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R. Harrison "Rich H" (UK)
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Darkening of Mirkwood (One Ring)
Darkening of Mirkwood (One Ring)
by Gareth Ryder Hanrahan
Edition: Hardcover

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Essential Purchase, 18 Jan 2014
Summary: the best product so far in an already exceptional line of material.

C7 and Sophisticated Game have produced a campaign book that surpasses even the Great Pendragon Campaign in quality of content and support for their respective GMs. This book perfectly combines high production values, consistently glorious artwork, engaging writing, and wonderful ideas into an epic campaign of dwindling hope, great deeds, and the return of the Shadow to Mirkwood.

Despite the fact that this is set within Middle Earth, the time between the Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings and characters will rub shoulders with many famous and powerful entities, they do not lose or have their agency demeaned in any way nor do they play 'second fiddle' to the major NPCs. Anyone who plays RPGs in pre-defined settings (and famous ones at that) will know just how challenging, nay almost impossible, this can be to achieve. The Darkening of Mirkwood (DoM) effortlessly avoids this problem with engaging ideas, plots, and a developing environment that the characters of their fellowship actively contribute to and affect.

Predominantly for Loremasters, in fact I'd recommend that players do *not* buy this product as it would spoil their surprise and enjoyment, DoM provides LMs with enough information to run many game sessions of TOR. Some have criticised C7 for the small line of products that exist for TOR but between this and the other supplements there is easily a couple of years of weekly gaming to be had within their collective pages. TOR already has more content than I'll ever need and with more on the way this is only set to improve. There is no better time to buy into this game for those still sat on the fence.

Buy this product if you're a current TOR GM. It's absolutely essential to running TOR within Wilderland and uncovering the story of how the land declined in the years before the War of the Ring.

Buy this product (and the rest of the TOR line!) if you were waiting for enough material to be available in order to run an involved and detailed campaign to a wonderful climax and conclusion.

Buy this product if you're an RPer that is just interested in reading a supplement that perfectly delivers on its remit and design goals - ie, a campaign world developing and changing over time and how PCs are engaged and interact within it.

Buy this product if you're just a non-RPing Tolkien fan. It's wonderfully written and presented and outlines a story and area not well covered in other available material.

... Just, simply, buy this product!

I type this with a straight face but DoM is more than just an RPG supplement; it's a work of art and the love and respect for its source material shines from every page like the light of Eärendil! Awesome, inspiring, sad, melancholic, epic; it has everything you want from a campaign set in Middle Earth.

A must buy; what a high bar C7 and SG have set for themselves and all other RPG companies.


Sucker Punch [DVD] [2011]
Sucker Punch [DVD] [2011]
Dvd ~ Emily Browning
Price: 2.96

278 of 327 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Work of Flawed Genius?, 9 April 2011
This review is from: Sucker Punch [DVD] [2011] (DVD)
*** POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOLLOW ***

I'm making the focus of this review an explanation of what I believe (and others that have shared their thoughts with me) the story and film is about. I think alot of the issues negative reviews have is that it makes no sense, so hopefully what I've laid out here will help go some way to explaining it.

Like other, more constructive, reviews have already stated this film works on a number of levels. Not just the various layers of reality but also with layered meaning and symbolism. I you were expecting *just* an easy to watch straightfoward action film then you're going to be, well, sucker-punched. Why would anyone think this though - the trailers' all pretty much warned you to not expect that and the title definitely does. In fact there are multiple ways to interpret the title of the film beyond it just not being a straightforward action film. Here are a few points to consider regardin it:

* Baby Doll was not the protagonist (a fact she twigs on to at the end).

* She isn't even necessarily real - she's an 'Angel' created in the mind of Sweet Pea.

* Baby Doll's back story (her sister and situation) all describe, in part, the story of Sweet Pea's (as alluded to within certain scene's of the film).

* Let's also not forget that Sweet Pea was playing the role of Baby Doll in the first scene on the stage. The narrator all the way through the film is Sweet Pea. The fantasy bordello elements didn't actually start until we meet Sweet Pea.

So, I believe Sweet Pea is the reality of this film, and no-one else, and if you realise Sweet Pea is the focus of the film's story (and this may only occur on repeat viewings) then you pick up on a lot more *clues* as to what is really taking place in this film.

Right at the beginning of the film a curtain opens and Sweet Pea is telling the story of how she came to be in an asylum. In her retelling, it's a 50's style asylum. The doctor reminds her that she's in control of the story. The asylum of the film isn't actually real (it goes without saying that the bordello and action scenes are also fantasies) which explains the anachronisms of modern music combined with 50's style fashion and technology.

In order to recover, she needs to explore her issues. Sessions in which they're addressed are too traumatic, so she further escapes into outright fantasies (the action scenes). The shifts through the various layers of realities and the projection of other personalities are the way Sweet Pea explores her issues and works through them. Its a very clever way of representing isolation and dissociative behaviour to make them palatable and accessible to the average film-goer.

The film's plotline is basically about Sweet Pea's journey along the path of recovery, her "escape". So, the other girls are symbolic of this journey:

1) Baby Doll is a projection of Sweet Pea's guilt over not being able to save her sister. She has to let that go at the end to fully "escape".

2) Rocket is repesentative of Sweet Pea's sister. She *is* Sweet Pea's sister but the denouement as she lies in Sweet Pea's arms goes some way to healing her [Sweet Pea].

3) Blondie is a projection of Sweet Pea's self-doubt. Constantly unsure, she also seeks justification and forgiveness in the arms of various authority figures (ie, the doctor and Blue).

4) Amber is a projection of Sweet Pea's denial and mental resistance to what has occured and this is symbolised in the fact that she's always the pilot - there to pull Sweet Pea out of the fire if it gets too hot.

Along with the layers of reality, all these characters are used within the film as metaphors for Sweet Pea's self-healing. The other characters (the doctor, Blue, her father) all exist as antagonists to this process throughout these layers of reality.

It really is a gutsy (maybe even experimental) film, dealing with these kind of issues, but because its wrapped up in the guise of a comic book (along with its script, visuals, etc) people don't seem to be able to see it for what it is. Which is a pity. With this in mind, I find it amusing to read alot of the negative reviews - especially the people that state how badly, scripted/acted/directed the film is and then plead with us that it makes no sense. If such people actually had any perceptive qualities they'd understand what the film is about, and as they don't it kinda calls into question their ability to recognise what a good film *is*.

In this film Zack Snyder has attempted to deal with some really big issues that are extraordinarily difficult to explain or represent visually in any format, never mind as the type of 'moving graphic novel' style he's known for, and he's probably failed as most viewers simply don't get the film. For me though, I found this film demanding (in a good way) and it made me really think about what was taking place and what it was actually about. Only a second viewing really sorted it out in my mind.

I believe, this film is a rough diamond and confirms that Zack Snyder is a visionary film maker who's attention to visual composition is up there with other movie making greats. As with his other films, he also knows how to integrate a film's score/music into a scene and in Sucker Punch he's reached his zenith on this - the soundtrack really fits. Sucker Punch, when at is best, dances along like some crazed hybrid action movie/graphic novel/music video. And its awesome. When not doing this, it does lack pace and interest can wane - almost like coming down from a drug induced high. But, considering the context of the film, perhaps that's somewhat deliberate? ... Snyder's took a real risk with the driving force behind this film as well as its presentation, which is commendable. Sucker Punch is an imperfect work of art which doesn't really fall into the category of 'standard film making'; it attempts to use the medium and approach storytelling in a different and highly stylised way, and I really enjoyed those aspects of it in addition to the central conceit of the film with regards to uncovering and understanding the layers of reality and the symbolism of the characters.

Although the film is not perfect by any means or without its faults, I hope people give it more of a chance in the future.

7/10.
Comment Comments (68) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 11, 2013 1:58 PM GMT


Fabled Lands 1: The War Torn Kingdom
Fabled Lands 1: The War Torn Kingdom
by Dave Morris
Edition: Paperback
Price: 5.99

15 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Very Different Gamebook, 20 Dec 2010
The Fabled Lands series is the nearest thing to a sandbox/open style gamebook that you'll ever get.

Most gamebooks have very tight and focused storylines allowing for slight deviations here and there. In my opinion the most popular of gamebook series (Fighting Fantasy) was also the weakest as its books were often structured around the 'one true path' option to complete the game and so the choices within it were somewhat illusionary as they would not lead to success. I believe the Lone Wolf series delivered the best traditional story based gamebook as there were often multiple paths to success.

Fabled Lands did/does something different though...

Within this game you create a character from a number of character classes (warrior, ranger, wizard, priest, etc) with obvious strengths and weaknesses and begin exploring with no real initial plotline setting you on your way. This can be very intimidating to people used to playing the more traditional gamebooks that set you upon a very tightly defined path. If you persevere plots will be uncovered (but don't have to be taken) or the land can simply be explored. It really is open to what the player/reader wants their character to do - and they literally can walk away from the plots that normal gamebooks would use. Additionally, as the series expands the lands and therefore the books all link together therefore allowing the whole world to be explored by your character. Be careful though as some of the lands in the later books are extremely dangerous and an inexperienced character will likely perish (the game does allow you to create tougher characters if you're starting your career in later books though).

The are numerous options within each books and the number of paragraphs vary from book to book allowing for the multitude of options. There is a not insignificant amount of book-keeping within the game as codewords are collected as you adventure through the books and the gameworld changes around you as they are built up which is an extremely clever way of introducing the feel of the world evolving and changing.

The game system isn't too complex and is easy to understand but offers far more options than books within other product lines (eg, Fighting Fantasy, Lone Wolf, etc).

In all, although I love the ongoing campaign storylines found in the Lone Wolf and Way of the Tiger gamebooks, Fabled Lands really offers something unique to these and should be purchased by all gamebook aficionados. I promise that you won't regret it.

9/10


James Bond: Bloodstone (Xbox 360)
James Bond: Bloodstone (Xbox 360)
Offered by Game Trade Online
Price: 15.20

48 of 52 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Feels like a film... Great stuff!, 15 Nov 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
James Bond: Bloodstone (Xbox 360)

I don't usually write reviews but feel the need to here due to Bloodstone receiving a pretty poor review on IGN, which after playing I feel is/was unwarranted.

Having never played a Bond game other than the old Goldeneye on the N64, I really didn't know what to expect but in summary I was really entertained by it. I appreciate that there are many reviews on Amazon so I'll try and present my review in a quick and easy to digest bullet point format...

* Script/Story - it would hold up against many, if not all, recent Bond films. In fact I wouldn't be surprised if this script was first commissioned for film. Excellent.

* Voice Acting - again, excellent. Its great to have Daniel Craig and Judi Dench reprise their roles and the supporting cast is excellent - especially guest star Joss Stone who plays Nikki in the game and incidentally sings the theme tune in true Bond style.

* Gameplay - I really enjoyed it. I played it to completion on the easiest difficulty (recruit) and it took me between 8 and 10 hours. The game fires along at a fair old pace and the mix of shooting, stealth, and car chases really made it feel like you were in a Bond film. I've started on '00' difficulty now and its extraordinarily challenging so I'd think it will take far longer to play through than the 7 hours being touted in some places.

* Gadgets - I liked the smartphone although its a rip off from Batman: Arkham Asylum. It fitted in with the game's story and is useful as a help function if you're struggling in places. So, although copied from another title it was used to very good effect.

* Graphics - there are better games out there, but I found the scenery, likenesses of Bond and M, animation of characters, etc all to be very good. It certainly didn't put you off the gameplay.

* Sound - no complaints here. Top stuff.

* Prologue - the 15 minute (or so) prologue at the beginning leading into the Bond title sequence is awesome. It makes this a Bond film. Had a big smile on my face when the titles kicked in. I know it doesn't impact on the game but it really helps set the mood and feel.

* Cutscenes - maybe not a big deal for most but you can pause the cutscenes which I think more games should have the option to do.

* I haven't had a try at the multiplayer/on line play so can't really comment on it.

Overall, a top game that I'm glad I purchased. ... Now to play the Goldeneye remake on the Wii!

7/10

EDIT: ... And you really can't go wrong for the current price (as @ 04/12/2011) of 11.99 that its now on sale for!
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 5, 2011 10:47 AM GMT


Dragonlance Reader's Companion: The Odyssey of Gilthanas
Dragonlance Reader's Companion: The Odyssey of Gilthanas
by Douglas Niles
Edition: Mass Market Paperback

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great sourcebook for the Dragonlance RPG, 25 Sep 2000
This really was everything I expected. Advertised as a sourcebook for the Dragonlance RPG - it really 'filled in the gaps' which were missing from Gilthanas' history when he is "reintroduced" to the DL game world. You people who didn't like what you read - tough. We need more products like this for D&D characters. They add a much needed verisimilitude to much loved creations.

As a sourcebook: 9/10


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