A recent change in my situation has made me take a look at what’s most important to me. I’m starting to make encouraging progress with my goal of becoming a children’s author and things being as they are I’ve realised I need to fan the flames and dedicate more of my time to writing. The trouble is I have a lot of time-consuming hobbies, the least important of which is blogging. I really enjoy keeping this blog and while I’d like to carry on with it as I have been doing, I just won’t have the time. But I’m no quitter; I won’t be abandoning the blog, just pushing it to the back of the agenda. For the foreseeable future you can expect to see more roundups like this one, giving brief voice to my opinions on whatever books, films and games I’ve been digesting. I will still do full reviews for anything that means something to me and hopefully someday I’ll be able to resume normal service. So with that out of the way, here’s what I’ve been checking out lately.
1080˚ Avalanche (GC)
The sequel to the N64 snowboarding gem comes with a greater focus on speed and thrills with a simpler but more accessible trick system and much more forgiving gameplay. It’s enormous fun hurtling through the brilliantly designed, dynamic and diverse downhill courses and the graphics and especially the sound offer a marked improvement over the original. It could still do with having more game modes and options.
Wario Land: The Shake Dimension (Wii)
The first home console outing for Wario’s 2D adventures maintains most of the series’ excellent gameplay mechanics while introducing several unobtrusive uses of motion controls. The hand drawn visuals look pretty good but not dazzling and the level design borrows from Wario Land 4. Unfortunately the game never really constructs a strong unique identity in the series and while it’s pretty fun it can’t manage the immersive and often exhilarating experience of previous entries.
This Tom Cruise-starring sci-fi is enjoyable but rather derivative. Cruise plays yet another hero called Jack, whose job it is to maintain robot drones that protect automated installations extracting the last of the planet’s resources. Inevitably he finds that things aren’t quite as they seem. The Apple-White future-tech and visuals are marvellous, as is a lot of the action but it’s hard not to watch the film whilst making a mental list of other sci-fi movies it borrows from and it never manages to reach a truly gripping level of immersion.
Olympus Has Fallen (15)
Gerard Butler takes on the North Koreans in this credibility-stretching but entertaining action thriller in which Aaron Eckhart’s POTUS is taken hostage inside the White House. A lot of inevitable and justifiable comparisons can and have been drawn with action classics like Die Hard which casts the film in a harsh light it can’t live up to. Still, the elements for a fun, violent romp are all there and it should satisfy your blood-lust.
Mist (Kathryn James)
A girl must enter a mysterious other world populated by sinister Elven to save her kidnapped sister in this ponderous and frustrating fantasy. The story fails because Gwen, the abductee is so unlikeable it’s impossible to become invested in her rescue. There’s some decent mythology and tension built into the narrative that makes it occasionally engaging and there are some good shades of grey in the struggle between opposing forces but a total lack of appealing characters and distracting overuse of similes and the phrase ‘as though’ undo what good work there is here. Worse still is the reinforcement of negative teenage stereotypes, particularly galling in a book aimed at teens.