Thursday 30 September 2010

Gaming Reviews

Kane and Lynch 2: Dog Days
IO Interactive/Square Enix
Available Now - £34.99 (PC) & £49.99 (PS3, Xbox 360 (Version Tested))
Review by Blake Harmer

Kane and Lynch, the sweary partners in crime are back despite their first outing disappearing beneath the sea of mediocrity, but can this outing rise up and deliver a stellar game in a genre that is already filled to the brim with top class games such as Gears of War and Uncharted?

After a job going wrong and resulting in Kane and Lynch accidentally gunning down the daughter of Shanghai’s biggest crime lords, our protagonists battle their way through forty-eight hours of hell as the police, army and gangsters are all on the look out to kill them as they try and escape Shanghai with the money they went to get in the first place.

As you may be able to guess from the unimaginative plot, Kane & Lynch 2: Dog Days has little originality in it’s ideas, and even the ideas they have borrowed aren’t pulled off well. The cover mechanic is fiddly, with you still being able to be shot when you are completely covered. The gunplay is laughable, with the game failing to decide whether a bad guy can be killed in one bullet or fifty, therefore making the pistol as effective as the heavy machine gun in taking someone down. Sadly, this broken element also affects your health, as you can either soak up loads of gunfire before dying, or just get hit once in the head with a lucky shot.

However, the worst part of this game, is that there is no extra dynamic to the gameplay. Rather than manning turrets or driving like in Gears of War, or having some platforming and puzzling like Uncharted, Kane & Lynch is shooting and covering and it just feels like a shooting range with some swear words rather than a highly immersive, story-driven action game. Also you play an entire level with both the characters bloody and naked. If that is not an incentive not to buy this game, I don’t know what is.

There are some saving graces. The “fragile alliance” multiplayer where you have to work together to rob a bank and then stab each other in the back for the money is back from the original game, with more game modes. And the new visual look where it looks like everything is shot on handy cam like a YouTube video is a nice touch, but these are nothing to save the game from it’s numerous flaws.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Some average visuals improved by the game’s original handycam style look, but still not astounding.
Sound/Music: Gun noises, swearing, screaming, swearing, slight advancement of plot, more swearing. This is pretty much all you’ll hear.
Gameplay: Sub-par gunplay and cover system ruin the basics of the game. It’s playable. But the flaws will only frustrate you in the end.
Lasting Appeal: You can polish off the single player campaign in about five hours if you can even put up with it that long. The multiplayer experience will keep you playing for as long as you can tolerate the game’s inherent flaws and you go back to Modern Warfare.
Summary: A heavily flawed game that should best be avoided. However, if you’re waiting for the next big game to come out and don’t know what else to play. This could be an okay rental, due to its brevity. 5/10

Legend of the Five Rings (4th Edition)
Alderac Entertainment Group
Role-playing Game Core Rulebook

Available Now - £37.94 (PDF) & £47.99 (Hardback)
Review by Brad Harmer

The Emerald Empire of Rokugan demands much of its samurai: service to one's lord, service to one's Clan, and service to one's Emperor.

Bushido's staunch and unyielding code of conduct binds samurai to duty, strengthening their character and defining their choices. While some samurai serve the greater good, others use the strictures of Bushido to manipulate the lower ranks and advance their own power. Will you follow honor or reject it? The choice is yours!

Eight Great Clans form the heart of Rokugan's culture. Each is defined by its own principles, values, and agendas. Each sees the Code of Bushido in its own way. Each seeks to serve the Emperor with its own unique talents. Take up the soul of your ancestors - the samurai's daisho - and fight for the glory and honor of your family and Clan. Now is the time for heroes, in a world where Honor is a force more powerful than Steel.

Is this one of the best looking RPG rulebooks ever? Yes. Absolutely. There’s a fuck of a hefty price-tag on this thing, but you can see where every penny went. The artwork is thematic and incredible, and the binding will last through many, many sessions. Put simply, don’t balk at the price, it’s justified. And that’s without even beginning to mention that absolute unbridled wealth of material that you have to play with in here.

One of the main advantages of Legend of the Five Rings is its versatility. You could play action, supernatural horror, political long as you like big swords and badasses, you will be at home here. The basic “Roll and Keep” mechanic of previous incarnations is here, and it’s a good system that provides generally realistic results.

This is, however, definitely one of those role-playing games that is aimed very squarely at “proper” role-players. With a strong focus on characterisation and honour, this is one that you can’t really dick around with whilst playing. Of course, I think the same of Call of Cthulhu and my players dick their way through that as well...

If you’re after an alternative to one of the more mainstream RPG systems, then this is definitely one of the ones you should be considering. You may worry about the cost, but if do take the plunge, don’t worry. You’ll get your money’s worth. 10/10

Reincarnations: Awakening
Focus Home Interactive
Available Now - £9.99 (PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

Now we all know that hidden object games aren’t much of an actual game and more an exercise in banality. However, I can happily say that this game takes the biscuit by being one of the most pointless endeavours I have ever undertaken.

Now don’t get me wrong: on a technical level this game cannot be faulted. The graphics, although and basic, are still pretty with some nice special effects. Also, the plot is fairly interesting if again, a little basic, as you are a journalist who visits a hypnotist to find out more about past lives so you can write an award-winning article. Also, the actual puzzles and the interface are perfectly balanced and easy to use. The problem of Reincarnations: Awakening is everything else.

Take the game’s hint system for example, finding it too hard to locate a certain object? Just wait for the bar to charge up and you can press hint and it will locate an object you haven’t found yet with no penalty. The only thing you have to do is wait for the hint button to recharge and you use again as many times as needed. This means that you can complete any hidden object puzzle just by clicking the hint button without any penalty to the game, completely removing any challenge. The same can be said for the game’s actual puzzles. If you find a puzzle to hard or boring (the latter being more likely), you can just wait for the skip button to charge up after awhile and you can just skip the puzzle and go on to the next part of the game, thus removing the point of having the puzzle in the first place. I did skip a couple of puzzles expecting to be marked down at the end of this short, two hour game but no, nothing happened. This means you can effectively go through the entire game and complete it without actually playing the game at all.

Sure this is a budget title, and if you actually do the puzzles there is small mild amount of enjoyment to be had. But for the same amount of money you could buy a couple of puzzle books, which will provide you with a larger variety of challenges and more hours of enjoyment. So...avoid like the plague.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Basic 2D visuals with some nice special effects keep the game bright and cheerful, if a little unspectacular.
Sound/Music: Annoying voice acting and dull music throughout. Thankfully the sound isn’t necessary to play the game. Of course, playing the game isn't necessary to playing the game either.
Gameplay: Functional puzzles with a clear interface, the puzzles can be challenging, but when you skip them you begin to question why you are even bothering.
Lasting Appeal: None, this is a game that can be completed in two hours, and you can do that without even attempting a puzzle. You will be uninstalling it the same day you installed it.
Summary: A pointless curio of a game that requires minimal effort to complete with no consequences should you attempt to bypass any of the puzzles. A two hour time waster with very little enjoyment to be had. So in short, save up some more money and buy a proper game. 3/10

Midnight Mysteries: Salem Witch Trials
Available Now - £9.99 (PC)
Review by Blake Harmer

Like the pointless Reincarnations: Awakening, Salem Witch Trials is again, a hidden object adventure game with some extra puzzles thrown in. Following on from the first Midnight mysteries game where you had to free the spirit of Edgar Allen Poe, you are now tasked with freeing the spirit of famed writer Nathaniel Hawthorne, who apparently died in a freak snowstorm in the village of Salem.

Sadly what you also get with this that is similar to Reincarnations, is that it is such a boring and banal experience, sure the plot is mildly amusing and the puzzles are challenging, but they aren’t even linked together. For example, why would you ever need to do a sudoku puzzle to get to the next section of the game? Even the gate entrance to Salem has an intricate number password to get in. Are they assuming that all witches can’t do maths and assume the best way to keep them out is to bamboozle them with puzzles until they get a headache and go home? I understand you play the game for the puzzles but shouldn’t you have some that are actually related to the story? At least Reincarnations managed to keep a little bit thematic.

However, unlike Reincarnations, Salem Witch Trials at least makes you play the game in order to complete it. It has a similar system in place in terms of finding objects or skipping puzzles, but in order to do so you have to find crows throughout the game in order to use them. This limits the number of hints and skips you have and forces you to use your intellect and solve the puzzles. The game is also better value for money, as it seems to have a higher production value and is a longer experience than reincarnations.

That said, at the end of the day, you cannot argue that you would get better value for money with a decent puzzle book from a newsagent than shelling your money on this. You’re much better off saving your money and buying a decent adventure game experience.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Basic 2D visuals with some pretty decent animations and effects considering it is a budget title.
Sound/Music: Spooky music and sound effects, but nothing really special. There is little or no voice acting here though and is pretty much all text based.
Gameplay: Functional puzzles with a clear interface, the puzzles can be challenging but no more than your average puzzle book.
Lasting Appeal: A little more than Reincarnations, the game is longer and there are extra’s to be unlocked if you manage to collect everything. Whether you’ll bother is another thing though.
Summary: A boring and banal experience that a least attempts to challenge you unlike the abomination that is Reincarnations. There is still very little to recommend this over a puzzle book though. 4/10

Atomic Super Humans 2nd Edition
Miniatures Game Core Rulebook
Radioactive Press

Available Now - £5.05 (PDF)
Review by Brad Harmer

Atomic Super Humans is a turn based combat game for two or more players set in a world where super powered humans must decide if their gifts should be used for the good of mankind or for their own personal gain. Giving players complete control over the creation of their characters, Atomic Super Humans allows you to create an existing character from a universe of their choice, or one from your own imagination. The object of the game is to stop the opposing player's atomic super humans from succeeding in their plans.

The main rulebook for this system is pretty weirdly structured. It opens up with a run down on character classes and powers before it so much as provides any sort of context for its setting, the rules or, hey, a quick overview as to what sort of game it is. It makes several veiled references to something called the Toy Battle System, whatever that is. Guys: You can push your own product a little bit. It sounds interesting. You can blow your own trumpet in your own publication.

Emotionally Fourteen is awesome, right?

The only other main downside is that the scale of figures used in rather odd, with the suggestion of using 2” – 3” figures. Now, I’m not really into action figures as such, but that seems a weird scale to me. Too large to use Heroclix, too small to use standard size 5” action figures. Maybe the idea is that you can adjust the scale...but that’s not why we pay for rules. We buy rules so you do the hard work.

If I sound down on this game, believe me, I’m not. These are just a couple of niggling points on what is an otherwise fun game. The powers here are very comprehensive. I don’t think there’s a superhero in any publication that you’d have difficulty statting up and using in this, with the possible exception of Tek-Knight from The Boys. But I don’t really want to know what the rules for Tek-Knight would be, anyway. Furthermore, the terrain and henchmen rules look like a look of fun, allowing you to have a lot of collateral damage taking place, which is a big, big part of any superhero tabletop game.

Atomic Super Humans is at its core a very light and easy system, which is both a good and a bad thing. It’s easy enough for newcomers (if they don’t wind up feeling lost by the odd rulebook structure), so you could rock up with a few friends and play this long into the night. It’s not going to be tempting away any Heroclix players, though. 6/10

Ghost Recon: Advanced Warfighter 2
Available Now - £9.99 (PC (Version Tested)), £14.99 (Xbox 360) & £40.99 (PS3)
Review by Rob Wade

It's 2014, and the soldier of the future returns to encounter a new and more imminent threat along the recently completed wall on the U.S./Mexico border. The Ghosts are more powerful with an upgraded Integrated Warfighter System (IWS) but will have only 72 hours to assess the threat and stop the rebels from reaching U.S. soil. With a border that's 1,900 miles long and an enemy that doesn't play by the rules, this is a job for the U.S. military's most elite fighting unit. This is a job for the Ghosts.

GRAW 2 takes the same form as the first game, a first-person shooter with heavy emphasis on tactical elements. This formula is a staple of the Ghost Recon franchise, and this game is a particularly good example of that sort of formula. For those unfamiliar with the game, there is a tutorial level that takes you through the basic gameplay elements, though frustratingly it doesn’t give you much help in terms of controls, with the grenade launcher particularly tiresome while trying to figure out why the button to change fire mode didn’t work. Incidentally, it’s under a different weapon even though it’s attached to another weapon. Simple, right?

The main issue I have with this game is the reason for its re-release. Ultimately, it was originally released in 2007 and was a good game then. Since then, however, particularly on consoles the selection of team-based games has been pretty good, and even on PC this game has been re-released before now. This version doesn’t provide any new features, and let’s face it: Who is still playing this game in multiplayer mode?

Ultimately, though, this game is a good game. The Ghost Recon games have never left much room for casual players, with one successful hit usually going some way towards dispatching an enemy (or indeed you if you’re the unlucky one). The sound and music in the game are good quality military style, with quiet elements punctuated by good action music when you’re spotted. As I say, it’s not a bad game. I just think that for ten pounds, there’s better more recent games out there which will give you more bang for your buck.

The Emotionally Fourteen Games Rating
Graphics: Somewhat dated, but they do the job.
Sound/Music: Good sound effects and music, very military but at the same time tranquil during the scouting moments.
Gameplay: Tactical shooting from a first-person viewpoint. It’s good, but after three years it does feel a little outdated.
Lasting Appeal: Multiplayer, but realistically who’s still playing GRAW 2 on PC?
Summary: The gameplay, while enjoyable, is completely dated and has been surpassed many times over. 6/10


Pack life is about order, but Bryn is about to push all the limits, with hair-raising results.

At the age of four, Bryn watched a rabid werewolf brutally murder her parents. Alone in the world, she was rescued and taken in by Callum, the alpha of his pack. Now fifteen, Bryn's been as a human among werewolves, adhering to pack rule. Little fazes her. But the pack's been keeping a secret, and when Bryn goes exploring against Callum's orders, she finds Chase, a newly turned teen Were locked in a cage.

Terrifying memories of the attack on her parents come flooding back. Bryn needs answers, and she needs Chase to get them. Suddenly, all allegiances to the pack no longer matter. It's Bryn and Chase against the werewolf world, whatever the consequences. A thrilling new YA adventure, with an electrifying link between a tough heroine and an exciting boy-were at its heart, Raised by Wolves will leave you howling for more.

Thanks to our friends at Quercus, we've got two copies of Jennifer L. Barnes' Raised by Wolves to give away. What's more, both copies are signed by Jennifer herself! For your chance of winning, send in your name and full postal address to before midday on Thursday 7th October. the first two names out of the special electronic hat will win a free copy each!

Wednesday 29 September 2010

Iron Man 2 Promotion

Robert Downey Jr. returns to play Tony Stark in Iron Man 2, the eagerly anticipated sequel to the 2008 superhero smash, Iron Man.

In this sensational follow-up, Stark must become Iron Man once more and do battle with Whiplash (Mickey Rourke - The Wrestler), and corporate rival Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell - Moon). Scarlett Johansson (Lost In Translation) stars as sexy Russian spy Black Widow, and Don Cheadle (Boogie Nights) assumes the role of Colonel James Rhodes from Terrence Howard.

If you missed Iron Man 2 at the cinemas, then you're going to have to wait until 25th October when it comes out on DVD and Blu-ray from Paramount Home Entertainment...unless, you're a lucky reader of Emotionally Fourteen that is. We've got two tickets for a special promotional screening of Iron Man 2 at Madame Tussaud's in London on Wednesday 6th October at 6:30pm.

If you want to be in with a chance of winning the tickets for yourself and a friend, just send your name, postal address and mobile telephone number to before midday on Friday 1st October. The first entry pulled out of the electronic hat will be going to the screening!

Tuesday 28 September 2010

Book Reviews

The Saga of Larten Crepsley: Birth of a Killer
Darren Shan

Available from Thursday 30th September - £12.99 (Hardback)
Review by Kelly Prior

Birth of a Killer is the highly anticipated new novel from Darren Shan. The first novel in The Saga of Larten Crepsley, and the prequel to The Saga of Darren Shan, it chronicles a young and naïve Larten’s first steps towards Vampirism. Having seen enough brutality and death in his young life already, an incident in the silk factory where he works forces Larten to flee, literally for his life. Taking refuge in a dark and murky crypt, Larten meets Seba, a vampire, a “bloodsucker”, looking for a new recruit to be his assistant. Knowing that he can never return to his old life, Larten joins Seba and begins his vampire training, much in the same way as we saw a young Darren Shan become Mr. Crepsley’s assistant in Cirque Du Freak, the first book in The Saga of Darren Shan.

Birth of a Killer really does stand as an example of how far Darren Shan has come as a novelist. It’s gripping and intense in all the right places, while still managing to be intelligent, emotional and sensitive where it’s needed. Shan set himself the difficult task of recreating the steps that his character Darren took in The Saga of Darren Shan, without making this book seem like a carbon copy. It’s unique in many ways, while still allowing us to revisit so many fond memories like Darren’s stay at the Cirque du Freak, his encounter with the Vampaneze Murlaugh, and the endurance-testing visit to Vampire Mountain.

Mr. Crepsley has always been one of Shan’s most interesting and entertaining creations and Birth of a Killer provides avid fans a chance to see the real story behind his past. For passers-by, just looking for a good read, it will not disappoint, but you would be better off reading The Saga of Darren Shan first, to avoid any confusion. This book moves fast. Larten grows from a young boy to a thirty year old man during the course of this first book and has many different adventures and experiences. It’s very dark and gloomy in places; something to be said about a lot of Shan’s books, but it is also a work of comical genius and is almost impossible to put down.

A writer for both children and adults, Shan succeeds yet again in creating a novel that appeals to all age groups and neglects no one. Shan’s imagination is remarkable and he boasts a great command of dialogue and character development.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Lots of fighting, some graphic deaths.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: Some made-up vampire swearing.
Summary: This book will not disappoint any fan of Vampire fiction or general fantasy. For fans of Shan’s work, it is the Holy Grail, answering many questions. 10/10
The Dead
Charlie Higson
Penguin Books

Available Now - £12.99 (Hardback)
Review by Rob Wade

A terrible disease is striking everyone over the age of fourteen. Death walks the streets. Nowhere is safe. Maxie, Blue and the rest of the Holloway crew aren't the only kids trying to escape the ferocious adults who prey on them. Jack and Ed are best friends, but their battle to stay alive tests their friendship to the limit as they go on the run with a mismatched group of other kids - nerds, fighters, misfits. And one adult. Greg, a butcher, who claims he's immune to the disease. They must work together if they want to make it in this terrifying new world. But as a fresh disaster threatens to overwhelm London, they realize they won't all survive...

This book is a prequel of sorts to the events of The Enemy, the first book in the franchise, and deals with a different group of kids. This time, the events centre around a group of posh schoolboys who escape the confines of their academy and traipse around London looking for a safe haven. Along the way, they run into the coach load of kids driven around by Greg the butcher (not to be confused with Gregg’s the Butcher, as this Greg has actually handled something resembling food in his time). Of course, in true horror movie fashion, it doesn’t pan out quite how they are expecting, and before long they find themselves in some strange places.

One of the things I have always liked about the first book, The Enemy, is the feeling that nobody who appears in the book can be guaranteed to be in a good state by the end of the series. Up until Vector Prime saw Chewbacca try and catch a moon in the Star Wars Expanded Universe, it was prevalent in most popular series, but the best books don’t have that mechanic. Pleasingly, The Dead continues this trend, with a large percentage of the characters along the way finding themselves mutilated, eaten or otherwise fucked up by all sorts of weird and wonderful enemies and circumstances.

Also of positive note is the “fresh disaster” mentioned in the book’s blurb. Without going into too much detail for reasons of spoilers, it’s a masterstroke of a final set piece, with a sense of urgency usually reserved for Left 4 Dead matches right when you set off the final alarm. It’s probably a good comparison, then, that they deal with similar subject matter, as this book does the urgency just right in the right places. The book is also written very realistically, with all the characters from different backgrounds actually sounding like the kind of kids you’d sit behind on the bus, causing you to curse about how far society had gone to shit.

No book is perfect, of course, and the novel does suffer from the occasional drawn-out sequence where it’s maybe a little long-winded, but make no mistake: this is every bit as good as the first book, if not better. Personally, I can’t wait to see what’s next!

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Violence: Tons of violence, guns and gore. What more can you ask for, eh?
Sex/Nudity: None. You sickos.
Swearing: Plenty of swears, all it takes is for the adults to all die, eh? Kids today...
Summary: Another stonking read and yet more evidence that Higson is on to a winner! 9/10
The Small Hand
Susan Hill
Profile Books

Available Now - £9.99 (Hardback & Digital Download)
Review by Brad Harmer

Returning home from a visit to a client late one summer's evening, antiquarian bookseller Adam Snow takes a wrong turning and stumbles across the derelict old White House. Compelled by curiosity, he approaches the door, and, standing before the entrance feels the unmistakeable sensation of a small hand creeping into his own, 'as if a child had taken hold of it'. Intrigued by the encounter, he determines to learn more, and discovers that the owner's grandson had drowned tragically many years before. At first unperturbed by the odd experience, Snow begins to be plagued by haunting dreams, panic attacks, and more frequent visits from the small hand which become increasingly threatening and sinister...

When this first arrived, my gut reaction was “is that it?”. At 167 pages long and just over 2cm thick, it’s hard to believe that this really warrants a hardback release. Of course, I realised that I was literally judging a book by its cover, and resolved to discover the good things in this small package. Which didn’t take long.

The characters, even our protagonist, is paper thin, and he takes on the standard role of “Ghost Story Protagonist”. Crucially for a ghost story, the scary bits are woefully unscary, and this reads like something M.R. James would have thrown in the waste-paper basket. In fact, it reads so much like an M.R. James story that I kept forgetting that it was supposed to be set in the present day. The scary bits aren’t scary and the whole thing is rather a tragic damp squib.

If The Small Hand was a short story, then it would probably have been quite a good one. The fact that it is being marketed (and priced) as a novel, however, means there are certain expectations...none of which this succeeds in meeting.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None.
Summary: An average ghost story with no real surprises in it. It’s a well written enough short story, but there’s just not enough length or substance here to justify the ten pound price tag. 4/10
The Twilight Saga: Breaking Dawn
Stephenie Meyer

Available Now - £7.99 (Paperback)
Review by Brad Harmer

So, this is the “end” of The Twilight Saga.


That’s all the enthusiasm I can sum up, I’m afraid. I’ll do it again, for the sake of showing a little effort.


Meyer’s prose sucks and her writing is as clumsy as her protagonist, but let’s be honest, if you’ve gotten this far, that doesn’t bother you.

The pacing is a bit weird, either spending pages gazing mushily at an object of affection, of hurtling at lightning speed from location to location.

Having Jacob narrate half the book doesn’t really work, as he talks like a twelve year old.

Meyer has a terrible problem with making things too fucking convenient for her characters. Anything that would be a scene, character flaw or even major plot development in any other writer’s work is dismissed with a matter of words. Like when Carlisle "just happens" to have an X-ray machine upstairs in his house. For shits and giggles presumably.

To be honest, Meyer isn’t really writing for cynical bastards at this point. She was writing this for the Twi-Hards out there, and if you’ve liked the series so far, then you’re going to like this – it’s more of all the things you love (with some plot conveniences). If you haven’t, then don’t bother carrying on, because you’re really going to hate it.

To be honest, even if you do like it, the ending’s a bit of a damp squib, and there are many ways the series can continue, should The Host not pan out as intended.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some vampire on werewolf slugging.
Sex/Nudity: Some shagging of the “curtains blowing in the wind” variety.
Swearing: None.
Summary: Generally quite an unsatisfying end to the series. Too many stupid ideas, too many conveniences and too much clunky prose. 4/10
Terminator Salvation: Trial By Fire
Timothy Zahn
Titan Books
Available Now - £6.99 (Paperback)
Review by Rob Wade

Following the dramatic events of Terminator Salvation, a recovering John Connor grants Barnes permission to return to the destroyed VLA lab and bury his brother, killed in the explosive opening of the movie. At the ruins Barnes and Blair Williams hunt through the debris for the remains of their comrade but instead uncover a mysterious cable leading up into the mountains. The two Resistance fighters head into the wilderness to investigate.

What the pair discovers is an entire village that appears largely untouched by Judgment Day and its aftermath. Suspicious of the villagers, Barnes and Blair decide to dig deeper...

For those who aren’t familiar with Timothy Zahn, he is the legend responsible for bringing Grand Admiral Thrawn, Pellaeon, Talon Karrde and Mara Jade into the Star Wars Expanded Universe, and is thus deserving of eternal gratitude by all who dare to call themselves Emotionally Fourteen. Got that out of your system? Fantastic, let’s move on.

Trial By Fire deals heavily with some of the periphery characters of the franchise (and Kyle Reese), seeing two of John Connor’s team dealing with their tense interpersonal relationship through a trip to a nearby lab and the subsequent events that follow, and seeing Reese deal with a brand new and terrifying threat to the Resistance.

One of the best things about this book is what we at E14 call the “Arkham Horror Effect” in full force. Essentially, this effect makes an inanimate object, or in the case of the game the deck of cards, display such cleverness and strategy that it makes you feel like you’re up against a really smart human player. This, refreshingly, was how I felt all the way through about Skynet. The book is so well written that you get the feeling that Skynet is a tactical genius, but a human being prepared to learn and adapt. A bit like...Grand Admiral Thrawn...Damn you, Zahn: You’ve done it again!

Anyway, the two sub-plots are done really well, with a decent amount of revelation as you go along and the characters become wise to what’s going on. One of the downsides to this is that in one case, the Blair/Barnes storyline in particular, you can see where the plot is ultimately going to end up a mile off. On the plus side, the events of their storyline don’t quite pan out exactly how you might expect, though the ultimate ending is predictable.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating: :
Violence: Understandably, plenty of gunfights and fistfights. They’re called Terminators, not Poncebots.
Sex/Nudity: None.
Swearing: None, which genuinely surprised me.
Summary: Although you can see the way the storyline goes from a mile off, the book is still very well written and keeps the story in motion nicely. 8/10


The Sith are gone - all except Darth Bane, creator of the 'Rule of Two', which states that the new Sith Order will consist of only two: a Master and an apprentice. But how does one train an apprentice whose ultimate goal - and proof of success - must be to kill the Master?

Darth Bane is beginning to suffer the effects of drawing heavily on the dark side of the Force for so many years. At the same time, he's beginning to doubt his apprentice, Zannah, because she hasn't yet tried to kill him and take his power. Is she weak? Unworthy of being his apprentice? When he learns of an ancient Sith holocron that holds the secret to immortal life, he sends Zannah off on a mission and heads out to search for the holocron on his own. But Zannah is anything but weak, and now that she guesses his doubts, she decides the time is right to take him on.

The Forces of evil will clash in spectacular battle, with the future of the Sith hanging in the balance!

Thanks to our friends at Arrow Books, we've got six copies of Star Wars - Darth Bane: Dynasty of Evil to give away! For your chance of winning, send in your name and full postal address to before midday on Tuesday 5th October. The first six names out of the electronic hat will win a copy each.

Monday 27 September 2010

E14 Interviews: Charlie Higson

For those into their comedy, the name Charlie Higson needs no introduction. A veteran of the UK comedy scene, Higson is perhaps best known for his work on shows such as The Fast Show and the reboot of Randall and Hopkirk: Deceased. As an author, he is credited as re-inventing James Bond for a younger generation of readers with classics such as Silverfin. More recently, his works have moved to child-accessible zombie fiction with The Enemy and his most recent release, The Dead.

Despite all this super-mega-fame, however, he still found time to answer some questions for the fine readers of E14. Enjoy!
E14: First of all, many thanks for agreeing to answer our questions. You probably get this all the time, but what was the inspiration for this particular series?

CH: Obviously the main influence of writing these horror stories about zombies were all the zombie films I loved when I was younger - mainly Night Of The Living Dead and Dawn Of The Dead. Also of course 28 Days Later which is set in London ravaged by a strange disease. This probably in itself was inspired by The Day Of The Triffids, in which a man wakes up in hospital to find that nearly everybody else has gone blind.

I was also influenced by the original book of I Am Legend in which a man tries to survive in a world filled with vampires. To me the scariest books I’ve read have been by Stephen King. He has a very strong sense of character; you get to know the people in his books so that you care about what happens to them. I have tried to do the same in my books and not just film them with splatter and gore. When I was writing the James Bond books my biggest influence was the original Bond books of Ian Fleming. No surprise there.

E14: With the success of your James Bond novels, is there a certain pressure to deliver when you attempt an original intellectual property, or is it liberating?

CH: When I was first offered the job of writing the James Bond series I just thought "What a great idea! What fun!". I very quickly had an idea of how the first book would work and the style and atmosphere of the series. I wanted the books to be full-on James Bond style adventures and for kids reading them to really get into the idea of being going up against nasty adults and beating them. I made sure all the James Bond elements were in place and had a great time rereading all the original Ian Fleming books. It was great to be given a blueprint for the books by Fleming himself.

I figured if I just did what he had done it would all be ok. Working on the first draft was huge fun. I sat there with a big grin on my face thinking ‘Wow, I’m writing a James Bond book’. It was only when the book was about to be published that I suddenly thought ‘Oh my God, what have I taken on? This could all go horribly wrong.’ Fans could hate it, it could be rubbish. Luckily the fans liked it and the kids it was aimed at liked it too so I could relax after that.

E14: As a fellow Brit, it was refreshing for me to see a series set in London, as many of the notable zombie franchises are set in the USA. Was the decision to set the series in London a decision you made early on, and was it for a particular reason? Does the patriotic element factor into it at all?

CH: Whilst it might have been more commercial to set the whole thing in New York, as you say, I’m a Brit. I want to write the story I want to write, rather than the type of books that might sell best in America. I live in London, I like writing about London, I wanted the books to be about the sort of teenagers that my own boys hang out with. That was my inspiration for writing the books. Plus I often wonder, when I’m shopping at my local Waitrose, what it would be like if zombies attacked.

E14: You’re obviously critically acclaimed in many of the things you’ve written. Is there a particular style that sticks out for you as the favourite to write (horror, James Bond, comedy, etc)? What are some of the advantages of the different projects you’ve been involved in?

CH: I’ve been very lucky to have really enjoyed everything that I’ve done. Obviously making comedy programmes on television is a huge amount of fun, but it’s also a huge amount of hard work and can be very stressful. Writing books is a nice change from that. You’re your own boss, you can do what you like, when you like. It is nice to be able to do both. Comedy is an outlet for my lighter thoughts, horror for my darker ones. Being a huge James Bond fan meant that writing James Bond books was one of the best jobs I could ever imagine.

E14: A popular view, and one of the reasons I liked the first book of this series so much, is that in order for a series like this to be totally engaging, you have to create the impression that nobody is safe no matter how important the character is. Do you subscribe to this theory?

CH: I did a lot of events with kids around the James Bond series and kids would often say to me that they had found the books really exciting and sometimes quite frightening, but never too frightening because they always knew that James Bond was going to be all right at the end of it. For a horror film or book to be really scary you have to think that everybody in it is in peril and that any of them could be hurt or killed. There’s nothing worse than a predictable horror story in which you can work out at the beginning who’s going to make it to the end. I nailed my colours to the mast quite early on in The Enemy by making it very clear that major characters could die, even the reader’s favourite ones. I thought this would make it ten times more terrifying.

E14: How far ahead are you of the published books? For example, book two has just come out, are you already ahead to book six or seven? If not, how decisive are you on the events that will unfold in future novels?

CH: Boy, I wish I was at the end of book seven! I could go on holiday for a couple years. Darren Shan once claimed that he’d written his entire new series even before book one was out. The lucky so-and-so. I’m not that prolific, I can’t work that far ahead. At the moment I’m about halfway through writing book three of The Enemy series and book two has just come out. But I guess I have managed to squeeze in making a major new television comedy series between the first two books. So I haven’t been entirely lazy. It’s good to be about one book ahead - it gives you a sense of confidence.

E14: How much backstory was necessary in order to set the series in motion? Did you spend a lot of time fleshing out the characters before beginning the stories, or did you have more of a basic outline in mind to be developed?

CH: The first book starts in right in the middle of the action and we get to know the characters by what they do. They all have a specific role to play. As the book progresses we learn more about their backstories. I’m not sure I really knew that much about them before I started writing, I just knew what I wanted them to do. Here were a bunch of kids trying to survive and that was all that was important. One of my templates was the Greek myths and legends surrounding The Trojan Wars. Homer’s bunch of heroes all had their flaws. I wanted my heroes to be the same - they’re not perfect.

Sometimes I wanted to show through their back stories perhaps why the characters weren’t so perfect. Things happened to them in the past that made them who they are. There are secrets about the characters still, though, that only I know and they will come out as the series progresses, but I am laying little clues along the way so that when these revelations come to light readers can go back and see that all the information was already there - they just hadn’t spotted it.

E14: Are you reading anything good yourself at the moment?

CH: I read books all the time. I’m reading a lot of the Sharpe novels of Bernard Cornwell at the moment because he’s very good at describing action, battles and fighting of which there is a lot in my new series. I also try to keep up with what’s going on in the world of kids books, and I love Philip Reeve’s Mortal Engines books. I’m also reading horror books, like old copies of the Pan books of horror, just so I can steal some ideas!

E14: What advice would you give those of our readers who aspire to be writers?

CH: Don’t do it! Please! I don’t need the competition. Seriously, though, the only advice you can ever give to a writer is to write. The same way as if you want to learn how to ride a bicycle you get on a bicycle and start pedaling. Once you’re good at it you can talk to some experts and learn new tricks, you can watch films and read books about it, but in the end it is pedaling those wheels that teaches you how to write. Write a lot, read a lot and don’t be too self-critical. Many people never get past the first page because they can’t bear to think what other people might think of their work. You’re writing for yourself, don’t worry about anyone else. If you can entertain yourself and amuse yourself with your writing that’s all that matters in the end.

Charlie Higson's latest book, The Dead, is available now in Hardback. More information on the book and the series is available at The Enemy's Official Website. Be sure to check back tomorrow for E14's review!

Saturday 25 September 2010

DVD Reviews

Death at a Funeral
Starring: Chris Rock, Zoe Saldana, Luke Wilson
Director: Neil LaBute
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment

Available from Monday 27th September - £17.99 (DVD) & £22.99 (Blu-ray)
Review by Brad Harmer

When the patriarch of a dysfunctional family dies, his funeral turns into family circus. Misplaced bodies, blackmail, indecent exposure and a corpse that won't stay in the box get the party started, but when old family skeletons start tumbling out of the closet, all Hell breaks loose.

With a cast like this, this movie has to be good, right? I mean, even if the effects, music, direction, editing and everything else are terrible, the cast can carry it right? I mean, Chris Rock was at his funniest when it was just him, a stage and a microphone, so what more can they need?

The tragedy here is simple: the cast is terribly, terribly wasted. The jokes in the script are either flat or completely non-existent. The cast is hopelessly adrift with this terrible direction from Neil LaBute. They fall just short of looking into the camera with a “what the hell am I supposed to be doing” expression, but it’s pretty close. Any cleverness that there may have been in the script is ironed out by the truly awful direction.

What’s more? I have difficulty thinking of this as a spoiler when really it’s false advertising:

No one dies at the funeral.

One guy is dead at the start, but that’s it. There are no deaths at this funeral; this funeral is devoid of deaths. It’s the biggest titular lie since The Neverending Story.

The cast try their hardest, and it has to be said that Danny Glover is simply awesome in this. He’s the funniest actor in the cast, in fact. However...unless you’re a hardcore Danny Glover fanatic...avoid.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some scuffling. No-one dies.
Sex/Nudity: Man arse.
Swearing: Chris Rock.
Summary: A sloppily directed waste of the comedic talent on offer. No laughs in sight, and a car-crash narrative. 3/10
The IT Crowd: Version 4.0
Starring: Richard Ayoade, Chris O’Dowd, Katherine Parkinson
Director: Richard Boden & Graham Lineham

Available from Monday 27th September - £19.99 (DVD)
Review by Brad Harmer

Banished from the ivory towers of Reynholm Industries, the IT crowd lurk below ground, avoiding work and social contact in equal measure...Another series of The IT Crowd renews our acquaintance with Roy, Moss and Jen, the co-dependant trio who continue, against all odds, to operate under the obscene rule of Douglas Reynholm. Their seemingly fragile friendship is reinforced when they are confronted with naked aerobics, bunking off work, marriages and divorces.

The fourth series sees each character taking on new challenges; Jen wants to stretch herself in the workplace so applies for the post of ‘Entertainment Manager’, Moss beats all records on Countdown, Roy spends a disproportionate amount of time trying to convince an old friend that he is not a window cleaner and Douglas joins the ‘spaceologists’.

The IT Crowd is the geek’s sitcom, and this series is as good as any of the others. When the gags are great, they’re really good and have some amazing punchlines, never strolling into the land of “surreal for the sake of surreal”. Richard Ayoade is the master of the comedic pause, and there are even some nice inter-episode callbacks, which add to laughs.

There’s nothing new here and, in fact, some jokes rely on previously knowledge of old material, but that doesn’t stop it from being one of the funniest shows on TV. Also, it paints role-playing game in a positive, non-dorky light; that’s refreshing.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Some slapstick.
Sex/Nudity: Some references.
Swearing: Some. Not from Moss, though.
Summary: Not the best series so far, but certainly not the worst either. When it’s funny, it’s very funny, but you wish it could achieve that more often. 8/10
Naruto Shippuden: The Movie
Starring: Kate Higgins, Maile Flanagan & Yuri Lowenthal
Director: Hayato Date
Manga Video

Available Now - £17.99 (DVD)
Review by Rob Wade

A sinister ninja is using black magic to raise the spirit of the long-imprisoned demon Moryo. If Moryo's body is also resurrected, he will establish a Thousand Year Kingdom that will mean the end of life on Earth as humans know it. Only Shion, the priestess of the Land of Ogres, can stop Moryo by keeping his body sealed within a hidden temple. Naruto leads a special squad including Sakura and Rock Lee to protect Shion on her journey.

This film opens with the death of Naruto, and his subsequent burial. Even though it’s a dream sequence, you have to admit that’s one of the ballsiest openings to any feature-length movie.

Anyway, this movie is a typical escort quest movie, in that the characters start off hating their charge but through the power of love and cuddles…blah blah blah yada yada yada...learn a lot about themselves along the way etc. In fact, it seems to have a couple of similarities to the last movie I reviewed in the Naruto universe, Guardians of the Crescent Moon Kingdom, where the gang have to escort a whiney brat of a child across a massive expanse, only to teach the child humility just in time. As movie formulas go, it’s pretty well-trodden territory.

Having said that, I actually found myself quite enjoying this movie. It’s much darker all the way through, as the opening sequence involving Naruto’s apparent death plays on your mind the whole time. The overtones of death and destruction during the course of the film are also good at setting quite a desperate atmosphere, where the people of the world want to live at any cost.

One of the best things about this movie is the quality of the writing during the action scenes. Oftentimes, battles on a grand scale get muddled, and the reasons for things happening aren’t clear. The best examples of it done well are, believe it or not, in Pokémon and Yu-Gi-Oh!. The characters’ actions are generally competitive, so someone explains why they’re a tactical genius and not just some twat with a small tortoise prisoner.

Despite all this, though, this movie just misses out on greatness through simply not being very original in its story or execution. Besides this, the ending is a bit of a lame duck. On the plus side, the person who does the subtitling on these series clearly doesn’t quite grasp concepts consistently, and bandies the word “bastard” around instead of “idiot” or “fool”. Fantastic.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating
Violence: A lot of fistfights and ninjutsu attacks.
Sex/Nudity: Nope.
Swearing: One use of the word “bastard”, but most of the swears are hilariously in the subtitles.
Summary: An enjoyable, if a little predictable, action anime. 7/10
The War Lord
Starring: Richard Boone, Rosemary Forsyth, Charlton Heston
Director: Franklin J. Schaffner
Eureka Entertainment

Available Now - £15.99 (DVD)
Review by Kelly Prior

Chrysagon, a knight, played by Charlton Heston (Beneath the Planet of the Apes, Wayne's World 2), is sent by his duke to take over and rule a swampland in Normandy. With rebellious villagers and invading barbarians, Chrysagon has a hard time controlling his people. Opinions are also divided within the castle, where Chrysagon’s jealous and bitter brother and his counsel judge his every move. As he struggles with his new task as a lord of a castle, he discovers that power really does mean you can take whatever you want. After falling for a young woman he realizes that not even her husband can stop him having her, and to the villager’s outrage he takes her for his own.

This film was all right really. Nothing spectacular, but an enjoyable viewing experience. The character of Chrysagon is actually not a very likable character, but we still sympathize with his struggle. His ruthless behavior when it comes to having the woman he wants makes him out to be a massive dick, but it’s easy to see how his brother is manipulating him. It seems pretty historically accurate, set in the middle ages, but not cheesy or overly dramatic. While some parts are gripping and interesting, others are frustratingly boring.

Not a lot happens in this film, and with a title like The War Lord, its remarkable how little it has to do with war. In fact, apart from a scuffle with some barbarians in the opening, the first hour or so of the films goes by with no hint of a battle. After providing us with no action for more than half the film, we are then given an infuriatingly boring battle which goes on for far too long. The War Lord is one of those films that you have to watch with constant consideration of the fact that it is an old film, originally released in 1965. Of course it’s not going to have amazing special effects or really impressive battle scenes. What this film does boast is its historical accuracy and its perfect casting.

The Emotionally Fourteen Rating:
Battles are rare, but yes, they are there.
Sex/Nudity: Romantic love-making.
Swearing: None.
Summary: The War Lord doesn’t exactly deliver what it suggests from the title and the DVD cover, but it does deliver some touching scenes and a good portrayal of the world of the middle ages. 5/10


From the acclaimed producer of John Woo's Red Cliff and Jet Li's Warlords, comes this powerhouse biopic of the legendary Chinese philosopher, Confucius.

Showcasing a commanding and captivating performance from screen icon, Chow Yun-fat. This epic masterpiece balances breathtaking spectacle, visceral action and heart-wrenching drama to deliver one of this year's most unforgettable movies.

In 500 B.C., during China's famed 'Spring and Autumn Period', Kong Ze (Confucius), a commoner reverred for his outstanding wisdom, is made Minister of Law in the ancient Kingdom of Lu. Under his inspired leadership, Lu ascends to new heights but becomes a target of conquest for the warlike nation of Qi. Threatened with annihilation by their powerful neighbour, a desperate people turn to their greatest teacher to lead their most powerful army. When Confucius delivers a stunning victory against all odds, a jealous aristocracy sets out to destroy him, but they should never under-estimate a remarkable man whose wisdom is more powerful than the sword.

With cinematography from Oscar-winning director of photography, Peter Pau (Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon), Confucius is one of Asian Cinema's finest achievements and is a compelling invitation to discover the remarkable story of one of history's greatest heroes.

Thanks to our friends at Showbox Media we've got two copies of Confucius to give away on DVD! For your chance of winning, send in your name and full postal address to before midday on Saturday 2nd October. The first two names out of the special electronic hat will win a copy each!

Friday 24 September 2010

Dickass DM

Remember good, old-fashioned gamebooks? They promised all the fun of a role-playing game, with none of the social interaction - what more could 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 Stephen Thraves gamebook Suspects!. Brad is the DM, and Rob plays his character, Hercule Braggart.

Read Part One
Read Part Two

Previously on Dickass DM: Assigned to investigate the murder of movie director Larry Redshirt, famous detective Hercule Braggart boards the Olympic Express with a view to solving the heinous crime.He has only been on the train for a few hours, and already ther murderer has made two attempts on his life...but now he has his first clue...the murderer is wearing a pullover! Now, as the train pulls into a way-station, Braggart keeps his eye on Nick McSpindle and Giles Grimace...
Braggart's suspects photo. Click to enlarge:

Hercule Braggart: Maybe Nick's having Giles put down. We are, after all, in Switzerland...

Brad: But then you notice that there is just one place on the station that is still open.
Rob: The Murderer's Retreat?
Brad: A newspaper stand. And, to your relief, you see that this is where Grimace and McSpindle stop.
Hercule Braggart: Hey knobends, it'll still be yesterday's edition!
Brad: And in German. Giles Grimace buys a paper at the stand, immediately flicking through the pages looking for something. You guess that it's tomorrow's weather report, because he bad temperedly shakes his head as he shows that section of the paper to Nick.
Rob: Bad tempered? Is there anything that guy isn't bad tempered about?
Brad: But Nick McSpindle seems more concerned about the time, repeatedly glancing at the station's clock above them.
Rob: "Mr Grimace, you've won a million pounds on the lottery!"
"I would've preferred two."
Brad: I've known people like that, to be fair. McSpindle anxiously tugs at Grimace's sleeve, eventually persuading him to start making his way back to the train. They are the last two to reboard it. The train pulls out of Zurich station. A quarter of an hour or so after leaving Zurich, you decide to go for a brief stroll along the train to allow a steward to make up the bed in your cabin. There hardly seems much point in him doing this, however.
Hercule Braggart: You'd be better off bolting my fucking windows.
Brad: You've only eight and a half hours left to work out who the murderer is and so you're not very likely to be doing much sleeping tonight! As you wander through the train, though, it seems that most of the other passengers are now sleeping. The corridors are completely empty. Or are they? You are just entering one of the corridors when a cabin door opens at the other end.
Rob: Okay.
Brad: You glimpse a shadowy figure dash out of the door, then quickly disappear round the corner into the next carriage. Curious about this shadowy figure, you walk right up to the cabin from where they had furtively emerged. The first thing you notice about it is that the lock is broken on the door.
Rob: Right.
Brad: Then you notice that there is an upturned suitcase on the seat. Reading the label on the suitcase, you see that it belongs to Larry Redshirt. Of course...this is the cabin that he used! That shadowy figure must have been the murderer, sneaking in here to make sure that there wasn't anything incriminating amongst Larry's belongings.
Rob: Makes sense. It's what I'd do.
Brad: Perhaps he or she lured Larry to the fatal carriage door by slipping a note under his cabin door, for instance...and perhaps that note had since gone missing! Anyway, the murderer might well regret making this late-night search of the cabin, for you noticed something about them, a small clue, as he or she left!
Rob: Ok, this'll be a first. Go on.
Brad: You noticed that they had dark coloured hair.
Rob: For fuck's sake.
Brad: That helps, surely?
Rob: Actually, it appears to narrow it down to three. Cool.
Brad: Retiring to your cabin, you find it very difficult to keep awake as the hour gets later and later. It's now half past two in the morning and you still seem to have got nowhere in unravelling this murder mystery! You ass!
Hercule Braggart: How dare you!
Brad: Look, who the fuck are you talking to? Again, your head starts to nod...but, again, you force your eyes open, deciding to go for a stroll down the corridor to try and wake yourself up.
Rob: This is setting off my Bodes Ill sense
Brad: You find the silent shadowy corridor rather eerie, though, and so you soon return to your cabin. Man, you're paranoid.
Rob: Thank fuck.
Brad: You're just starting some "vigorous exercises" in there, repeatedly touching your toes, when you hear a faint scraping sound behind you.
Rob: Damn.
Brad: It's the sound of someone slipping a folded note under your door! Curious, you open the note and start to read what's inside. The trouble is that it's been written in ink and a vital word has been smudged!
It says:
Rob: "I know who the killer is. It was ************"?
I think I know who the murderer is. Please meet me as soon as you can in the ********** car.
Brad: The smudged word is quite a long one, and so you work out that it has to be "baggage", "dining" or "cocktail". As you eagerly lock your cabin door behind you, delighted that this mystery could be over very soon, you wonder which of these possibilities you should decide on. Which do you head for?
Rob: The baggage car.
Brad: What's your logic?
Rob: If I was a witness, and I'd seen suspects in the cocktail and dining car, I'd certainly not want to be seen talking to a detective in either of those.
Brad: Man, you're good.
Rob: But as far as Braggart's concerned, that car doesn't have windows.
Brad: You make your way through the dark, silent carriages toward the luggage-van. Reaching it, you squeeze alongside the large cage there. Where's the person you were meant to meet, though? There's no-one in sight! You begin to wonder if this is some sort of practical joke...
Rob: Balls.
Brad: the murderer perhaps...but, just in case it isn't, you decide to wait there a few munutes.
Rob: I will.
Brad: While you are waiting, you peer through the cage to have a look at the luggage inside. You suddenly spot a pair of black gloves lying on one of the cases. You excitedly wonder if these belong to the murderer, he or she having worn them when actually comitting the foul deed!
Rob: Interesting...
Brad: Perhaps they have been hidden here because the murderer was afraid that his or her cabin might be searched. When you step inside the cage to examine the gloves, however, you realise that they are just "bait" for you, for the murderer suddenly creeps up from behind you and locks the cage!
Hercule Braggart: Bollocks.
Brad: Fortunately, you're quite an expert at picking locks and soon free yourself again.
Rob: That's a relief.
Brad: You now chase after the sound of the murderer's fleeing footsteps. You quickly make your way through the train's shadowy corridor's after the murderer, hurrying from one carriage to the next. You must be nearing the other end of the train.
Rob: If the murderer ducks as I jump at him, this book is fail.
Brad: You smile to yourself as you realise that the murderer will soon be trapped, he or she won't escape you twice. That's surely the very last carriage coming up now and you charge through the connecting door. But, you suddenly find yourself in space, a fast cold wind blowing all around you.
Rob: Space? Have I ended up in Starship Traveller by mistake?
Brad: You've already passed through the last carriage...this is the exit door at the very end of the train! As you deperately hang on to the outside of the door, you hear a mocking laugh from the darkness nearby.
Rob: Male or female? This may prove important.
Brad: You're not concentrating that hard. You have other things on your mind. The murderer must have quickly unbolted this door and then hidden at one side of it to await your arrival. You did notice one thing, however.
Rob: Their face? That'd help.
Brad: They were wearing trainers.
Rob: Hmmm...that's down to two, then.
Brad: You stagger, shakily back to your carriage. Although you are very tired after all your activity, you still won't allow yourself to doze off. You've only got a few hours left to try and solve this case.
Rob: How did I get back on?
Brad: In a cack handed way. Does that help?
Rob: Okay.
Brad: But these hours pass much more quickly than you would have wished...and it's soon morning. Watching all the suspect file into the dining car for their breakfast, you desperately wonder which one is the murderer. You're still not sure!
Rob: This seems a somewhat harsh adventure.
Brad: Any harsher than any other gamebook? Really?
Rob: I suppose not.
Brad: Shortly after breakfast has finished, the express enters the suburbs of Paris. It then starts to slow down for the station in Paris. Your journey is over! The police meet you at the station.
Police: Monsieur Braggart!
Hercule Braggart: Allo, Allo!
Police: Which one of these people is the murderer?
Hercule Braggart: Isn't it obvious?...
Police: Non, monsieur. You are the great detective...I'm sure you have it all solved! Who is it?
Hercule Braggart: Erm...
Police: ...
Hercule Braggart: Uh...
Police: ...
Hercule Braggart: Errr....
Police: ...
Hercule Braggart: Giles Grimace!
Police: Monsieur Grimace! I am arresting you on the charge of first degree murder. Tell me, Monsieur did you solve it?
Hercule Braggart: Eeny meeny...I mean...Well, my suspicions were first aroused when I got the distinct impression that he lied about how long he had been sat down in the dining car...
Hercule Braggart: Oh, say Grimace, how do you take that tea? Milk? Two sugars? Attempted Murder? How long have you been sitting here?
Giles Grimace: Well, I'm not certain how relevant that is to the murder inquiry!
Hercule Braggart: All right, all right...Don't get your gloved hand in a bunch across my throat, it was just a question!
Giles Grimace: But, if you must know, I've been here about five minutes, and Tom joined me about two minutes ago. Why do you ask?
Hercule Braggart: Two minutes ago, I was 'enjoying' a view of the mountains usually reserved for the train's wheels! Where are the rest of your lot?

Hercule Braggart: He also doesn't seem to be able to get along with anyone any time the train were to stop at a station.
Giles Grimace: I hate you.
Hercule Braggart: You're not helping your case here, dude. Then I received a message under my door from a junior steward, informing me that the murderer was wearing a pullover. I'm surprised you didn't change incidentally, though I'm sure you had your reasons.
Giles Grimace: I only own one set of clothes.
Hercule Braggart: Then your argument with Iris on the train platform seemed to suggest to me that you weren't happy with the idea of her talking to me, the timing seemed too perfect.
Brad: You're relieved to see that Giles and Iris haven't wandered too far from the train. In fact, they're standing right next to it, Giles with, one foot still on the carriage step. He seems to be rather angry with Iris, wagging his finger at her. You wonder the reason for this.
Hercule Braggart: Something to do with dogging, I'd wager...
Brad: But perhaps there isn't a particular reason - for Giles Grimace seems to be permanently cross. Just like Larry Redshirt was, by all accounts.
Rob: Interesting...Maybe their souls switched in his moment of death.
Brad: You're thinking of that Denzel Washington movie. The Taking of Pelham 123.
Rob: Ah yeah, I've Fallen for that old trick again.
Brad: They certainly disliked each other. But did it come to rather more than just dislike, you wonder...Did it actually come to Giles pushing Larry off the train?
Hercule Braggart: All I know is my gut says “maybe”...

Brad: It's at last time for the train to start moving again and you prepare to reboard it. But you won't make a move until you're sure that all the suspects have stepped back on. Tom and Nick do so as the train's whistle blows; Bob and Jacqui soon after. But Giles and Iris continue to talk on the platform.
Hercule Braggart: This isn't good...
Brad: Is one of them keeping the other in conversation deliberately in the hope that the train will leave without them? Your suspicions are unfounded, though, because they both now climb into the train. You reboard, also.

Giles Grimace: Actually, I just hate her.
Hercule Braggart: If you say so. Then you went to the newspaper stand in Zurich, looking at the German newspapers, possibly for the weather. I wonder if you were actually trying to see if news had reached the Swiss of the murder.
Police: Genius.
Giles Grimace: I just wanted to look at page three!
Hercule Braggart: Then my first glimpse of you...It wasn't very clear but it was enough to know that you had dark hair.
Police: He's a fat fucker as well, don't forget that.
Hercule Braggart: It was dark, the hair was all I got. Until you made the fatal mistake that allowed me to narrow my scope down even further.
Police: Brilliant.
Hercule Braggart: You lured me into the baggage car, imprisoned me, not realising that I used to be a circus performer and could pick any lock smaller than a Chubb, and attempted to lure me to my death. It was then I noticed that my attacker was wearing trainers.
Police: Good lord! Mr Grimace is wearing trainers and a pullover! And he has dark hair!
Hercule Braggart: Yeah, that's sort of where I was going with this.
Tom Heydrich: Good show!
Hercule Braggart: Thank...wait...
Police: What is it, Monsieur Braggart?
Hercule Braggart: Um. Nothing. Okay, boys, take him away. File him under M....for 'Motherfucker should never have messed with Hercuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuule Braaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaggaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrt!


That's the end of Suspects!, but, ladies and gentlemen, it is certainly not the end of Dickass DM! In fact, it's time for this year's Dickass DM Hallowe'en Special! Starting NEXT FRIDAY and running EVERY Friday and Sunday throughout October, we bring you Lovecraftian horror as Braggart Smith-Rhys-Jones investigates deepest darkest Wales, in Where the Shadows Stalk!


Shift gears and take your Sims for a spin with The Sims 3: Fast Lane Stuff. For the first time ever in a stuff pack, your Sims can get new cars along with furnishings, décor, and apparel in four distinct vehicle-themed lifestyles.

Will your Sims embody the speed demon way of life? Or cruise in classic luxury automobiles with the top down? Will they rebel against the establishment in pin-up girl dresses and rockabilly tough guy attire? Or pursue a life of intrigue with spy-themed, sexy apparel and automobiles? Whatever their lifestyle, The Sims 3: Fast Lane Stuff takes your Sims on the rides of their lives!

Give your Sims the rides they've always dreamed of-and the lifestyles that go with them!

Enjoy four all-new styles of fashions, furnishings, and vehicles: Racing, Intrigue, Rockabilly, and Classic Luxury!

Create the ultimate garage to house your Sim's professional race car or hot rod!

Deck out your Sim's house in luxurious accessories to match their sleek new, luxurious rides!

Thanks to our friends at EA, we've got three copies of The Sims 3: Fast Lane Stuff to giveaway! For your chance of winning, send in your name and full postal address to before midday on Friday 1st October. The first three names out of the special electronic hat will win a free copy each!

Please note the The Sims 3: Fast Lane Stuff is not a complete game. Ownership of The Sims 3 is required to be able to play this expansion pack.