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Spyro the Dragon (1998) Playstation
Spyro the Dragon (1998) Playstation

5.0 out of 5 stars An Iconic Platformer, 1 Jun. 2016
"Dragons? Bah, humbug! Merely children's fantasies. If you expect grownups like us to immerse ourselves in a video game consisting of colourful fantasy realms where fire-breathing lizards have set up accommodation, then quite frankly you're as delusional as a dwarf trying to make it in the NBA. I won't play it, end of story!" Well if that's the kind of attitude you intend to show to Spyro The Dragon on the PSone, then it's one you'll deeply regret for the rest of your days. Spyro is excellent no matter how old you are when you play it.

OK, time for a plot. Spyro is a young, cocky but well-meaning dragon who lives in a dragon kingdom made up of numerous bright, colourful and magical worlds that make Willy Wonka's chocolate factory seem more like a troll's sewer dungeon. Spyro lives with older fully grown dragons who watch over the worlds and guard the many treasures that lay among the lands. But in one gloomy and not-so-pleasant world lives the game's antagonist, Gnasty Gnorc, a big lizard-like sod who makes Jackie Stallone look like Heidi Klum. Gnasty uses some newly discovered spells to turn dragons into crystal and treasure into enemies. Soon Spyro finds himself to be the last man standing (or should I say "last DRAGON standing?!") and thus starts an amazing gnorc-charging, backside flaming, treasure-hoovering adventure.

The reason why Spyro The Dragon is as iconic as it is, is because it's a 3D platformer...and a very good one at that. Nearly two years prior to Spyro's 1998 PSone release, Super Mario 64 was released on the Nintendo 64 and set the bar very high for 3D platformers. It was big; it was jam-packed with various activities; and in general it was eventful. It was also thought by many that the PSone would not be able to produce a 3D platformer as good as SM64, due to the PSone's inferior graphical powers compared to the N64. Crash Bandicoot was a great platform series but did have a restrictive SNES/Mega Drive feel to it. Croc promised a lot but failed to live up to the hype that the video games critics hoped that it would; while other platform games such as Bubsy 3D were just considered to be awful. Spyro was the first PSone 3D platformer that could be placed right next to SM64 and fair comparisons could be made between the two. In fact I dare say that the purple dragon's adventure even has a couple of advantages over the iconic one offered by the Momma-Mia-Here-I-Go-Again plumber. The pace of the game is ideally faster, and there's far more character interaction as well.

Spyro The Dragon offers a large number of brightly coloured levels stretched across six worlds. Some of them have narrow passages and hallways that require careful jumping and precise attacking in order to progress; levels such as the Ice Caves will see Spyro taking a long holiday to bottomless pit if he doesn't watch his footing or enemy attacks. But it's the wide open areas that'll really grab your attention. In those levels you can see quite far into the distance. You get the impression that you can see everything; do anything and go anywhere; and a lot of times you can. A good example is Cliff Town. When you start the level you'll see a large number of buildings in front of you, and one structure that reaches way up high. It's amazing, and you get this feeling that you can climb up to the top of these buildings and explore what they've got to offer. Guess what? You can! Then when you get to the top of the structure you turn around and you see a large piece of dry land across the river; land that appears to have remained untouched by the untidy footprints of any living being. Curiosity gets the better of you, killing a few cats in the process. "Can I actually fly over there and visit the place? You know, see what it's got to offer?"...Guess what? You can!

The size of the levels and the places you could actually visit were amazing for its day. Even now, to a certain extent, it's still fairly impressive. The music scores are pretty good as well, each one fitting its level nicely and setting the atmosphere for the tasks that lay ahead of you. My personal favourite is Dark Hollow. I just like its level layout in the general. The beautiful night time scenery (including a big moon in the sky which I keep looking up at using the triangle button), combined with the mellow-yet-lively music are constant reminders to me of why gaming in the 1990's was so cool. Another thing I like about this level is that part way through you'll come across two small piles of wood. Torch them and you'll start up a couple of small camp fires which actually light up the area a little bit. It's a really nice touch.

But wide free-roaming levels with bright scenery would count for nothing if the gameplay wasn't very good now, wouldn't it? Fortunately Spyro's gameplay is excellent. Movements are fluid and the controls are easy to grasp and master. You get to make gnorc marshmallows (not really, just creative speech) with a flame attack; charging with your horns (square) will see a few enemies sent flying towards planet Mars; and pressing the X button twice will allow you to glide for short amounts of time. These moves will come in pretty handy when reaching treasure in certain areas, or tackling the many enemies you face; enemies like matador gnorcs who are just begging for a couple of horns up the backside; soldiers who hobbies include mooning and hiding in tents; and warthogs who have clearly never heard of "Hakuna Matata."

As well as defeating enemies there are many tasks for you to do and enjoy as well. Rescue dragons from their statue status and they might give you some advice on how to play the game. Rescuing dragons is fairly rewarding, although the line "Thank you for releasing me." will start to feel like a broken record player after a while: repetitive. Also there is lots and lots of treasure to collect, some it just laying around on the ground and some of it lying on certain platforms that require a little bit of manoeuvring around the level in order to reach it. Finally there are dragon eggs which need to be retrieved from cloaked thieves. The trouble is they're quite fast so you'll need to get your running paws on...well he is a dragon. With all this stuff taking place in a relatively short game (more on that in a moment) it'll be very difficult for any player to get bored with -and dislike- this platform offering, even with its child like looks. Spyro may look like something aimed at the under-12's market, but underneath its child like exterior beats the heart of a mature game that people of all ages can enjoy.

One criticism that can be aimed at Spyro The Dragon concerns its challenge; or to be more precise, the lack of it. The enemies are a breeze to take down, and apart from the occasional tricky super-charge jump you'll be able to reach most treasure-filled areas without puffing your cheeks even once. You have to wait until you reach the third dragon world before any form of challenge comes your way. I've managed to complete this game (120%) numerous times in under four hours worth of gameplay time. In fact it usually takes me just half an hour to completely clean out the first world. That's how easy it is. If you even think about looking at a video walkthrough of this game for help, then you're more out of place in the world of video games than The 3DO Company were...look them up.

Overall, with its easy but sack-filled gameplay, colourful PSone graphics, impressively large and open levels, and confident and likeable star, Spyro The Dragon is a PSone classic. Don't let its innocent looks put you off. This is a game that everybody can enjoy: kids, teenagers, adults, boys, girls, husbands, wives...clock makers, bread bakers, phone hackers, mole whackers, people who live in boxes, people who keep pet foxes, jazz club swingers, dishers out of middle fingers, people who hold the keys, people swimming with STDs...I said EVERYBODY can enjoy this game!! It is a must-have, full stop!

Final Score: 9/10


Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (PSone)
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 4 (PSone)
Offered by Ringtec
Price: £17.50

4.0 out of 5 stars All A-Board For Tony’s Fourth Outing, 30 May 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Alas, all good things, as they say, must come to an end. That phrase was called into action for the Tony Hawk’s video game series in 2002. Well OK, it was just the last game to appear on the PSone rather than being the last ever, but still it felt like the end of an era. So strap on your knee pads, elbow pads and helmet and grab your board, because Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 is the most radical…the most challenging…the most Let’s-Restart-This-Goal-Because-I-Just-Made-Like-Steve-Austin-And-Got-Dropped-On-My-Neck game in the whole Tony Hawk’s PSone series.

The Career Mode stands out like the gothic brother in a church-going family. In previous Tony Hawk’s games, you selected a level and then had a mere two minutes to complete as many goals as possible, restarting the level for anything you weren’t able to get in the previous turn. But in THPS4, things are different. When you select a level, there’s no initial time limit. You’re free to skate around the area, take in the sights and sounds, and familiarize yourself with the level layouts. This is a nice setup as it reduces frantic thoughts of “Where is THAT place to?!!” and allows you to focus more on how to actually execute your goals when you undertake them. Plus, it makes it different from the previous games and reduces feelings of “Same old, same old,” another positive point.

But that doesn’t mean this whole game is a stroll in the park. THPS4 certainly was the most challenging game in the series when it hit the shelves in 2002. In the levels you can activate a goal by skating up to a floating icon, pressing the Circle button, and then following the on-screen instructions (now the time limit comes into play). With a wider selection of goals than in previous Tony Hawk’s games, chances of board-em (get it!) are greatly reduced. The traditional hi-scores and collecting S-K-A-T-E letters make a return, but they are joined by some newer and more fiendishly tricky ones too, especially later in the game, and many of them will take quite a few restarts before you finally complete them.

One particular type of goal is C-O-M-B-O. Similar to S-K-A-T-E you have to collect all the letters in the word “combo” to complete the goal. But unlike S-K-A-T-E where you could pace yourself and line up your board just right to collect a certain letter, C-O-M-B-O requires you to maintain a series of manuals, grinds and reverts until all five letters have been collected. Land before you get that last letter and it’s “goal failed.” Neversoft certainly paid attention to the abilities of the numerous gamers out there who conquered THPS3 without breaking too much of a sweat, and turned up the voltage for this outing. It was a challenge that was most welcome. As for those who end up finding the goals a bit of a nuisance, they’ll be pleased to learn that you can restart a previously failed goal by selecting the appropriate option in the pause menu.

The best thing I would say about THPS4 is its vast waves of features and tricks. There are grab tricks like the Melon and the Airwalk, grind tricks like the 50-50 and the Nose Blunt Slide, and flip tricks like the Kick Flip. There’s simply no excuse for you to use the same trick over and over again (you’ll lose points that way). You also have over a dozen skaters to choose from, including Bucky Lasek, Chad Muska, and of course Tony Hawk himself, so you’re bound to find someone on the list who appeals to you in terms of tricks and fashion sense, even if you’re not THAT into skateboarding; and while the types of goals in this PSone version are not quite as varied as in its PS2 counterpart, there’s enough here to keep you occupied for weeks on end. Don’t get me wrong, Tony Hawk's Skateboarding certainly was (and still is) a cool game when it was first released in 1999. But that title feels a little basic and empty compared to this one.

Each of the levels (while not as cool as previous outings like THPS2) have their own charming designs. San Francisco for example has seemingly endless grinding opportunities along its pier side, while Kona is a skater park joy-gasm of quarter pipes and pools to play around with grab tricks. The Skate Park editing mode is available for those who fancy designing their dream skateboarding zone with a wide selection of quarter pipes, rails and ramps to position and play around with. Considering the size and designs of the levels the PSone graphics hold up well in this game, running with minimal stuttering, with draw distance that’s not bad, certainly not noticeable whilst you’re focusing on the goals.

THPS4 certainly is a good game, but it’s not without its flaws. The game isn’t always responsive to the button presses on your control pad. Quite often you’ll try to do something like press R2 to perform a revert, immediately followed by up and down on the D-pad to go into a Manual and continue the combo. But no matter how quickly or carefully you press the buttons, the game won’t always pick up on your commands, and this can lead to broken combos and failed goals. This drawback can be filed under the Woody Woodpecker section of “Annoying”, certainly so when you’re going after the insanely high scores in the later levels. Other negatives include a lacklustre soundtrack that is not on par with either THPS2 or 3 (although “T.N.T” by AC/DC is not too shabby), and soon you’ll be heading to the pause menu to reduce the music volume. Meanwhile the Create-A-Skater mode is nowhere near as expansive as its PS2 counterpart, restricting your creative artistry in the process.

Overall though Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 4 has a lot of good things going for it and is somewhat of a fitting finale to the PSone series. Show a little perseverance with the button commands and you’ve got yourself one tough yet worthwhile skater. Now if you’ll excuse me, I have to put a couple dozen plasters on my shredded knees. That’s the price you pay for skating without knee pads!

Final Score: 8/10


Doa: Dead Or Alive [DVD]
Doa: Dead Or Alive [DVD]
Dvd ~ Jaime Pressly
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.26

3.0 out of 5 stars This One Doesn’t Quite Spin Me Right Round Like A Record, Baby, 28 Mar. 2016
This review is from: Doa: Dead Or Alive [DVD] (DVD)
As much as I enjoy playing the Dead or Alive video games (Dimensions on the Nintendo 3DS is still my favourite outing), I just couldn’t locate the same level of enthusiasm when watching this 2006 movie. Believe me, I searched everywhere for it: the characters; the scenery; the dialogue…even inside Christie’s bra. Nowhere to be seen.

The plot: A fighting tournament is being held on a luxury island with the grand prize being $10 million dollars in cash. Run by Victor Donovan (played by Eric Roberts with a dodgy grey “Rachel” haircut), the best DOA fighters from around the world gather for this tournament, including Bass Armstrong (former WWE and WCW wrestler, Kevin Nash). However, the main characters in this movie are three attractive ladies with differing motives.

Tina Armstrong (Jaime Pressley) is a pro wrestler, and daughter of Bass, who wants to prove that she is tough and can fight for real (it’s not too dissimilar to Johnny Cage’s scenario in the Mortal Kombat movie); Kasumi (Devon Aoki) is the princess of a ninja clan who is investigating the disappearance of her brother who was reported to have been killed at the last DOA get together; and Christie (former Neighbours actress, Holly Valance) is a sexy master thief who just fancies a bit more dosh. The trio end up forming a questionable alliance as they explore the real reasons for their tournament invitations.

As one should expect from an action movie the...uh, action…is fast paced. There are plenty of fights to engage and feast upon, and there’s never a feeling of sluggishness during the 83-minute movie running time. This will no doubt please die-hard DOA fans, although for the sake of being nit-picky they’re bound to question why Helena here is American as opposed to her French video game counterpart. The ladies here are, admittedly, very attractive as well. They’ll get the pulses racing for large portions of the male audience, especially during the beach volleyball scene.

However, the movie on the whole feels like a bit of a rush job. The writers and producers tried to fit in as much fighting time in as they could for all the DOA characters, but even then some of them are still underused. Bass, in particular, should have had a stronger part in the plot given that he is Tina’s father, and there’s not even a mention of him at the finale. No doubt the fault lies in the short running time, and another 10-15 minutes of action would most likely have fixed this problem.

Some of the casting is questionable as well. Valance (or Candy; I can’t be sure these days) is knockout beautiful, especially in her introductory hotel scene, but the English accent is unconvincing and at times annoying. Meanwhile Eric Roberts is just a poor villain all round. He looks like the skinny kid on the playground who thinks he’s tough and can beat up anybody, only to wail like a tortured dolphin whenever he receives a timid slap on the wrist.

On a slightly more positive note, the DVD extras here are reasonable. They include a 20+ minute making-of documentary and some deleted scenes. Overall though, DOA lacks punch (no pun intended this time) to be a movie worth regular viewing. It’s certainly not the worst I’ve ever viewed, but it’s definitely more suited to the DOA fanatics.


Mr. Peabody and Sherman [DVD] [2014]
Mr. Peabody and Sherman [DVD] [2014]
Dvd ~ Ty Burrell
Price: £2.99

3.0 out of 5 stars Gonna Go WABAC In Time, 25 Nov. 2015
When you were a kid, did you ever have those kind of thoughts about...being great? You know, like you were 110% fluid in twelve different languages; or were highly knowledgeable in Astrophysics; or you were the inventor of television? Mr.Peabody kind of embodies those extreme childhood imaginations and...well, he just puts it out there for us to see. He first started doing this in cartoon shorts in a 1960’s series called “Mr.Peabody’s Improbable History,” and in this movie “Mr.Peabody & Sherman” he pretty much does the same thing.

Mr.Peabody (voiced by Ty Burrell) is a well-spoken, highly intelligent dog who can do a lot of things. Along with his adopted boy, Sherman (Max Charles), Mr.Peabody travels to various locations in time to teach him about various historical events, all thanks to a time machine known as the WABAC (pronounced “way back”). The plot in our hands here is that Sherman is teased at school by an apparently mean spirited girl called Penny (Ariel Winter). After a biting incident, Sherman faces being taken out of Mr.Peabody’s custody unless Peabody can smooth things over with Penny’s parents. One thing leads to another and the next thing you know we have a lot of time travelling adventures in our laps. Trust me it would’ve taken me an extra 100 lines to explain the plot fully.

Kids will love the time travel aspect of this movie. From the cake-munching, cantaloupe-hating French Revolution, to the scorching sands and hieroglyphic walls of Ancient Egypt, there is a good sense of adventure from start to finish that the youngsters will thoroughly enjoy. Presenting this adventure are a bunch of characters with fairly charming personalities. Mr.Peabody is the brainy voice of reason who frequently demonstrates his physical and mental library of skills and knowledge; while Sherman exhibits the kid branded enthusiasm for life that kids his age (7Ĺ I think he is) can relate to. But the character I enjoyed watching the most was the Greek soldier, Agamemnon (voiced by Patrick Warburton of “Rules of Engagement” fame). The guy oozes masculine melodramatics in his mannerisms, and the way he delivers the line “I did NOT see that coming!” is both ironic and funny in equal measure.

The characters are no doubt charming. However the main problem with this movie concerns the dialog, its attempts at clever one-liners. One scene for example is when Sherman thinks he is holding Mr.Peabody’s hand in a dark Egyptian tomb, only to discover that he’s actually holding a Mummy’s arm which falls off the torso. Peabody then says “That’s disarming.” For a kids’ movie like this, such lines find themselves stuck in Purgatory. The older viewers will find them too corny, while the younger viewers will, like Sherman, say “I don’t get it.”

The likeable characters and the large variety of historical locations manage to cancel out the questionable thinking behind the dialog. The movie doesn’t have enough funny moments here to entice grownups into multiple viewings, but the youngsters will certainly enjoy it. As for the extras? Well they’re not spectacular, but they are reasonable. The main attraction here is a series of short musical numbers from other Dreamworks movies, including “I’m a Believer” from Shrek and “Kung Fu Fighting” from Kung Fu Panda 2. Overall this not a bad little DVD.


Formula 1 (PS)
Formula 1 (PS)

3.0 out of 5 stars “Unless I’m very much mistaken...I AM VERY MUCH MISTAKEN!!”, 8 Oct. 2015
This review is from: Formula 1 (PS) (Video Game)
Formula 1 video games have been around longer than Bruce Forsyth, but from my recollection and opinion (more opinion) it was during the PlayStation era that the games started getting some serious media attention. That started with Psygnosis and Bizarre Creations’ first F1 outing on the old grey box. Reviews of this game at the time were fairly positive, though these days it’s more of a video game antique for the highly passionate F1 lovers.

Developed by Bizarre Creations’ and published by Psygnosis, Formula 1 was first released in September 1996, and already the game was out of date. It featured all the drivers, cars and tracks from the 1995 F1 season. Teams include Ferrari, Williams, Benetton and Tyrell (remember them?); while on the drivers list we have the likes of Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Jean Alesi, and even Nigel Mansell despite the fact that he only participated in two races that season...apparently the waistline was a little bigger than desired!

You can participate in single races or tough it out over the long haul in a season, trying to rake in as many points as you can. There’s even a bit of room for some 2-Player intercourse if you have a spare controller at hand. Presentation wise, F1 was not a bad effort. During races you have the TAG HEUER Official Timing displays (the onscreen graphics used at the time for F1 races), while the cars themselves gave off their high pitched engine noises during the racing action. They may sound like horror movie wannabe actresses at a scream queen convention, but believe or not F1 engines did have high pitched sounds back in those days.

The graphics run pretty well for an early PSone title, even at the start when there are 24 or 26 cars jostling for position like fat Texans at a super size steak house at lunchtime. They’re fairly colourful and nice to look at, although they do lack the detail of later F1 PSone titles such as Formula One 2001. As for the commentary...well, even Murray Walker would have to admit that he may have had a little too much coffee when recording the lines for this game. Among his nuggets of eyebrow raisers include “Oh my word!!”...“Oh no!!”...“Look at this! LOOK AT THIS!!” and “Unless I’m very much mistaken...I AM VERY MUCH MISTAKEN!!” You just feel like saying to him “Calm down, dear. It’s a video game.”

Formula 1 certainly has more of an arcade feel compared to other PSone F1 games. There’s little in the way of options to adjust car settings like wing down force setups. You pretty much just select your car and go off racing; and while it is possible for cars to suffer damage in races, pieces like the front wings tend to come off like Lego pieces running into brick walls. It’s not a massive talking point by today’s racing game standards, but the game overall is suited to the F1 fans who just want to race...no strings attached.

Formula 1 for the PSone will not impress today’s kids looking for ultra realism. In fact, it’s not even the best F1 game on Sony’s first console of gaming...or should I say “first lady of consoling?”...or “first gaming of lady?”...Well anyway, this one’s more for the F1 geeks.

Final Score: 6/10


Formula One
Formula One

3.0 out of 5 stars “Unless I’m very much mistaken...I AM VERY MUCH MISTAKEN!!”, 8 Oct. 2015
This review is from: Formula One (Video Game)
Formula 1 video games have been around longer than Bruce Forsyth, but from my recollection and opinion (more opinion) it was during the PlayStation era that the games started getting some serious media attention. That started with Psygnosis and Bizarre Creations’ first F1 outing on the old grey box. Reviews of this game at the time were fairly positive, though these days it’s more of a video game antique for the highly passionate F1 lovers.

Developed by Bizarre Creations’ and published by Psygnosis, Formula 1 was first released in September 1996, and already the game was out of date. It featured all the drivers, cars and tracks from the 1995 F1 season. Teams include Ferrari, Williams, Benetton and Tyrell (remember them?); while on the drivers list we have the likes of Michael Schumacher, Damon Hill, Jean Alesi, and even Nigel Mansell despite the fact that he only participated in two races that season...apparently the waistline was a little bigger than desired!

You can participate in single races or tough it out over the long haul in a season, trying to rake in as many points as you can. There’s even a bit of room for some 2-Player intercourse if you have a spare controller at hand. Presentation wise, F1 was not a bad effort. During races you have the TAG HEUER Official Timing displays (the onscreen graphics used at the time for F1 races), while the cars themselves gave off their high pitched engine noises during the racing action. They may sound like horror movie wannabe actresses at a scream queen convention, but believe or not F1 engines did have high pitched sounds back in those days.

The graphics run pretty well for an early PSone title, even at the start when there are 24 or 26 cars jostling for position like fat Texans at a super size steak house at lunchtime. They’re fairly colourful and nice to look at, although they do lack the detail of later F1 PSone titles such as Formula One 2001. As for the commentary...well, even Murray Walker would have to admit that he may have had a little too much coffee when recording the lines for this game. Among his nuggets of eyebrow raisers include “Oh my word!!”...“Oh no!!”...“Look at this! LOOK AT THIS!!” and “Unless I’m very much mistaken...I AM VERY MUCH MISTAKEN!!” You just feel like saying to him “Calm down, dear. It’s a video game.”

Formula 1 certainly has more of an arcade feel compared to other PSone F1 games. There’s little in the way of options to adjust car settings like wing down force setups. You pretty much just select your car and go off racing; and while it is possible for cars to suffer damage in races, pieces like the front wings tend to come off like Lego pieces running into brick walls. It’s not a massive talking point by today’s racing game standards, but the game overall is suited to the F1 fans who just want to race...no strings attached.

Formula 1 for the PSone will not impress today’s kids looking for ultra realism. In fact, it’s not even the best F1 game on Sony’s first console of gaming...or should I say “first lady of consoling?”...or “first gaming of lady?”...Well anyway, this one’s more for the F1 geeks.

Final Score: 6/10


Stillness and Speed: My Story
Stillness and Speed: My Story
Price: £0.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Fascinating Read On A Dutch Master, 6 Oct. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
(WARNING: The review of this book may or more likely will contain spoilers!)

Dennis Bergkamp is a name that will be forever be synonymous with football technical brilliance. His scoring of goals; his creation of chances; and his overall vision towards the game won him many admirers throughout his playing career. If the man even so much as flicked the big toe on his right foot, it would give football pundits orgasms lasting several weeks. But why does Dennis think and operate the way he does with football? This book “Stillness & Speed” gives the reader a great insight into the man who thoroughly deserves his descriptive title of “Dutch Master.”

Strictly speaking this isn’t a biography or autobiography. It’s more of an interview book where the writer asks various questions about Bergkamp’s football career. He talks about his thinking when creating chances and goals both for himself and his teammates; his attitude towards training and his need to go the extra mile to “get it right”; and his precise views on various aspects of the game which includes taking penalties. Overall the book was a real eye-opener for me. Yes, we have various football pundits breaking down the action on a daily basis. Yes, we have Sky Sports and their bottomless cup of computer graphic analysis. But this book really opened my eyes has to how much depth there is in the game of football, and what needs to be learned and perfected in order to get really good at it. I was compelled to just keep reading, and that can only be a good thing.

“Stillness & Speed” is not just an educational experience (I would venture to say). It’s also a series of mini stories providing an interesting view on the different styles of football play throughout Europe. The book talks about Dennis establishing his skills in the technical world of Dutch football at Ajax; his struggles physically and mentally with the defensive Italian style at Inter Milan; and his revival in the open and attacking arena of English football with Arsenal. Among the famous football faces consistently praising Bergkamp’s skill and personality are former Arsenal players, Ian Wright and Thierry Henry, and the current Arsenal manager, Arsene Wenger. There’s even a bit of time for some short-tugging humour. Trust me you’ll know what I mean when you read it!

This is just my opinion -make of it what you will- but having read through this book from start to finish, it has made me realise that...it’s OK to be a perfectionist. It’s OK to not be happy with your current results and performances, and want it to be better. It’s OK to constantly want to strive for more and get out there to make it happen. It’s OK to want to be...perfect. One thing it certainly is...it’s an in-writing motivational speech to work hard to get the results you want.

Even if you don’t agree with those opinions in the last paragraph, the insight to Bergkamp’s mindset on the field of play and his general football philosophies make “Stillness & Speed” a compelling read. It’s a series of educational lessons on football and life. The bottom line is if you love your football, you’ll love this book.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 7, 2015 11:03 AM BST


Descent 2
Descent 2

3.0 out of 5 stars Descending Into The Mines Of Average, 27 May 2015
This review is from: Descent 2 (Video Game)
For anyone who is not entirely familiar with game cases for titles on the original PlayStation console, allow me the pleasure of enlightening you.

Around 1997, in order to make the games more uniform like, the front inlays were fixed to feature, along the bottom, a black strip with the word "PlayStation" written in white. For Platinum re-releases it was a grey strip with the writing in a darker shade of grey. So if you find a PlayStation game without that black or grey platinum strip on the inlay, it can mean one of two things: 1) It's a counterfeit, in which case get a bomb disposal squad on it now!, or 2) You've got yourself one of the earlier PS releases; and it certainly shows here in the graphical presentation of Descent 2.

As a sci-fi 3D First Person Shooter, the aim of Descent 2 (a game developed by Parallax Software and published by Interplay Productions) is to blast your way through up to 30 levels of robot invested mines. From spaceship styled corridors to lava filled pits, you must find keys to unlock doors, and then take out the bosses before seeking out the escape tunnels before you end up like a piece of chicken that has been left in the fryer for ten years.

The game comes in three difficulty levels, from the easy rookie mode up to the hot shot hard one; and the challenge of each level is solid, forcing you to keep moving a large portion of the time due to the various naughty robots firing at you and the mine destruction countdowns that start after beating a boss. Help is at hand though. By finding and releasing the guide bot, it will help you seek out the keys and bosses, which is just as well given how big some of the levels are. Not bad for an early PSone game.

There are numerous weapon pickups to find as well. You start off with a laser (fired with the L1 button), but you'll soon get to play with other arsenal such as the plasma cannon and (my personal favourite) the Vulcan cannon, mowing down the bots like you would mow an overgrown lawn. Meanwhile rockets can be used (R1) for when the bosses are giving you grief or for when the corridors get really jam packed.

Descent 2 was released sometime before the introduction of the PlayStation DualShock controller, but even so the control setup here does feel somewhat unorthodox. The d-pad only controls the direction in which your ship is facing. You actually have to use the face buttons to move it around the corridors: Triangle for forwards, X for backwards, etc. Furthermore the ship will move up and down depending on the direction it is facing. The weapon controls feel natural, but everything else certainly isn't. It does take some getting used to, and it can prove costly when you lose lives in the early stages of the game as you attempt to get to grips with the layout. Fortunately you do get to grips with the controls eventually, and it's not something you'll dwell on every minute.

Besides the enemies keeping you honest, Descent 2 has other noteworthy positives. The music comes in a sort of sci-fi techno style and works well in creating the futuristic atmosphere that you play in. Also there are numerous short FMVs scattered throughout the disc, all of which are reasonably detailed (for a PSone title) and run nicely, which is a good thing. Even better so when you consider that the likes of Driver and Syphon Filter were released a couple of years after this, and their FMVs were just plain terrible. Finally, despite a limited number of lives, the game is somewhat generous in allowing you to move onto the next level, even when you failed to get out of the previous one before the mine destruct sequence reached zero. Hmmm...

Descent 2 has a few good things going for it. Unfortunately it's the bad things that stand out more and swamp your attention. The opening FMV aside there isn't much of a story to engage and entertain you. Also, the lighting in the levels can be hazardous to the sense of sight. Bumping into walls and losing your way can be a frequent occurrence (even with a headlight upgrade), and can prove costly in terms of exiting the levels in time as all your hard earned points end up being flushed down the drain.

But the biggest drawback is the generally repetitive action. Pretty much all you're doing is finding keys, shooting some bad guys and seeking out exit tunnels. Even with the varying scenery there are times when you'll wonder if you're actually playing the same level twice in a row. It can get rather tedious after a while. Indeed, I was fairly relieved when the last level was finally completed, and I have no doubt you will be too if you do decide to give this game a try.

The solid FMVs, decent sci-fi music and sturdy challenge all earn Descent 2 for the PSone a handful of marks. However the lack of a strong storyline, dodgy lighting and generally repetitive gameplay mean that it will earn no more than a six from me. If you're into retro sci-fi gaming and have already taken out the Doom titles, you may very well enjoy this. Otherwise it should be left to float around in space...alone...where no one can hear it scream.

Final Score: 6/10


Louis van Gaal: The Biography
Louis van Gaal: The Biography
by Maarten Meijer
Edition: Hardcover
Price: £16.99

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The Dutch Sir Alex Ferguson? You Decide, 14 Jan. 2015
(WARNING: The review of this book may or more likely will contain spoilers!)

What kind of football manager is Dutchman, Louis Van Gaal? Well once you've finished reading Louis Van Gaal: The Biography, your answers could be as follows. A creative thinker; one that knows exactly how his players should play on the pitch at any given time. A loose cannon; an argumentative competitor and thorn in the side of national and international journalists. Or, quite frankly, one very successful manager with more trophies than a hunter's forest cabin.

Written by Dutch football commentator, Maarten Meijer, the book covers van Gaal's football journey right up to the summer of 2014. From his birth on 08/08/1951 to tragically losing his father during childhood. His playing days at Ajax, FC Antwerp and Sparta-Rotterdam to his early "management" stint at AZ-Alkmaar assistant coach. The book continues with his managerial successes with Ajax and Barcelona, his failed first run as coach of the Netherlands, his managerial comeback with AZ before finally concluding with his appointment as the manager of Manchester United.

While the book was not written by van Gaal himself, it is clear from the off that he is a man who knows exactly what he wants and is not afraid to try different footballing routes in order to get it. He has a non-nonsense approach to training his players and keeping them in line with his visions of how the club in question should be run. To put it another way, he appears to be a Dutch version of Sir Alex Ferguson; and like Sir Alex's Autobiography this book at times inspires drive and determination.

This book can be difficult to read. It includes many foreign names of players, coaches, football newspapers and magazines; mainly Dutch but there a quite a few German pronunciations in there as well. One or two names will be familiar to even the most casual of football observers, like Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, but other names will be far less so. With no obvious way to pronounce them you'll find yourself wasting several minutes covering even a single page due to some (Double) Dutch tongue. I suppose those countries can't really help it if the words and names are spelt the way they are; and if you happen to be a native of Germany or the Netherlands, or at least speak their respective languages well, then it's not so much of an issue. Still, I just-can't-help-but-moan.

So is van Gaal the minty fresh mouthwash that Manchester United require to rinse out the terrible six-weeks-under-the-dusty-sofa-chicken-curry taste left by David Moyes? Only time will tell. For now if you're highly passionate about football and don't mind the persistent challenge of foreign name pronunciations, then Louis Van Gaal: The Biography is not a bad book to bury your head in.


FIFA Football 2004 (PS2)
FIFA Football 2004 (PS2)
Offered by trguk
Price: £9.03

3.0 out of 5 stars Off The Ball...And Now Off Target, 24 Dec. 2014
I received FIFA Football 2004 on the PS2 as a Christmas present back in the day, and it ultimately turned out to be the only FIFA title I would own for that console. In its own right it was pretty good. But compared to the Pro Evolution Soccer games of the time, FIFA 2004 was lagging behind in numerous departments. Today? It's not even worth talking about...Well OK, I'm gonna talk about for a bit so you don't have to.

The 2004 edition was filled to the brim with teams and divisions from around the world. The list even included the English divisions 1, 2 and 3, nowadays known as the Championship, League 1 and League 2 respectively. Up to this point EA Sports' only English focus was that of the Premiership and the (clears throat) national side...so anybody who was a fan of Watford, Swindon Town or even Torquay United would have been drooling at the prospect of playing with them here.

FIFA games were renowned for their out-there gimmicks in the late 90's and early 2000's, and 2004 was no exception. For this edition it was Off-The-Ball control. The idea was that you could use the right analogue stick to control a teammate who did not have the ball and move him into an ideal position. Then you could use your player who was on the ball to complete the perfect pass. The theory was put clean through on goal, but the execution was blazed well over the bar. It was very difficult to focus on two players at the same time, especially if they were at opposite ends of the TV screen, and your focus was to make sure the off-the-ball player was not offside and in a suitable position to receive the pass. But by the time he was sorted your man on the ball had been dispossessed, and now your team were scrambling back to defend the counter. In the end you were better off forgetting about the whole feature, it was that flawed.

The graphics were good for late 2003. The player movements were smooth and they looked like who they were supposed to look like. Ryan Giggs looked like Ryan Giggs; David Beckham looked like David Beckham (samurai hair and all); and Thierry Henry looked like a piece of ball handling scum. Team kits were accurate too, from the Adidas stripes on the Real Madrid shirts to the black panels around the sides of the Manchester United ones. Further realism was noticeable from the way players appeared to discuss tactics prior to kick off, and from the way they celebrated goals which were far less cartoonish than those seen in some of the PSone FIFAs. All in all, a thumbs up here.

Gameplay was a mixed bag. Constantly sprinting (holding down the R1 button) would tyre your players out quickly and make them less effective in the latter stages of the game, so patient passing build up play was required. Free kicks took a bit of skill to master as well, as you had to take into account the distance to goal and strike power as well as whereabouts your foot wanted to strike the ball (all indicated with an icon and metre at the bottom of the screen). Good realism there, but it was mostly undone by the open play finishing. On the six yard line with only the keeper to beat and most times the ball was smothered; but several strikes from outside the area would find their way into the bottom corner. It was either one or the other, and soon feelings of déjà vu would come into play.

Most of FIFA 2004's gaming longevity came from the career mode where you had the chance to buy new players to strengthen your squad, improve player stats through training, and even enjoy the occasional bout of promotion if you were playing with a lower league club. However it simply lacked the punch of a Diet Coke with lemon served in a tall glass with a few ice cubes, and felt rather shallow compared the Pro Evolution Soccer's master league mode. Overall this is nothing more than a slightly above average football title. One for the FIFA collectors, but no one else.

Final Score: 6/10


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