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Six XBox Live Arcade Recommendations:
  • Braid: this is a deceptively simple-looking 2D puzzle/platformer with hidden depth. The big deal with Braid is time rewind/manipulation. Almost every puzzle requires you to manipulate time in some fashion for the solution, and the levels are almost universally excellent. The final stage, though, is genius... and this is before you then go star-hunting to unlock the alternative ending. It's possibly a mite pretentious when you first encounter it (there's a story to go along with the puzzles, but the true story is much, much deeper, and actually sort of blows your mind when you discover it), but this is offset by the sheer visual beauty and fantastic soundtrack. On the negative side, it's expensive at 1,200 points, and once you've worked out how to solve a given puzzle, replay value (star-hunting aside) is kinda limited.

  • Geometry Wars Retro Evolved 2: The fact that it's the sequel is important, the older version is still available, and half the price, but about a quarter as good. This is a twin-stick shooter - you pilot your spacecraft about a 2D arena, shooting at neon-coloured geometric shapes that have various properties, collecting score multipliers as you rack up the kills. The visuals to this game are intense, and the first time you see it, be prepared for full-on visual overload, because there's so much happening on screen it's almost impossible to divine what's going on. There are six different game modes, each with their own particular quirks and features, my favourite of which is Pacifism. Replay value is off the chart: you will constantly be having 'just one more game' to try and beat your previous high score...

  • Defense Grid: The Awakening: I'm new to the Tower Defense/Defence genre, but this is a seriously addictive game where you place towers with various characteristics about the game map so as to impede incoming swarms of aliens' progress. The game has a story, which includes a kinda shell-shocked, discombobulated British-voiced AI that talks you through the various towers you've got and the aliens you're encountering as well as dwelling on the horrors of wars past and reminiscing about raspberries(!). Hugely compelling, and as the levels progress, the difficulty certainly ramps up - part of the challenge is in preserving all the power cores you're trying to protect whilst using the minimum of resource to do so. I'm not very good at that bit. Yet ;-P

  • Every Extend Extra Extreme: or E4, for short :-) Completely abstract game, where the object is to explode yourself in such a way as to cause chain reaction explosions through the waves of incoming snowflake/geometric shaped, um, 'enemies', and thereby build scores. Some of the enemies have power-ups (additional time, score multipliers, shields), and as you play, the chain reactions you can set off get longer and longer, until you can press a single button and then watch the screen just explode in mesmerising pyrotechnics for 30 seconds or more. Best played late at night, with the music up, and is, I concede, an acquired taste

  • Shadow Complex: Metroid Fusion was the best game I ever played on my GBA - a 2D platformer/side-scrolling shooter where you guided your protagonist through a maze of, in that case, an abandoned space station, collecting power-ups as you went, uncovering the map and solving the mystery of what had happened. Shadow Complex is basically exactly that, for the XBox - it's a 2.5D thing - your character can only move in 2D, but can shoot about a 3D space, which takes some getting used to, but is cleverly executed. The basic story is that you're hiking through the woods with your girlfriend when you discover an underground lair in a cave complex that's the base for a conspiracy to assassinate the Vice-President of the USA. Definitely fun :-)

  • Alien Hominid HD: looking at my icon, it's no surprise to see this one here :-) Alien Hominid is a basic, 2D side-scrolling shooter, the twist being that you're controlling the alien against the human baddies (such as the FBI etc). The art-style is fantastic (icon refers), and if you find the gore too much, you can switch the blood effect off to be replaced with flowers and stuff. Nonetheless, despite the Alien Hominids various moves, weapons and ridiculous power-ups, this game is pretty tough. But awesome all the same.
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After gingerly walking in through the Snap! Crackle! and Pop! of a thin layer of ice over yesterday's snow dusting, I'm back at the Office (II), and was very much looking forward to warming my gloveless (they went missing over the festive period - must replace. Seriously must) hands opn a mug of boiling water (for I am still coffee-free™), to discover that our 'instant' boiling water machine isn't producing forth vast torrents of instant boiling water... more what you might call lukewarm-ish.

Hopefully normal service will be resumed shortly - the beast has been switched off over the Christmas break, and needs some time to get back up to operating temperature. Of course, since we have instant hot water on tap, we don't have a kettle...

I've got some background processes running on the PC which would've been much better run over the Christmas break, but that only occurred to me once I was home, and I'd powered down the work PC, so I couldn't remote desktop in to set things in motion. So that was a bit shortsighted of me, but nothing terminal.

DVD-wise, The Wire continues to prove rivetting viewing - the cinematography in the penultimate episode of S3 (the showdown in the empty house with Omar and Brother Mouzone) is awesome (Omar rocks), whilst in matters literary, Rachel Caine's Carpe Corpus, Morganville VI is looking set to be my first book of 2010 - I'm about half way through at the moment, but keep getting distracted by both The Wire and Assassin's Creed II.
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I actually have two XBoxes/XBoxii/XBoxen; one is at The Farm, and the other is/was here at Castle Fox. The latter was a relatively recent acquisition, in that I bought myself an XBox Elite at the end of November.

Well, this morning it died on me after barely five weeks' service; not hugely impressed, although I have to credit Game with at least swapping it over for a new one with absolutely minimal fuss, and the new machine is about to be plumbed in once I've finished typing this post.

To be honest, I had my doubts about the old Elite; I'd mentioned to Colleague N that the dashboard seemed to ... stutter, when scrolling through different panes, and I'm sure that it was noisier and, well, coarser than the Farm-based 60GB machine I bought a year ago. So mebbe I was just landed with a dud.

Of course, google "red ring of death" +360 and you'll get a whole wealth of hits warning you how spectacularly unreliable the 360 is. I'm somewhat sceptical of such a dramatically bad picture, and was when I bought the original 360 in 2008; certainly, the launch incarnation of the console was appallingly bad, but the thing's design has been tweaked year on year, and reliability has supposedly improved markedly (depending upon who you listen to).

The 60Gb was a Falcon, whereas the Elite was a Jasper, supposedly the newest, and most reliable variant. So on my totally statistically significant sample of 2 consoles (out of, what, 34,000,000?), my preference is leaning towards the Falcon (which is a bit tough, since all the motherboards are now Jasper anyway).
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Work formally closes at lunchtime today, so it's just a morning stint at the desk, and then the day is mine!

It rained a little last night, so the snow turned to slush turned to ice as night gave way to morning - walking Mali this morning was a little hairy in a couple of places, but I remained upright, so all good on that front.

I set a new PB on Pacifism mode in Geometry Wars2 last night; 12,500,000, which beat my previous high by a factor of 6 (which sounds impressive, but because of the nature of the game's score multiplier collection thing, the points rack up increasingly quickly the longer you survive). To put that into perspective, the current global top score for Pacifism is apparently around the 7 billion mark, so I have a looooooong ways to go. I'd like to break in to the nine digit score range, though...

I switched to Geometry Wars2 after playing a little more Assassin's Creed 2 - a beautiful, beautiful looking game, but I'm finding it hard, er, finding each respective quest's target. Still, it's absorbing, but I'm thinking that Ezio (the Assassin you play) definitely makes different life-choices to me on a day-to-day basis.

Forgot to mention, have received Christmas cards from [personal profile] aome, [personal profile] carolanne5, [personal profile] cynthia_black and [personal profile] uninvitedcat, so thank you muchly, y'all, for those! <3
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It's 3pm and it's dark out there - and wet, too :-/

P & I have just returned from a mission to a deli in Beverley where I'd ordered a Christmas hamper for the parental units. Long-term readers may suspect that I'm singularly ill-equipped to judge the quality of a foodie's hamper as a present... and they'd be right, but I figure even if I have, by some stroke of misfortune, managed to duplicate existing beverages and/or consumables in the parental abode, they'll still get used eventually, right? And it looks impressive. Have also got some DVDs and books for them, so I think I'll be calling it a day/week/month/year on present buying on that front, at least.

Comradette K got me into the Morganville Vampires books by Rachel Caine by lending me the first two instalments. I, in turn, suggested to [personal profile] cynthia_black that [personal profile] aki_itsuki might enjoy them, given her prediliction for things vampish, and it so happens that she's now reading them faster than I am. Which means that book 3 has been borrowed from Grimmauld Place, rather than Comradette K's library shelves. 's all good, either way: actually, Book III is proving to be quite fun (it's notable that both Oliver and Monica have both commented to Claire that she's now a proper player in Morganville, as a consequence of her derrings do in tomes previous), and is more than compensating for the suspicion that Book 2 didn't quite have the same 'zing' about it as the opener).

I started a new gamer profile on the 360 - RedDogFever (you have to pick a unique gamer tag, and I chose that because, hey, what were the odds of it already having been claimed? Absolutely), and have thus set about building up my gamer score through the noble art of Achievement Hunting on Braid and Geometry Wars, principally. We've also picked up Defense Grid, a Tower Defen(c/s)e game that's rather addictive, although the achievements on offer in that look as though they're going to take a lot of playing hours. The 'proper' discs at Castle Fox (the aforementioned all being XBox Live Arcade titles downloaded to the hard disk) are Forza 3 and Assassin's Creed II. I've made a start on the former, but I think it's the latter that's going to be taking up my evenings when I'm not Wired.

Speaking of The Wire, the h264 rip of 1x01, courtesy of Badaboom player rather nicely (albeit with a 'watermark' bottom left that I'm hoping the full version dispenses with). What was more noticable, though, was that I was able to understand a little more of the witness speech when he was talking to McNulty in the opening scene...

And finally, I got my hair cut yesterday.
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P was only at Castle Fox until lunchtime yesterday - he had a party to go to Saturday afternoon, and for a change ex and co came to Hull to pick him up, rather than me ferrying him back. Unfortunately, ex not having much practice in the commute, sort of underestimated the time it would take to get here, and ended up being an hour late. But hey, all good in the end.

Today saw me venture into town at lunchtime, just as the skies went almost completely black. I caught a single glimpse of lightning off in the distance, but it would seem that the weather wasn't really that interested in putting in the requisite effort for a storm proper, and instead just contented itself with a spot of rain.

Mali and I have had a couple of brisk walks around the Avenues - if I move quickly enough, he'll walk to heel almost perfectly. And he maintained that for a little while as I attempted a light jog, but patience isn't that dog's strong suit, and he eventually went into Race Mode, so we called a literal and metaphorical halt on that one. But I'm going to try and add some light jogging into the standard walks every now and again, and see how that goes.

Bookwise, I'm currently reading (or trying to read) One Red Paperclip by Kyle MacDonald. This is the tale of that guy who traded items sequentially on CraigsList, starting off with the object of the book's title, and moving ever on up until he managed to trade himself into a house. The parenthetical hesitancy is due to the little 'zen wisdom' nuggets that pepper the end of each chapter. Since we're currently on one chapter per trade, and we're at him having acquired a camping stove, I'm somewhat fearful for my sanity, should I have to endure too many more observations of the calibre of 'now was two words ago' (I actually make that five, and so does Kyle himself in the paragraph explaining this gem, which makes the paragraph's title all the more bizarre).

Anyway, since Christmas is coming up, obviously this is the time of year when I buy myself stuff, and so I now have Assassin's Creed II for the 360... I know all the hype this year is about Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2, but I am hopeless at FPS titles (seriously, Colleague N lent me Gears of War once, and I couldn't make it out of the training level without being killed. Repeatedly).

So expect the book-reading to tail off a bit as the year closes ;-P
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I didn't get very deep (no pun intended) into Bioshock, having only borrowed the game for the 360 from Colleague N at work, but was deeply impressed with what I saw.

Well, dude here went the full 9-fathoms in recreating not only a big-daddy costume, and getting his fiancée to dress up as one of the Little Sisters, but in then arranging a photoshoot in an aquarium to complete the experience.

Creepy, yet awesome (kinda like the game).


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