Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Games - Now Playing/First Impressions - March

A quick round-up of the games I'm playing right now n my laptop with a mini review of each, nice quick post, I'll put some longer stuff up later in the week.

Biology Battle - It's geometry wars but in cells, and with cool special abilities, not played enough to say more at this point.

Call Of Cthulhu, Dark Corners Of The Earth - Atmospheric, dark and so damn scary, I find it hard to start playing this game as it is quite a deep experience, but once I do, I remember just how good it is, and then remember just how scary it is.

Osmos - Guide cells around in some kind of fliud world, eat smaller ones, avoid bigger ones, simple formula, and quite well executed.

Psychonauts - Great fun, back to classic platforming adventure action which I haven't seen since crash bandicoot (before it went all kiddy on us) and ratchet and clank, and very funny in places.

Shatter - Breakout-ish game, but done really well with enough differences to actually get me playing it, even when I don't usually like breakout games.

Tomb Raider Anniversary - An amazing series, and a graphically superior remake of the first game I loved so much? Sold.

Sonic & Sega All-Stars Racing - Like mario kart for people who aren't nintendo fanboys, adds little to the genre, but well made and fun to play.

Trackmania Forever - Trackmania is exactly what I want from a racing game, realistic physics, crazy stunts and tracks, excellent to just drop in and play a few tracks.

ADOM - Roguelikes are a long standing obsession of mine, the detail and imagination, the horror of running from a green S, google it, play it.

Dragon Age Origins - No I haven't finished it yet, yes it's amazing, probably the best traditional RPG I have ever played (and it takes a lot for me to say that).

Lilly and Sasha Curse Of The Immortals - Trad RPG at it's finest, think 2D world, tile based movement and graphics, turn based combat and zelda like puzzles, a well made game, though the dialogue and quests are a bit forced at times.

Mass Effect 2 - With everyone and their dog playing this, I thought it was time I did, I didn't enjoy the first game, I love this one. Quality shooter with some good RPG elements, very detailed universe and dialogue that is very well scripted and actually affects gameplay.

Spellforce 2 - I've not played much of this, but it controls well, and seems to have things I like in RPGs, a bit dated though, just a question of whether the faint sparkle of promise is enough to get me playing it.

Borderlands - I finished it, and now I'm back to play it again, I love it, even if it has repetitive quests where you have to revisit some areas, I love the looting, I love the promise of better guns and I'm liking the first DLC very much indeed, only a shame my friends aren't playing any more, as it was more fun in multiplayer.

Halo CE - That's custom edition, quality LAN gaming with a huge variety of user made maps.

Metro 2033 - Looking like STALKER very much, and playing a lot like it but with a strange weapons system, this game has an immersive story, good acting, and gripping play, it's just a shame the controls are a bit dodgy in places.

STALKER Call Of Pripyat - The first game in the series was very well put together with only a few annoyances, the second was awful, now this one has put things right again, immersive, scary and with some good RPG elements, out of the shooters I'm playing at the moment, this is my favourite.

Team Fortress 2 - See my longer review on an earlier post, good multiplayer fun.

Defense Grid The Awakening - Excellent tower defence clone with great graphics and detailed gameplay, worth a look.

Demigod - In single player, worthless, in multiplayer I've had some good matches, if you have some friends who want to play together, definitely worth a go.

Galcon Fusion - Not really a full game, but having the odd game of multiplayer with a friend is good fun, wouldn't say it's worth getting though.

Heroes Of Might And Magic 5 - Easily the best in the series, amazing multiplayer value leading to some very involved matches over several days sometimes, just a shame there's been no announcement of a sequel.

So there you go, want to hear more about a specific game? Leave a comment and I'll get back to you.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Game - Team Fortress 2

A game I avoided playing for a long time, TF2 has never really seemed like my kind of game, striking me as a twitch shooter like quake, which I hate.

But I've been wrong about things before, so I thought I'd check it out.

Overall verdict, it rules, and for a variety of different reasons.

Now generally I hate online gaming, the faggotry and obsessiveness of some people is unbearable, making the games unenjoyable and ruining the play experience. Or, you start playing a game, avoiding a mechanic you hate, only to realise that later on the game forces you to start playing with that method (offline games are guilty of this too).

TF2 fixes the latter by giving you the 9 classes, tailored to player types, and never forcing you to choose a class you hate (well, unless the server has a limit on types, but you still get another 8).

To give an example, love dicking people over randomly and hilariously?
Play a spy.

Like big guns and shooting them at everything that moves?
Play heavy.

Want to actually help your team?

So you see it can be quite cool where a different bunch of people come together and your team forms with representations from these classes based on the personalities of the players themselves.

I quite like playing the medic and helping out on the front line, retreating when near death to charge the uber, then helping someone in need at the last moment, and by doing so being a credit to the team, other people prefer to "rambo", usually getting themselves killed, but sometimes being skilled enough to actually do some damage, then they themselves being "credit to team".

Equally a spy can destroy troublesome engineer buildings, then becoming credit to team, and probably dead too.

Still, online gaming has flaws, and although this is a team game, and better than any other I've played, quite often people won't work as a team, and won't aim at the objectives, getting caught up in personal vendettas. I've seen 2 entire teams come head to head at a choke point and sit there and battle it out, leaving me to walk around the other way, which not a single person was watching, and start murdering them from behind.

Another common flaw apart from the "rambo" and "vendetta" types is when one of your teams sits and camps a location which is of no benefit to the team at that point, like sitting in the intel room, though the enemy are pinned in spawn, and their help is needed.

So you see there are still problem players, but to be honest, you get people like that in things like lazer quest and paintballing in real life, some people are just a bit retarded.

Moaning about noobs aside, TF2 has brought me hours of fun with my housemate Luke and our friend George, because gaming is always better when you have friends in the same room as you., we can watch each other's backs, combine pushes at the enemy, but actual playing aside, just banter and have a laugh.

This kind of gaming I more think as being a LAN game which has joined an online server, fun with friends, but with the added carnage of droves of other players, less as an online game with us being individual players on it.

Play TF2? When you see Foxtrot_YES on a sever, start running maggots.
Also, if you're a YES member, add the _YES tag to your name and be credit to clan.

Life - Heart Cake

I love my girlfriend, a lot. Anyone who knows me will probably be quite aware this is not a fact I keep well hidden.

So every now and again I do something/make something/cook something which has no real purpose other than to be overtly romantic.

With easter coming I was thinking of things to do; buy an easter egg, make an easter egg, make some chocolates or bake a cake. I was erring towards making an easter egg then I saw this http://goo.gl/vJfE

I decided it was time to bake.

I won't go through the exact details here, you can read those on the original site, but suffice to say it was the hardest thing I've ever made, I even made myself sit and watch tutorial videos on how to ice cakes (being quite willing to admit I am not an expert in this field, or at least wasn't before starting this project).

Yet through adversity, lots of burns, 6 loads of washing up and hours upon hours in the kitchen, I succeeded, and just to see the look on Louise's face, it was worth it.

Impressive no?

In addition to the recipe described on the earlier link, I also used some pink icing and some marzipan dogs (bought I'm afraid, but had I had more time, maybe...) to finish the cake off.

So why is it a heart cake? You painted a heart on top, wow.

Nope, this is why:

You cut it open, and it reveals a chocolate cake heart.

The original recipe had a red heart in the middle, but I didn't want to use all that food colouring, and I know Louise loves chocolate, so this worked a lot better.

So go and try it yourselves if you too want to:

  1. Impress a loved one
  2. Start a massive project which will use 2 days
  3. Have a cake with over 12500 calories
  4. Make something which weighs 3kg in total
Did I mention you also get to eat all the offcuts, or in Luke's case, make them into another cake:

Pro indeed.

Peace out guys, and have a cool easter.

Monday, 22 March 2010

Recipe - A quick fruity couscous lunch

Having some left over pineapple salsa from last night, I decided to make it into some lunch.

I could well have just eaten it on its lonesome, however I thought I could make something more substantial with some couscous.

Best of all, no cooking required, you can cook couscous by putting it in a bowl, adding a little boiling water and letting it stand, simple.

So here's the blow by blow of the procedure, including what I did last night to make the salsa (recipe adapted from http://goo.gl/bjwj a website which is very much worth a visit).

1. Take half a medium sized pineapple, skin it and remove all the hard brown bits, also remove the core.
2. Dice the pineapple, how small is up to you, do it however you'd like to eat the chunks, I like mine fairly large and juicy.
3. Dice 1/2 a large orange pepper (cored and de-seeded.
4. ONLY if in season, add 6/7 peeled and finely diced radishes (if they're not in season then don't bother adding these, you will barely taste them, however if you can get hold of some good ones, they add a lovely subtle peppery taste).
5. Mix all of the above in a large bowl.
6. Add 3 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh coriander (called cilantro in some american recipes, and they call ground coriander seeds just coriander for some reason...).
7. Add the juice of half a lime (more if you like).
8. Sprinkle a little salt and a generous amount of pepper into the bowl, mix well.
9. Taste that bad boy, and adjust salt, pepper and lime juice amounts until perfect then set aside.
10. Cook your couscous however you like, bear in mind you'll need about 45g of dry stuff per person.
11. Once done, mix in with some lemon juice (I added a little chilli as well, you could add a splash of tabasco or something if you like).
12. Mix your couscous and the salsa together, and if you want to do something about presentation, you can tear some fresh coriander over the top of the bowl.

Hope some of you find this interesting and tasty, and stay tuned/subscribe as over the next few days I'll be posting plenty more stuff including a blow by blow of the heart cake I made for Louise :)

Oh yeah, a quick snap:

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Recipe - Corned Beef Pie

Classic stodge from the north of England, spuds, onion and meat in can.

I've never been a huge fan of corned beef, but in our house at the moment I'm living with a guy called Luke, who seems to accumulate the stuff. No joke, every time he goes home, he comes back with:
  1. Some crazy pasta in a bag thing
  2. Fray Bentos pies (do not eat these! They are one of the worst things to go in my mouth, ever)
  3. Big soup
  4. and you guessed it: Corned beef
So I was fishing through the cupboard and I noticed that it was becoming somewhat full of the nasty pies and tins of corned beef; having no desire to do anything about the former, I thought, what can I do with the pile of corned beef.

The only two things that came to mind were corned beef pie, or corned beef hash, and the hash option is no go, a pointless food in my opinion. An opinion contested most fiercely by Luke, none the less, I wasn't going to make it.

Pie it was.

So, step by step:
  1. Take 240g plain flour (though self raising will work, and gives a fluffier top), 60g of butter (or lard, I used butter), a tiny pinch of salt, and set aside a glass of cold water
  2. Mix the first three ingredients by rubbing the fat into the flour until you have a fine, breadcrumb like mixture.
  3. Slowly add a tiny amount of water, and mix, Repeat adding tiny amounts of water until the whole mixture comes together.
  4. Place the pastry in the fridge.
  5. Take 1 tin of corned beef, 1 medium onion, 2 medium potatoes, 2 small eggs, a tiny amount of salt, some pepper and some thyme and rosemary (the last 2 are not necessary, but by adding a scattering of each in you increase the flavour, use whatever is available).
  6. Peel the potato, then finely dice, do the same with the onion (the finer you dice, the more dense your pie will be).
  7. Extract the corned beef and mash it until there are no more large chunks.
  8. Beat the 2 eggs in a bowl.
  9. Mix the diced veg, corned beef, seasoning and about 3/4 of the eggs together, this is your filling.
  10. Set the oven at 200C and remove pastry from fridge.
  11. Split the pastry into 2 uneven parts, one slightly larger than the other, and roll out this larger half on a floured surface.
  12. Roll until you have enough to fit whatever pie dish you are using, grease the dish and place the pastry inside.
  13. Add all the filling into your base and squish down with a wooden spoon (or whatever you used to mix it, no point making more washing up).
  14. Roll out the second ball of dough into a top, but before placing on the pie, brush the top edge of the base with some of the remaining egg (helps the lid stick).
  15. Prick the pie with a fork, knife, whatever, and add random decorations if you wish.
  16. Chuck that bad boy in the oven for 30 minutes or so, basically until it looks done (golden brown on top is a good sign).
  17. Serve slices up with gravy, have it on its own, even eat it cold, so versatile...
Done, one pie, and because no recipe is complete without a photo of the food in question:

And yes, we wrote "pi" on top of it, we are physicists after all, you're lucky you didn't get a Schrodinger equation.

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Music - Hollywood Undead

A quick album review of Hollywood Undead's latest album, Swan Songs, no dl links, though check the youtube link at the bottom of this post.

Having never heard of this band before, I was dubious about getting it, given the other comments about the album that I found around the web. People said everything from "this is disgusting" to "best album ever", which only means one thing, controversial. Which the album is, very much so, just search out the lyrics to "Everywhere I Go".

Some of the songs have generally good morals, not letting yourself get pushed around by authority etc. but others are just about carnage and house parties, so you get a pretty mixed bag. A bag I would like quite a lot if it weren't covered in songs about "loving LA", which is kind of like letting the fat kid with the ice cream getting his sticky fingers into a bag of your favourite marbles, very annoying and putting a slight taint on the rest of the bag's contents.

Still, the first track, Undead, is excellent, packing a heavy beat, catchy chorus and some sweet lyrics.
"You know I don't give f**k what you think or say!"

So if you like your rap/nu metal, or just wonder what the hell that is, I can recommend grabbing a copy and having a listen.

Said it was a short one didn't I ;)

The video below is one of my other favourite tracks from the album.

Monday, 8 March 2010


A new state of mind, a fresh start, a new blog.

Why not I say, I do plenty of cool stuff, I am on the internet for a good portion of my day, I have time to spare, so why not tell people about my life in a blog.

I mean, we all have facebook, some of us have twitter (I'm not one of them I might add), but I kinda want to share some more interesting and maybe deeper things than I can post on that kind of site, plus I want full control over my content presentation.

So what have I got to post you wonder, well, as and when I feel like it:
  • Recipes, things I've found on other sites and tried myself, complete with links to OP and my own comments, I do LOVE food
  • Comments (pseudo-reviews) on recent games, I play a fair few, online, solo and multiplayer and sometimes it's hard to sort through the mainstream sites to actually find good stuff
  • Music, either stuff I've discovered, tracks I've been sent, or on rare occasion, things I've tried to mix myself
  • Thoughts on all manner of topics, I tend to have a view on most things, so drop me a message and I'll share, and sometimes I may share without prompts based on random banter from my house
  • And lastly, random stuff that makes my life anything but mundane, caving trips, rock climbing, or my experiences with physics, whatever I happen to do and may be of interest
So there you go, I'd like to think I have something interesting to offer you, and through your feedback, I may learn a few things myself.

I'll close by simply saying;
I hope you find what I post interesting, tell me if it isn't, so grab the RSS feed, bookmark the page, tell your friends, and let's look to the future!