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S. Taylor

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Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)
Uncharted 4: A Thief's End (PS4)
Price: £27.99

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A stunning thing to behold but utterly devoid of gameplay or challenge. An interactive movie, and a bad one at that., 28 July 2016
Brace yourselves for a long one, because this game made me realise why I’m losing faith in the gaming industry.

I will start with the acknowledgement that Uncharted 4 is an utterly astonishing technical accomplishment. The environment and mechanics are simply stunning, and you will spend a large portion of your time playing this game simply panning the camera or applauding the fluidity and nuances of animation. In many ways, this is the principal appeal of the game. Indeed, I don’t really see this as a game. It’s more of an interactive movie, where you play the part of the Director, instructing camera angles and giving directions to the lead actor. The only challenge to this – which is the thing let us remember that is supposed to lie at the core of most games – is some of the combat. For me, that is hugely disappointing. The vast majority of video games are about killing people or aliens in various ways. I am so desperate for adventure games that challenge or entertain you in other ways, and this falls spectacularly flat on that count.

Before I go into this, let me inject a key caveat. I’ve just switched back to PlayStation after previously owning a 360. That means I have not played the previous games in the series, and so I had my own expectation that this would somehow be more of a modern successor to the original Tomb Raider, or perhaps even better than that, something that genuinely incorporated the more cerebral challenges of old school point-and-click adventures. It is definitely neither of these. Tomb Raider wasn’t the deepest of games, but it did at least have some more complex puzzles and was much more challenging in terms of basic platforming. When compared to puzzles from the golden days of Lucasarts and the like, Uncharted is basically the equivalent of those phone in competitions with a multiple choice quiz with a painfully obvious answer as a means of circumventing laws about gambling.

First, the lack of challenge. There are one or two puzzles in the entire game, which are so basic as to be largely pointless. It’s like they grudgingly incorporated the puzzles as some sort of compliance, and rebelled against this by making them almost a joke. The platform element (jumping/climbing/swimming around) is also incredibly simple and forgiving in terms of the timing required, and I would challenge any of you to actually die whilst leaping from cliff to cliff. At times they try to inject a sense of urgency when the cliff face you are climbing up starts to fall. The solution? Just carry on climbing up in precisely the same manner as if nothing were happening. Honestly, just holding up and pressing X every couple of seconds is most of this game. Again, back to the interactive movie comparison. It’s also filled with completely pointless interactive elements which are likely there to allow for some loading time. Having to bash a button to open a door or move a beam is very dull, although I suppose it’s better than a blank loading screen. I also don’t understand why sometimes the cut-scenes are interrupted by a bit where you have to press triangle to pull a lever or take a picture of something. Why bother? It’s a desperate attempt to make you feel involved or even worse a little opportunity to promote Sony smartphones.

Sometimes I feel that a controller with two buttons would have sufficed for this game: a ‘yes’ button and a ‘no’ button, and then the game repeatedly asks you: Do you want to continue to play/watch this game?

Some of you may say that there’s nothing wrong with it being essentially an interactive movie. Fair enough, except that it doesn’t make for a very good movie. It’s an issue in that a) the script is terrible, and b) it’s such a missed opportunity. The dialog really is largely not worth paying any attention to. Many of the cut scenes are too long with endless “You know what I’ve put on the line for this?” clichés. There was one line about “old Scottish gravestones” that had me pissing myself. I won’t even go into how lacking in any form of subtlety or originality the core plot is. I know the fact that I’ve not played any previous ones means I have no history with the characters, but I did not find them interesting or engaging in the slightest, and I don’t think that mindless loyalty to a gaming franchise should be a prerequisite for that.

The locations and pirate theme here kept making me think of my favourite game series of all time, Monkey Island….but not in a good way. It kept making me sad that no one seems bothered about decent scripting or genuinely challenging puzzles in mainstream gaming anymore. Monkey Island is also a great example of how you make interesting characters without requiring the gamer to have played previous games in the series. I kept also thinking that they engine and vague premise could have made a really good Indiana Jones game if they had incorporated some really fiendish puzzles and some wit in the dialog, as opposed to the dude-bro machismo fare that passes for humour here.

You know what really pains me though? I’m still considering playing through again on the hardest difficulty. I think all this does is make sneaking/combat itself harder, but really I’ll do it just to gaze at the prettiness again. That’s a depressing to thing for me to acknowledge: as a game, I see very little in this, yet still I’m drawn to the shallow surface beauty and it’s a shame that developers will keep following this formula as we’ll keep lapping it up. I would also still recommend that PS4 gamers give this a shot, but just be prepared for the fact that it’s largely a dull and un-engaging gaming experience.

AKG K451 High-Performance Foldable Portable Mini Soft Cushioned Headphones with In-Line Volume Remote and Microphone Compatible with iOS Apple Devices - Black
AKG K451 High-Performance Foldable Portable Mini Soft Cushioned Headphones with In-Line Volume Remote and Microphone Compatible with iOS Apple Devices - Black
Price: £44.99

5.0 out of 5 stars Great value, practical and great sounding headphones for those who don't conflate consumer goods and a personality, 6 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
At this price, don't waste your time reading reviews. Just buy them! Under 40 quid is insanely good for these. Actually, it's almost at a price that might put you off, you might think they couldn't be all that for 40 quid when the market is swamped with so many over-stylized and over-hyped headsets for many many multiples of the same price. Well, they are fantastic value, and easily as good as anything you'd get for over double that price. There are many good reviews of the audio fidelity here, so no need for me to add to those.

I would prefer an all-black design - I find the silver just a tad tacky - but in general I like that they are relatively understated. In a world where people use conspicuous, shiny consumer goods and clothing in place of an actual personality, I like that these aren't about trying too hard. I like to think that they made them look a little ordinary on purpose. I think the replacement/update for this model is are brash big reds thing with massive logos plastered over them. This is entirely missing the point in my mind, and I actually think AKG should be forming precisely the opposite niche for themselves: people who want sound quality, solid design and high build quality without having to make a statement or pay for a style premium. They fold neatly, and are sturdy enough to have survived many, many months of daily and travel use by the time of writing this review.

Get them before they're no longer available.

JetBag Re-Useable Wine Bottle Protector (Pack of 5)
JetBag Re-Useable Wine Bottle Protector (Pack of 5)
Offered by Man's Stuff
Price: £14.95

5.0 out of 5 stars Reassurance over breakage protection, but it's worked a treat for me so far., 6 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Nowadays I live in India, where availability of good imported wine is low, and tariffs on luxury imports are high. In my previous life, I built a small collection of fine Italian wines that currently reside in boxes in my mum's flat in the UK. So, my solution was a simple one. Like some oenophile Noah, I would relocate much of my collection two-by-two. However, since I tend to also bring back a load of new clothes on each trip back to the UK, and since I am a naturally anxious person, the chances of breakages ruining the rest of my bag vexed me quite a lot. Well, cometh the hour, cometh the JetBag.

These have worked perfectly for me so far. I cannot say for sure how well the absorbent material works as thankfully I have never had a breakage. In fact, since I'm a little paranoid I actually use two of these on each bottle. I put the bottle in one bag, seal it, then insert it upside down into another and seal that. This has worked a treat so far, and provides a little extra padding in addition to the spill protection. The standard bag isn't actually particularly well padded, though this isn't actually the purpose. The purpose is insurance in the case of a break, and by extension provide the user with a bit of peace of mind. This last point is perhaps the most fundamental for someone like me - it means I can just relax on my flight without worrying that I'm risking a full wardrobe full of clothing in order to briefly satisfy my lust for a decent drop of red!

I've used these quite a few times so far, and there is no damage to any of them up until this point that would prevent me continuing to use them for many more trips to come.

niceEshop(TM) Battery Operated Personal Summer Pocket Fan With Rechargeable Lithium Battery,White
niceEshop(TM) Battery Operated Personal Summer Pocket Fan With Rechargeable Lithium Battery,White
Offered by CZ-Sky [ships from HongKong]
Price: £6.54

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A discreet alternative but, as with most miniature fans, still struggles when it really counts, 6 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I bought this as my local metro station here in Delhi is extremely poorly ventilated, and a wait of just 5 mins in the more humid months is enough to have you pouring sweat. I chose this unit for two reasons - it's relatively flat, and so can readily be stored in a pocket of my bag; and the shape makes it a little more discreet. That latter point is a strange one I admit, but as one of the few foreigners commuting on the Delhi metro I get tired of being stared at, so anything that helps not stand out any further is a plus in my book.

Now, does it work? Well, yes, to a degree it does. It's not the most powerful blast, but it's enough to get the air moving when you find yourself in a particularly sultry patch. However I don't really find that it works so well that I'm pulling it out all the time. It's not worth the effort for much of the time, only when I'm really baking! Miniature fans have been around for ages in various guises, but still don't seem to cut it. I think there will continue to disapoint as long as they are based on traditional fan design - if it's miniature the blades are always going to struggle. Perhaps a new era of miniature ducted fans or some such advance could help move things forward!

Anker Multi-Angle Portable Stand for Tablets 7-10 inch, E-readers and Smartphones, 0.4lb Lightweight Durable Aluminum Body, Compatible for iPad Air, Mini, iPhone 6 5S 5 4S, Samsung Galaxy S5 S4 S3, Google Nexus 5 6 7 9 Phones, Tablets and more (Black)
Anker Multi-Angle Portable Stand for Tablets 7-10 inch, E-readers and Smartphones, 0.4lb Lightweight Durable Aluminum Body, Compatible for iPad Air, Mini, iPhone 6 5S 5 4S, Samsung Galaxy S5 S4 S3, Google Nexus 5 6 7 9 Phones, Tablets and more (Black)
Offered by AnkerDirect
Price: £19.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Highly functional and flexible design; great build, but is that rear plastic arm the weak link?, 6 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Overall, this is a great little stand, and I've had no issues with it thus far. I'm using with an Ipad Air 2, and I must say it works perfectly for the intended purpose - propping up my ipad in portrait or landscape for watching media when I'm in bed or in the kitchen. The adjustable standing arm is moved by depressing a button on the side of the hinge, and can be locked at any degree, giving great flexibility of use. This can be moved to fold flat for storage or travel, although it is quite heavy for a travel stand and not the most compact even when folded. The rubber insert in the bottom 'lip' of the stand is a nice touch too, giving a degree of stability and reassurance that the metal of the stand won't scrape or scratch your device. Rubber pads on the base and back also give a further degree of stability and protection for your tabletops. It really is quite well designed and executed.

The reason for 4 stars instead of 5? Well it's speculative, but I can't help but feel that the rear standing arm is the potential weak link in an otherwise bulletproof chassis. It's made of plastic, whilst the main portion of the stand is metal. This might be high density plastic, but it's lightweight and really does seem a little incongruous attached to such a solid metal frame. The unit is quite heavy, and perhaps this was done to help reduce overall weight a little. It is however the unit's weight that in part makes me feel like the rear arm would snap off under impact if it were dropped from anything around 4ft. Perhaps there are other reasons for the choice of plastic for this component, but I would feel more confident if it were all metal. If done for weight saving, I can't help but feel it was a poor choice - it's still heavy and a few grams extra is not going to elevate it into a completely different category. It's never going to be a lightweight travel choice. Anyway, perhaps all this is unfounded. It's a great stand, and unless other reviews suggest there is some foundation to my speculation, it's well worth considering.

Offered by Needspares
Price: £3.67

5.0 out of 5 stars Does the job perfectly, 6 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
Not the cheapest when you consider what a simple thing it is. I live in India, and my friends here would die laughing if you told them you spent this much on a piece of wire. However, it really does do the job perfectly, and I cannot foresee ever having to replace it. I think it will fit quite a variety of hob fittings, so it should suit most needs.

Japanese Noren Sakurabana W85cm(33.46in) X H150cm(59in) [Japan Import]
Japanese Noren Sakurabana W85cm(33.46in) X H150cm(59in) [Japan Import]

4.0 out of 5 stars Something a little different, 6 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
A quick review: The quality of the fabric and printing are good, although the edges are indeed a little rough as others point out. I'm undecided on how I feel about this at present. It's nice that this lends it a slightly more hand-finished look, but it also borders ever so slightly on the side of seeming to have been made with production costs firmly in mind. I'm straying more towards the former today, hence it still gets 4 stars. The other thing to note is that the moon is indeed quite subtle in the print as others have pointed out. I hang this over my kitchen doorway, facing outwards. When the kitchen is lit and the hallway dark, I find that the glow of the blossom is particularly pleasing. However the moon is completely lost. Not a massive issue, but it would have been so much nicer if the moon was a lighter shade and shone somewhat in the same context.

It is on the expensive side for sure as compared to other noren I've seen on Amazon. However most of them are extremely common, with a million variations on some ubiquitous design. This is subtler, and offers something a little different. Despite the issues mentioned above, I would willingly buy it again.

Hsaba: Burmese Cookbook
Hsaba: Burmese Cookbook
by Tin Cho Chaw
Edition: Paperback

5.0 out of 5 stars A well-presented introduction to one of the world's few remaining culinary secrets, 6 Jan. 2016
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
I travel quite regularly to Yangon on business, and actually picked up a copy of this there on my last visit. I subsequently bought another from Amazon as a Christmas present this year. Although this is tagged as a 'Burmese Cookbook', I believe the selection of recipes is slightly more varied than Burmese alone, though it's certainly not a comprehensive resource if you are interested in the myriad of different regional cuisines that pervade in Myanmar. It's well-presented, and strays the right side of the travel/cookery divide in this mixed format that is common in 'ethnic' cookery books from the UK/N.America.

This book provides a good introduction to many culinary staples and styles of the Burmese majority, and a few beyond. It showcases a variety of veg and non-veg standards and some explanation of ingredients and the manner in which dishes are combined.I would recommend this to fans of pork in particular, the favourite meat in the country. It is based more on home-cooked style than common street/restaurant food, and this is a good thing. In recent years there has been a tendency towards extreme oiliness in a lot of commercially available Burmese food in the country. I'm not sure what the factors behind this are, but it's an extremely similar scenario to neighbouring Bangladesh. Based on the recipes in this book however, one could eat an extremely healthy diet. It can also be relatively cost effective, although that becomes a little trickier if you're opting for seafood in the UK.

Being a book that is intended for UK audiences, the recipes have avoided to a certain extent using ingredients that will be hard to find, and many specialist items will be available for most. Things like shrimp paste are also common in Thai cuisine, and are now readily sold in supermarkets. For more specialist items, you will find some availability online. There is at least one Burmese shop based in London that sells things like fermented tea leaves online (have a search, it's not hard to find). However, cuisine from Myanmar uses a huge variety of vegetables and particularly herbs/leaves that will be extremely difficult or impossible to get hold of at present. As a result, the author has clearly and understandably chosen to omit these. Personally I believe that various cuisines from Myanmar, including but not limited to Burmese, may well be one of the next fads to explode on the culinary scene in the UK. Mass tourism to Thailand and Vietnam was surely a factor in the mainstreaming of their cuisines on the restaurant scene in the UK, and things are certainly taking off in that regard in Myanmar right now. If this is to happen, we could see some things become a little more readily available in the UK, but if we're honest it must be acknowledged that many of us already struggle to find fresh ingredients such as curry leaves, which are an absolute staple in South Indian cuisine, which has been popular in the UK for a long time. Indeed, on a related note you might want to look for South Asian shops/market stalls as your best chance of getting some fresh ingredients for Burmese cuisine at present. I'm thinking here for example of green mangoes (which are a must for the fantastic green mango pork recipe) and bitter gourd.

Practically speaking, I have just one main criticism of this book, and it's a simple one: I think more recipes could have been included. Adding further text-only recipes would not have radically altered printing costs and would have been a worthwhile addition.

In summary though, I can wholeheartedly recommend this book to anyone specifically interested in Burmese cuisine, or curious cooks who might feel like exploring something different. It's not the most comprehensive resource, but it is a great starting point and has been compiled in a way so as to make recipes as accessible as possible for the UK-based reader without compromising too much on authenticity.

JBL Flip 2 Small Portable NFC Bluetooth Wireless Rechargeable Stereo Speaker with Built-In Microphone and Carry Case - Black
JBL Flip 2 Small Portable NFC Bluetooth Wireless Rechargeable Stereo Speaker with Built-In Microphone and Carry Case - Black
Offered by - Hottest Deals 4 Today -
Price: £84.99

4.0 out of 5 stars Great sound and neat design, only let down slightly by a poor battery., 30 Dec. 2015
Verified Purchase(What is this?)
In brief - audio, design and build quality are great, but the battery life leaves something to be desired. I previously owned a UE Mobile Boombox, which I was very happy with until it went screwy. In comparison, the audio fidelity of this JBL is far superior, although you sacrifice a substantial amount of battery life as a result. I suppose in it's defense, it does charge very quickly, but it would seem there's not that much to charge after all. I use this at home for listening to music and podcasts when I'm in the kitchen or bathroom, so the battery issue is not too significant for me, but if you were thinking you could take this out to listen to music for a full day out and about on one charge you might find it dies on you just as the party is really getting started. I got this when it was on offer at under 40 quid. If that was the usual rate, it's 5 star all the way. If I was paying twice that for it, I would probably be a bit more disappointed with the battery issue.

Lifesystems Micronet Single Mosquito Net
Lifesystems Micronet Single Mosquito Net
Price: £18.42 - £58.46

12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent functionality and quality, highly recommended., 1 April 2013
The key to the performance for this net, or any net in my opinion, is the support bar (collapsible in this instance) that combines with the design to maintain shape and allows for a decent internal space when properly tucked in at the 4 corners. Having lived previously in the tropics with a very basic net, I can certainly vouch for the huge advantages of this more advanced design.

The hanging system itself is reasonably flexible, allowing you to mount the net from a point of various heights. This means you could mount it to a ceiling or a point hanging just above the net itself. Personally I wouldn't bother with separate 'hanging kits' - I usually carry some string and a couple of nails and then create my own solution - as this provides enough flexibility to make do in a variety of situations.

When mounted at an appropriate height, you really only need to adequately tuck in the corners properly to get a good taught canopy. "Taught" really is important here, for two reasons. Firstly it means more space underneath to move around and prevent bites through the net from loose parts that might rest on your person. Secondly, it means that a breeze can pass through much more effectively, likely to be quite important in many of the environments that you'll use this in.

The material itself seems great quality, and can take a fair amount of abuse before it'll tear. I've been using this one in my flat for 5 months now, and it's still in perfect condition. I'm not entirely convinced on the necessity of impregnation with chemicals though. I seem to remember recent research indicating that this only puts off most mosquitoes in the first instance, after which their sensitivity to chemicals such as DEET is numbed for a period and they can happily return to the same source. Fine if you're out and about, fairly pointless if they're buzzing around the same room all night. Perhaps the idea is more to keep mosquitoes from cosying up inside it when not in use.

I'm 6'2, and what I would say is that, although my feet are definitely pushed up against the net at the bottom of the bed, this is more to do with the mattress size. The net is big enough so that it would easily fit over larger single mattresses, although admittedly you're unlikely to find many of these in situations where you'd be using it (I live in S.Asia nowadays, things tend to be a little shorter!). I would concur with the suggestion that a box design would ultimately be more spacious and effective, but of course it is also a lot less adaptable and requires a more complicated hanging arrangement. This is a great compromise.

It's certainly not the cheapest net out there, but I'd definitely advocate investing in the domestic basics. Saving a few pounds on a cheap net is a false economy if it means repeated nights of poor sleep!

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