Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Review: The Last Battle

Review:  #248
Title:  The Last Battle
Series:  The Chronicles of Narnia - 7th and final book
Author:  C.S. Lewis
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  Coming into a Narnia book, you’d expect a lot of things, things that are very imaginative and unique, that are what makes the series such a special one.  However, for most of the book, and the major plot, it didn't seem as artistic.  It gave off a really grim feel and tone.  I liked the appearance of Tash, which was unexpected, but very interesting.  The ending was the major highlight of the book; it gave such a huge contrast to what came before it, that it was pretty much night and day.  The ending relayed the end of the world, and how it came to be, and then it offered an explanation.  That explanation was so fitting, that it seemed everything suddenly slotted into place.  It is such a happy ending that you could not help but smile and *feel* good.  As usual, I find some of the attitude of the characters surprising.  Nevertheless, this is the pinnacle of classic stories.
Rating:  6.5/10

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers Animated TA-42 Oil Slick

Review:  #107
Name:  Oil Slick
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Animated (Japanese)
Year of Release:  2010
Size Class:  Deluxe
Variations:  the Hasbro version lacks the metallic green paint


Oil Slick transforms into a metallic green motorcycle... that has four distinct wheels (granted, they're combined together), and a goat's head on the front (which looks surprisingly good).

Having four wheels, he doesn't need a kickstand, he rests upright just fine.  This is the Japanese TakaraTomy version, so it features metallic paint, and it looks pretty nice here.

The handlebars and goat's horns are made from a really soft rubber, which deforms easily, upside is that they won't snap during transformation.  If you've seen his robot mode, it's obvious that the arms form the front part, and the joint in the middle can sag.

A long bike, but by no means having as much mass (or complexity) as a Deluxe car.  Oil Slick isn't small by any means though.  The bike mode requires some peculiar taste, and I can see a lot of people disliking it (and it's not as realistic, as say, Animated Prowl).


A really simple transformation, but one that works well.  The front forms the arms and the back unfold to become the legs.  I really like how with a simple rotation, the seat and exhaust piece become his feet, it's a neat aspect.  The way the shoulders fold in with the joints are really weird and awkward.  Thank good for the handlebars being rubber, as I can it them easily snapped if made from hard plastic.  It's really surprising to see how such a simple transformation can turn a bike mode into a very distinctive robot.


I don't know why this was included but it's an official mode in the instructions.  Basically you just transform Oil Slick to about two-thirds of the way in, and it looks like he's lying there...

It seems to be some sort of ramming vehicle mode.  It's ridiculous and stupid, and wondering how the hell did someone think this was a good idea.  At least they didn't advertise this on the packaging as a triple-changer, that would have been terrible and an insult to the term.


Oil Slick's robot mode is tall and lanky, with a sort of hunchback due to the way the waist is angled (which is really weird).  I love the way the goat's head end up on one shoulder as some sort of ornament.  It seems to suit him very well.

The feet look great, and you can't really tell they were formed by a simple rotation of a piece.  The hands are well formed too, with distinctive large claw-hands that look menacing.  There's no new addition of paint, it's all carried over from bike mode (the metallic paint is not only limited to the arms and legs).

The head is into a transparent green dome, and he has a surprisingly organic face.  He can only turn side to side and I don't think he has a lightpipe.

Normally, if you wish, you can leave the two barrels on either side of his legs, but it really ruins his slim look, and you're better off detaching them.

The barrels each have a peg to stay attach to their slots, there's no other space to store them in robot mode apart from the legs.

However, they're Oil Slick's weapons.  One splits open to form a chain weapon/flail of some sort, and the other has an opening lid, it's supposed to be a poison canister but it really looks like a drinking tankard.  The chain is made from plastic, and you can't help but feel that it'll be easy to snap it off.

There's a peg hole in each hand for Oil Slick to hold it, you can them position the thumbs (on balljoints) and fingers (the same soft plastic as the handlebars) so it looks like he's holding it.

Oil Slick elongates a lot during his conversion (mainly due to the extension of his legs), but he's much much skinnier than other 'standard' Deluxes.

Articulation is great, and it's helped by the extra joints needed for transformation, such as his feet that can rotate so he can stand flat at any angle.

The arms are the weaker point, they can only bend and fold inwards, missing the crucial outward joint.  It can feel restrictive at times, and same goes for his shoulders, limited by the weird joints.

A good looking robot mode with some versatile weapons.


A good toy, if you don't have any problems with the aesthetics that is.  It's a very interesting toy, simple, yet has charm to it.  I recommend it if you can get it cheap since it's not really worth any (severely) inflated amounts.  Oil Slick makes a nice Decepticon to add to your collection.


Reviews of other Transformers toys can be found at this page.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Book Review: Odious Oceans

Review:  #247
Title:  Odious Oceans
Series:  Horrible Geography
Author:  Anita Ganeri
Read Before:  yes
My Comments:  A really well written book, it was very interesting, and the way the information is presented, it doesn't feel too forced.  That was always a danger with these kinds of books, in that they try so hard on humour, that it feels contrived.  The diagrams were fun to read, and the book covered a vast range of subjects (within the scope of oceans of course), and it was nice to get a bit of everything.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, August 24, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers RtS Special Ops Jazz

Review:  #106
Name:  Special Ops Jazz
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Reveal the Shield
Year of Release:  2010
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 5)
Variations:  there is a United version with a brighter white plastic and more paint, repainted into United Stepper, retooled into Botcon Treadshot and Asia Generations Wheelie


Jazz transforms into a white sports car with a racing stripe and the number '4' on his doors and hood.  Jazz looks like a generic car but is actually based slightly on the Porsche and Pontiac Solstice.

While it looks promising with all the paint apps, the back completely falls apart, sporting no paint at all.  This is a major letdown, the least they could do was paint the tail lights red, you can see all the sculpting for the exhausts, lights and windows, yet, due to cost cutting reasons, they didn't bother, creating an undefined white lump of a rear end.

He's missing silver hubcaps too, but those I can live with.  He features a fairly low riding spoiler that's a bit too far in, but nevertheless still looks pretty good.

Part of the Reveal the Shield assortment, he doesn't have any visible insignia.  Instead he features a rubsign, and in case you didn't know whether he's an Autobot or a Decepticon, just heat the sign up with your fingers and whola, he's an Autobot!

A decent size for a Deluxe figure, he may be a little bit more compact than you're used to when compared to previous Deluxe class toys (pre-Movie figures).

Most of the car is filled with robot bits, so the vehicle's not just simply an empty shell.  The gun stores underneath the hood too, which is neat.

And the gun isn't the only thing stored, there's also speakers that can deploy, they're based off the ones he used in an episode of the G1 cartoon.  Apart from the lack of paint for the rear of the car, a very nice car.


A transformation that isn't as finnicky as the Movie toys.  It doesn't rely of manipulating thin panels or fake kibble, it doesn't cheat.  You're moving relatively large and solid parts, as a result, it's very satisfying.  It's not difficult, yet not too easy either.  There's two automorph features, the first in his legs, with the grey panel on a spring and automatically springing up to cover the gap as you unfold the legs.  The second happens when you fold his chest down, his head pops up automatically, which is pretty cool.


A great robot mode, with that "Classic" aesthetic that sucked a lot of fans in.  Black becomes much more prominent here, as does the lack of paint applications.

There's barely any kibble at all, the roof folds in very closely to the body and doesn't impede anything.  The door wings are supposed to be there for aesthetic reasons, the closest thing to kibble here is the rear of the car sitting behind the legs, but they're so well integrated already that they don't get in the way at all.

His head sculpt has him as if he's really angry, like a "don't mess with me" look, which suits him just fine.  In theory, lightpiping would be amazing, but what you get doesn't work well at all.

Jazz has his gun, which you'll have to unfold and extend to get it into the proper form when taking it out of storage.

Jazz retains his speakers, which fold out the same way.  They're on enough joints such that you can position them in a way to your liking.  They actually look good as weapons of some sort.

You can also detach the speakers (on C clip joints) and attach it to his gun for some sort of super gun mode.  Personally, I think it looks ridiculous and not at all impressive.

For such a small car, Jazz unfolds a lot during transformation, and towers over some other Deluxe figures.

It's amazing how much they've based this off the original G1 toy, from the wheels on top of his shoulders, torso sculpting and shins, it feels like the update it should be.

However, what's Jazz's lacking most is paint apps, there are a lot of great sculpting here... but masked due to the bland plastic, such a shame.

Poseability is great, he's only lacking a waist joint.  Jazz has wrist joints and hinged ankles too, which increases the range of dynamic poses he can be in.

The blockiness really sells and works in Jazz's favour, I love the robot mode more than I thought I would, it just looks so good.


A much better figure than I could have anticipated.  I only got the figure coz it was on clearance and boy, was I glad, Jazz is worth even full price.  If you can, I would recommend the United version instead since it features all those critical extra paint applications, but RtS Jazz is much better.  This is a really fun mold to transform and pose, and he has a few different weapon options.  A great toy, highly recommended.


Other Transformers toy reviews can be found here.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Book Review: Just Shocking!

Review:  #246
Title:  Just Shocking!
Series:  Just! - 6th book
Author:  Andy Griffiths
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  A somewhat lower quality entry in the Just series.  Most of the short stories feel really uninspired, and it seemed like they were just there to pad out the book.  The theme, “Shocking” is somewhat hard to pull out, as such, most of the story doesn’t feel like they’re ‘shocking’ at all.  Actually, a few of the stories were even tedious and felt like a chore to get through, like the ‘choose your own adventure’, a list of 101 disgusting things, and a ‘fifty’ word entry in a competition.  The best part about this book though, is the illustrations throughout the whole book, they’re always great to read and funny.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, August 20, 2012

Book Review: Deltora Quest Volume 1

Review:  #245
Title:  Deltora Quest Volume 1
Series:  Deltora Quest - 1st volume
Author:  Story by Emily Rodda, Adapted by Makoto Niwano
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  This first volume relates the back story and sets everything for later on.  It was interesting, but it feels like it’s missing something.  It was hard to decipher what happening in a few of the scenes.  A lot of the jokes are forced, and I actually found it comical when the grown up Jarred was revealed and he was absurdly buffed.  The art style takes some getting used to, but I surprisingly found a liking to Prandine, you can immediately tell that he’s sneaky and evil.  I did find that Endon was very feminine, to the point where I kept mistaking him for a female character entirely.  The adaptation is pretty faithful, which means that the story is good.
Rating:  5.5/10

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ratchet & Clank: A Crack in Time

The first Ratchet & Clank game that I've played, and boy, was I glad I actually played it.  Heard all the good things about this series (and I liked Spyro back in the PS1 days) and I grabbed it (wanted Tools of Destruction instead but that was discontinued... and hard to find now).  It was a great experience, the gameplay was a lot of fun, and I loved the variety of gadgets that you use to destroy enemies.  The humour was well done, and although a lot of typical moments, I found they were still enjoyable and makes a nice difference to the serious tone of other video games that I've been playing.  The graphics are good and the music excellent.  Even though it's the third game in the PS3 series, the story was very easy to follow and there was a nice recap at the beginning (I loved how a clip plays while the game is installing, it really makes it less boring waiting).

The platforming sections are great, although some are a bit annoying.  The game made me wanting to break everything in sight, in order to collect all the bolts, and purchasing the weapons and armour upgrades.  I'm surprised at the amount of sidequests available here, although they aren't as much fun as the story levels.  There is a whole heap of collectibles, even after finishing the game, still got around a few hours worth of collecting left (if you're aiming for the Platinum trophy).  I was pleasantly surprised at the final boss, as it was not what I had expected (but not totally out of the blue).  There's not much to fault, however, all the boss fights seem very similar and you use the same techniques to win, it's understandable since there's only so many ways you can stage a boss fight.  I really like the variety of gameplay elements, it broke up the pace nicely and in a good way.  Instead of just breaking all the crates and defeating enemies, you get to grind rails, and then plant some seeds or find some stuff.  The Platinum trophy is very easy to get as well, and doesn't take that long to do it (roughly 22 hours), but it's still satisfying. Very good game overall and definitely warrant a play.


Other game reviews can be found on this page.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Book Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: Campus Apocalypse 1

Review:  #244
Title:  Neon Genesis Evangelion:  Campus Apocalypse 1
Series:  Neon Genesis Evangelion:  Campus Apocalypse - 1st volume
Author:  Mingming
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  I love the concept of the story, and it’s really well done it.  It took most of the first chapter before it started to capture my interest in what is happening.  I really like the idea of a normal boy being thrown into a situation that only appears in fantasies.  All the characters are likeable (well… except maybe Asuka) and I love the weapon designs.  I enjoyed the story a lot but I can't help but feel that nothing really jumps out at you.
Rating:  6.5/10

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Toy Review: Transformers Prime First Edition Bulkhead

Review:  #105
Name:  Bulkhead
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Prime - First Edition
Year of Release:  2011
Size Class:  Voyager (First Edition Wave 1)
Variations:  retooled with a new head as Asia Generations Brawn


Continuing on with the Prime theme, we have Voyager Bulkhead here, who transforms into a truck.  While a good vehicle mode in general, there are a lot of panel lines due to the transformation.

There's also a good chunk of robot bits that's visible underneath the car.  While the arms at the back tries to hide as exhausts, it doesn't look that great, and is the only negative here.

As per usual, he rolls, sadly, they couldn't give all his windows clear plastic, the rear side ones being painted.

The reason why his robot bits are visible is due to the fact that this is a very packed vehicle (as evident from looking underneath).

Bulkhead stores the mace on his back, making the vehicle look unrealistic, and if I daresay, a bit ridiculous.  You can take it off, but you can't store is anywhere else.

He's a good size as a Voyager, with the mass to back it up too.

He comes with a stand (being a First Edition toy), and since he's a Voyager, the stand is bigger than the Deluxe version as well.

A very nice vehicle mode, there's no gimmicks whatsoever, but you would be proud to have him in your display.


It's not spectacular, nor are there any super amazing twists, but it's interesting nonetheless.  Considering only a small part of the front forms his legs, a pretty big proportions forms his arms and torso.  The way the sides of the car break and form his chest, then pegging securely onto his back, is fairly clever.  A very solid transformation, that in no way feels gimmicky, it seems the designer was focused on making Bulkhead a solid Transformer.  The joints attaching the rear wheels can feel flimsy at times.  There's no manipulation of small parts, which makes it that much more enjoyable.


Bulkhead's robot mode, for the most part, is fairly accurate, but it's a lot less smooth than the animation model (understandable).

He's based off the Animated version of the character, but apart from the similar vehicle modes, head sculpt and general overall proportions, there's no other similarities at all, which is surprising since it evokes the character so much.

The head sculpt is very nice, and I love the baby blue paint used for his eyes (which have sculpted pupils as well!!).  The head can turn from side to side and look up a bit, but can be restricted by the pipe sculpting on either side.

You can fold in his hands for a ranged weapon, well, it's undocumented and unofficial, but it looks intended, and bears similarities to the guns he used in the show.

The reason why there's a hole is coz you plug in the mace there, and it looks very nice attached there as a melee weapon (would have been even more awesome if they had clear plastic cracks to evoke the energon lines).

As a Voyager, he's very very short, but his main asset is his bulkiness, you don't feel ripped off at all, since it's understandable.

He's just taller than a standard Deluxe, but much wider and more mass.

Bulkhead's very stubby though, so naturally, his short legs doesn't have the greatest articulation, it's still very good, but somewhat awkward and hard to handle at times.

His arm articulation, on the other hand, is excellent.  Due to transformation, he doesn't have a waist joint (not sure it'll look that great if he did have one).

Bulkhead is stable in a variety of poses, and his kibble doesn't get in the way at all.

However, it is hard to get him into dynamic poses.

A great robot mode, although it's something of an acquired taste due to his proportions.


An excellent Transformer that looks good in both modes, and the stand comes in handy when displaying him (although it's only made out of cardboard).  This is a short Voyager, but his bulkiness and mass more than makes up for it.  The only thing that might put you off is the proportions, but even then, this is much better than the RiD take on the character.  At least he isn't compromised by unnecessary and stupid gimmicks.  Highly recommended, especially now that he's being rereleased.


A lot of other Transformers toy reviews can be viewed from this page at your leisure.
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