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Sunday, 20 June 2010

Glee: Journey To Regionals CD Review (4.5/5)

Gleeks will know that the final episode of Glee Season One was called "Journey", featuring a host of songs by the titular rock band, Queen and Isreal Kamehuke, and now we've got a special album (retailing for just £5) based around that awesome finale. "Journey To Regionals" boasts 6 tracks, and will run for just 22 minutes, and while that might seem too small a track-list for any CD, all the songs available here are pure gold: New Directions' Journey medley is heartwarming and uplifting (though the lack of the sensational video that accompanies them in the episode is a somewhat tragedy- for now!), and Vocal Adrenaline's Bohemian Rhapsody, while undoubtedly a strange version, is funny to listen to. The other tracks, "To Sir, With Love" and "Over The Rainbow" aren't classics, but certainly will peak fans' interests. Overall, the £5 asking price is sensationally cheap given the high standard of music here, but somehow it does feel like Glee: The Music, Volume 3 should simply have been delayed to encompass the tracks. A worthwhile purchase, then, though perhaps not a warranted one?

Doctor Who: The Pandorica Opens Review (5/5)

The fifth season of "Who" has had a definitively darker feel about it than its predecessors, with a general vibe of cracks in time and space caused by an exploding TARDIS and centring on Amy Pond constantly reiterated throughout. "The Pandorica Opens" finally resolved many of the plot threads established earlier, while bringing together some popular stars from Episodes 2, 3 and 4 in an admittedly self-congratulatory move by Steven Moffat in the pre-titles sequence, though this only added to what was, on the whole, the best finale-opener yet. Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill)'s reintroduction into the series seemed obvious at first, with fans speculating he had simply time-travelled through the crack, but nevertheless Darvill remained one of my favourite male companions since the series' revamp in 2005. This made it all the more shocking when Rory was unveiled to be part of an elaborate plot by the Doctor's enemies to mirror Amy's life, at which point the tension and sheer horror was upped in the final ten minutes of the story. Seeing the Doctor accused (near-rightly) by his foes as the cause of the cracks was disturbing to say the least (if not damn scary), and Amy's "death" (inverted commas as, do we really think that's the case) along with the TARDIS' destruction meant Moffat had constructed a cliff-hanger essentially greater than the much-loved or hated regeneration one of Series 4. What was most impressive for this viewer? I have absolutely no idea where the Whoniverse can go next week, and how each plot thread can be resolved- but can't wait to find out neverthless!

Sunday, 13 June 2010

Big Natal News Coming Tommorow!

Just a quickie: E3 starts tommorow with the Microsoft conference (available live at 5pm on the net), but Microsoft are also holding a conference based around "Project Natal" tonight (13th June), revealing brand new games for the peripheral as well as some full game-play of the launch titles available with it. There's no live feed for the show, but there'll be plenty of announcements come tommorow morning, and if you come back to the blog, you'll here just a few of these!

12 Teasers For The Pandorica Opens

1. A Van Gogh painting holds precedence over how the Doctor finds River Song once more
2. The Doctor's friends "unite" to send him a message across time...
3. He's back!
4. And so are the Cyber-Men! But which ones- original or parallel? And if it's the latter, just how did they get across the dimensions?
5. As are the Daleks! But why? What could they possibly want inside an old puzzle box?
6. "There were cracks- through some we saw silence, and the end of all things"
7. She's back!
8. The longest pre-titles sequence ever.
9. (Supposedly) the biggest Who cliffhanger ever.
10. "The cracks, don't you know where they come from? The Pandorica will open, silence will fall." The question is: how...?
11. Will River's true purpose be revealed?
12. Who is the most feared being in the cosmos? Have we seen them before?

Doctor Who: The Lodger Review (4/5)

We got another virtually stand-alone romp this week, with more comedy and sheer hilarity than we'd usually expect from Who thanks to the guest appearances of James Corden and Daisy Haggard. Corden certainly didn't disappoint in diverting from his role in "Gavin & Stacey" as Smithy to an unconfident, love-bound couch potato, and Haggard's few brief scenes easily showcased the pair's excellent chemistry. Being a relatively Amy-lite story, "The Lodger" gave Matt Smith the oppurtunity to truly shine as a unique Doctor, aceing the football pitch and terrorising callers to a local call centre, making a few great omlettes as he went. The plot itself was fairly thin, only serving to move the three protagonists from dilemma to dilemma as several people were killed in the second TARDIS (which was very impressive to say the least), and making excuses as to why our favourite Time Lord couldn't simply head upstairs and stop the baddies. Overall, this wasn't as emotional or fast-paced as last week's Van Gogh episode, but still was packed with laughs! And that Next Time trailer- wow.

Doctor Who: Vincent & The Doctor Review (4.5/5)

Historical episodes, in my opinion, have never fared brilliantly in new "Who", but "Vincent & The Doctor" proves the exception to the rule, wowing with its stunning locales and heartwarming- yet tragic- story. Viewers saw the Doctor and Amy travel to a modern-day art gallery (with the latter having no recollection of Rory's death), and realising something was up with one of Van Gogh's paintings, forcing the time duo to travel back in time and fight an invisible menace, and while this may seem sub-standard fare for Who, the incredible acting boasted by Tony Curran (Gogh) and Bill Nighy (a likeably comedic curator) set this episode above its predecessors. Links to the finale seemed few and minute inbetween (bar the fact a Gogh painting will alert the Doctor to something...), but as a stand-alone tale "Vincent & The Doctor" managed to get the emotions flailing, and still prove that both Matt Smith and Karen Gillian are the perfect combination of Doctor and companion, with Smith's climactic "the bad things don't always outweigh the good things" speech well establishing his right to portray the Time Lord evermore!

Super Mario Galaxy 2 Review (5.5/5)

Wait, it's already been three years since the original "Super Mario Galaxy"? The phenomemal 2007 effort boasted a lengthy campaign and near-endless replay value, and it was hard to see where Nintendo could take the iconic plumber next in the stars and just whether it could keep up the variety for another whole game. It's safe to say that it's mission accomplished, as "Super Mario Galaxy 2" effortlessly mixes nostalgic references with absurdly intelligent level design, making it an even better title than its predecessor. The story is mercifully slim, with Mario using a ship in the shape of his face (aka a faceship!) to find Princess Peach and Bowser in the centre of the universe by colllecting Power Stars. This well-trodden approach carries through to the World Map too, now resembling the 2D incarnations but brought up to date, and this allows for a much-easier navigation of the galaxies than the first game's Observatory. A word of advice, though: "Galaxy 2" is not for the faint of heart, upping the difficulty in both World 3 and (significantly) World 6 to the point where seasoned fans may even find themselves grimacing at the sheer challenge presented. Once again, the Comet Guide returns for newcomers in the guise of Rosalina, and a DVD is packaged with the UK release which, while patronising, will start families off quickly and accesibly. All this, combined with a wealth of unforgettable throw-backs to past titles, make for a nigh-on perfect game which will stun 360, PS3 and (especially) Wii owners alike!

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Sonic: Colours Announced For This Autumn

With "Sonic The Hedgehog 4" due to be released on Xbox Live Arcade; the Playstation Network; Wii Connect 24 and the iPhone App Store late this Summer, it seemed very unlikely that a full retail "Sonic" release would be available for non-connected gamers this year due to the "Sonic Team" being occupied by the online project, however that's no longer the case as "Sonic: Colours" will be released on the Nintendo Wii and DS this Christmas season. The game, a loose follow-up to the Wii exclusive "Sonic And The Secret Rings" and "Sonic And The Black Knight", will star the hedgehog as he attempts to save a race of mystical beings (each coloured differently and giving him unique powers) in a rollercoaster theme park somewhere in space from the evil Dr Eggman (yes, again!). The Wii version will retain both 3D and 2D side-scrolling gameplay, while the handheld incarnation will primarily use the 2D side of the spectrum (as found in "Sonic Rush" and "Sonic Rush: Adventure) but use both of the DS' screens. Whether "Sonic: Colours" can be a return to form for the series remains to be seen, but there's no sign of a Werehog yet...

Alan Wake Review (4/5)

Five years; that's how long Remedy fans have been waiting for the 360-exclusive "Alan Wake" to hit shelves, and now it's finally here. The psychological-horror focuses on the fictional author Alan Wake as he tries to forget his writer's block by going on a vacation with his wife. Trouble is, Alice Wake had other ideas about Alan's profession, and after a heated argument she goes missing and a Dark Presence appears. To beat it, players will have to use Alan's trusty flash-light and pistol, travelling through woods aplenty to find his wife. This set-up provides game-play on a scale never seen before, disabling enemies through light then gunning them down before they strike is a truly ingenuous idea. At times, the graphics border on life-like realism (especially at night), but at times they can also border on totally unbelievable, so it's a 50:50 situation in that area of the game. "Alan Wake" takes the biggest hit from its short lifespan- admittedly, the first runthrough will take you 8-12 hours, but after that bar some DLC which will expand upon the confusing ending you will feel pretty short-changed for your £40, as with "Splinter Cell: Conviction" and "Just Cause 2". If you can handle that, then "Alan Wake" boasts some of the best story-telling methods ever seen in a video game, along with some truly spectacular game-play, and it's still definitely worth a rental. But, was it worth the wait? Not totally, which is a crying shame.

The Hobbit Director Ditches Films

Peter Jackson and co are having some problems in getting "The Hobbit" onto the big screen as a two-part film, and now a further dilemma has arisen: Guillemero De Toro, director of the three "Lord of the Rings" films, has announced his departure from the series as director. This doesn't, however, mean that De Toro will be permanently off the production team for "The Hobbit", quite the opposite: De Toro has revealed he will continue to write the motion picture in collaboration with Peter Jackson, adapting Tolkien's prequel into two 3-hour long flicks. The big question now is just who will take over as director on "The Hobbit", and what changes will this mean for "The Lord of the Rings" film franchise. We'll find out soon, along with the director for the 2012 "Mass Effect" movie!