Picking up a copy of Pokemon Soul Silver has been on my To Do List for quite some time (because I totally have one). The price however hasn’t really budged since its release nearly 4 years ago. The price; ranging from £36 used to £110 new on Amazon, coupled with the fact that I still have Diamond and White to finish, meant that I haven’t felt justified in spending the money on it. But after a particularly expensive and bad day last week (my first fillings), I decided to treat myself. I was able to pick up a copy at a CEX store for just £30, far cheaper than what Amazon or ebay could offer me. With the excitement of a brand new Pokemon adventure laid out in front of me, I decided I wasn’t going to play it the way I’ve always played Pokemon.

Instead, I wanted a real challenge. Those familiar with the culture surrounding Pokemon will be aware of the Nuzlocke Challenge; a series of rules as laid out in a comic series of the same name, designed to make the challenge of Pokemon games that bit tougher. The rules that I will be following are:

  • Any Pokemon that faints is considered dead and will be released.
  • I may only catch the first Pokemon encountered in a new area.
  • If I white out, game over.
  • All Pokemon will be nicknamed.
  • No trading.
  • Battle Style: Set.
  • Starting Pokemon will be decided on the last digit of my trainer ID (1-3 Fire, 4-6 Grass, 7-9 Water, 0 my choice).

Along with these rules, I also can’t save before a fight and just reload it if a Pokemon faints, that would make all of the rules pretty pointless.


Over all the generations of the Pokemon games, I’ve always picked the fire starter. Before starting this challenge, I was actually hoping that I didn’t have to start with Cyndaquil as I finished Silver some years ago with Cyndaquil and I was hoping to experience a different start. Luckily, having an 8 at the end of my Trainer ID means that my first Pokemon will be the water starter, Totodile, which would be my prefered choice. Totodile and it’s evolutions learn a Dark and Ice move quite early on (level 13 for Bite and level 20/21 for Ice Fang). I named him Todd.

Heading west from New Bark Town to Cherrygrove City without any pokeballs and the threat of losing before I really started didn’t sit well with me. I spent some time grinding Pidgeys and Rattatas and popping back to the Professor’s Lab to heal to get Todd up to around level 8 or so. Rage and Water Gun were learned and things were going well. After running errands for what seemed forever (although it has nothing on Kingdom Hearts II) for the Professor and Mr Pokemon I was finally able to get my hands on my first pokeballs. Before I could use any though, I had to beat my Rival.. Rob. Todd was able to crush Rob’s Chikorita easily. I was free to continue my journey and I figured that since I wasn’t actually able to catch any pokemon until now, I allowed myself to head back through those first 2 routes and try and catch the first pokemon from each. Through Route 29 once again towards Cherrygrove and I encountered a level 3 Pidgey. Picking up a Flying type early was a high priority as grass and bug types are used widely by trainers in the early game. Having a type advantage against them would make my challenge that bit easier. My only concern was that having Todd so high in comparison to this Pidgey meant that it would just be one shotted. Using Todd’s lowest damaging attack Rage, he was able to wittle it down enough to be caught. Welcome Perty to the team.

The next Pokemon I encountered was a level 5 Kakuna along Route 30. I’m personally not keen on Bug/Poison type Pokemon, but at this stage, every Pokemon I can get is a bonus. With some low level tackling from Perty, Bumble joined the team, if only to be my Cut Pokemon until I find something better. Route 31 threw up a level 3 Weedle as my first encounter which I caught anyway but I forgot to give it a nickname (I’m so used to just spamming B at that point), so he’s now sitting in the PC. Once reaching Violet City and healing up, I decided to have a quick peak into Route 32 to see what Pokemon I would find. The first encounter was an Ekans, another poison type, which wasn’t what I was after but I decided to try and catch it anyway. Ekans’ poison sting was particularly annoying whilst trying to catch it and showed me just how difficult this challenge may well be. Becoming poisonsed or burnt could be one of the easiest ways to lose a member of my team. Swapping Perty out after doing enough damage so Todd could soak some of the damage whilst I tried to catch it meant that John joined our team.

1EditedIt turned out that before I could challenge the Gym Leader, I needed to conquer Sprout Tower, home of Gastlys and trainers with Bellsprouts. Things were going well, Perty had learned Gust, so I was pretty confident heading into the tower…


Pokemon X/Y

pokemon-x-y-logo-croppedOver 15 years ago, the first generation of Pokemon games arrived. Since then, they have evolved constantly, yet remaining faithful to that original formula. I remember vividly my trip to my local Woolworths store as a 9 year old boy with my brothers, to return to the family car with that large, red cartridge. Pure delight. To this day that memory is so evocative and real to me, it’s clear to see how dear this franchise is to people of my generation. Pokemon X/Y however doesn’t only just delight old fans like myself, it does plenty to bring in a new audience.

I'm on the road, from Vaniville City.

The game stays true to the winning formula. You’re a young boy or girl; coming of age, ready to go on an adventure. You are told to go and see the local Pokemon Professor; Professor Sycamore. As is the case, he has a selection of 3 Pokemon for you to choose from to start your journey with. Soon you’ll find yourself leaving the town to begin your journey, along with 4 other hand selected Pokemon trainers, each with their own ideas of what they want to get out of their journey.

The story continues along the same path as the many previous generations, guiding you and your new Pokemon from town to town, catching new Pokemon, accruing Gym badges and defeating an evil organisation along the way. In this generation, Team Flare is the enigmatic organisation that is trying to achieve their idealised future of the world. The story follows such a well beaten path, it could feel heavy and derivative. Fortunately however, Team Flare have very little input until quite late into the game and are actually a welcome distraction at that point, praise I could not give Pokemon White/Black’s Team Plasma.


Although there’s little to change the winning formula, there are still plenty of changes throughout. Most notably is the new art style. The 2D portaits are gone, and instead we are left with a beautiful 3D style that is so well executed that even the first generation Pokemon feel brand new (even if that means Mr Mime is the creepiest thing ever). Of the first generation, 111 of them have made their way into this latest installment, so there’s plenty there to get your nostalgia going. In total, there’s a whopping 454 Pokemon to catch. With such a huge amount of choice, it never feels like you absolutely MUST have certain Pokemon in your team to succeed. So long as you’re relatively sensible about your type choices, you really can pick your favourites and you’ll be okay for the main story. The new Fairy type doesn’t affect play all that much, and has only been added really to address the wide use of Dragon types in player battles.

The difficulty level of the main story of Pokemon X/Y is substantially lower than previous versions. During the main story, I never ‘whited out’ once from losing all of my Pokemon. The argument could be made that, 6 generations in, I probably don’t represent the average player. But the thing that made previous Pokemon games difficult was the constant grinding of levels in the long grass between Gyms. Although Exp. Share in previous games helped to an extent, the new Exp. Share almost completely eliminates any need for grinding. The new Exp. Share is a Key Item that you can toggle on and off and delivers Exp Points to your entire team. Couple that with fast rates of leveling, and the game can feel a bit of a push over at times.


Beyond the main game however, there is plenty to do. Since the introduction of breeding back in Gold/Silver, I’ve never felt comfortable enough to even attempt to understand the arcane workings of IVs. But the refinements made to the breeding system in X/Y have made it more accessible and the majority of my time played in the post game has been spent on breeding. It’s by far not at all necessary to do, but it’s compelling and rewarding enough to keep me doing laps around the major city to hatch my eggs. With a couple of extra legendaries to catch, some interesting quest chains, an endless Battle Maison and all of those mega evolution stones to get, breeding certainly isn’t the only thing to do in the post game. You could always Catch ‘Em All.

It stands as an extremely well polished RPG, and it would be very difficult for me to not recommend this game.  Not only is there enough in the way of new content and quality of life improvements to continue to please long term fans, the entire experience is accessible to newcomers, young and old. Pure delight.

Retro City Rampage


Although Retro City Rampage came out some time ago, I’ve only recently picked up a copy and found enough time to play it. It’s a game that’s very hard to describe because it almost doesn’t want to be a game. Instead, it’s a collection of pop culture references and frequent nods towards its ancestors in the video game world. For someone that’s been playing video games for the last 16 years (damn I felt old trying to work that out), I thought it would be right up my street.


The game looks very similar to the original Grand Theft Auto. I absolutely adored the original GTA. Saturday mornings in our house when my brothers and I were 8 or 9 years old, would regularly consist of connecting the home PC to the other PC we had laying about in our garage to play some GTA on LAN. Although you’d always pull the short straw and put up with the freezing cold of the outdoors, it was always worth it. We’d spend hours cooperatively piling as many cars as was possible down a single road and then blow one up to watch the chain reaction, over and over again. RCR’s deliberate graphical choice appeals to the 8-year-old in me, still wishing he was playing GTA in that cold garage.

Unfortunately, it’s similarities with GTA start and end at a cosmetic level. I never played GTA’s story mode and I made the same choice here. I did play the first few missions, but what I really wanted to do was cruise around the city, piling up cars. Thankfully, there is a free play mode that allows you to just mess about exploring the city.  The controls are simple enough, with the arrow keys being to move and WASD to shoot in the respective directions, but felt backwards to me after coming from 150 hours clocked on The Binding of Isaac. Changing them was simple enough, which is worth mentioning as so many games; especially console games, will restrict you from remapping your controls, which is frankly nothing short of laziness from the developers. I could now explore more comfortably, but with a map so small, I felt like I had seen almost every road within an hour.


The entire world is made up of references to other games and pop culture. The very first mission of the game has you storming a bank with The Jester who gradually kills off all of his henchmen. You then have to try and cross a busy road without being hit by moving vehicles, until you finally escape down a large green pipe. And this is ultimately my entire gripe with this game, it doesn’t have it’s own personality. Instead, it feels like a child jumping up and down and screaming “Look, look! Look at this thing I’m referencing! Oooo, and this!”. Within a normal game that wasn’t tipping its hat so much at other games it was getting serious burn marks along its skull, the odd reference and nod is usually met with a chuckle and a “Ohh, I see what you did there”. Finding Tuco’s teeth in the Sheriff’s office in RAGE was delightful. Walking passed a ‘SixBucks Coffee’ store, a shop called ‘Go Go Busters’ and a lottery shop with the sign ‘CONGLATURATION !!! A WINNER IS YOU!’ all down the same street, isn’t quite as delightful.


This is why I can’t even talk about the game seriously or even take it seriously, as it seems like the entire development of the game was a joke that got out of hand. The whole design of the game feels at odds with itself as well. The choice of the graphical direction was surely done to appeal to the nostalgia of people like myself. People who have grown up with video games as a major influence in their life and like the idea of an homage to the various worlds and landscapes that have helped shape who they are and what they play today. It’s such a shame however, that the execution feels adolescent and characterless.

Technic Diary – Part 1


Technic Launcher is a fantastic launcher for Minecraft and contains a large collection of mods, all selected and made to work well together. If you’ve been playing Minecraft from when it was in alpha and find the game a bit stale at this point, the Technic Launcher really adds a lot to the game. There are a few different ‘packs’ of mods to choose from once you start TL up. In the drop down box in the top left, you can choose from Technic, Tekkit and a few others. Technic is designed (and only works) in single player, whereas Tekkit is the cut down version of Technic, desgined so as to work in multiplayer. I’ve only ever played Tekkit in multiplayer; to the point where I’m quite comfortable with most of the additions, but Technic is new to me.

Tekkit not only adds more ores, it also adds various machines. These machines can perform various functions, such as the Macerator, used to double the amount of ingots you get from your ore. You can also add various pipes and pumps to get items to be moved between chests and machines. There are also various magical items added that you can use to allow you to fly, or take huge chunks out of the world to speed up mining. I could spend some time trying to list every feature of Tekkit, but it would never be complete. Technic adds even more, including new mobs and pets.


Before I started playing a Technic world, I made plans of what I’d hope to achieve within the first few hours of playing. Like vanilla Minecraft, you’ll spend your first moments punching trees and trying to get some stone. Luckily, the Technic pack includes a mod that will fell an entire tree if you take out the bottom log using an axe, so getting enough wood to begin with wasn’t too troubling. I tried to make sure I’d have enough wood to be able to build a reasonably sized house for my first night. All too often in Minecraft, I’d spend my first night locked in a dark small room made of dirt, or digging under my half finished lodgings looking for coal. Not this time.


The main outline of my house took shape and then it was just a case of building it up. I had plenty of wood, I wasn’t worried. Except night was coming and I’d once again tried to build too much on my first day. Despite my best efforts, I spent my first night in a dark hole under my base, desperately trying to find some coal. It took some time and some changing of the lighting setting before I found my first collection of coal. I was able to continue mining further and further down through the night not in complete darkness. It was quite a successful first mine. I collected enough coal, iron, tin and copper to allow me to complete some of my early ambitions for this world.


First thing after emerging in the morning I did was finish the house. I wasn’t prepared to spend another night forced underground. I then set off in search of rubber, one of the first Tekkit/Technic items you’ll be in need of. Rubber is required to make insulated copper cable, something that’s used extensively in a lot of the early machine recipes, but is also used to transport power between your machines.

A lot of the machines you’ll want to build to begin with require electricity. Electricity can be generated through various different sources, such as wind power, solar power and even nuclear power. To begin with though, the aptly named Generator will do. This will simply generate electricity from any coal you give it to burn. Because I’m familiar with these machines, I also wanted to add a BatBox to the side of the generator which can be used to store and hold electricity. This means I won’t have to worry about any excess power being lost or wasted as my BatBox will store it for later. I needed to get more tin, iron and rubber in order to build my first few machines.

I spent the daytime getting rubber and I spent the nights mining, finding strange new materials. I found various gem-like structures that turned out to be Vis Crystals. Even after reading the wiki page for these items, I still have no idea how to use them. They’ll be safe in my chests for now.


I began to feel confident in spending the nights in my house (even if there were zombies riding zombie horses outside) to smelt and craft enough materials to build a Macerator, Generator, BatBox and Electric Furnace. My Generator and BatBox went in small basement I dug out and would supply power to the undersides of my machines. The Macerator would be fed ore to it from a chest, turn the ore into dust (you get two pieces of Iron Dust per Iron Ore) and then the dust would be fed into the Electric Furnace to be smelt into ingots and then fed into a final chest to hold my ingots. It’s a system that works great. Until ogres smash your house to pieces.


Damn ogres. I couldn’t really bear to play anymore once my house and machines had been smashed into oblivion by a rampaging ogre. Usually you lose items or parts of your buildings through stupidity or not dealing with a creeper properly. But this time, there was nothing I did to contribute to this mess; and ultimately, time and effort wasted.

I think I might stick to Tekkit in the future, the version with less ogres.

Taylor Made

Here’s a link to my most current project. Please have a look and listen to our podcast 🙂


Fairly Impressive

Hello everyone! I’ve just started a new collaborative blog which you can find at http://fairlyimpressive.wordpress.com/

I’ll more than likely be posting anything new I have to say over there. So you know where to find me 🙂


Wow, 15 months of no posts, it really has been a long time. Quite a lot has happened to me since I last posted, so I’ll get that out of the way in this post before I do anymore about anything else. I’m now right at the tail end of my final year at university. With only 6 exams to go over the next 4 weeks, I’m very close to being done with university. It’s taken me 3 whole years at university to realise that Computer Science is probably not going to be my future career. I have no idea what I’m going to be doing career wise, but discovering something I will enjoy will be interesting. Despite not enjoying the course completely, I have learnt a lot in other regards over the last 3 years doing this course.

I also have started and finished my final year project for this course. We were given a choice of 40 or so possible projects and we had to submit a short list of projects we’d like to do. I was allocated creating a Sudoku Solver. The project started in September and finished in late March. I had to learn a fair amount over that time in order to create a solver that would implement the more advanced solving techniques. I also then ported my solver over to work on Android, another steep learning curve. Although I say I’ve not enjoyed my course, I still enjoy programming when I’m given a specific task. I’m pretty happy with how my project turned out and hope to get a good mark for it. Maybe I’ll go into detail about my program some time.

Another thing that’s changed over the last 15 months has been my weight. Anyone that knows me will tell you that this time last year, I was a very porky guy. In July last year I was at 255lbs. Enough was enough and I hit the gym and sorted my diet out. Nearly 10 months later, I’m now 191lbs (a loss of 64lbs) and a lot happier for it. I still have a little way to go (about 20lbs or so I reckon), but exercise is now a fairly large part of my life. This is something that I’ll be posting about for sure. I’m sick of reading articles online about weight loss being an impossible dream, or that you need some miracle product to make it happen. So hopefully my own personal experience and knowledge I have learnt over the last 10 months will  in some way help tip the balance towards sensible and sound advice.

I’ve also quit playing WoW. WoW was quite a big part of my life, but in September 2010, I stopped playing. I’ve had the odd month back on, but I am no way able to play like I used to. I can’t commit to being able to have 4 nights a week free for 3 hours. I just can’t have that level of commitment to a game anymore. I still however keep in touch with a few of the people from my brilliant guild. If  it wasn’t for the people in Inpakt, I doubt I would even have those odd months of re-actived subscription.

Anyway, it’s getting fairly late now and I need to be up and ready at a reasonable time tomorrow so that getting up for my exam on wednesday won’t be torture. Expect some more posts soon 🙂