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Lewis Lewis Denby is a freelance videogames journalist and critic. As well as HonestGamers, he has written for PC Gamer, Eurogamer, The Escapist, Gamasutra and BeefJack.

Title:
Posted: January 01, 2009 (07:04 AM)
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Title: Oops.
Posted: December 31, 2008 (05:27 AM)
Football Superstars appears to be plagued by having been developed by people who have no idea about either football or MMORPGs.
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Title: Games for Console Kids
Posted: December 29, 2008 (04:28 AM)
I don't know what's happening to me. A devout PC gamer since the age of 7, I'm slipping into the land of the console toys. I'm even excited about the prospect of buying an XBox360 next week. Someone give me some medicine.

Anyway, to prepare for my decline into the mindless gaming community, I spent some time playing two games on a PS3 yesterday. Verdicts below.


Sonic Unleashed
Not the best start. After a brief bit of fun in what I termed 'fast-mode', which is basically a series of linear paths where you can run like mad and it's quite enjoyable, night fell and we entered the Man-Pig - sorry, Werehog - section. Here, players must battle an obtusely disagreeable camera in order to navigate around a series of Tomb Raider out-takes, at a painfully slow pace, in awfully-contrived and unreasonably lengthy arenas where you can't bloody save the game. These bits seem to be trying to forward some sort of story, but it's so poorly contextualised that no one seemed to have the faintest idea what was going on. Instead, Sonic bounced around, pushing seemingly millions of boxes into place so he could jump on top of them, avoiding buzz-saws that had been strangely implemented into the sides of tall buildings, and throwing bright pink, glowing frogs at buttons to lower platforms.

It was really boring, really unforgiving, and really stupid. We each had a go, and each died repeatedly not as a result of being crap, but as a result of the controls not working properly. My friend put it best when he said "they came up with a concept for the best Sonic game yet - and then turned it into the worst one."


Little Big Planet
This sort of stuff isn't my cup of tea at all, but after Graham gave it the staggering, best-game-in-years-style score of 96% in his Resolution review, I thought I'd give it a go.

My first thought was that it controls abominably, and I wasn't keen on the forwards-backwards motion, which seemed a bit fiddly. And, y'know, it's a pretty straightforward platformer in every other respect. Mildly underwhelmed, I carried on. And then everyone started having a go at me 'cause I'd been playing it for ages.

"No I haven't! I've been, like, ten minutes," I protested.

"No, it's been an hour," I was told.

It had.

It's really, really lovely. It's incredibly addictive. It looks great. It's cute. And I haven't even touched the level editor, which I'm told is a stroke of intuitive genius. Good stuff, this.


...

By the way, I'm not really anti-console. In fact, I'm a firm believer that it's good to play games across as many formats as possible, and only in the last couple of months have I not owned any consoles at all.

And I really am excited about my XBox.
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Title: Birthdays
Posted: December 27, 2008 (03:35 AM)
I was born some years ago.

Title: Weddings
Posted: December 24, 2008 (05:43 AM)
I got back from Wolverhampton yesterday having been to my cousin Lucy's wedding. This will interest precisely none of you, but a few photos nevertheless.

Lucy and Phil's adorable kid, Isaac.


Me and mum. I appear to be so drunk by this point that my eyes are pointing in different directions.


Lucy and Phil signing the register.


Family photo. Aww.


Dunnit just make you feel all tingly?

'Til after xmas
Lewis x
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Title: The Denby Awards 2008
Posted: December 24, 2008 (02:58 AM)
Merry Christmas, lovers.

It's weird - I've only been writing here since June, yet this feels like my home on the internet. I've really enjoyed my time on the freelance pool, and hope to continue churning out my views on games for a long while yet.

This is the first time my blog's been here around Christmas time, so you probably won't know that every year I get extremely bored and post some Best Of awards. I usually wait until New Year to do it, but it's going to be a busy week and there's nothing particularly interesting happening in it anyway. Except, y'know, Christmas and my birthday and all that.

So, without further ado, let's get going. For the uninitiated: the awards focus on pop culture in the three areas I'm most interested in. Two music awards (best album, best single), and one each for gaming and film.

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FILMS
A year in which I've seen a lot of films, but not many of them recent. The new releases I have seen, however, have been largely brilliant, and a huge improvement on last year's cinema. Oddly enough, I doubt many will go down as real classics, being very much works 'of this era', but let's judge them on that alone. It seems infinitely fairer.

Cloverfield managed to be absolutely stunning, and the surprise of the year, but I have a sneaking suspicion it may have only excelled due to the big screen. I've not seen it on DVD yet, but at the cinema it certainly benefited from being projected in all its enormity in front of me. Sweeney Todd is one I enjoyed thoroughly from start to finish, and a long-awaited return to form from Tim Burton, but it was adapted so little from the original musical that I'd feel unfair giving too much credit to this version. The Dark Knight is the one that stands head and shoulders above the rest, though. I can understand people's criticism of it, but I don't think it was ever supposed to be deep and intellectually engaging. Some characters could have done with a little more fleshing out, but the Joker alone was worth the price of admission. Shame about Bale's stupid Batman voice, but the direction and Ledger's acting elevated this one to greatness. All the more haunting since Ledger's death, and the best action-fantasy since The Crow.

WINNER: The Dark Knight
RUNNERS UP: Cloverfield, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street



ALBUMS
Where has all the good music gone, please?

I've really struggled to get excited about music this year, which makes me incredibly sad. This has always been my true love, and yet I've not been particularly engaged by any albums released this year. I'm not really sure what to say.

Vessels put a nice album out. It's bigger and heavier than I would have expected from their debut, and it's the delicacy of their early material that shines through on it, but it's a decent recording nevertheless. Yuki stands out as one of my all-time favourite tracks. Moving towards the mainstream, I suppose I quite like Robyn's offering, though it's mainly the singles that stand out, and it's a re-release of an old album. Ultimately, though, I'm compelled to give the top award to a blisteringly high-octane record I first yeard in November 2007, but which wasn't onsale in the UK until February.

WINNER: The Mars Volta - The Bedlam in Goliath
RUNNERS UP: Vessels - White Fields and Open Devices, Robyn - s/t


AWFULLY LATE EDIT: Knock Robyn off the end of the list, and add Forward Russia - Life Processes in at the top. Worryingly, I completely forgot about it.


SINGLES
There's one single that sticks in my head to this day, one which I absolutely hated upon release, and one which couldn't be more throwaway if it tried. Its lyrics barely make sense. It's shamelessly cheesy. And it's brilliant.

Alphabeat's Ten Thousand Nights is a brilliant single: one hundred per cent about the melody, one hundred per cent about first-listen catchiness, and worrying precisely naught about whether it'll stand up in the future. I love how absolutely, horrifically annoying it is. For that alone, it must be commended.

Dream On is Robyn at her predictable dance brilliance, but with something else. This one manages to capture a real emotional pull somehow, with its glorious melody and simple but effective chord sequence. I love Robyn. I really do. She's marvellous to the point where I'm cheating and citing old re-releases as the second best stuff of this year.

The new Middleman stuff was okay, too, wasn't it? Oh, no, wait - that was the end of last year. Erm. Erm. God knows. The Ting Tings.

WINNER: Alphabeat - 10,000 Nights
RUNNERS UP: Robyn - Dream On, The Ting Tings - Shut Up And Let Me Go



VIDEOGAMES
This is more fucking like it.

Where the hell do we start in a year like this? Fallout 3, for being the first (successful) game that played to what I love about the medium in, Christ, at least four years? World of Goo, for its lovely indie goodness? Left 4 Dead, for eating up more of my time than is fair? Little Big Planet, which I've not played yet? No, we probably shouldn't do the last one, then. If I'd played it, it might be in with a shot. Sorry, LBP.

This is tough. Left 4 Dead is more refined and more 'fun', but it's not exactly revolutionary. Fallout 3 isn't, either, really, but it's closer to what I'd think of as a gaming classic. Both are utterly, utterly brilliant (as is WoG, to be fair). In the end, I'm going to go with HG scores alone, and opt for Fallout. And then I'm going to realise I forgot about Mass Effect's PC release, and cry. Beautiful tears of joy.

WINNER: Fallout 3
RUNNERS UP: Left 4 Dead, World of Goo. Plus BioShock's PS3 port and Mass Effect's PC port. Plus probably Little Big Planet if I'd played it. And I forgot about Grand Theft Auto 4, which is ridiculous. All of them are runners up. I love everything.
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Title: Oblivious
Posted: December 20, 2008 (01:56 AM)
Gary: Here you go.
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Title: Fifteen Minutes of Fame, or something.
Posted: December 18, 2008 (12:56 PM)
Quick moment of glory that will presumably last around four seconds.

Neptune, at present, is today's most visited game at ModDB.com.

New screenshots of sex to be found there.



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Title: Review round-up
Posted: December 16, 2008 (04:45 PM)
I know I've linked to a few previously, but my last few, summarised in one little post.

March-exclamation-mark-Offworld Recon
First played this one on release and loathed it just as much then. It's single-handedly managed to turn me into the bastard child of Charlie Brooker and Yahtzee Croshaw. But it is a little bit funny, if you want to laugh at the "special" developers.

A Vampyre Story
Close but no cigar. Awesome concept, gorgeous to look at, really funy in places, and with a wonderful opening third. The rest of the game seems like it's made by a completely different developer, and falls disappointingly short. It's lucky to get the score I settled for, though for a few brilliant moments alone, it kind of deserves it.

Pathologic
I'd love for people to talk about this one in more length, but hardly anyone's got it - understandable, as it's only been released in two countries, as far as I know. It's absolutely bloody brilliant, at the same time as being incredibly disagreeable. Oversteps many lines in game development theory, which is mightily commendable, but in the end only serves to spoil a marvellous idea somewhat. English translation is abominable, too, which is crippling, as it's the most gorgeously-written game since Planescape.

FIFA 09
Really not much to say. The new FIFA. Absolutely, positively as you'd expect, albeit with a brand new controller bug. Elsewhere, there's no real change.

Left 4 Dead
Clearly bloody wonderfully brilliant. The most pure fun I've had in a game for absolutely ages. Twitchy and atmospheric, tremendously funny, and absolutely the best FPS in the world to play with friends. Quite pleased with this review, even if it is a little lengthy.
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Title: Puns and a pretty good game.
Posted: December 11, 2008 (02:59 AM)
There's a very intriguing new adventure game out called A Vampyre Story.

For once, it's a graphic adventure that doesn't suck! This is probably fangs to its being developed by Bill Tiller, formerly of Lucas Arts. Unfortunately, though, it loses a bit of soul around half-way through, resulting in a rather lifeless middle section. Still, in this climate of crap adventures, you'd be batty not to give it a go.

Review here.
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Title: Mainstream Appeal
Posted: December 08, 2008 (04:44 PM)
Metacriticking just now, I stumble across one of those horrendous websites that scores 'individual aspects' of a game, such as 'graphics, sound, longevity' etc, assuming those facets to be relevant to the overall experience.

Which, y'know, I'm kind of used to. A great deal do it. IGN do. Gamespot used to, 'til recently.

Anyway, Jolt Gaming decides "Mainstream Appeal" should be one of those rated aspects of the game.

Oh dear...
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Title: Resolution Issue 1!
Posted: December 07, 2008 (02:59 PM)
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you:

Resolution Magazine, Issue 1

I'd have liked to have a bit more meat in the features and articles department, but unfortunately we couldn't get everything we wanted done in time. Hopefully that means there'll be more weight to that section next month.

A fair few pretty reviews, though. And the articles we do have should keep you a bit interested.

Do have a read. Hope you like what you see. Spread the word around, 'n' all.
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Title: Fallout Fingers
Posted: December 04, 2008 (04:49 PM)
Resolution admin stuff led to pints down the pub with another of the mag's writers last night, and ultimately to a conversation about Fallout 3 that went a little something like this:

"Y'know, I never found Dogmeat. Where did you pick him up?"
"Right, you know right after that scrap yard explodes?"
"...No, which scrap yard?"
"Erm. Okay. Maybe that didn't happen for you. Okay, you know the section where you collect the fingers?"
"You collect the what?"
"The fingers. For that woman. Did you get the perk that lets you cut bits off dead bodies?"
"...Cut fingers off dead bodies for a woman?"
"Yeah. I thought you had to do that bit..."

So now, of course, it's become absolutely imperative that I play through the game for a third time, just to see if I can A) finally find Dogmeat, and B) find the bit where you cut fingers off dead bodies for a woman.
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Title: THIS MIGHT NOT BE TRUE.
Posted: December 02, 2008 (07:40 AM)
I've sat for a few minutes unsure whether or not to write this blog. Firstly, because my soul sorce for information is the ever-cynical RAM Raider which, let's face it, doesn't exactly hold positive comments about the games industry in its highest regard, and secondly, because I tend to have a pretty good working relationship with the PR agency with which this is concerned. To be entirely fair to them, it's not BHPR that have stepped out of line; quite the opposite, if the allegations are true, as BHPR have been surprisingly honest about the whole thing. That's what's kicked up such a fuss.

It's regarding the new Tomb Raider game, and Eidos' apparent attempts to control its Metacritic aggregate before release. The story - which, I will say again, is based on a howling lack of evidence - goes a little something like this.

Many press agencies are asked to give priority review code to certain publications. That's a given, and completely understandable. What's odd is BHPR's quickly-retracted claim that Eidos had asked them to contact the very few blessed with early code, which requested that no negative reviews should be published before the Monday following Tomb Raider's official release.

We have Gamespot's Guy Cocker to thank for his honesty. His quotation of the phonecall:

"If you're planning on reviewing Tomb Raider Underworld at less than an 8.0, we need you to hold your review till Monday."

Hmm.

Videogaming247 contacted BHPR, who - to their eternal credit - gave this response:

"That's right. It's just that we're trying to get the Metacritic rating to be high, and the brand manager in the US that's handling all of Tomb Raider has asked that we just manage the scores before the game is out, really, just to ensure that we don't put people off buying the game, basically."

Hats off for the honesty. I really like Barrington Harvey. They're lovely, lovely people to work with, always helpful. But in light of this, and the troubles we had over at another place I work for over actually getting review code for this (resulting in us being denied access to it altogether), it seems a little odd.

BHRP later released the following statement, which seems to pretend the previous comment simply didn't happen. Oo-er. I hope no one lost their job or anything.

"Barrington Harvey is not in the position of telling reviewers what they can and cannot say. We love Tomb Raider and believe it merits a score of at least 8/10, but if someone disagrees that's entirely their prerogative. No problem at all. Seriously: no problem.

Our original NDA stated that in order to receive an advance copy of the game, reviewers agreed not to post reviews ahead of 5:00pm, Wednesday 19th November 2008. Nothing else. No further obligations whatsoever."

Anyway - this is by no means an attack on Barrington Harvey, who I continue to relish working with (always contactable, always friendly and always helpful, unlike a great number of other agencies). It's merely an interesting insight into the relationship between publishers, PR agencies and the press. But it's also one that might not be at all true, so take it with a pinch of salt, and an apology to anyone involved who may feel wronged by my words.

EDIT: RAMRaider article reinforced by a bit of Googling, finding a few pages who tell their versions of the same story. Blog updated as a result.

Title: Some stuff.
Posted: December 01, 2008 (09:56 AM)
Since The Nomad Soul has flat-out refused to install on my system (note to D Drive: Disk 3 is inserted), I fear I'll have to give that one a miss. I have selective memories of that game, with a whole host of bad points being essentially outweighed by the fact that it's still bloody wonderful, but I doubt I have enough detail in mind to properly appraise it.

If you haven't read my Pathologic review yet, I'd love for you to do so, perhaps more than anything I've ever written on this site. So few people know what it is, or why it's worth playing despite its awful mechanics, but I hope I've explained it pretty well. It's a 6 out of 10, but it's probably the most memorable and fascinating 6 out of 10 you'll ever play.

I reinstalled Planescape: Torment yesterday and Deus Ex today. Planescape is sublimely written, wonderfully atmospheric and devilishly epic, but I still have the same problem as I did all those years ago: there are times when I feel like I should be playing it, but just can't be bothered. It's a particularly heavy game. Maybe that should work in its favour, and for many it clearly will. It's still one of the most impressive RPGs around there... just potentially not one of my favourites.

Deus Ex feels as exciting as it ever did, and it's only in replaying the thing that, in some ways, I *still* feel nothing's come along to topple it. Fallout 3 goes some way, granted. Bloodlines did too - those two games are probably the closest we're going to get. Very few people make these games any more.

I was reading a user review on here of DX just now. Can't recall who it's by, but it's the 8/10 one for the PC version. One comment stuck out: "whatever you choose, it doesn't affect the story until the end," or words to that effect

Um, well. It does a bit, though, really. Doesn't it?

How many games are around where you can choose whether or not a major character lives or dies, around half-way through, and then see that same character repeatedly appear throughout the rest of the game if you manage to save him? I'd say that's pretty heavy.

And even though you take the same overall path through the mission structure, well fucking hell, it's a videogame. Is there a single game where this isn't the case? I can't think of one. I can't imagine it's really that possible, without at least quardroupling your workload.

It just made me a bit sad to see what is probably the game that does non-linear stuff better than anything else around (no, not Oblivion... that offers linear storytelling in a sandbox world; it's not the same thing. I might give you Fallout 3, but I'd wager that DX still edges it) to still get criticised for not being good enough at it. Bloody hell, some people are difficult to please.

It's wonderful. Really, really wonderful, and - despite the graphics and combat - not at all dated in its overall feel. This thing was phenomenally ahead of its time. Nearly nine years later, the industry still hasn't caught up.

Lovely. I'm hungry. I hope Missus gets home from work soon so we can have some grub.
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