Cruise 2013 – Day 7 – Rome – Colosseum

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After a sad final breakfast, we left the Legend of the Seas behind at the dock in Italy, we still had a fair journey ahead of us before we were able to find our next staying location – we had to take a shuttle bus from the port to the pier, then a walk along the beach, followed by an hour long train journey to Roma Terminus, and then we would have to hunt around for the bus station.

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After a few hours or traveling and hauling heavy luggage around, our 310 bus would eventually drop us off near our next hotel, the Globus Hotel (Best Western). We sat around in the lobby and ate free pastries provided near the check in desk, then headed up to the room to drop off the luggage. Only one of our 2 rooms were available as we were trying to check in before the stated time, so we had to kind of make do. Our hotel had wifi (unlike the boat), so we took full advantage of that and soaked up as much news and social media as we could while the signal held.

I was playing around with the tripadvisor app on my mums phone and decided to scan the area, apparently one of the top 100 food places was located less than a few minutes down the street, a pizzeria as it were. Me and Gavin rushed off to grab some pizza to bring back to the room, we found it, but were instantly greeted with a giant wall labeled ‘language’. The pizza here is apparently served and paid for by weight, with large slabs of pizza laid out, we had to go caveman style and just point at stuff… it came to 10 euro for a small box, but it was probably worth it.

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After a short rest, we were off to the metro station, headed to colleseo. A 10 minute walk and 10 minute train journey later and I was in front of one of the most iconic structures in the world, the coliseum.
Magnificent is probably the only way to describe it, awesome in both architecture and sheer scale, I ended up taking around 80 photos in the time we spent walking outside and inside the coliseum, my finger unable to keep away from the trigger. The size of it is the most surprising thing, everyone knows the coliseum is big, but it is SO BIG – even the steps on the staircase were double the height of standard stairs.

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After walking about the coliseum, we were lead down some backstreets by my brother, on the hunt for yet another pizzeria. This one was again, in the top 100 of food places in the app, so he was pretty keen on eating there (kid loves pizza), unfortunately he ended up leading us down the wrong road and we spent 10 minutes walking around in some shitty backstreet area instead of sitting down and eating.

The menu at this pizzeria was sparse, I ordered a mushroom and prosciutto pizza and was pleased with the result, it wasn’t quite as 5 star as the reviews made out, but it was certainly above average pizza. My brother on the other hand was not enjoying his meal quite so much, he ordered a ‘white pizza with ham and rocket’ or something, which apparently translates to pizza but with no tomato sauce, it came out a pale white topped with cheese and a small garden worth of rocket leaves – he did not enjoy it. (also, I am very proud of the picture of the Bruschetta below, impressive detail considering the camera i’m using)

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On the walk back, we stopped for another Italian specialty, Gelato (ice cream). The shop we found did 3 scoops for 3 Euro, a bargain compared to what we had seen, I got a cone with scoops of Bounty (chocolate and coconut), Mango and Pineapple. The employee loaded the small wafer cone up with the gelato, with little regard for gravity or weight distribution, it was tasty as hell though, and perfect for the hot sunny weather we had been exposed to all day (>27 deg).

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From here we walked back to the coliseum and headed up a hill, trying to find our way to the Palatine hill, instead we found ourselves invading a wedding celebration at the back of a church situated next to the roman forum, whoops. Trip back down the hill, and then we sat on a wall for a while for some people watching – plenty of young girls doing ridiculous photoshoot poses, lots of wedding pictures being taken, lots of Indians trying to sell cheap souvineers to the tourists… all standard for a national landmark I guess (thought I don’t remember so many people trying to sell us cheap goods while I was visited the Eiffel tower or Amsterdam Red Light district).

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We were pretty exhausted by now, my father in his 50’s in particular was feeling it – Hell, I was aching, and im less than half his age so I don’t know how he was holding up so well. We would spend the rest of the eve just casually walking down the strip near the coliseum, admiring parts of the roman forum and numerous cathedrals, churchs, statues and other historic buildings scattered about the place. At 7ish, we headed back to the hotel for some much deserved rest and a shower.

A final late night walk around the area revealed that there isn’t a massive amount of stuff around our hotel, there are around 8 pizza shops, 4 gelato shops and 2 bars – and those are pretty close to actual figures. I’m not entirely sure why they need so many pizza and gelato shops, but this is Italy I suppose. We bought some pizza to take back to the room as a late night snack, and went to bed early.

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Our hotel room is ridiculous big, with a walk in cupboard, foyer, and balcony with dining area
Our hotel room is ridiculous big, with a walk in cupboard, foyer, and balcony with dining area

Cruise 2013 – Day 6 – At Sea (Boaties are fun)

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(Didn’t really take my camera out for this day, as it was just walking around on the boat)

A nice little lay in, as its not like we’re going anywhere or have anything to explore. Breakfast was at windjammer again, nice little omlette, hash brown, corned hash, etc.
From here we had a little rest by the poolside (because we were so tired from eating breakfast, or something), then it was off to the gym for a while to nurse these sick swans.

Around 1pm, there was a belly flop competition out at the outdoor pool, with music blaring and fat people flopping into the pool to a cheering crowd, it was pretty funny stuff. Meanwhile the staff had fired up an outdoor BBQ by the poolside and were cooking masses of seafood and chicken paella (delicious).

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I went back to the room to check on my brother, who apparently gets seasick easily, I thought I’d rest a spell… and ended up falling asleep. Whoops.

We lounged around in the room for a fair bit of time, wandered around the decks a little bit, had a snack at the poolside café (or rather, I had a snack – prawn noodle salad). There was a ‘capitals quiz’ happening in one of the bars downstairs so we headed down there to give that a go, just another something to try and pass the time. The jist of the quiz was basically just to name the capital city of a named country, the catch was that the countries were ridiculous ones that nobody cares about (eg. Estonia – my parents were so confused when I knew the capital of Estonia haha), we got a measly 7/15 score.
We spent a further hour or so playing ‘dai di’ (Chinese card game), then had to queue for the customer services to pay our bills and such.

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Dinner was seafood heavy, with scallops for starter, cod, prawn and scallop with mash for main, and a strawberry soufflé for dessert. Then it was literal showtime, we went off to the showtime theatre for the first show of the night, which was a 2 piece Russian acrobatic performance – apparently the girl of the group was part of the Olympic gymnastics team or something. The show was incredible, the girl could do splits and throw her leg over her head as easy as snapping her fingers together, I got distracted a few times imagining what a gymnast girlfriend would be like. After the show ended, the cruise director rico came out and did a little comedy skit of some of the most stupid questions people ask him, with highlights being “do the crew sleep on the ship” and “do you use fresh or salt water in the toilets”.

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The second show of the night, and the cruise finale as it were, was a 4 seasons performance with more acrobatics, this was in the atrium of the ship over 9 floors, so they had some real vertical space to play with, and used it well. The lighting in the atrium can change many colours as well so they used that along with the seasons theme, live singing, dancers and the aerial acrobatics to really create a grand finale performance. For the encore, most of the higher ranking staff came out for a sing-song (chefs, managers, etc).

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We are departing the boat tomorrow morning, we’ve had a fantastic time aboard the Legend of the Seas and my time with royal Caribbean (the cruise company) has been a good one, We were handed a guest satisfaction survey and it was really hard to fault anything in particular.

Tomorrow we arrive at our final destination, Rome, Italy. From there we’ll be checking into another hotel and then exploring that city, in the meantime though, I should probably pack my suitcase ready for tomorrow…

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Cruise 2013 – Day 5 – Valencia, Spain

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Most bizarre dream over the night, involving perfume (a music group) holding some sort of dance audition in my room, Kashiyuka and I share a romantic moment, and then she decided to spread what I can only assume is some form of glue into my eyebrows before tearing it off (ow)… Meanwhile, my cousins are going crazy in the house, my uni housemate Ed is randomly in my lounge playing video games (refusing to get out I might add), Cross and Grant are doing something in another room… Weird.

Anyways, back in the real world, we wake up and go for breakfast, today we decided to try the Windjammer café’s breakfast – the selection is impressive. We eat our fill and then head out to Valencia city centre by bus, the weather is pretty awful for now, with clouds above and light rain, the forecast is for 24 degrees though, so there I am in my shirt and shorts wondering if I’ve messed up (again).

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Ths bus drops us outside a major cathedral in the heart of Valencia, there are lime trees casually growing here, and the background is littered with assorted church towers and statues. We have a little peak inside the big cathedral, but they want to charge people to walk around inside – something my dad is pretty against (charging money to enter a church).

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We walk the roads of the city centre a little, working our way towards a famous market which all of the city reviews say to visit, Valencia is a pretty little place, with quirky streets and nice architecture, it’s a little closer nit than Barcelona though, perhaps a lack of space.

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Our next attraction of the day is Central market, a seriously gigantic indoor market with a variety of stalls. The most common stalls seem to be selling parmaham, but there were a ton of butchers, greengrocers and everything inbetween, there were lots of specialty shops too, we saw one selling only a variety of snails for example, and then there was a huge corner of the market dedicated to seafood – with tons of fresh fish and shellfish on display. I wish we had something similar in the UK, locals must love being able to pop in and grab the freshest fruit, veg and meats in one location.

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After leaving, we had a long walk down to the coliseum marked on our map, we weren’t actually too sure as to what it was, but you see a coliseum you kind of naturally walk towards it, right? Valencia train station was right next to it, so we had a little look at that first. Once again, the architecture and attention to detail inside was crazy, If it were England we’d have just plastered the wall over and called it a day, but here in Spain the wall and ceilings were a mosaic of tiles.

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The coliseum was next door, so over we headed, it turns out it’s actually a bull fighting arena called ‘Plaza de toros’. We got a little look at the inner-outside of it, but unfortunately they wanted to charge 12 euros per person to walk around inside – a hefty 48 euro for the whole family, mum said she’d rather spend the money on gelato (sadly, a figure of speech, though we did have a little..).

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The city of Arts and Sciences – our next goal, was far far away, we walked for ages to get to the connecting park, which itself is narrow yet over a mile or so in length. There was much to look at as we walked through the park though, sets of fountains, a theatre, a giant childrens play area (which, naturally I played on for a while), a set of vending machines which would rob me of a euro, some more fountains… it was a seriously long park.

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Eventually we began approaching The science and arts centers, the ‘Palau de les Arts Reina Sofia’ was first to appear, it’s architecture would seem right at home in the world of Mass Effect or Anno 2070, at the very least its shape, colour and presentation seemed very spaceship like. We had a little snack at a nearby café and admired the architecture (the thing at the top actually just kind of goes over the building and floats, which is pretty damn awesome in my opinion).It only got more impressive as we approached closer, with the nearby floor being a pattern of shallow pools of water surrounded by footpaths and nicely sculpted archways and bridges.

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The building was one of three however, all done by the same architect apparently, and it showed – the next was in sight, still connected by the bodies of water, it was easily as grand as the first, though less futuristic in appearance. The third looked like a whale jumping from a pool of water, or some form of closed clamshell. I’ll let the pictures do the talking.
We wanted to go inside and walk around, but once again, entrance fees would have killed us (the first building is an art gallery, 2nd was a science museum, 3rd is an aquarium), I saw one of the entrance fees being 30 euro per person, im not entirely sure what that entailed but even if it was entrance to all 3, it would be on the steep side. The main problem for us as well as the price was that we were on a timer, the boat would be leaving in 2 hours or so, so at what point does 40+ euro of entrance costs for <2 hours of exploration break even? (though the reality of it would be more in the realm of staying for 1 hour, as my dad is paranoid the boat will leave without him).

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A bus back to the port (or about 10 minutes walk from the port as it would turn out) and we were back on the legend of the seas, a trip to the 9th deck to grab a snack and a lemonade and it was finally time to relax a little (the snack would unintentionally turn into strips of beef in a crusty roll instead of the healthy salad I initially wanted).

I pass the time between then and dinner by keeping up with my blog, going to the gym and having a shower. I am significantly less fit than I thought I was, which is kind of worrying because I knew I wasn’t particularly fit to begin with. I’m hoping my 20 minutes on the exercise bike isn’t going to cripple me when I wake up tomorrow.

Dinner tonight was started with a mixed seafood salad (prawn and a crab slaw with a salad) and then followed by giant prawns and a crab mash and finished with a baked Alaska (ice cream topped in a toasted meringue).

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After dinner we went to see one of the in house performed shows called ‘Absolutely fab’, which was comprised of 90’s music basically, the level of talent on display was surprising, maybe I just underestimate these sort of productions (I was expecting something on a butlins level). We finished the day by having some family photos taken by a professional and then heading to the top deck to have a look around – it was hilariously windy outside (11pm in the middle of the sea, who would have guessed) but we made it to the 11th deck and had a little lay down on the deck chairs to look at the stars, the sky was so clear, I had never seen anything like it before (sadly no pictures).

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Tomorrow we are at sea all day, hope it’s not too boring, im not really anticipating much of a blog post though.

Cruise 2013 – Day 4 – Palma de Mallorca

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A slightly later start today, followed by our now normal routine of heading to the Romeo and Juliet restaurant for breakfast, which was almost an English breakfast today.

We had decided today was going to be our beach day, the forecast given in the leaflet (we get a leaflet each night recommending what to do in the day’s location along with the forecast and timetable for the days events) said 28 degrees and sunny, so we headed to the top floor to get our beach towels… to be greeted with grey skies and rain.

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Well shit. We got changed again and decided to head into town, hailed a taxi, yo home smell ya later etc, and we were at the cathedral, which probably has a more fancy and descriptive name, but it is a gigantic famous cathedral in Palma city centre, we had actually been here already two years or so ago when we came to Mallorca for a week, so we just kind of briskly walked through and had a little walk around the city. Fast forward an hour or two, and it is now 28 degrees, sunny as hell and there we are with no swimwear (I had actually changed into jeans like a retard), we decided that the boat still wasn’t too far away, so taxi again back to the boat to change – we stopped off at windjammer café to have a buffet lunch though (burger and salad for me with fruit salad dessert).

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Did i ever mention I like gherkin and onion in my burgers?

One more taxi, a change of clothes and a rented beach towel later, and we were at beautiful Palma nova, a huge beach. The sun was beaming at full force and the sea water was surprisingly clean, we spent the next few hours just chilling out, alternating swimming with sunbathing.
I think I got a fair tan just from today, I certainly feel like I look darker when I see myself in the elevator mirrors.

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That actually makes up the bulk of the day somehow, I think because we had already visited Palma before, it didn’t feel like much of a big deal and we (read: ‘I’) didn’t take many pictures, and then the other half of the day was spent laying on a beach, how much can I really say about that.
Oh, there were some titties, unfortunately there were not many nice titties but a fair few fat droopy ones, Gross.

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Back on the boat and we had around 90 minutes to kill until dinner, I ended up on the 11th floor deck just lounging and listening to music for the majority of it. I took the above picture while lazing about, not bad for a phone picture.
Dinner tonight was a summer fruit medley followed by a chicken… something… I forgot the name of it, it was breadcrumbed and had a layer of ham and cheese inside it though, kind of like a fancy kiev or escalope. Dessert was a berry tart.

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After dinner we all went our own ways again to kill time before bed, I ended up in the gym which is apparently less busy at this time of day (~9pm), I had a nice work out and then came back to the room to shower and blog. I think I worked my triceps too hard as everything is now incredible amounts of effort. Working out felt kind of good though, I may consider getting a gym membership when I go back home assuming my job leaves me enough time for that sort of thing.

The journey back to my room had me sharing a lift from 9th to 2nd with a bunch of high ranking ship officials – who were talking about the difference between land miles and nautical miles… I refuse to believe that is a standard conversation, and instead am pretty convinced I was just witness to a really long running employee in-joke where, upon sharing a lift with a customer, you have to come up with the most bullshit complicated ocean talk you can possibly think of.

Tomorrow we are in Valencia, Spain – I’m not entirely sure what to expect, maybe lots of oranges? Valencia oranges are a thing I’m pretty sure, not sure what else they have though.

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I still need to do some shopping, I changed up 150 euros for this holiday, and whilst I know I could always save the money, it still feels like kind of a waste, I really regret not buying those swim shorts the other day in Barcelona, live and learn.

Of interesting note, the cruise maids work hard, and clean rooms TWICE daily, and leave stuff like this for you.
Of interesting note, the cruise maids work hard, and clean rooms TWICE daily, and leave stuff like this for you.

Cruise 2013 – Day 3 – Barcelona, Spain

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Our first rise on the boat, 8am or so. We were still out at sea, but land was quickly approaching, the green hills and pale buildings of Barcelona in the distance. It would be 2 hours until we were set to arrive at Barcelona port though (and then another half hour until we were due to be cleared from there) so we headed to the Romeo and Juliet Restaurant again for breakfast.

No expense spared again for breakfast, staff were in full swing already at this point of the morning, the tables set and ready to go, we sat down and were immediately offered tea/coffee/juice and a pastry to start before we were even given a menu, I picked out a nice looking cinnamon swirl from the platter.

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My breakfast was a lovely little plate of breakfast essentials – bacon (streaky American style), scrambled eggs, sausage links, and hash brown (which resembled grits more than anything you’d see in the UK). You could also help yourself to a bunch of other cold breakfast stuff from a counter in the middle, I grabbed a yogurt and some granola too because… Im greedy (though not as greedy as my father who ordered an omlette meal AND pancakes).

Finally we were cleared to leave the boat, so after watching some acrobats in the cruiseship main foyer, we got off the boat and went through the port area before taking a bus to central Barcelona.

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The bus dropped us outside Port Vell and a massive statue/podium thing which im presuming is really famous. We started our trip by heading across a nearby bridge to MareMagnum or something which was a shopping centre, the shops inside were fairly standard fare, I almost bought some swim trunks but decided against it in the end because I can’t be bothered to carry shopping around for another 7 hours.

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From here, back to the statue and on towards la rambas, a strip of stands which is somewhat infamous for its pickpockets I hear, there were a ton of living statues around here as well, detailed enough to make the living statue acts in London’s Covent Garden look pathetic, these guys had props, wings and so on. I learnt firsthand that nothing is more impressive than being genuinely unsure as to whether or not you are looking at a statue or a person standing still, It reminded me a little of that youtube video I watched a few weeks back where a guy basically just put a fish-bowl in front of an actual statue and watched as everyone started taking pictures with it and putting money in.

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Barcelona is gorgeous, the roads are spacious, bright, and littered with trees and hot women (instead of faeces, take note Marseilles), the architecture on the buildings kept impressing me as we walked around the streets, even the top half of buildings which were unspecial had awesome architecture and detail to them. We walked through some back streets just exploring randomly, we stumbled onto one or two churches, one of them the Santa Eulalia Cathedral, which was very impressive. We also walked through some of the gothic quarter, which is pretty much as it is described, with a more gothic look to the buildings – very pretty though.

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Detail on the Gothic quarter buildings was impressive

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After a little while of walking through random backstreets, we wound up at Barcelonas version of the Arc du triumph, complete with a football and tennis ball wedged into the cracks in the design (some 20 meters up).

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Lunch was at a small café, we weren’t actually that hungry after our mammoth breakfast, but were pretty desperate for an excuse to sit down somewhere shady. It was nothing spectacular, just some sandwiches and a drink, it was a much needed rest though as we were already getting pretty tired from the walking, it was still only 1.30pm or so too.

Mum was dead set on seeing the Sagrada Famiglia (or as our family refers to it, the corncob church), we tried our luck on the underground to get there, turns out the Barcelona underground isn’t too bad, separated into its own separate lines and such like the London underground (but without the Zone 1-6 bullshit that makes London more confusing), thankfully we live in an age now where ticket machines have touchscreens and multiple languages, so buying a ticket was pretty easy, and its one price to go wherever.

Leaving the metro station and doing a 180 left me face to scaffold with the backside of the enormous Sagrada Famigila, sadly half of it seems to be covered in scaffolding and building apparatus at any one time (they say it’ll be completed in 40 years?), the parts of it that are visible are very impressive though. I do find it odd that there are two very different styles which can be seen where they are building on top of the old building, even the colour is two distinct shades.

The detail on the building is amazing, similar to the line for buying tickets to go inside, which went literally around the block – kind of surprising as the tickets to go inside are 13.50 EUR per person, a crazy price to pay to go inside to look around in my opinion, but maybe there are some fantastic views inside.

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Regardless though, we weren’t going to be able to get inside even if we wanted with that massive queue outside, so we turned our attention elsewhere and started trying to find out how to get to the other famous Barcelona attraction – Parc Guell.

About 20 or so minutes later of walk-sit-walk, we found a bus which would take us to Parc Guell, this place is miles out from just about everything else. An old lady on the bus yells at me to confirm that im about to miss the Parc Guell stop, the camera around my neck possibly giving away the fact that I am infact a tourist who has no other business on the bus.

From what I’ve heard and sussed during my time in Barcelona, Parc Guell is designed by the same architect as the Sagrada Famigila, and it shows. The inside of the park is a beautiful collection of small architectural set pieces interspersed with lush greenery and dark skinned entrepreneurs trying to sell you cold water and souvineers (while the cops chase them about – seriously.).
Not a whole lot more I can say about the park really, it was very pretty and a lovely excuse to walk around in the sun (bit too hot at times though), It was also a lovely excuse for the girls to dress down a little apparently as the amount of hot pants and borderline see-through dresses today was impressive.
I’ll let my pictures do the rest of the talking for Parc Guell.

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Not a whole lot we could do after Parc Guell as it was so far away from the other attractions, we took a taxi back to the port to board back onto our ship and spent an hour or so winding down and freshening up before dinner.

My dinner tonight in the Romeo and Juliet was French themed, I figured since I didn’t get to have much of a French dining experience in Marseiles I’d substitute my own, I had a bouillabaisse soup (seafood soup) with garlic crouton for starter and Coq au vin for main (chicken in red wine with mushrooms), It was pretty good, though I think im done with French food for this holiday. I also tried Escargots for the first time, my dad ordered it for starter and I had one… It wasn’t bad, but at the same time mid-way through chewing it I remembered it was a snail and just felt very put off.

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We walked around a little after dinner, stumbled upon the 80’s party in the foyer, apparently our waiter from earlier in the evening was dancing about in the crowd topless – I guess their work is varied at least?

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There was also some sort of party happening on the top deck outdoors but it was so windy I didn’t stick around for too long.

Tomorrow we’re in Palma de Mallorca, Spain – which I believe Is primarily going to be a beach relaxation day, I’m okay with this after all the walking we’ve been doing.

We found this waiting for us back in the cabin room
We found this waiting for us back in the cabin room

Cruise 2013 – Day 2 – Escaping France and the ‘Legend of the Seas’

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Still bitter from our experience last night, we set out earlyish after checking out from our hotel, the roads were slightly more lively as it is now a Monday, though the streets are still not quite what one would call busy. We mostly just went off for a wander around the streets of Marseilles  our hotel concierge had circled a small area of the town where there were some shops and such so we went to go and see what was there.

Yes, that is glorious leader
Yes, that is glorious leader

During our walk we ran into many of the same issues from yesterday, shit on the floor, the smell of sewage, random cars parked onto the pavement (why is that allowed?). Marseilles is clearly a place where nobody gives a shit about anything, or at least, that’s the feel we were getting from the place.

Oh this is where people stand to use the ATM? LIKE I GIVE A SHIT
Oh this is where people stand to use the ATM? LIKE I GIVE A SHIT

We went into a small shopping centre to have a little browse, but there wasn’t much in there at all, so we pretty much just passed through and kept walking the streets. We popped into a small old looking sweet shop and bought some Navettes (Marseilles speciality biscuit thing), we sampled some of the other stuff too.

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The dock area had a different feel to it on a Monday morning (as opposed to a Sunday eve), there was some cool stuff around, a small boat-shop for example. We went into a small nearby church as well, just because it was there.

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The rest of our time in Marseilles was pretty much walking back to our hotel through the back streets, I bought a fruit tart (which was amazing), we also saw some dumb chick who had gotten her SUV stuck in the extremely tight backstreets of france.

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At last, it was time to bid Au revoir to France and get on our cruise ship, a short taxi ride, check-in and walk later, and we were on the ‘Legend of the Seas’, a gigantic cruise ship with 11 floors, multiple restaraunts, 2 pools, gym, rock climbing wall, casino, theatre… You get the idea, it’s a big goddamn boat.

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Holiday blog sort of turns into food blog at this point, as documenting my time on the cruise ship is about as easy as saying ‘I relaxed, did some sunbathing, and ate a lot’.

Lunch was spent at the wind…something café (which I keep calling Windrunner café just because.) – a buffet style restaurant which serves food most of the day, it had a huge selection, though as expected from a buffet the food quality is far from fantastic, It’s good enough though, and still better than our French dinner from yesterday.

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Dinner was at the fancier restaurant, the Romeo and Juliet, Scallops for starter, a roasted duck for main (Duck with braised red cabbage, croquettes and beans) and then a banana crème brulee for dessert. It was a fancy meal, and I kind of look forward to seeing what else the restaurant has to offer (which is convenient as I’m pretty sure this is where we’re eating every night from now on whether we like it or not).

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Little bit of a walkaround after dinner, and then back to the room to type this out and play on my phone, not sure why I didn’t think to bring my 3DS, but I really wish I had it right about now because theres way more waiting around in rooms than I’m used to.
Tomorrow we’re in Barcelona, hope its nice.

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Cruise 2013 – Day 1 – Departure and Marseille

posted in: Cruise 2013, holiday | 0

After a horrific 2:40am wakeup call, we headed to Gatwick Airport for our early morning flight. We arrived in France at around 8am and took a bus to our hotel in St gar…something, our hotel was by Port Vieux and about a mile or so walk away from the station where our bus dropped us off.

The streets on the way down to the hotel were a pretty decent representation of Marseilles, cars parked randomly on the pavement, vomit on the pavement, random whiffs of shit as we walked through the streets… One could say that first impressions were less than fantastic, but life goes on, and I guess after living in London it was just kind of a shock to see somewhere that looked even worse.

We go the hotel and dropped off our baggage (lots of baggage, packed for a 10 day trip after all), we are already exhausted by this point through our sleep deprivation, the hotel concierge wouldn’t let us check in just yet though, so we had to go out again into the city to try and waste some time until 2pm when we can actually get into our room.

We stumble upon a massive cathedral, situated literally just down the end of the road where our hotel is located, it’s huge walls and peaks can be seen from far down the street. It’s architecture is impressive, though somewhat ruined by renovation work happening outside, the inside is stunning, the detail on the ceilings and floors was really impressive.

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After exploring the cathedral, we take a walk down to the port, there are some cool buildings here, and a museum of some sort, we have a little look around but ultimately decide to move on as the entrance fees are a little excessive.
We exit one of the buildings and I notice a few people taking pictures of above us, I look up and snap this picture…

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And then shortly after I begin to hear a pitter patter… Rain? I glance upwards and see a very literal shitstorm. It is everywhere, I sprint underneath a nearby awning and feel like a war hero evading an artillery strike. ugh.
We explore around the museum a bit, there are connecting pathways on top and a bridge to some nearby castley kind of buildings. We walk around here for a little, just admiring the scenery. The sandy/clay style used around here actually made it feel like we were in Spain more than France.

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It was down to the port next, we had yet to eat lunch, so we went searching for that, we ended up finding it in a small cluster of restaraunts. The service in the restaraunt was awful, we had to wait ages to place our order, though once we had ordered the food came relatively quickly. I had Mussels and fries – pretty standard French stuff? It was pretty good, the mussels tasted fairly fresh, we were by the port after all I guess.

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We trekked back to the hotel to check in and freshen up… The whole family ended up falling asleep. 2 or 3 hours later, we were out again, we had a walk around the port area some more, partially just wandering, partially trying to scope out something nice for dinner. The sun setting made for some very nice lighting, I’ll let some pictures do the talking for me I guess.

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There was an area with a mirror-like ceiling which was kind of cool.

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Dinner was at a seafood speciality restaraunt, 3 courses for 15 euro, which seemed like a decent price – of course, as they say, you get what you pay for.
The food was awful and the service was equally bad. A sliver of smoked salmon and some toast for starter, a fish boullibaise for Main (which was underseasoned, full of fish bones, the potatoes were undercooked, the bread was borderline stale…) and an apple tart for dessert. Each course took forever to come out as well, I think we were there for around 2 hours – practically held against our will.

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Dinner took so long to come out that by now it was nearing 11pm, we walked back to the hotel and reflected on the day.

Not sure if I mentioned, but there are constant ‘pockets’ of shit-smell just kind of randomly strewn around the town, im not sure whats up with that, but its horrific, i dont know if they lack a sewage system in France or what but it certainly felt like it.

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Splinter Cell : Blacklist – Review – SC:Blacklight would have been a different game

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

I haven’t played a Splinter Cell game since the 2005 Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory, I had heard that the series had lost its way over the last few games, so I was somewhat skeptical about Sam’s latest outing.

blacklist logo

To my surprise however, Splinter Cell Blacklist somehow manages to capture the exact same feel of the games from 10 years ago, as such, you pretty much know what you’re getting with Blacklist if you’ve played the previous games in the series –
Stealth gameplay which relies on light and sight lines, moving through areas and completing objectives like a ghost.

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On the stealth front there seems to be a larger focus on sound now, everything you do makes sound which enemies can hear, which is an interesting touch. The AI is a mixed bag on this front though, sometimes they seem impressive, going to investigate doors which have been left open, or lights which have been shot out, Other times not so much.
On the whole however the stealth gameplay is pretty spot on, there are a few occasions where you’ll feel like being detected was complete BS, but that’s standard for a stealth game I suppose. You do thankfully get an alert gauge and even a second or so to react if you’ve been spotted (a quick pistol snapshot to the face can defuse most encounters if it comes to it). The light/dark gameplay stuff is really cool, and usually gives you an option to create darkness (EMP’s, Bullets, Lightswitches), it also gives the game a chance to show off its graphics, with dynamic shadows being cast everywhere and looking awesome.

Those shadows... graphics have come a long way
Those shadows… graphics have come a long way

Blacklist seems to have been designed with gameplay freedom in mind, You can now earn points in 3 different ways, depending on your playstyle: Ghost (full stealth), Panther (Assassin) or Assault (Brought an double barrel shotgun to a stealth game). In addition, the game tries to offer incentives to players completing a level with only 1 style, with awards given at the end should you complete the mission without deviating from that style, this probably adds to replay value should you want it, letting you play the game properly once, and then running through it again with a machine gun and frags.

The mission select screen
The mission select screen

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The points you get can now be used to upgrade…everything… You can upgrade your base of operations for more meta-choices, or upgrade your weapons, buy new weapons, buy better clothing (adapted to your style of gameplay), upgrade your goggles and more.

Lots of upgrades to be found
Lots of upgrades to be found
Even the base needs some upgrading (which shows cosmetically when you walk around the hub area)
Even the base needs some upgrading (which shows cosmetically when you walk around the hub area)

Naturally with a money upgrade style, there are extra missions aside from the story missions – The mission select screen is a map which contains your primary story missions and then some side missions which, upon completion, will unlock the top tier items for equip.
They have also introduced challenges which are like pseudo achievements, and provide extra income, these are the pretty standard ‘Kill 10 people with X gun’, ‘Knockout X enemies undetected’ and so on.

The extra missions are a nice touch, giving more ways to earn money, and are designed with co-op as a possibility, their falldown however is the lack of variety and frustrating design of them.
Extra missions come in 3 flavours: Wave defense, Full Stealth, and Assassin (based on the 3 playstyles I suppose), there are about 5 missions of each, but they are the exact same objectives every time (Kill X people, Kill X people without raising alarm, Complete X Objective without raising alarm). As mentioned earlier, the design around these missions are somewhat frustrating, particularly the full stealth missions, which lack any checkpoints yet span 15 or so minutes and reward alert with instant game over and a load back to the very start of the level. Similarly, alert in the assassin missions results in additional reinforcements which are so hard to deal with, you may as well restart the level. The wave defence levels also have no checkpoints and require clearing 5 waves before you can extract (or you can apparently stay for another 5 waves).

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Blacklist is visually incredible by the way, running it on medium-high in DX9 on my PC, it looks amazing and runs at 60 (Drops to 30fps if I put it on high), Textures are really detailed, geometry and environments are lovely (and surprisingly varied). I would love to see how it looks on a good computer in DX11 with everything at max.
I’d love to comment on the music in the game, but honestly I cant remember any other than some menu music, the sound effects in the game are good though.

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There were a few small things which kind of bothered me about Blacklist, I’ve already mentioned the lack of checkpoints in the extra missions, but there’s also certain parts in the story campaign where you are forced to escort an NPC – by hand, which basically disables your ability to move freely, crouch, or do anything even vaguely sneaky, You just kind of stand there out in the open with your pistol and walk really slowly, thankfully these escort segments are short, but they are a real blight in the game.

Verdict:

Splinter Cell: Blacklist is a brilliant stealth action game, a genre which has really been dwindling as of late, I always actually thought the stealth gameplay was better in Splinter Cell than in Metal Gear Solid, and this game really proves it. Great graphics, decent AI, clever environments which allow for many multiple routes and strategies, and a good difficulty level – these all come together to deliver a fantastic stealth experience.

Approximate Game Length : Medium (I havent finished it yet, but wanted to get this review out before I leave for holiday)
Actual Worth / Price :  £22 / £30 = 0.733
Should you play it : Yes, It’s a fantastic splinter cell experience.

Rating: 4/5

Ps. Play campaign on ‘Realistic’ if you can stomach it, the difficulty feels about right.

Im not entirely sure what is happening here, but it was in my screenshots folder...
Im not entirely sure what is happening here, but it was in my screenshots folder…

Life – August 2013

posted in: blog | 0

Home

My aunt and her kids were staying with us for a few weeks, so that was kind of crazy. They were rather noisy, but could be kind of cute at times I guess

1186049_10152134090743206_1539620925_nThey’ve returned back home to Hong Kong now though, so its become relaxed again.
Meanwhile, Gavin has been off doing god-knows what on some extra curricular programs and such.

Gaming

Managed to hit Gold 3 in League of Legends, not bad?
Other than that, the games I’ve reviewed recently, etc, there hasn’t been a ton of good stuff out to play. I’ve been playing some Payday2 every now and then, and have hit Level 41 recently (all the good unlocks need so many skill points to unlock goddamn).
Some of the other games I’ve played but didn’t review yet (or want to keep playing) include….
Dream – Which keeps trying to force me into playing a horror game
Skulls of the Shogun – Which I found kind of boring
Spelunky – Which I was hoping to progress further in before reviewing, but I keep dying.

Holiday

Going on a cruise starting on this Sunday, going to France, Spain and Rome. I dont think theres any internet on board or in our hotel in Rome, so expect 2 weeks of no updates and then a ton of backdated posts with the pictures.

Job

I may have found one. I dont want to announce anything until I properly start and stuff. But it’s looking good and I should be getting something in the mail soon and am scheduled to start on the 9th of September.

Anime / TV

Since I’ve started watching Running Man (which I still recommend, because that shit is hilarious), that’s pretty much taken up all of my TV time, I think I’ve watched around 50+ Episodes now, which is kind of terrifying considering they are 75mins+ each.

I’ve fallen so behind on all of this seasons shows. That said, having only enough time to watch essentials has given me a better understanding of which shows were good in the first place.
The shows I’m still making an effort to keep up with are: Space Brothers, Attack on Titan, Danganronpa, Watamote, Free!

Gone Home Review : Thankfully not a horror game in disguise.

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

gonehomelogoGone home is less of a game and more of an ‘interactive story’, there are virtually no mechanics, challenges or puzzles so to speak – however that doesn’t mean its bad.

Gone Home features Katie as she returns home from her long holiday abroad, the house is empty, yet filled with various materials, memorabilia and diaries that provide the story. Examining set pieces in the house provide a vocal diary from Katie’s sister ‘Sam’ and so your 1 hour journey through the house has you piecing together the past.

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As Gone Home is the type of ‘game’ where knowing less will give you a better experience, I suggest you don’t look up too much on the game before playing it. I will say however that it is an interesting piece of work with nice visuals, convincing voicework and an interesting story.

It is somewhat shorter than I expected, running for me at around 1 Hour, I’ll be frank – £15 for this game is RIDICULOUS.
Consider that most games provide 1 hour of entertainment for £1 – £4 and provide various levels of fun, and then Gone Home steps in, with its £15/Hour price mark and providing only a story (a good story, but I mean, its no ‘To the Moon’). I would also say there isn’t a massive amount of replay value here (as with all story centric games), there are some additional locked containers and things which need additional searching through the house to find the codes, but that seems to be about it.
I did find that exploring the house was practically a lightswitch finding simulator – the house is dark, though there are lots of lights around inside, the problem is that most areas are so dark that finding the lightswitches isn’t always an easy task.

Introducing 'Dark House Simulator 2013'
Introducing ‘Dark House Simulator 2013’

SIde note, maybe I’ve just had too many scary experiences in the past, but I find it hard to play these sort of games without being paranoid that something is going to jump out at me or appear when I turn on a light/look in a mirror etc. Thankfully, this isn’t the case. There’s also an ‘afraid of the dark’ modifier you can turn on, which, if I’m honest, I’d probably turn on if I was to play through the game again.

Verdict:

Gone Home tries something new and succeeds in making a completely story driven exploration game that is entertaining and well paced, you’ll really enjoy listening to Sam’s story as it unfolds. The majority of its problems lie in its short length and absurd price tag, both minor problems if you are planning on obtaining the game through ‘other methods’ but a massive put-off to legit buyers who aren’t stacking paper to the ceiling.

Approximate Game Length : Very Short (45min – 90min)
Actual Worth / Price :  £2 / £15 = 0.13
Should you play it : Yes, It’s something different

Rating: 4/5

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Payday 2 Review : Get rich or die by SWAT

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

payday

Payday 2 is the sequel to ‘Payday: The Heist’, was released in 2011 and developed by Overkill Software.

I’ve been excited for Payday 2 for a while now since they released some of the earlier details for it, it’s lived up to most of my expectations yet let me down in a few other ways.
The premise is very similar to that found in the original game, the difference here is that it has been expanded in almost every single way, the core of the game is bank robbery, with a side serving of robbing things which aren’t banks.

I have a ton of opinions on the game, and actually tried reviewing it in my normal way, but there were just too many good and bad things to be able to structure it well, so we’re doing it like this.

This was a bad day.
This was a bad day.

Things I like about Payday 2:

1) More missions than the first
While the first only featured about 6 missions, Payday 2 ups that number significantly and adds in multiple parts and segments to those missions.

2) Multiple Day jobs which play out in different ways
The outcome of longer jobs is affected by how the job as a whole is going – Make meth on day 1, trade it for information on Day 2, then use the information on Day 3…
What happens if you dont make any meth? Or if, instead of trading for information, you double cross them to keep the meth and they burn the information?

3) Stealth
Stealth is now a thing, you don’t always have to go loud (though you often will), some missions can now be completed without the police even being called.

4) 4 RPG style skill trees to spec into, with all of them being good
5) The class system is pretty awesome if you have a group of 4
Sort of under the same bracket, all of the skill trees are distinct and have their own perks, yet at the same time you are not bound to fully speccing into one tree, you can even do an even split if you want to and recieve all of the lower tier benefits.
If you are lucky enough to have a full group of 4 and everyone specs fully into one tree, you’ll see some real benefits, sentry guns, C4, ranged revives, tons of team perks, ECM’s and so on.

All of the trees have some good suff, Personally Im going through the Ghost tree. I cant wait to sprint backwards
All of the trees have some good suff, Personally Im going through the Ghost tree. I cant wait to sprint backwards

6) Good teamplay feels rewarding and satisfying
Again if you are lucky enough to have an actual coordinated team, pulling off a heist smoothly with minimal casualties, cleaning house and tackling all of the special forces efficiently is a real rush and feels extremely satisfying.

7) Lots of weapon variety / Satisfying Gunplay
There are about 25 weapons or so, all of them controlling differently and featuring their own modifications. It helps that gunplay is actually good as well, with headshots having weight to them and levels having a nice mix of long range and short range segments.

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Sniper stock on a G3? Go on then.
Sniper stock on a G3? Go on then.

8) Graphics are nice and clean
Seems pretty optimized and runs well at almost max settings on my PC, it looks clean yet has enough detail to look appealing.

9) Heists wont play out the same
Gas attacks and so on change the pace of the game, police will breach stuff or abseil in from varying places, building layouts will change, patrol routes and NPC’s are random…
you get the idea.

Gas attacks are pretty annoying, not to mention potent.
Gas attacks are pretty annoying, not to mention potent.

10) That one ridiculously hard to suss puzzle
Virtually impossible to work out and complete if you are stupid enough (like me) to try the mission on very hard on the first attempt. The finale of heist ‘Big Oil’ has the most crazily complex puzzle i’ve ever seen in an action videogame. From what I gather, it took the community at least a day or two to work out (which is impressive considering the amount of people playing the game) – http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=169466707

11) You can meet new people if you get lucky
I was fortunate enough to find a group of 3 guys that were looking for a 4th, we’ve been playing since.

Progression is both good and bad at he same time
Progression is both good and bad at he same time

12) The soundtrack
Composed by Simon Viklund again, the soundtrack is full of adrenaline pumping electro/DnB tracks. Even if you don’t check out the game, you’ve gotta check that soundtrack.
Here’s a peek uploaded by the man himself – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UXcxX21pYZ8

Things I dislike about Payday 2:

1) It’s still Payday
Meaning its still primarily about murdering endless waves of police forces while waiting for a drill to finish boring through a door or safe.

2) Progression is long and drawn out
The leveling system can get pretty slow once you get to level 30 or so (and the cap is 100). In addition the higher tiers of the skill trees require 4 or 8 points to skill up, you only get 1 skill point per level… In addition, because of the drop system (you get a random card on completion of a heist) it takes ages to find items you want, particular weapon mods seem to be extremely low drop rate.

3) No matchmaking / Bad game browser / Some connection issues
tldr: Finding a game to join at the moment is a fair bit of effort, a combination of connection issues, crime.net showing games which don’t exist, games filling up super fast, lack of automatic matchmaking, lack of filters in the browser… etc.

50k+ Players since release
50k+ Players since release

4) Reliance on finding 3 other people to play with
This is a game for 4 people, whilst you CAN play alone, you won’t have a whole lot of fun doing so. Nothing much that can be done about this really, if you want to play with less than 4 people you can opt to have AI or not (thankfully its not forced on you).
On the plus side, the playerbase right now is so large that you people will almost always join your game.

5) Certain jobs are significantly easier than others
People currently playing will understand what I mean by this, but basically it’s far more efficient to grind one or two missions over and over than doing the longer (and more fun) multiple day missions because you can clear them so quickly – this compounds with the card drop system which only awards you when you finish a full heist (not when you clear a ‘day’ of a heist).
Some people in the community are taking it a step further by restarting/kicking people that don’t take the easy win option.

6) Some missions are too easy for trolls to ruin
Prime example is the ‘Rats’ mission, which requires the team to cook Meth, it’s a lot of effort to do correctly (putting in the right ingredients at the right time), yet incredibly easy to sabotage (by setting the lab on fire)

7) Still not enough missions / Re-used levels
It still feels like there aren’t enough different missions, and you’ll quickly find yourself doing the same ones over and over. In addition some other heists feel like cop-outs as they are the same missions found in other heists only with a slightly different twist (extra door, different objectives).

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Verdict:

There are a lot of arguments for each side of Payday 2, there are a ton of things I love, and a ton of things I wish were better. It’s still early days though, so hopefully the bad can still be patched out. On the whole however, I think Payday 2 is a great game with a lot of clever ideas.
Overkill have also mentioned they will be providing both free and paid content over the next year, so I hope to see some neat new stuff.

Approximate Game Length : Long (10+ Hours to see majority of the content) – I’ve clocked 14 hours over 3 days so far.
Actual Worth / Price:  £18 / £25 = 0.72 (tad expensive, though you can get it for £18.75 if you buy the 4 pack, which is a good price)
Should you play it : Yes, Especially if you have a group for it, but even with randoms it can be pretty good fun.

Rating: 4/5

Ps. writing in this way is so much easier

Ducktales Remastered (PC) Review : A game that deserves to be sent to the moon

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

ducktalesreview

So, in a similar fashion to a certain Resident Evil game I reviewed, I was hoping the newly released Ducktales Remastered would be a good game which i’d be able to review – however it rapidly descended into a big list of things I disliked about the game.
I never really played much of the original Ducktales game on the Nes, so unlike some which will likely be purchasing and playing this for nostalgia, I’ll only be playing it as a game that was released in the year 2013.

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We’ll try and start positive

Things I liked:

1) The 2d art assets look beautiful
Like HD cels pulled straight from a top animation studio, Scrooge, the rest of the ducks and the enemies all look great.

2) The music
The soundtrack (from what I can tell with my limited knowledge of the original game) is both faithful to the original and yet has its own modern twists – Pretty sure i even heard some dubstep elements in the Transylvania level.

3) You can play the levels in any order – that’s always kind of cool.

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And then it gets nasty…

Things I disliked:

1) Only 2 buttons, yet the control system seems clunky and doesn’t always work.
The main mechanic for doing… anything.. in this game is Scrooge’s ability to pogo, you use it to kill enemies, to get to higher places…. pretty much a bunch of stuff that makes you not die.
It’s pretty frustrating then, when you try to pogo and the game won’t let you – resulting in your death.

2) ‘Game over’ means a load screen back to the level select hub
Since we were on the subject of inevitable death thanks to shit controls, I thought I should mention that if you die too much (read: more than twice) you dont get to retry that same area, but get instantly kicked back to the level select hub via loading screen.
Wanted to try that section again? Gotta load it up and play through til you get there again (the levels are long too)

3) Stupid level design
Specifically bits where you seem unable to get through without taking damage, on one occasion during ‘the moon’ level, I left an airship and fell out of the sky – straight onto an enemy who patrols under the spawn point.
Later on, I died and then respawned… right in that same position again – straight into the enemy, even though I knew it was coming as soon as I saw the level load up, I couldn’t do anything about it because the controls wouldn’t let me pogo.

4) Inconsistency in mechanics/physics in certain segments
Late in the Transylvania level, you have to ride a minecart, fair enough – old games have minecart segments, thats fine.
Whilst riding in the minecart, using jump causes Scrooge to travel forward with the minecart as it moves, however there are bits where the rails are missing and you have to jump over to another cart – The problem comes when you actually try to jump… and go vertically up and watch as the minecart goes off without you (resulting in your death).

5) The PC Version is bad
Obviously less of an issue if you are playing on console, but on the PC there are all sorts of reports of crashing, glitching….
Also, the game has pop-up icons for xbox controls instead of the keyboard controls.
I’ve also had the game stutter on me while I was pogo’ing, and have it kick me out of pogo form (resulting in me taking damage)

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6) Can’t skip speech
I mean, maybe they did get the voice cast from the show or whatever, but is that really a valid reason to prevent people from being able to skip/fast forward speech? As a result, your choices are spend ages watching the characters talk really slowly, or skip the entire cinematic.

7) Stupid gem spawning mechanics?
On more than a few occasions, I found gems spawning behind me – I’d walk forwards and then gems would appear on the path I just came from.
What? You expect me to literally take 1 step forward and 2 steps backwards through the whole level? I really couldn’t comprehend the logic behind this.

8) Cutscenes are boring
Unfunny, and too long.

9) Boss fights are unfun, with repetitive patterns
Probably a nod to the original, but the boss fights are very simple and easy to complete, yet require a lot of hits to kill them.

10) Standard enemies are less than fodder and practically reduced to environmental hazards
They have no AI, and rather just pace up and down until they hit the end of their leash, none of the enemies I encountered had any actual attacks either, almost purely relying on the crap control system to actually pose any threat.

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Verdict:

Perhaps those who have fond memories of the original will have a better time with this than I did, but as a standalone game released in 2013, this game is riddled with flaws and issues and no amount of celebrity voice talent or pretty art is going to be able to fix that.

Approximate Game Length :  Few Hours if you can tolerate playing to the end (1-4 Hrs)
Actual Worth / Price:  £50p / £12 = 0.04
Should you play it : No. The worth above is genuine, If someone tried selling the game to me for £1 I think I would turn them down.
Rating: 1/5

Guacamelee (PC) Review

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

Guacamelee is an action platformer (metroidvania) game by Drinkbox Studios, it follows Juan on his quest to rescue the presidente’s daughter.

guacamelee

Right off the bat, im going to go ahead and say that Guacamelee was 4 hours of gaming bliss.

Gameplay wise, Guacamelee plays very similar to Dust:ET (reviewed earlier this year), it’s a metroidvania with side quests, secret items and areas, great varied fighting and some platforming segments.

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Unlike Dust:ET however, which I felt focused more on exploration and fighting, Guacamelee also has a fantastic helping of challenging platforming segments. The progression skills acquired whilst playing Guacamelee are primarily movement based (with some offensive twist), which means by the end of the game you have an impressive array of movement abilities which the developers take full advantage of. Eventually you also get the ability to change to an alternate dimension at will – which results in gameplay mechanics somewhat similar to that of ‘Ikaruga’ or more recent XBLA/PSN platformer ‘Outland’.

Swapping dimensions is a core part of the game, it also makes it hard as hell.
Swapping dimensions is a core part of the game, it also makes it hard as hell.

I was seriously shocked at how fantastic the platforming segments in Guacamelee were, not only from a design perspective, but from a challenge perspective too – with some rooms on par with levels from games whose main gameplay hook is in their difficulty.
One thing to note however is that because these platforming rooms were so shockingly difficult, i’d be somewhat concerned for those gamers who maybe have less experience than myself – a majority of these segments are tied in to the main story and are thus unavoidable, and i’d really hate to see someone unable to progress in the game because of this.

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It’s not just the platforming that is challenging in Guacamelee though, the combat difficulty scales incredibly quickly, with the game rapidly introducing enemies able to evade, enemies with unblockable attacks, and enemies with shields requiring particular attacks to break through. Couple this with environmental hazards, enemies in alternate dimensions and everything else and combat quickly descends into chaos as soon as you get ambushed by enemies (and you will).

Odd. I thought I was playing a metroidvania, not Tekken 6
Odd. I thought I was playing an action adventure game, not Tekken 6

Visually, the game is gorgeous, a colourful and vibrant 2d artstyle, special effects and plenty of references worked into the game world (see article banner for their take on the TF2 Gentlemen Meme). The camera does a lot of cool stuff as well at set moments (which I wont spoil, but you’ll definitely know what bit I’m talking about when you see it).
The side characters, whilst few, are well written and practically explode with personality, from the combo chicken, to the goat-man and the guy with a flaming head, all of them are great.
The music isn’t quite as catchy as it could be, mostly as its hard to identify clear patterns and hooks (due to the style of music primarily), however it is very well done and fits with the game’s mexican style brilliantly. Different remixes of music play depending on what dimension you are in at the time, and music during more action filled areas are fast paced with a good beat and rhythm to them. I’ve found myself listening to the game soundtrack on a few occasions after finishing it as its pseudo mexican take on electro game music leaves an interesting taste in the mouth.

Meatboy? Is that you?
Meatboy? Is that you?

Aside from the mandatory platforming segments ( I personally had no problem with, but…) which I worry may be too difficult for some, Guacamelee has a somewhat weak plot line which follows a rather generic “princess has been captured” story straight out of the 80’s.
It’s also incredibly short – my playthrough lasting only 3.5 hours –  and lacks the same sort of epic scale found in some other similar genre games.

Verdict:

Guacamelee is incredible, featuring challenging and varied combat, fantastic platforming as well as great art, music and humour. It’s the full package, the only let down is that its over too soon.

Approximate Game Length :  Short (3-5 Hours story)
Actual Worth / Steam Price:  £10 / £12 = 0.833
Should you play it : Yes! Though it was short lived, my time spent with Juan the luchador was a memorable one, and for all the right reasons.

Rating: 5/5

Oh also, the FInal boss was hard as nails.

Cloudberry Kingdom Review

posted in: Games, Games Review | 0

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Cloudberry Kingdom by Pwnee Studios is billed as an abusive platformer game with procedural level generation and a plethora of other changable factors for players to be able to create and share levels.

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The gimmick factor for Cloudberry Kingdom is without a doubt, the insanely hard levels it is able to generate, these levels will (apparently) always be beatable, and it’s that thrill or shock factor of seeing it which is the main pull of the game.
The main problem with the game then, comes in when you realise that these levels are completely infeasible for the majority of the gaming populace, and once you start to dial back the difficulty, you are left with a disappointingly mediocre and linear platforming experience.

This is what your actual experience will look like.
This is what your actual experience will look like.

There are a variety of different game modes and character modifiers which dramatically change the way the game works, these modifiers change the way the characters move or are able to interact with the level (an example is one of the modifiers is the gravity switch control style from VVVVVV). These modifiers in my opinion however, are simply not enough to vary the gameplay enough to keep you engaged and (in story mode at least) can actually turn into an annoyance as you will be presented with random modifiers at the start of the level without being informed (leading to you expecting to be able to double jump or something, and then promptly falling to your death).

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Cloudberry at least keeps deaths short and sweet, with 1 button level restarts, quick respawns, checkpoints on longer levels and so on. I did have a few gripes with the character movement when I first started playing, but you will be able to adjust somewhat after some play (though this again goes out the window once the modifiers start up and you find yourself jumping higher than before).

The ability to make your own character modifiers is pretty cool at least if you want to tinker with that stuff.
The ability to make your own character modifiers is pretty cool at least if you want to tinker with that stuff.

The music in the game is decent, though as expected there is somewhat of a lack of variety for it and the music isn’t quite good enough to carry it for extended periods (unlike something like meatboy for example, where the music is catchy yet not toooo catchy)

Graphically – and conceptually for that matter, Cloudberry Kingdom feels like a flash game you’d see on Newgrounds. Whilst I can sympathize with bad graphics in indie games (not everyone is an artist) it’s when I feel I could do better that I start to have a problem with it, because we aren’t talking stylized simple graphics, but rather just straight up simple graphics.

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Verdict:

Cloudberry kingdom is an mediocre masochistic platformer game, until you realise the asking price is £8, at which point you’ll start to really question the game.
It truly feels like a game that was intended to be an online flash game, then they realised they could try charging gamers to play it.

Approximate Game Length :  Few Hours (1-6 Hrs)
Actual Worth / Steam Price:  £1 / £8 = 0.125
Should you play it : Skip. With so many other great masochistic platformers out there, there really isn’t much reason to pick this one. (Instead of playing this, pick one: Super Meat Boy, VVVVVV, Mario: Lost Levels, IWBTG, Rayman Origins/Legends, DKC:R, Element4l….)

Rating: 1/5

Might have been a 2/5 if there weren’t so many other better games out there being sold for much less than the asking price for Cloudberry Kingdom.

5 Things you should do if you visit Amsterdam

posted in: 5Things, Amsterdam 2013 | 0

1) Hire a bike and go on an adventure

Bike hire in Amsterdam is relatively cheap, you can grab a bike for 12 EUR for 24 hours, and the prices get cheaper if you hire for longer periods so if your stay is a lengthy one, you might want to consider renting one sooner than later. The roads are pretty well adapted for bike riding and even if you are not a confident rider (like myself) there are enough backstreets around the canals that you’ll be able to still travel around without having to dodge cars. The bikes themselves come with wheel lock and a bike lock, we didn’t bother taking out insurance as there are a ridiculous amount of bikes in Amsterdam just sitting around. I also recommend taking your bike to Vondelpark and Ryks museum as we did, the trails there are lovely and wide and the place as a whole is very scenic.

2) Go to a coffeeshop and then buy a grillburger from FEDO

Take in some ‘dutch culture’ and then try the vending machine burger from FEDO. I got slightly obsessed with these burgers during my short visit, their burger sauce is something else, and you can get a burger for 2.20 EUR (which is about as cheap as hot food gets in Amsterdam).
If you are looking for good coffeeshops, our hotel concierge told us the best ones are on ‘Harlemmerstraat’.

3) Check the canals out

Pretty easily done as the canals in Amsterdam are bloody everywhere, you’d be hard pressed to explore Amsterdam and not see these things. At the same time though, if you have a spare half hour or so, sitting by the canal side and just watching the boats float pass can be very relaxing.
Better yet, if you can find a place to rent a boat you can experience them firsthand.

4) Check out the Red Light District

It’s what Amsterdam is probably most famous for after all, make sure you go to the right place, there are a few smaller Red Light areas around Amsterdam but all the ‘best views’ are on the central Red light District strip (you’ll know you are there when you get there). The smaller red light areas are filled with what can only be described as budget attractions, and can be sort of scary.

5) Try all their famous foods

That includes traditional dutch ‘Haring’, ‘Stroopwafels’, and ‘Poffertjes’.
Haring (Herring with onion) can be easily found around the streets or in small stalls, the stalls in particular look like small fishmongers and are usually decorated in the Dutch flag.
The Herring itself is probably an acquired taste, but it’s certainly something unique.
Stroopwafels can be found at supermarkets or other food market shops and are pretty cheap (2 EUR for 8) so you can stock up and eat them in your hotel at your own leisure, it’s particularly good slightly warm – try using it as a lid for your tea or coffee.
Poffertjes are slightly harder to find, though with some hunting you can find them in some dessert shops or as a standalone stand, we had ours with sugar and chocolate sauce.

Other notes:

Recommend:
– Dam Square
– Flower Market
– Our Hotel ‘The convent hotel’
– ‘Van Speyk’ Restaurant
– 9 Streets
– Try some of the fruit juices at Albert Hejin
– Try a platter of meats at Ibiscus on Harlemmerstraat
– Frozen Yogurt at uServe

Do Not Recommend:
– SexMuseum (I didn’t think much of it personally)
– ‘Ristorante Savini’ Restaurant

The job situation

posted in: blog | 0

So after being unemployed for a few months, my job offer comes in the form of a somewhat stern looking man who wants to hire me on the spot and start tomorrow.

The position is for a Office Administrator with the role involving payroll, ledger work, invoicing and so on. The position would pay 12k initially (fucking awful right?) and then possibly progress to 16.8k after 3 months (“for the right candidate”).

Normally i’d be happy for any job given the fact that I’ve been looking for what feels like ages, and I did technically say I’d take the job (though I didn’t sign anything and am on trial period), The problem comes in that this would be the end of the job search.
I originally left my accountancy and waitering jobs to find something with better pay and clear career progression – something which this job doesn’t even really have.
They want me to start the job tomorrow, however I already have 2 or 3 interviews penned in for next week, and they don’t seem keen on me doing both, these positions are for jobs which are actually good, jobs which i’d actually want to do, and would pay upwards of 17k from the get-go.

I really don’t know what to do right now.

One part of me says “good, you finally found a job, work hard and in 3 months you’ll be earning just under 17k”
The other part of me is greedy and egotistical and screams “fuck this place, you can do better!”

What do I do ._____.

EDIT/UPDATE:

> Be Me
> Get offered a job after 3 months of searching
> Turn that shit down like a boss
> …
> Regret that shit in 3 months.

This was the position for anyone interested – https://jobsearch.direct.gov.uk/GetJob.aspx?JobID=2764087&GoBackURL=http%3a%2f%2fjobsearch.direct.gov.uk%2fHome.aspx

Amsterdam 2013 – Overview

posted in: Amsterdam 2013, holiday | 0

day1-1

Travel, Initial reactions, Dam Square, BurgerBar, Amsterdam University

 

day1-2

Flower Market, 9 Streets, Canal Chillout session, Supermarket, Van Speyk

 

day2

Harlemmer Street, Ibericus Hamshop, 420, Sexmuseum, Red Light District

 

day3

Yellow Bike Rental, Herring, Rijksmuseum, I AMsterdam sign, Vondelpark, Savini, Rembrandtplein, Poffertjes, Frogurt, Racist Californian

 

day4

Amsterdam Museum, Gardens, Shops, Magnum icecream, Travel Home

View all in chronological order

Amsterdam – Day 4 – Backstreet guys

posted in: Amsterdam 2013, holiday | 0

Our final day, we woke up early and packed our stuff before checking out of the hotel, for those visiting Amsterdam, I recommend ‘The Convent Hotel’ – The staff there were very helpful and accommodating and really helped us plan out our trip better, it’s also in a great location really close to the central station, Dam square, Red Light District and 9 Streets, and I mean they showed us where to get ‘the good shit’ so …

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After checking out and leaving our bags in the hotel, we went to return the bikes from yesterday and then proceeded off on a wander as we do, the backstreets were particularly relaxing today, though the sun was beating down on us full force.
We found the Amsterdam Museum and had a little peak inside, we took some pictures with the miniature ‘I AMsterdam’ sign they had in their courtyard and then had a look around some more, there was a small church and fancy little living area with old style houses, very pretty.

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From here we wandered around a little more, Nash wanted to visit the Magnum shop (the ice cream) but it was closed for some reason. We went to some gift shops to find some souvenirs, browsed some cool looking shops, I bought a makeshift lunch of a Fedo Grillburger and a McDonalds McChilli Chicken sandwich and a White Magnum McFlurry.

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We found a small shop selling only Solero Mojito ice lollies for a Euro each with seating, so we thought we’d avoid the sun a little and chill out. The Ice lolly was really nice, a refreshing lemonade exterior and then a lime and mint jelly with rum in the middle.

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From here , wandered around a little more, saw a guy in a batman costume out in Dam Square along with some French guy being arrested (?)
We popped back into the supermarket before we had to leave for the airport, bought some more souvenirs  and a drink (Mint, Mango and Pear – which was nice but kind of weird).

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And then it was off to the airport, nothing too much to report here about the journey, we got the hi-speed rail to Schipol. At the airport there was a Magnum shop, which Nash and Hass went for (I was broke by this time with literally <5 EUR in my wallet), it was a kind of make it yourself magnum experience, choose the initial chocolate dip, then the toppings and decorations

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The rest is pretty boring, check in, getting my balls touched by the security officer, queuing to get onto the plane, take off, turbulence, thinking we were going to die, then landing, bus to the car park and the long journey home.

I had a fantastic time in Amsterdam, our 3.5 days were paced perfectly, We got to take in the sights, smells and tastes of Amsterdam, get in deep with the ‘culture’, explored the city and made a few new friends along the way, and strengthened other friendships in a way that I didn’t think was possible.

Bye Amsterdam! :'<
Bye Amsterdam! :'<

10/10 holiday.

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