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April 25, 2008

Which Lie Did I Tell? - William Goldman

Which Lie Did I Tell? - William Goldman

Book 18 in my 52 books in 2008

This is a book about how to write screenplays, and if anyone knows how to do that, it's Goldman. It's got some great insights, and realistic tips on what you should and and shouldn't do. It's also chock full of anecdotes where he namedrops Hollywood stars like mad.
And did he really write "Good Will Hunting" ? Find out here, maybe :-)

Posted by se71 at 12:28 PM | Comments (0)

April 22, 2008

PS3 Console Games

I've ranted in the past about games, usually about how they are far too hard, and how they are annoying with their savepoints and boss levels. But today, I'm mostly going to praise a couple of my recent acquisitions.

Burnout Paradise


This is an absolutely fantastic game. I've followed the Burnout franchise on XBox and PSP, and the lure of 720p graphics and full roaming quickly made my mind up on this latest release. Right from the start you have a huge city that you can drive anywhere in. No road is blocked off, no route requires 20 hours of complex gameplay, just fire the engine and go. See a yellow gate? Drive through to smash it - there are 400 to find so even the casual gamer can dip in for 10 minutes and watch their score increase.

And driving, that's really easy too. Sure, you crash, a lot, but you soon learn not to hit things too hard, and most of the scenery is fairly forgiving. And anyway, crashing is also great fun.

I had the misfortune to play RidgeRacer7 last week, and it was so tame and boring and unresponsive I lasted all of 5 minutes before throwing it down.


So, it's easy to spend a few hours in Burnout just driving around, crashing into things, exploring shortcuts and super-jumps. But the game hasn't even really started. At every road intersection, you can stop the car, and try a race. The junctions are colour-coded on the map, so you can choose race type, there are a few to choose from, and then you're off. Unlike many games, and previous Burnouts, the route is not fixed. Sometimes it's best not to chase after the other cars but to go it alone, and ducking onto the railway tracks is one of my favourite tricks. You can have great fun knocking your opponents cars off the road and slipping through a shortcut to overtake. Again, you crash, a lot, but each crash doesn't lose you that much time, and you can usually catch up. Playing this game isn't hard. I'm not a great gamer, but I won my first few races, and though it's getting harder now, I'm still winning a few and working my way up the rankings.

So Burnout is easy to get into, has a shallow difficulty curve for the rest of the game, and always has the sheer joy of driving fast through the city streets to keep you amused even if you don't want to race. And I haven't even touched on the online options and car upgrades. In fact, there is hardly anything wrong with this game, except that you might get a little sick of the Guns 'n Roses 'Paradise City' song - I know I have.



Much has been written about this, the most original element of Valve's "The Orange Box" game collection. I won't add too much, probably.

If you haven't heard of Half-Life, you're probably not my target audience here. It is a great first person shooter game, originally on PC, which has had numerous sequels and imitations. 'The Orange Box' combines four of these (Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2 - Episode 1, Half-Life 2 - Episode 2, and Team Fortress) onto one normally priced DVD disc with what looks like a cheap extra - Portal - tagged onto the end. Team Fortress, by the way, is an online shooter based on the Half-Life engine; it is also excellent, but I'll not go into that here.

So, Portal. It looks like Half-Life, obviously. It feels like Half-Life. The black humour is cranked up to 10 - listen carefully to your computer instructor telling you how to get to the pie. The aim of the game is to get through each level alive. Nothing new there. Are there zombies, or robots chasing you? No. Do you have an arsenal of ever more destructive weapons to wield against hords of intelligent aliens? No. Can you, maybe, make a small hole in a wall and jump through it? Yes. That's just about all you need to do.

Your 'gun' makes portals through which you jump. In the beginning it's easy, you just need one, but later yoy get to make two different portals, a blue on and an orange one. When you jump through one, you come out where the other one is. Simple? Well, yes and no. It does take a certain amount of mental readjustment to full think in three dimensions. If you make one portal in a wall next to you, and another in the ceiling above you, and step through the first, you drop back down where you started.


Just a few simple rules, and a little ingenuity are all that's needed to keep you going right through to the end. It's addictive, funny, and admittedly a little tricky in places. I did get stuck a couple of times, but kicked myself when I found the solution. And the ending is my dreaded boss level against the clock, which I didn't enjoy overly, but completed in only a couple of tries.

And just in case you're thinking it's all a bit too brainy and maybe boring, there are in fact some guns in Portal, and they're shooting at you, and you can't shoot back. I've been told that you can complete the game by just avoiding these guns completely, hiding behind things, or going round them. It's usually easier to sneak up on them and push them over though.

Like all Half-Life games, you can quicksave AT ANY TIME. Yes, AT ANY TIME. This is so important it needs repeating. I'm looking at you Halo. I'm looking at you Tomb Raider. I do not want savepoints that take five to ten minutes to reach before I'm killed every single time until I give up and throw your game disk in the drawer, never to retrieve.

And the ending, when you get there, after only a few short hours, it really worth it. In my life I've actually completely finished very few games, so it's always especially nice when I do do it, that there is something extra waiting for me at the end.

Posted by se71 at 02:15 PM | Comments (0)

April 02, 2008

52 Books in 52 Weeks - March 2008

A slow month, only 5 books, due to starting a large book half way through the month which I'm still ploughing through.

Wings by Terry Pratchett
Excellent conclusion to the funny and interesting children's fantasy series.

Pig Island by Mo Hayder
Quite hard to define, horror thriller perhaps, but not that horrific really, and more, sort of, creepy.

Camouflage by Joe Haldeman
Magnificent SF story about immortal changelings who have been living on earth for millenia amongst us.

Strangers by Taichi Yamada
Ghost story set in modern day Japan. Suffers I think from being strangely translated in places. Very downbeat, but not bad.

The Five People You Meet In Heaven by Mitch Albom
Really terrible morality lecture couched in fiction. At least it's short.

Proper individual reviews are still to write, must get on with that.

Posted by se71 at 02:51 PM | Comments (0)