Partnering with Tearfund

Battery converters

Price: Somewhere between 50p and £1 each depending on brand and pack size.

Comments: I'm forever re-charging batteries. Between the remotes for the Wii, a bunch of toy telephones, a couple of Leapsters, some torches, a handful of electronic cars, a talking Iggle Piggle and the flipping glow-in-the-dark baby which plays a tune every time Sproglette turns over in the night, I'm constantly tripping over little gizmos that are in need of portable electricity. There's always at least one that's running low on juice and announcing its imminent death with a long, low rendition of Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star which is painfully out of key.

This isn't a problem for the vast majority of items, since they run on AA batteries. With today's technology, I can have four more AAs super-charged in under an hour and the toy will be good to go for weeks.

The difficulty is with the stuff that needs bigger batteries. We only have four rechargeable C batteries in total and they take an entire day to charge. When Elefun runs out of steam, it's really rather a while before he's ready to play again. As for the things which runs on D batteries, we don't have any suitable rechargeables at all nor anything with which to recharge them even if we had.

I've been pondering buying some more big rechargeables and a suitable recharger for a while but could never face coughing up the cash. Then I discovered battery converters.

They're fantastic.

The converters are simply casings to house AA batteries to make them the right size to fit into slots for C and D batteries. Since AA batteries are the same voltage as C and D batteries, they work just as well. (My new AA rechargeables are higher capacity than my old C rechargeables, so they actually last longer.) The C converters are plastic tubes with an internal collar to hold an AA battery in place. The D converters have an extra metal cap on the end to make the converted battery long enough.

Now, whenever Elefun goes floppy or Sproglette accidentally leaves her lantern on overnight, she doesn't have to pull a sad face and wait until the weekend for me to have got round to sorting the situation. I can go straight to my stash of ready-charged AAs and have her toys working again in minutes. Hooray!

And no more D batteries for the landfill either. Double hooray!

Battery converters = elephant Viagra

Conclusion: Why didn't someone tell me about these before?

  • Cheap.
  • Simple.
  • No more lengthy recharging.
  • Means you're much more likely to have the right battery to hand.
  • Worryingly short of cons.
Rating: 5/5.

Stardust (DVD)

Starring: Claire Danes (the vet from Terminator 3), Charlie Cox, Michelle Pfeiffer, Robert De Niro, Sienna Miller & Ricky Gervais.

Rated: PG.

Story: In a small Victorian-esque town, Tristran (Cox) attempts to win the heart of the love of his life (Miller) by tracking down a fallen star and bringing back a piece. This leads him into the magical kingdom of Stormhold which is hiding through a gap in a dry-stone wall.

Before long, he's competing with evil witches, murderous princes and gender-confused pirates to claim the prize.

Comments: This is a great fairy tale for the whole family. There are some lessons on identity, ambition and dreams but the film never takes itself too seriously. Whimsical humour mixes with beautiful scenery, restrained special effects, decent action and a whole load of imagination.

Apart from a handful of minor imperfections, the film is superb from beginning to end. Claire Danes over-emotes on occasion in an annoying, head-bobbing kind of way. Also Tristran turns from zero to hero rather unconvincingly - it's too fast to be believable but not over-played enough to quite work as parody. Oh, and Ricky Gervais is in it. (Fortunately, he only turns up for a couple of scenes before coming to a sticky end but you'll still want to slap him.)

These niggles are only really apparent because the rest of the film is so fantastic, however. Go watch Stardust now.

Conclusion: Almost as good as a sequel to The Princess Bride.

Explosions: Only one but a host of other effects compensate.
Michelle Pfeiffer's make-up: Thick.
Suitable for the wife?: Definitely.
Suitable for the kids?: Probably. (Slapstick and magic will keep them entertained but under-fives will need a cuddle in the scary bits.)
Suitable for inhabitants of Ipswich?: Maybe... although they might take one bit a little personally...

Rating: 5/5.


Carcassonne box.

Cost: £15.

  • 60 cardboard tiles (roughly 4cm square) featuring combinations of sections of road, city and field.

  • 40 little wooden followers (8 blue, 8 yellow, 8 green, 8 red and 8 black).

  • A scoring chart.

  • 4-page rule booklet + summary sheet.

  • 12 optional river tiles.
Gameplay: On their turn, each player takes a randomly selected tile and places it next to a tile that has already been played. They must do this in such a way that roads, city sections and fields join up. They then have the option of placing one of their followers on a feature. Players gain points on completion of a road or city that their followers control. Followers on completed features get returned to their owners to use again.

Once all the tiles are placed, followers left on the board score points for the uncompleted features they control. Each completed city is also worth points to the player who has the most followers in fields ('farmers') with access to it.

There are a few extra complications such as the cloister tiles which score one point for every tile surrounding them but, in general, the rules aren't too complicated once you've seen the game in action. The only mildly difficult bit is scoring the farmers at the end of the game. There's plenty of strategy involved in deciding where to play tiles, however.

If the river tiles are used, they are all played at the start of the game, helping spread the game out a little.

Carcassonne contents.

Object: To finish the game with the most points.

Game length: Forty-five minutes to an hour.

Number of players: 2-4.

Age: Officially 8+. Children this age should be able to play unsupervised after they've had a couple of games to familiarise them with the rules. Younger children can join in but are unlikely to win without a little help and advice.

Close up of Carcassonne in play.

Comments: This is an excellent introduction to strategy games. It only requires moments to set up, isn't too complicated and takes a fairly predictable amount of time.

Although Carcassonne is competitive, it's not confrontational, so no one feels they're getting picked on and no one gets knocked out early. More than that, because a large proportion of the points aren't tallied until the game is finished, it always feels as if everyone is in with a chance right up until the end. Unlike games such as Risk, there isn't a lengthy period where the winner is pretty obvious but victory hasn't quite been achieved.

The relatively small number of rules makes the game suitable for children but the random selection of tiles means every game is different, keeping the game fresh for adults. Since there's no reading, the game is accessible even to six-year-olds with a decent level of concentration and enough maths skill to add double-digit numbers together.

Conclusion: If you want to get the kids playing strategy games, this is a great place to start.

  • Plenty of strategy but involves enough luck to give younger players a chance.

  • Good length.

  • Not too complicated.

  • No two games are quite the same.

  • Easy to pick up.

  • Beats the heck out of playing Scrabble with an eight-year-old.
  • The scoring chart only goes up to fifty but scores of over a hundred are easily attainable in a two-player game.

  • Not actually much in the box.

  • There are about a dozen expansion sets available to soak up your cash.

  • Difficult to move out of the way. It there's a half-finished game on the lounge carpet when you're doing the cleaning, you'll have to hoover round it.
Rating: 5/5.

A summer of games

There are at least nine potentially great games coming out on Xbox 360 in the next three weeks. That's more than in the entire year so far put together. No one has time and money for them all. Games publishers are crazy.

Before this deluge hits, here are some thoughts on the games I've played over the last few months but haven't had the chance to review. If I don't share them now, it's just not going to happen.

In fairness, some of the games I didn't play that much but, you know, that was because they weren't very good. If a game hasn't got interesting after a couple of hours then something is seriously wrong...

Warhammer: Battle March (15) - Xbox 360 - Hurrah a real-time strategy game set in the Warhammer universe created by Games Workshop! There's no faffing with gathering resources or building bases, it's merely a simple case of arranging your army and leading it tactically into battle...

Er, so was that hold down the right-trigger, press left on the d-pad and then tap A or was it click the left-stick, tap the right-bumper and then hold X? No, no, that's not right... Maybe it was the right-trigger, left on the d-pad and then Y... Oh, never mind, I'll just select everything I can see and charge those goblins... If I can untangle my fingers, that is...

Seriously, the controls have been made too complicated in order to fit in a host of complex commands, meaning even simple commands are impossible to pull off in the heat of conflict. Worse, there's no way to save during battles, so a single screw-up results in going all the way back to the start of the level.

Broken. Even the script is dreadful. 3/5 if you're a desperate Warhammer fan, else 1/5.

Pure (3+) - Xbox 360 - Drive a quad bike around at crazy speeds, doing crazy jumps and pulling crazy tricks in order to go at even crazier speeds. Looks great but upgrading your bike is fiddly and having to pull tricks all the time to earn boost can get wearying. Personally I prefer Burnout Revenge but this is definitely worth a rental. 4/5.

Condemned 2 (18) - Xbox 360 - The original Condemned was a decent launch title for the 360 with a scary journey through crumbling buildings on the trail of a serial killer. The hand-to-hand combat was excellent but the story was rather vague and the gameplay and environments were rather repetitive.

Oddly, the demo makes the sequel look like more of the same and I was somewhat nervous about even bothering to rent it. I'm glad I did. The developers have worked hard to improve almost every aspect of the original. The combat is even better and there's much more to see and do. Puzzles break up the action well. The forensic investigation is still hardly CSI but it does require some thought this time round.

The atmosphere is fantastic. 4/5.

Conan (18) - Xbox 360 - Hack, hack, hack, jump, hack, stupendous limb-severing hack, hack, jump, hack, cataclysmic whirling hack of death, hack, repeat.

If you've played the demo you've pretty much seen it all apart from the occasional topless slave girl.

Travel back in time and give the game to your teenage self. 2/5.

Metroid Prime 3 (12+) - Wii - Step into the shoes of a futuristic bounty hunter, shoot things and hunt out new equipment.

Exactly like Metroid Prime but with different controls. Being able to aim with the wiimote is great but having to frequently use awkward-to-reach buttons is a pain. The motion-sensing is pretty irritating too. Combine this with the reappearing opponents, lack of checkpointing, constant traipsing about, first-person platforming and the need to search out savepoints, and it all feels rather like hard work.

Some people love the exploration and atmosphere, though. 3/5.

House of the Dead 2 and 3 (15) - Wii - Shoot zombies using the wiimote as you're moved around automatically. Sadly, using the wiimote isn't as much fun as using a proper lightgun and running out of lives sends you all the way back to the beginning of the entire game to suffer the ugly graphics and awful voice-acting all over again. 2/5.

Assassin's Creed (16+) - Xbox 360 - Leap across rooftops as a Medieval assassin, do it again, possibly ride a horse for miles, suffer a hugely tedious cutscene and then leap across some more rooftops. Scarily, this is actually less interesting than it sounds and that's not even taking into account the modern-day subplot set in an office.

Assassin's Creed's huge world looks great but it's empty of gameplay. A sandbox game without any sand. 2/5.

Grand Theft Auto IV (18) - Xbox 360 - Travel round a vast city, undertake violent missions and build your own criminal empire. Again.

You can go bowling, play darts and surf an entire fake internet but the city's a maze, getting places is often dull, the difficulty is all over the shop and there's still no checkpointing or proper mission restart option. Oh, and the distance-blurring effect made me squint the whole time and gave me a headache when I played on an HD display, but some of the text was barely readable on a normal telly. Despite enjoying previous GTA games I really didn't have much fun.

There's plenty of sand in this sandbox... but it's all a little dry. Disappointing. Play Saints Row instead. 3/5.

Zack and Wiki - Quest for Barbaros' Treasure (7+) - Wii - A point-and-click adventure. Wander around collecting objects and use them to solve puzzles. Use a saw to cut down a pole and then hold the pole in a fire to make a torch to see in dark tunnels, that sort of thing.

This would be great if it didn't have a tendency to frequently and unexpectedly kill you and send you right back to the start of the level. The game uses the wiimote well but it quickly becomes too frustrating to be fun.

May make you want to cut it up with a saw and then set fire to it. 3/5.

So there we have it. Summary: Rent Pure or Condemned 2 to tide you over the last few days until Fallout 3 comes out...

The Regional Accounts Director of Firetop Mountain

By Alex Jenkins & Stephen Morrison

Age: Adult (contains a little swearing, plenty of violence, some ritual sacrifice, a touch of sexual harassment, a fair amount of discrimination against mythical creatures and a highly illicit relationship with a water cooler).

Story: You are an office temp who has fallen on hard times. Desperate for any work you can get, you take a data entry job at Firetop Mountain Plc. You must navigate the dank corridors, placate your co-workers and do as little work as possible while still getting paid...

...until you discover you're being bled dry to power a mystic portal to a fantasy realm. Lost in the basement with an IT troll and the tea lady, you must fight your way through the building in an epic quest for survival, revenge and someone to sign your timesheet.

Comments: There's obviously something in the air. On almost the same day I posted my Choose your own housedad adventure, this book was released - another tribute to interactive gamebooks which young geeks the world over were thrilled by in the eighties.

The Warlock of Firetop Mountain was the first of the Fighting Fantasy series of books - easily the best series in the genre. I remember it being fantastic. I spent many hours flicking between numbered paragraphs and rolling dice in an effort to reach the warlock's treasure. It was months before I realised there were in fact TWO keys labelled '111' and I was able to finally get to Paragraph 400 and the good ending.

Ah, happy days...

The Regional Accounts Director of Firetop Mountain (RADFM) does an excellent job of capturing the style and format of the old Fighting Fantasy books. Once again it's time to decide whether to turn left and go to Paragraph 179 or turn right and go to Paragraph 213. You have Aptitude, Endurance and Luck scores which, combined with some dice rolling, determine the outcome of fights and tricky situations. It's all very nostalgic and the line drawings are spot on.

There are plenty of amusing jokes about temping, fantasy and gamebooks. Some of them are laugh-out-loud funny. References encompass everything from The Lord of the Rings to Twin Peaks. It's an essential gift for every World of Warcraft-loving corporate slave you know.

By laying into both Fighting Fantasy and office culture, however, the book loses focus slightly. Fewer mythical creatures might have made the digs at cubicle life sharper. There's also a possibility the adventure itself might have been bettered structured. As it stands, RADFM is a rather linear progression of encounters with invisible co-workers and photocopier repair gorgons and similar beings. Many of the decisions are only a choice between continuing onwards or suffering instant death; most of the rest are of no consequence as both options bring about the same result within a paragraph or two. There are only about three occasions where a player decision takes the quest on a significantly different path for any length of time.

Although the book has simple rules for creating a character and rolling dice to decide fights, it quickly becomes clear that the adventure is nigh on impossible to complete without cheating. At one point early on, it's quite easy to die three times in half a dozen paragraphs thanks to a poor decision, an unlucky dice roll and an uneven (and entirely unavoidable) fight. After that, keeping a finger in the last paragraph just in case becomes essential and keeping a tally of scores seems pointless - the book isn't playing fair.

True, RADFM is meant to be a parody, but there's no reason it couldn't be a proper gamebook into the bargain. The people who are going to get the most from this are those who played plenty of Fighting Fantasy books when they were younger. I can't be the only one who wants at least the possibility of taking the dice rolling seriously.

Some of the humour will be lost on those who didn't play the originals much or who are unaware of them. You'll be able to identify these people merely by telling them the title of RADFM. If they look at you blankly, you're likely to have some explaining to do. Anyone who so much as smiles, however, will enjoy this book.

It's just that a week later you may well find them guiltily scouring eBay for the original. Or Forest of Doom... or possibly Citadel of Chaos... or...

Conclusion: Amusing rather than genius but worth getting if The Housedad Adventure leaves you wanting more.

Rating: 4/5.

Tesco party mini bubbles

A bottle of Tesco party bubbles.

Cost: £1 for a pack of 4.

  • 30 ml/1 fl.oz bubble mixture.
  • Plastic wand.
Age: 3+.

Comments: Where does it all come from? I don't remember ever buying any bubble mixture but we have a dozen bottles of the stuff filling a drawer. We've got big ones, small ones, ones with wands, ones without, Disney themed ones, ones so rubbish that creating any bubbles at all is a triumph, leaky ones, ones with a puzzle in the lid and even one which makes bouncy bubbles. I haven't dared try the last lot - I suspect the mixture must contain at least a small amount of evil. Bouncy bubbles? What next? Glow-in-the-dark bubbles?

Hang on... That's not a bad idea. Imagine glow-in-the-dark bubbles cascading down from the ceiling, creating a sparkling display, bursting in a shower of fireflies on the heads of mesmerised toddlers and then leaving behind a crowd of glow-in-the-dark children. I feel a patent application coming on...

Oh... Call off the chemistry set - it exists already.


Anyway, I think the bubble mixture mainly turns up in party bags. I've been trying to get the kids to use it up but every time the stock starts going down, half a dozen of their friends thoughtlessly have birthdays. I'm going to need grandchildren to get through this lot.

Lots and lots of different bottles of bubble mixture.

Still, it's given me plenty of opportunity to run some tests and of all the different bottles of bubble mixture we've had, my preference is for the Tesco ones:

The bottles are small, meaning a child tipping the entire contents over their shoes isn't too much of a disaster. The wand is easy to hold because it's attached to the inside of the lid. This reduces the chance of getting sticky fingers if the kids insist you take over blowing duties. The lid goes on tightly and it's safe to keep the bottle in a pocket.

Having the wand attached to the lid does make it next to impossible to use the mixture in the bottom of the bottle but there's enough within easy reach to keep blowing bubbles long after most children have got bored. The top of the bottle is wide, allowing refills from lesser bubble mixture containers.

Of course, it's still only bubble mixture. Even fairly old children will drip it and spill it everywhere. Smaller children will hold the wand a foot from their mouth or try to kiss it. (Neither of these techniques produces many bubbles.) Take the bottle outside and blow the bubbles yourself, however, and you can easily keep a dozen children chasing around popping them for twenty minutes.

Conclusion: Great for padding out party bags, entertaining small children as you hang around waiting for their siblings to come out of school and for enlivening parties anywhere with a moppable floor.

  • Small.
  • The wand is easy to hold without getting sticky fingers.
  • Very tight screw-top lid.
  • Mixture produces decent bubbles.
  • Not much mixture in each bottle.
  • It's bubble mixture - someone or something is bound to get sticky, whatever you do.
  • Doesn't make your children glow in the dark.
Rating: 4/5.

Sonic Chronicles - The Dark Brotherhood (DS)

Rated: 7+. Since players will probably need to be at least seven to read all the text anyway, this isn't much of an issue.

Story: Some mysterious assailants dressed in black have kidnapped Knuckles, stolen the chaos emeralds and put in action a plan to take over the world. Sonic the Hedgehog and his friends must search them out and defeat them. Along the way, they must also confront Eggman once again, collect plenty of gold rings and help Cream the Rabbit find her lost chao, Cheese.

Yeah, exactly... If you don't even know that Knuckles is an echidna, then you're going to be struggling a little here.

Gameplay: This isn't like any other Sonic game. It's not about running at warp speed or jumping on monsters' heads. Instead, it mixes sedate exploring with turn-based battles.

You can have up to four characters in your team but only the currently selected character is visible on screen. You get to guide them around with the stylus. Interesting people and objects can be interacted with by tapping on an icon. Characters can employ abilities such as flying, smashing crates or dashing to get past obstacles in the environment. Again, this is achieved by tapping on an icon rather than utilising arcade skills.

Bump into any enemies wandering the landscape and the game cuts to a battle screen where your team stand in a line, facing the enemy who also stand in a line. Each team member can be ordered to attack, defend, use an item or to attempt to use a special power, such as a healing spell or an armour-piercing blow. Once everyone has orders, the results play automatically (with the DS essentially rolling dice to see who hits and how much damage is done). It's worth staying awake, however, because pulling off powers and defending against them requires success at short, rhythm-based minigames. These involve keeping the stylus in a moving circle or tapping areas of the screen with the correct timing. (If you've played Elite Beat Agents, then the concept will seem very familiar.)

Winning battles and completing quests brings experience points and items. Accumulate enough of these and characters go up in level, making them stronger and unlocking new skills. Items and equipment can be bought in shops using rings. Eggs can be found lying around and hatched into little creatures called chao that give characters additional abilities.

Yep, Sonic Chronicles is a lot like Final Fantasy with hedgehogs...

Save System: It's possible to save at any time while not in a conversation or battle. Happily, loading the saved game returns you to exactly where you left off. There's no being sent back to base simply for having the temerity to stop for lunch and there's no need to play for an extra twenty minutes in order to reach the next save point.

The only problem is that it's slightly too easy to save over someone else's saved game...

Comments: This game is initially a little strange. Sonic the Hedgehog is renowned for speed, so making him plod around the countryside, solving switch puzzles and chatting to old woodcutters, is something of a change of pace. (Worse, in my case, Tails' annoying perkiness gave me flashbacks to the overdose of Sonic cartoons I was forced to endure in the Spring.)

As with many role-playing games, you start with a single, first-level character who has no equipment and few skills. This considerably limits options for fighting and exploring, and means Sonic Chronicles takes a while to get going. Persevere through the first hour of instructions, back story and restricted choices, though, and things pick up. Extra characters introduce more tactics and open up new paths.

Winning later fights is heavily dependent on using special powers at the correct moment and succeeding in the rhythm minigames. This brings a good mix of tactics and skill to the battles. Defeating opponents isn't necessarily hard but it's never a foregone conclusion, either. That said, the battles can get repetitive during extended play. There are only three or four possible sets of opponents in each area and fighting the same formation of helicopter robots for the twelfth time in half an hour can become irritating. Thankfully, unlike Final Fantasy, there are no random battles. Enemies can be seen approaching and evaded by running round them. This doesn't earn any experience points but it avoids exploring becoming too frustrating, particularly in locations where monsters reappear within a minute of being defeated.

Hunting out all the rings, chao eggs and hidden items in the levels breaks up the battling and is the most entertaining part of the game. The small areas and handy map on the top screen encourage obsessive collecting of loot.

Still, this isn't going to be everyone's cup of tea. Much depends on being able to put up with Sonic and his pals. The dialogue is actually pretty good but having to play as a rabbit called Cream is just... well... unsettling... The save anywhere feature and the lack of random battles make Sonic Chronicles more accessible than many other examples of the genre, however. It uses the stylus well, can be played in short bursts and causes quiet moments to fly by. It's the kind of game that the DS was made for.

Sprog1 (age 8) is halfway through and really enjoying it.

I don't think even he knows what an echidna is, though...

Conclusion: This is a very competent role-playing game for children. It's reasonably forgiving, not too complex and packed full of Sonic the Hedgehog and friends.

Unfortunately, the same features may well put off adults. Nonetheless, if you can see beyond the anthropomorphic bunnies, Sonic Chronicles is an addictive alternative to the 'serious' role-playing games out there.

Graphics: The battles can be bland but everything else looks good.

Length: Medium.

Rating: 4/5.

10,000 BC (DVD)

Starring: Some mammoths.

Rated: 12.

Story: A village of mammoth hunters is attacked by a more advanced civilisation who cart off half the tribe to slavery. A small group of warriors set out to free their friends.

On the way, they discover navigation, farming and enormous birds with very sharp beaks.

Comments: There are almost no films set in prehistoric times. Since humans and dinosaurs never co-existed, what's the point? A good action story requires guns, cars or giant lizards. Fact.

At least, you have to imagine that's the thought which runs through the heads of Hollywood producers most of the time.

Sadly, they may not be entirely wrong. Despite a lack of competition, 10,000 BC doesn't have two original ideas to rub together in the pursuit of fire. Almost every scene is reminiscent of other (superior) films: Dances with Wolves, Apocalypto, Jurassic Park, 300, Lord of the Rings, The Scorpion King and, oddly, Waterworld.

10,000 BC is reasonably entertaining while it lasts but lacking in memorable moments that haven't been done better elsewhere.

Conclusion: In a few weeks, I'll have convinced myself that Kevin Costner is in it.

Explosions: None.
Historical accuracy: Little.
Mammoths: Woolly.
Giant lizards: Not enough.
Top tip: Go watch Apocalypto instead.

Rating: 3/5.

Vantage Point (DVD)

Starring: Dennis Quaid, Forest Whitaker, William Hurt, Sigourney Weaver and an escapee from Lost.

Rated: 12.

Story: It turns out that there's someone less lucky than Jack Bauer. On his first day back at work after taking a bullet for the President, a Secret Service agent (Quaid) finds himself slap bang in the middle of another assassination attempt.

Comments: Vantage Point endeavours to show different perspectives in a terrorist attack by playing the main event over and over from the point of view of various characters. Unfortunately, all this really means is that the action rewinds twenty minutes every time things start to get interesting.

The terrorists' motivations are never explored and nothing much seems to be gained from all the different angles. On top of that, the ending involves too much coincidence and the whole thing winds up feeling as plausible and enlightening as a couple of episodes of 24.

Conclusion: A simple story told in a very complicated way. Slick but nowhere near as clever as it wants to be.

Explosions: Two every fifteen minutes (but that's mostly the same two).
Dubious motivations: Several.
Implausible moments: Plenty.
Obvious but unlikely plot twists: One.
Life lesson: Don't 'rescue' lost children by taking them away from where their mum last saw them and then leave them next to a busy road. You may mean well, but it's just not helpful...

Rating: 3/5.

Alien vs Predator 2 - Requiem (DVD)

Starring: A Predator, a whole stack of Aliens and various beautiful people waiting around to be lunch.

Rated: 15.

Story: A Predator spaceship crashes on Earth and some Alien specimens escape near a small American town. Another Predator arrives to clean up the mess and keep it all secret. Lots of people get minced.

Comments: Aliens and Predators fighting each other should be the best thing ever.

It's not. It's mainly dark and confusing and not very involving.

The antics of the humans trying to get out the way are more interesting but are relatively indistinguishable from the antics of the humans trying to get out of the way of vampires, zombies and giant lizards in a score of other films... apart from the bit in the maternity ward - that's probably worth skipping if you've got a new arrival due any time soon...

Conclusion: A film you've seen a dozen times before but with the addition of everyone's two favourite psychotic extra-terrestrial species. Could be worse. (Have you seen Alien Resurrection, for instance?)

Explosions: Lots.
Pregnant women: Several.
Housedads: One.
Scenes in which the housedad doesn't get eaten: Two.
Life lesson: If you're going to stand next to a window and say to a child, "Look! See! No monsters," remember to at least glance out the window first.

Rating: 3/5.