Monday 28 February 2011

Gaming Remakes: The Ugly, The Bad and The E14

Remakes. Specifically, remakes that are re-released on the Arcade systems (Xbox Live, Playstation Network). Sometimes the developers of the remake get it absolutely spot on. Sometimes they very much do not hit the mark at all. Sometimes, it's not clear whether they're playing in the same ballpark. Nevertheless, here are some of all of those different types of game remakes.

The Ugly - Ultimate MK 3

Released originally in 1995 in arcades (or 'coin-op'), UMK3 was also released on home consoles (which is where I first experienced it on Super Nintendo - thankfully, the censorship that had been present in the first Mortal Kombat on Super Nintendo was no longer in place by this point, and you could experience exactly the kind of game that should always have been there).

The appeal of UMK3 for fans was the coming together of a ton of Mortal Kombat universe characters without the annoyance of having to also choose from DC characters like the unusual Mortal Kombat vs. DC Universe, including such greats as Cyrax, who was a particular favourite of mine. In arcades (and also on the SNES and Genesis), the game was awesome, and everything about that game worked, from the game modes to the controls.

Fast forward 11 years, and the game was emulated for Xbox Live Arcade in 2006. I first discovered it in 2007, when I purchased my Xbox 360 and spent my first Microsoft points on UMK3 among other things. I learned a lesson that day: download and play the fucking trial first. For the love of fuck, I cannot stress that advice enough. If you take nothing else away from anything I ever tell you, please take that advice away. Trials are there for a reason.

This game was a complete and utter clusterfuck from the off. The controls were atrocious (D-pad controls are not designed for an Xbox 360 controller, and I sincerely hope that the re-design in early March fixes a lot of these issues), and though the graphics were identical, the game didn't really measure up to the test of time.

As if that wasn't enough, the difficulty curve was atrociously bad, and just punished you if you didn't know what you were doing. You would be getting used to the controls, and maybe pulling off three hit combos, and your opponent can do eight or nine hit combos without so much as a bead of sweat dropping off their proverbial brow. Most damningly of all, they de-listed the game on Xbox Live, and I've got achievements earned that I can't get rid of, meaning that it is responsible for me never being able to 100% all my games. Now, fair enough, it's unlikely to happen regardless, but I can only take some small comfort in blaming this game for that.

The Bad - Sensible World of Soccer

Like UMK3, this was one that I downloaded purely on my nostalgic memories of playing the original, which in my case was for the Amiga. With a keyboard, the game worked incredibly well. For the time, with all football games having to choose between isometric perspective and top-down perspective, SWOS (man, we're all about the acronyms today) was undoubtedly the better of the top-down games available. The game also included completely editable leagues and teams, giving the user complete and utter control that hadn't really been replicated fully until the more recent Pro Evolution and FIFA games.

However, as I've previously covered, there is a fundemental problem with the controller on the Xbox 360; it's not built for D-pad games. Cue hours and hours (and I do still go back to it every now and then in a vain attempt to try and improve my lot) of frustrating attempts to fucking score more than one goal in a game. Half the time, genuinely I find it difficult. Besides this, the controls consist of the D-Pad/analog stick and one button. One.

In addition to this, regrettably the game just doesn't stack up against the more contemporary offerings. Although price point is a major sticking point for someone to take FIFA over something like SWOS, the full price game has the advantage of the official Premier League License as well as having the correct names of players and teams. They're also the correct players and teams from this year, by the way, not 1996. All well and good having the teams for when the game was first released, but for the sake of continuity it would have made sense to at least have the correct teams and players.

The E14 - Bionic Commando Rearmed

Released for the original Nintendo Entertainment System, Bionic Commando was one of those classic side-scrolling shooters. The thing that made this one different from others like Metroid or its ilk was that the protagonist Nathan Spencer had a bionic limb that could shoot out to have him grapple to ledges up and across. Moreover, it was overtly controversial for the time, with the leader of the opposition looking ever-so-slightly like a certain Mr. Hitler.

What the remake did well was keep the formula that made the original game great, while at the same time updating it sufficiently for the new age. With a 3D character overlay and a complete soundtrack overhaul (a particularly good one, no less), the game gets just enough to update it for the modern day without compromising it in any way, while at the same time keeping that retro flavour. The music is a huge help in this, retaining some 8-bit sensibilities but still sounding fresh.

Regrettably, GRIN, the studio responsible for Bionic Commando: Rearmed is no longer in existence. However, members of the studio formed Fatshark, who are ones to watch in the future.

Bionic Commando: Rearmed is available for purchase from the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace, as well as Playstation Network and Games for Windows Marketplace. Sensible World of Soccer is available on Xbox Live Arcade only. Thankfully, Ultimate Mortal Kombat 3 is no longer available, but there is a new Mortal Kombat game on the way, which looks awesome.


The true story of the last warrior...

The name 'Samurai' is synonymous with the ultimate warrior. With their elaborate armour, fierce swordsmanship and code of honour, the samurai have become iconic figures whose influence can still be felt today. From Kurosawa's epic Seven Samurai to the figure of Darth Vader in Star Wars, to Manga comics and video games, the figure of the fighting samurai still inspires us today. In John Man's new book, we discover the truth behind the legend.

From his birth in the shadow of the great volcano Sakurajima, to his glorious death by ritual suicide and disembowelment, Saigo Takamori was the ultimate Samurai leader. His fall brought about the end of hundreds of years of Samurai tradition and in many ways marks the birth of modern Japan. Saigo was a man trapped by paradox: a faithful servant to the emperor, and yet a leader of rebel troops; a mighty Samurai warrior, and also a master of Chinese poetry. His life, and ultimately his death, offer a window into the hundreds of years of culture and tradition that defined the samurai.

Thanks to our friends at Bantam Press, we've got five copies of John Man's Samurai to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Monday 7th March, making sure to put "Samurai" as the subject. The first five entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Samurai" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Get this in the E14 Store for £14.00

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

Saturday 26 February 2011

DVD Reviews

Terror Trap
Starring: David James Elliott, Jeff Fahey, Michael Madsen
Director: Dan Garcia
Anchor Bay Entertainment

Available from Monday 28th February - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Kelly Prior

Get this in the E14 Store for £7.99

A couple who have marriage problems are stranded on a highway in the middle of nowhere, while attempting to have a romantic vacation. A creepy and pretty darn dodgy looking police officer convinces the pair that their best option would be to stay in a motel for the night. Cue creepy, run-down motel, run by a creepy, run-down guy. At this point, most people would be ringing a taxi, but no, they fall for it hook, line and sinker. Of course, this motel is not your every day travel inn. It’s home to some sick guys who murder their guests in snuff films and live shows. The next hour sees these two running for their lives, trying to escape becoming victims of the Terror Trap.

This film is a remarkably tense thriller. Let’s face it, the plot has been seen before, but Terror Trap is definitely up there with the most intense. The masked men inspire fear and panic every time they appear on screen, and the setting is reminiscent of Psycho, with quite a few parallels.

The acting is spectacular, don’t get me wrong, but some of the scenes seem a bit pointless. The couple have a thousand arguments throughout the film, and this does start to get tedious. There is a great deal more depth in this film, which makes it more believable, which is good, but a bit duller, which is bad.

We see this film advertised and we immediately think “generic torture movie.” However, if this is what you are expecting, think again. There is very little gore and the death scenes are toned down and almost censored. Then, after a massive and quite impressive build up of tension, the ending just doesn’t satisfy. We expect a blood bath, and this film simply does not deliver. Michael Madsen and Jeff Fahey lead a truly tremendous cast on a roller coaster ride...but, inevitably, everyone is left disappointed with the ending.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Soft-core torture.
Sex/Nudity: Lots of naked girls.
Swearing: Lots of swearing.
Summary: If looking for a psychological thriller, you will surely enjoy this little gem...if you’re looking for a hardcore torture film, you will be disappointed. 7/10
Starring: Seo Young-hee, Ji Sung-won
Director: Jang Cheol-Su
Optimum Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 28th February – £15.99 (DVD) & £19.99 (Blu-Ray)
Review by Rob Wade

Get this in the E14 Store for £9.99 on DVD and £12.93 on Blu-ray

After being forced to take a vacation from her hectic professional life for slapping a colleague (I’m not kidding), Hae-Won returns to her childhood home. However, she soon finds that her oldest (and presumably only) friend, Bok-Nam, is being treated like shit by the locals. Cuckolded by her husband, violated by local men, disrespected by the women, it’s only a matter of time before it all kicks off. The tipping point comes when she suspects that her daughter is being abused. After pleading with Hae-Won to take her daughter, Bok-Nam attempts to run away. What follows is Bok-Nam going fucking berserk when her daughter is killed and the locals band together to attempt to stitch her up.

One thing has to be said for this movie: it’s really good at building sympathy for the focal female character in the story. From one scene, where she is being raped by her husband’s brother, to being beaten by her husband, you can see that her life is pretty shockingly shit. More so still when her husband sends for a hooker regularly, and it’s suggested that her husband is also abusing her daughter. Moreover, you find yourself completely despising the locals of the village, who lie and cheat in order to protect their families.

However, the same cannot be said for the character development in general. The first character you are introduced to is Hae-Won, the city slicker who returns to the island. However, after ten minutes you find yourself hating her guts. She’s abusive to others, an alcoholic and a complete tool to boot. Although it doesn’t quite go as far as feeling like she deserves abuse from the locals, which would come but for some opportune timing on Bok-Nam’s part, it certainly doesn’t endear her to you.

The sad thing is that the movie’s main focus is that Bok-Nam finally snaps, and takes out her anger on the locals. The problem is that the whole process of her going from putting up with it to going sickle-happy lasts all of about forty-five seconds. If everyone went that crazy just from harvesting a significant number of potatoes, the farming industry would be up shit creek sans paddle.

One of the things I liked about this movie, however, was that it didn’t rely on the key character going psycho at night time, and overuse the darkness as an artistic tool. What happens instead is that all the murders happen in daytime while the men are on the mainland, meaning that there are no over-dramatic stalking scenes. What you get in place of that is a woman going mental in broad daylight and stabbing pretty much anyone who’s ever so much as looked at her the wrong way.

Another plus is the resolution to the revenge story. Without going into too much detail, the way it goes is very cleverly done indeed, with the story leading you to believe one conclusion and then sends you off in a completely different direction when you think the film’s over and done with. And will make you think of the recorder in a completely different way. The ending is interesting, and brings the film around full circle, and goes some way to redeeming Hae-Won as anything other than a complete tool, albeit with a pang of sadness at the way the story concludes proper.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Off screen beatings, on-screen murders, including a man getting his head cut off in graphic detail. Stabbings, drownings, she does it all.
Sex/Nudity: The focal character gets shagged, and you see her tits. The two lead female characters bathe together, but you don’t see anything. Oral sex (viewed from the back) which makes a hooker gag. A girl suggestively sucks a guy’s finger. Implied paedophilia.
Swearing: A few uses of ‘fuck’.
Summary: Nothing particularly intelligent or deep, just a good old-fashioned revenge story, which is pretty enjoyable if a little uncomfortable at times. Worth a rent. 6/10
Brain Dead
Starring: Joshua Benton, Sarah Grant Brendecke, David Crane
Director: Kevin S. Tenney

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Get this in the E14 Store for £9.99

A small meteorite falls to earth and hits a small town fisherman. As his friend tries to help him, the meteorite dissolves into an alien life form which seeps into Bill's brain, turning him into a zombie. Bill's eyes then open and he attacks, ripping his friend’s brain from his skull and devouring it. A short while later a local forest ranger finds the remains and investigates, leading to an encounter with the zombie, but before she can shoot him, a monstrous, humanoid creature attacks her and devours her brain. Then a bunch of people hide in a house and fight zombies.

Within the first ten minutes of Brain Dead, there’s been hardcore, splatterpunk, gross-out gore and some full frontal female nudity. Oh, yeah, it know what sort of movie it is, and it’s not ashamed. I like that in a movie. Unfortunately, after that it fails to really capitalise on its potential. By the half hour mark we’re dealing with bland, annoying clichés, and it runs out of steam well before the end.

Brain Dead is far from badly made, you understand, but it is uninspired and there’s just nothing here to lift it above the crowd. It’s a good bad movie, though, and would make great post-pub entertainment if you have plenty of gore and zombie loving buddies.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Frequent, bloody, gory and hyperviolent.
Sex/Nudity: Full female nudity and lesbians.
Swearing: Frequent. And it features the word “cuntbiscuit”. I like that and am going to use it more often in conversation.
Summary: Worth a look for low-budget horror fans, but most can take a pass. 6/10


Betrayed and butchered... But vengeance will be theirs.

Enter the stunning fantasy world of Mid-Heaven in the magical action epic from the team behind the spectacular The Warrior. Featuring some of the most jaw-dropping kung fu action captured on film, Demon Empire is a visual treat and includes incredible designs by the Academy Award-winning team behind Kurosawa's Ran, Hero and House of Flying Daggers.

In the limbo world between Heaven and Earth, a fearsome demon lord readies his unholy forces for the time when the gates to the human realm will be shattered. As the prophesised hour draws near, the demon hordes hunt a beautiful angel who has the power to prevent their destiny from being fulfilled. Only a wandering human warrior (Jung Woo-sung - The Good, The Bad, The Weird), who's become trapped in Mid-Heaven, and his magical demon-killing sword stand in their way.

Thanks to our friends at Metrodome, we've got three copies of Rise of the Demon Empire on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Saturday 5th March, making sure to put "Rise of the Demon Empire" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Rise of the Demon Empire" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Get this in the E14 Store for £11.99

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

Thursday 24 February 2011

Gaming Reviews

DC Universe Online
Sony Online Entertainment
Available Now - £34.99 (PC) & £39.99 (PS3)
Review by Blake Harmer

Get this in the E14 Store for just £26.99 (PC) and £34.99 (PS3)

With all the superheroes and villains destroyed whilst fighting each other, Brainiac and his robots attack and take over the world. Realising his mistake in killing Superman et al., Lex Luther travels back in time to warn everyone and unleashes a device that transforms a large amount of the population into superhumans and tasks the DC heroes and villains with training them up in an attempt to stop Brainiac when he does invade.

Excuses to have lots of superheroes flying around the world aside, this MMORPG decides to go down the more action-based route, and surprisingly, it works to some extent. In terms of traditional RPG fare, there is a very deep character creation tool to be enjoyed here, with a wide arrange of weapons, powers, costumes and accessories. You also get to enjoy an in-depth levelling up system that lets you customise the majority of your stats via Diablo style skill trees which allow you to choose the areas that your character improves in. The world (as can be expected in most MMORPGs) is vast, with plenty to do and is filled with players for you to team up with on PvE servers or smack into oblivion on PvP servers. There are plenty of missions available with later levels allowing you to mount raids with iconic DC heroes...or villains, depending on what side you have taken.

The game does suffer with downsides on the PC though. The most noticeable is that while the combat is nice and meaty, the controls on keyboard are quite fiddly and can be frustrating when in larger battles. It is here that you think the combat mostly caters towards PS3 owners, where a controller would be much more suited to the game and its general feel. Also, you don't really know what your hero or villain’s true potential is when working in a group until it is too late. You could choose one power thinking it to be damaging only to find out you’ve chosen the healer. Finally, I found the super speed and acrobatic abilities pale to the flight ability in terms of traversing the game’s huge map, making the other choices rather redundant. You can reach anywhere via flight, much faster.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Fairly decent for a MMORPG. Tthere are also some nice effects when the superpowers go off. The opening cutscene to the game is also a brilliant nerdgasm for DC fans.
Sound/Music: Some good voice acting (yes Mark Hamill does The Joker) and meaty sound effects as you punch and zap your enemies.
Gameplay: An enjoyable multiplayer experience hampered by fiddly controls and a lack of signposting when creating your character initially. However, overlook this and you have an in-depth RPG with plenty to do and plenty more when the updates and patches start kicking in.
Lasting Appeal: Huge, as with all MMOs, but unless you are a devout DC fan, there isn’t a lot here to better the likes of other great MMOs out there.
Summary: An enjoyable, more action based MMORPG that delivers a good superhero experience and enough fan service to keep DC lovers happy for ages. Whether hardcore gamers will cope with the games stronger flaws, and whether updates and patches will improve this game though remains to be seen. 7/10


Ahead of the hotly anticipated finale of the nightmarish Scream franchise, Wes Craven – twisted genius behind the gory rampage of A Nightmare on Elm Street – invites us to witness his latest terrifying offering that promises to make the skin crawl and the heart race. Get ready to be plunged into a terrifying, paranoid frenzy.

My Soul to Take promises to be a terrifying tale of the Riverton Ripper, who legend has it, swore he would return to murder the seven children born on the night he died. Now, sixteen years later, people are disappearing again. Has the psychopath come back to take his revenge? Did he survive the night he was left for dead? Or has he been reincarnated as one of the seven teens?

Only one has the power to save their souls. Only one of the seven has the answer, but if they hope to save their friends they must face an evil that won't rest.

My Soul to Take is available on DVD and Blu-ray from Monday 4th April.

Get this in the E14 Store for £9.99 (DVD) & £12.59 (Blu-ray)


In a time of chaos, four remarkable individuals begin an epic quest through history: a swordsman dreaming of a world of equality for all, a leading rebel forces, an illegitimate son from a powerful noble family, and a concubine with a broken heart.

These individuals each take on the dark and suppressive world and struggle to break away from the constraints imprisoning them.

Blades of Blood opens a new chapter in the legacy of historical epic movies.

Thanks to our friends at Metrodome, we've got three copies of Blades of Blood on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Thursday 3rd March, making sure to put "Blades of Blood" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Blades of Blood" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Get this in the E14 Store for £11.99

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

Wednesday 23 February 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Red Weed


Leatherhead is about twelve miles from Maybury Hill. The scent of hay and dog shit was in the air through the lush meadows beyond Pyrford, and the heavy firing that had broken out while we were driving ceased as abruptly as it began, leaving the evening as quiet as a mouse. A dead mouse. We got to Leatherhead without misadventure about nine o'clock, and the horse had an hour's rest while I took supper with my cousins and commended my wife to their care.

Enid was curiously silent throughout the drive. I talked to her reassuringly, but she answered only in two monosyllables, one of which was “off”. Had it not been for my promise to take the innkeeper's cart back, she would, I think, have urged me to stay in Leatherhead that night. Her face was very white as we parted.

For my own part, I had been excited all day. War fever had got into my blood, and Sabaton into my ears, and in my heart I was not so very sorry that I had to return to Maybury that night. I was even afraid that that last expolosion I had heard might mean the extermination of our invaders from Mars. I was owed my schnufty-fufty million dead Marsians...

I started to head back home at about eleven in the evening. The night was unexpectedly dark and it was fortunate that I knew the road. My wife stood in the light of the doorway, and watched me until I jumped up into the dog cart.

I was a little depressed at first about my wife's fears. She had been my closest confidant, best friend and ammo-belt feeder for years. As I came through Ockham I saw along the western horizon a blood-red glow, which as I drew nearer, crept slowly up the sky. The driving clouds of the gathering thunderstorm mingled there with masses of smoke.

Ripley Street was deserted, and - except for a lighted window or so - the village showed no signs of life. As I travelled, a lurid green glare lit the road about me and showed the distant woods towards Addlestone. I saw that the driving clouds had been pierced as it were by a thread of green fire, suddenly lighting their confusion and falling into the field to my left. It was the third falling star! There would still be plenty more for a-killerising, yet!

At first I regarded little but the road before me, and then abruptly my attention was drawn to something moving rapidly down Maybury Hill. At first I took it for the wet roof of a house, but one flash following another showed it to be in swift rolling movement. It was an elusive vision—a moment of bewildering darkness, and then, in a flash like daylight, this problematical object came out clear and sharp and bright.

A monstrous tripod, higher than many houses, striding over the young pine trees, and smashing them aside. A walking engine of metal; articulate ropes of steel dangling from it, and the clattering tumult of its passage mingling with the riot of the thunder. A flash, and it came out vividly, heeling over one way with two feet in the air, to vanish and reappear almost instantly as it seemed, with the next flash, a hundred yards nearer. Can you imagine a milking stool tilted and bowled violently along the ground? Okay, basically, it was nothing like that. That’d be a fucking retarded way of putting it. What they were like was bloody great three legged tripedal stomping hodge-podge maximisers of death-n-fire.

Suddenly, the trees in the pine wood ahead of me were parted, snapped off and driven headlong, and a second huge tripod appeared, rushing headlong towards me. At the sight of the second Fighting Machine, I wrenched the horse's head hard round to the right...the dog cart heeled over upon the horse; the shafts smashed noisily, and I was flung sideways and fell heavily into a shallow pool of water.

I crawled out almost immediately. The horse lay dead and by the lightning I saw the overturned cart, its wheel still spinning slowly. In another moment the Fighting Machine went striding by me, and passed uphill towards Pyrford.

Seen nearer, the Fighting Machine was driving on its way with its long, flexible, glittering tentacles (one of which gripped a badger). The hood that surmounted it moved to and fro with the inevitable suggestion of a head looking about. Behind the main body was a huge mass of white metal like a gigantic fisherman's basket, and puffs of green smoke squirted out from the joints of the limbs as the monster swept by me.

As it passed it set up an exultant deafening howl that drowned the thunder , "Ooolah! Oooolah!". In another minute it was with its companion, half a mile away.

For some minutes I lay there in the rain and darkness watching these Fighting Machines moving about in the distance. I was soaked with hail above and puddle water below. It was some time before my blank astonishment would let me struggle up the bank to a drier position.

Under cover of the pine woods I pushed on, towards my own house. It was very dark indeed in the wood, for the lightning was now becoming infrequent, and the hail, which was pouring down in a torrent, fell in columns through the gaps in the heavy foliage. I staggered through the trees, fell into a ditch and bruised my knees against a plank, and finally splashed out into the lane that ran down from the College Arms. I say splashed, for the storm water was sweeping the sand down the hill in a muddy torrent.

Near the top I stumbled upon something soft, and, by a flash of lightning, saw between my feet a heap of black broadcloth and a pair of boots. Before I could distinguish clearly how the man lay, the flicker of light had passed. I stood over him waiting for the next flash. When it came, I saw that he was a sturdy man, cheaply but not shabbily dressed; his head was bent under his body, and he lay crumpled up close to the fence, as though he had been flung violently against it.

Definitely not screaming, I and stooped and turned him over to feel for his heart. He was quite dead: his neck broken. The lightning flashed for a third time, and his face leaped upon me. I sprang to my feet in alarm. It was the landlord of the The Goat and Boat, whose cart I had taken.

I stepped over him.

I made my way at last to my own house. Nothing was burning on the hillside, though from the common there still came a red glare and a rolling tumult of ruddy smoke beating up against the drenching hail. Down the road towards Maybury Bridge there were voices and the sound of feet, but I had not the courage to shout or to go to them. I let myself in with my latchkey, closed, locked and bolted the door, staggered to the foot of the staircase, and sat down.

I crouched at the foot of the staircase with my back to the wall, shivering bravely.


Words: Brad Harmer & H.G. Wells

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Fraggle Rock Giveaway

For the first time on DVD, the complete animated series is bursting with Fraggle fun and includes all thirteen episodes.

Based on the highly acclaimed live-action series, Fraggle Rock gets animated! The fun-loving Fraggles - Gobo, Red, Mokey, Wembley, Boober, and all their friends - explore new horizons, frolicking about in the wondrous maze of colourful caverns that make up the fantastic, fairy-tale landscape that the Fraggles call home. From Mokey's search for the most Fragglish Fraggle to a journey down into the Deep Deep Dark Dark Deep Dark Pit to rescue Boober's lucky Rag-Fraggle, experience Fraggle Rock like never before! Be sure to add this complete Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series to your collection!

Thanks to our friends at Lions Gate Home Entertainment UK, we've got three copies of Fraggle Rock: The Animated Series on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Tuesday 1st March, making sure to put "Fraggle Rock: Animated Series" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy!

Don't forget to put "Fraggle Rock: Animated Series" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Get this in the E14 Store for

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

Monday 21 February 2011

Greatest Movies I Ever Saw

Welcome to another week at E14. Today, I've been inspired by my weekend to write a positive piece. Friday saw my two-year, unplugged RPG lull broken for the first time in...two years, when a group of fine folks and I (some of whom contribute to this very blog) engaged our brains in a rousing game of Call of Cthulhu. While it was much needed and much enjoyed, the evening was concluded by another game based on one of my favourite movies of all time, the subject in fact of today's contribution from yours truly.

Ladies and gentlemen, Aliens.

With a screenplay written by James Cameron (That guy responsible for both some of the highest-grossing movies of all time and some of the most E14) and starring a number of site favourites such as Sigourney Weaver and Michael Biehn, Aliens' star power is certainly nothing to be sniffed at from the off, with a cast of real quality pulling out all the stops in a day when sequels didn't have to automatically be met with a complete air of scepticism.

The movie has some great music, as well as an opening scene of considerable drama and suspense (before they remove the wool from your eyes and let you see that you've been expertly duped - those dastards!), and the initial scenes are comparably relaxed in relation to the rest of the film, with the most excitable scenes taking place in an inquest with a cold, clinical silence sans music or any other distractions. As if that wasn't enough, the first twenty minutes also include a short appearance by Mac McDonald, also known as Captain Hollister from Red Dwarf, arguably deserving of a place amongst the most E14 TV series.

Of course, a sense of foreboding grips you around seventeen minutes in when a family on recently colonised LV-426 (the setting for the first movie, since terraformed and declared safe) stumbles across a wrecked spacecraft and all hell breaks loose. Before long, Ripley finds herself once again on a team sent to investigate. This time, they're prepared for the struggle and have a shit-ton of weaponry at their disposal.

So why this movie? Alien was awesome, so why not the first movie in the series? Well, granted it is an absolutely awesome movie, but Aliens is preferable to me. Why not Alien 3, directed by David Fincher of awesomeness fame? Well, funnily enough, despite my love of the series' concept, I'm not actually a fan of that movie. Why not Alien: Resurrection? Oh ho, ho ho ho. I could scarcely write that down while keeping a straight face. Awesome. Joking aside, that movie blows despite the inclusion of the strangely attractive Winona Ryder.

The primary answer is simple: Firstly, Aliens is an awesome movie. Action-packed, scary but with enough funny moments to make it feel pretty real, the movie works on several levels. From the moment the crew of the ship comes out of stasis, and the first thing Apone is screw a cigar into his mouth, you can tell that the gags, while not being stuck in on a par with something like Galaxy Quest, are going to be in there to make the film considerably more realistic. I've always been a firm believer in the fact that real life is pretty funny, even when people are in dire straits (not the band, though their presence in place of the crew of the ship could arguably improve this movie).

One of the things that the film does well, which other films have tried to do but not nearly as well since, is the human element. Early on, they establish Vasquez as a bad-arse female Rambo, but when she goes off on a macho tirade, Ripley cuts her right down to size by calling her on her machismo. "I hope you're right, I really do" is enough to get Vasquez from spouting bad-arse clichés from looking pensive and sullen. From then on, there's this grudging mutual respect from both parties, as well as the rest of the team taking Ripley more seriously as an expert on the xenomorph menace. Similarly, Hudson goes from a complete douchebag, akin to a surfer type spouting similar clichés to Vasquez, to a terrified soldier as the film progresses.

The atmosphere, as well, is absolutely incredible throughout. I've already talked about the sombre tone set by the lack of music, but just as important is the presence of music in the movie. It's only during the team's descent into LV-426's abandoned colony that the music begins to ramp up again from before, and it's done to great effect as the idea is to set the scene as the team works its way into the colony from the APV. Lighting as well is a key focus, particularly during the introductory entry into the colony, with the camera showing the doors opening outwards akin to the mouth of a great beast. Once they enter the colony, the lighting and the use of darkness is at times clever and at others ingenious.

Something that gets overlooked, which hopefully should resonate with the E14 males (and doubtlessly some of the females as well) amongst the readers, is that Sigourney Weaver in her pants and a vest (neither of which are particularly revealing items of clothing) is that much sexier than almost anything that Hollywood has tried since to tittilate the youth of today. With the possible exception of the odd slow-motion walk towards the protagonist brought back in Scrubs to great comedic effect, much of what Hollywood does is insufficient next to Ripley in her two-piece set of Primark-quality sex appeal. Besides, if her in the power loader at the end doesn't give you insta-wood, cut it off.

As stated earlier, the characters are really well developed. Brushing aside the macho stuff, Ripley is a really well-rounded character, with elements of maternal protectiveness developed really early on with the death of her daughter while she was in stasis. The whole film has that motherly element to it, really, even in so much as the processing plant looks like a womb in the Queen's lair. What's really impressive as well is how well the female marines are distinguished from Ripley, with the latter womanly and maternal, and Dietrich and Vasquez muscular and clinical. In the scene where Apone collects magazines, and Vasquez hides herself a sneaky one, she establishes herself as one of the boys (as well as, in hindsight, somewhat of a dumbarse).

Interestingly, despite the title of the film, as with the first one there's a considerable amount of time before the aliens first appear in any significant way, but when they do all hell breaks loose. Brad made a good point to me while we were both watching this movie at the same time in different counties, in that the movie works as a Vietnam movie. Well-armed overconfident forces get taken to pieces by forces with inferior weaponry but a better knowledge of the environment. True, the aliens aren't indigenous by the traditional definition, but they know their way around the environment much better than the marines.

Aliens for me works equally well as a science-fiction movie as well as a horror movie, even though the first movie was probably more like the horror part of that spectrum. As far as video games upcoming are concerned, I couldn't be more excited about the possibility of Aliens: Colonial Marines. And yeah, Newt is piss-annoying, but she never did another movie, so that's somewhat of a consolation. Plus if you imagine really hard, you can imagine Lando Calrissian in her place, and the movie still sort of works, plus it's awesome to boot.Words: Rob Wade


From director Jang Cheol-soo, the new South Korean name to watch, the tale of two women. One wants to escape to the idyllic island of Moodo, the other wants to leave it for the big city. Seoul banker Hae-won once visited Moodo to see her grandparents and had befriended Bok-nam a girl who still writes despite Hae-won never bothering to reply. But on Moodo again to regain balance to her life, Hae-won is shocked to see everyone treating Bok-nam like a slave.

As practically the only young woman on the island, she is a plaything for the men and a workhorse for the women. But true to form Hae-won remains indifferent to Bok-nam's pleas for help, not wanting to become involved in complicated situations. Then Bok-nam loses the only thing that had kept her going and finally snaps, a sickle in hand to mete out the bloodiest of revenge.

Thanks to our friends at Optimum Home Entertainment UK, we've got three copies of Bedevilled on Blu-ray to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Monday 28th February, making sure to put "Bedevilled" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy of each book!

Don't forget to put "Bedevilled" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Bedevilled is available from Monday 28th February. Pre-order now: DVD Blu-ray

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

Saturday 19 February 2011

DVD Reviews

Alpha and Omega
Starring: Justin Long, Hayden Panettiere, Christina Ricci
Director: Anthony Bell and Ben Gluck
Lions Gate Home Entertainment UK

Available from Monday 21st February - £17.99 (DVD) & £22.99 (Blu-ray & DVD Pack)
Review by Kelly Prior

Get this in the E14 Store for £10.93 on DVD and £13.93 on Blu-ray

Kate is an Alpha wolf. She is the daughter of the pack leader, and her role is to one day lead a pack of her own. She is loyal to her father, and dedicated in her duties as an Alpha wolf. Humphrey is an Omega wolf. He loves nothing more than having fun, playing with his friends and getting up to mischief. Of a far lower rank within the pack, he lives life happily without a care in the world. That is, until a series of events force these two opposite ends of the pack hierarchy to work together and depend on each other for survival.

When Kate’s father promises her paw in marriage, Kate thinks this is the worst of her worries until she and Humphrey are captured by rangers and relocated to a wildlife park hundreds of miles away. Working together to get back home in time for the wedding, Humphrey and Kate begin to fall deeper in love. But soon they must make the heartbreaking decision to either do what’s best for the pack, or let down all their friends and family for love.

Alpha and Omega is a disappointing attempt at a fun family film. The landscape animation is truly stunning, but the actual wolves are nothing special, and actually look a bit strange. The cute, sassy female lead has a sister who is cuter and sassier than her, and even though she gets very little screen time, she over shadows Kate’s character completely. Humphrey is a generic immature nice-guy character who really doesn’t pull our heart strings at all. The wolves companions are annoying and, though obviously created for comic value, are not funny or entertaining in the slightest.

Alpha and Omega will never be remembered as a great family movie like Shrek or Ice Age. It’s simply too boring for kids, and not accessible enough for adults to enjoy. It also tries too hard to be funny and subsequently fails. There’s very little action in it, and the romance is cheesy and tacked on.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Some “howling”.
Swearing: Nope.
Summary: It might entertain the kids for a while, but it’s not a great family film. 2/10
Game of Death
Starring: Wesley Snipes, Ernie Hudson, Zoe Bell
Director: Giorgio Serafini

Optimum Home Entertainment
Available from Monday 21st February – £15.99 (DVD) & £19.99 (Blu-Ray)
Review by Rob Wade

Get this in the E14 Store for £8.99 on DVD and £11.99 on Blu-ray

Detroit: one of the toughest cities in the world, the kind of place where Agent Marcus fits right in as one of the most merciless and deadly bodyguards in the business. He's a walking war who'll stop at nothing to protect his clients. When a famous senator is injured during an assassination attempt and held in hospital, Marcus unleashes a storm of hellfire and fury to protect his life. Ruthless assassins, trained killers, double-crossing C.I.A agents and infamous arms dealers are all about to become players in the Game Of Death, a game of few survivors where losing is not an option.

Game of Death is essentially your standard “Guy gets betrayed, goes on to snap a shitload of necks” movie, with Snipes playing the role of the betrayed C.I.A agent Marcus Jones. During a planned undercover operation to bring down two targets, Jones is betrayed by the rest of his team. The buildup to this is pretty well done, and you get led into the eventual intensity pretty well. The intro to the movie also stars Ernie Hudson, which is always nice.

One thing you’ll find yourself saying when you watch this movie is “Man, I forgot how awesome Wesley Snipes is”, and this is a particularly strong role for him which he plays really well. He’s also pretty awesome as a proper action hero, with some decent fight scenes throughout the film. Granted, the fighting is a little unbalanced during the movie, with the film going around forty-five minutes without Snipes taking any hits from any offensive moves by his enemies, but you can forgive that when he’s snipping people’s necks in order to shuffle them loose the mortal coil.

The downside, of course, is that the plot is a big ol’ hunk of cheese, with the rogue C.I.A agents never really giving a convincing reason for their betrayal of Snipes. Also, the cinematic effects are at times a little off-putting, with random scenes shot in a kind of grainy home-cinema type way which can be a little bit of a distraction. All in all, though, Game of Death is a pretty cool movie.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: Fights, guns, neck-breakers. Win.
Sex/Nudity : None.
Swearing : “Fuck” and “Shit” uses.
Summary: An enjoyable action movie that would probably have done alright with a cinematic release and a decent amount of promotion. 7/10
Starring: Big Show, Mark Feuerstein, Melora Hardin
Director: Michael W. Watkins
Clear Vision

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD) & £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Omer Ibrahim

Get this in the E14 Store for £9.99 on DVD and £12.93 on Blu-ray

Paul “Big Show” Wight is the latest WWE star to get a sponsored movie as he takes on the role of Walter Krunk, a gentle giant who grew up, and lives in, an orphanage for boys. When Walter accidentally burns down the orphanage and needs money to keep it running, up pops MMA fight promoter Eddie Sullivan (Mark Feurstein - Rules of Engagement, What Women Want (Yup, those are the two most E14 titles I could find.)), an ex-fighter with mob debts and a plan. He persuades Walter that at seven foot tall and four-hundred and sixty pounds, he’s a natural for MMA fights, and along with Walter’s co-worker Mary (Melora Hardin - The American Office, 17 Again), they hit the road, competing for money in matches as they head to the big contest in New Orleans.

I know, I know, a fight movie with mob debs, road trips and orphanages. It’s that old storyline again. Strangely for WWE Films though, this is actually quite interesting and, dare I say it, funny. Far from the childish oaf that I expected Big Show to be playing, Walter Krunk is just a simple, clumsy man who doesn’t really know much of the world outside of the orphanage. Another pleasant surprise is the quality of his acting; he easily stands up against the other actors in the movie, and is instantly likeable and charismatic.

The humour is a little simple, based around fart jokes and slapstick comedy, but the film is aimed at the young-ish audience and their parents, so it’s more than excusable, and again, at times, actually funny.

It’s not the perfect movie, the plot is predictable and more than once the jokes very much ruin what could be genuinely touching moments in the film. The mob plot seems to just be filler, and never really seems much of a threat to the characters, Walter’s love-plot just kind of happens out of nowhere, and there’s a hint of Mary’s past that is never really explained and never comes to fruition.

At the end of the day, this movie will sell mainly on the fact that Big Show stars in it, and so it should: he’s likeable and a brilliant actor.

Also, there’s a training montage featuring a seven foot man. The 80’s is crying with jealousy.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
All the fighting is very PG and based around submissions and punches to the ribs. Big Show puts a man through a fence.
Sex/Nudity: A seven-foot man in his underwear probably counts as about as much skin as three fully nude men.
Swearing: Nope
Summary: If you have kids who are wrestling fans, grab this now; if not, it’s probably worth picking up when the price drops. Switch off your brain for a bit and enjoy. 7/10
Operation: Endgame
Starring: Joe Anderson, Zach Galifianakanis, Ving Rhames
Director: Fouad Mikati
Anchor Bay Home Entertainment UK

Available from Monday 21st February - £12.99 (DVD) & £19.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

Get this in the E14 Store for £7.99 on DVD and £11.99 on Blu-ray

Violence erupts when the organisation charged with protecting America implodes, and the employees turn their guns on each other instead of their enemies.

Somewhere beneath Washington, D.C., an intense rivalry is heating up between two opposing teams of government assassins. The hired killers in the organisations take their names from Tarot cards. The Fool (Joe Anderson) is the latest recruit. Reporting for his first day on the job, The Fool is shocked to find that his boss is dead, and the office is on lockdown. To make matters worse, the building has been rigged with explosives, and it's going to blow soon. Now, in order to get out alive, The Fool will have to root out the killer in his midst, and make a quick escape before his co-workers catch him in their crosshairs.

The performances are generally good, the direction is competent but, man, this is one of the most non-sensical and unfunny screenplays I’ve sat through in a long time. There are a few good jokes, but ten laughs in eighty minutes is hardly a roaring success is it.

The action sequences and fights are fun – and the gore work is over-the-top and cartoony, so at least it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Too many flat characters, too many botched jokes and...oh, for God’s sake, can someone stop Galifianakanis from doing the weirdo role? It’s getting really fucking old now.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Frequent gunfire, mutilation, comedy ultraviolence and explosions.
Sex/Nudity: Some shagging, some strong references.
Swearing: Frequent and strong.
Summary: A confusing and largely pointless action/black comedy. Good performances, but the screenplay is atrocious. 3/10
I Survived B.T.K.
Starring: Carmen Otero, Charlie Otero, Danny Otero
Director: Marc Levitz
Lions Gate Home Entertainment UK

Available from Monday 21st February - £12.99 (DVD)
Review by Kelly Prior

Get this in the E14 Store for £9.69 on DVD

This harrowing documentary follows Charlie Otero, whose parents and siblings were murdered by Dennis Rader, a serial killer who called himself B.T.K. (Blind. Torture. Kill.) Due for release on the 6th anniversary of B.T.K’s arrest, I Survived B.T.K. tells the story of how a young Charlie came home one day to find his family murdered. We follow Charlie on his mission to rid the world of B.T.K. by assisting with the trial and watch as he slowly comes to terms with his tormented past. During the course of filming, a devastating accident forces Charlie to realise that he can no longer live in the past.

This documentary is pretty hard to watch. We are fed far too much detail from crime reports and case files, but my biggest issue with I Survived B.T.K. is the crime scene photographs. During the trial, photographs are shown of the two youngest Otero children after their deaths. The images show the children half naked, clearly having been tortured, and we are even shown a shocking close up of the young girls bloody and beaten dead face. This, for me, is just unbelievably unprofessional. To show these pictures is disrespectful and really quite unfair. Yes, I know people will probably say it is to cause awareness, but for me it seems to be done for shock value - for drama. The sad truth is, because of these photographs, this film will probably sell more copies. In this writer’s opinion, some things should never be released for public viewing, and photographs of murdered children are top of that list.

Charlie Otero is clearly not mentally stable after his trauma as a child. The camera is glued to Charlie as he babbles on about conspiracy theories and talks about finding the real people in charge of Dennis Rader. The film makers encourage Charlie as he kicks off again and again, clearly taking advantage of his mental state. When an accident leaves Charlie’s son in a coma, which he later comes out of with brain damage, the cameras eagerly watch the suffering.

The only positive thing I can say about I Survived B.T.K. is that it definitely provides an in-depth psychological look into the mind of a serial killer, and puts our minds at rest as we see B.T.K. being sent to prison for life. It is good to know that people like this are being caught, and being punished.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Horrifically graphic photographs and descriptions of torture.
Sex/Nudity: Sick descriptions of how Dennis Rader was sexually turned on.
Swearing: Lots.
Summary: I Survived B.T.K. is very uncomfortable and upsetting to sit through. The whole documentary seems to be a pointless abuse of a heartbroken man’s life and his family’s trauma. 1/10


Want more Fraggley fun? Return to where it all began with the complete second season of Fraggle Rock, featuring all twenty-four episodes from Season Two - available together on four DVDs! The second season is filled with even more favourite Fraggle moments. So save your worries for another day and experience frag-tastic fun in the ultimate Fraggle Rock collection! Get down with Fraggle Rock!

Thanks to our friends at Lions Gate Home Entertainment UK, we've got three copies of both Fraggle Rock: Season Two to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Saturday 26th February, making sure to put "Fraggle Rock: Season Two" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy of each book!

Don't forget to put "Fraggle Rock: Season Two" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Get this in the E14 Store for £22.49

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.

Friday 18 February 2011

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 a 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 Joe Dever gamebook Highway Holocaust. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: As you watch the town shrinking in your rear view mirror, the shock of your encounter, especially the death of Averagely Heighted Jake, makes you shiver despite the burning midday heat.
Brag: So how did you know they were bad motherfuckers, then?
Girl: [shaky voice] I don't know them by choice.
Brad: As you race along the highway to McKinney, the girl, whose name is Kate Norton, tells you about the events leading up to your meeting. She comes from Kansas City and is one of the lucky few who have managed to survive there since the holocaust. A month ago her colony was attacked and wiped out by a gang of motorcycle renegades called "the Lions". Their leader, who calls himself Mad Dog Michigan, took a liking to her and spared her life.
MCSPINDLE: The leader of "The Lions" goes by the name "Mad Dog"?
Brad: He was once a high-ranking HAVOC agent who had escaped from Pontiac Deep Pen near Detroit, and he and his gang, most of whom were also HAVOC escapees, were heading for the Fort Hood Military Reserve near Killeen, the largest armoury in the whole of the United States.
Brag: Ahhhh, HAVOC? We don't like them, do we? Ooh, no...Evil...
Kate: He hopes to find enough weapons and ammunition there to equip the other HAVOC clans who are in control of cities all along the eastern seaboard. Once he's armed his army he'll take over the rest of the country.
Brad: Her eyes brim with tears.
Kate: Three days ago The Lions reached Oklahoma City. They were desperate for food, so Mad Dog decided to camp there and forage the surrounding area.
Brag: Dogs I've heard everything...
Kate: Until then I'd always been kept closely guarded, but while most of them were away I managed to steal a bike and escape. I was beginning to think I'd made it. I was wrong.
Brag: Evidently.
Kate: I ran out of fuel just north of Sherman and had to ditch the bike. I met up with your friend this morning when he walked into town. Soon after he'd told me all about you and your colony and your plans to head west, those guys back there arrived. Mad Dog sent them to find me.
Brag: I had worked that out, but thanks there, frumpy.
Brad: She pauses to wipe her tears and brush the tangle of windswept blonde hair away from her beautiful face.
Kate: I'm really sorry about what happened to Long Jake.
Brag: Did you shoot him?
Kate: It's all my fault.
Brag: I don't mean figuratively, I mean "Did you shoot him"? Look, what killed him was massive loss of blood due to a gun shot. Where we're going...there should be less of that.
Kate: I hope you're right, Brag.
MCSPINDLE: Of course he's right. Killeen is south of here, and we're heading west. He'll miss us by miles.
Kate: [wavering and hesitant] Maybe, but there's something else you ought to know.
Brag: There's that 'Bodes Ill' indicator going wild again...What's that?
Kate: The guy you killed back there in the store, the one who wasted Long Jake, well, his name was Stinger.
Brag: Awesome...Like the missile?
Kate: Well...he was Mad Dog Michigan's brother. When the others report what has happened to him, Mad Dog's gonna be after us for sure.
Brag: What kind of masochists were their parents?! Mad Dog and Stinger?!
MCSPINDLE: Your name is "Brag Phoenix"...
Brag: You're a car. Shut up.
Kate: Mad Dog's a psycho. Believe me, I know.
Brag: I figured that Mad as a prefix was not due to his penchant for the magazine, cheers.
Kate: He'll stop at noting to get even.
Brad: The familiar outline of McKinney appears on the horizon and you increase speed. You are keen to return as quickly as you can and warn the colony of the danger now approaching from the north. Your return is met with mixed feelings: all are upset to hear that Reasonably Well Built Jake is dead, and many are disappointed that you could not save the cache of rifles and ammuniion that he found.
Brag: Shit, I forgot about that!
Brad: However, all, without exception, are thankful that you are still alive and, despite the threat of a revenge attack by Mad Dog Michigan, they welcome Kate to the colony with open arms. In the light of this new threat to your safety it is decided that the colony should not wait until tomorrow to begin its long journey west. With all the major preparations already completed, the convoy is loaded and ready to move off within the hour.
Brag: That's fortunate.
Brad: All that remains to do, once the convoy is at a safe distance is to set fire to the ranch.
Rob: ...
Brad: ...
Rob: ...Why?
Brad: This will destroy the supplies you are forced to leave behind, preventing them from falling into the hands of either Mad Dog Michigan, or the murderous city gangs of Dallas and Fort Worth.
Rob: Makes sense.
MCSPINDLE: Why can't they have it? I mean...if we can't have it, they may as well, right? It's just bombay mix and Sprite...
Brag: Are you wrong in the dipstick?
MCSPINDLE: So, just because we don't get on with them, we want them to starve to death?
Brag: What do you even care?
MCSPINDLE: I'm worried about the sort of people I'm moving on with, here.
Brag: We only made you self-aware; who the fuck gave you a soul?
Brad: Once the Ewell ranch is ablaze, you lead the convoy cross-country towards Denton. There you hope to pick up Freeway 35 and follow it south on the first stage of your journey to Big Spring. Two miles outside Denton, you signal to the others to halt while you go ahead and make sure that the town is empty and the freeway is clear of obstructions. You arrive at a ridge of high ground that overlooks the ruins of Denton. The place is familiar - you have stopped here many times over the past few months during your routine patrols of the area, to check that the town was not being used as a base by the gangs who were raiding McKinney.
Rob: Makes sense.
Brad: Although you cannot see anything out of the ordinary, you sense that something is wrong, that there is a hidden danger lurking in Denton.
MCSPINDLE: The "Bodes Ill" light has come on.
Brag: I'll top it up when we get back.
Brad: Your skin prickles at the thought of investigating the ruins lest your suspicions prove correct, but, on the other hand, the convoy must reach the freeway. You consider your options carefully.
Rob: I use binoculars. Nothing untoward ever happened to someone using binoculars not named Skywalker.
^ Say what you like, You totally hear the noise as you're reading that.
Rob: That's how a Tusken sounds phonetically? Jesus.
Brad: You try, then.
Rob: Heeeeeeeeeergggh, herrrrrrrrgh herrrrrrghh, herrrrrghh....?
Brad: You raise the heavy Zeiss binoculars to your eyes and slowly scan the ruins. There is little to confirm your suspicions: rolling tumbleweed and the shimmering heat of early afternoon are the only movements you observe among the derelict remains of Denton.
MCSPINDLE: Do you see any Banthas?
Brag: Nope, but there are some sandpeople, I can see one of them now.
Brad: Then something catches your eye at the entrance to an alley near the centre of town. Your pulse quickens when you recognise it. It is a haze of oily blue smoke - the exhaust fumes of a motorcycle.
Rob: I enter Denton and take a closer look. Nothing untoward ever came from exploring a derelict town.
Brad: Cautiously, you drive through the centre of the town, your nerves like coiled springs as you scour every inch of the ruins for some sign of life. Having reached the far side of Denton and seen nothing untoward, you decide to turn your car around and head back towards the convoy. Then you hear the sound of motorcycle engines being kicked into life, and suddenly, three bikes burst our of a wooden building near the centre of the town and come racing towards you, their riders whooping like Native Americans. All three machines are carrying pillion passengers who are armed with an assortment of weapons.
As the first bike draws level, its passenger gets ready to leap into the seat besides you. You wait until the man is about to jump, then you brake heavily and swerve towards the motorcycle. The rider senses your move and stamps on the rear brake, locking his back wheel and slewing his machine sideways along the road. The passenger is sent flying. He hurtles through the air like a rock from a catapult, and crashes agains the trunk of your car with a sickening thud.
MCSPINDLE: Ow! My boot!
Brag: Shut up, this is where you're supposed to be focusing on driving!
Brad: You hear him groan and catch a glimpse of his body in your rear-view mirror, lying broken on the stony ground as you accelerate away towards the ridge. The other bikers lose interest and soon give up the chase.
Brag: Good fucking riddance. Trying to jump on my talking car. There's a sentence I never thought I'd use...
Brad: They return to the town, pausing only to curse and fire a few ill-aimed shots at your back as you make your escape.
Brag: It gets easier the more you do it. Now go for the short one!
Brad: On your speedy return to the convoy, Uncle Jonas tells you that a moving cloud of dust was sighted to the north soon after you left to scout Denton. Judging by the short time it took to cross the horizon, he suspects bikers on the move.
Brag: Now we've got to contend with dust as well?
Uncle Jonas: We'd best swing aroun' Denton by the south-west...
Brad: He squints at a tattered old route map that he has spread across the hood of The Brag-Wagon.
Uncle Jonas: ...just in case it was some o' them Yankees you tumped in Sherman.
Brad: You gaze at the now-empty horizon and nod in agreement.
Brag: Yeah, probably.
Uncle Jonas: You take point, Brag.
Brag: Who's Point? She hot?
Brad: He folds up his map and goes off to pass word of the detour to Cutter and the others. You see fear and uncertainty in their eyes as Uncle Jonas explains the sudden change of plan. As soon as he is back behind the wheel of the bus, you start your engine and lead the convoy away to the south-west, towards a parched bowl of cracked and barren land that was once the bed of Lake Lewisville. The journey south-west to Lake Lewisville is a slow and arduous trek across rough terrain, but one that cannot be avoided as you skirt around Denton. When finally you sight the dry lake, it is clear that crossing it will be a dangerous business as the convoy will make an easy target to anyone occupying the surrounding high ground.
You must get the convoy across in the shortest time possible. The bed of the lake is littered with rusted car wrecks and old houlsehold machinery.
Rob: Sounds to me like Oregon Trail. Which, given my experiences playing the game, does not bode well for my party.
Brad: Not a strong point for you, that one, then?
Rob: I left with four people and arrived with two.
Brad: Were they two of the original pilgrims, or were they acquired en-route?
Rob: Original pilgrims, I think. I don't remember picking anyone up. I think you're thinking of Crazy TaxiBrad: Possibly.
Between these heaps of twisted scrap are avenues covered with slabs of broken earh that jut upwards at all angles, their sharp edges baked hard by months in the furnace-like heat. The bus and the tanker, both heavily laden, are soon reduced to a snail's pace for fear of shredding their tyres, and you are forced to stay close in case they break down or fall victim to an ambush.
Rob: Makes sense.
Brad: The sudden glint of sunlight on glass alerts you to a potential danger.
Rob: You mean the vehicles breaking down, right, not the drivers? I don't think I can handle whingers in my party.
Brad: Two hundred yards away to your left, on a ridge of high ground that overlooks the lake, you see a dark figure crouching beside a petrified tree, observing your progress through a telescope. The only people likely to be in this area are scouts of food foragers from one of the Fort Worth street gangs. If this spy manages to alert his gang, the colony might never make it out of Lake Lewisville alive.
Rob: I go after the spy on foot...Wait, aren't I in a car?
Brad: Yeah, but he's a bit of an emotional wreck.
Brad: See?
Rob: Right.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Gaming Reviews

Baron Wittard: Nemesis of Ragnarok
Iceberg Interactive/Wax Lyrical
Available from February 18th - £19.99 (PC only) - Only £14.91 in the E14 Store!
Review by Rob Wade

The eccentric architect Baron Wittard has built something really special: a city inside a building. Its grand opening was supposed to have been two years ago. That event never happened. Armed with only a camera and a torch, you must journey there alone to explore its winding corridors, secret passageways and gloomy halls. Locals say Wittard kept a terrible secret, speaking fearfully of someone or something malevolent lurking at his city. Players will have to face the lurking horrors of this desolate place and find out what dark secret the Baron kept from the world…

Baron Wittard sees players take on the role of an eager journalist keen to discover the secrets. In terms of gameplay, the game takes the form of a point and click adventure game of sorts, with players picking up objects and solving puzzles in order to navigate the labyrinths of The Utopia, all the while staying one step ahead of the aforementioned malevolent presence.

Well, that’s the plan. Realistically, you navigate a series of individual screens, not really exploring the landscape so much as working out which place to click in order to make you move two steps forward. See, the game doesn’t employ movement mechanics like any adventure game I’ve ever seen, almost choosing to fall somewhere else entirely. Rather than being able to navigate around the map using the keyboard movement, which I think this game would be better for being able to do, the player is forced to click on the screen when the translucent hand turns into a non-translucent hand pointing forwards. Sound confusing? It is.

Moreover, the game employs puzzles to get you through the main storyline challenges, ranging from arranging shapes in a square to a strange electronic Sudoku (it’d make more sense visually, trust me). However, at no point is it explained how you go about doing said puzzles. In fact, the game really struggles in the sense that clear direction is very rarely given at all. In addition, there isn’t really anything mind-blowingly good about the game to redeem it. The graphics are alright, if not amazing. The music is alright, but not in the game nearly enough. The voice acting is God-awful, and as stated above the controls are frustrating.

However, this game does have some redeeming features. The puzzles themselves are really, really good and get your brain engaged very well. If you’re looking for a half-decent puzzle game, and you can put up with the control mechanics, this game will probably serve you well. If you’re in it for the story, this game may prove to just be simply too tedious to click through in order to get there.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: They’re alright, pretty landscapes but not really much in the way of moving parts going on, so it’s hard to truly judge.
Sound/Music: The voice acting in this game is shocking beyond belief, but the music’s okay.
Gameplay: Point and click, let down by a frustrating control mechanic but redeemed by good puzzles.
Lasting Appeal: I sincerely doubt you’ll want a second playthrough.
Summary: A sure sign of potential from the developers, but nothing particularly stellar. It’s alright, can’t say much more than that. 5/10


A thousand years before Luke Skywalker, a generation before Darth Bane, in a galaxy far, far away ...

The Republic is in crisis. The Sith roam unchecked, vying with one another to dominate the galaxy. But one lone Jedi, Kerra Holt, is determined to take down the Dark Lords. Her enemies are strange and many: Lord Daiman, who imagines himself the creator of the universe; Lord Odion, who intends to be its destroyer; the curious siblings Quillan and Dromika; the enigmatic Arkadia. So many warring Sith weaving a patchwork of brutality -- with only Kerra Holt to defend the innocents caught underfoot.

Sensing a sinister pattern in the chaos, Kerra embarks on a journey that will take her into fierce battles against even fiercer enemies. With one against so many, her only chance of success lies with forging alliances among those who serve her enemies -- including a mysterious Sith spy and a clever mercenary general. But will they be her adversaries or her salvation?

Star Wars: Knight Errant is available now, priced £7.99.

This is the first installment of a two-book Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker adventure, set against the backdrop of the Clone Wars! Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker are on a secret mission to one of the many worlds caught in the middle of the struggle between the Republic and the Separatists. A pastoral planet, Lanteeb wants only to be left alone to survive - but it is the source of what could be one of the most devastatingly destructive weapons ever.

If this potential weapon were to fall into the hands of the Separatists, uncounted worlds would fall. But should the Republic succeed in destroying it first, one world that needs it to survive will be annihilated. A frightening dilemma that Obi-Wan and Anakin will have to untangle, if they can get in and out of the occupied planet alive...

Star Wars - Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth is available from Thursday 24th February, priced £7.99. PRE-ORDER NOW!

Thanks to our friends at Random House, we've got three prizes of both Star Wars: Knight Errant and Star Wars - Clone Wars Gambit: Stealth to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Thursday 24th February, making sure to put "Star Wars" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a free copy of each book!

Don't forget to put "Star Wars" in the subject line. Incorrectly labelled or blank entries will be discarded.

Entries limited to one per household. Offer open only to postal addresses in the UK and Ireland.