Magazine Round-Up – March 2011

Edge, April 2011

Edge report from their visit to Team Ico in Japan this month, so I was hoping they’d have The Last Guardian on the cover. Instead they have a beseeched-looking knight from Dark Souls. Still, it’s total wall art kind of stuff. Reviews include: Dragon Age II, Bulletstorm, Pilotwings Resort, Nintendogs + Cats, The 3rd Birthday, MotorStorm Apocalypse, PixelJunk Shooter 2 and Yakuza 4.

Official PlayStation Magazine UK, April 2011

OPM also have a report on TLG for their April issue. Staff writer Joey Gregory also visited Rockstar to playtest LA Noire (very excited about this), and there’s stuff on Dead Island and Battlefield 3 too. And they’ve reviewed Crysis 2.

Wired UK, April 2011

Angry Birds on a creative business magazine? OK, fine. I’ll accept it. Rovio have conquered 99 per cent of the planet. In addition to their cover feature on app success, Wired have stories on LA Noire’s motion capture and how to get people to do what you want – we could all do with some of that, right?

Alex Rider and Me

It was the summer of 2002 when I first meet Alex Rider. I was on holiday in Grenada with my family and was enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of the Caribbean. When we weren’t at the beach, discovering the island’s rich history of nutmeg farming or generally lounging about, I found my attention hooked not by my Game Boy Pocket, but by the inaugural adventure of this teenage spy.

Alex Rider was created by British author Anthony Horowitz – whose work was a big influence in making me realise reading could actually be enjoyable when I was young. Beginning with the death of his uncle, 14-year-old Alex is soon embroiled in an MI6 operation to investigate Sayle Enterprise’s research facility in Cornwall. What followed was a mesmerising spy adventure that had me reading chapter after chapter, oblivious to the heat of the Caribbean Sun. It wasn’t just the adventure itself, however, I quickly warmed to Alex as character, and over these 10 years he’s become my closest literary hero.

The reason I identify with Alex is because I see some of him in me, but he is also someone I could never be and possesses qualities and skills I wish I had. He’s courageous, intelligent, athletic, streetwise, selfless, multilingual, a proficient martial artist, confident, witty, claim, friendly and loyal. And yet, he is manipulated by MI6 and all kinds of people throughout the series. He is living a frightening, brutal life and because of this I came to sympathise with him all the more. It makes him all the more human. He feels fear, anger, regret, love and hate. Characters in the books doubt him because of his age, and I’m sure real adults do too, but there’s so much more to Alex.

An author once said something to the effect of “there’s no friend like a good book,” (wish I could recall the exact quote) and I’d have to agree. When I’ve been on my way to the Lake District, waiting for my train at Victoria station, lounging on my bed in Nottingham trying to take my mind off work and countless other places, Alex and his adventures have been with me even when others have not. The books have never failed to keep my attention held even in the most disruptive of environments, and it all goes back to Alex’s character and the finesse with which Horowitz constructs his stories. Alex is relieved to return home to the grey clouds and red buses of London after a narrow escape in the south of France. You feel his exasperation as he desperately tries to convince Sabina, one of his few friends and perhaps something more, that the Royal & General is an MI6 cover, when the organisation refuses to help him. And you feel his vengefulness when he discovers the whereabouts of the shady organisation, Scorpia, that killed his father.

I genuinely care about Alex, and I felt this more prominently than ever on the afternoon I finished reading Scorpia, the fifth book which deals with Alex’s parents and past, for the first time. The entirety of the final chapter is a steady build up to a defiant act of revenge. Alex is shot in the chest by a sniper. I could feel the moment coming as I read. I began to hang on to each sentence as if cling to the final moments of a friend’s passing. With the last few words, “Alex Rider smiled and closed his eyes,” I closed the book. That was the last I assumed I’d hear of my silent friend, and it very nearly brought me to tears.

But, no. It seems Horowitz hadn’t been about to kill off Alex – not yet at least. Since Scorpia, Alex has return in another three books (to discover how he survived the shooting I encourage you to read Ark Angel), and now his ninth and final adventure is upon us. In Scorpia Rising, 15-year-old Alex faces the international crime syndicate once again. Ever since Scorpia, I’ve approach every Alex Rider book as if it’s my last. I’m tremendously excited to see how Horowitz closes Alex’s saga. Having first spotted the books in primary school, read them all through high school and college, this final book is arriving at a time of great change for me as I prepare to finish my degree and move onto a new phase in my life. Alex has been with me from my childhood to the end of my teenage years, and as another landmark transition approaches for me, I look forward to join him on his final adventure.

Simon Parkin’s collection of video game cover art

My fascination with video game cover art (or box art as it’s known overseas) began when I realised publishers released different covers for different regions of the global market.

And someone with a love and fascination of exotic cover art greater than I is the walking video game encyclopaedia Simon Parkin.

His Box Art blog is a scrapbook of video game cover art from across the globe. You’ll involuntary lose yourself for a few moments browsing this wonderful gallery of video game history, that shows that cultural differences are a very good thing.

Halo Web Machinima

During my research for a recent essay on alternative media I came across this very cool fan-made website which recreates Easter eggs from Halo 3: Forerunner Terminal Network Archives.

If you’ve not played Halo 3, towards the end of the game you arrive on a vast intergalactic megastructure known as the Ark, which was built by the Forerunners. Here you can find terminals which contain broken fragments of diary entries from the Forerunners final days.

This website puts them all in one place. Very handy if, like me, you can’t actually find all of them, let alone remember what each one says so you can follow the course of events. Props to the folks at

Making of Crash Bandicoot

The story behind something or someone continues to fascinate me. That’s why I value documentaries, post-mortems and retrospectives on all kinds of things, from classic albums to political movements.

When it comes to games, there’s a wealth of stories to be found. Edge run a Making of section every issue that provides an insightful look at the people and history behind semi-recent and far older games. GamesTM has a whole retro section dedicated to such tales, and their sister publication, Retro Gamer, is brimming with features and interviews about the creators of the games of yesteryear.

Founders of Naughty Dog, Jason Rubin and Andy Gavin, have written a detailed series of posts about the making of Crash Bandicoot, as we approach the original’s 15th anniversary later this year.

It’s thrilling to read about one of the core games of my youth from the creators’ perspectives. Crash was made at the time when optical disc technology was just beginning to hit its stride. Andy talks about the game’s conception as a “Sonic’s ass” type game, the advanced tech and lack of notable mascot that led them to sign Sony’s “mega-harsh” developer agreement, the game’s main creative contributors, who include Mark Cerny, and plenty more secrets besides.

You can read parts one to six on Naughty Dog’s blog, or head directly to Andy Gavin’s blog for the full making of with links to new sections.