February 2009 Archives

Katie aged 11 has already reviewed Bolt on the Nintendo DS this year so when handed the 360 version we decided to trial a new way of reviewing - which is basically me messing about with my new phone - the Nokia N96 - for info.

There is an editing package available which I will use next time and will probably script the review and give the child far more practise!

It's very basic and Katie forgot everything she was supposed to say... but we will be working on it! She also said she would like to comb her hair next time.

Just for info here's what else she had to say about Bolt on the Xbox 360...

We don't see it as cheating - rather as guidance!

How to access Bolt's powers

WHAT is it about air vents? Has anyone ever actually stealthily snuck into a building through an air vent, or even used one to escape? Ever?

Why then, are they so beloved of first-person shooter game designers?

Of course it's not just computer games that use this convenient little trick - it's appeared in many a film over the years but that's not the point.

The point is it is lazy.

And that was the overriding feeling I got while playing F.E.A.R 2: Project Origin.

The highly anticipated sequel to Monolith's popular 2005 offering F.E.A.R is not a bad game though, not by a long way.

It just feels dated and I could not help but think that if this had been released in 2005 it would have been a barnstorming hit.

But as it stands now, both the first-person shooter and the survival horror genre have moved on.

Games like Call of Duty: Modern Warfare and Dead Space are the benchmarks in this arena nowadays and anyone who has ever played them will be left underwhelmed by this sequel.

This game picks up shortly before the original came to its explosive climax as you play as the member of another military squad tasked with what seems to be a routine job.

Before you know it, events rapidly escalate and you're battling an army of mysterious foes led once again by the sinister Alma.

Her increasingly malevolent presence stalks you throughout the rest of the adventure as you try to work out what is going on but the story is so stilted and clichéd that you end up not really caring.

What really grips you are the satisfying weapons and occasional vehicles as well some clever, but inconsistent, use of the scenery as cover in firefights.

The visuals seem old and lacking in character and, despite being promised near "limitless possibilities" in environments like a bombed out city, what you really get is the same old linear, duck and cover, run and shoot action.

Which is no bad thing, and I enjoyed much of it. It just felt like I'd been there many times before.

DISNEY'S first Spectrobes offering saw them throw their hat into the DS battle ring and become a serious contender for Pokemon's crown.

This next offering in the series sees them take everything successful about the first game and then take it to the next level. Once again you follow the story of Rallen and Jeena as they battle the forces of evil, this time in the shape of the High Krawl.

The storyline is easy to follow and is a standard good vs evil sci-fi romp. The actual archaelogical aspect of finding the Spectrobes is good fun, and complements the RPG aspect of the game.

My kids enjoyed using the different methods to dig out the fossils. You can use the DS stylus to blow away the sand from the fossils, for example - very clever, and quite educational too.

Henry the Desktop Hoover

SOMETIMES things arrive on my desk that makes me grin like a Cheshire cat.

Henry The Hoover - the desktop version for getting rid of crumbs and dust.

How can that not be one of the coolest gadgets of all time?

And that's exactly what this is, a hoover that fits in the palm of your hand and cleans up those crisp crumbs from your keyboard.

Henry The Hoover is a British institution and now, just by popping in a couple of batteries, you can have one on your desk in the office.

When Henry is full of crumbs then just pop his hat off and empty him out.

This is utter madness, the ultimate executive toy, lots of fun and less than a tenner!

Top five comedy websites

By Steve Wollaston on Feb 7, 09 08:01 PM


A British institution, full of wit and political satire.


Another quintessentially English website full of very British wit. The Examiner has been spoofing newspapers for years in a very dry and very funny style.


Superb comedy resource on the web, news and reviews of all the latest comedy gigs and comedians on the circuit.


Very little-known site that is a collection of photos of Swedish rock and pop groups from the 70s. Some of them are plain odd, while some look like mutated versions of Abba.


A website that highlights how the English language can be very funny when a word is used in the wrong place!

WITH the Snow Princess trapped inside a tower by the mean witch and the Snowy Forest in danger of melting, Dora and Boots have their work cut out for them - and could probably use a bit of help.

It's up to you to navigate your team to the tower in order to defeat the witch and set the Princess free.

In Adventure Mode, you are guided through the story with Dora giving you tips, instructions and a few Spanish phrases to keep you motivated.

You're asked to do a series of simple tasks involving finding objects, turning wheels to open doors or raise flags, pulling down levers in numerical order, matching items to shapes on the touch screen and the frequently repeated obstacle challenge.

Even though each of the four stages had a variation of the obstacle activity that appears regularly in DS games, they entertained my six year-old sister every time.

Snowy Forest is also home to three special bonus games that let you colour, dress up a snowman and search for winter animals. From the point of view of someone at least 10 years out of the target age, I found it a little slow and simple but my rather vocal sibling loved the parts where you could shout and blow into the microphone.

She completed the game in around 15 minutes then quickly went on to play our other Dora games before returning to save the Snow Princess again.


YOU won't see book reviews on this page often - but for this book I will make an exception.

This is the bible for gamers and the ultimate reference for journalists like myself.

As well as being a huge resource of all things gaming, it's extremely stylish and well-designed.

What's more, to use a word I hate, it's cool!

The book is packed full of the latest and greatest in video gaming achievements ands gives you the ultimate benchmark to measure your own scores against.

What you have here, though, is so much more than a records book. It is categorised really well into all the different genres of gaming and has some great interviews with key gaming pioneers.

It also comes crammed with facts, figures and pictures and is a really enjoyable read whether you're flicking through or settling down for a longer read.

There are some superb retro-gaming memories and real blasts from the past.

Whatever style of gaming you're interested in you'll find some fascinating insights and features.

A must-have book for serious gamers and a really riveting book full of information that I soaked up like a sponge.



By Steve Wollaston on Feb 7, 09 08:01 PM

IT USED to be that if you were a skater, you had one choice of game, the Tony Hawks franchise, which has tried to ambitiously and not always successfully to re-launch itself with every new version, well that was until EA brought out the original Skate in 2007, and a new boarding king was born.

With the release of Skate 2 EA have stuck to their guns and not tried to re-invent the wheel, but to just add some new rims and some extra bling in the guise of a few tricks and some sweet additions to the gameplay.

First up, if you have played the original Skate you will be able to pick up exactly where you left off, as the familiar analog stick Flickit system is still in use but with the added plus of a few new moves, like hand plants and grabs, and still manages to feel intuitive and fresh, plus the ability to leave your board and walk around the fictional city of San Van which makes up your sand box world, is a great idea, and it allows you to move items around to allow you to pull off some amazing tricks, although the camera angles and jerkiness when you go on foot leaves a lot to be desired.

The single player mode is an improvement on the original, with you skating around and picking and choosing missions a la GTA, but its not great, and to be fair, most of the fun will be had in free skate mode, in setting up "Zone's" where you can set a tricks point score in a defined area and upload it for others online to challenge, and in the excellent multiplayer online games.

I also quite like the new feature that makes use of when you do wipeout by allowing you to cause a spectacular pile up using a similar system to the excellent game Pain, just check out the Hall of Meat to see what I mean!

Skate 2 is quite simply the best skating game out there, and while it is not perfect and would have benefited from a slightly more polished single player career mode, it is an improvement on the original and the multiplayer and online additions are as fun as hell, so if it's a "rad" "gnarly" boarding game you're after... look no further!!!



Steve Wollaston

Steve Wollaston - Sunday Mercury games reviewer Steve has been writing about video games for donkey's years. In fact he is probably far too old for it now which is why you will see a lot of reviews been done by kids... He has been nominated three times for Regional Games Journalist Of The Year at the Games Media Awards, but never wins. His major love is sports games and rates Sensible World of Soccer circa 90's as the greatest game ever made - closely followed by Championship Manager 2. Skyrim has currently taken over his life.

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