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What is this bright yellow orb in the sky?

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since 25/03/2010


Simon the Sorcerer (PC) 06/04/2014

Simon says...oh if I must...

Simon the Sorcerer (PC) Simon the Sorcerer is one of those epic games like the Monkey Island series that if you were the right age to play them the first time round they will forever remain part of nostalgia heaven for gamers. It first came out on floppy disks (I know, what the devil are they?) in 1993 when I was just 11 years old, released by Adventure Soft, but for me the surprisingly good quality of the graphics means it still holds up pretty well today despite the limitations games had back in the day and recently I found myself with a weird hankering to play it. Fortunately I discovered an easy download from the American company so getting hold of this game is an absolute doddle. The series also spawned several sequels, “Simon the Sorcerer II: The Lion, the Wizard and the Wardrobe” which was also a brilliant game but then came “Simon the Sorcerer 3D”,”Simon the Sorcerer 4: Chaos Happens” and “Simon the Sorcerer 5: Who'd Even Want Contact?!” where they ventured rather unwisely away from the familiar 2D graphics and spoiled things with hideous 3D graphics so much so that I never completed the third game and my journey stopped there (though even now I’m tempted to try the missing games but I’ve heard they were disappointing…). So what is Simon the Sorcerer all about? It is an adventure game poaching elements from fantasy books like Lord of the Rings and many a fairy tale like Rapunzel or Three Billy Goats Gruff and turning it into a highly amusing and entertaining point and click game. ...

Secret Files 3 (PC) 27/03/2014

Third time is not quite a charm

Secret Files 3 (PC) Some three years after Secret Files 2: Puritas Cordis came in to existence, Deep Silver returns with the spectacularly named Secret Files 3. Whilst previous platforms for the first two games in the series had included the Nintendo DS and Wii, this one had been downgraded to PC only and just as the name seemed a little lazy, it also felt like there was something missing about this game. Fans of the series will know all about Nina Kalenkov and Max Gruber from their escapades in the first game Secret Files: Tunguska and the second game where they battled global catastrophes and nefarious villains on their globetrotting quest to save the world…twice. This third instalment finds Max and Nina on the eve of their wedding when Max is kidnapped suspected of terrorism. Nina can find no trace of Max and must begin uncovering a mystery originating as far back as Alexandria, 48BC in order to save him...and not wholly unexpectedly the world by proxy. With dangerous figures lurking and shadowy cloaked figures in her dreams, will it be third time unlucky for Nina? I really enjoyed the first two instalments despite the odd flaw here and there (notably slightly dubious dialogue and dodgy voice acting) as they were humorous and jolly good fun with all that globetrotting puzzling, but with the lacklustre title and demotion to PC format I’ll admit I was a little worried about this one yet I was more than willing to give it a crack at a fairly non-painful price of £14.00. Setting Up The game is ...

Aquafold Aqua Data Studio 19/03/2014

Whip your data into shape!

Aquafold Aqua Data Studio I’m going to admit straight out to being a geek. Even my job title is “Data Geek” so there’s no escape. My job basically involves fiddling with databases using SQL (Structured Query Language) and the software I use for such dirty deeds is Aqua Data Studio by Aquafold. Aquafold is an online company that provide tools for database administrators, software developers, QA Engineers, and business analysts and they have three tools available: 1. Aqua Data Studio – this is a complete Integrated Development Environment for database querying, development and administration. 2. Aqua Data Server – this is a tool designed for building reporting and database applications. 3. AquaClusters – this is an online forum service that allows software professionals to work together on projects to share knowledge. As my job is all behind-the-scenes stuff I only have use for the Aqua Data Studio tool which can be bought on a licencing model at a cost of $499, $673.65 and $848.30 (which works out at £300.10, £405.13 and £510.16 on the current exchange rate – wow the US dollar is weak at the moment) for a 1, 2 or 3 year individual licence which allows you to download the software on two machines as long as the software is only used on one of them at any given time. This is the type of software that is likely to be bought by a corporation rather than for personal use unless you are wildly frivolous with your money. There are a lot of similar solutions out there for free such as MySQL Workbench, SQL ...

Tear The World Down - We Are The Fallen 09/03/2014

If you fall, get back up again

The Chase 17/02/2014

The thrill of the chase

The Chase I spend an inordinate amount of time waiting around at sporting events for things to kick off or on trains for them to actually move so I’m always on the lookout for things to kill time which often comes in the format of a phone App. One quiz game I quite enjoy on the idiot box is ITV’s “The Chase” presented by Bradley Walsh which has celebrity and non-celebrity series. The concept of the game is as follows: • A team of 4 take it in turns to answer as many questions as possible in a minute (Cash Builder Round), and each correct answer earns them £1,000. • They then face a Chaser in the next round (Individual Chase) where they initially start three steps down from the top of a 7 step board to take the value of their pot to the next round. • They will face one of four Chasers who will remain throughout the rest of the game (similar to the Eggheads these are people who are renowned for their quizzing prowess) who will give them the option to start one step higher up the board but with a chance to win significantly more money or one step lower for less money (sometimes even a minus value), however offering them a greater chance of making it through to the final round. • The Chaser and contestant then face a series of multiple choice questions and once one of them locks their answer in the other has 5 seconds to do likewise or they are locked out and offer up no answer. • For every correct answer the contestant and Chaser move down the board, with the contestant having a 2, 3 ...

Bones - Young Guns 08/02/2014

I'm not quite feeling it in my bones

Bones - Young Guns Young Guns are a home grown talent from High Wycombe who have been active since 2003, and started releasing studio albums beginning in 2010 with “All Our Kings Are Dead” which did okay peaking at #43 in the main UK album charts and #3 in the UK Independent Album Charts but I personally rated it very highly. Next up is “Bones”, the album I will be reviewing, released in February 2012 which performed better on the UK albums peaking at #19 on the main chart and #2 on the rock chart but then went and did an amazing thing with their single “Bones” reaching #1…yes you read me right…#1 in the US on their main chart. In the UK? It managed a pitiful #130. How queer (although it could have something to do with the single being used as theme music for WrestleMania XXIX). So, the best way to describe Young Gun’s music is melodic alternative rock and the band consists of Gustav Wood (lead vocals), Fraser Taylor (lead guitar, rhythm guitar), John Taylor (rhythm guitar, lead guitar), Simon Mitchell (bass guitar) and Ben Jolliffe (drums, percussion, backing vocals). Bones (2012) So, is “Bones” an improvement on their debut album? Well, in some ways yes, and in others no. Allow me to elaborate – for me there are three absolutely stunning songs on this album which show great strides in their music progressing rapidly from their first very decent studio album, but as a result the rest of the tracks, which would have been good in their own right, now pale in comparison and feel a little safe ...

The Dentist (DVD) 02/02/2014

Whatever you do, don't upset the dentist

The Dentist (DVD) Why do I keep watching utterly weird and disturbing movies under the orders of fellow reviewer Mattygroves? It has nothing to do with the secret blackmail material she has of me humming along to a medley of One Direction and Westlife whilst knitting a jumper made from soft, fluffy llama wool – no siree, Bob, not me. I do it of my own free will. So next up we have “The Dentist” (1996) – a film perfectly poised to play on all our inner fears when faced with the unpleasantness of dental hygiene. Just the thought of fillings and root canals is enough to send shivers down your spine, but someone building a whole horror film around it. Yikes – it should be the stuff of nightmares if done properly! Directed by Brian Yuzna who seems to have quite the repertoire of sci-fi horror films under his belt including the highly regarded Re-animator and the creatively named Re-animator 2; Necronomicon: Book of Dead; From Beyond; Dolls, ooh and Honey, I shrunk the Kids…wait that one was only a horror because it starred Rick Moranis…this film should have been in experienced hands. Now, I will admit I had preconceptions going in to this film that it would be dreadful, but I have to confess (most surprisingly) that in a weird way I actually enjoyed it. One thing you absolutely, categorically must not do when watching this film is take it seriously…not even for a second…for that decision would sign you up straight to the haters camp, but if you strap yourself down into the dentist’s chair and ...

Dynamo - Magician Impossible 1-3 (DVD) 28/01/2014

Abracadabra Alakazam!

Dynamo - Magician Impossible 1-3 (DVD) I don’t want to be the harbinger of bad news, but there’s this secret I’ve recently learnt. Magic isn’t real. Which also means Harry Potter wasn’t real. Noooo! Anywho, just because it isn’t real, doesn’t mean it can’t be a source of brilliant entertainment which I discovered when I was gifted the three series box set of “Dynamo: Magician Impossible” for Christmas. I’ve always enjoyed magic and illusionism probably because you know it isn’t real, but it’s amazing how your brain can be fooled, and then you get that urge to solve the mystery. I’ll be honest, I’d not really seen anything of Dynamo before I got this box set but I’d dabbled a bit with Derren Brown and David Blaine to a certain extent. I think they are all quite different at what they do though, so difficult to compare – whilst Derren Brown is arguably the top UK star his act veers much more towards mentalism and illusions which whilst astounding is quite different to Dynamo’s act. Likewise David Blaine, who used to perform street magic but then moved on to endurance tricks is now very different, but I always found his act a little weird and not something I enjoy a whole lot, but Dynamo’s own brand of street magic is absolutely brilliant and has my jaw dropping so much I convince myself I’ve developed tetanus at times. So, who is Dynamo? Well, he was born Steven Frayne in Bradford 1982 and freely admits in his show to not having the easiest of upbringings suffering from Crohn’s disease, bullying and the struggles ...

Poe - J. Lincoln Fenn 22/01/2014

If you're thinking Edgar Allan, you've come to the right place

My 200th Review 16/01/2014

The Nightmare of the Commute

Poetry is a definite art form; alas one I have never successfully been able to master. My last real attempt at poetry was in about 1994 at school where I chose to write about oranges. Let me tell you, for any doubters there really isn’t anything that rhymes with orange. But, since this will be my 200th review for Ciao I wanted to challenge myself, so I’ve dusted off my calligraphy set, whipped out a thesaurus and am poised on the verge of inevitable brilliance/failure for what could be my finest (i.e. second) poem in living memory. Without further ado here goes nothing… Ode to a train Oh! The terrible pain Of travelling by train. …hmmm…that was kinda rubbish. Okay, here’s another crack: The Nightmare of the Commute Many moons ago gainful employment came my way Albeit rather unfortunately located quite far away Travelling from Bracknell to Richmond was going to be a pain With teleportation not an option, that only left the train Getting from A to B should be easy as a pie made of custard But South West Trains, well, they simply don’t cut the mustard For over 8 years now I’ve suffered an inordinate amount of abuse From their never ending shoddiness, it’s always excuse after excuse “We’re sorry for the inconvenience this delay may cause to your journey” What do you mean may? Any longer and I’ll be on a gurney. “We promise we care and aren’t just money grabbing thieves” So is that why you blame this wait on the wrong kind of leaves? Overcrowding and dirtiness are the ...

Currys (Shop) 13/01/2014

Currys - nice to eat but not great to shop in

Currys (Shop) It was high time we needed to buy a new fridge in the Jewell household as our current one was just not efficient anymore and was getting seriously overworked. Currys is such a reputable company in the sale of household white goods and other electrical equipment that we decided to buy a sparkling new Hotpoint fridge from them (via their online website) since they were offering pretty good deals at the time but it was at this point that things started to go wrong with a tale of three villains. The worst of the villainy came from our local Bracknell Currys store, but their online website and suppliers Indesit and their (un)helpline were not blameless either, but I feel this review is mostly about the in-store customer service we received hence placing it in this offline store category. First things first though, a little more about Currys PC World and how they rate as a shop in general (at least in Bracknell). So they do pretty much offer the whole shebang, you can get washing machines; washer dryers; tumble dryers; dishwashers; fridges; freezers; fridge freezers; cookers; hobs; microwaves; toasters; kettles; irons; hairdryers; fans; heaters; vacuum cleaners; steam cleaners; TVs; DVD/Blue-ray players; digital set top boxes; gaming consoles; cameras; memory cards; binoculars and telescopes; phones; radios; music players; satnavs; broadband; computers; printers, and computer accessories. That's a lot for one store! Obviously though there can only be a limited number of items from ...

Bloody New Year (DVD) 08/01/2014

Where is the blood?

Bloody New Year (DVD) Well it’s the New Year and with the concept of turning over a temporally inspired new leaf just a fuzzy memory I’m back to my old ways and foolishly listening to fellow reviewer Mattygroves for my choice of film viewing pleasures (I do use the term pleasures very loosely). Anyway, rather aptly this latest miscreation comes in the form of the 1987 horror flick “Bloody New Year” directed by a little known director Norman J. Warren for whom this film seemed to be his last main feature production. That may be telling in itself. Whilst there is indeed an allusion to the New Year in this film rather sadly the opening third of the title is disappointingly absent, so fair warning, if it’s a bloodthirsty slasher thriller along the lines of My Bloody Valentine you’re after this isn’t going to be it. Not by a long shot. If it’s an 80s cult classic seemingly overflowing with drug inspired insanity…well this isn’t it either. But hey, getting warmer. If it’s plain old stupid you want complete with a nonsensical plotline then you’ve come to the right place. Just make sure you have an exit strategy as getting stuck there is a sure-fired way to go insane. So let’s rattle on with the “plot” so we can get to the good or bad stuff, depending on your perspective. Five friends, those “teenagers” that are so obviously played by 20+ year olds, are spending a lazy day on a beach before moving on to a fun fair. Naturally, a nasty group of murderous biker type dudes are tormenting a poor girl on a ...

Paul Lamond QI Board Game 30/12/2013

A quite interesting board game

Paul Lamond QI Board Game Anyone that has seen QI (Quite Interesting) on the BBC or through the cagillion repeats on Dave will know what a fascinating, funny but frustrating show it is. The premise is a simple one – Stephen Fry is the quizmaster and four panellists (one who is always comedian Alan Davies) try to answer questions for points which can be misleading, really bizarre or, despite seeming blindingly obvious e.g. “how old are you?”, have bizarre answers (apparently due to regeneration of cells a human body at most will probably be between 11-15 years old…so there). The most amusing thing about this show is how good answers receive positive points but bad/wrong answers receive negative points, with the worst possible answers to a question being accentuated by the infamous klaxon sound and the knowledge you’ve just cost yourself 10 points. Sometimes panellists actually aim to get the klaxon just for a laugh, and often questions are just used as a platform to throw in some jokes and amusing anecdotes and so this show is an excellent mix of fun trivia and comedy. The Board Game Rules So, to make a little extra cash the show has released a board game, cunningly named “QI the board game” which I jumped at the chance to buy. Just as the concept of the show, despite the trickiness of the questions, is simple, so is the board game. This is a game for 3-6 players each with a different coloured QI marker which will travel around the chequered board of 63 squares starting in the centre on 0 points. ...

Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed - Jim Al-Khalili 21/12/2013

Found yourself in a quantum entanglement?

Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed - Jim Al-Khalili Quantum mechanics is a proper mind-bending prospect. From first, second, and even third glance it seems to make no sense, appears illogical and also feels a lot like science fiction. From my past investigations into the mysterious subatomic world all I got out of it was something about a cat being both dead and alive at the same time and became horribly bogged down with curious terminology like quantum entanglement, quantum superposition and the uncertainty principle. Trying to get my head around even the most basic of these ideas has often lead to weeks incapacitated in bed from crippling headaches and panic attacks but I was determined to get a better understanding one way or another and found a new, less scary looking resource to hopefully help me on my way in the form of the book “Quantum: A Guide for the Perplexed (2003)” by Jim Al-Khalili. I figured if a book devoted entirely to making the complexities of the quantum world understandable to people like me with little understanding couldn’t help then I would simply have to admit defeat. So, a little more on Professor Al-Khalili’s credentials if we will to make sure we’re not being diddled by a science hawking charlatan on this widely debated topic: so he’s an Iraqi-born British theoretical physicist who became a leading expert on mathematical models of exotic atomic nuclei…oookay; he seems to be widely published and has picked up many fellowships and awards including the “Royal Society Michael Faraday Prize for science ...

Only Connect (iPhone) 03/12/2013

Not to be confused with Connect 4 which is a touch easier...

Only Connect (iPhone) Only Connect is an outrageously fiendish quiz show currently shown on BBC4 (though I hear it will be making the transition to BB2 come spring 2014). Hosted by Victoria Coren Mitchell this is a quiz where no prize is on offer other than prestige and a sense of self importance and works by two teams of 3 being invited to pit their wits against each other in four merciless rounds: 1. The Connections Round sees each team take it in turns to simply determine the connection between four seemingly random clues; 2. What’s the Fourth in the Sequence Round where again teams alternate with a set of clues seeing up to 3 before determining as the title says the fourth in the sequence; 3. The Wall Round finds 16 clues in two sets of walls and each team gets the chance to solve one of the walls where they must sort the clues into 4 connected groups, and naturally there are clues that can fit into multiple groups so there is only one perfect solution, and finally 4. The Missing Vowels Round where items from a topic have their vowels removed and all the letters are squished together and teams must vie against each other to buzz in first with the correct answer. As an accompaniment to the show on the BBC website there are hundreds of these walls to play online including all the walls from series 3 onwards plus fan made walls, but sadly all the other rounds are neglected. As a massive fan of this quiz, despite being utterly useless and unable to solve at least 98% of the clues (but when I do ...
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