Friday, 18 November 2011

Lego Harry Potter Eps 5-7 Review

We have been lucky enough to receive Lego Harry Potter, episodes 5-7 (Order of the Phoenix, Half-Blood Prince and Deathly Hallows) for the PS3 a few days before its release to review. The game is the 2nd instalment of the series and we weren't quite sure what to expect as we've never played a Lego style game before but this aspect was a truly pleasant surprise.

Lego Harry Potter is an action/adventure game. When we received it there was no rating showing on any of the sites selling the game. I believe it is rated for the 7+ age group and I think that's rightly deserved. The storyline follows the films exactly. My teen knew what was coming next, hence me having to take my 3 year old out of the room when the Dementors were about to attack in the tunnel in Ep. 5. as she was worried it might upset her. I have to say, it may have done but they were a lot cuter than in the film (I peeped around the corner) :) The whole look of the game seems to have the increased darkness and more mature theme, reflecting the films well. Don't be put off by that last sentence. There is also an excellent element of humour throughout the game. We both started to laugh the first time we saw Draco Malfoy boo and jibe Harry but it seems all of Slythein do this every time they see him! :)

The characters are instantly recognisable and the quirkiness of the Lego shapes makes them all huge fun to interract with - even the baddies. The worlds are beautifully built and you can explore areas from Hogwarts, where you can go to 16 magic classes to learn new spells, through to the Ministry of Magic. Diagon Alley is where you can upgrade your characters, change their outfits (Ron's blue pyjamas, Hermione's cardigan, etc) and collect up to 80 new characters, amongst other exciting things.

As well as moving around the areas, working your way through the storyline, you have the added element of the Lego. Different coloured blocks are all around you and you use them to assist you during the game. You can make them into a staircase to reach an upper level or a handle to work a lift. You can also decide to be destructive with your wand and fire it at the Lego in order to destroy it and collect the coins and special (gold) Lego pieces as you continue on your adventure. Also, specific characters can repair or work with certain coloured Lego which makes for another interesting twist. For example, only Arthur Weasley can repair muggle equipment such as cars. There are locked areas where you need the Weasley Sticky Trainers to explore them or master dark arts to open chests. There are lots of reasons to re-visit an area and you will not get bored doing so.

The wizarding is a challenge and you need to do a good bit of searching around. There is a lovely blend of the logic of a puzzle game and the fun of the magic. This is what I think makes the game special. All I can hear from the lounge at the moment is "Wow, legend" which I think translates from teen speak to 'I really like this' ;-)

There seems to be a save at the end of each area and this is an automatic action (with a Voldemort head to say it's saved).

The cut scenes are very good and I like the way the characters 'talk' without actually saying anything! I love the fun parts like Hermione falling into the freezing water and turning into a floating block of ice and the distractions like reading the newspaper. Small parts of the game that make you realise just how much thought has gone into it.

It is interesting to see how the game follows the films. For example, you cannot cast a spell at Dolores Umbridge in Hogwarts to dispose of her quickly before she makes all the students' lives a misery. Anything you fire at her simply goes around her. She is 'immune' until the right point in the game.

There doesn't appear to be much necessity for the lives that you have as you rarely tend to die or fall to your death whilst jumping or riding in the flying car. There are warp points on chimneys but not all areas have these so you often need to check for other methods of transport. We did find ourselves, at times, wondering aimlessly around an area trying to find an item or complete a puzzle. Often this was followed by us slapping our foreheads and saying "DOH" when we realised what we were supposed to do. So yes, this game can be a good challenge.

I would have to wait probably a few months to do a full review of each level and tell you how we found the game once it was completed but I would prefer you see it now. Depending which console you are using, the price varies from £14.99 - £34.99, the latter being the PS3. It may seem expensive but it is newly released and, to be honest, I think it's worth it. I'm sure given a few months it will be discounted via Amazon ;-) I can see much playing and entertainment value from this set of episodes. My teenage daughter is thoroughly enjoying it and has played a few areas now with no intention of stopping. I think that says a lot about the playability of the game and the fun she is having with working through the levels.

I would point out we have not played Lego Harry Potter 1-4 but I understand this was a little flawed from reviews I have seen of it. It seems any such issues were ironed well and truly out of this latest instalment.

Unfortunately we don't have two controllers but I understand that friends can drop in/out at any time in the game to join in the fun. I think I'll have to invest in another controller to test this out :)

Friday, 11 November 2011

Pass the bucket

We've all been ill. Well, everyone except baby who managed to avoid it, thank goodness!

It started last Wednesday. Toddler came home from school and was fine but slightly off her food and said she had a bit of a tummy ache. Calpol administered and I thought no more about it. She had some chilli for her dinner (which she loves) and then off to bed a bit later.

She wanted to sleep in her big sister's room as she had a bit of a cough (we've had this for about a week too), so off she went to bed. About 20 minutes later I heard a strange noise, followed by crying. I ran upstairs with hubby in hot pursuit and found toddler vomiting all over the duvet and herself. Poor little mite :( She was in a terrible state as she's never been sick before and couldn't understand what was happening. I gave her a cuddle and calmed her down and once she was done, hubby proceeded to clear up which involved rinsing everything in the bath. Yep, it was that nasty.

I instantly thought that perhaps there was something wrong with the mince I'd used in the chilli that I had made so once she was settled down back in her bedroom, I threw the whole batch away. Jez, had I given my baby girl food poisoning? I felt awful.

About 10 minutes later I was just going upstairs when the noise went again and she was being sick. I'd brought up a bin at that point so caught most of it but decided she wasn't going to be in her room that night so moved her mattress into our room and settled her there. I decided to stay with her and she feel asleep almost immediately. Hubby cleared up in her room (her little sister cried briefly whilst she was sick but went straight back to sleep).

The following day she had terrible diarrhoea so I was convinced then that it was something she had eaten. What sort of mummy was I that I had made my poor little girl so ill with my cooking :(

By the Friday she still ate almost nothing but was a bit brighter in herself but her tummy was still upset. We went off to collect her big sister from school in the afternoon and then headed home. All was well on the journey and we got home and I got dinner ready for toddler and her baby sister, and then said to my eldest that I felt a little bit sick. Perhaps I was just hungry?

Little ones in bed and I did dinner for teen and I. I had a few mouthfuls and felt awful. Sorry teen, have to leave you and go to bed, I feel very sick all of a sudden. Hubby home an hour later and he popped up to see me just as the sickness came to a peak. "Hello sweetie, how are you?" EUGHHHHHHH came the response as I was sick. Wave upon wave. I clearly was not my cooking and my chilli then as I'd had none of this. We were down with a bug!

Hubby was cleaner for the night again and eventually I went to sleep. Same upset tum the following morning as toddler had. Boy, this was rough. I slept nearly the whole day.

Sunday came and it was my birthday. Not much celebrating as you can imagine but I did feel a little better. Teen had felt unwell all day and had been sick but wasn't quite as bad as us. Hubby began to feel sick suddenly in the evening. Yep, 4 down. Only our 10 month old had escaped this - so far.

Monday came and hubby also had the upset tum from hell. Boy, this was some week coming up.

We were scared that baby would go down with the bug - which turned out to be Winter Vomiting Disease - so we sterilsed everything for her, not just bottles but spoons, bowls, etc.

A week after toddler first started, we're all through it but it's literally taken us one by one. It was fortunate that each adult got better before the next came down with it! At least we could look after each other :)

Baby didn't get it. We are pleased about that. My faith in my cooking is restored but I doubt that toddler will want chilli again for a while.

Friday, 4 November 2011

My hat...or not as it were

Why do I do it? I actually *believed* the weather forecast today when they said it would rain all day.

We had run out of bread and I fancied something other than eggs or beans on toast for lunch so decided to bite the bullet and nip quickly to our local Waitrose. Girls dressed, bundled up into their rain coats and into the car.

I put on my boots, not-rain coat (it's supposed to be but M&S clearly lied in the labelling and it's barely mild shower proof!) and no hat. Why no hat you ask? Well, hubby has bought me the loveliest Barber style hat (as you can see in the picture) for the winter for my birthday. My birthday is on Sunday. Today is Friday. Hence, no hat.

Now, realistically, I could have fetched my present down from atop the wardrobe and worn it. After all, I did buy it and may end up wrapping it. OK, so I won't wrap it as it's hardly a surprise. Hubby would have thought me sensible to wear my hat as it was tipping down with rain but I decided as I have not been 'formally' given it, I'll wait.

We arrived at the shop and I jumped out to try and erect the pushchair and get the rain cover onto it before it was too wet to put baby in. In the 2 minutes or so it took me to do this, I was soaked, yet again cursing my silly non-rain coat and chastising myself over my lack of brain cells to get the darn hat down from upstairs. Next I got the 3 year old out of the car and decided at that point I was unlikely to get any wetter. "Mummy, why don't you have a hood on your coat" she asks. Sensible question. "Because it's a silly coat" I reply. Sensible answer.

Shopping done with new 'drowned rat' hairdo and I'm about to brave the torrent when it stops, the sun comes out and that's it. Up until now (about 1pm) it's rained a minor shower and since then nothing, nada, zilch.

So, I chose the exact 10 minutes it was like a tropical storm (without the heat) to hit the shops. Never again will I believe the weather man. The bread can wait until the sun comes out next time! I only hope it's pouring on Sunday as I'll have a smashing, waterproof hat to wear then so my hair will be lovely and dry. Unfortunately, my body won't so I may ask hubby for a matching coat for Christmas.

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Natural & Clean Product Review

We were recently sent a selection of Natural & Clean's products for cleaning up after baby to try out. Natural & Clean offer environmentally friendly cleaning solutions for household and travel utilising (where possible) only 100% recycled, biodegradable products.

Our selection was aimed at babies and young children. It consisted of The Essential Baby Clean Up Kit (£10.99) which included absorbent granules that encapsulate the spillage to form a gel which can be scraped away with the card scraper provided; Spot Remover Wipes that are Woolsafe approved and remove any remaining marks from the spill; microbial spray deodoriser eliminates any lingering odours by neutralising them at their source and an anti-bacterial hand gel will disinfect and sanitise your hands. Our kit also included two large, yellow ‘clinical waste’ bags and a set of plastic gloves. We also received a large Bin Deodoriser (£3.99); Handy Spot Remover Wipes (£3.43) and Whoops-a-Daisy granules (£4.99).

At first glance, I did think that this was more suited to animals than children and could really see the benefit of some of the products for animal spills and messes. However, with an open mind, I decided to try out the products bearing in mind my own two little ones.

One of the first things I tried were the Spot Remover Wipes which come in a pack of 25. Being someone who usually reaches for a baby wipe when something hits the carpet, these were a good alternative. They managed to remove a fairly ground in mark on my dining room carpet with ease, despite not feeling at all ‘wet’ which you would expect. It took a little rubbing but nothing more than I would do with the aforesaid baby wipes. No odour afterwards and a clean spot of carpet (I will have to move furniture more often to see what’s appeared beneath it!). The wipes are a nice size but not overly large. One did this job well so overall I was pleased. However, if I am totally honest, I would not spend £3.43 on a pack of 25 wipes when I can buy Sainsburys own baby wipes quad pack at £3.80 for 320 wipes. They achieve exactly the same result but you may need two wipes to do it (yes, you probably read my article on baby wipes not just being for baby!).

The next product to try was the Bin Deodoriser which I really did like. The smell was not too strong and overpowering as some of these products can be it is both solvent and phosphate free. Just a few sprays and my swing bin was smelling sweet again. I would definitely buy this product again although I would not waste it on my wheelie bin!

The Essential Baby Clean Up Kit was something I decided to leave to try for an ‘out and about’ adventure. It has a nice fastening top and fits neatly under the pushchair or even in your carry bag (let’s face it, one more thing in baby’s bag isn’t going to matter a jot!). As some of you may know, as a family we go Geocaching quite a bit so having things like hand gel comes in quite, well, handy! Taking a baby and toddler caching can also mean potty stops and nappy changes so having a few appropriate bags is essential kit. I would not, however, user a huge, yellow ‘clinical waste’ bag for a nappy or potty liner. Also, I do wonder what a Local Authority would think of one of those placed into a litter bin? I am sure it would raise alarm bells for them as surely they would wonder what on earth was in it? A few ‘nappy bags’ would have been ideal as that’s what we currently use and we dispose of them either at home or, if we’re on a long walk, in a ‘doggy bin’ (let’s face it, nothing can be worse than dog poo so a little wet nappy probably fragrances those bins!). However, the clinical bag doesn’t appear to be part of the kit as detailed on Natural & Clean’s website so I am unsure as to why it ended up in ours.

The idea of the granules is good for keeping in the car. Having had my eldest be violently sick in the back once, I could have killed for something to absorb it better than all the tissues I had in my handbag. The deodoriser would have also been most welcome to save us freezing with the windows open all the way home. The spot remover would have failed on our vomit attack as I had to actually throw her booster seat away – yep, that was how bad it was.

The plastic gloves are an extra that isn’t worth including in a baby kit (yes for an animal one though) as any parent who can’t deal with wee/poo/vomit may as well give up with their children! The scraper could be useful in the case of a vomit attack but, again, more for a pet kit I suspect.

Overall there are some nice bits in the kit but a number of things I would change to make it more suitable for babies/small children. It did seem to me that the kit was essentially a pet one that had been slightly modified. As to whether I would pay £10.99 for it, I’m sorry but no, it's not for me at that cost. However, for people who are looking for a more environmentally friendly alternative, it may be just the thing.

If you are interested in the products mentioned or would like to find out more, you can follow Natural & Clean on Twitter or Facebook.

Update 3rd November - Unfortunately last night my 3 year old was violently sick. We therefore got a chance to try some of the other products. The granules were excellent at absorbing the sick on the bedroom carpet, the spot remover wipes helped clean up the mattress and had a pleasant smell and absorbtion to them and the spray deodoriser made the room fresh again with just a few little sprays. Overall, I was very, very pleased with the quality of these products as there is nothing worse than a room that smells of vomit. This morning, you would not know that she had been ill in the room.