How To Train Your Dragon: The Game Xbox 360

Introduction
My second product review

Review

HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON: THE GAME
my verdict on the game of the popular film

I went into this game expecting the best thing since sliced bread.

I am a huge fan of the film; I love the world, its characters, its adorable (and sometimes scary) dragons… That world takes me so far from mine that I forget, when I come back to reality, that I am not, in fact, a child, but an adult, and that a game designed for children may not necessarily be to my taste, though I want it to be…

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This game is, by no means, “bad”. I have played far worse, especially games adapted from other formats (comics, films etc). I do think, however, that it could have been so much better.

Though my expectations were high, making me almost certain to be disappointed, I honestly think even children would find this game difficult to tolerate. Children are far more intelligent than games developers often give them credit for, and this was clearly no exception.

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This game’s biggest fault is that, though the characters and dragons and setting are there, and the animation and gameplay itself is quite good, the established mythology of the film appears to have been completely disregarded. The dialogue seems to suggest that Vikings have been taming dragons for centuries, though it is well established in the titular film that Hiccup is the first of his people to ever accomplish the feat.

The basic concept says that “every year” tournaments are held between dragon tamers and their dragons, who fight each other for Viking glory. A plot that is, to be honest, an utter let down, considering the emotion and the depth of the film, and, as aforementioned, contradicts the established history. If you are not an established fan of the franchise, however, you will of course have no difficulties accepting the premise.

Another big problem is the repetitive gameplay and dialogue. You will find yourself walking back and forth from place to place, doing mundane, repetitious tasks in order to level up your dragon and advance the plot, and that the AI characters say the same three lines over and over, much, doubtless, to your annoyance. But, if you play this game in small segments, rather than long sittings, you will find that it maintains its quirky charm and fun-factor.

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Problems aside, I did very much enjoy training my dragon and fighting other characters in the various tournaments, and the cut scenes between did make me smile, even if not nearly as much as the film. The Arcade Mode, which allows you to fight off against your friends sharing your console, or against the computer AI, also allows for more replayability than you would normally expect from film tie-ins.

Adults who want to find that “first RPG” for their mini-geek will also enjoy the game dynamics, which require the player to complete various mini-games and quests in order to advance their dragon’s rank and gain new skills, very much in the style of the Elder Scrolls or Final Fantasy games, but on a much smaller scale. They might also find that they enjoy it themselves, as a light hearted “guilty pleasure”, though I recommend playing it in small quantities as it can be quite draining, with its repetition.

Gamerscore hoarders will also be very much be at home here, as many of the Achievements (or Trophies, whichever applies) require not so much effort, as time. Ten or twenty hours of playing through the campaign as either character, and many of them will occur through natural gameplay.

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In conclusion, this is a game that, though not really working with established continuity, lacking in the heart and depth that the film has, and a tad repetitive, is lighthearted fun that the whole family can enjoy together, or that the more “hardcore gamer” can enjoy as a guilty pleasure and a welcome break from the seriousness of their usual gaming taste.

“Give it a shot, why not?” very much applies here. It is by no means a waste of money nor time, but it is also not something that I would recommend rushing out to by and spend hours of enjoyment playing. I recommend this as a rental, or a “sale buy” for fans of the film, parents of young children, or for hardcore gamers looking for something more light hearted that can still give them a nice gamerscore boost.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

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X-Men: Destiny Xbox 360

Introduction
This is my first ever product review. I hope you enjoy reading it more than I enjoyed playing the game 😉

Review

X-MEN: DESTINY
my verdict on Marvel’s newest X-Men computer game venture

I will be honest… I feel cheated.

There has been a lot of hype about this game, a lot of “name dropping” from the world of Marvel comics insisting this will be the best Marvel computer game ever produced because it was written by this big-name writer and because of all the freedom offered by the game’s sytem where you can “create your own character”, “choose your powers”, etc, but after only my first play-through of the game, I can tell you that all of this is far from true.

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First and foremost, I want to state that I am not a comic book fan. I have a lot of knowledge on the subject, but I have never actually enjoyed reading them.

Nevertheless I was excited to hear of Mike Carey’s involvement in the project. I had high hopes that he would be an asset to the game, and this was indeed the case. The plotline is intriguing, the four character choices are unique and interesting, the script is humorous and at times quite heart-warming, and there is a lot of “geek outs” for the established fan base, but the problem here is that no matter how good a writer, if the rest of the project is poor, their efforts bare no relevance. This is one of those cases.

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For something with such an intelligent, original premise, this game is certainly patronising in its gameplay. My personal favourite example being within the early tutorial section of the game when Emma Frost requests that the character “try jumping”, which, funnily enough, I am pretty sure any individual can do, no “trying” required. Another fine example is that the “Collectibles” that would, in other games, require a great deal of hunting to find and earn the usual Achievements on discovery of all of them, are, for the most part, practically impossible to miss. Considering the age rating, you would expect them to treat their players with more respect.

The gameplay itself is not much of a challenge, either. I played through on the easiest setting, and then on the hardest, and to be quite honest, I did not notice much of a difference until around two-thirds the way through the game, when suddenly it became redicilously difficult. I dispise games that have uneven difficulties like that, where you ease through them for so long and then spend hours on one part. There needs to be a balance, but the creators of this game do not seem to have even tried to within that regard. The constant “button bashing” gameplay and the amount of replays required in order to gain many of the Achivements also make this a chore to tolerate.

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Visually, there is not much to make this stand out from the crowd. In fact, given the impressive visuals from prior Marvel Comics game outings (mainly Spider-Man) and how breathtaking the competition is (DC’s Batman Akham games should not be underestimated…), I found this to be a disgrace. It does not seem like a “Next-Gen” game at all, rather something you would find at a second-hand store that was released back in the nineties.

The voice-acting is both a pleasure and a pain, with the inclusion of many voices that we know from other Marvel productions being a nice touch, but the fact the words being said are inconsistent with the subtitles provided makes you wonder what on earth is going on with the editing. In fact, most of the subtitles are better than what is actually being said, so clearly they missed a trick there.

The soundtrack leaves much to be desired as well. To be honest, I barely noticed it, and I cannot even remember it, which does not bode well.

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The “Some Destinies Are Chosen” tagline does, in its defense, do exactly what it says on the tin. There are four characters to play, and with each one you could easily play two or three times to experience different side-quests, watch different cut-scenes, etc. But, as aforementioned, you would have to have a lot of patience for the repetitive gameplay. It come down, again, to having a talented, but sadly wasted, writer.

The fact that you can essentially choose hundreds of combinations of powers from within the X-Universe is also very interesting, and contributes to the possible replayability, but be warned, no plot explanation is given, and for the comic book geeks or picky gamers such as myself out there, that will be quite an annoyance.

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Clearly not much money was wasted on the development of this first stand-alone X-Men game to have been released in nigh ten years, which is a real shame because it had so, so much potential and, thanks to the mostly negative critical and fan response, I doubt there will be another one any time soon.

So, in conclusion, if you have the time and the patience, and you are a fan of comic books, I would recommend you at least rent this for the plot and the fun of the choosing your own powers, or pick it up second hand, but hardcore gamers and those paying out the full price will be utterly disappointed.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

Keeping Up Appearances

Introduction
It has been a couple of months since I published my last article, and a month since my last post, but I fell rather ill, and I apologise for that. I am still ill, but decided “enough is enough” and that I could not go another day without writing, and here is the result. I hope that you enjoy reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please feel free to provide feedback. Constructive critique is of course encouraged. Thank you.

Article

KEEPING UP APPEARANCES
why having a brilliantly successful television program is no excuse for poor production value

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I am disappointed. Genuinely disappointed by the fact that I can be watching a “kick ass” science fiction or fantasy show, perhaps a “Dramedy”, whatever it is that I am in the mood for at the time, and yet no matter what the studio, what the genre, or what the program is, as it grows, its budget increases, not, it would seem, so that it can be a better program overal, but so that there can be one or two amazing episodes, and the rest can be relatively standard. It seems that, the more popular the show is, the more it suffers from this affliction.

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Some of the most popular science fiction television programs ever produced have each had their fair share of “fillersodes”, “clipisodes”, and otherwise poor production value.

Doctor Who was once a program about travelling the universe, and in today’s “Nu Who” you will be lucky to even leave earth more than once or twice a season. Apparently the aliens would rather come to us. Sure, we have these amazing, big budget series openers and finales, but is it worth it if we have to live through episodes which are an insult to our intelligence, such as ‘Love & Monsters’, featuring a Blue Peter competition winning alien who “absorbed” people, full of toilet humour and having practically no screen time for The Doctor?

Stargate: SG1 has a seemedly ongoing joke where every season features a “clipisode”, an episode where the plot demands that clips from this and prior seasons be shown. It should be noted that Power Rangers does this very same thing. The plot is usually a good cover up for the need for clips, but is it really necessary?

Star Trek is another example. Pointless low budget episodes are abound, especially in experimental prequel series Star Trek: Enterprise.

Even the modern Battlestar Galactica, hailed by critics and fans as “perfect” suffered setbacks with episodes such as their Fight Club-style filler, ‘Unfinished Business’ where the characters face off in a boxing ring. It really upset the overal pace, although to be fair it did fill a lot of gaps in character development and the finale was clearly better for it.

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Low budget “fillersodes” filling the gap before the series finale are not always bad things, however. One fan told me “If done right they can bring something new to the table”. The best example that comes to mind is that Doctor Who also featured two episodes in the Tenth Doctor’s fourth series – ‘Midnight’ and ‘Turn Left’ – which were brilliant, edge-of-your-seat, yet clearly budgeted episodes.

So, why can all of these “fillersodes” not be “done right”? Or why not cut out these big budget, some may even say over-the-top finales and openers entirely, so that every episode can be just as good as the next? I understand all too well how visually breathtaking these can be and how, to be quite honest, I do look forward to them, but is it truly worth it if I have to sit through such rubbish in the process?

Really, do we need The Doctor encountering witches? Do we need the SG1 team sitting through a meeting – yes, an entire episode was dedicated to a meeting – discussing episodes that we have already seen? Do we need the scripted toilet humour, the poorly designed monsters, the fillers and the clips, even if it means having the so-called “epic” episodes?..

Some fans say yes, stating that it “give[s] them something crazy to do” with their big budgets, some say no, that it is “pure money saving and a waste of space”. It is clearly a matter of personal preference.

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I for one, though, feel as though this is a disease spreading across our television screens. Earlier seasons of most programs do not suffer it. They may not have these amazing, big budget finales or openers, but they do have good overal production value. Not one episode suffers from cheap jokes or poor effects or characters mysteriously disappearing because the budget meant they could not afford the actor for the entirety of the season.

And yet, as these “good overal” programs grow, so does their budget, and, in turn, the affliction hits them like the common cold, and I find myself weaping for their loss.

Merlin, for instance, was never a brilliant program, but it has always been quite enjoyable and I considered no particular episode to be “bad” as such. But, as the seasons went on, the budget rose, and I found that there were a lot of tightly budgeted episodes with practically no magic – and therefore no special effects – involved, so that they could do their big budget finales. I even turned off an episode ten minutes in that involved a creature causing general havok around the castle, because of its appalling use of toilet humour, how it belittled our beloved characters, and how downright insulting the plot was to my intelligence. And yet suddenly, come the season finale, it became clear why they suffered their viewers such an episode.

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Science fiction and fantasy television are not the only genres to suffer this. Even common household names such as Eastenders have their big-budget episodes with their car crashes, murders and weddings, which is (apparently) great viewing, but the fault here is the fact that many of the other episodes are drull, lacking in any of the drama that soap operas are renouned for because all of the budgeting for the talented writers, the “guest appearances”, the special effects, etc, went towards one or two episodes instead of being spread throughout all of them.

No channel, no genre, seems safe from this contagion.

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I understand that every program has a budget and that budget must be calculated with relation to what the writing entails – the people hired to work with each episode, the pay-grade of the stars, etc – but a loss of quality means a loss of viewers, it really is that simple, so why can the studios and channels not realise this and spread the budget evenly instead of wasting it? It feels as though they are a person with the funding for an entire wardrobe who decides they are going to “splash out” on one particular, more expensive item, and the rest of the wardrobe will suffer for that budget cut.

Why not follow by good example? Time Team, a popular, long-running Channel 4 documentary about hunting for history in people’s back gardens, decided to do some “Specials” in amungst the standard episodes in bigger places, such as the Cantenbury dig, which took them months, not days, to complete. Once the popularity of these Specials grew, the normal, lower budget episodes seemed sub-par, so they were cut completely. Now the program places its entire budget into big projects, and the viewing figures are far higher, because it is obvious that consistent quality sells better to the public. They decided to spread their budget over a few really brilliant episodes instead of dozens of “okay” episodes followed by one big-budget special, and it really, really works.

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In conclusion, enjoyable though these big-budget episodes may be, I feel as though the overal quality is far more important, and I am not alone. The general concensus amung fans, reflected in the viewing figures and internet chatter all show that the public are more inclined to stay with a program that is consistent with its quality than “tune-in” to one that will waste a large percentage of its budget purely for the visual spectacle of one or two episodes, and try to cheat them into watching poor production value for the rest of the series.

We, the viewing public, are not unintelligent. We know what we enjoy, and with the wide variety of programs available to us every day, do these studios and channels really want to take the chance of losing viewers for the poor quality episodes simply to increase figures for the ones that have the budget? With the advancement of “streaming” technology and all the different channels available it is so easy to lose us and never get us back.

Perhaps the industry aught to think about concentrating on overal quality if they want to keep those viewing figures, and in turn the money, rolling in.

Special Thanks
Many thanks to all of the people that provided me with their opinions and facts for this particular article. It is greatly appreciated.

Feedback
It is important that I receive feedback from my readers. I would truly appreciate any feedback at all that you can provide me. Posting comments of encouragement, or constructively critiquing my efforts. I really want to further myself as a writer and with your help I can.

Thank you.

Article Progress – March 2012

This month might be the beginning of my journalistic journey, but I have been a busy bee every day. I have lots of ideas, and some are coming along into fruition quite nicely.

  • Margate Is My Home Nowthe story of a disabled citizen making a new start in one of the most “run down” cities in the country
        – A personal account of my move from London – where I have spent almost the entirety of my life – to Margate, one of the most “run down” towns in the country.
        – This was the first article that I penned after my move. I had been suffering writer’s block for quite some time in my old residency, so it seemed only natural when I was inspired by the change in surroundings and lifestyle that I write an article about it.
      – I am almost finished redrafting; adding finer details, shortening some of the longer paragraphs that seemed to upset the pacing. I hope to have this posted in the coming days.
  • Keeping Up Appearances : why having a brilliant successful television program is no excuse for poor production value
        -A discussion of how much of television seems obsessed with the highly budgeted series finale, and less bothered by overall production value, and how this effects the fans.
      – I have finished my first draft, but there seems to be something missing. I think this article needs a quote or two, so I am going to be “asking around” for fan opinions, and, if I feel bold enough, I may even send a few emails and ask for more “official” quotes from television studios.
  • Three Is The Magic Numberwhy series three is where good television becomes brilliant
        – A discussion of a theoretical “pattern” in television production where series three denotes bigger budget, “Special Guest Stars”, better writers, etc.
      – I have almost finished the first draft of this, though I lack a conclusive section for my article. I appear to have hit a brick wall in terms of where I want the article to actually lead, but I am determined to have it finished.

If any of my readers have any questions, creative contributions, comments of encouragement or general suggestions, please feel free to Comment. Thank you.