Shop now Shop now Shop now Shop All Amazon Fashion Summer Savings Up to 25% Off Cloud Drive Photos Shop now Learn More Shop now Shop now Shop Fire Shop Kindle Oasis Learn more Shop now Learn more
Profile for Andrew Brack > Reviews

Personal Profile

Content by Andrew Brack
Top Reviewer Ranking: 2,033,630
Helpful Votes: 266

Learn more about Your Profile.

Reviews Written by
Andrew Brack (Atlanta, GA)
(REAL NAME)   

Show:  
Page: 1 | 2 | 3
pixel
Sid Meier's Pirates! (PC DVD)
Sid Meier's Pirates! (PC DVD)
Offered by The_Game_Demon
Price: £6.00

8 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable open-ended adventure from a gaming legend, 1 July 2008
Sid Meier is a man who understands what makes a good game. A look at his list of credits will reveal many games that have now been labelled as classics - Civilization, Colonization, Gettysburg, Alpha Centauri, Railroad Tycoon and, of course, Pirates!

The joy of Pirates is that it is a really simple gaming concept executed well. There gameplay is unpretentious, the graphics are attractive and the storyline is there for those who want it and can be ignored by those who do not. There are multiple measures for you to assess your success - whether it is the number of family members found, the amount of wealth accumulated or simply enemy pirates or ships defeated or scuttled.

The mechanics of the gameplay are well-designed; duels are fast and exciting (though perhaps a little easy), sea battles require brains as well as out-gunning your opponent whilst storming a town requires careful positioning and an understanding of your military units. One aspect of the game I like is that people can play it completely differently. Some like to trade or plunder ships whereas I have always been a "sack a town and hand it over to my chosen nation" sort of pirate.

There are however some weaker elements that do not quite work. For instance, I found the governor's daughter dance sequences a tedious exercise in sequenced button pressing. Another gripe is that progress against the wind can feel painfully slow and frustrating. Eventually your character can upgrade his ship to assist him in sailing against the wind but there are frequently occasions where you find your ship slowing to a crawl (or even a halt).

Overall Pirates is a highly satisfying gaming experience. It is a game that you will find yourself returning to from time to time and that still looks great and plays well. I highly recommend it.


The Dark Husband (Doctor Who)
The Dark Husband (Doctor Who)
by David Quantick
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £14.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Charming but Dispensable, 17 Jun. 2008
When Doctor Who does comedy the results are usually variable to say the least and usually quite divisive. Look at the reception `Love and Monsters' received in Series Two of the new television show for a good example of this.

For this reason I approach stories such as `The Dark Husband' with a sense of apprehension. Experience has taught me not to expect to like a story and then I am pleasantly surprised when I do.

Perhaps the biggest surprise for me when listening to this story was how little I found myself laughing. This was not the fault you might expect it to be - instead of a stream of one liners, David Quantick serves up gentle character moments that fit the tone of the Ace-Hex relationship perfectly.

The story is however as fluffy as you might expect a comedic Big Finish story to be. Those comedic aspects diffuse much of the dramatic tension when our heroes are placed in peril; aliens are much too silly to be taken seriously and some of the plot twists can be predicted by the listener simply asking themselves "how could this get any sillier?".

The overall result is a thoroughly charming audio adventure (snot jokes aside!) that manages to capture the characters well and gently amuse for well over a hundred minutes. This is a fun and charming addition to this year's line up of Big Finish releases, however in a year that is packed with departures, new companions and returning villains I suspect that this will be the release that many will choose to skip.


The Time of the Daleks (Doctor Who)
The Time of the Daleks (Doctor Who)
by Justin Richards
Edition: Audio CD

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars High-concept idea that just falls flat, 13 Jun. 2008
Justin Richards' contribution to the second "season" of Big Finish Eighth Doctor audio adventures clearly wants to be an 'event story'. Not only does it feature the Eighth Doctor's first run in with the pepperpot menace (at least in the audio format) but there are time travel mirrors and the Daleks have picked up a fascination with the works of Shakespeare.

'Event stories' work when they manage to twist and catch you off guard, taking directions you did not expect at the start of the story. One of the best examples is from the TV episode 'Earthshock' which managed to keep its returning villain secret, thrilling its audience. 'The Time of the Daleks' tries hard to surprise us but somehow it feels predictable.

More crucially, the concept of Daleks as Shakespeare buffs is simply too crazy to be taken seriously. The result is a story whose deficiencies simply overpower its strengths (for instance Paul McGann's excellent performance, allusions to 'Evil of the Daleks' or the superb sound design).

'The Time of the Daleks' is not terrible - it simply disappoints by over-reaching itself and being very, very silly.


Assassin in the Limelight (Doctor Who)
Assassin in the Limelight (Doctor Who)
by Robert Ross
Edition: Audio CD
Price: £14.99

4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A welcome sequel to 'Medicinal Purposes', 10 Jun. 2008
It is hard not to enjoy `Assassin in the Limelight', the latest Big Finish story from Robert Ross (who had previously contributed `Pier Pressure' and `Medicinal Purposes' to the range). The story features the return of Robert Knox, once again played with gusto by Leslie Philips, and takes an intriguing historical setting - the day of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln.

The tale unfolds quickly. The decision to set the story in America could have been a stumbling block but Ross has done his research, establishing the characters well and succeeding in telling a story about the assassination in which we never see Lincoln himself.

Colin Baker and Leslie Philips spark off each other nicely whilst Maggie Stables is as reliable as ever in the role of Evelyn. The supporting cast are good and the production values are as good as ever.

Compared to some of Big Finish's recent Doctor Who stories, `Assassin in the Limelight' is a reliable romp of an adventure. Certainly it could not be accused of drowning in depth, but it balances humour and action well and never really flags.

One word of warning however: I would recommend that if you have the intention to listen to `Medicinal Purposes' or `Pier Pressure' that you listen to those stories before this one. Whilst this story stands well enough on its own, it does spoil both of those previous stories.

Robert Ross has once again crafted an enjoyable tale and I for one hope that he, and Robert Knox, reappear on the Big Finish releases schedule soon.


Zachary Taylor (American Presidents (Times))
Zachary Taylor (American Presidents (Times))
by MR John S D Eisenhower
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.70

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating biography of the first career officer to turn president, 9 Jun. 2008
Few authors are quite as appropriate to pen a biography of a military man turned president as John S. D. Eisenhower. If his background as a retired US military officer, former US Ambassador to Belgium and distinguished military historian were to be considered insufficient qualification, he is also the son of America's most famous career soldier President, Dwight D. Eisenhower.

The narrative of Old Rough and Ready's life is laid out well by Eisenhower with discussion of his personal life never seeming rushed. However the text really comes into its own with the description of Taylor's military decisions.

Eisenhower is able to describe the difficult settings, the military misjudgements on both sides and how fortune came to favour the bold when Taylor disagreed with his military advisors to chase a fleeing enemy.

As with other short-lived presidencies, his actual time in office garners less space than you might anticipate in this volume. With few significant decisions made in his two years in office the decision to focus on his pre-presidency makes sense.

If this biography has a weakness it is that the conclusions Eisenhower comes to about how Taylor might have been had he lived seem stretched with too little evidence being explicitly offered to back them up. However, this is a minor quibble with a work that is strong both as a military history and as a biography of one of America's "forgotten presidents".


James A. Garfield (American Presidents (Times))
James A. Garfield (American Presidents (Times))
by Ira M. Rutkow
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just a biography but also a fascinating medical history, 5 Jun. 2008
The problem with writing a biography of Garfield focusing on his presidency is that there was not really all that much of it. After taking office on March 4th 1881, he was shot on July 2nd of that same year and spent the final few months of his life isolated whilst his doctors ineptly attempted to treat him.

Rutkow, an expert on medical history, chooses to set the focus of the biography on the assassination attempt and the medical drama that ensued. This is balanced effectively with discussion of his early life and military career with the book never feeling like either section is an afterthought.

Medical terminology is certainly not my strong point (using a plaster is about the limit of my medical expertise) so I was delighted to find the book was accessible, easy to understand and utterly compelling. It is staggering just how poor the quality of treatment Garfield received was, with Rutkow effectively demonstrating that what killed Garfield was more likely the treatments than the injuries.

James A. Garfield's presidency may have been limited in achievements but Rutkow has crafted a compelling biography. The medical focus ensures that this is not only a well-written political history but also a fascinating dose of medical history, reminding us of how relatively modern many of the advances we take for granted are.


James Monroe (American Presidents (Times))
James Monroe (American Presidents (Times))
by Gary Hart
Edition: Hardcover

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Disappointing biography that seems unsure of its focus, 2 Jun. 2008
Gary Hart's contribution to the Times' series of presidential biographies, an overview of the life and presidency of James Monroe, feels uneven and disjointed.

It is clear that Hart has a view of Monroe that he is passionate about and that he articulates well; he considers Monroe to be America's first `national security president'. It is a bold take on a president often considered the inferior of those who came before him and the chapter devoted to the Monroe doctrine is by far the most interesting in the book.

Unfortunately this chapter and analysis is focused at the rear of the book and to get to them you have to persevere through a plodding, unenthusiastic account of Monroe's life and relationships with other politicians of the era. This part of the book is bland and lifeless, lacking the infectious enthusiasm of the later parts of the biography. All too frequently his style is awkward and simplistic, resembling an undergraduate essay more than a biography for a popular audience.

The problem is that there is a mismatch of individual style and intention with that of the Times' range. Hart clearly has an excellent book in him about the Monroe doctrine and its implications for American foreign policy. However, saddled with the need to write a more general overview of his presidency, the focus here is split and the change of style between the first two thirds and the last is jarring.

The result is a book that neither works as an introduction to Monroe, nor as a focused examination of an aspect of his policy. Given the high standard of many of the books in this series, unfortunately this volume simply disappoints.


Theme Park (Nintendo DS)
Theme Park (Nintendo DS)
Offered by CD Dixie
Price: £19.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great conversion of a PC classic, 2 Jun. 2008
As blasts from the past go, the re-appearance of the classic game Theme Park on the Nintendo DS is a distinctly pleasurable one. Thankfully it is not just an exercise in nostalgia but an enjoyable, well-structured game that adjusts well to the stylus system of the DS.

You begin by building a theme park in the United Kingdom and then, having turned a tidy profit, you move on to try your luck elsewhere. Different countries have different economic climates and maps but ultimately the rides are the same, if occasionally renamed, and the gaming experience is pretty well identical.

However, it remains easy to pick up and has enough depth to enable you to take charge of ordering stocks and trading shares if that level of detail interests you.

There are a couple of additions to the PC formula - the most helpful of which is the ability to choose an advisor to help you pick prices for goods and entry to your park. This is a big help to beginners but it does remove much of the challenge from the game as you no longer have to find the right level by trial and error.

Gone from the PC game is the ability to view your ride as if you are on it. This novelty feature will not be missed by those who never played the original and its removal does not alter the gaming experience significantly.

A decade may have passed but Theme Park remains a hugely enjoyable game. The graphics are unsophisticated but jolly, and most importantly the gameplay remains superb.

It is not flawless; the game forcing you to start from scratch once you have exhausted its options is unsatisfying and it would be nice to have some scenarios. Nonetheless, for a DS-friendly business strategy game it is one of the best options around.


James K. Polk (American Presidents (Times))
James K. Polk (American Presidents (Times))
by John Seigenthaler
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £17.70

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, consice biography of 'Young Hickory', 30 May 2008
The genius of the Times' series of presidential biographies is that they can capture the essence of a presidency in an easy-to-read format. Some presidents have benefited from lots of historical attention but there are others that are relatively unknown except to academics (and in Polk's case, fans of the band They Might Be Giants).

Seigenthaler's portrait of Polk is not a loving one but it is respectful, reflecting the sheer scale of his accomplishments in a single term. His prose engages and whilst other short biographies can be stifled by their word counts, he uses his effectively to give a strong impression of Polk both as a man and as a president.

Polk is perhaps best remembered as the first `dark horse' president. Through a strong understanding of the mood of the nation, and the efforts of Andrew Jackson, who was Polk's mentor, he emerged as a consensus candidate on the convention floor on the ninth ballot.

Committing himself to serve just one term, he is said to have laid out four clear goals he wished to achieve by the end of that term. Seigenthaler uses these four commitments later in the biography as a structure to show his achievements in office.

This is an authoritative and balanced account, placing Polk clearly in historical context, showing how he changed America and why he deserves scholarly attention.

The word count for each of these volumes means that titles in the Times' series cannot be definitive works but Seigenthaler should be praised for crafting an excellent introduction to America's eleventh president.


Doctor Who - Black Orchid [1981] [DVD]
Doctor Who - Black Orchid [1981] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Peter Davison
Price: £6.00

10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Excellent value for money release of a weaker story, 21 May 2008
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
At one point in the commentary for 'Black Orchid', someone remarks that this story feels like Terrence Dudley just dusted off a Miss Marple-style story he had written and added the Doctor into it. This tale has no science fiction elements at all, relies on heavy levels of coincidence to power its narrative.

The change of pace both marks it out in the season and also contributes to many of its weaknesses. There is so little narrative that the production resorts to a five minute cricket sequence in the first part (more on that later!) and corridor-wandering galore.

Still, it is hard to deny that the story has a unique feel and it is nice to see the Doctor go back in time.

The commentary for this story features the entire TARDIS crew who are on fine form. As others have noted, this is much more negative than most Davison commentaries because of the four actors only Sutton has a soft spot for the story. Whilst some will feel that they are too negative about a well-loved story, the commentary is frequently very funny indeed. One highlight for me is Peter Davison's synopsis of the cricket scene where he refers to an off-scene character, "Smutty", whose friend he has been mistaken for.

I emerged from the commentary more aware of the story's faults but much more fond of the story despite them. I may no longer be able to take it seriously but in many ways that is not such a bad thing as it has increased my enjoyment of it no end.

Amongst the other extra features there are also deleted scenes, a now and then featurette looking at the locations and a featurette on the Fifth Doctor's era in the comics. This last item is the sort of thing that will either appeal to you hugely or not at all. Suffice it to say that if you enjoy Doctor Who comics it is an interesting overview of the era from Doctor Who Monthly editors and artists - if not you will likely be skipping over it.

'Black Orchid' is certainly not one of the greatest Doctor Who stories of all time but the BBC has put together a good package of extras at an excellent price.


Page: 1 | 2 | 3