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Philips PT 860 Power Touch
For many years I have preferred a wet shave but just financially wet shaving has got so much more expensive in recent years. The prices of razor blades has risen ridiculously. Also, last year I was finding that it was hard to keep up with the changes in razors and blades. It seemed that as soon as I bought a new razor the shop stopped stocking blades because the next product had been released. Then, you're back to buying a new razor just so you can easily purchase the blades. So, purely for financial reasons I made the switch back to an electric razor. In terms of money I am pleased that I did.
Quality of shave
A switch to an electric shaver requires a new way of working one's morning routine. The first thing that I noticed is that this razor struggles to shave well if my skin is even slightly damp. The hair trimming seem to clog the razor more and then end result is a shave that is not so close. The best results are on completely damp skin which means shaving before the morning shower.
The shaver has three spinning heads which do the cutting. These pivot around on their own centres which allows the shaver to ride bumps and crevices in the skin (my face seems to grow more of these with each passing year) without nicking. In fact, one of the big differences between the wet shave experience and this electric shaver is that it is almost impossible to nick yourself with this shaver. I really is an incredibly safe shave, even if your are running late and shaving rouly and quickly you still get a decent shave with no nicks.
The other aspect of this shaver is a trimmer. This is released from the back of the shaver with a pull down by the thumb. The action that releases the trimmer feels slightly cheap but over a year on and it is still working fine. This trimmer is a buzzing double line of small blades close together. Again, somehow it see,s to work safely and even when pressed into the skin it only cuts hair. I use this for tidying up the side burns about once each week and it is an easy and quick solution.
Hair cut by the shaver is caught in the lid below the blades. A button on the edge of the lid when pressed flips the lid up so the shaver can be shaken out and a small brush (supplied) can then be used to clean out the back of the cutting mechanism. When opening the shaver you need to be already over the bin because as soon as you press the button face fur starts dropping from the shaver.
Overall, this is a quality electrical device that hasn't yet failed. It is used at least once a day, sometimes more. One additional advantage of this shaver has been when travelling on short journeys. If I was only taking hand luggage I couldn't of course carry a razor but this item is permitted in hand luggage.
One final observation is that although a close shave this is still not quite as smooth a shave as one would get from a wet shave. Whether this is a fault of this device or just a general observation of electric shavers versus wet shave razors I couldn't be certain.
I paid 69.99 pounds for this shaver at the time of purchase and it must have saved of double that on razors and blades already so as a financial move it was a shrewd one. For ease, it was also a good move as this is undeniably a quicker morning shave. The only niggle is that it isn't quite such a perfect finish as one would achieve with a wet shave.
WWE 13 is the latest in a longline of wrestling games. As an annual franchise it faces the same challenge as games such as Fifa. The question is if you keep coming to the table how do you make sure that what you bring is new and fresh. With new releases costing in the region of fifty pounds the annual release has to do something significant in order to encourage purchases. Often the blurb and hype surrounding these games boasts of something new but fails to deliver. This time, the publisher is boasting of bringing a revolution to wrestling games but is it a revolution. I'm pleased to report that if not a revolution then it's certainly a sizeable movement pushing in a new direction.
These games have moved on from their initial button mashing mayhem and this game offers a linear story which in fact actually serves to give the single player game a cohesion that many previous entrants to the franchise have lacked. The game is presented in chapters interspersed with cut-scenes and the approach works surprisingly well. Rather than facing an unlimited line of short fights that don't serve any purpose, instead you feel part of a bigger story and soon are swept in which gives each fight a reason and gives the gamer an add incentive to continue playing. That "just one more go" feeling bites early on and I was surprised how much time had passed by the time I first switched this game off.
Each match also offers some secondary objectives. This also adds to the longevity. The first time you play I think the focus is always on just winning the match. The fact that for most matches you haven't actually completed all the objectives gives you a reason to come back and replay. This for me adds to the value for money that this game delivers and again is a new aspect of this annual franchise. (I think what we are seeing with these developments is the beginnings of that revolution we were promised.)
The sound in the game in places is excellent and in other places an irritating distraction. Specifically, the crowd noises are usually realistic (they should be, they were sampled from real crowds) but the commentary is drab, repetitive and really annoying.
Online though is where this game shines. Take away the commentary and replace it with the audio feed of your opponent. Take away the stock moves and approach of the AI characters in the single player and replace with the random and fast paced moves of the human opponent. Take away the plodding lack of desire to win that you get from the AI opponents and replace with a human opponent that wants nothing more than to see your face hit the canvas. The online gameplay is fast, well built and great fun. Initially you will take a hammering as the WWE online experts pounce on your unsuspecting and ill prepared character but with time, patience and practice the online gameplay is really where this game shines.
Overall this game is not quite the revolution it promises but it comes pretty close. As far as value for money goes though if you are picking this up for under full retail price, as indeed you are certain to at this point, then it represents great value for money.
GHD Peacock Blue
"I've just been mugged at the airport!"
This was the text I received from my daughter's boyfriend a month ago when he was on his way to visit me. With my wife already having had her bag snatched six months earlier I wasn't surprised but I did feel for him. What had been taken? Did he need any cards cancelling? Could I do anything to help? It turns out my daughters straighteners had stopped working the week before they were due to visit and at the airport she had picked up these limited edition GHD straighteners and then left her boyfriend to pay. I understand how he felt mugged. It is a surprisingly small box for the 120 pounds that he had paid.
I tried to be enthusiastic. Really, I did. I love technology and gadgets and normally have no problem being just a little excited if a family member has bought something that plugs in. The box itself has peacock feathers embossed in a sort of holographic coating that makes it look expensive. (The box that is, we haven't got inside yet!)
Inside the box is...I'm not going to lie here...inside the box is a set of thin straighteners, a guard for the heating plates and a heat mat. I understand that there are manufacturers that can be trusted and others that maybe try but fail to hit the mark. I don't however believe the hype that surrounds GHD. They can't have any technology that is so far ahead of others and I think they may be riding on the hype that comes from being one of the first to market. When you look and can see what appear to be quite decent (and physically nearly identical) straighteners in Boots for around thirty pounds then these surely have to offer something substantially more to warrant the price difference. However, we are entering another world here. This isn't a logical purchase. This is an impulse purchase. A purchase that has friends cooing when they come out in the group preening session that takes place prior to going out together. I suppose as a man I will never quite understand but there must be some monetary value on the collective pleasure that my daughter and her friends will enjoy when group preening. Without that, I would struggle to feel these represent value for money.
What we have here is a nicely designed and attractive product. The peacock purple theme is followed through with purple heating plates and matching colour detailing on the handset of the straighteners.
In controlling these you have an on/off switch and nothing else. This I guess provides for simple use.
The straighteners reach operating temperature in a little under thirty seconds which means no hanging about when you need that hair straightening. I am also reliably informed by every lady in the household that they "work really well". When I pressed for more information as to what "work really well" means I'm assured that these are 'one pass' straighteners and you don't need to repeatedly iron the same section of your hair. I would have thought this was an essential characteristic of products in this market but apparently other cheaper products take multiple passes to make hair straight. I'm no fool, this may well be just a ruse to justify the money that has been spent on these.
From my admittedly male perspective I think these are overpriced for what they are. However, I am considering them as a product bought just to make hair flat. Approaching from a more empathetic towards female purchasing stance, then I think we have to acknowledge that these are also a desirable item. They are beautifully crafted and presented. The coloured detailing makes them stand out and may well, dependent on the types of friends you have, make friends envious. The five stars reflect my daughter's delight at these balanced with the standard of the straighteners. If we had to factor in value for money then as a male I would drop a star.
Overall though I have to agree with my daughter's boyfriend. He was well and truly mugged at the airport!
The final year of Playstation 3's position as Sony's flagship console is throwing out both the very best games of this current generation and also the very worst. 'The Cursed Crusade' puts itself into the latter category and despite being a budget purchase for me and still available incredibly cheaply there really is nothing to recommend in this rushed and un-entertaining game.
The back story is simple and one that seems to borrow from games that have gone before. The only problem for 'The Cursed Crusade' is that the games that went before were better. Time hasn't provided a base for this game to build on but instead has allowed many of the ideas to stagnate and now we are expecting more from this genre. The game is set in medieval times and the basic idea is that you are going to go on a journey and hack and slash everything in your way to pieces. I never quite got hold of why I was going on a journey and why my route was littered with people who didn't want me to make it to my destination. I guess in terms of game design it was assumed that the gamer would accept this with no need for a story.
By way of an introduction the game appears to offer up a library of cut-scenes to watch and the amount of gamer control at first seems minimal. I thought this was just an over indulgent introduction on the part of the game designers but no, this was the form of the whole game. Small sections of dull game play interspersed with long, dull, badly voiced and acted cut-scenes.
What of the game play itself? Well, some ideas in here are sound. The game offers up a basic weapon initially but with time and play you can end up dual wielding a variety of meaty looking weapons with which to inflict death and destruction on the poor souls foolish enough to stray into your path. The idea is that dual wielding these weapons opens up new and exciting combinations. The sad reality is that the combination moves, although more impressive than the other moves in the game, are too uninspiring to bother with and consequently you are likely to resort to button mashing your way through the campaign.
Alongside your character, you have a colleague battling through with you. If you have a friend who can play this character for you, a friend with patience and prepared to dedicate a few hours of his life into an otherwise turgid experience, then maybe this character proves useful. If you let the computer take control (the default) of this character then prepare to have his stupidity completely dominate the gaming experience. In terms of everything he does, expect it not to help and in most places to hinder. I ended up wandering why, at the beta stage, there wasn't the advice to just remove this character and forget the whole co-operative gameplay idea in favour of concentrating on an improved single player experience. Did this game even go to beta? I dread to think what the feedback was if so!
If you like medieval hack and slash adventures go and buy a copy of Castlevania. If you like fighting games with a magical element, then take a look at Bayonetta. If you like boringly long cut-scenes, graphics that fail to deliver, painful control systems and dull gameplay then this could well be the game for you. Cursed...I felt I was after a few hours with this game!
= Welcome to the world of Family Guy =
This is a review of the PS3 video game 'Family Guy: Back to the multiverse' but before we look at the game, let me just provide a little background information about Family Guy.
Family Guy is an adult animated comedy created by Seth MacFarlane. Family Guy ran for three seasons between 1998 and 2001 and then the TV company, Fox, pulled the programme due to falling numbers. Right about this time however, the programme was attracting something of a cult following elsewhere in the world, including the United Kingdom. Reruns on TV were driving DVD sales and it wasn't long until Fox realised that this cash cow still had milk to give and so in 2004 the franchise returned for season four. Despite criticisms for a similarity in writing with The Simpsons there are even plans for a combination show that brings the characters from The Family Guy into the same show as the characters from The Simpsons. With rumours that this will be ready for September 2014, fans are waiting expectantly.
Family Guy focuses on the life of a dysnfunctional family, the Griffins. The parents, Peter and Lois, have three children: Meg, Chris and Stewie. Their household is made more chaotic by the addition of the family pet, a dog called Brian.
Some of the comedy travels extremely well and is accurate observation comedy of the family life. Oth elements of the comedy are a satirical look at things stateside and this doesn't travel quite so well. However, the success of the series is incredible and stores are full of Family Guy merchandise with the show going from strength to strength.
= The Game =
Firstly, let me provide the first shock. Although this is a spin-off from a television series it isn't dreadful. In fact, the game stands on its own as a decent video game. To those unfamiliar with the world of Family Guy there is still plenty to enjoy. Those that know the series well may even rate this game as excellent as much of the humour crosses of into the video game.
Graphically, animation from what is visually a fairly simple series is always going to be fairly easy to emulate in a game and this has worked well. This really does feel like a playable version of the television programme.
The game itself follows on from an episode in series eight of the programme and therefore those that have stuck with the television series will feel immediately at home here. In essence this is a third person shooter but to call it such is to try and pigeon hole what in fact is a far more creative game. There isn't really another third person shooter on the market to compare it to and therefore the game perhaps has created its own niche. This is going to help this game succeed tool of any loyalty purchases that Family Guy fans will make.
The name of the game 'multiverse' hints at the action where the player is hopping from universe to universe. Each one is a crazy place with a theme that entertains and also at times visually surprises the player.
Multiplayer is covered by an excellent drop-in and out co-operative experience. This enables you to play sections of the game dropping in next to somebody else playing. This tends to add to the mayhem and fun and is an excellent way of incorporating multiplayer into the game. Perhaps other third person shooters could take note here as the multiplayer feels far more integrated in the game than a bolt on team deathwatch experience for example.
Family Guy is a funny game. The quality of the cut-scenes is excellent and equals any production for the television series. Add to this a ridiculous but fast and fun gameplay with a multiplayer experience that works and entertains and overall you have a game that really has been well thought out and delightfully executed.
Devil May Cry has been touring the video game block before and this is a delightful return to the tale of two brothers, Dante and Vergil. As the name suggests this is going to be a hellish battle and one that conjures up souls of the dead in a supernatural orgy of violence. Dante returns to the series and much about him remains the same yet he has also developed in so many ways. He still has the same sword with which to bring a decisive and meaty end to those in his way and he still has much of the same character but he has grown up too and this is a new Dante that brings a level of immersion that perhaps previous entrants to this franchise have lacked.
This game is stunning. This is everything those with a previous love of the game will be delighted to see. The rich and warped world created by Dante has just enough of the human world to be believable and yet plenty of a demonic underworld that provides the graphic artists with a realm of possibilities.
The core of this game and the reason it presents such a great entry to the franchise is the gameplay. This time it is just about spot on. Switching fluidly between Dante's demonic and angelic form opens up different weapon options and different combination moves. The combination moves feel controllable so unlike other games in the same genre the player still feels like they are genuinely in control. This for me is a real benefit as I dislike feeling I have 'button-mashed' my way through a game and far prefer the sensation of being in control and using some skill to reach the final goal-posts.
Combination moves actually are worth performing as they take the player forward in the points system which in turn becomes a mission ranking. The more elaborate combinations you can chain together the higher the points and the higher your own ranking. If there is one thing gamers love it is being able to compare their performance with friends and develop a roster of bragging rights and Devil May Cry delivers this beautifully.
It is hard to complain too much about this game as really it surpasses expectations. However, if there is to be one complaint it would be that the game itself is fairly short. Within ten to twelve hours you will have completed your first play through. This in itself though is not terrible as the game offers five levels of difficulty and rewards those that fight on higher difficulty levels with additional trophies. This gives the game a degree of longevity beyond the first play through. The folks that like to complete a game and move on may find the subsequent games 'more of the same' but hang on in there and you will see that the challenge level is developing and your own skills are improving all the time. This then gives a huge satisfaction reward as combination moves that were unattainable in you first play through gradually come within reach.
This game takes our expectations of a game in this franchise and delivers all we expected and more. It provides the best Devil May Cry experience to date and somehow the demonic worlds that have been conjured are at their most believable in this game. Dante welcomes you to his inferno and I think you will be only too pleased to enter.
Sony Experia L
I have to admit to loving everything Sony and the only block to making Sony purchases when buying electronic good is often the price. Sony do tend to price themselves in the top end of the market but I have always felt that you get what you pay for, especially with electronics companies. This is a maxim often found to be true with telephones.
Gladly, this Sony smartphone is most definitely in the middle price range bracket, especially when bought on a pay as you go tariff which I have. Available for less than two hundred and fifty pounds you get a high quality phone with an outstanding range of features for the price.
As a smartphone the technical specifications look below that of top end smart phones on the market but then the price reflects that difference.
Operating system: Android 4.1 (Jelly Bean)
CPU: Dual core 1GHz
GPU: Adreno 305
Sensors: Accelerometer, proximity, compass
Messaging: SMS, MMS, Email, Push Email, IM
Java: Yes, but through emulation
Battery: A stated 454 hours on standby, 8.5 hours talk time or 43 hours of music playback
The phone also includes multi-touch and scratch resistant glass.
Although a lower end processor than the most recent smartphones the phone has been well engineered and applications open and close rapidly with no lag sufficient to detract from the use of the phone.
As I would expect from Sony this phone feels well designed and is something that I am happy to use. Compared to my work mobile, a Nokia C2, this phone really is a beautifully engineered piece of telephonic heaven!
Browsing is smooth and pictures load quickly. This comes from having a dedicated graphics processor with enough oomph to power high quality images on the large screen. With a resolution of 854x480 the screen looks superb. Yes, there are telephones with higher resolutions now but actually, especially when we are discussing smaller screens the resolution isn't quite as important as perhaps it is given credit for. Certainly there is a drive for HD telephones but I just don't personally see the difference on a screen of this size. A good quality screen of a lower resolution is really quite sufficient for most browsing needs. The other positive about this screen is that it is sufficiently bright to be used in normal daylight. You loose a whole lot of cool if you have to hide underneath clothing to see your smartphone screen in the summer!
Sony have a habit of taking market standards and personalising them to ensure the customer gets a Sony experience. This phone is no different and although in essence a standard Andriod 4.1 experience Sony have customised the interface slightly. For example, you can sort Apps by most recently used or most recently installed. Although a small touch this is actually quite useful and I certainly prefer the apps sorted by most recently used. It keeps all my common apps on the first screen and easy to access.
Sony sells this as a phone for the camera expert and it does produce some excellent shots. Both in low light and in normal daylight the quality of images is superb and this is a real boost to this phone. For the price, it really is an excellent camera and the end results produce excellent prints.
The phone also takes video at a decent enough resolution to share on social networking sites such as Facebook. The quality of the video again is excellent for a phone of this price. What I would notice though is that video quality, unlike stills photos, does not fare so well in low light conditions.
Overall this is an excellent smart phone for the price. It is a mid-priced product, especially when picked up on a pay as you go tariff and for that price you get a well engineered handset and a remarkable quality of phone for the price. I always feel that with any electronic purchase there is a point at which if spending more the law of diminishing returns kicks in and the top range products give only marginally more experience for a whole lot more money. This phone at the moment is sitting right on that line for me and as such represents an excellent purchase for those that want a smartphone experience that doesn't break the bank.
EA Sports Active 2.0
This is a review of EA Sports Active 2.0. Having owned this product for about eighteen months I thought I would share a review. Now is a good time to buy as the product price has shifted downwards. Initially retailing for around sixty pounds you would now expect to get change from thirty pounds.
EA first brought out a physical exercise game for the Nintendo Wii. Following the success of the balance board on the Wii and various other sporting titles the Nintendo console was well positioned to take a portion of the exercise market and indeed many people made a purchase of the Nintendo Wii when it came bundled with the balance board and Wii fit. This game is a considerable development on that product in many ways. The game has you wear a sensors on your body that track movement and also include a heartbeat sensor. With options to dip in for a quick workout or to settle in for a multi-week preset workout series this is a product aimed at improving general levels of fitness but also at improving your own understanding of how to lead a healthier life. With the opportunity to input information about your diet the built in physical trainer will pass information and advice related to you.
What exactly is it?
To be clear, this isn't really a game in the traditional sense of the word. It does have some interactive game elements that make exercising fun but this isn't about winning, it is about taking part. The product wants you to use it regularly and encourages this through offering a variety of options for exercise. EA Sports Active 2.0 is a package designed then to help you improve your general level of fitness and within that aim it tries to make this fun by onscreen activities that your body controls. Running with high knees and jumping for example can control the cycles. Some of the activities are more game like than others and you may find that playing the goal keeper game for example is an interesting diversion with friends. Mainly though, you will be using this alone so as not to look completely ridiculous in front of family and friends as you leap around the living room.
In the box
In the box you will find a disc and comprehensive instructions on how to set up the sensors. The sensors should be simple with sensors attached to your limbs but they are the first troublesome moment with this product. I would suggest that they rarely work first time and for a brief moment when the heart beat monitor refused steadfastly to work I had managed to convince myself I had a problem with my heart. The truth is that once in place these are reliable and don't impede your movement or get in the way of using the product but getting them in place correctly, especially the heart beat monitor, can be a pain.
This game requires sufficient space for you to jog on the spot, lie down side on to the television and lie down feet facing the television. For me then, it calls for a six foot diameter circle of space in front of the television. Take a look at your living room first as for most of us this is going to require a little furniture shifting before we can exercise.
The exercises themselves are fine once you have created the space but I did find that with a rug in front of the television, once I started running the rug started shifting position which apart from being irritating could have been dangerous. I would suggest this works best on a hard floor surface or carpet and I would avoid exercising on a rug.
I can't comment on the multiplayer. As I said, when I purchased it I paid around sixty pounds and in order to access the multiplayer you need two copies of the product in order to obtain the two sets of sensors required. In essence, the multiplayer allows you and a partner to exercise side by side and to set up mini competitions against each other within some of the activities.
As with all exercise regimes you do need to stick at it. When I first got this product I used it regularly for about six weeks and was beginning to notice a difference. Since then though it has been largely in the box. I think personally although it offers a great variety of exercise options I lack the self-discipline to stick at it and would prefer to go to the swimming pool for example. Also, if you work all day it can be difficult to commit time that is usually spent relaxing at home to working up a sweat dancing around the living room.
That said, as an exercise product it is interesting, innovative and presents a route to a healthier lifestyle if you can stick to it.
Injustice: Gods among us (PS3)
The comic book superhero game genre has seen a recent flurry of activity. First we had 'Batman: Arkham Assylum' and then hot on the trail of its own success came 'Batman: Arkham City'. Somewhere in amongst that one of my own childhood favourites Captain America turned up and throughout all there was the ever present Spiderman. There can be no doubt that when 'Batman: Arkham Assylum' turned up it rewrote the superhero video game idea to a point where others now merely emulate. When this genre redefining game, film or book appears it is hard not to look for similarities and to make comparisons. The sad fact is that we then begin to write off games that perhaps could have been great in their own way if only we could avoid the comparisons. And so, we look at 'Injustice: Gods among us'. A game that shouts out "Compare me" from the very start. Take a look at the box art. We have a colon in the title, almost obligatory for superhero games. We have a dark brooding cover with a 'jokeresque' figure grinning out from the centre and we even have a Batman style cape swooping off the backs of two characters as they move in for a fight. So, the developers wanted comparisons to be drawn or at the least were trying to emulate the genre leading Batman games. So, let's do just that. Let's make the comparison we're invited to make by the developers and see what Injustice has to offer.
Graphically this game has two sides. One one part, the backgrounds and worlds have been lovingly created. They are dark, brooding but detailed and interesting. They complement the game and provide a great environment to be explored and enjoyed. On the other side we have the character graphics. There isn't anything wrong with the character graphics but that isn't praise enough for Injustice to lift the crown from the smooth flowing animations we find in the batman games. The characters look acceptable but they don't have the fluidity of the characters in the Batman games and crucially they don't quite feel like part of the game. What do I mean? Well, remember back in the day of side scrolling sprites where the characters sat on a different graphical level to the background graphics? This game has a similar feel. The character colour, texture and movement seems to put them quite literally on a different plane to the background graphics and that is disturbing in that it keeps calling out to the player that this is just a game. It is a block to the immersive word that could otherwise be created and consequently graphically, although good, this game doesn't quite hit the high standards set down by the Batman games.
The second comparison is just thrown in your face from the world go. This game is from DC Comics and as such Batman is a character within the game. Not just that though but he is a playable character and one that within the mission structures of the game you will be playing frequently. This seems, well, cheeky really. There they are sat atop the all time ever ratings for Playstation 3 games and here is DC Comics inviting us to play as Batman in a different game. This is a direct, head-on, slap you in the face and try to run away unhurt challenge for the title. The sad truth though is that if this was the only Batman game on the shelves, if DC had got their first, then this would be a perfectly acceptable fun romp of being the caped crusader. But, it isn't. Batman has already had two industry leading outings on this generation of consoles and in both cases the feeling of being Batman was done better. This game is the third choice for anybody wanting to play at Batman and that I'm afraid is brought about by the direct challenge being laid down. If Batman were a minor character...if Batman where not a playable character...if...if...if! By making Batman playable and such an integral part of the game we have been asked to compare and when we do Injustice comes up short and Batman has been done better elsewhere.
Now, here we have a great game. Don't get me wrong as I'm not backtracking on what I have already said in this review. This isn't Batman, it isn't as good as Batman and yet, it is a great game. Imagine the dark brooding serious nature of the Batman games, throw in an arcade ladder as we enjoyed in Mortal Kombat with difficulty scaling as you win each round and then add a Dead and Alive dynamic scenery whereby the arenas can be expanded out to a second level mid-fight. Sound good? Of course it does. This game borrows shamelessly from other fighting games and does so well. It takes great aspects of other fighting games and then combines them in one new and challenging game. The fighting is good. (Here I go again...not as good as in Batman!) The gameplay feels fresh and the multi-player is great fun. The only issue then is that the fluidity of the moves and the building of combinations has been done, and bettered, elsewhere. (I shan't say where as I think this is getting obvious now.)
What we have here is a good game, even in parts an excellent game. It has a great mission structure, an arcade ladder, fun multi-player and plenty of longevity. Sadly though the developers keep asking us to compare with 'those games' and when we do, we end up seeing the flaws in Injustice. The truth is, though a great game, it just isn't the market leader and if we hadn't been forced to compare we may not have noticed.
On Boxing Day in 2004, shortly after Christmas festivities finished the world woke up to the horrific news stories of a Tsunami that had hit south-east Asia. At first the implications of what such a force of nature could do to a civilisation were unclear but then the figures started to come through. Although impossible to be precise, over 250,000 people had lost their lives in just a few short hours. At some points the water reached heights of 94 feet. To most of us the scale of that disaster is beyond our imagination and we are left with lingering images from news channels and numbers that defy comprehension.
To Maria Belon, Enrique Alvarez and their three sons Lucas, Tomas and Simon the understanding is so much clearer for they were there, relaxing by the pool just metres from the beach when the wave struck without warning.
In the words of Maria:
"I remember being pushed against walls. You could feel them trembling and breaking, feeling them as they gave way, one after another."
Maria's body was flung through a plate glass window and then through the whole hotel that she was staying in before being washed inland by the force of the Tsunami.
"I was under the water for a long, long time. I was not in physical pain but the drowning sensation was like being in a spin-dryer. The doctors said I was underwater for more than three minutes because my lungs were absolutely full of water. I saw many lights under the water, tunnels with lights at the end, that people tell you they see when they are going to die."
It was hearing Maria telling her story on Spanish radio that prompted Juan Antonia Bayona to create a film. It is a brave move that has been tried only one time before by Clint Eastwood. Eastwood's attempt was universally acknowledged to have failed to capture the gravitas of the situation people faced on the day and then in the weeks and months that followed.
To hear Maria telling her story visit:
The film begins with just a few minutes of the holiday being established and then immediately we are thrown into the catastrophe of the story as the wave strikes. The realism in these scenes is the result of over a year of production. The ten minutes that show the impact of the wave itself involved months of shooting and 35,000 gallons of water each day. The end result is nothing short of shockingly spectacular. Enrique is by the pool with the two younger sons when the wave strikes and he, Tomas and Simon disappear in front of Maria's eyes just seconds before she too is washed away. Miraculously having passed quite literally through their hotel complex Maria manages to fight to the surface only to glimpse her eldest son Lucas also being thrown viciously around by the swirling water. Despite what turn out to be significant, life-threatening injuries she summons all the strength that comes from being a mother in order to fight her way through the currents to save her son.
There follows a scene that helps illustrate the warmest side of human nature when as mother and son try to reach a higher point for safety they hear somebody else crying out for help. Lucas is adamant that they cannot risk themselves but is persuaded by his mother and they pull out a small boy, Daniel. I don't want to put in too many spoilers for I think this is a film that needs watching and experiencing as it is but following on in real life Maria was later to say that she regrets loosing touch with Daniel and sincerely hopes that he is well in his life following the Tsunami.
The story then splits into two segments. Miraculously, Enrique finds both younger sons, Tomas and Simon. They are facing the growing reality that Maria and Lucas are dead. Simultaneously as Maria is treated in one of the over crowded emergency hospitals, her and Lucas feel a certainty that the Tsunami has claimed the lives of Enrique, Tomas and Simon.
The strength of this film is in how it takes a true story and through wonderful acting creates in the viewer the sensations of the day. You feel something of the fear, the desperation and the loss as you watch this film.
If there is a negative aspect to this movie it is that at times it feels indulgently sentimental. Accepting that this would be difficult to avoid having heard Maria's emotive story one maybe forgives this.
The memory of Boxing Day 2004 is beginning to fade for many of us that watched the news stories as the cold turkey was served but for those that survived the horrors of that day the memories live on vividly. Many of the survivors make an annual pilgrimage to the site of the Tsunami and reflect on their own fortune in making it through this catastrophic event. For those of us that weren't there this film does a remarkable job of transporting us, not just to the events and the locations but also, through the improbable story of Maria Belon, to the emotions of the day. It is this success in portraying the emotions that marks this out as a great piece of film-making and one that I recommend unreservedly.
I remember many years ago when our family first invested in a microwave. For a start it cost about three times as much as this, was very much under powered by comparison and the oven itself was around twice the size of the capacity of the cooking area. Mostly though I remember it because it heralded a new era in kitchen appliances. There was even a magazine partwork that came out that my mother invested in teaching you how to do creative cookery in the microwave. Years on and I think we have all accepted that the microwave is for making things hot quickly and although we may be more creative than the Findus cardboard base pizzas that were my microwave fodder of the early eighties really we haven't progressed much from that point.
So, what does the microwave get used for in our house now if it isn't creative new approaches to cookery. Well, we have passed on pizzas to the standard fan assisted oven which seems to do a far better job. The microwave gets to do some key family tasks though. Somebody is late home and there dinner had been plated for an hour. Step in the microwave. Frozen vegetables for roast dinner, or even fresh vegetables cooked the day before and reheated. Sauces, ping! Milk for an evening hot chocolate. What we look for as a family in the microwave is not the array of buttons down the side that promises to auto sens if the chicken has been cooked correctly. No, we look for power and ease of use.
This microwave delivers both on power and ease of use. The microwave has 900w of power which to the layman means that stuff cooks quickly. Yes, you can turn the power down and when we defrost something we do use a lower power (not the defrost option though as that takes too long!) but most of the time it is cranked up to full and we're on a roll for a full power zapping and instant heat. Also, the brushed aluminium finish means it fits in with most modern kitchens.
The buttons down the side allow you to access the auto-settings (for cooking fish, meat, vegetables and yes, even pizza) and all feel reasonably quality. The larger button across the bottom controls a spring loaded mechanism that flicks the door open. The food itself sits on a glass turntable in the centre of the microwave. The turntable rotates, as the name suggests, whilst the food is cooking. This gives a more even cooking of the food but you will still get hotspots so be careful when you zap on full power.
The microwave runs through the time you set and then at the end of the cycle beeps reassuringly to let you know that dinner is ready.
Overall, this microwave has provided us with good value for money over the time we have owned it. (We paid around 120 pounds but I believe now it is slightly cheaper.)
I have always been a fan of Nokia phones. The design that goes into them for me always brings something interesting to the product. My first phone, I forget the numbers, was a Nokia banana phone. A button on the top right hand side made a cover slide down and at the time it felt like something from Star Trek. I think probably my most enjoyable of all phones was the Nokia Communicator. When everybody else was content with text messages I had a phone that had much of the functionality of today's smart phones. When work announced that they were moving our phone system to a mobile system and that I was to be issued with a Nokia mobile phone then I was just ever so slightly feeling the anticipation of something that could be outstanding. At first, to be honest, when the Nokia C2 arrived I was disappointed. This looked like the least exciting mobile phone I had ever owned and is certainly not something I would ever buy for my own phone at home. However, some time on and what I would say is that this phone is a solid bit of kit. Uninspiring int he way perhaps my previous Nokia phones have been in terms of design but nevertheless a reliable phone that does everything it needs to do reasonably well.
To be clear, this is a budget phone. Expect change from fifty pounds. That said, it has many features that oth budget phones lack. Let's take a looks t some of the included features.
The phone does have a camera and takes acceptable snaps in reasonable light. It has no flash facility but that said, the Nokia lens is better than many other budget lenses so for capturing a quick snap it is fine. The phone comes with a USB connector. This can be used for charging the phone or downloading the photos to the computer. You can access the Internet on the phone and it does have a Facebook app pre-installed. However, the lack of a touch screen makes Internet browsing something you will only do in an emergency. Games can be download from the Ovi store but again, unless you have no other device for playing video games you are unlikely to want to game on this phone. The smallish screen makes accessing information on some of the inbuilt apps including the calendar also mo difficult than it should be these days.
My advice is forget the apps, forget the games, yes, even forget the Internet. This is a mobile telephone in the basic form of ten years ago and as such works well. With Bluetooth enabled so I can make hands free calls in the car the phone battery lasts for about two days with average use. With Bluetooth switched off you can double that.
In truth I wouldn't buy this phone. Despite fitting in a pocket it isn't pretty but it does fulfil the basic retirements of a phone in a size small enough to fit in your pocket and in tue Nokia style it is built well. It has been dropped numerous times and has been used daily for about eighteen months without any faults developing. If you want a cheap, reliable phone for calls and SMS you could do worse than look at this model. If you are conscious of the appearance of your phone or if you would like to use the Internet on the move or have access to a range of apps then this probably is going to disappoint.
I bought my second hand Peugeot 307cc at the start of February. This review will be my own experiences of this car from the perspective of an everyday user. I won't be talking torque, horsepower or anything else technical because my own knowledge in the area of motoring is somewhat limited. I will however be giving an honest appraisal of my experiences with this car over the last six months.
Firstly, the general rule being put around on the Internet for purchasing this car is to check if it is a pre or post 2005 model. Apparently the pre 2005 models were prone to have some reliability issues especially with electrics and in some cases this was expensive. I bought this car from a colleague and was confident that although it was a 2005 model it hadn't seen the garage for anything other than its regular service.
I have the car in metallic black and am very impressed with the appearance of the car. Although a budget convertible it does turn heads, especially when the hard top roof is moving up or down. One button on the centre console between driver and front passenger raises or lowers the roof over a period of about 30 seconds. The button has to be continually held to operate through the procedure which I assume is a safety system that means if there is a problem you can stop immediately. The roof can be raised and lowered whilst the car is moving but with a top speed of 6mph for the roof mechanism to function this is really only useful if you've initiated the procedure at traffic lights and need a couple of seconds for it to finish. Most of the time you will raise and lower the roof when the car is parked.
I have the standard 1.6 petrol model. I would suggest that this is right on the lower level of what is acceptable and compared to similar sized non-convertible cars this is slightly sluggish. I didn't realise at the time of purchase (because this is my first convertible car) but the hard top convertibles have a considerable extra weight in the mechanisms that move the roof and for this reason if you have a choice between the 1.6 or 2 litre version I would advocate the 2 litre one as better.
When I first took this car into the car wash I thought that it had a leak. It turned out not to be true however. The car wash I was using was the pressure washer variety where you wash the car yourself. The pressure of the water was sufficient for the door handle to register that they were being operated which in turn causes the front windows to drop a small amount. This is a neat effect and stops the windows catching but it does mean you need a standard car wash and shouldn't try to wash the car with a pressure washer.
In terms of internal specification there are the usual things that sit redundant after the first play. The car has for example a trip computer that will tell you how many miles of petrol are left in the tank and how many miles you have travelled since you last filled up. You can even set it with the distance of a trip and it will count down how many miles are left in the journey. To be honest, I don't use this at all. I did use the computer for some small changes. I changed the language from Spanish which was the language of the previous owner to English for example. The CD player in my 307cc is the six disc multi-changer controlled a stick on the steering wheel. The sound quality is superb and with the right tunes playing and the roof down on a sunny day the motoring is great fun.
In terms of space, the back of the car has two seats for passengers. These are ample but with the roof in place getting in and out requires bending and some unnatural stretches of the legs. With the roof open this becomes far easier. I personally feel slightly claustrophobic in the back of this car but it isn't due to a lack of leg room, more that the roof curves down low and as a tall person this just creates a sensation for me of not having very much space.
In terms of boot space, this car surprises me massively. The boot is quite square and the sides of the boot have the mechanisms for the roof. In the middle of the boot is a screen that pulls out. This divides the boot into a top and bottom half. This screen has to be deployed for the roof to open. If you want to use the boot space with the roof open you really need to put your items in the boot before deploying the screen and before opening the roof, otherwise you are trying to post the items through a relatively thin gap. With the roof open you can get in about six large carrier bags or one suitcase. With the roof closed you could double this quantity. You do have to be careful though as the instructions make it very clear that you should not put anything on the side areas of the boot as to do so may damage the roof mechanism. Trust me when I say this looks like clever engineering and therefore something that would be costly if you were to damage it.
In terms of reliability, the only problem I have experienced is with the roof. Once, I stopped closing the roof half way through the cycle. When I continued it didn't reach the right point to lock into place above the windscreen. Opening the roof fully and then closing reset this problem and it has not occurred since. The other problem I had was an error message on the dashboard telling me I couldn't open the roof because the screen in the boot was not deployed. This wasn't true, the screen was deployed. When I inspected I saw that on the right hand side where the screen attaches a small plastic cover had come off and disappeared and therefore closing the screen wasn't pressing down on the contact switch to confirm the screen was in place. A small piece of folded paper is my current free fix for this problem but I'm confident that the offending missing piece of plastic will not cost much to replace.
Overall I am delighted with this car. It provides comfortable motoring and looks good with the roof up or down. I would say however that the shape of the car looks far better when the roof is open. At speeds of upto 50mph it is comfortable for rear seat passengers too but once those speeds get higher the air flow over the car changes and rear seat passengers can then take a bit of a buffeting. A fun car and a great price entry into the convertible market.
Any game trying to enter the crowded first or third person shooter market needs to innovate to stand out from the crowd. Doing what the others do in a decent way is rarely good enough to bring in the reviews that drive sales. Just to clarify, first person shooters give you the perspective of looking at the game through the eyes of the protagonist. (Call of duty is perhaps the best known example of this genre.) Third person shooters give you the perspective of looking at the game over the should, or just behind the protagonist.
I personally feel that a first person shooter is already more immersive as it quite literally puts the player in the game. A third person shooter by comparison needs to be quite innovative to immerse the player. The Uncharted series of games succeeds as a third person shooter because of the quality of scripting and the immersive cut-scenes that are well acted and fluidly combine with the user controlled parts of the game to tell the story.
'Alice: Madness' returns is mainly a third person game and automatically then needs to do something a little special to create that immersive atmosphere. It tries, it really does and at times it works. There are times when you find yourself absorbed in the action and completely engrossed in the game but then there are other times when it just doesn't work. The unfortunate reason is that the developers have tried to innovate to make their game stand out from the crowd and yet it is this very innovation that breaks the atmosphere and provides a stuttering pace to the game. This isn't only a third person action game, at times in an effort to innovate, the developers have put in what can be most likened to platform sections of game play. This consistent switching between third person action and platform gaming is what stutters the game, taking away from the pace and at times completely killing the feeling of immersion that the player had developed.
Alice is a great character. This is a fresh take on gaming and enters the silliness of the worlds created in the Saints Row series. Weapons are bizarre and combination moves are ferociously fast and entertaining. The scenery in the game is incredible both in its quality and its inventiveness and it does look and play like a crazy, out of control world.
Another frustration in this game is the complexity of the maps. When you are trying to collect items finding passages that should be accessible but that through poor design won't let you past is just an irritating pause to the game play and again it is attention to detail such as this which detracts from what could otherwise be an award winning title.
Let me be clear, the game isn't poor and I reckon on there being thirty plus hours of fun and engaging game here. The problem is that in every market area it aims at it falls short of the best titles. If we consider it as a third person action game then it doesn't approach the gaming greatness of Uncharted. If we consider it a platform game then in this respect it just fails. Overall, it isn't that the game provides a satisfactory experience throughout but that it is wildly inconsistent with highs that equal the best of the games on the market and lows that then suddenly make you realise that in places this game has not had the attention to detail that it needed. A great idea is in there for innovating in this market but sadly it hasn't worked and therefore the game stands out for the wrong reasons.
This camera was bought many years ago as an upgrade to my 2Mp Canon Powershot that had also served me well. Sadly it was part of the stolen booty when my wife had her bag snatched from outside Alicante airport last year. This then, is a look back at the camera that served me for many years and captured the his and lows of many family times.
The camera itself is a 3Mp camera. I think in terms of mega pixels it is distracting to discuss resolution and all sorts of other terms. Far more useful is to consider the output of the camera. The more mega pixels a camera has the larger the printed output one can get and still consider it photo quality. This camera then outputs 6" x 4" prints at an exceptionally decent standard. When you enlarge you can take an A4 print at acceptable quality but unfortunately it is at this size you begin to see a slight degradation in print quality. I would suggest though that on photo paper even at A4 size a 3Mp camera gives satisfactory output for all but the most fussy of photo fanatics.
The zoom on this camera is a little disappointing and my own recommendation is not to use the zoom. I used to take the photographs without zoom and then use the software on the computer if I wanted to zoom. The zoom is 2x optical and then up to 6.4x digital zoom. The optical zoom doesn't have sufficient anti shake technology to be particularly useful and the digital zoom degrades image quality at an alarming rate.
The camera includes a rechargeable unit and this was a real selling point as my previous Powershot camera ate AA batteries at a ridiculous rate.
Features wise this camera has a range of automatic settings covering most eventualities. There is an optional Canon hard caseros use underwater but the price of the case is more than I paid for the camera. I therefore invested in a soft waterproof case for fifteen pounds from EBay and the resulting pictures when put on the underwater setting on the camera were fantastic. I got many great pictures snorkelling in Turkey and Spain.
A a light weight, compact camera this was a great buy and whoever took my wife's bag got a camera that had worked perfectly for ten years or more. I'm sure it is still working and whilst I wouldn't advocate stealing a bag in the hopes of obtaining one of these cameras if you see a cheap one second hand I would suspect it would be a reliable purchase. Nowadays, cameras have moved on significantly and three mega pixels seems small but I would say my reason for not getting rid of this camera earlier was that the picture quality especially for Internet use or six by four inch printed outputs was fine.