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hamm_sandwich

hamm_sandwich
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Member since: 13.01.2010

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      15.03.2010 23:20
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      Empty some bags into a casserole dish and stick Eggheads on.

      I like Wotsits, I really do, I just find them a little impractical.. A childhood favourite along with the Kinder Surprise, Scampi & Lemon Nik Naks, those biscuity fish and chip things, raisin and biscuit Yorkies, 5,4,3,2,1s, pickled onion Space Raiders, Yes cakes and the Cadbury's Fuse (yes, I was a fat child) but in recent years i've not turned to them, discarded in adolescence along with my troll doll collection and the flag on my mountain bike. A more mature hamm_sandwich has turned to more mature snacks. Kettle Chips and custard creams are the wallpaper of my cupboard now but a supermarket promotion combined with a bout of gluttony conspired to help me bring home a twelve pack of these (Really) cheesy puffed snacks last week for £1.25 (normally £2.50) and i've learnt how to fit them back into my life.

      The first hurdle here, is eating them. As i've become larger and hungrier with age, i've developed a crisp eating technique that allows me to maximise the amount I can pass from bag to mouth in one gesture without resorting to the cheaty bag to mouth option. Four Hula Hoops can be handled by an experienced snacker between thumb and fore finger with no need for a downward glance but Wotsits I find are a more unpredictable snack with rogue Wotsits always trying to get down into the gap between the cushion and the arm rest of my couch.

      The solution to this micro-crisis lies in the grabber manoeuvre or teddy picker technique if you're an Arctic Monkey. Away from judging eyes i'll empty three (ridiculously light multi-) packets into a bowl and get to work. The problem here is that they are just TOO small. Compared to the cheesy puff supermarket own brand alternatives these just aren't built for the average sausage fingered man.

      When you get it right though, you do realise that these are the real deal with the appropriate crunch and dissolve balance. They're still unnaturally orange which is rather fun and the bright cheese dust will stick to your fingertips. I tend to wipe them clean now instead of sucking my fingers. some things you just can't get away with now.

      Like a lot of Walkers offerings a pack of Wotsits is a tiny snack masquerading as a healthy one with the boast of a tiny 95 calories but your 95 calories could be better spent elsewhere if you're looking to cure a hunger pang because this is on its own a sub-snack or micro snack. Maybe buy a biscuit.

      My multipack only had cheesy bags inside but the lesser spotted beef variety is well worth seeking out if you're a fan of these corn puffs and I must admit that i'll probably grab another bag before the co-op does its promo change. I don't know if the prior affiliation with Golden Wonder may be a stumbling block but I think these could really benefit from a retro relaunch like they did with Monster Munch recently. Oh, and an adult size as well.

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      • More +
        05.03.2010 21:12
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        15 quid..

        The classic controller is a Wii accessory designed to be used mainly with the Wii's Virtual Console. Unlike the Wii Remote it has no motion sensing capability and is what you might call a traditional controller not too dissimilar to the PS3 Sixaxis controller in design and function.

        As I mentioned, it's really for the older games that you download through your Wii that of course predated the host console. I bought it so that I could enjoy Super Nintendo games as the D-Pad on the GameCube pad that is also compatible is so small and difficult to reach and its shape is so similar that it feels like a trip down memory lane.

        The Classic Controller is essential for downloaded N64 games unless you have an old GameCube controller kicking around which I feel is actually a better fit for those games as it has a more comfortable position for the left stick; the Classic as I said is what I use for SNES games but I think i'm probably in the minority when I say that i'm a regular downloader which to me really limits the potential audience of this accessory. There are some Wii titles that allow the use of the Classic controller like Smash Bros. Brawl but they are few and far between and I think the way that these are widely available on the high street could be misleading to consumers who think they can substitute their Wii Remote for this.

        This is impossible actually because the controller has no power source and has to be plugged into the bottom of your Wiimote to allow it to communicate with your console which can prove awkward during more energetic sessions of Mario Kart. The upside of this is that the Classic Controller is significantly cheaper than the Wiimote and can be picked up for under £20 and makes up part of HMV's 2 for £30 promotion.

        A newer black Classic has been released alongside this one with the main difference being the addition of prongs to the left and right of the handset that makes it much more comfortable to grip, particularly if you've got larger hands and like all the other black Wii accessories looks a lot more stylish.

        The Classic controller I feel is an accessory tasked with doing a lot of things but not really mastering any of them. It has limited use as a Wii controller. The sticks are in the wrong place for N64 games and NES games are fine with the Wiimote turned sideways. So, it remains my choice for SNES titles but I feel Nintendo would have been much better off rereleasing the original controllers for their older systems to connect in the same way which would help by not misleading customers and would be a better fit for their fantastic back catalogue of games.

        I know that such an accessory was released in Japan but it's baffling how Nintendo haven't taken up this opportunity to make this extra money. For now i'll stick with my Classic but i'll be checking out eBay to import one of their Classic SNES pads which i'm sure i'll pay a fortune for.

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        05.03.2010 16:30
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        A welcome change to traditional gaming.

        The motion sensing Wii remote control is the heart of Nintendo's revolutionary Wii console that has truly brought gaming to the masses. Along with the Wii Nunchuk controller it makes up one half of the controller set with one being held in each hand, the Wii remote held unsurprisingly like a remote control. The Remote like the console comes in white although newer machines are also available in black.

        It is the sheer simplicity of the Wii Remote that has made the Wii what it is. Undoubtedly sophisticated in its technology but its size and comparative lack of buttons is a stand against the ever-more-complex control pads of regular home consoles. On the face of the pad the Wiimote is strikingly similar to the NES pad released by Nintendo back in 1985 and can actually be turned sideways to be used as such to play the older games that can be downloaded through the Wii's Virtual Console. At the top of the remote is the four-directional d-pad and the 'A' button just beneath and the 'B' button is on the underside of your remote where your index finger rests. For most games this is all you'll actually use with only ancillary controls allocated to the '+' or '-' and '1' or '2' buttons.

        The Wiimote is rounded off with a 'Home' button at the centre of the remote which takes you to the main hub menu on your Wii where you can access the different 'Wii Channels' at the machine's front end and a 'Power' button at the top left which allows you to turn your Wii on and off wirelessly from the comfort of your sofa.

        The Wii Remote is able to interact with your Wii console thanks to the sensor bar that comes with your Wii and upon setting up the machine it will ask you if you are placing it beneath or above your television and when selected will give you better precision. Thankfully, the Wii Remote is not as fussy as your normal TV remote is in terms of needing to be directly in front of the sensor and playing at an angle doesn't put you at a disadvantage during competitive multiplayer sessions but it can feel less natural when you're not bowling down the virtual lane in your TV.

        Like the wireless XBOX controller, the Wii Remote uses two AA batteries which powers the small speaker in the Wii Remote and the rumble facility as well as the motion sensing aspect and you can see a battery level indicator by tapping the 'Home' button at any time when the Wii is on. Due to the slightly more expressive kind of gaming that the Wii encourages, the Wii Remote comes with a wrist strap fitted to the bottom of the handset which the Wii console always recommends you have fitted and tightened during play so as to avoid injury or perhaps more importantly, accidentally throwing your Remote through your new LCD TV which happens more than you might think!

        The Wii Remote operates as a pointer and when you're navigating the Wii's menus a little hand will appear on the screen where you're pointing. I find this kind of control effortless and will often choose to browse the internet this way (through the Wii's free browser) instead of opening up the laptop and waiting for Windows to boot up. This is so quick and easy. For certain games the motion sensing Remote has proved an excellent control set-up. For first person shooters like Metroid Prime 3 where the Remote dictates where you look/aim and the Nunchuk's joystick controls your movement it's the best set-up i've found for this kind of game and rivals the mouse and keyboard option that PC users swear by because it feels instinctive and is very accurate.

        More recently, Nintendo released the Wii Motion + accessory which is a small cube like add-on that clicks into the bottom of your remote and is designed to make your Wii Remote even more exact and responsive to even the most delicate flicks of the wrist and for me this is a welcome addition after many frustrating days on the links playing Golf in Wii Sports when my subtle putting technique just doesn't work. I should point out that the Motion + accessory doesn't work with all games and will only give you any benefit on some select new games that are marked as compatible. The two best examples for me so far would be the follow up to Wii Sports, the recent 'Resort' game as well as EA's Grand Slam Tennis.

        Nintendo have since released the Wii Remote with the Motion + add-on as a single accessory in Black and is also included with all new Wii console bundles so you don't need to worry about getting a clutch of peripherals when you pick up your Wii as it's all in the box for you to get started.

        I recently had a bit of a nightmare adding a second remote to my Wii, after being able to add a second handset in game in Wii Sports by simply holding down the 1 and 2 buttons I assumed the controller was calibrated but ten minutes of going through all the different button press permutations on the menu of House of the Dead got me nowhere. I have since found out that there is a red 'sync' button next to the memory card reader on the Wii and another under the battery cover on the Remote and it calibrates by holding them both down.

        As i've come to expect from all Nintendo products, the Wii Remote is of a very high quality and a real triumph in design and as the most sophisticated part of the console, adding more of these is where things get expensive. A second full controller set including the Remote, Nunchuk and Motion + can cost anywhere between £55 and £60 while the Remote on its own retails for around £30. Like most Nintendo accessories and games, these prices rarely fluctuate and there isn't usually a bargain to be had by shopping around but one way of saving a bit of cash is by purchasing the Wii Play software which comes complete with an extra handset. As the difference in price between the standalone Remote and Wii Play can be as little as a pound or two this is a good way to get a bit more for your money.

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        • Tyson: The Movie (DVD) / Documentary / 40 Readings / 40 Ratings
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          05.03.2010 11:08
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          Intriguing.

          This is actually a review for the Blu-ray version of the documentary but it doesn't have its own listing. Having said that, the film is produced in such a way that high definition is irrelevant here as most of the film is made up of Tyson in front of a black background talking interspersed with low quality footage of his fights and past so if you're in a quandary as to which to buy, there really is little to recommend in the upgrade to Blu-ray.

          Tyson The Movie is a very uncomplicated documentary about the ever controversial boxer. There is no interviewer here pushing for answers, what we see instead is Tyson discussing his life in an almost chronological way from his incredible, meteoric rise in the sport early in his life to the personal issues such as his conviction for rape and the bouts with Evander Holyfield and his inglorious exit from the sport that most people including myself remember him for.

          The style is unimaginative but it's the best way for Tyson to tell his story and makes sense in the context of his admissions later in the film about becoming more humble and shaking off the leeches and lifestyle that would seem to have ended Tyson's career too soon. Tyson appears honest, considered and actually quite engaging when discussing his past. Thankfully neither the doc, nor Tyson shy away from his many flaws which most viewers will be more familiar with and are explored and rooted in his past with admissions of sexual deviancy and a youth on the street corners of Brooklyn robbing people.

          Growing up, seeing parts of Tyson's fights and how he destroyed his opponents at his peak, it's strange to see Tyson as he is here. Older, out of shape digging up his past and tackling his remorse and regret on camera. Amazingly, Tyson talks extensively about his fear, his fear of losing, of being embarrassed, of being bullied or humiliated like he had been as a child and would seem to be a driving force in his ascension in the sport.

          Tyson makes no claim to have ever been misunderstood, he talks about his uncontrollable fury and likens himself to being more animal during his few years at the top both in and out of the ring. Sharing details of drug use, alcoholism and his use of prostitutes he doesn't attempt to hide any of his flaws although he is adamant about one thing and that is his innocence regarding his rape conviction.

          It's obvious how complicated a character Tyson is. Tragic in many ways, it's difficult not to pity him to some extent. A fallen legend with that Maori facial tattoo that serves to remind you of the old Mike Tyson. All things considered, he is at least entertaining both in his honesty and in the expanse of his character, talking in one scene about beating up his then manager Don King outside a Beverly Hills hotel for stealing his money and then describing the pigeons he keeps and using them to help explain his career in the ring.

          After his ridiculous outburst about wanting to eat Lennox Lewis's heart and eat his children ahead of a bout between the two we see Tyson wiping the blood from Lewis's cheek after Tyson himself has ben defeated. When questioned about his more caring side he draws on the pigeons to explain himself and how they fly together but when feed is thrown down they'd kill each other for it and he likens this to his career in the ring.

          The two defining moments in Tyson's life for most would be his conviction for rape and the ear bite on Evander Holyfield. Tyson unequivocally denies the first and explains the second as pure provocation. It's clear that Holyfield head-butted Tyson at least twice which disorientated him and led him to lose control but the interview with a Sky Sports boxing expert in the single additional feature on the disc talks of how Tyson deliberately left his gum shield out for that particular round and the bite was pre-meditated. Perhaps not because of the rage that Tyson describes but rather because of a fear of defeat.

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          • More +
            05.03.2010 00:04
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            Welcome to Mario Kart!!!!!!!!!!!!!

            Thanks to the wonders of the Virtual Console on my Nintendo Wii, i've been able to rediscover various gems from days gone by, the most recent of which has been Mario Kart 64, originally released back in 1997 for the Nintendo 64 console and available now as a download purchase on the VC for 1,000 Wii Points which is equal to seven pounds when bought through your Wii console.

            As a huge fan of Mario Kart and of retro Nintendo generally, the Virtual Console has been an utter joy. Unlike XBOX Live Arcade where games are often reimagined or remixed for download purposes, Nintendo look to give you the original game undiluted which is great for purists and in Mario Kart 64 we have the epitome of this ethos. The game has been tidied up slightly. The notoriously soft visuals from N64 games have been put into better focus and the colour feels like it's had a nice injection of the famous Nintendo vibrancy which means you won't need those rose tinted spectacles to enjoy it.

            For me, Mario Kart 64 has always held the title of the second best Mario Kart title but that is down to the brilliance of the original Super Mario Kart rather than any deficiency here. 64 introduced wider and much longer tracks compared to SMK that feels a little strange at first but has proven to be the template for all subsequent Kart outings.

            Even though the tracks are vast they don't lack in imagination and are varied in terrain and location from ice caps to desert to outer space. Each of the sixteen selectable tracks are all hugely different and that's something that no racers from this time can boast as the likes of Ridge Racer which was released a little over a year before had only one selectable track which you could drive forwards or.... backwards...

            Like all Mario Kart games the single player game is fine but not long lived. It's the multiplayer side of things that has kept people coming back for almost fifteen years and few games can match the sheer fun that MK64 delivers when you have four players around a tv shoulder to shoulder and the cutesy graphics and sound effects belies a fiercely competitive battlefield on track.

            I don't think the battle mode is quite as good as it could be and certainly not as good as the multiplayer grand prix mode but that might just be because i'm not too good at it which is often known to cloud my judgment.. The character roster is slightly different from the original Mario Kart with the ever popular Wario stepping in for Koopa Troopa and Donkey Kong Junior making way for the real thing but the dynamics remain the same with groups of heavier drivers with a higher top speed like Bowser and DK, good accelerators such as Peach and Yoshi as well as good all rounders Mario and Luigi making up the grid.

            As a download there really is nothing negative to say about Mario Kart 64. Other great titles like Mario 64 or older Zelda games have been superseded by newer versions on more modern consoles but Mario Kart 64 remains a champion in its genre with pretenders like Sonic and Sega All Stars Racing failing to emulate the magic that Nintendo did so long ago on inferior hardware.

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            03.03.2010 20:47
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            I'm sold!

            Dusting has never been a pleasure for me but as i've become a more active consumer i'm quickly finding my home full of stuff. I'm not sure where it all comes from but it's here and every few months or so a film of muck seems to appear from nowhere so through necessity rather than any sort of house-pride i'm thrust into the supermarket in search of the easiest method for getting rid of all this dust so I can see all my stuff again.

            In the past i've used sprays, feather dusters and even those little face wipes you get from KFC which I found were excellent for getting grubby marks off of modern electrical equipment. In general i've been throwing money at my little problem for some time now with no apparent champion product.

            On a recent trip to Waitrose I stumbled upon these citrus Dusting Cloths from Pledge which I probably wouldn't have given a second glance to had they not been on offer at half price so into the basket they were tossed with no knowledge of the product other than the price, £1.24 then but usually £2.49.

            When I got home I was preparing myself for further disappointment. I can't remember ever having one of those magic Mr Muscle or Vanish type experiences that you see in the adverts that makes me wonder whether it's the fault of the product or whether my needs are beyond the capabilities of any off the shelf cleaning item but i'm giving myself the benefit of the doubt.

            So, yes, as I was saying, upon opening these cloths I was prepared for more disappointment. I realised now for the first time how light the product was, with twenty cloths in the pack and that they were dry which made me mad as I was looking furiously on the packaging for the inevitable recommendation of a an accompanying Pledge cleaning spray.... But, no.

            "Do not use with any other cleaning product or water... The cloths leave no residue." I couldn't believe or understand the product's confident claim but was explained: "Pledge Dusting Cloths use an electrostatic charge and a web of specially designed thick quilted fibres to attract and and trap dust, dirt and hair instead of stirring them up into the air." Hmmm. I thought.. Then said out load.

            Time to put this to the test!

            As I said, these cloths are dry and light and don't appear as magical as they DO sound on first inspection. The cloths are like webbed tissues that need to be prised open as they seem to suck up anything. The promise of no need for water was welcome for me as moisture seems to mat dust into clumps with the moisture making it harder to lift from a surface which can make the cleaning of modern tv stands very irritating and a little dangerous I suppose.

            I was AMAZED with how well these work. On one side of this small cloth I was able to lift all the dust from both shelves of my television stand and managed to get in and about my recorder and various speakers and wires, some of these speakers with indented tops, full of dust but a simple swirl of the cloth on the end of my finger lifted it all up with no remaining trace. After finishing off in record time I flipped the cloth over and set about going for the wooden furniture. Incredible!

            At £1.24 i've stumbled upon a tiny miracle here and i'll be stacking up on these before Waitrose pop up the price. The fact that these can be used on ANYTHING as well is a great bonus but for me these are so useful for the modern and often cluttered AV stand. Thanks Pledge!

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              27.02.2010 12:10
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              Not a gimmick.

              As I mentioned in a previous review, i'm really enjoying my Wii and the revitalised lightgun genre of games at the moment and this is thanks in no small part part to the Wii Zapper. Unlike the 'Zapper' lightgun which was also released by Nintendo for its NES console back in the 1980s this isn't a controller in itself but rather a housing for your Wii Remote and Nunchuk, unsurprisingly in the shape of a gun.

              I'm generally not a fan of these 'accessories' for the Wii that are supposed to enhance your gaming experience like these golf club and tennis racquet extensions which, aside from being poorly made make the Wii remote less precise because of the added weight. I've also learnt to trust Nintendo though and in the Zapper we have a genuinely useful accessory. The Wii Remote clicks satisfyingly into the top of the device with no need for strain on the Remote and can be released with a push of the grey button in front of the Nunchuk handle.

              I was concerned about how the Nunchuk would connect to the Remote because of the wire but Nintendo have taken care of this by allowing you to conceal the excess cable and coil it inside the body of the Zapper with the end connector neatly coming out of the top end. With the two controllers in place this simple device transforms the Wii experience and really does add a level of authenticity to the likes of Ghost Squad and House of the Dead: Overkill thanks in part to the way the trigger is relocated to a hinge on the front handle of the Zapper which rests on the B button on the underside of the Wiimote.

              This works quite well in practice although the trigger isn't quite as tight as i'd like but there isn't really a way around that so I can't really blame Nintendo. Because of the size of the Zapper I also found myself swapping it between my left and right hand when it became uncomfortable.

              The Zapper can be bought on its own but can also be had packaged with various games like Ghost Squad, House of the Dead 2&3 and Link's Crossbow Training which is the one I bought and after looking around, this seems to be the cheapest way to buy the Zapper and can be found on the High Street for under £20 and has been in HMV's 2 for £30 promotion.

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            • thetrainline.com / Internet Site / 40 Readings / 39 Ratings
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              23.02.2010 21:48
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              A Perfect Fit For Me

              I recently had my first experience using the trainline.com. After my young person's rail card expired last year i've tried to be a bit more savvy about travel costs and always look to book in advance because the savings as many will know, can be staggering when compared with ticket prices on the day of travel.

              After a series of trips in the past to my local railway station asking for the cheapest available tickets, I was delighted to find an online alternative as i've not always been convinced that the person in the ticket office is as concerned about saving me money as of course I am. And why should they? But save I must and these days I feel less comfortable asking for these cheap tickets than I did when I was a student and the condescending tone that has often followed my request hasn't helped matters.

              Locating the trainline.com was the result of a simple Google search. I must admit that i'm a little naive about the different operators and where to start or who to trust as my interest was simply on my destination so I was happy to be able to just pop in my departure station and arrival stration and I then had access to a huge amount of trains and more importantly, prices. It really is stunning, and a little unethical how vast the gap in price can be between peak and off-peak travel.

              After registering with the site (this is required to purchase tickets) I was informed that my tickets could either be collected from the station or sent to my home address. With me booking two weeks before my journey time I chose to have the tickets delivered as I knew i'd worry otherwise and didn't fancy getting caught in queues at the railway station while weighed down with bags.

              Now, the important matter of price. I was looking to arrange a return ticket from Peterborough to Southport over a weekend and the cheapest tickets I found and bought were a £33.00 ticket north and a much more appealing £11.50 back south to Peterborough. It seems strange now considering how much better the journey back was compared to the one to Southport but that's hardly a complaint I can level at trainline.com but rather the shocking quality of commuter transport I experienced in Manchester...

              The cheaper tickets resulted in the need to make several changes (two in each direction) but travelling across rather than up and down the country is never straightforward i've found, so again, no black marks on trainline.com. The tickets I should mention, arrived promptly (all nine of them including reservations so I just packed up my envelope and let the conductor decide which was the relevant one. (how lazy lol)

              There was a £1.00 reservation charge and an undeniably hefty charge of £3.50 for using a credit card which I did but overall I felt the convenience of the service was worth the extra train tax for the simple reason that I didn't have to experience the lottery of purchasing tickets from my nearest station.

              On the way back in fact, the very friendly ticket inspector between Southport and Manchester Piccadilly was shocked to see the price on my ticket (11.50) and went on to tell me the price of a ticket if it had been bought on the day of travel which was around £55 and then went on (this was getting to be a little bizarre) to work out how much the ticket would cost with his own £75 travel discount which still turned out to be more expensive. I broke the awkward moment by telling him he probably wouldn't want to visit Peterborough anyway before popping my earphones back in. Result!

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                22.02.2010 12:34
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                Download the free trial and try risk free!

                Castle Crashers is the folow up to developer, The Behemoth's Alien Hominid which was originally released for the XBOX and is now also available on XBOX Live Arcade with Castle Crashers - their latest offering. The game has obvious similarities to Alien Hominid like in its art direction and sense of humour but mercifully, Castle Crashers doesn't have the inpenetrable difficulty level of Hominid that prevented me from getting past the first level in that one..

                As I mentioned, Castle Crashers is a downloadable only game, available through XBOX Live in their Live Arcade store, the online element of Microsoft's XBOX 360 console. I heard murmurings a while ago that the game might be heading to the PlayStation Network but as far as i'm aware is only available on 360 just now.

                The game is a side scrolling beat-em-up in a similar vein to Golden Axe or Streets of Rage, a very popular genre in its day but comparatively neglected today which helps to explain its huge sales success and why at the time of purchase it was the highest rated game on XBOX Live Arcade. The game was released in the summer of 2008 as part of their Summer of Arcade promotion alongside four other games which are meant to represent the best of the service and is something they repeated again in 2009 with another raft of top games like Trials HD and Shadow Complex.

                On release the game was sold for 1200 Microsoft Points (the currency of XBOX Live) and depending on where you get your points from equates to somewhere between eight and ten pounds. Until quite recently this was the highest price for anything on the service so its sales success is even more impressive. Unfortunately for me, like so many other games on XBLA, Castle Crashers was recently reduced to 560 points in a Christmas promotion for Gold subscribers but this seems to be the price you pay if you want to play a game upon first release.

                As I mentioned before, the game is an obvious tribute to traditional side scrolling fighters and when broken down can be seen to just be a button bashing run through an onslaught of enemies but it's what The Behemoth have added to this game that makes Castle Crashers a step forward for the genre. The game has a a lovely and varied hand-drawn art style which is beautiful if perhaps not quite as charming as something like Paper Mario or the Wind Waker which share a similar art direction. The world of the game is accessed through a hub map like Super Mario World did twenty years ago and keeps up the level of references to retro games.

                The game plays on generic conventions to hilarious effect such as the idea of the end-of-level boss. At the end of the first stage we are confronted by a huge beast snarling at you in front of a large portcullis only for the gate to be bashed open by a larger boss and squashing the smaller foe underneath. These little touches are present throughout the game and as a seasoned gamer its great when you spot one and recognise the influence and it's obvious that the developers are gamers who love games too.

                There is no real story to speak of here, these kind of games aren't famous for it, I remember Double Dragon being built on your girlfriend getting kidnapped and that's it. Like that game and every Mario game ever, the goal is to free a princess (four in fact) at different corners of the map and there's no story here to get in the way of the action which is very satisfying and has added depth by way of combos and weapons that can be purchased with the gold coins that are left after you kill an enemy.

                Like most of these games, Castle Crashers can be run through in just a few hours but the game rewards additional playthroughs with unlockable chracters and an experience system with your 'XP' count gradually rising through all your battles. Again like most of these games, Castle Crashers really comes to life in multiplayer and Castle Crashers supports both online and local four player sessions.

                Castle Crashers is a very addictive game which is easily accessible for anyone to play but has enough depth for the hardened player to get enough out of it too. It might not be my personal favourite game on Live Arcade but as a huge fan of this kind of game in general it's so good to see it again and in such an accomplished form.

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              • More +
                21.02.2010 16:56
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                Microsoft should really have given this away with every XBOX 360..

                I've been after one of these for some time now and after trawling the usual suspects online and on the high street my search was unsuccessful. After a little research on the internet I discovered that these memory cards had been discontinued by Microsoft. This was frustrating and also very surprising to me as an XBOX user for several years Microsoft have never held back with launching accessories that you might otherwise expect to have been in the box with your console in the first place.

                I should explain why I was after one of these as every requesst for a memory card was met with a quick head shake followed by the suggestion that I should buy a hard drive from several sales assistants. Now, I have a (120gb) hard drive and I find that product very useful for downloading and storing my games as well as allowing game installs which slows down the propeller in my XBOX and stops it from wanting to take off.. What that product doesn't permit however is the easy transportation of game saves, profiles and Live Arcade games. This 360 memory unit allows for easy transportation of your gamer profile as well as your save data to a friend's console. This also keeps a record of aany achievements you've earned while you've been away from your XBOX which is great news for all gamerscwhores!

                As sad as it may sound I live in a household with two XBOX 360s with my brother picking up his own machine last year so he could play those awful Cabella hunting games. Compared to me he's a light user and again compared to me rarely downloads any games and from time to time i'm keen to share what i've downloaded when a particularly staggering game gets released like Trials HD or Peggle, short of moving my XBOX around the house (something i'm reluctant to do after the reliability issues i've suffered) this hasn't been possible.

                So it was to my great surprise and delight on one of my regular trips to Gamestation that they had a preowned Memory Unit in stock and the larger 512 mb one at that! To cap it all off, the memory card was only £9.99, the manager told me that a new one would have cost £34.99, a price i'd probably have paid before if i'd been able to find one!

                I should also mention here that I am aware that even at £9.99 this is a hefty price to pay for such a small storage unit and I do understand that I could get a USB jump drive of a larger size for less but these are unfortunately not compatible with the 360 in spite of it having three USB ports. This is just Microsoft being Microsoft as far as I can tell after paying a similarly inflated price for a wireless network adaptor a couple of years ago.

                So, in use, I was surprised and very happy with how easy it was to transport data between my hard disk drive and the memory unit. I simply brought up the 'My XBOX' section on the dashboard scrolled right to open up the memory option and upon opening an item in the hard drive I was given the option to 'copy' it to the memory unit. In this first outing to the card I transferred around a dozen Live Arcade games (these can now range wildly in size so newer games like Shadow Complex for example can't be moved in this way) as well as my gamer profile which first logs me out of my own console before transferring, this all took literally seconds. Compared to the half hour or so it can take to recover my gamertag through XBOX Live this was all so easy and at the other end, playing these games and loading my profile was as straightforward as you could hope it to be.

                After my test session I went back to my own XBOX and was keen to see whether I could still use my profile on my console without returning my profile from the card. This was not possible and my whole profile was gone from the machine and had to be returned from the card before I could sign in again. This all makes perfect sense and isn't a disadvantage with the card but it does make me feel that this could be a little risky and made me wonder what would happen if I happened to lose the card or it got damaged.

                Overall, the memory unit has been extremely useful for me and i'd strongly recommend it for anyone wishing to do something similar to what i've described but I wouldn't have it at the expense of a hard drive as they allow so much more storage and can be found for little cost these days, especially the 20gb ones which like the memory unit has now been discontinued.

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                19.02.2010 22:30
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                Genre Defining

                House of the Dead Overkill is one of many 'lightgun' games that have come out recently for the Nintendo Wii, reinvigorating and developing a genre that many thought died back in the 90s with Time Crisis and Virtua Cop. The motion sensing Wii remote means that there's no need for the extra peripherals that used to make these games so expensive and is a fine replacement for a conventional lightgun with the B button on the remote's underside acting as the trigger.

                The game can be played in this way, with just the remote and a simple shake (or a press of A if your feeling less energetic) acting as a neat reload facility but the game feels a better fit with the Wii's Zapper which, like the plastic wheel that came packaged with Mario Kart is a plastic housing in the shape of a gun that you insert your remote and nunchuk into. The speaker on the Wii remote gives out a recoil sound effect as you cock your Zapper which is very satisfying and does a pretty good job of bringing the arcade feel home.

                Of course, there's only so much an on-rails shooter can do and to separate it from the crowd developers Sega have taken a very distinct creative direction, adopting the grindhouse style that was popularized recently after the release of Robert Rodriguez's Planet Terror. A genre that revels in ridiculous gore and over the top swearing and characterisation is unsurprisingly a fantastic match for a video game. The game doesn't hold back and in the shape of Isaac Washington we have perhaps the most offensive protagonist in a game ever whose non-stop swearing is a hilarious backdrop to the main feature that is shooting zombies in the face.

                Unlike most other lightgun games, Sega have made a good fist of adding longevity to the game with the inclusion of good old high score tables and the introduction of a 'gun shop' which is basically an opportunity to increase your arsenal and upgrade your weapons and the currency for this is earned based on your performance in the games levels. The ability to upgrade is a welcome one but one that I can't help but feel has made the game a little bit too easy but these games haven't ever really been about overcoming difficulty but more about the experience and House of the Dead delivers here with an unashamed emphasis on presentation and atmosphere over the game's duration.

                With the release of Dead Space: Extraction to compliment titles like Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles, Ghost Squad and House of the Dead 2&3, Overkill is part of a wave of great lightgun games housed on the Wii and is a great example for those who bemoan the Wii's lack of traditional games with this resurrection of a genre almost as old as gaming itself.

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                18.02.2010 22:10
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                360 gamers should certainly consider this.

                For most people, format wars can be an inconvenient and often very expensive experience for movie fans. The Blu-ray - HD DVD battle was likened early on to the battle fought between Betamax and the ultimately victorious VHS format in the 1980s. I think this overestimated the importance of these HD formats with the step up from video to DVD being a massive improvement introducing skippable scenes additional features and stuff people take for granted like not having to rewind anymore.

                The XBOX 360 HD DVD player is - for anyone unsure; an HD DVD player designed to work exclusively with the XBOX 360 games console. It sold on the strength of the value it represented against free standing HD DVD players and the rival Blu-ray disc format. It was predicted that the games consoles attachment to these technologies would prove very influential to the success of either HD DVD or Blu-ray and in the end, it did. With Sony's PlayStation 3 having Blu-ray playback out of the box and Microsoft's accessory always feeling like a clumsy add on which was ultimately not bought by enough people. Toshiba's massive loss in the end proved to be my massive gain...

                With the HD formats, the benefit to anyone is basically measured by how much money they are prepared to invest in their set-up. I should point out that i've bought this player twice on two separate occasions, the first time I was drawn in by the price of the player which I could get for just over a hundred pounds at a time when rival players could touch £500 my eagerness to grab a bargain and take further advantage of my XBOX 360 overtook common sense and upon hooking it up to my 26" Toshiba HDTV I was underwhelmed. Luckily that machine proved faulty and I was able to get a full refund and i've learnt that a screen-size of 32 inches (preferably larger) is essential to get the most out of the technology.

                After Toshiba withdrew support for their HD DVD format there was a firesale that lasted for a few weeks where retailers were desperate to shift any HD DVD players and discs and at this point I knew it was time to dabble. I felt it would prove a much better match with my new 37" HDTV. At this time Gamestation were selling these Microsoft players for £24.99 with two free films. Without hesitation I snapped up two of these players. The second sits unopened under my bed (just in case) and I was able to gather what must be ninety percent of what was released for the format for a few pounds a shot.

                My review for this product is largely positive because I realise I got a great deal even though i'm aware no new films will be released but the machine isn't without its problems. Upon release, the player was criticised for not having an HDMI output which is the standard interface for all HD equipment but newer XBOX 360s all have an HDMI output and has ironically improved the performance of the HD DVD player after becoming obsolete.

                Unfortunately, with the addition of an HDMI port, Microsoft also launched their 'Elite' model of the XBOX 360 which was black and looks out of place next to the pale grey player but this is a small price to play. The machine easily connects to your 360 through USB and for anyone with a wireless adaptor Microsoft have cleverly added USB inputs to the back of the player so your not forced to connect the player through the front of your games machine.

                The HD DVD player comes packaged with the XBOX 360 multimedia remote which is a nice little bit of kit that lights up when you use it and looks quite similar to the wireless games controller. Unfortunately, in a rather massive oversight, the remote also controls the 360 so if you try to open the drawer of your player it will open your console too which is very frustrating. I now use my games controller and i've returned the remote control to its box.

                Against freestanding players, the lack of a visual display coupled with a louder than usual disc drive led the player to get rather average reviews but with my HD DVD collection at around 150 titles bought for under £500 i've been really impressed overall and has also allowed me to relieve strain on my 360s disc drive.

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                15.02.2010 13:34
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                Worth a rent

                As a massive fan of Anchorman and Step Brothers i've got slightly mixed feelings towards Talladega Nights and after watching it again recently for only the second time (Anchorman and Step Brothers have been watched several times over) I can see now why I didn't warm to it as much as the other two collaborations between Will Ferrell and Adam McKay.

                For those unfamiliar with the plot, Talladega Nights is a send-up of the sports movie. If you can imagine a funn(y/ier) version of Days of Thunder you've pretty much got it with some individual scenes getting parodied like Ricky's hospital stay. Ricky Bobby is perhaps however, a less ridiculous name than Tom Cruise's Cole Trickle.

                After a long history of wacky roles this is very much Will Ferrell does NASCAR as 'Ricky Bobby' and fans will no doubt enjoy this parody of the sport and the introduction of John C. Reilly as his best friend and team-mate 'Cal Naughton Jr' and their scenes together represent the best and silliest of Talladega Nights such as the improvised phone calls between the two after falling out where Cal (in ill-fitting Speedos) tells Ricky to "cross the anger bridge.. and return to the friendship shore".

                It's scenes like these that fans will remember and they rival the best of Anchorman like the fight between the different newscasters but these scenes are too infrequent and with Talladega Nights weighing in at around a half hour longer than Anchorman it can feel like it's outstayed its welcome when the credits finally roll.

                After rewatching it, it felt like Talladega Nights is to Anchorman what Hot Fuzz is to Shaun of the Dead. In many ways it's a better film but with too big a gap between the big laughs and at over two hours can prove a bit of an endurance test. The scenes that mock the coverage of NASCAR I feel go on a bit too long and don't always translate too well to a European audience

                Sacha Baron Cohen as the hot new driver from Europe 'Jean Girard' is excellent with a hilarious French accent unlike any other i've heard. Being gay and a fan of jazz he's a real affront to the normal race driver and he has a great chemistry with Ferrell that's infectious. The addition of Gary Cole as Rick Bobby's long-time absent father 'Reese' is good for a few laughs too like when Ricky is trying to overcome his fear of driving after an accident and Reese locks a live cougar in the car "there's nothing more frightening than driving with a live goddamn cougar next to you" is hilarious but the addition of his 'journey' away from the track feels like padding.

                A note of caution on the Blu-ray which is the version I watched. For such a bright and colourful movie with lots of outdoor scenes you'd expect it to transfer very well to the HD format especially when Sony are giving the film away with certain Blu-ray players but it feels disappointingly flat for most of the movie with a noticeable amount of grain and a subdued colour even though it is an upgrade from the DVD it's probably not enough to recommend a second purchase like I did.

                I think with a re-edit Talladega Nights could be a comedy classic but it just feels like McKay and Ferrell maybe had too many ideas and they were a bit precious about sacrificing any of them for the greater good of the film. Instead this is simply essential viewing for Ferrell fans but perhaps one to avoid for those who aren't.

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                  13.02.2010 23:01
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                  This kind of product is dangerously easy to drink to excess.

                  As a pretty much exclusive beer drinker i'm not usually drawn to this kind of product in the supermarket but my Somerfield store is being converted to a Co-op store bit by bit and with that the drinks assortment is changing and they're getting rid of a lot of lines. I was very happy to discover all flavours of Bacardi Breezer with 75% off in packs of four.

                  At £1.07 each I was much happier to sample these than I would be to buy them in a bar. After moving my bananas to one side I was ready to stuff my basket and satisfied to grab a pineapple, watermelon, blueberry and two orange flavoured packs. As i've got older (or more alcohol dependant?) i've learnt to study my labels more thoroughly and was disappointed to discover these were now 4% when I could have sworn they used to be 5. First the Mars bar and now this!

                  As I mentioned before, these would not normally be on my shopping list but i'm not one to turn down a bargain/drink so was quite happy to add these to the pile. For the unaffiliated, these are the very definition of alcopop. The different varieties are all very strong artificial fruit flavours that mask the alcohol taste that children dislike so much. The blueberry flavour is 'bubblegum' for the blindfolded but the orange and pineapple versions I find are great soft drinks with a kick which are really refreshing and something I might enjoy on a hot summer's day but probably not something i'd ask for in a bar.

                  It always surprises me how flavours and smells are tied to personal memories and after only a couple of sips of my orange breezer i'm reminded of the distinctly sweet smell of a smoke machine and my teenage years when drinks like these proved a stepping stone to better drinks which is not to say i'm not enjoying them as they're real easy drinking and addictive as they're designed to be.

                  I should point out that any Bacardi fans who spot these and see them as a twist on their favourite drink should probably steer clear as they bear no resemblance to that drink or any alcoholic drink at all at just 4%. In an unusual move for an alcoholic drink these Breezers have a label displaying a calorie count of 100 which may not sound like much but put it in to perspective. As a 4% 275ml bottle, you'll need a lot of these if this is your poison on a night out and fifteen of these quickly gets near to your recommended daily calorie intake and if your like me the heartburn that these acidic drinks gives you will kick in mid-distance.

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                    13.02.2010 16:57
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                    Peerless in its day.

                    In the absence of a new Formula One video game i've found myself dabbling with some of the old classic racers to try and get me hyped up for the already mouthwatering new F1 season. Not having a new F1 game to play feels strange when you consider that ten years ago you could play three or four different titles a season and is even more surprising against the backdrop of the most exciting period in F1 since perhaps the days of Senna and Prost.

                    I love the Bizarre Creation games that were available at the same time for the original PlayStation, particularly Formula One and F1 97 but the launch of F1 World Grand Prix on the Nintendo 64 in 1998 opened my eyes to what an F1 game could be. It wasn't afraid to go down the route of simulation which is rare in a console game and it gave you a lot of control over car set-up and strategy with the ability to fine tune things like front and rear wing angles as well as fuel loads and tyre choices.

                    F1 WGP was one of the first F1 titles to introduce variable weather conditions and the first one i'd played where these changes in conditions actually affected the gameplay. As you approach the racing weekend, the game presents you with a weather forecast and it gives the skilful player the chance to get one up on the competition with the best set-up before you've even left the garage.

                    The racing itself follows nicely on from the tuning menu with a very good attention to detail with the addition of practice and qualifying sessions as well as proper pit-stops. Some of the 'real' aspects of F1 don't always transfer so well to game such as the qualifying which isn't as challenging as it could be. At the time (this game is based on the 1997 season) drivers were allowed twelve qualifying laps which usually meant four flying laps with an inlap and an out lap for each. In the game this usually proves to be more than enough time to snatch pole position but I think a single flying lap would better replicate the pressure of qualifying.

                    Compared to the Bizarre F1 games on the PlayStation at the time, F1 World Grand Prix initially feels slow but after a while it just feels like a better pace that's well suited to racing while on the PlayStation my races were often over by the first corner mainly down to the breakneck speed of F1 racing. At the time the game was graphically a noticeable step up from other racers with an impressive roster of tracks and solid 3d car models with realistic shading. The good presentation extended to the on screen furniture like the Tag Heuer timing screens and list of positions which was identical to ITV's F1 coverage at the time and really helped to immerse you in the game especially when you were doing full race distances.

                    Unlike the PlayStation games with Murray Walker and Martin Brundle, F1 WGP unfortunately didn't have commentary, instead using a radio from the pits to inform you of updates in the race. This may have been for contractual reasons but Nintendo's cartridge format was famously more limited for storing audio compared with the Compact Discs used by Sony.

                    The one thing I remember most fondly about this game and one i'm surprised hasn't been developed and added to later games is the scenario mode, where you're presented with a real scenario from the 97 season and you're given a list of objectives and on completion you're awarded a rating which in turn helps you to unlock harder challenges. Examples include holding a position on worn tyres or taking a place in a limited amount of laps. The fact that these scenarios are based on actual events is a real treat for F1 fans and makes up for the fact that upon release the game was a year out of date.

                    Unfortunately when played today like most early 3d games, World Grand Prix looks at best ropey and at worst unplayable with the soft blurry graphics the N64 is famous for and very limited draw distances that were the limit of the older hardware, nevertheless after i'd found my rose tinted specs and popped them on it really helped and underneath it all I found a really good template for F1 games in the future, if they ever make one!!

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