Sopham

My friend Sophie and I recently started playing the game Ever Oasis together. By using the word “together” I don’t mean to indicate that the game is multiplayer, rather we’re just playing independently at the same time. It’s a nice experience and a new one for me; I’ve never really played a game with somebody like that before.

Anyway, that’s not the main point of today’s blog post; interesting idea though it is. Instead, I wanted to document especially heartwarming exchange which came about as a result of this joint venture through the digital world of Ever Oasis!

One of the main characters in Ever Oasis is a water elemental named Esna. The main character meets her early on and then after a short while gives them a short speech about how they believe in them and that they’re a good person. All good and uplifting stuff and, to be honest, it reminded me somewhat of Sophie, because she often tells me similarly uplifting things about myself, they also used a few similar turns of phrase.

After playing for a few minutes and getting to a point where I could happily put my 3DS down without spoiling my journey through the plot, I picked up my phone to send Sophie a message to say that Esna had reminded me of her – only to find a message saying that she felt like Esna reminded her of me. I couldn’t help but smile. A sure sign, no doubt, of a positive and supportive relationship!

I joked that Esna perfectly represents what we can achieve if we work together and support one another: a powerful elemental capable of changing the world. Sopham was the name we decided on for that concept – and a very good concept it is, because the best friendships, I feel, should be all about bringing out the best in one another. Oh, also it works on another level because Esna is water and I like Trusty Water Bottles.

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Hospital(ity)

First of all, I’d like to acknowledge that I didn’t update this blog as I usually would have done on Monday. You see, I actually had a very hectic start to the week. In recent times, I have had certain health-related issues – nothing too serious, but on Tuesday I had a doctor’s appointment about it and, while there, it was decided I should go to A & E just to be completely safe. I then travelled up to the hospital in Bath and underwent a series of very invasive (and somewhat painful tests) and ended up staying there for quite a long time.

Sounds like a pretty horrible experience, doesn’t it? Well, it wasn’t. You know why? Well, the old saying goes that you find out who your true friends are when you really need them and, as it turns out, all of my friends are my true friends! Everyone of them came through for me.

The local doctor indicated that I’d need to quickly pop into A & E for a check, then be able to leave before long. But when I arrived, I was told that I might well have to stay the night! I wish I had been warned, as I would have brought a book or my Kindle or my Switch. I did have my 3DS, but before I knew it I was in a gown, in a bed and my 3DS was away in my trousers and I was told I wasn’t allowed to get out of bed. All I had were my yo-yo and my phone and the cannula inserted into my arm made yo-yoing quite painful.

So I used my phone and one nice thing I have is infinite texts, so I texted. I let my friends know that I was there and the outpouring of support was overwhelming. People were keeping my company through texts, offering to come and visit as soon as they could, offering to bring me clothes and food, offering to do anything I needed, offering sympathetic words, expressing concern, leaving nice voice mails.

It’s not that I didn’t think they cared about me before this, I knew that they did, but I just didn’t expect this much support. I don’t know what I ever did to deserve such loyalty and kindness, but it makes me realise that I am an incredibly fortunate person. I have a huge support network made up of all the best of humanity – with that in my life, I can overcome any problem. Any time a problem arises in the future, I’ll always remember the support I received on that day and know that I am not alone.

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Conker reviews:

The story of the child-friendly squirrel who went down a very dark path.
YearGameRating
1997Diddy Kong Racing ¹8.9/10
1999Conker’s Pocket Tales7.7/10
2001Conker’s Bad Fur Day9.8/10
2005Conker: Live & Reloaded9.5/10
2012Minecraft ²10/10

Parent Series:

Footnotes:

  1. Conker is a playable character.
  2. Characters from the series are playable in all console versions of the game.
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Speed of Eating

Once, long ago, I used to be a master of having dinner with people. Not at choosing the ideal location or at making perfect dinner conversation, but in the sense that I would always finish eating at the exact same time as them – no matter the different sizes between dishes. It was always nice to perfectly coordinate my eating speed with whoever I was with. Our minds were completely in-sync.

But over time, I lost the knack. My love of food was so intense,that I could not resist devouring it immediately. No matter who I was with, I would always finish first. Being taller, I have a bigger head and therefore a bigger mouth, so it seemed quite natural that I would finish first. I was quite happy with this, because I’d rather finish first and wait for the other person to finish than take ages and leave the other person waiting.

Though in recent times my speed of eating has changed once again: nowadays, I rarely finish before the people I eat with and so, sadly, they do have to wait for me. It feels weird to now be a slow eater after having been known as an exceptionally fast one for so long. Perhaps the pendulum will soon swing in the other direction and I’ll be fast again.

Why did it change? What factors contribute to the speed at which somebody eats something? Do I just talk more while I eat now? Giving me less opportunity to take bites? Who knows? It will always be one of life’s mysteries. I’ll never truly know what causes the ebs and flows of my eating speeds.

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Conker: Live & Reloaded

As a child, I wasn’t really aware of Rare being bought out by Microsoft. I didn’t keep up to date with big developments in the gaming world. This meant that when I saw Conker: Live & Reloaded in the shops, I was concerned to see Conker (who I thought of as a Nintendo character due to Diddy Kong Racing) appearing on an ‘enemy’ console.

Since then, my childish console war mentalities have faded and I’ve been able to enjoy games on all consoles; including this remake of Conker’s Bad Fur Day. Here are the changes, good and bad, that I noticed:

  • Visually everything has been enhanced. Instead of the old blocky Nintendo 64 art style, the whole game has a much more realistic aesthetic. I’m on the fence about this: on the one hand, it can be quite beautiful, especially with the improved lighting, but on the other, it feels a lot less colourful and loses the aspect of “Isn’t it strange for this children’s character in an N64 game to be in such extreme situations?” because it looks very different to the N64 classics.
  • The soundtrack has been enhanced and is now clearer. No arguments here, it’s a good improvement.
  • More swearing is bleeped than was the case previously. Some people are outraged at this censorship, others find it quite funny. Personally, I was just a bit annoyed that the odd sentence was harder to follow.
  • The controls have all been sharpened and improved. Again, no arguments, this was a good change.
  • More enemies have been arbitrarily added to some of the emptier areas. Killing them feels a bit like a pointless hoop to jump through.
  • A few characters have been redesigned. I think I like all of the new designs just about equally.
  • Sadly, there are now noticeable loading times when going to new areas which weren’t there originally.

You probably noticed that I didn’t mention anything about the new “Live” mode, but that’s because I felt it deserved more than a bullet point. Essentially, it’s a whole online multiplayer third-person shooter game of its own and, I believe, was originally intended to be the biggest selling point.

What I really appreciate about this is that, though it was an online game, Rare included an option to play with CPU controlled characters so that even those without access to Xbox Live could play and as that now includes everyone (as the original service has been discontinued) I’d call that good foresight!

I also like that a lot of effort has been made to add to the lore of Conker’s world. There are some really interesting military developments and storylines which stretch out into the far future. I love stuff like that. There’s a gritty little world that’s been created and I really enjoy exploring it while taking part in the shoot outs between furry animals.

What I don’t love, is the fact that the CPU players are terrible when they’re on your team. When you actually need them to cooperate with you in order to achieve a goal, you probably won’t be able to. In fact, I just gave up in the end and because of this reason. With humans, it could have been excellent, but the CPU is not smart enough.

Overall though, this is a pretty great remake. It adds a lot of good new content, though it does come at the cost of a few minor issues. What I did find, though, was that I felt much less emotionally invested in the story this time through. Was it just because it wasn’t ‘new’ to me anymore? I don’t know. I still recommend it, especially if its your first time, but I do think part of the story’s charm is how strange and unexpected it is, and knowing everything that happens makes it a little less fun, which means I’m going to give the game a slightly low score than the original.

Rating: 9.5/10

Buy it here.

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My Top 10 Favourite Restaurants

Anyone who knows me will know that I love to eat out in different restaurants. In fact, it’s safe to say that I meet friends for dinner at least once a week and since I know lots of different people in lots of different places, I have quite broad range of restaurant experiences. So without further ado, here are my top 10 favourite restaurants. I hope I will be able to enlighten you to something fantastic, or at least get you excited to try something new.

10. Corsham Nando’s

Not really a restaurant, but when I buy veggie burgers from the supermarket, put them in buns, enliven them with some Nando’s sauce and eat them from home, it feels just like being in Nando’s. I can close my eyes and imagine I’m there with my friends.

9. Plymouth Nando’s

I’m sure that nobody is surprised to see that this list contains a Nando’s. I love Nando’s after all and this was the very first I ever went to, one sunny afternoon with my dear friends Dalfino and Egan. It ranks lowly because I can’t remember it perfectly (this was seven years ago) but it started a life-long love affair with this marvelous chain.

8. Wolverhampton Nando’s

I’ve only been to this fantastic restaurant a couple of times, but its nestled in the heart of the beautiful town of Wolverhampton. I was there at the time I first discovered that the Nando’s veggie burger had been changed to be more sweet potato based. Delicious! It’s a place I often enjoy eating at when visiting my dear friends Alex and Sam, who live in Wolverhampton.

7. Swindon Nando’s

Speaking of Nando’s, the one in Swindow is also a favourite of mine. I have actually only had the pleasure of eating here once (joined by dear friends Hayley and Tasha) and during this one time, I got to try the halloumi sticks for the first time. They were incredible. What helps this particular restaurant rank so highly is that it is walking distance from the popular ice cream parlor: Kaspa’s. Did I go to both back to back? I sure did.

6. Camden Town Nando’s

A slightly more exotic choice for number seven. Camden town is one of my favourite parts of London, with it’s amazing, cool and alternative market. But if you’re feeling alternatived and looking for a safe place to eat, why not go for a really mainstream restaurant choice and eat at their Nando’s? I was there just a few days ago with my dear friend Mairi. I ate a Portobello Mushroom and Halloumi Wrap – delicious!

5. A Nando’s near Winter Wonderland

Now that we’re on the subject of London, I’d like to mention a Nando’s I visited one festive evening when I went to visit Winter Wonderland – again, with my dear friend Mairi. I don’t know exactly where this one is, so I have no photograph, but it was down some stairs and it felt like a warm and cosy cave on a cold winter’s day. While we were there, Mairi gave me a bit of the Portobello Mushroom and Halloumi Wrap – since then, I have had it many times! There are other restaurants that I’ve been to in London, but to stop this list getting repetitive, I focus on restaurants in other cities – brace yourself for the next choice…

4. St. Andrews Nando’s

From London, to Scotland! One evening I found myself alone in St. Andrews and feeling pretty hungry. In my time of need, I turned to Nando’s. I had a delicious sweet potato veggie burger. Though I was alone, in my heart I carried with me every friend I’d ever been to Nando’s with. What a beautiful experience that was. Oh, also, it was nearly Christmas.

3. Bath Train Station Nando’s

Though often the butt of jokes from locals when compared to Bath’s other Nando’s, the Bath train station Nando’s is still a Nando’s and it is still in Bath, the greatest city of all time. Though it will never be quite as special as the other one, I’ve had a fair few visits with my dear friend Sophie, which has helped to give it more sentimental value to me. I had a sweet potato veggie burger every time. Delicious!

2. Bristol Cabot Circus Nando’s

After Bath, Bristol may be my favourite city and Cabot Circus is such a beautiful place to eat – especially in the summer. It’s a perfect mixture of outside and inside and you get that wonderful urban atmosphere that Bristol provides. At this restaurant, you can get a delicious sweet potato veggie burger. Delicious!

1. Bath Odeon Nando’s

This is the big one: my favourite restaurant. I’d say “drum roll, please” but you can already see the name of the entry above. Yes, it’s the Bath Odeon Nando’s. A place I’ve visited with so many different people over the years. I’ve gone with new friends as we solidified our friendships, I’ve gone with longstanding friends to reminisce about old times, I’ve gone with colleagues to de-stress on work days, I’ve gone for Christmas parties and birthday parties, I’ve gone alone and I’ve gone with twenty people. The hub of my social life. Let’s look at Plato’s World of Forms – this is the form of Nando’s and all the others are a shadow of its greatness, but a shadow of perfection still contains something of perfection. If my love for my friends took a physical form, this would be it. What a place. I usually have a sweet potato veggie burger. Delicious!

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Wario reviews:

The many adventures of Mario’s rival Wario and his friends.
YearGameScore
1992Super Mario Land 2: 6 Golden Coins ¹6.7/10
1994Wario Land: Super Mario Land 38.9/10
1997Mario Kart 64 ²7.5/10
1998Wario Land II9/10
1998Mario Party ³9.5/10
1999Mario Golf8/10
2000Wario Land 36.7/10
2001Mario Kart: Super Circuit8.7/10
2001Wario Land 48/10
2002Animal Crossing9.4/10
2003WarioWare, Inc.: Minigame Mania8.9/10
2003Mario Kart: Double Dash!!6.5/10
2004WarioWare: Twisted!9.3/10
2004Super Mario 64 DS9.3/10
2005Mario Kart DS9.5/10
2006New Super Mario Bros. ¹⁰9/10
2006Rhythm Tengoku ¹¹9.4/10
2008Super Smash Bros. Brawl ¹²9.5/10
2008Mario Kart Wii ¹³9.5/10
2008Rhythm Paradise ¹⁴8.2/10
2011Mario Kart 7 ¹⁵9.3/10
2014Mario Kart 8 ¹⁶9.6/10
2014Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS ¹⁷8.9/10
2014Nintendo Badge Arcade ¹⁸9/10
2015Super Mario Maker ¹⁹9.4/10
2016Minecraft ²⁰10/10

Parent Series:

Spin-offs:

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. Wario appears as the game’s villain.
  2. Wario is a playable character.
  3. Wario is a playable character.
  4. Wario is a playable character.
  5. Wario is a playable character.
  6. The game Wario’s Woods is unlockable and fully playable.
  7. Wario is a playable character.
  8. Wario is an unlockable playable character, with a role in the story.
  9. Wario is a playable character.
  10. Wario appears in a mini-game.
  11. The Space Bunnies make a small playable cameo.
  12. Wario is a playable character and there is a stage based on the series.
  13. Wario is a playable character.
  14. The Space Bunnies make a couple of minor cameos.
  15. Wario is a playable character and there is a race track based on the series.
  16. Wario is a playable character.
  17. Wario is a playable character and there is a stage based on the series.
  18. Several of the games badges depict unseen adventures shared by Ashley and Nikki. Unique artwork of other Wario characters can also be unlocked as badges.
  19. Wario and Ashley are playable characters via Mystery Mushroom.
  20. Wario is a playable character in the Wii U, 3DS and Nintendo Switch versions of the game and can be encountered online in all console versions.
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Spans of Times from Different Perspectives

Fourteen years ago, Doctor Who came back on TV and my eleven year-old self loved it. Thanks to my Dad, I had seen a few episodes of classic Doctor Who and I quite liked them, but the new, modern version really captivated me. The original run had ended in 1989 – sixteen years earlier.

It’s very interesting to consider that it has now almost been on again for as long as it was off the air. When the show came back, the span of time between then and its original cancellation seemed impossibly huge to me, but now the span of time between it coming back and today doesn’t seem quite so big. Don’t get me wrong, being eleven does feel like a very long time ago, but nothing next to the incomprehensible gulf between 1989 and 2005.

Obviously, the reason one seems so much longer than the other despite only being ever so slightly bigger, is because I assessed it as a child and it stretched back prior to the start of my life – but reflecting on it now, it’s easy to see that 1989 wasn’t really that long ago. It helps me to grasp spans of time which exceed my lifetime. It’s amazing how much our perspectives of spans of time change so much as we grow older.

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Doctor Who: The Lost Dimension by George Mann and Cavan Scott

I love Doctor Who comics because they have the capacity to bring together lots of different characters in ways which would never work on television and for fast-paced stories which would never work in novels. It’s an excellent formula which can lead to some really fantastic scenarios.

In The Lost Dimension, there are more fan-pleasing plot-lines and occurrences than I’ve seen in any other piece of Doctor Who fiction. Without revealing any spoilers, here’s an overview of some of the things you’ll find in this comic: there’s an explanation for why we’ve seen the Silurians with so many different designs, Jenny gets to interact with the Fifth Doctor, the Eleventh Doctor gets caught up in story arcs from the Virgin New Adventures, there are several references to the Big Finish range, Quarks, Krotons and Ogrons all appear, every incarnation of the Doctor (up to the Twelfth) has some role in the story and so do a fair number of the companions.

The storyline is based around some mysterious white holes appearing around the universe and lots of people becoming infected with a mysterious energy. Essentially, it’s all just a set up to allow all of these fan-pleasing situations to occur. Strangely, as much as I am indeed a fan and always easily pleased by such things, I was never invested in this story quite as much as I have been with other Doctor Who comics. I think, perhaps, the fan-pleasing side of things went a little bit too far. It’s hard to put my finger on it specifically.

I think if you’re a big fan, you should definitely give it a try – at very least, you’ll like all of the things I mentioned above (and I liked them all myself) and maybe you’ll even consider it one of the most exciting Doctor Who stories you’ve ever read. I wouldn’t recommend it if you’re not a huge fan though, as the references and connections will all be lost to you and it might feel inaccessible and even for me, they felt a bit on the nose – but I totally appreciate what they were trying to do.

Rating: 7.8/10

Buy the first volume here.

Buy the second volume here.

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Ice Climber reviews:

A forgotten game of the NES era cast into the spotlight by Smash Bros.
YearGameScore
1985Ice Climber3/10
2001Super Smash Bros. Melee ¹9.5/10
2002Animal Crossing ²9.4/10
2003WarioWare, Inc.: Minigame Mania ³ 8.9/10
2004WarioWare: Twisted!9.3/10
2006Tetris DS9.4/10
2008Super Smash Bros. Brawl9.5/10
2009PiCOPiCTN/A
2013NES Remix8.3/10
2014Super Smash Bros. for Nintendo 3DS8.9/10
2015Super Mario Maker ¹⁰9.4/10

Connected Series:

Footnotes:

  1. Nana and Popo are playable characters and there is a stage based on the series.
  2. The original Ice Climber game is unlockable via the use of an e-reader card.
  3. Popo makes a minor playable cameo in a microgame.
  4. Pop makes a minor playable cameo in a microgame.
  5. Characters from the series appear in the game’s Standard Mode.
  6. Nana and Popo are playable characters and there is a stage based on the series.
  7. Characters from the series appear once certain levels are beaten.
  8. Elements from the original Ice Climbers are “remixed” into new scenarios.
  9. Polar bears from Ice Climber appear in this game as enemies.
  10. Nana and Popo are playable via Mystery Mushroom and there is a specially made level based on the series.
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