Monday, 26 January 2015

Ebook Review: Red Moon

When a strange object is detected crash landing on the moon, a team of three US soldiers is sent to investigate. That's the premise for Jack Goodwind's novella Red Moon (Line of Blood Saga). The book is only 69 pages and a good introduction to the series if you're just after a taster.

I found the characters a little 2D in places but they get better as the story unfolds. High pressure situations lets us see a lot of their other traits and this makes them feel a lot more human and relatable.

The build up to what actually crashed on the moon is well paced and leaves you slightly on edge. What the soldiers  - led by Major Joe Evans - find is superbly described, as well as their environments. It is easy to imagine being there.

This is a good introduction to what sounds like a great series. 

Monday, 19 January 2015

Ebook Review: Spilt Milk: A Collection of Short Stories

Spilt Milk is a collection of short stories by US writer DK Cassidy. On the surface of it the tales told within its pages seem to follow very different characters contending with very different situations and daily lives. But if you read it all the way through a lot of the characters actually cross paths: sometimes in major ways, sometimes in minor. 

Something a lot of short stories struggle to do is build personality in their characters simply because of the limitation of space. However, DK Cassidy does not waste a word when writing about hers. The characters are given inner monologues and this door into their mind helps a lot to build a picture about the protagonist you are reading about. Some of them are in very dark places and this is captured well in her words. 

My favourite of all the stories was Octopus. I can’t really say anything without giving the story away. So you should go and read this great collection of short stories!

Monday, 12 January 2015

Movie Review: Battle of the Five Armies

Hey everyone, remember how excited we all were when we heard Peter Jackson was making The Hobbit trilogy? And hey, do you remember how disappointed you were with the final film? Yep, there’s nothing worse than me bringing that up to worsen your January blues. 

I’ll admit I’ve only just seen this film, not due to laziness but rather constant technical faults at my local cinema. And now that I have seen it I can honestly say I don’t think I missed much not getting to see it before Christmas like everyone else. 
Don’t get me wrong, Battle of the Five Armies is a good film. The fighting is on a grand scale, is epic and the special effects are top notch once again. 

Sadly what this film has in style it lacks in substance. The dragon, Smaug - you know, the evil one that has been the vocal point of the entire trilogy - is killed off in the first ten minutes. I know the second film ended on a cliff hanger and they had to pick up where the dragon flying off to cause destruction left off - but killing him off in the first ten minutes? 

The townsfolk wash up on a cold, bleak shore and spend a good while standing about not looking sure what to do with themselves. I can tell you the audience felt exactly the same. 

Meanwhile King Thorin becomes ill and jealously protective of his gold. This leads him to risking war with the elves and the townsfolk. Thorin naturally calls on the dwarfs for reinforcements and they all square up on the battlefield. But they all suddenly become friends again when an Orc army descends wanting to claim the mountain because of its strategic vantage. No prizes for guessing how it ends. 

Like I said it’s not so much this is a bad film. The fighting has enough energy to keep it going but there’s no pacing and nothing else going on. For an ending to a trilogy of this size it is a letdown. 

Battle of the Five Armies gets 6/10.

Saturday, 3 January 2015

Ebook Review: The Hauntings of Playing God

The Hauntings of Playing God is the third (and probably) last novel in the end of humanity series which began with The Man Who Watched The World End. 

The novels are set in the final years of the human race, which is dying out because of a genetic mutation babies start to be born with. In the space of a few years, all babies are born with the condition. Known as Blocks they cannot physically move on their own or even think. Skip to decades later and the last normal humans are all in the last years of their lives caring for the Blocks. 

The Hauntings of Playing God focuses on the individual story of Morgan, a ninety-three-year-old who becomes the last living carer in the block home she works at. Not only that, she may well be the last normal person in the world: the last human. Not long after the death of fellow carer Elaine, Morgan starts imagining the Blocks having conversations with her: charting the beginning of her mental deterioration from loneliness. 

But Morgan’s imaginings start taking a far sinister turn when she starts killing off Blocks so that she can better care for the others (needs outweighing the needs of the few is you will). Being an old woman herself Morgan finds it increasingly difficult to look after so many on her own so is forced to make the very difficult decision. Her conscience will not leave her alone though and her decent into madness then truly begins.

That’s all I can really say without giving the game away. As far as components of the story goes Morgan’s character has a lot of back story which is conveyed well at different points when she is looking back on her life. The story does pull you in as she goes through the motions.
Unfortunately The Hauntings of Playing God brings nothing new to the series in terms of ideas. If you’ve read the previous books you’ll know that a lot of the big questions this one asks are pretty much identical. 

Despite retreading old ground though, this is a good science fiction tale with an interesting protagonist.

Sunday, 21 December 2014

Dimension Hopping: Sortof... Pokemon Omega Ruby Review

A remake of Pokemon Ruby has been a long time coming. For the uninitiated, the original Pokemon Ruby and Sapphire came out in 2003 on the Gameboy Advance. 

They were the third in the series of games and introduced a new generation of 100 Pokemon for players to catch and train. The remakes Omega Ruby and Alpha Sapphire were released last month on the Nintendo 3DS

While the layout of the game is 95% the same, it has been upgraded to a full 3D game. So even if you have played the originals like myself it does have a completely different look. The graphics still hold the same bright colours and anime style of the previous games and dare I say it…the cartoons. But the upgraded graphics is definitely worth the pennies you pay for the games. 

Something that I don’t quite understand is why only certain parts of the game utilise the 3DS’s full 3D mode. If you don’t own this console, this allows the game to appear like it is leaping off the screen - like a 3D television. Only Pokemon battles and select parts of the main game (roaming around the landscape) use this feature. 

I’m not sure why that is but it’s disappointing. Pokemon games have been criticised in the past for not keeping up with the graphics of the console successive titles have been realised on. Between the original two generations on the Gameboy Colour and moving onto the Gameboy Advance, there was very little change in quality of graphics or gameplay itself. 

As for game play, the fundamentals are the same: you catch Pokemon, you train them and battle them to progress further in the game. Some new elements have been added to the remakes, there’s much more emphasis on becoming close with your Pokemon - this is done by petting, feeding them and playing mini games. There is also a new form of evolution which certain characters can achieve in battle later on in the game and some new areas. 

There’s a lot to do besides the main game, so there is enough to keep players busy if they tire of battling. The game is very pretty and there is enough here to keep old and new players alike entertained. 

Omega Ruby gets 7/10.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Finding the Vault: Borderlands Game Review

With the recent release of the new Borderlands game, The Pre-sequel, I’ve decided to have a shot at the original 2009 game. Not to be confused with the southern region of Scotland that shares a similar name (The Borders), the game drops you on a desert planet called Pandora. 

After selecting one of four characters, who all specialise in different weaponry, you then must begin your search for a mythical alien bunker called The Vault.

If you’re after a story driven game then you’re best looking elsewhere as that is pretty much the extent of it in Borderlands. You have to do certain missions and speak to certain people to move the story a long but they do not say much and there is definitely no complicated subplots going on in this desert. 

Borderlands is a first person shooter and if you’re into the genre this will be right up your street. I found it was very enjoyable to play with friends as a team shooter. However, while Borderlands has a wide range of missions for you to play besides the main story, they are all very samey. As a result the game can be very repetitive at times. 

But it has some nice cartoony graphics and the music is good, and so are the controls. This is a good one to play with friends rather than go it alone. 

Borderlands gets 7/10.