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Content by Lisa Shea
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Reviews Written by
Lisa Shea "be the change you wish to see in the world"

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Offered by tabatubul
Price: CDN$ 39.99
19 used & new from CDN$ 1.61

4.0 out of 5 stars Not GTAVC, but a Fun Driving Game, June 27 2004
This review is from: Driv3r (Video Game)
Driv3r is an obvious offshoot of the blockbuster hit Grand Theft Auto - Vice City. Unlike Vice City's mythical city, Driv3r uses real life streets of Miami, Nice and Istanbul.
While this is obviously riding on the coattails of Vice City, it would of course be a mistake to want any other game to be exactly LIKE Vice City. Why would you buy it if it was an exact duplicate? Instead, Driv3r has you as Tanner, a FBI agent stationed in Miami, going through its real streets, getting sucked into a conspiracy.
The graphics are really pretty impressive. On one hand, you get a general person-model like in Vice City - reasonably good, not Splinter Cell high quality. The clouds overhead are quite nice, the shadows falling off your car and buildlings are quite impressive.
The car models, as you might expect coming from a car-driving game company, are quite spectacular. They're all "clones of" - no real car licenses here - but they're quite nice. Even better, if a car manages to blow up, the bits that go flying are quite recognizeable as well.
We found the default driving view a bit annoying - it's right "behind" the car so your car ends up blocking the view of what is ahead of you. We'd rather have a high-and-behind view that gives you a better look at what you're driving towards.
There are a few shooting missions and a ton of driving missions, again as you might expect. The cut-scenes and plot are all nice to move the plot along. The voice talent is impressive - Mickey Rourke, Iggy Pop, etc.
The sounds in general are quite well done. The engine sounds, squealing tires, ambient noise, soundtrack, all fit the mood. Again, this company has done driving games for many years. It's what you would expect.
There are definitely a few bugs in this game. We were driving our car in a convoy with other cops to get to a crime scene - and the cop behind us rear-ended us and drove us into a building. There are the usual random clipping problems that you get in games like these. Also, the game really expects most players to have to replay a given mission many times to get the timing down exactly right. If you make one small mistake, you miss your opportunity and lose the mission.
There are fun rewatch-the-cool-part options, making this like an action movie. Many items in your world are destructable, depending on the size of what you are driving. In a small car, you can take out the smaller light poles but not the larger ones. In a large truck, just about anything is game.
If you loved the driving aspects of Vice City, or other racing games in general, then Driv3r is probably a great game for you. In addition to the missions there is free driving options and mini-games to play with.
If, however, you really liked the sneak-around-and-shoot missions, you probably won't like this one. Your money would be better spent on other shooters on the market.
Still, I had great fun with this game, once I accepted that it was very perfectionist-minded and required great driving skill. The more you play, the better you get, the more fun you have!

Counter-Strike - Xbox
Counter-Strike - Xbox
Offered by It's Quality
Price: CDN$ 39.95
26 used & new from CDN$ 0.46

4.0 out of 5 stars Great Update to a Classic Game, June 26 2004
This review is from: Counter-Strike - Xbox (Video Game)
In an amazing sign of how metamorphic the gaming industry is, XBox Counterstrike is a console version of a PC mod of of HalfLife.
First, for those who have never heard of counterstrike, this was a user-created modification of the classic HalfLife game. Counterstrike pit counterterrorists against terrorists in a team vs team situation, moving through a variety of city, town and other landscapes.
As you might imagine, the graphics have been updated to take advantage of the great XBox engine. You get great rain and fog effects, as well as reasonably nice terrains. This isn't Splinter Cell, but it is far better than the original PC version.
The sounds are reasonably good too, with foodsteps, ambient noises, radio chatter and so on.
Players of counterstrike on the PC will immediately fall into play. The XBox controller is actually a benefit here.
Single player is great, with AI working quite well both with your teammates and your opponents. Where the game shines, of course, is in online multiplayer. XBox Live lets you take your skills and talents online against players around the world.
A great benefit is that you can easily play on the couch with your friends and family hanging out with you, instead of huddled around your computer monitor. This is a great thing for those all-night-long gaming sessions!
Sure, we play Counter Strike on the PC. But the servers are often laggy and full of cheaters. With the enhanced graphics and more stable servers of XBox Live, there's little reason to go back.

Soldner: Secret Wars
Soldner: Secret Wars

2.0 out of 5 stars Nice Idea - Poor Implementation, June 25 2004
This review is from: Soldner: Secret Wars (Video Game)
That's not a typo, the name of this game is actually Soldner. This first person shooter claims to have 2 million miles of terrain to explore.
The character creation is rather nice. There are amazing combinations of helmet, clothing, design, etc. to truly make a character that reflects your attitude. The chance of finding someone else just like you in the game is slim.
Game graphics are rather decent. There are various terrains, rain, snow, fog. There are buildings, forests, meadows. In addition, the terrain is deformable. You can shoot out the glass windows, blow up the buildings, knock down the trees. The buildings send up clouds of smoke as they fall.
On the downside, though, the graphics engine is very flaky. You can be driving along a road and POOF it'll vanish beneath your feet, only to reappear later on. It might temporarily turn at a 90 degree angle and then revert to its normal orientation.
Sound is reasonably good, with stirring battle music and sounds of gunshots and tanks seeming relatively realistic. There isn't much ambient sound to truly immerse you, though.
Single player is quest based, moving from task to task. You can take over tanks, jeeps and other vehicles along your road to glory.
In multiplayer, you're on a server with up to 32 people. Unfortunately the servers - including the patch server - seem to be randomly sick, making it hard to even try out the online gaming.
While this is a great concept, it doesn't seem to be quite fully implemented. The long load times, flaky graphics, and server issues keep adding 'speed bumps' in your enjoyment, which might ultimately cause you to just go play another game that works properly.

Dinotopia: The Sunstone Odyssey - GameCube
Dinotopia: The Sunstone Odyssey - GameCube
Offered by Nadeshico-JAPAN-CA
Price: CDN$ 49.60
5 used & new from CDN$ 7.78

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Fine for kids, but dated for most, June 18 2004
Fans of dinosaurs will enjoy romping around with your favorite T-Rexes and stegos. But for the rest of us, this platform-adventure is a bit dated.
The premise is pretty clunky. Twin boys, Drake and Jacob, are in their mid 20s and stranded on the dinosaur-filled island of Dinotopia. Their father loved dinosaurs and was recently killed by one. One boy hates dinosaurs and has joined the "outsiders". The other (i.e. you, the Good Son), swears to uphold his father's love of dinosaurs and become their guardian.
Through a series of pretty hokey quests, you are gathering apples finding "lost marbles", solving puzzles and so on as you gain experience. You get stronger and messenger birds bring you new skills along the way. Your brother doesn't seem to care for you much, as the gang he's with active plots to harm you.
The rich Scottish brogue that you and your brother speak adds strange atmosphere to a game that really needs it. The graphics are rather dated. You have chunky graphics including mouths that don't move during cinematics. The tree-houses look nice enough, but after a while going from non-opening door to non-opening door all painted with the same texture map gets a little monotonous. It's hard to keep track of where you've been.
The sound is also reasonably good but just not up to what you expect in a game. It's sort of modern-renaissance, a bland melody that rolls into the background. With the amazing quality of other soundtracks out there - where you download the songs to play when you're not playing the game - this one isn't very memorable.
I normally really love adventure games and platform games, and since I think dinosaurs are pretty neat I was expecting to enjoy this a lot. But it plodded along too slowly, and the quests and missions were just too over-scripted. I know adventure games are about quests. It's just the way they are. But somehow, other games make them excited. This game makes you roll your eyes.
Still, this can be fun for kids who love dinosaurs and want something simple and fun to play. There aren't guns, no blood. So it all depends on your age range!

Mandy Oxendine: A Novel
Mandy Oxendine: A Novel
by Charles Waddell Chesnutt
Edition: Hardcover
6 used & new from CDN$ 77.89

5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating information mulattos in the south, June 15 2004
I have an ancestor named Amanda / Mandy Oxendine, born 1823 Jackson Co TN. So I was really interested in reading this account, to learn more about what life as a mulatto was like back then.
In the story set in the mid-1800s, Mandy Oxendine is a fair skinned mulatto. She moves to Sandy Run, a village near Rosinville, North Carolina with her mom after being "abandoned" by her boyfriend for two years. Mandy's hope is to "pass as white" and live amongst the white folk in Rosinville, and maybe even marry a white man. Unfortunately for Mandy, along comes Tom Lowrey, her ex-boyfriend who is also mulatto but who chooses to be known as black. Mandy and Tom had grown up together in a small town in North Carolina about 75 miles from Sandy Run. It turns out Tom went up north for two years to be educated and become worthy of her love.
Tom takes on a job as teacher of the black school in Rosinville, to be near Mandy. He can't talk openly to Mandy because, in this town, whites and blacks do NOT mix. Even the train station had a waiting room for whites only. Still, he finds Mandy and professes his love. Mandy is torn between Tom and her new beau, Robert Utley. But Robert is engaged to another. The love triangle causes all sorts of problems which the book works through to resolve.
It's very interesting (and disturbing) to see just how much the whites looked down on someone for having even a drop of black blood in them. You were either "fully white" or "not white / bad". In one exchange, Mandy is walking with a female friend. The friend spies Tom and says, "Oh Mandy, who you reckon that is? It's the nigger teacher down at Sandy Run. He looks like a white man, dno't he, Mandy?" Mandy replies, "Niggers is niggers and looks don't make 'em white." The girl promptly responds, "My mammy won't let me speak to no niggers."
What's even more interesting about this exchange is that the girls are speaking poorly, while Tom is very well educated and speaks very well. His skin is very fair. But because he has some black ancestors somewhere in his past, he's "bad" and not worthy of speaking to.
It's very hard to read through the "black speech" spoken by the negros in the book, which you would assume to be a true and accurate representation of how they talked back then. For example, one passage reads, "I reckon you's a bawn fool, Primus McAdoo, dat's w'at I does, comin' 'roun' yere, 'sturbin' a 'oman w'en she's gittin' her braekfas'. Mars' Bob'll be yellin' heah d'reckly, and 'is brekfus' won' be ready, an' yo'll be fer ter blame." It really makes you wish for an audio book version, so you can just hear the speech, without having to try to decipher the text and imitate it.
Still, a great book for understanding the life of mulattos of the south!

The Low-Carb Barbecue Book: Over 200 Recipes for the Grill and Picnic Table
The Low-Carb Barbecue Book: Over 200 Recipes for the Grill and Picnic Table
by Dana Carpender
Edition: Paperback
35 used & new from CDN$ 0.29

5.0 out of 5 stars Great BBQ and Grilling for Low Carbers, June 4 2004
Dana Carpender has done it again with The Low-Carb Barbecue Book. I really have to say this is the book to have to create delicious, healthy summer foods!
Grilling is of course just about perfect low carb food - it involves fresh fish, fresh chicken, and lots of fresh vegetables. However, there are a few dishes in classic BBQ that are notoriously high carb, like potato salad and baked beans. Dana helps with everything.
There are of course the rubs and marinades, the instructions on grilling and BBQing (and how they differ). There are lots of great spice combos that can be helpful to new cooks, but are second-hand to experienced grillers.
Where the book really shines is in the side dishes and extras. The variety of mock-potato salad are great. There are various slaws and salads, plus a wide array of desserts.
The drinks section is fun but again, what low carb drinker doesn't know about mixing rum and diet coke? Is vodka plus sugar-free lemonade really worth a mention? I'd much rather have had those pages pointed at appetizers or more side dishes.
Still, summertime's parties and picnics will become much easier for low carbers who don't have to worry if something is OK to eat or not. By following the recipes in this book, you're sure to get a delicious dish that is truly low carb and healthy for you.
Highly recommended!

Full Spectrum Warrior
Full Spectrum Warrior
Offered by Christopherson Houstonipher Unusual Book Store
Price: CDN$ 19.99
27 used & new from CDN$ 0.01

5.0 out of 5 stars Amazing Strategy and Tactics for the Mature Gamer, June 4 2004
This review is from: Full Spectrum Warrior (Video Game)
Full Spectrum Warrior is an amazing squad-based strategy game that was developed by the military. It focusses on two squads protecting each other and taking out the enemy.
First off, this is a MATURE title. It is about violence and real-life soldier situations. While it is not a first person shooter - you aren't actually pulling the trigger - you are ordering soldiers into difficult situations. There is also heavy swearing in some situations.
For adult gamers, though, this is an AMAZING game. Each team has members with different personalities. The clothing, movementse and weaponry are all quite accurate. Probably the only real complaint is that the grenade from the M203 seems to have a little rocket in its tail given how it moves :) This was certainly a game the military had some feedback in.
The graphics are stellar, as you might expect on the XBox or PC. There are birds flying around and landing. Trees have leaves, buildings have porches. The sky has clouds and the grass has spots of dirt or moss. You really feel like you're moving through a real city and down real streets.
The audio is also very well done. You hear the boots running over concrete and dirt. The 'tutorial voice' sounds like it's coming in over a radio. The various soldiers have unique voices and attitudes. The weaponry all give accurate sounds as well.
The squad movements are extremely well done, with the soldiers acting like REAL well-trained soldiers. You don't have to tell them how to take cover or shoot - you move them from location to location and they take cover appropriately. It's very easy to get the hang of movements and actions - and a great mental challenge to strategize the best solution to a given mission.
You can do coop in XBox Live, but there's no way to do head to head. The point being that you are playing the Army here against terrorists - and the game doesn't give you the ability to be a terrorist. While that might annoy some people, it really is in keeping with the mission of the game. The game is about training soldiers who are street wise, but who understand how to safely move through an area, only taking out the "bad guys". There are even restrictions about not firing in religious areas and not leaving behind guns for innocent civilians to hurt themselves with. If the game let you "be" the terrorists and shoot the soldiers, it would send quite the wrong message.
Highly recommended for any military / strategy lover - but definitely a game for the mature gamers.

Screamers (Bilingual)
Screamers (Bilingual)
DVD ~ Peter Weller
Offered by 5A/30 Entertainment
Price: CDN$ 73.75
9 used & new from CDN$ 19.79

5.0 out of 5 stars A blade runner style investigation of humanity, May 31 2004
This review is from: Screamers (Bilingual) (DVD)
If you look at this movie as a version of "Aliens", you're missing most of the theme here. The movie isn't about "people fighting robots". It is how people initially create mindless devices to slay other humans. These devices grow on their own from spinning blades, to crawling lizards, to simple happy children, to "help me!" heart-string-tugging hurt soldiers, all the way up to Shakespeare-quoting men and real-love-feeling women.
When the robots reach that human-like point of development, they no longer simply focus on breeding and staying alive as a collective race. Now the ROBOTS start slaying each other for reasons that humans find all to understandable - love and personal desire.
Yes, there's the tension as you keep thinking "what will the NEXT robot look like". You begin to examine the actions of each character, wondering if he or she is a robot too. The line between "real human" and "mechanical device" becomes blurred. At one point Hendricksson grabs Jessica's hand and slices it open on purpose, to see if she really is human or a robot. She bleeds, and he apologizes profusely - leading to them falling in love. But of course the blood was fake - this was merely the next evolution in the robot progression. And it brings to mind the classic line, "If you prick us, do we not bleed?" (Shakespeare, Merchant of Venice, Act 3, Scene 1). Given the large number of other Shakespeare quotes in the movie, the symbolism was quite apt.
It was impressive that Hendricksson treats the people around him with casual disregard many times - but the robots are showing emotions. The humans are often brusque and untalkative - but the robots make insightful comments drawing from Shakespeare and other great thinkers. It is almost the robots who are the better race here - they have managed to wipe all the humans off the planet, evolved themselves to higher levels, and have their sights set on Planet Earth next. In that sense, Screamers is VERY much like Blade Runner, making us really think about how we would differ from intelligent robots - and if we would measure up. A movie to watch over many times.

Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow - Xbox
Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow - Xbox
38 used & new from CDN$ 0.31

5.0 out of 5 stars A Must Buy for Combat Fans, May 28 2004
Splinter Cell Pandora Tomorrow is the sequel to the award-winning XBox hit Splinter Cell. Once again the graphics are incredible, the storyline is immersive and the stealth is great.
If you haven't played the original Splinter Cell, I highly recommend you get it and play it first. The graphics were just jaw-dropping, with the way light played across active characters, and the use of night vision and thermal vision was crucial to completing missions.
This "Splinter Cell 2" builds on that previous knowledge. While the initial message begins with some tutorial-like messages, they really expect you to have familiarity with stealth behavior and what to watch for. It's not very far into mission 1 where things get tricky and you're interrogating enemies for knowledge, while skulking in shadows to avoid being seen.
The game is a wonderful change from all the shoot-em-up blasters out there. You are told to avoid confrontation, to get your mission done with a minimum of life loss. There are missions in buildings, missions by the water, mission with sunsets painting the sky. The range of worlds you work through is impressive. You truly feel like you are part of modern-day problems, finding solutions that really make a difference.
The sounds add to the quality of the game, with the water dripping, the footsteps and other subtle noises that can spell the difference between survival and failure. I do have to say that the stock "You stupid jerk, you've failed" messages get REALLY annoying if you've gotten stuck at a certain point and have to listen to them 10 or 15 times in a row ...
It can get frustrating sometimes for beginners to get the hang of stealth - but it's well worth it. You really feel a part of the game, watching for the shadows, listening intensely for the slightest sound. This isn't a game that you play with screaming kids in the other room and friends throwing popcorn across the table. It's a game that rightfully demands all of your attention, and rewards you well.
There's also a multiplayer component, which is great fun. Get together with your friends, or meet new friends from across the globe, and slink through the quiet shadows together. While the game itself is fun, it's always FAR more challenging and enjoyable to face off against other human targets. AI has come a long way in the past few years, but if you want a real challenge, it's the humans you want to pit yourself against.
Highly recommended for any combat fan!

PlayStation 2 USB Headset
PlayStation 2 USB Headset
4 used & new from CDN$ 22.95

4.0 out of 5 stars Great microphone for a reasonable price, May 28 2004
The Playstation 2 Headset Microphone by Logitech lets you talk with your online friends, play games with voice commands, and much more!
The Logitech unit has a leather-like padded earpiece on one ear and just a plastic part on the other side to hold the unit on your head. It's relative comfortable, although after an hour or two it can start to be sore. However, if you talk to any receptionist that wears headsets all day long, you'll realize that comfort costs money - if you really want a unit that you can wear all day, you need to pay the money for that kind of unit. This PS2 unit is only $30 or so, and doesn't really qualify.
There's a microphone part that does have an adjustable arm in the sense that you can bend it in and out, but it isn't "extendable", i.e. you can't make it longer or shorter. This might work well for someone with a typical sized head, but if your head happens to be larger or smaller, the microphone won't end up near your mouth.
Some versions of this unit come with a mute, while others don't. Ours doesn't have a mute but I really don't see this as important - any game you play with a microphone comes with some sort of a mute option. We are currently using this unit with Lifeline which is a single person adventure game, so mute really doesn't matter. Other PS2 games with microphones all handle voice issues well.
The unit is pretty sturdy and handles wear well. Like any piece of electronics, you get out of it what you put into it. If you fling it around and step on it, it's going to break. We've treated ours reasonably well, and it's held up quite well in return.
This microphone headset simply plugs into the USB port provided on any PS2 unit. The port is found beneath the regular controller port location.
A great unit if you play games that involve voice commands.

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