El Diablo – Cesc Fabregas

Everyone knows that that Arsenal skipper Cesc Fabregas is one of the most talented footballers on the planet. The attacking midfielder has almost super-natural abilities to pick and deliver passes not just into his teammate’s path but often right into their step with perfect weight, height and direction – witness Cesc’s pass for Van Persie’s second versus Wigan a week or so ago (you should be able to find it if you have a dig around here [do yourself a favour and subscribe to arseblog while you’re there])

But where does Cesc Fabregas’ divine skill come from? Maybe it truly is super-natural…

While celebrating his goal in Arsenal’s 3-0 Carling-Cup semi-final win over Ipswich I noticed Cesc give the Sign-of-the-Horns. This hand signal is often linked to so-called Satanic Cults and Secret Societies such as Skull and Bones.

Is Cesc channelling demonic forces directly into his feet?

Clearly Cesc is making this sign but could it be just a lucky sign in Spain (the Bull)? What is the meaning of his hand signal and where is it aimed?

After a little bit of Googling I found this article on LanguageTrainers.co.uk and I think it explains things….

The website names the hand signal as the ‘The Corna’ and tells us, and I quote:

‘Historically, however, the symbol basically means “cuckold” (or rather, “your wife is cheating on you”), and its origins are Mediterranean, possibly dating back to Ancient Greece. The corna is still popular in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Colombia, Brazil, Albania, Slovakia and the Czech Republic, and seems to be used most often to disagree with football referees…’

Given that Cesc was getting fouled relentlessly in the Ipswich game and the ref was offering nothing in the way of protection and even denied him a penalty the above quote most certainly explains the gesture….

…either that or he was trying to tell Arsene something about his wife?

Leady247 ^^

Sunday evening’s review of another Xmas night’s beer – Leffe Radieuse

This is it the final beer in the Xmas selection my sister brought be back from Brussels. It’s definitely taken longer cataloguing all the various beers for my blog than it did to drink them – in the case of this Leffe Radieuse I am posting about it almost a month after I drank it – so excuse me if my recollections are a little clouded (especially as I also lost the phone I was making notes on while drinking).

I've had this empty bottle kicking around in my room since Xmas...

‘First thing I should say is that I find the use of too much red, pink or purple on beer packaging quite off-putting – as I noted in my Chimay review.

These types of colours always make me think the beer is fruit flavoured and once I have that idea in my head it really influences my taste buds to report ‘fruity, fruity, fruity’ while drinking it.  Obviously Leffe beers tend to have fruity edges or hints to them but you want those in the back-ground, supporting the hops, wheat and spices etc. not dominating the show.

As another Leffe brand extension I was struggling to understand where Leffe Radieuse fitted into a line-up which already spans Blonde (bottle or canned), Bruin, the bottle-conditioned Triple and my personal favourite: the super-strong aperitif the Neuf.

So is the Radieuse just an insignificant differentiation in InBev’s branding strategy – designed to squeeze a few curious Euros from their loyal drinkers?

Here's the seal on the Radieuse - but where does this beer fit into the line up? (and why is the bottle detailing in pink?)

The Leffe website has a good description of the Radieuse here. it describes it as a ‘gourmet beer’ that is the pride of ‘every brewer’ (or brewing robot at InBev?). It apparently has specially selected hops that give it the bitter taste that connoisseurs are ‘mad about’ (not sure that is really the best choice of words by the official site there).

It has fruity accents and earthy overtones apparently, 8.2% alcohol volume and is best served at 5-6 degrees C.

My impressions were basically that it tasted like a purer version of the Leffe Bruin, with more edge and a more silky mouth-feel. Apparently coriander is one of the key ingredients – which seems a bit strange to me – but I must admit I could not taste it.

The Radieuse is definitely up there with the Triple and Neuf in terms of hit as it makes its way down your throat, rests in your tummy and and then filters into your blood. I would imagine after 2 or 3 bottles of this your might be rather enjoying yourself ^^.

I had a look online for the definition of ‘Radieuse’ and what I got is ‘brilliant’ and ‘Luminous’. For me this is definitely the beer in the Leffe collection that has been crafted for visuals.

The Radieuse - maybe the best looking liquid in the world? As you can see once again I have not managed to get much of a head on my Leffe.

I assume the closest English translation would be: ‘Leffe Radiant’ – the dark, bronze-ruby colours burst from the glass and break and refract the light gloriously as you raise the glass. It conjures images of the god-rays of sunlight streaming through the ancient stain-glass windows of the Trappist Abbeys where it’s brewed, the monks shuffling about their worship.

The Leffe website less dramatically describes the Radieuse’s visuals as a ‘unique golden-brown colour that plays a staring role on any table.’ This suggests that it’s place in the Leffe portofolio is as a dinner-party type beer, to bring out and dramatically pour before candle-light when you have people to impress. (not sure that I will every be doing that personally…hopefully…)

Well that finishes up all my Xmas beer blogging, so I can finally move into 2011 for some new beer activities. I am planning to get down to my Mum and Dad’s local pub The Viper to learn something about some English beers as it’s all been very Belgian in here recently, I am also looking to do some beer and cheese matching.

Anyway I’ll leave you with this image to ponder:

A Leffe and a nice cup of tea...almost impossible to choose between the two on a Sunday evening...which would you go for?

Leady 247 ^^

Sunday evening’s review of an Xmas night’s beer – Leffe Bière de Noël Kerstbier

In this post I wanted to cover my quality Xmas pressie from my sister: an official Leffe glass so I thought it would be perfect to cover Leffe’s Xmas ale: the Bière de Noël at the same time.

Back in December I got a lucky break when my sister’s boyfriend took her on a surprise trip to Brussels just before xmas:

My sister's bf and fellow beer fanboy, James was lucky enough to have La Trappe Quadruple while he was in Brussels ^^

This trip gave my sister a great oppotunity to top-up my xmas presents with a few bottles of Belgian Trappist ale. Even better, she got me an official Leffe glass which is something I have been wanting for a while now (readers of this blog will have noticed I have been drinking beer out of wine glasses due to lack of a proper Belgian beer glass).

The new glass, the Leffe Noël and a small baguette (the photographic composition for this blog is really picking up!)

The Leffe glass is  like large wine-glass with a thin stem and big bulbous receptacle atop to hold the liquid. The bulb on the Leffe glass has a large diameter opening which I guess is designed to expose more of the beer’s surface area to the air – allowing some chemistry/witchcraft to take place and easy access for both the drinker’s nostrils.

As the glass is relatively shallow (it takes around 330ml or half a pint) it doesn’t allow too much foam to build up.

Mainly – as anyone that still likes to drink coke out of the iconic glass bottle will know – things just taste better when presented in their official format. I guess this maybe more down to branding than science but who knows?

As for the Leffe Bière de Noël…this is a beer created by Leffe especially for the Xmas market (a cash-in?). My gf was kind enough to translate the Belgian text on the back of the bottle for me:

‘With its dark amber colour, its fruity tastes, spicy bouquet and creamy foam the xmas beer from leffe is a beer full of character. Every Xmas season this is what people are looking forward to – it’s the tradition of the brewmasters who keep their best hops and barley to brew just this once per year.  Leffe Xmas beer will be your favourite apperitif and give you an intense moment to savour’

A closer look at the label for the Bière de Noël.

I have to take issue with a couple of the points made there: The Bière de Noël I tried was definately not amber in colour and there was little or no head. Politely I would say that visually it was like Leffe Bruin with a cherry-red hint; however the note I made at the time was that it looked like a glass of flat coke. (In a future post I will write about the Leffe Radieuse which I think is closer to what people would expect from the Bière de Noël visually).

I wonder if maybe the long trip on the Eurostar from Belgium to London and then waiting ’til after new year to drink it meant that this Xmas Leffe was not quite on top of it’s game when I popped it?

Taste wise I would say that Bière de Noël is somewhere between a fiery Leffe Blonde and the bitter edge of a Bruin – with added xmas spices and maybe a hint of coco?

Personally, I would say that the Noël is a decent a one-off bottle to get you into the Xmas spirit before eating but it’s not something I would keep drinking as it lacks the smooth action of a Blonde or the hard-edge and punch in the nose of a Triple or Neuf (alchohol wise it’s 6.6% same as a Leffe Blonde).

That’s it for this week.  I would recommend checking out the new Leffe website there’s lots of good info. on there and the ‘Perfect Moment’ voice-over for each beer is pompous but just on the comedic side of pretentious.

Lots more adventures with my new Leffe glass coming soon. Leady 247 ^^

WARRIORS: LEGENDS OF TROY – CHARACTER UPGRADE & ITEM SYSTEM REVEALED (PARTIALLY?)

I haven’t posted about Warriors: Legends of Troy (WLOT) recently, largely as there has been no new information…

However, buried within yesterday’s new screenshot release from Tecmo Koei was a couple of interesting tidbits that explain part of how the character growth/level-up system in this game is tied to its item system.

The Grid

In  the above screen you can see the status screen/grid for WLOT’s main-man: Achilles.  To the left we can see his stats grouped into Health, Fury, Quick Attack, Focused Attack and Stun Attack (presumably this means shield strike?). I like the way the attacks are ‘bar-based’ rather than just represented as numbers as this makes the game a little less abstract/’RPG-ish’.

In the middle of the screen we can see the item grid itself and on the right we can see a selection of items that that Achilles can equip.  In this image he is equipping the Gem of Bellerophontes which unlocks a ‘Focused Attack Combo 3’ for him – square, square, square, triangle.

The Gem of Bellerophontes takes up 2 horizontal blocks and in 5 x 7 grid.  In the above image we can also see items of other shapes and sizes.  This suggests that players will have to manage their item grid space effectively and use mix of items tailored to their playing style – it’s unlikely that they will be able to fit every item into the grid.

The Troy item grid is reminiscent of the inventory grids in games like Resident Evil..

This item grid is important as it fits into WLOT’s overall theme of being a more strategic Musou game.  It looks like character growth will not be completely linear (the-longer-you-play-it-the-more-powerful-you-get) but players will have to put some thought into which items are the most effective to equip to their item grid.  Hopefully it will not just be a case of there being a ‘best’ line up of items and different players will be free to explore different selection patterns.

Dynasty Warriors: Strikeforce did quite a good job towards a non-linear character growth system via it’s chi, orb and weapon matrix – hopefully WLOT will go even further.

WLOT also offers a 'shop' where players can purchase new items.

In the above screen you can see that like many other Musou games WLOT will have a shop where players can purchase upgrades for their character – in this case new items.

Important information to glean from this screen is that players can actually upgrade the size of their item grid – allowing more space for equipping items.

We can also see that more expensive items such as ‘Foreign Soil’ take up large blocks of space in the grid – in this case 2 x 3. This suggests that players will have to select their items carefully and may only be able to have 2 or 3 ‘big’ items per grid.

Also it looks like players can stock multiple copies of the same item.  This either means that effects will be ‘stackable’ or items are going to wear out over time…this adds another little layer of depth to things.

One other thing I like is that WLOT’s items also add a little texture to the back story of the game.  For example the aforementioned Gem of Bellerophontes: a quick google search showed me that Bellerophontes was a legendary Greek hero that not only tamed a pegasus but also defeated a chimera.

Bellerophontes may not be a character in the game but it's cool Tecmo Koei Canada are putting some of this lore into WLOT

That’s it for this little WLOT update – I think this item system looks quite promising and non-linear character growth is definitely a good upgrade for a Musou game.  Hopefully we should see more of the game revealed soon.

Leady247 ^^

Leady247 Gamer Interviews – Angry Birds HD with Gischie

Angry Birds, created by Finnish mobile gaming experts Rovio and published by EA owned Chilllingo, was the true breakout gaming success of last year. Selling more than 12million units via App Store alone it makes you shudder to think what the sales figures must be now the game has rolled out onto new platforms such as Android and even PSN Minis – the Angry Birds are conquering the world!

In case you’ve been really been out of it recently and don’t know what the game is all about here is a gameplay trailer:

With the benefit of hindsight it’s easy to see that Angry Birds had a magic recipe for success. Simple touch-screens controls coupled with easy-to-grasp and immensely satisfying physics-based gameplay combine to form a game that anyone can enjoy. If you know how a catapult works and have some basic understanding of the phyiscal properties of various materials you are well on your way to destroying some Piggy fortifications ^^

This easily-accessible core was bolstered by fantastic art design that brought an anger-fuelled spin to the cutesy, pastel puzzlers of the mobile gaming landscape. Players are given an arsenal of personality-stuffed, pissed-off looking birds – these birds mirror the frustrations of rat-race commuters everywhere and allow us to take cathartic revenge on the brood-raiding, over-fed pigs in ivory towers.

Music is also fantastically well-done with several of the jingles and squawks becoming part of British pop-culture.

If you want an understanding of the tone of Angry Birds check out this ‘Peace Treaty’ video (say whaaaat??, fuck off!!)

The game is also Crystalized – backing up the solid gameplay with online support that includes all the achievements, leader-boards and friends lists modern gamers demand.

My first experience with the Angry Birds came with Angry Birds HD an upgraded version of the orginal game for the iPad.

After a brief introduction to the controls my girlfriend Gischie quickly got addicted to the game and completed the five initial ‘worlds’ in around a month and a half.

To get an interview with Gischie on Angry Birds I had to beg and force her and it wasn’t until I managed to corner her on the train from Paris to Avignon that I managed to extract her thoughts:

How long have you been playing Angry Birds?

Your questions are always the same.  I can’t remember how long….let’s say around one month so far….

Were you aware that Angry Brids had been a massive hit before you started playing it?

No.

How were you introduced to Angry Birds?

By WC.

Who’s WC?

The annoying creator of this blog.

So he bought it for you?

Yes, for his iPad. He only buys games to make me try them. Not to play himself.

Angry Birds HD gives players a great view of the stages using the iPad's expansive screen ^^

What did you think of the game the first time you played it?

To begin with I tried to understand the rules of the game and how to control each of the birds….for example there are ones that you can explode or ones that can be split into three.

Did you think the game was fun at first?

It wasn’t that fun while I was trying to learn about the gameplay.  Later it was good.  The story was interesting at first.

So was it the storyline or the gameplay that made you want to keep playing the game?

More the gameplay. The storyline isn’t that good – after a while I started to wonder….I mean, would some pigs steal the eggs of birds?

Pigs observing other Pigs in tiny UFOs. Only top conspiracy theorists would see this as cutting realism ^^

What did you find compelling about the gameplay?

Its very simple, just throwing the bird. The complicated and interesting part is working out the tactic to pass each level.

Did your interest in Angry Birds start to grow over time?

Yes, because I was discovering new and different types of birds.  The missions get more complicated, so you start having to get more dedicated and try and try again .

During the month since you started have you been playing a lot?

Yes, Angry Birds is the main game that I have been playing.

The yellow birds are the Theo Walcotts of Angry Birds.

How often do you play and how long per session?

I played every time I was at my boyfriend’s flat or when I was at his parents house and he had his iPad with him.  Sometimes I only had time to play for 5 minutes but if there was nothing else to do I could play between 30mins or 1hour per session.

What did you try to accomplish during each Angry Birds session?

Trying to complete the stages in order – but if I got stuck on one stage I went on to another category for a bit so I didn’t get too frustrated.

Did you get addicted to the game?

Of course.  I want to complete each stage and see the next one.  When I see a new stage I have to pass it as I am a stubborn person!

The Pigs like to erect more and more complex fortifications to defend themselves ^^

Did you try to get the 3-star rating on each stage?

Sometimes I tried, but mainly I just wanted to pass the stage quick as I could and see the next one.

Did you develop any feelings about the Birds themselves?

My favourite is the big red one because he can destroy a lot and he is so fat.

Gischie prefers the big-fat-red bird ^^

So did the birds have much personality to you?

Actually the pigs have more! Such as when you finish a level – they smile at you like you are a loser!

So did defeating the pigs give you extra motivation to try to complete the game?

Yes.

Do you think Angry Birds has enough stages/levels?

There is a lot.  But I am looking forward to other stages being released. We got the Mighty Eagle pack at Xmas, that was something new.

So you haven’t had enough of Angry Birds yet?

No.

What is it that keeps up coming back?

I enjoy finding more solutions. Solving the puzzle of each stage.

What did you think about the Mighty Eagle upgrade?

It’s just a way to skip a stage if you are really stuck.  I dont think it should be allowed.

Gischie wants the Mighty Eagle BANNED! ^^

Do you have any ideas for how to make Angry Birds even better?

I’d introduce a new type of bird or maybe some new types of pig.

Do you have a message you’d like to deliver to the developers?

Can you the make pigs less mean?

In what way?

Make them more smile-y and cute looking.

Why would you want the enemy to be cuter?

It would make it less frustrating when I can’t kill them!

Gischie - She likes Angry Birds and she's a Wenger fan - #bestgirlintheworld

That’s it for this week’s interview.  If you would like to be interviewed by Leady247 just let me know in the comments box ^^

Leady247 ^^

Friday morning’s review of the last Friday night’s beer – Leffe Blonde (canned version)

Of all the beers I saw during my first trip to Brussels (spring 2010)  it was the canned Leffe Blondes that left the lasting impression.

The thought of that bespoke, classy, thick, abbey ale encased in the convenience of can was something of a conceit. However the pic I snapped of a fridge packed full of shining bronze cans remained frequently oogled on my phone long after I returned to the UK. My longing to try a Leffe Blonde from a can grew with each passing month….

The picture I took in Brussels (the cans are actually a lot cheaper in Avignon Auchan - just €1.7)

It was not until this year’s Xmas trip with my girlfriend to her home town of Avignon that I finally got my mouth on a can of Leffe…

During a trip to a local pet-shop to assess the French Poms-Poms and Bubble-Eyes we were lucky enough divert to a large Auchan to peruse the beer section. My girlfriend’s Dad is obviously a fan of the blog as he bought me two cans of Leffe Blonde and another gift that will be profiled in an upcoming post. Much love to him for that ^^

Leaving Auchan having pocketed the bronze treasure ^^

We enjoyed the first can back at home however this article pertains to the can I enjoyed on the on the way back to the UK via TGV on the last day of 2010.

A quick aside about the TGV – the orange TGV was always the train I dreamed about adding to my model train-set as a kid. It was a mythical, futuristic, orange beast of train and I would still love a ride on one.

You can stick your Shinkansens - this is the coolest train ever ^^

These days the old generation of TGV is still in service but unfortinately they have been repainted blue and grey which makes them look very mundane. I did see one of the classic orange models once at Gare de Lyon in 2009 but unfortunately it was not the train we were riding on.

Back to the beer (sort of)…what made this can of Leffe superb was that it was drunk at around 12 noon on the TGV accompanied by two home-made ham sandwiches and a pizza from the local pizzeria (thin-crust, cheesy, crispy, herb-y and an olive  in the middle OMFG!). This was definitely my best travelling lunch of the year.

Stuck on the TGV with a can of Leffe and Plants vs Zombies HD...ahhh when life conspires to reward us ^^

As my Belgian friend had explained a few weeks previously: Leffe has the most professional and effective marketing of any of the ‘Abbey Beers’ as they are backed by the massive InBev brewery.

I guess this is the reason why Leffe has the canned option – it’s easier for retailers to stock, cheaper to produce/package/distribute and there are scales of economy (InBev also can Stella and others beers as well).

There’s an open question of what canning it says about the Leffe brand going forward though…?

What I can confirm is that the taste of the canned Leffe is pretty much as good as the bottled variety – it’s got that same deliciously thick, smooth, syrupy taste.  Obviously its feels a little cheaper and it’s a lot harder to get a nose full of the aroma through the tiny whole in the can. Also, it lacks the spectacle and theatre of pouring Leffe from the bottle. However for a perfect travelling picnic on the TGV I don’t think you can do much than a can of Leffe! Let’s hope they bring them to the UK soon.

Leady 247 ^^

(PS. If you haven’t got it already please try out Plants vs Zombies now it’s one of the best games every made. Graphics and music are simply fabulous and gameplay is FROM THE GODS).

Lambda-Class Imperial Shuttle Review

I thought I would start a new section of the blog detailing one of the other areas of my life that is excellent: Lego Star Wars.

I have been lucky enough to get some awesome Lego Star Wars sets for Xmas and Birthday presents over the years from my awesome family and gf ^^.

Recently Lego Star Wars sets have been getting better and better with tons more detail, accuracy and the trademark Lego tongue-in-cheek humour. What I really like is the way Lego distil the identity of the Star Wars vehicles into playful features – Darth’s meditation chamber in the Star Destroyer for example. (If you are interested in Lego Star Wars at all you have to check out the DK Official Visual Dictionary – it really shows the improvements Lego have made over the years and the great variety of sets in superb detail).

Anyway, this year I got what I have to say is one of the classiest sets I have ever seen: the Lambda-Class Imperial Shuttle .

Star Wars fans will know that this is one of most elegant and cool ships in the original trilogy – carrying the Rebel assault-team down to the Endor moon and ferrying Darth, Luke and Palpatine about.

My completed Lambda-Class Shuttle ^^ Very beautiful!

As an Ultimate Collector Series product the Lamda-Class Shuttle is designed more for authentic looks and perfect scale to Lego mini-figures than for being something to play around with. What this means is that once built the Shuttle looks fantastic but is extremely heavy and fragile.

When you finally have it built and set-up on it’s stand (or it’s landing gear) you’re best advised to leave the ‘Lambda’ be and admire it from a afar.

The wings can be positioned either down for flying or up for landing ^^

Although the set does not contain as many pieces as the Death Star (3.8k vs 2.5k) from my experience it’s far more time-consuming and demanding to build.

It took my girlfriend and I about 1.5days one-and-off to build the Death Star but the Lambda-Class was definitely well over 2days.

Also – the Lambda-Shuttle requires a lot of detailed Lego-Technic work on the gearing system which raises and lowers its wings. I managed to build half of the gears backwards and only noticed when the central structure was almost complete.  This caused a time-consuming and frustrating taking-apart-then-rebuilding process which took around 2 hours.  (I had been drinking but not that much….it might be good if the user manual asked you to test out the gearing before you go ahead and build up the structure around it).

Winding the little handles raises and lowers the wings. Be carefully when you build up the gearing system!

Once the set is constructed though it looks excellent. The white-colouring which seems a bit odd at first works much better when the Shuttle is fully built and is pretty close to what you see in the movies – certainly it’s a lot more striking than if Lego had made it in grey bricks.

Lego definitely made a good decision going for the white bricks ^^

What I really like about the Lambda-Class shuttle set it is that it is almost perfectly to scale with the mini-figures. While sets like the Death Star make up for the lack of scale accuracy with loads of playful features and move-scene recreations there is something just so ‘right’ about the Shuttle – I am sure it will be a hit with fans.

You can see the scaling of the Shuttle is much more accurate than the Star Destroyer or Death Star

My only real gripe with the actual looks/features of the Shuttle is that the canopy pivots upwards for access rather than having lowering ramp as we see in Return of the Jedi. I know that it would have been hard to include a functional ramp but you would think that Lego could have included something – even if only for show.

Unfortunately your Emperor Palpatine will not be descending the Shuttle's ramp ala ROTJ 😦

The ramp issue is a small one really though – mostly you will have the Shuttle displayed on the stand with the cockpit closed anyway.

Obi-Wan and C3PO off an another day trip to Endor ^^

Mini-figures wise you get Darth, Luke, Imperial Officer, Imperial Pilot and a Stormtrooper. Clearly you are supposed to be re-creating the scene on the forest moon where Luke turns himself over to the Imperials and Vader.

I have to say I would have preferred to have Palpatine along with an adviser, a stormtrooper and 2 Imperial Guards. This is because most Lego collectors will have a lot of Luke and Darth mini-figs already and I would say that Palpatine’s ‘inspection’ of the Death Star II is the more iconic scene featuring the Lambda-Class Shuttle.

Palpatine checks in on Darth and Tarkin's progress on the Death Star ^^

If you want to see some more in-depth content on the Lambda-Class Shuttle set check out this video of the designer (omg – how cool are the people that work for Lego!):

Also an in-depth video review here:

Just enough time left to say thanks to my sister for taking the ace shots of my Shuttle and my girlfriend for helping me build it.

Leady247 ^^

Back to work tomorrow -_-

2010 in review

The stats helper monkeys at WordPress.com mulled over how this blog did in 2010, and here’s a high level summary of its overall blog health:

Healthy blog!

The Blog-Health-o-Meter™ reads Wow.

Crunchy numbers

Featured image

A Boeing 747-400 passenger jet can hold 416 passengers. This blog was viewed about 1,400 times in 2010. That’s about 3 full 747s.

In 2010, there were 15 new posts, not bad for the first year! There were 50 pictures uploaded, taking up a total of 5mb. That’s about 4 pictures per month.

The busiest day of the year was December 2nd with 249 views. The most popular post that day was What makes a Musou? – Part 1 (Introduction).

Where did they come from?

The top referring sites in 2010 were facebook.com, twitter.com, inspchin.wordpress.com, refzip.com, and touch.facebook.com.

Some visitors came searching, mostly for achilles dead in troy, gundam musou 3, leady247, leady 247, and war elephant games.

Attractions in 2010

These are the posts and pages that got the most views in 2010.

1

What makes a Musou? – Part 1 (Introduction) December 2010
14 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

2

WARRIORS: LEGENDS OF TROY – MCM MEMORABILIA NOV ’10 ACHILLES COMBAT DEMO IMPRESSIONS November 2010
4 comments and 2 Likes on WordPress.com

3

Musou to Me part 1 – The Gischie Interview December 2010
11 comments and 2 Likes on WordPress.com

4

WARRIORS: LEGENDS OF TROY – MCM MEMORABILIA NOV ’10 ACHILLES COMBOS November 2010
2 comments

5

Leady247 Gamer Interviews! – Tumbledrop with Gischie December 2010
4 comments and 1 Like on WordPress.com,

Friday morning’s review of the last Saturday night’s beer – Leffe Triple

Time for one last belated beer blog of the year and it’s a great way to round things off : that most special of Leffes the ‘Leffe Triple’.

The Leffe Triple seal in all it's glory

As readers of my Leffe Neuf post will know, I was lucky enough to go to Brussels on business a few weeks back. At the end of the trip I managed to pick up a couple of Leffe variants not available in the UK and bring them safely home on the Eurostar.

The Leffe Triple will always have a special place in my heart as it was the last beer I drank on my first trip to Brussels with my girlfriend. We sat outside at a bar near the centre of the city and watched the South Korea vs Nigeria World Cup match with a few beers, a cheese plate and some pommes frites (yes, I have a very understanding and awesome gf!). It was a great afternoon.

Leffe Triple is another strong Belgian beer.  It has the most beautifuly thunderous burnished chestnut-red colouring out there. It always seems to pour with a perfect 1/2 inch head as well. Purrty!!

The back of the bottle reads:

‘Brewed in Belgium according to the traditional recipe of the monks of the Abbey of Leffe. Slightly cloudy through re-fermentation and aromatised with spices.’

(The fact that Leffe Triple has English wording on the back of the bottle whereas Leffe Neuf does not  suggests that we may see Triple imported officially to the UK in future?)

The ‘Triple’ in the title presumably refers to the bottle conditioned fermentation process. This is where the beer is re-seeded with yeast while in the bottle – allowing extra brewing of carbohydrates to alcohol (I may well be wrong or not-quite-right on this so if anyone knows better then let me know…).

Leffe Triple looking proper tasty !

Looking back on my notes on the taste from last weekend I noted the Triple had ‘great smell’ and a ‘metalic-edge’ to the taste whilst being both ‘bubbly, yeasty’ & ‘sharp’.

It maybe that I was pretty drunk at the point of writing this as I also noted that it ‘felt great, warms the blood’ and was ‘better than the Neuf’. My real recollection was that it as a delicious, thick ale that was pretty much prefect ^^.

Well that’s it for beer reviews for this year. It’s been emotional!

Next year, as well as the usual morning after reviews, I will be taking some advice from the Trappist Monks referenced in my last post and adding some cheese to the mix (I will draft in my girlfriends cheese tasting skills here). Lets find the best cheese and ale combos around in the UK!

MERRY XMAS EVERYONE – Leady247 ^^

Review – Dragon of the Three Kingdoms – Battle Naman Barbarians

Dragon of the Three Kingdoms – Battle Naman Barbarians

Key Info

Developer: WaGames
Format: iOS
Price: £0.59p
Languages: English or Chinese Text
Play Time: 3-4rs
Completion Rate: 48%

(Disclaimer: There are not many official screens for this game so I had to take many of the ones in this review myself using my blackberry so they are a bit blurry but I thought they still looked ok.)

The Dragon that Piqued my Interest

Dragon of Three Kingdoms (Dot3K) is a iPhone/Pad game that was interesting to me for two reasons: it was Three Kingdoms based as well as being what looked like a 2D side-scrolling beat ‘em up which is one of my favourite gaming genres.

A Three Kingdoms side-scroller...? Sounds good!

The developer – WaGames  – describes the game as an ‘Action RPG’ but I would say it is more like an mini 2D Musou game. That sounds pretty good right? However at £0.59 or $0.99 you very much get what you pay for and production values are sorely lacking.  In many ways Dot3K feels like a rush release of a small chunk of what was perhaps a much larger 2D Three Kingdoms based project (we can dream…).

What’s it all about?

Let’s start with the Story-Line: The game consists of 6-stages that tell the story of the titular Dragon of the Three Kingdoms: Shu knight Zhao Yun – as he assaults the Southern Naman Kingdom on China.

Its's Zhao Yun with a sword..(coming soon to DW7!)

Players of Dynasty Warriors will recognise Three Kingdoms characters such as Shu’s strategist Zhuge Liang, fire & bomberang babe Zhu Rong (here Chu Rong) and her husband and Naman commander Meng Huo.

The Dot3K version of Zhu Rong...not too bad I think.

Each stage begins with Zhao Yun receiving a briefing from Zhuge Liang on his mission.   The Little Dragon then proceeds to plow through battlefields populated by the same 3 or 4 enemy  grunt variations before reaching a boss character.  After defeating the boss it’s time to take the loot, hit the shops to power-up and then it’s on to another stage.  Sound familiar?

The likenesses of each the major characters are pretty close to their Dynasty Warriors counterparts.  I think Zhao Yun looks particularly cool here and I particularly like the way he carries his sword Chinese style with the hilt facing forward. Big-time Zhao Yun fans may be unhappy he is not equipped with his famous spear but I believe if they try the game they will be very happy with their fav character’s portrayal overall – he is still the dashing, agile hero in blue and silver we all expect!

Zhuge Liang and Zhao Yun appear in another exciting cut-scene, you can cut the tension with a knife -_-

Controlling the Mini-Musou

It is clear that WaGames looked closely at the Musou template during the creation of Dot3K. Alot of the hall-marks of the Musou formula are present and correct here.

Combat is a hit-point based affair – enemy characters have the iconic red energy bar above their heads ready for your slashes to whittle down.  Stronger enemies have more hit-points and the way to over-come them is 70% levelling-up and item equipping to achieve better statistics, 20% player skill and 10% luck (non-existent AI means you never know when an enemy will get trapped behind a wall etc).

After some chatting much slashing ensues...

The actual slashing mechanic reminds me a little of Golden Axe in that it is a standard combo that builds through continued strikes to the enemy – even the sound effect is quite similar. You can also change the direction of the strikes during the combo.  The combo in Dot3K consists of a few slashes, a couple of hacks followed by a dragon-punch+sword type move that reminds me of Hayato in Marvel vs Capcom 2 or Star Gladiator.

The controls are mapped onto a touch-screen d-pad and buttons. I have to say they are layed out well, don’t let your fingers get in the way of the action and are responsive – thumbs up to WaGames for this implementation.

While the animation is nicely satisfying and the controls are decent, Dot3K is very much a case of ‘renbu’-style brainless one-button-mashing combat. As with Dynasty Warriors when you equip a new and more powerful sword it alters the visual effects by adding elemental powers and sometimes the speed of the strikes but no new moves are added on top of the character’s basics.

There are six stages to 'renbu' your way through...

Any depth to the combat or is Zhao Yun just another pretty face?

Dot3K combat requires no real skill or tactics of the player other than reading some basic attack animation patterns and knowing when to break off attacks to avoid retaliation. As your speed statistic increases relative to the enemy you are able to circle around and attack from behind which is pretty effective.

There is also a rudimentary kill-chaining/combo-ing system in there but I was unable to tell if this had any effect on the game or was just something flashing up on screen for effect.

It's only really the boss/officer fights that demand any skill from the player.

The game also features a Musou bar under the player character’s life bar.  Once that is full the player can hit the ‘Fire’ icon to unleash a super (Musou) attack.  This consists of the exact same combo as your normal attack but accompanied by more flashy effects and does a hell of a lot more damage.  Hmmm…where have seen that before?

Players can equip one special ‘Flag’ skill which acts as a smart bomb.  Collect flags during the levels and once you reach a set amount you can trigger an area-of-affect attack which is perfect for clearing out a screen full of weaker enemies .  The flag skills I saw were a volley of arrows (4-flags consumed) or a flaming volley of arrows (7-flags consumed) etc.  This reminded me a little of Golden Axe’s magic potion based special attack system but has nothing like the visual charm or satisfaction.

There is nothing anywhere near this cool in Dot3K

Grinding out the Namans

As you would expect from a game based on the Musou formula Dot3K features a levelling system, items to collect and equipment to buy.

The levelling system is simple enough – killing enemies gives Zhoa Yun experience points and upon reaching a set amount of said points he levels-up and gets a stat boost.

Each of the 6 stages in the game are tagged for a specific character level.  So for example, the second level suggests you are level 10 before tackling it.  If you go in there at level 7  no matter how well you play you are not going to get far.

Musou fans - how many times have you levelled this guy up over the years?

Of course, as with a normal Musou game there is satisfaction to be had in trying a level and failing – then going away for a bit to level-up your character only to return and smash that level in!

Items can be collected from pots and crates in the level.  Items include power-ups (all of the usual Musou stuff: Meat Buns, armour-up, damage-up, Musou bar recovery etc.), money/treasure and the aforementioned flags.

The humble Meat-Bun. Loved by Warriors around the world!

At the end of the level money can be spent in the shop on better weapons and equipment to further boost the power of Lord Zhao Yun.

Other musou-inspired additions include mounts such as horses and elephants which work in a similar way to DW with standard attacks and a Musou charging-attack (again these were reminding me of the famous chicken-legs and dragons of Golden Axe in that they are powerful but hard to maneuver in a cramped 2D plane).

GORE! GORE! GORE!

(ed: apologies for the lack of screenshots in the next section.  I ran out! If the text gets to much just skip to the end and read the conclusion ^^)

So overall we have that fine Musou balance in place.  When everything is working well the game enables the player to feel empowered but also allows the enemies to present a decent threat providing a good amount of tension and excitement to the gameplay.

Those ‘Musou moments’ we all know and love – those last gasp Musou attacks that finish off an enemy crowd allowing you to escape or that desperate search for a single meat bun to stay alive are are all present and correct.

I also quite liked the way the Dot3K rewards you with extra lives if you stay alive for long enough – that’s a good reward for effective play.

But on the flipside – when the Dot3K loses that knife-edge balance it quickly falls into the trap of becoming a grinding treadmill. The player brainlessly killing identikit enemy after identikit enemy just to earn the experience points and money required to progress to the next stage.

As a gamer I am not anti-grinding but Dot3K does not offer enough goodies to keep you going.  Having only one playable character and not being able to have the promise of that next big unlock around the corner definitely sees Dot3K lose part of a true Koei Musou game’s ability to drag players through some monotonous periods of play.

(also of course Dot3K cannot offer the ‘Tactical Action’ side of Musou – without distractions such as the free-roaming maps, base invasions, troop flows etc. too much emphasis is placed on the combat and levelling system to carry the game.)

Lack of Variety

The thing that really cripples the game is a lack of variety inflicted by Dot3K’s obvious low production budget.  If you are going to build a game that asks the player to grind or re-play stages without offering any depth to the combat mechanics you need to have plenty of variety in the graphics, scenario/staging, unlockables/loot and stage set-pieces.

Dragon of the Three Kingdoms has minimal art-assets so one section of the level tends to look identical to another part.  Generally we only see one ‘gimmick’ on each level for example a river, rain-storm or ascending a mountain path.

As I did not play all of the game it is possible later levels add more variety but I doubt it. When you compare it to the detailed, surprise-filled designs of Golden Axe (we all remember the surprise of realising one of the levels was on the back of a giant eagle right?) there is clear lack of effort and inspiration.

This lack of visual flair and variety carries through to the character spirites themselves.  Each level has just 3 or 4 different grunt type enemies.  Generally you just have an archer, swordsman and spear-man though there are hints of sorcerers and other types later in the game.

In general only the bosses show any real flare or personality in their design (Chu Rong’s Dhalsim-style fire spitting attack is quite impressive for example).

It’s a shame there is not more variety as I actually quite like the quality of the sprite-work in the game and certainly Zhao Yun looks great standing still or in motion. Even blown up x2 on the iPad screen the characters have a decent chunky feel to them.  If only WaGames had more time and resource to pour into the game and could have brushed everything to Zhao Yun’s level  this would have been one superb looking 2D game.

In Conclusion

I can’t say that I did not enjoy playing Dragon of Three Kingdoms.  But the fun was mainly derived from the fact that I was playing a pretty satisfying version of Zhao Yun on a mission that I was already emotionally invested in from playing Musou games in the past.

I was motivated to see this new adaption of some of the Three Kingdoms visuals (the War Elephants here are pretty cool – I like the blood on their tusks) and interested to see just how far the developer would push for a true 2D Musou game.

I think without that level of curiosity around the subject matter it would be very hard to recommend this game as it is clearly sub-standard in game mechanics, production values and artistic direction  when compared with numerous games in both the ARPG and side-scrolling- beat ‘em up genre.

So for Three Kingdoms, Musou and expecially Zhao Yun fans I would say at 59p give this a go.

For everyone else, you can get Golden Axe and many other better games for the same price.

Overall Score: 3/10
Overall Score for Musou fans: 5/10
Overall Score for Zhao Yun fan-boys: 7/10

(If you want to know anything else about the game, just let me know in the comments box – Leady247)