Fire Season Released

Fire Season, our first mainstream novel, was officially released today. (Unofficially, the snow is slowing things down but we’ll overlook that.)

The story of a small airstrip caught in the middle of a forest fire, Fire Season has received good reviews from the initial copies we sent out.

“the ending had me, literally, sitting on the edge of my seat!” Ruth, Goodreads

“Thought provoking, emotional and compassionate, this is a book I could read again. A recommended read.”Clover Hill Book Reviews

Why not try it yourself? Fire Season is available to order (thanks snow!) from all good booksellers, or online from Waterstones, Amazon or more.

Featured Game – Lost in Blue 2

Title: Lost in Blue 2
Format: Nintendo DS

Lost in Blue 2 follows a similar story to the first game, Lost in Blue. Two teenagers are stranded on an island and need to survive and escape. It is certainly different to its predecessor, but not always better.

There are more things to do: a wider range of mini-games and more resources and items to make. It is possible to set up several bases and traverse the world, which is much larger. The island itself has slopes and odd angles, no longer the squared off edges of Keith and Skye’s marooning, and the graphics and sound have improved.

The characters, however, are far less likeable. You can play as either, but your companion will be of limited intelligence and resents being asked to contribute to their own survival unless bribed. While Skye’s helplessness is excusable – she’s effectively blind – it’s less forgiveable in an able-bodied adult.

Once again however, multiple endings and a lot of mini-games make this one fun to play and the additional of dangerous animals and natural disasters give it a whole new angle.

Featured Game – The ABC murders (DS)

Title: Agatha Christie: The ABC Murders (Nintendo DS)
Format: Nintendo DS

This is one of the few games that I am lukewarm about, but will highlight anyway because it may be good for its target audience.

Based on Agatha Christie’s The ABC murders, the idea of solving the case as Poirot is delightful. Unfortunately this game does not live up to that promise, as the game is extremely linear. Rather than gathering clues and deducing information, the game is simply a series of interviews, with puzzles which have been worked in rather artifically. Nearly every witness asked you to work out a math or logic problem before they’ll co-operate. The other issue is the touchpad which makes putting the right answer in trickier than working it out.

I have to admit I abandoned this when I got bored hlafway through. However for a younger age group or inexperienced gamers, this could be fun. The problems are of the level of standard school maths (“If two trains leave x at y o’clock at b speed, which train gets there first?”) and the story is gripping.

If you can get past the touchpad issue, this might be one to keep younger kids amused for a while – just keep pad and paper handy for your workings!

(For adult gamers, the Adventure Company’s Agatha Christie Series on PC and console give a beter experience.)

Featured Game – God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP

Title: God of War: Chains of Olympus (PSP)
Format: Sony PSP

Kratos came to the PSP with nearly the full God of War experience on Sony’s handheld. Set between the first two games, it sees Kratos being sent to prevent Morpheus God of Dreams from taking over the land.

The game manages to pack in the brutal combat, superb graphics and excellent story we expect of this game line, and is well worth buying for any fan of the series. As you can probably tell, I loved this game.

Featured Game – Loco Roco 2 (PSP)

Title: LocoRoco 2 (PSP)
Format: Sony PSP

Loco Roco 2 is the sequel to the innovative Loco Roco, and continues where the first game ended. With the same bright characters and simple control system, this is an easy game to pick up and play.

Once again, the main task is simple to get all the coloured blobs – Loco Rocos – from one end of the area to the other, by tilting their world and letting them roll. As always there are dangers along the way, and you need to find as many of your fellow Loco Rocos as possible.

Although the main task remains the same, the scope of the game is wider, with more minigames and hidden extras. If you liked the first game, or are a fan of puzzle games in general, this game is for you.

This game, and its forerunner, were so popular that several versions have been released, including Platinum and Essentials editions. Widgets

Featured Game – Patapon (PSP)

Title: Patapon (PSP)
Format: Sony PSP

A simple rhythm game with basic graphics and addictive gameplay. You control a small group of Patapon warriors, who you move around the screen by beating out a rhythm on the drum they carry. Different rhythms mean they move, defend, attack or summon greater power.

It is a fun game but does require a sense of rhythm which, unfortunately, this reviewer does not possess. Despite that inor problem it is still extremely enjoyable and easy to get hooked.

Overall this is a simple yet extremely addictive game, and one you will find yourself tapping along to, hoping that the little creatures you control can make it to the end of the level without missing a beat.

It also has a sequel, Patapon 2, for gamers who couldn;t get enough the first time round.

Featured Game – Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command (PSP)

Title: Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command (PSP)
Format: Sony PSP

Playing as the hardened Ultramarines, your goal is to defeat the encroaching forces of chaos in this turn-based strategy.

You control a squad of six marines, each of which has selectable weaponry. The game is turn-based, with each side’s movements and actions limited by their action points. Each scenario has a simple goal, which is usually to wipe out the enemy. The control system and options are not complicated but the camera is held in a (semi-)fixed position making it difficult to rotate the map to line up enemies.

If you enjoy Warhammer 40K, or are a fan of turn based strategy, this is one you should look at.

Featured Game – Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors (Wii)

Title: Dragon Quest Swords: The Masked Queen and the Tower of Mirrors (Wii)
Format: Nintendo Wii Console

Dragon Quest Swords is an odd game and one that lost out in part due to misplaced audience expectations. The look and feel of the game is pure Dragon Quest and a lot of familiar enemies and NPCs show up. Unfortunately this is misleading as it isn’t an RPG. This game isn’t a sprawling epic RPG, it’s a first person hack’n’slash. This is definitely more Time-Crisis-with-a-sword than Final Fantasy.

The sidequests and exploration of the RPGs are missing. Instead you fight your way through waves if enemies while traversing levels where you can only move forward or back. The action sequences are on rails, and the plot is similarly linear. You can replay early levels for items and experience, but the gameplay itself is very basic, using the Wiimote as a sword to perform attacks and special abilities while your party member occassionally pops up to heal you or cast a spell.

Despite this, it is a fun game. Best played on a large screen TV with a bunch of friends who can mock mercilessly, it can be an entertaining way to pass the evening. Just don’t expect a standard RPG.

Featured Game – Loco Roco (PSP)

Title: Loco Roco
Format: Sony PSP

This is one of the weirdest, simplest and most fun games for the PSP. You control a little yellow blob (a loco roco) which has to travel the level looking for other yellow blobs, while avoiding a host of strange creatures along the way. When you find them you can join up to form a larger blob, or try to move a swarm of smaller blobs to the level end.

The controls are as simple as they get: by using the controls you tilt the world and the Loco Roco rolls and falls around it as gravity dictates. With its bright colours and catchy tunes this is a game for all ages.

The game spawned a sequel, LocoRoco 2, with more creatures, areas to explore, and minigames.

The game was so popular that several versions have been released, including Platinum and Essentials editions. Widgets

Featured Game – Lost in Blue (DS)

Title: Lost in Blue (Nintendo DS)
Format: Nintendo DS (all versions)

Lost in Blue is the story of two teenagers stranded on an island after their boat sinks in a storm. As the only survivors, they have to find shelter, food and resources and eventually if they can, a way off the island. To make matters worse, Skye, the girl is functionally blind.

It’s a simple concept and well-realised. Foraging, hunting and fishing are all covered by the game, as well as exploration of the island in an attempt to stay alive while waiting for rescue. Playing through as Keith unlocks a second mode as Skye, although this is decidedly more limited.

With multiple endings, and a second playthrough mode as Sky, the game has high replay value. Even better, it is suitable for almost all ages, although the very young may find it too challenging.