Monday, 26 September 2011

Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 - DS review

An edited version of this review can be found at BeefJack

The human collecting instinct does not recognise borders. We will catch them all, even if it means jumping to another franchise to do so. Dragon Quest is that franchise as Dragon Quest Monsters: Joker 2 comes in for BeefJack scrutiny.

The Dragon Quest canon is very dear to the hearts of Japanese gamers, its legacy spans twenty-five years with thirty-five official DQ titles released on ten consoles. A Dragon Quest game in Japan is preceded by months of hype during which pre-order sales will out-strip the worth of the remainder of the game charts. In the days leading up to release, videogame retailers will hire extra staff in anticipation of the imminent, monumental sales uplift. Those staff members will step over the sleeping bags and sidle around the tents set up on the pavement by Dragon Quest otaku, eager to be first on their block to play the latest instalment.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

Spider-Man: The Edge of Time preview

An edited version of this preview can be found at BeefJack

With the 50th anniversary of everybody's favourite neighbourhood web-slinger approaching, not to mention pressure from a certain Dark Knight, developer Beenox have a lot to prove with their second stab at a well-loved franchise. Will Marvel's brightest star be dazzling enough to extinguish the looming shadow of DC's Batman: Arkham City, or will SPIDER-MAN: THE EDGE OF TIME merely be a superhero stop-gap until Rocksteady roll out the big gun?

Beenox had a hit on their hands with their previous game, Spider-Man: Shattered Dimensions. So much so that Activision officially announced that the New York-based hero's future outings would thereafter be handled exclusively by the Quebec studio. But with Spider-Man comes a 50-year timeline more convoluted and confusing than the United Kingdom's Royal Family and Sonic the Hedgehog's family trees combined: there have been, to date, 21 different 'versions' of Spidey ranging from red and blue suited reboots, to a black suited noir interpretation (not to mention the best forgotten Spectacular Spider-Ham of the 1980's).

From Dust - XBLA review

An edited version of this review can be found at Gamer-UK

From Dust is not the game the previews would have you believe it is. Hailed in its inception and during production as a ‘God’ game, From Dust gives the player very little control over much but the, admittedly impressive, landscape. You are constantly at the mercy of the (for the most part) unpredictable and (always) brutal weather/natural disaster combo and as a result are rendered almost as hapless as the minions you are charged with shepherding from one ‘totem’ to the next.

OK, so let me spread this out for you. From Dust is a landscape sculpting game. A JCB simulator, if you like. Once the initial Godly novelty of moving mountains wears off – it doesn’t take long – what you are left with is a whole heap of dirt that has to be moved from one place to another. The reason for this mass excavation? To populate an increasingly hostile world with Tribes-people. Acting as The Breath, it is your job care for these mindless settlers as they wander, somewhat aimlessly (I'll come back to the AI soon), across the sand and soil until they are shepherded by your Almighty excavations to a previously placed Totem. These totems mark safe ground for your little people to settle and populate.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

The Great Batman: Arkham City Preview Swindle

Not sure how to feel about this. A while ago I wrote a Batman: Arkham City preview for BeefJack. It was very well received. Largest day one traffic for a preview in the history of the site. A few thousand visitors I'm led to believe.
Was one of those visitors Edge magazine editor, Tony Mott?
I ask because the latest issue of Edge (231) carries an editorial that bears more than a passing similarity to my BeefJack preview.

The 'offending' article. Click for bigger.

For an amateur videogame writer such as myself, to have one of his best jobs ripped off by one of the most respected videogame publications in the world is probably something I should be angry about.
But I'm not. Because that's probably not what happened.
The more likely scenario is that something about Batman: Arkham City needed to be written on BeefJack, I picked an angle and followed it through to it's logical conclusion. Tony Mott, weeks later, unwittingly chose the same angle and logic also prevailed.
So what I'm left with is something approaching pride. Pride in my ability to suck the juice out of a story just as well as the editor of Edge.
And there you have it.
I'm sure Edge will be calling me any moment now to hire me.
Any moment...

now. Any moment...

*checks phone* *yes there's a dialling tone* 

*waits patiently*...

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Wipeout Pure - PSP Go review

An edited version of this review can be found at GamePeople

Wipeout Pure - PSP Go review

At its core, Studio Liverpool’s Wipeout Pure for PSP is the game any Wipeout fan would expect; pilot ludicrously fast anti-gravity racers around futuristic raceways of increasing difficulty against AI opponents (or humans over wifi). But since its 32bit roots each subsequent instalment has added feature upon feature with critically diminishing returns. Studio Liverpool have clearly recognised that the franchise has lost a little of the initial appeal with every tacked on addition and in developing Wipeout Pure they first took a machete to the previous instalments and kick-started a decelerating franchise in the process. 

Friday, 5 August 2011

'Athena' - Big Dumb Sci-fi

Finished. Kaput. Finito. 
Open University Creative writing module A215 has breathed its last. Below is the final piece that I submitted. It is clearly, hugely derivative of James Cameron's output but that is what I was going for. I wanted to see if I could write Big Dumb Action.
Perhaps a final exam is not the best time to flex those muscles and I should possibly have gone for a theme that leaned more towards the cerebral as opposed to the visceral. But, I made my decision and I stand by my opinion that this is Quite Good Actually.
The Open University examiners felt a little differently, however. Oh, I passed. But only by the skin of my teeth. My overall output during the course of the year earned me 76/100. The piece you're about to read was marked separately and scored me a Grade 3 Pass. Which is a score that sits sheepishly somewhere between 55 and 69.
If you haven't read all of my Open University stuff and feel like catching up, here you go:

Lessons learned: 
  • Give myself more time to write assignments.
  • Prepare.
  • Read the bloody books I get sent.
  • Don't stick to one particular theme. Broaden my scope.
Next up is A363 Advanced Creative Writing. Applied for and starting in October. Must try harder.
But... I still think the story below is fucking ace.

Chapter 1 of a book that doesn't exist.

I had a nightmare that I was born on a battle-field. As a 19 year old baby I screwed my eyes closed tightly and clutched cold metal to my chest in a comforting embrace. Blind, knew nothing of my surroundings other than what my remaining senses told me. I heard thunder; rumbles and cracks that at times felt distant and mountainous, at others at such close quarters that I felt pain. Cold, wetness spattered my face, giving temporary relief to my burning cheeks. Shouts and screams accompanied footfall either side of me, the muffled, hurried treading of dozens passing me on their way to God knows where. The ground beneath my knees shook. Fireworks exploded in my nerve endings as my shoulders were grabbed and I was hauled to my feet by unseen hands. Opening my eyes filled my life with light and provided such a shock that the rest of my senses shut down. Numb and deaf I saw an ashen face in front of mine; so close that it filled my vision. It was the face of desperate anger; covered in grey dust, a foundation of grime that did its best to hide cuts and grazes filled with blood and oil. The coating of dust did nothing, though, to hide the man’s craggy, scarred complexion; and was even more ill equipped to hide the fear in his eyes. I dumbly watched his mouth open and close in silent roars. I tasted his saliva and saw in his passion and urgency that his main concern was making sure that whatever it was that I was doing, I should stop doing it and start doing something different. He held me by the shoulders and he was strong. Turning his attention away from me for a moment, I saw in his thick grey hair dried blood and more of the grey dust that covered his forehead and nose, and coloured his eyebrows. The desperate man turned to face me again, he let go of my shoulders and grabbed the assault rifle that I had been holding against my chest. He didn’t take it from me and I didn’t or couldn’t let go, he just shook it and slammed it against my ribs three times, mouthing a silent refrain. Then he let go of me entirely, stared a stare that filled my blood vessels, turned on his heel and ran. The black tunnel of my vision could only take in his retreating form. Knowing of no other option, I followed.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Metal Gear Solid - PSP review

An edited version of this review can be found at

Metal Gear Solid - PSP review

1998’s 3rd person action adventure Metal Gear Solid by Konami is the game that popularised the concept of stealth based gameplay and birthed a whole genre in its wake. Without the influence of MGS gamers would, arguably, never have had the pleasure of games such as Hitman, Splinter Cell or Thief; all games that used stealth as a selling point and discouraged combat wherever possible, much of the gameplay being taken up by lurking in a shadow until an opportunity arose for evasion.

But that was last century and, a few key titles aside, gamers quickly tired of pussyfooting around; turns out, all they want to do now is to overcome their enemies graphically and violently. So, recently, stealth as a genre has become something of a dirty word in video games. Recent successes like Bulletsorm, Gears of War, and the forthcoming Duke Nukem Forever are currently leading the charge in a torrent of all-out, gung-go, run-towards-the-enemy-screaming types of games. Even Metal Gears latest instalment, Metal Gear: Rising, has sensed the changing wind, having recently seen its development taken over by Platinum Games; the studio responsible for Bayonetta and Vanquish; two very high octane video games in which hiding in a cardboard box is tantamount to suicide.

Friday, 1 July 2011

Batman: Arkham City preview

This preview can also be found at

BATMAN: ARKHAM CITY marks the 36th videogame outing for the caped crusader in 25 years. And how many times have developers got it right? A mere handful. Arkham Asylum broke the trend but will Arkham City continue the legacy of Batman games that are worth a Bat-fan's time and money?

Sunday, 26 June 2011

BeefJack - Week one

... went quite well. I've done two news shifts so far (will be doing three a week from now on) and apart from a few teething issues regarding finding my way around the WordPress system I think I got a handle on how things work there pretty quickly.
The team is incredibly supportive and are happy to let me go at my own pace. They encourage questions and give constant feedback because, ultimately, helping me improve as a writer helps the site gain credibility.
All the staff writers are voluntary (for now) and are very talented and write for BeefJack because they love videogames, they love to write, and they love to write about videogames.
Yes, this is a plug. Yes, you should visit BeefJack daily. 
And you should follow them on Twitter

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Tron: Evolution - PlayStation3 review

An edited version of this review can be found at

Tron: Evolution - PlayStation3 review

Tron: Evolution by Propaganda Games is a brand extension of the hit 2010 Disney sequel, Tron Legacy. I specifically use the words ‘brand extension’ and not ‘film tie-in’ or ‘the game of the film’ because those phrases bring to mind games of years past, games better forgotten; Home Alone, Hudson Hawk, Avatar, Superman Returns and the industry crashing phenomenon that was E.T. for the Atari 2600 among many, many other examples of a product rushed to market to meet the release date of the movie the game is based on. As a veteran gamer of more than twenty five years I have come to view games based on film franchises with something beyond suspicion.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2011 - PlayStation3 review

An edited version of this review can be found at

Tiger Woods PGA Tour Golf 2011

Electronic Arts really like their menus. In my mind’s eye I see EA employing a whole building of staff whose job it is to make it as inconvenient and complicated as possibly for the player to actually start playing the game.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11 for the Playstation 3 is such an assault course of idiot filtering menu selections that I was half hoping for a Trophy announcement to pop onto the top of my screen when I had finally navigated my way to a golf course. One of the first obstacles, after a brief argument with my PS3 because, no I did not want to connect to the EA multiplayer servers just yet thankyouverymuch, was the character creation process that, although skippable, is positively encouraged by the game. Now, in a strange twist of fate, the default ‘Average Joe Golfer’ avatar was already a dead ringer for me so I could have saved myself a chunk of time by just ‘x’ing my way through the whole process. But I do like to tinker. So after twenty or so minutes of jaw squaring and sponsor choosing I was ready to take my, slightly broader shouldered self-representation out onto the fairway to ruin a good walk with a game of golf.

Friday, 3 June 2011

Exciting news

I will be neglecting this blog for the next few weeks due to the wonderful people at reading my stuff here and inviting me to be a regular part of their team. The standard there is high and the rate at which those guys get video game news out to people seems pretty intense and I'm going to have to work really hard to stay afloat.

I'm proud to be a part of the team who's job it is to keep the 150,000 monthly visitors returning for regular video game related news updates, previews, reviews and exclusive interviews.

Here at Fivehundredwords Towers, however, things are gonna slow down to a steady crawl for the time being. I will still be posting my works of fiction that have been submitted for my creative writing course and I would be made up if you returned occasionally to see how I may be improving in that respect.

But, in the meantime, get yourself to beefjack for up to the minute gaming news!

Don't forget to keep visiting gamepeople where I am still posting reviews of some of my favourite games; my review of Tron: Evolution for the PlayStation 3 is live NOW and we always appreciate your clicks. Clicks, after all, are the currency of the internets.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Monsters (probably) Stole My Princess - a PSP review

The edited version of this review can be found on
What follows is the original, unedited review.

Developments - A short work of fiction

A  young man looked up at the wall clock just in time to see the minute hand lurch, treacle slow, from 59 to 12. The hour hand imperceptibly followed suit. Midnight. 

The house opposite: A free-write

In the house opposite the lights are never on. Three windows are visible from the front and each
is dirty or defaced in a different way. The smallest window, first floor above the blue front door,
is thick with dust on the inside, grime from street pollution on the outside. On the lower half of
 this window there is a small clean circle, like that a child might make if he or she was curious
about what the weather was like, or to see if those footsteps on the path belonged to the postman, or a curious neighbor come to peer through the letterbox again.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Whiteout - A short story

I'm not going to pretend I'm pleased with this one. Knocked out in a couple of hours this is yet another example of a missed opportunity; something could have been produced that I was actually happy with had I spent more than one evening on it. I felt it was rushed and the concept, contrived.
However, this latest assignment for my creative writing course scored me a respectable 77/100 (62/80 for main piece, 15/20 for the reflective commentary). A score that underlines how much more I could have accomplished if I had taken more time.
The brief was to write a short story for submission to a magazine. The magazine had to be researched to make sure the piece was suitable and within their submission specifications. Anyway... I decided to go Sci-Fi and pick the magazine Interzone.
My story is called Whiteout.
And here it is... followed by my own commentary and then my tutors comments at the end. Quite wordy, attention and commitment levels may vary. Congratulations in advance if you make it to the end, and thanks too.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Paintins wot i dun

Acrylic pantings wot I dun years ago. Recorded here for posterity now that I have closed my DeviantArt account.

A naked lady (it's Courtney Love btw)

Car booty

I'm thinking of having a T-shirt printed. It will be my special Sunday morning T-shirt. I shall puff out my chest and wear it with pride. It will be black (for what other T-shirt colours are there?!) with white writing on and it will spaketh thusly.



My Dad is a legend. Many years ago while working as an aeroplane mechanic he, at my request, took one of my joysticks to work, placed it in the engine of a bloody big 'plane and took a picture of it. I don't remember if he complained or had to be convinced or told me to grow up but he did it. All so I could get my name into the greatest magazine of my youth, Zero. Here is the result.

I make a vow now that if my son ever asks me to do something ridiculous in the name of gaming I will say yes without hesitation. Cheers dad.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Life writing

I'm almost at the end of my creative writing course. Just two more assignments to go. I have tried to keep my main focus of writing as video-gamey as possible but this one goes off on a more dramatic tangent that I really enjoyed producing. The piece scored 79/100 (70/80 for the main piece, 9/20 for the commentary) and the theme for this assignment was 'life writing'. Something about a human being, written from the perspective of a human being, detailing a specific incident or series of incidents. Although my story was very well received by my assessor, my commentary wasn't and significantly let my score down, so it is omitted here. I have, however, included some of the feedback I received.

Alone in class 5C

Alone in class 5c. Break-time. The noise felt like it had gone on forever. I was very proud of my reactions. From the second I heard the glass window smash I was already rolling off my chair and folding my body into a defensive position. Not sure whether it was safe yet to stand or even raise my head I crouched by my desk with my head between my knees, like a counter clerk during a bank raid. I felt the blood drain from my face. It felt numb and bloated and my ears burned. My joints felt hollow as if they would not hold my weight had I the courage to stand. My hands were clasped to stop them shaking. They were cold. I rocked on my feet ever so slightly and felt broken glass grind against broken glass beneath the rubber of my well-worn school shoes.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Nothing rhymes with Pokemon, man... the results show. Starring Judgemental Rabbit

Just a quick update. The scores are in for my premier bash at being a poetic shoe-gazer. I got a (drum-roll please) 76/100. Which I'm actually rather pleased with. My assessor was very positive about the poems themselves, less positive was he about my commentary which could have done with more info on the actual process of writing as opposed to my intent. The poems, in personal hind-sight, could have done with a little more editing. 
I'll bear that in mind for next time.
There will not be a next time.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Nothing rhymes with Pokemon, man

I know very, very little about poetry. I know that I like Poe's The Raven , and Rime of the Ancient Mariner thanks to Iron Maiden. I'm pretty sure that to be a good poet you have to have been dead for a few years. I own books by dead poets and, by and large, enjoy them occasionally.
What follows is something that was a requirement for my creative writing course. I had to write forty lines of poem and a five hundred word commentary.
So I pulled on my favourite beret and black turtle-neck and gave it a shot. And here it is, Cat.
You could skip straight to the poems but please read the commentary first you can see what I was at least attempting. Let me know if you dig, you dig? Cool.

Friday, 18 February 2011

I don't know...

... how to play backgammon, how to drive, how 'planes fly, my seven times table past 27, how long until an egg is hard boiled, more than ten words in any language other than English, the difference between a womb and a uterus if there is one, my own favourite colour, whether I like poetry or pretend to, if it should look like that, how the internet works, why I should have to change my jeans more frequently than once a week, where the stop cock is, how much money is in my bank account, whether I should be using commas or semi-colons, what taking cocaine feels like, the offside rule, how to spell nesessary, how to change a plug, more than one way to tie a tie, my home phone number, or my blood type.

But I do know...

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Losing interest in comics

Tears of frustration not pictured.

I like to think I've got my priorities in order. I know what sits at the top, lording it over lesser priorities: family, eating etc. and I know what dwells in the dungeon of my concerns, barely surviving on the scraps of attention thrown down to it. It's pitiful really. That medieval dungeon of ill worth is becoming more overcrowded by the day. I went in to town today to give my Interest In Comics a breath of fresh air. He is a long-termer. The low priorities that share his cell call him a Lifer. When I grabbed Heavy Metal by his studded collar and bullet belt and threw him on the bedding straw, old Comics was already there, leafing through a copy of Previews that was already four years old. Inmates come and go. Even Sleeping, Grooming and Video Games have had short stays in the antechamber of apathy.
One day I'll stroll down the stone steps to the damp dungeon, rattling my keys and inform an exhausted and emaciated Interest In Films that he has served his time and is free to run amok in my mind and my wallet. He will, no doubt, be elated with the news of his release and before I help him up off the cold floor and out towards the light he may glance at old Comics then back at me, sunken eyes full of hope for his cellmate. It's likely I'll just shake my head and lock the door. And poor old Comics, well... he probably didn't even notice that I had come in.
My visit, today, to Forbidden Planet only served to reaffirm a future I already suspected. I will never again be 'into' comics.
Throw away the key... for they've come too far and become too many.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Motorstorm: Arctic Edge for the PSPGo ... and huds

HUDs or Heads Up Displays traditionally are tools employed by video game developers to inform the player of various status changes within the game. Changes that occur, for example, to the game score, time elapsed, health or ammunition remaining, etc. are displayed in a manner befitting the type of game they are in usually around the periphery of the main playing area and, when done right, can enhance the play experience.
I really like HUDs at times like when they are very creatively 'written into' the core game experience (Dead Space's backpack mounted health bar and Metroid Prime's visor projection of status being a ... prime example). If not they just tend to get in my way and distract. 

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Initial thoughts on those ten free PSPGo games

My PSP Go is about a fortnight old now, and of the ten free games that I downloaded on day one, my thumbs' physical memory is already skipping past a few of them on the XMB without my brain having to intervene. They (the Thumbs Of Power) have decreed what will be played and what will not, and in their small way (ie. pressing the space-bar) they will now do their bit to help organise my thoughts into transcibable words below. 

Batman Returns for the Sega Mega Drive

Batman Returns (1992) - Sega
Sega Megadrive
Also for Sega CD, Amiga, Atari ST, SNES, Atari Lynx, PC, Sega Master System, Gamegear

Tuesday, 8 February 2011

vampires suck (or something much wittier about how disappointed i was by the latest castlevania game, lords of shadow)

So, I turned my Playstation 3 off. Not in disgust but in disappointment. After loving, and completing, Batman Arkham Asylum this seemed like my kind of game. One that I had been very much looking forward to. A rich looking, Gothic 3D action adventure with hand-to-hand combat and exploration and puzzle solving. The developer (Kojima Studios) and the publisher (Konami) both have a high success rate in the category of Games What I Like. So what went wrong, for me? I emphasise the subjectiveness because I believe this to be a great game in the opinions of many. Had the review scores not been so favourable I wouldn't have bothered playing it. I recognise that it is not a 'bad game' in the same way that I recognise that Citizen Kane or The Ten Commandments are not 'bad movies'. Retro-viewed contextually they are difficult films to fault in the respect of scope, grandieur and technical achievement. They're just not My Kind of movies.

Monday, 7 February 2011

my atari lynx II

I love my Atari Lynx II. The screen is too small. It eats 6 AA's a day. The resolution is pitiful when compared to, closest rival, the Sega Game Gear. It's cumbersome to hold. I've only got one game for it. There are only four or five games that I even want to play on it. But it is easily one of my favourite gaming items.

Batman Begins for the PlayStation2

Batman Begins - 2005
Action Adventure
Electronic Arts
Developed by Eurocom
Also for Gamecube, Xbox, Gameboy Advance and Playstation Portable.

Sunday, 6 February 2011


It's not my birthday until march but thanks to some shrewd negotiating on my part I managed to pry my present from my girlfriends grasp with the promise of beauty products. It's a general rule of mine to be as disinterested and apathetic as possible with regards to new gaming technology at least until it is affordable. On the whole these things become affordable when  they are succeeded by newer tech. So, it was with the announcement of the PSP2 (or NGP) that I suddenly became filled with an all encompassing desire to own a PSP.