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Clive O Trent (Soton, UK)

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Chambers Official Scrabble Lists International
Chambers Official Scrabble Lists International

25 of 25 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars SUPER + B = Superb, 4 Dec 2003
I bought this as a replacement for my paperback copy of the somewhat outdated OSL2 and I am not in the slightest bit disappointed by the content so far.
Drawn from the new edition of Official Scrabble Words International (Which combines the American and British word lists) this book is similarly heavy in both size and content. While the OSWI is doubtlessly the final authority for games of Scrabble at Christmas, this book is more of an aid to learning. Words from its dictionary brother are here presented in a series of lists which assist learning words that may be needed during the game. For example, examination of the section on 'hooks' will reveal interesting and surprising ways to extend words to rack up the points (FLAMING + O = Flamingo; F + UNFAIR = Funfair)
Those starting out with the book are directed towards the initial lists of 2/3 letter words and others containing J, Q, X or Z. The lists of words heavy in vowels or consonants is a collection that is equally useful.
Since this book is drawn from the combination of American and British dictionaries, the section on 'Variants' is welcome in latching on to American spellings (Not forgetting variations between words of Greek or Latin origin, and words ending in EY/Y/IE).
The book is garnished with little hints along the way suggesting ways of maximising your score and training yourself to remember words.
People interested on scoring that 50-point bonus for using all of their letters will definitely find the aptly named 'Bonus Word Lists' section a good resource and a happy hunting ground for revision material. Here, great columns of bonus words are grown from 6 letter "stems", which are most likely to occur in a game (Given the standard distribution of letters) The innocuous words RETAIN, SATIRE and RAINED offer a useful starting point. Each “stem” is ranked by how often the letters are expected to occur, and supplied with mnemonics to help you remember them, and the letters that combine to form bonus words.
Finally, the compendious anagrams section finishes off this tome. While it is unlikely to be consulted during your game, it can be of use if you enjoy a good post mortem.
If the Scrabble board only sees light of day at Christmas, then you are unlikely to get any real use from this book. If, however, you really want to get one over on your relatives then this could be a satisfying investment. It will be best used, however, by someone who wants to improve his or her knowledge of the vocabulary that exists in OSWI. Whether that person just wants to play at a club, national or international level, this book will be a good tool.


Red Dwarf: Series 3 [DVD]
Red Dwarf: Series 3 [DVD]
Dvd ~ Craig Charles
Offered by rsdvd
Price: 4.72

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "It was only fifteen quid...", 1 Dec 2003
This review is from: Red Dwarf: Series 3 [DVD] (DVD)
Well, I was wrong when I reviewed the second Series DVD. I predicted a downturn in quantity and quality of bonus material (More on which later) but was proved wronger than a wrong thing that has answered a question incorrectly.
The episodes themselves? Well, this science fiction sit-com certainly steps up a gear in the sit-com bit. Some of the most fondly remembered episodes are contained in this series, and we easily get behind the new members of the cast. They weren't pointed out as 'new' by the characters in the series, they were simply accepted as normal. An idea that seems to work. 'Marooned' is by far my favourite episode of this series.
With Disc one, we get a nice animated introduction to the menus, and a decent-ish menu again. Subtitles and cast commentary come packaged with the episodes. Why is Craig's character forever eating on set? What is the snow made of? A large proportion of the commentary is dedicated to extracting the mickey from Kryten's accent (as well as some silence while they listen to their own favourite lines), but on the whole the commentary is quite interesting.
The decision to up the number of chapter points from 7 to 9... well... mixed thoughts. With only seven, they would all comfortably fit on one menu page. Now we have to flip 'back' and 'next' between the two pages. I suppose if you want to watch certain parts more than others you will like this change, but I prefer the whole episodes to individual segments. But that's just me.
Moving on to the second 'bonus' disc, we are immediately (Well, after the opening intro) presented with one of the key features: brand-new interviews on episodes and the series in general. Definitely offers insights not only into the behaviour of the cast and crew, but also into how episodes are conceived, filmed and produced. These also come with subtitles. From here on though, we have a small problem. And the review title changes to "It hasn't worked"
On some dvd players (mine included), the menu for the Bonus Material either doesn't work at all or repeats the background track each time you select a new option ("Your Kryten seriee... Your Kryten Seriee..."). BBC worldwide have owned up to this problem. I tried it again on my PS2, and it worked after some initial persuasion. Through the weblink on the dvd, you can find out how to complain. Back to the review though...
Once again, the staples of isolated music cues, raw FX footage, deleted scenes and outtakes are present and correct. The original trailers were only 'archived by a dedicated fan', one of which ironically invites us to buy Red Dwarf on video. The entire episode of 'Backwards' is brought to us backwards. It's hard to say whether this is good or bad. I only really want to watch the brawl or listen to certain lines ("What a poor sad life he's got!" etc) thus rendering most of the recording irrelevant. We also get a montage of lines about food and the cast and crew remember their set designer in a well-put-together tribute.
Finally, the other bits. If you've bought the previous 2 series in this format, you will notice that when this box is aligned with the others, the spine logo starts to look a lot more impressive. We also get the collectors booklet with little tidbits not covered elsewhere on the discs. We also get pictures on the discs. As for the hidden 'Easter Eggs', trying to find them will cause you no end of trouble. Unless you are lucky. Or you find out from someone who has found them. Like me, for instance. Oh, and no doubt about the colour of the box covers. Definitely green.
Summing up, if you only buy this for the episodes, then you will not be disappointed. If you like the extra features that demand playing and re-playing, you will most likely not be disappointed. Point dropped for the incompatibility.


Chessmaster 6000 (DVD Packaging)
Chessmaster 6000 (DVD Packaging)

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Almost, but not quite..., 20 Feb 2003
Certainly standard issue in my vicinity, Chessmaster 6000 is the start of the more up to date Chessmaster programs.
When I saw that this program came with voice-annotated games, I was highly skeptical as to how they would improve my understanding and playing of chess. But, I stand corrected, they have been done very well and the games illustrate relevant points, thoughts and tactical ideas. What I don't really like, however, are the voice commentaries that come with the auto-annotations and their inclusion in chess-tutor. I feel that they could have picked a better voice for these tutorials. While on the subject, there are some notable discrepancies in the Chess Puzzles that are provided, as after you either make the right move or give up, some more pieces either materialise, or they move about. The hints to the solution occasionally refer to non-existant pieces, which appear after you have given up! No wonder they are difficult to solve, I'm solving a different puzzle!
The automatic annotations of the game are useful, though it's disappointing that they only do one game at a time. I have used a free chess engine in the past that annotated a whole PGN file if you wanted it to (Though, to be fair, not in the natural language that Chessmaster provides, it has to be said). This is one of the main things I look for in a chess program, which bears most of the weight of the review.
For me, the "Practise Openings" option isn't all that useful. I think that this should either include the running commentary on what the opening is and the description of it (Rather like what you get when you auto-annotate the game) or just be plain scrapped altogether. For me, the "coach" option is a better way to practise openings.
The mandatory cosmetic inclusions/deficiencies aside, I hold this program in high respect. But having said that, I'd get a later version if I had a better computer!


Red Dwarf: Series 2 [DVD] [1988]
Red Dwarf: Series 2 [DVD] [1988]
Dvd ~ Doug Naylor
Offered by 247dvd
Price: 3.98

3 of 10 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars "...or is it the yellow cable...?", 20 Feb 2003
Red Dwarf is without question one of the greatest situation comedies in the history of situation comedies. A classic situation (Closed environment, which cannot be escaped) which goes hand-in-hand with the great acting from messers Charles, Barrie, John-Jules and Lovett. The second series contains many of the great lines, scenes, witticisms and appearances, and is a sure complement to the first. Though I personally feel uneasy about the late-at-night bunkside discussions which are frequent in this series. And to be honest, the set has become so overdressed with non-grey objects that it seems that the powers that be may have been overcompensating for the lack of colour in the first series.
I'd been waiting for this DVD for many moons and when it was finally released, I waited for it to arrive on my doorstep. And, lo! When I placed beside my Series I box, the mystery of the little red band at the bottom of the spine became clear!
The menus have been altered slightly to keep up with what happens in each series: instead of McIntyre's ashes on the console, the Holly Hop Drive sits proudly in its place "It's fairly straightforward..." Holly informs us all; A watercolour painting featuring Rimmer in his...glory is watching over the sleeping quarters; The oft-pointed-out inflatable banana etc. But one thing is bothering me...is it just me, or is the DVD box itself purple and not blue?
The cast provide an ever more chaotic commentary as per usual, chatting for what seems like an eon about how they were kicked out of a hotel. The cast obsessively point out the inflatable-banana, random members of the production crew, who gets how many laughs and the number of times the Cat wears a certain shirt. Chris Barrie also gives some incisive 'estimates' of how many minutes of each episode have elapsed so far. Sadly, one of the real plus points of the series was the "Tongue-tied" song, but after playing it repeatedly Craig's comments about how much he hated it are apparent. "When he was going to do the choreography, I thought it was going to be something really cool..." he recalls. But 'tis a small niggle.
I had hoped for a similar quantity and volume of bonus material as the first series had included, but was disappointed to find that the main bonus item ("An animated discussion of one episode") appeared to completely ignore the episode in question and focus entirely on how "Rhyl" meant "Beach In Paradise". With a heavy heart, I am worried that the bonus features will become less and less prominent as the series progress. But this shouldn't be the main reason for buying the DVD. The reason you should be buying them, is because the BBC can't be relied on to repeat the episodes at regular, accessible times and in the correct order. That, and of course, the many bits that just cry out to be played again and again and again: Lister's being blasted over a console on Holly's request; Rimmer losing his mind when Hollister apologises for an earlier incident; Rimmer's thumbs being broken; Rimmer's description of the appearance and performance of the Holly Hop Drive; Lister's 'wine' rant.
In summary, there's nothing wrong with the episodes themselves, it's just not quite as good in the features department as the first series which I felt would set a benchmark, not start a downward slope.


How To Play Poker and Win: The "Late Night Poker" Guide (Late Night Poker Team)
How To Play Poker and Win: The "Late Night Poker" Guide (Late Night Poker Team)
by Brian McNally
Edition: Paperback

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars So...So, 24 Oct 2002
This book is very good, but only to a point. It starts off with Draw Poker before moving on to stud, then Hold-em then Omaha. In the main, the rules are well explained, but I am annoyed at the overall patchiness of the book's explanations. When explaining the machinations of draw and stud poker, the book never fails to offer diagrams of the play at the table itself. When it gets to Hold-em however, there are no-such illustrations. There were points where I was wondering what happens next because it either was badly explained or not at all. The worst offender in this instance was the entire 7 lines 'explaining' the act of "Going All-In". This left a lot to be desired, especially when this can be a crucial element in some games.
I agree with other reviewers that it would have been nice if the book hadn't concentrated entirely on one variety of the game. Yet even in the one variation where it does concentrate, I was not very impressed where the book appeared to assume that you knew what it was talking about. If you bought the book to try and learn (Like myself) then you'd be in difficulty. Better consistancy would have been nice.
In short, this book is only average. I'm not even sure if it is deserving of 3 stars, but I feel that credit is due for the bits of the book that have been done well.


Cyber Chess (PC)
Cyber Chess (PC)
Offered by SC-WHOLESALE
Price: 0.99

68 of 70 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Not the best, 5 Aug 2002
This review is from: Cyber Chess (PC) (Video Game)
As is my wont, I'll split this review into 3 sections. Good points, bad points and a summary.
From the animations and board sets that come with the game, it seems clear that this game is aimed entirely at children and the beginners it so kindly mentions on the front of the case. It's true that some children may find the art of moving abstractly shaped wooden blocks around a chequered flag in abstract ways daunting. So the inclusion of different layouts and piece sets will almost certainly help get them interested. Also the animated intro sequences are visually pleasing. It is clear that some considerable effort has been put in to try and maintain the same theme throughout the three layouts. Sounds are also nice and simple so that you don't get exceptionally lost. Being able to change the board from 3D to 2D helps, because I have difficulty moving the pieces with the former arrangement!
Sadly, after this, the game falls flat because it boils down to the premise that you are playing chess. For anyone older than 10, the game becomes just too tedious. If you just want to settle down to a quick game of chess, you must negotiate 2 introductions, the main menu, a THIRD introduction and then you have to choose your set of pieces before you start playing. Secondly, some of the key options in a game of chess (Difficulty, Opponent etc.) are in the main menu and can't be reached when you start the game. If you want to go back to the main menu you have to watch a closing sequence then alter them, watch the board opening sequence...etc...etc ad nauseum. And while fading one piece onto another when capturing / promoting is nice, it slows the game too much and I'm left shouting "HURRY UP!" at my screen. And I would have liked some kind of announcement when I am in check, not just "Invalid move" when I try something not realising what has happened. Also, the move notation is only in the b8-c7 way. I'm not a grand master, but I prefer the Nbc7 notation or at least a choice. No help file is available in-game. Also, in the four attempts I tried to play so that I could write a review, the game crashed twice.
Other problems are really odd. For example when you choose to orient the playing area so that "White plays up", the white pieces are helpfully repositioned at the top so that white can play DOWN the board. Sheer sloppiness in my opinion. Also is the fact that the game doesn't recognise stalemates by either 3-fold repetition or insufficient material (King and Bishop vs. King. No checkmate is possible and you end up chasing each other round the board). Also, the case mentions 'multiple skill levels'. I'm sorry but 'Beginner', 'Intermediate' and 'Advanced' does not constitute 'multiple' to me. At least 5 should be on offer to qualify as 'multiple' and even that would be a far cry from the dictionary definition. In addition to this, 'Fully Rotational Board Views' should offer more than just "White plays Up" and "White Plays Down". There doesn't appear to be much that can actually improve your play. I'd be more inclined to buy a book of chess openings, tactics / strategies or endgames.
To summarise, I strongly urge you NOT to buy this, unless you are an absolute beginner. This game beats me every time I play it (Though that's not exactly difficult). But I do wonder if the makers spent too long on the animations than to make this a decent game. It also comes to a sad something where one of the highlights is a free game called 'Hextrap' which has been thoughtfully added. If you insist on purchasing a computer chess game, there are several ones which are better (My favourite being the Chessmaster Series). But if you are trying to get your children interested, then this may be a good game to start with.


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