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Cambridge Writer "CK" (Northampton, UK)

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Shadowrun (Xbox 360)
Shadowrun (Xbox 360)
Price: £3.99

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars An interesting idea not ideally implemented, 3 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Shadowrun (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
I would have given this 3 stars but I do like the originality and customisability of having so many different weapons, gadgets and magic - these give the game a Warhammer-like quality of richness and faintly promise tactical inventiveness (though don't quite deliver on that promise).

The game is a standard first person shooter with the usual online game types, and it does quite closely resemble CounterStrike in certain modes. However, as others have said, it doesn't feel as solidly balanced and carefully tweaked as Halo and CounterStrike and the gadgets/magic don't have a huge effect on the game, being more a fun distraction than anything that makes the experience richer or more tactical.

You can see the influence that the Shadowrun RPG series has had on this game and it is an interesting fusion with a first person shooter but with this the developers haven't quite achieved a recasting of the first person shooter into something more cunning and tactical, revolving around gadgets, as it seems the intention was.

It's a curiosity which I hope sells well enough to warrant sequels building on the idea and branching a strand of first person shooter game in a direction which is genuinely distinct from the unstoppable (and brilliant) Halo and CounterStrike franchises.


Maths and English
Maths and English
Offered by Bee-Entertained
Price: £3.98

3 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars I enjoyed this, 3 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Maths and English (Audio CD)
Dizzee Rascal's third studio album is here and as listenable as ever. Dizzee's lyrics are clearly delivered with a strong sense of rhythm against well produced backing music and, over the course of the album, collaborations with several other artists.

Some people have compared 'Sirens' (the first single) to Jay-Z's '99 Problems' and despite obvious stylistic similarities it sounded to me like having a Nu-Metal, Primal Scream-like influence somewhere. The most pleasing sound in this track is the regular sounding of a ride cymbal throughout. Compared to previous Dizzee, it's straightforward and restrained but Dizzee's unique delivery still gives the track an irresistible offbeat feel. Incidentally, the sirens of the title are police sirens but the track is, like most of Dizzee's work, loose enough to permit a Homerian interpretation.

In 'Wanna Be', Lily Allen collaborates and lends her pleasant, girly, glottalstopped and slightly bitchy whine/singsong to proceedings. The track isn't only infected by Lily's vocal style but also has an echo of the distinctive dub sound of her first album to it. 'Wanna Be' feels like it's outside of the style of the rest of the album and I just can't decide if it's my favourite track on there. I also can't decide if the obvious allusion to The Spice Girls is intentional.

Also worthy of note is 'Where's Da G's' feat Bun B and Pimp C, a vocal-heavy dissection of the fakeness of contemporary culture (classic line: "how many real cooks on the TV?") and the day to day lives of the rappers participating.

Overall Maths and English is, as the title suggests, a mix of different yet crucial disciplines and succeeds in providing a catchy sound and clear, well written British rap.


Memory Almost Full (including Limited Edition Folded Booklet)
Memory Almost Full (including Limited Edition Folded Booklet)
Offered by westworld-
Price: £6.98

18 of 20 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The standard version of the album with an extra little booklet!, 3 Jun. 2007
Just before I talk about the album I'd like to point out that this Limited Edition one appears to be exactly the same as the normal album but has a little extra booklet with it. Other than that, they're identical.

As someone who doesn't religiously follow Paul McCartney's output I expected this album to be a bit out of touch and uninteresting. I couldn't have been more wrong! It's a well balanced collection of tracks mixing different styles and always providing the kind of great music that sticks in your head hours after the song is finished.

The opening track 'Dance Tonight' is fun and catchy but the upbeat Mandolin sound did worry me that the rest of the album would just be a retread of Wings-era McCartney. By the time the excellent 'Mr. Bellamy' came on any doubts had faded. 'Mr. Bellamy' is my favourite track of the album: a jaunty, hazy, arty song which makes me smile and want to move my head about in a silly fashion in time with the tune. Spread across the rest of the album are other tracks that make you feel like moving (the energetic 'House of Wax' particularly) but also some more relaxed, laid back ones such as 'See You Sunshine' and a nice bit of high pitched Falsetto from 'You Tell Me'.

All in all this is a varied, enjoyable collection of tunes that it would be easy to understate the quality of simply because we've come to expect excellent music from McCartney. As someone coming to it thinking it might be boring, I was blown away and enjoy this as much (if not more) than other music I listen to from younger artists. The real quality is in the variety.


Eat Me, Drink Me
Eat Me, Drink Me
Offered by DVD Overstocks
Price: £5.86

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A slightly different side of Manson and one I don't like as much, 3 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Eat Me, Drink Me (Audio CD)
This album is more pop than rock and more sad than angry (indeed, Manson himself has said this is a personal album about himself, not intended to criticise, like some of his other work). Tim Skold's guitar solos really stand out on all the tracks he plays on and overall I think that even though this album has been dividing Manson fans right down the middle, I like that it's doing something slightly different.

Admittedly, in places the consistency of a song becomes a drone, but there is enough variety that fans will have a hard time not finding at least a few songs they like on this. If you're not into Manson then there are better albums to go to before this. It's just a shame really that the album isn't uniformly good. Personally, I think 'If I Was Your Vampire' is the best track on here but even that seems controversial with some Manson fans decrying it as a betrayal of all that Manson stands for. I don't see that myself.

A hit and miss, but interesting, album.


Memory Almost Full (Deluxe Packaging)
Memory Almost Full (Deluxe Packaging)
Price: £11.26

24 of 27 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A decent deluxe package, 3 Jun. 2007
I really enjoyed the standalone album of Memory Almost Full and you can read about the album itself elsewhere - here I just want to talk about what is different with this deluxe version.

Apart from having a slightly different box, the deluxe limited edition also has a second disc with three unreleased bonus tracks and audio commentary describing the music. This disc also has on it the music video for 'Dance Tonight', directed by Michel Gondry (who recently directed The Science of Sleep and has a lot of music video/advert experience) and stars McKenzie Crook (probably best known as Gareth from The Office and a zombie pirate in Pirates of the Caribbean) - I enjoyed the video, though I probably wouldn't watch it more than a few times.

There are also six foldout color postcard-sized photos. The photos and bonus tracks are nice but it's the commentary that really sets the deluxe edition apart. On it, Paul gives insights into individual tracks as well as mentioning that the album title came after he had finished all the music. Paul has claimed that "Memory Almost Full" is a phrase intended to sum up our reaction to the modern world and the way we are bombarded with so much information.

What he doesn't mention is that "Memory Almost Full" is an anagram of "for my soulmate LLM". I wonder if that is intentional?


Memory Almost Full
Memory Almost Full
Price: £7.00

2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fun album with a range of styles, 3 Jun. 2007
This review is from: Memory Almost Full (Audio CD)
As someone who doesn't religiously follow Paul McCartney's output I expected this album to be a bit out of touch and uninteresting. I couldn't have been more wrong! It's a well balanced collection of tracks mixing different styles and always providing the kind of great music that sticks in your head hours after the song is finished.

The opening track 'Dance Tonight' is fun and catchy but the upbeat Mandolin sound did worry me that the rest of the album would just be a retread of Wings-era McCartney. By the time the excellent 'Mr. Bellamy' came on any doubts had faded. 'Mr. Bellamy' is my favourite track of the album: a jaunty, hazy, arty song which makes me smile and want to move my head about in a silly fashion in time with the tune. Spread across the rest of the album are other tracks that make you feel like moving (the energetic 'House of Wax' particularly) but also some more relaxed, laid back ones such as 'See You Sunshine' and a nice bit of high pitched Falsetto from 'You Tell Me'.

All in all this is a varied, enjoyable collection of tunes that it would be easy to understate the quality of simply because we've come to expect excellent music from McCartney. As someone coming to it thinking it might be boring, I was blown away and enjoy this as much (if not more) than other music I listen to from younger artists. The real quality is in the variety.


The Corrections
The Corrections
by Jonathan Franzen
Edition: Paperback

3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars One of the best books I have ever read., 3 Jun. 2007
This review is from: The Corrections (Paperback)
I really enjoyed The Corrections. It's funny, clever and thought-provoking without ramming anything down the reader's throat. Most of all though, Franzen has an eye for details of 20th century life which resonate satisfyingly.

The story concerns five characters: grandmother Enid (fussy), grandfather Alfred (stubborn), and their children Chip (clever but weak-willed), Gary (high-achieving) and Denise (insecure and confident). The book is long but is broken down into sections focusing on each of these characters and following subtly different styles of storytelling (for example, Denise's is very flashback-heavy) to fill us in on each character, and, over the course of the book, the family as a whole.

What I like so much about The Corrections is the high level of observation that Franzen commits to the story, from parent-child psychology to hilarious parodies of university life, business, and 20th century culture. I also found the tackling of sexuality in Denise's section to be well handled and sensitive to the confusion which can occur in the mind of anyone cagey and unwilling to commit to relationships.

It's always going to be difficult to sum up a 670 page novel in a few hundred words of review, but the highest praise I can give The Corrections is that not a single one of those pages feels wasted and there is an insightful or hilarious observation on each of them.


Wario: Master of Disguise (Nintendo DS)
Wario: Master of Disguise (Nintendo DS)
Price: £12.26

6 of 12 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Wario should stick to minigames, 29 May 2007
I like Wario. I think his rebirth via the Wario Ware titles is a great thing. However, like many others, I really didn't enjoy his platform outings in, for example, Warioland on the Gameboy.

Wario: Master of Disguise is a platform style game centring on the same traditional Wario (and Mario) platform game style of having different powers granted by different appearances. However, to activate these powers the player must draw a complicated pattern on the touch screen, which is easy to mess up. It's the kind of forced use of the touch screen that makes the Nintendo DS look like a gimmick when in fact the touch screen is excellent if used inventively (as in Polarium, Zookeeper, Nintendogs etc).

Adding insult to injury, the game contains a few minigames which are shown up completely by the minigames in Wario's other Wario Ware series of titles.

Master of Disguise is an acceptable platform game, and maybe I'm being harsh judging it against the other, newer Wario games (which are, after all, a different genre), but as a platform game it does feel out of its time. This would have been incredible a few years ago and would even have been an adequate debut platform title for the DS, but now in a post-New-Super-Mario-Bros era where 2D platform games have to be truly exemplary to stand out and break their old school roots, Master of Disguise does feel old-fashioned and clumsy.

However, the good ol' picaresque Wario humour is still there by the bucketload so at least Wario's relaunched brand hasn't been entirely tarnished.


Smash Court Tennis 3 (PSP)
Smash Court Tennis 3 (PSP)

5 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars An adequate Tennis game but there are better titles on the format, 29 May 2007
How many Tennis games do you need for your PSP? If your answer is more than one, then this might be the game for you. If, like most people, one Tennis game is sufficient, then I strongly suggest buying Virtua Tennis 3 instead of this.

This is a decent little Tennis game with all the usual modes you would expect (Tournament, Exhibition, etc.), but it lacks not only the fluidity and pick-up-and-play nature of Virtua Tennis 3 but also the richness of extra features that SEGA's title has - Smash Court Tennis 3 has none of the hilarity and novelty afforded by Virtua Tennis 3's superb mini games.

Namco know how to make a fun arcade-style game and Smash Court Tennis has always offered an enjoyable, different system to other Tennis games, which is why I've given it four stars for fun, but compared to the competition of Tennis games on the PSP, I can't recommend it. The game would, however, make an excellent second Tennis game for a PSP collection.
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Annually Retentive: Series 1 [DVD] [2006]
Annually Retentive: Series 1 [DVD] [2006]
Dvd ~ Rob Brydon
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £10.47

18 of 22 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of parody and hyperreality, 25 May 2007
The Annually Retentive of the title refers to a quiz panel show that we are led to believe is presented by comedy actor/writer Rob Brydon and on which several celebrities and comedians appear, just like Have I Got News For You and Never Mind The Buzzcocks (with some blatant references and spoof segments of such shows). The programme is a mix of scenes from the show (within a show) and "behind the scenes" sections of Brydon getting increasingly nervous and paranoid, and of the conversations and events surrounding the guests on the show before they go on.

The best way to describe what's going on in Annually Retentive is to compare it to Curb Your Enthusiasm, in which Larry David plays an over the top version of himself with lots of improvisation and only a vague direction for each episode to develop from. Annually Retentive is in a similar style - Brydon plays a caricatured (and nastier, more insecure) version of himself, with several of the celebrity guests on the show similarly parodying themselves exaggerating their media personas.

Annually Retentive is clever, well embedded in British TV/celebrity culture, and a superb study of the world of showbusiness and the frustrations and potential for fragility therein. Most of all though, it's just very funny.

The episode I particularly enjoyed is the one where Russell Brand appears on Annually Retentive and we see Brydon in his office moaning about Brand's shtick, saying how Brand will sit quietly and politely before bursting into an over the top and floor-holding soliloquy on some topic or other, which Brydon does an absolutely hilarious impression of. This particular scene has a great sting in the tale which, like the whole of the series, I don't want to spoil.

If you didn't catch it on TV then definitely check out the DVD. Even once watched though, like the Alan Partridge programmes, it's well worth owning a copy to watch with friends and introduce to newbies. Five stars.


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