtrack that blasts throughout allegedly to add atmosphere but in reality covering the tracks of a terrible narrative.
Easily the worst film I have seen this year I would suggest you look elsewhere to get your kicks. Snyder suggests this was "Alice in Wonderland with guns", probably the biggest posthumous insult Lewis Carroll will ever receive.
Bounty Hunter Samus Aran answers a distress call from a spaceship which appears to be deserted on arrival. A platoon of marines from The Galactic Federation who have also answered the call greet her in a less than friendly manner led by her former colleague Adam. After an attack by a hostile and mysterious alien force Adam reluctantly asks for Samus's help on the condition she follows his orders. What has happened to the crew, who are these strange aliens and where have they come from?
Metroid:Other M is finally a worthy successor and continuation of the Metroid series. Super Metroid for the Super Nintendo is arguably my favourite game of all time and as such I have been hyper critical of the various, often flawed Metroid releases since. Fortunately, Other M is finally a game that I can play without scowling at massive flaws in gameplay, plot or character.
Super Metroid combined a fascinating plot with a sprawling landscape and a perfect combination of two dimensional shooting and platform action. Other M does all this but drags the franchise into the 21st Century with a use of 3D and excellent graphics. That isn't a typo by the way, this a Wii game with superb graphics which would not look out of place on higher end systems like the Playstation 3 or Xbox 360. Graphically the game really is beautiful using shadowing and an anime style to provide an atmospheric and engrossing backdrop to your acrobatic exploits.
In fact the atmospherics of the game are perfect throughout with the spaceship suitably dark and vacuous while sometimes claustrophobic enough to make you feel like a character in an Alien movie. This is helped along by a very eerie musical score that cranks up the tension throughout the gameplay and the fact that you play a large portion of the game in third person. The third person viewpoint is perfect for the platform and shooting elements of the game and the camera angles rarely let you down allowing for some intuitive and often fast paced jump, roll and shoot gameplay. Samus as a character is hard as nails but this is the first Metroid title that makes more use of the fact that she is a woman. The strong narrative throughout explores her thoughts and fears without ever making her appear weak. Indeed the respect she garners from the platoon of marines she encounters shows how tough she really is and it is nice to see a gun toting female being treated seriously in a game.
The emphasis in Metroid titles has always been on exploration, weaponry and big boss battles and Other M continues in this vein. You are given clear checkpoints to aim for and gameplay is largely linear with you needing to complete a puzzle, kill certain foes or acquire a new weapon to progress. However, the linearity never becomes an issue thanks to the vastness of the explorable areas and the feeling of achievement you get when you do make it into a new area. The greatest strength and weakness of the Metroid series has always been figuring out how to move to the next bit and that remains so in Other M as often puzzles are so obscure or hidden from view that you can be scratching your head for hours. This does however, make it all the more rewarding when you do figure out and you will often find yourself feeling very silly when you realise that vent you past earlier was your escape route.
Samus remains a wonderfully diverse character control. The ability to run, jump, bounce off walls and morph into a ball at will opens up a whole range of platforming opportunities. This all before you even fire your gun which as an extension of Samus's arm feels instinctive. In fact, the control system on a whole feels very intuitive and simply using the Wiimote sideways rather than plugging in the nunchuk gives a real retro feel while allowing for some precision platform jumping and shooting. The game switches from 3D to 2D on occasion which is a great homage to the original games while also aiding the gameplay but perhaps my only gripe is the use of first person to fire missiles. You have to turn your Wiimote upright to go into first person and fire a missile at a door or alien as while as explore your environment more closely. This isn't as responsive as it should be and also often leaves you vulnerable to attack. Not so much a problem when you are blowing up a door but when you are expected to hit a sweet spot on a bad guy while dodging shots, it can be very frustrating.
However, this is a minor quibble and the actual interaction with the aliens is explosive and entertaining. Battles are a nice mix of intuitive blast and hope and combo moves with lethal strikes. The combat is a little automated as you don't need to aim particularly well to hit your target, but the last minute sidesteps and lethal headshots make for some scintillating gameplay with the now obligatory bullet time used to great effect. Of course, what every Metroid fan wants to see the most is ridiculously improbable, screen filling boss fights and Other M doesn't dissapoint. Some of the bosses are huge but refreshingly, they all provide a different challenge while still having that obvious weak spot to aim for.
You always feel like you are making progress in Other M and this is largely thanks to the intelligent use of cutscenes which drive the story along. It is also nice to see the human side of Samus being developed throughout and the cutscenes also often provide reward with Adam giving Samus permission to unlock another lethal weapon in her arsenal. Remember that doorway you couldn't get through before? You can now you have permission to blast it open with your super missile!
The learning curve on Other M is very steep and you might find yourself dying quite a lot initially. Fortunately, the save points are relatively frequent, although it is frustrating if you reset to have to wade through areas you have already traversed to get to that boss you just can't beat. However, all in all Metroid:Other M is an epic platformer that has a real old school, "one more go" feel to it. It can be frustrating, it is definitely hardcore but it is gaming as it should be with a kickass heroine to boot!
When carefree and wealthy bachelor Britt Reid loses his father in a sudden and mysterious fashion he is left with a media empire he has no idea how to run. Worse still he has sacked the one man who makes a decent cup of coffee! Re-hiring coffee maker and gadget creator extraordinaire Kato turns out to be the best decision he has ever made as in a drunken stupor they decide to become masked superheroes for the night. Unfortunately, for them they have attracted the attention of a local crime lord who has decided to make killing them a priority. How can they hide from this new enemy? With their new found notoriety do they even want to?
As you can see this isn't a thinking persons film. It is fundamentally a slapstick superhero movie played for laughs for the large majority largely thanks to main star Seth "Knocked Up" Rogen's role as executive producer and main star. Michael Gondry might be the Director of "The Green Hornet" but anyone expecting a cerebral film such as "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind" is set to be severely disappointed. Gondry's presence is almost totally absent from the film and it is clear that this is Seth Rogen comedy vehicle. That isn't to say this is a terrible film, just don't expect it to be an award winner at the Oscars!
Superhero movies always seem to work better when the hero doesn't give off a sense of invincibility and you certainly couldn't accuse Rogen's "Green Hornet" of that. This bumbling figure is carried along by the impressive martial arts skills and James Bond's "Q like" gadgetry of sidekick Kato played with some vigor by Asian popstar Jay Chou. Taking on the mantle of Kato is no mean feat when Bruce Lee took the role in the 1960's TV series. However, Chou pays homage to Lee in a number of ways and his action scenes are definite highlights in terms of turning "Green Hornet" into a more credible movie.
More of a buddy movie than anything the interplay between Rogen and Chou is what makes the film ultimately worth your time. The chemistry they have is great and they share some great comedic lines and fight scenes which add charm to what would otherwise be a run of the mill action flick. Unfortunately, there is an issue however with how the film flows. There have been a lot of cast changes to this film over the many years of it's pending release and I think they have taken there toll as the film jumps from action to comedy and doesn't seem to know what it wants to be. This film reminds me a lot of Jackie Chan's buddy movies whether it be with Owen Wilson in "Shanghai Noon" or Chris Tucker in "Rush Hour". Unlike, these films though it isn't clear that this is supposed to be an out and out comedy and I found myself confused as to whether I should be laughing or not.
This is a shame because despite being disjointed the moments of comedy and action are pretty great. The gadgetry on show is exciting and amusing while the action sequences although resorting to the cheap tactic of bullet time and slowdown hit the mark. The performances apart from Rogen and Chou are largely dialled in with Cameron Diaz playing the ditzy love interest she has in a million and one movies. Christopher Waltz playing the hammiest villain you will ever see (complete with terrible Russian accent) is either brilliant or terrible depending on whether he is playing it for laughs or not.
All in all "The Green Hornet" is a weird one. Undoubtedly entertaining it is so patchy that it seems to have been shot and stapled together seemingly in no discernible order. Worth a watch but undoubtedly a throwaway DVD rental at best.
There are such a wide range of hot drinks machines out there nowadays it can be difficult to know which one is for you. However, few machines have the variety of a Tassimo which will make you almost any hot beverage you think of. Whether it be tea, coffee or hot chocolate it will make them all. Therefore, the only question for me when I upgraded from my old Tassimo model to the Tassimo T40 was had they managed to make it even better?
My old Tassimo was manufacturer by Braun. However, for whatever reason they stopped making it and Bosch have taken over and brought out a whole new range of machines in the T20, T40 and T65 models. There is very little difference between the models with the only major difference being a brita water filter on the more expensive T65 model. However, I have never really noticed the difference between filtered and non-filtered water so plumped for the cheaper middle option in the form of the T40. Stylistically there is little difference and it just that little bit sleeker than the cheapest option, the T20.
My old Tassimo was a bit of a behemoth. In comparison the new slimline design of the T40 is a lot more aesthetically pleasing and is a spacesaver in our already cramped kitchen. Whereas our old machine was all about the width, the T40 is more of a front to back machine with the cup holder and buttons at the front and a far more discreet water tank at the back. In matt black the new Tassimo is easily the most impressive looking thing in my kitchen (apart from me of course!) and adds a touch of class.
The Tassimo really is a complete drinks system and the addition of a digital panel to the T40 around the start/stop button adds to the feel of this being an advanced gadget while keeping the simplicity of the whole idea. Drinks are made by popping in a T-disc and pressing the button. It really is that easy and compared to traditional coffee makers it is a wonderfully painless process. The discs are all barcoded so the machine can read them dispensing exactly the right amount of brew and if you want more water the one button system allows you to do so just by keeping hold of the button after the auto cycle.
The speed of drinks making is what has always appealed to me with Tassimo systems and the T40 continues this trend with drinks never taking more than a minute from start to finish. Once you fill the tank with water it does not boil like a traditional kettle but rather heats the water on demand as it filters through into your brew.
A major criticism of my old Tassimo was that it was very noisy sounding like someone was driving a tank through my kitchen. While the new T40 doesn't eliminate the noise it is a lot quieter and the "quiet brew" technology is now a more accurate description than it was previously. It doesn't frighten our cat anymore!
The range of drinks available for Tassimo is vast including a variety of speciality coffees, teas and hot chocolates and I can honestly say that a lot of them are as good as being in a coffee shop. Whether it be the impressive three-layered effect of a Latte Machiatto (a disc that was no longer compatible with my old machine) or a good old cup of English Breakfast tea there is something for everyone to enjoy with this machine. The water tank is large and as such you can easily make four drinks for you and your friends without a need to refill and every drink is made identically and to perfection.
Cleaning the Tassimo T40 is one of the easiest things in the World. The machine comes supplied with a cleaning disc that you insert and will filter water through cleaning the internal workings of the machine. If you do this after every set of drinks you make you rarely need to do anything else and it takes seconds. Bosch have decided that you don't need to dismantle as much of the machine and unlike my older Braun model a warm cloth cleans externals of the machine with little effort. Bosch have also added a descaling routine that gives the machine a good service and takes twenty minutes which prevents the build up of limescale that my old machine suffered from. In fact, the cleaning of the Tassimo has improved massively and it was easy to begin with! Keeping the machine as if you first bought it really is that easy although bizarrely the cleaning disc is supposed to be stored behind the water tank which becomes tiresome to remove every time you want to clean it. Much better to simply leave it in between drinks.
The only real drawback of this Tassimo system as with all of them, and indeed the majority of drinks machines is the cost of the discs themselves. Varying from £3 through to £5 for the rarer speciality drinks for between eight and sixteen discs/drinks. Still loads cheaper than going to a coffee shop but not as cheap as a jar of Kenco Instant! Mind you the difference in quality is massive and I believe that despite the cost, the drinks are value for money.
The price of the T40 seems to veer wildly from week to week anywhere between seventy and one hundred and twenty quid and I would think waiting for it to be at the lower scale is worthwhile. Registering online even gives you twenty quids worth of free drinks which is more than worthwhile and the online store offers far more variety than elsewhere. Although Tassimo drinks are available in nearly all supermarkets the variety is sparse compared to the huge range available from the official website.
I would highly recommend the Tassimo T40 to all lovers of hot drinks in general. It gives you the luxury of the coffee shop experience in the comfort of your own home. Bosch have improved significantly on the original design and using my Tassimo continues to be one of life's little pleasures.
Michael Mc Intyre is a comedian that divides opinion. He is unashamedly middle class and his popularity is such that inverse snobbery is often the norm. As a nation we seemingly don't like admitting to liking somebody that has appealed to a mass audience. However, I have no such qualms. I am a huge fan of his style of observational and self-deprecating comedy. As such I greeted the receipt of his autobiography as a gift on Christmas Day with much enthusiasm.
It is rare that an autobiography holds my attention but "Life & Laughing" grabbed my attention from the start. Mc Intyre writes in a conversational style very similar to his stand up material. This makes for a very easy read and his thoughts flow throughout the pages. Although he does tell his story in a relatively chronological fashion, his penchant for being distracted comes through leading to several meanderings away from a timeline with Mc Intyre sharing anecdotes and jokes from past, present and future. Mc Intyre's tendency to drift off-topic makes his autobiography quite cryptic at points as you find yourself wondering what on earth he is referring to. His eccentricity is clear throughout but this only adds to the charm of the man.
This is a very open account of Mc Intyre's life to date and I liked that he makes no apologies for a privileged childhood. Although I was surprised to find out such things as spending his young life around people like Kenny Everett he doesn't talk of his showbiz background with any air of arrogance. In fact, he is quite derogatory about his mother's terrible acting and his father's forays into film. For a man who appears to have such a positive outlook there are some revelations here that shocked me. Yes he had a comparatively privileged upbringing but his loneliness as a child in boarding school and his reliance on his angry Grandmother for money from games of scrabble are quite saddening. This loneliness and a lack of confidence that you don't associate with him appears to have carried through into his adult life as he tells of his failed sexual exploits with women as a teen and an adult. Despite being hugely successful Mc Intyre clearly still has self esteem issues that run into his comedy and it is easy to see why from this book.
Mc Intyre clearly counts himself as very fortunate to be in the position he is in today and "Life & Laughing" reflects this in his writing. He talks candidly of his failed attempts at film script in University closely followed by his first forays into stand up comedy. It is clear that his life could have been very different as he jobbed at open mike nights for a long time before getting any sort of break. Clearly a bumbling clown of a figure there is tale after tale here of him dying on stage and I found it fascinating to see how such an initially awful comedian turned into what he is today. He is happy to share his initial (terrible) jokes and methodology even revealing the mystery of the man drawer! Reading his thought processes made this book rewarding reading almost on its own.
Running alongside his narrative throughout is his blossoming relationship with his "current" wife. I won't spoil it for you too much but you can't help but like such a hopeless romantic. His clumsy wooing of her is genuine and heartwarming and you can't help but root for him. Mc Intyre is one of those people that you feel like you should hate but the more I read "Life & Laughing" the more I liked and respected him. No autobiography would be complete without a full complement of embarassing pictures and Mc Intyre doesn't disappoint as the book as plenty of glossy pictures of him as a mulleted teen and cute chinese toddler.
Despite undoubtedly loving "Life & Laughing" if I had one criticism it would be that Mc Intyre's need to please his audience remains throughout. This isn't bad on its own but does lead to lots of crowd pleasing gags that you get the feeling don't really need to be there. I did laugh out loud at a fair few though so it isn't exactly a major issue. "Life & Laughing" has emphasised for me what I already knew. Michael Mc Intyre is a nice bloke who has done well for himself. If you want to find out how he got there this is a book I recommend.
The Vectron Wave is one of the toys that were heavily advertised pre-Christmas 2010 and looked incredibly exciting. Hovering on its own and controlled by your hand this futuristic toy had us from the get go. Like most of these gadgets however, does it have any real longevity?
The early signs are good as it looks very much like a UFO coming out of the box. With its distinctive look and bright colouring my daughter and I were very excited. The Wave itself requires very little assembly. The only thing you attach to it is a plastic stick that clips into the top and acts as a handle in which you can grab hold and toss it. The box deceptively makes this look like an antenna but this is certainly not the case and all the wiring is stored away securely inside. The design is very futuristic but on close inspection it is also very cheap. All plastic and polystyrene to keep it light, it doesn't look durable and the plastic blade looks flimsy.
Once your throwing arm is snapped into place you might think you are ready to go but unfortunately we encountered our first issue with the Vectron Wave, a lack of batteries. To charge the device you plug it into a charging unit but this unit doesn't run off the mains but rather needs SIX AA batteries which are not included. The lack of these batteries is a massive drawback. Most of the remote control devices we have owned of any quality have chargeable batteries inbuilt that you then plug into the mains. However, because the Vectron Wave needs to be very light to work, it relies on a short charge rather than internal batteries. Charging doesn't take long (around an hour) but this does mean that you get very little playtime out of the device. On average we can operate the Vectron Wave for no more than fifteen minutes before it starts to die.
Fortunately playtime is all kinds of fun! We learnt early on the Vectron Wave needs lots of room. The manufacturer recommends a room of 4x4 meters or more and that sounds about right. Turning the device on is like setting off a firework as you flip the switch and stand well back. The Vectron Wave's blade underneath spins rapidly and it starts to rise eventually reaching the ceiling. On our first attempt it hit the lightshade veering wildly around the room knocking into me, my wife and then the dog much to her annoyance. The reset button on the charging unit which turns the Vectron Wave off remotely became my best friend before it turned into a scene from a horror movie. There is a reason this product is recommended for ages 8 and up and I think they have that about right. By our fourth attempt and lots of room clearing we soon got the hang of the initial launch procedure. The Vectron Wave rises to the ceiling once then descends while it's motion sensors decide where the floor is. When it rises again and starts to lower it will hover about halfway between floor and ceiling and is then ready for playing with.
There are a few things you can do with the Vectron Wave but one of the most fun is simply putting your hand underneath it and watching it rise up thanks to the sensors. As it rises and descends we all started to become more confident and took turns showboating our skills as if we were magicians and doing daring headers with it as if we were Premier League footballers. You can also holding the stick on the top if you have the required co-ordination and it will continue to spin wildly in the air. You can then try and toss it across to someone else which usually results in them fearfully jumping out the way! There is definitely a knack to this as it often boomerangs back at you to the point were you reflexively duck.
All this is undoubtedly a tonne of fun. Unfortunately after less than fifteen minutes it is all over far to quickly and you are back to putting it on charge or packing it away. This leads to another issue, the packaging simply isn't efficient to store the Vectron Wave. The product itself is required to be flimsy to keep flight but this makes it very delicate. A thin cardboard box is therefore not the right thing to store it in and we have already had a few lucky escapes were my fortunately light footed daughter has stepped on it. If the polystyrene breaks the device is renders useless and this is very possible is this box. We soon decided a solid plastic box was more suitable otherwise we would have been lucky if it lasted out the week. Would it have killed them to give you a decent container?
The Vectron Wave is undoubtedly fun although the durability of it and the short charge means it might only be fun in the short term and considering we paid twenty quid for it, I wouldn't call it excellent value. If ever there was a case for being able to give something two and a half stars, this would be it. Tentatively recommended.
When Mickey finds his master The Sorcerer has created his own miniature world with his magic paintbrush he cannot help but have a look. Unfortunately, he spills paint thinner all over the picture and is dragged inside by a vengeful force. Can he escape this mysterious wasteland?
Epic Mickey really has a lot to live up to. You give a game a title like that and it better be bloody brilliant! The early signs are good, it won several awards at the prestigious E3 awards including "Best Wii Game 2010" and "Best Platformer". However, it would appear that people have clearly been fooled once again by style over substance.
There is no doubt that this game is a massive surprise. Disney and indeed the Nintendo Wii are hardly synonymous with serious gaming. It was therefore a huge curveball to find out that the World's most famous mouse is the central character in a dark and brooding story in which he may very well be the villain. Despite being largely a 3D platformer the gamplay reflects Mickey's potential for darkness as he is given several decisions which shape his adventure. Some are made blatant such as whether you choose to save a gremlin or take a treasure chest which catapults him to his death, others are more subtle thanks to the intriguing use of Mickey's paintbrush which acts as both weapon and saviour. Will you paint in the pipes to get past the bad guys or would you rather just disolve them with paint thinner? Such decisions in gameplay effect how your story progresses.
The decision making and use of paint and thinner are by far the most interesting aspects of gameplay. Without these, Epic Mickey is nothing more than a generic 3D platformer. However, with them you are treated to a variety of puzzles and moral decisions. The decisions in particular have a fascinating visual effect on Mickey as he begins to drip ink if he makes darker decisions. Without doubt the use of paint and thinner stop the game from descending into what is largely a lot of "fetch quests" in which you complete several side quests to progress towards another area. Without this unique gameplay mechanic the running about would be very tedious.
As a huge Disney fan I loved the level design of this game as it is very closely linked to Disneyland itself and "Wasteland" is a wonderfully dark and twisted version of Disney. There are numerous references to rides and locations such as It's a Small World and Main Street USA given an evil twist. Add to this an ethereal twist on Disney music which will have you racking your brains on were you have heard it and you have a perfect setting.
It is therefore a great shame that it is so frustrating trying to get Mickey to do what you want. This is largely down to some god-awful controls and camera. The lag when you press the jump button is noticeable to the point were you soon learn to press it a second before you want to jump. Pointing your Wiimote at the screen to "paint" or "thin" also suffers from an annoying lack of accuracy to the degree were you are simply spraying paint at random. Perhaps most annoying however are the camera angles. Game design 101 is make sure your camera angles are right. All too often find yourself staring at a wall or into the abyss with the camera centre button doing nothing to help. This leads to far too many leaps of faith which end in your demise. Such a design flaw is almost unforgivable in modern gaming, especially when Nintendo themselves have been far more successful at this in their Mario Galaxy series. Added to a nunchuk that never seems quite precise enough for wehre you wish to go and the controls on Epic Mickey are a serious problem.
While not ruining the game, the 3D platform elements are definitely a disappointment. Fortunately, there are a number of retro 2D segments that save things somewhat. Those who remember early Mickey platform games such as "Mickey Mania" on the Super Nintendo will love these sections and those who don't will enjoy playing through old cartoons like "Steamboat Willie" and "Mickey and the Beanstalk". There are also a number of challenging boss fights which spice things up and are suitably large scale enough to intimidate. Unfortunately these are few and far between and there are far too many "fetch me this to get that" bits.
Thankfully the story is engaging enough to keep your attention despite the gameplay bordering on the mundane. Mickey's Wasteland counterparts are all rejected ideas and versions of popular characters in his own World and all add a sadness and bitterness to the story. None moreso than Mickey's wronged cousin Waldo. Graphically these are brilliantly brought to life, often in black and white and their ghostly sheen contrasts beautifully with the colour and dark of Wasteland. Bizarrely however, rather than going for voice acting, Disney have decided that huge reams of texts combined with grunting and squeaking is how characters should communicate. Whether this is due to the Wii's lack of power or a genuine design choice by Disney I don't know but it doesn't work. Would it have killed them to at least have them voice Mickey Mouse?
Epic Mickey is such a wasted opportunity. In its attempt to bring a serious Disney game to the masses they have forgotten the basics of gameplay. The controls are so flawed the game is often more a chore than a joy. You should never enjoy watching someone playing a game more than playing it yourself! A game that even this massive Disney fan, finds tough to recommend.
"Pig goes Pop!" was a totally left field addition to my daughter's Christmas list of 2010. We had never seen or heard of it but she insisted that she wanted it. Father Christmas being the misguided fool that he undoubtedly is, decided my daughter had been good enough to receive this totally random present.
Firstly, let's get the good things about the game out the way. It comes in a ruddy big box (which always impresses a young child), it requires no assembly and it is very sturdy with no bits to fall off. Perhaps it is best of all...no batteries! After spending what seemed like an eternity putting a variety of batteries into numerous devices, it was refreshing to take something out that just worked.
The aim of this game is simple. A huge and colourful plastic pig is dressed as a chef with a jacket buckled across his portly midriff. Each player takes turns to roll a coloured dice which decides which colour plastic burger you put in his mouth. Each burger has a number from 1-4 on it which tells the player how many times you press on his head inflating his stomach. The game continues until the belly inflates enough for his jacket to pop open in a similar vein to the buck in "Buckaroo". The player who does this is then out and the game continues until one player remains and is declared the winner. Players may also roll a X which misses their turn or a multi-coloured symbol which lets them pick any colour they like. However, it is actually beneficial to miss a turn so it seems a bit pointless to have it!
Clearly aimed at younger players, quick gameplay combined with the colourful burgers and a popping pig should have made this a winner. The colour recognition and numbers are subtle enough to provide education while being fun enough for kids not to notice. Unfortunately, the main selling point is were it all falls down...the pig doesn't ruddy well pop! Whole games can go buy with nothing happening as all the burgers vanish into the pig without a sign of popping. When it does pop it varies from a weak pfft of air to the jacket not opening at all. You can empty the air out by turning the pig's tail but no matter how many times we played, the pig steadfastly didn't pop or took such close examination to notice if it had actually happened, the excitement was all but gone.
Games such as "Buckaroo", "Perfection" and countless others all rely on the element of surprise and play it for nervous laughs. "Pig goes Pop" completely misses the point in what can only be described as a massive design flaw. The pig's stomach is supposed to visibly inflate but you can't tell the difference and this game has a very short shelf life as a result. Such a shame that such a fundamental design flaw ruins what is a very good idea. Even at the relatively cheap price of £16 at time of writing, it isn't worth the purchase.
Recommended for ages 4 and over.
Call of Duty: Black Ops really should be a flawless game being the latest of many Call of Duty releases. The good people at Activision should be producing a picture perfect first person shooter by this point. It is therefore irritating that Call of Duty: Black Ops is more a step sideways than a step forward in the Call of Duty franchise.
To give the developers their due, the single player campaign is largely excellent providing a rich and varied plot and a variety in gameplay. You play the role of Alex Mason, special operations agent who, through a series of impressive flashbacks and cutscenes, is trying to figure out what exactly is going on. The use of flashbacks lends the single player campaign nicely to a variety of settings from communist Russia to Cuba allowing for some innovative maps. By reliving Mason's past you are not just bogged down in the traditional aim and fire first person shooter that other titles have been guilty of. Instead you get to use your stealth skills, be a sniper, drive a variety of vehicles amongst other things. In fact, such is the immersion of the story you feel like the lead character in a movie and as you escape on motorbikes and speed across landscapes, the cold war setting makes you feel like Steve Mc Queen, James Bond and Indiana Jones all rolled into one! Add to this a variety of fun and innovative weapons alongside a progressive learning curve and you have a pretty much perfect, single player game. There is a degree of linearity to proceedings but you never really mind and there is a satisfying number of twists and turns to keep you guessing.
Unfortunately, Call of Duty games are not really about the single player. Multi-player gaming is were these games live or die and I found myself positively let down on that front. Very little has changed since previous titles Modern Warfare 2 and indeed it plays more like the older World at War title. Weaponry is fine with a massive arrays of guns in all their forms from machine gun to sniper rifle and the more you play, the better the weapons you unlock. Weapons are also massively customisable to suit your style of play. If you want precision shooting you can add an appropriate sight or grip to improve accuracy. You can even add grenade launchers and shotgun attachments to your weapons to turn you into a one man killing machine. The use of COD points earned via match experience or completion of purchasable "contracts" adds an interesting new set of challenges alongside the usual "so many headshots" list of achievements. The addition of new gadgets like the CCTV style camera to stop people sneaking up on you mare fun. However, the fun pretty much ends there as the multi-player game is littered with problems.
The major problem that detracts massively from the experience is a real pet hate of mine. I used to be able to buy a game for the Commodore 64 for three quid and it just worked. For thirty quid I should be able to expect the same yet Black Ops has a huge multi-player problem in that the servers are unstable leading to frequent game freezes. Often you will be halfway through the game when it freezes for no reason whatsoever forcing you to turn the system off and on again. You might go hours without encountering this problem or then again it might persist game after game for hours to the point were you just give it in as a bad job. The maps also leave a lot to be desired being on the whole far to small for the team size of ten or more that usually end up playing on an open server match. A lot of them also suffer from "mirror image" syndrome leading to predictable and frustrating bouts of back and forthery as each team seemingly takes terms to assault the other. The lack of creativity in the maps means it is very difficult for teams to adopt interesting tactics with little chance of flanking or sneaking round the back. Therefore, there is far more grenade tossing and mine planting than there should be. Despite this there is a good amount of hidey holes for sniping but refreshingly nowhere too hidden that you cannot stop them in their tracks. Private games with smaller teams also play far better than the larger matches. However, this doesn't make up for the sheer lack of imagination and linearity here. Especially when compared to the innovative single-player mode.
The multi-player game isn't totally devoid of ideas and if nothing else there is a nice variety of game modes from traditional team death matches through to free for alls and sabotage missions. It would be nice to bring back "bootcamp" mode for new players though as they will undoubtedly struggle initially against Call of Duty veterans. The variety of awards for kills without dying are also vast with some fun stuff like an exploding remote control car and piloting a gunship. The most fun however is perhaps to be found in the gimmicky but hilarious Zombie mode. Here you and your friends tackle horde after horde of zombies in a variety of settings using some hugely entertaining weapons and traps to fend them off for as long as possible. Both scary and funny this mode provides huge value and it really seems the developers let their humour and imaginations go for this mode.
Graphically Black Ops is as polished as you would expect although the invisible walls synonymous with these games continue to be given little thought or explanation. There is little advance however from previous games and if anything the brightness of this game makes it a little less realistic than previous titles. There is no noticeable slowdown or lag on single or multi-player and the controls are as responsive and easy to use I have come to expect from this series. The sound is adequate and realistic although it is hard to be impressed with gunshots and explosions. The voiceover acting is however excellent and the music, although irritating after a while, suits the variety of settings perfectly.
Whether this game is worth the purchase will largely depend on what you want. If you want a great multi-player game, previous titles do it far better and don't suffer the instability and lack of map variety in this version. Patches and time might solve this but for now I wouldn't recommend the game on this basis. As a single-player game however, Black Ops is engaging and exciting and is definitely worth a go. It is therefore unfortunate that as an overall package, Call of Duty: Black Ops isn't the finished article you would expect by now.
Until very recently I didn't really get Twitter. It always seemed to me to be Facebook's inferior cousin. You know like when you watch the remake of The Karate Kid and just think, "There isn't anything wrong with it but what does it actually add to the franchise?" There are a few reasons however why Twitter is taking more chunks out of my time by the day whereas my interest in facebook is on the wane.
For the people who don't know, Twitter is a social networking site that allows you to share your thoughts with other people online. Where it differs from the likes of myspace, Bebo and facebook is that it doesn't offer anywhere near the amount of bells and whistles that these and many other sites do. If you want games and applications Twitter is not the place to be. If you want to listen to music by new bands or watch videos Twitter will offer you nothing but links to other sites. Stripped down to the bare bones Twitter offers you just one thing, the ability to express yourself to the twittering community in no more 140 characters or less.
Yep, that is not a typo. Just 140 characters which includes spaces and punctuation. Of course if you want to ramble more you can link to offsite blogs etc but fundamentally Twitter is about being short and sweet and this is one of the things I have come to love about it. No rambling melancholic posts about 97% of people not posting this status on their walls, no endless links to crappy music videos, just people sharing their short opinions on their World.
As you have so little space to say what you think you find yourself getting creative with your text to squeeze out those characters. Refreshingly despite the overwhelming temptation, a lot of people don't resort to text/online speak so U do not get 2 much of this kind of stuff to read! Joining is very easy requiring only one page of Name, username and password stuff to get going initially. This is much more pleasant than wading through the now multiple pages you get when you join the majority of sites although you have to be creative with your username as some outlandish ones are taken. Of course once joined up you can add the usual personalisation to your viewing profile including avatars, backgrounds and a short bio. However, this is a stripped down service so you won't need to be constantly titivating as it is more about what you say rather than how pretty things are. The whole site is very streamlined in predominantly white and black and this makes it very easy to navigate and a joy to the eyes. Indeed, it is so streamlined that you can quite happily use it on your mobile and post a new tweet via text. It is all about the speed and ease of use.
What marks out Twitter from other sites is the anonymity it can give you if you so wish. There is a certain freedom of speech on here that you simply do not get on facebook. Whereas everyone from your work colleagues and your nan will probably see what you have written in your latest facebook status. If you choose an anonymous username you can be free to say whatever you please with the repercussions of a telling off from your mum! Unlike facebook, Twitter isn't about friends but rather about following and being followed (which isn't as stalky as it sounds and isn't competitive). You can "follow" the updates or "tweets" of people you know, groups that interest you and even celebrities and if you write interesting things people may in turn "follow" you with things appearing in a "timeline". Of course to follow people you know you need to know their username to find them hence the joy of anonymity. However, the real fun is to be had in following the people that interest you outside of your social circle. Random strangers often have some fascinating and funny things to say. The ability to follow your favourite celebrities gives a certain humanity to them as they are more often than not refreshingly more candid online than they would be off. Seeing into the mind of some of my favourite people like Stephen Fry and up and coming comedian Chris Ramsey is great stuff and with the ability to comment on their tweets you often get a reply.
Of course Twitter isn't all a bed of virtual roses. These celebrities ramblings are all well and good but the amount of obviously fake accounts out there are astounding. Only a few of the celebrity profiles are "verified" by the celebs themselves so you have to be wise to the ones that probably aren't. How was Dom Joly tweeting regularly from the jungle on "I'm a celebrity get me out of here" are some of the questions you need to ask yourself. Also prefer yourself to be disappointed by some of your heroes with comedian Jason Manford being a perfect example:
There is also the bizarre thing of "trending" in which the most popular things talked about in your area or around the world are listed in a top ten. Some of these things start some interesting debates whereas some are just bizarre including Everton's Phil Neville becoming a worldwide phenomenon and at time of writing thousands of people including the word "bumhole" in film titles! There is also the problem of self promotion with people posting links to countless weird and wonderful things from there blogs to cashback sites. My general rule of thumb is don't click on any link unless you are sure it is taking you somewhere you want to be. That rule certainly applies here.
However, with the ability to view, update or tweet very quickly on either a mobile or on the internet I find myself using Twitter more and more. In general, people on this site are far more interesting than elsewhere and there is less of the, "I just went the toilet" types of posts here than on any other social networking site. The anonymity I have gives me a freedom to express myself or vent on current events and as a genuine alternative to facebook, it is worth a gander.