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16/10/17; Five days to the wedding!!!! Apologies, I will endevour to catch up with Ciao after the honeymoon, but I will likely be off radar from Wed 18/10/17 until early November. Not ignoring you, just on another continent!

Reviews written

since 23/04/2003


Harvest Moon (Nintendo DS) 16/10/2017

An excellent game in an excellent series

Harvest Moon (Nintendo DS) When I first played Harvest Moon DS I hated it. Absolutely hated it. I found it overly complex and thought it has utterly ruined the Harvest Moon franchise. In reality, this was because I hate change and was therefore more of a fault with me than with the game. This is a game I have therefore come to adore and often come back to in my gaming marathon sessions because it is a seriously good game that successfully draws you into the faming land of Harvest Moon. Harvest Moon is a series that has been around for quite a while now and indeed, they are still releasing new games now. Unfortunately for me, they seem to have taken the 3D approach which I find simply doesn’t work as well in these games, meaning I am far happier with the older Harvest Moon series and the spin off Rune Factory series, which stayed in a 2D style. This game added in some aspects which were never included in the original games, including having to build your own farm up including storage for wood and stone. This includes organising your buildings on your farm which I think is likely what threw me to begin with. Because you start with absolutely nothing except a plot of land, a watering hole, a house and a stable. On all other Harvest Moon games I have played, the game furnishes you with barns for cows and sheep and chickens for example, which you can later expand but always exist. Likewise, there is usually a ready made storage container and you only collect wood to build with; here you can build with ...

Prison Architect (PS4) 12/10/2017

Ever wanted to run a prison?

Prison Architect (PS4) Prison Architect is a game I initially fell in love with on the PC, and as with all of my love affairs, promptly bought it for the PS4 as well. Now personally, I prefer the PC version, however there is no PC category on Ciao – it’s a download not a physical product – and I am therefore going to review the both in the one review. For a start it would be a shame to rate down what is actually a darn good game just because the controls on the PS4 are more fiddly and annoying. After all, the PC version has more than enough annoyances without adding any more! Prison Architect follows in a long line of construction, management and simulation games across many decades now; Theme Hospital being one of the earlier ones that I remember but there have been many, many before and after; SimsCity, Theme Park, RollerCoaster Tycoon for example immediately come to mind. Prison Architect takes this idea to a different level though as instead of building something cheerful like a theme park, you are building a prison. And not just any prison; you are building private prisons where not only do you have to keep prisoners housed, fed, vaguely content and not killing each other, you also have to turn a profit. The game is made up of two modes; Campaign and Sandbox and whilst Sandbox is far larger and more expansive than the five Campaign modes, if you start there you are going to be absolutely flummoxed. Actually, you may well be absolutely flummoxed if you try it in honesty as there is absolutely ...

Radica Games Harry Potter 20Q 09/10/2017

Cheap, tacky, unintelligent tat

Radica Games Harry Potter 20Q I have passed my love of Harry Potter onto the small people in my life which makes for exceptional ease now in buying Christmas and birthday presents. Anything Lego or Harry Potter and we are on a distinct winner with either girl. So this Harry Potter 20Q was something we picked up as a random present when scouring a car boot sale; it didn’t look overly impressive and we certainly wouldn’t have given it as a main gift, but as a turn up with something interesting it was quite a nifty idea. Apparently this ‘all knowing 20Q’ knows everything there is to know about Harry Potter and the aim of the game is to face off against the artificial intelligence to see if you can outsmart it. Effectively, you think of an item or character from the Harry Potter books and then it asks you twenty questions to see if it can ‘guess’ what you are thinking. The aim is therefore to think of the most obscure aspect of Harry Potter possible to see whether you can outsmart the computer game. It’s an electronic take on an old game that many of us have played with children over the years and had I realised that this was all it was I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. After all, I would bet my bottom dollar that I have a more obscure knowledge of Harry Potter than any electronic piece of tat, so it would make much more sense to play twenty questions with me. Either way, it is a premise that any child will be secure with and won’t need a vast amount of explaining or help from a responsible adult to ...

Ender's Game (DVD) 06/10/2017

It's not Ender's Game!

Ender's Game (DVD) Ender’s Game was initially a book by Orson Scott Card. It is a book I fell in love with in my teenage years and have never really fallen out of love. The entire series is good with some truly excellent books thrown in there as a bonus. The movie adaptation was always going to be a tricky one for me because of that; done well, it had the chance to be spectacular but done poorly I was going to be exceptionally hacked off with the entire thing. As it turns out the second option was the one that occurred. Why? Because they changed so damn much that all of the build up and excitement of the books was lost! The International Fleet decided that the world's smartest children are the planet's best hope. Raised on war games, their decisions are intuitive, decisive, fearless. I am one of those recruits. The premise of the film is the same as the initial novel; fifty years previous the world was invaded by an alien species called the Fornics; as they look like giant bugs the popular colloquialism is now the Buggers. The film gives very little background to this threat, you are just led to be aware that it was very, very bad. Since that time they have been assembling gifted children in a military academy in space called Battle School to train them to become commanders of the army that will defeat the next Bugger invasion. Bernard is living proof that chimps still fly in space. Ender is one of these children, in fact it is made clear at the very beginning that he is noted as one of ...

Trillion God of Destruction (PS Vita) 02/10/2017

Trillion God of Boredom

Trillion God of Destruction (PS Vita) Trillion: God of Destruction is a game of extreme annoyance, frustration and excessive teeth grinding. Whatever you do, make sure you have a dentist appointment booked. It is, in fairness, also a surprisingly unique game which is a rarity in todays gaming market. And yet… the frustration and the tedium never quite manages to balance with the unique entertainment value. It’s a game that feels a chore to play, particularly when you are on your fifth overlord and repeated training run. And it’s a game where you have no choice but to run through the overlords. That is the way it is designed. And it is frustrating. You start off in hell, demonic hell to be precise, or perhaps you would prefer the term ‘the Underworld’; within this underworld the denizens of hell who once challenged God are being threatened by a dread foe named Trillion. Trillion is an assembly of a trillion hatreds and has a trillion health points. Or at least that’s what I’m fairly confident 1,000,000,000,000 is. The Great Overlords army has been laid to waste and then the Great Overlord himself is defeated, except he is brought back to life by a mysterious youngster (Get off ma lawn!) named Faust… who offers him a deal. A Faustian deal. His soul for her help. He accepts said deal and so Faust restores his life and crafts a ring of great power to give to the Overlord who you are training. Each of these demon Overlords represents one of the deadly sins; Ruche represents pride and arrogance, Levia envy and ...

Coughton Court, United Kingdom 29/08/2017

Gunpowder, Treason and Plot

Coughton Court, United Kingdom It’s quite astonishing just how many places can be close enough to spit at and yet you simply never quite get around to visiting them. After twenty eight years, I finally got around to visiting one of the local National Trust properties that has been on my doorstep for years. Coughton Court is ridiculously close to my parental home and has additional vast education implications that it seems a huge waste that I had absolutely no idea of; a vast failing in my primary schooling there if there ever was one! In the words of the National Trust, ‘Coughton Court is an imposing Tudor house set in beautiful gardens with a collection of Catholic treasures’. The Throckmorton family have lived in Coughton since 1409 and in fact, still do to this day! The Trust has owned the property since 1946, however the family still live there under a 300 year lease. Interestingly, the family also tend and manage the gardens that they created. The aspect that is worth noting from the Trust descriptions is how Catholic the family is and was as this has a huge impact historically and politically; being openly Catholic at times of great disturbance and religious turmoil ensured they spent a great deal of time being persecuted or imprisoned for their faith. The history of the Throckmorton’s themselves is varied and much hinges on their Catholicism; their involvement in Henry VIII’s divorce proceedings almost proved fatal as the family favoured the queens cause over the kings. Likewise, their refusal to ...

Buckland Abbey, Yelverton 15/08/2017

Abbey? Where's the Abbey?

Buckland Abbey, Yelverton Our final stop on the Cornwall holiday was in fact deliberately done to split up our journey home. Buckland Abbey is located on the Devon side of the Cornwall-Devon border and piqued my interest solely because of the Abbey part of the name. I am a huge fan of church and religious history; I have a particular the older churches which went through the Dissolution, which is a fascinating period in history to read about. I will hold my hands up here and say that I did not read the National Trust details before visiting the site, so the fact was that Buckland Abbey actually was nothing like I had anticipated. I just saw the description of an Abbey and thought religion… forgetting that the National Trust don’t really do religion. It’s not really an abbey though… it’s a museum and testimonial to Francis Drake. Buckland Abbey is set up as half house, half mansion, with a small chapel but nothing really left of the Cistercian Abbey founded in 1278 by the Countess of Devon. The abbey was an actin abbey until the Dissolution of Monasteries and in 1541 Henry VIII sold the land to Sir Richard Grenville who began to convert it into a house. It was renamed Buckland Greynvile and the conversion was finished in 1576. It therefore can not be pinned on the National Trust that they have very few remnants of the original abbey left; after all, it was well before their time that it was originally converted. Personally, I’m not sure why they reverted back to the name of an abbey though, when the ...

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (PS4) 07/08/2017

A World To Lose Yourself In Completely

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim Special Edition (PS4) Skyrim is one of those games that you could quite honestly play forever without getting anywhere close to the point of completion if you wanted to. And then you could start again from scratch with a different species, a different skill-set, a different play style. And that’s without including the DLC packs which are included as a part of the course in this PS4 version. This is, quite simply and without a shadow a doubt, an absolutely huge game that you can simply get completely lost in. There is a basic storyline that you can follow through, but in reality the main storyline is the smallest of the pulls in this fantastic world. You can lose ten hours and realise that yoou’ve climbed half way up a guild, explored a half dozen dungeons, trekked across miles of open land, climbed a few mountains and killed a lot of vampires, wolves, witches and random critters… and then realise that the Jarl of a town asked you to do something ten hours ago and you still haven’t done it. Unfortunately, on route back to the Jarl you find yourself distracted by a lost ring, a talking dog, an insane Daedric lord and some interesting looking caves so it’s another five or ten hours before your beleaguered hero does what he was actually asked to. In terms of its gameplay, Skyrim is an absolutely huge open world RPG with a focus on exploration and fighting, but with a huge amount of flexibility in both how you play and what you actually do next or at all in the game. The first thing that you will do ...

Steamworld Collection (PS4) 03/08/2017

Dig Dig Shoot!

Steamworld Collection (PS4) The Steamworld Collection for PS4 is two games released on the same disc, hence the term, collection. I was interested in it because I had previously played Steamworld Dig on my 3DS and become completely hooked. As a Nintendo release for a handheld, the graphical capabilities were certainly never going to stretch the PS4, but I have a great love of shiny trophies that Playstation give me… regardless of their worthlessness. I was also interested in the second game, Steamworld Heist, particularly when I could pick up the collection on PS4 for virtually the same price as the one game on my 3DS, and I’d have to download it which would mean deleting something else. I’m going to approach this a little differently and review the two games separately first, because they are two very different games fitting into different genres. Steamworld Dig Steamworld Dig is a 2D platformer based on a rather unusual premise; and it’s rare you find unusual premises in games nowadays in honesty. Most games are sequels, prequels or simply the next instalment in an established series or lean so heavily on existing ideas that they can’t be called unique. Fun, but not different as such. Steamworld Dig though, whilst simple, is most definitely different. It’s nothing like any other platform game that I have played, it doesn’t rely on timed jumps and precise movements… well, mostly. There is timing involved within it but not in the way that most platformers would have you leaping in and out of ...

Board games: which are the best for you? 02/08/2017

Expensive Initial Outlay But Worth It

Board games: which are the best for you? Board games are something that I thought I grew out of once I was past childhood… and those ridiculous adult trivia board games did absolutely nothing to convince me otherwise. Oh, how I hated playing them at Christmas in the absolute knowledge that I was going to be rock bottom and I wasn’t even going to have fun whilst being rock bottom. Bleh. I always considered myself far more of a computer game kind of a person and would therefore only really play board games with the small people when pestered enough. Then, I discovered a whole new world of board gaming that isn’t based on needing to remember trivia about film stars, branding and other random stuff that comes up in these games. First I found myself drawn into re-makes of classic games like Harry Potter Cluedo, Pokemon Monopoly and the likes which are quite good fun. Except Game of Thrones Risk; that game is evil. But then, I discovered that there is another entire world of games which are built entirely for more mature players; not because of their content, but because of the complexity involved. Then again, there are also many exceptionally adult board games which I am not getting into, at all. The first such game I really got into was Ticket to Ride and me and my fiancé had great fun building railways across the USA and then across the UK and Pennsylvania in an expansion pack. This is a game that can also be played with children, there’s no issues there, providing that you are willing to explain and help a bit ...

BBC - TV Licence 01/08/2017

Why does the annoying ginger git get £2.2 million??

BBC - TV Licence Let me start out by stating exceptionally clearly that I object to the BBC License Fee being mandatory because you have a TV or a computer that can stream TV in the house. We have a TV and over the last twelve months, we have probably watched about ten hours of BBC shows in comparison to entire evenings watching downloads or Amazon Prime or for that matter several other programs on the actual TV with adverts. I do not see this as an appropriate use of my money and if I was given the choice I would choose to not watch BBC at all and put my license fee towards Netflix which offers a much better service, a huge range of programs and the ability to watch anything, any time with no time limitations placed upon the viewer. Until the BBC can offer me the same service, I object strenuously to paying £145 for a service that I make very little use of and would not miss if we did not have it. If the BBC worked on a subscription service then I could get behind it and its efforts. I might not pay for it, lots of people may not pay for it and then the BBC would have to get with the times and work as a business rather than a bloated semi-public corporation paid out of the public purse. If they actually had to offer what people wanted otherwise people would unsubscribe then I truly believe we would see a vast difference in the quality and range that is offered by the BBC. Looking on the BBC’s website, they state that the fee we pay (with no choice) is to provide us with a wide range of TV, ...

Lucifer Season 1 (DVD) 24/07/2017

Lucifer? Nah, Used Car Salesman.

Lucifer Season 1 (DVD) When bored one weekend I decided to flick around Amazon Prime in order to find something to watch on TV. I’d been intrigued by this show called ‘Lucifer’ since I’d seen it months previously but had never had a chance to watch it. It’s not one that appealed to my fiancé in the slightest… and as it turned out, for rather good reasons. Although he couldn’t have known that in advance and therefore has no right to say ‘I told you so’. Series Background Lucifer is an American (and oh my, how stereotypically American) fantasy based police procedural kind of drama, kind of comedy series that tries to walk the line between real life police work and fantasy and doesn’t quite ever cut it. It actually refers back to a comic book series called the Sandman in which Lucifer Morningstar was a supporting character, eventually leading to his own spin-off series in comic, film and TV. The idea reminded me quite a lot of the book Horns by Joe Hill about a guy turned demon who could get people to spill their deepest desires. And hey, having looked at the dates the book was published in 2010 and the first season of this in 2016… the book is worth reading if you are interested. It focuses on (you guessed it) Lucifer Morningstar, otherwise known as the Devil, who got bored of Hell and so decided to resign his throne of the Underworld and run away to Los Angeles, because hey, why not. And so we meet Lucifer Morningstar as he runs a nightclub, which is originally named Lux, with a demonic friend ...

Anonymous Notes: From the Abyss (Nintendo DSiWare) 21/07/2017

What Notes? Stop Tricking Me With References to Stationary

Anonymous Notes: From the Abyss (Nintendo DSiWare) Anonymous Notes: From the Abyss was a kind of re-release of From the Abyss, but done in four chapters on the DSi and sold very cheap indeed. Each one is effectively a single dungeon which you go through again, and again, and again in order to collect better loot so that you can get better equipment and beat bigger baddies. According to the official description this is an exhilarating RPG set inside an infinitely expanding dungeon which re-creates itself after the boss is defeated so you can play over and over. The idea of a single dungeon intrigued me, and at £1.99 I didn’t really care if it was going to be absolute crud as at least it was cheap crud. This has a distinctly 18-bit retro feel to it and is clearly meant to take you back in time and offer modern nostalgia gaming. It looks and sounds like a charming little number that you somehow missed in your initial bout of RPG gaming back in the day. Unfortunately, that’s about the only similarly this has to the charming old school gaming that I remember so fondly. The plotline is beyond basic, to such a degree that there isn’t really even a proper plot. It’s more like a destroy monsters for the sheer lols and giggles but with no actual aim or purpose in mind. The battling is simplistic hack and slash and the writing is lacklustre; not helped by the lack of focus. All in all, this just manages to feel rather aimless or pointless and whilst you can plough quite a few hours into it, the question that keeps reoccurring has to ...

YS: Memories of Celceta (PS Vita) 19/07/2017

No Memories For Me But A Fine Game Regardless

YS: Memories of Celceta (PS Vita) Ys: Memories of Celceta is a game that took me a couple of goes to fall in love with, but once I fell, I fell hard and it was a good eighteen hours later before I looked up to do anything else useful with my life. I do not count sleeping, eating or working as useful, let me point that out now. I believe I bought it during one of the PSStore sales, which is where I buy way too many of my games for the PS Vita, which certainly says that their marketing is about right. It doesn’t say a lot about my self control however. This is however a retelling of Ys IV as a celebration of the 25th anniversary of this series. Ys: Memories of Celceta is an RPG with a hack and slash mentality and a number of different characters to play with as you go through the game. The main character starts with amnesia, which is a fairly cliché RPG device, however one of the main aims to the game is to actively regain these memories by finding places the ‘tweak’ them around the world. That’s slightly different. Usually you just get hurled into whatever storyline other characters want you to be embroiled in because you have no memories. That also happens mind you, but regaining your memories is a crucial aspect of gameplay. The beginning of the game starts with a forest, a quest and a map – at least after you have got the initial scenes out of the way for introduction – and much of the game revolves around you trekking around this forest and completing the map. You are a bona fida explorer, and your ...

Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (PS4) 17/07/2017


Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy (PS4) For those of you with a slightly masochistic tendency to gaming and an enjoyment for platform games and the inevitable frustration of difficult platform games, Crash Bandicoot N. Sane Trilogy may be exactly what you are looking for this summer. Regardless of whether you have or haven’t played the original games, this is a challenging and punishing game that certainly makes you work for your money. Of course, depending on which boat you’re in, your view is going to be different. If like me you never really played Crash Bandicoot all those years ago then this is a whole new experience… the nostalgia feeling will be strong in those sitting in the other boat through. As you may gather from the term ‘trilogy’ in the title, this is a game set made up of three titles as a whole. You have the original Crash Bandicoot and then the sequels, Cortex Strikes Back and Warped. I vaguely recall playing small amounts of the original game at a friends house, however it never caught me enough to beg the parents for it. By this time I’d really become interested in RPG’s in favour of the platforming games. I don’t remember playing either of the sequels at all, and I have no recollection of any of the levels when I have been playing through it on the PS4. The trilogy aspect makes this well worth picking up in and of itself; it’s completely remastered and you get three games for the price of one! However, the games do all have their own strengths and weaknesses; the original is definitely the ...
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