Sunday, 22 December 2013

Knytt Underground Review

Until now I’ve always been wary of describing games as an ‘Indie’ label, considering that the genre and effective scope of the game should be judged on its own merits rather than by the publisher behind it, however Knytt Underground is the kind of game that challenges even that. It consistently turns its own way, sometimes to the detriment of the overall experience, but always in ways that justify its own strange sense of self identity.

Right from the start it lies to you, describing itself as a three chapter game... Chapters one and two are mere training levels, a self contained set piece designed to help you acclimatise yourself to the strange world of KU and the seemingly entirely disparate control mechanics of Mi (walk, jump and climb) and Bob (BOUNCE). Each chapter ends suddenly, entirely unsatisfactorily some might say, but this is just an induction to the most important theme of Knytt Underground. Throughout the game you will be asked to go on pointless fetch quests, to carry out minor objectives and missions that the game flat out admits are just there to get in your way. On quite a few of these ‘not so minor’ inconveniences you return to the quest giver to find they have... vanished, and even when they remain present the paltry reward is hardly worth the effort. Right from the start the game is making a point about the genre, toeing a difficult line between parody and becoming one of the worst examples of the genre. It does however raise an interesting question.... Do you do this for the tangible rewards, for the sense of self accomplishment, or just because you enjoy doing it?

If you give yourself time to acclimatise past the black and basic geometries through which you must climb and bounce your way, this is a beautiful immersive world that, despite showcasing some of the most basic programming in video games today, can arguably be said to feel just as alive as some open world AAA blockbusters. The writing is deceptively simple, it certainly won’t win any awards for its course and basic humour, but it draws the player in with as little pointless faff as possible. The map is simply humongous and will take hours to explore and whilst some people will complain it is both sparse and all the same all I can say is this is gaming at its purest, most simplified form. Whilst the foreground is dark and simple the background art and music are both distant yet beautiful, full of little touches and flourishes designed to amuse and inspire. Control wise things are a little sketchy, challenging but not impossible, particularly when trying to navigate the unpredictable bouncing ball around some very dangerous areas.

I really don’t know why I’ve fallen in love with Knytt Underground, it’s probably not something I’ll ever play again, but for a few dozen hours I was completely entranced.

(Wii U version reviewed).

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Toki Tori 2 Review

Don't tweet carelessly.
Toki Tori 2 is an incredibly, and surprisingly, deep game which operates via surprisingly simple control method. Toki can walk in either direction, climb up ladders, whistle short or long notes and stamp his feet... And that is it.
 Instead this game works as a series of physical puzzles, as every one of these simple actions can have monumental consequences on the world around you. Simply via natural progression through the game it teaches you how to navigate each and every track by intuition alone, and that really is very impressive.

Sunday, 24 March 2013

The Almond Tree Review

I'd just like to say I won this novel through Goodreads Giveaway, and spoilers follow:
If the Almond Tree can be described with one word that both sums up its inspiration, content and ambition it's 'grim'. This is never clearer than the opening chapter, described through the eyes of a young boy as he watched his baby sister chase a butterfly out of a house, across the street and into a minefield. It's a grim tale about a boy persecuted for being an Arab boy in an Israeli state, of his escape through education and the hunt to redeem himself via his family. It depicts the living conditions of real people and runs across many historical events of the last fifty years accurately (as far as I can tell, although I must confess I am no historian and woefully ignorant about some things that I should not be), I just 'wish' I could say it was based on a true story but sadly the redemption found in the end by Ichmad is not one that our dreary real world has accomplished yet.

Monday, 4 March 2013

‘The City at the End of Time’ Review

Or the 'Slow Painful Death of Reality'...

There's a brilliant tale somewhere in 'The City at the End of Time', it's a book full of pregnant thoughts and weighty expectations but in the end I admit I was left just as unfulfilled as I did when launching into this difficult piece of prose. By splitting his story between so many characters Greg Bear risked spreading his story too thin but in fact it's perhaps the characters themselves that let the grander tale down.

Monday, 18 February 2013

‘No Return’ Review

I received this book as part of a Goodreads Giveaway at the end of 2012, and I'm glad to say it continues the trend of high quality fares available from this site. Brett Battles 'No Return' is an excellent mystery/thriller story which is partly about the navy covering up the death of a US Fighter Pilot but also partly about one man's return back home for the first time since childhood. At its heart is a strong, surprisingly affecting tale about facing up to the consequences of your actions, something lead character Wes has been hiding from for fifteen years. This is something I'm glad of because the 'high octane' blurb on the back didn't sell itself to me nearly as much as the close-nit story Brett Battles story deserves.

Sunday, 10 February 2013

The Naked God Review

This is it, this is the grand finale to one of the longest trilogies I've ever embarked on, a grand space opera that aims to both epic in scale and incredibly personal at the same time. It's a laudable aim and this book probably comes closest to achieving Peter F. Hamilton's laudable goal. The scale of this adventure increases once again, branching out into other constellations and star systems and even other universes but at the same time focus shifts from these cosmic matters and onto the individual choices and actions of our protagonists.

Sunday, 27 January 2013

Nintendo Virtual Console - 50 Hz matters MORE than you Think

A few days ago Nintendo surprised us all with some great announcements and the news that their virtual console for the Wii U was up and running with 1 game available for just 30 pence. Balloon Fight is a fun little diversion, and for 30p well worth your effort.

However it is marred by one thing for all European (and I assume Autralian and everywhere else that uses the PAL system), the game runs at 50hz. Surprisingly, this actually is a bigger deal than it sounds.

Please, watch this video, read the article, and then click on this link: to tell Nintendo that they can't get away with selling damaged goods.

Tuesday, 22 January 2013

The Neutronium Alchemist Review

‘The Neutronium Alchemist’ demonstrates many things; drama, action, wit, intelligence but most of all it boasts staying power. I read and enjoyed ‘The Reality Dysfunction’ although I commented on how bloated it felt; incorporating many plot threads that went nowhere or weren’t developed upon. It’s a description I stand by, the first book in this trilogy could have been a much tighter more condense read, however those extra chapters weren’t just fat. Slowly but surely Peter F. Hamilton has been placing all the pieces on the board for an enormous free for all which ‘The Neutronium Alchemist’ boasts freely.

Wednesday, 9 January 2013

The Reality Dysfunction Review

Be warned: ‘The Reality Dysfunction’ is a long book. Over 1225 pages in fact, and even then it gives only the first chapter of a truly epic story that spans multiple solar systems, species and planes of existence. If I had to sum up Peter Hamilton's achievements here in one word I would simply use 'epic'.

Tuesday, 8 January 2013

‘A Sincere Warning About the Entity in your Home…’ Review


'A Since Warning about the entity in your home' is a short read, just long enough to properly draw you in to its twisted little world but still short enough to be comfortably devoured in one sitting. Written in the form of a letter, sent to the owner of a new property from the unknown previous tenant, writer Jason Arnopp slowly and gradually reveals a disturbing tale. It’s purpose is simple; to present the properties new incumbent with the facts of the situation and let them know of the extreme measures that will be necessary for them to escape a suitably grisly fate.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Hammer & The Blade Review

Normally I wouldn’t force myself to write a review for a book like Egil and Nix, but I received it as a Goodreads giveaway and so feel obliged to sum up my thoughts on this excellent little freebie. It’s a perfectly fine book, enjoyable and great in moments (as the titular Egil would no doubt appreciate) but with glaring flaws in others. All in all though this is a good romp through a new fantasy world, one that the author Paul S Kemp describes with just enough details to tantalise without going beyond what’s important to the plot.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Dreamfall: The Longest Journey Review

Although this 2006 adventure game wears its 1999 point-and-click predecessor ‘The Longest Journey’ proudly, I think it’s important to remember that they are fundamentally very different beasts with separate goals and intentions. The point and click gameplay is gone, replaced with a rather bland walk and touch mechanic. The main character April Ryan is gone, relegated to a supporting role, although in her place we have a brand new intriguing heroine. The full bodied adventure in which the main character discovers herself in a fulfilling journey that culminates with the saving of the world is replaced by something much darker, more twisted and spiritual. Thankfully they have retained the brilliantly paced storytelling, superb voice acting and multiple interwoven intricately plotted threads that drag you through a narrative heavy game that offers little besides its heart and soul.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell

In any media there’s always a battle between artistry and functionality.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Pandora's Tower

Billed as the third in a trilogy of Japanese RPGS imported to Europe in the last year (or the fourth as some adverts decided to include Skyward Sword…. Which is just wrong, wrong, wrong) Pandora’s Tower is certainly the oddball of the group.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Introducing Distant Spires

So far i've used this blog to promote my experiences, mainly with Big Finish, but of all thing's i've enjoyed and thought noteworthy. On the internet exposure is everything so i've just been reiterating aloud my love of these products to give them a little more shelf life.

Now however, briefly, i'm going to talk about my own work: is a website I have prepared in collaboration with another author (Glen Delaney) in order to publish audiobook short stories. This summer we intend to release a collection (Monsters) which will feature six original short stories. The website should go live today and a short audio trailer for all six stories has just gone live on youtube and soundcloud.

We intend to sell these for download over the internet at a very cheap, reasonable price. This isn't specifically a profit organising website, we aim just to cover the cost of putting them online but if you do purchase them it will allow us to write, record and publish more over the coming years.

Please, check the website out and enjoy. And follow our website specific blog