Wednesday, 15 August 2018

#TheLastOfUs #LeftBehind mini review

I played The Last Of Us: Left Behind on PS4 a while after playing the main story, which I was completely besotted with, on PS3.

Firstly, it looks completely stunning. It definitely still has that sheen that comes with most games that have been given the PS4 HD treatment, but the environments, lighting and facial animations are all beautifully detailed. The clickers in this seemed less scary - they're more obvious and seem to move in less varied predetermined patterns, making them more predictable. I also found that they were more inclined to bite your face off, even if you were crouched down, not moving and being completely silent. Only a small niggle.

The story is set after an event in The Last Of Us that leaves Joal gravely injured, and sees Ellie making tracks to retrieve medical supplies to sort him out. She must navigate an abandoned mall searching for supplies whilst avoiding or tackling a hostile group of humans. More often, the encounters with humans feel more tense than those with the infected. It was great fun when being searched for by the humans to lob in a glass bottle and watch as the infected rushed in to sort them out for you.

In parallel to this, we are also treated to flashbacks to a time before Ellie met Joel where she meets an old friend Riley. They too explore an abandoned shopping mall and encounter infected in what becomes a really touching and emotional story between two friends. Their decision at the end is particularly moving and the whole story is really compelling.

The gameplay is much the same as The Last Of Us, sneaking around, crafting items and weapons and focusing your hearing to stake out enemies. There are also some QTEs, which didn't always work great for me. I recall once where an infected grabbed Ellie's leg and I was prompted to press square to kick it off. This didn't work for me until about the 5th attempt which was frustrating, and takes away somewhat from the tension of the chase...

The story is fairly short, too which at the PSN price of £7.99 isn't great, but luckily I was able to grab this in the summer sale for just £2.49. It's a real bargain and is really worth it for fans of the original to expand on an already engrossing, engaging and emotional story.

Highly recommended, and if I had to score only those small gameplay niggles would bring it down. 8/10.

Monday, 13 August 2018

Penderyn Whiskey Tour - Wales

As an avid Whiskey fan in an entirely non pretentious capacity - moving toward the realm of amateur-connoisseur should there be such a thing. Whiskey is my tipple of choice and Penderyn is one I have tried before and enjoyed a lot. I was rather happy when a recent trip to Wales meant I could do the factory tour of Penderyn and sample myself a few more varieties. The admission is reasonable but cheaper if you book online in advance.

The only other distillery tour I've done before was the Jameson tour in Dublin, Ireland. Not for better or worse the Jameson tour feels more polished and rehearsed; there is a quality to it that makes it feel like a museum experience in a similar vein to that of touring the Cadbury factory in Bourneville. The museum experience in Ireland is larger with more merchandise and a larger more touristy bar at the end of it. 

The Penderyn tour however is a much smaller affair; I felt the information around the distillery to be detailed but I didn't really get much time to read a lot. Most information is provided verbally, which would've been fine had it not been quite so loud in the factory. Though, our tour guide was extremely knowledgeable and friendly and quite happy to pretty much repeat everything when we'd moved to quieter location. Learning about how Penderyn differs from Scotch through use of a single copper-pot still rather than a 2 or 3 pot system, thus making it a Welsh whiskey rather than simple a Scotch made in Wales. 

I especially enjoyed learning about the finishing techniques to the whiskey, and how firstly the spirit is aged in a bourbon cask from the Buffalo Trace brand, and then finished of in a a cask from another drink, from Madeira to Sherry and Port casks. 

The tasting at the small bar at the end of the tour was excellent as well, with the guide able to provide everything Penderyn has to offer. 2 tokens are provided for 2 separate samples, else if you're driving you're able to take away with you a miniature bottle to enjoy later. 

Though I quickly used my two tokens on the samples I thought I'd purchase later from the obligatory gift shop I was quite sure, so the guide went above and beyond to allow me to try a few others including a limited edition bourbon cask Penderyn which I then did go on to purchase. We talked informally about the different merits of the alternative versions and how individuals enjoy their Whiskey's different. Although clearly knowledgeable, I never felt condescended to by the guide at all and he was clearly enjoying my enjoyment of the fine spirit. 

The gift shop at the end is well stocked with a variety of the Whiskey and other souvenirs. It's not cheap but not expensive either, most prices comparable with that online and as you'd expect some exclusive whiskeys not available on the shop shelves. I bought myself the limited edition bourbon casks Penderyn for £56 in a lovely box with a measuring cup for £6. 

All in all an excellent experience. I learned a lot about Welsh whiskey in a friendly fairly informal environment and genuinely really enjoyed myself. If you like whiskey or not, I still think it's an interesting thing to learn how something unique to Wales is made. 

#ThePortableDoor (J. W. Wells & Co. #1) by Tom Holt mini review

The story of Paul Carpenter attending a rather unusual interview in a rather unusual building for a rather unusual firm with some very unusual employees that eventually leads him to accept a post in a very unusual job as junior clerk for a company where everything is not quite as it seems...

If nothing else though, Paul is just glad to finally have some semblance of a job. Not only that, but serendipity has brought him into a job working alongside a girl from the interview he finds himself inexplicably falling for. Yet is it serendipity bringing these two unlikely people together, or is there some other worldly malevolence playing with Paul and Sophie's lives...

Things just keep getting stranger and stranger, and as one thing leads to another and the truth about the job and the firm Paul has joined slowly begin to make themselves apparent, our unlikely star finds himself solving a mysterious conspiracy within the company with help of the titular device; A Portable Door - a time and space travelling implement he finds mysteriously in his desk... And within a company such as J.W.Wells calling anything mysterious really is saying something...

A witty and bizarre tale where Tolkien meets Douglas Adams; plenty of geek here to keep fans of sci-fi and fantasy amused whilst also telling an interesting and funny story with a bizarre and eclectic mix of characters. The story is easy to digest and wholly original story about the mundane world of office jobs yet with a magical twist. I can definitely recommend this to fans of things like Douglas Adams or Doctor Who. Not too serious but a nice departure from the often overly serious fantasy genre.

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