The Best First Person Video Games That Don’t Include the Words ‘Call,’ ‘Duty,’ or ‘Of’ That Shouldn’t Be Overlooked

There are no spoilers in this article. Except Bruce Willis’ character in the Sixth Sense was a ghost all along. Sorry

Huzzah, it’s that time again where I introduce a new article in what seems to have been donkey’s months. During these months belonging to said donkey, I have come across some video games for your consideration that must be highlighted. I understand that these may have been played by you already as they are increasingly popular but I feel the need to explain why I think these are the best. Prepare to be enlightened!

So let me elaborate; whilst reading an article I discovered that the story/campaign mode in Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 happens to be over quicker than England’s World Cup dreams (including penalties). Don’t get me wrong, I firmly believe that Call of Duty’s tend to be solidly made games and that its unique selling point is the multiplayer and I agree with that; I have had many enjoyable occasions shooting and being shot. But some games can be elevated with either the use of a good script; a good set of mechanics; or both. Military based shooters like Call of Duty, Battlefield, Killzone and Destiny, no matter how much you dress them up, will always be good but it takes a special game to mix up the formula. These games hit the marks whilst putting you in the forefront of the action.


credit: Giant Sparrow

credit: Giant Sparrow

I first heard about The Unfinished Swan at E3 a few years ago and proceeded to watch the previews of it. Released on the PS3 and later the Vita and PS4, this indie game literally gave you a blank canvas and you were made to fill it in. Armed only with a contraption that fires paint pellets, Monroe must hunt down the elusive unfinished swan that escaped from his mother’s painting. And you are made to paint the surrounding areas to reveal walls, buildings, furniture and of course, the path which you are meant to go and as you progress the story unfolds. I’ve never seen a game so invitingly lush with so little present. Each splat gives identity to your environment; the more you paint, the more you discover. It’s unashamedly humble in that fundamental mechanic; you can’t help but think that such came from something so simple. Like some of the greatest indie games such as Journey or Flower, complexity isn’t really an issue; it’s supposed to lull you into drinking it all as slowly as possible. Of course you can speedrun it, but where would the fun in that be? Giant Sparrow made this world to be coloured-in, why blast through it and miss it all?


credit: Galactic Café

credit: Galactic Café

Not so much of a game but more of a walking simulator? Erm, a discovery simulator? A, ah… You see, you can’t just play The Stanley Parable once because each time it could end with different results. The great thing is, is that this package it comes in is a different level of story design. You play as Stanley. Stanley is controlled by the dulcet tones of the narrator who… well, he tells the story and you fill in the gaps or fills in the gaps left by your incompetency. Basically, if you think you’re in control of the situation, you probably aren’t. With multiple endings, you lead Stanley through on many tangents and twists and turns, it’s hard to keep up. But my lord is it funny! If you like your Douglas Adams type humour; slightly dry with a dash of cynicism, you will absorb this game and try to find everything you have missed just to hear the facetious put downs from your narrator. It’s dark, silly and just wonderful. Not sold? Go play the free demo (downloadable from the link below); it’ll handily put the game into perspective for you. If you enjoyed that then you have no excuse to not play through the gloriously meta, odd world of Stanley.


credit: Demruth

credit: Demruth

If MC Escher was to build a video game, Antichamber might be the result. For those of you who are unaware, Escher was the artist who liked to make his audience go “well how does that make sense?” to which he points out “look, the water goes under the interconnected towers and falls out of the top whilst still remaining on a linear plane just as you see it” so you reply “oh.” Antichamber is full of brain benders that put your mind to the test. It’s beautiful in its simplicity and design; stark white walls, basic outlines and bold colours make up your path with little instruction to follow. You only have your own intrigue to propel you forward. It’s a testament to prove how good a first-person puzzler can be, regardless of how psychedelic the journey may seem. You can appreciate when it teaches you how to use your noggin almost three-dimensionally and that sometimes the easiest route may appear to be more complex than what you think. It allows you to experiment with its seemingly endless chocolate-box of teasers where any combination is possible if you’re brave enough to pursue it in the hope of it reaching the end goal. Satisfying, clean and well made, Antichamber takes the rules and your brain and throws them into the washing machine on a quick spin cycle. Y’know, one of them really loud, fast cycles that sound like they could pull the Moon out of orbit.


credit: EA Games

credit: EA Games

Ever felt the need to experience motion sickness right on your sofa? Well Mirror’s Edge may fill the void that will undoubtedly be where your dinner was. EA’s masterful Mirror’s Edge is a first-person parkour simulator, essentially. It feels weighty as you fling your character, Faith, off buildings; scaling up walls and careening over rooftops of a clean, cool-as-air-conditioned, futuristic city. There’s a lot of trial and error with Mirror’s Edge as you painstakingly try to get from one chapter to the other in a tirade of button presses at the optimum time. Carving up a path and going the slow way isn’t the best bet. You are likely to get along much better if you string together your vaults, wall runs and leaps to keep your momentum going. The story was about as strong as Poundland coffee and the gunplay is frustratingly naff but if you gloss over that then you have a really good, sturdy puzzle-platformer (which is really what it is). It’s what the film industry would call a sleeper hit; not fantastic by any means but it garnered a vast following and EA recently shed more light on its sequel Catalyst, which thankfully took out that dire gunplay and replaces it with an open world. Everyone’s a winner!


credit: SUPERHOT

credit: SUPERHOT

This was an odd one to place because it is actually a first-person shooter but its mechanical value adds something new to the table. The free (flash) prototype I have played serves as a demo to its full-release but they both fundamentally play the same way. The act of shooting a gun in a game is quick; you pull the R2 button in front of the person you’re aiming at and a fraction later – depending on how good you are – that person is dealt with and will now only haunt your dreams later that night. Superhot takes that quick element out of the equation but only when you’re standing still. When you move the mouse or strafe, time catches up. Cue having to plan the trajectory of not only your bullet but also yourself; a feat not as easy as it seems because sure enough, you’re pitted up against enemies who also have weapons. There’s no ‘start level; bish bash bosh; next level’ vibe about it. Like a good chess player you need to think about your next move a few moves ahead. It’s incredibly unique and the success of the prototype has headed a full, shiny release for the end of this year.


credit: Valve

credit: Valve

I could waffle on and on about how brilliant Portal is but I’ll try and keep it short but I couldn’t write a column about how good first-person video games are without it. I’m lumping both of Valve’s efforts together because I feel that they are both as important as other; Portal 2 doesn’t feel like a sequel per se, more of a natural continuation of the greater arc. Set in the clinical testing facility that is Aperture science controlled by a sentient AI named GLaDOS, you play as Chell; who for all intents and purposes, is a lab rat. Armed with only a device that fires two portals which lead in and out of one another, you are forced to think with physics and solve each puzzle. And like all good sentient AI in science-fiction, GLADoS is wired to be hell-bent on destroying you and so you must use your newly acquired skills to escape the facility. Throw in Wheatley (a personality core from GLADoS’ mainframe voiced by Stephen Merchant) and suddenly you’ve got a double-act made in heaven but fuelled by suffering and brimstone. GLADoS’ acidic wit is sharp, smart and practically charming compared to Wheatley’s in-your-face foolishness. The puzzles have such a wide scope to keep you ploughing on and it would be a fine game if that was the be all and end all. But it’s the riffing between characters, the story (which does get a bit dark in places), an amazing soundtrack, its atmosphere and presentation which earn Portal a place on this list. GLADoS may be characteristically evil and her put-downs can be quite brutal but you can’t help but love her. She’s also a cracking singer…

Don’t think at all that this is a comprehensive list as I’m sure there are dozens of great titles I may have missed. I do like my shooters, I can’t deny it. I mean, Borderlands’ vast wastelands and unholy amount of weapons keeps beckoning me back; Bioshock’s eerie and twisted nature questions how far man is willing to go and Call of Duty blows stuff up with rockets. And when the time dictates to level up Roland, visit the depths of Rapture or blow stuff up with those rockets, then these are all worthy. But when you want to take a step back whilst still being in someone else virtual shoes, these are some of the best combinations of some fantastic storytelling, amazing visuals and crucial ideas ever to have graced video gaming. It’s something I expect to get better and better as consoles, PC’s, developers and concepts constantly evolve.

Words by Jimmi

The Unfinished Swan Website

The Stanley Parable Website

Antichamber Website

Mirror’s Edge Website

Superhot Website

Portal 2 Website

Thomas the Tank Engine 70th Anniversary Special

It’s no secret; I like trains.

And a lot of that I owe to a little, blue tank engine with six small wheels, a short stumpy funnel, a short stumpy boiler and a short stumpy dome. 70 years to this day, the Reverend Wilbert Awdry published the first of his Railway Series which told the stories and adventures of the Island of Sodor; a place where the railway is still the perfect way to travel. But the greatest thing about The Railway Series and its resulting ‘Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends’ television show isn’t that it has survived for so long; it’s that it is still some of the greatest children’s literature ever written.


The origins of Thomas the Tank Engine are just as compelling as the stories themselves. Awdry was faced with having to entertain his young son, Christopher, who was taken ill and so, being the doting father he was, Awdry recited a poem about engines getting stuck in tunnels due to rain for his sick boy. This then evolved into longer stories about different engines. After being persuaded, Awdry finally published ‘The Three Railway Engines’ in 1945; a book of his first four short stories, citing influence from watching steam locomotives hard at work and the stories he told his son. Thus, Henry, Edward and Gordon were cemented in the creation of the tip of the iceberg. What’s good about this is that they all had their own personalities. Gordon was the fastest engine on the island and so he pulled the express. This made him proud but boastful and oftentimes, he could not see his faults because of that. Henry was more bashful but learned to overcome his dread. Edward was sometimes over-looked because he was older but when he does get the opportunity, he is shown as being vastly wiser and he works incredibly hard. These are evident in real life steam engines; each have a different personality and each has a learning curve to adapt to. Add in the values and traditions of friendship and hard work and learning from their own mistakes that you find in all the best children’s books and colourful and detailed pictures for each page and Awdry was on to a winner. But what about Thomas himself?

first thomas

Like A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, Thomas was originally a toy – owned by Christopher -and was given his own book the year following the release of the ‘Three Railway Engines.’ It mainly focused on the little blue engine and his short adventures that included not trusting trucks, being too impatient with a train full of passengers and inadvertently leaving them behind and remembering never to get on Gordon’s bad side. Sir Topham Hatt, – The Fat Controller, known as the Fat Director at that time – puts Thomas in his place by making him shunt trucks in the goods yard but when a new engine – James – has a serious accident, Thomas’s mentality changes and realises that he has the opportunity to put things right earning him is own branch line as well as two smart new coaches called Annie and Clarabel in the process. And thus, the next book focuses on James; which begat stories of Thomas on his own branchline; which begat the introduction of Percy; which begat the turmoil faced by Henry; followed by Toby the Tram engine; followed by Gordon; Edward and so on. The last book written by Reverend Awdry was published in 1972 and now The Railway Series had expanded to include mountain engines; tramways; welsh inspired narrow gauge engines; famous visitors and miniature engines. The books also had an amazing vocabulary, sticking with a more mature and in depth style that remained informative but also readable to a six year old without it being daunting. Yes, there were big words but being a curious child, you learn what it means and then that word is forever emblazoned in your head ready for next time. I wouldn’t expect books nowadays to use the words ‘Resource and Sagacity’ but the nature of how Gordon and James describe Oliver paints the picture perfectly without having to go into too much detail.


Another great thing about the stories is that they gave an insight to the troubles faced by railways at the time so you’ve got visiting diesels claiming ownership of the railway because the mainland is going through dieselisation (where steam engines were being phased out); engines running away from being turned into scrap; and all manner of breakdowns and accidents. But it also showed us how great and diverse the railways could be. With engines becoming famous on the mainland, overcoming the road network and the devious double-decker buses; and people understanding the value of steam locomotion. As the stories went on, the characters developed more and built on their personalities more and more until each character had their own fundamental trait. Percy and Thomas would often play tricks on each other but still remain good friends; Edward had a methodical outlook; James was always adamant that Gordon was inferior yet Toby proving otherwise; and Henry had overcome his fear of the Flying Kipper (I swear, that train of fish wagons was cursed). I absolutely loved the illustrations, particularly the more recent ones. They showed some incredible details that added depth and certainly more scale than previously. The illustration of Henry below is one of my personal favourites.


The books stayed popular and in 1984, with Britt Allcroft at the wheel, ‘Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends’ made it to the small screen. Narrated by Ringo Starr, the TV adaptation followed the stories of the books. Starr narrated with air of dryness to his delivery, giving the engines a somewhat sarcastic tone and quick wit. This was matched by series three when Michael Angelis took over narration, adding a bit more humour that didn’t stop at the slapstick. He also added in the personalities of the engines. I still find the retorts to be sharp and witty. The production was good too, favouring an actual model layout with all the engines reproduced in bright colours with moving eyes over animation. As the series went on, stories were being made especially for the show. This came with a bit of controversy from Awdry and retaliation from Allcroft. Awdry wanted a more realistic portrayal that was represented in his books but Allcroft had creative freedom and from a children’s TV producer perspective, creating something that appealed to the audience would be more captivating.

Railway Ringo

As the TV show went on, original stories not related to the books where being made but they still held some regard to how a steam railway ran and operated. But after the turn of the millennium when production could be made cheaper with the inclusion of CGI, I felt that some of the stories lost their touch. It may sound ridiculous but for a children’s TV show, it became too childish. Kat and I firmly believe that shows such as the Herbs, the Clangers, Camberwick Green, Bagpuss and Thomas retained their charm by talking to its audience regardless of their age just like the books did. It might not be complex but you can understand if you were three or ten or fifteen years old. Thomas has now fallen into a strange rut where it has become alienated from that audience it used to have. It still focuses on railways and morals and life lessons but there’s now more engines than ever, the narration is dumbed down and that shine has been lost. Maybe I’ve just grown up and the zeitgeist has taken its seat but I’m not ending on a bad note, I refuse to!


The books, however, continued to be made through the 80’s and 90’s right up to the very last one being published in 2007. These were written by Christopher Awdry. Yep, he had gone from being told the stories to writing his own again citing inspiration from actual stories from railways. Christopher published a further sixteen books bringing the grand total to forty-two and laying the series to rest. But even though I’m twenty-three, there’s still a part of me that firmly believes that Thomas, Gordon, Henry, Percy, James and company are still hard at work keeping troublesome trucks in check and taking holiday makers to the sandy beaches on the entirely fictional Island of Sodor. This is what all good children’s books should do; they should make you believe that no matter what, there is a world out there where anything is possible. And I say that because re-reading my Railway Series Collection every now and then, I don’t feel nostalgic or the like, I feel like it is still happening. Thomas the Tank Engine has now reached millions of people the via books, TV show, toys, Hornby models, clothing, video games, feature films – that starred Alec Baldwin and Peter Fonda, no doubt – real life, full scale versions; absolutely anything imaginable. Negativity aside, I am still glad that Thomas and his friends still continue their adventures to this day, 70 years on. 70 years of pulling coaches, shunting trucks, crashes, breakdowns, elephant encounters, getting stuck in snow, struggling up Gordon’s hill, teasing and playing tricks, making friends but fundamentally, working hard and being a really useful engine. It’s clear that this train is still up to steam and isn’t stopping anytime soon.



Employment by The Kaiser Chiefs: Ten Years On

Ten years may not seem like a long time but when you actually look back on things that did happen a decade ago, you can’t help but feel slightly nostalgic even if it doesn’t feel as long as you envisioned. Although this isn’t a particularly new idea, it was tricky to find good highlights from 2005. Once we had found some great ideas, we realised we had too many and so had to whittle them down. From movies, music games and everything else, these articles will tell you why we think they deserve mentioning and how well they have stood the test of time.  As a start and what better way to begin than to go over one of the most crucial first albums of the 21st Century. The Kaiser Chiefs released Employment almost ten years ago and I have been a huge fan for the majority of those years.


From the beginning synth line and the chugging guitars of ‘Everyday I Love You Less and Less’ it’s easy to see that Employment is going to be a quick paced, high energy album. It sets out the tone perfectly for the Kaiser Chiefs; simple lyrics and tone to sing along to – the under-pins of every great indie rock song. The bittersweet lyrics give off the impression that this isn’t going to be your run of the mill, straight laced pop-rock affair. Its iconic middle 8 adds a bit of depth until the band screams up to the final chorus. It’s a ruthless in your face track but a cracking opener. It also sets the tone for the entire band.

‘I Predict a Riot,’ along with ‘Oh My God,’ are arguably the most famous songs that put the Kaiser Chiefs well and truly into the limelight back in 2004, when the singles where released. A great deal of energy is produced from Ricky Wilson (vocals) and Co, again topped with more screaming before the outro choruses. Again, nothing complex, just simple, good clean fun wrapped up in some solid guitar and drum work from Andrew White and Nick Hodgson respectively. “Oh My God” being belted out brings the chorus out shining as a bruiser of a modern-day rock song. There’s ferocity behind Wilson’s delivery but it remains strong and it is dominant. Simple repeated choruses just work in Kaiser’s favour; a song where you can see and hear that it was created for huge crowds at festivals and gigs. It will always be a firm favourite amongst the more casual radio listeners and hard-core fans.  A winding guitar solo nicely brings the song to its all-out final chorus The Kaiser Chiefs know how to make good indie anthem and this is always going to be the case. But of course, you do need a bit of variation from time to time. Employment employs alternatives!

‘Modern Way’ calms the tone that favours the lulling reverb and the dark, clean tones of Andrew Whites guitar open the tune which complements the drawn out vocal harmonies. The countermelodies on Nick Baines’ keyboard playing add to the complexity behind the simplicity. Only until the chorus does it start to crank up. It gives the third track a nice mellow feeling. ‘You Could Have It All’ keeps to that gloomier tone and as a cleaner piano based ballad with a solid, cha-cha, almost latin- type drumbeat that utilizes maracas and wooden percussion it adds more differences too. Smooth vocals and a simple overdriven guitar solo only add to the colour of this slower song that has a bit of sway and lot of swagger. ‘What Did I Ever Give You’ has is an edgier, sombre record with its spooky pseudo-organ synth that starts it off. The hissing vibraslap begins each new verse and the guitars follow a staccato pattern that keeps the rhythm the smooth bass lines miss. The lyrics set the mood accordingly ‘all I gave you was pain, and a look of disdain’ encapsulates this. It’s not a happy song but it brings more to an album that is so pumped.

The aptly named fourth track, ‘Na Na Na Na Na,’ brings back the quick pace and the high energy. Jumping rhythms on the Simon Rix’s bass add to the power and youthful bounce; a jaunty piano line highlights and compliments this. We also get a more intricate guitar solo, something we haven’t really heard of from White until now. An arpeggiated piano intro starts off ‘Born to Be a Dancer’ and a very simple airy guitar line that harmonises the vocals evoke a similar feeling to an early Franz Ferdinand song but a brooding middle section with its not-so-cheesy cheesy key change and instrumental middle 8 sets it away from the Scottish rockers. “Once you ask me what I’m thinking, I lay back and think of England” adds a cheeky dimension to this cheeky song.

A buzzy 8-bit inspired synthesizer takes us into ‘Saturday Night.’ Two chords are the bases of the main verses and its strength and the chorus’ vocals add more melodic differences where the tune actually lays. I do love the how it keeps its charm even though there’s not a lot of musicality behind it. All the movement is in the vocal line and its backup harmonies of ‘oooh wha wha wha oooh’ and subtle waves of brass and a distorted bassline. In ‘Time Honoured Tradition’ again White’s guitar follows Wilson’s vocal line. No traditional chorus, no real words but it works. As very skeletal song, I feel it misses some of the middle padding that filled out previous songs and that it appears to be quite overlooked compared to some of the other tracks. The meticulousness of the lyrics in the verses which is where the majority rhythm comes from is where it shines through. ‘Caroline, Yes’ is actually one of my favourite songs from the entire album, if not my favourite; it has this overall darkness in its apparent dirt. Ricky Wilson has some real emotion in his lyrics and his singing and the twiddly guitar riffs that top each chorus counter the winding of the vocals and backing vocals. A simple vibrato guitar solo matches Wilson perfectly. Basic vocal lines keep to the anthemic feel to this song that bursts into a powerful chorus. ‘Team Mate’ then starts the finisher of the album with none of the power that was present in the previous songs. Very breathy makes it feel like an intimate acoustic song but adds the richness from the bass, drums, wooden percussion and organ. Only halfway through does it build up with a mystical reversed-effect guitar, something similar to a late Beatles song that induces the resonance of a sitar. A very Britpop style song, reminiscent of Blur it seems.

The Kaiser Chiefs helped pioneer the sound of the mid-2000’s with the other great indie bands of that generation. The soul of 2005 is firmly wedged in there. That doesn’t necessarily means it sounds dated, far from it, but it makes it feel like that part of music has run its course. With music being cheaply made by lacklustre people (I use the term ‘musician’ or ‘artist’ sparingly when mentioning modern-day bubblegum “hits”) Employment evokes the greatness of the high-octane festival type rock bands that used to get so many airplays on mainstream radio. Guitar based bands are still on the backburner I feel. Still relevant to those who care but it may be a while until they become as popular to the masses as they once were. The Kaiser Chiefs may have matured since the release of Employment and they still carry on making great songs but their greatness is owed so much to this debut. I’m happy to keep living in that simpler era, longing for it to return. Nonetheless, this is still a good, solid album that doesn’t do anything spectacular because it doesn’t need to; it keeps things simple and elegant yet powerful that only adds to the rawness.

Words by: Jimmi

Geek 2015 – Margate, Kent, UK

Los Angeles has the Electronic Entertainments Expo; PAX stretches from Massachusetts to Texas; San Diego is home to Comic-con; London houses the MCM expo every year; and then there’s the small seaside town of Margate in Kent. Although don’t be put off by the apparent David amongst Goliaths, GEEK (which stands for Game Expo East Kent) is the hugely popular exhibition of everything related to ‘play and games;’ a celebration of classic and modern video games, board games, card games, cosplay and stalls packed full of merchandise, memorabilia and crafty novelties. We certainly couldn’t afford to miss out on the greatness that was practically on our doorstep. Nerd is the word…


Nestled in the Winter Gardens on Margate’s seafront held between the 19th and 21st of February, the three-day event that is GEEK 2015 accommodated a plethora of old and new gaming consoles from around the world. Set into different zones, there was a chance for paying members of the public to play different types and genres of games. From action, sports, simulations, shooting, fighting and puzzle games spread over all generations of Nintendo, XBox, PlayStation, PC and Sega systems (to name but a few). It was hard not to be spoilt for choice on what you wanted to have a go on next. Ever wanted to play on a Nintendo Famicom with a mouse? Never got round to playing a Dreamcast? Want to know all the fuss is about with the new Call of Duty? Felt the need to show off your battling prowess in Pokémon against real players? All of these questions could be answered. With the main hall featuring the massive selection of gaming consoles, another full of exhibitor’s stalls with a secondary stage set up for interviews and a final Chill zone complete with niche indie games and mood lighting, there was always something worth your time.


Starting with the exhibition hall, you could get all your game and pop-culture related merchandise from this opening hub allowing you to purchase retro games, character prints, and mugs, wallets t-shirts or even classic sprites made out of Hamma beads. You could also pick up your copy of the Geek Gazette – a useful souvenir guide full of articles, interviews and information on all that was happening over the weekend. Set to the other side were board games and players teaching others the ins and outs of their favourite past times. Another hidden gem was the simple computer arrays made of old egg boxes and some that replaced input devices with forks and knives. The stage headed the front of the space which held informal interviews with YouTubers and indie developers as well workshops with cosplayers and the Saturday afternoon’s cosplay masquerade (other days held talks about video game narratives, a showcase of the Unity gaming engine and storytelling workshops over the weekend). On the upper gantry, more board gamers were set out and there was also an opportunity to meet with the previously mentioned YouTube personalities and ask them questions one-on-one.


The main hall held the meat of the event; a vast room full of the consoles before and during our existence. We jumped straight onto Puyo Pop Fever on a GameCube – a colourful but crazy falling blocks game – and although we had no idea of the controls, we picked it up very quickly and were battling it out to see who could get the highest score. Saturns, Mega Drives, PlayStations, NES’ and SNES’ caught our attention the most as we played through some well-known titles such as Clockwork Knight, TOCA 2, EA Hockey and Yoshi’s Cookie. The sixteen XBox 360’s playing Halo deathmatch tournaments centred the room; Hearthstone had a few machines dedicated to its own mini-contests and newer blockbusters such as Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare, Assassin’s Creed: Unity, WatchDogs, Far Cry 4 and Need for Speed Rivals on current generation consoles were contained in an 18+ area for obvious reasons. Having never played some of these on a newer system, this gave us the opportunity to try them out. It was also good to see some of the greatest and newest indie titles such as Fez, Thomas Was Alone, Shovel Knight, Super Meat Boy, I am Bread and Screamride hold their own against the likes of FIFA 15 and Halo’s Masterchief Collection. Although no-one could compete with the greatness of Minecraft. It had its own special area with a queue to get in and its own tournament. Not hard to understand as it’s one of the biggest selling and most popular games. Another selection of stalls then sold modified Gameboy’s, figurines, cartridges and table top games which included our personal favourite, Rory’s Story Cubes (review imminent).


And if you wanted to take things a bit easier and remove yourself from the scale of the event, there was also the Chill Zone filled with ambient lighting and independently developed games that reflect on the cool and calm. Whether you wanted to jump from cloud to cloud as you drift through the storybook world of Castles in the Sky; explore as a rolling cube in a geometric domain in Cube and Star: An Arbitrary Love; sore over Journey’s sand dunes; float through the neon-rainforests of The UnderGarden or simply watch a projection of someone else wander through a world of beautiful glowing particles in A Light in Chorus. This zone also became a small theatre later on in the day as it showed the 2012 documentary, ‘Indie Game: The Movie’; a nice change of pace from the hectic Main Hall.


But of course this was only the tip of the iceberg since we only went for the Saturday. Earlier that morning there was a Guinness World Record attempt to beat the quickest time in completing Bricking It in Time Splitters II. There were different retro gaming tournaments running throughout each event too with a Sonic challenge each day, a Mario Kart 64 challenge on the Friday, Street Fighter II on the Saturday and finally a Super Smash Brothers Melee closer on the Sunday with prizes from each awarded to the best player. With enough differences each day to warrant a subsequent visit it made for a very unique day out. We had missed the early ticket sales online but on they were reasonably priced at £15.50 on the door and you definitely got a lot for your money. Friday and Sunday were slightly cheaper but only by a pound or so but with it being the start of the weekend, it was easy to see that the Saturday was priced the way it was. Either way, no matter what day you could have chosen, you wouldn’t have felt any less out-of-pocket.

Getting around was fair also; the map included in the guide was clear but having a list of what was on offer from the off would have been a great way to go around and essentially tick off our favourites or finding something that sounded good. Luckily a lot of what we played was found with our eyes and that was probably and arguably a better way of discovering. A few machines did cease to work but that’s only understandable when a twenty something year old console is running throughout a day of a busy play through and lots of play styles. On the other hand, seeing older Master Systems and NES’ continue through it all just shows how they can continue under pressure.


And so our time at GEEK 2015 was a pretty epic trip down memory lane, reliving some of the nostalgic games we used to play and also getting a chance to try something different which may have otherwise been overlooked. We have both been avid gamers for a long time and so this event has given us a taste of gaming exhibitions; something neither of us has experienced before but it’s something that we would wholeheartedly recommend to gamers and pop-culturists alike, no matter what the scale. Although compact, GEEK 2015 offered us a new insight into one of the world’s biggest and best mediums. Hopefully we’ll get chance to go to the event in 2016. It certainly beats sitting inside and playing video games all day.

Words by Jimmi and Kat


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There’s Something About Mary (1998) – 52 in 52: Film 3



A couple of days ago, it was of course St. Valentine’s Day and what better way to celebrate it than to watch a romantic comedy. But we didn’t want to watch any old soppy, sugary-sweet romcom. We decided to give The Farrelly Brother’s There’s Something About Mary the Reviewinators treatment.

Ben Stiller starts the story as Ted, a typical high-school nerd with shaggy hair and a mouth full of braces; an air of awkwardness tends to follow him around. The beautiful Mary, played by Cameron Diaz, holds his affections and as the two start to connect, he is outwardly surprised when she asks him to the upcoming prom after she reveals she has currently split from her sportier boyfriend. Excited, he rocks up in his brown suit ready for a night he will never forget. After a faux pas with Mary’s special needs brother and a painful zipper accident that involves Mary’s step-father, mother, a police officer, a fireman and a resulting trip to the emergency room, Ted is left still pining after what could have been… Thirteen years on. Under advice from his best friend Dom (played by Chris Elliot), he hires a sleazy detective to track down Mary after she moved from Rhode Island to Miami to become an orthopaedic surgeon. Sleazy detective Patrick (Matt Dillon) uses his sly skills to find her and soon realises that he would be better off with Mary rather than the loner Ted. Patrick soon starts spinning lies and makes for Miami to beat Ted at his own game using the information he gathered whilst stalking her. After realising he has been left for a schmuck, the awkward Rhode Islander drives to Miami to confront Patrick and win Mary back. Cue another awkward encounter with the police and a bail out from Dom, the two of them head off to Miami to continue Ted’s mission. Ted finds out the hard way that he isn’t the only one fighting for Mary’s affections. Not only is he fighting off Patrick but also four other guys and so must work out a way to overcome them and be the better man even if he may be vastly outnumbered by the competition.

There’s Something About Mary isn’t the usual bawdy, teen movie that where rife in the era. There are the sweet sentiments to it but the cringe-worthy comedic aspects make it a fun film to watch” says Jimmi, “especially with the famous ‘hair gel’ fiasco; we can’t not mention that” Kat adds. You can’t help but laugh at poor Ted’s expense when he picks up a questionable hitchhiker and has to explain to the police why he did it. Or even a speed-infused dog that Patrick tries to desperately resuscitate by any means necessary. Hilarity will always ensue. “I thought it was a bit over the top sometimes but that was to be expected with a film of this nature” Kat mentions. Each character may have their reasons to batter ten shades out of each other but Mary always tries to be all things to all people. Stiller and Diaz have a great chemistry; Ben Stiller’s usual awkward and shy self is the ying to Diaz’s confident, smart but outgoing yang. Add that to Dillon’s portrayal of the greasy Patrick; Lee Evan’s elasticity of the dubious British architect, Tucker; Dom’s true identity and Mary’s disabled brother Warren (W. Earl Brown) serving as almost a catalyst between the different character types, you’ve got a very odd set of people that play the best to their jokes extremely well.

It’s easy to see why this film has been described as a ‘sleeper hit’ but despite being almost seventeen years old now, the sentiment and the laughs are still there. There may be elements that are in your face and some that you have to watch through your fingers – not as much as, say, the ‘American Pie’ series – but when it wants to be sweet and charming, it doesn’t distract it from being a good romcom. It may not be a typical romcom that follows the same soppy structure that some others do where they become too dramatic and you can feel your heart become a dead weight; and there are times where it could have slipped into either category so keeping it balanced kept the hilarity up. Admittedly there are the slow build up’s to pivotal moments but when it does eventually reach them; it gets incredibly wacky and left us crying with laughter. It may come across as slightly run of the mill with little sense of urgency but it ticks all the correct boxes; it’s fairly satisfying. We’re just confused as to how it managed to slip under the radar on us for so long…

Words by Jimmi and Kat