Thursday, January 30, 2014

LittleBigPlanet PS Vita

LittleBigPlanet never interested me on the PS3 and I only got it on PS Vita since I got it in a pack of ten games (the PS Vita Mega Pack, which is really good value).  It's got excellent reviews and is one of the best games currently available on the Vita.  The art style didn't appeal to me (while I did liked the design of Sackboy, how could you not like this character?) and the platforming didn't look that interesting to me.  It wasn't cartoony enough for me, or so I thought.  The game quickly won me over, I enjoyed it right from the beginning.  Yes, right from the tutorial levels.  It was creative and it was fun.  The different ways in which to pass the levels and how they slowly reveal to you a new function, which not only feels intuitive but feels like such an integral part of the game.

The game uses a lot of the Vita's extra features such as the touch screen, sixaxis motion control and rear touch pad.  To a degree, it still feels somewhat awkward when you have to take your hands off the face buttons to use these other input functions.  However, they are done well enough to not be too intrusive and some of the platforming challenges feel clever.  Once or twice in the latter levels, I felt that the touch mechanics had a delayed response, which gets annoying as you're trying to swipe some platforms down in quick succession and you need a few swipes to get it happen.  The graphics are excellent, with detailed environments.

I am not sure if it is the art style though because sometimes the models feel low res and ends up looking a bit blurry.  The level designs are excellent, filled with secrets (rewarding you with collectibles) and clever design.  The same type of platforming sections never gets reused too much to the point of becoming repetitive, the game keeps it refreshing.  In addition to the main storyline, there are optional minigames scattered throughout which adds a lot of longevity and extends the game time (in a good way).  These minigames are simple but has depth and most of them takes advantage of the touch screen.  Yet sometimes the touch screen is not responsive enough.

These minigames require accuracy and speed but it doesn't pick up your touch as quickly as you would like.  Most of the minigames are addictive, simple enough to pick up and play but challenging enough to suck you into getting higher and higher scores.  The game itself is pretty easy, some levels and boss fights will take a few tries to learn the patterns but overall, it doesn't present much of a challenge.  This is good in that there are no frustrating sections which would hinder your progress.  It requires enough skill to keep it interesting though.  The final worlds is where the difficulty stepped up a little bit, even then, it will only take a few tries to pass a more difficult section.  There was never a time where the platforming section would break the flow of the game or when you didn't know what to do.

The story is decent for what it is.  You end up enjoying it because it is a simple, yet intriguing tale.  It is not complex at all but when you meet all those charming characters in funny cutscenes, you can't help but love it.  The ending felt weird but it makes sense considering the type of world that they are in.  The character designs are perfect, being neat and aesthetically pleasing.  The game has social features and it actually places a bit of emphasis in them, from two-player sections in various levels to multiplayer-centric trophies.  This is somewhat annoying if you prefer to play through the levels/story yourself since these things are cordoned off with no alternative routes.

Of course, there are the user-generate content.  While it cannot play levels from the PS3 and PSP LittleBigPlanet games, there are already a lot of levels available.  True, a lot of them are junk or incomplete, but there are a few gems out there.  Making your own levels can be difficult if you are a newcomer.  There are tutorials... but it would take upwards of one hour to finish them all and even then, it's really easy to get confused.  The music is amazing.  Each piece of the soundtrack resonates with the theme of the current level perfectly.  You notice it because it is amazing and something you want to hear more of.  Overall, LittleBigPlanet PS Vita is a brilliant game.  It's a load of fun with heaps of content.


For game reviews, refer to this page.

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace

I found the thing that was lacking the most in the first movie in the new trilogy was that it lacked the visual amazement and the unique vehicular/droid designs.  The film's plot didn't elevate, it stayed level throughout the whole length.  It tries to tug your emotions but it doesn't really work and it felt as if there were many unnecessary events.  That said, it was still enjoyable and there wasn't truly a moment where it felt boring.  The plot could be better though and it felt somewhat simple, there seems to be something lacking here that differentiates it from the older Star Wars film.  I liked the subplot about the Sith though, and it seems like it would be an overarching plot which would be interesting to see how they handle it in the next two films.  The lightsabre sequence at the finale was great, it was intense to watch (especially when Qui-Gon and the Sith fought one-on-one).  It tries to shock you with a death similar to Obi-Wan's in Episode IV but it lacks the emotion, you haven't developed enough emotion attachment to the character yet (and as the character was never mentioned in the first trilogy, you knew, or at least suspected, that the death was coming).  Overall, a fun movie to watch (love the design of Darth Maul).

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Book Review: Spymasters

Review:  #398
Title:  Spymasters
Series:  The 39 Clues:  The Cahill Files - 2nd book
Author:  Clifford Riley
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  A collection of three short stories that focuses upon events involving various Cahill ancestors.  As the whole Vesper subplot is out, they feature prominently in these stories.  For the most part, the stories are good, intense and interesting.  However, these kinds of stories have been overdone in previous The 39 Clues books so that they feel very familiar.  The first one is very typical in that you roll your eyes at how amazing and far reaching the Cahill family is, how practically everyone is a Cahill.  The second and third story is more interesting, although the plot points are very easy to decipher.  Especially in the third story, you would instantly know who the antagonist is simply because this plot style has been done many times already.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, January 27, 2014

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Rhinox

Review:  #165
Name:  Rhinox
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Maximal
Line:  Generations
Year of Release:  2014
Size Class:  Voyager (Wave 5)
Variations:  none as of this date


Yes, it finally happened.  The long-rumoured new mold Voyager classed Rhinox has finally been produced and it is amazing!  The rhino mode is excellent, with better proportions than the wide and squat of the original.

The colouring is good but being a lighter tan than in the show.  There are some green robot parts sticking out, mainly behind the beast legs but since everything else is so good, this isn't a horrible thing.

The rhino holds together well.  You can easily tell that the there are a lot of panels forming the exterior (I wouldn't go so far as to call Rhinox a shellformer, but naturally the beast mode relies heavily on panels).  You can forget about posing him though as his is static.  The legs are not designed to be moved.

The beast head has amazing sculpting, you can even make out the row of painted sharp teeth!  It looks like the ears are on balljoints but they're not.  They only look like that because there are a separate piece, made from soft plastic (the rear panel of the rhino, the one with the tail, is also made from soft plastic).

Thanks to the transformation, the lower jaw of the mouth moves allowing the rhino to roar.

Being a Voyager, the rhino is fairly decent in size.  He is only the length of a Deluxe toy but has the height and bulk to make him much more impressive.

The chain guns of doom (well, officially they're the "gatling guns of doom") store in his belly, like the original toy.  This rhino mode is packed, there is no empty space here.

An excellent beast mode, Rhinox looks amazing and displays well.


If you've ever played with the original, you'd notice that this new figure takes inspiration from it, and improves upon the transformation.  The shells of the rhino neatly folds up and it's surprising how they formed the legs.  It's easy, quick and fun.  There are enough twisting and manipulation of parts to make this transformation worthwhile.


The robot mode is another stunner.  This captures the show model accurately and is the definitive Rhinox figure, hands down.

The kibble packs tightly against his body such that nothing gets in the way.  The revelation of the green and gold is striking and he has all the distinctive Rhinox elements here.

Rhinox is stocky, suiting the character.  He looks powerful although I find his torso to be a bit wide thanks to the extra two pieces on either side of the chest.

The head sculpt is amazing.  He looks angry here which is the only complaint.  It is on a balljoint but the side to side isn't as great as you would hope since you need to tilt his head upwards to be able to look farther to his left or right.

The attention to detail here is amazing, he sports two Maximal symbols on the top of his head!!

He sports the distinctive Rhinox elements, from the rhino feet on the outside of his hands to the half rhino head sitting behind his back.

He doesn't look as great from the side just because of the big deep pieces.

He isn't very tall, about the height of a Deluxe.  Needless to say, he is much bulkier than your typical Deluxe.

Of course, there is the chain guns of doom.  Rhinox has both guns and they retain the gimmick of the originally.  Pressing a button on each one rapidly spins the blades, very cool.

Only negative (which has been pointed out to death ever since the reveal) is that the blades are not painted.  The sculpting is still brilliant though.

Rhinox is poseable, as you'd expect of a toy released in 2014.  He's lacking a waist joint but makes up for it through some minor ankle movement and non-impeded shoulders, hips and elbows.  I find that the lack of a wrist swivel to be more damning.

I wish that Rhinox would have heelspurs since while his feet are large, Rhinox is back heavy enough to keel over in some poses.

This is still a very organic feeling robot mode, with rounded angles everywhere.

There are a decent amount paint applications.  I love how they nailed the shade of green used.

A brilliant robot mode that is very hard to improve upon.


A perfect toy, it's hard to find any faults on which the designers could have improved upon.  The rhino and robot modes are amazing, they are linked by an elegant transformation.  There is enough play value (the spinning blades are heaps of fun) without being intrusive.  This is a must have for any fans of Beast Wars and if not, still give this a figure a try.


Other Transformers reviews can be found here.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Star Wars Episode VI: Return of the Jedi

The movie started off where Episode V started off with a great beginning act involving the rescue of Han Solo.  That was interesting and was done well.  There are many more battle scenes which are bigger and more visually spectacular than the preceding films.  The plot was also nice and wrapped up the trilogy with the downfall of the Empire.  I found that the middle of the film dragged on and was a bit bland compared to the beginning and ending.  It seemed that the events that happened weren't as crucial.  The bombshell involving the relationship between Luke and Leia was weird and a bit hard to accept, especially since it pretty much came out of nowhere.  The special effects were amazing for it's time and still holds it's own today.  The variety of vehicles were good.  The light sabre fight between Darth Vader and Luke was great, you couldn't tear your eyes off the screen for the duration of that battle.  Of course, how can you forget the scene where you finally get to see Darth Vader unmasked.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Book Review: The Treasure Keepers

Review:  #397
Title:  The Treasure Keepers
Series:  Something Wickedly Weird - 6th book
Author:  Chris Mould
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  More interesting than some of the other books in the series but the plot is still quite basic and nondescript.  Usually, pictures can add a lot more to the story but in this case, it didn’t really.  It was hard to get into the plot since it didn’t have anything to hook you in.  The key thing is that all the characters are so bland, and you don’t have an attachment to them so that you want to cheer them on.
Rating:  5.5/10

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Toy Review: Transformers Robots in Disguise (RiD) Galvatron

Review:  #164
Name:  Galvatron
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Robots in Disguise
Year of Release:  2001
Size Class:  Ultra (Wave 2)
Variations:  repaint of RiD Megatron


A departure from the normal format of reviews, I am going to start with the robot mode first.  Why?  Because this Galvatron is special in that he has the most official alt-modes for a Transformers.  That, and there is no "default" alt mode so it is best to start with the robot mode first.

Considering the number of alternate modes Galvatron has, there is surprisingly little kibble.  Technically, the wings, the claws outside of his forearms and that slab of plastic on his back are kibble, but the former two adds to the iconic look.

One of the most amazing things about this figure is the amount of chrome that's present.  He has a fully chromed torso (and you can see the Predacon symbol on his chest, a carry-over from the Megatron use, since he was a Decepticon in the RiD cartoon) and chrome bits here and there such as his wingtips and those things on either side of his head.

The head sculpt is similarly amazing, containing a lot of detail.  He looks suitably menacing and ready to dish out some pain.

There is a lot of sculpted details scattered around the place.  From the claws clamping his waist (a nice touch) to the rounded organic-ish look of his legs, coupled with the amount of paint applications and Galvatron is simple amazing and stunning.

He's very hefty too.  When you pick him up, he is heavier than you would expect of a figure this size.

While Galvatron may be a Decepticon leader, this toy is only in the Ultra size class.  Therefore, he doesn't truly tower over other toys.

Galvatron stands well.  However, due to the way his feet are formed (the dragon head splits in half at the mouth), there is a piece of plastic in the middle of the feet that protrudes further out than the two halves of the dragon head.  So you can't have the halves folded back as far as possible.  It takes a little bit of fiddling to get him stable, although it doesn't help that he has balljointed ankles which can sometimes make him easy to keel over.

The wings give him a lot of character, and it really suits his Japanese name, "Devil Gigatron".  There are a few pieces made of transparent red plastic.

Galvatron comes with two weapons, a kind of sword-stabby thingie/rapier that reminds me of Dinobot's sword.  While the red pieces can detach, there is no launch system (neither pressure or spring-loaded).

You can put one on either hand.  While they are the official placements, there are a few spots on the robot mode where you can place the weapons if you don't want him to hold them.

Poseability is excellent.  He has the full suite barring a waist joint.  Again, due to his weight and balljointed ankles, you would want to make sure he is stable before letting go, otherwise he'll fall over.  If you're a fan of ratchet joints, then you're in luck because Galvatron has ratchet shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.  They're super tight too.

You can combine the two weapons together to form a larger, longer, double-ended weapon (still don't know what to call it though).  This actually looks really really wicked.

The way Galvatron holds it makes it seem he can use his weapon for slicing, clubbing, smacking or stabbing.  It feels like a versatile weapon.

While most pieces are tabbed into place, the piece of plastic on his back is not.  This makes it annoying since it moves easily (it slides).

Need I mention how cartoon-accurate this figure is?

The outer two pieces of his wings are made from a smoky translucent purple plastic.  There's lightpiping for his head as well as the crest.

Another neat thing is that the wrists rotate.  You can spread the wings out to make him more intimidating.  An impressive robot mode and the best mode of this toy.  The white and black colour scheme allows the sculpted details to pop out more than the original Megatron toy.  This is simply an amazing robot mode that does not disappoint.


Galvatron has ten official modes.  I'm not going to put a transformation section for each mode, so I'll put all my thoughts into this one.  The transformation between each mode doesn't comprise too many steps, which is good, this meant that the toy isn't horribly complicated.  There are some clever engineering but nothing you can't figure out, even without look at the instructions.  The most annoying parts would be the balljoints used for the piece that sits on the robot's back and the dragon claws, they like to pop out a lot.  There are also some super tight joints which are scary to force.  All in all, the transformations don't take too long and there is a heap of play value in that aspect alone.


I am going to cycle through the modes in the order they are presented in the instructions.  This means that first up is the gargoyle mode.  To be honest, I don't know why this is called a gargoyle because this is not what pops into my mind whenever I think of gargoyles.

While the front looks somewhat plausible, you can see the messiness of the back, which is basically the legs folded onto his back.  The trunk of plastic acts as a third leg but because it doesn't tab in anywhere, it can easily give up and you can't get Galvatron to stand.

Anywho, this mode is also present in the original Megatron toy, therefore there are some dedicated parts here.  The exclusive piece for this mode is a snout that folds up and covers Galvatrons face.  This is actually pretty cool.

There is an impressive wingspan.  Galvatron used this mode a lot in the cartoon.  While it's officially a "gargoyle", I think this was supposed to be a bat?

Size-wise, this is a much more compacted mode, short and stubby is the name of the game here (also, please welcome Red Alert!  He, along with Drag Strip, will be the size comparison bots in this review).

An okay mode, I rank this as the 5th best mode just because there's not enough definitive features here to let a person instantly know what it is supposed to be.


Next up is the two-headed dragon mode, Galvatron also used this mode a lot in the cartoon.  You can see that this is one of the first modes designed for this figure just because it is so defined and actually looks amazing.

There are a number of dedicated parts for this mode including the obvious dragon heads and claws.  The wings make him look massive.

The heads are actually the robot mode feet and they are amazing.  They have painted teeth (which can be a negative since they scrap against the table in robot mode).

Complete with opening mouths!  Each has this circular thing in the middle of the mouth to make it seem like they could breathe fire.

Sadly though, the proportions aren't perfect.  A lot of bulk is in the neck and heads, making them look overly long.  There isn't enough bulk in the torso.  That said, this is an inventive transformation scheme (and it seems that the Legion Hun-Gurrr has a very similar transformation to this toy).

Galvatron becomes bigger in this mode.  The size makes this dragon mode even more impressive and intimidating.

The tail acts as a third leg so he's very stable.

The dragon arms are cool, even though they're a bit small and tiny.  They are poseable through the use of balljointed shoulders and elbows.

Apart from the robot mode, this mode is the only other mode where you can even attempt to pose him.  His legs are limited, but the dragon heads can be posed all over the place.

I rank this mode number 2.  This mode alone makes Galvatron a good Transformer and enough reason for you to get this figure.


Jet mode next, another mode that Galvatron uses occasionally in the cartoon.  This is also one of the better modes and one of the original six that Megatron possessed.

For some reason, the way the cockpit is shaped and the general overall shape reminds me a lot of the Energon Megatron.  To be honest, this jet isn't very aerodynamic with the huge chunk of kibble at the top (the robot legs).

The back is also a big mess, with a huge gap.  It feels very much a robot with his limbs rearranged instead of parts and panels shifting.

What's interesting is that there is a dedicated front landing gear, that's pretty sweet.  The wheels on the outside of the robot forearms also touch the ground (hence the big gap at the back to allow these wheels to be level), this means that theoretically, this jet can roll.  In reality, it only somewhat works on a smooth surface.

Thanks to the wingspan and length, this jet feels huge.  It's a minor annoyance that the legs on the top of the jet don't tab in anywhere, relying on friction to stay in place.  Thus, when holding the jet in your hands, it doesn't feel as solid as it should.

Overall, while gappy and not being very jet-like from a lot of angles, it's an okay mode, I rank this 6.


Transport mode, otherwise known as car mode, is... a bit of a stretch.  It's no wonder this didn't make it into the cartoon much, I mean, what does it even look like?!?!

It's a huge mess, the worst thing is that there are way too many gaps and not enough distinctive parts to even give the viewer a vague idea of what this is supposed to be.  The angled 'front' made from the wings reminds me of the Batmobile.

This transport mode does feature wheels... of sorts.  They're hard to make out at first and they don't roll very well.  Interestingly enough, the legs tabs into the arms, so this mode holds together fairly well.

This is basically Galvatron lying down so it's still pretty big.

This mode feels too insubstantial to be fun.  It doesn't look like much so there's not display value.  There's no play value either as it's a mess.  I rank this 7 (yes, there are three modes that are worse than this).


When this... thing, showed up in the first episode, I was instantly won over.  This has got to be one of the most original and clever alternate mode ever.  Seriously, a giant hand?!?!  What's not to like about this?

Okay, one of the bad things is that this claw cannot stand on it's own.  You either got to rest it against something (I used the MP Soundwave box...) or lay it face down.  I guess the way the weapons are attached makes it seem like it's using rocket boosters to keep it afloat in the air.

It's a big hand and can easily grab hold of Deluxe sized figures.

You can angle the 'thumb' to make it either a left or right hand.

There's a gimmick here too, the only gimmick (outside of the transformation) that Galvatron has.  At the robot's waist is a lever that you can pull out.  This piece of plastic is geared and pulling it out even further causes the four fingers to push forward, simulating the claw grabbing onto something.  It's okay and doesn't impede upon the engineering, so that's okay.

Of course, you can have a ton of fun making hand gestures, such as the above "number 1" sign...

Or Galvatron assuring you that he's okay...

Or that he comes in peace.

An excellent mode.  Unique and iconic for Galvatron, this is the 3rd best mode of this figure.


So now we start entering the Galvatron unique modes.  For those of you who are not aware of the history of this mode, the original Megatron has only six official modes (the above six).  When Takara recoloured it into Galvatron, they added four more official modes.  The griffin is one such official mode.  Truth be told, this griffin mode isn't too bad.

At least it looks like something.  It's also neat that the robot weapon acts as a sort of tail for this beast.  It's fairly solid with minimal amount of gaps.

This mode can also pass for a dragon though.  Galvatron is very stable in this mode but he lacks poseability.

Height-wise, he is about Deluxe sized.

Whereas obviously he is much longer and wider.

Not a horrible mode, it feels plausible and looks good enough (I admit, it is basically the robot on all fours but what do you expect for something that wasn't even extensively retooled?).  You might be surprised, but this is one of Galvatron's stronger modes, I rank this the 4th best.


Wait... we already had a dragon mode!  I guess this is just the one-headed version but how horrible it is.  It is such a downgrade it is best to forget about this monstrosity because it looks like rubbish.  Seriously, this does not even look much like a dragon (it bears a passing resemblance to a bird though).

This feels very much like a fan-mode.  Basically, this is a mode that the designer found out after fiddling with Megatron and thought to make it official.  I mean, look at how the legs are just sitting on the back like this!  It reeks of laziness and is obvious that this mode wasn't part of the original intention.

A bunch of stuff sticking out the back means that this mode does not look good from any angle except the front.  The back kibble acts as a third leg.

Since the robot is compacted so much here, the dragon is very bulky.  Oh yeah, the legs (both beast and robot) don't tab or clip in anyway, relying only on the strength of the joints (means that they'll wiggle).  Disappointing mode and a write-off, 8th place (and it's only going to get worse from here).


Another bit of a stretch, kudos for the designer on at least trying since this is an ambitious mode.

It shouldn't come up as much of a surprise to realize that it's kind of another fail.  It's similar to the griffin mode.  It looks really odd because the head is situated so high up, but there's no body behind it.  It's also not very poseable.

In case you don't see the resemblance to an elephant, the wings are the ears, the two big red thingies are the elephant's eyes, the robot weapons are tusks and the curved thing is the trunk.  It vaguely resembles an elephant's head but the proportions are too off and you need to squint really hard to convince yourself.

The wing panels acting as ears are way too big for it to look good.

This is something that you're going to transform it to once to see what it looks like, turn away in disgust and never get Galvatron looking like this ever again.  9th place (yes, there is something even worse than this...).


And we have finally gotten to the tenth and final mode!  Boy, have we left the worse til last.  This is... Galvatron's boat mode.  What the...?

The less time we spend on this mode, the better.  It is gappy, a huge mess with limbs everywhere and doesn't look like anything at all.  The only parts that even vaguely (and by that, I mean vaguely) recognisable is that the wings at the front are supposed to act like hulls and that the feet at the back looks like thrusters of some sort (so like a hovercraft?).  I know we saw this mode in the cartoon once, but it was ridiculous there and it is even more ridiculous here.

I just don't know what to say.  The thing doesn't roll so there's no play value at all.  It looks more like a space cruiser than a boat.

Once again, it's a variation of the robot lying down so it's a decently big size.

Rubbish.  There is no contest, this is the worst mode that Galvatron has to offer.  This can not even be called a fan mode (let alone an official mode) as it is much worse.  Forget about this mode, please.


In case you missed it, here's the final overall ranking for each of Galvatron's modes in terms of best to worse:
1) Robot
2) Twin-headed dragon
3) Claw
4) Griffin
5) Gargoyle
6) Jet
7) Transport
8) Dragon
9) Elephant
10) Boat

In terms of overall though, six of the ten modes worked to some degree (the other four are write-offs and best to forget about them).  Most of them have a fan-made feel to them, especially due to the way the parts are allocated.  This does not detract the immense play value this guy has.  The robot mode and dragon mode are amazing and worth the price just for those two modes alone.  Definitely recommended as the colour scheme is nice, engineering is impressive and just a fun figure.


Thanks for your time!  If you feel inclined for a few more Transformers reviews, feel free to head over to this page here.



Refer to this note here in the TFwiki that one of the designers of Galvatron fiddled with the figure and created an 'eleventh' mode called the Devil Ostrich!  I've tried to replicate here with the one photo that was shown and hmmm, it is actually better than some of the official modes that managed to sneak past!

It's basically a bird-like mode.  I found it hard to keep him standing up as there was too much weight at the front.  I'm not sure how the leg configuration worked since you cannot tell too much from the photo but this looked about right.

And with that, this review is finally over.  It's been a blast and my pleasure.  Hope to see you again soon!

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