Sunday, June 28, 2009

Michael Jackson 1958-09

It's been a few of days now since it was announced that Michael Jackson died. Since that morning I had debated with my myself whether I should add to the millions upon millions of blog posts, tweets and messages of all kind. For a few of days now, the lump in my throat just won't go away!

At almost 29 years of age, I have been fortunate enough not to have experienced what it's like to lose a loved one. This may sound odd given the fact that I didn't know the man but I feel like I'm grieving! He's been a person that has been around since I can remember. He's been someone I admired as a child and felt sorry for as an adult.

It's strange even now to think of a world without Michael Jackson. Some how it doesn't seem quite real. It always felt like he was someone not quite of this world and could life forever. We know it happens to all of us. Death, the inevitable outcome of life and I would've seen this great man die of old age in 20 or so years. It just feels odd to think of a world without a Michael Jackson in it now. He was taken from us much too soon and so suddenly, before he had one last chance to show us what a great performer he was.

Here I am now listening to his last truly great album HIStory: Past, Present and Future, Book 1 and watching tribute shows celebrating his musical genius with a tear in my eye. There will never be a Book 2.

I have looked through the little book that came with the multi-disc album and it's somehow prophetic that it feels very much like a commemorative booklet, as though his career, if not he himself, was already dead.

It's hard to disagree – I've always been a fan of his and continued to buy his records including his last album Invincible. However, it really did feel like a man chasing his past glory. Be it his music or his signature dancing, it all felt so “dated”. I'd like to think that his up coming tour would've either been his last and he'd retire from the music industry on a high or that he was somehow going to re-invent himself and continue to be an inspiration for people the world over. And now, we'll never know...

I'll leave you with his last great music video, Ghosts from '97.

My thoughts are with his children and family.

May Your Soul Rest in Peace.

You will be missed.

God Bless.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Not to be outdone by Emeny, I decided to try my hand at writing a review for the latest TV show we finished watching; Joss Whedon's Dollhouse.

To start, the show is/was being aired on Fox, a channel that is notorious for canceling shows before they have a chance to shine, most notably a favourite of ours Journeyman and Mr. Whedon's own Firefly. So it was understandably that the news of Joss’ latest creation being aired on Fox was met with some trepidation. Would the show get a chance to establish itself or would the hammer of termination descent just as it’s becoming good?

The premise is fairly original. Volunteers are being wiped of their own personalities and imprinted with whatever persona prominent clients wish their dolls to have. So far so unique.

The show isn’t exactly a slow burner but for several of the initial episodes it does feel like it was going to be a “personality of the week” kinda show and a platform for the Eliza Dushku , a Producer and one of the leads who plays popular doll Echo, to show off her acting chops by being someone else in each episode. None of the other characters are all that engaging either, such as the cocky genius guy who reminds us of his superiority almost every time we see him.

Yet, about 6 episodes in, there is a shift. What threatened to be just another formulaic TV show suddenly reveals itself to be much deeper. Many of the characters become charming and interesting. The show becomes not so much about the concept but takes on a more philosophical angle; namely what makes us human? Is it our character traits or is there something akin to a soul that defines us?

No matter. It definitely feels like Whedon and co. hit their stride in the 2nd half of the season, be it because they didn’t know if another season was to be commissioned and they wanted to offer their viewers a satisfying conclusion regardless of what was to become of the show. Or the fact that everyone involved simply got incredibly comfortable in their roles (writing staff included).

To sum up: we liked it a lot and the pay off near the end is well worth the initial “struggle” through the first half a dozen episodes. There is reason to rejoice as well. Unlike other shows which had a cult following but then were canceled, Dollhouse is getting another season and, personally, I can’t wait to see what they come up with next.


The Combobulater: June 20th 2009. Activision Vs. Sony!

The Combobulater for June 20th 2009 is up and this week sees us tackle an interesting pair of articles that can be found at

As Sony struggle to pull their profit margin into line, at the cost of 16,000 jobs and various divisions having to shut up shop, Activision come along to offer a real kick in the teeth.

Activision CEO Bobby Kotick reports that they are seriously considering dropping support for Sony's platforms unless a price reduction is forced onto the hardware. Activision claim that 'attach rates' are significantly less on the Playstation 3 when compared to rival platforms and if something isn't done to address this issue then the consequences will be quite harsh on Sony.

Is this all Sony's fault though? Discussion on our cast points out that Sony are the ones here that have invested heavily in R&D to get the PS3 out to consumers. The fact that the market place fails to conceive it's value for money is not entirely Sony's fault. Though I agree more could be done to incentivise buying a PS3 (better bundles at the RRP for example) the Combobulater crew are not convinced Sony could do much more. Especially at a time of global recession and restructuring within Sony's company.

Tune in for our discussion on this issue, and more, in this week's Combobulater podcast and drop by our forums and share your opinions with us.



Thursday, June 18, 2009

Half Life 2: Probably the best gaming series, ever!!

I've finally joined the ranks of people clambering for Valve to hurry along and publish Episode 3 having wrapped up HL2: Episode 2 yesterday lunch and I'm here now to say that anyone reading this should make it a priority to play through these games!!

I can blame WoW for the fact that it's taken me so long to get to this game but that would be unfair. To be honest I have no good reason for putting this off for so long and if you're sat at your PC trying to drum up an excuse for not having played this series then stop! Go pick up a copy of Half Life 2, the Orange Box providing the best value at the moment, and get cracking!

Half Life offers pretty much everything that makes gaming great. Intrictate puzzles that rarely frustrate but actually feel rewarding to work out, though sometimes obviously 'gamey' the level design in Half Life is awesome. For example, having got stuck in a room I spent some time trying to figure out how to escape. Initially I started moving barrels into a bookshelf prop, creating a naughts and crosses style effect I could use to jump up to some pipes above. Having got high enough I realised I couldn't jump across to the ledge I could see because the ceiling was too low, but from this vantage point I spotted some crates hanging overhead and thought 'great, I'll pull those down and create a stairway up. Only, when I pulled the crates down I spotted a ladder that had been there all along!!

Ok, perhaps not the best example but the point is that there is always something in the environment that gives you a little push in the right direction. Subtle enough to make you work for the answer but not as patronising as a bright glowing arrow screaming 'THIS WAY!'

The shooting mechanics feel good, there are some satisfying weapons to fire and some great enemies to take down. Killing a Strider is a lot of fun and the audio used is absolutly spot on. In fact, the finale to Episode 2 is perhaps one of the most satisfying things I've done in a game for a long time.

I'm sure there are faults to be found in this game, Burnsy would argue that events are often too finely scripted leaving little room for innovation and I can't entirely disagree. The story is very much dictated to you as Freeman is pushed around as a pawn in some greater plan that lies just beyond your grasp of understanding, and the fact that it's taking years to get Episode 3 out is quite frankly absurd. It's fair to say that the episodic experiment has outright failed in this case!!

That said, I will no doubt be buying Episode 3 the moment it's released and I can't wait for this epic storyline to bring itself to a conclusion. The weight of expectation is huge for episode 3, easily matching anything that Blizzard have to face from their community. I can only hope that Ep. 3 lives up to that expectation and I'm confident Valve will deliver yet again.

In the meantime you should get on and catch up with this game, if like me you've put this off then now is a good time to pull it from the pile and enjoy one of the finest gaming experiences to date.


Thursday, June 11, 2009

'Drag me to Hell' - Review

Hey Guys,

I recently got to the cinema for the first time in ages and watched 'Drag me to Hell', the latest horror flick from director Sam Raimi. The advertising boasted his recent Spiderman hits but I, like most I imagine, associated this more with the Evil Dead franchise and as it turns out fans of this series should be right at home with this movie.

It's time to strap on a pair of protective goggles, keep your mouth firmly shut and checkout the trailer for Drag me to Hell before I go on.

So, what did you make of that? Looks like a straight forward horror film right, plenty of creepy things going on and enough to make you think this is a serious film. This was certainly what I was expecting having seen the trailer and heard some guys at work talking about the movie. 'You'll need a strong stomach' I was told...right!

Drag me to Hell is a blast, not at all a serious attempt at horror but rather a true return to his roots for Sam Raimi who must've had a whole lot of fun filming 'Evil Dead' and wanted to revisit this style of 'casual' filming after a bout of high budget movie making. I'm surprised the cast weren't all suffering whiplash with the amount of nods to the Evil Dead series, from possessed people being made to jive in the air to the cheesy one liners that made Bruce Campbell's career! 'I'm gonna get me some' ring a bell to anyone?

Not quite 'Come get some' but you see what I mean! There was even a reference to a visit to a log cabin out in the woods part way through the film, though unfortunately the film didn't go there the mention was loud and clear!

The cast play their part reasonably enough, this film isn't going to grab any oscars but then it would be absurd to think they were ever going to try! Alison Lohman plays the main lead, Christine Brown, in the film as a young, career focused woman who inherits a gypsy curse from the hair grabbing Mrs. Ganush played by Lorna Raver. It's a surprise Christine has any hair left by the end of the movie as Mrs. Ganush certainly makes a good effort to yank it all out in pretty much every scene she's in!

From the moment Mrs. Ganush is removed from the bank the film begins its trek down the absurd, with a crazed old woman 'gumming' her victim as she desperately tries to bite her victim; and later a talking goat that is very reminiscent of the famed 'Dead by dawn' mounted deer. I know I keep harping on about the similarities here but they jumped out at me so many times that they have to be acknowledged.

It would be easy to sum this review up by saying that if you enjoyed Evil Dead then there's no doubt you'll enjoy this movie but should there be any of you that have taken up residence under a rather large rock I feel I should wrap up my thoughts on this with a little more detail.
Drag me to Hell is a fine twist of horror and comedy, which if you get behind then you'll love but if you're after a proper fright then this isn't the film for you. There's eye-balls popping, embalming fluid gushing and demons jigging, what more could you ask for!?!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The New Look Combobulater site!!

Hey Everyone,

Welcome to the new look Combobulater home page!!

First order of business is to extend a huge amount of thanks to Andrew Anderson who has taken the time to redesign this site and integrate a blog into the Combobulater homepage. I'm really impressed with the way the page has come together and in such little time!!

The idea now is to press forward with the podcast and expand our audience and our content. So where do we plan to go from here, I'm glad you asked!

The podcast has always been a casual affair with myself and Burnsy getting together every couple of weeks to chat about what we've been up to and share our views on gaming/movie/TV gossip and headlines. We're not hardcore journalists scouring the web for news and we're not sophisticats airing our opinions.

So the blog will follow suit, albeit in a more regular form (I hope!). My aim is to blog at least once a week and articles will come as a mixed bag of sharing news and jotting up thoughts on the state of various things. For example, I'm keen to discuss what Blizzard should learn from other MMOs which will involve me pulling up examples of interesting traits found in multiple MMOs that are lacking in World of Warcraft.

Meanwhile gaming headlines will no doubt grab my attention and I shall share those with ad-hoc.

So there you have it! The Combobulater has taken its first foray into a regular blog and I hope those of you that listen to the cast will share your comments and get involved with the community we're striving to setup here. Be sure to jump into the forums, air your own views and prompt discussion on the cast!!

Catch you later,