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Mr S. Draper

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5.0 out of 5 stars Great Practical Cards, 19 Feb 2012
= Durability:4.0 out of 5 stars  = Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars  = Educational:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Its always nice to have some cards lying around so I invested in a bicycle pack a while ago. They held out really well for a long time but were ultimately disposed of by a flying glass of water. So, impressed by the previous pack, I bought this twin pack set and haven't been dissapointed in the slightest.

You get two packs for your money's worth, one red, one blue, both exactly the same otherwise. The cards always feel good in your hand and shuffle and deal well.

I also enjoy throwing cards (if you do it yourself you know what I mean). These cards are great for that purpose as well. They've got some weight to them and hold their shape well, taking quite some effort to bend them in any serious way. So I've been impressed by the fact that, despite some serious usage and bashing about, they've managed to hold up over the past six weeks to a standard where they still shuffle and handle nearly as well as when I first broke them out of their packet.

I've already added another twin pack to my basket in case another wayward glass of water puts pay to another deck, and just generally because at this price these are a great pack of cards to have around, whatever the purpose.

Zippo Brushed Chrome Lighter Z200
Zippo Brushed Chrome Lighter Z200
Price: £13.83

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Lighter, 19 Feb 2012
This review is from: Zippo Cigarette Lighter (Sports)
Great lighter, does exactly what was promised. Looks nice, shiny and sleek. Feels great in your hand, satisfying click when you open and close it - I could do that all day - and works great at what it's actually supposed to do; be a lighter.

Not a word against it, and for the price seems a bargain if you're after a smart looking, reliable, refillable lighter - with an awesome click.

FIFA 12 (Xbox 360)
FIFA 12 (Xbox 360)
Offered by Mayflower Stores
Price: £4.79

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great Game (But Just Not Fun!), 13 Jan 2012
= Fun:2.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: FIFA 12 (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
Rather like Downton Abbey, I look at Fifa 12 as a truly amazing production, with no effort spared going into detailed and perfected creations. It is a very well made game. But, its just not as fun as it should and could have been.

The number of options can be startling to someone new to console sports games, or to someone who's been out of the loop for a few years. Editing teams and players, making your own, playing through the career and virtual pro modes and all the rest the game has to offer could last you more than enough of your life for the price tag to be justified.

The Graphics are incredible. Texturing is awesome, and, although the crowds are still skimped on and some of the players look like zombie versions of themselves, you can just tell its a matter of time until you're basically watching more accurate versions of the players than the players themselves are.
Combined with the excellant presentation, making each game feel like you're watching it on TV, and you could (as my dad did) make the mistake of thinking you're watching a real match. (The little one-on-ones during loading are also a neat addition that give you something to do and move seamlessly from menu to game.)

So, yeah, awesome. But... gameplay can be frustrating. The difference in difficulty is one example. Semi-Pro will have you beating anyone as anyone 9-0. However, make the small step up to Pro and... well, nil nil draws become a near certainty - again, regardless of who is playing who. I've managed to tie up Barcelona with Accrington Stanley, and equally fail to penetrate Wimbledon AFC's defence with Man United. (Get good at penalties is all I can advise.)

That's gripe one, but maybe it's just me and I need to just practice some more, fair enough. So then there's the defending... um, on paper it looks like a good system, but in reality its one of the most annoying I've ever encountered. Defending should be intuative and tactical. This is complicated, inneffective and less about tactics than being good at bashing and holding a weird combination of buttons (more often than not in a vain attempt to pry the ball from the possession of a team four leagues lower than you).

My other gripe is with the passing. Most modern games have tried as hard as possible to put more and more emphasis on making passing the primary weapon in any teams arsenal. The old days of being able to bomb past a defender and stick it in the top corner from thirty yards away are gone, and I think fair enough. So why then, if passing is to be so important, is it so slow? Every pass is incredibly labourious. Trying to silkily slide your way through the defence like Barcelona is a pipe-dream, with the more common result of crawling, inching, painfully slow balls reaching their destination an age after the defence has been able to re-organise and form an impenatrable wall. The number of times I've had my intended receiver just stand there, waiting for the ball to snail its way to him has also been infuriating.
Basically; how am I supposed to pass my way through a team's defence when the passing is so slow?
My attempt to solve this problem by holding the pass button longer failed, as it simply made the pass go to a player further away. So there's basically no such thing as weighted passes. And in exchange, you're constantly on edge that your intended medium range pass will either be to slow and intercepted, or too hard and go straight past your receiver to the opposition.

Equally, to detract from the running tactic, players seem to have been slowed down. Not just slowed though, slowed in comparison to the defenders. I'm not saying I should just be able to get Lionel Messi to run through a team's defence everytime, but when he loses out in a straight running race against some six foot, flat footed defender from a 2 star team, I do start to wonder. Plus it seems like every 50/50 is to be won by the defender. Eg; Rooney has a through ball played to him that he just gets to ahead of the fullback. Does he manage to outmuscle him? Accelerate past him? Create a yard of space to make a pass or shot? No... he gets outmuscled by the tiny 5'6 featherweight... Right.

So yeah, plenty of gripes with the gameplay.

One redeaming feature which by-passes several of the above issuses is the 'be a pro' mode, which is probably the highlight of the game for me. Controlling your player (literally, if you create an in-game version of yourself (or more likely an in-game version of how good you'd like to be ;))) can be fun, offer a new tactical dimension and make you concentrate on making everything you do be as good as it can be. (When you may only get 5% of the action, you learn to utilise it far more effectively.) Obviously though, that is the downside to this mode - getting less action and feeling like a spectator, however, at least the AI gets to control the defending and my experience is that games are much less likely to end up as bore draws in this mode (unless I'm the lone front-man ;)).

The addition of the be a pro goalkeeper is neat, although, once more, a bit dull. I get the realism of being a keeper, watching the game play out and only rarely being called into action (I'm a goalkeeper in the real world, I'm used to it) but they could have at least given you something to do in the intervening time... juggle, maybe? Also, the realism is somewhat blone when I can get David De Gea to wander forward and score the only goal of the match from the edge of the area... but could I get Wayne Rooney to do the same thing? No chance...

Anyhoo, bottom line - the 'be a pro' basically sums up this edition of fifa. A massive improvement in many ways, bringing many harsh realities of the real world of football with the glitz and the incredible presentation a real premier league football match is given on the TV. On the downside though, fun is sacrificed to an unnecessary degree. Attempts to make the experience feel more realistic have fallen flat on their face; Five star Man Uniteds, Barcelonas, Arsenals, Real Madrids etc should not find it so hard going against one star teams. The way it shoots itself in the foot is painful, 'cos you can really see how there was a fantastic game here. But by slowing everything down, making defending a chore and Accrington Stanley & Barcelona peers when it comes to attacking and defending it imposes its own idea of realism on a game that should have kept fun and entertainment at its core.

Bang Bang Rock & Roll
Bang Bang Rock & Roll
Offered by skyvo-direct
Price: £9.82

5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful, 2 Jan 2012
This review is from: Bang Bang Rock & Roll (Audio CD)
I just love this band. Everytime I listen to one of their albums I'm laughing by the end and in an immeasurably better mood. Lyrics like theirs are probably too clever for their own good, but their music and sense of humour stands on its own two legs to make for a great debut album.

Formed a Band, My Little Brother, Modern Art, Bang Bang Rock and Roll, Fight and 18,000 Lira are my standouts.

I implore everyone to give them a listen. If they're not your thing, fair enough, but if they are, you'll love this album - I hope - as much as I do.

Whole Town's Heart
Whole Town's Heart
Price: £3.40

5.0 out of 5 stars Great New Band, 2 Jan 2012
This review is from: Whole Town's Heart (Audio CD)
Saw them live at a festival in the summer and have been dying to get their album ever since. Every week I have a new favourite, and have basically been through the album 12 times now, proving it has greater longevity than I was ever expecting.

Whole Town's Heart, Cigarette, Been There, Pretty Boy are currently the favourites. Clever lyrics, nothing too heavy, indie/alt rock.

Won't be for everyone, but I've loved them.

Scottish Fiction: Best of 1997 - 2007
Scottish Fiction: Best of 1997 - 2007

5.0 out of 5 stars A Best of from a Brilliant Band, 2 Jan 2012
Loved Idlewild for ages, with so many songs of theirs ingrained forever in my memory that I just had to get this album. It covers Idlewild's best songs pretty definitively, with only one omission I can see. So many great tracks, It's not even worth listing them all.

Really glad to have found some tracks that'd passed me by in here as well as the classics. The majority of my play list since buying this album has been these guys and I look forward to that trend continuing.

Great band; if you like them but never bought anything of theirs before, give this a go. If you're a real fan, you probably have their albums already, but if anything passed you by and was worth a listen, I'm sure its on this album.

Price: £9.67

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Max Raptor Rock, 2 Jan 2012
This review is from: Portraits (Audio CD)
I've seen this band 3 times live, each time sort of by accident (one time support act, twice at a festival) and enjoyed them on all 3 occaisions, finding their energy, noise and anthemic style irresistable, so I bought their album for Christmas and haven't stopped listing to it since.

The great energy of their live performances really carries through, and with the volume up its almost like seeing them for the first time again.

Songs to look out for - along with Great and the Good + The King is Dead (which go without saying) - are Obey the Whips, Patron Saint of Nothing, and Carolina. All are catchy and will have you chanting along, and all come with a feeling of a dedicated performance which is sadly a rare commodity these days, and a lot of their tracks (as someone has already mentioned) manage to combine politics without being in the slightest bit preachy.

The only downside for me is that the album isn't longer. At 8 tracks long (the longest of which stands at 3.45), you're cut loose, just as you're dying to hear more. And given that one of my favourite songs from the band's live set (Conversations with Death) wasn't on the album, its not as if they didn't have the material.

Anyway, great album, so much energy, drive and noise it'll blow you away, just wish there was more.

Nike Unisex Spiral-Tech American Football - Brown, 9
Nike Unisex Spiral-Tech American Football - Brown, 9

5.0 out of 5 stars Great Ball, 2 Jan 2012
Have owned this ball for several months now, and its stood up to everything I've thrown at it (and it at) so far. Kicking, being fallen on, thrown, punched, landing on conrete... And it still looks almost new.

Its a little harder on the hands than some balls on the market, but its easy enough to get a good spiral on and just generally plays as well as I could ever have expected. Great ball, especially considering the price.

Wilson NFL Extreme American Football - Tan
Wilson NFL Extreme American Football - Tan
Price: £9.95

14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good Ball, May split, 2 Jan 2012
Bought this ball a couple of years ago now. Held up to being passed around, and was very good for that purpose - nice soft grip, easy to hold and not too harsh on the hands.

Problem came when it began to take some punishment from kicking and long passes landing on concrete, which resulted in the seam going. (This happened pretty sharpish I should add, the first time it was used for more than a twenty minute throwabout.)

If you want a ball to pass around once in while, at this price, it's probably the best thing out there. If you want something that'll hold up to more intensive use, spend a little more now to save money down the line.

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