Sunday 27 November 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 Freeway Warrior II: Mountain Run. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!

Brad: His blond hair is cropped close to his head and his eyes are hidden behind a pair of dark sunglasses. Pistol in hand, he walks slowly towards you, then stops at the entrance to the pay booth. Two more men in uniform emerge from the doorway - the rifleman and one other - armed with a sawn-off shotgun.

Rifleman: They don't look like clan punks, Sarge.
Kate: We're not. We're running from the clans.
Brag: I can handle this, sweetheart.

Brad: Bemused, the blond-haired man scratches his chin and turns to say something quietly to his two companions.

MCSPINDLE: 28 Days Later totally ripped off this gamebook.

Brad: It is them that you notice the faded sergeant stripes and the circular globe-of-the-world emblem that adorn his sleeve. Instantly you recognise the latter: it is the emblem of the World Defence League. At length, he turns to face you once more.

Sgt Haskell: [much friendlier tone] I think you two had better tell us your story.
Brag: Can I hold my gun?

Brad: You tell the soldiers who you are and how you cameto be here in Fort Stockton. At first, they listen to your fantastic account with cool scepticism.
Rob: How is scepticism cool?
Brad: How isn't it?
Rob: Whatever, not bothered.
Brad: That's apathy.
Rob: I doubt it.
Brad: That's more like it.
They cross-examine you both in an attempt to find a flaw in your story, but when they are
unable to find any, their attitude begins to change. By the time they have finished their interrogation, you have managed to win their respect and admiration. Once they are convinced that you are genuine colonists they recount their own tale. They are WDF marines who, before 'The Day', were stationed at an underground tracking facility in Brownsville, Texas.

MCSPINDLE: That sounds like gay code...

Brad: Twelve of their unit survived the post-holocaust years, but soon after their return to the surface they were the victims of a clan attack. They were the only survivors of the attack and were forced to flee Brownsville on foot.
Rob: Racists? Out here?!
Brad: Eventually they managed to find a vehicle that worked - the pick-up truck - and had got this far when the fuel ran out and the engine broke down. They are trying to reach their command headquarters at Fort Bliss, located just north of El Paso, where they hope to rejoin remnants of their unit. They arrived in Fort Stockton three days ago and have been rpevented from continuing theirjourney on foot by the blistering day temperatures and the fierce night storms that have swept down from the Barrilla Mountains. They have set up camp in the ruins of a nearby motel and they invte you there to share their food and drink, and to formulate a plan to find some fuel for The BragWagon. Their provisions are basic, but you receive them gratefully.

Brag: Cheers for that.
Kate: Parma Violets? Really?

Brad: After your meal you try to think where you might find some gasolene.

MCSPINDLE: I'm pretty sure that's pronounced 'petrol'.

Brad: Sergeant Haskell and his men - Marines Gunter and Knott - have searched every square inch of Fort Stockton and know that there is none to had here.

Sgt Haskell: What we need is an old road map. One that would show us where the freeway rest stops and gas stations in this are were located.
Brag: Here, maybe this map might be of use. And hopefully it's within about half a mile.
Sgt Haskell: [examining the notes and markings on the map] Hey, where did you get this?
Brag: Some guy.

Brad: He scrutinises it at length.

Sgt Haskell: What you've got here is a blueprint of a major HAVOC operation to take over the country.
Brag: Seriously? Those douchebags?
Sgt Haskell: This is one hot piece of property: it shows clan strengths, supply areas, HAVOC strongholds, controlled cities, everything - even pockets of WDL resistance on the eastern seaboard. We've gotta get this to El Paso. If there's anything left of WDL headquarters then they must be warned about what it happening in the East.
Brag: Okay, but what about fuel? Douchebag out there has barely enough fuel to make it another twenty miles. All we need is enough gas to get as far as Kent in time for the rendezvous with the colony. Then we can refuel from the tanker and you can catch a ride with us all the way to Fort Bliss.
Sgt Haskell: There's a rest stop here...
Brag: No there's not. Oh, on the map?

Brad: He points to the map at a place on Interstate 10 that is half-way between Fort Stockton and a town called Brogado.

Sgt Haskell: There's no knowing if there's still any gas in its storage tanks but it's our only hope. It looks like a twenty-five mile drive - do you think you can make it?
Brag: Well, we can but try.

Brad: You decide to leave Fort Stockton at dawn the following mornind, but the weather deteriorates, putting a swift end to your plans. For two days and nights the town is hit by lightning storms and tornadoes, forcing you to remain in the basement of the motel. It is not until the morning of the sixth day of your mission that the tornadoes blow themselves out and you are able to leave the town in safety.

Brag: No books down here, are there?

Brad: With Kate beside you, and the three marines clinging to the hood and trunk of The BragWagon, you crawl the twenty-three miles from Fort Stockont to the Balmorhea rest stop that Haskell found on your map. It is located at the entrance to a pass through the Barrilla Mountains and at first glance it appears to have suffered extensive damage in the recent storms.

Brag: On second glance, it's a shithole.

Brad: You bring the roadster to a halt with your fuel tank virtutally empty, and it is with great trepidation that you and Sgt Haskell go to inspect the fuel storage tanks while Kate and the others watch the road. Of the eight underground fuel tanks located beneath the gas station area, only one look promising. Of the others, six are empty and one is contaminated with diesel oil.

Brag: That's no good! It'll make my engine...what does diesel do to a petrol engine?

Brad: A coded security valve locks the access pipe to the tank and, after a brief examination, you realise that the code must be cracked if you are to get at the contents. Any attempt to break off or cut through the valve would be sure to cause a spark that would blow the tank, and whoever was tampering with it, sky high. You are studying the valve when you hear Marine Gunter shout a warning:

Marine Gunter: Clansmen on the freeway!
Brag: Sounds like a Golden Earring song.

Brad: Six black-clad bikers are riding along Interstate 10 twoards the rest stop. Affixed to the rear of their saddles are long, whiplash aerials, which are topped with black pennons that bear a lion's head symbol. You stare at these small black flags and a tingle runs down your spine: it is the emblem of the Detroit Lions clan. The bikers catch sight of The BragWagon and bring their machines to a hlat a hundred yards from the rest stop. Then all six spread out and, using the rocks and boulders that litter the landscape, they make their way forward slowly.
Sgt Haskell orders Gunter and Knott to take cover and open fire at the advacing clansmen; they must not be allowed to capture or destroy the fuel tank. From behind an old gas pump you watch as two of the Lions start to edge their way around the service area.

Brag: Don't shoot it, whatever you do.

Brad: They are trying to circle around the rest stop and launch an attack from the rear.
Rob: Use the pistol!
Brad: You abandon your cover and shadow the two clansmen as they circle around to the rear. An old tyre rack propped against the side of a derelicy car was offers you a good defensive position, and quickly you scurry towards it. You reach the rack


Brad: in time to see the Lions halt. For a moment they duck out of sight, but soon the reappear and come running, half-crouched with guns at the ready, towards your new-found hiding place. You pull back and release the slide of your pistol, feeding a bullet into the breach, then take careful aim at the first clansman as he scorries between the rocks that litter the edge of the service area. He is less than twenty yards away when you squeeze off your first shot and bring him crashing to the ground.
Rob: What is he made of, glass?!
Brad: His partner hesitates, then abandons his stealthy approach and comes running towards you, screamin hysterically, his machine pistol blazing at his hip.
Rob: Fire again.
Brad: Bullets rip into the tyre rack and whistle past you on all sides as the clansman rushes your position. Calmly you stay hidden until you hear his gun stop in mid-burst, then you spring to your feet and fire at point-blank range, hitting him in the chest. He doubles up, falls forwards and lands in a lifeless heap at your feet.

MCSPINDLE: Shake n' VATS, bitch!


Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
Brad Harmer: Facebook Twitter
Rob Wade: Twitter
This is intended as a loving tribute to Joe Dever, the Freeway Warrior series, Slaughter Mountain Run/Mountain Run, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

Friday 25 November 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 Freeway Warrior II: Mountain Run. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
MCSPINDLE: I'm not gonna make more than 120 miles, Brag.
Brag: That's what you were complaining about? My days have been numbered since page 1. Metaphorically.
Brad: It is midday when you rejoin Interstate 10 to continue your drive west.
Brag: We probably shouldn't have stopped off at Little Chef.
MCSPINDLE: I know, right? They always said they two things to survive a nuclear fallout would be germs and cockroaches. And what do you know? Little Chefs.

Brad: The sun is at its height and it feels as if it has pushed the temperature to five degrees above unbearable. To save fuel you try to keep your speed below twenty-five miles per hour, even though the lack of a cooling breeze drives you to distraction. You were hoping to be able to scavenge some fuel in Ozona, the first town through which you were due to pass, but when you arrive you find that it has been totally destroyed.
A gently sloping mound of dust and rubble is all that remains of this town. You are forced to continue without respite, and throughout the long, hot drive, the experience of Ozona is repeated many times before you reach Bakersfield in the early morning.
You are both tired and suffering from mild heat exhaustion, but after having at last reached a town that is still standing, you agree that you must search for fuel and water before it gets dark. As the town is divided in two by the freeway, you decide to split up and search one half each.
Rob: Search the south side of Bakersfield.
Brad: At the far end of a block of derelict stores is a blue, star-shaped sign that marks the site of a Lone Star gas station. You hurry along the dustry street, hopeful of finding some fuel, but you are met with disappointment. All the security caps have been sawn off the gasolene storage tanks and not a drop of their precious contents remains. The gas station itself has been ransacked and nothing of value remains, but at the rear of the building you discover something that stirs your curiosity. It is a large storage facility with heavy double doors, which are chained and padlocked.
You walk around the building and notice that it has no windows or other means of access.
Brag: How does one get in?

Brad: Nothing hints at what it stored inside, and the more you consider it, the more intrigued you become. You head off to search elsewhere. After a long and laborious search of all the stores in this part of Bakersfield, you discover absolutely nothing of any practical value. Having exhausted both your energy and your patience, and with dusk already giving way to darkness, you abandon your search and return to The Brag Wagon. You return to find Kate sitting on the hood of the BragWagon, sifting through a box of items she has found.
She, too, has been unable to find any fuel, but she has salvaged enough food for a decent evening meal.
Kate: I even found some wine from your home state.
Brad: She proudly holds out a bottle of Californian dry white for your inspection.
Brag: You might want to climb off that hood. This is third base for him.
MCSPINDLE: I hope you found a corkscrew.
Brad: As night draws in and the temperature falls, a strong wind arises that whips along the freeway, howling like an angry ghost. You sense that it is the prelude to a storm and you suggest to Kate that you look for somewhere to shelter. An old brick-built library standing close by seems like a good bet: the walls are strong and it still has a roof, which is more than can be said for over ninety per cent of the Bakersfield buildings.
You decide to spend the night in the library's main hall. After clearing a space near the centre, you build a small campr fire, using a few of the many thousands of books that line the walls. Then, once it is ablaze, you help Kate to prepare the food she has found. Outside, the weather has gorwn steadily worse.

Brag: I don't have room at the inn.
Brad: Thunder rolls acorss the surrounding plains and the jagged flashes of forked lightning illuminate the roiling clouds of dust with increasing regularity.
Brag: There's a storm comin'...
Kate: It ain't all bad. At least we don't have to worry 'bout Mad Dog's boys showin' up outta the blue.
Brag: Yeah, now they'll show up outta the lobby.
Brad: The food and wine taste delicious and, after eating your fill, you both settle down to sleep in front of the glowing embers of the camp fire. It seems as though you have only just closed your eyes when you are stirred to conciousness by a loud crackling sound and the acrid smell of smoke. Horror fills your sense when you open your eyes to see yourself surrounded by a blazing wall of yellow flame. Lightning struck the library roof while you were asleep, starting a fire that has been fuelled by the shelves of dust-dry books, and which has now spread to the main hall where it threatens to consume you both. Quickly you wake Kate and together you fight your way towards the main door.
You are within ten feet of the exit when a burning bookcase falls across your path.
Brag: This ain't good.

Brad: The heat and flames force you back from the entrance, and as you reach the centre of the hall, you look around desperately for another way out but every exit is now ablaze. Using a heavy rug from the floor, you cover Kate's head and tell her to make a dash for the main door. Bravely she obeys your command without hesitation, and she succeeds in escaping through the tunnel of flame and out into the street beyond. Heartened by her success, you raise your jacket over your head, take a deep breath and sprint after her.
Brag: I hear the Chariots of Fire music!
Brad: Your speed and sure-footedness save you from the merciless flames. Your jacket is blackened with soot and the legs of your jeans are smouldering, but you escape from the blazing library without sustaining any injury.
MCSPINDLE: Oh, whoever could have set that fire?
Brad: Kate catches you as you emerge from the library and pulls you a safe distance away.
Moments later, the roof of the library collapses with a loud, spliterning crack, and clouds of sparks whirl into the night, carried upward by the strong, gusting wind. Silently you look at Kate's smoke-blackened face, and then at the blazing library, and you realise ust how lucky you both are to have got out of that inferno alive.
Brag: You'

Brad: By the time you recover fully from your ordeal and return to The BragWagon, the storm has blown itself out. The easter sky is lightening as dawn appraoches, and you decide to leave Bakersfield now, before the sun rises and the temperature becomes unbearable. Beyond the town, the freeway climbs steadily towards a distant line of mountains that shimmer on the horizon. You keep your speed as low as possible and cover forty miles with your fuel gauge nudgng the zero mark. Then the silhouette of Fort Stockton appears on the road ahead and your hopes of finding some gas are rekindled.
Brag: Forts are well known for their gasoline!
Brad: The first thing you see upon entering the town is a gas station. Like everything else, the station appears deserted, but there is something about this building that makes your skin prickle with presentiment.
Brag: Yes, whatever presentiment is, I'm prickling with it.
Brad: A battered Chevrolet pick-up with its hood raised at one of the station's four gasolene pumps. It looks far cleaner than any of the other auto wrecks that lie scattered around the town, and your suspicioins are further aroused when you notice a large black pool of oil on the ground beneath the engine compartment. You stop the BragWagon alongside and step out to investigate it.
Brag: Wait, this oil is fresh...
Brad: You dab your index finger in the pool. You are wiping it clean on the leg of your jeans when you hear an unexpected reply.
Man's Voice: Drop your weapons...or I'll drop you!
Brag: Oh....bollocks.

Brad: It is a man's voice and it is coming from inside a derelict pay booth.
Rob: I do as he says.
Brad: Reluctantly, you let your gun slip to the ground as the muzzle of a rifle emerges from the darkened doorway.
Man's Voice: You too, honey.
Brad: Kate obeys, tossing her machine pistol out of the car so that it lands deliberately near your feet.
Another Voice: [to your right] Don't even think about it.
Brad: From behind a wrecked auto steps a tall, muscular man, dressed in green army fatigues.
Brag: Fucking hell, there's two of you?!
MCSPINDLE: Cockroaches, bacteria and Sgt Slaughter.
Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
Brad Harmer: Facebook Twitter
Rob Wade: Twitter
This is intended as a loving tribute to Joe Dever, the Freeway Warrior series, Slaughter Mountain Run/Mountain Run, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

Tuesday 22 November 2011

Book Reviews

Star Wars – The old Republic: Revan
Drew Karpyshyn
Titan Books

Available Now
Review by Brad Harmer

Revan: hero, traitor, conqueror, villain, savior. A Jedi who left Coruscant to defeat Mandalorians — and returned a disciple of the dark side, bent on destroying the Republic. The Jedi Council gave Revan his life back, but the price of redemption was high. His memories have been erased. All that’s left are nightmares—and deep, abiding fear.

What exactly happened beyond the Outer Rim? Revan can’t quite remember, yet can’t entirely forget. Somehow he stumbled across a terrible secret that threatens the very existence of the Republic. With no idea what it is, or how to stop it, Revan may very well fail, for he’s never faced a more powerful and diabolic enemy. But only death can stop him from trying.

Man, it seemed like this book was never going to arrive, didn’t it? Anyway, it’s here now and, Good Lord, is it awesome. It feels great to be able to check in with so many of the characters we knew and loved all those years ago, and under the control of Karpyshyn, you know it’s going to be handled properly.

Revan is exceptionally well paced, which is something of a rarity in Star Wars novels. There’s always something going on, and the next action beat is never all that far away. Some characters are just written quietly out of the story, which is understandable in terms of time/space restraints, but as the book measures in at shy of 300 pages, you’d think there could have been room for an appearance from Zaalbar and Mission Vao.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Several unarmed combats, several lightsaber combats. Some gunfire.
Sex/Nudity: Some partial nudity.
Swearing: None.
Summary: A fantastically paced, well-written Star Wars adventure. The action scenes are perfect, the characters brilliant and the ending beautifully bitter-sweet. You’ll need to know the video game(s) to get the most out of it, but this is one of the EU’s better offerings. 9/10


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Monday 21 November 2011

E14 Stand-Up Round-Up

Jimmy Carr: Being Funny
Channel 4 DVD
Available now on DVD
Review by Rob Wade

Star of hit TV shows 8 Out of 10 Cats and 10 O'Clock Live, Jimmy is well known for his slick one-liners and non-stop gags, but his acerbic wit and fast-paced comedy style are at their brilliant best when he has the stage to himself.

As a comedian, Jimmy Carr is one of the safest pairs of hands in the business. Whether you’re watching him on a panel show, doing stand-up or on an interview show, his style doesn’t change drastically, so if you’re a fan of his style in one aspect you’ll find yourself pretty content with any of his appearances. It’s with the most complete lack of surprise that I, and hopefully yourselves too, can say that the newest release by Jimmy Carr ticks all the boxes for fans, and is one of his best releases to date.

Where the existing fans are concerned, they’ll be pleased to know that some features that have previously been seen in older releases make a much appreciated return. With this release, Carr goes for a series of crudely drawn images to accompany some of his racier one-liners. He also makes the attempt to get audiences laughing despite thinking “I’m a terrible human being” which has featured at previous live shows. For new fans, Carr introduces a new concept: his “pilot” episode of a Parkinson-style interview show, using a random audience member with an interesting job as his “guest”. This section is a particular highlight, as Carr inadvertently chooses a guy with a particularly hilarious set of life circumstances.

The most impressive thing about Carr, which will particularly impress those who have perhaps never seen any of his stuff except for his panel show work, is that he is lightning quick when it comes to improvisation. Granted, some might argue that since he sometimes delivers one-liners in place of other material, it’s more about recall, but from experience I can tell you that often the lines between improvisation and recall blur quite substantially.

Now, of course, if you’re not a fan of his stuff generally, there’s going to be little to entice you in this scenario, but I would still say that it’s worth a watch, as some of the gags will have you creasing up.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Frequent strong references.
Swearing: Frequent, some strong. All funny.
Summary: The undisputed current king of one-liners delivers another sterling show. 9/10

Stephen Merchant: Hello, Ladies
Universal Pictures UK
Available now on DVD and Blu-Ray/DVD Combo
Review by Rob Wade

Stephen Merchant, the Emmy, BAFTA and Golden Globe award winning co-creator of The Office and Extras in his first ever live stand-up comedy tour. Stepping into the limelight, Stephen Merchant is in search of a wife, discussing the problems of being 6ft7 in life, but also when it comes to the ladies, watching porn on VHS and re-enacting the first play he ever wrote.

If you’re like me, you’ve spent the last ten years appreciating the works of Gervais and Merchant (and Pilkington in recent years, though “work” may be the wrong word in that scenario). If you’re even more like me, you’ve actually found yourself wishing that Stephen Merchant did more in the spotlight, as for my money Merchant is more enjoyable than Gervais for the most part. It’s pleasing, therefore, that enough people seem to have mentioned that idea to him, because here he is!

Except that for the first five minutes or so, I felt like I was just watching Ricky Gervais’ right-hand man. While funny, the opening segment contains the same mock elitist tone that Gervais employs to great effect. Thankfully, he seems to evolve his style gradually as he goes along, probably hearkening back to his days as a stand-up on the circuit. His style, unlike Gervais, is quite animated and involves a lot of dancing (which I can confirm as a guy of the same height is pretty impressive to be able to do at all). However, also worth mentioning is that if you’re a fan of Merchant’s appearances on the infamous podcast series that sent all the stars’ popularity into the stratosphere, you’ll find that you will hear some stuff that you’ve heard before, albeit delivered with a completely different style that works equally as well if not better.

As a show overall, “Hello Ladies” is absolutely worth the price of admission, with a section on Merchant’s bedroom manner while not wearing glasses giving me fits of laughter, if only for his facial expressions. It certainly proves that despite changing media considerably over the years, from TV to podcasts to recent appearances in movies, Merchant has not lost any of his skill as a stand-up. Definitely worth checking out.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Talks a bit about porn and masturbation.
Swearing: He swears a few times, but generally doesn’t pepper his sets with it like some other acts.
Summary: A strong performance, and a demonstration that Merchant is a very capable stand-up indeed. Hope he does more soon! 8/10

Chris Addison: Live
Universal Pictures UK
Available now on DVD
Review by Rob Wade

Following a sell-out UK spring tour Chris Addison, star of BAFTA-winning comedy The Thick of It, makes his critically acclaimed stand-up available on DVD for the first time. Recorded live at London's Bloomsbury Theatre, Chris Addison covers material from the personal to the more broad in his own unique style.

Recently, my only experience with Chris Addison has been watching the movie In The Loop, which was great, and watching him on the Direct Line adverts where scriptwriters have basically raped the careers of some of the finest comedians in the country by making them say violently unfunny shit. I actually cry sometimes at the plight of Alexander Armstrong, and I shouldn’t have to.

Thankfully, when left to his own devices, Addison is a fucking funny guy. While his style is extremely animated, and will probably inspire trepidation in those with an innate fear of drama students, what lies beneath the wild gesticulation and (at times) wild non-sequitors is a comedian of phenomenal quality and observational stature.

While the subject matter has been covered many times in the field of comedy (supermarkets, the Internet, Daily Mail), Addison has a delightful sense of humour on these mundane subjects which makes them feel fresh. What’s more, Addison has the simultaneous ability to be a young-looking guy who looks gawky and awkward using “text speak” and manages to sound like an old man when complaining about Amazon Recommends, and my goodness does the man sweat!

Where the show works really well is in the spaces where Chris Addison goes off on a rant on a subject. While these sections will flare up the aforementioned Drama Student sense, as his style involves a fair bit of arm-waving when he goes off on one, it’s absolutely worth persevering, as his ire manages to be simultaneously irate and middle-class. It’s comedy for the new generation, although he takes shots at the entitled generation as well as “drama queens” in Britain. It’s a show of considerable talent, and long may he continue in this vein.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Talks about sex a fair bit.
Swearing: Some “fuck” and “shit” uses, as well as the C-word.
Summary: A very funny guy indeed, and a show very much worth looking at. 9/10

Sunday 20 November 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 Freeway Warrior II: Mountain Run. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Brag Phoenix.

Catch up with previous Dickass DM installments here!
Brad: Then another sign appears on the road ahead, pointing to a winding dirt track that leads away to the left.
It reads:
Brad: You are desperate to avoid the machine-gunning biker and so decide to take the track.
Brag: Sounds fucking cheerful!
Brad: At least its winding course will give him less opportunity to riddle the trunk with bullets. The track leads to a cluster of log cabins and adobe huts that look as if they have only recently been constructed.
MCSPINDLE: Have you got an Adobe joke ready?
Brag: I always have an Adobe joke ready. In fact, I'm the Premiere Adobe joke teller.
Kate: Wow.
MCSPINDLE: Yeah, that wasn't very good.
Brag: Flash in the pan?
Kate: ...
Brag: Wow, the Air is tense...
Kate: Stop now.

Brad: Nearby, erected
Brad: around the entrance to a cave, you see a palisade and, standing at the gate in this wall of logs, you notice a large group of men, women and children. They are dressed in animal skins, and their faces and hair are dyed with bright colours.
Brag: I'm feeling a little Lord of the Flies...
MCSPINDLE: That's the lamest one yet!
Brag: That wasn't Adobe-related!
Brad: At your approach they scurry inside the gate and take cover behind their log wall. The instant you bring The BragWagon to a halt you smellthe strong, oily aroma of gasolene. With trepidation you inspect the bullet-riddled trunk and discover, to your horror, that gasolene is gushing from the spare fuel containers.
MCSPINDLE: Is it bad?
Brag: Oops, they shot your balls.
Brad: They are so badly holed that an attempt at repairing them would be futile.
MCSPINDLE: Oh...they can be repaired, right?
Brag: Uh...sure...
Brad: The road of your pursuer's motorcycle is growing louder, and Kate urges you to abandon the BragWagon and take cover with the others behind the wall of logs.
Brag: Yep, he can fend for himself! After all, he's a eunuch. What's he got to lose?
MCSPINDLE: You can't leave me...I' father?
Brag: Ball-less. Hey, I call a spayed a spayed.

Brad: You run towards the gate, but as you get nearer, a man steps forward to block your access. He is holding a loaded bow. A flint-tipped arrow is drawn taught to his lips and he is pointing it at your chest.
Rob: A "loaded bow"? Surely you mean a bow and arrow?
Brad: Yeah, I suppose. Unless it's a box magazine, I guess.
The man stares at you with fear in his eyes.
Brag: Fear me, me come from strange outside land in broom broom eunuch.
Brad: He is on the brink of releasing the bow string when your pursuer comes roaring up the track, closely followed by the other Angelino scouts. You scream a warning to Kate and throw yourself down as a double burst of machine gun fire strafes the palisade.
Brag: You little shits sold me out! No secrets of fire for you!
Brad: The bullets pass over your head and hit the archer in the chest, dropping him in a tangled heap on the threshold of the gateway. You spring to your feet and rush forward to help Kate drag his body away so that the gate can be closed. The other members of the settlement come to your aid, and once the gate is secure, they point to the cave mouth and urge you to enter. You do not want to abandon The BragWagon to the Angelinos, but to stay here and attempt to fight would be suicidal. Reluctantly you leave the gate and follow them into the cave.
Brag: Hey, you've coped without me before. Besides, aren't you always saying that I'm holding you back?
Brag: Well, we'll see how you do solo, yeah? First challenge - you have to learn to drive!

Brad: Kate grips your hand tightly as you descend with a group of the cave people into the depths of the Sonora caverns. An astounding speleological feast greets your eyes as you follow them through a series of monumentous caves that have been eroded over millions of years by subterranean rivers and streams. The group stops frequently at specially prepared defensive hides, which are virtually impossible to see. One or two of their number, armed with rocks, spears and slings, occupy each of these positions. At once you see that it is their intention to lure the clansmen into the caverns and fight them here, where, despite their lack of firearms, the odds are in their favour.
Soon the sound of gun fire begins to penetrate the caverns, announcing the arrival of the clansmen.
Brag: You could just shout out!
Brad: You stop with Kate and crouch behind a clump of stalagmits, while the three remaining cave people arm themselves with rocks and take up a position on a ledge directly above a narrow defile. For several minutes theh sound of gun fire and the screams of the wounded fill the caves with clamouring echoes. Then two of the Angelinos appear at the entrance to the defile and come running towards you.
Brag: What have you come to defile...oh wait...
Brad: The cave people hurl their rocks and bring an Angelino crashing to the ground with a broken skull, but his partner avenges his death by sweeping them from the ledge with one long burst of automatic fire.
Rob: I use my pistol! I've seen one too many Bond movies I guess, but I probably will never use that rifle.
Brad: Does Bond hate rifles, or something?
The gun fire stops and you hear the unmistakeable sound of the Angelino reloading his machine pistol. Finally, he draws back its firing bolt and stars walking slowly towards your position. Your pulse is racing as you wait for the optimum moment to launch your ambush. The clansman's footsteps seem unberably loud by still you hesitate.
He stops and instinctively you spring to your feet...aim and fire.

Brag: Surprise, bitch!
Brad: Your ambush catches the clansman by surprise. But your aim is poor, and although your gun fire wings him and makes him cry out in pain, it does not prevent him from returning a burst of fire at your position.
MCSPINDLE: You suck!
Brag: How's that solitude treating you?!
MCSPINDLE: You're never alone with a CB radio and a dickhead to heckle.
Brad: The clansman's bullets whistle within inches of your head, and tear chunks of mineral from the stalagmites behind which you have dived. Razor-sharp splinters pepper your face and you skin your hands as you land heavily on the jadded, unyielding stone floor. Moments later the gunfire ceases and you hear the clansman utter an agonised scream.
Brag: Argh, motherfucker! I just had this face cleaned!
Brad: You lift your head in time to see him staggering slowly towards you, his eyes wide with pain as he works his hands frantically behind his back as if he were trying to clutch at something. Then his body stiffens, and, as he falls to the floor, you see what it was that he was trying to desperately to clasp. It is the spear-like tip of a broken stalactite, hurled from the ledge above the defile by a mortally wounded caveman in a last desperate act of defiance.
MCSPINDLE: Bit fucking convenient, if you ask me.
Brag: Hah! Ended by your own savages!

Brad: Kate moves forward to check that the clansman is dead and to search his body. She keeps what she needs: his machine pistol, a quantity of ammunition and his water canteen, and offers the rest of his possessions to you:
One Meal
One Medi-kit
+2 Flick KNife
Rob: Right...I take the med kit and use it immediately. I take the meal and leave the rest.
Brad: As soon as you are ready you retrace your way along the defile and return to the surface. When you emerge from the caverns you are astounded to see that the Angelinos have been completely overwhelmed by this colony of cave dwellers.
Brag: Wow, where were you on the Island of the Lizard King?
Brad: The few clansmen to have survived the ambush have been trussed up like turkeys and are being guarded by a circle of spear-wielding women. The rest of the colony are so busy stripping and searching the bodies of those they have killed that they fail to notice you and Kate, as you leave the entrance quietly and make your way back to The BragWagon.
MCSPINDLE: *cough* I'm dying, Brag...
Brag: Bullshit.
MCSPINDLE: If you see Cutter, tell him I said...*wheeze*...'Grammar Fail'.
Brag: Wait, are you fucking serious?!
Brad: You inspect the damage.
Brag: Please be Spark Plugs...
MCSPINDLE: Tell your were right...
Brag: My sister is a pile of nuclear fallout. You know that!

Brad: Your fears are confirmed: you no longer have sufficient fuel to reach Kent. You syphon the tanks of the clansmen's bikes, and save what you can from the bottom of the two perforated fuel cannisters, but you estimate that in total you have only enough to take you 120 miles. As you are leaving, you notice that the cave people are preparing a funeral pyre for those who were killed in the fighting. It strikes you as a very sensible and civilised way to dispose of the dead, and makes you think that perhaps your suspeicions about these people were groundless after all. Your illusions about the cave people are soon shattered, however, when Kate points out that they are not burning the dead at all: they are cooking them.
Words: Brad Harmer & Robert Wade
Brad Harmer: Facebook Twitter
Rob Wade: Twitter
This is intended as a loving tribute to Joe Dever, the Freeway Warrior series, Slaughter Mountain Run/Mountain Run, and all other gamebooks of yesteryear.

Friday 18 November 2011

E14 Exchange

Rob : I hate people sometimes.
Brad: I hate some people all times.
Rob : That's also fair.

Brad: I hate this fucking PC.
Rob : I'm testing on my own phone today.
Brad: Hope they pay your bill.
Rob : I've got a data plan, I'm good.
Brad: They don't need to know that.

Rob : I wish I’d known about this on Tuesday.
Brad: Is this for real?
Rob : Scarily so.
Brad: With a bit of effort, this could have made a great parody.
Rob : I know. It's terrifying that it exists.
Brad: It's terrifying that no-one, at any point, pointed out what a stupid idea it is. I'd be like "Riskay? Do people really talk this way? More to the point, what is it going to prove? Surely it's just going to smell of dick? Unless it smells of poop, I guess. Then you've probably got a case. Or an infection. In any event, no-one is coming out of this song looking good. I was going to say 'smelling of roses' but I was aware that would probably only compound the problem."

Rob : I like that she says "Can I smell yo dick? Oh, if I'm polite it won't sound retarded."
Brad: Maybe we're underestimating her.
Rob : How could we do that?
Brad: You know how Sherlock Holmes could identify any brand of cigar from the ash? Maybe she can identify...the type of...thing...from the scent of...She's an idiot. It's cute she think it's a fool-proof method. "Yeah, because he won't have showered afterward."
Rob : I never understood that logic. Surely if he comes through the door looking fresh, you're pretty much fucked.

Brad: Maybe we're misinterpreting it. Maybe it's not CSI: Underpants, so much as: "Something stinks in here. What the hell is that? Barry? Is that your dick I can smell? Can I smell your dick?"
Rob : "Oh my....did you fuck a decaying whale carcass?"
Brad: One time. One time. Is this a hipster?
Rob : Not from that video, but looking at her other videos and favourites, undoubtedly. That is a hipster.
Brad: I'm still not 100% on what a hipster is.
Rob : The kind of person who'd put the original sentiment in these.
Brad: This is my new favourite webpage. It's kind of emo, then?
Rob : Yeah, I guess.
Brad: She probably thinks she's really funny because she did that.
Rob : Without doubt.
Brad: She probably also has a boyfriend who quotes Family Guy all the time, and she loves him because "he's just so random".

Brad: What is it with CG blood, recently? How can it be cheaper to produce than fake blood?
Rob : We talked about this last night after you left. I hate unnecessary CG because it's probably more expensive than just doing it properly.
Brad: Yeah, they do it because they can, rather than stopping to consider if they *should*.

Brad: Just read an update on Facebook: "Cannot believe how quickly a 20 month old can wreck a house".
Rob : Literally?
Brad: Tempted to say. "That's nothing. I'll rent a demolition ball and show you how quickly a house can wreck a 20 month old."
Rob : Outstanding.
Brad: I have to tone that shit down, though. Facebook is really starting to make me look like a Tesco Value Supervillain. With a shit moustache.
Rob : Yes! There's my new gimmick. SmartPrice Joker.
Brad: LidlMan.
Rob : Nanananananana NettoBoy. Two-TasteTheDifference.
Brad: Asda al-Ghul
Rob : Morrisons Man - "You'll never beat me the Safe Way!"
Brad: These aren't the bargains the city needs, but they're the ones it deserves.
Rob : "What will you do?" "We'll roll him back...Because he can take it…and compare it against prices of other superheroes, and get 10% of the difference back."

Rob : What did you score Plants vs Zombies? My battery'd die if I tried the web on my phone.
Brad: 6. It's okay, but I played for over six hours and aced *every* level on the first attempt.
Rob : Fair enough.
Brad: And I SUCK at games.
Rob : Yeah, remember that time I whooped your ass at NHL?
Brad: ...No.
Rob : Really? It was like 13-6 or something.
Brad: I was playing as the Leafs! It's obviously just a very accurate simulation!
Rob : I was playing as the Raptors! It's not even their sport of choice!

Rob : Hooray, third well-known reply on Twitter.
Brad: Nice. Who?
Rob : Hilary Goldstein, ex-IGN US Editor in chief.
Brad: Stretching the definition of "well-known" a bit, isn't it?
Rob : He ran one of the most popular entertainment sites in the world.
Brad: I couldn't name the editorial team of *any* website. I'm a bit blurry on E14.
Rob : Editorial is you and Brian, isn't it?
Brad: Probably. The Doctor and Omer help out. You make the tea.
Rob : Wow, I wish I'd known that when we started. You still thirsty?
Brad: I can wait until after Brian dies of dehydration.
Rob : You did tell him he can drink other things, right?
Brad: What am I? His line manager?
Rob : Well I'm not. I make the tea!

Brad: Watching an anime. One character has a wobbly jelly noise accompanying her every time her tits or butt are in shot.
Rob : Christ.
Brad: I wouldn't mind if it were played for laughs, but in the main it's kind of a 'The Walking Dead' thing.
Rob : Mine didn't have that. Mine did have about eight separate (but identical) pairs of jugs.
Brad: I don't get anime.

*Rob and Brad were playing a game on Twitter, where #Bmovie was trending – Examples:
Rob : Can you think of any movies with a paedophile in them (and ideally a foreigner)?
Brad: Leon?
Rob : Not a paedophile foreigner.
Brad: Apart from being a French bloke who bangs an underage Natalie Portman?
Rob : I mean two different characters.
Brad: What?!
Rob : Never mind.
Rob : I was trying to think of a good B-movie gag for Alien vs Predator.
Brad: Ah, gotcha.

Follow Brad Harmer on Twitter
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Thursday 17 November 2011

Gaming Reviews

Hector: Badge of Carnage - Episode 3: Beyond Reasonable Doom
Straandlooper/Telltale Games
Available now on PC, iPad, Mac, iPhone/iPod Touch (Coming Soon to PSN)
Review by Rob Wade

The mastermind behind the dastardly events in Clappers Wreake is finally known to Hector and his well-meaning but useless partner, Lambert. The problem? They’re the only ones who know, and they’re currently at the mercy of their tormentor! As Hector, it’s up to you to escape your captivity, and save the town of Clappers Wreake!

From an opening scene, which parodies movies like Saw with the typical sense of humour that players will have come to expect from the series until now, the game gives you the impression that you’re off to a flyer, and indeed you won’t be disappointed in general. One nice thing about this section is how well it utilises both detectives in puzzle-solving, particularly as it relies on each detective for different things depending on their strengths and weaknesses.

The gags in this one are as strong as they’ve ever been in the series, with a lot of characters from previous episodes making a return for the series’ grand finale. As before, too, there’s the same quality of pop culture references, with a four year old baby called Kiefer with rotten teeth a particular highlight for me. Without going into too much detail, the gags during that particular exchange are pretty funny.

Of course, point and click adventure gaming depends so heavily on the quality of the puzzles available, and in this vein this episode performs pretty well. The puzzles are clever, without being so off-the-wall that it seems out of place. However, the puzzles in this one did seem a little easier than previous instalments, maybe because I’d become accustomed to the game’s storytelling approach. Either way, the game felt a little bit more simple, mainly because the puzzles seemed a little too easy to follow.

Also, the episode seems a little shorter than previous episodes, and I was able to breeze through this one in an evening of play. This may have been more of a sense than actually a shorter episode, as I didn’t actually keep track of my completion time on the previous two episodes, and may have been a symptom of the slightly easier-feeling puzzles. All in all, though, the episode ends really well, definitively while leaving many of the characters open for future returns. It should come as no surprise to regular readers that I’ve rather enjoyed this series, and as a result the fact that the episode is fun for me shouldn’t really be a shock either.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
: Really sharp cartoon graphics that hold up even at top resolution, much like the other two episodes.
Sound/Music: Some excellent dramatic music and sound effects, and some good voice acting.
Gameplay: The same point and click gameplay expected from the first two instalments, with a sense of humour which makes things enjoyable.
Lasting Appeal: A few hours of gameplay, but if you’re anything like me, you’ll go back and play the set from start to finish again.
Summary: A strong end to what has been a great series. Roll on Hector’s next adventure!8/10
Aliens: Infestation
Available Now on Nintendo DS
Review by Brad Harmer

Aliens: Infestation pits players against the overwhelming Xenomorph hive using a vast selection of iconic weapons and tools from the series. Featuring character designs by popular comic artist Chris Bachalo and equipped with an upgrade and collectibles system, Aliens: Infestation aims to allow players to explore large-scale versions of some of the most fan-beloved environments of the iconic films.

When I was a kid, Alien 3 had a video game-tie in. It had very little to do with Alien 3, and was obviously based on Aliens, as you ran around a platform game with a pulse-rifle, flame-thrower, grenade launcher, etc, blowing up wave after wave of Xenomorphs and rescuing cocooned colonists. Imagine my surprise when I booted up Aliens: Infestation to discover that it is almost exactly the same game.

Aliens: Infestation is so retro that – apart from some very nicely animated sprites – it’s like the past fifteen years never happened. It’s a side-scrolling platformer from the mid-nineties, with all the clichés, difficulty spikes and frustration that that entails. It’s a real shame, frankly, as the Aliens series deserves a good video game, and this certainly isn’t it.

Now, onto the things that really annoyed me about Aliens: Infestation. I would say I’m much more a fan of Aliens, than I am a fan of “video games”. So here’s the fan disservice:

The game starts with your marines investigating the Sulaco, left drifting in space, following the events of the opening sequence of Alien 3. As you board the Sulaco, you bump into a load of killer robots, with no real explanation (Another hangover of 90s video gaming. Hell, I was surprised they didn’t throw a construction site level in here...). After defeating them, you crawl into the ducting to discover, in the middle of the air-conditioning Alien Queen! Difficulty spike ensues.

But where did this Alien Queen come from? One was blown out of the airlock, and one is inside Ripley. So, how did a fully grown Queen materialise, with no host body?

After that, you land down to investigate the Hadley’s Hope colony on LV-426.

You know...that one that exploded.

Scratch that...that one whose impending explosion was THE MAJOR PLOT POINT OF THE SECOND HALF OF THE FILM.

So, maybe it’s a prequel, right? I mean, that’s possible?

Except you investigated the Sulaco, earlier...

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
The sprites are nicely animated, with a good comic-book feel to them, but the backgrounds are very 1990s.
Sound/Music: Nothing good. Nothing bad.
Gameplay: This is like a platformer from 1996. Some nice little touches don’t come even close to compensating for how outdated the bulk of it is.
Lasting Appeal: Pretty short, and you’ll probably be bored long before then, anyway.
Summary: Retro in all the wrong way, full of plot-holes and difficulty spikes, this really isn’t worth bothering with. 4/10
Serious Sam: The Random Encounter
Vlambeer/Devolver Digital
Available now on PC
Review by Rob Wade

Oh, gamers. I have such a hard time figuring many of you out. When Duke Nukem Forever was released earlier this year, it was met with such hate-fuelled vitriol that I wouldn’t be surprised if the game’s critical reception had put a serious dent in Gearbox’s ambition for the franchise. Incidentally, I played it all the way through (something I doubt many of the critics actually did, if many of them even *attempted* it – one thing the Internet seems to love is a good hate mob), and didn’t find it that bad at all. What’s more, many of the criticisms aimed at the game could be just as easily applied, in my view, to the Serious Sam franchise, which has irked me in the past for monologue reasons, specifically the inanity of many of his “catchphrases”.

Anyway, Serious Sam: The Random Encounter is part of an indie project to build some smaller games in the franchise to publicise the upcoming new release. Vlambeer have chosen to go for somewhat of a departure from the series’ traditional routes, going with a 2D RPG in the vein of some of the old classics. Players play as Sam (and eventually, a pair of companions) and explore a temple in search of Mental, the game’s enemy, while at the same time fighting off a considerable number of enemies. Pleasingly, this game is very easy to recommend, as it has turned out very enjoyable indeed.

The game’s controls couldn’t be simpler. Players manoeuver Sam through dungeons simply using the directional keys on the keyboard, and use Z and X to choose/cancel options. Sound familiar? Yeah, I thought it might, as it’s essentially a Game Boy RPG’s controls, the first that I can think of being Pokémon (tragic, eh?). It’s really easy to learn, and the game never pressures you into rushing your decision, which helps.

When the player enters into battles, which in true RPG fashion are random and appear at any time (usually when you don’t want them to), the menu system works in traditional RPG fashion, with the ability to fight and choose items. Players can also swap between a variety of weapons, all of which have different effects and strengths in different situations, at the cost of part of a turn (which lasts 5 seconds at a time before players can set up a new turn and choose some other options). What’s nice about this is that the game adds in a layer of strategy, as players having different weapon types and choices allows for many different approaches.

If I have one criticism of the game (and it’s more a result of the mechanics than anything technically poor), it’s that the random encounters can lead to the game becoming punishingly difficult in a random turn. If your turn loads up, and you find yourself facing 20+ enemies, 5 of which are really fast and powerful, you’re pretty much fucked. As a result of this, too, it’s possible to lose interest very quickly if the random encounters make the game “cheap” for a short while, as the game employs a 3-life system, which can be frustrating when the game stacks the odds against you. Ultimately, though, the game is pretty good fun, and should definitely be tried out, particularly as the price is cheaper than your average magazine.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
: Looks like one of the classic top-down games of yesteryear, with graphics to match. Can be run in letterbox and full screen modes, the latter of which makes the blocky textures all the more noticeable. Still, suits the style well enough.
Sound/Music: Sounds like more retro stuff, quite enjoyable.
Gameplay: An enjoyable blend of RPG and shooter with a decent learning curve and a nice hint of strategy.
Lasting Appeal: A few hours worth, but has an “Endless Mode” which will undoubtedly add a few hours to it.
Summary: A good fun game, although it can be punishing. 7/10

Wednesday 16 November 2011

How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Red Weed


After eating we crept back to the scullery, and there I grabbed a few hours sleep. When I awoke was alone. I called after the curate several times, and finally went to the kitchen. It was still daylight, and I saw him across the room, lying against the hole that looked out upon the Marsians. His shoulders were hunched, so that his head was hidden from me. I crossed my fingers that he had been decapitated.

I could hear a number of noises almost like those in an engine shed; and the place rocked with that beating thud. For a minute or so I remained watching Father Irritating, and then I advanced, crouching and stepping with extreme care amid the broken crockery that littered the floor.

I tapped the priest’s shoulder, and he jumped so high that he cracked his head on the ceiling and a mass of plaster went sliding down outside and fell with a loud impact. I supressed a giggle at his pain. The detachment of the plaster had left a vertical slit open in the debris, and by raising myself cautiously I was able to see out of this gap into what had once been a quiet roadway.

The fifth cylinder must have fallen right into the midst of the house we had first visited. The building had vanished, completely smashed, pulverised, and kersploded by the impact. The cylinder lay now far beneath the original foundations—deep in a hole, already vastly larger than the pit I had looked into at Woking. The earth all round it had splashed under that tremendous impact and lay in heaped piles that hid the masses of the adjacent houses. Our house had collapsed backward; the front portion, even on the ground floor, had been destroyed completely. We hung now on the very edge of the great circular pit the Marsians were engaged in making.

The cylinder was already opened in the centre of the pit, and on the farther edge of the pit, amid the smashed and gravel-heaped shrubbery, one of the great fighting-machines, deserted by its occupant, stood stiff and tall against the evening sky. At first I scarcely noticed the pit and the cylinder, on account of the extraordinary glittering mechanism I saw busy in the excavation, and on account of the strange creatures that were crawling slowly and painfully across the heaped mould near it.

The mechanism it certainly was that held my attention first. It was one of those complicated fabrics that have since been called handling-machines, and the study of which has already given such an enormous impetus to terrestrial invention. As it dawned upon me first, it presented a sort of metallic spider with five jointed, agile legs, and with an extraordinary number of jointed levers, bars, and reaching and clutching tentacles about its body.

Its motion was so swift, complex, and perfect that at first I did not see it as a machine, in spite of its metallic glitter. The fighting-machines were coordinated and animated to an extraordinary pitch, but nothing to compare with this. People who have never seen these structures, and have only the ill-imagined efforts of artists or the imperfect descriptions of such eye-witnesses as myself to go upon, scarcely realise that living quality.

At first, I say, the handling-machine did not impress me as a machine, but as a crablike creature. The controlling Martian whose delicate tentacles actuated its movements seeming to be simply the equivalent of the crab's brain. But then I perceived the resemblance of its grey-brown, shiny, leathery integument to that of the other sprawling bodies beyond, and the true nature of this dexterous workman dawned upon me. With that realisation my interest shifted to those other creatures, the real Marsians.

They were, I now saw, the most unearthly creatures it is possible to conceive. They were huge round bodies—or, rather, heads—about four feet in diameter, each body having in front of it a face. This face had no nostrils—indeed, the Martians do not seem to have had any sense of smell, but it had a pair of very large dark-coloured eyes, and just beneath this a kind of fleshy beak.

In the back of this head or body—I scarcely know how to speak of it—was the single tight tympanic surface, since known to be anatomically an ear, though it must have been almost useless in our dense air. In a group round the mouth were sixteen slender, almost whiplike tentacles, arranged in two bunches of eight each. These bunches have since been named rather aptly, by that distinguished anatomist, Professor Howes, the hands. Even as I saw these Marsians for the first time they seemed to be endeavouring to raise themselves on these hands, but of course, with the increased weight of terrestrial conditions, this was impossible. There is reason to suppose that on Mars they may have progressed upon them with some facility.

The internal anatomy, I may remark here, as dissection has since shown, was almost equally simple. The greater part of the structure was the brain, sending enormous nerves to the eyes, ear, and tactile tentacles. Besides this were the bulky lungs, into which the mouth opened, and the heart and its vessels. The pulmonary distress caused by the denser atmosphere and greater gravitational attraction was only too evident in the convulsive movements of the outer skin.
And this was the sum of the Marsian organs. Strange as it may seem to a human being, all the complex apparatus of digestion, which makes up the bulk of our bodies, did not exist in the Martians. They were heads—merely heads. Dickheads. Massive, planet invading dickheads.

Entrails they had none. They did not eat, much less digest. Instead, they took the fresh, living blood of other creatures, and injected it into their own veins. I have myself seen this being done, as I shall mention in its place. But, squeamish as I may seem, I cannot bring myself to describe what I could not endure even to continue watching. Let it suffice to say, blood obtained from a still living animal, in most cases from a human being, was run directly by means of a little pipette into the recipient canal...


Words: Brad Harmer & H.G. Wells
You can become Brad's "friend" on Facebook, or you can "follow" him on Twitter. Depends how creepy you want to sound really.


Having performed live to over 1.2m people, the UK's hardest working comedian Jimmy Carr is back with his brand new stand-up DVD.

Star of hit TV shows 8 Out of 10 Cats and 10 O'clock Live, Jimmy is well known for his slick one-liners and non-stop gags, but his acerbic wit and fast-paced comedy style are at their brilliant best when he has the stage to himself.

Packed with over 100 minutes of brand new material, including too-rude-for-TV jokes, hilarious heckling, and even better put-downs, Jimmy pushes the boundaries of comedy and delivers a spectacular show.

Thanks to our friends at Channel 4, we've got three signed copies of Jimmy Carr: Being Funny on DVD to give away! For your chance of winning, send your name and full postal address to before midday on Wednesday 23rd November, making sure to put "Jimmy Carr" as the subject. The first three entries out of the electronic hat after the competition closes will receive a *signed* copy of this awesome DVD!

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

Jimmy Carr: Being Funny is available as of November 21st, courtesy of Channel 4 DVD.

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

Monday 14 November 2011

E14 Stand-Up Round-Up

Dylan Moran: Yeah, Yeah
Universal Pictures UK
Available now on DVD
Review by Rob Wade

Dylan Moran, star of Black Books, Shaun of the Dead and Run Fat Boy Run brings a brand new live DVD for 2011. Ageing, religion, kids, and relationships intertwine with the general absurdities of life.

As an E14 comedian, there are very few with the comedic CV of Dylan Moran. Star of the above movies and TV shows, all of which should really be considered required viewing, his stand-up is usually a great source of hilarity as well, as although he covers subjects which arguably should mean more to the older audience member than most, he does it in such a way that comedy fans of any age can get some enjoyment from it, mainly because he talks about things like technology with the kind of reluctance which evokes images of a cat pawing at something disdainfully.

Indeed, this DVD is no different. As is the case with many comedians, if you’ve found yourself watching previous iterations of their comedy and not enjoyed it, it’s unlikely that this one will be the one to completely change your mind, as Moran plays out his new material in much the same method as the previous tours. The new material covers similar subjects to the previous shows, such as political events, relationships and children, and is delivered with Moran’s trademark curmudgeonly fashion mixed with a dash of the madcap.

Although the show isn’t a fantastically long one, and clocks in at around an hour and twenty minutes or so, you will find yourself laughing for a tremendous portion of it. Definitely worth a look if you’re a fan of Dylan Moran, and I’d have to say that it’s worth checking out if you’ve never dabbled in his stand-up stuff at all, as it’s a good show to jump on with.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Some references to having sex with things, mainly inanimate objects bizarrely.
Swearing: He swears plenty.
Summary: A really funny show, as you would expect from a comedian of Dylan Moran’s calibre. 8/10

Tim Minchin and the Heritage Orchestra: Live at the Royal Albert Hall
Universal Pictures UK
Available now on DVD and Blu-Ray/DVD Combo
Review by Rob Wade

Travelling the country with a 55-piece Orchestra and a band on his first UK arena tour, Tim Minchin performs his most spectacular show to over 100,000 people across the country.

In all my time appreciating comedy critically, few acts have polarised among my friends as heavily as Tim Minchin. Some can’t get on with his style. Some, like my girlfriend, I’m convinced would leave me given interest from the gawky Australian songster. Still, I’m fairly sure I’m worrying over nothing. Fairly.

The show being released this year is a particularly grand one, with the 55-piece Heritage Orchestra adding a tremendous amount of depth to the songs in his repertoire, a fair few of which are new and have not been heard before on DVD (although one song, “The Pope Song” seems to resonate with a few audience members, which makes me think that it may have circulated online a bit). It’s a format that seems to suit his style pretty well, as is the choice of venue in the Royal Albert Hall.

Indeed, the show in general is an entertaining one, and you couldn’t argue that you didn’t get your money’s worth considering that the show runs for two and a half hours. For those fans who crave new material, as I say there are a few new ones in here. Don’t expect a full hour of new tracks though, as the show is largely about adding depth to the existing favourites, many of which are improved for the experience. Maybe not quite as big a difference as when Metallica or Kiss did it, but it’s still an improvement.

The style of the show is very much in a similar vein to Minchin’s other shows, with long spoken portions between songs in Minchin’s gawky, slightly shy style. While I, as someone who likes him alright, found that the speech parts were just starting to drag a little when he’d move into his next song, for someone who isn’t a fan those monologues would be significantly more annoying.

The songs, however, are worth the perseverance, with an early number called “Cont” a particular highlight. Ultimately, if you’re willing to listen to a slightly awkward Australian man explain his parenting style (which does build to a pretty funny gag), you will find that the songs are worth the price of admission.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: He makes pretty frequent mention to genitals and sex.
Swearing: He swears a surprisingly large amount, particularly during “The Pope Song”.
Summary: If you’re not a fan, there’s going to be very little to entice you. If you’re into his shows, this is a good one to go for. 7/10

Greg Davies: Firing Cheeseballs at a Dog
Universal Pictures UK
Avaiable now on DVD and Blu-Ray/DVD Combo
Review by Rob Wade

Best known for his appearances on panel shows, as well as playing the teacher from The Inbetweeners, former teacher Greg Davies takes to the stage for his live show. What follows is a story of his mountain retreat, which consists of, you guessed it, “Firing cheeseballs at a dog”, as well as a series of stories from his life to give the audience some perspective.

It’s not hard to see that Greg Davies’ career history includes academia, particularly as his visual aid consists of a flipchart and a marker pen, as well as a series of stories about school life including audience participation. It’s even apt considering that he also ends up with a cock and balls drawn on the flipchart! This format, while slightly unorthodox, is probably one of the freshest I’ve seen. A segment on drama lessons called “Space Mission” is probably one of the funniest things I’ve seen in comedy for some time.

Davies also employs an audience member to read “pithy stories” to detract briefly from the main narrative, which keeps the flow quick and well-paced. It’s clear from his show that he’s taken the best things from his teaching position in terms of keeping interest and interacting with an audience, and his audience participation sections are hilarious both for the suggestions of the audience and Davies’ infectious laugh. Ultimately, there are comedy releases this year that you will probably be more drawn to (many of which you’ll see reviewed highly on this site this month), but actually this is probably one of the ones I’d recommend the highest.

Greg Davies has always tickled my funny bone in his other works (his appearances on Mock the Week a particular highlight for me), but that admiration has always come with a sense of wonder that maybe his stand-up might be a let-down for no discernible reason in my mind other than being let down by other comedians in the same vein in the past. However, one thing I love about being a reviewer is when I’m proven wrong, because when there are tons of good DVDs in the shops, everyone wins. Davies is a winner. His show is honest, engaging, fresh and feels like watching a superstar in the making.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Sex/Nudity: Talks a fair bit about sex at the beginning.
Swearing: Unsurprisingly, a fair bit.
Summary: A show that demonstrates the comedic talent of Davies better than any of his previous works. Superb. 9/10