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O. Derwood "chapcritic" (Merry England)

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Samsung M3 1TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive - Black - HX-M101TCB/G
Samsung M3 1TB USB 3.0 Portable Hard Drive - Black - HX-M101TCB/G

4.0 out of 5 stars Sleek and satisfying - just a bit slow, 16 Oct. 2013
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
It took me ages to settle on a new portable hard drive, because no matter how many positive reviews there are (this one has around 1,400 4-5 star reviews!), there's always a few vitriolic negatives as well (in this case around 160). In the end I decided that *everything* is going to have a few negatives, and went with this Samsung 1TB drive. Two months later I've had no real problems with it.

It's small and, for what it's worth, pretty. It didn't require any software installation - I have an Acer Aspire 5735Z, if that's any help to you - it was a case of simply plug it in, and go. Obviously it's got absolutely tons of storage space that I'm nowhere near filling, so it's doing the actual job very well.

One minor issue is the time it takes to transfer data. I've found it takes quite a while to move anything sizeable - say 100MB+ - and frustratingly, the estimated time jumps up and down. I wondered if this was just due to transfers from one external hard drive to another, but the same thing happens when transferring data straight from my laptop.

That's the only issue so far, and in the end, this isn't a dealbreaker for me. Everything else is exactly what I want from a portable hard drive. If anything else occurs, I'll edit my review, but at present, thumbs up.


7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A gentle little album, that just happens to be of historic importance, 24 Sept. 2013
This review is from: McCartney (Audio CD)
So this was it: the end of the Beatles. Although Ringo Starr had released his Sentimental Journey a month earlier, nothing on it actively suggested the band was finished. Meanwhile, McCartney casually told the world (via a press release bundled in with the album) the Beatles were splitting up. It's not surprising that it met with some hostility, particularly from the other Beatles. Paul had not been the first to leave the band, yet he pulled the ripcord in public. (He did this a month before the release of Let It Be, which put a lot of extra pressure on the band's unintended swansong.)

Given its turbulent back-story and place in the group's dissolution, it seems sensible to expect a grand statement from McCartney musically as well as historically. But it's not like that. McCartney is a deliberately low-key record, largely composed of instrumentals and sweet songs knocking around for years beforehand. It's self-produced, played and sung by McCartney entirely solo, and lyrically offers no grand statements on the Beatles, life, or anything. At first glance it's an album Paul could just as easily have put out years earlier, with the Beatles still going beside it. If you think of it as the album Paul decided to make at the expense of the Beatles, it may well disappoint.

If you can cut through the history and expectation, there is much to like. "Junk" is a beautiful tune, lilting and sad. Though it's tempting to read into the lyrics ("bye bye, says the sign in the shop window, why, why says the junk in the yard") as end-of-the-band melancholy, the song pre-dates the break-up. However, the mood is appropriate. It's reprised as a more haunting instrumental later on, which serves to suggest "Junk" (no pun intended) as the album's theme, if there is one.

Elsewhere, the music is entirely jolly and laidback. "The Lovely Linda" seems cloying and dopey, the sort of thing other Beatles would veto; without them, here it stays. Similar goes for "Teddy Boy", a very Paul-ish narrative ejected from Let It Be. "Man We Was Lonely" has such a pleasant bounce you wouldn't know it was hurriedly "given lyrics one day after lunch", and "That Would Be Something" seems cheerfully improvised, with Paul muttering in place of drum fills.

More important thematically, "Every Night" describes Linda McCartney's importance to Paul, and works as a gentle domestic counterpart to the album's one raucous moment (and probable highlight), "Maybe I'm Amazed". Less momentous, the various instrumentals barely register after they're finished, pleasant though they are.

Without the instrumentation of George, the biting wit of John or the production of anybody, the songs on McCartney can seem maddeningly slight. That's presumably the point: here is an album that won't try to conquer worlds or change music the way Abbey Road or Sgt. Pepper's did. It's an unfortunate irony that it's still expected to do so, with Paul's sense of timing (and choice of press release) partly to blame. It seems even worse in hindsight, with All Things Must Pass and John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band making more direct efforts to tackle the end-of-the-Beatles hype, leaving McCartney in an almost irrelevant place. However, that's all hype and history: this is just Paul making music, and on those terms it's a sweet, honest effort.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Jun 25, 2014 3:00 PM BST

The King of Limbs
The King of Limbs
Price: £8.13

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A record to frustrate expectations, and just generally frustrate, 16 Oct. 2011
This review is from: The King of Limbs (Audio CD)
With their 2007 album In Rainbows, Radiohead showed they can still make beautiful, largely unpretentious rock music. It was melodic, romantic and a lot of fun. Never a band to rest on their laurels, they return with The King Of Limbs, wherein unpretentious rock music takes a holiday.

This shouldn't come as a surprise. The band has often responded to success by veering off in a different direction, most notably with the guitar-eschewing Kid A. The King Of Limbs sets out its stall on this immediately: Bloom features piano loops, echoes of electric keyboard, a ponderous bass-line, off-kilter drumming and no vocals for the first minute. It all comes together in inimitable Radiohead fashion, and it's impressive and strangely beautiful, but the message is clear: no more simple melodies. This is music to be returned to, considered, then reconsidered. (Well, most of it. The album's reputation as odd and difficult is almost entirely defined by its first half.)

Some of these songs focus more on presentation than melody. Certainly Little By Little, which is all about the percussion, and Feral, a twitchy electronic piece that recalls weird synthy collages like Paperbag Writer. This is prickly, not instantly loveable music, and it's difficult to imagine the band behind the pretty In Rainbows producing it. That is the point, of course: eight albums in, Radiohead must fight to remain relevant and interesting, and this can only be achieved with as much change as possible. Their next album will probably sound nothing like this.

Ardent fans will recognise Good Morning Mr Magpie, a jaunty oldie dating back to the early 2000s, and the previously acoustic ballad Lotus Flower. Both are totally re-imagined: Magpie has a latter-day Radiohead sneer and cynicism, its guitar-picking infectiously playful against choruses gloomy and ghostly, and drums clattering like machines. Lotus Flower is dance music Radiohead-style, and is clearly a product of the band enjoying themselves. Just listen to Thom's sassy delivery of 'So now I've set you free' - pure confidence drips from it. Expectations are torpedoed throughout this short album, and in particular I doubt anyone expected Radiohead to produce something like Lotus Flower. Although oddly arranged, with samples and strange noises galore, these songs are great fun.

After the tricky first half, the final three tracks seem much more conventional. Piano ballad Codex was the only thing about Limbs that I initially enjoyed. A dreamy, beautiful piece like so many of the band's other piano gems, Codex's melody is acutely affecting, but it's not quite that simple: the piano sounds as if it's melting and bubbling, and brass is gently applied along with backwards birdsong for one of the album's emotional highs. Give Up The Ghost is arguably even better, its light falsetto vocals optimistic and gently pretty, and its crescendo enormously relaxed. All this is quite a turnaround from where Limbs begins. For eight songs, it's certainly got range.

Ghost might have made a more impressive closer than Separator, which must rank among Radiohead's most unassuming songs. It seems an odd choice for the (generally prestigious) spot at the end. But The King Of Limbs is out to frustrate expectations, and the apparent carefree attitude adopted here is not what you'd expect: gone is the emotional catharsis of Videotape or Motion Picture Soundtrack, replaced by something slight and oddly charming, like one of the lesser cuts from The Bends. Along with Codex, it's one of the least unusual songs here. This helps to remove the stigma of importance surrounding Radiohead's work, which is arguably part of the reason for Limbs: as if to say, this is just where we're at, it's no big deal. The King Of Limbs was meant to seem spontaneous; to some, unfortunately, it seems contemptably slipshod.

It can be hard work adjusting to the band's latest glacial shift. Personally, I felt Limbs tried a little too hard at wrong-footing its listeners, something that might cause others hooked by In Rainbows to give up entirely. Feral in particular seems so obscure it borders on parody; fans of Bodysnatchers may find themselves unpleasantly bewildered. I still think Little By Little, Feral and Separator are less-than-impressive songs rendered interesting by the overall production. In general, after the sublime In Rainbows, it can seem irritating to once again have to concentrate on Radiohead's music in order to enjoy it. Fortunately, this is Radiohead, and even their more prickly tracks are fascinating enough to draw you back.

Limbs marks another important stage of Radiohead's career. It rewards your patience eventually and is, apparently, quite carefree music by the band's standards, recorded in about five weeks. Still, the initial frustration did have me hoping their next effort wouldn't take so much getting used to, or four years to arrive (and frankly, next time I'm hoping for more than eight songs, which isn't very much however you cut it). With the continued buzz, numerous new songs and a tour in the works, I might be in luck. But then, I really should learn that one cannot predict Radiohead with any accuracy.

I Might Be Wrong (Live Recordings)
I Might Be Wrong (Live Recordings)
Price: £16.49

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Required listening for newcomers, 4 Mar. 2011
Despite the amount of time they spend in the studio - which is considerable, as anyone who waited for In Rainbows will tell you - it's worth remembering that Radiohead are an absolutely amazing live band. Songs can transform entirely when played in the light of day, or start out one way live and go through the wringer in the studio. For a Radiohead fan this can mean two great versions of a lot of great songs. But it also means, for some reason, there are no live albums.

You could argue that the lack of a full live album - and the existence of this brisk live EP, numbering eight tracks taken from the band's "difficult" albums, Kid A and Amnesiac - is due to the encyclopaedic bootlegging that goes on within the fanbase. Radiohead don't especially need to put out live material, as anyone can get hold of it just by using the internet. So I Might Be Wrong isn't here to encapsulate the live Radiohead experience. It doesn't feature Just, Paranoid Android or any of the band's famed earlier guitar stuff. This suggests, to me, a further attempt to make you take those two specific albums seriously, not just as studio ordeals but as rock music. Everything beforehand sounded ready-made for stadiums anyway.

This marks the first time I heard The National Anthem live, and what a difference it makes. Played ever so slightly faster, the song becomes a ferocious live beast, swirling confidently around Colin Greenwood's spectacular bass-line. (Given that Thom played it on Kid A, perhaps the purpose of I Might Be Wrong is to get Colin's work some recognition, poor bloke.) Similar alchemy occurs with I Might Be Wrong, the previously gentle-yet-alarmist guitar picking made faster, angrier, until it's another bona fide rocker.

I can't pretend I was thrilled to come across Morning Bell a third time - versions are already found on both the band's 2000-era albums, and hearing it live doesn't make a big difference to the Kid A cut. Still, to the extent that I like it, I like it here too.

Better, and a great case for this release, is Like Spinning Plates. Possibly the strangest thing on Amnesiac, all backwards-noises and imitated reverse-speak, the song here becomes a piano ballad of fluid beauty, barely recognisable until some heroic bloke in the audience suddenly realises and cheers the title. (It's at 0:45.) It's an indispensible example of Radiohead's lateral thinking, and the apparently endless creative process that goes into these songs.

Idioteque is, well, still great and all live, but the appeal would seem to mostly be Thom's wacky dance skills. It's still enjoyable hearing a particularly odd moment of Kid A working just fine live, played more or less as it was, even if it's among the least memorable live examples here because of that. Popular (and transcendent) live closer Everything In Its Right Place sounds great as per, but it's placed here before the rather less exciting Dollars & Cents, rather than at the end, which rounds off the Kid A / Amnesiac live experience with more whimper than bang.

There is an addendum: True Love Waits, or the one that got away. Time has moved on since this unrecorded song would have fit on any of their albums, so I Might Be Wrong acts as a time capsule, giving fans a chance to hear a sweet acoustic gem, seemingly written during a different life. Together with the transformation of Like Spinning Plates, the impressive rock evolution of National Anthem and I Might Be Wrong, and the (imitated, rather than captured) experience of Idioteque and Everything In Its Right Place played to crowds, this EP is worth it. It's not the band's greatest or most satisfying release, but few are likely to argue it is. For newcomers to the band, though, required listening.

NB: I'd rate this at three-and-a-half stars, if Amazon did half stars.

Hail To The Thief
Hail To The Thief

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The time capsule, 4 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Hail To The Thief (Audio CD)
Radiohead are not a band to simply churn out a new album. Their work has become increasingly complex and mannered since the relatively carefree days of The Bends, and a new album now equates to quite massive hype. They met it with Kid A, narrowly skimmed it with Amnesiac, but Hail To The Thief met with a reception that was, at best, cautious. Why?

It finds Radiohead at a crossroads. There are two basic extremes in this band's back catalogue: the guitar-led (The Bends, OK Computer) and the more experimental (Kid A, Amnesiac). Both had at this point been explored, some would say definitively, leaving the band with a real issue of where to go next. Hail To The Thief is not the answer - they would manage that with their next record, In Rainbows - but it is a powerful stock-taking before their next big leap.

The first track is the mission statement: 2+2=5 roars through its three-and-a-half minutes, effortlessly switching tracks twice from ghostly vocals over a quick guitar lilt, to a concerned and howling bridge, to a shrieking rock-out finale - which in itself manages to evolve from one thing to another. For a song this complex and exciting to be merely Track 1 is a sign of a great band.

Sit Down. Stand Up. takes the same basic rhythm and goes in a completely separate direction: warbling pianos and twinkling glockenspiels, building to the Radiohead equivalent of a rave. Other slightly electronic elements surface in Backdrifts, an irresistible sample-led number you could dance to; The Gloaming, one of their weirdest tracks, full of eerie noises; and Myxomatosis, where the fuzzy bass and vocals sound like they were fed through a computer before reaching the speakers. These songs are all unusual, moody and brilliant.

Of course, that's just one side of the band. Guitars take a more central role in Go To Sleep (frantic), I Will (haunting) and Scatterbrain (wistful). The whole band roars to life best on There There, the album's awesome centrepiece, and performs a more subdued rock-out on Where I End And You Begin. They also experiment briefly with a kind of lounge-rock on A Punch Up At The Wedding, a song most fans dislike but I rather love. The restrained drum machine and bass backing give it an unusual quality not found elsewhere among Radiohead's work; it has an almost funky gait that works particularly well emerging from the slow fairytale of I Will.

Pianos are the focus of Sail To The Moon and We Suck Young Blood. The former is probably my least favourite Hail song, but it's by no means actually bad: Yorke's ballads are always going to be more unusual and exciting than those of most bands, and Moon builds to a downright gorgeous-yet-unsettling close. We Suck Young Blood is particularly strange by comparison, going from a languid clap-along piano crawl to sudden bursts of fast jazz. The lyrics, concerning the usual vampiric villains Thom Yorke sees everywhere he looks, have an almost comical quality enhanced by the tempo change.

The finale is still the oddest moment, as Thom's verses come out almost as spoken-word. A Wolf At The Door is an original, and ends the album - as it should - with the promise of fresh ideas. The album is a lot to digest, rushing through Radiohead's various styles and abilities with almost frantic indecision, and the strong, oddly upbeat finale keeps it from spilling into mess.

Hail To The Thief can seem incoherent, but that is partly what it's going for: a crossroads, a jumble of things learned and questions unanswered. The artwork makes this clear, piling random words on each other as if this junkheap of ideas is the place where the songs are born. The lyrics are all about indecision, mixed of course with political and world-weary cynicism. Familiar territory for Radiohead and, with the songs all sharing that theme of indecisiveness, a whole is naturally born out of the parts. Whether or not this is the serendipitous result of throwing fourteen songs together, I can't say for sure, but Hail deserves to be thought of as eclectic rather than simply discordant. In hindsight it marked a refreshing break for the band; it holds up well as a time capsule of their abilities, and as a varied rock record in its own right.

Com Lag: 2+2=5
Com Lag: 2+2=5
Price: £15.74

3.0 out of 5 stars Two diamonds, but also a good deal of rough, 4 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Com Lag: 2+2=5 (Audio CD)
With their then-latest album numbering a career-topping fourteen tracks, you'd be forgiven for thinking there weren't any B-sides left to put out on the now customary Radiohead companion piece. Sure enough, Com Lag sniffs around the creative wasteland left by the band's idea-gobbling sixth album, and finds... not a lot.

This isn't surprising, as the whole point of Hail To The Thief was to encompass everything the band does, meaning there'd be little good reason not to pile something onto the finished record. We open with a reminder of their efforts: a live rendition of 2+2=5. It's a cracker, obviously. This version offers a slightly louder bass that gives the song a more awesome aspect. Then we get a remix - the first of two. You can already feel this EP practically gasping for ideas.

To be fair, Remyxomatosis (how could they resist?) is fun. A busy but danceable beat takes the place of the song's defining aspects (namely, Phil and Colin), and at least it has the decency not to try to repeat the song. Thom's more-breathless-than-usual vocal does grow tiresome, though.

Next is a semantically different version of I Will. It's still good, because it's a brilliant song, but the changes really are minor. There are drums now (they add zilch), and of the two vocal parts that make up the harmony, Thom emphasises the lower, not the higher. This version somehow has more than a whiff of Amnesiac, and might have been at home there, with its creative cousin, Like Spinning Plates. But I wouldn't be surprised if some people heard it and thought, "I give up - isn't that just the same song?"

Paperbag Writer sounds, thanks to its antlike drum machine and insignificant instruments, like a remix of something else. There are good parts to it, but it feels wholly unfinished. The same goes for I Am Citizen Insane, which has been praised for making something out of nothing - meaning even its fans acknowledge that there is virtually nothing to it. A skeletal (nice enough) tune bobs along with random Thom shouts in the background, and although inoffensive, it is basically the Radiohead equivalent of lift music. If Radiohead were ever taken to making DVDs, this would be happy enough playing over the menu screen.

Better is I Am Wicked Child. Distinctly imperfect it might be, but that feels deliberate. The song has a loose, bluesey quality that is almost a parody. There's a moment late on when someone hammers badly at a keyboard, and it's hilarious, intentional or not. The second remix is Scatterbrain, and to be honest the bits of it I like are from the original song.

Just at the point where you're wondering why they released this, there's Gagging Order. A totally disarming acoustic number, sans any of the technical trickery the band have picked up since The Bends, it's gorgeous. It seems lost here, and wouldn't have made sense even on the magpie's collection of Hail To The Thief, but if the one solid achievement of Com Lag was to introduce fans to a just-like-the-old-days brilliant B-side, then thanks, guys.

But that's not all. Afterwards is a dazzling piano version of Fog, transmuted in the manner of Like Spinning Plates, and it goes together with Gagging Order to form an utterly sublime two-hander. It ends with a goodbye from Thom to his audience. Adorable. They don't let it lie, however, and conclude with Where Bluebirds Fly, a panic-inducing almost-instrumental often used to open on the Hail To The Thief tour. Brr.

The odds are against Com Lag, which must make do with scraps. There are simply barely any B-sides to put out there. The really good stuff numbers two songs, and they are absolutely enough to warrant buying this. (If you're still not tempted, there's a second live version of 2+2=5, this time on video. You may ponder the creativity of releasing two separate live versions of something on the same CD yourselves.) However, in the interests of eclecticism it might have been worth padding it out with a few more unreleased rarities. The piano version of Fog is great, but how many people have heard the original?

Tickling the English
Tickling the English
by Dara O'briain
Edition: Hardcover

9 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Telling Off The English, 16 Jun. 2010
This review is from: Tickling the English (Hardcover)
I'm a fan of Dara O Briain. He's my favourite stand-up comic, I've seen him live twice, and the sight of him in any kind of TV show will dramatically increase the likelihood of me watching it. It's probably a safe bet that I'll enjoy his first book, Tickling The English. But then, it's a pretty safe bet that a book by a successful comedian is going to be funny, and Tickling The English isn't, so all bets, it seems, are off.

The selling point is Dara's perspective on England, and the English people. What are they like? (More importantly, generalisations aside, what are they REALLY like?) He doesn't reach many solid conclusions. We are a pessimistic bunch, it seems, always highlighting the worst in any situation, when we're not boasting about our national importance in various fields. Wait - so we're pessimists, but we're a little too full of ourselves as well? Get used to this. Dara loves meeting interesting characters at his shows, and he champions these people, which is wonderful - but there's a very real feeling that, in spite of this, as a man from Ireland, he resents the English.

After a while, the book seems to be less about English identity and more about Irish identity. Dara may live in London and embrace Britishness - which is a distinct thing from Englishness, although his argument on this is muddy, especially when he says people from London are their own thing as well - but he's clearly not averse to English/Irish comparisons where, almost universally, the Irish come up trumps. There's a strange, condescending attitude to these passages, not helped at all by Dara's use of a general "You" to refer to any and all English readers. He argues against generalisation, that individuality is more important than national identity, yet he cheers about the greatness of "being Irish" and lumps every English (or possibly British) person into one, amorphous reader. It felt like having a protracted argument that I didn't start, with the author jabbing his finger into my chest to further emphasise his points. You did this. You should stop doing that. Worst is his comparison of St. George's Day to St. Patrick's. You shouldn't make too much of your phoney national holiday, he remarks. But Dara - I, personally, haven't. It undermines his whole argument, this awkward, subtexty sense of dislike.

The odd thing is, Dara's quest to uncover true Englishness is not the focus of the book. It's a diary of his Talks Funny tour, the DVD of which is available (and very funny). And it's a fun diary. The shows he describes feature a lot of cheerful characters and satisfying anecdotes. (I was lucky enough to be at one of these shows, and if you can go live, do.) It's a entertaining step-by-step tour of the country, seen from a comedian's perspective, and it's a nice - if slightly miserable - insight into a comic's life. All this stuff is great, but, well, does it serve the point he's trying to make? Or did he just need an angle to sell what is, for the majority, just Dara's Tour Diary, 2008?

When he's not reciting tour dates he's unloading information, essay-style, and it's a strangely deadpan process. It's interesting, I guess, although the historical facts and statistics do start to weigh down the entertainment value. (Another contradiction: he mocks the unreliability of researchers and statistics, yet refers to them constantly.) It begins to feel more like a dissertation than a "funny man's notes", and I found myself wondering (perhaps unreasonably) if a book by a comedian shouldn't make me laugh occasionally.

It's a fairly easy read, when I'm not feeling slightly put out by Dara's sweeping use of "You" to mean an entire country of, he argues, diverse individuals. The conclusion he lands on is not especially fresh, and I didn't find it ticklesome: life isn't as bad as the media makes it out to be, but we enjoy complaining, so we're happier with things to bemoan. That's a fairly obvious point, and he's already made it quite soon into the book, but what the hey, he's probably right. So why didn't I laugh when he said it? Perhaps it's the general feeling that my culture - and Dara insists that it is mine - isn't being examined, so much as told off.

I just think Dara is better at tickling the English - and audiences in general - when he's able to do so verbally. He's a tremendously warm and friendly entertainer, and none of this condescension or subtext comes across on stage. So by all means, book tickets, buy the DVDs, and stay tuned when he crops up on QI. Just please, Dara: the next time you write a book, make a point, rather than starting an argument.

The Lost World (Penguin Red Classics)
The Lost World (Penguin Red Classics)
by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Edition: Mass Market Paperback
Price: £6.37

5.0 out of 5 stars Is there a word for a phobia of pterodactyls?, 22 May 2010
It's been almost a century since Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World was published, but you wouldn't know it. It bears no sign of age or decrepitude; the text is as alive and surprising now as it ever was. This is a breathless, brilliant adventure, that is equal parts thrilling, imaginative and fun. I don't see a lot of five-star reviews for it, which is a shame; I can't think of a criteria it doesn't meet.

The hero is a journalist, Edward Malone, whose would-be girlfriend won't give him the time of day unless he becomes a more adventurous person. Poor Edward winds up interviewing the certifiable Professor Challenger: a scientist who claims to have discovered dinosaurs in a remote part of South America, and who flies into a violent rage at the slightest provocation. This, in itself, ought to be enough to win the fickle Gladys's heart. Nonetheless, Edward takes the plunge and goes on an expedition to prove or disprove the wild ravings of Challenger, taking with him a disapproving scientist, Summerlee, and a heroic hunter, Lord John Roxton. They discover more than just dinosaurs on their trip, which ought to go some way to showing off the sheer imaginative range of the story.

The dinosaur sequences are, of course, marvellous. There's a particularly thrilling moment where our heroes must sneak past a group of nightmarish pterodactyls, and certain carnivorous dinosaurs are so monstrous, they nearly defy description. But that's not to suggest Conan Doyle's Lost World is merely a pit of horrifying monsters; it is also a vibrant, beautiful landscape, filled with life of all kinds. Imagination runs absolutely rampant there, and it was a joy to experience.

The Lost World is bereft of padding. It hurtles along. It's cinematic stuff, and it does not let up. The sheer sense of fun remained with me after it finished, along with the feel of adventure. Not since H. Rider Haggard's She has a novel left me in such high spirits.

It's spectacular. But if you don't believe the ravings of a madman, well, procure a boat and set off for South America yourself. You won't regret it.

NB: Just a word on this particular edition. It's very pretty indeed. Just look at it!

Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed (Wii)
Destroy All Humans! Big Willy Unleashed (Wii)
Offered by musicMagpie
Price: £8.02

2.0 out of 5 stars Destroy All Humans and the Wii. Not a happy combination..., 30 Nov. 2009
The first time I played this, the third Destroy All Humans game, I gave up after twenty minutes. Although it looks and sounds a lot like the previous two, the controls have changed to accommodate the Wii, and they have changed for the worse. Using the Wii-mote as a camera, the player must make a constant effort to point directly forwards. Veer off to the side and the cursor gets stuck in the side of the screen. This is highly annoying, and tedious. But the camera controls are different when flying the saucer or driving Crypto's new giant robot, Big Willy: instead of pointing the Wii-mote, you tilt it left and right. So, just as you're getting used to one annoying camera method, you're presented with another, for some reason.

Also different is the way by which Crypto snatches human bodies, which doubles for hypnotising people and transmogrifying objects into boxes of ammo: whereas on the PS2 you would have simply pressed a button repeatedly, here you must point the remote at and shoot a bunch of flying targets. Why? Who knows. It's a needless irritation, because generally you have to do these things in a hurry. What would you not want to do in those situations? Stop, pointlessly shoot a bunch of flying targets while somebody shoots you, and then wiggle the remote too much and send the camera into a spasm. Honestly, it just wouldn't have been an issue on the PS2.

The one thing that might conceivably benefit from a Wii-mote is Crypto's PK ability (moving objects with his mind), but that doesn't work either. The remote seems to be too sensitive, often sending objects crashing to the floor (and killing any humans you happen to be carrying); similarly, whereas in the PS2 games you could throw something with PK by pressing Triangle, here you have to let go of B while flicking the remote. It's a tricky, irritating manoeuvre, and the game is very selective about when you've done it correctly. (Many times it just drops the object in front of you. Not so good if it's shooting at you.)

Ugh. It's a stupid, stupid design system, desperately trying to include the Wii's unique remote control in a game that doesn't need it. Still, months later I tried again, and managed to ignore it. That's not to say these awful controls aren't a recurring nuisance - every time I think I've mastered them, something tends to go horribly wrong to remind me - but the rest of the game is enjoyable enough in fits and starts that you can halfway forgive them.

I'm not talking about the story, of course, which is utterly awful. The previous Destroy All Humans games might have been silly, crude parodies, but some thought had gone into the plots, with all sorts of conspiracies and twists. In Big Willy Unleashed (ugh), your friend/boss Pox (a hovering hologram) has started a fast food chain. Colonel Kluckin' is his competition. And that's it. The script spends most of its time cluster-bombing the player with endless puerile potty jokes, and any attempt to rise above it backfires: Crypto gets so sick of Big Willy double entendres that he complains about it constantly, which ceases to be funny and just becomes boring and annoying in itself.

Anyway, the plot goes nowhere interesting, and the locations you visit are dull and extremely derivative. (Harbor City is a lot like Bay City; Fairfield is basically Rockwell; Fantasy Atoll is, despite the zany people who live on it, dull and unvaried; and Vietmahl is tiny and full of things constantly shooting at you, which is just irritating.) There is a subplot featuring a character from the second game, but it's so laughably underdone that I wonder if it was worth including at all.

So what's enjoyable about it? Basically, the destroying-all-humans bits. The old weapons are still fun (although the Ion Detonator continues to make everything else a bit useless), and new ones like the Zombie Gun are amusing enough. Big Willy is less fun to drive around than you might think; for some reason incapable of using his fists, he must resort to gigantic farts and acidic vomits to attack people. It's about as hilarious as it sounds. The saucer is back, of course, and still crawls along far too slowly. Why, in three games, has no one thought to upgrade it? The ability to cloak has changed, at least, from going invisible to resembling a blimp. The problem being, your enemies can SEE a blimp, and thus shoot at it, rendering the cloak sort of pointless.

Upgrades happen automatically (meaning there isn't much of a sense of achievement) when you've killed, destroyed, drained, zombified or snatched enough people. So you must occasionally take time out just to go round killing people. The upside here is, the warning level of your enemies will drop at random. (The downside: it'll shoot up again just as randomly.)

It seems I can't discuss any aspect of Big Willy Unleashed without sliding into complaint. Sometimes it's funny, but sometimes it's just awkwardly juvenile. Sometimes it's fun to play, but often it sabotages itself with lame, confusing controls. Most of it's easy, and the whole experience is quite short, but that's just a nice way of saying it's insubstantial. And there's no nice flip-side to the half-baked story, which leaves the player with little or no reason to keep at it after the final mission.

Basically, it's not a total loss, but it was a serious mistake to move this franchise to the Wii. You'd be much better off with the far more polished Destroy All Humans 2, where there was more to do, and more fun ways to do it. Also, while it would be naïve to pretend the last two games were at all high-brow, the humour just wasn't as witlessly gutter-minded as this. I chuckled occasionally, but that's hardly a compliment for a comedy. For die-hards only.

NB: I'd really rate it two and a half, but Amazon don't do halves.

X-Men The Official Game (PS2)
X-Men The Official Game (PS2)
Offered by multimedia-online
Price: £14.72

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Or, "Nightcrawler And Friends", 8 July 2009
Taking place between the second and third X-Men movies, and dealing with why Nightcrawler isn't in the latter, The Official Game might seem a rather all-purpose title for something so specific. And it is. This game is certainly not going to provide you with an overview of the X-Men and their world. (If that's what you want, I recommend X-Men Legends.) Instead, it's an occasionally enjoyable tie-in with splashes of promise and great big dollops of disappointment.

The action is split between three characters, and their stories mesh slightly. First, and best, is Nightcrawler. The mechanics of Nightcrawler are dazzling. His teleporting ability is easy to get the hang of and fun to use. In fact, more thought has gone into how Nightcrawler moves and fights than any other aspect of the game. A common complaint is that the character never went on to have his own game. There's clearly a market for it, and frankly, the other two characters just feel like unnecessary filler.

Filler, really, sums up anything to do with Wolverine. His levels involve running headlong into heavily armed bad guys and then healing when he gets the time. There is no strategy. The process of getting beaten up, and then having to recouperate, is repetitive and boring. Still, this is Wolverine, and it's always reasonably fun to send him barrelling into a frenzy of carnage. It's just something most gamers have done a lot, with Wolverine showing up in every single X-Men release, and other games. His levels are bland.

Iceman brings up the rear. Zooming around on an ice slide (which he never does in the films) may sound like a neat idea, but it's just awkward. He has to move constantly, falling off causes a lot of damage, and it's difficult to steer. Bottom line, it's no fun. They could have picked anybody from the films, and I have no idea how they settled on the most boring character.

What really works, obviously, is anything to do with Nightcrawler. But even that's not perfect, as some villains can block your attacks, and teleporting is dependant on where you're looking (using the R3 button), which sounds like they really thought it through, but mostly means you have to spend an annoying amount of time wiggling Nightcrawler's point of view, or you'll just zip back and forth.

Another problem, applying to all three characters, is the difficulty level. It changes at random. Taking on three or four Sentinels is easy, but soldiers are not. Wolverine can handle anything on one level, then be brutally slain in the next. It's irritatingly inconsistent, and often very frustrating.

Also, there's the cut scenes. Rather than animation, we have weird, floating 2D pictures. The effect is jarringly like watching a very cheap cartoon, and although it's possibly been done as a stylistic choice, it just looks like they ran out of money.

The voice acting is hit and miss. While almost everybody from the films has returned to reprise their role - Storm and Colossus are noticeably different - they're not all trying very hard. Hugh Jackman sounds horribly out of character as an overly pally and helpful Wolverine. Hearing him talk Iceman through a training routine is like hearing Hugh Jackman order his breakfast.

I'd recommend The Official Game simply so you can enjoy the Nightcrawler levels. They're that good. Unfortunately there aren't that many of them - and aren't many levels for anybody, come to think of it, although the balance is tipped unfairly towards Wolverine - and there's not a lot of replay value. You can level the three characters up, but to keep doing that you'll need to face higher difficulties, which reaches a point where it isn't fun any more. (Also, once you've done medium difficulty there's often no need to do the higher one, which is odd.)

Still, good bits aside, this is seriously patchy stuff. The X-Men have been treated a lot better on the PS2, and if you do buy this, you should do so on the cheap. Fun at first, over too quickly, and pretty gruelling by the end.

NB: In truth it's worth two and a half stars, but they don't do half stars on Amazon, so you'll just have to imagine it.

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