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P. Barlow (UK)

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Alice: Madness Returns (PS3)
Alice: Madness Returns (PS3)
Offered by 666 Media
Price: £19.95

5.0 out of 5 stars A fun to play, visually appealing platform game, 21 Jun. 2011
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This game is beautiful from the abstract artwork and level design to the animation and cutscenes. Alice gracefully twirls during long jumps and turns to butterflies when dodging. The music is mostly well done too as is the acting. There is plenty to distract from the basic 3D platforming including 3D cutscenes, 2D cutscenes, 2D shoot em up games, 2D platform games, slides, picture puzzles, chess puzzles, invisible platforms, and the usual switch, collect and find scenarios. Somehow it all fits together in this odd world.

Each of the 6 chapters has many distinctive looks; some, for example outside the Hatter's Domain, will have you pause in awe at the design. In between chapters you guide Alice through Victorian London but the only interaction you get is her thoughts on various objects in the world. This lack of interaction gives the player a sense of dissociation and disconnection from the Victorian London, cleverly putting the player in the same mindset as Alice. In Wonderland, Alice's personality is represented by different characters and objects in the game that all play out and come together with collected memories like a patchwork quilt.

I'm on my second run through as I post this and I've had no glitches during the game at all. There is a slight problem with a couple of low res textures, texture pop in a few places as well as the odd invisible wall. Nothing that distracts too much from the game though.

The game takes about 20 hours for one walk through although to unlock all the achievements and find everything you'll probably want to do it twice. I'm also testing out Alice's downloadable weapons and dresses on my second run.

Check out video walkthroughs if you're on the fence about buying this. I was unsure on purchasing this after a couple of not so great reviews, but it's great fun to play and is a game I'll keep coming back to.

As a bonus, you also get American McGee's Alice as a download via a code. You don't need to have played this to follow Alice Madness Returns. Alice doesn't play as fluidly as Madness Returns, and feels its 10 year old age. Having said that, it is still an enjoyable extra 15 - 20 hours of gameplay.

Roberts ECO1BK Ecologic 1 DAB/FM RDS Digital Radio with Built-in Battery Charger - Black
Roberts ECO1BK Ecologic 1 DAB/FM RDS Digital Radio with Built-in Battery Charger - Black

84 of 88 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Excellent radio with a few problems, 3 Jan. 2011
FULL REVIEW of version 4.0.13

This small radio is well built with a solid feel to the buttons. However, the glossy plastic easily collects fingerprints and scratches. Even a soft lint free cloth will create minor surface scratches.

Accessing functions is mostly direct from the buttons on the front panel with a couple of less frequently used functions in an easy to use on-screen menu.

The menus are displayed on the Ecologic's 16 character by 2 line LCDisplay. This has a slower refresh and less contrast than my parents version 2 model. After some checking I discovered this wasn't a fault of my model but seems to be an unwelcome effort to extend battery life. It certainly makes scroll text harder to read than on the old model but it is still legible. Unfortunately, there are no contrast controls so you're stuck with factory defaults.

On the display, you can cycle through: scroll text, program type, multiplex name, time and date, frequency, bit rate and audio type and signal strength. The time and date are set automatically, while stations are autotuned when the radio is first turned on.

Sound is very good with little distortion even at high volume. Voices are clear and crisp and music is bright, if lacking bass as is usual with this type of speaker. Unfortunately there are no controls to alter the sound field such as treble or bass controls.

There are 16 steps to the volume, down from 20 in version 2 and now displays as a bar instead of numbers. The volume envelope has also changed, giving finer control over the lower volumes which is good for those listening through headphones or at night. If you are in a noisy environment, the radio has adjustable dynamic range control that boosts quiet sounds to make them louder.

Reception is excellent. In the village where I live, I don't even bother to extend the aerial while in areas of poor reception it hangs on well to weak signals. When the aerial is extended and you can't move the radio into perfect position for reception, there is a manual override to tweak the tuning by pressing and holding the select button. Failing that, there is the RDS FM receiver to fall back on to. In FM mode you can select auto and manual tuning, local or distant search for stations and mono or stereo reception (you will get better reception with mono selected so leave it in mono if you are not using headphones).

Battery life is quoted by the manufacturer at 25 hours but on rechargeable NiCads I get around 22 hours on half volume (which is plenty loud enough for a small office or large living room). With non-rechargeable batteries (or better quality NiCads) and lower volume you might get nearer the 25 hour mark.

The built in battery charger is activated by a small switch when you first insert the batteries. The radio will then automatically charge the radio whenever it is plugged into the mains and the radio is switched off. Charging is indicated by a flashing light on the front panel. It's worth mentioning that if you are comparing this radio to a Pure radio, all Pure radios require a custom £30 battery if you want to make use of the charger.

On the side, there is a handy lock switch so that you can't accidentally change a setting. There are 5 station presets for each band (FM and digital) making 10 in total. However, that is about as far as it goes with fancy features: there is no line in, text pause (although it scrolls so slow you really wont need it), alarm, timer or USB port. All these features can be found on equivalent Pure radios.

In all, this is a fantastic radio simply because of the excellent reception, good sound, ease of use, sturdy build and good reliability. If you can live without the extra features, this radio is highly recommended.

The Complete "Ripley" Radio Mysteries (BBC Audio)
The Complete "Ripley" Radio Mysteries (BBC Audio)
by Patricia Highsmith
Edition: Audio CD

39 of 39 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Awesome! Well worth the money!, 24 April 2009
The Ripley stories get the BBC treatment. Each book has been abridged in a very effective way. All the characters are acted. Ian Hart is Mr Ripley and I can no longer picture anyone else in the role. The acting is superb and the directing and bridging is spot on. The subtle and sometimes haunting music along with the ambient sound effects are excellent: it is like watching a film but without the picture. The box set come on 5 CD audio discs containing the plays as originally broadcast but split into 16 or 18 tracks each. It is a shame there is no extras such as interviews with the actors, producer or even CD ROM content with biographies. All that comes with it is a two page booklet listing the copyright and actors.

All 5 novels have been shortened to about 56 minutes each, recorded in full stereo:
1. The Talented Mr Ripley: Tom makes a bid for another man's inheritance and suceeds, but has he really got away with it? This is the slowest paced of the plays.
2. Ripley Under Ground: Tom is living in luxury in France with his wife Heloise - but the clever art forgery which funds Tom's expensive tastes is about to be uncovered. This was the first one I heard.
3. Ripley's Game: Tom sets up a man he dislikes to carry out two perfect murders.
4. The Boy Who Followed Ripley: A rich young stalker arrives at Belle Ombre and he and Tom end up fighting for their lives.
5. Ripley Under Water: Strange new neighbours show an overdeveloped interest in Ripley's past. Will Tom's shady past dealings be exposed?

Definitely worth every penny.

NOTE to iTunes users: When importing the disc, you can select all the CD tracks and then select "Join CD tracks" in the advanced menu and you will get one 56 minute audiobook instead of 18 separate tracks for each disc. Then right click on the imported audio file, select "Get info" and change the media type to "Audiobook". It will now appear in the Audiobook menu in the Library section.

Canon Pixma iP5200 Inkjet Printer
Canon Pixma iP5200 Inkjet Printer

44 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fast printer with excellent plain paper and photogrpaic output., 15 July 2006
Firstly, I am not affiliated in any way with Canon, I am just genuinely impressed with this printer.

Plain paper printing is outstanding, far better than the Epson it replaced. Colour reproduction is the best I have seen on plain paper. Print outs are detailed and really fast, printing an A4 6 million pixel picture on plain paper in about 15 - 20 seconds.

Photographic paper yields excellent results with bright vibrant colours. This printer uses 4 inks so quality will be slightly less than a 6 ink printer, although you will be hard pressed to tell the difference without a magnifier.

Printing on CD's and DVD's is easy using a tray and gives excellent results.

Text output is laser sharp and black. This is achieved using a separate black pigment ink. There is no fuzziness even at low point sizes and, again, incredibly fast - about 15 ppm at a quality suitable for business use and faster for text suitable for home use or draft.

The print driver is excellent on both the PC and Mac OS X. The Mac Epson driver was severely lacking, not supporting features such as borderless printing. However, this is not the case with the Canon driver. Both versions of the driver support borderless printing, photo noise reduction for high ISO pictures, duplex printing, colour correction and some limited special effects.

A feature I particularly like is quiet mode which can be set to activate automatically between certain times. Not that this printer is noisy - it is very quiet under normal operation, but it is almost silent in quiet mode at the expense of print speed.

Another useful option is auto power on and off where the printer powers up after receiving data and power downs a specified time after the last print.

Finally, there is a port on the front of the printer for connecting Pictbridge compliant cameras and other devices so you can print without the PC.

The only problem I've had with this printer is the output quality after initial setup. Auto head alignment yielded unsatisfactory results, and I recommend using manual head alignment.

If you are only going to print photographs go for a 6 ink printer, but if you want a good all round printer with stunning, super fast, plain paper and photographic output, I can highly recommend the Pixma 5200.

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