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Thanks to everyone who has rated/commented on my reviews - I will try and return the favour as soon as I can.

Reviews written

since 04/10/2006


Bvlgari (Bulgari) Splendida Rose Eau de Parfum 08/08/2017

Pleasant and subtle

Bvlgari (Bulgari) Splendida Rose Eau de Parfum This perfume was brought for as a present, as there is no way I could ever justify spending that sort of money on fragrance, but it is lovely to be spoilt. The product description states 'Top notes are mandarin orange and blackberry; middle note is damask rose; base notes are patchouli, sandalwood, vetiver and musk.' and it's not too far off. For me though the rose scent comes through the clearest with an undertone of citrus. It's a delicate scent that sits quietly in the background rather than coming in strong. Which makes it the perfect 'everyday' scent for me. I understand though that this isn't something for everyone. It's a relatively new scent, replacing a stronger, less subtle scent, Rose Essentielle and this appears to have caused some disappointment for a lot of people who prefer the older scent. A particular advantage for me is that it is very natural fragrance, with none of the cheap synthetic smells you get with some perfumes and though understated the scent stays with you all day. If you're like me and enjoying collecting the bottles, this one is straight forward and simple just like the scent itself, so nothing exciting. Overall, if you're looking for something that gives you a subtle flowery smell that follows you all day this is the one for you, but if you want a strong scent that turns heads you'd be better off going for it's predecessor (if you can find it).

JML Halogen Oven 18/06/2014

My Experiment with Halogen Ovens

JML Halogen Oven A friend of mine suggested getting a cheaper Halogen Oven when our built in conventional oven started to misbehave. I liked the idea of saving money and saving the earth at the same time so thought I would try them as an experiment. Halogen ovens work by generating waves of infrared light to heat the air in the heating chamber which is then circulated by a fan to cook evenly. They are noted for being more energy efficient, cooking quickly and producing healthier, lower fat food. The initial results if my experiment with this model were very positive. It was extremely quick, heating up to full temperature in just 5 minutes and helping me to cook some lovely meals for the family. The food was cooked perfectly and all the unhealthy grease just drains off. I loved being able to see the food clearly while it was cooking too. It's one downside at this point was that the lid was very bulky and hot so I would suggest a getting a lid stand. Phase 2 of my experiment after a couple of weeks mainly dealt with the cleaning which was none too easy. It does have a self-cleaning function that takes hardly any time to perform and is barely any effort at all, but it doesn't really work properly and leaves some gunk lying at the bottom which has to cleared out by hand. On top of this the chrome plate covering the heating element discolours very quickly. Unfortunately the end of the experiment came somewhat sooner than I expected. Something I neglected to mention at the beginning of this ...

Bosch SMS40C12GB 16/06/2014

Bish, Bash, Bosch - Job Done!

Bosch SMS40C12GB Bosch is a German corporation founded by Robert Bosch in 1886. It's core products are automotive components, industrial products and building products including household appliances. To start with this dishwasher has a great look and feels robustly made. It gives a nice reassuring clunk when you close the door. The installation and the controls are very easy to follow with a well written instruction manual to help you along the way. There are just the right amount of wash programmes to use (meaning that you get to make a considered choice to fit your load, but are not overwhelmed by programmes that you never use) including a quick wash that takes half an hour and a standard eco wash that takes around three hours. A huge plus with this machine is that it's running is very quiet (to begin with I had to check it was actually on) so I tend to do the eco wash over night. I should also point out here that the quick wash doesn't seem to work so well. The racks are easy to load and clean, though cups placed in the bottom rack don't seem to drain off properly. Another down fall is that the delay feature only allows you delay in hours, not minutes.

Sharp R372SLM 14/06/2014

Basically Great

Sharp R372SLM Firstly, a little about Sharp as a company. Sharp is a Japanese multinational electronics corporation founded in 1912. It's name derives from one of their first inventions The Ever-Sharp Mechanical Pencil. They are the fifth largest television manufacturer in the world, but despite this they have recently suffered huge financial loses and job cuts. But does this have an effect on their products and specifically in this case their microwaves? This microwave is of the bargain basement variety. There are no frills, no flashy modes you don't know what to use for and no in-depth instructions for you to give before you bake your potato. What it does do is fulfil every promise it gives. This microwave looks far more stylish than its price and basic specifications would have you believe and it's size is adequate for the average family inside while not taking up too much room with the exterior (width - 510mm outside and 330mm inside, height 390mm outside and 195mm inside). Its controls are pretty much self explanatory and simple to use with a touch screen interface, but here we find it's first downfall. The black front that looked so stylish when you first took it out of the box attracts greasy fingerprints like you wouldn't believe. There are plenty of settings and power levels, enough to suit my fussy family anyway. So why did it get only four stars? Well apart from the problems with the front marking easy, it is also pretty loud and if I were being really picky the internal ...

Medieval II: Total War (PC) 30/05/2014

Medieval: Total War 2, Total annihilation, Total Fun

Medieval II: Total War (PC) The Total War series is developed by The Creative Assembly, surprisingly a UK based company. The first of the series was released in 2000 and they are still going strong, this episode was released in 2008. A quick look at my other reviews and you'll notice that I am a fan of strategy games. Usually though I go for turn-based games, this game is a hybrid of both turn-based and real time strategy so there's something for all strategy fans. The player is put in charge as either King, Sultan or Emperor and you must command you armies for victory over Europe and Asia. The majority if the game play takes place on a large map, much like CIV or Risk. Each battle takes place in real time where you are given the opportunity to either command your army or let them resolve the battle automatically depending on how much time you have and how much control you like to have. As with most strategy games each game is a long haul, but this broken up by the sudden appearances of new factions, natural disasters and even plagues in your cities. Unlike other strategy games there is no taking your eye off the ball in this one in order to save money or build. In my mind this game took the best of its predecessors the original Medieval and Rome. The biggest change being the terrain, which now meant you had to negotiated your armies around lakes and mountains and also being able to keep these points as strongholds. The graphics at the time of release were great, with more detailed textures and ...

Call of Duty: Ghosts (PS3) 28/05/2014

Call of Duty: Ghosts - Has CoD lost its number one spot?

Call of Duty: Ghosts (PS3) I must stress before I start that first person shooters are typically not my thing. I am the kind of person who spends ages running around in circles only to get stuck somewhere and blow myself up with a rocket. I find the whole the whole thing very tedious. However, in this case, I was reliably informed that CoD was different and the whole world did seem to agree. CoD as a franchise has been going a hell of a long time in both first and third person formats and across PCs, static and handheld consoles and even on mobiles. They release a new game in the series at least once a year and they're all done pretty well, peaking with Call of Duty: Black Ops in 2010, which set the 24 hour sales record for any entertainment property. On a more personal note my partner and son think it's great, so one day with no-one at home to laugh I thought I would give it a try. I was not impressed. To start with the graphics, by todays standards, are shoddy and this runs through all versions of the game. There are three ways to play - single player, multiplayer and extinction - I gave them all a try so I'll go through them briefly one by one. As a lover of role playing games I was sorely disappointed by the complete lack of freedom in the single player mode. The storyline is completely linear and there is very little to personalise about the game play, it is also (mercifully or not) very short. However, I believe the idea of the single player is to get a new player used to using the different ...

Fallout 3 (PS3) 24/05/2014

Fallout 3 - Is it Fun Enough to Get Through the Glitches?

Fallout 3 (PS3) There is a reason why this review has such a similar title to my last one and that is that what you are looking at here is basically an Elder Scrolls sequel, but this one has guns. The mechanic of the game are near enough identical to Oblivion, rather than other games in the Fallout series. I have heard this very opinion put as a disadvantage, but really is that so bad? If you like Oblivion and Skyrim, you'll like this. Wikipedia moves on from it's description of Skyrim, to describe Fallout as a 'sci-fi action role-playing game'. Again we see an immersive plot set in beautifully rendered landscapes of a post-apocalyptic Washington DC. You play an inhabitant of Vault 101, a survival shelter designed to protect up to 1,000 humans from the nuclear fallout. When your father disappears under mysterious circumstances, you are forced to escape from the Vault and journey into the ruins of Washington to track him down. Along the way you are assisted by a number of human survivors and must battle a myriad of enemies that inhabit the area now known as the "Capital Wasteland". It was released at the end of 2008, developed by Bathesda Game Studios, an in-house development team for Bathesda established in 2001, also responsible for all the Elder Scrolls games from number 3. Again, the compelling plot structure and diverse characters make the storyline intriguing . The game play is fun and simple to perform. The levelling up is largely based on what things you get up to. This is a game ...

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3) 10/05/2014

Skyrim: Is it Fun Enough to get through the Glitches?

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (PS3) Skyrim is described by Wikipedia as an 'action role-playing game'. To my mind it is an immersive strategy game set in an expansive fantasy world. It's set 200 years after its immediate predecessor and sets the main task for the player to deafeat Alduin, a dragon prophesied to destroy the world. It was released in November 2011, developed by Bathesda Game Studios, an in-house development team for Bathesda established in 2001, responsible for all the Elder Scrolls games from number 3 and Fallout 3. This was the first Elder Scrolls game that I played, though I'd seen other people play Oblivion (its predecessor) and was intrigued by the fantasy world. The advantages of this game are many. To start with the graphics look amazing, everything has fine detail and the landscapes, especially the water, are stunning. The compelling plot structure and diverse characters make the storyline intriguing . The game play is fun and simple to perform. The levelling up and skill tree is also easy to do, with easy to understand skill descriptions and enough variations that you can really put some time into developing your character. The world you play in is massive. This has both good and bad points. On the plus side the bigger the world, the more scope there is to grow and form your character, but on the downside you can find yourself wandering huge expanses with not much going on. The game play lessens this with numerous side quests to keep you busy so that in the end you have a whole ...

Risk II (Mac) 25/04/2014

Where Stratagey Began ... well almost

Risk II (Mac) This game is pretty much a straight digitised version of the board game, invented by a French film director in 1957. For those not in the know Risk is a turn based strategy game where the aim is to conquer the world. The action takes place on a simplified map of the world. Each turn you get a number of soldiers or reinforcements depending on the number of territories you own, any whole continents you have conquered and bonuses from cards you acquire when you take over land. These soldiers form armies that you can send to do battle in any neighbouring territory. The number of soldiers you have correspond to the number of dice throws you get and generally speaking the player with the highest dice throw wins and the opponent's soldier is lost. Once you have defeated the entire army the continent is yours. This game has that same easy premise and is basically dependant on a small amount of skill, but far more on luck, so consequently can be very frustrating. There are 2 modes of play; a straight version of the board game and a version where you set your commands and then the action happens simultaneously. This second version, confusing as it may sound, is my favourite and runs surprisingly smoothly. I rarely play the straight version as it allows you to take as many turns as you like within 1 turn as long as you have the man power. Generally speaking this means that if you go first you win. (NB - In my house when you play the board game your only allowed to move your army twice, ...

Rock Band (PS3) 25/04/2014

Rocking Good Fun

Rock Band (PS3) Rock Band was released in 2007 by MTV Games and Electronic Arts, 2 years after the release of its major competitor Guitar Hero. It was essentially built on the original idea of Guitar Hero where the idea was to follow an on screen track telling you what buttons to press at the right time, the difference here was that not only was there a guitar, but a bass, drums and a USB microphone for a vocalist. This game has a particularly fond memory for me. It was released in November and my son begged and begged for a full month for me to get it for him for Christmas. Money was tight and this game wasn't cheap, somewhere in excess of £100 if I remember rightly. However, I scrimped and saved and lugged the massive box home on the bus just so Santa could do his job and well ... it was worth it. The make up of the game is fairly simple as I said before and can be played with the usual PS3 controllers, each coloured dot representing a button that needs to be pressed as the screen scrolls past. What makes this game fun is the controllers modelled on real instruments allowing the players to 'rock out'. The more accurate you are the more money you earn which you can then exchange for clothing, instruments and jewellery to customise you on screen band. This is another game where there is really not much to it, it's just that the peripherals make it seem much more fun and the fact that there can be up to 4 of you playing together making a band adds to the enjoyment. Imagine for a second a ...

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii) 25/04/2014

You'll Love it or Hate It

Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii) The Mario and Sonic video game characters have been around for a hell of a long time and have become childhood favourites. Nintendo's Mario made his first appearance in 1981 and has appeared in more than 200 video games since. Sega's Sonic made his first appearance a decade later, but both are now thought of to be amongst the world's most famous video game characters. In this game they come together in a bright and attractive simplistic sports game. There are quite few events to choose from including athletics, archery, skeet shooting and table tennis, but my personal favourite was the trampoline. There are also 4 player types to choose from; all-round, technical, speed and power and feature favourite characters from the Mario and Sonic series. I really enjoyed playing this game when it first came our with my son and his cousins, aged from 8 to 14 at the time. The colours, scenes and characters are very bright and attractive to kids. The controls are pretty simple to work out and largely intuitive, but not so easy that there isn't a bit of a challenge. It's one downside is that a lot of time is spent reading instructions and going through options pages, making this a very boring and monotonous game to play on your own. That being said it designed to be played by up to 4 players at a time and is great fun to compete against each other with the family. I must stress that this is a very simplistic game and really is only meant to be taken with a light heart for a bit of fun. ...

Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS) 24/04/2014

Mario Kart is Glorious fun

Mario Kart DS (Nintendo DS) The Mario Kart series, where the players take part in go-kart style race on various comical courses, was originally released in 1992 on the SNES and was a general favourite among game players. In 2005 Mario Kart was released a few months after the release of the DS itself. I was fortunate enough to have a bit of a windfall just after I played it on a friend's console and went out and bought 2 DSs for me and my son (who was 8 at the time) on the strength of this game alone. What makes this game great is that it's so easy to pick up and play even young children and yes, even my 70 year old mum can play it, but it takes some real skill to master so that it's longevity isn't spoiled. The controls are quite simple, a button for go, one for brake and one to use special items you pick up along the way. Steering is controlled by the cross button and everything fits very neatly in your hand. There are 8 cute characters to choose from each with their own advantages and disadvantages such as speed, agility and robustness and each character has a choice of 2 cars. What made the DS a particularly good version is that you could play with up to 7 other people on their own DSs. The only downside being they couldn't pick their own character if they didn't have the game cartridge. You can also play over a WIFI network to pay people around the world, but this is not something I ever did. ...

Heroes of Might & Magic 4 (PC) 19/04/2014

Heroes IV - A guilty Pleasure

Heroes of Might & Magic 4 (PC) Heroes of Might and Magic I is a turned based strategy game where you are in control of several heroes and armies that move around a map fighting baddies, collecting resources and building up settlements. The heroes also build up experience points as they battle. Game play is set in a fantasy world with armies consisting of mythical creatures. The original game in the series was released in 1995. It was created by Jon Van Caneghem through New World Computing. Later versions were developed by Nival Interactive and Black Hole Entertainment. Heroes IV was the last to be released by New World Computing in 2002. Though this release is my favourite so far, I am largely alone in that opinion. it was truly unpopular when it was first released for several reasons; there was no multiplayer function, the AI was brain dead and it was full of bugs. However, since these problems have now been solved by various consumer and producer developed patches and improvements, the true reason for its bad reception has become clear and that, put simply, boils down to a change in game play. I must point out here that Heroes IV was the first game of this series that I played so I am coming at this from a different angle to the more seasoned players. So what's new with this version? Firstly the caravans that allow you to move troops faster and is basic terms off the map. Secondly there is no upgrades for the troops. But thirdly and most importantly this was the game that introduce the idea that ...

Sid Meier's Civilization IV (PC) 18/04/2014

CIV 4 is the most Addictictive CIV to date

Sid Meier's Civilization IV (PC) The first Civilisation game was released in 1991. It was designed by Canadian-American Sid Meier. He is a Canadian-American programmer, designer and producer of strategy video games, the most notable of which is easily the Civilization series. CIV 4 was actually designed by Soren Johnson under direction from Sid Meier. It's most noticeable change was the use of a full 3D engine, replacing the isometric maps of CIV 2 and CIV 3. For those who haven't heard of this series of games before it is a turn based strategy game, based around the idea of building up cities. In CIV 4, as in its predecessors, there are 5 ways to win; owning a 'supermajority' of the world's land and population, building the first space ship, increasing the culture rating of 3 cities to legendary, being voted world leader by the EU and quite simply killing everyone else. There is also a points based victory which is awarded to the player with the highest points at a set time period. Personally I find this version the best so far. I have tried CIV 5, but I couldn't get to grips with it (though I have to add my partner loves it). CIV 4 is one of the most addictive game I have ever played, making its biggest downside for me the fact that my life goes down the plughole as soon as I have started a game. The most frustrating thing about this game is the length of time it takes to play a game. A game played in marathon mode could easily take days, but more likely weeks and is therefore extremely disappointing ...

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX80 19/02/2014

Sony gets it Right Again

Sony Cyber-shot DSC-WX80 Sony is a Japanese multinational conglomerate company specialising primarily in electronics. It was ranked 87 in the Fortune Global 500 (a list of the top 500 global companies ranked by revenue) in 2012. Indirectly this was my reason for choosing this camera. I wanted a good camera that would be easy to use, hard wearing and delivery quality photos, but knew nothing about cameras. However, Sony has always served me well with audio equipment and I love my Sony TV so they seemed like a good way to go and I wasn't disappointed. To begin with this camera is easy to use and has intuitive menu options. It also has an 'easy' mode that relieves you of the more expert decisions when you just want to take snap and an inbuilt gyro sensor that helps prevent blur. It also has excellent low-light capabilities. The pictures produced are very high quality showing up even the smallest details when I downloaded them onto my PC. Which I did using the very simple and very useful Wifi option (which, by the way, also works with smartphones). Another added bonus is that it charges on the same charger as my phone without having to remove the battery, though the socket is behind a small door that looks a little flimsy to me, though with some careful use this has remained intact so far. Overall this is an excellent compact camera that gives everything the casual photographer could want. Another winner for Sony.
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