A collection of reviews that can be written by anypony! Generally it's done and overseen by Tyro The Fox but anypony is welcome to write up an article reviewing anything they like. Games, movies, Youtube videos, poetry, Fan Fiction, almost anything.

You could do an article on a brick, I suppose, but I can't vouch for anyone being fascinated by it.

Would you like to write in the Leather Bound Book?

I'm still figuring everything out but I will happily add you to the Blogs permission list or post the article under your name if you drop me a PM or at leatherboundbookreviews@gmail.com.
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  1. [video=youtube;HYeLDAkZk3s]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HYeLDAkZk3s[/video]
    [size=+1]Tyro plays Snapshot - Part 2[/size]

    So...How about we carry on with this thing? While I am reusing a little bit of material, I shouldn't get struck by lightning for it.

    Part 1
  2. Holy CGI-Timberwolf on a Tarp! I've been here for over a year. Wow...It says over there that I joined up October 2011. Wow...More than a full standard year since I talked to the guy in the pink t-shirt with a Gangster Pinkie Pie on it about some brightly coloured site.

    Anyhoo, here two things I thought were interesting but not necessarily good...Our first is for the British. Or at least, anyone who has ever seen Channel 4 around Christmas Time. Yeah, we get pretty creative with our channel names over here. With the likes of getting 'CBBC' from 'BBC' for one of our kid's stations to an entire channel called 'Dave'. I'm pretty sure it's the first channel named after the guy in charge.

    [size=+1]The Snowman and The Snowdog[/size]

    All right, because I'm pretty sure some people outside of Channel 4's reach are likely to continue reading this because, gosh darn it, the time between now and the next episode isn't going to waste itself...even though it will...Anyway, I'm sure they are rather interested in why the Marshmellow Man in a fishing cap and ironic scarf has kidnapped a small child and a cousin of Blue from Blue's Clues. So, I think a little bit of education is in order.

    The Snowman was first a picture book, released in 1978. It was basically a comic with no dialogue about a boy making a snowman that comes to life and they hang out. In 1982, it was made into a roughly half-hour animation that copied the style of the comic, complete with a hand drawn look and no dialogue. Just a pretty decent orchestral score. It was first broadcast on Channel 4 and then repeated every year. There were plenty of things that made it awesome: it was like a fairy tale, it was kid friendly, it had a sting in it's tail, there's a version that's introduced by David Bowie. The main reason we still remember it, despite Channel 4 putting it on every year, is because of the song 'Walking in the Air'. It's become a timeless classic and a fantastic example of how music can make something so much greater than the sum of it's parts.

    So, The Snowman is a entrenched part of British Culture. I commend the fact that someone thought they could write a decent sequel out of this. Even though The Snowman doesn't have anything like a sequally essence about it.

    The Snowman and The Snowdog follows most of the same notes and key elements of the original: smallish boy is moving into a new House in London. It's just his Mum and his beloved pet dog. Everything's fine till the dog passes away for whatever reason and his buried in the back garden. This is a very sad thing. Winter rolls over and there's a blanket of snow. Somehow, the boy finds a small box underneath some floorboards and discovers it to contain a hat, a scarf, a mouldy tangerine, some coal and a picture of James - the name of the boy from the first film - with the magic, living snowman he made in the previous film. Eventually, this kid decides to build another snowman with the same stuff in the snow outside. Once complete, he then makes a little snowdog with socks for ears as it's heavily implied that the kid missed his passed away pooch dearly. Happy with what he's done, he goes back to bed.

    Oh yeah! Did I mention it's Christmas Eve? You know, the time when the entirety of magic and supernatural scares mean old men to change their ways and lighten the buck up? That being the case over here in merry ol' England, the snowmen and dog come to life. Our mute child notices this and, again, proceeds to hang out with his new Snowbuddies until they randomly decide it's time to fly to the North Pole for a party with all the other Snowmen and Women that have come to life. And yes, Father Christmas hosts.

    The kid gets a present from the Jolly man himself after enjoying the festivities. It turns out to be a dog collar, as though St. Nick is trying to tease the poor kid. The snowpeople see that dawn is breaking so it's back to London for them both. The kid puts the collar on the snowdog, because why the hell not? Lo and behold, the collar turns the snowdog into a real dog! Amased, they rush back to bed to rest for a few hours.

    And then the snowman melts, leaving the kid alone with his dog.

    Why did I summarise the whole story? Mainly so that you'll understand my next few criticisms but also because I'd rather you missed this one. For my money, this is a flop. Go see The Snowman and Father Christmas, this isn't as entertaining, or memorable.

    Now, let me explain my first gripe. In fact, let's do this in nice and clear to get the point across.

    It's a Sequel, Not the Same Story All Over Again

    The Snowdog, as it shall know be referred to as, has exactly the same basic story as the original. The whole 'boy builds magic snowman' thing has been done already, therefore undermining the story. If you've ever seen The Snowman, then you'll be able to sit there and point out almost every set piece here. Off by heart for the older amongst us. The motorcycle, the snowcreatures getting to close to the fire, dawn coming and the flight over landmarks of the location. The thing is that this doesn't hold up as a stand alone film ether because it relies on the audience's knowledge of the previous film to fill in blanks. You can't help but compare it to the first one. And on that note...

    There's Not a Whole Lot that's Been Added.

    The advantage of The Snowman was that it was new. You were a voyeur to a little fairy story set in Brighton, England of that time. It was a little thing that children wished was real. Think of Toy Story over a decade later and that world where something a child loved dearly could show the same amount of affection back. That the soul we impart on these things is really there, we just don't get to see it.

    That's the magic of the film and the interest was partly because it was a new experience. This was a slice of that world and we were introduced to it slowly through the snowman and James messing around at home. They dressed up, played with fruit and went for a joyride on a motocycle before the part at the Pole happened. We got to know the snowman himself for a bit.

    The Snowdog appears inconsequential. We learn very little that's new in this world. Maybe that snowmen can be rebuilt with the right parts and that James moved to London at some point. Also, that anything made from snow comes under the Christmas Eve magic. Probably even snowponies...Anyway, that's roughly it. Most of the other stuff is just lifted from the first film.

    The Drama Doesn't Interest.

    The idea of loosing a pet is the central idea of this one. It doesn't feel right in a film like this. It feels like it's being forced on the world of the snowman, rather than something that could naturally happen within it. Partly because they insist on having the original snowman too. He doesn't seem to have any real purpose for being there. The kid has little interest in him, what with the dog there and so has little to do.

    This ruins the final sting to the story. It's not really a spoiler when this is about snowmen and the film is going on about 30 years old at this point but it shouldn't shock you to know that the Snowman melts in the end of the first film.

    In that film, we've grown to like the snowman. He's naive but pleasant. Curious about the world and keen to play with his new friend James. The audience likes him and James has grown attached to his snowman. There's no brothers or sisters around for James to play with so might be craving that sort of thing. But when the film ends, it's a moment of tragedy. That this magical friend was taken from James as an inevitable part of the Snowman life is that sad moment when you realise that the fun and magic has to end.

    The Snowdog ends with the same thing. The snowman melts but the difference is, why should you care? This kid isn't all that bothered what happens to the Snowman, he has his dog. They clearly want to have the same ending but repeating exactly the same thing isn't wrenching on heartstrings, it's a formality at this point. James was loosing something he lamented giving up dearly and showed it. He ran back for a cuddle and shed manly tears. This kid has his weird magic snowdog. He was more interested in that than the Snowman, so who cares?

    As a result, it doesn't feel right. It feels tacked on, as though they had to show the Snowman dying or people would be being laid out or something.

    The Music isn't even Close to the Mark

    I want you to click this link, those-who've-never-seen-The Snowman.

    Now this from The Snowdog

    This was the biggest let down for me. The newer music seems to fail to reach the same emotional peak in the film. 'Walking in the Air' is a powerful piece of music. It crashes and rolls, lending it's own magic to the images on-screen.

    Andy Burrows with 'Light the Night' doesn't compare. What sounds like 90's pop to me, does compare with an entire orchestra. It probably fits the film better but, you will have thoughts of The Snowman because the film invites you to think of that film while watching.

    I'm really trying not to sound like a fan boy winging and I'm probably failing. It just failed to miss the mark and I figured it interesting to see why it falls on it's arse. It's an autopsy!

    Still, here's to reviewing stuff in 2012 and to a long line of stuff from me in 2013. May my Let's Playing skills get better and my articles never end.

    Next time: more stuff I admire for trying but ultimately think is pretty bad: TRAUMA.

  3. [video=youtube;JclnszNH_yw]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JclnszNH_yw[/video]
    [size=+1]Tyro plays Snapshot[/size]

    Mery Christmas! In the swing of the season, here's a small robot running through a forest while a familiar, two-tailed fox drones over the top.

  4. [​IMG]
    [size=+1]Red Dwarf: Series X[/size]

    When asked why you'll never see another series of Fawlty Towers, John Cleese said that the expectations would be far to unreasonable to top. He doesn't want to try it and he doesn't see any point in it. Which I think is far enough when things that were really popular years ago try to come back only to be completely unprepared for it's own hype. Or unable to overt come the cynasism.

    This is something that Red Dwarf couldn't care any less about. The TV channel Dave is footing the bill this time round, not the BBC and they don't seem to be kidding around with this sit-com.

    OK, for the American readers of my collection of neatly presented ramblings, I might as well be talking about Countdown or my last bottle of Irn Bru. Or maniacs chasing a cheese wheel down a hill. Red Dwarf has never managed to cross the pond and get big there to the point where you've heard about it, like Doctor Who and Sherlock has managed to do. There was a really cheesy pilot episode in the 90's and that was it. Red Dwarf continues to be a British thing, so sorry if this week feels a little...self-indulgent.

    But that doesn't mean I don't recommend it any less. I just suggest having Google open while watching. Even if you are British and under 20.

    So, for the benefit of those who haven't seen it: it's the future. Yes, it's a weird setting for a sit-com but bear with me. We're on the Jupiter Mining Corp Ship Red Dwarf and we follow the life of David Lister. He his the lowest rank on the ship as a vending machine repair man and happens to be the only man to survive a nuclear fallout on-board while he's incarcerated in frozen animation. The Ships' computer flies Red Dwarf away from any inhabitable worlds to avoid causing any damage with the radiation on-board until it falls to safe levels. Three million years later, David emerges to find that he is in outer space, light years from Earth and the only crew member left. The only company left is a vain creature that evolved from a house cat, Arnold Rimmer: the Hologram of his dead, neurotic bunk mate, a senile super computer called Holly and Kyrton: an android with low self-esteem. They must try to reach Earth, even if humanity hasn't survived the three million years since Lister saw them.

    From this, hilarity ensues. Seriously! This is one of the funniest sit-coms I've ever seen.

    Series X picks up from where Back To Earth left off. As a massive "Ah, Who Cares?" to the audience, we have skipped the entirety of Series IX. All you need to know is that Lister's love interest, Kristine Kochanski, has left and that the crew are dead again. It's just four guys in deep space milling about while weird things happen.

    The weirdest thing is that, well...This is way more entertaining than it has any right to be. Series X kicks arse!

    Firstly, it has to be said that while it's great to see the original cast back and doing their thing as though no time had passed at all, they really do look their age. I remember watching some of the trailers for Series X and being fascinated by how much Chris Barry's hairline has receded or the new wrinkles on Craig Charles' face. I'm not a particularly long standing fan as I only started watching them, DVD by DVD, a few years a go so their younger selves are still fresh in my mind. Danny John Jules has barely aged and Robert Llewellyn is in a mask the whole time anyway.

    But that's all just something for the first thirty seconds of the new Dwarf. Because, and I'm so happy about this, the writing quality is back. There was a slight hiccup better known as Back To Earth where they all had to drag the cast and crew back together. With that out of the way, Doug Naylor seems to have
    been able to pull some fantastically realised ideas out of the Red Dwarf universe so far.

    Some of my favourites include a question about whether Chinese Whispers is racist that ends up turning into a game itself. Or how about Lister being hugely desperate to make progress on a home shopping hotline, even at gunpoint. What about Rimmer failing to stump anyone with his Swedish Driver question or finally manage to grow and mature as a human being?

    My favourite so far has been Lister talking to himself as his own Dad. Using a machine that predicts the crew's actions, he's able to create video tapes that are almost exactly like he's talking with a real father. He's even able to tell Lister off for swearing. Even doll out a few punishments with this. It's a bizarre but highly creative scene.

    Because that's what Red Dwarf does at it's best. It takes a tried and tested sci-fi concept and makes it look stupid. From robots to time travel to genetic engineering. But there's still a twist of the bleak to make things interesting, even to play it for laughs. Lister is the very last man alive and even his moment of pining for the lost human race is played for laughs. He's stuck on a mining vessel millions of years away from home and unlikely to be able to get home but it's still hilarious because it's just four blokes verses hugely more powerful foes. Whether that be hallucinogenic squids, droids that judge whether you are worthy of life or the disgusting creatures that live in Rimmer's brain. There's nothing in space except dangerous simulants and rocks. And yet, it's still uniquely funny.

    But what else? Well, visuals have improved greatly. TV's have been replaced with sleeker looking flat screens that have some weird blue animation looping away when not used. The interiors appear to be largely a rusty orange that none of the characters melt into. It's warmer than any previous series that have switched between shades of grey and white. CGI, if it is used, is being done far more subtly. The fact that I'm not sure if there was any or if it was all models shows how well it's done. In previous attempts, the computer created elements stood out a mile and looked awful compared to the older model shots.

    In fact, a few computer effects like Rimmer blinking in and out of existence like a light-bulb or the 'spinning beach balls of death' look perfectly comfortable. Even for something obviously Photoshoped in.

    So, I am mightily happy that Red Dwarf is back. Not just because it's back on my TV screen but also because it's managed to rise to the challenge and still be awesome. I'm not sure what else there is to comment on other than to say that it's well worth a look. It's unlike anything else you've likely seen on TV.

    And then there's the extended universe. Yes, there is an extended universe of this and it's bleaker and sillier than the TV show could ever hope to be. Ask me and I can regale you with the tale of how the Earth farted itself out of orbit with the sun.
  5. Dear Question Mark,

    Whether you read this or not, I hope you find those answers your looking for and that the rest of your journey is a short one. Coming here and talking it out was a good move, I'd have thought. The old scientific method approach where you have people prod and poke it to find where the flaws are. I don't think it's a surprise to find that the biggest one we could see was that you'd have to leave us but that's all right. To stop you could do more harm than good if your not interested.

    One other thing: I don't think you should ever feel guilty or selfish for liking the company you received here. We give it freely. Heck, we're fans of a show that preaches it. Those you met are of a curious sort that simply want to help. We might not be the best equipped but we're well intentioned and I'm sad I didn't get to know you for longer.

    Good luck, man.

    Tyro the Fox.

  6. [video=youtube;eKzrEeg72YE]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eKzrEeg72YE[/video]
    [size=+1]Ponykart - Preview[/size]

    Here's something extra: if you want to play around with the only thing open to the public with this thing, how about playing with their 3D pony creator thing. It's not as detailed as the 2D flash one but it'll kill ten minutes.

  7. And yes, I've written far more than the 10,000 word limit...again....

    [size=+1]The Wii U Lowdown[/size]

    The weirdest thing about this is that I am genuinely excited for this. I thought I'd grown bitter and resentful of Nintendo after the Wii failed to deliver on everything promised. The games never came. Any that did deliver were part of a thin trickle of titles that truly made me sit up and listen. Everything else didn't grab me well enough. I believe it's because no developer except Nintendo themselves had any idea of what to do with the Wii Remote. The good games that used it interestingly tended to be made by them and them alone. Skyward Sword, Twilight Princess, Wario Ware: Smooth Moves, Wii Sports. Apparently, Red Steel made an effort but didn't quite pull the sword fighting thing off as well as it could have. There wasn't much in the way of actual, full games to play. Just a wave of party, mini-game collection things or shovelware.

    This, on the other hand, seems to be safer if you ask me. The duel-screen thing has been tried and succeeded with the DS. Developers could get away with using the two screen thing as much as they needed or liked and the touch-screen thing made for a handy short-cut past the buttons to give the player direct control of certain bits and bobs. It seems the same principles and lessons can be applied to the Wii U. Developers seemed to understand and be able to work well with the DS, in all it's slightly pointless resurrections, bringing out some rather splendid stuff like Sonic Rush, Professor Laton, Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, yadda-yadda.

    But the duel-screen thing never seemed to throw developers outside of Nintendo for a loop. They could pick it up and go "Huh, a Game Boy Advanced with more display space and a direct way of controlling things. Sweet!". The Wii Remote seemed to be something baffling and limiting as it wasn't able to map 1-to-1 movement for a long while. Random shaking was the best that could be done. Heck, I remember even Nintendo themselves saying that Motion Control was a dead end.

    Then we've got the whole 'Nintendo Strategy' too. It used to be that Nintendo released more and more powerful stuff to be able to play more and more visually impressive games. Now, starting with the N64, Nintendo are pulling back on the reigns and playing things differently to their rivals in Microsoft and Sony. The Playstation and The Xbox both boast power and graphical grunt, increasing with each new upgrade. Nintendo want their consoles to be, well, bizarre compared to the others. The analogue stick, the motion controls, even a heart rate monitor - if only in concept - has been presented as an idea for peripherals. Nintendo side-swipe their rivals by trying to offer something new and weird, but clever rather than try and wrestle the big boys in a show of strength.

    It's also why the last few consoles have been relatively cheep too. Nintendo have only just made an HD console because the price of those components, most likely rather decent ones too, has only just come down to a reasonable price. They can sell that hardware on at something far more competitive than the behemoths of the market like the Playstation 3 and the Xbox 360. But there's costs to the hastiness of Sony and Microsoft. The PS3 had to drastically drop it's price after a while too when it didn't sell well enough early on in the console's life. The Xbox 360 practically cooked itself with it's own hardware.

    Nintendo has the benefit of time. They can learn from the mistakes of the other two consoles and use it to benefit the Wii U.

    But it's not all hardware, despite me yammering on for so long on it. The Wii U seems to be trying to be a proper game's console this time. It seems as though it can actually deliver a proper gaming experience with decent third party support. The library of games for the Wii wasn't fantastic as it seemed as though most new companies never got past the 'testing stage'. They made some tech demos then packaged them as a party game. The Wii U has already got the likes of Assassins Creed III and Batman: Arkham City within the ranks of it's launch titles from the get go, which is fantastic! Two of the most talked about games of the year are getting a go on the Wii U. Nintendo only needs to keep bringing the big names to the white or black box to keep us interested. We Wii users have felt a little left out in this generation, what with things like Dishonoured being released as we play the latest Rabbids game.

    It feels like the focus is on being a computer game console again. The Wii was meant to get everyone playing but once the magic of Wii Sports left us, we seemed to get little left to tempt us back. The Wii U seems like it might be able to conjure something up to keep us coming back to our consoles for more. I'm not talking about streaming TV and films from the internet, because that's a stupid endeavour when you can get a TV capable of doing that for you without anything but an internet connection. No, Nintendo seems to be trying to get games you'd want to play from people other than themselves. I am genuinely excited by the prospect of playing Assassins Creed III on my Wii U. I've finished Arkham City already, but I'd give the Armoured Edition a go, definitely! Rayman Legends needed only to be a re-make of Origins and I'd have been happy. Nintendo Land sounds great. I'm genuinely curious about what ever the hell is going to happen in Game and Wario.

    The fact that I appear to care about what comes out on a Nintendo console is what I'm happiest about. I'll have to see what I can do about getting my own little white box and I hope the information here helps you do the same, if your planning to do the same. I think the only question left now is what these things are like to live with.
  8. Sadly, I never got the chance to see this thing up close and personal and get my grubby mits on this thing. For those that want to know about what the Wii U is actually like to play, try taking a little look at this.

    But that doesn't mean I'm going to be utterly useless to you.

    [size=+1]The Wii U Lowdown[/size]

    So, the Wii U is coming out at the end of the month over here in ol' England.

    Seriously? Where's the bloody year gone?! Have I really been sitting around, laughing at this thing and ignoring my Wii for around six months? I mean, the Wii was hardly a fantastic name but we accepted it. The Wii U compounds this problem but it's forgiveable considering that this is meant to be Nintendo's first try at a HD Console. Never mind that we've had such a thing for at least five years now, Nintendo are stepping things up again. And again, they have a weird control system for Sony and Microsoft to hurriedly cobble copies of within about three months of frantic, blinkered panic.

    So, expectations aside for a second, let's get down to brass tacks. What are we getting here?

    The Wii U is now Nintendo's most powerful machine, weighing in at around 2GB of RAM and a multi-core processor of indeterminate speed. Seriously, I haven't a clue how powerful this thing is because Nintendo doesn't appear to have told any one. After literally seconds of research, I can tell you that it's made by IBM again. The Wii never spontaneously exploded into a ball of flames when it was being used for a long while, so I have no problems with this. Plus, multiple cores mean multi-tasking which is fantastic news for developers as they're allowed more freedom than before. For those with next to no idea what I'm talking about, the Processor and the RAM dictate the speed and amount of calculations and decisions that can be made. The bigger your numbers, the better your computer will preform.

    The Wii, in contrast, had around 88MB of RAM and a processor clocked at less than 800MHz. My phone - the Motorola Defy I used to review that Songify app once - is as powerful as the Wii.

    But things aren't actually HD without a graphics card. That's what's creating all the prettifullnessocity that Nintendo are trying to make here. In the non-HD Wii, the ATI Holltwood GPU was doing all the graphical grunt work, primarily because most of the guts appeared to have come from the Gamecube. That clocked in at 243MHz. Why is that significant? Well, your graphics chip also needs a little processor in it in order to draw, and then redraw, all the little pictures and movements that appear on screen. In fact, it's your graphics card in your machine that's being sent instructions from the rest of your computer to then draw everything to the screen. Everything from the black, white and red of this blog to that rather handsome fellow to the right looking thoughtful, dashing and - above all - single. So, again, the bigger your numbers, the more stuff you can draw to the screen at any given moment.

    Also, again, I couldn't find any details about how powerful the graphics card is but I did find out that it's likely similar to the one I had in my last laptop: The AMD Radeon High Definition. It was half-decent in my old laptop, Henry. It was able to play all sorts of bits and pieces like so I'm perfectly happy it can deliver the performance expected.

    So, that was probably boring but the specs are vaguely important to know, I suppose, in order to have a good idea about what exactly is going on under that hood and what your paying for. Speaking of which, we should look at the bundles to choose from. You see, Nintendo is doing that thing that most newly released AAA titles are doing where they have various boxes of different things with differing prices. You pay more and you get more in the box. There's three to choose from:

    Basic - For about £250, you get a normal Wii U with 8GB of internal storage compared to the half-gigabyte of the Wii isn't necessarily to be sniffed at. I mean, you get the curious white box and the bizarre tablet thingy along with it to control everything too. What's nice is that the Wii U comes with an HDMI cable too, which is a nice gesture as they're rarely cheep, unlike SCART leads. There's the usual wires to actually power the thing too. While a Wii Sensor Bar Port is present, the bar isn't included in the box but it's possible that you've got one sitting around still. The most curious addition to this is the offer of a free copy of any of the launch titles to get you started off. If it's being offered to you, I'd give a good hug. To me, that seems jolly nice of ol' Ninty. But ah! The dichotomy of choice...Batman? Mario? Rayman? What am I saying? RAYMAN! ALWAYS RAYMAN!


    Premium - Weighing in at around £300, your also getting a black Wii U with a whopping 32GB of internal space and all the normal cables as well as the touch-screeny Gamepad thing but you also get a Wii Sensor Bar. I can only assume that they've got them to spare. Then you get a Gamepad Stand, assumingly for those times when you need to be able to look from the screen and then back at your telly. I guess you just prop it up in front of you on a table somewhere and look from one to the other. Hmm...I may need to warm up my neck before playing...Then we have a Charging Stand for the Game Pad. So, exactly the same but with a current running through it? All right, as long as it glows or something. Then there's the stand for the console itself so that it'll sit upright with support. That feels like a slightly pointless piece of extra plastic but whatever. The Nintendo Network Premium account is something rather interesting however. Any new purchases you make then allow you to receive an amount of points to spend in the new eShop on new games, like the Stars system but for games not a golden statue of Link. Doesn't sound bad at all.

    Oh! And a copy of Nintendo Land. Sorry, that's non-negotiable.

    ZombiU Premium - Exactly the same except you get ZombiU instead of Nintendo Land. Also, you get the new Pro Controller. Rather than looking like a food plater with buttons then finished in glossy white, we now have something that looks like an Xbox 360 controller with the positions of the analogue sticks swapped with the buttons. The Gamecube managed to get away with swapping directional buttons for analogue stick because it was comfortable to use in all other respects. The atrophied buttons were used rather sparingly anyway. On this though, I'm unsure. We'll have to see but it already looks kinda uncomfortable compared to a more traditional controller. This one is around £350 for whatever reason.

    Sorry, prices are in British Pounds. Even though our economy is based on tea-cakes and marmalade, it's not that easy to figure out what it means for those across any of the ponds around me at the moment. This is England, we have coast lines galore over here. Lemme just sort that out for those with dollars or euros...errm...Carry the one...Divide by the degree of light coming from the moon...plus ten, aaaaaaand there we go.

    Basic - US$299.99 or €299.99
    Premium - US$349.99 or €349.99

    So, there we go. That should be enough info to get you ready for when the Wii U arrives, provided you even want one.

  9. [​IMG]
    [size=+1]Microsoft Flight - Part Two[/size]

    So, what about actually flying the machines? Actually, it's rather pleasant. My preferential method was the mouse. You move your cursor and the plane will move accordingly. Up to go up, down to go down and blah, blah, blah, yackity-shmackity. Throttle is controlled with the 'W' and 'S' keys, increasing and decreasing the throttle respectively. 'A' and 'D' control the rudder to a larger degree than the mouse and so allow for a tighter turning circle. So far, so San Andreas. What you will have to watch for is your fuel gauge that can only be refilled at select airports for some reason. Finally, there's your compass, airspeed in knots (but might as well be in Jelly Babies consumed per hour (JBc/h) for all the help that is to a British fox like me) and your altitude. Fairly standard but you have the option of various camera angles too:

    - Chase is the standard 'third-person view'.

    - Cockpit shoves you right in front of the controls with only the outside windows to offer any sort of navigational information regarding what you may end up hitting within the next few seconds. This is where you get to play with the controls of the plane. Hit space bar to stop yourself from controlling the planes movement and from here, you can start messing with the switches and dials. Turn the engine off or alter the fuel mix. I'd much prefer adding batter to a waffle iron or firing a cannon at a passing bi-plane but modders have yet to figure it out yet.

    - Flyby appears to be from the point of view of a magical cameraman that can transport himself to just the right place to film you flying past instantaneously like a supernatural version of Top Gear. You still have control over the plane so this is mainly for screenshots. Trying to fly like this is suicide.

    - Free Look allows you to pivot the camera around the plane to get a really good look at it, even while flying. This one can kill you too.

    - Top Down does what it says on the tin.

    - Remote Control drops the magical cameraman in any point within 3-dimensional space for him to continue to sit and watch the plane as it flies around. Apparently, it's possible to loose control of the plane if you fly too far away from the camera.

    These jazz up the games look but most seem to be there to facilitate some Plane titillation so are utterly pointless to me. They add nothing else at all.

    But this is all superficial stuff, what about the planes themselves? Well, without sinking any money into these things at all, you can get two planes. One is a boring grey thing that floats on water and the other is a yellow bi-plane. Both are actually quite dull. While I've managed to perform some pretty drunken barrel rolls with the bi-plane, I'm still rather bored with it, despite the work I had to do to earn the bloody thing.

    Yes, earn it. You see, it's a freebie for when you log-in to Games for Windows. The problem is that Games for Windows is pretty much broken and appears to have had all the care and attention gone into it's construction that I'd give to my choice of favourite America's Next Top Model contest winner; utter indifference. In order to claim my prize of a virtual bi-plane, I had to sign up for an Xbox account. Then I had to sign into the shop and buy Microsoft Flight for free despite having downloaded it through Steam. This gave me a product key that then let me unlock the online features and the bi-plane.

    That's not right. I shouldn't have to go through that sort of a rigmarole for a game. Not any game, ever. I'm being punished because Microsoft hasn't coded the bloody thing properly.

    As for the other planes? Can't be bothered. What does happen is that each plane comes with their own set of tutorials, challenges and missions to complete when you download them but I don't like the amount of money that these things go for. It just seems extortionate for the lack of entertainment I know I will experience from this based on what the two free planes are like. Plus, I dislike the need to exchange money for another currency just to spend things on an online shop. I'd much prefer to just pay in cash, rather than Microsoft Points. It seems more straight forwards. It's a transaction of goods, not a fair ground prize.

    So, I've admitted that I don't like flight sims but have chosen to take a look at this one. Why? Because this was Microsoft trying to make a more accessible flight sim. This could have gotten me into it but it's not worked in the slightest. There's only two things I can say are actually pretty well done with this game. One, the general presentation of the experience, despite my graphics settings being stuck on low to be able to play at a decent speed, was slick and modern looking. It was actually quite nice to look and use. And two, I liked the country music that's played on the menu screens. It's oddly fitting in a Wii Sports sort of way: pleasant, friendly, warm, inoffensive and scientifically engineered to have nothing anyone can sue Microsoft for. It quite liked it, although I like anything with a good guitar in it. So, it's initially good right up until I have to actually play the damn thing.

    My final thoughts? Meh, I'm not sold on it. It's not what it hopes to be but does appear to try and improve on the formula for a wider audience but it feels half-arsed. They don't give a decent enough reward to bother with it all. I'd want to earn new planes, learn and then possibly care about them. That seems like a better way of sucking me in to all this plane stuff. Even though it's free, I can't help but feel like I'm not getting a fair deal with this thing. I kept thinking about the Harley Quinn DLC I have sitting on my PS3 hard-drive that I could be playing through instead. I think I'll stick to going up-diddli-up only to come down-didili-down onto a muggers face than into an Hawaiian island within an empty world in a bi-plane.

    I'm just picky like that.
  10. How about another one to make up for not getting one last week? Go on! It's all yours. I insist.

    [size=+1]Microsoft Flight - Part One[/size]

    I remember the last game I played anything that had 'Microsoft' plastered across it's logo. It was way back when the most powerful machine I had to hand was some Tiny PC with Windows 98 installed. When your around 10 years old and trying to use this thing to make your afternoon more interesting without much knowledge of far more interesting and entertaining games, you tend to have to mess around with other stuff instead. You doodle in Paint or try and find some new game to make from Excel. Or, you play the pre-installed games. Solitaire, Hearts, Spider Solitaire, Golf and even Flight Simulator.

    While Golf seems to have been left behind in Windows 98 for whatever reason, Flight Simulator has been fixed up and buffed with updated graphics and shiny bits.

    The results: Microsoft Excel hasn't much to worry about. Somehow, Microsoft Flight feels like a rip-off even though it's cost me nothing.

    You see, the only way to actually get anything of any real use out of the game, you have to sink money into it. For a free game, that's understandable but it's Microsoft, so you have to buy extra planes and areas to fly around separately at a ridiculous price. Not for me, thank you. Even with your fancy interactive cockpit, I don't want to have to convert my Grandma into Microsoft Points so I can pretend to fly a Mustang.

    On the surface, Microsoft Flight looks as fascinating as exploring the contents of your vacuum cleaner. As a non-flight sim fan, these things are really slow for me. The planes of flight sims old used to do nothing but potter around the digital airspace with no real context. I'll normally get bored and then crash. Often making it a game to see how quickly or weirdly I can plummet. I'm not asking for dog-fights, I'm searching for a purpose. I don't enjoy sitting in front of a screen watching dials and things rise and fall while I crawl through the air. I can't possibly be doing 105 Kph. I can walk faster than I'm flying at the moment.

    So I booted up Microsoft Flight, because it was free but expecting to find it boring. So, I flew around a bit, played some tutorials, started looking at some of the missions and started flying around. Then it hit me:

    By Celestia's Garter Belt, they've ripped-off Pilotwings! So they aren't complete morons in those Microsoft Studios then.

    You see, we future types demand a little more than just planes flying around in our games, even the free ones. TF2 and Gotham City Imposters (basically TF2 and Call of Duty mixed with TF2, respectively) allow you to earn almost all of the contents of the game free of charge. Only a few bits require money. Compared to something like Sprial Knights where you have to buy time within the game to play. Sure, they give you about 100 energy every day for nothing but it's severely limiting to be barred from playing the game.

    Anyway, Microsoft Flight aims for realism over Mode 7 nonsense by giving you some bright and sunny islands to fly around. You start off with the tutorials to get the basics of the game, then move on to the various modes. There's missions to do by the boatload and jobs you can take that are being offered by various airports. These will make you do various bits and bobs to give you something to do. Then there's the challenges, which are roughly the same and seem oddly reminiscent of secret areas of Super Mario 64 because you fly through either floating rings or collect coins against the clock. It doesn't feel the same without the threats regarding the slow death of one particular enemy/platform I keep crashing into. It's worrying that I thought I could demoralise a block of wood floating in mid-air, but there we go.

    What baffles me are some of the other bits and pieces that have been shoved into this thing in order to make it more widely appealing. Firstly, we have an XP system for no adequate reason. It doesn't unlock any thing like new planes, but it will unlock new missions and new paint colours. Woo...I get that it's supposed to show how much better your getting as a virtual pilot but your not unlocking anything I'd consider cool. A plane would be cool. Plane accessories would be cool, like guns or headlights or a toaster oven. Even tassels to go on my propellers would have been nice. Nope, paint jobs and work.

    Then, there's Multiplayer. Yes, Multiplayer. Honestly. It's exactly the same except you now inhabit this largely vacuous void of a game world with another human being that is also flying another plane. You can chat to each other and do stuff. I'm guessing it was meant to be like co-op for Saints Row 2 or GTA San Andreas but there appears to be no benefit or loss to the game as far as I can figure out. Apart from setting up mid-air collisions, it seems pointless.

    Then we have their version of collectables called 'Aerocashes'. They operate in the exact same way as any other secret collectable that has ever existed. Precursor Orbs, Feathers, Riddle Trophies, yadda, yadda...It's exactly the same. This game expects you to find them on foot though. Yes, you can land and then exit your vehicle to roam the earth as a disembodied camera that can still make grass crunch underfoot despite having no feet or legs. There appears to be no point to the Aerocash collection endeavour either except for an achievement and an addition to your Gamerscore.

    Yes, achievements. We got ones for doing good things like completing missions and getting high scores in challenges and also ones for the bad things like crashing repeatedly.

  11. Man, these half-finished articles are just piling up. Busy, busy, busy...I've had screen capture issues, deadlines, appointments and a bad cold. How I've managed only half-way, I'll never know...


    I'll admit this now: I'm probably an awful candidate to review this. I've not seen any of the good, old films when they were still based on the books. When it was about kicking flank then tending to the ladies before jumping out the window, guns blazing. Sadly, I've only seen two Bond films: Die Another Day and Quantum of Solace. Die Another Day was...all right, I suppose. Very cartoony and a little cheesy, nothing to write home about. Quantum of Solace had all the engagement of a wet weekend in a post office. I don't think I've ever been in a cinema and wanted to leave more, with the third Transformers movie being it's only contender. Hoarding and then selling water at an extortionate price is an evil plan that can only be concocted by a penny pinching sit-com stock character. I half expected to see Bubs' Concession Stand somewhere with the 'man' himself cackling next to Ebenezer Scrooge on top of a pile of money.

    So, I can't really comment on this as a 'Bond' Film because it's not something I'm well versed in. I might as well talk about football, in Spanish or something. No, no, but! I can talk about it as a film, as someone relatively outside of the fanbase. So, here goes...

    Skyfall is fantastic.

    What struck me about the film is how beautiful it's made to look. It really stood out to me how much attention appeared to have been given to the photography of the whole show because almost every, single scene and shot of Skyfall appears like a painting. There are moments of silhouettes against cool blues and hot orange glows. Each location feels sculpted, like the entire film takes place in concept art. The placement of lights, especially the use of differently coloured lights against the heavy shadows creates something stylish and modern. It's all very minimalist in how much of the detailing seems absent in most of the film. It's often only a few contrasting colours that dominate the room's look throughout.

    Now,Skyfall tells the story of a former agent looking for revenge for being, in his mind, betrayed by MI6. He launches an all out strike on British Intelligence, striking them hard to get even. Bond is the only thing standing in the way.

    Now, there's a strong theme running through all of this: the juxtaposition on the old and the new. Bond is getting on at this point, a living relic of the so-called 'Golden Age' of Espionage with the world ever advancing around him. The times, they are a changing as the film seems to settle around the old dogs fighting it out, both James and M coming under fire. In fact, getting older is Bond's largest concern. Lijke Q getting replaced with a twenty-something genius that looks like a fetus next to Daniel Craig. Or the spartan, modernistic new MI6 bunker, with all the computers, lighting and grey walls. The minimalism of this new age does begin to show rather quickly, like in how Bond only gets two gadgets. He gets only a homing beacon and a gun that only he can fire. Interestingly, both manage to come in handy. But the computer becomes one of the most powerful weapon in this film, suiting the side of this era the film wants to interest itself with and it manages to cause plenty of trouble. In fact, rather than a missile silo or a laser pointed at any country you can think of, Skyfall has a super villain with a powerful computer network, that he puts to amazingly devastating use.

    In fact, this is a massive improvement over the other two Bond films I've seen in that respect. Silva, the agent seeking revenge, is a fantastically unhinged character. He's clearly gone nuts prior to cooking up his massive scheme, resulting in this arrogant, malicious nutter hell bent on ruining your day. And he does so with a good amount of madness too. Like some sort of blonde haired Joker. I remember thinking, as he manages to launch a London Underground Train at Bond just to allow himself to escape, deciding that I quite liked this guy. And he's memorable. His presence sticks in your mind unlike some other villains I could mention, like the guy with metal in his face. And the water guy, giggling to himself as he adds a line-standing fee.

    And that's the thing about this film: some of the old fun and thrills of the older films are coming back in this new, sleek vision of Bond. The modern version wants to entertain you like a pro and appears to have the ability to do so. The action is gripping, drawing you in and managing to make you sit up and notice. The scenes are bathed in colour, made to look like paintings to show a great artistry here. And then there's the one-liners. Bond is looking to be fun again and succeeds. The plot is the struggle about staying relevant in the current world and Skyfall has the good sense to inject a little humour every now and again to stop the whole thing from becoming too dismal with all the meaningful brooding that goes on. However, I never felt that the lines ever detracted from the drama; just a few cherries on the icing to show that it's humans with more than one or two emotions under the surface. They even have time to nod back to the past, with the biggest being a cameo by the Aston Martin DBS. Machine guns and all.

    In fact, the larger picture of this seems to be the whole Bond franchise try and place itself within the present. It's got Borne and Tom Cruse breathing down its neck, looking to take the crown with their realistic worlds that still struggle with their goofier elements. To me, it felt like I was expected to feel attached to Borne because he's who the cameras follow, not because he's been given much of a character. To me, he was about as interesting as any one I play or shoot in COD. Borne seems to have set out to prove that espionage is dangerous, often-bleak, bureaucratic business but seemed to want to keep all the silliness of super soldiers and shady companies. As a result, the film doesn't engage me while it struggles to mask it's sillier bits with action scenes. But Bond has shown that he's the better showman. Skyfall gripped me while The Borne Identity bored me. Bond shows a little bit growth, swagger and character throughout. It might still have silliness, but it capitalises on it to raise the spirits of the whole show. Bond is becomes the entertainer Borne seems to shun in order to remain serious and 'edgy'. It always strikes me as somewhat false to me.

    And I think that's the highest praise I can give it, I think. I enjoyed it greatly. It's cunningly crafted to feel exciting and keep the action fun and gripping while making sure to keep the fusion of 2012 and the 1960's continuously conjuring new deviations on the story. It creates an interesting symbolism, I think, that permeates the whole film. I quite liked it for that by the end. If they can continue to create Bond films like this, I'll have to go track down the rest of them.

  12. [size=+1]Prototype 2: Equestria Zero[/size]

    Now, I'm not one for crossover fics but one that I really like would have to be Prototype 2: Equestria Zero. First off, is anyone familiar with the main protagonist of Prototype 2?

    Sgt. James Heller has been infected wit the Blacklight virus and goes on a killing spree across the new Ground Zero that is commonly known as New York. We all know what's gonna happen right? James is gonna take down monsters, fight evolved, and stop Mercer. But what if something goes wrong and James suddenly finds himself trapped in Equestria? Will he kill everyone? Will he go insane? Will he be baking cakes with Pinkie Pie? Who knows?

    Overall, I would have to say that this story is worth reading. It really captures Heller's want to murder Alex and his first reaction to Ponyville is by far hilarious. Even his first words got me laughing. All the characters are portrayed as though it were an explicit episode on the HUB. And for those hoping the James goes on a killing spree, you may (or may not) be disappointed but don't worry, this story is loaded with all kinds of jokes.

    Rated T for violence, language, blood and gore.

  13. [size=+1]Red Heart[/size]

    I'm not one for Grimdark but this one caught my attention. It's talks about Nurse Red Hearts reason for being so glum and Berry Punch's reason for drinking excessively.
    I'm sure you are all familiar with the "master race" ordeal. Many fan fics involve a great, violent, and bloody war involving the unicorn king. Well, this basically talks about the horrors two young fillies go through during this time. Stripped of their innocence, will the two fillies lose sight of who they once were and become just another casualty of war, or will they grow closer.

    Personally, I believe that this story makes sense. The way it portrays the pain and suffering the two fillies went through and how they ended up where they are today is a sheer work of art. The blood and gore adds to the fear and made me feel as though they would not make it through this long and pitiful war to determine who the "Master Race" really is. If I could rate this story on a scale of one to five; it would most definitely be a five.
  14. So, once the Vikings were done with and out of the way, we tried the other show we'd been told about.

    Oh my word....Below is a genuine line of dialogue from the show. Remember: Disney makes this.

    [size=+1]Gravity Falls[/size]

    Disney seem to have some good writers left. A precious few in the multi-national tower of round ears and the sound of money multiplying exponentially, that seem to have this head space where having fun with the show yourself, helps the audience have fun with the show too. Tangled, Disney's long awaited take on Rapunzel for their Princess Collection, was one of the silliest, slickest written films I've seen from Disney themselves for a long old while. The villain had a neat and understandable twist on her motivations from other Disney films where the explanation for The Evil Queen is "because she is, now shut up and watch the funny mice dance in their funny little clothes". The rest of the movie was able to have fun with the job of entertaining you. Things like the frying pan being a powerful weapon, the horse being the dashing hero and the old classic of massive, burly men in a bar all being interested in ballet or pastry cooking. It was being nuts, which did make the sudden realisation that this is meant to be a Disney Princess film that much more awkward. One minute was gag after gag after gag, the next was all paper lanterns and looking deeply into each others eyes.

    Anyhoo, the same sort of nutjob that brought us that have rustled up something else.

    Gravity Falls is set in a sleepy little place in Oregon somewhere called Gravity Falls. Dipper and Mabel Pines have been sent to their Grunkle (a shortened version of 'Great Uncle'), Stan Pines who owns an obvious tourist trap called the Mystery Shack that specialises in supernatural exhibits as well as fleecing tourists out of their cash. While wondering around, Dipper discovers a journal of unknown origin and author, detailing discoveries of strange happenings within Gravity Falls. Monsters and items of strange properties are abundant around these forests, surrounded in mystery.

    Gravity Falls appears to share a lot of DNA with Courage The Cowardly Dog. Both take American horror and laugh at it. Courage uses the guise of a B-movie 1950's teenagers would be watching as a brush to colour the world to elevate the parody. The old trope of being set in the middle of Nowhere is now literal. The show then places an old house that seems to be regularly attacked by freak-cases, monsters and nut-jobs who are always targeting the little old lady and her grumpy husband. The joke always being that the show is taking the situation of a monster attack to as warped and bizarre an extreme as they can. Then pitting a weedy, cowardly dog against the abomination that's been conjured. The show revels in it's weirdness, using the B-movie aesthetic as an excuse to go one step bigger.

    Gravity Falls on the other hand, takes another aspect of that American horror idea and bases everything around that instead: Conspiracy.

    The show plays and giggles at the idea of large and ridiculous theories being posed as possible fact. The idea of secrets and mysteries to discover is both it's best gag and it's most brilliant plan. There is a fantastic example of this but I gotta throw this up, hang on...

    In the first episode, Mable's new boyfriend - Norman - shows off some strange quirks. He lumbers around, shows no co-ordination at all and had what could be blood on his cheek. Furthermore, his clothes look like he's been dragged through a hedge.

    Dipper's Journal suggests that Norman might actually be a zombie. Fearing for his sister's grey matter, he dashes to her rescue just as Norman agrees to reveal something about himself very important indeed to Mable.

    So, Norman takes off his hoodie to reveal he's actually a small collection of Gnomes posing as a teenager, looking for a new queen.

    On one hand, the show is leading you in with the promise of answers to a huge secret, while poking fun at the whole idea of monsters in the woods and the supernatural. Mock versions of Illuminati symbols as well as tiny details that appear to have no obvious meaning until later episodes are littered through out the show. There's a document detailing the rise of psychic babies in one episode if you look hard enough. It's taking the base ingredients of why Bigfoot is still a prominent figure. Or even Area 51. Because it's fun to be dragged into a world where everything is a puzzle. That's why ARG's work so well, because there's always a part of people that loves to delve below the surface to see what's really going on. Portal was able to hide clues within itself to entice fans back for another play-though in order to look for any more details on the back story of Aperture Science. Gravity Falls attempts a similar plan, looking to hide easter eggs for any eagle eyed viewers watching. The idea of mystery pulls the viewer in to the world of the show, making it a more captivating story as a result. You'll watch, just to see what it's all leading to. It's like Lost with more jokes.

    Gravity Falls takes the idea of looking into mysteries and searching for the truth then throwing the audience a curve ball, to make you laugh. The show is all about the comedy and is able to manage such a thing so well. It appears to have a mastery of the stupid, creating punchlines in clever places to make you laugh where you thought you wouldn't. Character's such as Zeus, Mable or Stan are given free-run of the edges of the story to do whatever the hell they like.

    On the characters themselves, Zeus might not be the brightest bulb in the box but he's too lovable not to like him, or his strange ideas. It's easy to say that Mable is just Pinkie Pie in a jumper but there is a clear difference. Mable appears to be aware of the actions around her about 99% of the time, while Pinkie Pie falls between about 60 to 30. She's quirky and upbeat almost constantly fuelling great moments of laugh-out loud silliness. Finally, Stan is a greedy crook with paying customers dumber than a glass of water. The mediocre knick-knacks he keeps them easily amused with is fantastic. For example, a bag that makes money disappear.

    So, the above character's generally handle most of the jokes. The job of having and completing any story arcs falls to Dipper. He's a bright kid that's fascinated by and frankly relieved that there are so many mysteries to solve in Gravity Falls. Motivations currently tend to revolve around his futile aims at dating the 15-year old Wendy. Episodes will often, but not always, use Dipper's hope of gaining Wendy's admiration as his motives. Usually, to do that, he has to pretend he's more grown up and mature than he might actually be while aged only 12. Generally, the façade is was causes most of the issues of the story, and he must do what he needs to do in order to put everything right. Is usually during his attempts at getting the girl, that the monster arrives.

    Weirdness within Gravity Falls has been a joy to be surprised with every episode. Especially at the inventive comedy that results from it. The secret seems to be in the genre savviness the writing shows. It's that much funnier that a fighter character has come to life and agrees to fight for you when he manages to find the Barrel and Crate Factory, throwing them down some collapsed scaffolding. When Dipper finds a photocopier that can copy human beings, him and his clone immediately discuss the possibility of an uprising, like in films, and how it would be a waste of time. They even have their own version of LOL Cats with Mable's Pet Pig. There's little in-jokes and references for anyone of a certain age watching to find and get, enriching the already decent silliness on offer.

    I could go on, and on, and on about this. I would like to but there is a word limit on these blogs.

    Let me end on this: I do love this show. I'm not going to get into the 'Is it better than MLP?' thing over it because my heart has the capacity to love a multitude of things. Irn Bru, Heroes, Firefly, A particular image of Twilight wielding a Keyblade, Konnie Huq and so on. Gravity Falls is a well made and bonkers show that deserves a look, in my book. If this overly long marriage proposal hasn't swayed you, then only the sight of a Gnome barfing rainbows will.

    I mean, experiencing it first hand. Wow...Where did that come from?
  15. Me and Foxy had heard about these two cartoons but that's about it. One was relatively obscure and the other has been referenced by others that I know every so often. Like Zephyr's profile pic, for instance. They were interesting enough just on their own titles to see what they were like. Season 3's still on the horizon, after all.

    So, me and Foxy ended up sitting down and watching all the episodes so far of...

    [size=+1]Dragons: Riders of Burk[/size]

    I quite enjoyed How To Train Your Dragon on which Dragons aims to extend. The film had decent performances from it's key characters, the father was emotionally deeper than an angry blockhead, Hiccup was entertaining on his own and Toothless was adorable yet awesome. Like a big scaly cat. The film is entertaining will a little bit of visual flare to spruce things up. Generally in the dragon department.

    So, Hiccup has been given a Dragon Academy so that him and his other fine, young Vikings can learn how to ride dragon's properly. Considering that most of the dragons are causing a lot of messes all over the place, it's unsurprising that Hiccup is then told to deal with each Dragon related problem as and when they come up like he's herding fire-breathing cats away from pet mice.

    Most issues expected to be solved by Hiccup really are that menial. It's just that dragons complicate everything being big scaly beasts.

    So now that Stoic is fine with his son's new pets, he can't really drive the story any more as the main antagonist. Enter Mildew: a grumpy, miserable git that lives with a sheep and his cabbage plot. He doesn't like the dragons, because he'd be pretty boring if he was only slightly irked by them, and actively sets about manipulating the villagers into getting rid of them for good. He frames them, points out every flaw of theirs and generally complains about whatever the dragons have done now. He's sort of a cross between **** Dastardly and that neighbour that has a problem with everything..

    Oh yeah...Swear Filter...Well, it's Mr Dastardly, from those Wacky Races.

    Anyway, that's the largest problem with Dragons appears to be that there's little to no urgency. While the show is entertaining, I can't call it gripping. Plot lines do tend to centre around the same idea: Mildew comes up with another reason why the dragons are a bad idea and the easily swayed village-folk back him up despite Mildew being greatly disliked. For the most part, it appears to be the only worth while story they are capable of telling. With a few notable exceptions, like trying to find a new job for Gopper, most are as dependable as a Japanese Train.

    There's an accusation, Hiccup is told to sort the problem, he fails, it's the night before the dragons are meant to leave forever, Hiccup figures out a solution in a nick of time, everyone's happy.

    I'm concerned that the somewhat Pokemon-esque elements prompt such a cycle because - as awesome as Pokemon is - that seems like a show written by the copy and paste command. Both used the teamwork of boy and his dangerous monster as the goal for solving the problem of the episode, usually learning some moral as a result. That appears to be every episode with only the details changing. The same can be said for Dragons because the same motions appear to be rolled through every new episode. It's not that it's boring, it just doesn't push the boat out all that often. It's stories feel rather safe and simple, which is fine for a kids show but it's not going to mesmerise anyone. I'm not sure if the show is trying enough.

    I'm really trying not to sound spoiled here because in my head, it sounds petty to say such a thing. Maybe because I really wanted this to be better than it appears to be. We've had loads of shows (one in particular we celebrate here, of course) that shows us that when television tries, it's more awesome than you know what to do with. I just feel like Dragons is playing things too safely by merely running with the idea of Dragon's and Vikings living together unharmoniously. Where's the greater exploration of the world around them? The extra details on the dragons is nice but kinda unnecessary at this point. We know quite a bit about the types of dragon, why not go find new ones rather than wait for them to just turn up? We have creatures able to traverse continents within hours, how about visiting new villages? Burk doesn't appear to have anything knew to offer, which is why all the new danger is coming in from the outside. Dangers like Alvin, for example. Maybe seeing what the rest of the world is doing? Are there other mythological creatures? I mean, Dragons verses...I dunno, manicores would be awesome to see. Just something game changing?

    Although, we're only 7 episodes in. There's likely to be more to this in time.

    Now, how about presentation? The film was very pretty. It was able to make all the cliffs and the characters look and sound memorable. The dragons were varied without looking stupid or overly complicated and the key characters were able to give good performances. Even if the kids were American and the adults were Scottish.

    The show appears to suffer with far shorter deadlines as most of the above doesn't return. The polish to all the textures is lessened, because they have to kick around 20 of these things out the door ASAP. Thankfully, Jay Baruchel returns to voice Hiccup while a decent impersonator voices Gobber. Sadly, Stoic no longer has Gerard Butler to give him the commanding tones he enjoyed in the film and get's Nolan North instead. It's a noticeable but acceptable change.

    The humour of the film does manage to come back, but feels far more hit and miss this time round. The teenagers of Berk take a far larger part in the stories and so tend to become the comic relief when Gobber or the new character Bucket isn't around. The same sort of personalities are still present. Snotlout (the one that looks like a young Jack Black) is still arrogant, Fishlegs (the fat one) is still rather geeky and Ruffnut and Tuffnut (the twins) are still slightly homicidal. Astrid, on the other hand, has barely anything to do currently except sort of be there. I think there's a single reprisal of the "And that is for X" thing but other wise she spends a lot of time standing around while the others tell the jokes. It seems a shame that they can't find anything for her in particular to be doing when she was the love interest in the film.

    I sound like I'm rather disgruntled by Dragons and I'm not. It's certainly trying but I can't say I'm 100% feeling it with this. Cast changes and the slight downgrade in visual quality is fine, I can forgive that but the stories being told aren't compensating. Dragons is entertaining but there doesn't seem to be much of a spark to what's happening, apparently not learning from anything Pokemon as to teach with a similar set up. You'll probably jump to the end of the story long before any of the characters will. Probably for the fans only.