Friday, 30 April 2010

E14 Exchange

Brad: What sort of stuff are you looking for now? Job wise, I mean.
Rob: I've not given it too much thought as yet. I'm getting emails most days from agencies who've found my CV online and want to find me stuff.
Brad: Has that PyramidHead scheme you worked for been in touch? Or just its subsidiaries?
Rob: Nope, nor would I entertain them if they did: I need something that'll alleviate my financial woes and not have me spending 8 hours walking round some shitty suburb going “FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCK!". In hindsight, that probably didn't help my sales.
Brad: And you were so positive about that place at the start...
Rob: They did a good job of selling it to me.
Brad: Yeah, they made their "Fast Talk" and all your friends failed their "Persuade".
Rob: I failed my "Spot Likely" roll as well, don't forget.


Rob: Your Face. Hate. I. Re-arrange into a popular phrase or saying.
Brad: I figured out recently that we could do this full-time and still not cover everything we get sent. There literally aren’t enough hours in the day.
Rob: It’d give us a better percentage at least.
Brad: I just try to do as much as possible before it kills me. It’ll be the geekiest way to die, short of being blown up by the Death Star.
Rob: How is being blown up by the Death Star geeky? Unless any Alderaanians were in the midst of a D&D LARP?
Brad: Ugh. Fuck you, Japan.
Rob: What’s up?
Brad: Seriously, the world needs to start calling shenanigans on their bullshit.
Rob: I've always found that a weird expression.
"Hey, you! Shenanigans!"
"Yeah, I guess you're right...I'd best disarm my nuclear program."
Brad: I was thinking more along the lines of:
"Guys, we were willing to accept the giant rubber monsters and awesome robots...the schoolgirl superheroes, tentacle porn and gimpy bubblegum pop we could cope with...but what's with the cat's ears and/or tail on otherwise normal humans bullshit? Seriously, does a massive fucking teardrop appear next to your head when you flip out? Does that happen to anyone? You fucking raw fish eating, panty wearing, caulk gun fellating freaks?"
Rob: Jesus, dude, calm down...
Brad: I once saw JPr0n where this girl had warm milk squirted up her butt with a caulk gun. That shit gives you flashbacks.
Rob: "You weren't there, man...You weren't there..."
Brad: Hell, that shit'll give you Flashback, Fade to Black and Another World. That's my video game joke done for the year.


Brad: You're thinking about my penis, aren't you?
Rob: Well, now I am.
Brad: Damn straight.
Rob: Hunh, that's not how I pictured it.
Rob: I love this song for some unknown reason.
Brad: I'm hearing the MASK theme. I have to concur
Rob: Why are you hearing the MASK Theme? Is that like E14 Tinnitus?


Brad: Classic anime dialogue:
"Are you all right? Because your arm is about to explode!"
Rob: "Why would you ask knowing that?!"

Thursday, 29 April 2010

Gaming Reviews

Supreme Commander 2
Square Enix
Available Now - £34.99 (PC) and £44.99 (Xbox 360 (Version Tested))
Review by Blake Harmer

As someone who is Emotionally Fourteen, I always consider giant robots to be a good thing, especially in a computer game. Thankfully, just like the original game, Supreme Commander 2 has giant robots in spades, as well as lots of explosions to boot.

As with the previous game, the story centres around three warring factions with their own weaponry and skills, and you must destroy your opponents using large-scale battles that use a mix of land sea and air units.

In comparison to other RTS games on consoles, Supreme Commander 2 has been ported over from the PC very well. Selecting units and issuing orders are simple and the ability to zoom out over the battlefield makes managing them all the more easier. The graphics are also quite pretty, and it’s quite satisfying to zoom in on your battles to see enemy tanks being annihilated by your giant war machine as it throws missles and artillery left, right and centre. The story mode also offers some pretty challenging missions to keep you entertained, so the game is easy to pick up but hard to master.

However, despite being functional and with some fairly decent production values, the game fails to offer anything new to an already overcrowded genre. Which is pretty damning when you have older games like Company of Heroes offering a much more unique experience when compared to other RTS games. Yeah, sure, there are giant robots, but even very old games like Mechcommander had giant robots in, and it still tried to offer a different playing experience.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Nice graphics and cut scenes, units have lots of detail when you zoom in on them, however, you will be zoomed out a lot of the time looking at numbers.
Sound/Music: Good voice acting and sound effects but nothing truly brilliant when compared to other RTS games.
Gameplay: An RTS game by numbers that is only saved by the fact it has giant robots in it. The missions offer a good challenge but sadly, there is nothing here that hasn’t been seen before in an RTS.
Lasting Appeal: Lots of missions and up to four player online will keep you happy, but when there are better RTS games out there, I doubt it will hold your interest for too long.
Summary: At the end of the day, Supreme Commander 2 is a fun game with giant robots, which is always a good thing, but don’t pick this up expecting it to be a gaming revolution, as you will only be met with disappointment. 7/10
Dead To Rights: Retribution
Namco
Available Now - £44.99 (PS3 & Xbox 360 (Version Tested))
Review by Rob Wade

Grant City needs cleaning up. The only man who can fix the city is Jack Slate, a vice cop forced to intervene when a violent hostage-taking turns murderous. After tracking the ringleader of a usually disorganised band of criminals, the incident is brought to a head when the case is made as personal as it possibly can be for Slate. He then finds himself relying on all his skill and strength in order to save Grant City from a terrible fate.

Dead To Rights: Retribution is a third-person action game, primarily a shooter but with some brawling and melee elements as well as some stealth action where you play as Slate’s dog, Shadow. Yes, you heard me. You get to play as a dog in this game. Awesome right?

The game itself is overall pretty good. The graphics, while not amazing, have a nice art style in the same vein as Stranglehold, and the action is sufficiently over-the-top in the same way as the John Woo game. The action itself is good, although sometimes the controls are a little fiddly, particularly when the melee action involves a few different enemies. Having said that, you can aim a punch at someone in front of you and then immediately kick the people behind or to the side of you, so they’ve definitely made efforts in that vein to make the combat easier. You can also use your dog as a secondary squad member, ordering him to take out enemies or “fetch” guns for you while you’re in cover. On a plus point, the disarm moves you can perform on enemies are good, leaving you pointing the gun at their head once the animation finishes. A nice little touch that certainly becomes particularly satisfying.

The Shadow stealth elements are good, as well. When in stealth mode, Shadow can detect heartbeats of nearby enemies, enabling you to either sneak along behind them or to perform silent kills (how awesome are these developers? I’ll tell you: they have an achievement in the game called “scrotality” for performing a dog kill by biting the guy’s balls off.

However, there are negatives. As previously stated, the action can be a little fiddly at times, which isn’t helpful when other enemies are taking pot-shots at you from afar because of your being exposed. It also becomes a little repetitive to be using the same takedowns and combat moves, even if the animations for the takedowns are bollocking awesome. Add to that some absolutely woeful voice-acting at times and you have a game that isn’t short of a few imperfections. Ultimately though, a good fun romp that’s definitely worth a rental, or buying if you can pick it up at a good price.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Not amazing, but some nice art style certainly adds some style at times.
Sound/Music: The sounds and music are okay, but the voice acting is pretty shoddy at the best of times.
Gameplay: A little repetitive and fiddly at times, but good fun.
Lasting Appeal: Beyond playing it through on various difficulty levels, I can’t really see the game appealing beyond a single playthrough.
Summary: A good, if repetitive shooter/brawler. The equivalent of a good cheesy 1980’s OTT action film. 7/10
Samurai Shodown Sen
SNK/Rising Star Games
Available Now - £39.99 (Xbox 360)
Review by Blake Harmer

As a hardcore gamer, I grew up playing a lot of the original Samurai Shodown games in arcades, so it’s great to see that Samurai Shodown has been remade in 3D for the first time, but can it compete against the heavy hitters of today?

Sadly, the answer is an incredibly disappointing "No". The game feels unpolished with sub-par graphics when compared to other games of today, and a broken jumping mechanic where you seem to only be able to jump about 3mm off the ground. Also, the game in single player is stupidly tough, with annoyingly difficult boss fights, who seem to only make you feel stupid - as they brought a gun when you brought a sword.

The game isn’t all bad, though. There is a large roster of characters each with their own playing style. Also, if you score a heavy hit that wins you the match, you are treated to an extremely short but satisfying death scene, such as a head or limb coming off followed by lots of blood gushing out of your opponent.

At the end of the day, despite the jumping, the game is fun when playing with friends, and is good for a bit of old school beat-'em-up action every now and again. Just don’t expect it to make Street Fighter, Soul Calibur or Tekken shake in their boots just yet.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics:
Bold colourful graphics, but certainly poor when compared to other games of this generation. Watching heads and limbs fly off is still as satisfying as ever though.
Sound/Music: The voice acting could be good, but seeing it is all in Japanese, you wouldn’t notice. The music will begin to grate on you after a while as well.
Gameplay: An ageing beat 'em up that fails to compete against today’s bruisers despite updated graphics and HD sheen.
Lasting Appeal: A fun game to play with your friends occasionally and laugh at the death scenes, but with an incredibly hard single player you’ll probably lose patience with the game and go back to the likes of Soul Calibur.
Summary: Samurai Shodown Sen still keeps some of its retro charm, but sadly stays stuck in the 90’s because of it, the difficulty is high as if it is trying to gobble coins from your 360 and the experience is stiff and disjointed when compared to the smooth fighting experience offered by the likes of Soul Calibur. It’s fun to have a bash with your friends to relive your memories with slightly nicer graphics, but you’ll soon be booting up Tekken. 5/10
Arkham Now: Revisiting the Legend-Haunted City
Call of Cthulhu Sourcebook
Chaosium

Available Now - £18.99 (Paperback) and £13.25* (PDF)
Review by Brad Harmer
* Approximate conversion from US$

This, the latest Call of Cthulhu sourcebook from Chaosium, updates to modern times the fabled city of Arkham.

Most residents believe there is only one horror lurking in this legendary haunted town — the urban sprawl slowly eroding Arkham’s old New England beauty. Rushing by neon signs and mega-marts to obtain even more material possessions, no one notices the more disturbing, underlying qualities of the city: the grotesque vegetation sprouting in some places, the sometimes-odd taste from the reservoir’s drinking water, the disturbingly high rate of birth defects, the too-frequent child abductions.

Those who make inquires are scoffed at by citizens, and rebuffed by local and state officials. The truly brave continue to put the pieces together, posting their thoughts on the Internet. Many of these individuals disappear from cyberspace eventually — often due to the effects some of these discoveries can have on one’s mental health. Though they would never admit it, many of the long time residents of Arkham know there is something not quite right about their town…

If you’re running Call of Cthulhu games in modern times – especially in Arkham - then you need this book. Everything contained in here feels like a natural progression of the history established by its predecessor (H.P. Lovecraft’s Arkham), and you really feel like that this is how Arkham would have aged were it real. “Arkham Mental Health Centre” may not have the alliterative power of its original name, granted, but with subtle changes like that, Arkham Now brings the Mythos up to date.

This is basically everything you’ve come to expect from a sourcebook from Chaosium – the layout is fantastic, scattered liberally with maps, character statistics, adventure seeds and all other assorted Cthulhuery. The central section on Miskatonic University is absolutely massive, and you could happily run several large games with the information there alone.

The only real strike against Arkham Now is the scenarios. They’re okay, but they are simply not of the standard we’ve come to expect from Chaosium, and feel rather like an afterthought.

Summary: A thorough and excellently put together sourcebook which is essential for modern era keepers. Highly recommended. 9/10
The Whispered World
Daedalic/Deep Silver
Available Now - £19.99 (PC)
Review by Rob Wade

Sadwick is the most melancholy clown of the bunch. Working with a traveling circus, he dreams of a more exciting life; that is, when he’s not being troubled by nightmares involving a glowing orb and an eroding landscape. He thinks of these nightmares as nothing but fevered dreams of tedium, until one day he chances into the Autumn Forest and comes across a messenger for the kingdom of Corona, who tells him that the kingdom is indeed at threat. From there, Sadwick’s journey begins…

The Whispered World is a point-and-click adventure game in the style of Monkey Island, with players controlling Sadwick and his pet, Spot (I’m afraid I really can’t be more specific than “pet”) through the mouse, making him explore the area and the items around him, using those items in order to solve puzzles and advance through the game.

There are some really nice elements to this game, there’s no doubt about that. The graphics, while not outstanding, are very crisp and have a nice pseudo-anime style that is very pleasant to the eye. You could easily watch this unfold, and without the interaction present, assume you were watching a Studio Ghibli (Check spelling or use director’s name) film.

The music in this game is nothing short of stunning, with sweeping orchestral scores throughout. However, that’s about where the audio quality stops being of high quality. The sound effects are functional, not much more, and the voice acting is at times atrocious, with protagonist Sadwick a particularly low point. It’s like playing an adventure game with a clown version of Droopy who’s been told he should do stand-up by some malicious mates. The jokes are either self-deprecating on a Stephanie Meyer level, or they’re just...crap.

The puzzles are clever enough, but generally just consist of you collecting every item you can see, and then you get told pretty much word-for-word what you need to combine or use in order to make it work. As far as making you think outside the box goes, it’s not really one of those games it seems. It’s more one of those “collect everything inside the box, including the instruction manual on how to create the WIN button.”

The ultimate problem I have with this game, though, is that it simply doesn’t do enough to distinguish itself from any other game. If you look back through the classics, they all have a hook that’s unique and draws you in. Monkey Island has its insult sword-fighting, Grim Fandango was the first of its type to attempt the keyboard-based movement and interaction system in a mainstream title and even Discworld Noir had its…character changes (I don’t want to say too much for risk of spoiling it, everyone should play that game). Everything classic has a memorable element. In this case, you have a pet...pet that can be moulded into certain shapes in order to solve certain puzzles. It’s not enough; it’s simply another item in a different form.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Functional animation, though a lovely style that’s crisp and smooth.
Sound/Music: Woeful voice acting, which spoils some reasonable sound effects and stunning musical scores.
Gameplay: Classic point-and-click adventure gaming. Doesn’t really do enough to identify itself.
Lasting Appeal: Not much, same as most point-and-click adventures.
Summary: This is not a bad effort in the point-and-click genre, and a reasonable game all round, but is let down by some poor choices and a lack of any “wow” factor. 6/10


It's Indiana, 1818. Moonlight falls through the dense woods that surround a one-room cabin, where a nine-year-old Abraham Lincoln kneels at his suffering mother's bedside. She's been stricken with something the old-timers call 'Milk Sickness'. 'My baby boy...' she whispers before dying.

Only later will the grieving Abe learn that his mother's fatal affliction was actually the work of a vampire. When the truth becomes known to young Lincoln, he writes in his journal, 'henceforth my life shall be one of rigorous study and devotion. I shall become a master of mind and body. And this mastery shall have but one purpose'.

Gifted with his legendary height, strength, and skill with an axe, Abe sets out on a path of vengeance that will lead him all the way to the White House. While Abraham Lincoln is widely lauded for saving a Union and freeing millions of slaves, his valiant fight against the forces of the undead has remained in the shadows for hundreds of years. That is, until Seth "Pride & Prejudice & Zombies" Grahame-Smith stumbled upon The Secret Journal of Abraham Lincoln, and became the first living person to lay eyes on it in more than 140 years.

Using the journal as his guide and writing in the grand biographical style of Doris Kearns Goodwin and David McCullough, Seth has reconstructed the true life story of America's greatest president for the first time - all while revealing the hidden history behind the Civil War and uncovering the role vampires played in the birth, growth, and near-death of the nation.

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is out now from Robinson Publishing, priced £12.99.

Thanks to our friends at Robinson Publishing, we've got five copies of Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to alvhgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk the first five names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a free copy!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Bhanbhagta Gurung: The Real Life Rambo

Bhanbhagta Gurung (no, I’m not sure how you pronounce that, but I’m willing to bet you can just call him “Rambo”) was a Nepalese recipient of the Victoria Cross. A lot of people misunderstand the Victoria Cross, thinking it’s the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British forces. It would be fairer to say that it’s a badge given to those who are able to dish out more kick-arse than some sort of part-Batman part-Bruce Lee part-Predator part-Hippopotamus hybrid. Actually, he’s probably part-Vasquez as well.


And, yes, Hippos totally deserve to be on that list. They’re on record as the animal Steve Irwin claimed he was the most scared of.

Like all heroes, Bhanbhagta Gurung was born in a small village – possibly inhabited by a race of Hobbit like people – called Phalpu, in western Nepal in the district of Gorkha. He enlisted in the army during World War II, joining the 3rd Battalion, 2nd King Edward VII's Own Gurkha Rifles (AKA The Sirmoor Rifles, and not to be confused with King Edwards, which are a potato, King Edward’s, which are a cigar, and King Edward, which is a king) at the age of eighteen.

Shortly before the action that won him the Victoria Cross, he was reduced to the ranks for neglect of duty after being “blamed for taking the wrong hill”. One can only begin to imagine the fun Abbott and Costello could have had with that concept.

In February 1945, the 25th Indian Division landed at Ru-ywa (he’s in Street Fighter II), as a diversion from the offensive towards Mandalay, and advanced through the pass, held by the Japanese from a number of hills. The Gurkhas held two hills, code-named "Snowden" and "Snowden East", but were attacked by the Japanese and pushed back. They were ordered to retake the hills.

On 5 March 1945 near Tamandiu, in Burma, Gurung and his squad were approaching Snowdon-East. En route, his company took fire from a concealed sniper, and became hopelessly pinned down. The unit began to take causalities at the hand of their hidden assailant.

We’ve all seen war movies, or played war video games. We know what you’re supposed to do in that situation. You either have to a) sneak out and around to the side to get the drop on the sniper, or b) toss something shiny to distract him, then – whilst he’s blasting that – jump out and blast him back. The one thing you are not supposed to do is stand up in the middle of the firing zone, take aim, and fire at the sniper.

See if you can guess what Bhanbhagta Gurung did.

Gurung stood up in the middle of the fire zone, and calmly shot the douchebag, saving his unit. We’d also like to believe that the sniper looked through his scope, saw Gurung aiming back at him, made a “huh?” noise - and then the brave hero’s bullet smashed its way up the his scope before exploding his head. We’d also like to write Rodan in there somehow, but fear that may be pushing it.

Oh, that’s not what he got the Victoria Cross for. Now for the brave part...

Gurung’s squad advanced further but came under heavy fire once again. This pissed Gurung off something awful, and he got mean. Without waiting for orders, Gurung charged bat-shit-crazy-like to attack the first enemy fox-hole. Dropping two grenades down, he (unsurprisingly) killed the two occupants and without any hesitation rushed on, on, onto the next one like some sort of Ghurka Dave Grohl, this time laying into them with his bayonet. He cleared two further fox-holes with bayonet and grenade. On his own.

During his single-handed attacks on these four enemy fox-holes, Gurung was subjected to continuous point-blank fire from a Light Machine Gun. Here’s what one of those looks like:



Now, if we know Gurung (and I think by now we do) then we know he won’t put up with that kind of nonsense for long.

For the fifth time, Gurung went forward alone in the face of heavy enemy fire. He doubled forward and leapt onto the roof of the bunker from where he reached for his hand grenades – only to discover that he had none left! Without worry, hesitation, or sweat, Gurung instead threw in two No. 77 smoke grenades through the bunker slit. As two Japanese soldiers ran, coughing, from the bunker, Guring leapt on them with his Ghurka knife, and then advanced into the cramped bunker and killed the remaining Japanese soldier.

As enemy reinforcements began to pour in, Gurung used their own Light Machine Gun against them and recaptured the hill – the right hill, this time. Bhanbhagta Gurung – not only does he take no shit from snipers, lead solitary charges into enemy territory armed only with knives and explosives, and use a captured enemy’s dakka-dakka against them, but you can also win at Scrabble with his name. Especially if you stick “VC” on the end, bitch.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Book Reviews

Star Wars - Fate of the Jedi: Outcast
Aaron Alston
Arrow Books
Available now (Hardback), from 29th April(Paperback) - £18.99 (Hardback), £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

The Galactic Alliance is in crisis. Worse still, the very survival of the Jedi Order is under threat. In a shocking move, Chief of State, Natasi Daala, orders the arrest of Luke Skywalker for failing to prevent Jacen Solo's turn to the dark side. But it's only the first blow in an anti-Jedi backlash fueled by a hostile government and a media-driven witch hunt. Facing conviction, Luke must strike a bargain with the calculating Daala - his freedom in exchange for his exile from Coruscant and from the Jedi Order. Though forbidden to intervene in Jedi affairs, Luke is determined to keep history from being repeated. With his son, Ben, at his side, Luke sets out to unravel the shocking truth behind Jacen Solo's corruption and downfall. But the secrets he uncovers among the enigmatic Force mystics of the distant world Dorin may bring his quest - and life as he knows it - to a sudden end. And all the while, another Jedi Knight, consumed by a mysterious madness, is headed for Coruscant on a fearsome mission that could doom the Jedi Order ...and devastate the entire galaxy.

The Star Wars Expanded Universe has been mainly responsible for two things; division of fan support, with some finding the EU difficult to swallow as far as developing characters go, and secondly some fine examples of writers taking the characters and running with them to develop them fully. Such characters as Grand Admiral Thrawn, Mara Jade, Kyp Durron and the Solo children are characters that were creations of the Expanded Universe writers. Indeed, this novel revisits some familiar planets and characters in the same way as previous EU novels.

All the great trademarks of the Star Wars franchise are here: the sharp dialogue between characters, the little fan service in-jokes, the exciting chases and set-pieces, lightsabers and...a thermal detonator! Ok, so there's more than one thermal detonator, but you get the drift. What's nice is that in these novels, the main characters (Luke, Leia, Han, Lando etc.) have learned, made mistakes and developed as characters over the course of the stories.

The story in this novel is typical of a first instalment of a new series, rushing between characters and locales frequently in order to set up the main characters' roles throughout the series. Luke is chasing after the answers as to what turned Darth Caedus to the dark side of the Force, while Han and Leia travel to a planet that holds disturbing memories for Han in order to do a favour for everyone's favourite secondary character, Lando! Everyone loves Lando!

This rushing between characters and locales can make the story a little hard to follow at times, but only comparatively as a Star Wars book, which are usually an incredibly quick read. I did manage to get through this one in less than 12 hours (Not reading time, real time) so it's definitely a book that held my attention all the time I was reading, and I always found myself wanting to read on.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Some gunfights, chase scenes and sparring.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A strong entry in what promises to be an exciting new story arc in the Star Wars Expanded Universe. Interesting developments in the characters, and it'll be intriguing to see where it goes! 8/10

Star Wars - Fate of the Jedi: Backlash
Aaron Allston
Arrow Books
Available Now - £18.99 (Hardback)
Review by Rob Wade

Three major storylines run through the "Fate of the Jedi" series. One is the odyssey of Jedi Grand-Master-in-Exile Luke Skywalker and his son Ben, as they travel from one world of non-Jedi Force-users to the next in search of clues as to what might have turned Jacen Solo to embrace the evil ways of the Sith Lords. The second is the attempts of Galactic Alliance Chief of State Natasi Daala to break the power of the Jedi Order, while young Jedi Knights on a variety of worlds are inexplicably going insane. And the third is the tale of a previously unknown lost tribe of Sith as they rejoin the known galaxy determined to kill Luke Skywalker, destroy all the Jedi, and reinstate the Sith as supreme rulers. In "Backlash", Luke and Ben will visit the deadly world of Dathomir, home to the Night Sisters, otherwise known as the Dathomiri Witches, as an ancient evil, released from its prison, stretches its hungry tendrils ever farther through the galaxy.

Backlash marks the fourth novel in the 'Fate of the Jedi' storyline, and sees the developing results of both Luke Skywalker's trip around the galaxy searching for the source of Darth Caedus' transformation, as well as efforts made by Chief of State Daala to curb the Jedi's support and influence on the galaxy. In this novel, Luke and Ben are in pursuit of a Sith apprentice, whose master Luke killed in the previous volume. This chase leads them to Dathomir, which EU enthusiasts might recognise as the planet of the Nightsisters, a group of dark-side using witches, from way back before Han and Leia were married.

This novel is another strong result for Allston, with the characters developing nicely. The battle scenes are really well done, with the volume's main battle playing out over many days, and reminding me a lot of Legend, the David Gemmell classic, replacing the Drenai with the Dathomiri and the Nadir with the Nightsisters and their Rancor friends. That's right: Rancors. Awesome.

The main focus of the Dathomir elements of the story involves Luke and Ben trying to figure out how the Sith apprentice plans to get off-planet, and who (if anyone) is allied with her on the planet itself. This element of the story is done very well, if a little predictably at times. The main focus of the Daala/government storyline combines a behind-the-scenes assassination attempt in order to discredit the Chief of State, and at the same time Daala's increasing pressures from all over to outlaw the Jedi and make certain Jedi pay for their crimes in the past. It's a well-developed element of Daala's character (who, if the back of the book is anything to go by, is looking hot in a Tori Amos kind of way).

Ultimately, the novel Backlash is another strong link in the story, developing the key characters in a believable and logical fashion. The set-pieces are carried off well, and the ending sets up a continuation that beggars belief. Heartily recommended if you're a fan of the EU, particularly if you're up to speed on the timeline.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: The standard Star Wars battle scenes, including an epic Gemmell-style battle scene. Rancors!
Sex/Nudity:None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: Another strong entry from Aaron Allston, continuing what has proven to be an excellent storyline in the epic Star Wars Expanded Universe. Obviously previous storyline experience is recommended, if for no other reason than the books are mostly awesome. Definitely worth picking up if you're a fan of the EU. 8/10

The Orphaned Worlds
Michael Cobley
Orbit Books
Available from 29th April - £10.00 (Trade Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

Darien is no longer a lost outpost of humanity, but the prize in an intergalactic power struggle. Hegemony forces have a stranglehold over the planet and crack troops patrol its hotspots while Earth watches, passive, rendered impotent by galactic politics. But its Darien ambassador will soon become a player in a greater conflict. There is more at stake than a turf war on a newly discovered world...

Loyal readers may recall that I reviewed the first instalment of this trilogy Here and concluded that it was one of the finest novels I've ever had the pleasure to read. A rich, engaging story with well-developed characters, Seeds of Earth was a great read. Here, Cobley continues the trilogy with The Orphaned Worlds, the development of the 'Humanity's Fire' story.

Sequels are always difficult, particularly when it's part of a pre-planned trilogy. Often, the second novel has to develop a significant amount of storyline, resolve some of the major points from the first volume, and set up the plot for an epic finale. Some good examples of this are The Empire Strikes Back and Mass Effect 2. I'm pleased to report that after reading The Orphaned Worlds that this novel certainly belongs in the higher echelon of sequels.

Following the same cast of characters as the first volume, with a few new perspectives thrown in, Cobley develops the same quality science-fiction story seen in the first volume, employing the same method as before focusing each chapter from a particular character's perspective. It's a nice easy system to follow, and it definitely makes the plot a lot easier to digest.

This second volume isn't as action-heavy in parts as one might expect from the middle part of this trilogy, but when everything kicks off it's just as easy to follow and yet frantic at the same time. I didn't believe reading this that it could deliver on as many levels as the first volume, but I was wrong in many ways. The ending in particular, though a lengthy prologue, sets up plenty of interesting story arcs for the final volume.

As always, that's not to say that this is not without its flaws. As with the first volume, there is quite a lot of information to take in as you go along. Admittedly, obviously if you've read the first volume you're invested in the second and third thus it makes sense to work on the theory that people will read it regardless, but a little more breaking up of the longer sequences of character development and plot advancement wouldn't have gone amiss.

That's not to take away from what is another cracking book from a clearly very creative and gifted author.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: A few gunfights and some battle sequences.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: A few more uses of the canonical swears, but other than that nothing really.
Summary: Another quality entry in the series, well-developed characters and a final third that will leave you speechless! High hopes for the final instalment! 9/10

FVZA: Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency
David Hine and Roy Allan Martinez
Radical Publishing

Issues 1-3 Available Now - $4.99 each (£3.25)
Trade Paperback Release In July

Review by Brad Harmer

In a world where a deadly disease transforms innocent victims into Zombies, a long dormant government task force is called to action: The Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency.

Throughout history, from the Civil War to World War II, the FVZA protected humanity from the blood-sucking, flesh-eating hordes -- until a cure was discovered that sent the undead to their graves. When a new incurable strain of the virus ravages a small town in America, Agent Landra Pecos must call upon her lethal skills to eradicate the threat. But as Landra delves deeper into her investigation of the undead menace, she uncovers shocking secrets that will change her life forever.

From the front cover onwards, I was struck by the artwork in this title. Grim, detailed, and able to convey motion easily, it was perfect for a title of this type. What’s more the very premise was an interesting take on the genre, presenting vampirism and zombism as a plague.

However, Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency, whilst very pretty to look at, is far from without its flaws. The dialogue is very heavy handed, reading like something from a daytime soap opera. In the words of Futurama: “You can’t just have your characters announce how they feel! That makes me feel angry!”*.

An alternate universe this unique requires some exposition, but the bulk of the first issue is given over to a newsblast time-line. I appreciate that they only had three issues to do this series in, but surely there must have been a better way of handling it?

Ultimately, Federal Vampire and Zombie Agency is a quick blast of Underworld and Blade style action, with globs of viscera thrown around left right and centre. It may be a ride you’ve been on many times before, but that doesn’t stop it from being a fun ride.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several scenes of evisceration, stabbing, slicing, shooting, blood and gore.
Sex/Nudity: One mild sex-scene.
Swearing: Typical for the genre.
Summary: Worth checking out if vampires are your thing, and the artwork is good, to boot. Just don’t expect any surprises. 6/10

* Are you listening, Meyer? ARE YOU?!?!

Monday, 26 April 2010

Greatest Games I Ever Played

Welcome once again to Greatest Games I Ever Played, where we here at E14 take you through some of the games that have touched us (not in that way) over the years. These can be any games, board or video, console or PC. So what game and system make the cut for my GGEP this week?

Well, I'll tell you, along with a short story. As we've established before, My first home console was a SEGA Master System II, that came bundled with Sonic The Hedgehog. Eventually, though, my parents told me that I could upgrade to a 16-bit console. I was understandably ecstatic, and decided to take my time and choose wisely. After checking out the deals available at the time, I went to the store with one objective; get a good console at a good deal. I was many things as a youngster, but a douchebag was not one of them - my parents were kind enough to offer to pay towards a new console, and I wasn't about to make that excessively expensive. Thus, my choice was clear, and I purchased a Super Nintendo with Starwing or Starfox as it was known across the pond in the US (the game was renamed Starwing in Europe due to another game bearing the name Starfox).


aking the form of a simplified space combat simulator, Starwing put you in the space boots of Fox McCloud (who has since gone on to star in Starfox-themed games and Super Smash Brothers in its various iterations across console generations), leader of a squadron of space fighters named the Star Fox team, a team of mercenaries hired by General Pepper to defend their homeworld of Corneria from the dreaded Andross. A nice simple premise, from the days before plots had to have twists in the plot as standard. As we've established before, as well, as a child I was all about simplicity when it came to video games, and Starwing had it in spades.

Everything about this game was awesome. At the time, the visuals were astounding, with the SNES' Super-FX chip allowing for 3D environments, something that hadn't been nearly as easy to do in previous years. The music was great, military-style music in the vein of Star Wars, and really set the mood for the upcoming battle. The level design was superb, with both planet-side and deep-space combat, with a branching level system allowing players to take different paths through different levels with a sufficient jump in difficulty between each path. Even re-visiting previous levels was made more difficult, with bosses being significantly harder to make the challenge more effective (and trust me, it was).

Now, the end boss may not have looked as terrifying as you might expect, considering you spent hours and hours pursuing him to his lair on planet Venom, and that he was a being who took up a tremendous amount of space...in space, but trust me when I say that looking at him while trying to fly a starship successfully towards him, shoot the son of a bitch in the face and avoid the massive bits of crap he threw your way was certainly akin to the challenge of some of today's games.

One of the main reasons I loved this game was that it encompassed all of these things I mentioned above. Another was that it came packaged with the console, so it didn't cost me any more to buy the game, which is something I have kept with me to this day, always looking for the best deals on consoles. Mainly, though, Starwing was the first game I ever played through from start to finish, but by no means the last. Not so amazing considering that I only owned three console games before I got the Super Nintendo, and all my games on the Amiga were either limited in scope or crap (apart from one or two, but that's a story for another post...)

Sadly, Nintendo has yet to release Starwing on the Wii's Virtual Console service, but maybe...just maybe...I can start a revolution here. Maybe, if enough people read this, are sufficiently outraged and so contact Nintendo, we can get Starwing its rightful place among the other classics available for re-release purchasing goodness.

Or not, whatever works. In any case, I'm content in the knowledge that I completed a legitimately hard game, as well as handing a massive spanking to an end boss that sort of resembles the original Kryten from Red Dwarf.




On May 3rd Bruce Lee: The Immortal Dragon, the authorised biography, is released on DVD. To celebrate we have a copy of the film each for five of our readers.

Bruce Lee: The Immortal Dragon is a comprehensive anthology of rare home movies, action-packed film clips, behind the scenes footage, screen tests and photographs from the Lee family archives. The documentary recalls the remarkable life-story of Bruce Lee and his tremendous success as an unparalleled martial artist as well as an international film celebrity.

For your chance to win just answer the following question:


What colour was Lee’s iconic tracksuit?

Send your answers in to bruceleegiveaway@yahoo.co.uk before midday on Monday 3rd May for your chance win a copy of this awesome DVD!

Saturday, 24 April 2010

DVD Reviews

Zombeak
Starring: Illya Allman, Barry Bishop and Sarah Frances Conkle
Director: Sam Drog
MVM

Available Now - £5.99 (DVD)
Review by Blake Harmer

On the darkest night of the year, when Satan is allowed to walk the earth, a group of Satanists kidnap a redneck waitress to be a given up as Lucifer’s bride and mother of the Antichrist. But when her friends stop the devil from taking over one of the devil-worshippers and completing the ritual, Satan is transferred into a sacrificed chicken (Yes, you heard me.). Now, the Satanists and Rednecks must try and stop the demonic fowl from passing on its seed so the antichrist can be born, whilst not having their souls eaten at the same time.

I would like to take this time to apologise to Dr Jekyll and Sister Hyde for saying their plot was stupid. I was obviously unaware that such a terrible film existed that could have such a bizarre plot that it rivals One Eyed Monster on the ludicrous scale.

This film is a low budget affair with terrible acting, special effects and script, with any attempts at comedy failing because of one or more of these reasons. The sound is also terrible with most of the actors sounding dubbed even when they're not. It is almost as though they re-did the sound entirely after the film was shot, and even then it sounds muffled.

The only saving grace of the film is the star of the show, the Zombeak itself. Whilst it is a terrible puppet with a moving head and beak, it still manages to raise the most laughs in the whole film because of its sheer crappiness. How does the Zombeak leap off the stairs onto its prey? Simple, someone obviously pushes it off the stairs, and yes it does look as bad as that sounds.

The only other good thing that can be said for this film is that it is very short, running at just over an hour long including the credits, so the suffering is fairly brief. But seeing there is a lot of nothing and mucking about in the film, one can only think that it could have been a lot shorter.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence:
Lots of eyes being gouged out by a demonic chicken and zombies being hacked to bits with axes - but nothing super gory, especially as the terrible CG blood ruins it anyway.
Sex/Nudity: With a film this terrible, I was actually disappointed that the female lead didn’t show her boobs in an attempt to save this weak shonk fest.
Swearing: Lots of over the top swearing as is the teenage horror norm.
Summary: A terrible horror movie that’s saving grace is that the chicken deaths are quite amusing, and that the whole film is quite brief. It is a good film to watch to take the piss out of with some friends, but apart from that, I’d avoid it as you would the actual Antichrist, chicken or not. 2/10
Evangelion: 1.11 You Are (Not) Alone
Director: Anno
Manga Entertainment

Available From 26th April - £17.99 (DVD), £19.99 (Collector's Edition DVD), £22.99 (Blu-ray) and £24.99 (Collector's Edition Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

The year is 2015, and half of the Earth's population is dead, victims of a disaster at the turn of the millennium dubbed the Second Impact and thought to have been the result of a cataclysmic meteor strike on Antarctica. In fact, the event was brought about by human interaction with a race of alien beings known only as Angels. To defend the earth against future attacks from the Angels, humans were forced to utilise the Angels’ alien technology in creating a new breed of bio-engineered vessels, the Evangelions, giant robot-like weapons piloted by human youths.

Answering a summons from his estranged, enigmatic, scientist father, 14-year-old Shinji Ikari arrives in the rebuilt city of Tokyo-3 just as another Angel attacks only to learn that he is next in line to pilot an Evangelion and defend the city, and ultimately the planet, from the rampaging alien force!

Mecha Vs Kaiju (Giant Fucking Robots Vs Giant Fucking Monsters, for all of you casual geeks), is always a good thing – in principle at least. Evangelion: You Are (Not) Alone has the potential to be a really good series, for the most part. To start with, the animation is simply superb. In fact, this might be one of the best looking animes I’ve seen. I’m not the biggest fan of merging CG and cel animation, but it actually works here, so that’s a real big score for them. There are some really good characters on offer, too.

What holds it back though, is a feeling that we’ve been here before. Giant Robots? Yeah. Child protagonist piloting a Mech? Yeah. Unexplained monsters? Yeah. Slightly creepy girl with virtuoso piloting skills? Yeah. If, at some point over the next few discs, we aren’t witness to several robots merging together to form a giant robot, then I’ll shit a Gundam.

Also, I know it’s early in the series, but there was simply no sense of danger. I don’t care how pretty the explosions are. If I’m certain that none of the major characters will get hurt in them, then there’s no impact.

Sure, it’s generic, but if you’re looking to scratch your giant robot itch, you could certainly do a lot worse than this impressive slice of animation.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Several explosions and some gunfire.
Sex/Nudity: Tentacle free.
Swearing: Some uses, but mild and infrequent.
Summary: Not the most original of mecha stories, but it’s well put together and pretty to look at. Worth keeping your eye on. 7/10
WWE - TLC: Tables, Ladders and Chairs 2009
Starring: John Cena, Randy Orton, The Undertaker
Clear Vision Ltd

Available Now - £17.99 (DVD)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

WWE presents Tables, Ladders and Chairs, the PPV based on furniture that probably wasn’t intended to be used as weaponry. It’s a chance for the company to push its “real” stars, be they talented or not.

In the Shelton Benjamin/Christian hype, Christian states the ECW Title Match will “steal the show”. The Ladder Match that he and Shelton enter has a really good go. It’s a very good spotfest spoilt by WWE’s “no blood” rule. At one point Christian clips his head off of a ladder and bleeds from a small-ish cut on his temple. Within seconds a WWE cutsman is at ringside with an ice-iron, closing the cut whilst Benjamin is forced to stall for a horrendous amount of time. It’s a shame, because the rest of the match is great.

Drew McIntyre, John Morrison, Intercontinental Title, blah, blah, blah…

Mickie James’ shot at Michelle McCool’s Women’s Championship is better than I thought it would be. Apart from the ridiculous “Piggy James” jokes, (more on that another time...) both workers are crisp, and all of the bumps are sharp.

John Cena’s WWE Title defence in a Table Match against Sheamus is shocking from start to finish. It’s slow, boring and the finish makes both wrestlers look abysmal. It’s pretty much all Sheamus’ fault, and he really is an overpushed, pale, ginger turd of a grappler. Actually, a real pale, ginger haired turd would make you react...

Another slow, predictable match as Batista has a chance at Undertaker and his World Championship in a Chair Match. Bear in mind that Chair Match rules state that you can be disqualified, but not for using a chair, you just know that there will be shenanigans. A tedious and disappointing match with a twist in the finish about as exciting as a pale, ginger haired turd.

(The commentary here sucks. Batista’s daily protein intake will make chairs hurt less, and Undi’ has never competed in a match as dangerous as a Chair Match. Fuck fire, cages and being buried alive, there’s furniture to contend with!)

The match between Randy Orton and Kofi Kingston is an entertaining affair. Orton uses his usual match formula, but Kofi copes well, and is allowed to look equal to Orton throughout.

The main event is a TLC match for the Tag Team Championships between JeriShow (Chris Jericho and Big Show) and DX (Triple H and Shawn Michaels). All four men are on the top of their games in this one, and they enter a thrilling match featuring Big Show up a ladder, Y2J attempting to win by standing on Show’s shoulders, and HBK getting choke slammed through HHH. Yup, through HHH.

Recommended Matches:
Kofi Kingston VS Randy Orton
JeriShow VS DX

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Hard to say...weapons, but no blood.
Sex/Nudity: Does lycra count?
Swearing: Not here, kids!
Summary: A pretty poor PPV, saved by the main event. Don’t pay full price for it, but grab it if you can. 6/10

At last weekend’s C2E2 convention, Dark Horse Comics announced that it would continue telling the epic tale of Robert E. Howard’s Conan the Cimmerian with the return of legendary writer Roy Thomas. Thomas introduced the comic-reading public to Conan in 1970, when he began the highly successful Conan the Barbarian for Marvel Comics, a title he wrote for ten years. Conan and comics fans will also remember the former Marvel editor in chief’s classic tales from lauded runs as a writer and editor on The Savage Sword of Conan and as the writer of King Conan. Now, in 2010, Thomas returns to the character he helped ingrain into the consciousness of the comics community with Conan: Road of Kings.

“Conan the Cimmerian is one of the most important people in my life—even if he never really existed—and it was a genuine thrill to be asked by Dark Horse publisher Mike Richardson to scribe a year’s worth of his darkly epic adventures,” Thomas said.

Continuing where Conan the Cimmerian #25 leaves off, Thomas’s Conan: Road of Kings will tell a twelve-issue epic about the next stage in the adventurous hero’s illustrious life, beginning with a new #1 issue. Featuring art by Mike Hawthorne (Fear Agent), Road of Kings begins this December.

Conan: Road of Kings picks up the barbarian on the Vilayet Sea, at nearly the easternmost edge of Robert E. Howard’s map of the Hyborian age, and has twelve breathless issues to deliver him—black-haired, sullen-eyed, sword in hand—to the westernmost shores of that age undreamed of,” Thomas continued. “To reach his destination, he must travel the fabled Road of Kings that winds its way through the civilized kingdoms—but along his path lurk inhuman monstrosities, malevolent sorcerers and not a few power-crazed men and women who are determined to see to it that he doesn’t make it.

“Dynamic artist Mike Hawthorne and I intend to make Conan’s westward odyssey a chapter in the Cimmerian’s life that readers won’t soon forget,” Thomas explained. “This will be a quite different take on Conan’s life than the one I pioneered at Marvel in the seventies and the nineties, with new adventures, new antagonists, even new and alternative sides to characters you thought you’d met before.”

The current Conan creative team of writer Tim Truman and artist Tom├ís Giorello are set to continue their adventures with the Cimmerian, as well. Jumping ahead in Conan’s timeline, King Conan: The Scarlet Citadel features the adventurer years in the future — after he’s become the king of Aquilonia — and adapts one of Robert E. Howard’s original Conan tales. This four-issue miniseries will hit comic shops in early 2011.

Dark Horse Comics is also slated to continue its run of successful Conan reprints with King Conan Volume 1 on sale August 25, The Savage Sword of Conan Volume 8 on sale September 22, and Conan: The Newspaper Strips Volume 1 on sale September 8, all featuring the writing talents of Thomas alongside other greats, like Doug Moench, John Buscema, Gil Kane, Ernie Chan, and more!

Friday, 23 April 2010

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could an teenage boy desire? The thing is, that while the gamebook became a great gaming experience in its own right, the only RPG it could possibly have simulated was one being GM'd by Satan himself. 90% of decisions led to certain death, and combat was often fatal.

Satan wasn't available, so Brad will be GMing Rob through an RPG based on the classic Steve Jackson Fighting Fantasy gamebook Appointment With F.E.A.R..

Brad is the GM, and Rob plays his character, Trent Foster AKA The Silver Braggart.

Previously on Dickass DM: Trent Foster AKA The Silver Braggart must find the location and time of the secret meeting of F.E.A.R (Federation of Euro-Americal Rebels). So far he has no real clues, but has picked up some dog poop, kicked some abused animals to death and tasered a nine year-old boy into unconciousness. Whilst in Cowfield Dairy, he has run into "Chainsaw" Bronksi, who is wielding a battery-powered electric knife...

Read Part One
Here

Combat:
Bronski:
Well, Silver Crusader, looks like we may have to cut this meeting a little short, hahah!

You block a blow from his knife and punch him in the nipple.

Silver Braggart: Well, "Chainsaw", I thought you'd be a little more intimidating with your name and all. Looks like you should be called "Swiss Army Bitch Bronski".
Bronski: After this I'm going to go stab your wife. In the foo. With my penis.

You headbutt him in the stomach in a really convoluted and retarded way.

Silver Braggart: With that little thing? I think she'd just laugh.
Bronski: Talking about yourself again.
Silver Braggart: Aren't you going to swing that little craft knife around?

With a cock punch you knock him out cold.

Silver Braggart: Ha! Looks like your teeth have all fallen out, Chainsaw!

Brad: You take the murderer to police headquarters. On the way he pleads with you not to take him in. He even gives you some useful information. Apparently The Serpent has been spurned by his actress girlfriend, Lola Manche.

Silver Braggart: I might bang her.

Brad: She is famous for her quote: "I don't want to be a star; I just want to be an ordinary girl!".

Silver Braggart: I can definitely bang her.

Brad: She always takes the poorest of dressing-rooms and has deciced to give up her life of decadence as The Serpent's girl. He has sworn that, by hook or by crook, she will return to him. Of course, you will not give way to deals with criminals. You hand Bronski over to a surprised sergeant at the desk and leave.

Silver Braggart: What? I said I was bringing in a Chainsaw.

Brad: You must start thinking about getting back to work. Outside it is starting to rain. Just your luck! You change back into street clothes and get a move on. You are late for work again!
Rob: I'm going to get fired at this rate.
Brad: This is why most superhero alter-egos are self-employed. Think about it. You turn the corner onto Clark Street and stop as you pass Harrold's Department Store. A thought has crossed your mind: you could stop and buy your boss a present of some kind to apologise for being late. But then this would make you even later. Is it worth it?
Rob: Nah. Go to work.
Brad: Exactly, who buys presents for their boss? I hate every boss I've ever had, don't you?
Rob: Not every one. Almost all.
Brad: I hate you and I never even worked for you.

McSpindle: Foster! Get in here at once!

Brad: No sooner had you stepped through the office door than Eugene McSpindle's booming voice summoned you. You creep into his office, mumbling scanty excuses for being late yet again.

McSpindle: Enough! What do you think we are running here? A charity?

Brad: Why do people say that? Do charities not work office hours or something?
Rob: I don't know.

McSpindle: Do you suppose I should be grateful that you even grace us with your presence?
Trent Foster: Well, frankly...Never mind.
McSpindle: Very noble of you indeed to bother coming in at all! Well, I'll tell you what! I'm feeling kind today. You can have the rest of the day off. Without pay! And if you're not in first thing tomorrow morning, you can start looking for another job!

Brad: You slink out of his office with your tail between your legs. How can you tell him what you've been doing?
Rob: Limerick?

There once was a man from the city...
Whose super-secret suit was so pretty...
He did have a job,
But his boss was a knob,
And the pay, being frank, was shitty.

Trent Foster: Well, the main thing is that I didn't kill that child.

Brad: And now you've been suspended for a day. Where will you go?

Trent Foster: Maybe I'll learn to crochet!

Brad: You could head to Wisneyland, the Copyright Infringiest Place on Earth? Or go home, and chill out, with the intention of getting into work really early tomorrow.
Rob: Wisneyland? I don't remember seeing that before.
Brad: Don't worry. You're not going mental. This is the first mention of Wisneyland.
Rob: "Rob, you've been suspended for a day, what are you going to do now?!"
"I'm going to Wisneyworld!"
That sort of thing?



Brad: The Cease and Desistiest Place on Earth. Is that your choice? You've been suspended from work without pay for a day, so you're going to go and piss a week's wages up Ricky Mouse's wall?
Rob: Is it even a choice?
Brad: Yeah, I gave you two optio...you know, what? Fuck it. Let's go to Wisneyland.
Rob: Awesome.
Brad: Wisneyland is swarming with holiday-makers enjoying their day out at the amusement park. The smell of candy floss and hot dogs hangs in the air and, as you stroll about, youngsters clutching stuffed animals run laughing past you.
Rob: Reflex Clothesline!
Brad: I am so glad I'm not the only one who does that.
Rob: It's so satisfying.
Brad: It's why I'm banned from no less than four Pizza Huts.
Rob: Four? Pussy. I'm banned from every single SeaLife Centre.
Brad: Screams of delight from roller-coaster riders turning through the corkscrew break through the general hubbub. You are going to enjoy yourself today. What do you want to visit first?
Rob: The Fun House! Whole lot of fun...prizes to be won...
Brad: You pay the admission charge and enter the fun house. You walk along a narrow passageway. As you turn a dark corner, a luminous skeleton appears in front of you, shrieking wildly!
Rob: Reflex Pant-Soiling!
Brad: We're back in the Vault of the Vampire. Again. You reflexively soil your pants, and then laugh; just one of the scares of the Fun House.
Rob: Reflex Derisive Laugh!
Brad: Further down the passage, your feet stumble on a wobbly floor. You are the least dextrous superhero ever. Then the walls begin to sway. Suddenly, your foot steps on something and you fall forwards. But this time it is not a wobbly floor; you fall through the ground and land on a rubber mattress in a dark pit. Although it is pitch-black, you can tell that you are not alone. Another figure touches you!
Rob: Reflex Testicle-Protect!
Brad: A voice calls out and you answer.

Man's Voice: Oh, thank God someone else is here!
Trent Foster: Greetings, Simpleton!
Man's Voice: I've been here for two hours! I can't find a way out. And not only that, my wallet is gone! I'm sure it has been stolen.
Trent Foster: What wallet? Want an ice cream?
Man's Voice: And I don't think this was any accident. My name is Grant Morley, a reporter on the Titan Times. I have been covering an expose to reveal the identity of The Scarlet Prankster. Earlier I met an informant at the Big Wheel who gave me a key to one of the rooms here where he thought I could get some useful information. That key was in my wallet!

Brad: You consider the situation.



Trent Foster: Hmmmm...

Brad: The Scarlet Prankster is a dangerous criminal who delights in grisly practical jokes. And is not to be associated with any DC characters.
Rob: Or historical figures.
Brad: Or lead characters in Gone With The Wind. You decide to change into the Silver Braggart under cover of the pitch-blackness. Then the two of you search the walls for a way out. You find a hidden door which lets you into the main room of the fun house. With a miniature Sensor Scanner (from your utility belt), you examine the man's pocket for clues. The scanner indicates some flakes of skin from a hand that was not his own. Something strange is going on here!

Silver Braggart: How fucking often do you wash out your trousers, you sick fuck?

Brad: Where do you want to begin your investigations? The Fun House's main attractions are buzzing with people, although most are now staring at you with open eyes. As opposed to closed eyes. Obviously.
Rob: Hmmm...What would Batman do? For the sake of argument.
Rob: I'll examine The Rotating Room. Let's see if we can turn this caper around. A-ha.
Brad: Ha. The Rotating Room is a huge barrel on its side which tumbles over and over. The people inside try desperately to walk forward at the same speed as it rotates in order to keep their footing; walking too fast or too slow means they fall over. That sounds like a torture implement.
Rob: Yeah, it does really.
Brad: There are three people inside as you enter and they are happy to leave at your request. Keeping your footing, you examine the inside and find a delicate key which has become stuck to the surface in a piece of chewing-gum. You decide to take it for examination.
Rob: Hunh, that was easy.
Brad: You take the key outside the room and find Grant Morley. But he shakes his head, telling you it is not his key.

Silver Braggart: It is now.


Brad: You leave the Fun House puzzling over your find, but your questions are answered when you see a young boy crying by his bicycle outside. He has lost the key to the padlock.
Silver Braggart: Of course! I had forgotten there is more than one key in the world! Morley! Give this kid that key I gave you, his cries are piercing my ear drums!
Brad: You hand it over to him. I love how your character gives up on everything really, really easily.
"There's a supervillain on the premises! He took my key, and I know he's up to something!"
"Is this your key?"
"No."
"Close enough. I'm going to the bar."
"But the Supervillain is stil..."
"I said "bar"."
Where are you heading as you leave Wisneyland?
Silver Braggart: One ride's enough. I'm spent.
Rob: Is there a gift shop?
Brad: Not one mentioned, but, yeah, probably.
Rob: I go and hang out down town. Things will be great when I'm downtown...
Brad: Strolling downtown, you stop first at the bank to get some cash. Next stop is a pizza parlour for a bite to eat. Strolling downtown, you stop first at the bank to get some cash. Next stop is a pizza parlour for a bite to eat. You take a stool facing out across Banner Street and watch the shoppers passing as you eat your pizza. On the far side of the road is a man you recognise.
Rob: Hulk Hogan?
Brad: It is Drew Swain, a retired millionaire who made his fortune manufacturing the collection tins used by charities. He steps into a baker's shop; when he comes out, something strange happens.
Rob: Shawn Michaels comes flying out?
Brad: He takes a step forward and suddenly freezes, held like a statue in an off-balance pose. A blue van draws up and obscures your view. When the van drives off, Swain is gone!
Trent Foster: Hunh. That was bizar....oh, this crust is to die for!
Brad: You saw it with your own eyes! But it happened so quickly that you are now a long way behind the kidnappers. Will you nip to the crapper in the back of the shop and change costume?
Rob: I'll Go Hero and ask questions at the bakery.
Brad: "Did you notice anything suspicious?"
"No, he ju..."
"Good enough. I've got pizza to finish."
You rush into the bakery and ask questions about their latest customer. But it seems there was nothing unusual about him.
Silver Braggart: Quickly dammit, my garlic bread is drying out!
Brad: He bought a loaf of wholemeal bread and two custard tarts.
Rob: ...is that in the book?
Brad: The bread and tarts?
Rob: Yeah.
Brad: Yep. The staff don't know anything more about him. You go outside to the scene of the crime, and see if there are any other clues to be had. Outside you find a single clue to the kidnapping - a metal slug with the letter "M" engraved in it. Man, I really want to play Metal Slug now...
Rob: To be fair dude, you usually do.
Brad: This means nothing to you. You hand it to the police, and let them take over.
Seriously. You are the worst superhero ever. Including Daredevil.
Rob: Come on man, he sucks!
Brad: You resume your shopping tour downtown. Will you make for "Verging Records" to go and have a look at what new albums have come out recently, or will you have a look in the window of Epiphany's, the famous jeweller's?
Rob: I'll go to the record shop. Maybe it's like the one in High Fidelity. Or that other film about a record shop. What's it called? The one with Liv Tyler.
Brad: Empire Records?
Rob: The Lord of the Rings! The Two Tower Records.
Brad: Only one minute sixteen seconds of Empire Records is worth watching.
Rob: Which bit is that again?



Brad: You find there is a new Michael Blackson album called Willer, all about spooks and ghouls, and you decide to buy it. That's genuinely, word for word, in the book.
Rob: You're joking.
Brad: Nope. You know me. I never take credit for a gag that isn't mine. And never deny credit for a bad one that is.
Rob: True enough.
Brad: You go straight home to listen to it. This city presumably lies on the border between Fairuseland, and Copyrightinfringia.
Rob: I'm surprised I didn't download the album on meTunes.
Brad: Next morning you leave for work early. You are sorely tempted to leave your Crimewatch behind; you dare not miss another day's work! But your fears are unwarranted.
To your utter amazement, your Crimewatch is silent. You arrive at work early. Eugene McSpindle cannot believe his eyes when he enters the office to find you hard at work at your desk.
Rob: I flip him off.
Brad: At lunch-time you catch up on the day's news on the teletext TV. Jesus, I hope later editions of this book have updated that.
Rob: "At noon-song, you stand in the square to hear the town-cryer.."
Brad: Two stories catch your attention. One is of a strange attack in Audubon Park. A woman has been seriously mauled by what she calls "a monster", but a specialist at the hospital thinks the claw-marks of an animal of some kind.
Rob: "Yeah...an animal of...some kind. Like a Wolf. Or a parakeet."
Brad: The second story is of a man who had his chest crushed in the grounds of the Natural History Museum. There are no clues as to who or what was responsible. It is as if whatever caused the man's death simply walked away. Presumably dabbing entrails across the parquet flooring.
Rob: Presumably.
Brad: Both incidents are being investigated by the police. You decide to do a little invesigation of your own. You change into the Silver Braggart and head off to make your trademark half-hearted enquiries.
"People dead, huh? Yeah, that sucks. Pringle?"
Rob: You laugh now...I head to The Natural History Museum.

Silver Braggart: I like my enemies dusty.


Brad: The curator of the Natural History Museum is very helpful and agrees to show you around the exhibits.
Silver Braggart: A tour? I really don't have time for...ooh, are those neanderthals?
Brad: The curator takes you round the stuffed exhibits. Gorillas, rhinos, great cats, even a whale - they are all there and you examine them with interest. Two in particular catch your attention. One of the tigers has dried blood on its claws, but there is no way of knowing whether the blood is human or animal, or even how long it has been there. Also, the curator tells you that the elephant was moved into the ground-floor private exhibit rooms yesterday for cleaning.
Rob: Investigate them exhibits.
Brad: You sound like you've got a hunch going on there...
Rob: Nah, it's just the way I walk when I'm sleuthing.
Brad: The curator is mildly amused at your suggestion that his stuffed animals could have anything to do with the killings.
Curator: I see...(sarcastic) The elephant stepped off his pedastal and told his cleaners, "Excuse me, won't you. I'm just off for a stroll round the grounds.". And you think the tiger somehow passed right through its glass case, came downstairs - through the crowds, who didn't notice anything odd - left for a morning in Audubon Park and then returned at lunch time? I thought you superhero-types were supposed to be bright...
Silver Braggart: Am I in my costume? Oh...yeah, I'm so drunk...
Brad: You feel a bit foolish for even suggesting. You decide to leave.
Rob: Lets's the zoo instead, then.
Brad: When you arrive at the zoo gates, you question the attendant, asking whether there have been any reports of animals escaping from their cages over the last couple of days. The attendant is obviously excited to see you.
Attendant: Gosh. Hi, Braggart!
Silver Braggart: "Gosh"? What are you, five? Say "fuck".
TO BE CONTINUED...


Young Sadwick lives in a beautiful but perilous fantasy world with his brother, grandpa and pet sidekick Spot. Together they roam these mystical lands with their circus. Sadwick, known as Sad to friends and family, is a twelve year old boy with a melancholic vein.

Sad would like nothing more than to set out and explore the world, but his family is holding him back. One night a strange blue creature appears to him in his dreams, abruptly changing his life.

Many dangers await Sadwick, for the world he knows is doomed to crumble and fall.

In classic point & click tradition, gamers steer Sadwick and his companion Spot through the game. Little Spot never leaves Sadwick’s side and is integral to solving many puzzles. He can take on many different forms throughout the game, which the player can pick and choose at will, once they have been learned.

Hand-painted backgrounds filled with animated details and lovingly crafted characters in the style of classic animated movies like Spirited Away bring the story to life. The Whispered World mixes fairy-tale elements with melancholic tones to create a tale of epic proportions.

Thanks to our friends at Deep Silver and Koch Media, we've got three copies of The Whispered World on PC and The Whispered World OST to give away! For your chance of winning one, send us an e-mail to mailto:whisperedworldgiveaway@yahoo.co.uk%20thethe first three names drawn out of the electronic hat will win a copy of the game and soundtrack!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Centurion

Centurion
Starring: Michael Fassbender, Olga Kurylenko, Dominic West
Director: Neil Marshall
Warner Brothers

In Cinemas From 23 April
Review by Blake Harmer

Neil Marshall has always been about two things when it comes to making movies: gripping death scenes and funny one-liners, and whilst he hasn’t been able to top his debut feature length movie Dog Soldiers, Marshall has always delivered strong, if not groundbreaking, movies. So I went in with high hopes for his most recent action movie centurion, but can Romans cutting Picts into bread outdo Soldiers versus werewolves?

The plot of Centurion centres around Quintus (Michael Fassbender), the sole survivor of a savage raid on a Roman frontier fort, joining General Virilus’ (Dominic West (300, Punisher: Warzone, & Star Wars - Episode I: The Phantom Menace as a palace guard)) legendary ninth legion to march north and eradicate the terrifying tribe known as the Picts. However, when the legion is practically wiped out and Virilus captured, Quintus and a small band of soldiers must struggle to survive behind enemy lines, but will they save their general, evade capture and make it back to the Roman frontier?
As is with Marshall’s other films, the film has some excellent fight scenes and some very gory deaths including axes imbedded in skulls or spears impaling people with lots of blood spewing out, and whilst the deaths aren’t flashy or stylish, the brutal way weapons dig into flesh and heads cave in is almost guaranteed to make you wince a couple of times throughout the film, and this style of violence is very similar to his other films such as The Descent or Doomsday. The film also keeps to Marshall’s strengths by having some very strong lines amongst the banter you hear from the soldiers throughout the film. Special mention should also go to the fact that the film hardly uses any computer-generated special effects, which is really good to see in an age where green screen and CG effects are the norm.

However, Centurion is far from a perfect action film. Some of the characters that form Quintus’ band of soldiers after the ninth legion is destroyed could have benefited from a bit more character development rather than just a single campfire scene where they introduce each other. Sadly, this meant I didn’t really care whether they lived or died aside from Quintus - the central protagonist. I also felt that the plot whilst enjoyable, was a little unoriginal in places, especially as the premise of them trying to get back to the Roman frontier from behind enemy lines felt like a Roman version of The Warriors.
Finally, I felt that some parts of the film, especially towards the end felt a little bit rushed as though they spent too much time in the middle of the film. However, these flaws are pretty minor for what is essentially a fun and entertaining action film filled with good set pieces, gory death scenes, and cool one liners, and that is what an E14 film should be.

So to answer my original question, has Neil Marshall been able to break the mould and deliver a film more entertaining than Dog Soldiers? Sadly, the answer is no, and the films biggest flaw is that, in comparison to his other works and action films in general, Centurion doesn’t really offer anything new and fresh to the action genre. But if you want to see an enjoyable action fest filled with gory death scenes, Centurion gladly steps up to the table and dishes out just that.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence:
Lots of gore and cool death scenes throughout, just what Neil Marshall does best in his films.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Swear words used to great effect to create some brilliant one-liners.
Summary: An enjoyable action film with lots of gore and swearing to keep the majority of the Emotionally Fourteen happy, and whilst the plot may not be the most original, Marshall has stuck to what he does best, and delivered a thoroughly entertaining film filled with gory action and great one-liners. Go watch it if you are an action fan or a big fan of Neil Marshall’s previous films, just don’t expect it to be vastly different from anything else he has done before. 8/10