Tuesday, January 31, 2006

BBC's Chinatown

There is a one hour programme on BBC Two right now called Chinatown. This is part two out of three (the first one was broadcasted last week, next one next week). In this part, the Beeb explores the hidden world of illegal Chinese (China) immigrants and how their lives revolves in the UK. As they dodge police and try to overcome the language barrier, their families in rural China has no idea on how difficult a life their relatives in the UK has to overcome.

The Chinatown 'elders' are pretty pathetic though. They do fit into the stereotype of a bunch of old fatties sitting in a Chinese restaurant eating while discussing Britain's Chinese politics by babbling out incoherent mumblings on philosophical ideals or whatever.

Monday, January 30, 2006

"I would say, this is justice served. Snatch thieves should be run into the ground, then back up over them again to make sure they're dead."

Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble review

In the age of 3D game - where 'photorealism' is a highly sought after 'art', games often fall down on where it matters - fun, fun, fun. The 2004 GameCube release, with its Street Fighter cum Mega Man cum Double Dragon hybrid, sought to remedy that with its side scrolling 2D (with 3D environments) style and was a critical success.

A helpful introduction sequence introduces our hero who walks into the film set of Captain Blue's newest movie where a crime syndicate rushes in and makes off with the film. Joe's sis, Jasmine sets off to retrieve it and Joe has to help her. At first Joe lacks his 'Viewtiful' power but a nifty video recorder soon fixes this and it all boils down to just fighting, fighting and fighting. Viewtiful Joe, in his skin tight red spandex suit, is similar in style to the hilarity of Power Rangers or Ultraman TV shows of yore. It isn't all beat-'em up. There are puzzles to be solved using the DS unique input system, where players must occasionally 'think' before proceeding. The DS second screen (non touch-screen) is put to good use here in its ability to switch to VFX mode and also to solve puzzles. Mix it with spoof movie scenes, campy and cheesy one-liners and you got yourself a great portable game.

Viewtiful Joe's signature moves includes the usual jumps, kicks and punches. Like most fighting games, there are combos that can be achieved. As you progress you would be introduced with new VFX moves that among others involves scratching the screens, slowing down the action, Screen Sliding and Screen Splitting (in order to solve puzzles). The slow-motion feature is quite useful and isn't as gimmicky as other games. Slow Joe down to solve tricky puzzles or simply use it in a fighting sequence to punch bullets back. As you progress through the game you are able to upgrade Joe with new moves by purchasing these new moves from the Power-Up Screen. These requires you to collect V-Points which can be obtained through various items and also downed enemies (mostly Clownies) which turns into V-Points as they go meet their maker.

There are two levels of difficulty. Being a Viewtiful virgin, I started using the 'kid' mode but after 15 minutes of frustration on how mind numbingly easy the game was; I switched to the 'adult' mode. This was still pretty easy although the puzzles were slightly more complex. The enemies required more hits to down but they didn't actually get faster or tougher to beat - just longer. You also never get more than two enemies to fight with on the screen at any one time. This is probably more due to the DS hardware limitation than anything else.

I have been told that the console versions are much harder and longer although I believe Capcom would have thought about the whole issue that Viewtiful Joe: Double Trouble would be a portable title and as such it always meant to be easy - just pick up and play - like any other DS games (eg. Mario Kart DS, Sonic Rush). While on the bus you can just whip it out and kick some Clownies before closing the lid when you need to disembark. The cel-shaded toon graphic is awesome and really push the DS through its 2D limit. It never once stutters out of breath and the frame rate is consistently smooth. The lack of multiplayer meant that re-playbility is pretty low but don't let that stop you because whatever the flaws, if you are a Viewtiful virgin like me, then the single player game is a whole lot of fun.

Great 2D toon-shaded graphics
Fast and action old school action
Funny storyline

Too easy
Too short
No Wireless of Nintendo WFC capability

Viewtiful Joe is released in the UK next month.


Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Yet another Chinese New Year blog post with pictures of food and stuff

Some of the stuff we had.

Nope this isn't mine. Just look at those green "stuff"! Ugh!

As boredom sets in I looked around and noticed that a number of people has decided to show off their gadgetry. Here's one.

Fortunatedly this wasn't mine.

A little too sweet.

Like I said, I was quite bored of food by this stage...

Best satay in London!

Saddam trial shenanigans

A kangaroo trial led by a US installed puppet régime on a former US installed puppet dictator/murderer.

It may be farcical but it is a damn sight more entertaining than Judge Judy.


Saturday, January 28, 2006

Chinese New Year

Argh!!! The flat I am living in is undergoing repairs which has affected my PC's wireless connection to the access point down stairs. This is a pretty big house and it isn't open plan either, so any wireless access through to my room is going to be patchy but with this - it is nigh impossible! I do not even dare to go through online gaming out of fear of lag (or even worse - connection drop! Imagine that during a furious session of MK:DS?)!

Dammit! Anyway have a nice New Year. I can't say that I really enjoy celebrating the Lunar New Year apart from the food. Chinese New Year in Britain (9th time tomorrow) is a usual affair of just meeting up with relatives in London or spending quality time with Jennifer. Apart from that nothing really special ever happens really, just a mere obligation to follow tradition. I may once in a while attempt to get to Trafalgar Square for the parade but I am having none of that this year. It is just too chilly and frankly from what I heard - pretty boring. But don't let my feeling of morose get to you.

A rare pink DS! How dare she!!??

So where may I enjoy traditional cuisine come Sunday? Not too sure yet but my aunt is planning on a little feast of Indian/Pakistani food down in Hendon (hardly something you normally have on the first day but there you go - it is fab though and I blogged about the place before). Or maybe just the usual assault on Oriental City (Colindale). Last year we had Malaysian in this tiny restaurant, also in Hendon. I can't remember the name of the joint, but their Laksa is awesome, even if it was a little expensive (around £6). I will look it up for anyone who is interested.

Friday, January 27, 2006

It's only a whale, for fuck's sake

This is a week too late but hell. I received this from Jennifer today. It is funny because part of it is so true. Especially the piece on John Prescott. Seriously though, sad that the whale did not survive but equally bewildered by media circus that lasted till Wednesday. I did not watch the coverage on News 24 but could not escape the
bodged rescue attempt opinions on Sunday papers. Even the Evening Standard had a four page fold-out souvenir on Monday. Like what the bloody fuck!??!

BBC Magazine has the spoof article featured on their weekly quiz. Check it out.

Can you think of any other better way to waste tax payers money?
Malaysia can. Ooo... Here is another one!

Friday, January 20, 2006

Big Brotherly racism mess and Desperate Housewives S2 thoughts

Sorry for the lack of post. I have been nursing two cold/flu/whatever. One I received just after Christmas and the other last week. It was a crappy time that got worst before it got better. Anyway a rant will begin this post.

I hate people who try to blame their skin colour for their inability to succeed in life.

Can't get a job?
Because people are racist.

Can't win a stupid-arse reality TV show?
Because people are racist.

See the similarity?

Take for example the most idiotic contestant on a well known 'celebrity' television today, Faria Alam who today complained on the Channel 4 show that as minorities, she, Traci Bingham and Dennis Rodman would never ever win Big Brother* because Britain is a racist country. Let me quote the known liar a little bit:

"Do you think they'll ever let a black or Asian girl or guy win this thing? ... Are you out of your tree? Think about it, darling. Never. Remember that. ... This country? Oh please! Don't even get me going on that. They would never, they'd be up in fucking arms."

Faria baby, people do not like you because you are a bit of a twit. People do not like you, not because you are an Asian descendent, but because you are a slapper who made money by sleeping around with people.

Note past winners of British reality TV:

Brian Dowling - Gay Irish winner of BB 2001 (probably the last good BB). Now a TV presenter.
Nadia - Transexual Portuguese, winner of BB 2004. Hate her for her loud mouth and stupid antics that wasted valuable newspaper space. Still the public loved her and continue to buy the crap work out DVDs. Urgh!
Myleene Klass - Winner of Popstars and member of the now disbanded Hear'say. Now gone solo in the direction of classical pop hybrid (ala Vanessa Mae). Her mother is Filipino. I met her once - she is a lovely gal. Unfortunatedly still making crap music.

* Note I wasn't actually watching the crap fest. I left the telly tuned to Channel 4 waiting for Desperate Housewives to start at 10, while lying in bed playing Mario Kart DS against three other Karters around the globe. The diatribe from Faria's mouth actually cost me the race.

Speaking of Desperate Housewives, is this what we waited eight bloody months for? Watching as the plumber guy walked into his house facing death in possibly one of the most anticipated scenes of uhm, this year's TV - of him getting killed by his kid. Only to watch the most ridiculous season opener, like ever. One day separates the events of season one finale and season two opener and the difference is apparent. Stupidity rained all over the season opener. Hopefully it will get better but the niche of watching sexy housewives has somewhat drained.

With Lost finally over and Desperate Housewives having being semi-permanently removed from my TV listings I only have My Name is Earl to entertain me. That is until season two of Doctor Who comes up. Woo-hoo! Spring can't come soon enough. I think I will go sulk off now. Bye.

Friday, January 13, 2006

TV Review: Doctor Who: Christmas Invasion

Doctor Who: Christmas Invasion was broadcasted on Christmas Day and only now had I the chance to finally write about it. I watched it alone of course. The idea of watching killer Santas on Christmas Day wasn't something Jennifer would even entertain but who cares, right? This review contains spoilers.

Basically the premise of the episode is the arrival of the regenerated Doctor - a fresh face David Tennant who replaced Christopher Eccleston (Shallow Grave) as the 10th Time Lord. This is also the first stab at a proper Christmas special - something we all love on our telly.

The Doctor spent most of the episode in bed and in his pyjamas - part of his regeneration process I guess. Because of this, Billie Piper's Rose (she is not as useless as she seems) had a larger than usual role in this episode as she attempts to step into the Doctor's shoes. All is not well as Sycorax appears to be able to control a third of the human population. There was also a sub plot earlier on in the episode where the Doctor was targeted by killer Santas and a Christmas tree. It was very funny in a Brit sort of way.

Of course - and you would be stupid to not guess it - the Doctor awakes by a cup of tea and defeated the alpha Sycorax - all while still in his pyjamas. Very Arthur Dent I might add - even the Doctor agrees. And here is the kicker, the anti-war message of the episode. In a reference to Margaret Thatcher's General Belgrano debacle, the PM in Christmas Invasion had the fleeing gunship (who surrendered) cowardly destroyed. The Doctor being Doctor Who of course made sure that she got what she deserved.

Special effects were top notch for a British based production. The opening TARDIS crash scene on the Powell Estate was pretty neat with the Police Box bouncing off walls.

David Tennant did well in his full Doctor Who debut and seemed funnier than the last Doctor. I can't wait for the new season to begin this Spring.

Thursday, January 12, 2006

TV Review: Lost season one

Lost is a rarity of a program. It is and engaging, action orientated adventure - something we hardly see on TV today and yet totally unsatisfying. But for some reason, unlike other quality TV programmes like Six Feet Under, the protagonists here are so two dimensional. Here are a bunch of people who are stranded on an island and yet there is almost no connection to be felt with any single survivor.

You would just wish that Dr. Jack would just get it that he isn't as heroic as he likes to believe or that idiot rocker would just grow up. The only character that is even remotely interesting is Sawyer, and that is only because he has so far been the most humorous one. And what about the other twenty something survivors who seems to just walk around mindlessly like the zombies in Shawn of the Dead. What is it with the grooming too? These survivors, on a supposedly 'desert' island, seems to have access to better saloons and facial wash than I have in merry ol' London.

Why do we need to be treated with double or triple doses of flashback from the 'main survivors'? Lost? What about Flashback as its new title? An episode of 45 minutes is taken up half by constant historical emotional research by the survivor of the episode. Which explains why the final episode was required to be broadcasted in three parts!

Even the island is losing some of its mysterious quality. Sure nothing has been revealed yet but I felt that an island with a mysterious giant monster is probably better than an island with mysterious people. I am sorry but after the initial enthusiasm of the first few episodes, the initial concept of watching a TV show of stranded islanders that isn't some celebrity reality show, has somehow waned. Maybe the huge pilot episode brought some sort of unrealistic expectation to the series, because unlike other TV shows that get better with each coming episodes and/or series, Lost somehow 'lost' it somewhere in the middle with no clear directions to go. But hei who am I to complain? I will still watch it. I just can't wait to see which bum gets killed off next (please let it be the psycho partners, Claire and Charlie - or Michael).

Oh well, we just got the last two episodes of Season One, and yet something tells me Season Two (which has been shown in America for the past four months) would have the creators attempting to inject more mythical dust on the 'Others'. Well at least Channel 4 has learnt their lesson slightly by bringing Season Two forward to Spring.

Desperate Housewives Season Two begins next Wednesday on Channel 4

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

On Cannabis, Apple and Tetris

If further evidence that cannabis is indeed good for your health is needed, check out this article on the Independent. Said article also quoted a parent who rather her son do cocaine than wasting his life away in front of a PlayStation. Which is reasonable enough seeing that the PlayStation was a mind-numbing (what with its badly done pseudo-3D graphics) awful console. But I do wonder what happened to that former flat mate who received double whammy of coke and PlayStation daily.

Rant: I do wish that the mainstream media (including the Beeb, who has in the past year fallen victim to Apple's spin department) would just stop talking about Apple (the PC company, not the fruit). Okay so they switched to using Intel chipsets now, but what is the big fucking deal? I am aware that Apple is currently the tech and media darling in Britain but is a launch considered newsworthy? A similar overhyped coverage of the 360 was also given but little was said about the Nintendo DS record sales figure (well the cheaper price, great games and the fact that it was available did help).

Who here actually remember Tetris on the original Gameboy? I didn't own a Gameboy, but I always made sure I arrived at tuition early and wrestle the console from the tutor's kid (he was six) thus crushing his pathetic high score. Ah, the memories. And now the original Russian puzzle is coming to the DS. The colourful LSD inspired graphics looks good. Multiplayer via Wi-Fi too. Can't wait.

Disgaea: Hour of Darkness mini-review

A staff at GameStation recommended me this game and I am absolutely hooked. Disgaea: Hour of Darkness is a strategy RPG (also known as tactical RPG) game by Nippon Ichi, a console developer who specialised in this genre. Apart from great gameplay, Disgaea also provides a great funny storyline which differs from the serious plotlines most often associated with other RPG titles.

Disgaea centres on a demon known as Laharl who is awaken by Etna after a long slumber of two years. He finds that his father the King Krichevskoy of the Netherworld has died. Not only that his throne and therefore possessions has been plundered. He swears to reclaim the throne and together with Etna he attempts to achieve that.

The gameplay is similar to Final Fantasy Tactics (PS1) and if you've played that you will find yourself right at home. Unlike Tactics's political plot and serious undertone, Disgaea eschews all those for outrageous humour and ridiculous plotline.

I was told that the game provides over 100 hours of gameplay and if this is true then wicked. I look forward to playing the recently released Disgaea 2: Cursed Memories and future Nippon Ichi titles.


Update: A port/remake of Disgaea will be released on the PSP titled Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness (Amazon UK)

Monday, January 9, 2006

The Berliner Observer

I don't normally buy Sunday papers (too expensive, plus Sunday is a lie-in day) but yesterday was the relaunch of the new Observer in the Berliner format. The new paper, I assumed are printed on the same printing presses as the Berliner Guardian, features a new look but lacks the radical departure that its sister weekday paper provided when it moved to the Berliner format. The supplements (Review, Sport, Escape, Media & Business) now feature huge coloured titles which are rather "in your face".

More at the Observer blog.

I should also mouth my two pence on the Kennedy issue. Personally I do not care if an alcoholic runs a party (Churchill was an alcoholic and he led the country) but the whole farcical over the last week had the Lib-Dems wrestling the 'nasty party' title away from the Tories. With the Lib-Dems internal conflict boiling out of control, the same people that were sent to assassinate Kennedy could be seen on the Beeb today running through a damage control interviews.

Also with the two other major parties seemingly sharing similar center ground policies, I can't see how the Lib-Dems can ever improve over last year's general elections. British politics is really hitting a bum now with non of the major parties really offering anything radical. You can hardly sense any real desire from them anymore.

As for who should be leading the party, Menzies Campbell and Simon Hudges are too likeable chaps. They have appeared on the telly in recent years more often than many politico bigwigs. Simon Hudges seems to have the charisma of a TV personality (much like the Conservative's Michael Portillo) and could win younger voters (he looks less evil than David Cameron, who behind his ever present grin, seems to be hiding something) while Ming Campbell seems more trustworthy. But is he too old?

Sunday, January 8, 2006

Metroid Prime Pinball review

Ah pinball. You can never go wrong with the classic table game. And this also happened to feature Samus Aran - which explains why Metroid Prime Hunters has been delayed for over a year. Samus has been moonlighting from her bounty hunter duties by being smacked around on a giant pinball table blasting Metroids and Space Pirates.

Making creative use of the Metroid Prime license, Fuse Games has recreated some of the well known locations featured on Metroid Prime games. In Metroid Prime Pinball, you will be hitting Samus Aran in her Morph Ball around pinball tables that were designed based on Metroid Prime universe. This isn't a bad thing as revisiting Retro's GameCube classic locations does give the game a nice production class. Even the music and sound are rehashed versions from older games. I am not complaining but some may accuse the British developers of being lazy.

There are two single player modes to choose from. One being Multi-Mission where there are levels to be defeated and the Single-Mission mode which is classic pinball - getting the highest score possible. There is also a multiplayer mode which only requires a single game cart. You can play with up to seven other NDS players and only one of you has to actually own the game. Unlike Mario Kart DS, the multiplayer game features a special multiplayer only table.

The graphic is wonderful. The developers have opted to use sprites to create a pseudo-3D effect location and it works well. The lack of high polygon count meant that the frame rate remained smooth throughout the game, even when there are up to eight Morph balls out there. 99% of the gameplay involves hitting Samus in her Morph Ball as she rakes up points. With two screens playing pinball is dead easy on the NDS. There is a 'dead zone' between the two screens where you can't see Samus but if you ever played Sonic Rush then this shouldn't be a problem. You will get used to it regardless.

Combat Ready mode is available as Samus regains her human form and starts blasting around at enemies. Even in Morph Ball mode Samus can drop bombs around just like in her Metroid Prime games. Fuse has also taken advantage of the NDS touch screen by even including the ability to 'tilt' the table. This can be done by rubbing the touch screen whenever you see fit.

Rumble Pak bundle

The game comes bundled with a Nintendo DS Rumble Pak. This is the size of a GBA cart and slots into the NDS GBA slot. It brings rumble mode to the NDS platform but early reports of its weakness proved to be quite true. The vibrating unit is weak and noisy. Reading through the manual revealed that the noise is apparently normal. It could prove annoying if you decide to play the game with the sound mute. Other games will also take advantage of the Rumble Pak and so far that includes Mario and Luigi 2: Partners in Time and Metroid Prime Hunters.

It's A pinball game. Yay!

Not enough pinball tables.


Buy now from Play-Asia or Amazon UK

Tuesday, January 3, 2006

New Year fireworks, London

One hour before the New Year we decided to just head of towards Westminster. It was a stupid decision of course. The Tube, not helped by a partial piss-poor Tube Strike, was packed. So we took the bus to Victoria and walked the 1/2 a mile journey on Victoria Street to Westminster. It was packed with revellers. We took position on Parliament Street with a great view of the Big Ben and a partial view of the London Eye.

A minute before the New Year, London decided it needed a little rain. As usual.

While most of the fireworks were shot from barges on the Thames, some were from the London Eye itself. It was quite pretty. Those on the Victoria Embankment had a
great view.

When the last colour went off, people started kissing, hugging, shaking hands and generally wishing everyone else a happy New Year.

More pictures

New Year's resolution:

1. Be nicer to tourists.
2. Shed the post-Christmas weight.
3. Start exercising.
4. ...

January sale report

Everyone knows about the sale also known as the January sale. Don't talk about crap like 'Malaysia Megasale' or 'the Great Singapore sale'. The real deal is here in merry ol' London.

Selfridges: Notice the line for Gucci. I saw a piece on the Beeb Boxing Day morning that the line started at around 6am. The fools. Paul Smith Jeans for men usually attracts me but this year it was dull. Sulked of to Micro Anvika to admire hords of silicons wrapped in plastics.

House of Frasers: Who shops there? Seriously.

John Lewis: Ditto.

Oxford Circus: The worst High Street in London. Avoid the east end of Oxford Street.

Harrods: The Harrods sale has always attracted more tourists than Londoners which is why we went there in the evening. Even with our experience, this year was a total hell. We did not purchase a single thing. Sale was good but we weren't in a mood.

Harvey Nichols: The Knightsbridge store is known for attracting posh Chelsea and other S.W. Central Londoners which is why we avoided it.

Other shopping destinations:

Carnaby Street: Decent enough restraint but most shops were not on sale. The Diesel concept store had their 50% off but who cares? Jenni bought a lovely round neck from Miss Sixty.

Covent Garden: The winter chill just set in when we attempted to do Covent Garden. Got something for my little sister at Paul Frank but that's about it. Carhatt's sale has yet to start too.

I am amazed that this year I am able to exercise some restraint on shopping. But the real test would be next week when desperate shops start their clearance sale.

Total spent: £35

Hi guys!

I am back. And this was what we had for Christmas dinner. We returned to London on Boxing Day. BTW, the new Doctor Who rocks!

Because of the lack of public transport, we had to hitch a ride on the National Express. Snow arrived in London on Bank Holiday Tuesday. Here is a shot from a flat in Central London:

No exactly what I was hoping for, but a cold snap is predicted for January so hopefully more bone crushing snow on its way.