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since 22/03/2009


Fireball - Deep Purple 05/07/2011

"Racing like a fireball, dancing like a ghost"

Fireball - Deep Purple After previously establishing their new hard rock direction with the previous album, Deep Purple In Rock, the band scored their first number one album with this release. It's the classic "Mark II" lineup of Ian Gillan (vocals), Jon Lord (Organ), Ritchie Blackmore (guitar), Roger Glover (bass) and Ian Paice (drums) although contains the occasional departure from their usual style. The tracks themselves are: 1. Fireball - **** The album gets off to a good start with this high-paced rocker. The strange whooshing sound at the beginning was actually a recording of the studio's air conditioning unit starting up. Unusually for a Purple song there's no guitar solo from Blackmore, but instead we're treated to one from bassist Roger Glover before he hands over to Lord for the obligatory keyboard one. 2. No No No - ** A slower paced and somewhat repetitious song, this tries to be another Into The Fire, but never quite hits the mark. It's too long, dragging in at nearly seven minutes, without much variety or even any particularly good solos from Blackmore or Lord. Unfortunately, this is filler. 3. Demon's Eye - ** This is another song that's mostly filler, a throwaway up-tempo pop song without many distinguishing features. More interestingly, oversease releases of this album have the much better Strange Kind of Woman (*****) whose omission seems somewhat bizarre, although there was something of a fashion at the time not to put singles onto albums. 4. Anyone's Daughter - **** The ...

In Rock - Deep Purple 04/07/2011

The first of many classic albums from Deep Purple

In Rock - Deep Purple Deep Purple had already got three albums under their belt by 1970, and had established themselves as a successful act with the chart hit Hush, a cover of Joe South's song. However, their own material had fared less well up until this point and a major line-up change had seen the departure of singer Rod Evans and bassist Nic Simper, to be replaced by Ian Gillan and Roger Glover. After recording the ambitious, but flawed, Concerto For Group And Orchestra they headed back to the studio. The Mark II lineup - as it would become known - was to subsequently release a string of classic albums of which this is the first, before a spectacular break-up at the height of their fame. Getting back to this album, the instantly recognizable cover is a parody of Mount Rushmore, with US Presidents replaced by the members of the band. On to the songs themselves... Speed King - ***** Opening with a blistering guitar solo from Ritchie Blackmore, this settles down into a hard rocker with a catchy riff that you're unlikely to forget in a hurry. The lyrics sound like nonsense to me, with an attempt to slip in as many Little Richard song titles as possible, but Gillan delivers them with such passion showcasing the vocal range that had landed him the lead in Jesus Christ Superstar at the time. Over the years this has become a staple of the band's live shows. Bloodsucker - *** Turning the pace down a notch, there's a complex guitar riff here that somehow manages to be the only one that you won't ...

No More Heroes 2 - Desperate Struggle (Nintendo Wii) 18/10/2010

The long awaited second outing for Travis Touchdown hits the mark

No More Heroes 2 - Desperate Struggle (Nintendo Wii) Introduction The first No More Heroes was something of a sleeper hit; a flop that could barely shift ten thousand copies at launch somehow managed to sell nearly fifty times that many once word of mouth got around as to just how off the wall it was. Veteran Japanese gamemaker Suda51 delivered a deeply cynical parody of the excesses of the games industry, with a crazy plot, a cast of outrageous characters and plenty of ultraviolent action. It might sound like an uneasy mixture, but it all came together and worked a treat. Two years later we've got the long awaited sequel and, whilst offering more of the same, it's got a whole set of interesting changes. Gameplay At its heart, Desperate Struggle is a sword-fighting beat 'em up. You're armed with a beam katana (somewhat akin to a light sabre) and have to fight your way up the world rankings from fifty first place to the top. The first few fights are fairly easy, and you'll get through a lot of opponents just by attacking hard, although as you move up the ranks you'll need to get a bit more subtle with your techniques and learn how to counter specific weaknesses in your opponents. In between the battles, you're free to wander the city of Santa Destroy doing odd jobs, upgrading your weapons, buying new outfits, etc. but where this was via a rather empty and unfinished looking Grand Theft Auto-style bike ride in the first game, you now instantly go to your destination. The sub-games for this part have also been given a ...

Sin & Punishment 2 (Wii) 04/07/2010

Finally, a great sequel to a long-forgotten classic

Sin & Punishment 2 (Wii) Introduction The original Sin & Punishment game was one of the best kept secrets of the N64 console. A Japan-only release it nonetheless found its way into many hardcore gamers collections on account of it's reputation as a fast action shooter with great graphics. The game finally found a wider release on the Virtual Console for the Wii, paving the way for this sequel which maintains both the classic elements whilst updating the visuals and offering an on-line element. Gameplay Sin & Punishment 2 is a rail-shooter; unlike free roaming shoot 'em ups such as Doom or Halo you're moving on a fixed path through a number of scenes. Your character appears on screen in third-person perspective; a second player can join in for added firepower. There are two characters you can play, Isa and Kachi; rebels against the creators of a pan-dimensional multiverse. If that sounds complicated, don't worry; all you've got to do to play the game is move and shoot. There are occasional moments of hand to hand action, and you can sometimes send incoming missiles back towards your attackers. Once you've got beyond the mechanics of merely surviving, you can rack up impressive scores with combos that increase a score multiplier. As ever, there are some boss fights thrown in for variety and you'll need to probe their weaknesses carefully to get past them. Graphics & Sound Visually, this game is a riot. Where most Wii rail-shooters have tended to be dark and shadowy affairs this is awash ...

Guitar Hero 5 (Wii) 05/10/2009

Watch out Rock Band, Guitar Hero is back.

Guitar Hero 5 (Wii) Introduction The original Guitar Hero was one of the landmarks in the rhythm game genre; it moved away from merely tapping out a beat to giving you a controller that resembled a real guitar. Sure, it's nothing like playing a real guitar, but then again most people can't just pick one up and sound just like Hendix or Clapton. It was a perfect bit of escapism with devilishly addictive gameplay, and it worked. This was consolidated with a few sequels but then along game Rock Band which pretty much dethroned the original Guitar Hero with a seamless expansion of the gameplay to including singing and drums. Guitar Hero fought back with World Tour, which offered the same, but it was a rather messy affair that didn't totally gel together. As such, the onus was very much on this game to get the series back on track. Gameplay Happily, it's mostly succeeded. To the uninitiated, Guitar Hero works by showing a stream of notes coming towards you on the display. You press the buttons on the neck of the guitar controller and strum as they go past, hopefully getting the timing right and producing something that sounds like the song. Too many mistakes and you'll get booed off stage, but get it right and you'll get the crowd on your side. With a nod to Rock Band 2's no-fail mode, there's an especially easy beginner mode that'll make sure you get through regardless. Drums and vocals work in a similar fashion; you've just got to hit the pads and get the timing and pitch right ...

The Beatles: Rock Band (Xbox 360) 10/09/2009

Do You Want To Know A Secret?

The Beatles: Rock Band (Xbox 360) Introduction Rock band has been around for a while now, offering an excellent co-operative experience for those who enjoy the likes of Singstar and Guitar Hero. Unlike previous releases in the series, which have generally allowed you to bring your songs along with you, this is an entirely stand alone product The game comes in three packages. Game only, at around £30-40, for those who already have instruments. For an extra £80, the Value edition uses the same instruments as on previous versions of the game. There's also a premium edition with authentic looking instruments for the especially nostalgic for a whopping price of around £180. In all seriousness though, you're losing nothing by playing with the standard instruments, so it's a lot to lay out on a few extra bits of plastic. The Beatles themselves surely need no introduction, being the biggest selling band of all time, and this game comes with the endorsement of surviving members Paul and Ringo and Apple Corps, the company they founded back in the sixties to look after their intellectual property rights. Gameplay It essentially plays in the same fashion as previous Rock Band games; you have a scrolling track with the notes you've got to hit and you either sing, press the buttons on the guitar controller and/or hit the drum pads in time the the music. Success and you'll rack up a big score when you get to the end of the song. Failure, and the audience will boo you off stage in disgrace; well, at least if you've ...

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (PS3) 07/09/2009

Nicely presented but ultimately insubstantial

Harry Potter And The Half-Blood Prince (PS3) Introduction The Harry Potter novels are some of the most successful books of recent years and require no introduction. Tying into their most recent film incarnation, this is the obligatory computer game adaptation from EA Games. As well as the PS3, the game is also available for Mac, Windows, DS, PS2, PSP, Xbox 360, Wii and some mobile phones. Gameplay The game closely follows the plot of the film and is indeed very linear. You'll find yourself walking around from episode to episode, mostly set around Hogwarts, which is the hub for an assortment of mini games. Most of these take three basic forms. The first of these you'll encounter is flying around on your broom; either in practice or as a game of Quidditch. It's visually very impressive, although each sequence does effectively run on rails with you just getting a limited choice of the line you travel along. The aim is to fly through a series of targets whilst avoiding any obstacles in the way, usually until you chase down the golden snitch. Next up are potions, which involve mixing ingredients or heating the cauldron until it turns the desired colour; quite simple to begin with, although increasingly difficult with tough time limits and many steps as the game goes on. I'd have to say that I found this rather repetitive and one of the weaker parts of the game. The third and best sub-game is dueling, where you cast spells at a fellow wizard in an attempt to knock them out before they can get you. You start with ...

Wii Sports Resort (Wii) 01/09/2009

Better than Wii Sports, but still leaving room for improvement

Wii Sports Resort (Wii) Introduction Wii Sports has been one of the main selling points of Nintendo's latest console ever since it was bundled with the machine at launch in most territories. Whilst being something of a step back in terms of visual realism, it offered a much more authentic feel of the sports involved by the use of motion controls. Wii Sports, launched in conjunction with the Motion Plus which adds accuracy to the Wii Remote, is the long awaited sequel and offers a variety of sports both new and old. The Sports There are ten new games and a couple of old ones. From what I'd consider the best to the worst, they are: Archery - This uses the Motion Plus to the full for a very realistic experience. As a right hander, you hold the Wii-mote in your left hand and draw with the nunchuk in your right; every thing is there bar the tension in the remote unless your arms are long enough to stretch the cord. To add to the difficulty you've also got to allow for crosswinds and drop, which gets considerable over long distances. An event I could happily spend hours perfecting my touch at. ***** Table Tennis - Roughly analogous to Wii Sports Tennis, but with a much more realistic means of adding spin to the bll, this fills much the same niche. Two player games are as brilliant as ever, although it's not got the ability to play doubles, which is a significant omission as the rules of table tennis make it quite interesting. **** Swordplay - More great use of the Motion Plus here, as the event ...

World of Goo (Wii) 22/05/2009

WiiWare comes of age

World of Goo (Wii) Introduction Inspired by earlier puzzlers, such as Lemmings, independent developers 2D Boy - a team of just three people - have developed this game for Nintendo's Wii Console, Microsoft Windows and Apple Mac, and it's the first of those versions that I'll be looking at here. Rather than being distributed on optical disc, it's downloadable for 1500 Nintendo points, which is about £10.50 in real money, using Nintendo's WiiWare service. Gameplay The basics of gamplay are fairly simple, like all good ideas in gaming, but can rapidly lead to complex puzzles. You start out by building structures from balls of goo; when placed together they reach out struts to adjoining goo balls building up a structure reminiscent of Mecanno. However, the neat twist in the game is that all objects have weight and inertia; build your structures too high and they'll begin to sway and possibly collapse. This doesn't make things too complicated when you're just starting out, but when you have to cross ravines, dodge your way around infernal goo-shredding machines, and build high up into the sky, stressing your goo to its limits, it starts to become a challenge. The goal of each level of the game is to get your structure to reach a pipe, through which your remaining goo balls will get sucked; hopefully enough of them to qualify you to move on to the next level. You start out with fairly simple tasks, and usually just a single kind of goo ball at a time, as the game gradually introduces you to ...

Animal Crossing: Let's Go To The City (Wii) 20/05/2009

It's a whole new world out there

Animal Crossing: Let's Go To The City (Wii) Introduction Animal Crossing has been a bit hit for Nintendo on the GameCube and DS and now finds its inevitable way to the Wii. It's essentially their take on The Sims, although much cuter and with an even more laid back approach. Gameplay You start the game by meeting the friendly cat Rover, who will ask you a few questions and set you on the bus on the way to town. There, after finding your way to the town hall, local shopkeeper Tom Nook (a raccoon) will set you up with a house (and a mortgage to pay off) and also offer you a part time job running errands which will give you a chance to learn how to play the game. Initial impressions might be disappointing. If you've played it before, it's virtually the same game as on the earlier two machines, just spruced up graphically and with some extra content, not all of which is immediately obvious. If you've not played it, you might be wondering what there is to do at all. There are no real challenges to the game that'll tax either your strategic skills or your dexterity with the Wii-mote and nunchuk. However, the freeform nature of the game allows you to make your own goals. You can make money by such diverse activities as collecting fruit and seashells, digging for buried treasure and fossils, or speculating in the turnip market. You can then spend your earnings on paying off the mortgage or going shopping. As well as Tom Nook's store (which undergoes a few revamps as the year progresses) you can now go to the city on ...

We Rock: Drum King (Wii) 19/05/2009

A poor man's rhythm game

We Rock: Drum King (Wii) Introduction We Rock: Drum King, from 505 games, is yet another of those rhythm games in the fashion of Guitar Hero and Rock Band. However, it attempts to offer the same sort of game without requiring any sort of extra controller. Gameplay If you've ever seen or played Rock Band or Guitar Hero, you'll pretty much know what to expect. There's a track display in the middle of the screen giving you cues for each action and when they reach the bottom of the screen you waggle your Wii-mote, press a button or some combination thereof to register the note. Get it right and you're rewarded with spiffy animations, screw up too many times and you might not reach the end of the tune. Graphics & Sound Graphically, it's OK, taking the Gutiar Hero theme pretty much straight on, although with a rather more static display in the background. The sound, on the other hand, really doesn't cut the mustard for this sort of game. The tracks include the likes of We Will Rock You, Born To Be Wild and The Final Countdown. However, they're all re-recorded versions that sound decidedly poor next to the originals. Worse still, there's very little prominent drumming in them which decidedly works against the concept. Controls You start out by holding a Wii-mote in each hand (yes, this game needs too, but just about everyone has picked up a second one somewhere so that's unlikely to be a problem) in a manner resembling that of holding a drumstick, but that's where it all goes ...

Little King's Story (Wii) 18/05/2009

Little king, big adventure

Little King's Story (Wii) Introduction In this game, from some of the creators of the Final Fantasy and Dragon Quest series, you play the role of a young king, Corobo, in charge of Alpoko, a small and backward country. However, all that's about to change as under your inspired leadership, as you'll inspire your populace to new heights, expand your borders, conquer the world and pick up a lot of cute princesses along the way. Gameplay Essentially, this is a role playing game in the Zelda mould, but with something more of a strategic element thrown in. Rather than just going off on a set of pre-planned adventures, you get to manage your kingdom hands-on. This probably isn't the game for you, if you've ever styled yourself as a ruthless tyrant though, as one of your first actions is to build a suggestion box in the town square that basically gives you a set of quests to choose from. Whilst some of these do form a set plot, there's also a wealth of side quests to bolster your kingdom, and build up your resources for some of the trickier missions. Before embarking on a quest, you have to go and round up the characters you wish to take with you. You start off with just soldiers and farmers, both of which have obvious specific skills, but you can add additional classes such as miners, hunters, cooks and lumberjacks as time goes on, as well as more advanced soldiers. These will trail along behind you as you wander along like a big conga, and you can set them to work as appropriate. You have to manage ...

Ninja Blade (Xbox 360) 30/04/2009

An unoriginal mixture of adventure with hack and slash

Ninja Blade (Xbox 360) Introduction Ninja Blade is an action adventure game from Japanese developers From Software, most well known for the Armored Core series. With storyboards by the anime studio Production IG, famous for the likes of Ghost In The Shell, Patlabor and the Evangelion films, its cinematic credentials are pretty good too. The plot is a cliched as they come; a wave of parasites have invaded Tokyo and it's your job to use your Ninja skills to save the planet. Gameplay For the most part it's very heavy on cut scenes, most of which have thrown in context sensitive controls for quick time events. Basically, you're told to press a button at some point and failure to do so will result in instant death; that's no big deal, however as you can usually continue from just beforehand and have another go. Scenes like this aren't too bad on occasion as they keep you on your toes and stop you dozing off during the cut scenes, but when overused as they are here they tend to take over. Veterans of 80s gaming may well remember Dragon's Lair, in which the game consisted entirely of sequences played out on a laserdisc which were selected by pressing the correct button at the right time, and things haven't really changed much in the intervening quarter of a century. As such, it's with something of a relief when you get back to the more conventional parts of the game. These are a fast paced mixture of acrobatic platforming and hack and slash. Your character Ken, the Japanese for blade, is as agile ...

Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box (PS3) 28/04/2009

Take me home to the Paradise City

Burnout Paradise: The Ultimate Box (PS3) Introduction Burnout Paradise was one of last year's big hits; the latest in the long running Burnout series it expanded on its largely track-based predecessors to give you a whole city - free of any distractions like police or pedestrians - to drive around in with plenty of other cars to race, dodge, or crash into. Whilst the latter is usually seen as a bad thing that you're penalized for in other games, the Burnout series turned that on its head here and comes positively rewarded. This Ultimate Box packages up the original game with the downloadable content of Bikes and Party into a single game. Gameplay Playing the game can be as simple as freely driving around the city and exploring it's nooks and crannies if you want to be. To spice things up a bit there are numerous events that take range from straight races to avoiding or actively trying to damage as many cars as you want to. The latter is what gives the game its reputation and you can rack up some horrendous bills; if you've ever wondered why your car insurance comes with a limit of a few million pounds for third party claims this game might give you a little insight as to why. There are a huge variety of cars you can choose; nothing quite out of the real world although a few resemblances relatively easy to spot. The main thing though is that each car is modeled for deformable damage; a glancing blow against a wall will leave you with a dent but slam into another car head on and your car will crumple up ...

Sonic Unleashed (PS3) 27/04/2009

Just doesn't quite recapture the old Sonic magic

Sonic Unleashed (PS3) Introduction Sonic the Hedgehog first appeared in the game of the same name for the Sega Megadrive in 1991 and was an instant hit selling the console strongly with it's fast action platforming, and spawning several sequels for the machine. The series has subsequently had a bit of a shaky transition into 3D platforming, via the Saturn and Dreamcast consoles, although remains popular with titles for all the current generation of machines. Gameplay If you've played any Sonic games before you'll pretty much know what to expect as it's largely the same formula as usual. If not, it's a high paced platformer where you charge through daytime levels at breakneck pace. However, there's the additional twist here of nighttime levels where you play as Sonic's alter ego, the were-hog; these are much slower paced and throw in an element of combat too. Rather than being just presented as a series of levels, you access them via hub cities that are, in a change from the earlier Wii version, presented as interactive 3D worlds. You'll also get a series of sub-quests to perform in them in order to unlock new levels, although this soon becomes rather tedious as you'll end up having to chat to every character you meet just to see if they're relevant to the plot or not. All 3D platformers, at least those that don't allow really imprecise movements, can be a bit iffy with controls at times and this game is no real exception, although it cleverly switches into an almost 2D mode for some of ...
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