Today I wanted to write about the Pizza Creature, and I am surprised that I never did so before. I created the Pizza Creature when I was in my third year at university. I was writing a story where the main characters popped into a pizza restaurant and I thought up the Pizza Creature as the mascot of that restaurant. I drew it up in my next seminar, and since then I've become very fond of it. One day I'd like to work for a marketing department at a pizza restaurant, so that the Pizza Creature will be able to fulfil its destiny.
The Legend of Zelda is one of Nintendo's most popular and beloved series and this is the game that started it all. I have to say; this is a series which is top notch right from the start. This game introduces us to the hero Link, who has to travel across the kingdom of Hyrule so he can collect the eight pieces of the triforce to defeat the evil king Ganon and save Princess Zelda; a basic story, but pretty standard for 80s games.
You take control of Link and find yourself standing in the middle of Hyrule at the start, you head into a cave and get yourself a wooden sword; what you do next is entirely up to you. The world of Hyrule is completely open and you are free to explore it as you please. There are temples in various different locations which house each piece of the triforce (and are full of monsters and simple puzzles) and it's basically up to you qo. Admittedly, there is an intended order and the difficulty slowly ascends according to that order, so doing one of the later ones first is going to be difficult, but it's also unlikely, since the tougher temples are in the harder to reach areas.
Beyond the eight temples you need to find, the world is full of secrets and just walking around searching for secret openings is very fun. I find it very satisfying when I set a bush on fire and find that there was a secret staircase beneath it. It pays to explore, as well, as there are some extremely useful items to be found if you're willing to look. You're given very little guidance, however, and other than cryptic clues from a few old men hidden in caves, you're left to find out everything yourself, which could be potentially off-putting for some players (but not me).
Towards the end, it does get a little difficult, just because there's an abundance of very strong enemies which can be frustrating at times. Also, while the music of the game is pretty good (though 8-bit) there aren't all that many musical tracks and the NES era visuals may appear bland to some. But, generally, the Zelda series is off to a very good start, and if you're a fan, you should definitely give it a try.
(This game is also available from all of Nintendo's download services.)
(I do not own the copyright of the screen capture.)
(Don't miss today's Finger Puppet Show!)
"You just have to accept that there are bad people in the world," is something that various people have said to me at various times.
A lot of people think that I am a little naive, but I can't help but think that it is more naive to dismiss someone as a 'bad person' if they've done something which is clearly morally wrong. Casting somebody off as a 'bad person' suggests you look at them as somehow different from you, when in fact, I don't think things are even close to that simple. When somebody does something bad, there are a lot of complex reasons for them to do so; a person may know that what they are doing is wrong, but sometimes things that are wrong need to be done for the greater good, and from their perspective it was morally justified. Of course, just because they think that, it doesn't mean they're right, but it is the culmination of a person's life experiences up until a certain point that lead them to making any decisions.
I suppose I'm going a little bit down the path of determinism, but the point I am trying to get across is that it is more naive to believe that some people are "just bad" than it is to think that everybody does their best and believes that their actions are justified, even if they are actually doing terrible things.
(Don't miss my latest article for SmartDatingUK!)
I had a very nice evening yesterday, because I attended the book launch of Anthony Nanson's new novel Deep Time. This was pretty exciting for me, because, despite my love of books, this was actually the first book launch I'd ever attended and I wasn't really sure what to expect.
I was very pleasantly surprised to find that the first half of the event was quite socially-oriented. I got to have a chat with Anthony, who introduced me to his wife and several other people. I also got to speak with the head of humanities at Bath Spa University as well as a nice history professor. I always find meeting new people enjoyable, so I was especially pleased of the opportunity to chat with these nice people. Plus, there were snacks and drinks, so I had a few crisps and a glass of apple juice.
The main part of the event had Anthony giving a talk about his book and then reading an excerpt to us. For those who are completely unfamiliar with it; it's about a zoologist named Brendan Merlie who travels to central Africa for an ecological survey but finds something much more deep and mysterious than he expected. Over the years, I've heard Anthony tell numerous stories, both retellings of existing tales and things of his own creation, and I have to say, the reading he gave of Deep Time might just be the best I've heard from him yet, which bodes well for Deep Time! I'm looking forward to reading the novel in its entirety, because if the quality of writing found in that excerpt is maintained throughout I (and indeed, everybody else who is going to read it) am in for a treat.
There was also a talk and a reading by Helen Moore from her book Ecozoa (a poetry collection). Unlike Anthony, I didn't actually know anything about Helen or her work, but I think it's always a worthwhile experience to learn about the work of others. The end of the evening was a question and answer session in which Anthony and Helen both discussed their environmental views; as somebody who with a strong interest in environmentalism, I was keen to learn of their perspectives, especially as they both tied it in to creativity and literature.
So, on the whole: a very good evening. I've got my nice, new copy of Deep Time and I am eagerly looking forward to getting started on it. Once I've finished it, you can be sure that I'll be posting a review of it here!
(Don't miss today's Finger Puppet Show!)
When people think of a comedy sci-fi novel, they almost certainly think of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and for good reason: this is a very good book! Having said that, I think that it is a bit of an injustice to think of it like that, mostly because I feel like the whole genre of comedy is unfairly considered as somehow lesser or worthless, two things which I would never describe The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy as.
The story follows the adventures of a rather unfortunate man named Arthur Dent and his unusual friend Ford Prefect. Arthur starts his day by finding that his home is due to be demolished in order to make way for a new highway and ,of course, he is rather upset about this and does all he can to stop it from happening. After this, he gets some even worse news: that the world is going to end before the day is over.
I shan't say any more about the plot as it's probably best to experience this novel with as little foreknowledge of the plot as possible. What I will say is that this book makes for a very pleasant read, from start to finish there's a mixture of everyday life with things that are completely fantastical and it makes for a lovely blend. What I also like is that there are a lot of aspects to the novel which are completely absurd, but they are taken completely seriously; this, along with numerous anecdotes about the larger universe that this story takes place in, really helps you to appreciate the world that Douglas Adams has created.
So this is a book that I recommend very highly. I guess the only real downside to it is that it's ending is a bit underwhelming and just seems to be setting up the sequel. Other than that, this is an excellently structured novel, full of small references that may seem odd at first but later lead to very satisfactory pay offs and other clever things like that.
(I do not own the copyright of the cover image.)
I wrote quite a popular blog post in February about why the Job Centre is not a very helpful service. Today I was asked to write another blog post on the same subject, and as I like to keep my readers happy, I decided I would do just that. Thankfully, I don't have any personal stories to tell you because, while I have had to return there since my early redundancy, nothing especially negative has happened.
With the Conservatives having won the election, there's been a lot of concern that the Job Centre system will be abused to make the unemployed into an unpaid workforce. This is a reasonable concern, as that's pretty much the plan. People aged 18 to 21 will have to work for thirty hours a week (doing community service) if they want to have any benefits from the Job Centre, which essentially means they'll have to work for only a tiny fraction of minimum wage. It's supposed to be a good thing, but I don't think this will be helpful at all, because if everybody has this minimal compulsory work experience, why is any employer going to be impressed?
Anyway, what I've described above is not yet the case, but despite that unemployed people are already being exploited as a cheap workforce. Take, for example, the story of John MacArthur. John worked for LAMH Recycle but this was only a temporary position, and once he was finished he had to return to the Job Centre and, when he did, they told him he had to work for LAMH again in an unpaid capacity or he would not receive any money from them. Why was a man's time worth money to the company one day and then nothing to them the next? Admirably, John has taken a stand to protest the decisions of the Department of Work and Pensions... But at the cost of having his payments stopped.
Or, you could look at the story of this man, who had to work as a 'Warden' with the police in order to get his benefits. He had to work thirty hours a week doing a few small tasks, but mostly standing around and hoping that members of the public would have questions he could help with. He was forced to do this rather pointless work in order to get his benefits and that really is the only benefit of his doing so, because it doesn't sound like that Warden work is a good CV addition. Rather greedily, his Job Centre is not covering his travel expenses, so he is losing money and having to work unpaid. And, of course, after all this he was supposed to feel motivated enough to apply for lots of jobs.
So, it's quite clear that we have a very flawed system on our hands and one that is in desperate need of change. There is change on the way, but sadly it's change that's going to make things even worse. "No more something for nothing," says David Cameron... Is he going to bring in nothing for something?
(Don't miss my latest article for Rice Digital!)
As I'm sure regular readers will know, I like Japanese gaming site Rice Digital. If I didn't like them, why would I write so many articles for them? Anyway, they recenty put out a video (made by none other than my friend, Oscar Taylor-Kent) and I found it very, very funny. He's created a satirical new character called Pro Gamer, and I hope we'll be seeing a lot more of him. Watch the video below, and, of course, like and subscribe ;)
(Don't miss today's Finger Puppet Show!)
Nintendo Land was one of the first games released for the Wii U and seems to have been designed to show off what the system can do. Not only do I think it was a good way to demonstrate the Wii U's capabilities, but I also think it's a pretty good game in its own right.
In it, your Mii meets a mysterious computer woman named Monita and she creates Nintendo Land as a place for you to have fun. Nintendo Land is a kind of theme park and there are twelve attractions for you to try out, each one based on a different Nintendo franchise. While they are called 'attractions' each one of them is actually just a new game based on each franchise where you play as your Mii. I liked them all very much and I shall go over them one at a time.
The Legend of Zelda: Battle Quest
This one was one of my favourites; your Mii dresses as Link and they make their way through Hyrule, solving small puzzles and fighting various enemies and bosses along the way. The whole game has this kind of patch-work aesthetic, but I think it looks the nicest in these recreations of various locations from the Zelda series. I was always excited to see how the familiar settings would look when encountering them again in this game Your Mii moves forward through the levels automatically, but you control either their sword or their bow and arrow (depending on whether you use a Wii Remote or a GamePad as your controller). You might think that it might not be so fun, being unable to decide where your Mii goes, but I still had a pretty good time with this. There are a fair few levels to go through, and despite having next to no story, there's a clear sense of progression as you go on. You can also do this on multiplayer mode and it is exactly the same, but different characters can have different weapons, you have to look out for each other, and so on.
Again, this one was one of my favourites. Your Mii dresses as Samus and you go on various missions (set in a variety of levels) where you have to fulfil certain criteria (usually defeating enemies within a time limit). You can choose to play on-foot or you can fly inside Samus's ship and, unlike the Zelda game, you are free to move around wherever you want. There're quite a large number of levels, and I always found it fun to fly around in Samus's ship. At times I found it to be pretty difficult too. This attraction also features some multiplayer options and you can either choose to fight with your friends in the large levels, or work together to win the missions.
This is something which, I'm sure, will make Pikmin fans very happy. Your Mii dresses as Captain Olimar and is in charge of number of Pikmin. You have to get through various levels, in order to get back to your space ship, fighting monsters and solving puzzles along the way. This is pretty much a brand new Pikmin game, albeit slightly watered down. This was another of the attractions which I thought looked very nice and once more I was excited to see how things would look in the Nintendo Land aesthetic. What annoyed me about Pikmin Adventure, however, was that there were a fair few timed levels which were awfully hard and not all that fun either. Like Metroid Blast you can also play cooperatively with your friends, or fight against one another.
Something which is bound to annoy people about this attraction is that it is multiplayer only. One person plays as their Mii dressed as Mario and up to four other players have their Miis dressed as Toads and it's basically a game of hide and seek/tag. You all start in the centre of one of several maps and the player who is dressed as Mario is given a head start to run away, and then afterward the Toad Miis come after him and they win if they catch him (while the Mario Mii wins if it remains uncaptured). I'm in two minds about this attraction; on the one hand, it is very basic and there are only three maps to play on, but on the other hand it can be very fun. It's a nice use of the GamePad too, since the location of the Mario Mii stays secret because that player only uses the GamePad screen while the others use the television.
Luigi's Ghost Mansion
This game is like a more complex version of Mario Chase and, again, is only made available in multiplayer mode. There are several levels set inside a haunted house and the player using the GamePad has their Mii assume the role of a ghost, while the others dress as Luigi and hunt for it. The ghost Mii is invisible to the Luigi Miis and if it grabs them, they will faint, the Luigi Miis, meanwhile, have torches (with a limited power supply) and can harm the ghost Mii by shining light on it. There's more to it than there is to Mario Chase but it fails to capture the same feeling of frantic excitement that that attraction gave me.
Animal Crossing: Sweet Day
As much as I love the Animal Crossing series, this one, sadly, was probably my least favourite attraction. It's another multiplayer only game, similar to Mario Chase and Luigi's Ghost Mansion but the problem is that the game doesn't feel very balanced. One to four players have their Mii dress up as one of several villagers from the Animal Crossing series and have to run around the map eating as many sweets as possible, the other player has their Mii duplicated as both of the town guards and has to catch the sweet eaters. For some reason, it just feels far too hard to ever catch anyone as the guards, so I don't tend to play this one very often.
Takamaru's Ninja Castle
This attraction is actually based off of the obscure, 1986, Japan-only game The Mysterious Murasame Castle and I quite like that such an unknown title was brought into the spotlight. In this one, your Mii dresses as the star of that game, Takamaru, and goes through several levels fighting off enemies with shuriken. Ninjas pop out from all over the place and you use the GamePad to aim the shuriken, which is quite a lot of fun. If you played the original game and always considered it a favourite, I expect that you'll be very happy with this attraction and, if you've never heard of it before, I expect that you'll still like it. It's got a lovely soundtrack and the gameplay, while simple, is fun and addictive.
Donkey Kong's Crash Course
Based specifically on the original Donkey Kong, this attraction has your Mii transformed into a spring-based contraption with wheels. You have to get through several 'crash courses' which are all based on the kind of levels from the first Donkey Kong game and to do this, you have to tilt your GamePad so that your Mii, in its new wheelie form, will roll in the correct direction. It's another simple idea, but that doesn't change the fact that it is very fun. There's a great deal of skill involved in this game, and once you figure out how to get passed a certain obstacle you'll be very pleased with yourself.
Captain Falcon's Twister Race
This attraction, based on the F-Zero series, was another that I wasn't all that fond of. Your Mii dresses as Captain Falcon and gets into his super-fast futuristic racing car, the Blue Falcon. But, really, all this is is watching the car drive along from a top-down perspective while using the GamePad as a kind of steering wheel. Gets pretty hard at times too.
Balloon Trip Breeze
This was a pretty good one based, as you may have guessed, on Balloon Fight. If you have played Balloon Fight you will be familiar with its "Balloon Trip" mode and Balloon Trip Spring Breeze is a remake of that, and, I might add, the best iteration of it I have played to date. Your Mii dresses up as a Balloon Fighter and sets out on a journey across the ocean, using the balloons attached to its back to fly. The music that plays is really peaceful and beautiful and even after you've lost, you'll want to start again just to try and go a bit further the next time.
Yoshi's Fruit Cart
This is another one which takes a rather simple idea (which makes good use of the GamePad) and makes it very fun. Your Mii rides on the back of a wooden Yoshi with wheels and on the television screen you can see several fruits that need to be eaten and an exit gate. You have to use the GamePad to draw a route so that the wooden Yoshi can eat all of the fruit and then get to the exit, but the twist is, that all of the fruits are invisible on the GamePad screen, meaning you'll have to put your understanding of space and distance to the test! Very fun, but occasionally a little hard.
This attraction pays tribute to the Game & Watch titles and, more specifically, is based on the game Octopus. What's strange is that, while Octopus had you diving into ship wrecks under the sea to collect treasure, while avoiding the eponymous octopus, this game has that octopus acting as a dance judge... Odd. Still, I find this game quite fun. The diver from the original game does a certain dance, and then you have to press the right buttons so that your Mii will do that dance too. A lot of people don't like this one, but I found it fun enough, and getting a dance right with no mistakes is pretty satisfying.
So, that's all twelve of them, and this might just be the longest video game review I've written so far. As you can see, the games are not all equal; some are pretty comprehensive, whereas others are quite basic. Overall, it's a fun game, and if you know a lot about Nintendo, you'll appreciate all the little references to the older games, and if you don't know a lot about Nintendo you will be able to enjoy it simply as a fun game. There are unlockable statues of all the items and creatures in the game, which are purchased (through a coin drop game) with money made in the attractions, which encourages replay too. All in all, I game I would recommend.
Tuesday may not be a regular blog post day, but today is CFS / M.E. Awareness Day and my good friend David Tubb has asked me to write an entry about it. The piece he himself wrote on this day last year is doubtlessly the definitive piece of writing on the subject and I certainly don't think I'm likely to write anything as good as that, but the important thing is raising awareness. For those who don't know what CFS or M.E. is, let me explain it to you: M.E. stands for myalgic encephalomyelitis which, in layman's terms is chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) and chronic fatigue syndrome is a very debilitating illness. Let me tell you a story about it.
Back in 2012, I was visiting David in Bath on a nice summer's day. We met up quite a large number of times during the summer of that year and always did very nice things like having pizzas, or buying finger puppets, or looking around in bookshops and so on. Generally it was just the kind of stuff that he and I both enjoy a lot. I distinctly thinking on one of the days that it was very nice to be able to do things like that with somebody and that, as we both lived in close proximity to one another and both liked each other very much (and still do) there was no reason that we'd ever stop being able to these nice days. As of today, it's been well over a year since we've been able to do anything like that and I only really get to see David for brief meet ups once every month or two.
The thing is, that even back in 2012 David was suffering from the early stages of CFS / M.E. and since then it worsened to the extent that he doesn't get to do very much any more. This is an illness which saps you of your energy, causes terrible migraines, aches all over, nausea and prevents sleep from properly refreshing you. As somebody who doesn't personally suffer from that illness, I am probably making it sound less bad than it is. I also hate to take something that I am lucky enough not to have and make it about me: yes, it may be sad for me not being able to see David, but it is much worse for him having to actually suffer through all of that and not get to see anybody. But, thankfully, he takes small steps towards recovery and hopefully it won't be too long before he (and, indeed, everybody else who suffers from this illness) is able to do the things he wants to do again.
(Sadly, I don't have one of the actual ribbons for the day, but one of my friends very kindly photoshopped one on me!)
As of yesterday, the Trusty Water Blog is four years old. If I'm honest, I'm a little bit disappointed in myself for forgetting my blog's birthday! Well, I suppose it wasn't strictly a case of me forgetting, more a case of misremembering; I was sure that it was on the eleventh of May that I started my blog, but I guess my memory has faded a bit.
It's interesting to remember the position I was in when writing the first post in 2011. I had just finished an A Level exam and was chatting with my friend Dalfino in the computer room before going on to do my MDSA work. At the time I was a little sad, because with my time in my sixth form coming to an end and all my close friends going off to universities all over the country, I was worried that I'd lose touch with them. Of course, four years later I'm no longer at the school, I no longer work as an MDSA and, sadly, I also never really get to see Dalfino either.
It would be awfully nice, I think, to relive that time with the ability of foresight. As it turns out, I met some terribly wonderful people when I went to Bath Spa University that October and was very happy there. What I thought would be months spent lamenting the loss of old friends, was actually immense happiness at the arrival as new friends. Now, in the present day of 2015, all of those new friends have gone too and my days do seem rather empty, but of course, 10th May 2011 didn't seem like a great time either, did it? For all I know, in four years' time I'd wish I could come back to this day with the power of foresight so that I could re-live it again!
It's interesting how this blog has developed over this time; if you read the first post, you'll see that I only really started all of this because Dalfino told me too. I expected that, after a few months, I'd give up, but how nice that I'm still doing it now. When I first started, I set myself a rule that I'd not write emotional posts, because I didn't think that they'd be enjoyable to anyone; I remember when I first broke that rule, and I suppose since then it's become not uncommon for me to write quite sentimental posts. Then, of course, I eventually started doing Finger Puppet Shows, which then branched out to become their own thing. And, I've also got quite a comprehensive set of reviews on here too now. In the end, without going into to all the actual career progressions this blog has helped me with, it's nice to look at how it's developed and grown and feel good about it as one of my biggest achievements. I hope you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoy writing it.
(Don't miss my latest article for SmartDatingUK!)
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