The 2017 Young Writers Award

I would like to take a brief moment out of my time today to briefly mention the State Library of Queensland’s Young Writers Award.  This great competition encourages young writers (in two categories of 15-17 and 18-25) to develop their writing.  I’ve entered a few years in a row now and this year I’m pleased to say I made it in the top 25 long-list.  This is a good boost of confidence, and I’m going to keep working on my writing and try to make the highly commended list next year.  For all those interested, you can read my short story “Discord” on Booksie- a site I’m going to start using to post my original works and short stories.  It’s a historical fiction set in WWII France, so if that seems like your thing check it out below:

https://www.booksie.com/529888-discord

If you’re interested in the Young Writers Award or want to read the winning entries for this year, follow the link below:

http://www.slq.qld.gov.au/whats-on/awards/ywa

Keep writing, keep dreaming.

LisaW

Advertisements

Life’s a Beach: Noosa

Now free from the shackles of university, I have taken a much needed holiday.  The location of choice is Noosa, a popular and beautiful sea side located on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.  Sitting on the mouth of a river at the northernmost edge of the Sunshine Coast, Noosa enjoys a much less developed and natural feeling compared to busier seaside locations, due in part to buildings restrictions and the surrounding national park that prevents Noosa from becoming too overdeveloped.

Noosa is like a home away from home for myself as I’ve been holidaying there quite literally since I was born (my first trip to Noosa was when I was 8 months old).  Noosa is also the ancestral home for a part of my family stretching back to the 1800s, so the area means a lot to me.

It’s not just my connection to Noosa that makes me love it so much; it’s Noosa’s sub-tropical, laid back atmosphere.  While made up of a number of suburbs, I tend to break down Noosa into three areas- Noosa Heads, Noosaville and Noosa Northshore.

20171123_135231.jpgHere is a helpful map from my hotel room

Noosa Heads is what most people think of when they hear Noosa.  Nestled in between the headland, the ocean and the river, Noosa Heads is a fashionable yet naturally astounding place.  One of its main features is the famous Hastings Street- a stretch of road displaying the finest capitalism has to offer- and by that I mean its selection of pricey and exclusive boutique stores.  While my Hastings Street shopping experience is usually restricted to my beloved souvenir stores (I have more keyrings and fridge magnets than I care to admit), it is certainly a must do if you’re into shopping, especially surf brands.

The second feature of Noosa Heads and by far my favourite is Noosa Main Beach.  A strip of warm sand stretching from the headland to the river mouth, this beach is a favoured swimming spot due to its protected waters and gentle waves.  Unlike other Australia beaches, Noosa’s Main Beach seems to have found perfect balance of natural beauty and holiday developments.  You can enjoy the clear blue water with the forested headland and ocean beyond without skimping on the holiday luxuries such as lifeguard patrols, beach-side cafes and surf gear hire.  There are few places in Australia that I have been that I adore as much as Noosa main beach, and no matter how many times I go there I always think how amazing it looks.

20171123_100019_Richtone(HDR).jpg

20171123_082131.jpg

The second section of Noosa is Noosaville, situated a little ways down the river from Noosa Heads, is where I stay on my Noosa holidays.  Noosaville is much quieter and relaxed than the popular Noosa Heads.  Just as the crashing surf reflects the surfer atmosphere of Noosa Heads, the slower flowing Noosa River reflects the laid back nature of Noosaville.  While also lined with hotels, cafes and restaurants, Noosaville is more content to lay back and watch the boats float by than splash in the surf.  The river offers a calm place to swim, as well as ample boating opportunities.  My family brings our boat up here to Noosaville, allowing me to explore more of the river than most- from the ancient everglades to the ever shifting sand banks and islets of the river’s mouth.  Noosaville is the perfect place for relaxation- just imagine it: no loud music, no busy streets…just the sound of boats, gulls and the ambling flow of the river.

20171123_142933_Richtone(HDR).jpg

I can’t say much about Noosa Northshore since its been many, many years since I’ve been there, but its an important member of my Noosa triumvirate.  This area encompasses the land north of the Noosa River and marks the beginning of the Great Sandy National Park.  I sometimes get to experience the tip of this natural wonder when we pull the boat up on its shore.  Asides from a few homes, a caravan park and a pub, Noosa Northsore is nothing but untouched bushland and beach for kilometers.  Since access is pretty much restricted to those with boats and four wheel drives, spending time on Noosa Northshore is like spending time on a desert island.  Just you, the beach and sea.  And of course the many avid fisherman and four wheel drivers you’ll have to avoid.

20171120_103051_Richtone(HDR).jpgThe mouth of the Noosa River.  To the right is the bottom of Noosa Heads, to the left is the North Shore.

All in all, words cannot really describe how I feel about Noosa.  To me, its the optimal holiday destination.  Along with what I’ve mentioned, there are dozens of other experiences to be found around Noosa- with Fraser Island (the world’s largest sand island) not too far north and the beautiful hinterland not to far west, there are many more wonders to be discovered beyond Noosa’s blue shores.  So no matter how many holidays I find myself enjoying in the future, I think the winds will always blow me back to Noosa.

 

Lisa W

I’m Back in Action

Where have I been for months?  The simple answer is in a pool of anxiety and despair as I finished my final semester of university.

But now its finally over and I’ve dropped the proverbial One Ring into the fires of Mount Doom.

What does this mean for me now?  Well now I may actually have time to work on my writing and maintaining this blog rather than trying to cram in what I can in the brief times of respite I had during uni.

I will be starting full time work in December, so unfortunately my writing cannot be my main focus, but I’m hoping once I settle into the swing of working I’ll have enough time and energy to devote to writing.

Part 1 of my Star Wars Revane story is *this* close to being done.  It may not be done by the end of the year as I promised, but hopefully it will be sometime in the new year.

Vessel is moving along nicely, and I’m about halfway done with the first draft.

I’m going away for the next week so I’ll likely do a post about that, and I’ve got some news regarding a recent writing competition that I’ll announce after I get back.

So that’s a little update on what’s happening.  Your favourite accounting student is now your favourite accounting graduate.

Where was I going with this?  I’m not even sure. I’m tired and need a nap.

 

Lisa W

 

 

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.

View all my reviews

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.

View all my reviews

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.

20170708_093732.jpg

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.

20170708_110739.jpg

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.

20170708_113149.jpg

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.

received_1861635984087217.jpeg

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.

20170708_132844.jpg

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.

abbey-medieval-festival-turkish-oil-wrestling1.jpg

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.

20170708_100603.jpg

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.

20160721_095237

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.

20160721_101124.jpg

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.

20160721_103107.jpg

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.

20160721_110548

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.

20160721_123518.jpg

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)

Image result for spyro the dragon

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

Image result for spyro the dragon ps1

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.

Image result for spyro the dragon flight level

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

Image result for spyro the dragon ps1

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)


Image result for spyro the dragon ps1

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.

View all my reviews