Sunday, 30 June 2013

Today's Review: Passion Fruit

Passion fruits are one of the staple flavours of the "tropical" persuasion, and is featured in many an exotic juice or yoghurt. The flavour is very sweet, but also quite tangy, and is quite delicious really. But that's just the juicy version. What of the fruit itself? Well, it's very weird.

Passion fruits are small, about the size of a kiwi (the fruit, not the bird, although I don't know how big kiwi birds are). The outsides are pretty tough, even if they do get a bit wrinkly, so slicing them in half is essential. Upon doing so you are treated to some fantastically moist innards consisting of pulp and a butt load of seeds. Obviously, the pulp is where the flavour lies, that distinctive sweet taste. This is very smooth, and quite satisfying. The seeds, on the other hand, are pretty much inedible. I've tried many a time to crunch these little buggers in my teeth and have only managed to a few times. Still, it's hard to eat around them, and they certainly won't kill you, besides, the juiciness of the pulp makes swallowing the damn things a breeze.

Passion fruits are certainly tasty, but I just wish there weren't so many seeds, they spoil the whole experience for me. I think I'll just leave it up to the professionals to distill that flavour into a drinkable. form. Much easier.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, 29 June 2013

Today's Review: Getting An Electric Shock From Your Toaster

The toaster is a staple kitchen appliance. It sits there all day, longing for the moment when it can warm up your bread, or anything else you stick in it, to crispy perfection. The toaster lives to toast, it's designed to toast. What it's not designed for is administering electric shocks.

Granted, it was my fault. The wire of my toaster melted a little in an accident of my creation, leaving the innards slightly exposed. But the toaster still functioned perfectly, apart from when I couldn't figure out exactly what to turn the knob up to for automatic perfect toast pop up. But again, that's my problem. There the toaster sat, it's life giving umbilical cord damaged, still performing its duties. Then I got a bit too eager with a wet sponge cleaning down the sides, and a bit too forgetful of the wire situation, and a sharp jolt and some painful thumbs later, my toaster had betrayed me, shocked me.

Electric shocks suck. They're not all that bad, but this one was quite strong, especially as it came from my toaster. If expect burns from retrieving errant scones and crumpets, but never a shock. But really I have no one to blame but myself. I should have put the toaster to rest when it was first wounded. Oh well, at least I'm not dead or seriously injured, although it hurt pretty badly at the time. Getting electrocuted by a toaster is not a nice experience.

My rating: 1/5

Friday, 28 June 2013

Today's Review: Fruit Pastilles Orchard Fruits

It's a new kind of fruit pastilles, and this one hosts a variety of fruits that grow in orchards. The trouble is that I'm not sure exactly what they're supposed to be.

The colours are probably a good place to start. We have green, orange, red and purple pastilles, but the ingredients say the only fruit juices present are apple and grape. This leaves orange to apparently be some strange hybrid of flavours that is meant to taste something like oranges. It doesn't. In fact, all these pastilles taste a bit off, certainly not like some quaint orchard fruit. The green is probably the nicest, with a nice smooth flavour. The orange just tastes like no orange sweet should taste, and the red and purple are actually quite sickly in their sweetness. It was a good try from Rowntrees, and these sweets are quite nice, but they're not a patch on the original pastilles.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Today's Review: My Turkish Barber Experience

There's a Turkish barber near mine that is pretty cheap, and though I have enjoyed a nice shave there, the last time I went there for my barnet I was a victim of the insufferable indignity of having my hair a bit too short for my liking. Needless to say, it put me off, so my last few cuts have been given to someone a bit heavier on my wallet. But today, since times are tough and pennies are short, I took the plunge and went in for that elusive £10 haircut.

I was directed to my chair by a young man. I don't know his name, because I'm one of those people who makes hairdressers uncomfortable by not engaging in small talk. Although it might just be me that feels uncomfortable. Anyway, after saying several times that I would like my hair "short, but not too short", and showing him a picture of my short haired self with the key part blocked by my iPhone clock, he promptly went to work on my sides with a buzzer.

This scared me. I've heard a few tales of buzz cuts gone wrong, and have regularly thought buzzers were reserved for number ones or skinhead style. But after a few minutes of deft swipes around my ears, I still had some hair left, so that was good for me. He'd also fiddled around with the back, and since I couldn't see it that created some suspense for me. But I didn't have much time to dwell on it before the barber picked up the scissors.

I know how the regular haircut goes. Hair brushed, parted, measured, cut, repeated. I was well prepared to be in for the slow ride. What I was not prepare for was the whirlwind of scary barber turbulence that was unleashed across my scalp. Hair was grabbed, combed and snipped, at speeds upwards of 3 snips per second. A recipe for disaster you may think, but this man knew what he was doing.

In mere minutes my hair was short, uniform, and my fringe actually at a length I found satisfactory. That's hardly ever happened straight after a cut. After the initial cut, the same clipping frenzy began with thinning scissors, and after a few blasts with the hair dryer to get rid of the clippings, I was done. I could only agree with the few words that the man had uttered since he began, like "excellente" and "perfecto". In those minutes I had become a man. A man with sorter hair that is. But damn, is it a good head of hair.

This barber clearly has some kind of hair based superpower. He knew exactly what he was doing and wasted no time doing it. There were a few times where his frantic grabbing and snipping caused his comb to smack me lightly in the face. It seemed too regular to be accidental, perhaps he had a bet with his coworkers to see how many times he can assault his customers, but I was too impressed with the speed and quality of his work to care about it too much. I clearly misjudged the Turkish barber, and I will definitely be returning for that low price, super fast hair cut. 

My rating: 5/5

Wednesday, 26 June 2013

Today's Review: Raspberry Ripple Mini Rolls

I do enjoy a good old fashioned Mini Roll. So the thought of enjoying a new fashioned one was good too. This raspberry ripple flavour goes hand in hand with a mint chocolate one that make up a new "ice cream" range, just in time for summer. Since I don't like mint chocolate, I just tried this one.

It's basically the same as a regular Mini Roll, but with a bold raspberry flavour. It's very sweet, and perhaps a little overpowering. I think it's because in this variety the cream is also raspberry flavoured, whereas in the regular kind the strawberry is only contained in the jammy swirls. But here we have an almost sickly sweet raspberry flavoured, squishy roll that isn't too satisfying to eat.

But that's not all. The packet implored me to try these frozen, so I did, in the interest of science. I must say that freezing these Mini Rolls makes them taste a lot better. They lose their squidginess, and the creamy filling certainly takes on an ice cream consistency. So while these aren't all that great in their regular state, freezing them kicks them up a notch. Still, a little too sickly for my liking. 

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Today's Review: Bob Marley's Mellow Mood: Mango

Hey, looks like another energy drink. But it's not, in fact I think it's meant to be quite the opposite, putting you in a mellow mood. The description states that it is a "low calorie soft drink with herbal extracts and guava-mango flavour", and given the baffling usage of Bob Marley's name and visage, I think we can all assume what those "herbal extracts" are, am I right?

Well, no, they're probably not putting weed in drinks, but they must be doing something right, because this is very tasty. I'm a sucker for tropical juices, and while I love the Rubicon mango juice offering, it was always a little bold for my tastes. This drink certainly lives up to its names, with a mellow, sparkling flavour that doesn't overwhelm the senses. It's a refreshing mango drink, and it's a decent size too. I'll have to try out the other flavours.

My rating: 5/5

Monday, 24 June 2013

Today's Review: Rowntree's Randoms Rip'ems

These are a funny sweet, in fact, they're quite random. Phnar phnar. Contained in this packet are two strips of chewy candy, separated into four different flavours. The idea, obviously, is to rip 'em, because everyone needs a novel and exciting way to eat their sweets.

Unfortunately, it is kind of hard to discern the flavours, because they're not very nice. The packaging informs me that these strips contain 25% fruit juice, but the ingredients don't tell me what those fruits are. The colours suggest we have lemon, orange, strawberry and blackcurrant, but the resulting flavour is something like the elongated innards of jelly beans. So they're chewy, with the texture of a fruit winder, but with some weird flavours that leave a not too nice aftertaste. Still, they're not awful, still fruity, slightly juicy. They're just not very nice, and certainly nowhere near as nice as the regular Randoms.

My rating: 2/5

Sunday, 23 June 2013

Today's Review: Handles

Can you imagine a world without handles? I can, it's one where everything would be very difficult. We wouldn't be able to pick up suitcases, open doors, carry bags. I probably use more handles a day than I realise. Every time I cook, eat, walk from room to room, a handle is in use. Without handles I probably wouldn't bother getting out of bed in the morning. If I were old and decrepit I wouldn't be able to.

So here's to those pieces of material sculpted for our hands to wrap around. Handles are one of the core ingredients of our society. They allow us to feed ourselves, to transport our items, operate machinery, the possibilities are endless. Thank you, handles.

My rating: 5/5

Saturday, 22 June 2013

Today's Review: Stabbing Yourself With A Needle

I've managed to stab myself with a needle twice today. It's certainly not a pleasant experience. There I was, minding my own business, wielding a sharp needle in a responsible fashion, when a small slip sent it plunging into my finger. A sharp pain, a spot of blood, all the signs of injury, but after the initial onset there's not much more.

So yes, stabbing yourself with a needle is probably not a wise move, but as far as injuries go it's one of the best you can have. There may be slight bleeding, but it stops almost instantly. There's only a small hole to clot after all. I can't even remember where I stabbed myself. Other small injuries like paper cuts could last for days, still painful. But pin pricks are certainly not pricks. You even have to pin prick yourself for the good of your body if you have diabetes. So while its not great to stab yourself with needles, it's certainly not an awful thing.

My rating: 2/5

Friday, 21 June 2013

Today's Review: Chef Aid Digital Timer

Due to my egg timer breaking some time ago, I was somewhat hopelessly lost in the timeless void of my kitchen, having to rely on archaic clocks instead of an assertive ringing to let me know when my food was cooked. Sure, I could have used the timer on my iPhone, but a timer is an integral part of the kitchen experience, I shouldn't have to equip my smart phone every time I want to make dinner. 

Well, after searching around for a reasonably priced egg timer, I soon found there wasn't one, and stumbled upon this digital one instead. It looked pretty nifty at first glance. Digital display, ability to time down to the seconds, it even has a stand and a magnet, so you can put it on your fridge or the counter top. It's overall very simple to use. I mean, just look at the picture, I'm sure you already know how to use it.

Unfortunately its simplicity is also its downfall. You see, to set the time you require a countdown of, you have to press either the minute or second button, which increases the respective unit by one. That's all well and good, until you need something to cook for half an hour or more. Every time you push the button, it emits a loud beeping, and even if you hold it down to make the process faster, your ears are meet with a screeching cacophony, and if you miss the time you were aiming for you have to go round again, because there's no back button. Genius.

So there you have it, a simple digital timer that will easily annoy the hell out of you. I have very mixed feelings about this device. 

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, 20 June 2013

Today's Review: Cotton Wool Balls

When you have a newborn baby, the advice generally given is that you shouldn't use baby wipes on their supple behind (despite the fact that it says "baby" in the name). The consensus is that cotton wool balls and water works best. But cotton wool balls suck.

Sure, as a means to clean something, they are somewhat effective. Just put them in a little water and they soak it up like a sponge, creating a nice wet, soft tool with which to clean what you like. But the thing about cotton wool balls is that they're inherently fragile, and tiny bits or strands of cotton can peel off at any moment, and they do. So despite giving a good clean, there's a good chance you'll be left with tiny, soaked cotton pieces all over the place. As far as baby's behinds go, they say to use a dry piece of cotton wool to mop up the remaining moisture from cleaning, and that's even worse, as you leave a trail of wispy, dry, cotton that's hard to pick off.

I suppose cotton wool balls can be useful, but they aren't for anything I do. We have sponges, baby wipes, toilet paper, any number of assorted cleaning and drying products that are infinitely less annoying. Hell, even if you have to use cotton wool, cotton buds are better, as they're less likely to unravel than a giant, uncontrollable ball of cotton. When the supply of cotton wool balls runs out in my house, I breathe a sigh of relief.

My rating: 1/5

Wednesday, 19 June 2013

Today's Review: Cadbury Fabulous Honeycomb Fingers

What makes a finger a fabulous finger? I don't know, probably the jacked up price. Well, I picked these up for £1, so it wasn't too bad, but there are significantly less than in your regular old Fingers packs. These fabulous fingers boast a honeycomb biscuit centre instead of the normal kind. There's also a layer of white chocolate in between, so very fancy all around.

These are actually very nice. They're like miniature Crunchies, if Crunchies had a biscuit middle and some white chocolate stuffed in them, but you get my drift. The honeycomb flavour is quite bold and tasty, and these fingers certainly melt in your mouth, if you can fit a whole one in. Despite my desire to eat these in two sittings, I polished off the box in no time at all, so they certainly get a thumbs up from me.

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Today's Review: Peanut Butter Whoppers

I love Whoppers. I love Reese's. These are Reese's Whoppers, so by simple addition (multiplication? I don't know how food maths works) I should love them double. Instead of the regular chocolate that these malted milk balls are normally covered in, this special variety has Reese's peanut butter flavour candy on the outside. So while both foods have chocolate as a key ingredient, in this case there is none in sight. Is that a bad thing?

Well, not really. The candy is pretty much like chocolate. Smooth, creamy, and melts in the mouth. It certainly has that bold peanut butter flavour that Reese's normally has, and coupled with the malted milk ball inside it's a pretty nice flavour combination. For those of you not familiar with Whoppers, these pretty much taste like peanut butter Maltesers, and they are very nice. If you can find a box, it's well worth springing that money for.

My rating: 5/5

Monday, 17 June 2013

Today's Review: New York Bakery Co. Blueberry Bagels

As far as my bagel intake is concerned, there is no company that has provided me with more bagel satisfaction than the New York Bakery Co. I have devoured their plain, betrayed my regular tastes and delved into cinnamon and raisin, and lightly skimmed over the sesame. But now there's a whole new line of bagel varieties out, one of which being this limited edition blueberry.Sounds weird, right? Blueberries in a bagel? But hey, we have raisins in bagels, why not blueberries?

But really, it is a bit weird. Sure, they taste good, and there are a lot of them crammed in there. It adds a nice sweet kick that will brighten up your breakfast (or whenever it is you eat bagels). But the first one of these I tried, I put some cream cheese on top, and cream cheese on a blueberry bagel tastes a bit odd. Still, I've tried the rest with just a dollop of butter, and they're certainly very enjoyable. So while these bagels do limit my filling options for fear of weird tastes (I don't really fancy trying smoked salmon and blueberries), these are certainly a very nice sort of bagel.

My rating: 4/5

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Today's Review: McVitie's Lemon Cheesecake Digestives

"Lemon cheesecake, in the middle of digestives? That's weird", I thought, picking up this packet and throwing it into my trolley. It wasn't until later, while biting into it, that I realised that digestives are a key component in cheesecakes. So let's move on from that moment of stupidity.

After smothering their digestives in various kinds of chocolate over the years, McVitie's have just decided to shove things in the middle of them instead, custard cream style. So we have the godly-sounding creation of lemon and vanilla cheesecake digestives. I only went for the lemon today, but I'm curious about how the vanilla holds up. These biscuits are basically like two mini cheesecakes, with a subtantial amount of cheese scraped off, then wedged together like a sandwich. Or more basically, like two mini digestives with some cheesecake topping spread in between. However you wanna slice it. The filling is actually pretty nice, very creamy and tasty, with a zingy lemon flavour. It's just a shame that the ratios are all off.

You see, with most cheesecakes, the cheese outweighs the buttery biscuit base. But here we have a much higher amount of biscuit, the taste of which overwhelms the filling. Also, for some reason, my mouth became quite dry after eating a couple of them. That doesn't happen when I'm eating regular digestives, so I have no idea what that was about. Overall, these biscuits are a strange experience. The flavours of a good lemon cheesecake are all there, it's just a cheesecake that has way too much biscuit and has been left out of the fridge for a while. Not too impressed.

My rating: 3/5

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Today's Review: Sour Patch Kids Soda Popz

Evidently I did not review the original Sour Patch Kids when I tried them last year, but suffice it to say I was somewhat underwhelmed. For a sweet with "sour" right in the title they didn't particularly give me the standard lemon face, or even a slight wince. So I wasn't exactly expecting any sharpness from this new variety.

I was right, but I wasn't in it for the sourness, I was in it for the new flavours. Each one corresponds with a fizzy drink of some kind. There's cola, cherryade, orange (who love orange soda?), and... tropical and apple fizz? Well, almost all based on fizzy drinks. The flavours are certainly interesting, but after the initial kick they kind of wear off, much like the sour taste. Trouble is the flavours aren't too bold either, they seem pretty watered down, and are overwhelmed by the taste of sugar. So while these are certainly sweet, they're not so sour, and not too flavoursome either. They're not awful by any means, but there are plenty of better sweets out there.

My rating: 3/5

Friday, 14 June 2013

Today's Review: Triple Chocolate Maryland Gooeys

What's better than a cookie? A freshly baked, gooey cookie of course. I'm not quite sure if that's what Maryland was going for with these, but that's the impression I got. These Gooey cookies consist of your regular Maryland cookie goodness, but with a gooey chocolate centre. As such they're substantially larger than a regular Maryland cookie, and there are only ten in a pack. Still, they're quite filling, and certainly tasty.

I chose the triple chocolate, because having three times the chocolate is always good. There are also original and hazelnut varieties, but that chocolatey cookie and white chocolate chips really turned every mouthful into a chocolate extravaganza. My only real qualm was with the gooey middle. There's not too much of it, and has quite a sticky texture that, while nice, isn't overly appealing. After I polished off a couple I decided to microwave a few more to see if that temperature pushed these cookies towards a more fresh baked status, and while the warmth certainly increased my enjoyment, they just weren't the same as true gooey cookies. Still, these are certainly nice, if a little sickly,

My rating: 4/5

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Today's Review: Domino's Franks' Red Hot Wings

I went with Domino's pizza for a change today, and found that they offer a larger selection of chicken products than Pizza Hut do. The one that intrigued me most were the Frank's Red Hot Wings, which quite simply are chicken wings covered in Frank's hot sauce. Now, I've never had Frank's, but when the name of the sauce itself implies it to be red hot, it's gotta be worth a go.

Well, they're not too hot. I'm speaking as a bit of a hot sauce masochist though, if a hot sauce doesn't cause me immediate discomfort and pain I'm normally a little disappointed. But I must say the sauce on these wings did taste very nice. They certainly aren't immediately firey, but once I'd polished off the lot I certainly had that distinct burning feeling all around my mouth. It's a slow burning sauce (literally) that certainly left me satisfied. I think I'll stick with the hotter sauces in future though.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Today's Review: Cadbury's Crunchums

When it comes to stuffing bags full of chocolatey things, Cadbury have made their way through a fair amount of their chocolate bars, and dipped all manner of things in chocolate, like raisins, pretzels and popcorn. Now we have Crunchums, little pieces of "crispy chocolatey cereal". A very non-specific cereal though, with a taste that I can't quite place.

While I devoured the first pieve, I was sure I caught a hint of Chex, that cereal that was around many years ago. But as I went on I found the cereal to be increasingly salty, which just made these pieces taste like a lighter version of the Cadbury pretzels. I say lighter because every piece is hollow, there is only a thin layer of chocolate layered over a small amount of cereal. So you don't get much substance for your money compared to other varieties, but they certainly do taste nice. The salty and chocolate tastes work wonderfully together, and the cereal texture adds something nice to the mix as well. Certainly not my favourite, but it's still nice.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Today's Review: Sony's E3 Conference

With Microsoft's far less than stellar performance in their conference, it wouldn't have taken much to heavily sway me over to the PS4 camp. There was still a chance that they'd try to pull the same kind of dick moves that Microsoft have regarding used games and always (or almost always) on connectivity. At least I still had the Wii-U to fall back on in case that happened.

Thankfully I was massively rewarded for staying up between 2 and 4am to watch the live broadcast. It started off a little slowly, focusing on PS3 and Vita titles that are still to come, but clearly there is a lot to be excited about with universally acclaimed The Last Of Us out this week, and several big names coming out before the end of the year. There were also a couple of interesting teasers for Puppeteer and Rain, which certainly look a lot better than your average crowd pleasing FPS games.

But with all that out of the way, it was time to unveil the PS4:

Certainly an odd looking machine, but hey, it's what's inside that counts, right? Thankfully, apart from a few words about the entertainment and Playstation Network features, a whole lot of games were introduced. We got a first look at a new IP that seems to be a main focus, The Order: 1886. Looks like a steam punk monster werewolf shooting romp. Looks fun, certainly more so than Ryse did on XBox One. We also got an exclusive gameplay demo of Destiny, a game that's going to be on both platforms, but with Bungie behind it I'm inclined to pick it up. Ubisoft turned up to provide us with some not-quite-functioning demos of Watch Dogs and Assassin's Creed IV, all standard fare for these kind of conferences, and while it was nice to see the games in action, I already know quite a bit about them. I wanted to see some new stuff, dammit.

Sony certainly didn't disappoint on that front. After skimming over their first party exclusives like Killzone and Infamous quite quickly, there seemed to be a massive shift in focus away from AAA titles and more towards independent developers and the offerings that will be available on PSN. There was a fantastically arranged display of developers playing their games, introducing some truly awesome titles like the next Octodad, Don't Starve, and an HD remake of Abe's Oddyssey that all got me very excited. The next game from Bastion developers Supergiant Games was on show as well, and the whole focus on these smaller titles really showed that Sony is going to take care of the core gamers who want to keep experiencing new and original games.

The best game news of the event for me though was the announcement of Kingdom Hearts 3, which pretty much made the PS4 a must buy for me. So with me already sold, the last part of the conference was really just icing on the cake. Any fears about the PS4 following the same stupid guidelines as the XBox One were confronted head on and dispelled, with a clear statement that games can be played offline, traded in, sold, whatever you like. That got the biggest cheer of the night, but while I don't see how not placing crippling restrictions on your console is so praiseworthy, it really served to highlight how much people are against Microsoft's policies, and how bleak things are looking for the XBox One. With an announced price point $100 lower than XBox, and the gameplay demo for Destiny shown as if to say "We've even got Bungie games now, suck on that Microsoft", it seems that Sony did no wrong during this presentation. They showcased big name titles, as well as new, original, and smaller games that really piqued my interest. Functions and policies were explained simply and effectively, and some neat new features on the entertainment side were introduced, but not massively hyped. Even if they managed to breeze past the fact that online play will require a paid subscription, I'm not even mad. I've seen the merits of PS+ over the last few months, and I'm well prepared to pay for it once I pick up the PS4. Bravo, Sony, bravo.

My rating: 5/5

Monday, 10 June 2013

Today's Review: Microsoft's E3 Conference

From the lacklustre announcement of the console to their awful sounding privacy and licensing features, it's fair to say I had just about given up on owning this console. It seemed to have nothing for me, with a large focus on entertainment and features that I wouldn't use, and putting limitations on the only way I can afford to play games, buying and selling them preowned. But, I held out until their E3 conference to see if they could present anything at all that would sway me. There wasn't much.

First of all, there was no mention of the privacy features that have had gamers in uproar since their announcement. Not that I expected much, they've published their official, if complex and unclear, report on the matter, and that's the way the XBox One is. The Kinect must be plugged in at all times, the console has to perform an online check every 24 hours, or you may not be able to play any games, even if you have physical copies. All of that is established, so all that remained in this conference was to unveil the games that will be gracing this dubiously designed console.

We started out with Metal Gear Solid 5, which was certainly a solid opener. The series is going in a different direction that could work out really well, and will certainly be a stand out game in the early stages of the next generation. But it's certainly not XBox One exclusive, and several of the games that received a large focus in Microsoft's conference can be found elsewhere, such as Battlefield 4 and The Witcher 3.

As far as exclusives go, there were actually a few new titles on show. Sunset Overdrive looks like a quirky, fun shooter, albeit full of generic zombie type enemies, although from the way it was described it seems to be multiplayer based, which is not really my cup of tea. Project Spark seems to be a very customisable game creating tool, allowing you to make lands, allies, enemies and many other various things. The details aren't all that clear at the moment, but I can only assume that when it's launched there'll be phalluses everywhere. Again, this is a game focused on sharing ideas with the community and playing others' creations, a feature that worked well in the LittleBigPlanet series, but again, not quite my kind of thing.

The token next gen driving game was announced in the form of Forza 5, which of course showcases what can be done graphically on the XBox One, but also introduces a strange new feature called the Drivatar, an AI which learns how you drive while playing the game, then goes off an races against other people for you when you're not even there. Slightly baffling. But hey, if you're into your weird game mechanics, there's also Quantum Break, which affects some form of TV show depending on how you play it, but the experience wil also be different for each player/viewer. Not quite sure how that works either, but it certainly seems to be complex and focusing more on cinematic experience than gameplay.

The other exclusives didn't do much to rouse my interests either. There's a fighting game in the form of Killer Instinct, a fan favourite that is turning some heads, but not mine. Ryse looks very much a quick time event laden slash em up with no real substance, and a new Halo was teased, but no information given. Dead Rising 3 was the only game revealed in some detail that I'd actually be interested in, because although there were a few interesting looking IPs, all that was provided were tiny teaser trailers with no accompanying information.

Perhaps I would have been more excited for Crimson Dragon if the trailer had any kind of sound. There were also technical problems at the start of the Battlefield 4 gameplay video, which started out looking like the beginning of COD 4, but then added a boat sequence. It's surprising how these technical faults happened, seeing as everything else was so obviously and meticulously staged. People were brought onstage with controller in hand to showcase actual "gameplay", only to breeze perfectly through sections, somehow showing off all the features and cool parts of the game, while reacting perfectly and in no way reading a script.  Other features were shown and obviously staged, like the application of SmartGlass and video editing, that will most likely never go as smoothly as it did on stage today.

So yeah, I thought it was quite a lacklustre, sometimes cringeworthy, presentation today, with not many games catching my interest. Even their last hurrah, science fiction FPS Titanfall, seems entirely focused on multiplayer, already hailed as a potential Call Of Duty beater. Great news for lots of people, but I much prefer my single player games. I may have been tempted to pick one up to play a few of the exclusives on offer, but all the other stuff that's happening regarding privacy and licensing have really turned me off that idea. Hopefully Sony will have a detailed presentation with a good offering of games tonight, or I might just have to give up on the next generation and lock myself in a room with my N64.

My rating: 2/5

Sunday, 9 June 2013

Today's Review: Abidec

My baby is on a few medications. Nothing serious, just things to stop her throwing up her milk and to give her the nutrients she needs. Abidec takes care of the former, and while it is obviously there to make my daughter healthy, I hate the stuff.

First of all, it's orange. While that may seem useful when trying to identify it from two other clear medications that have already been measured out, the fact is that it goes everywhere. The other medicines may leak too, but size they're clear and only slightly syrupy it doesn't matter too much. But Abidec leaks, stains, and has a weird greasy consistency that dries into a sticky mess. Also, it really stinks. I can't really attest to whether it tastes any good, but I'll safely assume that it doesn't, because I refuse to put it anywhere near my mouth.

So yes, Abidec may be providing my daughter with essential vitamins, but surely there must be a better way to deliver them than this sticky, stinking mess.

My rating: 1/5

Saturday, 8 June 2013

Today's Review: Billy Smart's Circus

The circus is in town this weekend, and although I have been to one before, I certainly don't remember it. So I guess I was overdue a trip to the circus, especially with kids to bring along too. Billy Smart's was a good choice.

Taking place over a couple of 40 minute acts, Billy Smart's circus showcases some wonderful performers with great skill, covering balancing acts, acrobatics and juggling, all interspersed with skits by the circus clown. It's not exactly a massive collection of people, but everyone is utilised to their full effect, some more than once, and Angelo the clown is always on hand between acts to get the crowd participating and excited for what follows.

It's hard for me to pick an act because they were all quite fantastic, Trapeze artists fly, acrobats spin and climb, and Eddy Carello gives a fantastic juggling performance. It's all done with great timing, accompanied by a fantastic band that plays behind the scenes, and everyone involved is a true professional. There were a couple of slip ups during tonight's show, but the performers brushed it off and simply tried again, to great applause from the crowd.

I can't say I can compare Billy Smart's to other circuses around, but it certainly packs a lot of charm and talent into a small area. The acts are interesting and varied, and everyone involved helped give the place a great atmosphere. This is an enjoyable night out for the whole family.

My rating: 5/5

Friday, 7 June 2013

Today's Review: Dusting Behind Furniture That Hasn't Been Moved In Ages

We had a little rearrange of our furniture today, which of course means dragging out cabinets and such that have not been dragged out in many months. So while most of the room gets cleaned on a regular basis, behind this furniture is a place untouched, fully exposed to the ravages of time. The main byproduct of which is dust.

Not just any dust, not just a thin layer of dust, this is all built up in nice big clumps, probably enough bits of dead skin to build a complete new human. Well, a tiny one anyway. You could go at it with a feather duster, but that would just spread this thick blanket around the rest of the room in the most counter-productive way. No, with dust of this magnitude, you need a vacuum cleaner.

So really, while the sight of the dust is quite unnerving at first, it's not too difficult to get rid of. There certainly could be worse back there, like mould or rotting food. Give me a substantial layer of easily cleanable stuff any day.

My rating: 3/5

Thursday, 6 June 2013

Today's Review: Flight

Whip Whitaker (Denzel Washington) is in a bit of a bind. The good news is that he saved a plane full of passengers by pulling off an extremely risky midair manoeuvre to avoid a crash. The bad news is he was drunk while he did it, which could lead to all sorts of criminal charges. With a hearing on the horizon, it's up to Whip to confront his alcoholism and attempt to turn his life around.

Flight is a very personal drama through and through, and Washington leads the whole thing wonderfully. His character is very much the flawed hero, clearly a brilliant man who is plagued by a serious problem. But like most alcoholics, Washington plays the role in a way that makes it seem like he's on top of things, that kept me thinking that maybe he'd be able to solve his problems, or maybe that they weren't even that bad. So while the plot is quite slow and deliberate, Washington's performance kept me focussed and caring right to the end.

Not to disregard the rest of the cast though. There are also great performances from Don Cheadle, Kelly Reilly and John Goodman, playing attorney, druggie and dealer respectively. They provide very different characters for Washington to dialogue with, lending to some great dramatic scenes throughout.  Still, at over two hours long, the movie does drag out for a little too long.

Flight starts out with a fantastic action set piece, before giving way to some very personal, dramatic stuff that, while a little drawn out, is carried by some fantastic performances, especially by Denzel Washington. His Oscar nomination was very well deserved.

My rating: 4/5

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

Today's Review: Asda Blue Charge: Diet Summer Fruits

I've had some not so inspiring run ins with fruit flavour diet energy drinks in the past, but I was willing to take a risk with this one as I love me some summer fruits.

Turns out it's actually very nice. Most of these sugar free drinks taste like disgusting chemicals, probably because they are all made of disgusting chemicals that would normally be covered up with sugar. It certainly doesn't take away all the nasty taste, but the fruit flavours are certainly very bold, especially the blackcurrant. Certainly not as enjoyable as the sugar-ful energy drinks out there, but it's certainly the best diet version I've tried.

My rating: 4/5

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Today's Review: Ben & Jerry's Core: Peanut Butter Me Up

If there's one American food tradition that revolted me at first, it was the peanut butter and jelly sandwich. But I have since warmed to it, and pretty much anything else peanut butter related. So imagine my joy when this flavour arrived on my modest British shelves. Peanut Butter me up is a peanut butter and vanilla ice cream, loaded with chocolate peanut butter cups, and with a raspberry jam core shoved in the middle. It's delicious.

It may not have the two separate flavours either side that other Core varieties have, but this ice cream packs a lot of punch. The ice cream is creamy and flavoursome, and the peanut butter cups add a nice salty kick. The core is wonderfully fruity and sweet, and when you combine all of them it's like eating some kind of amazing chocolate coated peanut butter jelly ice cream sandwich. This is certainly my favourite flavour in a long while.

My rating: 5/5

Monday, 3 June 2013

Today's Review: Gangster Squad

Look at that cast. That's a good cast. So it has to be a good movie, right? Well...

Gangster Squad is set in post WWII Los Angeles, a city where gangster Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) has everyone in his pocket. The cops won't touch him, and anyone willing to testify ends up dead. But John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) doesn't care about all that, and after shooting some of Cohen's thugs in the face to save a young woman, he finds himself drafted into leading a squad of no nonsense guerrilla warfare cops, tasked with destroying the pillars of Cohen's operation. Members of his team include sharp shooter Max Kennard (Robert Patrick) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who finds himself engaging in a dangerous affair with Cohen's girlfriend (Emma Stone). Can this "gangster squad" succeed in their mission, or will Cohen get the better of them in the end?

This movie was released in January, which led me to believe it was part of the serious Oscar fodder that's regularly thrown out around that time. Turns out it was delayed due to the Aurora shooting, and was meant to be out last September, so the fact that it's an all out action and explosion fest no longer surprises me. Unfortunately, that makes the actual plot and character development very thin on the ground. Sure, there's a story, but it's punctuated at regular intervals by action scenes and shoot outs that, while well executed, are loaded with cliches and don't really have much substance overall. Thankfully there's a fantastic cast to support the whole thing, and they all do very well, but none of the characters are particularly fleshed out, so we're just left with a bunch of talented people running from place to place shooting gangsters in the face. It's certainly fun enough to watch, there's just nothing that makes it stand out above every other action movie out there.

My rating: 3/5

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Today's Review: Close Caboo Baby Carrier

Look at the lady on the box, so happy. You may think her happiness comes from the quality cuddle time she's having with her baby, and that may be partly true. But I'm sure most of that smile is the result of being able to do stuff without having to cradle a screaming infant.

My baby is 11 weeks old, and while she certainly isn't heavy, having to provide her with constant carrying and cuddles gets in the way of productive things like housework and absolutely anything that I might feel like doing. So this carrier is a life saver. Why this one over any other available? Well, most carriers aren't built for very small babies, and that's the kind I've got. The Close Caboo, however, can be used from birth up to several years old.

The Caboo consists of a couple of criss crossed fabric straps, with a couple of rings attached for adjustments. Certainly not the heavy duty stuff that other backpack style carriers are made of, but don't let it fool you. Once you get the hang of slipping your baby into each strap, you fold the fabric underneath its butt, tighten the straps, and now you have one secure baby that certainly won't drop out easily. There's also a third strap you can wrap around yourself for extra security. The result is a surprisingly sturdy cocoon for your child, one that keeps them close to your chest, in that cute position that babies love to fall asleep in.

I took my daughter to Great Ormond Street on the train yesterday, a trip which would be made almost impossible if I took my bulky buggy with me. But after strapping her up in this carrier, I was able to navigate the tube with a perfectly peaceful sleeping baby, a backpack on my back, and a hand free to carry the baby bag too. This carrier has made life tremendously easier. So if you have a small (or big) baby that demands attention and cuddles, this is a fantastic solution for hands free baby care.

My rating: 5/5

Saturday, 1 June 2013

Today's Review: Great Ormond Street Hotel (GOSH)

I was pleasantly surprised to receive a letter from the fine establishment of GOSH, inviting my newborn daughter for a sleep study, meaning I could accompany her and have a free nights stay in London. Fantastic. But as I arrived I saw that this hotel is really quite strange.

First of all, the different room sections are called "wards" for some reason, and while I'm pleased to be in room 1 of my "ward", it really doesn't look like your average hotel room. There's no en suite bathroom, and not even a kettle. I have to use the shared toilet and kitchen like some kind of hostel dweller. There is a sink in my room, but no toiletries are provided, and the walls seem to be lined with various kinds of medical equipment. Very odd.

Oh well, at least I have my own fridge, and thankfully I brought food fore and my daughter. There's a TV too, but apart from the regular terrestrial channels the only selection is a bunch of kids TV. Again, quite odd, but I don't mind all that much. 

It's the traffic that bothers me the most I suppose. My door has see through panels, and I can't lock it, so I can hear and see the large amount of people walking around all the time. I also get people coming in every hour to see how we're doing. Great customer service,
I'm sure, but a bit too much for me.

Overall, the Great Ormond Street Hotel is a strange sort. I certainly can't complain, because my stay is free, but it just seems more like a hospital to me. Oh, wait...

My rating: 3/5