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Castlevania - Lords of Shadow (Xbox 360)
Castlevania - Lords of Shadow (Xbox 360)
Offered by FUN-N-MORE
Price: £9.43

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A worthy successor in the bloodline., 5 Sept. 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
The sense you get while playing this Castlevania is that it is made by people who have something to prove. Mercury Steam were still smarting from less successful titles and needed this to work. A 3D Castlevania had yet to be a hit and many saw the portable Metroidvania titles as the series' lifeblood.

The gameplay is quite conservative, some might say plagiaristic. Much of the core mechanics are very similar to God of War. And when the game isn't borrowing from God of War it is taking elements from Shadow of the Colossus. I can sympathise with the creators playing it safe but I just think that a series as mighty as Castlevania should resist standing on the shoulders of giants. The gameplay is fine and the enemies do vary. I enjoyed it for the entirety of its running time, which is considerable.

Where Lords of Shadow does take risks is with the Castlevania story and lore. Dracula, though present, is not the last boss and the story takes a winding road instead of the serving up the monster mash of previous titles. The music, though occasionally familiar, doesn't reuse the absolute classic tunes in the ways you might expect. These are brave choices and ultimately do work, for me this is still Castlevania in a similar way to which that Daniel Craig is James Bond.

This Castlevania looks and sounds amazing. There are really, really good moments here often born out of fantastic art design, superb music and cut scenes that meld seamlessly with the action. This is not the greatest imagined world ever created as there are too many invisible walls. It is an Epic adventure, a lovingly wonderfully crafted piece of work that I enjoyed immensely. But I simply cannot give it a perfect score because it does borrow and steal instead of making Castlevania the game other develops should follow.


Dark Souls (Xbox 360)
Dark Souls (Xbox 360)

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Praise the Sun, 5 Sept. 2012
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
This review is from: Dark Souls (Xbox 360) (Video Game)
Dark Souls may well be one of my favourite games of all time. It is competing with Super Castlevania 4 on the Snes, Eternal Darkness on the Gamecube and Renegade on the ZX Spectrum to give you an idea of what that means.

The environment is masterfully depicted and memorable for two distinct reasons. Firstly because it is so varied and bleak. Stone castles quickly give way to Tolkienesque caverns and lava pits. And you can go deeper and deeper and never seem to reach the edge of its world. In the beginning you have no idea where anything is or where you are going. There is no map and non player characters are deliberately obtuse and quite often mad. Secondly you really have to remember the levels to progress. Anyone who has played an old school MegaMan will know what this means. I've been killed in the Undead Burg (a very early level) enough times to know the exact location of each enemy. There are two next to the bonfire, one with an axe another with a crossbow, a third that jumps up the stairs, along the bridge there are the firebomb throwers...and so on. Now imagine how daunting a new area is when you know that it was only by committing enemies positions to memory that you made it through the last one? So it is part of the experience to shuffle forward through a new level with your shield at the ready, terrified of your own shadow.

Death has weight in this game. It could mean being sent back miles and the loss of tremendous amount of XP points. If you are careful in Dark Souls you will learn not to die but there is no handholding. To complete Dark Souls you almost have to study it and very much play by its rules. It cannot be overstated how much the sadistic difficultly makes the game a cohesive whole. Not only does it provide a sense of achievement when you beat a boss but also gives weight to its bleak and lonely atmosphere. It almost seems as if that Dark Souls is actually trying to break your spirit. The story is barely comprehensible and as a player you have little to no idea how you victories are actually influencing the world. The back slapping of other games cut scenes is absent here as well as, for the most part, any feedback on how real much progress you have made.

I do wonder how well the game will age. Dark Souls is deliberately mysterious but is it to the point where it could be superseded by a game with a more concrete narrative? Time will tell. But for the moment I am just amazed that a game like this has the nerve to do what it does. To leave players so in the dark and to have an entire level housed behind a how-on-earth-was-I-meant-to-know-that secret wall. Dark Souls really is something very special.
Comment Comment (1) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 15, 2012 10:04 PM BST


Silent Hill Homecoming (Xbox 360)
Silent Hill Homecoming (Xbox 360)

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars You have your orders, soldier..., 26 Aug. 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
We cannot judge games as we once used to, as distractions and instant gratification. Some players and press are still waiting for that one defining game where they can finally say for certain that videogames are art. For others that moment has already happened with Zelda, Final Fantasy or Heavy Rain. For me Silent Hill Homecoming is such a game.
Silent Hill is, in a very tradition sense, not that great. Technically it suffers in comparison to its competition, most notably the Resident Evil series. Most doors you encounter are locked and there are so many dead ends. Combat is satisfying but not deep. The puzzles are decent but nothing to write home about. And there is far too much fog.
The story is fantastic and unique. As Alex Shepherd you must search for your missing brother in the ghost town of Shepherd's Glenn. Alex, an ex-soldier, is a formidable foe for the strange creatures he encounters on his surreal journey.
I was going through an episode of depression while playing Silent Hill and I honestly believe that it helped. As I vanquished another grotesque boss I felt that another one of my demons had been defeated. The coupling of the games eerie music and the illusive meaning of the story hit home for me. Alex's ordeal stayed with me long after I had put down the pad and it sits proud in my collection alongside Eternal Darkness: Sanity's Requiem and Zelda Twilight Princess.
I can't say that Silent Hill isn't flawed, it is. But Homecoming has soul and in every way that we never used to judge games, for their story and deeper meaning, so much of it is perfectly judged.


Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)
Batman: Arkham Asylum (Xbox 360)
Offered by GameExplorers
Price: £14.20

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Don't laugh, 20 July 2010
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
Being a Batman fan I was given Batman: Arkham Asylum as a birthday present and it's a fine game. The campaign tells the story of how Batman fights to regain control of the infamous Gotham prison from his arch enemy the Joker. It is an interesting choice, having Batman navigate one huge environment rather than have him traipse around the whole of Gotham. It's a choice that does work and is one of many wise decisions made by the designers that make Arkham Asylum not only a fine experience but very much its own game.

The characterisation of Batman here is superb. Skilfully voiced by animated veteran Kevin Conroy he exudes psychological strength and every emotion that Batman experiences. Batman in combat has never looked better, not in the movies, not in the animated series. The three button attack command is extremely simple, not nearly as deep as Bayonetta or Ninja Gaiden but this Batman, in the hands of a decent player, is the definition of formidable. The other main challenges are the stealth sections, which do allow players to be creative in how armed thugs are taken down. There is some pleasure to be had in sitting on a gargoyle listening to panicking henchmen while waiting for the perfect moment to pouch.

However the game really struggles to give you good boss fights. Take Bane for example, one of my favourite villains. His new design is imposing, his introductory cut scene gives a hint of the calculated mastermind depicted in the Knightfall tale. The actual fight is a pattern attack boss battle at its most primitive as the character becomes the mindless ape from the Schumacher film. The designers add regular thugs to the mix to give Bane more of a chance of defeating the player only for the real Bane to return in the finishing cut scene. Nearly all the bosses, though visually interesting, are defeated by a similarly tedious game play mechanic. By the time the final fight with the Joker is reached it feels like the designers have given up even trying. It is no surprise that there is no boss rush mode (only stealth and combat stages) outside of the main campaign.

The tone is also very gloomy with even the tiniest hint of camp being purged from the art direction and the soundtrack. Though the locations are lovingly created, switching to Batman's vision to the necessary `Detective Mode' bleeds the last shred colour from the games limited palette. The tone is coherent but it is difficult to play Arkham Asylum, with its near monotone look, on a nice sunny day. Heaven forbid that they might suggest that Robin exist within this universe.

Arkham Asylum is an enjoyable, fine game made by people who care about and love Batman. It has problems and I do question some of choices made but on the whole I'd say they got it right.


Wolfenstein (Xbox 360)
Wolfenstein (Xbox 360)
Offered by gamesdvdscdstoysandsports
Price: £19.99

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Deeply unfashionable, hugely enjoyable, 6 Feb. 2010
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Wolfenstein is a glorious B-movie of a game, an utter success within the framework of its narrow ambition. As agent Blazkowicz you are sent into enemy territory to stop various Nazi occult science projects from being developed into new weapons.

Wolfenstein seems to have an allergic reaction to sophistication. There are RPG and exploration elements in it but they've been done better practically everywhere else. No subtlety or nuance can be found in the story or characters and even the typeface used in the text feels old. Is this lack of innovation deliberate? If it is ID software certainly has an excuse as Wolfenstein's heritage predates Doom as the oldest first person shooter around.

The guns are hilarious. The Particle Cannon screams as it takes a moment to warm up before firing. When it does fire it produces a stream of pale death and even though the Nazi's die very well indeed from bullets it's very satisfying to see them dissolve into atoms. The flamethrower is another guilty pleasure and the supernatural powers work well enough. Wolfenstein does shooting (and explosions) very well and provides various tests for the player's duck and shoot skills.

The enemies are a weird teaming up of grotesque monsters and Nazi's that wouldn't feel out of place in a Carry-on movie. Not nearly as good as Half Life 2 but if you embrace its silly tone and theme your trip to castle Wolfenstein will be a very enjoyable one.


The Punisher [DVD] [2004] [2005]
The Punisher [DVD] [2004] [2005]
Dvd ~ Thomas Jane
Offered by Jasuli
Price: £3.45

0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars In time, 18 Dec. 2008
The Punisher is story of Frank Castle's quest for revenge after his family is killed. Based on the Marvel comic this movie disappointed a lot of fans.
The first thing to say about the film is that it is its own movie. The revenge story has been done to death in Hollywood and the Punisher does everything a little differently. Thomas Jane does a great job of humanising the Punisher, making him understandable and sympathetic. Most of the good stuff happens in the second act, the humorous fight with the Russian and the amusing interplay the Punisher has with his neighbours (especially Rebecca Romijn- Stamos who's quite good in this). The second act also has my favourite sequence with Mark Collie threatening Castle with a country and western song. It's just a great moment, unique to this film and I'm not surprised that they used it for the trailer.
But does the film need this second act? If this was the Frank Castle from the comic or indeed the '89 Dolph Lundgren flick then the revenge would be done and dusted by the 20 minute mark. This Punisher's methods are unfathomably slow more akin to a procrastinating Hamlet. The end confrontation is especially wet and John Trovalta's villain not up to much.
As much as it fumbles the main drama and doesn't get into a high gear with the action it's still a decent film. It still has enough inventiveness and character to be enjoyable.
Like I said it is its own movie.


Die Hard 4.0 [2007] [DVD]
Die Hard 4.0 [2007] [DVD]
Dvd ~ Bruce Willis
Offered by best_value_entertainment
Price: £1.92

1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Die even Harder?, 24 Nov. 2008
This review is from: Die Hard 4.0 [2007] [DVD] (DVD)
Die Hard 4.0 is suffers in comparison to the original.
Die Hard is a peerless action film, it was so good that it created a whole new sub genre of a lone man trapped in a confined environment surrounded by terrorists. It was suspenseful, clever, elegant and exceptionally well made. What was so good about it was the way it avoided every cliché in the book. The conventional scene where the hero's girl is held at gunpoint by the villain is brilliantly resolved by the use of gift tape. I know that I am not alone in saying that I've seen the film over twenty times and would gladly see it again.
Die Hard 4.0 is an exciting but not very plausible action thriller. The villain I feel I've seen before in countless other films and the setup is nothing new. Despite some decent action and some nice one liners it all feels very familiar. The conventional scene in which the hero's daughter this time is held at gunpoint is resolved in a macho and unconvincing way. I've seen the film once and have no plans to see it again.
It was nice to see Bruce Willis in the role again and the film isn't a mess by any means. I was going to give it three stars but Die Hard 2 is a three star film as it still has its great moments.
So I guess its Die Hard 2.0 out of five.


Ninja Gaiden 2 (Xbox 360)
Ninja Gaiden 2 (Xbox 360)
Offered by Gameseek
Price: £12.35

4.0 out of 5 stars Slice that turkey, 1 Nov. 2008
= Fun:4.0 out of 5 stars 
So brilliant is the combat in Ninja Gaiden 2 is that your end up forgiving its faults, of which there are many. The meat and potatoes of the gameplay, the slashing and dodging, is largely unchanged from the previous outings. It is a lot more bloody and intense but slightly easier due to the fact Ryu now recovers health when he is not fighting. The enemies are brilliantly conceived and there attacks are so quick that you'll be looking at the Game Over screen if you sneeze in mid play. Ninja Gaiden demands your full attention; to process you need to concentrate.
The game has faults though especially in the level design. Visually the game has trouble telling the player where Ryu can or cannot go. Some doors are in fact walls even though they are identical and the designers use invisible walls liberally. The puzzles are nonsense and I could spend a paragraph alone about how depressingly wrong that self destructing boss really was. The camera doesn't quite work but it's never hindered my progress. The plot is laughable gibberish, inferior to the Snes version but you can pretty much take it or leave it.
There are some great moments and most of them are in combat. The gothic castle I really enjoyed and at its core Ninja Gaiden 2 is really quite brilliant. It's simply a shame that the game fumbles most of the things that would have enhanced the experience.


Castlevania (Nes Classics GBA)
Castlevania (Nes Classics GBA)
Offered by MEDIALAND
Price: £89.96

4.0 out of 5 stars The daddy of them all, 16 Sept. 2008
= Fun:5.0 out of 5 stars 
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
This game is as old as Dracula himself but it still hits the spot. Primitive it maybe but it can still hold it's own in terms of playability. The levels are fresh and interesting with plenty to do and kill. It is hard though, I've yet to complete it and I've beaten Ninja Gaiden on the Xbox for crying out loud.
A special mention must go to the audio, though very 8-bit the tunes being played here are stuck-in-your-head wonderful.
A classic then? Oh yes.


Faith at the Edge: A New Generation of Catholic Writers Reflects on Life, Love, Sex, and Other Mysteries
Faith at the Edge: A New Generation of Catholic Writers Reflects on Life, Love, Sex, and Other Mysteries
by Angelo Matera
Edition: Paperback
Price: £2.14

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Edgy faith, 16 Sept. 2008
This book is a collection of stories written for the God Spy website by various Catholics, lay people just talking about there lives. These stories are about trying to follow the churches teaching on sex, about being a gay catholic and believing that you may be the anti-Christ. This isn't a series of feel good stories told by Ned Flanders, nor do you get the impression that these people have led sheltered or particularly easy lives.

Each story is about three to five pages long and they are heartfelt and honest. And sometimes that's all you need, to remind yourself that you are not alone in your struggle through life and in your search for God.


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