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Animal Crossing: Wild World is the third online game to be released in Europe - due for release in March 2006 - but it's already out in the US (and since DS games are region-free, you might think about importing). It's more than just an update of the Gamecube original; while the basic gameplay concept remains the same (readers should read some reviews of the original Animal Crossing to get an idea of how this plays), with the player 'living' in a town inhabited by animals which runs according to a real-time clock, the additional features and changes to Wild World make the experience very different indeed.
Most important is the addition of online play. Players are now able to visit their friends' towns over the Internet, meaning that exchanging items and growing foreign fruit trees is easily achievable. Nt only this, but Nintendo uses the online play to send out presents to players from time to time, and also to enable messages in bottles to be washed up on shore. Overall, you get the impression that you're not in an isolated town, but instead your town is part of a whole virtual world. It's quite magnificent.
There are a few drawbacks to the online play. You're not able to send letters to online friends unless you're in their town. You can only visit towns of people who you've swapped your 'friends code' with - no visiting a random town (although this does mean you can feel more safe that your town won't be vandalised). And as with all DS online titles so far, the network play is a little glitchy and occasionally crashes.
But that's really by the by. This is a charming game, and deserves to be bought by every DS owner.
Ah, monsieur, with these Ferrero Rocher you are really spoiling us. Indeed. Spoiling our appetite, our dignity, our elegance ... after eating one Ferrero Rocher, you'll spend the rest of your evening trying to get bits of nut from between your teeth. Hardly the best way to win over a potential new business client. You look like you've got some sort of nervous tic. Anyway, I'm getting ahead of myself. Ferrero Rocher are, as I'm sure you know, some small chocolate things that come individually wrapped in some fancy see-through plastic packaging. The chocolate content is pretty minimal, though - the majority of the bulk is made of air, with wafery bits and little bits of nut added in. The outside is covered in nuts too. If you were feeling particularly grotesque, you could describe them as "mini poos". I'm not, so I won't. They don't even taste that nice. The chocolate content is too bland, the nuts taste cardboardy, and the wafer bit's too dry. And yet everyone buys them, thinking they're some sort of sophisticated nibble made for posh occasions. Part of this is probably the price - the more expensive, the more elusive? Not in this case. I somehow doubt the Queen eats Ferrero Racher when she's entertaining though. I wouldn't if I were her. You can get much nicer chocolates for cheaper. I recommend you do so.
And what a party it is. If your friends are the sort that like nothing more than playing a board game with complicated rules, with the occasional bit of mania thrown in, you're in for a treat. If your friends like simpler pleasures, or, indeed, you've got no friends, then this is not the game for you. Mario Party 4 is the fourth game (NO!) in the series created for Nintendo by Hudson, the masters of the party game (they created Bomberman - 'nuff said). As in previous installments, this game sees you picking a character to move around a giant board and compete in various challenges and minigames when the occasion demands it. You roll a dice to see how far you move, then depending on where you land you may get given coins or have them taken away, or be given a present, or any one of a number of things. You can use items to make you move further, or to enable you to pass through small gaps. It's all pretty complex, and the first couple of games will have you frequently lost. The idea of the game is to collect stars - remember that, then, and you'll be fine. You can steal stars off of other players, buy stars for a certain number of coins, win stars in mini-games and challenges, and so on. The major downside is that it takes so long to play - you'll not want to play two games in a row. And don't even think of playing it single-player, since the computer takes its turns in full, and there's always 4 characters ... it's yawn-o-rama city, even if there are a number of things to unlock as you play through the single-player game. But when you've got three gamer friends around, then you'll have quite a lot of fun. Especially with the minigames, where all four of you compete (either all-against-all, or two-v-two, or the most fun variant, three-v-one) ... just don't expect a fast-paced acton game in the Bomberman vein.
Why can you tell it's American? Well, it's such a standard Hollywood film ... It concentrates on the film industry, which is what Hollywood loves since, after all, films are the most important thing in the world, aren't they? It has a conclusion which you can guess after about five minutes of the film. The bad guys act bad all the time - they don't have any good points. The good guys act good all the time - they don't have any bad points. But is it entirely without merit? Well, no. The film starts off about a breakup between two movie stars, who are regularly in the same film and are a celebrity couple. No, their names aren't Tom and Nicole. Then the last film they made is about to be released, so they have to promote it together, and the promotor (played excellently by Billy Crystal) tries to get the papers writing stories about them getting back together. Which they're not. But it's all publicity. Enter Julia Roberts, who plays Kiki, the sister of Gwen (the female half of the split couple). Cue much flirting between her and Eddie (the male half). Can you see where this is going yet? Yes, you can. The film has some very funny moments. When the film-within-a-film is shown, it's not *quite* as expected, and Gwen's new boyfriend is revealed to be, well, less endowed than he would like to be shown as. Eddie decides to go and see Gwen, but falls onto a cactus and gets apprehended by the guards for the lewd way he's removing the spikes (ouch). Lee (Billy Crystal's character) is an excellent character, with funny lines and situations. And this is proper comedy too - it's not just a slapstick line or two. So it's predictable, funny, simplistic and well put together. It's certainly not perfect, but I'd recommend it for one thing in particular ... It's an ideal date film - a romantic comedy with a lot of emphasis o
n the comedy. However, blokes beware - you're likely to have 10 minutes of perfume adverts beforehand!
Your honour, before we continue with this review, I ask for a few things to be taken into consideration. Firstly, please note that I have not read any of the other reviews currently placed for Legally Blonde. Yes, I am aware that it might be a good idea to do so. However, I think it is equally good not to do so, as this way I'm remembering what I can myself, without prompting. Secondly, I ask you to remember that I am not an average member of the general public. Nobody is. Therefore, just because I like this film (yes, I do), it doesn't mean you will. Although you should, oh yes. Legally Blonde is a Typical American Mushy Film, with little intellectual plot, but plently of pretty American "teenagers" (in reality aged about 25), cool blokes, nerdy teachers and unoffensive settings. The setting here is rather more impressive than most, however - the majority of the film takes place in Harvard Law School, a rathe fine building and university. Basics of the plot, without giving too much away: ditzy blonde (Elle Woods is her name) gets dumped by her boyfriend on the night she thinks he's going to propose to her, since he thinks he needs someone "serious" to get further up the ladder. Obviously not too happy about this, she decides she's going to apply to law school (the same one he's going to) in order to prove she's not as ditzy as it seems. She is, of course, and cue much hilarity during her attempt to get in. Which she does, somehow, only to have to win the bloke over again when she's there. This leads to much heartpulling and manicuring (apparently where you go when you want a cry), and with Elle being shown as dumb in all the classes. So she tries extra hard and somehow gets clever, all leading up to the climax of a law trial when she's lucky and uses her knowldge of beauty cosmetics to win the day. Oh, come on, it *is* predicatable. Now, ther
e's some things wrong with the film. Have any film makers ever *been* to university? I've certainly never seen a film which accurately portrays classes and lectures how they happen. Do the film makers really want to continue spreading the (false) stereotype of Harvard students as bitchy and boring? Hardly a nice way to treat the place which has let you film there. But I think the biggest problem is that it's extremely unbelieveable. I pity anyone aged 15, or whatever, who goes to see the film and thinks that you can get into law school by working hard for less than a month, or that you can become a geat lawyer by being ditzy. OK, you're meant to suspend your belief when watching a film, but it just seemed to stretch things a bit too far at times. That's not to say this film's entirely without merit. Far from it; it's fabulous, funny and ideal date material. You don't have to concentrate to enjoy it, and there's some superb scenes (like the fancy dress party that isn't ... OK, it's old, it's hackneyed, but it's still funny). The acting is, for the most part, top-notch too. It's enjoyable. And, to be honest, that's what we should be going to the cinema for anyway!
Having cancelled a trip to New York, we booked up in a bit of a hurry to go to Athens. Few hotels were left, and since we were on a bit of a budget, we went for the King Jason. Due to awkward flights running early (!) and general misplanning on our part, we arrived at about 4am on the day we were checking in - and obviously were unable to get a room for that night! However, they kindly let us put our bags behind the reception, and to doze off on the sofas in the lounge. Which we did. First impressions then: from the outside it's not great - it's a 60s tower block (as is most of Athens, in fact), and the name's in big tacky blocks up the side of the building. By night, admittedly, all of the letters light up (unlike most hotels!), but it's still a little ... well, tacky. However, it is right in the centre of the city, which is a bonus. Once you get inside, it's much nicer. The lounge/bar area is top class, and as you walk in the air conditioning hits you like ... a cool breeze, I suppose! People behind the desk are pretty friendly, and they all speak English quite well (though as always it would be good to see if you can speek Greek - though it's a rather difficult language to get by with!). The reception desk sells bottles of water or cans for non-extortionate prices. Up in the lifts ... oooh, the lifts. The lifts only have an outside door, so as you go up, don't lean on the wall! It's freaky the first time you go in them, but you'll get used to it. Up to the rooms, and they're not bad at all, especially given their relative cheapness. Beds are comfy, and each room has its own bathroom with loo, sink, and bath/shower. The shower is excellent, and there was never a problem with no hot water while we were there. The room is cleaned every day, with fresh towels and even bathmat. Inside the room, you've a very (even too!)efficient air conditioner, which pumps o
ut more cold air than you'll ever need. This uses the only plug socket, though, so you'll have to turn it off to recharge your phone, or whatever! There's a dressing-table and stool, and another bedside table on the other side. Enough drawers and wardrobe space to go round as well. There's a TV, with quite a few channels - CNN is the only one completely in English, but some others show subtitled programmes sometimes. Each room has a balcony, though some look into an inner area. Some of those on the outside are sort of side-on to the Acropolis, so you can see it at night - just! The balcony's not in a great state of repair generally, though. Included in the price is breakfast, which was fine - though "sausages and eggs" are just frankfurters and scrambled, they were quite nice. Some of the bread is the nicest thing ever, especially with strawberry jam. This is also the only time you'll get tea or coffee inside the hotel, since the rooms don't have facilities themselves. A nice hotel, all in all. However: one warning. Make sure you're not on a floor with lots of schoolkids or a large party. The first couple of nights we were there, it was difficult to sleep because of noise. The reception eventually sorted it out, but it's a bit of hassle.
Quirky (that should guarantee at least one comment!), constasting, funny, sombre, loud, brash, sad and active. Take almost any adjective out of the dictuionary, and it could be applied to this film. I say *almost*? Well, yes. The one thing you can't accuse it of is being boring. While 'This is Spinal Tap' was a trend-setter when it came to "rockumentaries", the genre has never really appealed to me. Byut Hedwig doesn't take itself seriously - it's a blackish (dark grey, if you will) comedy about one boy/man and his life as a rock non-star. The film's initially quite confusing. The storyline's mostly told through songs, with flashback sequences to show how Hedwig, or Hansel as (s)he was born, was born and raised in East Berlin. Accounts of parts of his life, like his father being thrown out by his mother, and him playing in the oven (yes, I know, but it's *true*!), are all told with voice-over, and frequently with song-over. Songs are accompanied by animation at times, and live-action at others - though the live-action often seems to be dream-sequence-like (the side of a trailer falling down to make a stage?) Brief plot synopsis: Hansel born in East Germany, sees Berlin Wal go up, father leaves (gets thrown out), listens to US radio and gets in rock music. Hansel grows up not overlymasculine and apparently gay (though initially we don't know this was when he was young). Meets a soldier who promises to marry him and take him to America, but this requires Hansel to have a sex-change operation. This goes pretty wrong. From this point on, Hedwig hears more and more extravegant wigs - note Hansel takes his mother's name, Hedwig. Goes to America, the soldier leaves, the Berlin Wall falls, just one year after Hedwig left. Hedwig starts singing and takes menial jobs to pay for things while living in a trailer park. One such job is babysitting, which is where she meets Tommy
Spink, who comes to watch her and her Korean backing in a restaurant. After this they get close and write songs together. Eventually Tommy leaves, under his new stagename of Tommy Gnosis, and Hedwig is left alone. She puts together a group of illegal immigrants as her band, the Angry Inch, and starts singing again. But she sings the same songs as Tommy is now singing to statium-size venues. Hedwig gets a bit depressed, and starts to crack. The film follows this and her fall and rise ... but that would be telling. The songs are the real star of the show ... well, not quite true, I'll come back to that ... they are a typical heavy rock group's output, with some slower ballads and some throw-guitar-across-room concophonies of noise. I'm not a huge fan of rock music, but, with one exception (the song at the very beginning), I'd have bought any of them if they were released as a single. The other real star of the show is John Cameron Mitchell, who plays Hedwig, and also wrote most of the non-musical screenplay. He gives a stunning performance as the eponymous diva, with superb expression and life to the character. The rest of the cast can't help but be overshadowed, but they're fine actors too, and this film is one in which everyone shines. This film can be enjoyed on so many levels. On the surface you have a funny film about a bizarre character, who writes songs with lyrics about her life. A bit deeper, you have a story about troubles in Berlin, and the extremes people would go through to get out. And at the root? Well, it's about love. Where it came from, how it exists, what it is, and why it's there. It's a damn fine film, and one you should definitely see at the cinema while it still plays. You'll be glad you did. Especially if they're giving out the yellow foam Hedwig wigs when you come out.
Amusingly, when I clicked on "write opinion", the selector dial popped up. (Note: this piece has been updated to try and fend off the numerous "somewhat useful" ratings I'm getting. The changes reflect what people have told me in email, and for that I thank them all) It's a pop-up window. I really, really, detest pop-up windows, and nothing makes me more annoyed (with the possible exception of the special class of windows that open as you leave a site. Erm, I'm leaving the site, I don't want anything more to do with you. GO AWAY!). But this one seems to be half-useful - you can select what kind of adverts you want to see, which is definitely a constructive thing. The idea seems to be that after you've clicked on one fo the five categories, it'll just show you adverts within that area, wherever you are on Dooyoo. Why, then, does it KEEP ASKING ME? I've seen two varients so far - only differing by one box in the corner askig if I wanted to keep my choice for two weeks. I said yes; that was three days ago, and yet I still get the selector at least once every time I log on. And the adverts I get don't appear to be anything to do with technology. So basically, the whole thing doesn't work. Targetted advertising without the advertising being targetted just doesn't see to be great. It's not a bad idea, and I'm far more likely to click on adverts which are in the area that interests me. But have it as a pass-through screen, and make it work properly so you only se it once a month, and it'll be a lot better.
From the makers of Parappa the Rapper and Um Jamma Lammy comes a game which ... well, it's the same, and at the same time it's not. It's the same because it's music based. It's the same because you have to hit buttons at certain times to do well, and failing to do so means you're doing badly. It's not the same because, well, it's a little bit pants. Unlike in the two masterpieces of paper-thing characterisation already mentioned, there is no repetition in Vib Ribbon. You're not shown a set of symbols, which you then have to repeat, you're just shown a line along which come shapes representing the buttons to press. Here lies disadvantage number 1 - the shapes don't correspond to the buttons you've got to press. There are four shapes - a loop, a pit, a wall and spikes. Two of these can be combined at any point, so for a spiked loop you'd have to press spike+loop at the same time. Now, for a pit, you have to press down. Almost reasonable. For a loop, you have to press circ ... oh, no, you have to press R1. But I always press circle, for some reason. The layout of the keypresses is such that you will always have a finger on each of the four buttons. Unfortunately, if you're not going to spend hours playing this, you'll never get naturally accustomed to what's what, and it won't get to be that much fun. You can't get into the game that far, because it's just not natural. Here lies disadvantage numer 2 - the game is too difficult. On the game itself there are three difficulty levels - strangely entitled easy, medium and hard. Easy is easy enough, and medium is only just doable. The music that accompanies these is sheer genius of tacky Japanese pop, and worth recording off the CD! The difficulty comes when you take advantage of the game's big feature, and use your own CDs. Indeed, you ca
n load up the game, and then put in your own CD and play using that music. Since the music directly affects the shapes that come your way, each song will be different. It's just too hard though, and it gets frustrating. If you miss a move, then you either drop down a level (from a rabbit, to a frog, to a snake, to nothing, and to get back up you have to get about 20 moves in succession right), or just start the screen shaking. And when the screen shakes it's hard to see what you're doing, so you'll inevitably fall to the next level. The timing has to be point-perfect, which makes the shaking screen even more ludicrous. And it doesn't end there - this isn't a very well done PAL conversion, and as such the timing of the controls isn't quite synchronised to the display. It's harder than it should be, then. That's not to say it's a bad game, but after a few plays you'll get bored, frustrated and put it away for a month or so. You will get it out again though. It's too eccentric to leave it there. Here (sort of) lies disadvantage number 3 - it's too eccentric. While the graphical style is functional and different, it soon gets boring, and you wish for just a little bit of colour. The game would be improved with music-generated darkly-hued backdrops, for instance. While it seems that I'm discouraging you from buying this, I'm not. It is a good game, and it's cheap, and worthy of purchase. Just don't expect the masterfullness of Um Jammer Lammy to be played out again.
Once in a while you hear a song on the radio you like. Sometimes it'll be good enough for you to go and buy the single. Sometimes it'll be good enough for you to go and buy both CD1 and CD2 of the set, if there are different remixes aailable. Sometimes, if it's really good, it'll get you to go out and buy the album it comes from, in the hope it'll lead to other, similar songs. Sometimes, it'll blow you away so much that you'll buy every single and every album released by that group. Step forwards, "I Am, I Feel". Ooooh, typical choice. Say "Alisha's Attic" to anyone and they're likely to recall either that song, or maybe "Alisha Rules the World". But to hear songs on the radio, they've got to be popular, and I have no qualms in telling you that "I Am, I Feel" was the song that did it for me. I still love it. Of course, when it came out, buying all of Alisha's Attic's output was hardly strenuous. But I did so, and was more amazed by what followed. The first album, "Alisha Rules The World", was full of amazing songs and meant that I was waiting on Tenterhooks for the second. "Illumina", their second album, wasn't as good as I thought it would be - it was better. When you have one song that you utterly love, and along comes another that blows it out of the water, you have to take notice. That song is "Barbarella". Utter, utter, genius. Unfortunately, the general public is stupid. See the demise of the Dreamcast, the proliference of CISC over RISC processors, and the way people stop in front of you when you're walkig along the road. This meant that, while the singles from the second album, and the album itself, did quite well, it wasn't a massive seller. It's taken about 2 years for thethird album to come out. "The House We Built" is a labour of
love, like all the other work, and, while not quite to the heights of "Illumina", still looks down on just about every other album out at the moment. Sales are lower than they've ever been, but the standard of music is as high, if not higher. Anyone who doesn't own an Alisha's Attic album should be given lessons in taste! (here's the factual bit) Alisha's Attic consists of Karen and Shelley Poole, based in Dagenham, Essex, who have released three albums and (I think) seven singles. Their music cannot easily be catergorised, since it varies quite a lot, but would no doubt be called 'pop' in a record store. Um, and they're fab. (that's the end of the factual bit) I'm sure Abba were thinking of you when they sang "thank you for the music". If they weren't, I am.
As in "wonder what's going on now?" I can't promise a detailed review or specific plot step-by-step analysis. I've only seen the film once, last night, at 10pm, and there are other reviews on Dooyoo which can tell you the details. I recommend shalimar's! The basic plot is centred around hacking into bank computers to withdraw a large sum of money. Not that you know that until about halfway through the film - don't worry that's not really a spoiler! - since the first half doesn't explain itself very well. All part of the storytelling, I suppose. The film opens with a meeting between the Chief Baddie (Gabriel, played by John Travolta) and the Policeman (not sure if you found out his name!) which is played over the standard movie opening sequence of words coming up at the bottom of the screen. As such, not a lot goes on. Then Gabriel gets up, there's armed police, and he's holding a grenade so they won't shoot him ... all very confusing. This then goes into a big action sequence with a starting-to-be-hackneyed 360-degree slo-motion shot of big explosions and cars flying through the air. Then it cuts to a time four days previous, which is where the story starts. Except it falters a bit before it does. For some reason the script brings in this computer hacker character from Finland, who gets arrested and then interrogated, and then talks about his employer as someone who he doesn't know who it is. This would make sense if there was an air of mystery, but we already know who it is from the opening. Anyway, after a different hacker is employed (Stan, played by Hugh Jackman) and given what Hollywood believes is a standard hacker terminal (seven screens, stupidly placed to give you a neckache), he slowly gets told what is required of him. Cue standard Hollywood depiction of hacker/programmer clapping his hands, saying "woooh", and spinning on his chair. He
llo? Wouldn't he get it done quicker if he kept his hands remotely near the keyboard? There's a bit of a side story to why Stan does all this - he's not meant to be touching any computers, see - involving his little girl and divorce cases and whatnot. It seems really pointless to me now - I presume the makers wanted to portray Stan as the "good guy" so had to give him intentions other than just greed (well, he was working for $10 million, I can't see you'd need much more incentive). After all, American audiences would never have the bad guy winning (sort of the point of the opening speech, though it was a lot more wooly in the film). So, after lots of bangs and car chases and exciting programming and look-at-my-daughter-I'm-oh-so-sad and gratuitously attractive women and hard bodyguards and shouting and counter-espionage and double dealing, we finally catch up to where we started. And things continue from there, except now we know why they are where they were in the first place. And then it all goes odd again, with Stan's programming being set up to not work properly, and him doing it again on pain of someone else's death, and the real reason for the money being needed (which I won't say, since you might not appreciate being told ...) underlying everything. Cue big escape plan, which naturally (you guessed it) goes half wrong, ending with a helicopter on top of a building. And of course a big showdown between some characters. Then you've got a slow-paced bit and a couple of flashbacks to lead into the new Hollywood necessity of a twist, which is so blindingly obvious if you've paid any attention to the film at all that you don't need *me* to spoil it for you. Oh - and Swordfish? The name of a government experiment/exercise from which all the money came. Pretty irrelevent! I might be being a bit too harsh. It's certainly an enjoyable fi
lm, and there's some good parts. The plot's a bit overly complex, with too many side-plots and bylines to stay interesting. But there's some original thought in there - it's just a shame that when it got turned into a film so many Hollywood cliches were used. Having said that, there's no really dreadful bits, and the acting's above average. Special effects aren't bad, but they're special effects - you'll have seen it before (though the opening sequence is pretty impressive). It might really rock your boat, but not mine. If it *does*, just make sure your boat's not near Monte Carlo.
Two things before I start: 1) My car is not white. The picture shows a white car. I think this is a travesty. The colours available for the Rover 200 were almost all lovely and smashing, but white cars ... urgh, no. 2) My car is called Tiggy. I only mention this to avoid confusion later, when I start referring to her in that way. I've now had Tiggy for almost 2 years. I've still not quite done 9,000 miles in her. That's not because I don't like driving, it's because I haven't had the need. Or, more specifically, the time. Because given the time I'd happily go and drive Tiggs to Scotland and back, just for the hell of it. I'm not a mechanic. I know a bit about cars - how to make sure they keep running, which bits to fill up and empty, and so on. But this opinion's mainly going to look at how the Rover 200 drives. And, although I may be giving away the ending somewhat, I'll say now that it drives superbly. In terms of looks, the 200 is only bettered (very slightly) by the new 25. For a car of its size, it's suitably sleek and suave, and yet has masses of room inside. Indeed, although it initially looks to be around a Fiesta size, inside it feels roomier than an Escort. Looks inside are consistent with this - in places it seems a little plain, but it's curvy and smooth and not at all tacky. All of that's important to the passenger, of course - after all, on a 2 hour motorway journey, what else have they got to do? I'd hope the driver's not going to be paying too much attention to the inside of the car. And since the buyer's going to be, in most cases, a driver, then why should they buy this car? It's cheap. It's smooth. And it's powerful. OK, it's not powerful. It's got a 1120cc engine, so it falls into the reduced tax rate. But it doesn't feel like a 1120cc engine. It feels a lot
more powerful - around the level of a 1.4l Ford engine, I'd estimate (going on past experience). It accelerates as good as any car (I beat people off lights easily, even though I'm not the sort of person to try), and it goes along the motorway at 70mph without any hassle at all. I would say it goes quite happily at 85, but since I'm not allowed to do that I wouldn't know, would I? The top speed in the specs is, apparently, 92mph ... I somehow don't think that's the limit. So really it *feels* powerful, which is what you want. It passes other cars when you're overtaking easily. It climbs hills without too much trouble (occasionally you have to slip it down into 4th if you've got three passengers). In other words, I see no need for a bigger engine. It's not all a perfect picture. Let's talk finances - the basic price for my car was £8,300. It's now worth around half that. It's got an average depreciation, therefore, which is a shame since in all other ways it's really economical. The small engine means lower car tax and, of course, less petrol consumption. But it also does mean you're not going to be able to hook up a caravan or a travelling circus. OK, maybe I do see a need for a bigger engine. When my car was first delivered, the passenger door wouldn't lock properly, and one piece of trim was a bit skewiff. Of course, the garage fixed it the next weekend for free, but that was a bit of hassle. Um, but that's about all the bad thing's I've got to say about Tiggs. She's a great car, and I'd really recommend the Rover 200 or 25 to anyone. Just remember, if you know the kind of engine you *need*, you could probably make do with the next size down if it's in a Rover.
Only virtually? Well, yes. Every console has its moments of brilliance in design. The Nintendo 64 had the analogue control. The Playstation had the memory card - before this, games were saved to a memory inside the cartridge, or to a battery memory inside the console itself, or not at all. So, what's the Dreamcast's new-fangled dongle then? Well, it's a screen for each player. Not, I hasten to add, a big TV screen, just a little LCD screen that sits in the joypad and lets you see what others can't. How it's used depends on the game, of course. In Quake 3, it can display your health and ammo situation. In Virtua Tennis, you can see the action represented by little matchstick men. *In* the joypad? Well, yes, it's not *on* the joypad, it's inside it. And it's removable. Attached to this screen is Sega's version of the memory card - save your progress, high scores, character and level designs, and take them around to your friend's house. OK, so it's a screen and a memory card in one. All very well, but *why*? Why not sell them seperately? Well, that's the clever bit. Slide the VMU out of the joypad, and you'll find it's got a tiny D-pad and two buttons on it (in addition to two tinier buttons for mode slection, and so on). You see, you can download games to it. It's a small black and white (er, black and green) screen, it's a toy with very little processing power or general oomph - but it's great fun. As well as downloading games off the Internet, you can find them in any number of Dreamcast Games. Powerstone has three that are available once you complete the game. With Sonic Adventure an Sonic Adventure 2 you get Chao Adventure and ... you guessed it ... Chao Adventure 2, which use the little A-Life things you can raise in the main games. You can even link up two VMUs and exchange scores, files, and so on, without a consol
e in sight. Sounds good, yes? Well, it is. There are, as ever, some problems around. The screen is tiny and has a very poor resolution - what they can do with it is thus compromised a bit. And the worst thing is battery life. Grrgh. The VMU uses two CR2032 batteries, which are flat watch-style ones. And are expensive. You don't need these batteries for the VMU to work as a memory card, but you do need them to use the screen when not connected to the Dreamcast. And they run out in a couple of months. So, to combat this, leave the little plastic tab in the back to stop the batteries from being used. Every time you want to use the unit, take the tab out, but then put it back in when you've finished. I don't know why none of the forthcoming consoles have the idea of individual screens built in - they're great. If it wasn't for the batterly life problem, this would have been a number one reason to own a Dreamcast. As it is, it's not. Shame.
The Hotel Fontana is located opposite the Trevi Fountain - directly opposite, about 10 metres away. You have to fight your way through the tourists to get to the entrance. That's how close it is. This is, obviously, both advantageous and problematic. I'll leave the summary list for the, er, summary above, but you can probably guess that since the Trevi Fountain is pretty much central within Rome, so will this hotel be. Indeed, the location is probably the best thing about the hotel. You're within walking distance of most places - OK, occasionally an hour's walk for the outskirts of the city! - and the area's really beautiful in terms of buildings, and general ambiance. Of course, there is the disadvantage of tourists, but you just have to live with that! The rooms are quite expensive for what they are, but again you're paying for the location. Beds are comfy, each room (as far as I could see) has an en suite bathroom, and TV and wardrobe. There's a slight problem in that the hot water's very limited, so you're reduced to a cold shower if you're not quick - but in most cases, this isn't a bad thing in Rome! Breakfast is taken on the fourth floor, in a room overlooking the fountain square. This is quite possibly the best thing about the hotel. The breakfast isn't bad either! All in all, it's certainly a nice place to stay. The staff are friendly and go out of their way to help you. The rooms are a touch basic, but you have everything you need (including BBC World!), and in Rome you're not going to stay in your room all day anyway. Well, I hope you're not. Especially with the Trevi Fountain so close.