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J. Clarke "Alright Sally" (England)
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Triple Super Hyper Brutal Master Awesome Blaster Monster King Killer!, 18 July 2012
The first console I owned was the fabled Super Nintendo Entertainment System or 'SNES' as it would later be dubbed. For my birthday, the special edition SNES was accompanied with the brutal fighting arcade game 'Killer Instinct'. Now I must have only been around 7 when I acquired it, which admittedly would be frowned upon by todays standards considering the games violent nature, but its impact was great enough to push me into the world of video gaming. As soon as I slammed the cartridge into the console, saw the RARE logo, hear the atmospheric music grow in stature as a masculine voice muttered "KILLRR INSHTEENKT" I wet myself in excitement. Killer Instinct was originally an arcade only game, where you'd use the retro joysticks and bash away at the buttons - which is pretty much what the game is about for beginners as mashing the controller can prove fruitful during early fights on low difficulties. Of course, veteran gamers will no better or even frown upon such insolence! With a wealth of varying characters and button combinations to train up on, KI is worth the odd friendly 1v1 with a friend..

Characters
All combatants have their own move-sets and can be lightly customised prior to selection (you can scroll through different colour outfits and shades). Leaving the game on the 'start game' screen, often provides in depth biographies of the characters, including the usual spiel of age, height and weight. Plus, each one has their own leader-board section that, should you do well enough using a particular character, saves your 3 initials like the traditional arcade game. Each character has their own unique map which makes for more diverse imagery that goes ignored as you focus on beating someones skull in - fight on building tops, ice fields, gyms, bridges and industrial, blood soaked arenas.
Jago - a ninja with a sword, mostly screams "HYAA!", does loads of uppercuts, kicks and fires greens stuff.
Combo - a hench black guy in a boxer outfit, seemingly the most realistic of the fighters.
Spinal - a skeleton equipped with a sword and shield who can teleport and wears a headband - awesome!
Thunder - some sort of shirtless Indian American who has a mohawk and throws tomahawks.
Glacious - a weird gloop of washing up liquid that turns into a puddle like alex mack and makes spikes appear.
Fulgore - the only synthetic opponent, also teleports, fires electricity and loves the odd uppercut.
Cinder - my personal favourite, an experiment who fires lasers and turns into a fire-bolt during combos.
Sabrewolf - this 50-50 creature has a move that leaves him vulnerable but also possesses the biggest combo.
Orchid - the only female of the group, she uses light sabre things and morphs into a golden jaguar - nice!
Riptor - a velociraptor - enough said.

Gameplay
Newbies would be better off altering the difficulty in the options first as it starts on 4 out of 6 stars which is a harsh introduction. You can also edit the pre-mapped controls which is a pleasant touch. Other than options, you can choose to player 1, 2 player or a tournament/practice game - this means you can fight all the characters as ai or your friends. Make the most of the 20 seconds gifted to make your decision on which fighter to control and prepare for bloodshed - 'FIGHT OFF!' Like similar fighting games you can use the directional pad to aim your attacks (e.g up-jump, down-low) and hold back to block incoming threats. On the SNES you can use the standard 4 buttons as well as the bumpers, utilizing different kicks and punches at first, soon stringing together majestic combos (see title). What it comes down to is a quick trigger finger, a good memory and timing since you need to move fast, recall long button combinations and either make a break for a finishing blow or withdraw and block while you get ready to unleash more devastating attacks. The players have 2 life bars (like Mortal Kombat) and once they're both gone, a victor stands with either a small chunk of their own or full, in which case you'd be welcomed with a sneaky little victory image and as a heavy voice announces "SUPREME VICTORY... PERFECT!". Aslo like MK, when an opponent is done for, they stagger about in a death pose for several seconds, just waiting for you to put them out of their misery - which you can be merciful and do swiftly, or enter secretive finishing moves for a drawn out or eccentric execution. To be honest though, I could never figure out the special moves and just tried to hit them into the sky as they could fall of the platforms, plummeting several stories before hitting the ground, a car or lava ;)

Looking back, it was a revelation in graphics as the fighters looked fantastic and moved smoothly, but the lifespan of the game was pretty much over when you completed the single player mode, defeating that b*stard final boss 'Eyedol'.. even with the sarcastic 'congratulations' displayed when you win, daring you to up the difficulty isn't very appealing. Though it is short, the 2 player fights are certainly worth sticking around for, though there is often a gap in technical ability as someone who has got the gist of the game will often reign supreme over new gamers. That said, avid gamers will enjoy the record keeping, typing their name in for a high score in points, name among kill kings, or even speed demons.


Resident Evil [DVD] [2002]
Resident Evil [DVD] [2002]
Dvd ~ Milla Jovovich
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 2.90

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Contamination, Containment, Catastrophe, 8 July 2012
This review is from: Resident Evil [DVD] [2002] (DVD)
"Evil Never Dies..... Apparently"
The majority of people who have seen Resident Evil will be aware of its video game background. Capcom's famous horror survival zombie game that has been actively updating the series with new installments for over 15 years. While this film isn't a necessity for the franchise, more of a solid money maker, it has not been made half-*rsed.. although they unwittingly created an abomination of a set of films with the release of several sequels. With a story that doesn't tie into any of the games, its creators have been pretty brave by coming up with an original story that manages to stand fine on its own, instead of using and abusing characters from the games (which the series would later go on to do). Clearly marketed at a younger audience despite its 15 rating, teenagers know the films connection with the games and pretty much just want to see some gory zombie action, something that Resident Evil is surprisingly scarce on..

"I shot her five times. How was she still standing? ...B*tch isn't standing now." (Characters)
5 years after playing a lead role the 1997 blockbuster 'The Fifth Element', Milla Jovovich surprisingly stars in RE, as Alice, a complete enigma suffering from the effects of amnesia. The role would prove another career booster as it guaranteed her about a thousand more paycheques for future franchise releases as well as gaining more roles. Thanks to her characters condition, she unravels as the film rolls on, starting off as a confused, introverted damsel in distress, watching on as her captors/protectors get annihilated, then regaining acrobatic skills and fighting styles later on, with a kick ass attitude. For me, Michelle Rodriguez steals the show with her devil may care mindset and direct personality as Rain, an assault rifle firing grease-monkey. Her role gives her the chance to display several kinds of emotions and offers up varying scenarios, playfully flirting one minute and unloading an entire clip into a zombie the next (and of course getting a death/zombie scene). Both Eric Mabius and James Purefoy, who feature throughout the film, seem play bitpart roles on the sidelines despite both having key story components, one tying into Alice's story, the other introducing a new character in Resident Evil: Apocalypse. Everyone else is practically expendable - cannon fodder ready to be eaten, lasered, torn apart or just disposed of for laughs (Kaplan, the stuttering techie for example). In fact, to make for a more tense, frightening atmosphere, the combatants are pretty much killed off in the space of 2 minutes where actors you thought were essential to the progression of the story, are suddenly cut out and literally fall to pieces.

"You're all going to die down here." (Plot)
You can't go wrong officially starting a film with a naked Milla Jovovic wrapped in a shower curtain.. But they show an office get filled with a chemical that kills all the staff and an elevator decapitation to sweeten the deal anyway. Jovovic awakens to find herself in a massive mansion soon raided by a team of swat like men and woman dressed in black jumpsuits with machine guns who proceed to take her with them (along with a random intruder who is handcuffed) on a mission into a secret doorway leading to 'The Hive'. On the way they pick up another randomer who like Alice, is suffering from amnesia. I really don't need to sell this story because it's cheap enough anyway. There must be about 3 casual conversations compared to the countless explanations of the situation, reporting and planning what to do next. People yell at each other for a bit and then finally explain what is going on - the team have been dispatched to enter the top secret research facility and find out why the places defence mechanism was triggered and why contact had been severed. The group trudge through offices, metallic hallways and iron works and end up getting wasted when they accidentally trigger a trap and get lasered to ribbons - which is pretty cool. With half the cast left, they discover the 'Red Queen' AI has been the cause of all the chaos and decide to shut her down. Big mistake as it causes more bad then good, killing lights, unlocking doors, opening cages...

"She bit me, man. She took a chunk clean right outa' me!" (Relation to Games)
Thanks to a brief introduction about Umbrella corporation and their base underneath the fictional Racoon City, it becomes clear that there will be some related content (Umbrella being responsible for the T-Virus and Racoon City being the setting for games 2 and 3 where said virus is unleashed). It has the dark science behind some of the creations seen in-game, such as the 'licker' and also the explanation behind undead dogs and humans via animal testing and experimentation. The commandos that explore 'the hive' however, are not the usual suspect, S.T.A.R.S but instead, employees of Umbrella Corp, sent to investigate a rogue VI (Virtual Intelligence). Of course there is gratuitous amounts of weaponry and gunfire, eccentric clothing (Alice) and the science facility containing it all in a confined space. Other than that and the abundance of zombies, there isn't anything from the games to get excited about... at least not in this one...

Manson Madness (Soundtrack)
Another shock upon release was that Marilyn Manson had produced the official soundtrack of the film, with his brand of instrumental, electro, pulsing, industrial rock. He does a grand job in making action scenes more exciting than they are (particularly when shot in slow motion). He manages to capture the feeling of dread when people are in danger, matching the gravity of the situation, be it during dissection, decapitation or down right epic fighting (see Alice Vs. Dog for cheese). The credits also feature the band Slipknot and their single from 'Iowa', 'My Plague' which is conveniently in-keeping with the theme. This over the end credits and the lazer scene are probably the best 5 minutes of the film.

It makes for a decent rental, lazy viewing where you don't have to take anything in or pay attention thanks to it fast pace, alright special effects and make up (but poor cgi) Admittedly, I may have viewed it in a more positive light after comparing it to its several sequels but still, credit where it's sort of due..
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jan 7, 2013 6:09 PM GMT


Silent Hill [DVD]
Silent Hill [DVD]
Dvd ~ Radha Mitchell
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: 4.10

3.0 out of 5 stars "You have brought sin amongst us", 7 July 2012
This review is from: Silent Hill [DVD] (DVD)
The very concept of creating a film based on a video game series is a contrasted idea. While serious movie buffs and people uninterested in video games will wave it away as a silly or childish idea (though this prejudice is slowly dying out) the fans of the franchise will see it as the pinnacle of the game developers career, garnering so much success as to fund the way for the big screen. Of course, passionate gamers are not easily satisfied, namely because they don't appreciate it when unknown suits chop and change the characters and story-lines that they had spent hours, days, weeks gaming with. The majority tend to know when they're games are being milked to within every last credible drop. So the consequences can be catastrophic when companies alienate their key audience who may end up boycotting any other release. The Silent Hill video games had spanned 7 years with 4 releases when this feature film was released and whilst it doesn't use any of the stories (its not an adaption) it does keep various elements that are encountered in the games. For those who don't know, the Silent Hill games are Survival Horror games, where the player takes control of the main protagonist, often searching a desolate town for loved ones or answers. However what makes the games gain the horror label are its enemies, psychologically distorted images of humans normally, accompanied by chilling soundtracks and gruesome cutscenes.

"To find your daughter, you must face the darkness of Hell." (Plot)
The stories in the video games may be similar and rather tame at times, but the environments, interactions with characters and scary scenes hold it together, making for a generally enjoyable gaming experience. So Silent Hill's plot was never going to win awards. Couple Sean Bean & Radha Mitchell (Chris & Rose) are struggling to understand the behaviour of their adopted daughter Sharron as she sleepwalks her way into dangerous situations, muttering the words 'Silent Hill'. Rose then takes her on a little journey to find such a place after googling it and only finding weak ghost stories. After some cold conversations with locals about Silent Hill, Rose ends up flooring it and being tailed by a cop (Laurie Holden) until a child appears in the middle of the road and crashes the car. Knocked unconscious from the accident, Rose awakens to find that Sharron has wandered off in a foggy, ash snowing town that they had sought. With the dense weather conditions and a collapsed bridge cutting off any escape route, Rose goes in search for her daughter and the answers puzzling her still. Along the way she is mortified by grotesque corpses and demonic children skulking about in the darkness. After coming across a maniacal Deborah Kara Unger claiming that Sharron is in fact her child, she reencounters the policewoman Cybil, who in turn attempts and arrest and dispatches a faceless, armless, acid spewing 'thing' with her handgun, only to see more of them wander closer in the distance. All while this is happening, Christopher hunts down anything related to Silent Hill, frantically searching for his wife and daughter to no avail. Eventually Rose & Cybil find an edgy woman sleuthing about in the decayed buildings and follow her back to her so called 'Sanctuary'. It is here when things take an insane turn and all sorts of devilish acts occur, further revealing the reasons behind the towns obscurity, the people dwelling within it and its relation to Sharron. Although there wasn't much to go on by the games, the film is rather ambitious with its splitting story-lines, unexplainable lunacy and intense end sequences.

"Mother is God in the eyes of a child." (Cast)
The main character Rose is portrayed well as an unrelenting mother figure who will stop at nothing to find her child. At times, Mitchell's screams of anguish seem incredibly forced as she's no doubt starting blankly at a green screen. Her part is a stereotypical role though as if it were her husband Bean running about the town, his interactions with its monsters would be far less threatening. Its only towards the end when she has to act judgmental and righteous that she looses some credibility. Sean Bean has a surprisingly small role as the father, scouting aimlessly around areas, trespassing and divulging in the towns history. His inclusion is shamefully tame. Holden's role as the cop, is decent enough as she takes to most of the evils with extreme prejudice thanks to her .45. Her haircut however is her main focal point. 12 year old Jodelle Ferland does a stellar job as Sharron, having to portray a second character with superb menace thanks to a gritty, undead yet innocent appearance and devious intention. Alice Krige's character Christabella is done well too as she acts out a patriarchal maniac, spouting words of supposed wisdom in front of her ignorant 'flock'. Deborah Kara Unger looks her part perfectly, but is let down by having dialogue that only consists of quotes and ancient sayings.

"Fire doesn't cleanse, it blackens." (Relation to Games)
Having played Silent Hill 2, I was keen on seeing this film, looking forward to how they include the creatures in game. The plot is along the lines of what happens in-game, except it attempts to cover the reasons behind the towns status as well as the past of characters. While it does have the addition of an unrelated Salem witch hunt theme, it blends in fairly well and makes for a gory, justified conclusion. Returning creature 'Pyramid Head' was a sight for sore eyes. The triangular helmet wearing, 7ft freak in a flesh stitched butchers apron, swings his gigantic sword with ease and is almost as frightening as his video game counterpart. His inclusion however is puzzling as he was the main characters interpretation of self loathing, a personal representation of fear and judgement.. still.. when the guy tears the skin off an unwitting bint and launches it at a church, you just have to say "fair enough". The barbed wire janitor/gimp/creature is also interesting thanks to his macabre posturing and fetish like dodgieness. I won't be writing too much about Alessa though as she is the final creature that ressembles the final boss of SH1. My personal favourite scene that represents the game well and is generally bloody freaky for anyone is with the Nurses. Bandaged women in white apparel miniskirts, twitch about in the darkness, endlessly drawn to the light. They use their surgical tools to swing away at anyone and anything - scalpels for example. Its soundtrack is entirely of Akira Yamaoka composition too (the original composer) which is a big plus and pleasant surprise considering most western films are dominated by the demands of Hollywood.

One particular difference I noticed between film and game is that its ending far more abstract and inconclusive than the several endings on offer in games. Instead, the film twists the audiences allegiance and perceptions that led them throughout the film - which in time, ends timidly (and by zooming in on a bush). Even though Silent Hill has stuck to its roots with some reluctance, it still isn't to the standard of being a stand alone film and only really caters to gamers and horror movie fans wanting to see some elaborate executions.


Babylon
Babylon
Price: 8.91

3.0 out of 5 stars How The Hell Did He Get Here?, 4 July 2012
This review is from: Babylon (Audio CD)
As Matt Skiba takes a break from his fellow compatriots in Alkaline Trio, he finds himself in the midst of a genuine solo effort - something he's technically never done before - with split EPs, a solo demo and several side-projects. Anyone who's familiar with Skiba's past work wouldn't begrudge him the tag of being a man who puts the effort in. However with 7 AT albums under his belt, over 15 years of experience and ageing vocal chords, his sound has become so recognisable and distinct, that it sounds like he's had his time in the albeit subtle, limelight. Lyrics have largely been worthy of appraisal throughout his music career as has the emotion he delivers in live performances, but there are only so many chords to string together in sets of three that work, let alone melodies to go alongside. 'Babylon' is all Skiba, taking and updating tracks from 'Demo's', filling a ten song slot. His appearance in the band 'Matt Skiba & The Sekrets' is far too gimmicky for my liking though - a feathered headdress atop a leather/tribal outfit designed by Limb Bizkit guitarist dresser-upper, Wes Borland (who manages to pull it off). Fans of Skiba may be 50-50 on the new look but as for me, well I'd take a slightly balding, vain pumping forehead and 5 o'clock shadow over make up and costumes any day. Not that 'Babylon' or the band should be judged on appearances, but there is a strong (the) 'Cure' vibe about it all, one of the strongest influences for Skiba. It could certainly be deemed as 'just a phase' even for a 36 year old.

Thumping bass and shaking cymbal introduce the beginnings of the albums lead single 'Voices'. "All alone with the voices in your head. Skin & bones, hell knows all the poison that you've been fed." is just as melodic and catchy as ever really, although the use of synth makes one draw comparisons with songs from the 2010 Alkaline Trio album 'This Addiction'. The lyrics also divulge into the albums title during a short interlude. Frankly, its the kind of song that could easily have featured on a Trio record, clearly a Skiba solo piece but with Dan Andriano & Derek Grant providing the subsidiary instrumental work. Its full of guitar slides, snappy percussion and ever faithful fast tempo, making it the sing along track and safest bet as a single release. 'All Fall Down' takes a more solemn tone, slowing the rhythm a smidgen and packed with palm muted guitar lines. The slowly sang chorus makes a change to the usual mouthful from Skiba, which is a bit refreshing, but overal, the verses are hollow and the latter stages of guitar sounds vaguely of (already covered) The Damned's 'Wait for the blackout'. Praying that no.3 'Luciferian Blues' bared no relation to 'Demos' haggardly boring 'Razorblade Blues', my prayers did not fall on deafened ears, a new song it is and the shortest at a second under 3 minutes. Unfortunately the only highlight is the mentioning of the title. "Cast me out, set me free. I left with my doubts and my dignity. No Devil to shout at, no angels it's true, bittersweet Luciferian Blues" seems to be the only redeemable quality of the song until a rocking guitar riff plays under the 2nd repeat of the chorus.

'Haven't You' having appeared on the album before ('Demos') was a familiar sound, no longer a quiet solo acoustic recording, but a clean, electric, proud number. The heartfelt chorus of "I thought I lost it all the day that I lost you. It's taken me until just now to find the truth.. You've always been here haven't you?" packs just as much punch as before except with a backing vocal. This time with more keyboard weirdness and a heavier, fuller sound throughout, it makes for a more accomplished song. Although the final line is no longer delivered with the intensity as before, the whole song gaining full instrumentation is a nice recognition of how worthy a track it is. 'The End Of Joy' sounds as you'd imagine, a dreary and depressing dirge. The guitar, accompanied by a twinkling piano piece makes it feel so dark from the get go. Fans may see it as an upset version of 'Agony & Irony's 'Help Me', with its 2 note lead and structure. If you can't tell, this song doesn't really stir up much feeling at all for me. Track 6 'You' is well placed enough to bring you back around though, still using the keyboards and frowning sound, until a beautifully simplistic chorus again is the greatest part. "You, I watched you dancing, You, out of the ashes, you. dreams of demons kissing in the fire so deeply." stars heavenly choir like backing up the title word. Verses may be unsatisfying initially but towards the end they pick up and shine with an upbeat tone despite the final note being a grissly one. Another track from 'Demos' makes a heroic appearance in the form of 'Olivia' (a.k.a Nausea 'Cruel and Usual'). Without question the strongest song from the previous effort, it takes a second shot changing the one lyric of a feeling into a woman (which was better off left alone in my opinion). Boasting a brilliant chorus bound to put a smile on anyone's face "Th-th-th-th-th-think I'll be leaving now, with Josephine into the light, sick of dreary town. A city of endless night, I'm leaving now I've had my fill with killing time. Tired of falling down, had it with this cruel and usual life." While the chorus vocals are a slightly personal and incoherent jumble, the guitar work scales all over the shop in a delightful manner. Skiba also harmonises with himself rather well with "Olivia, I'll never forget the night we met, no. Olivia I still feel you in my bones". Once again, easily the pick of the bunch.

As Matt Skiba takes a break from his fellow compatriots in Alkaline Trio, he finds himself in the midst of a genuine solo effort - something he's technically never done before - with split EPs, a solo demo and several side-projects. Anyone who's familiar with Skiba's past work wouldn't begrudge him the tag of being a man who puts the effort in. However with 7 AT albums under his belt, over 15 years of experience and ageing vocal chords, his sound has become so recognisable and distinct, that it sounds like he's had his time in the albeit subtle, limelight. Lyrics have largely been worthy of appraisal throughout his music career as has the emotion he delivers in live performances, but there are only so many chords to string together in sets of three that work, let alone melodies to go alongside. 'Babylon' is all Skiba, taking and updating tracks from 'Demo's', filling a ten song slot. His appearance in the band 'Matt Skiba & The Sekrets' is far too gimmicky for my liking though - a feathered headdress atop a leather/tribal outfit designed by Limb Bizkit guitarist dresser-upper, Wes Borland (who manages to pull it off). Fans of Skiba may be 50-50 on the new look but as for me, well I'd take a slightly balding, vain pumping forehead and 5 o'clock shadow over make up and costumes any day. Not that 'Babylon' or the band should be judged on appearances, but there is a strong (the) 'Cure' vibe about it all, one of the strongest influences for Skiba. It could certainly be deemed as 'just a phase' even for a 36 year old.

Thumping bass and shaking cymbal introduce the beginnings of the albums lead single 'Voices'. "All alone with the voices in your head. Skin & bones, hell knows all the poison that you've been fed." is just as melodic and catchy as ever really, although the use of synth makes one draw comparisons with songs from the 2010 Alkaline Trio album 'This Addiction'. The lyrics also divulge into the albums title during a short interlude. Frankly, its the kind of song that could easily have featured on a Trio record, clearly a Skiba solo piece but with Dan Andriano & Derek Grant providing the subsidiary instrumental work. Its full of guitar slides, snappy percussion and ever faithful fast tempo, making it the sing along track and safest bet as a single release. 'All Fall Down' takes a more solemn tone, slowing the rhythm a smidgen and packed with palm muted guitar lines. The slowly sang chorus makes a change to the usual mouthful from Skiba, which is a bit refreshing, but overal, the verses are hollow and the latter stages of guitar sounds vaguely of (already covered) The Damned's 'Wait for the blackout'. Praying that no.3 'Luciferian Blues' bared no relation to 'Demos' haggardly boring 'Razorblade Blues', my prayers did not fall on deafened ears, a new song it is and the shortest at a second under 3 minutes. Unfortunately the only highlight is the mentioning of the title. "Cast me out, set me free. I left with my doubts and my dignity. No Devil to shout at, no angels it's true, bittersweet Luciferian Blues" seems to be the only redeemable quality of the song until a rocking guitar riff plays under the 2nd repeat of the chorus.

'Haven't You' having appeared on the album before ('Demos') was a familiar sound, no longer a quiet solo acoustic recording, but a clean, electric, proud number. The heartfelt chorus of "I thought I lost it all the day that I lost you. It's taken me until just now to find the truth.. You've always been here haven't you?" packs just as much punch as before except with a backing vocal. This time with more keyboard weirdness and a heavier, fuller sound throughout, it makes for a more accomplished song. Although the final line is no longer delivered with the intensity as before, the whole song gaining full instrumentation is a nice recognition of how worthy a track it is. 'The End Of Joy' sounds as you'd imagine, a dreary and depressing dirge. The guitar, accompanied by a twinkling piano piece makes it feel so dark from the get go. Fans may see it as an upset version of 'Agony & Irony's 'Help Me', with its 2 note lead and structure. If you can't tell, this song doesn't really stir up much feeling at all for me. Track 6 'You' is well placed enough to bring you back around though, still using the keyboards and frowning sound, until a beautifully simplistic chorus again is the greatest part. "You, I watched you dancing, You, out of the ashes, you. dreams of demons kissing in the fire so deeply." stars heavenly choir like backing up the title word. Verses may be unsatisfying initially but towards the end they pick up and shine with an upbeat tone despite the final note being a grissly one. Another track from 'Demos' makes a heroic appearance in the form of 'Olivia' (a.k.a Nausea 'Cruel and Usual'). Without question the strongest song from the previous effort, it takes a second shot changing the one lyric of a feeling into a woman (which was better off left alone in my opinion). Boasting a brilliant chorus bound to put a smile on anyone's face "Th-th-th-th-th-think I'll be leaving now, with Josephine into the light, sick of dreary town. A city of endless night, I'm leaving now I've had my fill with killing time. Tired of falling down, had it with this cruel and usual life." While the chorus vocals are a slightly personal and incoherent jumble, the guitar work scales all over the shop in a delightful manner. Skiba also harmonises with himself rather well with "Olivia, I'll never forget the night we met, no. Olivia I still feel you in my bones". Once again, easily the pick of the bunch.

'Falling Like Rain' sounds fresh out of the 80s thanks to its synth work and effects that drive it forward. It isn't until the bridges and chorus bear their all too familiar heads that seasoned Skiba listeners will brush it off as a medley of both 'Eating Me Alive' & 'Vinegar' from 'This Addiction'. True the echoing verses are brand new, but they don't really shine much compared to the recycled melody and chord progression. The 3rd song lifted from 'Demos' 'How the Hell did we get Here' is louder and prouder in a spruced up version that makes use of all the other musical options (the original used a synthetic loop and lone guitar in the chorus). The bouncy keyboard notes a pretty decent but as with the majority of the album, the chorus is the obvious point of interest "Now I gotta level with you baby, I am lost and alone. At the end of this hallway maybe, this house of leaves has a hole". It bears some resemblance to 'Lost & Rendered' at times too. Can't forget the whimsical words of "Quiet as cathedral mice.. On Lithium!" either. To my disbelief, 'Angel Of Deaf' made its way to 'Babylon' and even more shocking, it closes the album. The demo version starred vocals that grated with a harsh effect and contrasting poor quality guitar and smooth orchestral strings. Now sang at double the pace, it is a much more enjoyable experience, with crystal clear singing and magical instrument integration. "I can't hear a g*dd*mn thing, above all the screaming/the anger's deafening. Not a word that you're saying to me" is pretty decent and the dirty guitar solo that follows works superbly. The recording lasts over 7 minutes thanks to a dreading last note spanning an extra unnecessary 4 minutes, meaning not one song on the record goes over 4 minutes.

While its filler tracks are actually tolerable compared to 'Demos', it still isn't quite up to scratch as a solo effort and begs the question: Is Matt Skiba capable of writing anything as grand as/without his Alkaline bandmates? The prime example here is the lesser known 'Hurricane Season' by Dan Andriano (bassist/vocalist of AT) whose solo debut stands a good few feet taller in stature and maturity.


Morrowind: The Elder Scrolls III (Xbox)
Morrowind: The Elder Scrolls III (Xbox)
Offered by Bonkers4Bargains!
Price: 44.95

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outlander, 2 July 2012
= Fun:3.0 out of 5 stars 
The appealing theme of freedom in a video game had never really been implemented before the likes of the Elder Scrolls series, with almost every single game requiring players to undergo tasks and practically do as you're told. Morrowind takes a different stance in that you can follow the intended main quest, participate in sub quests or simply go about doing whatever comes to mind: Explore the land, go on a murderous rampage, become a notorious thief - the prospect of ignoring the storyline however seems to lead to a life of crime. Its open world is not scaled like so many other titles (such its 2 predecessors Oblivion & Skyrim) so if you should wander off into unknown territory, you run the risk of being killed in one hit but also gain the chance to find valuable items that are far superior to anything you may have come across since. A bonus of being available to play on the Xbox 360 makes it even more worth the effort to play so you don't have to dust off the old x-brick out of the attic.. although the screen will get cropped should you play in anything close to high definition (so no 1080p).

"Each event is proceeded by prophecy. But without the hero, there is no event." (Storyline)
The origins of Morrowind is mysteriously sketchy at best, as during the '3rd era of Tamriel' you take control of a prisoner "born on a certain day to uncertain parents". Travelling on a small ship with your dark elf chum Jiub enquiring of your name and that's about it as a guard tells you to get the hell off his vessel. You go ashore and customise your character, picking from a select choice of races, altering hair, faces and switching gender. After acquiring your papers (which are gained by answering a cryptic old mans questions of morality or filled out yourself) you have a chat with a soldier and stroll out into the open, a small swampy port town known as Seyda Neen. Your previous conversation indicates you need to report to a man known as Caius Cosades in Balmora. This is your chance to do as you wish: travel on foot to find the mystery man, hop on the 'Silt Rider' (instant transport) or literally go anywhere else. The general plot is around the exploits of the Blades - the eyes and ears of the emperor - discovering that the evil forces ravaging the plains of Vvardenfell are the servants of the sixth house leader Dagoth Ur. The six houses consist of varying folk with specific skills much like the guilds (fighters, mages and thieves). Encouraged to join a great house or guild for work and experience, you gain spells, gold and attributes to aid you in your journey to unite the warring houses and take up arms against the immortal Lord. Underneath all the fantasy titles, is a pretty basic, tried and true plot that takes players on an expedition across a continent, exploring towns, cities, tombs and diseased wilderness.

"We're watching you...... SCUM!" (Gameplay)
There are 3 bars on screen, your health, magicka and stamina. Straight away you'll find a glaring flaw in Morrowind's gameplay - the fighting. Whether you throw a punch or swing an axe, in the beginning, it will glide through the air and miss your opponent who's 2 inches away from your nose. 27 skills with a maximum stat of 100, you have to keep training with individual weapons, armour and spells to increase their number and in doing so, their success rate. The skills come under 3 specialisation's (combat, magic & stealth) and under 8 governing attributes (strength, intelligence, agility, endurance, speed, willpower, personality and luck. Due to its large size, most people have several lines of dialogue which are spoken, whilst also having loads of paragraphs to go into when in conversation. All of these make for varying ways to create characters. A good start to the game is to find a suitable house (occupied or abandoned) to store all your loot and possessions. You can sleep to pass the time to make use of the time of day or weather (which is has rain, cloudy, sunshine, sandstorms, thunder & lightning). A pleasant inclusion is the level of customisation involved. For example, you can create your own class by cherrypicking your favourite (or most interested) skills for quicker levelling up and a more enjoyable gaming experience.

Combat
Provides efficient use of medium/heavy weapons/armour. Also aids in blocking and the athletics skill for running, swimming and making the most of your stamina. With the focus on the power you put behind swinging your weapon, you'll finish your foes quicker and thanks to the increase in physical stamina, you'll be able to swipe any tasty goods residing on their bloodied corpse. Needless to say it is an essential area to improve on should you prefer your basic sword and shield combatant.
Magic
Essentially the opposite of the combat section. Useful in almost any situation, you can learn offensive magic like the classic fireball, conjure weapons, armour or in game minions to do your bidding, mix ingredients together for potions, heal wounds and diseases, enchant your items with customised abilities, create illusions to fool enemies, or alter your surroundings to suit your needs - mimic jesus' feat of walking on water. Possibly the hardest to get into but the most rewarding section in later levels.
Stealth
This section is more of a luxury than a way of life in Morrowind, especially since its abilities can be similarly obtained via different methods (lock-picking vs. an 'open' spell). Because of its light heartedness, it also has quick fighting styles like short blade, marksmen and hand to hand. Its acrobatics skill is one of the fastest levelling skills in the game as it aids in jumping and landing. Then there is speech-craft and mercantile - one for persuading people to dish the dirt, taunt people into blind furies and the other for a handy discount in shops.

"Speak quickly outlander, I haven't much time" (Environments)
A strong reason alone to consider the game, Morrowind's surroundings are diverse and richly thought out. The game comes with its own A3 sized map to display on your wall as you make your way through the gigantic province of Vvardenfell. With the elder scrolls games all having definitive climates (skyrim is like a constant winter etc) Morrowind is a combination of searing wind shaped mountain regions and rainy fields of flowers and trees. There are several small villages and towns where gold is scarce and spirits are low, but also a couple of large cities and one major place, Vivec which has 8 cantons related to the great houses previously mentioned plus a 'foreign quarter' for refugees and a temple. It all appears quite dark and grim though as there is usually very little light besides the flickering of a candle or glow of a lantern. Of course being from the early years of the Xbox (2002) its graphics haven't aged too well with blocky NPC's, recycled details and being stuck between objects and doors.. the camera and movement are very smooth though. Which brings me onto the view type - Morrowind offers both first person view and 3rd, something not many games did back then, let alone do now. Of course, with the decrepit visuals, its best to save 3rd person for checking out how your character looks in his new robe and helmet :) Of all the memories the game has been responsible for, traversing dungeons, breaking into vaults full of treasure, battling demons in underground sanctuaries, the one that stands out is...

'Tukushapal' - one of the many miscellaneous quests to undergo
This place is initially heard by a drunk in a tavern, who tells you the story (and gives you the key) if you buy him a pint. When you find the well hidden, doorway in the middle of no where, you'll find a massive stone maze, filled with scimitar wielding skeletons - already you get the feeling they're guarding something goooood.. and if that isn't clear, the level 90 locked doors will certainly peak your interest. Experienced or resourceful enough to enter, you'll bear witness to the holiest of holies in terms of treasure, greater than a pharaoh beneath his pyramid... A viking outlaw king Olmgerd, decked out ceremoniously in an his battle armour with his legendary axe Stormkiss, in Tukushapal's sepulcher featuring sulfurous steaming rocks, stalactites and oh yes, the mans very own viking ship - awesome. His corpse strewn with various precious materials and wealth, it is one of hundreds of stunning scenes just waiting to be found.

Its a shame that the battle system has been a stumbling block for so many gamers, with its no doubt frustrating way of combat. Should anyone stick with it long enough, they'll find a vivid and imaginative fantasy world full of little secrets for you to unravel. Its definitely nerdy in all aspects, like the enchanting (and naming) of weapons, the thought process in even contemplating a new voyage (weight plays a big part too as you can only hold so many essentials). KOTOR composer Jeremy Soule has made a handful of tracks for Morrowind (all fantastic orchestral magic) however since there aren't too many, you're bound to hear the same themes several hundred times... which surprisingly isn't as repetitious as it sounds because they aren't loud, brash songs but subtle atmospheric tunes that match the mood. The game has its own wiki page that continuously gets updated with more details - surely this is a good indication of the scale of the game... and lets not forget how it has raised the bar for both Oblivion and Skyrim.


Osc-Dis: (OSCILLATOR IN DISTORTION)
Osc-Dis: (OSCILLATOR IN DISTORTION)
Price: 13.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Raw Japanese Industrial-Digital-Hardcore Insanity, 23 Jun 2012
My initiation to Asia's finest industrial metal music scene was during my first few years of secondary school - watching the odd music video and noticing the background music in several Manga animation trailers. Mad Capsule Markets made their mark with a sound so loud and monstrous yet euphorious and pleasing. It was a heavy release of endorphins held captive by the endless rubbish spewed out over the airwaves, gaining a significant adolescent fan-base in Japan and soon enough, small groups of loyal teens all over the globe. With 'OSC-DIS' you have the soundtrack to one b*tchin party with video games beer, karaoke and the likelihood of wrecking the whole house with doors falling of their hinges, lampshades hanging out windows and footprint shaped holes in the ceiling - Brace yourself.

'Tribe' initiates the albums overdrive introduction with robotic tech bleeps and a strong bass drum pedal that eventually get interrupted by a heavy gain, crunching guitar chord. The singer whispers indecipherable nothings that gain momentum into a loud, screaming chorus line of what sounds like the songs title. Guitar goes back and fourth in an average pattern but the feeling of the song is just brutal and not without some merit - an effect smattered guitar interlude picks up the pace - but it runs a bit stale after 4 minutes. Safe to say there is a time and place for 'Tribe', and you'd most likely be beating someones face in. 'Out,Definition' is instantly annoying thanks to an ever-repeated soundbite from what presumably is a character dying in the famous arcade fighter 'Mortal Kombat'. Faster than the first track at times, it doesn't really offer much more except some buoyant bass and spitfire percussion. Once again the lyrics are next to impossible to comprehend.

Then comes an absolute stunner in 'Pulse' - the first song I'd heard from MCM and reason behind following up on its album. Released as a single in 2001 (worldwide) I was barely 11 being captivatingly blown away by a blitzing belter of a track. Some static phrase gets cut out by the most bombastic of drum loops ever conjured - the key focal point that holds the song together - alongside some simple guitar chords. What sounds like "You kill me through hairy cow" is supposedly "You comin' through get in the crowd" a punchy chorus regardless of the content (a bold statement that could sum up the entire record). Its such a good melody that you'll desperately try to sing along despite having next to no idea what the guys are saying - certainly worth a listen before buying or otherwise. Back to more synthetic computerised craziness in 'Multiples' which has an out of place digital hum as its main line - which is plain strange. Loads of chugging guitar bits all over the place and fast rapping like vocals using the same voice mask - cries of what could be "Sit Down!" vary it up a notch but its far too late to save it - one to skip really. The shortest track at 1:49 is 'Mob Track' (30 seconds of which is just head bobbin weirdness breakdowns). A lone note is played over on guitar while the resilient drummer practically attempts to snap both wrists with non stop high tempo number that stands to reason why it doesn't break 2 minutes. Again though, appropriate here and there.. perhaps a race?

'All That Time In Sunny Beach' is one track that floats about and may have been heard before, in similar songs or original. A circling guitar riff and a zippy upbeat chorus steals the show whilst the verses are a bit unpleasant really (at least compared). Standard gnashing vocal work going on, you can at least this time make out the title and a few 'whoa uh ohs'. Once again, the drummer outdoes himself with a technically sharp job. 'Island' seems to stick out prominently as it sounds like no other on the album. A spindly guitar cries out peppy notes while the singer proclaims "Like an island's sunshine I'm showered, today's going to be an extra off day". Some unexpected whistling and "ooh ooh hoo oo"s later, the long awaited chorus kicks you in the crotch as if to say playtimes over, time to fight. Its at this moment that I personally realised that I wanted that heaviness to jump in and although I didn't really expect it after being lulled by the first minute and a half of a rather innocent song. I have no idea what "LOW CURE STRESSED OUT" means but at the time of listening, I didn't care, I was far too busy head-banging along, showing some teeth.

'Restart!' sounds like a mental rave party with its techno dodginess intro. It becomes a mess sharpish though, with shouts and descending notes from all. Another one thats not worth the time, even at 2 and half minutes. 'Jag' is disappointing. For me, this could have been another stand out track but it stalls so much at times you just cannot give it much recognition. What sounds like tuning, starts the song but it really kicks off with some more brilliant drum loops, shifting of the hi-hat and toms. A slovenly guitar struggles to keep the intensity. Typically the vocals sound the same in the verses and the interludes are too repetitive. The 2nd verse however sees another guitar put down some quality notes that are super badass. Que some long suspenseful palm muting that threatens to lead to something great and goes straight back to what is already heard. Finally at 3 minutes in and only 45 seconds to go, the guitarist plays that killer riff that could have made the song work on so many levels. Instead it just gets played out several times with a echoing effect, all by its lonesome as if it arrived late to a dying down party. 'Step Into Yourself' is one of the slowest on OSC-DIS and with the same effects and grit as the other songs, its a slight relief when it rolls out the title sequence. Rolling bumbles and mechanical whirls flow through the entire song as does the choppy rapping vocalist. Halfway through and things change rapidly - drums and effects speed up, double time and band members one by one give up the ghost and let the computer phase it out.

Sharp radio frequency distortion pains the ears for introducing 'Good Girls' - one song that has the positivity of 'Sunny Beach' and the melodic patterns as 'Pulse'. The chorus is again sing along attempt worthy but you may be put off your stride by the randomness of a horse neighing... who knows... Still doesn't stop it from being a happy note to start finishing the album but it does follow a similar trend. 'MIDI Surf' announces something I couldn't possibly translate other than the songs title. Followed by more smudging synth noise and the harshest guitar heard so far, it features pretty much everything you've heard on the album - and to my delight at least, had another happy go lucky chorus that stands out like a sore thumb. Grizzly guitars and equally thrashed drums continue into the chorus but with the jolly keys in which the both vocalists shout out, its still as smiley as ever. At this point you've been subjected to some seriously boisterous hardcore rock techno beats and will likely need a cup of tea and a lie down because its almost too much to take in. Still, its one hell of a ride and certainly matches a few moods you might find yourself in.


V Energy Drink - 24 x 250ml
V Energy Drink - 24 x 250ml
Offered by Sweet Addicts
Price: 26.95

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Alternative that takes 'the Bull' by the horns, 22 Jun 2012
A few years ago whilst working part time in a local newsagent for some money to sustain me through college, I started picking up more hours and inevitably - the Sunday shift. Thats right, the worst day to have to get up early and slog to work, even if its only a short shift. Needless to say, being the typical teenager, I was pushing myself everywhere but in the classroom, staying up late, partying and drinking - barely managing to sustain myself on Lucozade during the typical college day let alone a brutal hangover. So it was to my relief when my boss had started bulk buying cases of 'V' (Invigoration) an energy drink in the same sized can as the mightiest of e-drinks, Red Bull. Bewildered that the shop owner chose to stock up on yet another pricy e-drink (because both standard and sugar-free Red Bull sell well) I felt the need to test it out thanks to its electric green, shiny case. After a night of vodka, poker and likely video taped incriminating evidence, I shlepped into work hungover, tired and needing a pick me up.

Taste
'V' is totally not what you'd expect. That default syrupy sugar gloop that is mimicked by so many other drinks is not found here. Instead it is a surprisingly light, fizzing, fragrant can of deliciousness thats sharp, sweet, zingy, zesty and all kinds of other z words. The taste is strangely inconceivable at first when the feelings of fizz and tang take over your mouth. Unsure whether it is meant to have a fruit flavour, I'd say its closest to apple but that could just be an illusion thanks to the bright colours.

Smell
The smell is subtle and sweet, like a watered down version of the taste if you can imagine that. Unlike other drinks, if you were to spill this, you wouldn't be overwhelmed by a sickly sugary odor but more a citrusy scent like a cleaning product.

Consistency
It is slightly fizzier than red bull but quickly looses its bubbles unless consumed fast. It is also thinner and less viscous than your average energy drink product, making it easier to drink.

Effects
This is what surprised me, as it boasts around the same amount of caffeine as a Red Bull but is much more versatile. For me a Red Bull or cheaper version is a fast acting shot like boost of energy - one that is almost uncomfortable should you be taking it with an empty stomach or struggling to keep it down after a rough night (RB feels like its melting my insides). V however takes a few minutes to create that buzz and feels more gradual as the energy it releases slowly builds up for a more than adequate jolt and lasts a little longer than others. Not only is the energy effect different but I believe it is easily consumed upon awakening or when you haven't eaten with no untimely consequences (this could be due to the additional ingredients of B-Vitamins and Guarana)

Nutritional Information
(Per can)
ENERGY - 475kj (113cal)
PROTEIN - trace
CARBOHYDRATES - 28g
FAT - trace
FIBRE - 0g
SODIUM - 0.28g
RIBOFLAVIN - 1.5mg (107%)
NIACIN - 19mg (119%)
PANTOTHENIC ACID - 5mg (83%)
VITAMIN B6 - 5mg (357%)
VITAMIN B12 - 5ug (200%)

The can reads "To help them get more stuff done, the ancient Amazonian Indians would suck on gobfuls of guarana berries." - Not exactly an inspirational speech about driving onwards but more like a herbal remedy. Admittedly, I was never an avid Red Bull drinker but I have always been drawn to the odd e-drink and after downing a V, I tend to avoid all others when its available - which is this drinks biggest disadvantage - its not heavily stocked by many stores, it's a rare sight indeed (I often go on to give store managers my thanks for stocking it! One shop stopped selling it and my appearances there miraculously plummeted). One more downside to the drink is that it is equally as expensive as the big brands like RB and Monster... Although if you're lucky enough, you'll come across the legendary 99p RRP version, rarer than the finest jewel.


Collected - The Best Of Massive Attack : Greatest Hits
Collected - The Best Of Massive Attack : Greatest Hits
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: 5.92

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Butterflies Caught, 18 Jun 2012
After 4 full length albums spanning back to the late eighties, Trip-Hop Bristol duo Massive Attack have gathered 13 songs from across all their albums (at least 3 from each) along with one unreleased song to finish the MA Collection. The music is largely a mix of electronica, rap and experimental tunes and (at least with me) needs to be listened to at the appropriate time such as late at night when its dark or played in the background as it makes for a good ambience setting. With numerous vocal guest performances (and their own lyrical workings) 'Collected' is like a mix-tape of songs that span over 15 years.

The sound of a ghostly air swirling around initiates the beginning of 'Safe From Harm'. The first song on 'Collected' as well as on debut album 'Blue Lines' from 1991, its a bass driven, shifting downbeat funk track. "But if you hurt whats mine I'll sure as hell retaliate" is part of the overprotective vibe to the bridge, sang by a resurgent Shara Nelson. Swift rhymes cut in now and then by '3D' or Robert Del Naja, along with distorted, twanging jazz guitar pull-offs. "You can free the world, you can free my mind, just as long as my baby's safe from harm tonight" proves to be a less ambitious chorus but a more memorable sing along with backing vocals and an easier tempo and pitch to follow. The track oozes soul and is laid back personified. 'Karmacoma' however is not the best follow up. From the difficult 1994 second album 'Protection', 3D is delegated to singing duties and hardly breaks out of a whispering mumble whilst twitching tribal noises contort and shape around a jungle like rhythm. "I must be crazy, see I'm Swayze" just acts as a rhyming point for other words trundling along to the now deteriorating drum pattern. After a good 5 minutes of marijuana smoke clearing tunes the track comes to a hazed end, fading out into the background. No.3 though is a welcome change of pace. In-keeping with the continuous track numbering (from debut album to the next), 'Angel' from the sinister 99' third album 'Mezzanine' is the epiphany the band needed, departing with the R&B undertones and introducing a dark, grunge sound that has been labelled 'Trip-Hop'. Like the first song, its focal point is a super low bass line, until sharp clicks and clacks interrupt and industrial screeches build up a menacing atmosphere. "You are my angel.. Come from way above, to bring me love" is the simplistically vivid, mantra that is sang by a possessed Horace Andy. "Her eyes, she's on the dark side.. neutralise every man in sight.." an echoing single note from a guitar repeats and feedback rises - "to love you, love you, love you" - bam the drums smash into life and a guitar in overdrive crunches out some haggard out of tune chords for one intense interlude. For me, this song was the turning point for MA as the urban slang rap took a backseat as the brooding, metal inspiration took the wheel - the song bares its teeth like a cornered wild animal.

More people are aware of the song 'Teardrop' than they are of its creators thanks to several televised appearances on various channel dramas and even a video game advert for 'Assassins Creed'. People are often mistaken as to whom it originally belongs to with so many other artists choosing to cover it with their own styles (none of which come close in my opinion). The reason why is because it has to be the most catchiest song thanks to such a simple 4-note backbone-beat which is played throughout. The intro is a class act with the sound of a vinyl record spinning and its distinct cracking sound, then the strings of what sounds like a sitar picking out a handful of notes. But it is Elizabeth Fraser who makes it go one further with a heavenly, breathy vocal performance. "Teardrop on the fire, fearless on my breath" has to be one of the most memorable chorus' ever recorded. The melody in which Fraser sings just glides sporadicly and as such, there is no sense of a structure, just free-flowing along without interruption. The instrumentation behind her is a quality match too with rising choirs and heavy, drawn out piano chords. "You're tumbling down" is a haunting echo and abrupt last line to a beautiful song as the music slowly backs away and returns to how it all started. For the 3rd track in a row, plays another from 'Mezzanine' - 'Inertia Creeps' - as black as night and full of abstract instrument combinations. An almost Turkish string instrument occasionally cries out and synthetic sounds mimicking a didgeridoo. Its tracks like this that 3D's vocal style matches perfectly.

Back on album and title track 'Protection' and a return to much calmer, melodic pop sound thanks to some more stunning singing, this time from Tracey Thorn (from Everything but the Girl). This lady has one of those voices that sounds unlike any other - its silky and clear but somehow raw and realistic with an original style unlike all these Christina Aguilera or Beyonce wannabes that sound exactly the same - like shouting wenches. "I'll stand in front of you and take the force of the blow, protection. You're a girl and I'm a boy" is a surprisingly fresh approach to a chorus with a role reversal whilst telling a romantic story. Because of the spotlight vocals, the music is a quaint little number of shaking drums, low bass, wandering piano keys and the ever appropriate twang of a jazzy guitar with whammy bar. At 7 and a half minutes long its the lengthiest of the bunch and somehow, never a bother. Eventually it just fades out with a calming beat and the soothing sound of heavy rainfall - one of the best tracks on 'Collected' and easily the no.1 song on its respective album. Not even halfway through and 35 minutes have breezed by when an equally long 'Butterfly Caught' takes its time to find its way. The humming of 3D chills you to the bone for a good minute until the techno drum and bass kick in the first single from '100th Window' and sounds just as murky as those found on 'Mezzanine'. "Nearly worn.. Kneeling like a supplicant.. Darkened skin.. Afraid to see. Radiate, Open lips.. Keep smiling for me" sounds more like abstract poetry than lyrical content but it matches the glitchy sound of drug addled song. There are more foreign instruments chirping in and out like an asian alternative to the cello, sounding rather Egyptian with creepy violins and all. Again over 7 minutes and still keeping pace.

Back to the first album again for 'Unfinished Sympathy' - the second single from 'Blue Lines' sang by a soulful Nelson again. This one is a mixture of expense and tradition with the rich string section hovering over the lyrics and grand piano appearing, whilst there is the nonstop clicks and clacks of cutlery and bewildering moans and a countdown to the song. Some really fantastically heartfelt lyrics going on here too with "Really hurt me baby, really cut me baby.. How can you have a day without a night? You're the book that I have opened.. And now I've got to know much more" and "The curiousness of your potential kiss - Has got my mind and body aching". The most soulful bit of music on the album that deserves its place. The closing lines of "Like a soul without a mind, in a body without a heart, I'm missing every part" is an apt end to one classy song. The return of 'Mezzanine' comes in the shape of 'RisingSon' (a personal favourite of mine back in the college days) Again its a bass fueled romp that strolls through for 5 minutes. Its essentially a rap with two members of the band spitting out rhymes back and fourth (3D & Grant Marshall) until a breakdown and delightful electronic grinding of an unknown synth effect. I won't even try to decipher lyrics like "Automatic crystal remote control, they come to move your soul" and "Like a man slide inside you my dear, your cheap beer's filled with crocodile tears" because frankly it sounds like the Bristol trio have been smoking some seriously strong ganja.

'What Your Soul Sings' is an odd addition to a compilation album as its one of the average numbers on '100th Window'. Although when recalling that album you realise it isn't the most stable record anyway. Sinéad O'Connor does a grand job with dreamy vocals against the grain of the harsh spinning digital dodginess circling around her. The best lyric being "The things that bring you down, only do harm to you.. and so make your choice joy for joy belongs to you.. And when you do- You'll find the one you love is you.. You'll find you, Love you- " - executed perfectly. Another '100th Window' track in 'Future Proof' this time more predictable is the first one on the list. Sang by 3D with spacey blips and halting guitar licks its an etherial bit of madness. After a couple of dogged verses, an interlude pops up with an abundance of sounds and instruments merging into an explosive noise thats almost like a dimensional breach in the fabric of deep space. To the past again in 'Five Man Army', where a trio of artists including 2 band members and Tricky spin out some jiving tunes bruv. Some strange flutes with a Jamaican reggae twist. Some of the lyrics make a few references like 'Wilkinson Sword' spout phrases like "money money money, route of all evil". A tad out of place here but considering the previous songs I suppose this CD was in need of a number from the back catalogue and the same goes for the last of the album songs 'Sly'. Nicolette Suwoton sings a weird melody to an unsettling tune and to me, seems like an excuse to get another guest vocalist on the album. Sure there are some inspirational moments in the orchestral section that keeps to the theme of the song but other than that its not the best or most memorable song from 'Protection' ('Better Things' or 'Heat Miser' would have been ideal for this point in the album).

To conclude the compilation, a surprise is in store for the finale - 'Live With Me' is the cherry on a smooth, dark and tempting ice-cream sunday. As saddening as the introduction may be, its a delight to hear just one new offering, this one featuring the vocals of Terry Callier, who's clearing a smooth operator. "Either way, win or lose, when you're born into trouble, you live the blues.. I've been thinking about you, baby." is sang in an entrancing way that just screams emotion. After the first verse, the second picks up more intensity and feeling - "Nothing's right, if you ain't here.. I'd give all that I have, just to keep you near. I wrote you a letter, darling, tried to make it clear, but you just don't believe that I'm sincere. I've been thinking about you, baby.. I want you to live with me". It has the class of an entire string section and the traditional MA percussion combining for a superb conclusion. The great thing about this album is that it doesn't have strong language or troubling imagery so it can be played anywhere anytime and the sound can be appreciated by the young and elderly as its like a modern take on old school classics.


Final Fantasy XIII-2 - Standard Edition (Xbox 360)
Final Fantasy XIII-2 - Standard Edition (Xbox 360)
Offered by DVDGAMING DIRECT
Price: 12.99

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars If you like pointless conversations... and gettin caught in the rain..., 17 Jun 2012
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
[Prelude]
Final Fantasy XIII may have been a success story considering a meteoric selling record (the fastest selling title in the FF series) but in my eyes it was disappointing and not in-keeping with the quality of games now passed - with composer Nobuo Uematsu no longer writing the themes that made games and its contents so memorable, characters becoming increasingly corny in appearance as well as personality and worlds becoming linear with limited freedom. That said, XIII did have its positives in ever improving graphics and still loveable characters and plot-lines. Consequently, I believe that if gamers knew what they were getting into, there would be serious doubt over the number of copies sold - The revelation that this was the first Final Fantasy to appear on a seventh generation console (the past 3 being available on PS2 & PC) and having avid gamers wait for the next installment a lengthy 4 years - Clearly played a part in the surge of sales. Despite mixed reviews and anticipation for the next story, Square-Enix announced a sequel to the vast bemoaning veteren fan-base. I'm glad to say that I waited patiently until the price dropped and I bagged a bargain on an eBay Auction for a lowly 7.13 (P&P 2.50), brand new. After being barely satisfied with FFXIII, my acquirement of its sequel was more due to my fondness for the series, a diligent duty to possess and complete all the franchise has to offer, albeit reluctantly.

[Story]
It's always difficult to regale others with the entrancing stories of the Final Fantasy universe without spoiling any of the story checkpoints or surprises. However 13-2 offers less surprise and more predictability thanks to obvious character tells and a trippy storyline. It happened.. they finally hit the low note of going so over the top that they mess with time travel. True, FF's have always been OTT (and considering the word 'Fantasy' in the title) but they always had some degree of realism that made characters relatable and the world intriguing. Just when you thought 'They must of had a really good idea for the need to make a sequel' they prove to be either insane or milking yet another title (see FF7 & FF10). It takes place after the events of the first game, with the main character being the sister of the 13's main role. This time you control Serah, the younger, more interesting, realistic of the two sisters, suffering from random visuals and confusion of the events in the past. With 13's emotionless, ice queen, mary sue protagonist Lightning gone (hooray!) Serah goes in search to find her (boo!). 'Lightning' or Claire as I prefer to call her (the reasoning behind her nickname is just silly) is seen in stunning FMV sequences, fighting an unknown, purple clothed, eccentric looking man. In a darkened world of ruins, the two spar in cinematic style - special effects running wild as always, you get to take minimal control during a fight scene (pressing the correct sequence of buttons in time) which is surprisingly enjoyable as you watch the repercussions of attacks both hit and missed, unfold. When the videos come to an end, a young man named Noel is sent on a voyage through time, riding a meteor to the past.. mental. As he acquaints himself with a distressed Serah and her crew of oddballs taking on monsters spread by the meteor, we learn that he is from a future where he is the last born, the last hope to rekindle the civilisation of mankind. Cue all sorts of explaining and devotion to a cause. The two set out to go forward and back in time through a 'Historia Crux' (a portal) which are operated by finding artefacts spread across the regions, closing the 'paradox's' and inevitably finding Claire and preventing the future from which Noel is the end of all life.

[Gameplay]
As gamers with the experience of the first game will expect, you take control of one of the two characters with a 3rd person view as you stroll around areas with the odd sub-route, shortcut or secret location. As you inspect your glorious high definition surroundings of Gran Pulse, you are interrupted by spawned enemies almost every 30 seconds - which you can manage to escape from before initiating combat (you can run and jump away to avoid them and must reach an safe distance to avoid automatic battles). You can strike out at enemies swiftly to gain a 'preemptive' advantage or lose the option of retrying should you attempt an escape and fail - this makes some of your cowardice punishable - something that I found exciting as the game is still stupidly easy (I played on Normal mode as apposed to Casual or Hard). As battle commences, an ATP gage fills up as you que a number of attacks to execute - the stronger/better the combos, the quicker the 'Stagger' gage rises on the enemy where you can deal far greater damage. Thanks to the Crystarium system of advancing in level and stats, you gain new moves and health points when you spend EXP points in the pre mapped board of crystals. This means you progress essentially how the makers want you to. The real option for the gamer is which trait to improve on such as commander, ravager (mage), medic, sentinel, synergist, or saboteur. You can still create your own 'Paradigms' to alter and succeed in battle, but most of the time you can get the best result as a mage and soldier, spamming the the A button for 'auto attack'. This is what makes 13 and -2, so damn dull. Sure you can choose to select the attacks yourself but when the game rewards such apathy, you're better off doing as you are told. Yes, the visuals are impressive the first couple of times as you watch your two man army launch into the air and chop away at a dancing bird wearing a poncho. There are only so many times you can sit and watch the same thing over and over again just to level up your characters - its a boring grind fest with unrelenting rewards. When scouting out new areas, you are charged with the task of finding the 'paradoxes' which you must close to reveal more of the map and progress (connect the dots, mazes). These include simple mini games which are a relief if you are losing patience with a slow paced jog. Half the time though you spend on watching redundant conversations drag on, either explaining the situation or spouting hormonal trash.

[Differences & Improvements over FFXIII]
1 Disc! - As I carefully peeled the shrink-wrap and opened my sleek and shiny new case I was considerably astonished that the game appeared on just one disc. Its predecessor came on 3 (understandable with so many cutscenes) and this made me think that perhaps it would be a shorter tale - though this was disproved when I found out the the logic behind it was that the cutscenes in 13-2 are all in-game and not separated files. Although I remain sceptical (not because of the quantity but quality of the game). Recaps - Upon loading up the game and continuing on your adventure, during loading times you are greeted with a short segment of the latest events occurred in your last few sessions. This is a stylish and helpful addition as it reminds you of whatever you may have forgotten or sheds insight on to what your current task is. Decisions & Consequences - Taking on board a system made famous by the Mass Effect games, you are now prompted to select 1 of 4 sets of dialogue to either fathom some more information or make correct or off topic assumptions. In conversations it doesn't really make a difference (other than gain small gifts for making the right choice) but you soon obtain the ability to change the future and retry if it doesn't all go your way as your decisions have specific consequences. Capturing Monsters - Since you only have 2 solid people to control on your travels, a new capture system has been engineered. On occasion you can acquire certain monsters by obtaining their crystal after battles (actually its a bit like Poke'mon:) Different monsters have different roles (com,rav,syn,sab,sen,med) and have several stages to advance in (also in the Crystarium) and do this by acquiring related items which can be bought from the lunatic 'Chocolina' - She is the sole opportunity to buy and sell items at several points in the game and is pretty much exactly like the shops in 13 combined into one that advances as you do. Maps - The locations are similar in appearance to 13 because they are set on Gran Pulse, however they do on occasion offer separate avenues to roam which 13 lack - but in honesty, as good as some background drops look, the places you're in contact with are just hollow, unmemorable rooms.

[Regression]
Conversations - The reason why so many choose to avoid RPG's altogether, these gossip sessions are so overdone its just unnecessary. Just like 13, you not only get drawn out explanations of your situation but also endless whinging about the future, present, past, and waaaaah I want my sister back waaaaah!!! This is no exaggeration, after nearly all long-winded chats you get a short speech or the inner thoughts of Serah swearing to find Lightning, wondering whether she can find her, wondering where she is, why she's there, blah blah blah. It could be my undying detest of 13s main maiden Lightning talking, because she is an empty pink vase, but the reasons for her disappearance since the end of the first installment and her unexplainable invincibility, makes her role an annoying one, especially as the only person who likes Lightning is of her own blood - so she has to like her. No eidolons - The summons have always been involved and some times played an integral part (FF8,9 & 10) and although they were just whimsical silliness and scapegoats for characters backlogs in 13, removing them just seems wrong. No Teammates - Again, like the summons, gathering and recruiting people was a strong driving force to keep going as new people add to the story, gameplay and dialogue. This in my opinion is why conversations run dry and the plot seems so shallow, because instead of hearing alternative viewpoints and reasoning, people just bumble over the same crap you just heard 10 minutes ago, this time with added emphasis on finding Lightning oooh. OTT - in the past games, you'd encounter situations relative to life as well as the escapades only found in stories. People and places have eccentric twists on clothing and environments but still bear sense, however in the latest games, the people in particular look dodgey in bright jumpsuits and the fabled 'anime hairstyles' that defy gravity.. Attacks have light-beams flying out of appendages and form symbols in the sky, people with the frame of a malnourished child can smack a dragon into the sky.

[Soundtrack & Voice Acting]
The music is something 13-2 has on its mother because it is actually noticeable thanks to far more inclusion of vocals in songs which smoothly adapt to dithering situations, for example you can be walking along a serene beach then get chased down by wolves as the music picks up tempo and more intensity. The vocals are fairly subdued and don't dominate every song which is a plus because although it was only the ending song of 13 that featured an out of place Leona Lewis bellowing out inappropriateness, it spoiled an already mediocre end to an equally tame game. It in no way compares to Uematsu's inspiring songs, it couldn't, but it does make up for the stomach gurgling noises dubbed a soundtrack from 13. The 3 new characters of Noel, Yuel and Caius are a mixed bag. Noel struck a chord with me instantly as he had decent lines and seemed a genuinely realistic character (even though he's from a distant future) His voice is recognisable in minutes to those familiar with subjects close to heart (the voice actor played Haku in Studio Ghibli's 'Spirited Away' rather poorly but does a stellar job here). Not much light can be shed on Yuel as her role is rather secretive as a seeress who sees a resemblance of herself and Serah. Thanks to the epic battle introduction, you have some idea of who Caius is - a feathered weirdo who can turn into a dragon beast thing and summon elemental madness.

[Finale]
For me, the most annoying thing about this game is that after every significant exchange of words, Serah's thoughts act as a follow up to what has been said and just repeat what is already known, bulking up cutscenes for furiously long time spent listening to an overemotional bint. Now I know that the Final Fantasy's are supposed to be 'out there' as they are a good form of escapism from ordinary boring lifestyles. But the direction in which these newer games are going is depressing. Its all about graphics, intense conversations and ease of play instead of memorable environments, complex characters and a suitable difficulty that actually provides a challenge. In my slightly youthful opinion, the last FF title that lives up to the traditions and brilliance of the series was FF10 - when they introduced voice acting but shamefully took away the travelling through world maps. Perhaps it was the beginning of the end for classic gaming as combat and exploration is no longer controllable but forcibly provided. Characters have become extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to personalities - they are either a wimpy pathetic moaning loser or an angry indestructible mary sue - No one is in the middle anymore. So even though there are elements that have worked well in 13-2, I still question the intentions behind its release.. did they have left over plot lines, locations and ideas? Could they not be bothered to start from scratch with a new story and system? With this games ending and online forums awash with talk of an impending FF13-3... the answer becomes obvious.


Maybe I'm Dreaming
Maybe I'm Dreaming
Price: 5.99

2 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The Salt-Covered Wound, 13 Jun 2012
This review is from: Maybe I'm Dreaming (Audio CD)
The first full length album from the one man band 'Owl City', 'Maybe I'm dreaming' features 12 tracks, most of which are fillers but a select few with decent qualities. There are also a couple of songs that were seen as successes and pushed forward again on future albums. One thing I'm obliged to mention is the album cover(s). There are 2 going around on the internet - The original with the rainbow hue of faded clouds and buildings (which I consider a pretty cover) and the iTunes version which is about 10 seconds in photoshop, writing the titles and using a star brush in two colours to childishly come up with an unoriginal cover. With my admiration and disgust of the artwork over, let the admiration and disgust of the music begin.. WARNING. Its mostly Disgust ;)

'On The Wing' is a decent song. Nothing new amongst the instruments but some of the lyrics are more tolerable. "I am floating away, lost in a silent ballet. I'm dreaming you're out in the blue and I am right beside you, awake to take in the view" is still a naive but at least this time its vivid and fun. The melody of the vocals is a high point for once too, holding notes instead of retreating to more irrational lyrics. A female singer makes an appearance to echo the chorus line (still slapped with autotune) "Late nights and early parades, still photos and noisy arcades". To follow up, 'Rainbow Veins' sounds as spritely as you'd expect with a title like that. An elementary, scaling xylophone tune is a sweet change for Owl City considering the lack of purity amongst the instruments and effects. "High rise, veins of the avenue. Bright eyes and subtle variations of blue.. Everywhere is balanced there like a rainbow above you" is surprisingly plain for the solo man Adam Young, sure he bangs on about colours as usual, throws in 'dada dur da's and resorts to a most cliche' mention of a rainbow, but at least he isn't babbling about the nonsensical wonder of nature and imaginary girlfriends. At first the vocals are muffled but become clear in a pleasant, catchy melody with the xylo still rummaging around in the background, pull-off/hammer-on guitar notes are delightful and a short and zippy synth solo towards the end make it an even bouncier, twirling track. Shooting rainbows into peoples veins is way to innocent and naive its almost grotesque enough to think that this guy must be shooting up heroin.
'Super Honeymoon' is a robotic bleep filled mess of delirium. With the jelly instruments and twitchy vocals it's only stable quality is a swift mention of the title. Randomly bringing up gymnasts swinging on bars and "playing golf on the moon, play tennis on the sun" the voice is so manufactured that Young is a dead ringer for text to speech service 'Microsoft Sam'. A spacey addition to the end with "A Super Nova Honeymoon" does little to change any opinons on a jumbled track. A new guest singer pops up in 'The Saltwater Room', a spindly guitar riffed lovey dovey song with good use of the string section. The woman's voice is equally burdened with similar effects, this time seeming unnecessary as it sounds as if she can actually sing without it (or so I thought until I heard her performance on 'All Things Bright and Beautiful'). "Time together isn't ever quite enough. When you and I are alone I've never felt so at home" is shared between the two singers and is a surprising highlight. Like most of the other songs there is bells and jingles going on here and there as well as the standard finger clicking loops. Again its sugary sweet but this time its almost bearable. 'Early Birdie' is rather strange in the beginning phases with hazy low notes contrasting with the bird like tweets in between. Strangeness turns to reluctance though as Adam Young's voice pops in to say "Good evening shuttle bus" in that artificial voice he's conjured up. Like the introduction, the whole song passes by without any redeemable qualities or memorable points except the ending when it sounds like a level in an old Nintendo Game Boy game.

'Air Traffic' faints to go somewhere new with some cool notes, but predictably they change and form a melody thats been heard before. The vocals slowly rock side to side and hardly break a sweat or change pitch, tempo, notes. "The scent is strong as we move on' gets mimicked with backing vocals that remain dull "the silver beams are twirling and swirling throughout your dreams like air traffic streams" is another lame line that sounds forced in the end. A simplistic drum loop starts 'The Technicolor Phase' soon spoilt by more heavily altered vocals. "And I am the blue in your back alley view" made me laugh at the standard mediocre lyrics and unintended metaphor. The instruments used sound incredibly similar to those found in early learning toys. "If you cut me I suppose I would bleed the colours of the evening stars" - its more lines like this that I suppose make me want to cut not only Adam Young but myself to avoid another second of the tween deepness thats actually as shallow as a dried up, muddied lake, with inconsistant & irrelevant rhyming, catering to those thicker than a fruitcake. 8 tracks in and 'Sky Diver' has already worn thin before listening. You know its going to be the same old rubbish thanks to the cooky, daydream titles. Its basically 2 sentences interrupted by a lone riff - the filler song as it seems like it was made by fiddling around on a synthesizer and sketching down two lines of crud inspired by rhyming and nonsense. *Sigh* 'Dear Vienna' makes for more dreary listening. A peppy start doesn't shine much as its lacking in any defined meaning or feeling. Sounds like Young really struggles to hold a long note so makes use of his mistakes by tweaking them into inhuman sounds. Again filled with button beeps and other enthusiastic melodies.
'I'll Meet You There' straight away offers nothing new with that exact sound thats plodded throughout the past 9 songs. Wishy washy percussion slightly livens up the dried cries in the background but after all the poorly written lyrics are over the song, thankfully, comes to an end. The second to last track 'This is the future' (possibly a reference to all the dodgey instrumental work) has Young provide several long held notes with some shaking snare drums. Lovely, if easy notes on a piano kick in and make for the question: why use all those crazy effects and add crummy lyrics when you can write just fine on a piano? I'd guess that most songs would be written on a plain piano or default keyboard, which beggars belief as to why theres a need to ruin such a pure sound.. perhaps its to match the impure voice of his.. "Are you out there, where the rainy days begin.. to feel rather sad and the walls are closing in like the darkness around me" cuts the silence rapidly along with a subtle melody. As disgustingly poor as the lyrics are (pretty much all the way through the album) the piano comes back again with a handful of notes to relieve you of over half an hour of digital disaster. A glockenspiel and static drums build a smiley bridge as he says "I must be in California" - cue that samey riff, this time with some real purpose. Continuing with the theme of jet planes, bottling air, crying and the ocean, that melody comes around a second time, growing on you, even more bouncy and slightly downtrodden. Another verse and bridge later, its one final hurrah for the best melody on the record, this time raising the tempo and pitch to an even higher, louder, faster tune.

So a surprising end to a group of tracks that were written, recorded and released by Young himself - an amicable feat on his behalf as not many would be able to go through all that and make a career out of it, for that I congratulate him.. even if I am a little bewildered as to how 'this' album made him hit the big-time.


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