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G. Wintle "The Custodian" (UK)
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Kenseiden - Master System - PAL
Kenseiden - Master System - PAL

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Timeless Classic, 7 Feb 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Kenseiden is that rare breed of game; one that remains extremely playable even as hardware advances far ahead of it.
This 8-bit game has such staying power that even decades on it has managed to lure me away from the Megadrive, Dreamcast, Gamecube, and XBoxes. What separates Kenseiden from most 8-bit games is its depth and sophistication, which is not immediately apparent as it will at first seem like simple hack and slash. In truth this plays more like a Megadrive game than a Master System one. The amount of moves you can perform in Kenseiden is remarkably varied and in most cases superbly animated, and the game has great replay value due to its non-linear structure; you travel around a map visiting various stages, and as a result there are many routes through the game. It is in many ways the Master System's answer to Castlevania.

You may recognize the level designs and styling of this game, too. This is clearly the work of the same people who made Revenge of Shinobi and GG Shinobi, Sega's legendary Overworks. Visually its one of the Master System's best, with detailed backdrops, large sprites, and, appropriately, an eerie, demonic feel. The bosses are spectacular and often huge.

Kenseiden is one of the SMS's finest games, up there with the likes of Phantasy Star, Wonderboy III: The Dragon's Trap, and R-Type. Whereas most 8-bit games have aged badly and feel clunky, Kenseiden still feels as new as it did back in 1988. A classic.


Lantern Slides: The Diaries and Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1904-1914
Lantern Slides: The Diaries and Letters of Violet Bonham Carter, 1904-1914
by Violet Bonham Carter
Edition: Hardcover

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful insight into an amazing family, 10 Sep 2010
Lady Violet Bonham Carter was the eldest daughter of Herbert Henry Asquith, one of the giants of the Liberal party, and the last real Liberal Prime Minister (Lloyd George led a coalition government while not being leader of the Liberal party). She was a brilliant orator and distinguished writer and politician, arguably the keeper of the Liberal flame through the party's most difficult years.

Violet was not Asquith's only offspring. Her eldest brother was the brilliant Raymond Asquith, and her other siblings were the war hero Arthur "Oc" Asquith, Herbert "Beb" Asquith, and Cyrill "Cys" Asquith, all the offspring of Helen Kesall Melland, Asquith's first wife, who died just as her husband was beginning her ascent of British politics.
While she revered her father, Violet's relationship with her step-mother, the larger than life Margot, was strained and it shows in these diaries.

Of course, other luminaries are to be found here; Winston Churchill, Edward Grey, Edward VII, George V, Teddy Roosevelt, the Tennants and Horners, and many, many more. On top of that there are the many political crises Asquith experienced. We see, through Violet's eyes, her father's moving into Number 10, the People's Budget and the ensuing constitutional crisis, the Marconi scandal, and of course the suffragettes (Violet, ironically) opposed

She describes "coming out" (a season when girls would go to dances and balls), with some very amusing descriptions of the dances and dance of social interaction. I love her word "drumbores" to describe a particular type of person one encounters at parties. Even though most of this was written over a century ago, there are many moments where timeless experiences are described.

Violet's writing is often beautiful, very descriptive, and very perceptive. She is never boring, and her correspondences, most notably with the poet Rupert Brooke, make for fascinating reading. She falls in love with Archie Gordon, only for him to die as the result of a car accident. After this, she grieves for him and sets up a boys club for poor children in his honour. Violet's genuine compassion for the most vulnerable in society is very apparent and admirable.

This book conveys the final years of Edwardian Britain, and as such the ominous clouds gather as the book draws to a close in the late summer of 1914...the First World War would shatter Violet's world.

Edited by the late Mark Bonham Carter (Violet's eldest son) and Mark Pottle, with a superb introduction by the much missed Roy Jenkins, I recommend this book to anyone interested in early 20th century histroy.

A little bit of trivia: This book was dramatized into a superb 30 minute radio play in 1998, in which Violet was played by her grand-daughter, Helena.


Jigsaw
Jigsaw
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: 4.70

5.0 out of 5 stars An evolution of talent, 14 Aug 2010
This review is from: Jigsaw (Audio CD)
Jigsaw, Lady Sovereign's second album, this time under her own label, Midget Records, is, rather than a "return to form" after Sov's meltdown, more accurately described as an evolution of form.
This is not Public Warning 2, this is a second album distinct from its predecessor. Whereas Public Warning was outward looking, with Sov commentating on the world around her, Jigsaw is very much an internal piece, in which Sov looks inside herself.

Let's Be Mates is the opening track, a fun, jaunty dance tune with video game bops and beats. Its all about having fun with a friend, maybe looking for more, on a night out. It captures the mood of a night out on the town perfectly. So Human uses The Cure's Close To You as its base but is not a simple cover version. Sov has made this into her own song, telling us about her breakdown, the pressures of fame, and those days when you just can't cope, and accepting that this is part of being human. The title track, Jigsaw, continues to express Sov's hitherto largely hidden vulnerability. Its a love song about a broken relationship, in which Lady Sov admits to her flaws, insecurities, its a moving and very tender song. In both So Human and Jigsaw Lady Sovereign sings, and proves very effective. Jigsaw, in particular, shows a maturity and greater depth in her song-writing that is most welcome.
I Got You Dancing is a catchy, sassy number which rewards repeated listening. Sov should not have given this song away free as it was a potential hit.
Pennies is a recession themed song that has grown on me, though it lacks a real "hook", Bang Bang is catchy and enjoyable but a little empty. Guitar has got a few negative reviews, including from Sov herself, but I find it a good, and enjoyable song, even if it covers similar ground to So Human. The violin backing stands out in this song as well as a funny moment when Sov demonstrates how life is easy like playing a guitar.
Student Union is another wonderful track, about Sov visiting University and feeling out of place and insecure (which is what its really about, not, as some wrongly think, about university being crap). Again its a well-composed track, with Sov's trademark humour running right through it.
Track 9 is the glorious Food Play, a wonderful parody of Barry White lurrrve songs in which Sov and a deep-voiced man wax lyrical about the erotic aspects of food, ranging from haagen daaz to cheese to porridge ("you can cover me in porridge...oooh porridge!"). Sovereign's voice here is hilarious, she shows she can be as cute as she can be angry. This song is addictive and, bizarrely, very sexy. Far funnier than anything Lily Allen has produced. This really should have been released as a single.
The final track is I Got The Goods, a fun, raucous, light and confident track in which Sov proves she's got The Goods.
Overall this is a terrific album which rewards repeated listening; I've listened to it on my mobile many times and the songs sound fresh each time I listen to them. Even the weaker tracks have something to offer. Sov's vocals amaze me, she varies her voice in almost every song, often using it to comic effect.
Another thing I must praise is her unpretentiousness, unlike many of her contemporaries she laces her songs with humour and is never over-earnest. This album shows her to be an open-minded artist, refusing to be confined to one genre, and refusing to fit into narrow categories (IMHO the reason she has not had the commercial success of her male contemporaries). Her genuine working class roots are felt in every song and are very refreshing in an increasingly middle class/mockney British music scene.
Rap generally leaves me cold so Sovereign is a big surprise to me, there's something unique about her style, and there's a refreshing lack of "gangsta" nonsense. Jigsaw is a worthy follow-up to Public Warning, taking "the biggest midget in the game" into new territory. Highly recommended.


International Karate Advanced
International Karate Advanced
Offered by total-gamer
Price: 7.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Enjoyable but dated, 20 July 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
IK+ is a very fun and enjoyable game, with plenty of humour and some very challenging mini-games (kicking bombs, using a shield to deflect bouncing balls, etc). The games only real weaknesses are its lack of game save (a cumbersome password system is present here) and its simple, mid-80's pre-Street Fighter 2 gameplay mechanics.


The King of the Birds
The King of the Birds
by Helen Ward
Edition: Paperback
Price: 4.39

5.0 out of 5 stars A Beautiful book, 20 July 2010
This review is from: The King of the Birds (Paperback)
Wonderful, beautifully illustrated, this book will delight young and old. There is little text but the point here is the visual creativity.

Highly recommended.


Dead or Alive 4 (Xbox 360)
Dead or Alive 4 (Xbox 360)
Offered by media-4-u
Price: 18.99

4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Entry, 20 July 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
DOA 4, from Tecmo and Team Ninja, was one of the launch games on the XBox360, and looking at it now, this fact really shows. Visually, it is not much of an advance on DOA3 and DOA2 Ultimate. Indeed, whereas DOA3 was dazzling, DOA4 holds few surprises. The character models have changed little since the Dreamcast era, their skin in particular lacks texture (clothing is great though). Animation is fluid, though, and consistently impresses. Despite it showing its age in places, parts of the game are still impressive, notably the huge, multi-tiered stages, which include a jurassic park, the bridge stage from DOA2 Ultimate (now with lake), a lush Japanese village, Ninja hideout, and monkey-laden mountain temple. Best of all is the Las Vegas stage with it's oncoming traffic adding a wonderful twist to the fighting gameplay.
DOA4 has a revised counter-system which is much harder to master than in previous installments. The problem that sometimes occurs here is that the CPU has a huge advantage over you under this system; it can be frustrating sometimes, but it's not a game-breaker. This is indeed much harder than previous DOA games (the boss will have you cursing sometimes).

All the DOA characters are here (some of them must be unlocked, however), including the famous DOA ladies obviously, as well as new arrivals Kokoro and Elliot, both of whom are good additions to the cast. There's a little unbalance, with the ninja characters and Jann Lee seeming to be much more powerful than the other characters (Hayabusa and Hayate especially). Nevertheless DOA4 is balanced for the most part, and it won't detract you from latching onto your favourite (for me it's the lovely Hitomi).

Story mode (arcade mode in essence) feels a bit thrown together, with some very odd (and amusing) cut scenes. The character#s ending movies range from the sublime (Helena, Elliot) to the ridiculous (Kasumi, Hitomi) Some of the characters face different final battles (the Ninjas and some others fight Kasumi Alpha, whereas Hitomi fights Ein, and Christie fights Helena.
Outside of Story mode, DOA still boasts the best Survival mode of any fighting game, and a challenging Time Attack mode is present here, as well as the very fun tag battles. Its an oversight that you cannot view your collected icons.
Replayability is pretty strong too, with unlockable costumes for the characters, though alas no extra costumes are available through downloads. A missed opportunity, I think. Still, there are some very neat hidden characters (I won't spoil the surprise), and you can even unlock the character's voices as announcers by completing the exercise mode in Sparring.
Another welcome little feature is the photo taking mode which can be used in Watch mode. It's fun to try to get that dynamic still (no doubt there are other uses lol).
Music is of a very high standard though not as good as DOA3 (though that may have one of the best fighting game soundtracks ever).
I have not fought Online so cannot verify how good that is, but what I have seen is very good, and the game updates your scores on the world ranking when you play. Its great to see your name move up the rankings (I'm in the 155,000 region of about 420,000 gamers on Survival).
So, summing up, DOA4 is a worthwhile purchase, but one which will also have you longing for DOA5, so we can see what a true next gen DOA looks like.


Darkstalkers Tribute
Darkstalkers Tribute
by Corey Lewis
Edition: Paperback
Price: 23.83

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Magical, a feast of creative imagination, 21 Feb 2010
This review is from: Darkstalkers Tribute (Paperback)
I have rarely been as delighted with a purchase as I was with this. It is absolutely wonderful. This 300 Pages of pure visual feast is a collection of fanart submitted to Udon from across the world, featuring artists from Japan, Korea, America, Canada, Italy, Britain, Spain, Germany, Australia, Singapore, Brazil, Iraq, Phillipines, Argentina, and many more, proving Darkstalkers international appeal. Not bad for a game franchise that has not had a new instalment for over a decade.
I love the Darkstalkers games, they are a masterclass in creative character design, a testament to the extraordinary creativity of Japanese games developers. These colourful characters are some of the most vivid creations ever to set foot in a video-game.
The sexy Morrigan, the powerful Maximoff, undead rocker Zabel, furry Felicia, Wolfman Gallon, the bizarre Lei-Lei, and a very unique twist on Red Riding Hood, to name just a few amongst the Yetis, Mermen, Demonic Samurais and other oddities that populate the world of Darkstalkers.

The styles of art vary hugely, each page offering something different from the last, and every picture unique. There are stunning illustrative artworks, hilarious concepts, and stylised works to be found here.

Even if you have no interest in video-games, buy this if you love fantasy art or anything that lets the imagination take flight. You will not be disappointed. I have fallen in love with this book and I hope you will, too.


Super Puzzle Fighter 2
Super Puzzle Fighter 2
Offered by sicodaddy
Price: 39.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Addictive Puzzling, 23 Jan 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Super Puzzle Fighter 2, from Capcom, is dangerously addictive, very funny (the chibi versions of famous Street Fighter and Darkstalker characters are amusing to watch).

Its a competitive puzzle game which sees you battle against an opponent (one of 12 characters), and attempting to destroy coloured gemstones which, when coming into contact with a same coloured orb, disappear, freeing up more space for you, and being transferred to your opponent. As you play, the chibi sprites react to the status of the game in amusing ways.
There are two main modes of play, the Arcade mode which sees you take on the other fighters in sequence, and another in which you unlock hidden characters, tunes, sprite colours, by defeating opponents in specific match-ups. The number of unlockables is huge and this mode will take you a long time to beat.

I got this for my DS Lite and I heartily recommend it to anyone, don't pass up on this just because it is an old GBA game, as you will be missing out on something special.


Bangai'O Spirits (Nintendo DS)
Bangai'O Spirits (Nintendo DS)
Offered by Global Xpress
Price: 6.49

5.0 out of 5 stars Superb fun & creative too, 30 Oct 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Bangai-O Spirits is the DS version of Treasure's gloriously bizarre and addictive shoot'em and puzzle 'em up. Its very tongue-in-cheek, in contrast to the pretentious tone of many of today's video games.
You pilot a battle mech and your objective in each level is to destroy the designated targets, using a variety of weapons such as bouncing bullets and smart bombs.
There's more to Bangai-O than just shooting things, though. Many of the levels have a puzzle element, and often strategy is needed to defeat the huge waves of enemies. This will exercise your brain as well as your trigger finger.

Levels are culled from the Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast versions, as well as a whole new batch of original levels. If that is not enough, you can create your own levels using an easy to use and very flexible level editor. Using a unique sound download system you can download other people's levels and upload your levels using the DS's mic (yes, you really do use the mic to transfer files!).

Overall this is an excellent game which is great fun and is perfect for train and bus journeys (levels vary from taking less than 30 seconds to complete to about 10 minutes).

Recommended.


Ace Golf
Ace Golf
Offered by clickforgamesltd
Price: 17.96

5.0 out of 5 stars A Hidden Gem, 21 Sep 2009
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Ace Golf (Video Game)
Ace Golf is one of those games which, when you see it listed in a directory or catalogue, your instinctive reaction is to dismiss it as some obscure by the numbers golf game.
You could not be more wrong. Indeed I could not have been more wrong. When I was looking for Gamecube games to buy on Amazon, this did not immediately leap out at me, largely because I don't like sports games. But I wanted something different for my GC collection, and I noted the very favourable reviews for this game here on Amazon and on Gamefaqs.

I took a chance on it and am delighted I did. This is thankfully not some stat-heavy po-faced Golf sim, but a delightfully fun game very much in a similar vain to Everybody's Golf. Its the kind of game only the Japanese seem to know how to make. The music is cheesy yet very catchy.

I love its cute charm, its air of innocent fun. Although it does not push any envelopes graphically it does use the Gamecube well (third party GC games which are not lazy PS2 ports are rare beasts). Despite its cute appearance its a challenging game. The fact I am absolutely terrible at golf games yet still enjoy this game says much for its quality.

This is one of those games you probably have not heard of, but when you play it you will wish more people had known of it. A real hidden gem for Gamecube/Wii owners.


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