Five Great TV Dramas To Watch This Summer

Here Emma D picks five of her favourite TV Dramas that she recommends you check out

Bittersweet Mondays: Weekly Webcomic

Confab presents the brand new Bittersweet Comics debut with the first of a weekly web-comic series.

Game Review: Serious Sam: The Second Encounter HD

Sam returns in a remake of the 2002 classic sequel, how does it stand up?

The Sexism of Horror Video Games

The history of sexism in video games is almost as old as games themselves, Emma D discusses the underlying sexism of the horror genre

Film Review: The Amazing Spider-Man

Spidey's latest outing hits the cinemas, does this reboot make a name for itself or is it just another cheap Hollywood cash-in?

Volunteer: A Career for the Unemployed

With high rates of unemployment across the globe, Charlotte explains why now is a great time for the jobless to volunteer!

Overrated: The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword

Claimed by many critics as 'The Best Zelda Ever!'. Long time Zelda fan Emma D argues why it didn't live up to the hype.

Friday, 25 November 2011

Gaming Feature: Saving - Nuances and Nuisances

To save or not to save?

Saving, it has been an integral part of gaming ever since it was first used. Rudimentary incarnations of it came in the form of passwords, where one would enter a series of characters to enter a specific point in the game. 

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Game Feature: A Retro Flashback of Gaming Greats

Do you remember...

Final Fantasy VII?

This game holds a very special place in my heart. As a kid, I can remember playing this on the PS1, not quite understanding it as well as I do now, and maybe not playing as well as I could now, but dammit, I had fun. If you ever played this game, maybe your experiences differed slightly, but however you played the game, Final Fantasy VII is hailed as one of the greatest games in the universe ever. Maybe. It's definitely highly acclaimed, but whether the previous title is true or not remains to be confirmed officially by the boys down at the lab.

The Final Fantasy games have always been pretty damn awesome, and are definitely a stand out series in the RPG genre of video games. The very first game was made as a last ditch effort of saving the studio from dying out, the 'final' fantasy game for them to make. Luckily for them it worked, and from there on we've had a nice load of newer games from the series. They aren't sequels as such, though the games all share similar ideas in their gameplay and story premise. In each game, you're gradually introduced to your characters, your world, its setting and basic story plot to begin with. But soon, things will take a turn for the worst, and the antagonists will be revealed. The stories in the Final Fantasy games are usually always an incredible journey throughout the respective worlds, and tell a beautiful, enchanting tale with plenty of twists and turns.

Final Fantasy VII's story is one that has always been my favourite of them all. The premise to begin with quickly throws you in the boots of Cloud Strife, a spikey haired mercenary hired by the 'terrorist organisation' A.V.A.L.A.N.C.H.E., who are planning to blow up one of the mako reactors, the stations that give electricity and power to the city of Midgar and the rest of the planet, a technological/medieval setting that the game is based around. A kind of early steampunk style, but not quite full blown. Seconds in from riding in on the train to the reactor, you're quickly thrown into your first battle of the game, two soldiers of the S.H.I.N.R.A. army, and organisation that runs the production of the plants and is essentially the rather shady government of the world. As you make your way through the groups of enemies you encounter, which include the soldiers, guard robots and flying parrots on patrol, you'll break into the reactor and head deep inside to plant a bomb and make your escape, with the presence of a descending timer nudging you towards the door threatening that dreadful 'Game Over' screen with every ticking second.

Soon after your escape from the exploding reactor, the leader of A.V.A.L.A.N.C.H.E., Barret, a hot headed, strong-willed fighter with a gun for one arm explains the situation they're in, and what they're trying to do. To sum it up, the Mako reactors are hurting the planet, and Barret fears that if they don't stop the energy being sucked from the Lifestream, the planet will die and everyone else on it will follow just as quickly. So that's your set up. If you haven't played this game before, I'm not going to throw out any spoilers here, because it's bloody fantastic, and it's a story you really have to experience.

Gameplay and graphics for the time were pretty cool. Obviously, this being a PS1 game, there isn't exactly HD graphics. FF7 was the first leap into using 3D styles in a Final Fantasy game, all the predecessors being in 2D, and it's not too shabby. Though the areas are pre-rendered, with the 3D character models etc layered on top, the art style is captivating and great to look at, each location brilliantly detailed. The graphics are a lot better in the fights however, a lot more detail put into both your heroes and the enemies they come across. The huge monsters you encounter can be rather scary when you first see them towering over your characters! The fighting system is brilliant, and in my opinion the best style used in the Final Fantasy games with the inclusion of the Materia system, which allows you to completely customise your characters abilities, magic powers and give boosts to their HP or MP. Certainly an innovation in the genre in my opinion, and I'm rather disappointed that it hasn't shown up in any of the newer titles.  Even when you begin to reach the ultimate climax to the story upon reaching the third disc, a whole new slew of things to do are unlocked and available to do. The Ruby and Emerald Weapons being a prime example of something that will haunt your dreams every night until you successful manage to smash the behemoths to pieces, a feat that isn't exactly easy.

Something I almost forgot to mention, which is absolutely mad of me, is the sensational soundtrack created by the legendary Nobuo Uematsu. This is definitely one of the best bunch of songs for a game I've ever heard. I actually have the whole 4 CDs or so of songs on my computer to listen to whenever I want. And I find myself sticking them on pretty regularly to be honest. It's a true testament to composition when I can hear the same melodies or themes when I'm stuck in a dungeon and never get sick of it, and I've been playing this game for a Long, long time. Each score fits the scene perfectly, and Uematsu does an excellent job of stirring up the atmosphere at the most intense of moments.

I could go on about this game for hours. The amount of hours I played it as a kid, when it was tragically taken away (or lost, I can't exactly remember...) I spent the years after always reminiscing about the story, the characters, everything I could remember. But as my memories faded of it, it became just that, a memory to me. Until I managed to pick up a copy of the game again around summer last year. Happy doesn't quite describe how I felt having a copy i my hands again. I'd started to worry on the way home that perhaps I'd just hyped it up in my head, having a happy childhood memory and building it up to be something it wasn't. And as well as that, technology has moved on a fair bit since the original Playstation. I had half expected to be a little disappointed with it, or for it to feel rather outdated in my hands and make me lose interest.

I can very firmly say that neither of those things happened. When I finally got my rickety old PS2 out from its retirement, playing through the opening scenes of the game got me so excited as everything slowly flooded back to me. And picking up the story again, and essentially learning it from scratch again, understanding the plot and sub plots better than I had as a younger child was simply awesome. I'm personally a little disappointed with the latest titles from Square Enix, and kind of wonder where it wrong, for me anyway, but at least I can always have this golden treasure in gaming to keep me knowing that video games really can be an excellent source of entertainment. Or something.

To round up, Final Fantasy VII is a game from my past that I freaking love. And I'm definitely not the only one. In my opinion, it's the best in the series, with the most satisfying story arc, most fascinating characters and a really immersive world. If you haven't played this game already, or at least heard of it, you're either too young to be on the Internet, or quite simply a fool. A fool I say! Go snap this up on eBay and play through a fantastic game that captured the hearts of millions.

- Andy Robison

Monday, 21 November 2011

Gaming feature: Hands on with Skyrim

I used to critique games until I took an arrow to the knee...

After the excruciatingly long wait, finally, the nine divines have blessed us with the gift of the fifth installment into the Elder Scrolls Series. Oh Talos, we thank ye for Skyrim and its amazing gameplay, huge, HUGE beautifully decorated open world and the captivating stories we learn about on our journey. Okay, so perhaps some would say I'm overreacting here, and whether you think I am or not, I don't care. If you played the predecessors to the highly anticipated 2011 release 'Skyrim' and you thought they were good, then I suggest you take a seat and... No, forget that, just go buy it. Don't even bother reading this!

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Gaming Feature: Freshly Ground Pokémon

Grinding - A tedious tale of repetitive leveling

Around the internet forums I usually frequent, there’s a specific season that goes around, every time a new entry in the series is released, the forums will have a tendency to become more interconnected than usual; I don't mean people taking a slight interest back in the game, it gets pretty hardcore there. Soon after, I guess I get swept in all the fun as well. Two important things were realized after restarting my journey to become the top trainer: the game is addicting, and there is grinding galore. The two main questions that would come to mind with novices would be, what is grinding in Pokémon, and what significance does grinding play in the overall scheme of the game? First of all, Pokémon, to those who may not know what it is, is an RPG where you catch, train, and even trade creatures in order to have them battle later. The answer to the second question is that the definition of grinding can only be called so under the following conditions:

• It's an incredibly repetitive action within the game
• The action itself is not the goal
• The action is incredibly cumbersome to perform

The grinding within Pokémon is viewed at two different levels. The first level of grinding is common in most RPGs, random battles. Battles constitute the backbone of Pokémon; random battles with wild Pokémon is a means to achieve your goal of winning the next battle by gaining the upper hand knocking out wild Pokémon. The second level of this is ironically, more socially based than the other, it involves the exploitation of the game's mechanics, which are Effort Values (EV's) and Individual Values (IVs).

To make Pokémon battle to the best of their ability, it is required to keep an eye on these factors at all times. Unfortunately, they're not available for display within the game and it's required to go on the internet and search how to best utilize these mechanics. In most cases this would be easy, but the fact that Pokémon is a very complex game in this sense, actually to the point where it seems a bit random, it takes a bit of luck to get what you want and incredible determination to achieve your goal. Of course there is a plethora of other things to keep track of, but for the sake of keeping things concise, I'll go into the most popular mechanics of the affair. There is no way to avoid this, unless the Pokémon end up failures in battle. This is the trade-off for such a time consuming task. On average, I used to take about 8-12 hours each day raising one or a throng of Pokémon, only to gain 20, maybe 30 levels on a good day.

From what was described, the game sounds shallow and incredibly boring, doing nothing but grinding for the sake of a battle, although, these games can be fun if you enjoy mathematics and manipulating numbers. But in conclusion, playing Pokémon is a great experience if you grind hard for your goal of a real battle; it seems weird, but thoroughly enjoyable for those of us who have time on their hands and a Nintendo DS in their pocket.

- Kevin Morrison

Game Feature: Australia fights for their video game rights

A fight against the censorship and lack of Australian adult video games

Australian gamers have been fighting a long and hard battle to try and secure an adult rating for video games. The highest rating games can be awarded, at this very moment is MA15+. This has lead to a lot of video games that should have been classified as an adult only game getting an MA rating, meaning teenagers are currently allowed to go out and buy these violent video games. 
Though that is not even the worst part...

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Band of the Day: Engraved Metal

Engraved Metal

AKA: Engraved
Genre: Heavy Metal
From: Turriff, Scotland
Performing since: 2008

Music Spotlight is a focus piece on various talented artists across the world, while any band may be featured it is usually smaller and less well known artists that get picked. This month's choice is a band featuring two of Confab's writers: Engraved

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Game Review: Dead Island

Tropical paradise. Now with more zombies!

Publisher: Deep Silver
Developer: Techland
Platforms: PlayStation 3/Xbox 360/PC
Genres: First-Person-Shooter/Horror
Release Date: September 9th 2011
Price: PC- £29.99 Xbox 360/PS3- £39.99 (RRP)

Ok, let me just say this straight off the bat, I'm a huge zombie nut. I don't know why, but there's something so strangely compelling about the idea of undead humans stumbling around and feasting on our soon-to-extinct bodies. Of course, what makes this situation so compelling is the idea of survival. The idea of living against the odds and being a true hero of mankind, or something like that. Unfortunately, I doubt this would be the case if a zombie apocalypse were to actually spring up on our planet, (It could just happen yet, just you wait!)

Music Review: Nickleback - Silver Side Up Album

Couldn't cut it as a poor man stealing, so I wrote this review instead...

Released: 11th September 2001
Genre: Alternative Metal/ Post Grunge/ Rock 
Tracks: 10
Price: £4-£11.99
Record Label: Roadrunner Records

For an album that has reached #1 in various countries including United Kingdom, Ireland and Canada you know there has to be something good about it. This was the third album published the the infamous Nickelback and according to some critics was what made them what they are today. Due to its popularity it has achieved Gold and Platinum status in many countries and has sold over 8 million albums worldwide. 

Friday, 4 November 2011

Competition Corner: Win Fun Games!

Competition Corner

Update: New game added: Gish! Plus 3 Microgames by the creators of Voxatron!

We have four sets of the Humble Voxatron Debut Bundle to give away.
That's four fantastic games for free!
For a chance to win three exciting games for your Windows, Mac or Linux computer just do the following steps:
  1. Go to this article and answer the poll on the page.
  2. Answer the question below:
 Which operating system users have the highest average price paid for the current humble bundle?: 
A) Mac B) Linux C) Windows

If you're not sure of the answer, check the stats: Here
E-mail your answer to:

This competition ends on 18th November 2011. Four winners will be chosen at random from the correct entries received, they will be contacted within 7 working days with their unique URL which will allow them to download the games free of charge. Multiple entries will be rejected. 

Take a look at some of Confab's other articles written by our various talented contributors:

Game Feature: Humble Bundles and Indie Trundles

 I'd buy that for a dollar!

The Humble Indie Bundles (Humble Bundles) are a series of bundled DRM-free multi-platform games, that were sold at a 'pay what you want' price point. The proceeds are split between the indie developers, two gaming related charities (Child's Play and EFF) and Humble Inc, which pays for the bandwidth and development of the promotion.

The first Humble Indie Bundle went on sale from May 4 through May 11, 2010 and included five games initially including: World of Goo, Aquaria and Gish.
The bundle went on to achieve more than US$1 million in sales within the week from approximately 116,000 donations.

The current bundle on offer is the Humble Voxatron Debut bundle which includes the alpha version of Voxatron, a 3D retro blended shooter and two other fantastic games: The Binding of Isaac and Blocks That Matter.

Have you bought a humble indie bundle before?
I've been gifted one.
Never heard of it.

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