Monday, March 31, 2008

Two things

Two things that annoyed me. Yesterday's British Summer Time meant that my morning routine was almost disrupted. Why not change it on a fucking Saturday morning giving us an extra day to acclimatised? Another, the new BBC News site, which now looks more like a generic Web 2.0 blog. Seriously it is looking very bland and meh.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Anne Diamond reviews some sick twisted games, assigns responsibility to everyone but herself

The knowledgeable Anne Diamond, writing via the Daily Mail - the trash passing off as a legitimate 'newspaper' that only sensible people like you and me uses to wipe their arse with, today gave her highly 'informed opinion' on video gaming in response to the Byron review. In it piece she trashed most, if not all major mainstream video games released in the past year. She did get a couple of things right, that Halo 3 is 'in' and that as a parent she should guard constantly on what kind of content she allows into her own home. But then she completely lost the plot, saying that war games like Call of Duty 4 is okay (in small doses!) but a fantasy game like Resident Evil 4 (which received a 15 rating from the BBFC) should not be sold to adults. Just like her puppet masters at the Daily Mail, the only thing she and her evil cohorts want is to regulate what we can or can not consume.

Anne Diamond, these games are rated. It is your problem as a parent to stop your 12 year old son from buying the games you listed. You even admitted that you allowed a 15 rated game into your home! Stop acting like a hypocritical ding bag, as it only make yourself look more idiotic than TV presenters normally are. To be honest your reviews were entertainingly amusing, very comedic, that you may even make it to the staff of Official Nintendo Magazine, though that doesn't make it right.

Excuse my bad language. I have been reading what these idiots pretending to be experts have been writing, and it makes me sick.

The Byron review review

The Department of Children, Schools and Families is hosting the Byron review (PDF). Do make sure you download and read them carefully. There has been plenty of misinterpretation by the mainstream mass media (The Sun's sister paper The Times, erroneously suggested that video games will carry ciggies style health warning is completely made up - though not surprising considering their past opinions) on what the Byron review actually says and what they (the media) wants it to say.

One of the key summary from Tanya Byron that made an impression is how she thinks that society needs to move from a debate about whether or not new media (Internet and video gaming) cause harm to young people. She also points out ultimately that parental responsibility is a key factor in preventing violent video games from falling into minors. Concerned parents are said to hardly restrict access to the games their children are playing and are oblivious to the content due to misinterpreting PEGI ratings. She recommends that a parental awareness campaign be put into place (something I agree with) and to be funded by the games industry.

Further the BBFC rating will appear on all games requiring 12, 15 and 18 certificate with the PEGI rating at the back (previously only 15 and 18 games that has 'film'-like content requires them). PEGI will continue rating 3+ and 7+ games. This is because many parents are unaware of how the PEGI system works, preferring to trust their purchasing decisions on the more well known and established BBFC rating system. Personally I think it is a waste of time and good money. PEGI is fine as it is (apart from some questionable back icons). The BBFC age logo does not tell a parent anything more than a PEGI age rating already does. Last I heard, 18 means 18. Mind you, I quite like the BBFC logo, but again it is such a waste of time and money. It would be better to spend the money on educating the public on the merits of the PEGI rating system, rather than hemorrhaging them (something the British government does best).

A more detailed commentary is provided by the good people at British Gaming Blog and Eurogamer.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

WMF 1 coffee pad machine review

Jennifer had her eyes on this smart little coffee maker since last year ever since we did some Christmas window shopping at John Lewis, Oxford Street. But at £79.95, it was just a bit too much for a coffee maker that is only capable of making one cup of coffee, even if the design won a prestigious red dot award. Well this evening while browsing through another John Lewis, we found that they were on clearance for only £19.95.

The WMF 1 coffee pad machine is an integrated filter coffee maker with a built-in water boiler. It has a tank that can hold the exact amount of water for one (included porcelain) cup. It takes standard size coffee pads which is installed in the coffee pad holder just above the cup holder. Just fill in the water reservoir below the 'max' mark and press the huge button. Less than a minute later, the coffee is ready to be drank at a comfortable temperature.

To be honest I am not much of a coffee guy, but this coffee maker is perfect for Jennifer. The minimalist and contemporary design slots in perfectly in the kitchen, or even the bedroom. There is just one downside to this product - if you break the cup it would be rendered useless. Fortunately John Lewis sells spare cups, so you better grab some if you decide to get this before it gets discontinued. Overall the design is lovely and it isn't as hideous as the majority of coffee makers. It boils quickly and like I mentioned earlier, readies the coffee at a drinkable temperature. There were also no spills.

The WMF 1 coffee pad machine is now available for only £19.95 in John Lewis and comes in a variety of colours. Hell, we may even get another.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

PS1 on PSP game manuals

One of the great feature that Sony implemented on their PS1 emulator on the PSP is the ability to read manuals when pausing the game. This is accessed when pressing the Home button. A menu will pop up allowing various configurations such as the screen mode and the emulated disc-loading speed. Also available is 'Software Manual', accessible if a document exists on your PS1's game folder. If you've decided to make your own PS1 eboot.pbp files, you can easily create your own manuals or download them from this very useful site. In either case you will have to place the DOCUMENT.DAT file into the folder that contains the relevant PS1 eboot.pbp file.

Personally I can't be bothered by manuals, so I create text files that contains FAQs or maps (in PNG file format). This are usually for difficult PS1 games that I've not played, which tends to be plenty of obscure RPG titles. In any case all I've to do is use something like IceTea and generate the files through the program. You will need to assign each document file to a PS1 ID in order for the emulator to recognise the file to the game. For example the Disc ID for the US NTSC version of Dragon Quest VII is SLUS-01206. You will need that ID when generating the document. Once successful, simply copy the generated DOCUMENT.DAT file into the same folder as your eboot.pbp file.

Monday, March 24, 2008

Belkin CushTop notebook platform review

If you are anything like me, you would know that using a notebook on your lap would normally result in a burn. Blame this on laptop manufacturers who decides to put desktop class processors in their notebooks. It can't be helped as we all crave for performance over common sense.

It makes sense that one should then invest in some kind of laptop lap desk that allows the heat to dissipate before reaching your previous meat. And one that I had been keeping an eye for is the Belkin CushTop, part of its laptop@home accessories range. We recently had a chance to acquire one, and so far have not regretted doing so. Here's a mini review.

The CushTop is designed to be used at home, which explains the none-portability design. This allows the designer of the CushTop to be liberal with its funky and aesthetically pleasing design, including the compartment that provides storage for accessories like the power supply and mouse. We also use the compartment to keep the masses of cable tidy. The CushTop is constructed of micro fibre material that seems to be very tough.

This is one of those accessories that one would not think is worth investing, but when you start using it you will find it indispensable. We use it a lot, on the bed, the recliner, armchair and the sofa. The angle and thickness is an added bonus as it allows for a more comfortable typing. The size of the CushTop is pretty large, with the upper side suitable for notebooks up to 15" in size and if you flip it upside down, you can fit a 17" notebook on its wider surface. With my 12" ThinkPad, the extra surface space allowed me to use my VAIO mouse.

You may be wondering if the CushTop's slightly soft exterior will block crucial air vents on the bottom of notebooks. Thankfully, while soft, the surface is stiff enough not to choke the air vents on my ThinkPad and Jennifer's Latitude. It isn't as good as having a notebook sit on a hard table surface, but it is way better than leaving it on the bed. Having said that we won't try to use any processor intensive application while using the CushTop, just in case.

I am pretty pleased with the CushTop. It works just as advertised and stop me having burnt thighs. The design is living room friendly design yet still provides plenty of functionality.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

SanDisk 8GB Memory Stick Micro M2 review

Sony and SanDisk's Memory Stick Micro M2 is one of the smallest flash memory cards in existence, almost nearly as small as a microSD card and half that of a standard SIM card. This 8GB version is my newest gadget acquisition. \(^_^)/

Blister pack must die!

The picture below says it all. On the top right is a generic CompactFlash card, first introduced in 1994 by Sandisk. See how much flash memory card has reduced in size over the years. Sony's Memory Stick card, introduced in 1998, was the size of a chewing gum. A year later, the SD card standard was introduced, based on the now dead MMC format. It was the size of a stamp. The competing companies continued releasing new cards and "standards", eventually coming up with nail sized micro cards that are smaller than a SIM cards. Amazing really to see how far technology has come. I remember buying a 128MB Memory Stick and a 128MB Toshiba SD card seven years ago, both costing above £80, and this 8GB card is 1/4th the size and costs half.

xD memory, :( :( :(

SanDisk provides adaptors for most of their products, and is no different in this case (Sony doesn't for their M2 branded cards). Included in the package is a Memory Stick Pro Duo adaptor for use on devices which contains a Pro Duo slot (e.g. Sony PSP), but not a USB card reader that is available as part of another package. However unlike their 2GB microSD multi-SD kit that I blogged about last year, an adaptor for the largest format in its family (in this case, the standard Memory Stick slot) was not provided. Not that I care anyway, as I can easily slip it into the provided M2-Duo adaptor and then slip it into a Memory Stick-Duo adaptor. But really though, who still owns or uses products that has the full size chewing gum slot?

Using ATTO Disk Benchmark, SanDisk's claim of sustained 3MB/s write speed is proven to be true. This was while using my PSP as a card reader. The average read speed is pegged at around 7MB/s with a maximum speed of 8MB/s. No doubt it would be faster using a dedicated M2 USB card reader, but either way, the M2 isn't the fastest card out there anyway. Not that it matters as M2 cards were not designed to be used in high performance devices that requires ultra fast writing speed (e.g. Digital SLR). Personally I am happy so long as it allows me to watch high quality videos without frame rate drop-outs - and in this case it does pass with flying colours.

8GB Duos and M2s are still pretty rare and expensive, although I was lucky to have managed to procure the 8GB M2 at the price I was comfortable with. Now on to converting my 72 episode DVD Futurama collection.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Multi-disc PlayStation PSP eboots

My last guide for creating PSX eboots actually only applies to single disc eboot games. So what do you do if you have a copy of a multi-disc game that you want to install? For example getting the two disc Metal Gear Solid and want to get both discs onto a single eboot file? It is simple, just download the Impaler PSX eboot creator. The application is UI based and supports the creation of PSone eboot files with up to five discs. Not too shabby, and the program itself isn't too bloated. Anyway, like all the other PS1 to PSP creators out there it also allows you to embed your own custom icon, background image and background music. Pretty standard really, and if you have trouble making your own icons and backgrounds you can peruse the images available on this site. Unfortunately I've already wasted some time making my own MGS background based on Yoji Shinkawa's classic illustration of Solid and Liquid Snake. Feel free to use it for your own MGS eboot if you like it:

Getting used PS1 games is getting trickier than before but for those in the UK, do check out your local GameStation and markets. Another source I recommend is Gumtree. From time to time, you do find people giving away their PS1 collection. Now if you will excuse me, I am going to East London today, with a portable MGS to keep me company.

Friday, March 21, 2008

MGS: Portable Ops: the foundation of unit FOXHOUND

More Portable Ops posts... Sorry, slow news day again (Easter weekends are boring) and I recently finished it. This was written for those Metal Gear fans have yet to play Portable Ops for whatever reasons. Anyway with Metal Gear Solid 4 incoming in June this year, some of the key plots in Portable Ops should be known. It is assumed that you are familiar with the key plots in the other five released canonical titles.

The story of Portable Ops began in 1970, six years after the events of Operation Snake Eater, when Naked Snake inherited the title of Big Boss after being forced to defeat the Boss as part of her covert operation. Snake, now disillusioned has discharged himself from the FOX unit. However he was captured and sent to a prison in the San Hieronymo Peninsula, the site of an abandoned Soviet nuclear missile silo in Colombia, South America. Naked Snake's former team FOX unit has rebelled and broken their once strong allegiance to the CIA. Snake was tortured by ex-CIA and FOX Lieutenant Cunningham, who was demanding half of the Philosopher's Legacy. It was here where Snake first met Roy Campbell, the sole survivor of an American Green Beret team sent to investigate.

After escaping with Campbell, Snake learnt from his former FOX members, Para-Medic and Sigint that they and their former Commanding Officer from Operation Snake Eater, Major Zero, were accused of instigating the FOX up-rising. In order to clear their name, Snake had to crush the insurgency and its leader, Commander Gene - who was a product of the Successor Project and was promoted to leader of the FOX unit when Snake left. With the renegade FOX unit, as well as morally low Russian soldiers stationed at the abandoned base, Snake was far outnumbered. After a suggestion by Campbell, Snake started knocking out Russian and FOX soldiers, bringing them back to his truck and convincing them to join his side. While it wasn't official yet, this was the events that cemented the creation of unit FOXHOUND.

Campbell and Snake recruited not only front line sneaking members, but also established a spy unit, a tech unit and a medic unit. Through this bolstered unit, Snake and his crew set out to investigate the various aspects of the base as they plotted their way deeper within the base through sabotaging as well as recruiting an insider known as Elisa, an ESP. Snake also learnt of machete-wielding member of FOX called Null, the sole survivor of the 'Perfect Soldier' project. Snake later found out that Null was Frank Jaeger, a former child soldier mercenary whom Snake once helped years ago in Mozambique. Snake fought Null twice, beating him both times and finally recruiting him. Null would eventually come to be known as Gray Fox years later (in Metal Gear, MG2 and Metal Gear Solid). Snake also defeated a Metal Gear RAXA prototype being controlled by Ursula, Elisa's renegade personality.

Snake eventually confronted Cunningham who revealed that he was an agent working for the Pentagon. Gene and the Pentagon plotted on using Snake into provoking Gene to launch a nuclear warhead into the Soviet Union. This was to crush the CIA's desire for peace as well as to prolong the Cold War, thus retaining the Pentagon's status quo and possibly strengthening the organisation. Cunningham attempted to talk Snake into his scheme and promised that he would be awarded as a hero. Refusing the co-operate Snake kills Cunningham.

When Snake and Gene finally met, Gene confessed that he was actually aware of Cunningham's plan from the beginning and wanted to launch the Metal Gear with its nuclear warhead payload onto the Pentagon itself, thus destroying the Philosopher's Legacy and the New World Order. Gene also revealed his intention of establishing a state called the Army's Heaven, a country to populated by elite mercenaries whose life revolves around the battlefield. Ursula, determined to avoid a Nuclear war, attacked Gene but was easily defeated. Dying, she predicted that Snake would build his own Metal Gear and that out of the Les Enfants Terribles, one would seek to destroy the world (Liquid Snake) and the other save it (Solid Snake). Snake eventually defeated Gene, who before dying acknowledged Snake as the true successor to The Boss and relinquished his funds for the Army's Heaven to Snake. The funds would later be used to establish the Outer Heaven.

In Washington, sleeper agent Ocelot assassinates the Director of Central Intelligence and obtains the Philosopher's documents for himself. He has had enough with the Philosophers. It was later revealed that Ocelot was in contact with a man "with the same codename as Null". Ocelot planned for Gene to send the nuclear warhead to Washington in order to get the DCI to bring to Philosopher's documents to him, in which he succeeded. Ocelot was also planning on using the Philosopher's Legacy to form the Patriots and in his conversation with the unknown man, requested that Big Boss be recruited as well.

It is unknown whether Big Boss would join the Patriots, but hopefully the answer would be revealed in Guns of the Patriots or in the sequel to Portable Ops.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

tit for tat

To the Tibetans mobs: stop attacking and killing innocent people. You are not helping your cause.
To the Chinese government: stop attacking and killing innocent people. Just give the country back.

Same thing applies to Palestine/Israel and many other stupid conflicts.

Monday, March 17, 2008

EVA: model spy extraordinary

This is very old, but I am going to blog about it anyway (slow news day). The Chinese Philosopher's ex-spy codenamed EVA, last seen in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater and presumed dead, appears in MGS: Portable Ops as a recruitable non-canonical character. Nothing surprising as we have all seen the various screenshots of her before the title was released. But I was kind of surprised to find her centrefold spread in the 'Erotic Kingdom', which is the magazine used by Naked Snake's crew to trap horny enemies. Can't say her augmentation went to waste there. ;)

So, nice easter egg Kojima. Nothing on the level of both Solid Snake and Raiden's past-time shenanigans in Sons of Liberty, but still good harmless fun. Can't wait to see what he has planned for us with MGS4.

Shannon media sensationalism

Three days ago a high profile missing girl was found alive. Whoopie yeah!

Today they are still banging on about it. Get it off the fucking air! Leave the police alone to do their fucking job. There are plenty of still missing kids lurking in the background waiting for a similar coverage.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

LTTP: Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops

I have been trying to get into MGS: Portable Ops for some time now. Hell, it was the reason I got the PSP after all. Sadly the few times I tried, the controls would kill off any attempt to get beyond more than 15 minutes of gameplay. But yesterday I deleted my save game and started over from the beginning. I still hate the controls and its MGS3: Subsistence style camera, which in normal circumstances would have been great - if there was a right analog nub. The awful weather (and Patapon is taking up Jennifer's time) meant that we stayed in for most of the weekend, allowing me to catch up on this backlog.

I am now a couple of hours deep into Portable Ops and am starting to get hooked with the new squad-based gameplay, which allows us to play as other characters besides Naked Snake himself. Enemies procured in the battlefield are first imprisoned and then undergoes a brain washing scheme where they eventually agrees to join the team. Each unit have their own strengths and weaknesses and can be assigned to work in the battlefield as part of Snake's four member sneaking squad. It isn't only soldiers that can be captured. Disgruntled technicians can be recruited to work on expanding the inventory of weapons, and the medical unit can produce new medicines and rations as well as allowing for injured conscripts to recover quicker. Spies can be assigned to each location, which allows them to scout for ammos, provide the sneaking unit with detailed map as well as opening up new side quests.

While I still dislike the controls, but am getting used to it. Because of the limited camera field, I have to admit I am spending less time sneaking around than in past Metal Gear games. There are far less places to hide and the A.I. of enemies are better than in past games. Enemies do not only rely on their field of vision but sound feedback as well. One other thing Kojima did right in Portable Ops are its bite-sized missions, essentially making Naked Snake's founding of FOXHOUND to be a very portable experience.

Look out for a full review in the future. Maybe.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Professor Layton and the Curious Village mini-review

I haven't been giving Level-5's first DS game as much attention as I would like. First the playthrough was rudely disturbed by my desire to complete Apollo Justice: Ace Attorney, then Persona 3 came along. And don't let me start on the PSP. Sadly to say, I could have devoted more time to this title earlier - as Professor Layton and the Curious Village is an absolute gem. The game is narrative based with a mixture of point and tap investigation and puzzle solving gameplay. Interactivity is minimal, despite that you will likely find the voice acting and animation cut scenes to be surprisingly splendid.

While puzzles are more or less have absolutely nothing to do with the plot of the title, it is a requirement prerequisite to solve a certain number of them to progress through the game. Puzzles consists of very simple brain teasers that range from simple mathematical questions to trick IQ-style questions that can tear you up until you finally realised "oh yeah, why the hell didn't I read the question properly". The only major issue with the title is the DS touchscreen is too small and low resolution, hence isn't that useful for scribbling stuff. You may need to keep a separate pen and paper handy.

For an adventure game, Professor Layton and the Curious Village comes off slightly short. Depending on your skills, as well as the amount of puzzles you tackle, it may provide around 10 hours of gameplay before completing the adventure. Even then you will likely find yourself spending more hours searching for more puzzles, as well as downloading new one via Nintendo's WFC service.


Thursday, March 13, 2008

Never judge a fan of Big Brain Academy

A very true story

Me: So she has a DS Lite?

J: Yep.

Me: What games does she have?

J: She only have one. Big Brain Academy.

Me: ...

J: I showed her Professor Layton. She is really into it. She was quite surprised to find out I play games too.

Me: Did you show her Gyakuten Saiban? I am sure she would have loved that.

J: Didn't have time. Only Layton. But she loves Brain Academy. It is the only DS game she has.

Me: lol. None-gamer confirmed.

J: She has a PS2 and Wii. She wants to buy a Xbox (360).

Me: What now?

J: She loves this game. God of War something. She will lent it to me.

Me: WHAT!???!! OMFG! She is more hardcore than (deleted).

J: What is?

Me: God of War. Like Devil May Cry but based on Greek mythology.

(goes to pick up God of War and PSP from shelf)

Me: This.

J: Looks cool.

Me: Yeah. Look.

(boots up PSP)

Me: Wait. Ok. You press this and this. See it is like Devil May Cry, but instead of Dante you play as this bald angry guy.

J: Looks like Devil May Cry.

Me: Here's the first boss.


(first boss gets eaten by proper first boss)

J: That's huge!

Me: I can't believe she likes this. Respect increase x1000.

J: Yeah, she says she is very addicted to it.

Budget 2008 review

Copy & pasted from the BBC with some "witty" comments inserted:

Delay 2p rise in fuel duty for six months (why the six months delay?)
Increase in fuel duty will rise by 0.5p per litre in real terms in 2010 (should have been higher)
New non-domestic buildings to become carbon neutral from 2019 (useless, any carbon will be off-set to a third world country)
6% increase in alcohol tax - with 2% above inflation rise for each of next four years (indifferent)
4p on pint of beer, 3p on cider, 14p on wine, 55p on spirits (indifferent)
11p on packet on 20 cigarettes, 4p on five cigars (indifferent)
£950 higher first year rate of road tax for most polluting cars (not high enough)
New top band for the most polluting vehicles that emit more than 255g of carbon dioxide per kilometre (why not just increase the cost of the top tier bands?)
Air passenger duty scrapped in favour of flight tax (isn't that the same?)
Winter fuel payment up to £250 for over-60s and to £400 for over-80s (indifferent)
Require supermarkets to charge for plastic bags if they do not scrap them (good, but not enough)
More cash to tackle child poverty (not good enough)
Help with rising energy costs for poorer families (okay)
From April, key workers, such as teachers and nurses, will be able to borrow money from shared equity schemes (useless)
£26m to help make homes greener (useless)
£2bn more will be spent on troops in the frontline, including £900m on military equipment (wow)
There will be a £30m fund to improve science teaching (so £2bn EXTRA for military, and only £30m for science teaching? Wow!)

Where is the initiative to divert those new tax revenues to increasing cycling lanes and public transportation?

That concludes my review of Alistair Darling's first budget.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Slightly less racy Nip/Tuck ad now approved for London commuters

The Nip/Tuck ad, previously deemed too racy for London commuters has finally received a photoshop makeover. So how did this ad made it on TfL's approved list when the previous failed? For one the sexy lady on the left now has longer stockings. And the blonde on the right had her bra swapped for an ugly red top. Sad isn't it?

Via London Underground blog

God of War: Chains of Olympus review

Note: this review contain spoilers.

Kratos is pissed off. He is pissed because day after day he is haunted of his past misdeeds. He is guilty of killing his own wife and child, and is angry because it gives him nightmares and the Gods would not take it away from him. With such a life you would want to kill yourself, but for Kratos, forgetting is everything worth living and fighting for. So he does the only one thing he loves - he fights and kills under the bidding of the Olympians, the same Gods who would come to betray him. You could say his entire life has been a repeat of one Greek tragedy after another and here in God of War: Chains of Olympus we find out what made the Ghost of Sparta even more pissed off as he battles demons, monsters, titans and gods as he journeys to lands no mortal has ever walked upon. And moaning while doing so to. Lifetime of servitude to Zeus indeed. But all Kratos intents on doing is salvaging any possible humanity left in him.

Chains of Olympus begins at Attica where Kratos and his group of Spartan warriors are battling against the invading Persian Army. Defeating the Persian Basilisk, Kratos sees the sun plummeting and the world plunging into darkness. Hauled to the Chariot of the Sun God Helios he learns that through the Goddess Athena and Eos, of the fate of Helios. Because Helios has been downed, most of the Gods have entered a state of hibernation, therefore unable to prevent the God of Dreams Morpheus from condemning the world to permanent darkness. Kratos agrees to the Olympians request restore light, hoping that by doing so the Gods would grant him freedom by banishing his nightmares. As the story unfolds we find out more of Kratos's brewing hatred for the gods as he journeys through the depths of Tartarus as well as how the Titan Atlas came to his condition in God of War II.

From the start it is clear that developer Ready at Dawn and Sony Studios Santa Monica had a clear aim that Chains of Olympus should emulate the epic experience of first two games, even to the point of throwing an (almost) massive boss fight right from the get-go. But digging through there are subtle difference that sets this apart from the PS2 titles. For one the platforming portion of the first two games is a downsized experience. There is also a new weapon here called the Gauntlet of Zeus, which allows Kratos to fight like a street brawler. It is pretty powerful, though area attack are limited to a few combos. Combo animations are shorter though, so if Kratos misses his target at least you can recover quickly. Despite that, Kratos standard weapon the Blades of Chaos is a pretty effective weapon especially once you hit the maximum level. Besides physical weapons, Kratos also has a range of magic abilities like the Efreet, which is handy for dealing moderate size area damage. You will also eventually have access to the Sun Shield which allows Kratos to deflect beams.

Visually the game is ridiculously beautiful and is easily the best looking game on the PSP. While aliasing is a problem, the architecture and environment are detailed with high quality textures used sparingly. I have yet to encounter a single bad or blurred textures anywhere. Even the lower polygons model of Kratos looks farm more convincing than his God of War version, at least anatomically and definitely facial expressions. It is almost unreal, and even comes close at times to matching the visuals of God of War II though clearly the first two games has an advantage of having far more models around running around. At times I wished I could seize control of the dynamic camera flyovers just so I could admire the environment. I can't stress this enough, but Chains of Olympus is seriously the best looking game available on a portable console. You will also never see the loading screen, which is a very impressive technical feat for a console infamously known for its spectacularly awful loading.

I've played the demo a couple of times since and has since got used to the PSP controls. The analog pad used to control Kratos movement still isn't as intuitive as a Dual Shock analog stick, but at least it works fine here. In my demo review I did acknowledge that the change in dodge control may affect some people, but seriously, it works just fine. Previously on the console games the player would have to move the right thumb from the face buttons to the right analog stick, but with the new dodge mode (hold down 'L' and 'R' and flick the analog pad), your thumb is free to stay where it belongs - hovering above the square button. A couple of fights in you will find the controls to be of second nature, and may even prefer it to the PS2 controls. You will never encounter a problem dodging, climbing, jumping and diving. But it isn't perfect though. One of the issues I have with the controls is the same one I had with the original games: Quick Time Event (QTE). But here it is slightly worse. Some QTEs require the swirling of the analog pad for the mini-game to be won. Because of the way the PSP's analog pad is designed, it isn't as easy to pull off.

As for the audio, the typical God of War experience is well replicated here. I have to admit that I have never warmed to God of War voice acting, as the voices are distinctly laced with American accent. Having said that I still love the voice of Linda Hunt who retains her wonderful voice as the narrator Goddess Gaia. Her voice is the only want that ever connects with me, but the same can't be said of the rest (yes, even Kratos), but at least the sound quality is high enough. The score on the other hand is truly epic, and surpasses musical scores in many other big budget video games and even films. The details just can not be conveyed through the PSP's twin speakers and the only way to experience the soundtrack is to plug in a high quality headphone or earphone set. Sound effects are equally well presented with details like rattling chains and dropped swords evident.

Chains of Olympus isn't a particularly long game. For my first playthrough I completed the game (in normal Hero mode) in roughly six hours across three sittings. It is a little bit easy and generous in granting red orbs used for upgrading weapons. While some has lamented the short campaign, certainly in this day and age I would rather play a satisfying short but quality game than a long but deary one and save my long hours of an epic RPG once every two months. For those who are unsatisfied with the length, there are a number of bonus materials like costumes and challenges waiting to be unlocked not to mention New Game +, which should add to its replay value. Well spaced puzzles which breaks up the action, but are unlikely to cause you much trouble save a few spots. Admitelly I was quite disappointed by the lack of head scracthing puzzles. Huge boss fights are also rare, but the very few are pretty good, though sadly none has that Colossus of Rhodes wow factor in them.

God of War: Chains of Olympus is, despite some of its shortcomings and compromises, a stunning game. It is a shame that is unlikely to sell as well as it deserves because of still common misconception of the PSP console. If this doesn't convince you then nothing will, but at least I can still take comfort that I have tried - and this coming from a guy who once hated the PSP. Anyway, this is all I have to say regarding the game: like the first God of War, Chains of Olympus is worth buying a new console for. At least it will keep you engaged until God of War III arrives a year later.

Architecture detail
Brilliant cinematography
Excellent storyline and plot
Unlockable costumes are funny
Epic soundtrack and sound effects
Visually, the most impressive yet on the PSP

Very linear
Lost Levels cut
Puzzles are a bit lacking
QTE via PSP's analog pad


God of War: Chains of Olympus is available for pre-order from Amazon UK. None-EU residents may want to try Play-Asia and other import stores. Alternatively MovieTyme and VideoGamesPlus will sort you.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Dexter on ITV already

Whoa, I had no idea that Dexter, one of the most brilliant American TV import, is already being shown on ITV1. Colour me ignorant because as tend to ignore most of ITV, but at least they did right bringing the series over. But as usual ITV manages to cock up the scheduling with a some inconsistent slots (tonight at 11:35pm and tomorrow at 10:35pm). *Le sigh* I guess it can't be help. BBC is far too into their Heroes worship to care and Channel 4 can't even be bothered with Desperate Housewives any more. And it isn't like Channel 4 would do better with scheduling. Remember how they killed off Nip/Tuck?

On the other hand Dirty Sexy Money begins next Friday on C4 at a time slow usually reserved for Ugly Betty (which is now MIA), so at least a bit of redemption for us American telly fans. I've already watched the pilot episode and found Peter Krause (Six Feet Under) to be brilliant (d'uh!), so there is little very doubt that you should join in on the fun.

Monday, March 10, 2008

The weather

Woke up to find my Tube line suspended due to 'signal failures'. This year's 'worst storm' is doing its best in distrupting my morning routine.

God of War: Chains of Olympus photo session of doom (56k = ok)

So I completed God of War: Chains of Olympus this afternoon (expect a review filled with praise early next week). I immediately started a second playthrough, this time with a screen capture plug-in so I can show you lovely readers just how beautiful this Ready at Dawn title truly is. Unfortunately Blogger has been wonky of late that uploading them would have taken a huge amount of time and effort, hence my decision to host them at my Photobucket account. Please do not hot link. If you want them for your own site please host them yourself (and perhaps a kind linkback).

As ever, these contains spoilers, but nothing too major, I hope.

God of War: Chains of Olympus is available now for pre-order from Amazon UK. None-EU residents may want to try Play-Asia for their fix now. Meanwhile go download the demo from the US PlayStation store.

See also:w WipEout Pulse photo session