Category Archives: Review

Szin tries… Irn Bru Xtra

Irn Bru, Scotland’s favourite drink, has welcomed a new product to its lineup.

Irn Bru Xtra advertises itself on the can as “extra taste, no sugar”, putting it firmly in the Pepsi Max/Coke Zero mould of diet drinks. The no sugar is a given, and the extra taste is obvious, tasting like a hybrid of diet and regular Irn Bru without both the thickness of the regular and the metallic taste that characterises the traditional sugarfree option.

So would I recommend it? Definitely. However, I don’t see the need for these intermediate products even though I love them. You’ve got a choice of diet or regular to start with, any other variants should be new flavours based on the classic taste.

Red Dwarf XI episode 6: Can of Worms

Everyone loves a Cat episode. Danny John-Jules’ character doesn’t get as many episodes centering around him as Lister, Rimmer and even Kryten, which is a shame because he is a great character brought to life by one of the few actors who could pull it off.

 

A larger-than-life character needs a larger-than-life plot, and this had it. Cat finds another felis sapiens and becomes PREGNANT! Yes, he was the one who was pregnant. For you see, this “felis sapiens”- who clearly took her design cues from Purple Rain-era Prince- turns out to be a polymorph in heat, looking to plant her eggs into a willing host. They do the deed and the rest of the crew rush our protagonist of the day into the medibay for an emergency Caesarian, which he thinks comes with croutons as standard. The unborn polymorphs then turn into tumours in a bid to save themselves. These could kill Cat if extracted, so the only other option was to wait for him to give birth “naturally”.
I had not only one, or two, but THREE problems with this scene:

1. My understanding is that tumour removal is a basic operation, even a day case if minor. So unless there’s some kind of feline-exclusive health issue playing into it, a tumectomy would not kill him. Typical me, griping over a medical oversight in an episode where a MALE CAT-TURNED-HUMAN BECOMES PREGNANT.

2. This is the second extended medibay scene this series. The producers were able to conjure up a number of unique planetary settings but felt the need to recycle an area that had hardly been visited across eleven series. While a medibay scene would understandably fit in a plot like this;

3. This turned out to be unnecessary as Cat doesn’t even need an operation. It would have been best to cut it and have Kryten analyse his insides through other means.

 

The birth scene was not as funny as I’d hoped. Yes, the polymorphs were being born out of where you’d expect, but it was just two minutes of Cat being filmed from the front as the crew fish the constantly-transforming creatures (taking the forms of false teeth, a pumpkin and a lucky cat amongst others) from the birthing pool. Cat did raise a smile by wearing a bright pink lounge suit as he prepared for the big day though.

 

We move onto the final bit where I have to praise Naylor for his characterisation of the polymorph larvae. Just as they are to be dumped from Red Dwarf, they transform into a number of cute animals. Nobody would want to jettison kittens, a pig with a bow on its head or a baby hedgehog in a mini shopping trolley, would they? The crew quickly realise their tactic and get away while Cat spends some time saying goodbye to “his children”. Unfortunately, he keeps them and they grow by sucking on his affections. At the beginning of the episode, we are introduced to a machine that can change one’s personality or even delete it altogether. Lister volunteers for the task of being rendered emotionless to confront the polymorphs headon. This turns out to be successful at first with him recognising the two that had morphed into Cat, but Kryten and Rimmer realise that they’ve turned him into a potential killing machine and draw their guns.
In a parody of The Thing, Lister, Rimmer and Kryten circle around each other ready to shoot, only to bump into two sets of polymorphs duplicating them entirely. This understandably confuses them and find themselves in a catch-22. They talk to the real Cat briefly before going up in an lift, with Cat shooting the rest of the polymorphs without harming his friends. Lister (I believe) asks how he was able to tell them apart from them, and he replies that a parent always knows their kids.

This raises another question: why didn’t he just shoot them in the bay when he turned up? He probably knew his kids by then, after all they grow up so fast ;).

 

Now for the more general gripes- in addition to the birth scene, this episode wasn’t as funny as one would expect. This was disappointing as this was not only a Cat episode but had a decent-enough storyline and a plotline ripe for jokes. There were no real laugh-out-loud moments. Early in the episode, it was mentioned that the tribe of the planet they were due to land on were rumoured to feast on the blood of virgins. That could have made for an EXCELLENT episode provided they didn’t mess up as they did here, and the length of the scene made it look like it was going there, but the only time things that come up there are alluded to again is at the very end where Cat beds down with “two lady cats from Z deck” the viewer was convinced he had made up in his panic to prove his lack of virginity.

 

So all in all this was an underwhelming finale to a mediocre series. If I was the controller of Dave I’d tell Naylor to either get it together or say goodbye to any hope of XII airing on my channel. The plots had more holes than Swiss cheese and many loose ends remained untied. This was clearly a series that had been rushed into filming and the quality seemed to deteriorate as it went on.

 

POSTSCRIPT: In the future I plan to review every episode of Red Dwarf, including those of XI that I have watched but haven’t yet written reviews for. In an ideal world the task would be completed before XII premieres but it probably won’t. My organisation is diabolical. How many episodes should I watch a week? Should I post two or maybe even more reviews in one day (my OCD probably won’t like that one) during a binge? Should I just put the kibosh on the plan before I find myself doing it? I always feel a sense of failure when I fail to do things like these.

Nintendo Switches it up

So after months and months of anticipation and rampant speculation, Nintendo finally delivered details of what was codenamed the NX. And once again, they’ve not only pushed the envelope but completely torn it up.

The Switch’s main selling point is that it functions as both a handheld and a home console. This is illustrated perfectly in the introductory video showing a man playing Zelda while his dog is bothering him for a walk. The man goes over to his Switch and slots his joypad in to convert it into a handheld unit that instantly continues the game he had been playing. Well I say handheld, but there’s at least one other way to game on the go. Up to two players can play outdoors by detaching the sides (the poorly-named “Joy-Con” controllers) and using the screen’s built-in prop. This also allows for up to eight people to play locally wirelessly. According to a Nintendo spokesperson, the screen is the main unit and the dock is just used for TV output and charging. I’m pretty sure the dock will able to play Wii/U discs though.

The console uses 3DS-style mini cartridges, implying backwards compatability using a TV as one of the screens. I am assuming the handheld screen is a touchscreen but there was no stylus shown in the video. The design is remarkably simple and not too clumsy given the complex mechanics involved, but I have no doubt there will be an updated version somewhere along the line. Once again, Nintendo has foregone graphic superpowers to push the primary function. There does seem to be some improvement over the Wii U though, particularly in colour. And what’s more, the very name is a work of art. Short, simple to remember, and gets the idea across. Rolls off the tongue too. “Hey, you wanna play some Switch?” sounds natural even mere hours after the reveal.

Nintendo have released a number of publishing partners for the console. Some of the names aren’t surprising, including Sega, Capcom and Bandai Namco. Others though are well out of left field- EA, Bethesda and Activision amongst them. Other names of interest include Ubisoft, Konami and Codemasters (yes, they’re still around). In recent years, Nintendo consoles have suffered from a lack of decent third-party support, especially as regards more “hardcore” titles. Such a strong lineup promising a diverse range of games is a big step forwards though, and could very well make it a massive seller.

So my first impressions? Despite the two-in-one function being rumoured for a long time, Nintendo still managed to surprise in that regard. I certainly wasn’t expecting being able to remove the sides of the Switch for home-style gaming wherever you are. And the best part? More is to be revealed. Tablet functionality has also long been rumoured, will we be getting that too?

I’m saving up already.

Pokémon Sun/Moon Special Demo Version- first impressions

Spoilers ahoy!

I downloaded the Pokémon Sun/Moon Special Demo Version for free (yay, free stuff) today and played through it during an exercise bike session. The demo itself was obviously very limited, but what it promised looked very good.

The demo sees your player character, Sun, arrive in Alola from Kanto. You meet a local kid, Hau, who is all ready to show you around when two Team Skull grunts turn up! You take one and Hau takes one, and once your Greninja has kicked some skeletal behind they run off for their sister. Then you are shown to the Pokécentre, which in addition to the Pokémart now has a coffee shop. The coffee shop was inaccessible in the demo (with the person at the counter coming close to breaking the fourth wall by saying “the owner will be back in about a month”), but I’m assuming it will serve some stat-boosting products. Yet why would you be drinking COFFEE in a place stated by several NPCs to be extremely hot?

After this, you are introduced to Professor Kukui. He invites you to Ten-Carat Hill for a traditional coming-of-age trial, and you can either go right away or have a better look around the city of Hau’oli’s shopping district. I did the latter, knowing well that all the shops were closed, but engaging in some backyard battles (the people really need to cut their grass) and checking out the marina. Then I went to the Hill to become a man. My trial involved snapping photos of two Jangmo-o and two Hakamo-o, one of which was the local totem. The totem fought you in an “SOS Battle” in which it summoned a Rockruff to help it.  This was an interesting challenge, but I don’t think trials have the “meat” to replace the traditional gym system. The core series has little time for gimmicks I feel, believing that those added in Gold and Silver were largely enough. Plus, we already had an entire game where the objective was to take photos of Pokémon. Surely Game Freak can come up with some more original ideas.

Finally, the grunts’ sister from earlier took you on, sending out her Golbat. I’ll use this paragraph to describe the mechanics seen in this battle and in battle. Your Pikachu, loaned from Kukui, can use its “Z-Move”, a move of great power. Being that Golbat is already a Flying type, it seems a bit wasteful to use Gigavolt Havoc instead of Thundershock, and I’m hoping oversights like this don’t carry into the main game. A new feature to the battle menu is a small legend under the moves that says whether it will be super effective or not very effective against the opposing Pokémon. While helpful for new players and casuals, I find it unnecessary with my over 15 years of experience. I know that an Electric move is super effective against a Flying type. I don’t need it pointing out.

The graphics were not too improved from X/Y/ORAS, characters still being detailed sprites. However, and this is a big however, it featured a full-3D environment for the first time. This is a massive leap up and one, particularly after we can see what Go can do, which is needed in my opinion. Pokémon cannot continue being top-down for the rest of the franchise’s run. It looks dated and is quite restrictive. One drawback to the new style was that in the city, there are entrances at both sides of the road. It is impossible to turn the camera facing towards the entrance, making things a bit awkward.

So to sum up- it had its good and bad parts. The trials, while an interesting idea, seem a bit too weak to be the core of the game. This was just a short trial to get to grips with the mechanism, but if the actual trials are that short and devoid of action, I will not be happy. The gimmicks are getting a bit tiresome- the Z-Moves are almost the exact same concept as the Digimon-esque Mega Evolutions of the previous generation- and the change of setting is doing little to offset that.

When you’re a boy, it’s time to Get Shirty

I finally got round to watching Get Shirty, the story of the Leicester underwear firm Admiral transforming themselves into THE sportswear giant of the 70s.

I will begin by commending the direction. The retro feel was evident throughout with period home furnishings, catalogues and posters as well as a soundtrack including David Bowie, Sparks and the Undertones. The graphics introducing the talking heads were based on 1970s football cards, and some vintage graphical cuts were also utilised. Archival footage abound, but some of it was reused throughout, lending it a slightly cheap feel not helped by the use of soundalike cover versions of T. Rex and Sweet tracks. Why they’d use a cover version when they had the rights to use footage of Marc Bolan on Top of the Pops is kind of baffling.

The rise and fall of Admiral is covered extensively in the 60 minutes (not counting ads). We get straight out of nun knickers territory into the 1966 World Cup and the company’s forage into sportswear. We then skip ahead a few years to 1973 and company owner Bert Patrick noticing Leeds United training next door to a failed sale. He approached Don Revie, who let them do what they wanted with the away kit but refused to let them touch the home at first. In actual fact, Admiral’s first league contract was with Crystal Palace in 1972, but as the club was struggling in the Third Division at the time the director probably made a conscious decision to go with the story of the more glamorous team. At the time anyway.

The talking heads range from key figures including Bert Patrick to former England stars Mick Channon, Norman “Bites Yer Legs” Hunter and Peter Shilton to kit experts such as Paul Devlin to the women who worked on the factory floor. While not from a too diverse range of professions and backgrounds, this can partially be blamed on the narrow subject matter. This did lend it an intimate feel though, because they were talking from their vast experience rather than being some random Z-list celebrity who once bought a Luton Town away kit second hand.

All in all, this was a documentary that managed to be enjoyable despite the narrow subject and painfully low budget. It’s on ITV Player for seven more days, so even if football shirts aren’t your thing, grab it while you can.

And at the very end, we see on a black screen “The Admiral brand name still exists. AFC Wimbledon are the only league club wearing their kit today.” This continued the sad, almost painful, tone of decline that dominated the second half of the documentary. The company that once outfitted half the First Division, England, Wales, Belgium and hundreds of other clubs from Seattle to Saudi Arabia now has only one major contract and that a club that, despite their predecessors’ pedigree, only entered the league in 2011. Like the club formed by outraged Dons as the original team prepared to move to Milton Keynes, can Admiral rise from the ashes?

Red Dwarf review

Red Dwarf continues hurtling through deep space and comes across a broken-down space station being assaulted by asteroids. The crew disembark, with Lister and the Cat being attacked by a medical robot. Lister, down two kidneys, wakes up and finds out his dilemma. The only flesh-and-blood in the crew is the Cat, and he has to either ask him for a kidney or go back in time and retrieve his own.

This episode, like most episodes, wasn’t too joke-heavy, and what there were were mostly quite funny (the crew referring to Rimmer as “Captain Bollocks” at the beginning is a standout). However, Kryten made a joke about FIFA’s corruption halfway through, which while funny, seemed very out of place and character and would serve to date this episode like the primitive computing technology used in the early series (although these have a certain charm).

The plotline about Kryten and Rimmer mistaking a snack robot for the actual medibot was certainly original, but even for a show whose protagonist is obsessed with food and lager it seems a bit uncreative to have another plot involving a vending machine just one series on from the last. There were plenty of loose ends which were never tied up- the asteroids weren’t mentioned after the beginning (even though said mention was about how they had five hours to get out of the station before it was completely destroyed, with the timeframe likely being more than five hours). There was also no resolution to the subplot of Kryten having formatting issues, which spawned the above “Captain Bollocks” scene. Even with multiple subplots the show needed some padding, and it came in the scene where Rimmer tells Snacky (still believing sem to be the medibot) all his problems. Again, while mostly humorous, this had no relation to the plot whatsoever and was unnecessary.

The final gripe pertains to the main plot and deserves its own paragraph. The time mechanic has been done before and better. If Lister purpotedly had his kidneys removed BEFORE the event of the episode, why did the medibot have a jar full of them? It doesn’t look like we’re going to get a Part 2 where the kidneys are revealed to be Cat’s (despite Kryten having a lapse of memory and teasing this). And why grab the kidneys from the past Lister back on Red Dwarf? They could have snuck into the medibot’s operating theatre and taken the jar of kidneys without it noticing.

The episode was funny like most Dwarfs, but there were so many loose ends that would require a Part 2 that probably isn’t coming to be tied up. Some filler that would be better off on the cutting room floor as well.

I’d give it a 2/5. Nothing to raise my JMC Leopard to and about as weak.

Red Dwarf thoughts

So Red Dwarf XI premiered tonight.

Let’s discuss the biggest gripe first. There were more holes in the plot than in a tramp’s vest. On the subject, Albert Einstein was depicted as a vagrant in an alternative 1952 where science and modern technology were strictly banned. There was a discussion about how nobody knew about the Theory of Relativity when it was published well before the 1920s, the cutoff point for technology in this world.

At the beginning of the episode, Kryten discussed the possibility of the alternate Rimmer being a clone. Two issues with that one:

  1. Would Rimmer’s DNA still exist? I doubt one could get it from a hologram, and
  2. Why would a clone cloned from the human Rimmer’s DNA have the “H” on his head?

The plot line was certainly original- I liked all the references to Prohibition such as the cops smashing up contraband (toasters) and the lab turning into a bar as soon as the rozzers came around. There was no shortage of jokes such when the character of the day referred to the crazed Einstein’s habit of pushing around a pram full of string to advertise one of his theories and Cat (still the show’s best character in my opinion) replied “Pram theory?”

And from here we run into more problems. Said character of the day, while most of her science-related double entendres were funny, had a problem with keeping her American accent. This week’s baddies were neo-Luddite humanphobic simulants who banned all technology because people were supposedly misusing it. This is a fantastic plotline, but it seemed more like hard SF than something from a show that has featured mutant curries as plot devices. Furthermore, I should add that the simulants only reappeared with about two minutes to go, as though this was an afterthought.

Overall, I would say this had the potential to be a great episode, and had a few good laughs, but the issues mentioned above keep me from giving it a complete thumbs up. So it’s a thumbs middle from me, maybe pointing a teensy bit up.