Some things I've learned....

(1) An Engineer can do with 10 cent what a fool can do with a Euro.

(2) "Puff" - unimportant; insignificant; unworthy of study by engineering students; waste of time

(3) It's better to keep your mouth shut and let people think you're stupid than to open it and prove them right!

(4) Blockwork people and concrete people can never work on the same site... Apparently they don't like each other....

(5) It's official; I'm fantastic!

Sunday 14 June 2009

Saturday 6 June 2009

Guitar Hero: Metallica - Review

Yes, it kicks serious ass. Guitar Hero: Metallica is the second iteration of the Guitar Hero franchise to be focused entirely on the career of one band. Rather than talk about the gameplay which for the most part is still the same as Guitar Hero: World Tour, I'm just gonna mention the improvements or changes to this game.

First and foremost the setlist is PHENOMENAL. With 28 Metallica songs and 20 other guest acts very few music rhythm games can boast such an excellent track list. Add in the Death Magnetic DLC with 10 extra tracks and it makes one meaty set of hard rockin' anthems. One difference I noticed is that the songs here are all fun to play, there were one or two moments in World Tour (the Tool songs come to mind) that were really boring to play. Also the motion capture is top notch, with really authentic animations and representations of the band. Not a huge step up from World Tour, but fans will appreciate it.

Other added bonuses include the Metallifacts videos after you complete a song, the lyrics sheets and photos and videos from the various tours. It really is a game for the fans, and any Metallica fan would be a fool to pass it up. The interface is mainly the same except this time the developers have added in the star performance meter above your score, and for the band mode it is now more clear how each member is performing.

Career mode has you as a member of band playing before Metallica at the various venues. This story is actually based on a real life band who followed Metallica round during the 80's. Progression is different from World Tour where you no longer need to complete all the songs in one show to proceed. You simply have to earn an overall number of stars from the various songs of your choice in that venue to move on.

I know this is a short review but there isn't much more to say than what's already been said in past reviews and previews. If you're a fan of Metallica and have any gaming system, buy this now! You won't regret it.

~The Damo

The Nostalgia Critic

You may have noticed the update to the "My Links" area on the right. Along with Cinemassacre and Screwattack and Special1TV, I've now added in the Nostalgia Critic at

I came across the Nostalgia critic via a video on Youtube (something to do with commercialisation of the site or something like that) that made reference to him in the video description. He had been involved with the Angry Video Game Nerd at one point as well but I didn't pay too much attention to it. A decision I now regret...

At the stage of writing this blog I've now watched the majority of the "Nostalgia Critic" videos and I have to say I'm am both thoroughly impressed and satisfied. The Critic reviews movies and TV programmes, both good and bad ones. The contrasting style of appreciation and condemnation make for great viewing in the various videos.

He is remarkably witty in his videos at all times, and uses excellent editing techniques, as well as some much appreciated running jokes which you might be oblivious to if you don't watch the videos from the start of the series. What's also great is an evolution in the types of videos he posts, as well as standard reviews (which by the way can sometimes be up to 20-25mins) he also does Top 11's (why Top 11? You have to watch) and a new feature called "New Vs Old" where he compares an older film with a remake, or, as was done in the first item of this feature, compare two movies from seperate reimaginations of a franchise - Batman Vs The Dark Knight.

I wouldn't go as far as to say the Critic is for everyone, but if you like films and want to remember old TV shows (like Saved by the Bell) than certainly give him a look. The site has tonnes of other features as well, such as "Ask That Guy", "Sage Reviews" and the "Nostalgia Chick" to name but a few.

So head on over and check out !

I'm The Damo, I write it so you don't have to!

~The Damo

Wednesday 20 May 2009

The Big 3 - Hardware Review

Here it is. The Sony Playstation 3, Microsoft's Xbox 360 and Nintendo's Wii all in one blog, compared, contrasted and analysed as best as I possibly can to see which of the 3 is best value for money, i.e. the best piece of hardware.
Please remember this is a HARDWARE analysis, not software, and for the record I will never be comparing software as I feel this is totally to the taste of the consumer and realistically reviews in general mean jack shit to me when it comes to making a purchase. I should also point out that I won't be delving into the various different processors and so on (partly because I'm not fully enough educated in this regard and also because the quality of the processors and RAM can sometimes mean nothing, example being God of War 2 on PS2 - whoever thought the PS2 could do that!!), so the affair will be more focussed on a features and functions style idea as well as reviews of each console's controller.

So let's kick it off going from smallest to largest with the Nintendo Wii:

Aesthetically it's a nice looking machine, it's hard to fault it really. Compact, shiny white and functional. Personally I'm not a huge fan of the tray it sits in, both the 360 and PS3 can sit on their own, but hey, no biggy. My only problem as such with the machine is the sensor bar. Now I know this is essential to the how the Wiimote works, but seeing as the PS3 pulls off motion control without a sensor bar one has to wonder if it is 100% essential. It uses automatic disk feeding for the Wii Optic Disc and has a liftable flab to expose four gamecube Dolphin controller ports. It has no harddrive with storage carried out by internal flash memory and can use SD cards for storage aswell.

The Wiimote itself is a well designed piece of equipment, comfortable and it looks great. I'm not a fan of the speaker that's built in as most of the time it comes across as poor audio quality and I really don't think it's necessary, especially when the game's primary sound filters through the TV and/or speakers anyway. However, out of the 3 the Wiimote is my least favourite to use and it boils down to one solid fact. The Wiimote is not essential to play the majority of Wii games. Now before you stop me, I'm still not commenting on the quality of the games, this bit relates to the controllers functionality with the games. Besides the launch title WiiSports, very few (with a notable exception of BoomBlox) REQUIRE motion controls. Smash Bros - non existent. Mario Kart - tacked on. Mario Galaxy - tacked on. Zelda - imposed on a game that already came out on Gamecube. And that's just four games off the top of my head. The cold hard fact is that these games would still be top quality even without the motion ability.

This critical flaw was realised by many gamers very early on, and even now the casual audience is starting to look upon the Wii as more of a fad than anything else. With motion-plus on the horizon at an additional cost it's hard to know what the future holds. What we do know is that the Wii is a solid machine with as far as I know a non-existent hardware failure rate. The Mii service is great and adds to the party-style orientation of many of the Wii's games. The different channels are excellent additions but compared to XBL or PSN, the Wii's online service has to go a long way before it should even be in the same sentence as the other two. Damn, I put them in the same sentence!!!

The Xbox 360

First thing you'll notice looking an Xbox is its smooth concave design. This one at home is an Elite Model, so it's black, but the other two 360 models are white. The console uses a disk tray, has slots for memory cards and large power button. This button not only indicates whether the power is on but each quadrant of the outer ring represents a controller that is linked and switched on with the machine. This particular model comes with built in Wi-Fi and a 120GB harddrive and utilises wireless controllers. This isn't consistent with other models, as the Arcade has no harddrive at all, no Wi-Fi (which needs to be bought at an additional expense) and wire controllers (though I have heard to the contrary in this aspect). The other model comes with 60GB storage.

The 360 unfortunately is well known for one fatal flaw - The Red Ring of Death. This alone is a serious issue and requires you to return your console either to the retailer or Microsoft, depending on terms of the warrantee. To pile on the misery another error, the E74 has begun to crop up as well. If you haven't got it by now, the 360 is possibly one of the worst designed machines ever (from that perspective, it's cores perform rather well). This extends to motherfuckin' fan that sounds like a jet engine taking off, and trust me when I say you will be raising the volume on your TV a few notches just so you can hear it! Also, take a look at the power adaptor... :O

Having said that though, both the NXE (despite being half a rip-off of the PS3's XMB and half the Nintendo Miis) and XBL are terrific services despite the fee for Gold Membership. The additionof the bundled headset only adds to the multiplayer immersion and for the most part makes the experience all the more enjoyable.

The controller is excellently designed, with a very comfortable grip and layout. The triggers work well but the D-pad is less than stellar and the requirement of batteries isn't the greatest either, though a lithium battery can be gotten at, yes, you guessed it, an additional cost. The positioning of the left analog adds to the comfort as it predominantly controls movement in the games and both thumsticks have a concaved centre to improve grip.

Playstation 3

First thing you'll notice with the PS3 is just how large it is. It's a little bigger than the 360 but it compensates its size with its arching curves and piano black finish (look how shiny it is in the pic, you can see ME in it!!). I have a 60GB model, with inbuilt Wi-Fi and bluetooth connectivity. This is standard across all models except you can now only get a 40GB and 80GB model (and possibly a 160GB region depending). Like the Wii it has a disk feeder. All the buttons are touch sensitive. Below the disk is a flab which allows for portable storage units like SD cards or Memory Stick Duo. On the front are four USB ports and two at the rear. At this point I should point out the PS3 uses entirely USB2.0 for all connections.

Unlike the 360, there's no mother of a power adaptor and the fans are quiet enough, though the system can get quite warm after extended play. Also, all models have wireless controllers as standard which come with an in-built rechargable battery which is charged via a USB cable with the system. Also unlike the Wii and 360, the PS3 can sustain up to seven controllers at any one time and it is the only system of the 3 to support Blu-Ray and DVD. My particular model can play PS2 games but this feature is no longer available.

However, the PS3's online service PSN isn't quite up to XBL standards, though it is entirely free of charge. More than likely you'll notice this very early on when you have to download an update. For whatever reason the damn thing is RIDICULOUSLY slow, though I must say it IS getting better. Xbox games sometimes come with the update on the disk, and install rather quickly, why this hasn't happened for PS3 games yet I don't know. Also, because headsets aren't bundled with the console - though I believe it is compatible with a lot of bluetooth headsets - the online experience isn't always up to 360 standards, though again, it IS improving with each firware update. As it stands currently there isn't a huge amount between the two online services, but there IS a difference nonetheless.

What can be said about the controller? I'm sure most of the planet has held a Playstation controller before, the design hasn't changed much except for the removal of the wire, the inclusion of the PS button and swapping L2 and R2 for throttle like buttons as opposes to the 360's triggers.


From a strictly hardware perspective, taking into account value for money, reliability, aesthetics there really is only one winner, and that's the PS3. The phrase "You pay for what you get" has never been more apt. The PS3 is the most expensive but with built in WiFi and a harddrive as standard, not to mention an internet browser built into the system with video support for most flash players, you simply can't go wrong. It uses all the latest technology, Blu-Ray, Bluetooth and USB for transfer and storage of data. The fact that PSN almost offers the same experience as XBL without any yearly subscription fee also weighs in Sony's favour. With its curving designs and piano black finish it looks well in any room with a TV and is the perfect hub for home entertainment in this modern era. It might cost a lot but I can guarantee you won't be a disappointed customer with the features and service on offer.

~The Damo
P.S. - Photos are poor quality as camera is on the blip

Tuesday 19 May 2009

Jonathan Creek DVD Box Set

When I was about 13 years old, I watched a programme called Jonathan Creek with my mother. She did her best to try and explain what it was about but I didn't really get what she was on about and it is only now that I can fully appreciate how difficult it was for her to explain what the programme was about. The particular episode, which I now know is entitled "The Scented Room", involved a painting being stolen from a sealed room, where the door had only been closed for 30 seconds and the hall outside was full of people. So how did the thief do it?

Rather than spoil it, I suggest you watch it, but what followed was an hour of brilliant mystery solving and unravelling that captured my fancy the moment the solution was revealed. This I knew was my kind of programme. The only problem? Jonathan Creek wasn't on all that frequently, even now with Sky Digital the problem wasn't wholly solved and the interwebs only has two-three episodes that are viewable. My solution - buy the DVD boxset.

Even though I had watched them all weeks ago, only now have I got the chance to share the experience. Jonathan is played by the brilliant Alan Davies, and for series 1-3 is accompanied by Crime-Investigative writer Madeleine (Maddie) Magellan played by Caroline Quentin and for series 4 is joined by journalist Carla Borrego whom Jonathan had a previous relationship with. There are guest characters in episodes including Anthony Head and Bill Bailey to name but two. Before even getting to the premise of the whole thing, I should point out that throughout all the series and specials the acting and characters are very believably, in particular Alan Davies. Once you become familiar with the character of Jonathan Creek from watching it, you find yourself hard pressed to imagine anyone else in the role. What's more is the line between Davies and Creek is very hard to define, thus adding to the performance and credibility of the character. His character also develops over the course of the episodes in a subtle yet noticable manner.

Creek himself works for illusionist Adam Klaus (played by Anthony Head in the first episode and later by Stuart Milligan. Creek's job description is probably best described as "Illusion-Maker", making the props and tricks for Klaus' show, fooling the audience. He's not much of a socialiser and struggles with women at points. However over the course of the series' he becomes more open and charming, likely due to his working relationship with Maddie that is started in the first episode.

In any particular episode, Creek is usually faced with an "impossible" crime or feat or mystery. More often than not, Creek is brought in my Maddie who usually is called upon in the first case as an investigative writer by the "client", to help her out. What's more, she also writes about Creek's endeavours, generating an unwanted fame meaning that in some and in particular later episodes he is "hired" to solve the mystery.

I should stress perhaps that it isn't always murder at the heart of the story, though I must admit some of the best ones DO relate to murder mysteries. The thing that makes the programme special and watchable is that like any crime/mystery series, like Inspector Morse for example, you want to solve it as well. Whilst you know the solution will be revealed by the shows end, you can't help but try and figure it out for yourself. Trust me when I say that what you think is the solution is very probably miles off the mark.

I guess in part my interest in the show is fuelled by my chosen profession of engineering, as the type of thinking I have to do is in many parts similar to what Creek has to do.

"Making the impossible possible" is an often cliched phrase thrown about in these kind of things, but the style of Creek is unique in the sense that it requires very lateral thinking, something that many people, myself included, simply cannot do off the bat. Unlike a crime series such as Inspector Morse that I mentioned above, where the crime is very motive based and a little piece of the focus is given to technique, the plots of Jonathan Creek give equal emphasis on both, almost doubling your value from the point of view of story-telling and mystery solving and I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed with the end results.

In an early episode Creek makes a statement regarding the "impossible, the improbable and what's practical/logical" as he is about to reveal how the particular crime occured. The ideas of "impossibility", "improbablity" and "logical" are the cornerstones of the series' brilliance and it's these set the tone for all the episodes to follow. In order to solve these mysteries, you need to separate what's impossible from what's unlikely, and then establish how the unlikely could've been done. I can guarantee that in each case you will be thoroughly satisfied with the end result, scratching your head at the ingenuinity of it all yet just how simplistic it all really was.

The DVDs themselves are what they are. All the episodes and specials minus "The Grinning Man" which was shown January 09. There are several bonuses available including documentaries, interviews, etc. Standard fare stuff.

On just a general note of the episodes all together, it seems as though the mysteries/quality of the episodes in series 4 wanes a bit. I'm not suggesting they're bad by any stretch of the imagination, but if you watched them in order as I did the "impossibility" shall we say of the mysteries isn't as grandiose as the earlier seasons, though the episode "Gorgon's Wood" - the last in series 4 - is certainly up there with the best of 'em.

Jonathan Creek has generated huge viewing numbers across England, and the success of the show is shown in the specials that are produced this year and for next. If you like a mystery this is certainly for you. I can guarantee a thoroughly enjoyable experience with the perfect blend of humour, mystery and drama. Just remember to bring your lateral-thinking-cap with you when you do.

~The Damo

P.S. I can't link to episodes, but if you want to find some online, google it and you should be fine.

Monday 18 May 2009

inFamous - Preview

In two weeks time PS3 owners will finally get their hands on Sucker Punch's eagerly anticipated inFamous. In it, players take control of Cole, a bike messenger who's latest delivery changes his future and the fate of Empire City. inFamous promises to bring new meaning to the word "electrifying" by juicing up Cole with electrical superpowers. The path the player chooses, i.e. good vs bad, will ultimately shape the way the character of Cole develops as well as Empire City.

Think Grand Theft Auto + Superpowers! If that doesn't take your fancy the videos below should:

Full Preview:


Might have to give Prototype a look as well...

~The Damo

Sunday 17 May 2009

Relieved and Finished!

Yep, I'm done as an undergraduate!! Well, assuming that I pass my exams but I'm going to assume that I will. Finally, after 6-7 months of solid work and pressure I can now for the first time say "I have nothing to do!". And I can't begin to describe just how great that feels. On the plus side I can now finally catch up on everything I've been meaning to do, which also includes updating this blog. Way too many cobwebs!
Anyway, before the influx of articles over the week, I figured I'd highlight a few points such as my access now to an Xbox 360, meaning the scope of my reviews once again expands into new regions. It also means I can now get around to doing a hardware review of the big 3 which I've wanted to do for a long time, so keep tuned for that.

In other news my U13 team has won the league and gained promotion to the "Premier" division as I believe it is called and at the moment the situation looks like I'll be taking over full management of the team.

As well as that the following matter needs to be accounted for.....


And I completely missed out on getting to write about Leinster whippin' Munster in the Heinekin Cup semi-final. With that in mind the end of the month is going to be a crackin' one with the Champions League final on the horizon as well.

I've also come across a new website which I'll be commenting/reviewing soon which I think a lot of people will enjoy.

That is all.

~The Damo (is back for serious this time)