Book Reviews by Someone not Qualified to Review Books- Indiana Jones and the Dance of Giants

Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants (Indiana Jones: Prequels, #2)Indiana Jones and the Dance of the Giants by Rob MacGregor

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I reviewed the first book in this series “Peril at Delphi” so this review won’t be very long since a lot of what I said about Peril at Delphi carries over to this book. However, I didn’t like this book as much compared to the first. If I could, I would rate it 2.5, since it was probably more than okay, but I certainly wasn’t blown away by it.

This time around, Indy finds himself tied up in a plot of druids, Stonehenge and Merlin, of all things. It was certainly an interesting premise, and at the start I was very interested in what they would do with it. For about half of the book, this plot continued on well, especially with the introduction of the intriguing and mysterious Adrian. But then for some reason it didn’t go much further, and by the end it seemed pointless and odd- which is all I can say without revealing anything.

We are treated to TWO whole female characters this time round- Deidre, one of Indy’s students, and Joanna, her mother. Joanna was by far the more interesting of the two, and her mysterious and knowledgeable air made it seem like she would be the match for Indy. But no, instead this book pairs him with Deidre, who more often than not came off as annoying. In fact, most of the characters in this book are not very memorable at all, but again I may be expecting too much from an Indiana Jones book.

I did like how this book ties to the first, however. I expected these novels to be very standalone, but it was interesting to see how they link together so far. I should also again praise the fact that this book at least accomplishes what it sets out to do- and that is tell a cheesy, history-inspired action adventure. While much shorter on the action than the first novel, there is still plenty of history abound, though I do admit there seemed to be a lot of creative alterations to historical fact to suit the novel. While I wouldn’t usually complain about this, some of them seemed out of place and far fetched, even for Indiana Jones.

I did enjoy reading this book as a fun, easy get away from other novels, but it did not capture me like the first one did. Again, I can only recommend this to Indiana Jones fans. Unlike Peril at Delphi, I don’t think this book would really appeal that much to history buffs because of the creative licenses it takes, although if you are interested in druids and Stonehenge, it might be an intriguing read.

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Writing Update #1: Oh Wow I’m Actually Writing

For a writing blog, there seems to be very little writing going on.  I am fully aware of that, but fret not!  I have been hard at it over the past few weeks.  I’ve been on mid-year university break which has given me some unobstructed writing time and boy have I been using that time as much as I can.

After doing a lot of scheduling and time management, I’ve decided to cut out a lot of the projects I said I was working on in that earlier post.  I’ve done a lot of thinking about each project, and decided whether they will be postponed for a while or postponed indefinitely.

Firstly, I’ll say what has been scrapped entirely.  Kings of the Bloodstone aka my Gothic fantasy novel has been postponed indefinitely, with a very high chance of it being cancelled.  After realising the market was flooded with vampire novels a few years back, I knew that my vampire story would probably just get muddled up in the mix.  Along with that, I had done very little work on it and the plot was all over the place.  It may rear its head later on down the track, but for now Kings of the Bloodstone is going to be filed away.

My second project, Man and Machine aka my science fiction novel has been postponed, but not indefinitely.  There are other things I want to work on at the moment, but I am very passionate about this project and I don’t want to forget it all together.  This one was starting to move along, and a lot of the planning is done and first draft was already starting to come together.  But it will be placed on the back-burner for now while I focus on my main projects.  But don’t say goodbye to Man and Machine forever, because like another famous cyborg story it says “I’ll be back.”

Finally, what are my current focuses right now?  Oddly enough, I chose the project with the least work done on it to be my main project.  Both Kings of the Bloodstone and Man and Machine had far more work done on them, but I decided to put the spotlight on my un-named fantasy/adventure novel.  It’s going under the working title “Vessel” at the moment, and in the few short weeks after deciding to put my focus on it, it has rocketed to first place in terms of how much content there is.  The planning is completely finished, and I am about a third of the way into the first draft.  This is certainly something considering that all I had at the start was a rough plot and some ideas for characters.  But now Vessel is well on the way to becoming my debut piece, and I hope it will be.

Along with Vessel, I am also continuing on with my Revan story.  This multipart series is more a personal project that will be published on Fanfiction and Ao3 rather than being published.  The first draft of the first novella is nearly complete, and I’ll be starting to revise it soon.  This will probably come out first, so Star Wars fans make sure you keep an eye on this blog, because I will be announcing its release here.  I did mention in my earlier post this was my biggest project, but I have switched it around with Vessel, which is taking most of my attention.

So there you have it.  Rise of Revan will hopefully be out by the end of the year, and I am working away on my first novel.  Feel free to send in questions or advice, as it will always be appreciated.  Any publishers out there are VERY welcome to send me a message.

Keep writing everyone!

Lisa W

Book Reviews by Someone not Qualified to Review Books- Damiano (Damiano #1)

Damiano (Damiano, #1)Damiano by R.A. MacAvoy

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I bought the Damiano series because it was cheap on Kindle and the idea of Renaissance history blended with fantasy intrigued me. At first, I didn’t expect much but it became clear after just a few chapters that my expectations would be greatly surpassed. It had been a very long time since a book has gripped me as much as Damiano.

The book’s premise is what intrigued me in the first place- it is a story set in our real, historical world except that magic exists and is closely tied to faith. Despite being fantasy, this premise is done in a way that feels real. Mythical beings such as the angel Raphael and a talking dog existing in real locations amidst real conflicts blends the fantasy and historical aspects of the story together in a way that doesn’t feel forced.

At first, the writing style perplexed me a little. At times it can be hard to follow, but once you get used to its poetic style it becomes easier to read. In fact, once you start to understand the way this book is written you start to really become drawn into it.

I didn’t like any of the characters at first. They all seem infuriatingly naive, especially Damiano. But you start to learn that that naivety is an integral part of the characters, especially in a book with Christian themes about goodness and innocence. The whole book is about how this naive, young boy comes to realise the reality of the harsh world he lives in, and this tale is told beautifully.

This book is very much unlike the books I usually read as it is mostly devoid of fast paced action. But I found I enjoyed this book much more because of that. This story does not need action to string it along- instead it uses your connection to Damiano and your desire to know what will happen to him next to keep you invested. Just like its been a long time since I’ve read such an investing book, its been just as long since I’ve cared for a character in a book as much as I cared for Damiano. When the conflict comes to a point towards the end of the book, I could not stop reading because I just had to know what would happen to this young boy and his dog who I had become so attached to.

Don’t let the book’s age or Christian themes get in the way of you reading it. It is a beautifully written book that is unlike any other book I have read. It’s style may be an acquired taste for some, and it takes a bit to get over the unusual writing, but once you do, you will find yourself with a fantasy novel unlike any other.

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All the Fun of Medieval Times Without the Death and Disease- My Day at the Abbey Medieval Festival

If you’re anything like me, you probably get bored of your seemingly boring, normal life, right? And sometimes you wish you could live in a much more exciting period of history- like medieval times, or the Renaissance.  After all, it was a world of sword fights and knights and kings and queens!  But it was also a world where everyone died by age forty and most spent their lives knee deep in cow dung.  But I have found a way to experience all the joy of yesteryear without all the death and cow dung!  And that way is the Abbey Medieval Festival.

The Abbey Medieval Festival is a long running medieval festival at Caboolture, Queensland, Australia and is the largest of its kind in the southern hemisphere.  I had high expectations when I arrived on a sunny but cold Saturday, but those expectations were still surpassed.  I attended with the companionship of my partner Noah.  Upon arrival we were greeted by a gypsy dance group jingling away.  Their vibrant dancing distracted us from the ye olde mud road that led into the festival.  Very authentic.

I know this sounds cliche and cheesy, but once you step past the gates of the festival, it really is like stepping back in time.  Laid before you in a wide clearing among the trees are dozens of brightly coloured tents and arenas, and even a trebuchet or two.  Rather than other festivals that merely present a glimpse into medieval life, Abbey goes the whole way and transforms the field into what actually feels like a real medieval camp, complete with not one but TWO medieval inns.  While there were casual festival goers like me in normal clothing, the large majority of people at the festival were gowned in period attire- ladies in beautiful dresses and headscarves, men in fur lined cloaks and armour.  Even the sounds and smells around you take you back to ye old times- from the moment I entered the festival I could hear the sound of a lute nearby as well as the clanking of armour.  Even the air smelt how I would expect a medieval festival to smell- smoke, leather and oddly enough, cinnamon donuts.

Once I’d managed to take in my sudden transportation back in time, Noah and I made our way to the Castle Arena for the grand opening parade.  The festival’s attention to historical immersion shone again as the participants in the festival were introduced as if they were attending a real tourney.

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After the grand parade, we had ten or so minutes before the tourney.  I followed my nose back to the scent of those cinnamon donuts and found them being hawked by a man wheeling a cart of donuts shouting “hot cinnamon donuts!”.  I purchased three cinnamon and jam donuts and they are by far the best jam donuts I have ever had.

Next up was the “Tourney of Two Houses” presented by the Company of the Phoenix. Remember the tourney from Game of Thrones?  It’s just like that except you get to experience it in real life.  Everyone cast aside their knowledge that it was a re-enactment. We cheered on for the fight, gasped when a knight suffered a blow in combat and shouted words of encouragement to our favourite knights.  For that brief period of time, I really did feel like I was there in a real tourney.  The modern world seems far away at the sight and sound of clashing swords.

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Next on our program took us a tad further in time to the Renaissance.  One of my favourite local re-enactment groups is Prima Spada who teach and perform historical Renaissance fencing.  Where as medieval knights are clad head to toe in cumbersome armour and swing their swords wildly, Renaissance swordsmen put more focus on fashionable combat.  With capes and rapiers, Renaissance fencing shows that the Renaissance was a less barbaric time, although just as violent.  Combat was like a dance with impressive footwork.  Prima Spada exemplified a number of popular Renaissance weapon combinations- sword, rapier, sword and buckler, sword and knife, two handed sword, and my personal favourite, sword and cape.  While the medieval tourney combat gets your heart racing for its sheer violence, Renaissance combat is more of a pleasure to watch.

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Sound your trumpets, as it was now time for the joust.  Rather than a re-enactment, the Abbey jousting is a real competition that attracts jousters from all over Australia and the world.  I officially have to say that jousting should be a mainstream sport again and all quarrels should be settled with a joust.  Each jouster had their own look, style and colours, and even their own personality in the way they rode around the field and presented themselves. The joust really gets you to get behind your favourite jouster, and announcer made sure that everyone knew how to give an almighty HUZZAH.   Little did I know that there is more to jousting than just two people riding at each other with pointy sticks.  There’s scoring involved, making it all the more competitive.  Seeing the ends of the jousting sticks break off on the other’s shield and flying into the air is one of the most exhilarating things ever.  Unfortunately we had to abandon the joust early because the stands lacked shade and it had gotten very hot.

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Deciding it was time for a ye old meal and beverage, Noah and I made our way to the Stag Inn.  If you ever wanted that authentic medieval inn experience, the Stag Inn delivers.  It was hard choice between the steak pie or the venison stew, but I opted for a good old fashioned pie.  Noah had the goat pie, which I avoided since I am still unsure about goat meat.  With hay underfoot and a haybale as our seat, we enjoyed our very delicious peasant pies and washed it down with apple cider.  I nearly opted for one of the many ales and meads the inn sold, but I was feeling a little sunstruck and alcohol probably wasn’t the best idea.  The air was filled with the smell of cooking meat and smoke from a nearby campfire.  And like every good inn, it was filled to the brim with boisterous, loud men talking and laughing heartily.  The only thing that could have completed the experience was good tavern fight.

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Briefly after lunch we decided to quickly glimpse the end of what could be my favourite sport- Turkish Oil Wrestling.  I don’t have much to say about this save that it involved two sweaty, oiled up buff Turkish men rolling around on the ground attempting to slide their hand into the other’s pants.  No really, look it up.  That’s what they do.  Easily the most homoerotic sport in the world, and very *cough* interesting to watch.

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After catching the end of another tournament, we decided to take the time to explore the dozens of encampments before us.  Many sold goods you would never find anywhere else- swords, shields, bows and arrows, leatherworks and jewelry, as well as a plethora of other medieval wares.  I was very close to buying an authentic drinking horn.  Noah was just as close to buying a sword.  Like most medieval wares, we probably would never use either, but they make great conversation pieces.  Strolling through the encampments is one of the best things about these festivals, because you can really take your time to enjoy the atmosphere.  The best part is that the people in the encampments are acting out real medieval activities.   I spent a good five minutes just watching a man string a bow.  From fletching arrows, turning a spit or helping another put their armour on, everyone went about their activities like it really was a cool July afternoon in the 1400s.

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There were a few more displays and tournaments that afternoon, but we decided to call it a day at this point.  I don’t think I could’ve handled much more medieval immersion without spontaneously starting to speak in old English.  After a quick flit around the stalls to spend the last of my money, we finally bade farewell to the Abbey Medieval Festival and returned back to the modern day.  For one amazing day, I got to leave this sad, modern world behind in exchange for the glories of the past.  For one day, I could pretend I did live in a world of chivalry and crusades, of knights and ladies and of swords and horses.  And for that, I thank the Abbey Medieval Festival.

Interested in next year’s festival?  Check out the link below

Abbey Medieval Festival

 

 

 

 

My Melbourne Adventure Day 4 and 5: One fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish

*A thousand apologies for the delay of the final part of my Melbourne story.  University exams really suck the life and time out of you*

I could not believe it when I had come to my final day in Melbourne.  Like all holidays, it had gone too quickly.  On my agenda for my final twenty four hours in the lovely city was the Sealife Aquarium.  Some might say I could see an aquarium anywhere, but I love sea life, and the aquarium was right across from where I was staying, so how could I not have a look?

It was a very dreary day that morning- it seemed we were finally seeing that renowned Melbourne weather. It was the first day I awoke to the sound of rain pelting against the room’s large glass window. But I was actually sort of glad to see the rainy weather. I’m a lover of rain, and seeing the wet weather actually made Melbourne feel somewhat more Melbourney. So we put on our coats and braved into the rain and across the bridge.

The Sealife Aquarium looks small from the outside, or it least it did from our window.  But it was very Tardis-like in how big it seemed on the inside.  It was divided up into numerous sections, each featuring a different type of sea life.  The first section featured a large, open top tank filled with rays and sharks, as well as some small fish. The rays and sharks were actually very cute and very friendly.  There was space where you could crawl underneath the tank to get a better look, which was probably for kids, but I attempted to crawl in there anyway.  I was successful, though with some difficulty.   The next section was about crabs and crustaceans. For me, the highlights were the coconut crabs that looked like a low level enemy from a science fiction game.

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After the crabs was a section for reef fish- my favorite type of fish.  It was like a scene from Finding Nemo- pufferfish, clown fish, angel fish and much more.  This section was by far the most attractive since coral and reef fish display a myriad of colours.

The next area was the shark tank. And no, it had nothing to do with entrepreneurs.  This tank had a tunnel running through it which let you be surrounded by the sharks, as well as the many rays and fish that lived in harmony with them.  I’ve always liked rays because of their little smiley faces.

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The following part of the aquarium moved away from ocean life to focus on inland freshwater animals.  Of course, the main feature was their resident crocodile.  I have seen crocodiles both in captivity and in the wild, but I have never seen a crocodile as big as the one there.  It was so large and so still that I didn’t think it was real at first.  But a twitch of its tail and slight movement of its eyes made me realise it was in fact alive.  It was more reminiscent of a dinosaur or a Godzilla monster than a crocodile.  The rest of the section seemed much less exciting compared to the crocodile, but there were some cute frogs and lizards, and a rather derpy but lovable big freshwater fish.

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There were some more small sea life exhibits featuring corals, seahorses and squids, but my favourite exhibit featured at the end- penguins.  Penguins are one of my favourite animals because there is something incredibly adorable about them.  So it was great to watch them waddle around and just be generally cute.  The small penguins were the cutest, as they tended to walk around in one route continuously, and they were the most inquisitive,  It was also fascinating to to see how fast they were in water compared to their slow, cute little waddle on land.

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That marked the end of our aquarium trip.  Since the weather had cleared up while we were inside, we decided to make the most of our last day in this wonderful city with one last tram trip.  Though first I had to stop at Batman park to get a photo of the sign.  After all, it was BATMAN park.  Our first stop on the tram trip then was the gardens in which the Royal Exhibition building stood.  It was a grand building that looks like it was plucked straight out of Europe.  It was easy to imagine Ezio clambering over such a building.  Not to mention it was situated at the end of a beautiful tree lined path in the verdant green botanic gardens.  Its a shame that its intricate fountain turned off just as we arrived,  While we couldn’t go inside the building, I was content with admiring its exterior.  Our exploration probably would have continued, but my mum and I were both tired and hungry, and tensions were rising.  We decided it was best to go back to the hotel, get some lunch and spend the last hours of our trip in air-conditioned comfort.  And it was indeed a comfortable afternoon and evening. As the sun set on our final day, we watched those dancing flames one last time and reflected on what a wonderful time we had.

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Little can be said for our last morning, asides from that we packed our bags with heavy hearts.  For both mum and I, this had been our first real travel experience.  And in our short week, we had been captivated by the feeling travelling gave us.  At least the weather had turned even worse again, so leaving was at least a little easier.  And so we flew home in somewhat turbulent skies, with fond memories of our first travel adventure.

Also for anyone interested, I have provided a link the Melbourne SeaLife website:
Melbourne SeaLife

 

Totally Factual and Not at All Biased Game Reviews: Spyro the Dragon

When I saw that Crash Bandicoot was getting a sleek remaster, I was very excited.  Not because I was excited for the game per say, but because I was excited for the fact that game companies are looking at the possibility of polishing up old games.  And I wondered if a game series very close to my heart would get the same treatment.

That game series being Spyro the Dragon.

Spyro the Dragon on PS1 was the first game I ever played.  And since then, I have played every Spyro game in existence, save for a few bad mobile games.  Some of them are timeless classics, others…not so much.  So I thought I’d take the time to examine every Spyro game I can get my hands on, and present a review of them.

So without further ado, I present

Spyro the Dragon (1998)

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Since I was only one year old at the time of the game’s release, I can’t tell you what the initial reception was for this game.  But I can guess that Sony wanted to jump on the 3D platforming collect-a-thon bandwagon made popular by Nintendo games like Banjo-Kazooie.  So Insomniac made just that.  3D hub worlds that led to other levels?  Check.  A cute but competent main character?  Check.  More things to collect than you could wave a stick at?  Check.  Spyro the Dragon was the PS1’s answer to the genre.  So now I’ll examine a few aspects of the game, and rate out of 10.

Story

Image result for spyro the dragon thank you for releasing me

I don’t even have to summarise the story for this review, since it is so simple.  Short story even shorter- there’s this baddie called Gnasty Gnorc who’s been exiled to a literal garbage island and then one day the dragons are throwing some shade about him.  This pisses him off to no end, and he decides to freeze all of the dragons in crystal with magic.  Of course, Spyro is saved from this fate from his diminutive size, and is hence bestowed with the responsibility to save the day.

Yes, it’s a very simple story, but these games are not known for their plot.  I’m not going to have the story’s bare bones-ness affect my score, but I will raise a few questions I always had as a kid regarding it.  Is Spyro the only juvenile dragon in the world since he was the only one who the spell missed?  Where did the dragons you freed go, and why didn’t they help you more than giving a few cryptic lines of aide?  Why are there no girl dragons?  Surely Spyro must have come from somewhere….

But none the less, I have to give the story a 2/10.  It’s not a 1 because I suppose there technically is a story.  This won’t affect my overall score though since this is not a game designed to revolve around story.

Gameplay

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Now this is where Spyro shines.  The gameplay mechanics are incredibly simple, but still somehow satisfying.  Spyro has two attacks- a flame and a charge attack.  Some enemies can only be killed by a certain attack, and it’s pretty easy to identify them.  Asides from his attacks, Spyro has a jump and a glide which are your most important tools in platforming.  There’s also a roll to the left and right, but to be honest I only ever used it once or twice, so it’s pretty pointless.

The goal of Spyro is to free the dragons and collect the treasure.  It sounds simple enough, but you often find yourself scratching your head in dismay as you reach the end of a level only find you’re missing one dragon and four gems.  That is where Spyro’s fun comes from.  Combat is incredibly easy, but the challenge of this game comes from combing every nook and cranny of each level to find all the gems.  Technically you can beat the game without finding everything, as to progress to the next hub-world you only have to meet a certain objective (free ten dragons, collect 16000 tressure etc etc).  But doing that means you finish the game very quickly, and you miss the charm of the game.  Collecting dragons, gems and the elusive dragon eggs is always rewarding, and only a few times did it ever feel meticulous or too much work.  It gets especially interesting when you have to do some pretty insanely tricking platforming and problem solving in order to reach those hard to get to collectables.  Any Spyro fan reading this now is probably already thinking about Tree Tops- a level that makes the player pull off an insane glide in order to reach all the collectables in the level.  Gliding is a lot of fun in Spyro, mostly because Spyro is very easy to control.  He is very responsive and the camera is amazingly good for a PS1 game.  You can move the camera from left the right, and you have a first person look around mode which is helping for seeking out those pesky hidden gems.  Despite the ease of the combat, the tricky hiding placing for the collectables add a layer of difficulty to Spyro that you don’t see in games these days.  The tight controls and camera make it fun to find them though.

Image result for spyro the dragon tree topsNever have I been so frustrated (in a good way) in a Spyro game…

I should also mention that there are bonus flying stages where you control Spyro in the air.  These involve completing a course in a time limit which involve flying through rings and flaming obstacles.  These flying stages can get pretty difficult, but they are incredibly fun and break up the pace a bit.  Spyro controls pretty well in the air, though perhaps not as well as he does on the ground.  The flying is still very fun though, and it’s in these stages you do truly feel like a dragon.

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The only complaints I have about the gameplay are that I wish there were just a few more collectibles to search for, and that Spyro had a few more abilities.  These are complaints that are addressed in the following games, however

As a collect-at-hon, I will give Spyro 7/10.  The collectibles are fun to search for and the controls are tight, but as I said, it may have needed a few extra features to get that really high score.

Graphics and Design

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Now, this is a PS1 game, so I have to appraise it in comparison to games of its era.  And I have to say, I believe Spyro is one of the best looking PS1 games out there.  Every single stage has its own design, look and feel and no two stages look the same.  The game has a sort of high-fantasy design to it- with towering castles, mountains and spires.  And for its era, everything looks amazing.  The backgrounds of each stage are these beautiful sky boxes that look like distant mountains, and the colour scheme is different on every stage.  These backgrounds are beautiful in themselves, and  the colour scheme they use even gives you a feel for the stage to come.  Spyro and the dragons themselves are actually really well modelled, and what I love the most about the dragons is that every realm’s (what they call each world) dragons have a different look and design, and it gives you the feeling that each realm is home to a different sort of dragon.  The enemies unfortunately don’t look as great, and their designs seem to look pretty similar after a while.  But there is enough variety that you won’t see the same enemy too often.  While pretty uninspiring in their design, there are a lot of types which keep things fresh.  But the level design and graphics in Spyro the Dragon still impress me to this day.  Few games have really made me go “wow this looks great for its generation” but this game certainly did.  I don’t technically have any experience in professionally judging game graphics, but from a purely aesthetic point of view, I rate this game solidly.

skies.pngAn example of some of the sky backgrounds from the game.  As you can see, all of them are vastly different and make some pretty sweet desktop backgrounds.

Judging the game in comparison to other games of its era, I give Spyro an 8/10.  While perhaps not ground breaking graphics, they are very nice to look at, and the level design is absolutely fantastic.

Parting thoughts

It is very possible that this review is somewhat tainted by fond nostalgia, but I have tried to remain as subjective as possible.  I will reiterate that this review is largely based on my own opinion and whether I liked the game or not.  Gamers who aren’t fond of the collect-a-thon genre will likely not enjoy Spyro.  But for fans who do love a good collect-a-thon and have not played Spyro, I could not recommend it enough.

FINAL SCORE

Story: 2/10

Gameplay: 7/10

Graphics and Design: 8/10

Overall Score: 7.5/10

Final verdict: Thank you for releasing me (this game)


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Book Reviews by Someone not Qualified to Review Books- Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi

Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi (Indiana Jones: Prequels #1)Indiana Jones and the Peril at Delphi by Rob MacGregor

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I have been a long standing fan of Indiana Jones, so I decided to start the book series. My expectations were not very high, since books based on movie franchises are never usually that good, but I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this book.

Peril at Delphi introduces us to a post-“Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” but pre-movie Indy. I was skeptical about whether the author would get the character right, but I think he definitely did. Indy is just starting out in the world of extreme archaeology, so he lacks a bit of the charm we see in the movies and he still seems to be finding his feet. I really liked this, since this is a prequel after all. Indy himself was well written, and everything he said and thought still felt in-line with the character.

Sadly, none of the other characters were as well thought out as Indy. None of them really stuck with me except Dorian. While I liked her character, her motivations and personality seemed all over the place. That being said, I was not expecting such an interesting female character from a book this old, and I much preferred a somewhat flawed female character in this compared to a Mary-Sue or trophy woman character that are so common in older novels.

The writing itself is nothing spectacular, but it is clear and direct which I think works well in such an action orientated book. The action scenes sometimes lacked a bit, but it didn’t ruin the book.

All in all, it does feel like an Indiana Jones adventure and I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would. However, I do feel that this book may not appeal to everyone- only Indiana Jones fans and history buffs will likely appreciate the history/mythology based story, since asides from that it doesn’t bring much new to the table. But if you are an Indy fan, or enjoy a good pulpy archaeology adventure, this this is a definite read.

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Wisdom from an anxiety riddled, coffee fueled university student

Here I am, right now, back against a hard stone wall, holding a peanut butter sandwich close to my chest as I stare down the ibis who is slowly approaching in an attempt to steal my peanutty buttery goodness.  I don’t understand why it’s singling me out- I have by far the least impressive lunch of anyone around me.  He could go after the student with the Subway, or the sushi rolls, or the fancy Chinese curry, but no, he goes after me.

Just another hurdle in the life of university.

I am currently in my third and final year of my business degree at the Queensland University of Technology, and even though its my final year, i feel like it is the first year I’ve truly felt like a uni student.

But how does one “feel like a uni student?”

In my first year, uni felt like nothing more than advanced high school.  I didn’t understand the idea of “uni life” or “campus culture”

But now as I sit here on the veranda of the Old Government House (a once popular historical site now overrun by students), watching the throngs of hip young millennials go by (I too am a young millennial, but i am far from “hip”), I kind of understand these terms.  But I expect that everyone has a different idea of “uni life”.  But what does it mean to me?

To me, its an understanding and an acceptance that university is not a walk through the park.  Or it is a walk in the park, except the park is on fire and there’s a horde of zombies chasing you.  It’s getting up early and squeezing onto an overcrowded train.  Its walking across the bridge to the campus and gazing across at the city.  It’s turning up to your 9am lecture with a coffee in one hand and a weetbix breakfast biscuit in the other.  It’s losing your laptop to the precarious fold up chair tables when the hinges suddenly decide to stop working.  It’s staring at attractive students two rows down, and then looking away when they turn around.  It’s staring blankly at power point slides while the lecturer drones on, while you feel an odd combination of confusion, anxiety and occasionally, a glimmer of understanding that makes it worthwhile.  It’s making friends with people you would never expect to be friends with- from girls with perfect makeup and hair and rich boys with nice smelling cologne to scraggly bearded DOTA 2 players and kooky engineering students- I’ve befriended them all.  Why? Because we’re all in the same boat.  We’re from different walks of life, but uni doesn’t care about that- it’ll mess you up no matter what.

I may sound critical of university, but don’t get me wrong- its been some of the best years of my life.  Its the first time I’ve ever felt independent, and free to experience the world the way I choose.

So now I’ll open my textbook to chapter 3, chug my coffee and dread my tutorials.  And when I do, I’ll feel happy.  Because if there’s any way to describe uni:

 

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Lisa

My Melbourne Adventure Day 3: Rolling on the River

The next day we got up early for a morning stroll along the Yarra.  Again, we had abnormal and seemingly unnatural good weather.  I was almost upset that I hadn’t gotten to wear my new coat yet, which I had specifically bought for the trip.  Being the third day of the trip, it was the first day that I felt settled in the city.  Days and two just fly by so fast, and there is so much to take in that you don’t really feel like you’re there yet.  But on day three I finally did.  I could finally start to enjoy the city for what it was now that I was not overwhelmed by new sights and sounds.  The plan for today was a river cruise along the Yarra, but it did not depart till 10:30, and we still had time to spare.  Realizing we had not yet seen one of Melbourne’s most defining locations- Federation Square, we set our course there immediately.  We crossed the river at the northern (I think?  I literally had no sense of direction in Melbourne so we very well may have been going in a completely different direction) end of Southbank over a very old and very beautiful bridge to the figurative heart of Melbourne.

The square is an interesting area.  It is where old and contemporary Melbourne seem to collide.  Old buildings and churches sit side by side with the modern artsy building.  The square also offered me a view of the facade of the historic Flinder’s Street Station.  While my mum enjoyed the square, she found it a little too busy for her liking.  I actually kind of liked the hubbub of the square- you could see there were so many people of different walks of life all hurrying through that square.  As I said before- it was like the heart of the city and its lifeblood, it’s people, was continuously flowing through it and being pumped out to rest of the living city.

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After our foray to Federation Square, we headed back to meet our trusty river-going vessel.  The low floating boat was to take us on a scenic cruise up each reach of the river.  First, we headed upstream.  The leisurely pace was very relaxing, and we got some nice views of Melbourne’s botanic gardens, as well as the many sports stadiums in the city.  Yet on this part of the cruise we also saw grimy overpasses and muddy river banks- a reminder that even Melbourne did have a less aesthetically pleasing side, like all cities.

After seeing the upstream section of the Yarra, we turned around and headed back downstream.  After passing through Southbank again (which was fun to see from the water, especially with the dim winter sun and bright blue skies), we moved into the Harbour district (I think that is what it is called, note that it may have a different name).  This area was characterized by upper class expensive looking high rises and million dollar boats and yachts.  The homes along the water here gave a brief glimpse into the living conditions of the 1%.  Some of those boats alone probably costed twice as much as our house.  Eventually, this classy district gave way to the port.  Yachts and charter boats had been replaced by giant container ships and tugboats.  As someone who actually enjoys that “industrial port aesthetic”, I reveled in sight of huge silos and shipping crate loaders.  There’s just something very raw and productive about them.  At the end of the port is a huge bridge, which I have sadly forgotten the name of, but it was hard to miss as it was flanked by two monolithic support towers.  The bridge marked the end of the upstream journey, and we headed back through the docks and the rich people to Southbank.

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For the first time since we had arrived, we had some real time to rest and relax in the comfort of our room.  After a nice nap we ventured out for a walk in the late afternoon, hoping to capitalize on the good weather.  We went to look at the Penny Woodside- a 19th century tall ship that was on display at the Naval Museum.  As a fan of pre-2oth century, it was cool to see the ship, which’s design incorporated the older style sailing masts and a somewhat more modern metal hull.  It was a lovely afternoon as the sun went down- the clear blue skies meant a bright, clear orange sunset.  As the sky faded cinematically from blue, to orange, to dusky purple and navy, and then finally to black, the lights of the city came to life, reflecting in the mirror like waters of the Yarra.  Every light and every building was reflected almost perfectly in the still black water.

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That evening we decided to watch a movie in our room- James Bond Casino Royal.  I chose this film for obvious reasons- we were staying in a casino after all.  Melbourne also has a modern James Bond-esque sort of feel, with its shining skyline and upper class atmosphere.  It was easy to imagine a story of spies and espionage taking place in this modern city.  Trying to emulate bond, I had a few drinks that evening (shaken, not stirred) and found myself unfortunately awake sometime after midnight very unwell in the bathroom.  It seems long tiring days mixed with heavy alcohol do not mix.

Lisa

Dungeons that Drag On #2: Failed Charisma Rolls

It was a beautiful day on the northward running road out of Neverwinter.  Despite the fact they were heading north to the cold ice fields, the midsummer temperature was warm and comforting. Aria wore her feathered bard’s hat to keep the sun out of her sensitive elf eyes, but often looked up to feel the soothing warmth of the mid-morning sun.  The road was oddly quiet for such a main path out of the city, and the group rode on in relatively peaceful silence along the glistening sea.  Moses and Ivan rode either side of Aria and remained quiet, but Aria could hear hushed whispering behind her between Swagstag and Malifica.  She didn’t trust either of them as far as she could throw them, even though she did figure she probably could throw Swagstag quite far.  Of course, she wasn’t one to talk.  Bards came in one of two varieties- either trustworthy, honest entertainers; or untrustworthy, cunning bastards.  Aria liked to think she sat somewhere in between, but of course the others would not know that.  She knew they were following her orders for the gold she provided rather than any sense of trust or commitment.  Suddenly Aria’s train of thought was abruptly derailed by a shout from the trees to their right.

“What was that?” Moses said, looking into the trees.  Aria held up her hand to motion her company to stop.  A few moments later, a scared looking man burst out of the forest.  He looked rather dishevelled and his eyes grew wide with fear when he sort the mismatched group mounted before him.  But his expression quickly turned from fear to relief.

“Oh thank the gods there is someone on this road!” he said, “You must help me!”

Aria looked down at the distraught man suspiciously.  Even if she did want to help him, which she didn’t, they did not have time.  They had to get to Lorkan as soon as possible if they had any chance of being successful in their heist.

“Help you with what?” Aria asked, making sure her tone did not convey any suggestion that she planned to help him.

“Pirates from the Sea of Swords have besieged my fishing village on the coast ahead and are wreaking havoc.  I see you are armed- please, you must help us!”

Aria glanced at her companions, trying to gauge their reactions.  She knew Moses would definitely want to help, and she knew that Malifica would probably join in with the pirates.  The thief and the ranger were harder to read.

“We don’t have much, but we can pay you what we have.”

The prospect of payment piqued Aria’s attention.

“Alright then.  I guess we can see what we can do.”

“Oh thank you kind traveller.  Follow me!”

The group moved their horses forward after the estranged man.  Swagstag rode up beside Aria,

“It could be a trap you know,” she said.  Despite her appearance, Swagstag was quite intelligent, especially when it came to street smarts.  She too knew the dangers of compassion.

“If it is, then I think we are well equipped enough to fight off a couple of fisherman.”

“But what if they’re not fisherman.”

“We’ll take our chances.  After all, he is offering payment.”

Swagstag smiled, “That he is.”

Like her, Swagstag appreciated the power of money.  Moses looked at them in disgust,

“Is that all you two think about?  Gold?”

“No, it’s not all I think about.  But it’s at least 45 percent,” Aria replied.

“Nope, gold is all I think about,” Swagstag said, “that, and how I’m going to earn it.”

“I would hardly call thieving ‘earning’, halfling,” Moses said righteously.  Swagstag grew angry,

“Thieves are just as important as any professional in the world.  We keep the economy from growing stagnant- steal from the rich to distribute to the poor and all that,” she said defiantly.

“But the money isn’t yours to take!” Moses replied, holding his ground.

“The way I see it, money belongs to those who are smart enough to acquire it- however that may be.  If you don’t look after your gold properly, then you deserve to have it stolen.”

Moses went to argue but Aria held up a hand,

“Enough, you two.  I don’t want us arguing over as something trivial as this.  Besides, we approach the village.”

 

As the panicked fisherman had said, they came up on a small village situated down at the bottom of the short cliff.  And as the man had said, Aria could see a number of rough looking individuals swaggering about in the small village square.

“I will wait here,” the man said, cowering behind a rock, “You go take care of those ruffians.”

Aria dismounted her horse, and the others followed suit.

“Listen, I’ll try and talk to them first and see if we can get through this without any bloodshed,” Aria said, purposely glancing at Malifica, “But keep your weapons ready.  It may come to blows.”

The group proceeded down the winding cliff path to the small village.  The small wooden huts were locked tight, and Aria could see the fearful faces of villagers glancing out of their windows at the pirates who had taken over their town.  The pirate’s ship was anchored a little ways from the shore, and Aria could see longboats taking loot out of the village to the ship.  The man whom Aria deduced as the captain due to his outlandish clothing style and hat, stood at the edge of the dock directing his men.  Two pirates flanking him noticed the group approach, and held out their swords threateningly.  The captain turned around to examine the newcomers.

“And what do we have ‘ere?” he asked, his accent rough and thick.  Aria stepped forward and bowed slightly to the man,

“Just a humble bard and her contingent passing through sir,” she said humbly, “I could not help but notice your presence in this town as I passed through.”

“And what is it to ya?  Are you going to tell us you don’t like us in this town?”

“Oh no, captain. In fact, I saw your men here and thought ‘those poor pirates are missing quite the opportunity by wasting time in such a small fry village like this’,”

The captain scratched his tattered beard, “And what do you mean by that?”

“Well, I have come from the north, and only a day ago I passed a pearl fishing village north of here.  As you probably realise, pearls fetch a much higher price than fish.  It’s a shame you focused your attention here rather than there,”

Ivan looked at Aria, “But Aria, there aren’t any…”

Aria stepped down on Ivan’s foot hard.  The elf held back a wince of pain and was thankfully smart enough to realise he should be quiet.

“Pearls, you say?”

“Aye captain.  Pearls.  And if I do say so myself, a pearling village smells awfully better than a fishing village.”

Aria could see the captain was deep in thought, considering Aria’s information.  He went to speak, but sudden there was a burst of flame from one of the nearby houses.  They all looked across and saw none other than their resident halfling thief, Swagstag, dragging a sack of gold out of the town hall.  Malifica was with her, flames spilling out of her clawed hands.

“What are you doing!” Aria hissed.  Swagstag looked to Malifica and then back to Aria,

“I was, uh, checking out the village while you were talking.  And there was safe in here with gold, so I got Malifica to blast it open.”

The captain drew his sword, “These scoundrels aren’t simple bards!  They’re thieves trying to rob us of our loot!  After them!”

“Wait wait wait, no…ah who am I kidding,” Aria said with a shrug.  She kneed the captain in the crotch, incapacitating him momentarily,

“Back to the horses!  I think we’ve overstayed our welcome!”

The others all nodded in agreement as a large group of pirates brandishing swords ran towards them.  They hurried back up the cliff, running as fast as they could.  Aria looked back and saw Swagstag was still dragging the sack of gold,

“Leave it!” she said, “It’s the gold or your life.  Pick one.”

Reluctantly, Swagstag dropped the sack and hurried after them as fast as her short legs could carry her.  They quickly made it back to the horses and were galloping back up along the cliff side moments later.  Once they were far enough away, Aria reined her horse and looked back at the village.

“I think we lost them,” Ivan said.  Aria glared at Swagstag and Malifica,

“If I ever catch you doing something like that again, you are out of the heist.”

“We just thought…”

“I’m not paying you to think I’m paying you to follow!”

The halfling and the tiefling looked away sheepishly.  With a grunt of frustration, Aria turned her horse back towards the path, hoping that they could make it to Lorkan without any more interruptions.