Phew, what a year. I know this blog has been dormant since, er, March and I’m not even going to bore you with excuses. Well, maybe I will, but not right now, as this post has a PURPOSE.

Before Christmas, the three wise men of the Telegraph video games section decided to write about their own personal top ten  games that they liked more than other games in 2010 and put them in a nice list. The idea was that each of us would have our own sounding board to talk about the games we loved.  Unfortunately, for various reasons involving an evil wizard and Nick Cowen being sick from eating too much draeworss we were asked to boil it down to one handy list, which can be found here: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/technology/video-games/8216904/The-best-video-games-of-2010.html

Some of our own entries made the list anyway, but having written them out I felt the need to dump the rest of them here. For catharsis or whatever. My mortal enemy Ashton Raze did the same over at his blog here: http://www.ashtonraze.com/

So, without further ado here are my own personal choices for 2010 and why I loved them so. It was an awesome year, and 2011 is shaping up to be a belter aswell.

1. Super Mario Galaxy 2 (Wii)
Genius, joyous, insatiably inventive. Super Mario Galaxy 2 is the world’s finest game designers let loose, crafting Mario’s intergalactic playgrounds with boundless, endless creativity. At the centre of it all is the plumber himself, as ebullient and delightful to control as ever. Galaxy 2 perfects the platformer over 120 golden stars then when, you think it’s all over, shatters its boundaries over 120 more. For me, it’s almost unfair to crown it my game of the year, because it’s Galaxy 2 … then it’s everything else. Not just my favourite game of this year, but of any year full stop. 

2. Mass Effect 2 (Xbox 360, PC)
BioWare’s fabulous space opera sequel is a masterclass in sci-fi world-building, weaving an engaging tale in its meticulously crafted universe. But raising it above and beyond is its characters; a ragtag crew of differing skills and species. It’s not often in video games that you’ll be desperate to get to know your squadmates, but you will here, discovering their fears, motivations and testing their loyalty and dedication. And who can forget Mordin singing Gilbert & Sullivan?

3. Deadly Premonition (Xbox 360)
A game that defies scoring, defies even common sense. It has some very real, very pervasive mechanical issues and its wilfully insane themes will absolutely not be to all tastes. But those that fall for Deadly Premonition’s wonderful weirdness fall hard. And Francis York Morgan is, without doubt, the most fascinating video game character in years. While its debt to David Lynch’s Twin Peaks is huge, Deadly Premonition’s story is genuinely complex, disturbing and engaging. The very definition of a cult hit, with a fierce and vocal group of fans that will scream from the rooftops about how you must play this game. I’m one of them.
4. Bayonetta (Xbox 360, PS3)
Bayonetta, like many other games in this list, is genre defining stuff. Its core combat system is unrivalled in terms of depth and complexity for those looking to perfect it, but is built in a way that means even button mashers can pick it up and have fun. The level and enemy design is ever-increasingly bonkers, brilliant and overblown. And then there’s Bayonetta herself, a curious mix of schoolteacher and S&M queen whose catsuit multitasks as clothes, hair and weapon, often leaving our heroine in a state of undress. A boyish fantasy for sure, but it’s telling that even the GMA nominated Lauren Wainwright turned up to share her thoughts: “The game is so ridiculous the sexiness is just a play on it, you couldn’t put any other character in and make it work”. It’s her favourite game of the year.
5. Silent Hill Shattered Memories (Wii, PSP, PS2)
For all the hype about Heavy Rain and Alan Wake progressing stories in video games this year, Portsmouth-based Climax Studios quietly went about bettering the pair of them with this re-imagining of the original Silent Hill. The story of Harry Mason’s search for his missing daughter in the fog-ridden creepy town is rapier-sharp in and of itself, but it’s in the telling that it really shines. Light on traditional gameplay, Shattered Memories is akin to a ghost walk. Its tale is spun in splintered fragments, subtly altered by your answers in frighteningly intense psychiatrist sessions that break up your search. Its dénouement is startlingly brilliant; pulling the disparate elements together before spinning them on their head.
6. Yakuza 3 (PS3)
Yakuza’s vicious brawling hasn’t changed a huge amount since the first two games on PS2, and as such it’s a game that can occasionally feel archaic. But it’s achievements lie in heart, craft and cultural pride. It spins a slightly mawkish interpretation of Japan’s famous crime families, but if you let it, Yakuza 3 will win you over with its charming, believable cast and its wonderful facsimile of modern day Japan. Then there’s Kazuma, the intense, charismatic protagonist. He is one of the most empathetic leads in the medium, starring in one of its most affecting tales.
7. Donkey Kong Country Returns (Wii)
A fantastic comeback for Nintendo’s hirsute primate. As a big fan of the original SNES titles, it tickled the nostalgia buds to hear the old music cues and hop on the back of Rambi rhino again. But Returns is exponentially more than a trip down memory lane, with gorgeous, inventive and exciting 2D platforming. Proof –if proof were needed– there’s a place in this time of huge expansive 3D worlds for the focussed thrill of this classic genre. As long as it’s as wonderfully designed as this, of course.

8. Halo Reach (Xbox 360)
Full disclosure: I adore Halo. Simply because the art of combat that Bungie has crafted is such extraordinarily good fun. Reach was never going to have the impact that the original Halo did –few games have– but as a swansong to Bungie’s work on the series, it’s magnificent. Cherry picking the best of their work over the last decade, Reach is a Halo’s Greatest Hits, built in a new, punchier engine. It’s not going to convert non-believers, but for fans it’s the finest send off you could imagine.

9. Dance Central (Xbox 360)
If you had said to me even a few months ago that a Kinect game –and a dancing one at that– would have made it into my top ten for the year I’d have scoffed at the very idea. But Dance Central converted me to Microsoft’s magic camera and the dancing game phenomenon with surprisingly little resistance. Most importantly, it is arguably the purest and most hilarious fun I’ve had with any game this year. Exquisitely made too, with unquestionably the best menu interface I’ve ever seen –just imagine Minority Report in a 70s disco. 

10. FIFA 11 (Xbox 360, PS3)
It might seem a bit lame to include an annual sports title in my list, but I’d be fibbing to myself if I didn’t mention FIFA11. Since October, this has been my go-to-game between reviews, straight into the disc tray when I find myself with a chance to play ‘just for fun’. Whether it’s taking control of my beloved Watford in career mode, or going online for a quick one-on-one, there are few games that manage to get me fired up and leaping from my sofa as much as this. It’s also fantastic to see a sports series going from strength to strength every year. No wholesale changes from FIFA10, but the carefully considered nips and tucks continue to push the game towards footballing perfection.

Honourable mentions
Rock Band 3
– Botched launch which means the hardware for its marquee mode remains unavailable is the only thing keeping it out ofmy top ten. Magnificent music game, remarkable learning tool.

Heavy Rain – Deeply flawed, but remarkable nonetheless. David Cage’s ambitious noir thriller is a game that makes you think before pulling the trigger. An admirable achievement in a bloodthirsty medium.
Lara Croft and the Guardian of LightA fabulous, downloadable reinvention for our favourite tomb raider. At less than a tenner and packed with fantastic content, probably the most bang for your buck this year

Limbo – Horrifying, beautiful puzzle-platformer with a pitch black sense of humour. Short but perfectly formed, it’s another fantastic advert for downloadable games. 

Fable III – A disappointing finale holds Fable III back from the highest praise, but it’s still a magical, funny and charming fairytale. Its land of Albion is painted with such passion and verve that –for all its faults– it’s hard not to be bewitched.

Posted by: Tom | March 10, 2010

The trouble with Metacritic…

I’m sure most of you have an idea of what Metacritic is. But for those who don’t, here’s a handy link: http://www.metacritic.com

It’s a review aggregate site. Which means it vacuums up all the reviews about a particular game/film/CD/book, smooshes them all together and spits out a nice colour-coded average score at the end. It’s a great idea -in theory- allowing you a handy one-stop shop to see what a selection of critics are thinking.

The Telegraph are on Metacritic for videogames. And we do very well out of the association, thankyou very much. In one of our more smug-mode inducing moments, Metacritic approached us, after publishers questioned why we weren’t on the site.

Aren’t we prestigious? Well, maybe not so much. I won’t delve too deep into the hodge-podge collection of sites that do make up Metacritic’s pool of opinion, I’ll leave that to the always excellent Simon Byron and his column from Develop.  Go, read!

Back? Good.

Now, it’s most certainly not my business to decide what sites ‘deserve’ to be on Metacritic, and what sites are ‘weighted’ more significantly, but you’d be hard pressed to argue that the barriers to entry are …hazy, at best. That wouldn’t be such a problem, if Metacritic didn’t loom so largely over the video games industry.

There’s talk of publishers basing bonuses and payments on a Metacritic score. At a FIFA 10 presentation last year, EA Sports supremo Peter Moore spoke -at great length- about how their games’ ‘metascore’ has greatly increased over the past few years. Somehow, somewhere along the line, Metacritic has become a barometer of quality for not just consumers, but developers and publishers too. That little number somehow means everything, and it’s rotting the core of the industry.

Let’s talk criticism. Here’s a God of War III review I wrote.

I gave it an 8. Which, in my book, is a very good score. I thoroughly enjoyed God of War III, it was a technical marvel and a blistering adventure. I’m playing it again on Hard, I liked it so much. But as I felt it didn’t break out of the template laid down by its PS2 predecessors, struggled with capricious controls and crunched my pad over a few dodgy sections, I thought 8/10 was about right.

But look at the comments underneath my review, just look at them. You would have thought I had gone round to each of these people houses and toe-punted their grandmother through the TV and pissed on the smouldering reamins of both. They run the full gamut of fanboy accusations, tried-and-tested:

*I ‘have no credibility’

*I haven’t played the game, or only played the demo/full game for five minutes

*I’m fishing for hits

*I’m unprofessional, naive, unqualified, biased (against what I’m not entirely sure)

*The Telegraph is, and I quote, “a fake-ass site that noone’s heard of”

I’m told on frequent occasions that it’s a ‘horrible review’. While it’s not my place to say if that’s true or not, I know that’s not what is meant. What they mean is “I’ve shit myself because of that little number you’ve put at the top.”

I’d bet the farm on the fact that 90% of the commentators didn’t even read the thing. If I had replaced the 8 with a 9 -which i very nearly did, incidentally- everything would have been fine and dandy.

I’ve been doing this long enough now to have hard skin against this kind of thing, fanboys who trawl the lower end of Metacritic, log onto ‘offending’ sites and type one-handed, illiterate invectives while dribbling on the keyboard.

And before you say it, you cheeky blighters- no, it’s not just me- check out this thoughtful review on Video Games Daily -also an 8/10- then look at the comments.

Notice anything familiar? There’s one particular comment that caught my eye though. One guy says this: “I hope your [sic] happy about vandalizing God of War III’s metascore.”

So this is what it comes down to? Anything that doesn’t fall into conformity is to be ignored and dismissed as critical vandalism?

I must admit to being a little deflated at it all. I worked hard on my review, labouring over every word to make sure it was as decent and honest an appraisal as my limited talents could muster. And at the end of it all, I realise that the majority of people who clicked on it, didn’t even read the bally thing. They were more concerned about that 8…

1800 words worth of thoughts ignored for one tidy -apparantly disagreeable- number.

It was ever thus, of course. Check out any games forum and arguments over scores permeate the entire site, and have done for some time.

It’s interesting, really, as I’m fairly certain this kind of thing doesn’t happen with film criticism, at least not on the engulfing scale it does with games. I’ve felt for some time now that it’s much to do with the nature of the score system, “out of 5 stars” is containing enough to be able to tell a good film from a bad one, but it’s vague enough to place much more emphasis on the words -you know?- the actual criticism written down by an apparant expert.

Games critique, on the other hand, is almost obsessed with pinpointing opinion to a decimal point. Surely, the more specific you get with that score, the less emphasis there is on what you’re actually saying?

Another problem that games writers have is that games are getting so good now -so advanced in their ideas and execution- that it’s a matter of months before the ‘next big thing’ arrives, and publications and websites find themselves “scored into a corner” where their  scale is all to cock because they blew it all on the last game. There’s an added wrinkle,  in that there are so few genuinely terrible games out there that a lot of places don’t even use the the full breadth of the scale they’re using. Only in video games can 7/10 equate to ‘average or mixed’. So the entire scoring system, across the board, needs a subtle realignment.

If I had my way though, I’d abolish scores altogether, put the emphasis on the reviews themselves, or at least switch to a five-star system. But it will never happen, it seems, as the industry is currently so score-obsessed. I wouldn’t dare inflate the self-worth of us games journos -lord knows we’ve done enough of that already- but I think you can tell a lot of a medium through its criticism, and the audience reaction to that criticism. At the moment, games suffer from an astonishingly childish attitude towards its critics. Many would argue -quite possibly correctly- that it’s because the standard isn’t high enough (someone let me in, after all), and the kind of low barrier of entry that sites like Metacritic encourages only make it worse.

But there should be give and take for both sides, a little more emphasis on how well a games writer can analyse and, y’know, write about games rather than this focus on a consensus of score would go a long way.

Hey, one can dream, right?

____________________

Disclaimer: I’d just like to point out that I don’t have any ill-will towards Metacritic, as in the site itself. Having spoken to the founder Marc Doyle, and read the site’s remit, I’m almost certain that it was never their intention for the site to play such an integral, high-pressured role. That’s the fault of the industry itself.

Posted by: Tom | March 9, 2010

Insomnia

I’ve never been a particularly good sleeper. I like my routine, I like my own bed, shake me out of that and I struggle to fall asleep at all, confounded by this strange nocturnal shift.

Usually, however, I’m out before my head hits the pillow. Sometimes I’ll try and read, or maybe play a little DS, but my brain is happy to shut down within minutes of clambering under the duvet. Getting to sleep? Very rarely a problem.

But recently -well, I guess for the last few years to be honest- staying asleep is much more of an issue. I suffer from ‘middle’ insomnia -or ‘nocturnal awakenings’- which means I’ll constantly be waking up in the middle of the night, and have serious trouble maintaining sleep, even if I do manage to doze off again.

It’s one of the most frustrating things I endure, insomnia, and I wouldn’t wish it on anyone. It’s an awful cycle; I’m exhausted, but just won’t fall asleep. The longer it takes for me to fall back to the land of nod, the harder it gets.

After a while, what I call “THE FEAR OF AWAKENING” kicks in. I start to worry that I won’t be able to get back to sleep at all, and then I start to think about how it might spoil or affect my day.

I start to ask myself questions. Should I give it up and go downstairs to potter, maybe doze off in front of twilight TV? Or is that an admission of defeat, and I should really stay here and hopefully -eventually- fall back asleep.

More thoughts begin to crash into each other like a tumbledryer full of trainers.

That pile of review work is stacking up… hey, perhaps I should go into the next room and do some writing.

I’m not happy with that closing paragraph I wrote, I must change it in the morning.

Another day at work tomorrow, how depressing … oh, shit, I’m going to be knackered.

Stag do’s coming up, I wonder where I’m going…

Wedding’s so close now, must design the table-cards.

I wonder who the killer is in my latest Ace Attorney case, maybe I should stick it on.

I REALLY need a haircut.

Benign thoughts, not unimportant, as such, but not pressing or alarming enough to justify a worrisome night of waking. There’s no discernible pattern to it, except it comes in spells.

I had a distressingly long period of it a few months ago, which began to incorporate the rather terrifyingly named ‘terminal’ insomnia, which basically means waking up far too early, staying awake and putting your entire body clock out of whack. It’s also a symptom of a wider problem that maybe I’ll talk about another time.

I managed to cope with it, simply with a bit more of a rigid nighttime ritual, and Nytol -the little herbal tablets. They may have been nothing more than a placebo, but they worked.

How do I know? Because I stopped taking them a few nights ago. The first night, I was fine, but then the insomnia came back. I decided to get back on them, but even then, it seems a switch has been flipped. I haven’t slept properly for over a week.

I don’t have it that bad, in all honesty, I manage to get some sleep every night, enough to keep me functioning, at least. But it does permeate the day, having the grump on in the morning, ‘spacing out’ at inopportune moments, dozing off on the train into work in the middle of the day. For someone who regualarly struggles with sleep, I don’t cope with the consequences very well.

My biggest worry is that it taps into a wider lethargy. I’d hate to use it as an excuse for not doing stuff, but an almost constant state of tiredness when in the midst of an insomnia spell does take its toll.

Vikki, meanwhile, sleeps like a log through all of this. She often asks me, bless her, why I don’t wake her up when it happens. The thought is heart-melting, but the truth is this is one thing I would hate to share with anybody. I envy her it a little, but that’s the main reason I’d be loath to take it away.

Still, I can look on the bright side… it’s all good practice should any nippers happen to arrive, right?

 

Posted by: Tom | March 7, 2010

Getting back on track

Yes, I know, I know. Tuesday was the last time I updated this supposed one a day blog. That’s pretty rubbish on my part, but now I sheepishly return to try and douse the flame of my shame.

Part of the reason I missed a few days was because I’ve been fairly busy with vidya gamez writing, which sounds like a lame excuse for a, er, video games journalist. But my claim to that title should be generally be proceeded by ‘stealth’ anyway, as time spent at work writing is usually a rather surreptious tappa tappa while noone’s looking as it is (despite doing it for the company anyway, but that’s a whole can of worms not worth opening). Fitting in a blog seemed to be starting to tilt over into ‘taking the piss’.

Justifying not doing it at home is slightly more difficult, but once the first day fell, the cycle was broken and getting back into it is the hardest part. Like going to the gym, which I haven’t managed this entire year after… what’s the medical term? Ah, yes: “doing my back in” just before Christmas.

Anyway, I’m back now and will endeavour not to miss another without a good excuse. I’ve planted myself in front of my computer this fine Sunday afternoon to write a God of War III review, so I may break off to write some catch-up blogs while I’m at it.

See you soon, promise!

Posted by: Tom | March 2, 2010

Sleeping beery

I don’t really have anything interesting to say today (“just today?” I hear you scoff).

I’m blaming a mild hangover. I had precisely two (you always know which one was the tipping point) too many pints in a local-to-the-office dive last night. Me, my Telegraph gaming partner-in-crime Nick, and favouritest PR pal Matt putting the world to rights over a beer-soaked, pockmarked table in a dingy basement bar in central London.

Three nerds getting angry and animated over videogames while drinking chemically-enhanced lager. Why gorgeous women didn’t flock to our table as we ranted about FIFA10′s slightly crappy manager mode -or sung the praises of The Darkness (the game, not the squealy hair-metal glammers)- I’ll never know.

Unlike a lot of people, who end up dead to the world when they go to bed after an alcohol fuelled evening, I sleep terribly. I pass out the moment my head hits the pillow, but then I’m constantly waking up with thirst, ‘needs’ and a general uncomfortableness.

Doesn’t help that I’m not much of a drinker anymore. I like my wine and fine ales, but pounding several pints of Kronenbourg is a sport I was much better at in my ‘yoof’.

Christ knows how I’m going to cope at my stag do. And I’m positive that my entourage for the weekend will most certainly not let me dodge any liquor-shot related activities.

Mine’s a tequila.

*shudder*

Posted by: Tom | March 1, 2010

Tongue tied

Two posts today, to make up for the missed blog yesterday.

I just did a podcast. It was for Telegraph’s ‘The Cut’, which is a weekly entertainment podcast incorporating film, gadgets, music and games. It’s really very good. Except for when I’m on it, anyway.

I like to think I’m a decent enough writer, I’ve gone long enough rabbiting on about video games on the Telegraph site without some bright spark coming along and screaming “WTF is this shit?!”.

Maybe it’s just nobody’s read it.

Anyway, I like to think I’m a capable wordsmith. I have a fairly expansive vocabulary, and I haven’t had any complaints at not being able to follow my prose.

So why is it that when I try and say this stuff, with my gob, that I turn into a gibbering moron? It genuinely feels like an illness with me. In today’s podcast, I had to talk about the values of Silent Hill Shattered Memories. Which, considering I’ve been playing the game recently, love it to pieces and even written words on this very blog, should be theoretically easy.

Nope. Not a bit of it. I stammer and gibber my way through. Words -simple ones- evaporate from my head. For instance, I struggled to recall the word ‘psychiatrist’ today, which is -let’s face it- a fairly common or garden noun. The host Pete and my colleague Nick (something of a natural at these things) smile and humour me as my incoherent babble drifts off into nothing. Thing is, by the time the podcast is out on Thursday, the crack editing team will have made me sound perfectly erudite. The truth is very different.

Ok, so the added pressure of it being a podcast doesn’t help, but I often blather my way through normal conversations like this. I’ve taken opportunities to ‘get on the horse’ as it were, when it comes to public speaking, to mixed results. I was on the panel at a  Conservative party fringe-conference event on video games. Halfway through my opening diatribe, I froze, my tongue turned to cotton and everything I had planned to say crumbled into dust. I had to take a gulp of water, and the chair saved me from complete verbal meltdown.

In October,  I exorcised a few demons from that by hosting a BAFTA event for Beneath A Steel Sky, with a certain degree of success. Although in truth, I sailed by on the quality of the gents sitting next to me. Similarly, I went on the radio for the brilliant One Life Left, which I think I got through without making a tit of myself. Although I had ‘things that might have been funny at the time’ run through my head for about two weeks after that.

Still, despite these attempts at boosting my confidence, I still flap and flail my way through real-life conversations. Maybe I should go on a course or something. Otherwise, perhaps it’s best if I stick to the typing.

Posted by: Tom | March 1, 2010

Sunday, wonderful Sunday

I didn’t blog yesterday, which means my attempt to stick to the One A Day mantra has failed after a week. :-(

No excuses, really, I was at home most of the day yesterday. After much deliberation, I made a decision to avoid turning the computer on. Originally, I had set aside Sunday to catch up on some work, sit in our office-cum-craft room and write those outstanding previews I have.

In the end, I couldn’t be arsed.

Don’t get me wrong, now. I love writing, I wouldn’t do it if I didn’t. But this was my day off, dammit, and Sunday’s away from the office feel in horrible short supply.

So I did what God intended Sundays for: beer, football on the telly and roast dinner.

It was lovely, we went for a spot of shopping in the morning. Then in a rash offer to cook dinner, I got cracking on the roast.

I don’t cook that often, but when I do I try to be a little bit fancy. So I lathered the chicken in a honey, lemon and ginger baste and stuffed the cavity fit to burst with orange and lemon slices, and a spot of fresh rosemary. Then I popped the chicken on a bed of carrots, garlic and red pepper to soak up the flavours during cooking. The potatoes and veg were parboiled, fluffed up and roasted with a heap of rosemary and whole garlic cloves.

During the cooking, I sat down with a few fine glasses of Innis & Gunn beer -highly recommended, it’s a Scottish beer aged in oak whisky barrels, gorgeously smooth with a fruity tang on the palate- to watch the Carling Cup final. I don’t have Sky, so watching a bit of footie was a rare treat. The game itself was a fine battle alright, but I was slightly disappointed at both team’s lack of finesse in the final third.

Until Rooney came on, of course, and shocked absolutely noone by scoring the winner with his bonce. Never mind Man Utd relying on ole potato head, England are going to rest their entire World Cup hopes on his shoulders. Especially if the rest of the team are going to be spending their time shagging women they aren’t married to… oh…

Anyway, with that out of the way we settled down to survey the damage I did in the kitchen. But thankfuly, it appeared to be a great success! The chicken had a delicious citrus twist, and the rosemary did wonders for the potatoes and veg. Washed down with a crisp white. Lovely stuff.

By the time we had played our post dinner game of Trivial Pursuit (even videogames were mostly eschewed for the day) I was awash with a warm glow. Beer and wine will do that I guess, but there was some self-satisfaction mixed in there too.

Monday morning then, and that feeling had sadly seeped away. A beautiful day, but it’s back to the grind. Still, despite the nostalgic whimsy for that day when I wasn’t in the office, I have a sense of being rested for the first time in a while.

Nice to take a day out, and do things for yourself. They may not seem it in the harsh light of Monday morning and another working week, but they’re the most important things in the world.

As I mentioned in my first post on here, I’m getting married in April and preperations are proceeding smoothly. A little too smoothly perhaps. Judging on so many horror stories and the fact that there are even crappy TV shows dedicated to people fucking up their wedding, I wonder where it’s going to go wrong.

But it won’t, I don’t think, mainly -ok, wholly- because of my uber-organised bride to be. I’ve mainly left Vikki to it, if I’m honest, not because I’m lazy or uninterested, far from it. I just know that the more input I have, the percentage chance of things going wrong increases. It helps that we haven’t involved too much in the way of outsourcing. Vikki’s made the bridesmaid dresses and is arranging flowers, and I designed the invites while Vikki put them together. It makes those things more personal. And, well, yeah, cheaper too!

It also helps that the people at our venue are very laid back. Vikki tells me tales of other venues insisting on regular meetings for a catch-up. Some people like that structure, I guess. We couldn’t think of anything more stressful. We’d rather spend the time of something else, like, y’know, actually planning the wedding.

We visited the venue today. It’s still as gorgeous as when we made our decision on it. It’s a relief really. Even though we’ve visited a couple of times, there’s always that nagging feeling that it’s perhaps not as wonderful as you thought. Not a bit of it, each time the place looks more perfect than the last. Even today, with a grey sky blanketing the whole thing. We’d rather not that be the case on the actual day, Mr. Weatherman, thank you very much.

The meeting with the manager to iron out the details was smooth as you like. And we even met our photographer for the first time there. He seems an incredibly nice bloke and -crucially- was brilliantly enthusiastic about our venue. We couldn’t be happier with our choice there, and we’re getting him for an absolute pittance, considering his talents.

It’s enough to make you sick isn’t it? We can’t help but remain incredibly suspicious over how idyllic this all is right now. Life can have an annoying habit of biting you on the arse. But, weather permitting, we’re on course for the perfect wedding. And if it’s not? Well, I’ll still have the perfect wife. That’s quite enough, don’t you think?

Posted by: Tom | February 26, 2010

Lucky Charms

I’m talking cereal here.

What is it with Lucky Charms anyway? We Brits get all floopy at the mere thought of their saccharine goodness. You can buy imported boxes of the stuff over at Firebox, now that’s some sweet breakfast dedication. Especially when you consider one box will set you back nine flipping quid. I also saw a box in an American sweet shop at the Bullring Debenhams when I was in Birmingham with Vikki. “Ooooh,” we both crooned. “Lucky Charms!”. As if we really had found the gold at the end of the rainbow.

“Thieving leprechaun bastard,” I said, when I realised I wouldn’t get change from a tenner.

Still, like everyone else, I can’t resist them. I’m fortunate enough to be able to visit the US every now and then for games related thingies, and its now been made my quest to bring back the treasured Lucky Charms as a special treat. Two boxes for nine bucks in a San Francisco drug store? Yes please.

That was only a few weeks ago. They’re gone now. Each morning they would call. Those little coloured marshmallows -injected with god knows what artificiality- that peek out of the sea of milk and fish-shaped oaty bits are like litle explosions of sweetness in your gob. They bring a smile to your face and a spring in your step for the morning.

Alright, that’s the 742 different types of E-numbers smashing together with a sugar-high, but we all have our vices. I guess it’s their ‘forbidden fruit’ nature. There’s a myth that they were actually banned in the UK, but they were just discontinued and never returned, garnering this mystical aura. Chances are, if they were on sale still over here, we’d all recognise just how artificially gross that really are, y’know, when you actually sit down and think about it.

Mind you “They’re chemically delicious” doesn’t have quite the same ring to it, does it?

Posted by: Tom | February 25, 2010

My name is Inigo Montoya…

…you kill my father. Prepare to die.

Vikki hasn’t been feeling very well recently, bless her. Not being at her happiest last night, it was time for “Operation Comfort Zone”. Two oven pizzas, a bottle of Casillero del Diablo’s delicious Carmenere and her favourite film: The Princess Bride.

I defy anyone to not be cheered up by that movie. Such a wonderfully silly pantomime, but its razor sharp in places and has some gut-bustingly funny scenes; Inigo and Westley’s fight, “MAWWIGE”, the majority of Andre the Giant’s screentime. Of course, there’s some kissing, and it also has possibly the most gleefully shameless handwave in the history of cinema. “I spent the last few years building up an immunity to iocane powder.” Exit, stage left. Pure brilliance.

Possibly doesn’t mean much out of context to people who haven’t seen it, but if you haven’t, you must! It will surely brighten the murkiest wet afternoon. I could sit here typing out my favourite quotes all night, but out of sheer laziness I’ll just post the link to the iMDB quotes page: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0093779/quotes

I expect everyone who has read this blog to have watched or rewatched Princess Bride by Sunday night. Demanding, I know, but you’ll thank me for it. It certainly did the trick last night.

_______

In other news, I spent today at Nintendo’s European Gamers Summit. Was a great event at the o2. Great, because I got to play Super Mario Galaxy 2, which left me giddy with joy. Metroid Other M is shaping up nicely too. I’ll be writing some ‘proper’ words on both those games very soon though, so look out for that.

Time for bed Zebedee, see y’all tomorrow.

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