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Two beautiful games - reviewed by me

Over the last few weeks, I've played two indie games on my shiny new PS4 that were unlike anything I've played before. Both were so beautiful and affecting that I feel compelled to review them. Anyone who thinks that video games are all hobbits and hand grenades might have their minds changed by these...

First up: Everybody's Gone to the Rapture

This is one of the most visually beautiful games I've ever played - and possibly the most moving. To call it a 'game' is a bit misleading, in that there's pretty much nothing for the player to do, other than to walk slowly around a deserted English village after an apparent apocalypse and watch the story of what happened unfold gradually before you. Suffice to say, it's hard to find a review that doesn't liken it to The Archers.

G and I played it together over the course of a few evenings and we found ourselves pretty gripped. It is somewhat melancholy and there were parts that I found almost heartbreakingly sad while other parts were just gorgeous and dreamy, like when you wander off down a little mud track and find yourself in a stretch of dappled woodland, carpeted in bluebells, or walk across a cornfield in the evening sun.

The soundtrack is also incredibly beautiful and I've been listening to it on Spotify quite a bit. Apparently it's doing very well in the classical music charts independently of the game.

Anyone interested can watch the game trailer here... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8z8qv6qhhAY

Second: Journey

This is a few years old but was recently re-released with souped-up graphics for PS4. I remember reading the reviews back in 2012, when it won various awards, so I decided to give it a go.

This one is short and sweet - I played the whole thing in a single evening while the microbes were asleep and G was at the pub. Once again it's visually beautiful, although in a different way to Rapture, and it has a lovely soundtrack.

As far as 'gaming' goes - there's a little more for the player to do than in Rapture, but nothing like combat or racing or difficult jumps. You simply follow your intuitiuon and guide your little character on a continuous journey through a changing environment, with a little bit of mild puzzle-solving every now and then to help you along the way. The whole thing is done without any dialogue or narrative - just a very pretty soundtrack. You can wander about as slowly or as quickly as you like and, every now and then, you experience a sort of elation as you make a breakthrough and fly at speed to your next destination. It's not difficult at all - which means that, once again, you feel as though your main role is to follow the story, rather than achieve any trophies.

The game has a vaguely religious/spiritual feel to it, without referring to any particular belief system. Hence when you get to the end you might find yourself theorising with the best of them as to what it all meant.

Once again there's a trailer, should anyone wish to know more... https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mU3nNT4rcFg
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Go on, go on, go on, go on, go on

Along with the rest of the western world, G and I are prone to staring mindlessly at property porn on one or the other of our glowing rectangles.

We've been "thinking about moving" for approx 3 years now, which entails doing nothing whatsoever, apart from discussing it once per quarter and eyeballing houses in places we have no real intention of moving to.

My favourite of the week is this mahoosive Georgian pile on Craggy Island. Yours for a mere €250k. Seriously! 250k!!  (I think Mrs Doyle costs extra.)

Craggy Island

Full details here

Much as I have no intention of moving to the hinterland of Co. Galway, I can't help but daydream about living mortgage-free in that pad, with nothing else to do but dedicate my life to restoring its former glory and creating a formal garden... and a ginormous kitchen garden... and maybe a few goats.

NB: You are not hallucinating. Ireland's biggest property website does appear to be called "Daft"
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Destiny calling

Eek. Every time an interesting-looking video game comes out, it seems to be designed for multiplayer. Is this the way gaming is going? It gives me fear.

I know some of them include the option to play as single player, but the reviews always seem to hint that it isn't as good that way.

I'm sure it's great when you're 15 and your friends are all gamers with the same console as you and nobody has anything better to do at weekends than spend 36 hours on group combat missions. But how's it supposed to work when you're 42 and your friends would all rather be at a dinner party or watching The Wire and you have to fit Xbox-love into random (and tragically short) slots between work, microbes and nodding off mid-fight?

I'm not even sure I understand how it works. What if you log into the game and your multi-playing friends aren't there? Do you have to spend all day polishing your guns and crafting health packs and waiting for someone to turn up?

(Am I going to have to start hooking up with mystery 12 year olds from Korea?)

Scary stuff indeed.
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Nobody respects the team leader

Argh. Why am I playing Dragon Age? Someone make me stop. I thought it would be like Skyrim but it isn't.

I've managed to stealth through my entire work career finding ways to be specialist and senior without having to manage people... and yet I appear to be spending my free time micro-managing a team of useless tossers who keep dying every five minutes.

It's second only in annoyingness to those games where you have to escort some cowering NPC to safety without them dying. I end up bellowing "Will everybody STOP getting shot!"

I just want them to get on and fight by themselves while I do my own thing. I've even gone so far as to set up their tiresome battle tactics and instructed them all to sort themselves out with health packs and so on. What more do they want from me? A personal development plan??

*Mumble mumble*. I might have to play something else for a while.
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A cautionary tale

I watched a film on TV the other day without bothering to check the IMDB score first. Let my error be a lesson to you all.

It's called Motherhood, and stars Uma Thurman as a woman living in Manhattan, with two apartments and two kids attending school & daycare. One of the apartments is used exclusively for typing blog posts and is hence known as a "studio".
The crux of the film is that she's having a really stressful day because she loses her parking space and has to go out and buy balloons and party bags for her older child's birthday party and it really gets in the way of blogging and attending designer sample sales with Minnie Driver. And people are mean to her in the party shop queue. And, to top it all off, the baker spells her kid's name wrong on the cake and her husband tells her that her latest blog post is a bit weak.
Nobody (apart from a flirty delivery man) seems to understand that she is bohemian and a writer and not part of the "mom" system like everyone else. So she decides to run away and abandon her family...  but it turns out that everything is ok after all, because her feckless husband has found a first edition book lying in the street which he has sold for $24k so now they have enough money to send the kids to even more daycare and she can blog all day long!
(It's possible it's meant to be a comedy, but I can't be entirely sure.)


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How to tell if you've over-rimmed?

You watch a news piece about the Danish People's Party and think "Nords!" (...while drinking coffee out of your "No lollygagging" mug)
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I used to be an adventurer like you...

I think Skyrim has broken me. I've somehow added a fiddle-dee-dee song by a Finnish Heavy metal band to one of my playlists. Feel free to stage an intervention.

(NB: I promise it's not Lordi).
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I know I should be tidying up, but...

...I am off work and the microbe is at nursery.

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Eyes of squareness and other rambles

It's been a while since I popped in here for a square-eyed/bookish ramble, so here we go...

I shall start with TV (spoiler-free)

We have season 3 of Thronesy Goodness at home. I think I might have to re-watch the last ep of season 2 tonight as a reminder, then break into S3. (Kindly applaud my restraint. Not only for waiting this long to watch season 3, but also because I had the box set at home all week while G was away without taking a single peek.)

The Blacklist is still ticking along on regular (non-box-set) TV. The villain-of-the-week story is usually a bit ludicrous, but the trickling back-plot is keeping us both hooked. Also G and I like to spend time debating what colour Reddington's new anorak will be, or who'd win in a wobbly-head competition between James Spader and Kevin McCloud. (I say Kev, every time).

Only C is back! Just in time to soothe the raw wound left behind by Uni C. Sigh. Also still loving Pointless, which has to be recorded for being on at commute o'clock.

Inside No. 9 has been fun to watch, with each episode nothing like the one before. Not quite the pinnacle of dark humour that Nighty Night achieved - it's more like a modern and knowing replacement for Tales of the Unexpected.

We did season 1 of House of Cards: the Spacey years. It was quite good, but not in a world-rocking way and we're not in a mad rush for season 2.

So, what else is good? (We haven't got Sky Atlantic, but we've got Netflix and Tivo and Amazon's new video-streamy-thingy)

In film news, I still haven't watched Gravity and probably won't catch it in 3D now - tsk. I'm also keen to see Beneath the Skin at some point. I read the book years ago and found it intriguing, especially as I had no idea what it was going to be about when it started. This week I've started seeing a lot of posters for something called Locke, which is supposedly thrilling. Alas I watch almost everything on the small screen these days but would make an exception for something decent.

Moving onto books...

I haven't read a truly excellent novel since my little fad on Hilary Mantel a few months ago. She somehow managed to break through the omnipresent background tiredness that makes it hard to focus on anything decent, post-microbe.

My last couple of "women's novels" (The Woman Upstairs and Apple Tree Yard) have been pot-boilers masquerading as literary fiction. Both have female protagonists prone to obsessiveness and navel-gazing, like 16-year-olds in the bodies of middle aged women. Is this the definition of literary fiction? Being treated to a stream of someone's angsty inner pontifications?

And, more to the point, is this what it's actually like inside other women's heads? If so, how does anyone bear the noise? I rarely give my brain enough down-time to slip into lengthy ponderances but, on the odd occasion when I do, my default topics are more or less:

a) What would I do in an apocalypse
b) How will I escape the authorities if/when I go on the run
c) Dinner
d) Slushy thoughts about tiny boys
e) Ooh, cat!

...and that's pretty much it. G's response was "You should be reading what I'm reading" (I might just do that, actually.)

I'm idly on the lookout for another dystopian thriller or a ripping WW2 espionage novel. For now I've started Ben Macintire's bio-yarn about Kim Philby. I never read biographies and would far rather read the same story told as a novel - but I'm enjoying it nevertheless.

Has anyone read anything by Jim Crace? This book, Harvest, caught my eye recently on the Man Booker list and it looks intriguing, despite the awful cover.

I also quite like the look of The Luminaries (which has a beautiful cover) but I'm wondering whether it might suffer from being a bit self-conscious, in an English Lit 'exercise' sort of way.

My kindle queue appears to include a couple of novels that I've bought at some point on a whim but am now peering at through narrowed eyes...

Kiss Me First was recommended on FB by one of you, and looks like an honest pot-boiler about FACEBOOK DRAMAZ with no literary pretensions. (It might be a fun read, actually.)

The Amber Fury was recommended by someone somewhere (and not just Joss Whedon) who raved about it - but now I look at the Amazon reviews I'm not entirely convinced. Hmmm.

If you've read anything good lately, do feel free to recommend. (I have already filed away one person's suggestion of this YA skiffy number for the next time I'm in the mood for teen/alien thrills.)
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Beyond help

Rimmers! The Skyrim theme music is on Spotify.

It's like listening to a rousing, Viking, mace-wielding, male voice choir. You can listen to it on the tube and pretend you're about to head into battle, instead of the office (a bit like an excruciating documentary that I once watched about an estate agent who played Eminem's 'One Shot' every morning in the car at top volume to rev himself up for a day of air punching sales.)

Also there are some gorge stringsy versions that belong on a playlist with the 'Game of Thrones' theme tune.

*slinks back into box*
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World of Hobbitrim

Damn... I think I've got to the point in 'Rimland where there's not much point in me hanging around any more.

I've killed Alduin and done battle for the stormcloaks, and am Thane of everywhere and head of the assassins and thieves and what not. All that's left in my quest list are things that I don't fancy doing, like pointless assassin quests and luring some poor sap to be eaten by cannibals (WTF is that plotline about?) and luring another poor sap to be sacrificed for some loony cult. That and mindless errands for minor characters.

Somehow I've only managed to find 8 of the 24 stones of Barenziah (my character clearly just does 'man looks' everywhere she goes) but I def can't be bothered retracing my steps all over the world of hobbitrim. I was kind of hoping for a proper ending - Fallout style. I guess this isn't going to happen...?

Meh. And what on earth am I going to do with my time now???


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Respect, yo.

One of my idealistic managers told me today that the Mars Corporation has established a set of behavioural principles in their IT department and they've named all of their meeting rooms after them. (E.g. people say "I'll meet you in the 'Respect' room at 3pm" or "Today's conference will be held in the 'Responsibility' suite")

Bless his cottons - he thought that it would be great if we did the same thing at our workplace. Personally I'd give it 10-15 seconds for the rooms to become colloquially known as the 'Bullying' Room and the 'Fuck You' suite.

In other news, I ran my This Charming Boy blog through gizoogle, which converts web pages into Gansta speak and I'm DYING at what it does to dialogue.

Alas, that blog is mainly read by grandmas, so I shall have to keep it clean over there and post my fav snippets of Gansgta convos with the 'crobe here instead...

Exhibit 1:
“Mummy, you’re a cold-ass lil cow!”
“Am I, biatch? Oh good. Y'all KNOW dat shit, muthafucka! I be fly as a gangbangin' falcon, soarin all up in tha sky dawwwwg! Moo. Now stop shouting“
*5 mins later, apparently apropoz of nothing*
“Mummy, I wanna gin n juice you, nahmean biiiatch?”
Nuff props, Microbe.

Exhibit 2:
“Mummy, I’ve gots suttin' else ta rap ”
“What tha fuck iz it?”
“It’s bout mah purple bird over there” *starts ta creep back ta toys…*
“No! Quit dat shit. Yo ass don’t need any toys n' aint a thugged-out damn thang dat yo' ass can do. Lie down!”

“Oi! I holla'd no!”
“Quit dat shit. I’m not laughing.” *cough cough*
“That was naughty. Now LIE BACK DOWN!”
“But I need ta rap a rap bout mah bird”
“Oh… go on then.”

Yo, suffice ta say, his stories is not what tha fuck you’d call workz of literary fiction, however much they may have up in common wit Finnegan’s Wake.

(NB: for anyone who wants to read their own blog in Gansta-ese, just paste the url here: http://gizoogle.net/)
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Dark sisterhood and all that

I was halfway through tidying up but have decided to do a stealthy bit of rimming instead while Microbot pushes his food around in the kitchen.

This reminds me to mention that I am now officially well outside my moral comfort zone in rimland. Not only am I head of the thieves guild but I am also a dark assassin. I actually assassinated a sleeping beggar... There's really no way back from that, is there?


In cheerier news, I LOVE the rousing male choir vocals when you boot the game up and get level ups. I would totes listen to that on Spotify it it existed.

Well, must be getting back to a spot of killing. Bye for now x
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Legz Akimbo

Every now and then I get an email from Richmond Council reminding me about their 'Dance in Libraries' initiative.

Yes, dear fiends, you heard that correctly. I said DANCE ...in LIBRARIES.

For the love of all that is holy, can you imagine anything worse than being danced at in a library? If any of you can find a worse idea going on in your local library, you will get a prize of my choosing.

(And, just in case you think I'm making it up... http://www.richmond.gov.uk/dance_in_libraries)


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This weekend, while driving down to Brighton, we attempted to stream music using the voice-activated music selector on G's android phone. This really is the worst interface ever. It couldn't understand a single word either of us said and all of G's attempts to bellow "REM" at it were met with a deep-voiced 'Fonejacker' reply of "Matching song not found. Please repeat your instruction"

After endless failed attempts, in a range of accents, I decided to do Fonejacker-voice right back at it and said "We want a gay flat share in Brighton" ...and it immediately started playing Holiday by Madonna.

(We lol'd.)

And then G's despair took over and he bellowed some garbled rage at it... at which point it paused and said "Do you want to listen to Doolittle, by The Pixies?" And G's face lit up and he shouted "YES!" And then it paused again, and re-started Holiday. (I may have lol'd alone at this point)

Seriously, though, voice activated tech: just say NO, unless you have low blood pressure. (We had to do a Radio 4 quiz just to make everything ok again).


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My online boyfiend

So, dear'Rimmers,

My pressing question of the day is - who should I marry?

I am thinking maybe Brynjolf...


I know he's a bit beardy but he's really quite sweet and he keeps calling me 'lass', which is adorable.

Also he's just made me the head of the Thieves Guild.

What say ye?
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Beauty School Dropout

Good afternoon, ladies and gents! And now, for something completely different, I have some beauty Twop Twips to share with you. Trust me, you will thank me for these...

1. Glorious mud

Ok, this first one is for expensive face goop. But bear with me. (And, gents, listen up, this one is of interest to you, too).

I am referring to GlamGlow Tingling & Exfoliating Mud Mask. I know you'll click on the link and think "how much for a pot of mud?" but don't diss the mud, people. (Also you can get it in smaller pots from M&S).

I will start by admitting that I've only used this stuff once so far. But it was enough to prompt me to write this post. For the whole time I had it on my face, I was unconvinced and assumed that I'd been duped by the hype. I couldn't see any evidence that it was different to any other basic mud mask. Also it feels like it's sucking your face off and is going to leave you feeling horribly dried out. But then I washed it off... and - bugger me - my skin was AMAZING. Definitely younger-looking, soft, silky, radiant, velvety and with no visible pores or lines. This has to be the perfect stuff to slather on before a night out. I reckon another 2 or 3 uses might even get me thinking "maybe I'll skip the slap today". (And if you don't believe me, believe India Knight).

People with kids, it's time to start dropping Mother's Day hints, The rest of you, sell your granny and get a pot.

2. Lets talk about chafing...

In stark contrast to the above, here is my bizarre tip of the week for beauty cheapskates. (Scrubbed-face devotees look away now, this one is only of interest to people who wear makeup).

I am talking about cheat's primer. If you are the sort of person who reads any of those beauty mag 'top 5' articles about makeup primers, you'll notice that Smashbox Photo Finish Primer almost always comes out at number one. This is supposedly the favourite of makeup artists and revered worldwide for its ability to make your foundation glide onto your face like silk and stay there all day.

Anyway at some point, a bright spark on the internet noticed that the formulation of Smashbox primer is the same as that for Lanacane anti-chafing gel (which retails at about 1/4 of the price of Smashbox). So - what the hell - I gave it a whirl and I can confirm that it really does work. That unappealing little yellow tube of gel can be used on your face just like any other makeup primer. You get a small bead on your fingertip, warm it up a bit between your fingers and spread evenly over your face. Then wait a minute for it to fully set before slapifying. I've been using it for a couple of weeks now with no adverse effects and it gives me v. good slapification & staying power. So, there you go. You're welcome.

(PS - it was only after discovering this stuff that I realised Lana Kane is a pun)

Last but not least, courtesy of Twitface, I shall leave you with a few amusing snippets from the grand world of slebs.

In keeping with the beauty theme - here is St Joan of the Collins's take on makeup.

St Joan

<3 <3 <3

And finally, just so that we can all point and laugh at the trials of the rich and famous, here are some choice clippings from an interview with Salma Hayek, on the woes of kitchen life and headteachers who fail to recognise how special her child is...


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Barbed, for her post-rimming pleasure

Thanks to a lady on Facebook, I have discovered that there is a South Park game for Xbox coming out this month. I might have to have a go on that... (albeit in 300 years' time, if/when I finally complete Skyrim). Definitely not one to play with the microbe on my lap.

In book news, I read The 5th Wave last week and would def recommend it to those of you who are partial to the occasional bit of 'young adult' escapist fiction. I discovered it by chance because it won an award in London and got tweeted about a lot. Essentially it's in the skiffy/apocalypse/dystopia genre and manages to combine a thoroughly grip-tastic plot with a decent narrative style that doesn't constantly draw attention to itself with jarring turns of phrase (Malorie Blackman I'm looking at you). Overall, I think it wipes the floor with The Hunger Games. And - of course - someone is making a film of it.

Now I'm back on grown-up fiction with a book called Apple Tree Yard... (has anyone read it?) I'm only a few pages in but it seems promising. I decided to give it a whirl after Hilary Mantel raved about it in a review somewhere (a woman whose taste I am inclined to trust).

Well that's my fly-by for today. Bye bye!
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Rimsky Question

Good evening, all. I am pleased to announce that 'Rimming has resumed - hooray!

Given that I only know about 3 people in the entire world who play Skyrim, I suspect my chances of getting an answer to my next question are slim, but here goes...

Q: Should I join the Stormcloaks or the Empire?

The Stormcloaks have that whole me-against-the-world glamour going on (and lets not forget the 'Thor factor')... but they're also racist nutjobs.

The Empire sounds more equitable on paper, but in practice seems to be run by totalitarian loons who keep ordering people's heads to be chopped off.

Which of these nutty sides do I choose, people?
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Will this hell never end?

The good: my new Xbox has arrived! Yippee-i-yay!

The bad: everything look bibbly-bobbly and wibbly on screen.

For the love of god, WHY don't Xboxes come with the right sodding cables in the box? It's not as if we've got an unusually flash TV. The cable they've sent seems to have been designed for a cathode ray tube monitor, circa 1983. It's an omnishambles, I tell you.

Furthermore, I don't want to have to KNOW about this stuff. The word "scart" sends me into an instant mental coma. I just want things to work straight out of the box. Is it too much to ask?

I thank The Lord that my manbeast feels otherwise and was able to tell me precisely what bit of string to order on Amazon. (Grrr! Now I have to wait ANOTHER 2 DAYS until Rimsky Korsikov can resume.)


Other than that I'm surprisingly chirpy for a girl with PMT. And I have tiny pearl-handled pistols dangling from my ears! How about the rest of you?
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