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My eyes and me tend not to see eye to eye. I've required glasses since the age of 13 (I probably could have done with them from a younger age, but I didn't notice till I tried on a friends glasses and realised everything was clear!) and I've had hayfever for as long as I can remember. Recently my allergies have been playing up as well as my glasses prescription changing wildly so I've had terribly tired feeling eyes for the last month or so while I put off buying another set of glasses. Throw in that I drive to work in an air-conditioned car, live in a warm and dry house and sit right under the air-con vents at my work desk, it's quite easy to see why my eyes would quite happily pack up their bags and stick a for sale sign through my eye sockets. Comfy! Yesterday was particularly hellish with allergies meaning I had a feeling like I had a blurry contact lens in my eye. Given that the last time I've worn contact lenses was about eight years ago, I'm certain I would have noticed that before now. The rest of the day my eyes became progressively more irritated. I have eye drops in the house, but luck would have it that I wasn't going to be home at any normal time (I will insist on having a social life, much to the distaste of my eyes!) so I decided to pop into boots to get some eye drops and an eye bath for later. I was quickly reminded how crap boots are sometimes (not one eyebath kit in sight and eye drops with a price that made my eyes water) and quickly popped along to Superdrug with the hopes that their eye drops wouldn't have to come with a mortgage.
===Worst Superhero Ever===
Superdrug are, rather fortunately, not a superhero whose only super power is being ultra thin and really talkative and/or being so chilled out you could probably eat their hand without them complaining. The possibilities for a septum that doubles as a ninja-star weapon and a utility belt full of teaspoons and citrus fruits do, however, tickle me. Superdrug are, in fact, a high street shop similar to boots who sell as much as they can really fit into their store under the guise of health and beauty (not quite sure where the crisps and mars bars come into that other than being an add-on/money spinner) and you'll usually find a chemist in there too. Superdrug opened their first store in 1966 and have grown quite a smidge since then to become the second biggest health and beauty retailer in the UK (behind boots, despite boots never having anything I need!). They battled the government to reduce VAT on condoms and have a few partnerships with other places like The Perfume Shop that mean they can sell you all kinds of junk below their symbol of a white star. Huzzah! If you want to contact them you can either leave feedback on their website (www.superdrug.com/feedback) or you can write to them with a genuine pen and bit of paper; their address is as follows:
Superdrug Stores PLC
Their "Superdrug's own" range comes in a bit cheaper than the competition in some areas and thankfully eye drops were one of these areas. Their eye drop range is manufactured by an Italian company called Omisan Farmaceutici who specialise in eye care, contact lenses, nasal sprays, ear drops and dietary supplements. If you want to get in contact with them the details are as follows:
Via Tossicia 15,
Phone: +3964130370 / +39064130370
The box for this stuff is about three inches tall and an inch and a half wide. It is dark blue with a little green "New" circle on the front. The text "Irritated eye drops" sits in white below the Superdrug star. The rest of the text is in a blood red colour, probably to indicate that it's for irritated eyes as the other drops they have are all in different colours. The red against the dark blue background can be a little uncomfortable to wrap your eyes around (thanks to an effect called chromostereopsis that produces a weird depth of field effect) and could possibly cause annoyance with designers everywhere who probably know that it's one of the worst colour combinations for text you can use, stop it, you shouldn't do it. Other than that, it's quite small and well put together so it's not going to take up a lot of space anywhere. The bottle inside is made of plastic with a pointed top and a screw off lid. I've found that my bottle always tends to have a bit of the liquid escape into the lid just before I fully screw it off which is a bit annoying and wasteful.
The side of the box lets you know that the box and the bottle are entirely recyclable which is fantastic for those eco warriors among us. I know my recycle bin will be ever so happy that I'm using it properly.
Flip the box round and you'll see the directions for use. You should wash your hands first before twisting off the top (generally good advice there) and applying two drops to each eye as often as you feel like you need to. Mostly because people are complete idiots at the best of times, there are warnings to make sure you don't touch your eyeball with the tip of the dropper so as not to scratch your eye. No scratchy eyeball fun for me then.
I've found that the bottle is fairly standard for eye drops. It's a bit hard to squeeze the drops out so it might be a bit difficult for those with limited grip in their hands to use them but most people won't have too much difficulty with them.
My first surprise with this stuff was that the stuff inside the bottle is a translucent yellowy-brown colour. It looks dirty and this is the first time I've ever seen eye drops solution that made me wonder what was actually in it. By the time I managed to sit down to put in the eye drops, my eyes were both stinging, probably from all the rubbing with dirty (by which I mean not washed in the last half hour) hands I'd been guilty of doing. The best way to apply these is to tip your head back and (assuming your eyelids are as flinchy as mine are) hold one finger on your eyelid to keep it open. Hold the bottle ominously above your head as if you are carefully measuring out just one drop of poison into a drink about to be served to Katie Hopkins. Once it hits your eye, jump back like a dog who has just had someone blow in their face and then pull an "oh my God, what just happened" look with only your mouth, all the while continuing to hold the eyelid and blinking like a horny schoolgirl who hasn't quite figured out winking yet. When you tip your head forward (especially if you've went for the recommended two drops) expect the entire contents of your eye to dribble down your face making you look like you are peeing from your eyeballs (the colour helps here). It might be an idea to have a clean tissue to hand to dry your face.
As soon as the drops hit my eyes, the burning disappeared. What a relief! Rather annoyingly, it didn't clear the feeling of there being something in my eye but it did take away the itchy, sore feeling, leaving me with just the feeling that I needed to take something out of my eye. That being said, I didn't expect the drops to clear that feeling and that is why I also bought an eye bath at the same time. Essentially they cleared up the irritated feeling which is exactly what they were supposed to do so that's a thumbs up right there.
===Longevity and value===
The box also lets me know that I get a whole 15ml of the stuff and that it shouldn't be kept for more than 90 days from the date it's opened. If you are unlucky enough to have your eyes feel like they are on fire nearly every single day for three months then you probably need something better than this to solve your problems. That leads me to wonder if anyone would really get through this stuff in 90 days and if not, then perhaps it is a touch overpriced coming in at around £4 per bottle. Cheaper than boots, but still quite a lot for 15ml of something that will go off in 3 months time. 15Ml is going to be more than enough as most droplets are about 0.05ml. That would mean that you'd get about 300 drops from each bottle which is 150 sets of two drops which means you could do both of your eyes 75 times with the recommended dose. It's unlikely you'd need to, but think of the possibilities. I think I'd be happier for them to drop the amount in the bottle and the price along with it to reduce wastage. So, my thoughts in short there: it's a bit pricey and won't last past 90 days, at which point you'll have to throw it out probably having used only half of the stuff. That is a shame and loses it a star.
The warnings on the box rather sensibly tell you not to use it if you are allergic to any of the ingredients. I wonder how many law suits have encouraged them to have this printed? That being the case, you might want to know what the ingredients are. I'm not a qualified scientist (unless you could that higher in physics from secondary school; I wouldn't) so it's up to you to decide which each ingredient means to you. Hopefully it tells a love story to your eyes:
Calendula Extract, Hamamelis extract, disodium edentate, sodium chloride, hydroxmethylglycinate, borate buffer, water.
That rather simple list probably means there can't be anything too terrible in there, but I direct you to the above statements. Plant extracts surely can't do terrible things? I smile and glance sideways at many well known "plant extracts". The box informs me that, whatever is in it, it's friendly to your contact lenses, so don't be surprised if you hear it inviting your contacts round for tea. Oh, also, you shouldn't swallow the stuff. You might start hearing things. Just saying.
It made my eyes feel a lot better when I really needed it. It didn't clear whatever junk was in my eye out of it, but I didn't think it would. The price is a bit high for what you get and the fact you'll probably end up throwing half of it out at its "use by" is a bit of a waste. That being said, it works. Four stars out of five from me!
===Highlands aren't Dry lands===
In October 2013 I had decided to take my other half away for his 30th birthday. I soon discovered that it was rather expensive so we ended up staying in Scotland instead of going abroad, but it turned out rather fabulous indeed. We were to take a wee jaunt up to Loch Ness and explore the area. I had also done a bit of research prior to leaving and discovered that there is a "whisky trail". Scotland is the homeland of real, proper, whisky (so there) and as such there are a good few distilleries dotted about the highlands. They are in a rough circle from just past Perth, up one side of Loch Ness and looping down the other side after hitting Inverness. Allan had mentioned in passing that he'd like to try more whiskies so I thought this might be a good way to get him started on the long road to cirrhosis. Out of the distilleries on the trail, only one of them happened to be on the very road we were travelling so we decided to hit that one just before we got home.
The Dalwhinnie distillery is quite noticeable even from a distance as long as you are travelling on the right road. Situated about an hour past Perth, it was the first distillery we saw on the way north from Dundee. It sits just off the A9 and you'll be able to see its strange oriental shaped roofs from a fair distance. Dalwhinnie is a tiny little village with almost nothing in it, but this building dominates the view with its shining white brickwork and a very stylish, black "Dalwhinnie" sign scrawled on the side of the building. It is surrounded by hills and not much else. You will either need to drive or book a tour through someone to get here as there are no train or bus stations nearby. If you are driving, there's a huge car park so you should be able to get a space, assuming you haven't decided to go on the busiest weekend of the year whenever that is. If you want to use your Sat-Nav to get there, the address is as follows:
If you need to give them a ring to ask any questions, the phone number is 01540 672219.
===Get your Passport===
You can get a little information on them on the Discovering Distilleries website and I'd recommend doing this before you go.
The web address is www.discovering-distilleries.com/dalwhinnie
The reason I say this is a good idea is that you can sign up to become a "friend of whisky" and get yourself a Whisky Trail Passport all for free. What does this get you? Free entry to the distilleries on this particular trail for a start! We hadn't been made aware of this before hand so we ended up having to pay £7.50 each for the tour which includes one shot of Whisky and a bit of chocolate. In theory, you'd be getting free whisky out of this passport. Dangerous or what?!
When you go in, you'll enter what looks like a very posh bar. There's a counter up the right hand side and all around there are big wooden shelves full of whisky. The place is gorgeously kitted out from the floor to the ceiling, Stone flooring and giant wooden rafters are lit with warm, almost whisky coloured lights making the place feel very welcoming indeed. There are even a few displays with information about the distillery! The room is full of big wooden tables with chairs so you can sit and enjoy a few whiskies or, like us, simply wait on the next tour. The tours are fairly regular and (obviously) it'll depend on when you go. We went on a Thursday afternoon so it was a fairly quiet time and the tours were every half hour or so. Despite it being a Thursday afternoon, the tours still had about 15 people each in them so I can imagine this place gets quite busy on the weekends. They do suggest that you call in advance to book a tour to avoid disappointment.
To buy your tickets for the next tour you simply tell the person on the desk what kind of tour you want. The difference in the tours and prices is simply how many kinds of whisky you want to taste. The more whisky you want, the more expensive the tour. Though, I refer you back to the passport that will get you in free, so in theory the tasters would either be free or heavily discounted. Your ticket will also give you a few coupons to get money off of the bigger bottles of whisky that the place sell, though I can't really say they are worth it, as it was only £3 and the bottles that qualified started at about £30!
===Starting the tour===
The tour begins in this room and the guide will go over a few safety precautions. The one thing that made me a bit sad was that you aren't allowed to take any photographs when you're inside the main factory as the whisky fumes are at risk of igniting if anything sparks. I love taking photos so that disappointed me a little, but I definitely prefer not blowing up distilleries so I let it slide. You'll also get to see who in your tour group is a rude mofo when the tour guide asks everyone to hand over their tickets. A lovely group of people were on our tour who physically pushed people out of the way to give their tickets over and managed to talk all the way through the tour. We chose to stand away from them in each area!
===Sweets for my Sweet===
Once you've been over the rules, the guide will take you to the main building which is out through the car park. Established in the 1820's the distillery has been going strong ever since. Inside the guide showed us some of the grains used in making the whisky and explained why being the highest distillery in Scotland (1164 feet above sea level) is important to the whisky making process. We got to feel and smell different oats and he explained how each one is made and the difference it makes to the whisky.
Next we were taken up the stairs into a room where we could see into a Mash Tun which is where the grain was mixed with water and stirred to help get all of the sugar out. The guide explained that the leftover grain from this process is used as cattle feed which was particularly interesting for us as we'd just visited the Deer Centre the weekend prior, where they were using similar pellets to feed the animals!
===Fireworks and Sulphur===
At each stage there was a large poster on the wall telling you what flavours each stage in the process was adding to the whisky. To be honest, I don't have the most sophisticated pallet so some of the flavours I couldn't really imagine being in a whisky (see the header of this section!) but the guide was so enthusiastic about each flavour I just went with it.
The next room we moved into was where the fermentation took place and the place had a strong smell of beer about it. In fact, that's basically what the whisky was at this stage as it hasn't yet got a very high percentage of alcohol. Again we were given some of the mix in a cup at this stage to have a smell of. I don't really like beer much, but I have to admit, it smelled like it might have tasted great!
===Heating it up===
From there we moved to the stills which is where the fermented wash was heated and filtered through a million and ten pipes until it had a kick to it. This room was quite warm as there were two giant copper containers being heated to boiling point filling the room. On the cold autumn day we went, this was a great room to be in as it really warmed me up! The guide will explain the process and you'll even see the product streaming through the Customs safe where the HMRC basically counts how much product the place is making.
===Out to the wilderness===
From there it's back outside and across the car park to a bit of the building behind the place where the tour began. We were lucky enough to get a look at the workers on their break (if I remember correctly there are about 12 of them) and oh my word. All the lifting barrels has certainly done those guys arms the world of good. After Allan and I picked ourselves off the ground, we entered the storehouse where the whiskies are stored in their barrels for however many years they fancy. The guide took the opportunity to explain about the different types of woods that can be used, why and what they'd do to the whisky. At this section, the store room is behind two big glass windows and outside the windows you'll be allowed to get a couple of pictures as the fumes won't be all up in your air space. It also explained a lot as to why older whisky is more expensive. I had assumed it was due to having to store it for so many years. Mostly, however, it's due to evaporation. The older it gets, the less of it there is to bottle! Why I'd never realised that before I do not know!
The tour ends here but not before you are given a whisky to taste and walked through how to best experience it. They even pair your whisky up with a chocolate that is supposed to complement the whisky nicely for a unique tasting experience. I admit I tasted nothing but a burn from the whisky. Not my drink at all. The chocolate, however, was delicious. You'll end the tour by being given a little gift too, though I won't spoil it for you. Once you are done, you go through a door and end up back in the main room with the bar like feel to it.
They have a selection of chocolates on sale made by a company called the highland chocolatier and after the delicious chocolate at the end of the tour, I decided to grab some. They were very small chunks and the signage wasn't incredibly clear so I had assumed a bag containing one of each of the seven flavours was just over a pound. Alas, the price was per chocolate so I ended up with a hefty bill nearing £9. The chocolates were nice, but they weren't worth £9 for 7 bits! Checking the website for the manufacturer tells me that this company charge through the nose for their chocolates so that's not really the distillery's fault.
One thing I noticed was that the staff were all more than happy to help. In fact when I arrived they happily gave me a jug so I could put some water into my windscreen wipers (I'd ran out just before I got there). The tour guide was knowledgeable and happy to answer any questions or explain something again if someone didn't catch it. The group of talky people had to ask him to repeat himself a few times as they weren't listening and he managed to keep his cool while the rest of the group scowled at them!
As with anywhere the toilets need to be up to scratch and they are certainly well maintained here! Everything was clean and tidy with nothing broken and plenty hot water to wash your hands (though a gentleman that was in at the same time as me just walked out without even pretending to care). Full marks there.
Yes! Kids are welcome on the tour, though they won't get a taster at the end. There were a couple of older kids on our tour and they seemed to enjoy it. It's something a bit different and interesting but it really is up to you to decide if your child will enjoy it! The only other thing I would say is that there are stairs to climb up and down within the tour so it may not be suitable for people in wheelchairs (though the staff would probably be happy to help if need be).
The tour really was interesting. Being that I'm the driver, I couldn't really taste more than one so if you are considering going on a tour of the distilleries, you're going to need to plan in advance OR make sure you have someone who doesn't mind carting your drunken behind about the highlands! I don't imagine I'd want to go and visit all the different distilleries having been to one, but if we are ever close, we might pop in since it'll be free! Definitely something different to do as a one off. Five stars from both me and Allan!
I have a funky little credit card that gives you points for everything you put on it. In tradition fashion, points mean prizes, which is good as the other tradition would be that points mean you lose your driving licence. Those "prizes" generally come in the form of vouchers from numerous places and as you get to choose where they come from, I get Amazon vouchers. My latest haul from Amazon was £35 worth of films and books from my wish list. I'm not a huge film person, but there are a few films I've held an interest in. Before I started on that pile, however, I decided it was only proper to watch a film that I've had for nearly a year without ever watching. This is how I came to plug in Rise of the Planet of the Apes a couple of nights ago. Huzzah
Are you from outer space? Then you may not know the general plot of the original Planet of the Apes film from 1968! A group of human astronauts (who have been travelling close to the speed of light for about 18 months from their point of view) crash land on a planet ruled over by Apes who look a lot more like humans than the normal Ape. Thanks to a freak trick of physics, the rest of the universe has been ageing much faster and they realise quite quickly that it's actually the year 3978. To cut a long story very, very short (mostly because everyone on this planet knows the outcome) it turns out that the planet they have crashed into is actually a post-apocalyptic earth. Humans have done what they were destined to do and ruined the place and the species of Ape smacked them down. Huzzah. Between this film and 1973, another four films were released with varying amounts of success. One of these films was Conquest of the Planet of the Apes. Conquest of the Planet of the Apes was a prequel dealing with Apes rebelling from being kept as pets after everyone's dog's and cat's died. Keep that in mind for later. There were also a couple of spin off T.V programmes but eventually all the hype stopped and the series took a rather long break.
In 2001 Tim Burton attempted a re-imagining of Planet of the Apes and must have failed as I've never heard of it. In 2011, however, a new director decided to Re-boot the series as is generally done nowadays since we can't really think of cool new things. The reboot came in the form of Rise of the Planet of the Apes. This film is basically a remake of Conquest of the Planet of the Apes (but officially they won't call it a remake even if the only difference I can see between "remake" and "reboot" is that reboot comes with intent to remake the entire series of films and not just one) in that it is set at the beginning of what will become Planet of the Apes. In the rebooted film series, the next film "Dawn of the Planet of the Apes" is due out in July this year.
As the name may suggest, Rise of the Planet of the Apes deals with how Apes became to be evolved enough to take over the planet. In fact it's quite clear from the first few minutes of the film that it's due to genetic testing. Dr Will Rodman (played by James Franco who plays Oz in the recent Oz the Great and Powerful) is trying to cure his father's Alzheimer's disease. They are testing on chimps that seem to be becoming much more intelligent with the help of an engineered virus. Alas one of the test subjects, a chimp named Bright Eyes (which was a nod towards the original film where an Ape gives the main character this nickname) goes a bit nuts when they are presenting the idea to investors and the mean boss Jacobs (named after the producer of the original film) has all the test subjects put down. After all of the chimps are killed, they discover a newborn chimp hidden in bright eye's cell and realise she was just trying to protect her baby. Rather than pointing this out to Jacobs, Will decides the best idea would be to take the little guy home, call him Caesar and study him since he's managed to inherit some of the intelligence-boosting virus given to his mother.
Will is rather naughty and gives Caesar (who is "played" by Andy Serkis; he was the guy who did the movements for the CGI and did the same for Lord of the Rings' Gollum) continued treatments. Caesar's intelligence grows to the point where Will is convinced to give the treatment to his father and it works fantastically.
You may be wondering what went so wrong here. What in this perfect little scenario leads to Ape Rebellion? Well, you'll probably be able to guess it before it gets there, but I won't ruin the whole thing for you. You'll need to watch the film for that.
It's a 12 rating but if you don't mind your kids seeing a little violence then its mostly suitable for everyone. Personally I don't see it being overly violent and you could use it to talk to your kids about animal rights.
===A few notable people===
I was surprised at the amount of faces I recognised in this film. The main one that took me off guard was David Hewlett. He plays Will's neighbour who is portrayed to be very obnoxious and highly strung, though if you actually think about it, you'd probably go nuts if someone's chimp broke into your garage too. Hewlett is a main character from Stargate Atlantis which is a series I adore so I couldn't really hate his character at all. I will say that Hewlett plays highly strung very well; his Stargate character is pretty obnoxious and highly strung, but loveable all the same. It did mean (for me at least) that I couldn't quite get behind hating his character, but I'm sure most people will have no problem.
James Franco as Will was (as pretty as he is) a bit grating and simple but I haven't really seemed to like him in most stuff I've seen of his. I couldn't really believe most of what his character did so I didn't really connect much with the character. I'm overjoyed to hear he has a lot of projects due to come out in 2014 so it looks like his face is going to be around a lot this year. Yay. The character seemed to have no guilt about what he was doing, despite it being completely against the ethics of scientists almost everywhere.
Tom Felton (better known as Draco Malfoy, Harry Potter's white haired enemy) also appears as an equally snivelling and punch-worthy character, Dodge Landon. His character's name is a reference to two characters from the original film and he's also a huge driving force behind a building hatred towards humans in the film. Brain Cox also plays Landon's father who is also a regrettable specimen of a human being. Felton's acting has never been fantastic in my opinion and I did find him to be a little bit panto-villain-esq with how over the top he was. I guess that's what the writing called for though. Hmm.
John Lithgow (3rd rock from the sun and Trinity from Dexter) plays Will's father rather brilliantly, showing both the incredibly vulnerable side of his mental condition and his exceptional recovery. I had a little trouble liking him too much though as in my head he'll always be Trinity, who was fantastically evil. That being said, he was at least believable in his role and I didn't want to punch him. I do think his decline into poor mental health could have been done a little better. In a film that seemed to enjoy drawing everything out, this part was done in about 30 seconds worth of footage.
===A few thoughts I was thinking===
The first thing I thought from the very start of the film was that the CGI was complete pants. Don't get me wrong, it's fantastic. But it's nowhere near good enough to believe at any point that any of the monkey-types are real. It's glaringly obvious that the monkeys are all CGI to the point that even some of the scenes of them falling through the air from trees seem to go too slow to give it a plausible sense of gravity. That annoyed me to no end and it made it near on impossible for Allan to enjoy the film because he couldn't connect with the obviously fake monkeys at all. That being said, all the inanimate things blowing up near the end of the film looked perfectly convincing. I'm not sure what it says about us as a species that we've practiced destruction to the point of having it look perfect on screen but we still can't nail living things. Oh well!
Another thing that bugged me was that the Apes were clearly more intelligent than me to begin with, with a few of them speaking in sign language. Mostly it was quite easy to understand what they were trying to communicate but there was at least one scene where I was genuinely clueless about what those damn dirty apes were trying to say to each other. They could have (and should have) used some subtitles for us thickos like they did in Congo (at least I remember there being subtitles in that film when the ape signed, I might be wrong!)
Mainly, however, my thoughts wandered to how slowly the film progresses. It really does meander through the relationship between Caesar and Will, with all of the exciting stuff happening quite near the end and then a major plot point being dealt with in only a couple of very short scenes and what was essentially a computer generated flow chart in the end credits. I'm pretty sure they could have easily concentrated a bit more on what happened after the Apes rebel. Even the sequel will be jumping in a good ten years after the events of the first film so I'm left feeling like there will be huge unexplored gaps. Those gaps will be quite easily filled in by your own imagination, but it would have been nice to maybe cut some of the boring stuff and put a fuller picture forward to the audience. Allan summed up the film afterwards something along the lines of "Apes get smart, Apes run away over a bridge, end" and it's fairly accurate. Any film that can be summed up so succinctly probably has a lot of filler in there.
===Would I watch it again?===
Probably not any time soon if I'm being honest, though that's not to say I hated it. I enjoyed it, but I think once is definitely enough to pick everything up. It has, however, made me interested in seeing the sequel. I feel that the Rise of the Planet of the Apes isn't really finished. The Apes have not quite finished rising. The planet does not yet belong to them so I want to know more.
That's the film dealt with. Was the DVD well put together? Yes. The main menu is incredibly simple with a close up picture of Caesar in the background and you have three options to choose from while some orchestral music trumpets away in the background: Play, Setup and Scene. Each of the options are very straightforward with nothing unexpected. There are no extras to be had and no "Easter eggs" (hidden menus) to be found on the disc. You'll be able to get subtitles from the setup menu but I haven't checked if the subtitles show what the apes are saying. That and I wouldn't have wanted to watch the whole movie with subtitles for that one bit that I didn't quite grasp. The lack of extras is always a bit of a shame on a DVD, in saying that I wasn't overly upset by it in this instance as I wasn't so excited by this film that I didn't want it to end.
The film plays in widescreen letterbox mode which is fine for us as we have a large television but might be a bit of a pain if you have a smaller one.
I picked this one up on a trip to Tesco (which is rare since most of my DVD's come from online retailers). They had it on offer for £3 at the time so I couldn't really say no! You can pick it up online for much the same price and even cheaper if you can find someone that gives you free postage.
The film was ok but the lack of anything really exciting happening till near the end coupled with the unrealistic primates loses it a couple of stars. The DVD itself is simple but well put together so there are no complaints there unless you are hungry for extras. It's got me interested enough to want to see the next one, though I can't say I'll be eager to see this one again any time soon. Good for a one off watch! Three stars out of five from me.
I have a little bit of an obsession. In fact, I have a few, some stranger than others. Thankfully today I'll be telling you about the more socially acceptable ones. I wouldn't say that I'm a gamer (or a Gaymer as a million horrid little gay-gamers are now proudly calling themselves, urgh, spit) but I do, very occasionally, fall madly in love with a game. The only games that have managed to have this effect on me were as follows: Goldeneye (N64) Quack Attack (Snes) The Prince of Persia (Playstation and later the Wii) and The Legend of Zelda (Various Nintendo consoles). The first three slowly lost their charm over the years either due to ageing drastically or simply due to the makers becoming too arty for their own good and not linking the controls up to new consoles very well (Prince of Persia, I'm talking to you). Only one game has firmly held my attention since it was introduced to me and that is The Legend of Zelda.
===Who is this Zelda you speak of?===
Zelda gets far too much credit. The Legend of Zelda was first released way back in 1986 and has since followed a very similar formula. The magical land of Hyrule and its surroundings were created by three goddesses who left behind the Tri-force when they left this world for the spiritual realm. This funky little object is made up of three golden triangles and if you get your hands on all three, then you can pretty much do what you want because you'll be super cool and all powerful. Obviously that means that some pretty shifty people want to get hold of it and make everyone's life a misery. As part or all of the Triforce (depending on which game you're playing) is guarded by the Royal Family, The Princess Zelda always manages to get in the firing line when Ganon (the usual evil guy constantly breaking his eternal bondage in the spirit realm) comes for what he wants. So off she pops into a deep sleep, or trapped in a see through crystal or underwater or into a painting etc and all of a sudden you are thrown into the job of saving Her All Powefull Idiotness from the clutches of doom. The hero of the story is a little boy called Link (who actually takes on your name when you enter it) who is generally fast asleep when the game begins. Each generation has some version of him, but he has a penchant for being blondy-ginger and wearing a lot of green. He is the one destined to protect the power of the Tri-force (and apparently, by proxy, that pesky attention seeking princess) though he has a bad habit of being knocked out or passing out at the same moment Zelda gets herself in trouble leading to a giant quest instead of a short battle. So really, the entire series should really be called The Legend of Link, but I guess that doesn't have the same ring to it.
The Legend of Zelda: The Phantom Hour Glass was released for the Nintendo DS console in 2007 which was after Nintendo's much bigger release of the franchise's "Twilight Princess" for the Wii in 2006. Rather than following on from that release, however, this game follows on from the earlier release of Windwaker for the Gamecube in 2003. As such the style, characters and music is much the same as in Windwaker which is a lot more cartoony than most of the other releases. I always said it was a bit like the Rugrats when they let out Windwaker. This story begins just after windwaker finishes with Link and Zelda (or Tetra as she's calling herself) on a pirate ship exploring the oceans. In true Zelda style she hears about a Ghost Ship abducting people and decides it's a great idea to go check it out. Ten points if you can guess who gets kidnapped? Double or nothing if you can guess who half drowns himself and passes out trying to save her? Yup. And Yup.
===Behind the times===
Unfortunately for me, I tend to be quite a bit behind in getting to play them since I'm not made of the kind of money you generally need to keep up with the new Nintendo consoles and releases. Recently, however, Allan got himself a 3DS (a little handheld thing, think fancy gameboy) and just in time for the latest Legend of Zelda release. Having thoroughly kicked the backside out of that release I realised that the 3DS is backwards compatible, meaning that I could buy the Legend of Zelda releases for the slightly less fancy DS and play it on this machine. I almost melted with joy.
From the second I plugged it in, I was not overjoyed. Not only had someone used this game before me (well I did buy it second hand), but their profile showed that they didn't even bother completing it. Cretin. Absolute scum!!* Apart from that though, the graphics were nowhere near as good as I had expected. Windwaker's animation style was a bit cartoony, but it wasn't poorly put together. The cut scenes and some of the close-up character interaction in this game, however, are not great at all. They are quite flickery and unstable when usually they are better animated than the rest of the game. It feels like it was very quickly whacked together so they could have a DS / Zelda release to draw people in. Even the graphics on the N64 were better and that's a much older console. Strange indeed.
I fully admit here that I came from playing a 2013 release straight to playing a 2007 release. Six years apparently made all the difference as I really did not like the controls on Phantom Hourglass at all. The 3DS folds open to reveal two screens. The one on the bottom half is a touch screen and the one on the top can be used to view 3D segments of games if they have them. The 3DS has a joystick on the left hand bottom side along with the arrow buttons, while the other side has the A, B, X and Y buttons. You also get a pointer with the console to help you with the touch screen. In the most recent release you move Link around the screen by using the joystick which is smooth, easy and accurate. The DS was an earlier version of this and did not include a joystick. So how did you move Link around a 360 degree world without a joystick? The touch screen.
===Oh God, the touch screen===
If you put your pointer on the touch screen at the place you want Link to go to, he starts running in that direction. The screen moves around him so if you do want to go quite far you just keep the pointer held at the side of the screen in the direction you want to travel. If you want to slash your sword at something you have to draw a quick line between Link and whatever you are slashing. Defending yourself with a 360 sword spin is as easy as drawing a frantic circle around Link, while tumbling as you run is done by scribbling small circles at the side of the screen while Link's on the move. Not only does your main game play now take place on the less clear of the two screens, the movement is quite inaccurate. In other games it's easy to run up to a bad guy and slash your sword at them and hit them. In this game, however, I've found Link stopping short of a target and slashing nothing but air. Nudging him forward isn't easy as he starts going full pelt soon as your pointer touches the screen and a lot of the time runs right into the bad guy you were trying to get closer to. You can use the option to simply tap each bad guy in turn and link will automatically hit at them, but it's not as fun and takes a lot of the skill out of the game. It also makes cutting any grass in the fields very time consuming. If you've never played a Zelda game before, long grass always hides items such as money (Rupees) or hearts which replenish your health so it's always worth slashing as much grass as possible. This game makes it very, very boring to do so.
Picking items up such as rocks and barrels is as easy as clicking them with your pointer, throwing them away is just as easy by tapping where you want to throw. Speaking to people is done much the same way, but with less throwing afterwards. Again it all seems to over simplify the game, but again it's possible that I just spoiled myself by playing a more technologically advanced Zelda game on the same console first. That being said, I think that they went straight for the gimmick of touch screen and ignored the other buttons that could have easily controlled link a lot more accurately. Oh well.
===Speak to yourself===
There are one or two points in the game that use the microphone on the DS to activate or access certain areas and this is something that I loathe. Normally I can sit and rather unobtrusively play these games while my partner does something else. I don't really appreciate having to shout like an idiot at the DS to be able to progress with the game. Not only does it disturb my partner watching TV while I play, it makes me look like a total numpty. Imagine if you were just sitting playing this in a coffee shop and you got to a point where you had to shout to move further. Frustrating. There is literally no way around this at certain points.
You can toggle the map from the top screen to the bottom screen and make notes on it which can be helpful for remembering where things are. It can also be used later in the game when you get into your boat as you can plot a course that your boat will then sail on the course you've chosen. You can use the pointer to look around and jump while the ship is sailing but it's quite a task to keep on top of where to look while you're moving. It makes the game feel very "all over the place" rather than smooth and seamlessly put together.
Much like earlier games, you can save this game whenever you feel like saving it. There are pro's and con's to this. Saving whenever you want means that you can stop whenever you want and put the game down. That can come in handy if you are in the middle of a dungeon and need to go do something. Con's are that you tend to get put back to the start of the dungeon (albeit with the rooms you've completed still mostly complete) when you do it. I much prefer being able to save wherever I want as it can be quite annoying if you have to run half way across the world to find a save point before you can turn your game off.
As with any Zelda game there are a few different weapons you can pick up along the way to help your quest. You can even pimp out your ship with cannons and various other bits and bobs that basically power up your ride. You can salvage parts from other ships that sail the incredibly boring seas of this game too. Joy. If I hadn't already gotten completely bored with travelling everywhere this might make the game fun, but controlling the ship no matter how pimped out it is, is a slog and sailing somewhere always just makes me want to cry with boredom.
Having started this review wondering why someone wouldn't complete the game before sending it off, I quickly realised that this was the first Zelda game that I didn't actually feel a burning desire to play. In fact, it sat for days at a time without being touched simply because the controls are so horrible that it put me off. As for how long it actually takes to get through...well! If you play it from start to finish without being put off, you'll probably get about a week or two out of it (that's about normal for a Zelda game anyway). As it stands, I've had months out of it simply because I don't really want to go back to it. To this date I still haven't completed it fully, which was unheard of when it comes to me and the games I've gotten my mitts on from this franchise.
I hate the controls, that much is clear. I'll have to take a star off for that alone. Another star also has to come off for the occasionally blocky and terrible graphics that make the whole thing seem really cheaply put together. There are long and very boring segments of travel in the game that just don't keep me engaged enough to care about what's going on. I get to the point where I just want to be where I'm going and be over with it. I'm taking another star off for that. That leaves me at two stars before I take a star off for the lack of any drive to complete the game. It feels like a dismal attempt to squeeze money out of the franchise. I may eventually complete it, but it's going to take pure will power and a lot of teeth-grinding boredom. I'm a huge Zelda fan and I'd say steer clear. One star out of five.
*I take that back, I fully understand now.
I was packing for our weekend away in January. Everything important was done and then I decided I'd get a few bottles of Blue WKD (booze) to take away with us. Last minute plans to remember to pack a bottle opener were made... and then something sparkly must have danced in the corners of my vision and rather promptly I forgot about a bottle opener. After raking around our hotel room for a bottle opener to no avail and everyone refusing to go ask at the hotel desk for one, I looked up how to open a bottle without a bottle opener online. There were many fabulous ways and I tried a few but couldn't quite get it to work. Having grasped a little about the technique from all the failed attempts to access my booze, I decided a teaspoon might work and (much to everyone's surprise) it did! As it turns out I was just very lucky with the first attempt and the second attempt didn't go too well. In fact, my hand slipped and scraped right up the side of the serrated edge of the bottle cap, slicing open three of my knuckles. Funnily enough, my partner Allan then went to the hotel desk to ask for plasters and a bottle opener. The things you have to do to get a drink, eh? As I quickly realised how deep the cuts were, I decided I'd need to buy a pack of plasters for myself while we were out the next day.
===You say potato, I say hoover ===
Elastoplast is a name I instantly recognised without even realising. In fact it's one of those names that I've heard people using in place of the actual product name. Instead of "do you have a plaster?" I've heard "do you have an elastoplast?". Elastoplast is just the brand name of the range of sticking plasters and medical bandages made by a German company called Beiersdorf. If you want to contact the company about their products they have a website (www.elastoplast.net) or you can write to them the old fashioned way with the address on the box:
Beiersdorf UK ltd,
Elastoplast regularly change their packaging but they always manage to tell you exactly what you are getting on the front. In this case "Antibacterial" is on the front in big letters, followed by "fabric" and that they reduce the risk of infection and are extra flexible. There's also a little bit under that to say that the pad of the plaster is laced with silver. It'll also tell you that you get 10 strips in the box. If you flip the box over it'll tell you that silver is a natural antiseptic which will kill harmful germs. Given that I had a big chunk of skin hanging dubiously from my finger, I decided that it could probably do with all the help it could get to stop infection setting in. Perfect.
On the side of the box it will also give you the measurements of the plasters and a little ruler so you can work out how big they are without opening the box. This would come in handy if you had all day to browse and were looking for a specific size, but once you've got them and the box is open, it'd be quicker just to look inside and see for yourself.
To open the box you have to push down on a little cardboard tab on the side which is a little strange and does mean that the box cant be sealed up properly again after use. I don't particularly like that but I'm not going to take a star off for it.
===Sticky and stretchy===
Like every other plaster I've ever used, this has two shiny paper tabs over the sticky bits of the plaster that need to be peeled back before you apply the pad to the wounded area. Before you apply it's always best to make sure the area you're applying it to is clean and dry. As my worst cut was right on the knuckle of my finger, the stretchiness of this plaster was going to be tested to the max. I found when putting them on that the stretchiness can also make the plaster a bit too tight. If you stretch the plaster while putting it on, it can retract when you're done and tighten. As such I'd suggest applying these as gently as possible so that you get a little bit of wiggle room. Once it's on properly, however, they provide enough stretch to let your joints move freely without feeling too much like an invalid.
The stickiness is also a major area of concern with plasters. Some will stick too much and are impossible to remove; others just fall off after a few minutes. These plasters, however, are great. They are really sticky so as soon as you put them on, they are not going to budge. Even after a whole night of wearing one on my finger, it was still stuck firmly in place. The only time the stickiness quits is if you get your plaster wet. This does mean that if you go to wash your hands with the plaster on, it will promptly slide right off. So far, it's the only downside of the plasters that I've found. Any other time they stand up to anything you throw at them but they are far, far from waterproof which is a shame. I'll have to knock a star off for that, even if it did come in handy for when I actually WANTED to take them off without them ripping hair off my fingers!
===Absorption and allergies===
The next issue that plasters face is how absorbent they are. I've had some fabric plasters that have leaked through to the other side when worn overnight. These ones, however, are very absorbent and manage to keep all of the blood in one place. My fingers continued to bleed a bit for the day after I cut them but at no point did the blood seep through. Again the only time I found myself having to replace the plasters was after I washed my hands.
Allergy wise you need to be careful if you have a latex allergy as the packaging states that it contains latex, though it doesn't make it very clear if it's in the plasters or in the covering that you peel off to apply them. Either way, best avoid if you think you'll have any issues.
===Does it sting?===
You might thing that if something is antibacterial it'll sting or hurt. Thankfully these don't hurt at all. The silver keeps the germies at bay while your finger heals away. I'm pretty sure I was unlikely to become infected anyway thanks to decent hygiene, but having this extra layer of antibacterial protection really gave me a lot more confidence that, despite how gruesome it looked, my finger would heal just fine. As it stands, it has. Three days after the initial cut, I was happy to stop wearing plasters. I still have a scar on all three fingers, but they don't claim to be miracle workers! The whole time I was wearing the plasters I never felt any experienced any discomfort from them.
In the little chemist we got them, they were selling for a rather reasonable £1.87 which works out at 18p per plaster. Not terrible really especially considering they have the antibacterial silver in the pad. I'd happily pay that for another pack if I needed them.
The verdict that I have reached is mostly "don't open bottles with teaspoons". As for the plasters they were comfortable, provided a good absorbent pad and gave me the stretchiness to move my fingers without any trouble and the stickiness to ensure the plasters didn't fall off. My only gripe is that they come off as soon as they get wet but even that can come in handy for when you do actually want to get them off. They are perfectly affordable and can give you a little bit more confidence that you aren't going to have an infected cut. Four stars and a recommendation from me!
Edinburgh is a very interesting city, especially the old town area which is steeped waist deep in history. That's the reason we were in Edinburgh and after we'd been on a rather long but fun tour of Mary King's Close and The Royal Mile we decided that we really needed to eat something before we embarked on our next tour. A short wander down The Royal Mile and we'd came to The Filling Station. Too tired and cold to really care too much where we ate, we bundled in ready to eat.
The Filling Station is situated just off The Royal Mile on the High Street section within a minutes walking distance from St Giles Cathedral. There are plenty busses servicing the local area and Waverley Train Station isn't more than five minutes away. Parking nearby might be a bit of a nightmare due to being in Old Town in a pedestrianised area but it's not too far to walk from the roads that allow traffic, especially if you get a taxi. If you need the address to help you find it, here it is:
235-241 High Street
You might want to contact them to book a table before arriving, though we walked in at about half five on a Saturday evening and managed to get a seat for 3 with no problem. If you'd prefer not to chance it, however, you can call them on 0131 226 2488 or email them on email@example.com.
===Who are they?===
The Filling Station is a chain restaurant owned by The Restaurant Group who also own other well known places like Frankie and Benny's and Garfunkel's (which is just across the road). This restaurant chain, much like the others, is a mix between American and Italian food. They all tend to be filled with memorabilia making the places look like they have a lovely history when in actual fact it's all just a story. The Filling station is packed with pictures and bits of bikes and cars while showing off the comfy and interesting décor of an American diner.
===Sitting down, way down===
The waitress came over to seat us straight away when we came in and showed us to a booth. The people behind us had draped their coats over our side and decided not to move them when they saw us being sat down. How nice. I got a bit of a shock as the springs on the seat I'd been given were completely past it so my backside fell much farther into the seat than it was supposed to. It wasn't incredibly uncomfortable, but it wasn't a great start.
Drinks were ordered though I did have to question the waitress as to how much the drinks were as spirits, rather bizarrely were the only thing on the menu that didn't have a price attached to them on the menu. As it turns out they were over £3 each before you added a mixer so drinks in here really weren't cheap if you wanted it to be stronger than a coke. Even then, it was around £2.50 for a soft drink which is just nuts. Other than the drinks, there were plenty of options on the menu so you'll probably find something everyone likes here. Pizzas, burgers, pasta and salads are the staples of the menu with a few other things kicking about on it.
===Revving the engines===
Rather than having a three course meal, we decided just to order everything with a couple of sides and tuck in, mostly because we were conscious of the time. We probably would have had enough time before we had to leave for the next tour but didn't want to chance it.
Allan and Sloan both ordered a pizza. Allan had a Double Pepperoni pizza for £9.99. The size wasn't printed anywhere (sneaky) but I would say it was either 10 or 12 inches. His pizza was quite simple but tasty looking and he really enjoyed it though did say it was maybe a little pricey for what he got. He got a side of chips for around £4 that were also polished off.
Sloan went for the Californian Classic Pizza for £10.45. This pizza came with goat's cheese, tomatoes, peppers, mushrooms and red onions topped with mozzarella with a tomato and pesto base. I don't really like pizza and it sounds delicious. Again the size wasn't on the menu but it was the same as Allan's (whatever that was). It looked really tasty again and Sloan finished hers off with no complaint so it must have been good! She also ordered a side of onion rings which were around a fiver and also looked delicious. Again it was maybe a little pricey for the amount she got, but I have to remind myself that Edinburgh is generally (and needlessly) more expensive than other places.
===Trouble at the station===
For my order I went for Steak and Fries (£13.95) and a side of cheesy garlic bread (about a fiver). The side of cheesy garlic bread was delicious and a decent serving for the price too. The steak on the other hand was shocking. The first thing that made me raise an eyebrow was the size of the thing. More pointedly, the lack of size. I had just paid £13.95 for a 5oz steak. To put this into perspective, you can get 8oz steaks for the same price in plenty other places. I have had thicker slices of roast beef. Still, I was hungry and decided not to bother complaining. I cut it open to find that "medium rare" is impossible to do with a piece of steak less than half a centimetre thick. As much as I prefer my steak cooked properly (by which I mean to order) I can pretty much eat it any way it comes. Unless of course it tastes off. One bite of the wafer thin steak confirmed that it tasted terrible and said bite was promptly put back on the plate and the waitress subtly called over. She was nothing but apologetic and offered straight away to get another steak. I asked if I could order something else instead as I really didn't fancy trying more steak at that point. This wasn't a problem and she brought the menu back over for me to choose. Meanwhile I tucked into my cheesy garlic bread. A minute or so later the manager came over to apologise about the steak. It was good to know that the staff were reporting issues promptly!
===Trouble at the station: Take Two===
For my next attempt I decided to go with the Chicken, Bacon and Blue salad for £11.95. The price was bordering on expensive for a salad but it at least looked more appetising than the steak did. This salad came with slow roasted tomatoes, pancetta bacon and crumbled blue cheese sprinkled over a "seasoned chicken breast" and a lot of leaves (as you would expect). The cheese, bacon and tomatoes were lovely and the chicken was seasoned nicely. I was really enjoying it till about half way through when I cut into the thickest bit of the chicken to be met with a large area of pink meat. I put my cutlery down straight away and pushed my plate away. I was no longer hungry and felt really bad for having to complain again.
When the waitress came over to ask if everything was ok, I showed her the chicken and her face was completely shocked. She was again very apologetic and asked if I wanted anything else, I thanked her but told her I wasn't very hungry any more. We saw her show the plate to another member of staff who also looked horrified and not long after the manager came back over to apologise again. We asked for the bill at that point. A couple of minutes later the manager came back with the bill and to our surprise she had removed all of the food, including Allan and Sloan's pizzas and all the sides from the bill and asked only that we paid for the drinks We'd only had two alcoholic drinks and a soda water with lime so the total bill came to a grand total of £9 exactly. I can't say that it made me want to go back, but it certainly made us all feel a little better about my terrible luck with my order.
As with anywhere else, the toilets need to be up to scratch or they'll lose a star. I actually had to go into the toilets as soon as I had arrived due to a nose bleed, probably thanks to going from the cold into the warmth of the restaurant. I was disheartened that the cubicle I had to rush into was not very clean and the lock on it had been burst so the door didn't stay shut meaning I had to hold it while trying not to get blood everywhere. The loo roll provided was those horrid thin individual squares that are no use to anyone. In general the toilets weren't incredibly pleasant so I'll be taking a star off for that.
This is a tough one. I have to take a star off for the toilets and another for the broken seat. The staff were lovely and very apologetic about everything but I have to take a star off for each of the meals that had to be sent back. I will add a star back on for knocking all the food off of the bill. That leaves us with a rather dismal two stars which is a shame as the pizzas and garlic bread were all ok, if not a little overpriced and the staff were all very attentive. That being said, even if I didn't have the trouble with the food, I'd have knocked a star off for the price which would still mean a score of two stars. I'd only recommend this place if you're getting a pizza, otherwise I'd steer clear.
===Andrew's donkey is dead and smelly===
Christmas reviews are almost over. Rejoice as we can now have a couple of weeks before someone mentions saving up for Christmas coming. The last Christmas product I'm intending on reviewing was actually bought by my mum for my partner Allan but as it's a scent, it sits in our bathroom and I get to get some use of it. What's mine is his and what's his is always up for debate and occasional stealing. As Allan isn't a huge fan of the stuff, however, it really is mine now. Yay!
===Who are Adidas?===
This is earth. On earth there are quite a few sports brands and Adidas is one of them. Given, it's maybe not as popular as Nike or... other... sports...brands of which I know tonnes, (being all manly and sporty and all) but it's very well known. It's so well known, in fact, that I've even grown up with a terribly racist saying that helps to remember how to spell it correctly (though I suspect as a child in the playground I didn't really latch on to the racist part of it and more to the "wow that's actually quite a useful way to remember how to spell adidas") As I've now realised how awful it is you'll all just have to guess at what it could possibly be, but I'll give you a clue: It involves an person of ethnicity going to the toilet. Oh my word. Children are fantastic eh?
As for Adidas, they are based in Germany and they have mainly manufactured sports wear since 1948 when Adolf Dassler (instantly the name makes sense, keeping in mind that Adi is sometimes short for Adolf) and his brother went separate ways. Both brothers were fans of the Nazis during the war and their factory was used to help build anti-tank weapons during WW2. The brothers fell out and their company split with Adolf calling his company Adidas and his brother Rudolf calling his company Ruda (since apparently neither of them could think of better names). Ruda later used his brain and thought up "Puma" and rebranded the entire company. Unlike Hugo Boss, Adidas managed to convince the Americans that the people in the factory only wanted to make shoes so they were let off incredibly lightly after the war.
Since then they have branched out from just shoes to most things you could want for your sports needs but they haven't done incredibly well at keeping people happy. The have been slammed for running sweatshops in India and for buying their paper products from a company with a terrible reputation for deforestation. What a lovely company they must be! If you wish to get in touch with them and raise an eyebrow in their general direction, their contact details are as follows:
Phone: +49 (0) 9132 84-0
Top notes: basil, pepper, mandarin orange, grapefruit
Middle/ Heart notes: cypress, guaiac wood, lavender
Base notes: tonka bean, Sandalwood, incense patchouli
This scent was released in 2010 though instantly throws me back to 2000 when I was 13. The smell reminds me of a boys locker room. Not a men's locker room, a boy's locker room. It's very similar to almost every scent by lynx, with a generic spicy but fresh odour to it. It feels like this scent was built to be worn after a work out until you get home to put on a real smell. It doesn't scream sexy or suave and so it's not something I'd really want to wear somewhere nice. It's quite basic and generic. That being said, it isn't bad. In fact it smells quite similar to another scent Adidas do called Ice Dive which I quite like, though again it probably isn't something I'd expect to wear on a night out. This scent is quite fresh and citrusy despite all the woody and spicy notes and settles down to a mild spicy, fresh scent quite quickly.
The box, I will admit, is quite sexy. It looks almost like a cigarette pack (which I really should find repulsive being a non smoker) but jet black black with luminous green highlights that give hints to its citrusy smell. Inside the bottle isn't as sexy as the box, but it's not terrible. It's basically a rectangle that has curved sides as if someone picked it up and squeezed the middle. It has slightly rougher glass on the side and is totally see through to the greenish liquid inside meaning you can tell when you're almost out. The lid is a pop off thing but it's neither too firm or not firm enough so it works well. The spray nozzle doesn't quite spray enough for my liking so I have to have a few squirts to get the desired coverage. It's sturdy enough to stand on its own so the only issue is the spray not really giving you enough in one pump which I'll be taking a star off for.
You'll smell it about you for about five minutes, after that the scent has settled into a very subtle but clean smell and after about an hour you'll be hard pushed to detect this unless you know exactly where you sprayed it. I can detect it on my clothes a little longer than on my skin but you need to be sniffing the exact right spot. No one has really commented or complimented me on this scent so I've figured out it really doesn't last on my skin at all. As stated before, it is fine for a quick boost of freshness till you can find something that smells a bit better and lasts a bit longer.
If you're a violent type, you might want to blow stuff up. If you're not a violent type, you might not want to blow yourself up (be it with allergies or fire). Either way, you'll probably want to know the ingredients so you can decide if it's suitable for your needs. Here they are:
Alcohol Denat, Aqua/Water/EAU, Parfum/Fragrance, Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate, Acrylates/Octylacrylamide Copolymer, Linalool, Limonene, Benzophenone-3, Ethylhexyl Salicylate, Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Hydroxyisohexyl 3-Cyclohexene Carboxaldehyde, Coumarin, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Hydrolyzed Jojoba Esters, Citronellol, Alpha-Isomethyl Ionone, Citral, BHT, Geraniol, Propylene Glycol, Disodium EDTA, FD&C Yellow No.5 (CI 19140), FD&C Blue No.1 (CI 42090), Ext.D&C Violet No.2 (CI 60730)
This stuff is £5 for 100ml in Asda. That is a steal, though it's just as well as otherwise you'd be wondering why you've paid good money for a scent which doesn't really last very long. For a fiver, however, it's more than worth it as something to keep you smelling fresh long enough for you to get home after the gym, but you'd also have to ask why you don't just bring something nicer to the gym with you.
The stuff smells nice enough and the price is definitely cheap. I have to take a star off for the spray nozzle not really spraying enough and another for the scent not lasting very long at all. For the price it is, it deserves three stars and a thumbs up as long as you are aware of the staying power.
I've have wanted to do some new things recently, so when I was presented with the opportunity to have a weekend away in Edinburgh I snatched it up and dragged along my partner Allan and his cousin Sloan. I've had many weekends in Edinburgh but I've never done a ghost tour or been to the "underground city". It was time to change that. We booked two tours, one a ghost tour and the other was The Real Mary King's Close.
The Real Mary Kings Close is situated on the Royal Mile in Edinburgh's Old Town, directly across from St Giles Cathedral. The Old Town is a bit of a nightmare to drive through, much like the new town. I hate driving anywhere in Edinburgh though. If you are driving, you won't be able to get right up to this as the area around it is pedestrianised, but you might be lucky enough to find parking nearby. If you're getting a bus, plenty of busses service the area and the nearby Princes Street which is within a walking distance of about five mintues. The Waverly Train Station is also a five minute walk away. If you're disabled, you'll probably have a little bit of trouble with this attraction as you will be "underground" in tight spaces that weren't ever made with wheelchairs or comfortable footing in mind. That being said, it might be worth your time contacting them first of all to discuss your needs to see if they can't arrange something for you as the staff seem like they'd be more than happy to help.
If you are walking up the Royal Mile towards the castle, this attraction is on your right hand side through a stone archway and quite hidden from view. Once you get through the arch there's a small café area which you go into and then to your right you'll find the ticket office. If you've bought your tickets online you can simply make your way round to the waiting area on the far side of the room (back right corner once you've entered the room).
===Choose a tour===
Real Mary King's Close has tours throughout the day every 15 minutes from 10am to 9pm so you can really choose whichever time is best for you. That being said, they do a Gold Experience at 3pm which costs a little bit more and includes a walking tour of the Royal Mile. Being that we wanted to have the best experience we could, we'd booked our tickets for the Gold Experience. They do suggest that you book your tickets to avoid disappointment along with a request to arrive ten minutes early for your tour so as not to hold up the group.
For the main tours you'll be just under £13 for adults, just under £12 for students and just under £8 for children. For the Gold Experience you'll be a little more, coming in just under £17 while kids remain at the £8 mark and students jump to £15.
The Gold Experience lasts two hours and fifteen minutes with a little break in the middle so it's really not for people who can't stand or walk for long periods.
You need to go through the gift shop area to get to the waiting area, though we were pointed to the area and skipped over a barrier without realising we were queue skipping. When we realised we were a little bit mortified and tried our best to let everyone go in front of us, but the guide took our tickets and waved us through into the first room of the tour in front of everyone. As it turns out, however, we felt a lot less guilty when we ended up at the back of the room. If you'd prefer to be at the front, you'd be best to be the last one in to the first room. As our guide was absolutely gorgeous with a voice that all three of us could listen to for hours, we were possibly a little upset that we weren't closer to the front.
You'll start by the guide introducing themselves in character and clothes that resemble what they'd have worn in the 17th century. Our Guide Robin (like the Bird) was playing the part of a "Foul Clenger" who were the unfortunate people who cleared out the houses of the victims of the plague in the 1600's. You can get one of six characters as guides, ranging from a Maid to Government Envoys so each tour could be a bit different depending on who you get. Each character is based on characters from the actual history of the Close too, so you don't have to worry about being fed total rubbish either!
Once the guide has went over a few ground rules (no pictures is the one you'll be most disappointed with, apparently the council don't want their foundations being easy to scope out on the internet), you'll be shown a map of the walled city of Edinburgh in the 1600's and told a little bit about the construction of the time. Buildings were packed tightly with the streets between hardly even looking like a street. You'd be hard pushed to drive a car down them even with them being completely empty. As they were short on space within the city walls, they built upwards so if you were down on the ground, no natural light would penetrate. Only those in the houses near the top of the buildings (above the 12 storey mark) got sunlight. In the street below, despite its cramped size, were stalls and markets and thousands of people.
Even in the 1600's I imagine in the streets it felt much like being underground already. Now, However, it actually IS underground. In 1753 a huge area had the buildings cut in half and used as foundations for the Royal Exchange, covering up hundreds of households and several "closes" or streets.
Once you've seen the map, you'll be taken down the stairs and deep into the forgotten streets of Edinburgh. The first room you visit is a laigh house (or a low house) and this is where the poorest families would sleep with hardly a button for the darkness and horrible smelly conditions.
The guide told us that the closes were built on a hill so that if you dropped something on the ground at the top of the hill (for example raw sewage), it would roll all the way down the hill and into the Nor Loch (North Loch). The Nor Loch was situated where Princes Street Gardens now are and was eventually filled to the brim with human waste. It was also full of bodies of criminals and witches meaning they had a lot of fun digging up bones when building Waverly train station.
===Straight to the top===
Next we were taken to another room with a display of how the richer residents lived with a few mannequins to illustrate the story of the murder of Alexander Cant in 1545 who was suing his murderous mother-in-law Alison Rough for not paying the promised dowry (or Tochar) for her daughter. Apparently arrests were commission based back then so everyone in the house at the time (both mother and daughter) was arrested for it. A few of the features of the room were highlighted such as the lavish tapestries hung on the wall to keep the heat in and engraved wood panels. We'd been stood a little to the side so didn't have the best view but Robin was really great at allowing everyone to get in and have a proper look around before moving on to the next area, even pointing out who was who for us again as we lagged behind for a look.
One thing I would say is that if you are particularly prim and proper about what information your kids are given, you might have a problem with the tour as some of the stories are a little gruesome, especially the punishment of Rough which involved rolling all the way down the close and into a Loch thick with human waste. There are also a couple of moments throughout where the guide scares the group so if you have a child who's easily upset by the dark or a scare or two, it might not be a great idea to take them down here. My own opinion is that it's all incredibly educational and completely suitable for kids but others may not agree. The team at Real Mary Kings Close seem to agree with that as kids are welcome as long as they are over 5 years of age.
===History comes alive===
One of the rooms I found a bit strange was a room that has large paintings of former residents of the close on the wall. It turns out the paintings interrupt the guide telling you the story of the close and then all have a conversation together. It was interesting and there were a couple of funny and gross things you learn from it, though I did get a little bit bored with one of the paintings probably because I couldn't see it too brilliantly thanks to the crowd. This room was only added in 2013 and, while strange, does add a little something different to the tour which on the whole is good.
Other rooms have mannequins in them to aid with the stories the guide was telling, such as a family with the plague and a plague Dr in a full leather coat and creepy bird like face mask. I preferred this method of story telling as the guide was really able to interact with the group instead of having to fit a script to match up to the videos. There are a couple of other rooms and features within the tour that I'm not going to go into so as not to ruin the whole thing for you, needless to say, however, the tour of the underground closes was fascinating and the guide really made the history of the place jump out and come alive for all three of us. The only thing we weren't happy about was that we had to leave that gorgeous man Robin behind. Swoon, faint etc.
===Out and about===
After a fifteen minute break, the second part of the Gold Experience begins in the outdoor café area at the front door. We got a new guide for this section, also in character and dressed appropriately for the time period, though maybe not so much the weather. He did have a modern jacket on, which I'm glad his employers allowed as it was a really cold day and it would have been horrible for him otherwise! Make sure you dress appropriately for being outside if you are going on this tour; the weather can really effect this part of the tour. Our new guide was Keith, though I can't recall much about his character; it was possibly something to do with writing and there is a poet character so that could make sense. Either way his character wasn't too important to the tour. Keith was also decent looking, though I'd still prefer to listen to Robin all day (Sorry Keith! It was close!).
Keith began by taking us across to the Mercat cross and telling us all about its bloody and at times ironic history, from there we moved around the back of St Giles Cathedral to a car park which also happens to be a graveyard. We got a lot of history about the buildings and monuments in that area, including a hilarious story about a urinating horse.
We moved up and down the Royal Mile having a lot of the markings on the street explained to us (there are areas that are outlined with bricks to mark where the giant Edinburgh Tolbooth (a prison and piggy bank both) stood. There are also other markings such as the Heart of Midlothian making it clear where prisoners were held and executed. It's also covered in spit from people wanting good luck.
Keith was very good at making sure his pace wasn't too fast when moving between places and making sure everyone got across the roads safely. No one was left behind and he did a headcount every time we moved elsewhere to make sure we'd all arrived before he began telling us about the next area. I hadn't realised this till the tour we took later which was a complete mad dash that left a lot of people behind. Keith also gave us all a lot of really interesting information about the streets of Edinburgh and the things that went on there which made us realise just how lacking the later tour we booked elsewhere was in historical information.
===Was it worth it?===
I'd say that the Gold Experience is definitely worth it. It's only a little more than the normal tours and includes both the underground closes and the walking tour of the Royal Mile. While there are free walking tours of the Royal Mile, that segment of the tour simply means not having to worry about booking with other companies and being able to trust the information you're given. The gift shop is much of a muchness. As with most gift shops the stuff is a little overpriced but it also has a really cool range of nik-naks to choose from. I would say that they are a little cheeky in selling photos of your group for £6 for a basic photo and I would have loved to have been able to take pictures on the tour myself but that really is my only gripe. It couldn't have bothered me that much though, as we still bought a photo from them. It's still coming in quite similar in price to a lot of other tours in Edinburgh and giving you a much more interesting place to look around with very professional guides.
All three of us really loved this tour. It was something completely different and very interesting. Robin being a total hottie was just gravy on the experience. Even if our guide was butt ugly or a girl (eww) it would have been well worth the money. The history was fascinating, weird and humbling at times and it was great to learn so much about a city that I've been to a million times before. Though we left quite tired and cold, I'd definitely recommend it... just remember to leave your poor camera at home. Five stars out of five from all three of us!
===A weekend off===
In January of this year we (my partner Allan and I) had decided to take a short weekend break in Edinburgh. We also dragged Allan's cousin Sloan along for good measure. As part of my drive to try new things, I decided it might be fun to do a couple of the tours that are everywhere in Edinburgh. Everything was booked and off we went, eager to see the dark side of the beautiful city's history.
=== Double up or you'll die===
After a good search online we decided on a two different tours. One of them was from City of the Dead tours and looked to be offering the best tour in the form of the Double Dead Walk. They do tours to both the South Bridge Vaults and to Greyfriar's Graveyard but the Double Dead Walk includes them both as well as the company having the keys for the Covenanters Prison section of the graveyard. At time of writing, unfortunately their website (www.cityofthedeadtours.com) is somewhat lacking in updates since around about 2011 but you can still book tickets through it. Oddly, the site says you don't get a booking confirmation email, but I did. I did overhear someone else on the night of the tour saying they didn't get a confirmation email though, so the system must be a little touch and go. All they require for the tour, however, is the booking reference so as long as you have a pen and paper you'll be fine.
The Double Dead Walk has two time slots; 7:30pm and 9:30pm. We went for the earlier one as we'd knew we'd be exploring the city from about dinner time onwards. As it was January it was full dark before the tour began. The tour starts off from the side of St Giles Cathedral on The Royal Mile, right across from another main attraction "The Real Mary King Close" which we went to see earlier in the day. Busses and taxi's will happily take you to princes street which is about a ten minute walk away from the Cathedral and if you plan a little more you can probably get a lot closer via public transport. You might even be able to find a parking space nearby if you don't want to walk too far, but that would be complete luck if you did. Also if you can't handle a bit of walking I'd say this is not the tour for you.
There wasn't any particular order to proceedings and no queues to deal with tickets. We spotted a frantic looking woman with short curly black hair in a leather trench coat taking codes from people and assumed we should be near her. Looking around I could see other tours from other companies nearby where the guides were in fancy dress so I was a little disappointed that our guide was in her normal clothes. Eventually she shouted out to see if there was anyone who she'd missed and went from there. We were all given a laminated playing card with the island of Corfu on the back as a ticket which was a little odd. Top tip: don't put it away somewhere you'll have to rake for as you don't keep them. You'll be asked for them later in the tour, I assume as a way to prove you should actually be on the tour and are not just tagging along for free as a couple of people tried to do! I hadn't realised and had shoved it between the million other cards in my wallet and Sloan's was floating around her bag. Joy.
===Run for your life===
The tour began with the tour guide introducing herself (Rebecca if I recall correctly) and then telling us a little bit about people who had left the tour with scratches and reeling off a few disclaimers about attacks by ghosts then being quite flippant about taking them to court over a ghost attack if we wanted to be laughed at. An interesting but eye roll worthy way to begin I thought. We were all shuffled off to an area round the back of the Cathedral where we were given a few bare bones of history, with the mention that the car park next to us was also a graveyard. We'd been on a tour with another company earlier in the day who gave a lot more information, some of it really interesting and gory that wasn't even touched on. Mostly Rebecca talked more about previous tours who had people come out scratched. Joy.
After about two minutes, Rebecca pulled out a starter's pistol and started a race. At least that's what it felt like. The south vaults are about a five minute brisk walk from the cathedral and Rebecca urged everyone to please keep up before running off down a side street. Sloan, Allan and I are all 30 and under and we found it hard to keep up. After finding myself whistling the theme tune from The Crystal Maze all the way down the street, I actually felt really terrible for the older people in the group who were genuinely almost left behind to a point where they showed up behind us about 3 minutes into Rebecca's next bit of spiel about the vaults. Instantly I'm taking a star off for that, as those people paid just as much money as we did for the tour and they really should have been looked after better than that.
The entrance to the vaults is, quite unfortunately, right behind a pub. The pub also has a door and a corridor that they use in the vaults. This means that you can hear the music from the pub and smell the food. We were even lucky enough to be stood right next to the door they use when a staff member needed out. Clearly the vaults were so scary that the staff from the pub... walk around in them. Unharmed. Hmm. A bit of atmosphere ruined there but not so much the tour companies fault.
One thing that DID ruin the atmosphere was the sheer amount of people they had booked for the tour. There must have been about 30 to 40 people on our tour which meant that we were simply crowded into the vaults and left to stand while Rebecca regaled us of yet more tales about how people had left the tours with scratches. At this point I was getting really bored of this story. Thanks to the sheer amount of people that were packed in, you couldn't really get a decent look at the vaults. As well as that, the constant camera flashes lit the place up quite regularly, totally draining any spooky atmosphere that there might otherwise have been. I have to take a star off for this overcrowding as I really couldn't see much at all for all the people. Tour groups of smaller numbers would easily make the whole experience more fun as you can't really feel worried in the middle of a tight packed group for thirty/upwards people.
===Do you believe in Santa Claws?===
Something else that really detracted from the tour of the vaults was that they had a few really tacky decorations kicking about hiding in corners. A couple of giant fake looking rats peeked out from gaps in the bricks but worst of all was the fake skeleton huddled under a set of stairs. It simply wasn't required. Throw in that it was dressed as Santa at the end of January and it just made the tour laughable.
===Bright Lights and Chaos===
Another area of the vaults and the stories of scratches were still being told, though now a new element was brought in with people (from the tours) being knocked out or passing out. There were jokes about how the tour guides love having knockouts on the tours but again this told me not to take anything seriously and totally flattened any atmosphere that had built. Rebecca in an effort to scare occasionally shouted or stamped her feet but mostly it was all expected. She also had a bit of a habit of playing with a candle under her face and blowing it out and re-lighting it which was quite distracting.
Talking of lighting, I would suggest having something to hand that can help you see in the dark. Both the vaults and the graveyard are quite dark, uneven and slippy so walking around without a torch is treacherous. I'd also suggest turning it off if you aren't moving from place to place as lighting up the place while you're on a ghost tour is ridiculous. I used the light on my phone when moving between places but that became a bit annoying due to wearing gloves and having to unlock my phone to turn it on and off. Unlike other tours we went on, the guide didn't really point out any uneven or slippy areas and didn't hold a torch on it for those who didn't have anything to light their way which was a bit poor. It really was everyone for themselves! I have to take a star off for this as it should be really easy to make sure everyone gets in and out safely.
Once we were done with the vaults, there was another bit of a dash up to the graveyard, though this one wasn't quite as fast. We arrived at the gates and Rebecca told us about how the boss got the keys to the place and made out like we'd be the only tour with access to the graveyard. That isn't really the case as the graveyard is open to the public. We just managed to get in through a locked gate at the back. We were given a short bit of history on the graveyard and told stories about how tour groups have regularly found bones poking up through the mud, which I had to roll my eyes at. These tours are apparently quite eventful when I'm not on them! Another traipse through the graveyard and we were told a little about the Covenanters Prison though if I'm being honest it wasn't really explained all too greatly with Rebecca, instead of focusing on the clearly already gory history, focusing on the scratches and knockouts of recent tour groups. She also mentioned the "Mackenzie poltergeist" which is supposedly the ghost of a terrible man who was responsible for the mistreatment and death of thousands of Covenanters. It was implied we'd be going inside his tomb when we entered the next set of locked gates that the company are the only ones to hold the keys to.
The tomb we went into, it later transpired, wasn't that of George MacKenzie. In fact, we were left a little baffled as to what it was. We decided that it was probably the Covenanters Prison and we had simply not had it explained very clearly.
There was a bit of a fright set up in that area which was good: finally I felt scared if only for a split second. A few more stories of scratches and knock outs and cold spots (oh my) and then we left and were led to the actual tomb of George MacKenzie where a lot of people looked round at each other muttering "I thought that's where we just were??". This tomb is in the main graveyard area and we stopped there for no more than one minute before being led round to the Greyfriar's Bobby memorial stone which ended the tour on far too light a note to leave you feeling scared by anything.
===Time for your close-up===
Any good tour should leave you with plenty photo opportunities. Alas due to being so jam packed I was almost glad I left my camera at home. Even when everyone was done in the area you were in, you couldn't hang around to take photos or you'd get separated from the group. That didn't stop people trying, however. So many other people were taking flash photos right in the guide's face which on top of killing the atmosphere was quite rude. I don't imagine it's easy to keep your concentration in a dark room with people pointing flashbulbs at you. Give Rebecca her due though, she didn't seem phased by it at all.
For the Double Dead Walk you'll pay £13 each and £9 for children. For the amount of actual information you get, it's not really that good at all. In fact, there are free walking tours situated on the Royal Mile that give you a lot more information about the gory history of the place. If you're going in for the scares then you'll probably be completely disappointed. I was looking forward to having the absolute pants scared off of me but a relaxing cup of tea would have probably scared me more than this tour. I don't think it was worth it at all and it's £13 that I'd quite like to get back.
After running about and almost losing the group only to be in the worlds most boring episode of Most Haunted and not even getting to meet Yvette Fielding, I was less than impressed. Allan and Sloan felt the exact same. The guide, while nice enough, didn't really have enough material passed "have I told you about the people who left with scratches or who got knocked out" to make it interesting or scary. I've actually read other reviews where people were told about witch trials and other things that weren't even mentioned on our tour. Let's count up then. One star off for dashing off. Another off for overcrowding. Yet another for not being very safety conscious. The confusion between the tombs takes another star off leaving one star. I'm also taking a star off for the price of the tour vs. the quality of the tour. The locations themselves were great and it would be worth it if the presentation was up to scratch with enough room to look around. It's just a shame that it wasn't. Zero stars out of five (though obviously I have to mark it as 1 star to post the review) from all three of us and I'd recommend going with a different tour.
My partner, being my partner, knows me rather well. Due to this quirk of living together and knowing each other, he planned what was possibly the most awesome lot of birthday gifts I've ever had. Every single present was Legend of Zelda themed. For those not in the know, the Legend of Zelda is a series of games let out by Nintendo over the entire course of my life from the very year I was born. They feature a little dude called Link forever having to save the princess Zelda from certain doom while using many a puzzle and battles with bad guys to keep you hooked. To go with my Zelda Tshirts, hoodies, a comical hat, musical instruments (namely an ocarina) and books I also received a nifty new cover for my lump of technology they call the Galaxy S3.
===Having a fit ===
After my excitement died down I had a proper look at the cover. Rather than replacing the phone's own cover, it provides a tough protective covering to the back of my phone which means that the phone underneath isn't going to get scratched or scuffed. That means you don't need to fiddle around taking bits off of your phone. It also means that the design wraps right round the sides of the phone too instead of just ending where the case clips on This phone cover is made from a hard polymer plastic according to the people who make it making it basically solid. My old phone cover was made out of flexible rubber which just teased my fingers with how easily you could peel it off and pop it back on. That also meant that the chance of me dropping my phone while I played with the cover increased triple fold. The hard cover means that I don't fiddle with my phone half as much now which can only be a good thing.
The case fits incredibly snugly so it doesn't wobble about or move at all. In fact, you have to give it a good firm push to get it on in the first place so be careful not to push on the screen, and rather push at the sides of the phone or the screen could break. It's unlikely, but I just thought I'd put that out there. Another upside of this snug fit is that it doesn't let dirt in half as much as my old rubber cover did, probably due to reducing my playing with it all the time. Fantastic. It also means that, unlike the rubber cover, you won't see any air bubbles between the cover and your phone making it all look much neater.
If you are prone to putting your phone face down, you'll be happy to know that this cover comes out from the screen a few millimetres so as long as it's a flat surface your phone screen won't touch anything even face down, stopping it from getting damaged.
===Hey!! Listen!! Can you hear me?===
The only bits of the phone that the cover doesn't go over are the top side and bottom side where the holes for mics, plugs and speakers live and the buttons, cameras and loud speakers. Some covers go over the buttons on your phone which makes them a little hard to push sometimes, but this cover leaves them nice and clear so you can get to them. It also fits better around the camera and speakers on the back, hardly leaving any gaps and therefore making it look a lot neater than my last cover. As the bottom and top is left free it also means less material between the bits you want to get to in order to be heard!
As this is much more solid and inflexible than my last cover, you might expect that it's quite a heavy addition to your phone. Thankfully, the weight of this really is negligible. On it's own it hardly weighs anything, on the phone it doesn't make it feel much bigger or heavier than it already did. Thumbs up all round so far!
The main aspect to this gift I loved is the design. It's fully coloured plastic so you can't see your phone casing or the dirt underneath through it like my old rubber cover allowed you to. Instead it just looks sleek and clean the whole time! The image that is printed on the back is something true fans will love. The character Link always wears a green tunic which tends to have a belt and a strap across it for his arrows or pouch. This cover is green with a diagonal strap with a buckle and a belt across the mid section with a small yellow belt buckle with the design from the "Windwaker" game from the series.
===Hero of Phones===
So how does the cover hold up? I've been sliding it across my desk for nearly a month now and there are very little signs of wear and tear. As the actual cover on the phone lasted about a day before being scratched by this activity, the cover is already kicking butt on that score! Even looking closely it's difficult to see any tiny scrapes as the case is shiny plastic so it makes it hard for any scratches to be seen. That means it'll stay looking fresh for longer, especially if you aren't looking at it closely.
The only downside I can find with this cover is that, being plastic, it is quite slippy. My old rubber case was not only less slippy but also had textured bits on the side where you hold the phone that made it very easy to grip. This case can be quite difficult to keep hold of if your hands are sweaty or if you're wearing gloves. In fact I almost threw my phone into one of the freezers in Tesco when I got a phone call while shopping with my gloves on. Now that I'm used to it, I know I really have to grip it firmly if I'm wearing fabric gloves so it doesn't cause many problems. In fact, that's another reason why I'm not fiddling with my phone as much which again is only a good thing! I will, however, have to take a star off for this as it would be better if it had slightly ridged or textured sides to help with gripping the phone.
This cover costs a little more than the rubber ones, coming in at £8 before postage. That being said, they really are much sturdier and look a tonne better so I'm ok with that. Of course, you can always just pop it on your wish list and get it for free!
I love this phone case. It keeps my phone safe but most importantly it makes my phone look like Link!! There is absolutely nothing cooler than this. It looks and feels a hell of a lot better than my last rubber cover and has also stopped me fiddling with my phone cover when I get bored. The only down side is that it could really do with a bit more grip on the sides, but that still leaves us with a great score of four out of five.
January 2014. I was looking around for some smellies to stock up on to keep me smelling nice with a bit of range in there too. I don't want to smell the same all the time; I'd get incredibly bored. As I'd went and bought myself some "Just Different" by Hugo Boss I'd pretty much spent my budget, but wanted something else to play with. Roll on a trip to Asda, the home of Chavs and one of my most loathed places to shop. That'd surely provide something cheap enough to fit my needs!
===In the jungle===
The mighty aisles of Asda do, in fact, hold quite a lot of eau de toilets to choose from. If you are so inclined, you can even pay for them when you leave the store! As I've never had anything from Lee Cooper Originals before I decided to give them a bash. I picked up a box called "Gentlemen". For some reason the box is covered in a bunch of girls who are somewhere between emo and hippie. Oh... wait... that's not girls... my bad. I'm not quite sure why Lee Cooper think these girly looking boys fit under the "Gentlemen" image but thankfully the cardboard box is entirely recyclable, so you don't have to look at it for long.
===Origins of Originals===
The Lee Cooper website has a fantastic history section which you can read at your leisure. A brief rundown tells me that I've had a very strange attraction to brands who have a war-time connection recently. Founded as the Morris Cooper Factory in 1908 by the Lithuanian gentleman of the same name and his friend, the company specialised in making jeans and denim work-wear. In the first world war they made the uniforms for the British troops and in the second world war the company was officially requisitioned by the British military to make their uniforms again! So basically the second world war was one giant fashion show featuring Hugo Boss for the Nazis and Lee Cooper for the Brits. How strange!! Since then they've made some epic fashion faux pas in the form of Tartan jeans and PVC jeans which apparently all went down a storm at the time! The company was renamed in the 1940's when Morris's son took over and rebranded and named the company after his wife. If you want to contact them, their webpage (www.leecooper.com) has a contact email firstname.lastname@example.org you can write to and it'll also help you find the nearest store. Asda tells me the eu de toilette was manufactured in France at the following address if you wish to write to the manufacturers:
Parfums Jacques Bogart S.A.S.U.
76-78, Avenue des Champs Elysées
The bottle is only a little nicer to look at than the box. It does look a little like something a Dad stuck in the 80's would own. It's large and rectangular and made from clear glass so you can see the EDT in the bottle with ease. It looks a little like on of those glass brick walls with the wavy effect making the bottle look less plain. It's quite sturdy and probably wouldn't break even if you did knock it over. The lid looks a little like an elongated tyre with black rubber tread around a silver hubcap. This lid simply pulls off with no threads or clips to keep it on. Thankfully it's on firmly so it doesn't feel like it will slip off if you pop it in your man-bag/ holiday luggage. Under the lid is a spray nozzle that works with no problems at all. While functional, the bottle is a little dated in appearance so it doesn't look all that lovely sitting on my bathroom surfaces. It's not the ugliest I've seen by far, just a little naff looking.
Top Notes: Cardamom, Citrus
Middle/ Heart Notes: Cinnamon, Nutmeg, Rosemary, Ginger
Base Notes: Leather, Amber, Musk
This is possibly the first review I've written on an aftershave where I've recognised every single smell. That might be why this scent comes across as quite basic. It doesn't really smell too alcoholic upon first spray and quickly settles down into a spicy, woody aroma. The musky smell becomes noticeable after a short time also so you'll get the range of notes pretty quickly with this one. It's quite a simple and decidedly manly smell. As it's a manly smell you'll need to be in the mood for it as it can smell a little dirty. I also find that it can feel a little flat at times but that doesn't mean that it's not nice, just that it's not as rich as other much more expensive scents. Still, you can tell the difference that price makes by smelling this. I'd say this is a good smell to use as a very basic aftershave when you don't want to be wasting your more expensive, really sexy smelling stuff. This will leave you smelling nice, but not turning heads (unless you're hot anyway).
===Does it last?===
This eau de toilette has an ok longevity to it. It certainly doesn't last on your skin the whole day, but it doesn't fizzle out straight away. I would arguably say that it lasts longer than my recently bought Hugo Boss on my skin. On clothing it lasts a little longer but it's still nowhere near the staying power of things like Joop (another regular on my neck/clothing).
===Is it noticeable?===
In a word, yes. But only close up. It isn't overpowering in any way but people will notice it if you're hugging them within a few hours of applying it. It hasn't had nearly as many compliments as other scents I've used but no-one has disliked it and my friends would definitely say if they thought it smelled horrible because we're all terrible people.
Occasionally when you spray EDT on various people, they grow feathers, turn purple and promptly die. I feel that's quite sad for them. If you're prone to death at all, you might want to check out the list of ingredients for anything you feel could set you off on a downward spiral to the murky depths. I'll include that for you here:
Alcohol Denat., Water (Aqua), Fragrance (Parfum), Ethylhexyl Methoxycinnamate (Octyl Methoxycinnamate), Butyl Methoxydibenzoylmethane, Ethylhexyl Salicylate (Octyl Salicylate), Propylene Glycol, Ext. Violet 2 (CI 60730), Yellow 6 (CI 15985), Blue 1 (CI 42090), Citral, Hydroxycitronellal, Cinnamal, Geraniol, Butylphenyl Methylpropional, Linalool, Citronellol, Hexyl Cinnamal, Limonene
The price is definitely manageable at £10 for 100ml. This did make me wonder as to the quality of the fragrance, but it seems to be just fine. Yes, it's not as rich and deep as other more expensive smells, but for that price can you really argue? Probably, but I wouldn't really listen. For £10 for 100ml you can easily top this up and not be paying through the nose for it which makes up for any stars I would normally take off for the longevity not being as good as others.
The smell is really basic and isn't always something I'm in the mood for so I'll take a star off for that. I'm not a huge fan of the way the bottle looks either as it really does look a little dated and lacking style. It isn't the strongest scent I've used but the price more than makes up for that. That leaves us with an alright everyday scent getting three stars out of five from me.
Recently I had decided to go on a crazy manhunt for a new scent as I had completely ran out of bottles of everything. Shops were trawled while I sprayed every available part of me with various smells; some were better than others. After making myself smell like a male hooker on a good night, I finally settled on Hugo Boss: Just Different. That wasn't the end of the trawling about though. Now that I had settled on a new smell, I had to find myself the best deal. After four or five shops I found The Perfume Shop which was doing the lowest price deal for the 75ml bottle of Just different. The cheapest deal also included a shower gel. It was quite obvious at that point where I was going to buy my new smellies.
===Not very Boss===
Hugo Boss was founded in 1923 in Germany by a man of the same name (middle name Ferdinand). They started off by making clothes (which almost ran in the family; Boss's mother had a lingerie shop which he took over.) Since then the company have had a bit of a colourful history since Mr Boss was a heavy supporter of the Nazi party. His company went on to make the uniforms for Hitler Youth, The SS and SA with the use of slave labour. For his efforts at clothing the Nazis he was heavily fined after the war and banned from running a business so his son in law took over from him. They have since issued an apology for the slave labour and continue to this day to be an incredibly wealthy company specialising in designer goods. Hmm. Their first aftershave hit the shops in 1984 and they've been building a small repertoire of smells since then. The perfume side of the company is now owned by Proctor and Gamble, owners of approximately everything.
If you wish to get in touch with them they have a website www.hugoboss.com with a contact us section (as long as your browser translates the German). They also have a little address on the bottle you can write to
P & G
The shower gel that comes in the gift set I bought was 100ml. Like the eau de toilette, the bottle is place with a red Hugo Boss logo on the front. The bottle sits on its cap meaning that any shower gel in the bottle will automatically run to the bottom which is always a good thing. The bottle is also recyclable which is always a plus. It does get a little slidey in the shower but nothing too difficult to handle and the cap clicks on and off nicely without any bother. All in all, it's a perfectly functional bottle that looks good in your shower.
Top Notes: "Frozen" Mint Accord
Middle/ Heart notes: Basil, Feesia, Coriander
Base Notes: Labdanum, Patchouli, Cashmeran, Oilbanum.
Above are the notes of the EDT for a bit of reference. The gel is clear and clean looking when it comes out, with a decent thickness to it so it doesn't feel like it's not going to get you clean. As you would expect the shower gel smells pretty much the same, however, it doesn't start off with the same slightly alcoholic kick. It pretty much just dives right into the heart and base notes giving you a very fresh but spicy and manly smell. As with the EDT, I don't detect any hints of the mint that is supposed to be in there, but I'm ok with that. The sexy, spicy smell fills the air when you're showering leaving the bathroom smelling lovely without overpowering you. The scent also stays on your skin for about half an hour afterwards which is nice and doesn't interfere if you want to then put on a different scent. After about half an hour the scent of the shower gel is gone.
===Tackle my Pits===
The most important thing about any shower gel for me is if it tackles my hairy man pits. A lot of shower gels I've tried have left me smelling less than fresh after I get out of the shower which makes the whole process of showering entirely pointless. Thankfully this shower gel really tackles any man-stench it finds, leaving me smelling clean and fresh even after the scent disappears. It lathers quite well (though anything does for me as I use a shower puff) and leaves me feeling clean, so top marks on that count!
===Mix it up===
The shower gel is made in Poland and is composed of many a thing that could turn you into a turnip if you have sensitive skin. That part, however, is up to you to decide if it will or not, so here is the full list of ingredients for anyone interested:
Aqua (water), Sodium laureth sulphate, sodium lauryl sulphate, sodium chloride, parfum (fragrance), cocamidopropyl betaine, citric acid, PEG-40 hydrogenated castor oil, sodium citrate, sodium benzoate, sodium xylenesulfonate, disodium edta, magnesium nitrate, BHT, methylchloroisothiazolinone, magnesium chloride, methylisothiazolinon, limonene, butylphenyl methylpropional, alpha-isomethyl ionone, geraniol, coumarin.
The price of this stuff on its own is insane at £14.99 for 200ml of the stuff. 100ml of the stuff came with the EDT for £28 which on its own is retailing around £36. I don't imagine that you'll want to buy this stuff separate from the EDT as otherwise you'll be paying through the nose. Your best bet here is to look out for the gift sets and buy them together. You could easily get through this bottle in a week if you use it every day so I'd never suggest buying it separate when you essentially get it free for buying the EDT at a discounted rate. As you don't get a lot for your money, this stuff turns into a shower gel that I keep for nights where I'm going out rather than a regular use shower gel.
As a shower gel, this stuff is great. The only thing that I could possibly take a star off for is the price. This clearly isn't made to be bought on its own (though you can). If the price was no issue, then this stuff will leave you feeling fresh and clean with a lovely scent on your skin and in your bathroom for a little while. Four stars out of five from me.
From around October time I stop buying myself things just in case anyone decides to get me stuff for Christmas. Not all things, obviously. Food still gets bought, though I could probably do with going on a bit of a pre-Christmas fast. On the list of items that stop being bought are books, games, DVDs and aftershaves. Usually I have plenty eau de toilettes kicking about, but this year I managed to finish all of my supplies before Christmas came. Rather magically this was also the one year no-one decided to get me any smellies. I had a problem. As I was a bit fed up with my usual scents, I now had to brave January in the shops to find a decent, new smell!
After about an hour of looking shady in Debenhams, spraying stuff on every available part of me and then sniffing before turning to the sample cards, I finally settled on my left inner elbow. I was pretty certain that was one of three scents so went over to them all and sprayed them on tester cards. After mixing them up a few times and re-spraying on new testers, I finally decided on Hugo Boss Just Different.
===Who is Hugo?===
Hugo Boss are a designer company based in Germany. They were founded by Mr Hugo Ferdinand Boss in 1923 after he'd taken over his mother's lingerie shop in 1908. He was born in 1885 and died after WW2 in 1948 of a tooth abscess. Most interestingly, the founder was part of the Nazi party a few years before Hitler was and the company actually made the SS, SA and Hitler Youth uniforms. He got off with a fine after the war for his support of the Nazis. He was also banned from voting and running a business so his son in law took over the business. Later, after legal proceedings in 1999, the company was forced to issue an apology for the use of slave labour during the war. Apart from making Nazis look splendid in their little leather booties (as if they needed more gay jokes thrown at them) they have been making designer clothes and accessories. Their first scent "Boss Bottled" came out in 1984. Since then the perfume side of the company is under the control of Proctor and Gamble who are quite the collectors of brand names!
If you want to contact Hugo boss, you have a few options, Ouija board probably being the best one. If you want to contact the company, they have a much easier route by going to their website www.hugoboss.com which is in German but can be translated by your browser and has a contact section! The address on the box can also be used to write to P & G:
P & G
A designer scent deserves a designer bottle and I have to admit, the bottle for this Eau de toilette is sexy. It is bold black with a silver screw top lid held on by a fabric strip. It looks almost like a canteen that you'd take camping full of water so it definitely has that rough manly feel to it. That being said it also looks sophisticated and stylish thanks to the solid black colour of the bottle with the blood red HUGO brand on the front. The screw top hangs by the fabric strip when you take it off so you're never going to lose it. It has a good flat bottom on it so it's very sturdy when you pop it on a surface so you won't have to worry too much about nudging it. Given the company's history, I have to now raise my eye at the design a little, but I'll still admit it's stylish. Maybe I'm just reading far too much into it!
While the design of the bottle looks fantastic, it does come with a few practical problems. The main issue I have is that I simply cannot tell how much is left. I've tried holding it up to the light and looking through the bottom of the bottle but there really isn't any way to tell what's left other than shaking it. That will only tell you that there is still some in there and won't be very useful in telling me how quickly I'm getting through the stuff. The only other slight nuisance is the cap. As it's attached to the neck of the bottle it can sometimes get in the way of the spray. This, however, is easily solved as the spray button swivels so it's an idea to make sure it's pointing away from where the cap dangles before applying.
The spray nozzle itself works perfectly, dispensing a decent amount each time you push it. I'd recommend not holding it too far away though, as it is quite powerful and I've seen a lot of this stuff go right over my shoulder.
Top Notes: "Frozen" Mint Accord
Middle/ Heart notes: Coriander, Feesia, Basil
Base Notes: Cashmeran, Labdanum, Oilbanum, Patchouli
I was interested in Boss anyway thanks to my partner Allan having a secret stash of one of the scents in his drawer at work. He sometimes comes home smelling like it on days where he's felt the need to freshen up and it's lovely. After walking around with the tester card in my pocket and periodically sniffing it I was slowly falling in love and/or getting high from the scent. The initial burst is quite fresh and spicy with a hint of alcohol in there. It very quickly dies down into a rich, warm and spicy and gently floral but manly scent. It is not overly heavy. It stays somewhere between fresh and warm, giving the best of both worlds. I can't say that I detect any mint at all, but there is something just a little different about this scent that I really love. It reminds me of Calvin Klein's "Crave" and Joop's "Joop" but without the really heavy, dirty punch that both of those scents come with. It has a lot of the spicy notes without being overpowering or losing its freshness.
As it doesn't have the really heavy spicy scents that come with Joop and Crave, I was wondering how well this would last. The scent from the tester card lasted for hours and hours of walking around and smelling it so I was a little won over by this. Unfortunately, when you're wearing the scent yourself, it doesn't seem to last as much as it did on the card. It's not the weakest scent I've found by far, but it really doesn't hit the staying power of Joop or Crave. It is still detectable on my jumper and it is currently six hours since I put it on, but the scent is only very slight. I have noticed, however, that my woolly jumper smells really nice even a couple of days after having been sprayed so obviously some fabrics hold the smell better than others. What I can smell is still fresh, slightly spicy and floral which is a plus, as I've found that the leftovers of the other stronger scents I've worn can smell quite unclean after they've been left all day on your clothes.
One thing I really enjoy about any scent is if people notice what I'm wearing. Me and my friends are quite huggy people so if I'm wearing a nice smell that is noticeable they'll usually ask what it is or comment on it. This scent hasn't really been noticed, though I'd also be told by my friends if I smell bad so not being noticed is still better than not smelling good at all! When I've forced my partner and his cousin to sniff me they've both really liked the scent. Yes, I'm aware how weird that sounds. My dad noticed it the other day, but I had literally just applied it a minute or two before he got there It might not be incredibly noticeable but it does make me confident that I'll smell nice up close which is always a good thing. It's also not as weak as other scents I've had in the past which practically disappeared minutes after application. This hangs around, you just need to know where to look. It's just a shame it's not a little more noticeable!
There are three sizes of this scent, 40ml, 75ml and 125ml. I wandered the streets all day finding the best deal which ended up being in the perfume store which had a set that comes with a shower gel along with a 75ml bottle for £28. Elsewhere you'll be paying around £36 for the 75ml bottle alone. Just be aware that there are deals out there so have a good look before you buy or you might not get the best price. I've been using it for a month and I haven't ran out, but I honestly can't even guess at how long this bottle is going to last thanks to the black bottle blocking my vision. I'd hazard a guess that it will last about as long as most other good scents as I don't need to apply a lot.
If you tend to explode unexpectedly, congratulations for still being alive. Also, here is a list of ingredients that may or may not trigger an explosion (be it on your neck or in general, as the ingredients are flammable; best not to put this on while smoking. Though there's no point in wearing a scent if you smoke anyway, you'll just smell like smoke regardless and that's a waste of your time and money).
Alcohol denat, Aqua (water), Parfum (fragrance), ethylhexyl methoxycinnamate, diethylamino hydroxybenzol hexyl benzoate, bht, limonene, linalool, butylphenyl methylpropional, geraniol, alpha-isomethyl ionone, citral, citronellol, coumarin, eugenol.
I really like this scent. It's fresh, spicy, floral and manly and makes me feel like I smell great. While it does last a fair amount of time, I have to admit I'm a little disappointed in the staying power as I really did expect a bit more so I'll have to take a star off for that and another for not being incredibly noticeable unelss you've just put it on. That aside, it's still really nice so I'll make this scent a regular fixture in my box of smelly tricks. Three stars out of five from me!
===The Legend of Geekery===
I am a bit of a geek at times. That, however, doesn't mean that I also have any urge to keep up with modern technology. As such I tend to find myself falling behind the toys and mod-cons till someone foists something upon me. Allan tends to be the exact opposite, loving his gadgets. All of that meant that when someone dangled a Nintendo 3DS XL console in front of him he decided he wanted to run out and buy one. Either he became promptly bored of it, or he just didn't like the Professor Layton games that came with it and somewhere around November 2013 it started getting referred to by him as mine. I still profess that it's not mine, but since he's happily letting me play with it, I thought now would be a good chance to catch up on a series of games I've been missing out on.
===The Legend of Awesomeness===
The 80's was a time of magic, bad hair and Lycra. 1986 rolled along and a few amazing things happened. I was born for a start. A boy called Link was also born ten months before me in February. As we are the same age, it's totally ok for me to fancy him. Link was born into the magical and strange land of Hyrule created by three goddesses who left behind a powerful relic called the Triforce which split into three pieces. If you hold all three pieces, you hold the power of the Gods. Naturally that has attracted a lot of unwanted attention. Ganon is the evil dude who is on a constant quest for this power and it is Link's duty as the Hero of Everything (various games call him different things) to defend the Triforce and save not only Hyrule but that pesky Princess Zelda who constantly falls into the clutches of the bad guys, almost like she gets a rise out of being saved. Since the first game, thousands of years have passed and every hundred or so years another incarnation of Link is born just at the right time to stop Ganon returning from the realm of evil. It's never quite that simple, but that's the main gist of pretty much every game, with only a few of them focusing on other bad guys.
===So it begins===
As with most Zelda games, your game play can be as direct and to the point or as random as you please. Before you begin, it's always a good idea to let the game's title screen run for a bit as it will then tell you a little bit of back story when it's left idle for about 30 seconds. The 3DS is handheld and split into two halves each with a screen that open and close like a sideways book. The main game play happens on the top half of the 3DS while the map and item menu are held in the touch screen section on the bottom half. Link starts off in his house being told to go to the local blacksmiths before he loses his job and once you've done this and the small task the blacksmith gives you, you can basically run around freely till you decide you want to play the main aspects of the game. The blurb on the box tells me it uses the same setting as one of the previous games but I've not played the one it was referring to yet so I can't say how similar the layouts are. Usually each game comes with 3 temples (or levels) to complete before the main chunk of the game begins with about 7 more temples to get through. Each temple is full of puzzles, mazes, bad guys and treasures that you can pick up on your way and you tend to always have to fight a boss at the end of each one. You can complete the temples in whatever order you want, though some are quite obviously supposed to be done later in the game when you have a bit more strength behind you. Only two of the temples have to be completed in a particular order, however, so it's up to you how pig headed you want to be. I managed to pick the most difficult temple near the start of the game and died quite a lot, but still got through it eventually!
With all the similarities, you might be asking why bother playing at all? Each game, despite being similar, has a lot of very individual features. In this tale of Link's quest, the bad guy has a penchant for art and likes to turn people into graffiti on walls. Thanks to a bit of luck, Link picks up the ability to turn himself into graffiti and move along walls too. This feature alone leads to some very unique game play and puzzle solving and also allows Link to get into otherwise inaccessible areas. His quest leads him to a sort of alternate universe which is in effect an Anti-Hyrule. For starters it's called Lorule and it's a much darker version of the world which he has explored so far. It's also fractured and split making travelling within it very difficult.
The 3DS has a whole bunch of controls you can use. On the top left hand side of the bottom half you have a joystick which moves Link around. Below that is a set of arrows (up down left right) that can be used to move the view in the direction of the arrow to help you see a little further. On the right hand side of the bottom half you have four buttons: A, B, X and Y. The B button makes Link swing his sword and the A button is the action button. The function of this button changes depending on what you are doing. Standing next to a rock, a little A button will appear on screen with "Pick up" written on it. Once you've picked it up, it'll say "Throw". Stand next to a wall that you can paint yourself onto and it'll say "Merge". Basically it's how Link interacts with the world around him if he doesn't want to kill it. The X and Y buttons are used for specific items which I'll talk about later. On each top corner of the bottom half of your 3DS, you'll have L (left) and R (right) buttons too. These control Link's shield. If you are a total button basher like me, you'll probably only use this when you really have to.
Throughout the game there are a few things that will help you which I'll dive into now:
===Save Points and Servants===
These are arguably the most important thing to keep an eye out for. There are weather vanes dotted around Hyrule and these are where you have to save your game. Once you've saved your game at a weather vane once, it'll be added to your map. Apart from saving your progress (which is always a must in any adventure game) these weather vanes serve another purpose. Later in the game you'll be able to travel instantly between them via a little bell symbol in the bottom left hand side of the touch screen. You will, however, only be able to travel to the ones that you've saved your game at. You'll also notice if you look carefully when you are loading the game up that the area in the background of the main titles is the last place you saved your game at!
Another very handy item is the map. Not only will it show you where you are, it'll give you little hints as to where you are going with little red X's. You even get a map of Lorule which shows you where the fractures and boundaries in the world are to give you a better idea of what area's are next to what weather vanes. You can toggle between the Hyrule and Lorule maps by pushing the little button to the bottom right of the map that shows the Triforce symbol (three triangles) with a dark reflection.
Another feature of the map is that you can put little pins into it wherever you want. As you begin to travel between Hyrule and Lorule, I found it incredibly handy to mark each entry point between the worlds with a pin. I've also used the pins to mark other important spots (like places that will restore Link to full health) so I don't need to search for them later. Tapping the top of them will let you change the colour of them so you don't get things mixed up. Fab! I would suggest using your stylus to place the pins as the touch screen can be a bit inaccurate if you use your fingers. I haven't found anything else in the game that really requires the stylus though.
===Items and Gear===
Along the bottom of the map screen there are two buttons, Items and Gear. Gear is where anything like shields, swords and rings or anything you can collect goes and mostly you don't need to access this screen. It can come in handy if you want to know how many heart pieces you need to collect to get another heart container (which basically means you can last longer in any fights). The Items menu is where all the fun stuff goes. The x and y buttons on your DS each control whatever item you've dragged and dropped to the x and y spaces on your map screen. When you select either the gear or the items button, the game will pause while you are in the menus. Later in the game if you push the x or y buttons on the touch screen you'll be presented with a slide bar which is supposed to make it easy to scroll through your items without pausing the game though I really can't get the hang of it. I find it too difficult to focus on what's happening on the screen and what items are scrolling by and usually end up just getting Link killed. If anything, pausing the game gives you a chance to properly consider what items you want to use. The scroll feature, for me, is a bit of a useless thing.
As with all the other games, there are a few little side quests you can go on that can help you in the main quest. The most important one is where you collect Maiamais. These are little squeaky snail like creatures and their octopus-looking mother is rather upset that they have all been lost. If you ignore her terrible parenting (losing all 100 of your kids is a pretty mean feat!) and take her babies back to her she will basically upgrade your items and make them more powerful. As the bad guys get stronger the further into the game you go, you'll need your weapons to get more powerful too. The mother will give you a very general map letting you know how many of her lost babies are in each area which can come in handy. Mostly, however, you need to just listen out for squeaking as a lot of the babies are hidden in trees or under rocks. This means that, even if it annoys your partner, you need to play the game with the sound on or you'll miss a lot of the little things and not be able to get the upgrades that will make Links life easier. This can be a slight downside for some if you don't want to play with the sound on, but personally I love the music in the games so I don't mind humming along!
There are quite a few other little mini games you can play that will test your skill to the max and gain you heart pieces and lots of money so that means there is plenty to keep you occupied in this game. If you try and get everything done, you can really stretch out both Links life meter and the play time of this game.
One thing that I was not too fond of in this game is how you get your weapons. In the other Zelda games I've played, mostly you have to work really hard for your items and weapons, usually getting them as part of one of the temple dungeons or for beating a really hard mini-game. You have to work your way up or earn bigger wallets so you can keep more currency (rupees!) in them or you have to collect items to upgrade your items. That last bit is the only thing that is similar. Rather than having to work for your weapons, you can (and do have to) rent most of them from a little cheeky git who's set up shop in your house. Not only does it feel too easy, you lose anything you've rented if Link dies, meaning that if you die in the middle of a dungeon you'll have to go back to your house and re-rent the items before you can continue which is a total pain. Another annoying thing is that you cannot upgrade any rented weapons. Fairly early on into the game you get the option to buy the weapons, but again this feels too easy as you automatically have a wallet that can hold 9999 rupees. A little bit of running around Hyrule will easily allow you to collect enough to buy most weapons. Some items you are given simply for talking to the right person, whereas in most other games you'd have to complete some sort of task before anyone gave you anything. Thankfully, later on in the game you do start to earn a few upgrades which makes exploring everything properly feel a little more worthwhile.
On the flipside of the "makes it seem too easy" argument, the fact you can rent and buy most of your items sometimes makes you have to think a little harder. The game isn't guiding you by saying "You just acquired this shiny new weapon, maybe this will help in whatever new obstacle you now face!" Instead you have to think carefully about what item would help your situation and progress you through the game. This point really hit home when I spent an hour running around trying to get into a certain area thinking "I obviously just can't access that area till later" (as is sometimes the case) when I had the item I needed to access it all along! I felt like a bit of an idiot when it finally clicked what I was doing wrong!
===Live Long and prosper===
For any fan, this game will last forever. It's different enough while still being self referencing (even referencing things from the original 1986 game) to make any fan smile. Most of the beasts you'll fight are recognisable with a few new ones thrown in for good measure. The temples aren't easy, but they aren't overly difficult either so you'll be able to get through the entire game with a little bit of patience. I don't imagine your kids will find it too difficult if you decided to get this game for them. The animation is clear and detailed enough that you won't be disappointed with the graphics and the game flows nicely from screen to screen with only a short not-even-a-second delay if you are changing areas while running around. After completing this one, I took a jump back to a DS Legend of Zelda game (not 3DS) and I was a little bit shocked at how bad the graphics seemed on the slightly older one.
As for Link Between Worlds, it took me just as long as the games for bigger consoles to complete so I don't feel like I've been playing a watered down version at all. Even the cut scenes are superbly animated, making it a really great addition to the series. The "violence" in this game is minimal. Yes, you're constantly slaying beasts but there's no blood or focus on terrible deaths for them. It's not a very scary game either so your kids aren't going to be crying down the house because of it (unless you don't let them near it to play it; I probably wouldn't let them, it's mine.)
===Walking around your own world===
Another feature for this game that could add another element of fun is the StreetPass function. To turn this on you'll need to talk to an old man in Kakariko Village (middle left of the game map). If you have friends with a 3DS and they also have this game, you can sit your 3DS near theirs and it will send and receive a snapshot of both of your versions of Link to each other, equipped with all the items they have chosen at that point. For this to work you have to have the Zelda cartridge in your 3DS and it needs to be closed but on standby. In theory if you had it in your pocket and you passed someone on the street who also was strange enough to be carrying their 3DS around on standby then you'd get their snapshot of Link and vice versa. Next time you turn your game on, you'll get the option to have a battle with a "Shadow Link" and win all their items and a bounty on their head. This is quite cool but not as interactive as it sounds. You don't get to battle live with your friend or the stranger you've passed, you simply get to battle the system-made snapshot of their character. Bummer. If you don't have any mates, don't worry too much! The game will still occasionally make a shadow link to throw at you so you'll still get to experience this feature regardless of how popular and rich your friends are.
The last interesting feature to mention is the strange pedometer that the 3DS has built into it. If you leave your DS closed and on standby in your pocket and walk around it will count your steps. For every 100 steps you make you'll get a token that you can use in games. In "A link between worlds" you can redeem your tokens for hints from strange little ghosts that float about. This can be thoroughly cheated by closing the 3DS and gently shaking it back and forward for a minute or two though the hints you get from the ghosts are hardly worth it and you'll have probably guessed that you'd need to use "an item" to unblock an entrance to a cave clogged with debris. They don't really get much better than that and would only be helpful for really young players. It's also a bit of a waste of your 3DS's battery having it on standby in your pocket so not something I'd really recommend.
The 3DS has a little slider on the side that allows the screen to show you the game in 3D and this game is compatible with the feature. It's not a feature I particularly like as 3D gives me a bit of a sore head. If you really enjoy 3D, however, you have the option there. It does make the levels stand out a little more but you don't really lose or gain anything from the feature meaning it really suits what anyone could want. The only thing I would recommend using the 3D setting for is when you are playing the Octoball mini game which is basically a baseball game where you have to hit pots. It's one of the most horrible little mini games I've ever played but the 3D slider does actually help a little as it makes the position of the ball a little clearer.
The only other tips I would give is that you might want to ensure that you have enough time to really get into the game if you are near the end or about to complete one of the larger minigames (Trecherous Tower). The minigame takes a bit of time to get through and you can't save in the middle of it. As for the end, you can save just before entering the last battle with the final bad guy, but the cut scene videos at the end are a bit long and unlike some of the cut scenes in the game can't be stopped. I had the unfortunate circumstance happen where I had just completed the game and was watching the end sequences when the landlord showed up at the door to do some repairs so I ended up missing about four minutes of the ending much to my frustration. Moral of the story here is lock yourself up with your DS if you are near the end.
Currently you can pick this game up for around £33 due to the fact it was released in November 2013 (so very recently at the time of writing). Eventually it'll probably go down a little but probably not much. Your money will get you the game and nothing else, though the box does come with a cool reversible cover that has a darker world (I assume Lorule) on one side and a bright world on the other (that'll be Hyrule then). Pretty snazzy if you ask me, but then I am a giant Zelda Geek.
I was really surprised by this one. I had assumed that the DS and 3DS Legend of Zelda games would be a watered down and terrible version of the games for bigger and better consoles. I was completely wrong. This game is every bit as intricate, interesting, original and frustratingly fun as all of the others in the Zelda series. It's pretty much suitable for anyone who enjoys a little bit of a challenge and having to think occasionally! I'd have to give this a full five stars out of five and say it's a definite must have for not only fans of the Zelda series but anyone who has a 3DS!
My pile of books to be read is a being unto itself. It grows and shrinks and grows again. Sometimes it will shout at me to read something, other times it subtly whispers dirty things in my ear till I give in and grab the next book. One book that has been staring out with sultry eyes and a cheeky smile from my "To read" section of my shelf (the pile has been given a neater home!) for a long time now is Gregory Maguire's "Out of Oz". God, books are sexy.
Maquire made his eventual claim to fame with his book "Wicked" which was published in 1995 and is a twisted and much more grown up slant on the Wizard of Oz, showing the Wicked Witch of the West (Elphaba Thropp) as a freedom fighter and casting the Wizard as the evil, bigoted villain. Dorothy hardly comes into the story other than in passing. Wicked became a tremendously well received Broadway musical in 2003 which then encouraged Maquire to expand on the story with subsequent books "Son of a Witch" following Elphaba's son Liir and "A Lion Among Men", following Brr, better known as the Cowardly Lion. "Out of Oz" is the fourth book in the series and was released in 2011.
===Dear Old Shiz===
Obviously this book is only going to be worth your time if you have read the three that came before it. If you haven't you probably won't get much of what's going on, or know who anyone is. If you've read the previous books, you'll probably want to pick this one up at some point or other. Now you'll be thoroughly on Elphaba's side from the goings on in "Wicked". You've been through her quest to understand the powerful magic hidden in the pages of the Grimmerie and liberate Animal kind. "Son of a Witch" has left you wondering what has happened to Liir, his suited and booted lover Trisim, and Candle, the mother of his child. Has Liir stirred up rebellion in Oz? "A Lion Among Men" makes you fear that the Grimmerie may soon fall into the wrong hand, (those hands belonging to Shell Thropp, Elphaba's brother) creates the possibility that Liir's efforts failed and leaves you with a feeling that there is a lot more to come. About eight years later is where "Out of Oz" begins.
I have to admit, most of the time, all three books felt like a trudge to get through. They were totally worth it in the end but I did feel I had to force myself to read them at times. When this part of the story began, however, I was pleasantly surprised to find that Maquire had instantly grabbed my interest. This book begins in our world following Dorothy who everyone thinks is crazy after her jaunt in Oz. An ominous announcement of an earthquake leaves us feeling that Dorothy may be coming back to Oz quite soon and that, finally, she may even play a larger part in the story instead of just being a name in the background.
From there, the story flips into Oz and focuses on Lady Glinda Chuffrey of Mockbeggar Hall in Munchkinland. Currently she is being questioned about her loyalty to Oz and is being put under house arrest. Munchkinland has decided to step out of the union of Oz and Eminent Thropp (as Shell has come to call himself as a self styled Emperor of Oz) is none too happy about this. He is on the search for the powerful Grimmerie that has eluded him for too many years. With the help of a child (Rain) in her staff and a troupe of travelling entertainers, Glinda manages to stall an attack on Munchkinland just long enough to give the Munchkinlanders an upper hand. Unfortunately it drives the troupe and the child in her care into hiding and Oz into all out war. Glinda never really gets enough credit and Maguire knows this and plays on it. A lot of the time you want to shake Glinda for not grasping the obvious, but how quickly the reader is reminded of her hidden intelligence when the faecal matter hits the fan. It is also becoming obvious that Rain is going to be a very special child in this story.
===A sentimental man===
The troupe just so happen to be in charge of the Clock of the Time Dragon which gives out prophecies and manages the Grimmerie by telling the troupe who to give it to next. The descriptions of the time clock rather fantastically echo some details from the stage show that are either new to the books or that I've never picked up on before as I hadn't seen it. Either way it makes me nostalgic for the stage show hearing the descriptions of a giant map lit from behind as part of the clock.
Unrest and discomfort are quite clear from the beginning and I truly couldn't even begin to imagine where the story is going though I'm almost certain the clock of the time dragon will spark some conflicts. I certainly couldn't have predicted the shift in attitudes towards the Saviour of Munchkinland, Dorothy of Kanzizz. When Dorothy finally does return, she is used by the powers in charge of state (Oz fans will recognise and fear the name Mombey) to divert attention from another little act of duplicity.
===March of the Witch Hunters===
As the war drags on, we are left to wonder about many aspects of the story. Will Dorothy escape with her life? Will Rain become someone powerful? Will Liir ever find out what happened with Trisim or be reunited with his daughter? There's a strong connection there pulling you through this novel, eager to find out what happens. By the time I got about three quarters through, I started to worry that there were not enough pages to finish the story without any loose ends. Maquire does have a very loose grasp on time, however, which really forces the story to progress years at a time, so it was also possible everything would be wrapped up and the book is quite clearly sectioned off almost into separate story lines which gives everything a chance to be explored without becoming too boring. The unease of the war and the secrecy our favourite characters must endure fizzes away in the background waiting to explode throughout and explode it really does. It will drag you through to the other side of the war and you'll be in for a few surprises that I'd never have been able to guess, even though there were huge (well hidden in plain sight) hints throughout the story.
===I'm not that Girl===
I can't tell you how fantastically Maguire weaves this closing tale together. So much happens and yet, not much happens. It's hard to explain and yet still the easiest book to read of the series. Maguire constantly references other Oz stories with hints towards well known characters from films and books. There are even a few glaring references to Wicked the Musical, such as quoting lines from one of the songs as part of conversation. If you've been a fan of the Oz franchise in any form and have read the books, you'll simply love his mastery of the content.
===As long as you're mine===
Price wise this instalment is currently around the £7 mark online with the kindle being only a little cheaper at £4. The cover of the book matches the rest with the black and green theme and pictures of one of the characters riding a broom (which one I won't say) so for the little bit extra your physical version of the book will look lovely on your shelves!
===What is this feeling? (The verdict)===
It's impossible to know until you get there if there is going to be a happy ending or a soul destroying ending and I'm not going to give the game away. All I will say is that if you have read the other books so far, this one tops them. It may even be better than Wicked itself. I would recommend that before you read this instalment that you go see the stage show just so you really pull the most out of this story. It's not essential but you'll miss those gems of brilliance when they surface otherwise. I really enjoyed this final instalment and definitely felt that it went to all the right places and left me with (nearly) all of the answers I needed. The emotional range of this story drags you from joy to gut punching sadness and back again with some brilliant comedy throughout even managing a smile in the most heart wrenching of moments. It really is a fantastic end to the series. As such that's a full five stars from me.