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SEGA Rally (PSP)
SEGA Rally (PSP)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Lacks the classic Sega Rally spark, 6 Mar. 2008
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: SEGA Rally (PSP) (Video Game)
The original Sega Rally released back in 1995 by AM5 (aka Sega Rosso) in the arcades, and converted to Sega Saturn by AM3 the same year, is still one of my all-time favourite racing games. Needless to say I couldn't wait to get my hands on the latest version for PSP. I was hoping for the old magic to be replicated for this version with some modern tweaks (much like Sega stayed true to the Outrun franchise with Outrun 2) but sadly this is not the case. That's not to say this is a terrible game by any means but things have changed considerably in the years dividing both games.

The old Sega Rally pitted you against 19 other opponents and you had to come first by the time you reached the end of the final stage (of which there were only three, plus a bonus hidden track), should you be skillful enough to beat the time limit. The time limit in this game has been removed and the number of AI opponents falls considerably to just five. There are now more tracks and cars to race (there were only two cars in the original, plus a bonus hidden car) as the quantity found in the original would not suffice today.

Despite the extra tracks and cars, the game is still extremely short - there are only four modes of play: Quick Race, Championship, Time Attack and Multiplayer (which features full infrastructure support for online gaming against others across the country or in another country). The Championship mode is the main meat of the game but it is quite short and relatively easy to complete, requiring little skill to progress (the break button barely needs to be used, just keeping your finger on accelerate all the way round the tracks is sufficient to win races). Online play will extend the life of the game slightly but I soon got bored of it, mainly because there don't seem to be that many people online to race against.

The graphics are very colourful, perhaps too much so because they look almost cartoonish as a result. But I do still think the game is very pretty to look at and runs smoothly with only a few graphical errors (pop-up, jaggies, clipping etc) noticeable at times. The handling is considerably looser than the tight, responsive controls of the original so might take a while to get used to - I was very unsure of the controls at first but they do become increasingly user-friendly after a few races. It has to be said that the sound is not particularly good - the music is very generic and the voice-overs are a bit annoying.

Overall, this is reasonably playable and fun for a while but is far too short to offer any prolonged replay value. It also lacks that "special something" of the original - maybe this is because no AM division of Sega was responsible for this version, with Bugbear at the realms instead. In short, it doesn't feel like the Sega Rally of old and this is a negative for me. In an already saturated PSP racing game market this doesn't really stand out from the crowd. It would be unfair to call this game anything less than reasonable but the original 1995 versin still offers the definitive Sega Rally experience.

Ivy York
Ivy York
Offered by CDandVinyl
Price: £1.47

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Chill-out album that's too dull and not emotive enough, 14 Feb. 2008
This review is from: Ivy York (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
This self-titled debut album is a mysterious sounding indie/acoustic album but unfortunately it is just too dull for my liking. The music is neither rousing (the chorus to Forces Of Nature is just about the only time the cd shifts up a gear and actually ignites some life into the album) and few songs are particularly emotive (perhaps with the exception of Not The Last Time, which is I'll admit is rather a nice track and worth a listen).

This album is very placid and subdued, with one track fading into the next without much variety. Whilst Ivy York can clearly sing in tune, I'm still not really a fan of her voice - she has quite a husky(ish) voice but she doesn't project properly meaning her vocals don't really stand out, much like the music. It's not an awful album, just extremely average - background music at very best. This album might suit someone looking for a chill-out cd but in my opinion it lacks emotion and conviction - the album has no direction as it simply drifts from one song to the next without forethought and is far too uninvolving.

The Simpsons (PSP)
The Simpsons (PSP)

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Average, 28 Jan. 2008
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: The Simpsons (PSP) (Video Game)
The Simpsons Game moves the franchise away from the free-roaming driving-esque games like Road Rage and Hit And Run. Hit And Run offered some platforming moments but was primarily a driving game - Road Rage with additions if you like. This game is pure platforming action.

You get to control Homer, Bart, Marge and Lisa through various levels - each level is designed for two specific characters. For example, level 2 is set in the Springfield Museum with you controlling Bart and Homer, switching between characters at will to solve puzzles.

The graphics on PSP are obviously not as good as on PS3 and 360; that goes without saying. The graphics resolution is not as high resulting in much rougher looking graphics than on the bigger consoles. However, despite a clear loss in detail and smoothness, the in-game graphics are still good. They are colourful and still remain faithful to the show, with characters and environments easily recognisable. And remember, this is the only way of playing a 3D Simpsons game on the move - DS version is primarily a 2D side-scroller.

The biggest appeal to this game is the 40+ minutes of animated footage made exclusively for the game. The animated scenes divide each level and are a nice treat for any Simpsons fan. However, I found the script somewhat less humourous than the tv series - the jokes were not as well-written. I think it is just the high standard of writing in the tv show that is to blame more than anything. The clips are still enjoyable to watch and the animation is silky smooth - it is very much like watching a genuine tv episode.

Typical of any Simpsons game, we have lots of funny voice-overs during gameplay - some are annoying, especially when constantly repeated, but I have found myself regularly chuckling to myself over some of the comments thrown about in the game. I have noticed a few recycled comments from previous Simpsons games too.

The gameplay is challenging but can become very frustrating - the main issue is the atrocious camera, which often hinders rather than help you. It is such a regular annyance that is almost completely ruins the game. However, the familiar sights and characters of Springfield, not to mention the Simpsons humour, do just about pull the game through.

Overall, an awkward game that would probably be below average if it were not for the Simpsons brand attached to it. If you're expecting the definitive Simpsons game I'm afraid you will have to wait a bit longer. 4 stars for the humour and 2 stars for the gameplay - I think that just about warrants 3 stars overall. Not a terrible game by any means (I'm sure you'll get a few hours enjoyment from it)..... just very average.

The Tin Roof Blowdown
The Tin Roof Blowdown
by James Lee Burke
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good but a difficult read in places, 6 Jan. 2008
This review is from: The Tin Roof Blowdown (Hardcover)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
An interesting and nicely detailed crime thriller based upon real events, namely Hurricane Katrina. The premise of the story makes for a good read generally but things do seem a little confusing in places. I found it hard to follow at times, partly because James Lee Burke's work is completely new to me and I am not familiar with his leading character Dave Robicheaux, who features in a series of JLB novels. Hence some of the references to previous novels were lost on me. I also found the plot somewhat confusing in places, finding it difficult to piece things together. I think because of this I failed to enjoy the book in perhaps the way I should have. If you have a good attention span or are familiar with James Lee Burke's other work then this is certainly worth reading. Otherwise I think new readers like me will struggle in places.

The Best Of Crash Test Dummies
The Best Of Crash Test Dummies
Price: £12.45

11 of 11 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Ideal album for people not overly familiar with the band, 6 Dec. 2007
There's no denying Crash Test Dummies are most renowned for the song "Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm" which can be found in the classic film, Dumb & Dumber (although curiously it has been replaced by another Crash Test Dummies song on the soundtrack album, instead including a song that doesn't actually feature in the film). This song is how I first became introduced to the band, with a lot of their other material being unfamiliar to me. I decided to explore the band's music catalogue a bit further and figured the best place to start would be The Best Of.

The album opens with a gentle song called "Superman's Song" which is a really nice track and opens the album well. The second track, "Mmm Mmm Mmm Mmm" should need no introduction and is undoubtedly the best song on this collection. Another noteworthy song is track 9 called "Keep A Lid On Things" which is a fantastically calming song and contains a particularly strong chorus - it also introduces us to a different side of Crash Test Dummies in terms of their sound, as it is considerably different to what most casual fans may imagine the band to sound like should they have only heard "Mmm, Mmmm, Mmm, Mmm" beforehand.

It should be pointed out that some of the tracks do differ from the song they're undoubtedly best known for ("Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm), so some people might not initially find the album as accessible as they originally intended. Personally, I had no such issues about warming to this album because there are some grat acoustic tracks on here, such as "The Ghosts That Haunt Me", "Afternoons & Coffeespoons" and the closing track, "I'll Never Leave You Alone", which curiously sounds like it was recorded outdoors judging by the background traffic noises that are clearly audible.

Overall, I think this is a thoroughly enjoyable album that predominantly contains gentle acoustic tracks. If you're curious to find out more about the band's other songs besides just "Mmm, Mmm, Mmm, Mmm" then this is undoubtedly the album to start with and comes highly recommended.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Aug 9, 2008 12:17 PM BST

Metal Slug Anthology (PSP)
Metal Slug Anthology (PSP)

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Metal Slug Anthology PSP, 19 Nov. 2007
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
Metal Slug Anthology contains all 7 Metal Slug games created so far - Metal Slug, Metal Slug 2, Metal Slug X (a re-worked version of Metal Slug 2), Metal Slug 3, Metal Slug 4, Metal Slug 5 and the all-new (created for the Anthology) Metal Slug 6. That's an extremely generous compilation of games and is undoubtedly several hours worth of gameplay just to go through every game once.

However, each game only consists of 5 levels, although these are admitedly quite lenghty for a side-scrolling 2D arcade shoot 'em up. The levels are very varied in terms of backgrounds but the gameplay essentially stays the same trhoughout the game. And the these gameplay mechanics don't change from game to game either - in other words Metal Slug 6 plays exactly the same as all the other Metal Slug games that precede it.

The graphics don't alter from one game to the next either - only the backgrounds (and some of the enemies) change. But don't be fooled into thinking just because this is an old-skool side-scrolling shooter that the graphics are from a bygone age. The hand-drawn sprites in these games look beautiful - the attention to detail is fantastic and the animation is smooth as silk. These really are great looking games when in motion, especially with all the action and explosions that occur on the screen in any one go.

However great Metal Slug Anthology may look and no matter how comprehensive it is there are still some major criticms to be had with the gameplay. The gameplay just is not varied in the slightest - shoot everything in sight and that's it. Yes, shooting everything on screen can be very exhilerating but only in short bursts. Also, these games are infuriatingly difficult - a 10 second stint without dying is a feat in its own right. In many areas of each game it is quite simply impossible not to die repeatedly on one section. Yes, you can play with infinite continues but even so..... do you really want to be dying every few seconds??! Obviously the answer will be no. But the Metal Slug games are fiendishly difficult and unfair. If you play with infinite continues it takes the edge off the game because you know you'll complete it no matter how many times you die in the game. But limit the number of continues in the game and you'll never finish the first level let alone the last. I'm no lightweight either - I've been playing games for over 15 years so have plenty of experience under my belt.

Several years ago I did consider getting Metal Slug 3 on Xbox but I'm glad I didn't because I would have felt very short-changed. But considering Anthology contains so many games it's hard to take a big dislike to it - the games are fun in short bursts but with no variety and a notorious difficulty I don't think you'll be playing this a few weeks after purchase unless you have a particular thirst for this type of game.

Greatest Hits, Vol. 1: The Singles
Greatest Hits, Vol. 1: The Singles
Price: £5.99

7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not a definitve collection but good place to start for new fans, 16 Nov. 2007
No denying the quality of the songs on this album. If you're curious about getting a Goo Goo Dolls album for the first time then this would be the logical choice. However, it's not perfect becasue there are a few big omissions - two of Goo Goo Dolls best songs are missing from this collection, "Naked" and "Cuz You're Gone". And there are others missing too. But then again, Goo Goo Dolls are such a good band that not all their best songs could possibly fit onto just one CD. They could have surely released a double CD album to compensate for this but I did make one final observation - the "Volume 1 - The Singles" part of the album description, which suggests further volumes at a later date. I would love one with B-sides and rarities!

Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces
Finding Beauty in Negative Spaces
Offered by mrtopseller
Price: £7.00

15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Takes time to find the beauty, 13 Nov. 2007
Seether return with their third studio album, following on from the 2002 release Disclaimer (and the two Disclaimer II re-releases a couple of years later) and the 2005 follow-up Karma & Effect. They also return a man down - former guitarist Pat Callahan is no longer with the band (the official date of his depature was 14th June 2006, having been a full-time member of the band since 2004, before which he spent a long stint as their tour guitarist).

Despite Seether being a much-maligned band in some corners of the music industry, I have always liked their music. I wouldn't say Seether have ever been a particularly sophisticated or overly technical band because they're not. But I think what really shines with the band is the angst that radiates through their songs. "Gasoline", taken from the Disclaimer/Disclaimer II albums, is still one of my most listened to rock tracks some 5 years on. So can Seether replicate this for their new album? The answer isn't quite a resounding yes - it's a somewhat mixed bag in places - but overall the band just about manage to pull it off, as I shall explain.

Seether always kick off an album with a beast of a track - for example "Gasoline" on Disclaimer/Disclaimer II and "Because Of Me" on Karma & Effect are two songs that contain monster-sized, angst-ridden riffs and vocals. Seether do the same on this album with the opening track "Like Suicide" - I just love the heavy riff that kicks in at about the minute mark. It's a perfect way to kick off the album and is easily one of the best songs Seether have ever done. Let's run through the tracks one by one:

1. "Like Suicide" - best track on the album by a mile; it's moody, angry and has the best riff on the entire album (just love the pounding drums that accompany the monster riff, which comes just after the choruses). This kind of song is what Seether do best, fantastic track 10/10

2. "Fake It" - the first single, which I wasn't too keen on at first but it's really grown on me. Like the music video to this 8/10

3. "Breakdown" - quite a moody and emotive track; one of the slower tracks on here but with a big soaring chorus 9/10

4. "FMLYHM" - alright track; very middle of the road Seether track (heavy but not as heavy as their older stuff) 6/10

5. "Fallen" - not too sure on this track; very middle of the road again but just don't find it particulalrly exciting, even though it's quite a rocky song 5/10

6. "Rise Above This" - probably the most radio-friendly track on here; almost a song to cruise to. Very optimistic-sounding song, which is ironic because it's about Shaun's brother Eugene, in advance of his tragic death last August. For the feel of this song, think electric guitars mixed with an acoustic mid-tempo sound. 9/10

7. "No Jesus Christ" - a seven minute epic that takes almost 2 minutes before the main guitar riff kicks in. I'm not overly keen on this track - just don't think there is quite enough variety to warrant such a duration as seven minutes 6/10

8. "6 Gun Quota" - reasonable rock track but not the best Seether have to offer. The sound on this song reminds me of Nickelback, particularly the chorus 7/10

9. "Walk Away From The Sun" - quite a unique sounding song on the album. Acoustic to start with then the mid-section adds a bit of distortion, leading into probably the best little guitar solo I have heard Seether do (they don't do very many at all). This song builds up to a decent climax. A brilliantly haunting track 10/10

10. "Eyes Of The Devil" - not too keen on this track, just doesn't hold my interest 5/10

11. "Don't Believe" - dark sounding track but not much variation to it 5/10

12. "Waste" - the closing track. I think this song is quite unique amongst Seether's other tracks. It has a soaring chorus but the overall sound is different to what Seether normally do 6/10

Overall, this is a reasonable album - at first I thought this was the weakest album yet but after sveral listens it has really grown on me. I had exactly the same reaction to Karma & Effect when that was released and yet I still find time to listen to that album because I gradually grew very fond of it. I feel the same is happening with Finding Beauty In Negative Spaces.

With each and every studio album Seether have released, they have continuosly streamlined their sound and there is a lot less screaming on this album than previous releases - the opening track, "Like Suicide", contains the most violent screams to be found on this album. In the context of this song I think the screaming section works but generally speaking I'm glad Seether don't put too many fits of screaming into their songs any more - it was my main criticsm on an otherwise excellent Disclaimer II. On the flip-side, don't go expecting anything as gentle as "Broken" on here because there is nothing as mellow as that on this album.

To sum up, I think if you like the previous albums you will enjoy Finding Beauty In Negatve Spaces. The sounds doesn't deviate too much from what they've done before - it's recognisably Seether but they have thrown in a few new sounds (listen out for the backing piano-sounding sectons on a couple of tracks - only very brief and subtle so might be hard to spot). This is a gentle progression as opposed to anything distinctly new but it's different enough to feel fresh yet will be instantly recongnisable to existing fans.

Overall 4/5

Tales Of Grime And Grit
Tales Of Grime And Grit
Offered by EliteDigital UK
Price: £24.95

1 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Tales Of Grime And Grit, 8 Nov. 2007
This review is from: Tales Of Grime And Grit (Audio CD)
Customer review from the Amazon Vine Programme (What's this?)
Ruarri Joseph is a singer-songwriter who hails from Newquay and blends acoustic melodies with some mild jazz sensibilities - this makes for an interesting sound on his debut album, Tales Of Grime And Grit. The album consists of 12 stripped down acoustic tracks (although be prepeared to hear accompanying instruments like piano and drums on some tracks) - the best songs are "Blankets" and the somewhat bluesy title track, which are both reasonable tracks. However, the rest of the album hasn't left me particularly convinced. I do like acoustic musicians - Shawn Mullins, Newton Falkner and Jon Gomm for example - so I was willing to give Ruarri Joseph's album a chance to grow on me. Unfortunately his music doesn't move me - for example Shawn Mullins' songs send shivers down my spine with his immaculate story-telling ability, that can both insight and enthrall in equal measures, but I don't get that with this album. I just don't think Ruarri has enough interesting things to say in his songs and the tracks are too bland.

Killzone Liberation (PSP)
Killzone Liberation (PSP)
Offered by GameExplorers
Price: £10.50

3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing, 6 Nov. 2007
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
Killzone Liberation is a third person action game viewed from above, so fans of the original PS2 Killzone should make note of the change in viewpoint. This is a reasonable game but despite having lots of action I do think it all gets a bit tedious after a while.

The presentation of the game is good - the opening cinematic sequence is awesome - and the graphics are small but nicely detailed. However the levels I've played so far seem a bit bland - there is little replay value to them. The design of the levels isn't perfect, making you retrace your steps quite a lot. The scenery and environments, although nicely detailed, so far aren't particularly exciting or varied from what I've seen.

There is limited variation in the enemies you face(a criticsm I would throw at the original PS2 Killzone too), meaning lots of identikit enemies and therefore few surprises. Killzone Liberation is challenging and okay for a quick blast but I'm finding myself losing interest in it already and I've only had it a few days - that can't be the sign of a truly good game.

A quick mention on the controls - they're reasonable but can get a bit fiddly, mostly due to the lack of a decent lock-on system (shooting at enemies can feel a bit clumsy because your character doesn't always lock-on to them when he should and it's almost impossible to aim accurately without the lock-on doing what it should).

Pros: Nice graphics and decent presentation
Cons: Bland level design, wayward lock-on system, little variety in gameplay

Overall, this game is quite disapointing, particularly after all the favourable press I have seen on it. It's far from an awful game but it's just not all that exciting which is what an action game should be. Plenty of action which is fun for a while but little variety to the gameplay means it all starts to get a bit boring alarmlingly quick.

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