Monday, June 30, 2014

Wreck-It Ralph

A slick animation with a sweet concept, especially if you like video games.  For the ones who have no idea what it is about apart from knowing it's something to do with video games (like me before I watched it...), then the movie takes place in an arcade, and an arcade character (the titular Ralph) journeys from one arcade game to another (they are connected) on an adventure.  The animation is great, it's bright and colourful and visually pleasing.  The plot is decent but it's nothing terribly special.  The thing that elevates this movie is the many video games references scattered.  Mainly, the hard hitting references are towards the beginning of the movie and you freak out when you see the likes of Bowser and Sonic appearing, not just as a side reference but as a cameo with dialogue.  I didn't find most of the movie to be extremely laugh-out-loud funny, but there were many enjoyable moments and one or two hilarious gags.  A lot of the humour relies on puns, which isn't that bad in execution.  There were some dark-ish themes and the antagonist was somewhat freaky at the end.  This travelling between worlds is the perfect concept for an actual video game, the nostalgia would be massive (kinda like the Kingdom Hearts series of games, but covering a lot more distinct game franchises).  Anyway, a solid movie.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty (PS3)

A short adventure that bridges Tools of Destruction and A Crack in Time.  We follow Ratchet and Talwyn as they go in search of a dead pirate's treasure in the hopes of obtaining an item that will help them locate Clank.  It is a deliberately short game, easily able to be finished within 3 to 4 hours.  When you think about it, it does seem too short, just when you feel like you are sinking your teeth into it, the game ends and it doesn't satisfy your hunger of Ratchet & Clank action.  The gameplay is similar and there aren't many changes to the formula found in previous games.  Ratchet still blasts weapons at enemies, do some platforming and collect bolts.  While Quest for Booty isn't a bad game, it leaves a lot to be desired.  First of all, it feels to be the weakest Ratchet & Clank game yet, the action never elevates to the level of other games.  It stays flat and you're just trudging from one place to the next without feeling excited or experience the joy of finding some hidden secrets.  The areas are small and uninspired.

The only new gameplay mechanic is something called the kinetic tether which is basically using your wrench and attaching it to platforms from a distance, allowing you to manipulate it.  It is nothing groundbreaking.  Second, a big part of the games is the crate destroying and bolt collecting.  You use these bolts is to buy more weapons and defeat enemies to level them up.  However, due to the short length, a concession had to be made...  You'll still collect bolts but you don't use them to buy weapons (well, you can buy one near the end of the game), rather, the weapons are given to you as you progress along the story.  Weapons also level up very fast such that all of this combines to the fact that you lose all sense of satisfaction of your progression.  You don't feel the surge of excitement when your weapons level up.  The variety of weapons is limited and are ones you have seen before in Tools of Destruction, they are literally the same weapons.  Bolts are used as the story dictates so it feel arbitrary and contrived.  What's the point of collecting bolts when it doesn't do anything meaningful?  Platforming plays a huge part in the game, with most of your time taken up by traversing the environment.

You grind rails and solve simple puzzles but all of this doesn't feel clever or ingenious.  There has been so many good Ratchet & Clank games that this feels uninspired and pales in comparison.  Something is missing in this game; it doesn't feel like the Ratchet & Clank experience that we crave.  Combat still forms a decent chunk of the game but shooting feels awkward and not as smooth as it could be.  For some reason, Quest for Booty likes to place you in dark places where you have to use your wrench to get a glowing being to be able to see (and not die an instant death from creatures afraid of the light).  There are some questionable segments where you have to walk on thin planks, easily falling to your death or when you have to use your kinetic tether to pull platforms down but there's an enemy shooting at you.  The recoil you get when you get hit makes you fall off to your doom, *sigh*.  The graphics are okay but it feels as if we have regressed back to the late PS2 days, the environments aren't the bright colorful backgrounds but rather more drab and looks flat.

The game also has a few glitches such as sound not playing in cutscenes (or getting out of sync) and non-responsive buttons.  Another sad thing is that Clank doesn't help out his partner.  As the story involves tracking down Clank, we don't get to see much of him.  Ratchet doesn't have the helipack to glide around and no funny quips between the two.  The story isn't terribly crucial but it ties off the pirate theme.  The whole point of this game is the ending in which it presents a nice twist and surprise.  The music is quite nice.  Unfortunately, there's no further incentive to play the game once you finish it because you can't go back to areas and there are no collectibles or skill points at all.  It's just one playthrough of 3 hours and that's it, it sure feels like there isn't much value for money considering how expensive this game was when it was first released.  In the end, Quest for Booty doesn't have the soul of a Ratchet & Clank game, it's missing something crucial that makes this series fun.  It felt like you are blazing through the game without any meaningful reason.  Only recommended for R&C fans who has to play every single game in the series, otherwise, you aren't missing much.


Check out a few other game reviews on this page.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Transformers Prime Beast Hunters: Predacons Rising

A 60 minute “TV movie” that is set after the events of the last episode of Season 3.  This is unique in the fact that it is set completely on Cybertron and humans do not even make an appearance here.  The plot is that Megatron is revived and controlled by Unicron to which he then tries to destroy Cybertron.  There is a significant focus upon the Predacons as well, namely new Predacons make an appearance.  While the first half hour was fairly boring and formulaic, there was a lot of dialogue and narrating, once Unicron pulls his ace in the hole, it gets quite good.  The climax fights and showdowns did not disappoint.  The movie also throws in a few twists in regards to allegiances of various characters, some better than others.  While this is the “true” ending, some elements may feel unusual, especially the way Megatron reacted.  You would not have thought that he would have spoken what he did.  The ending was emotional; a sacrifice that you could see coming but still impacts you.


Check out previous Prime episode reviews here.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Swerve w/ Flanker (Legends)

Review:  #180
Name:  Swerve w/ Flanker
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Generations
Year of Release:  2013
Size Class:  Legends (Wave 5)
Variations:  retooled into Generations Gears


Swerve transforms into small 4-wheel-drive pickup truck with black painted windows and silver headlights.

Swerve is one of those figures that looks good from the front but the rear of the vehicle somewhat falls apart.  There are gaps due to the transformation (they're the robot knees).  Somewhat disappointing.

The only noticeable panel break are along the sides.  That piece is also a lighter red since it is painted as opposed to using red plastic.  Swerve rolls on all four wheels and it's cool to see the rims painted silver.

Swerve is a "Legends" figure, that's the official size class he was sold in.  He's approximately Commander sized.  You can see the obvious robot feet that forms the back of the truck.  They stick out somewhat.

He comes in a two-pack with Flanker, a much smaller figure that turns into a plane.

You can attach Flanker's gun mode on top of the roof and with this, it rounds out all the play value Swerve has in this mode.

A decent vehicle mode with no critical flaws.  He looks good, decent enough paint applications and has a bit more play value than you'd expect.


Let's dedication this next section to Flanker who transforms into a drone jet (e.g. there's no cockpit window).

There are some good sculpted details but minimum paint applications in this mode.  There's an Autobot insignia and some details on each wing.

Flanker is smaller than a Legions sized figure and simpler too.

A cool thing is that Flanker can transform into a robot.  It's a simple transformation though, you flip the front of the plane back and folds the wings.  Not a challenge at all (basically, he's a jet with the robot underneath).

There is a lot of kibble but at this small size, it's not a big deal.  He is a robot with heaps of junk on his back.

It's hard to say if the head sculpt is good purely because it is so small.  There is a splash of red paint on the paint which is more than what you would expect.

Very tiny in robot mode, you can see the size difference compared to a standard Legion toy.

The articulate is limited to swinging his arms back and forth.  The legs are molded solid into one piece.

BUT, Flanker is a triple changer in that he also transforms into a weapon for Flanker (and any other bot with 5mm fist holes) to hold.  The transformation into gun mode is slightly more involved in that you move the whole chest up (hiding the robot head).  It's quite neat and clever.


Transformation on Swerve is simple yet effective.  It's to the degree where you are satisfied with how it is done.  It doesn't try anything new but since Swerve looks so good in both modes, you'll forgive it. You unfold the legs from the back and pull the arms out while folding up the hood onto his back.  It gives Swerve a distinctive look and barely any kibble.


This figure is a fantastic update to the original G1 incarnation.  Swerve looks amazing with perfect proportions and achieving the goal of the Generations line:  updating G1 figures with better aesthetics and articulation.

There is hardly any kibble at all due to the efficient transformation.  The vehicle hood situates closely on his back and doesn't impede on anything.

The head sculpt is expressive, Swerve carries a smile/smirk and this is one of the best head sculpts in terms of showing emotion.  This is especially impressive when you consider how small the figure is.

You can see how neat Swerve is from the side profile.

Size-wise, he's not too bad and on par with other Commander sized figures.

The articulation is decent but Swerve is missing a few key joints.  First and foremost, his head is fixed in place.  Second, he doesn't have hip or knee swivels which makes the leg a lot more static and restricted than I would have liked.

In terms of sculpting, it is excellent.  I loved the design of the torso and how it incorporates the kibble surrounding the head like the G1 head... but without it being overwhelming or looking super kibbly.

Swerve towers of Flanker, there's some serious scale issues here... if that kind of thing bothers you.

Swerve can hold Flanker's weapon form in either hand, there's not slot to place him like a shoulder or arm cannon or anything of that nature.  Just due to Swerve's smaller size, Flanker's gun may seem a bit big and unwieldy for him.

An amazing robot mode that has perfect aesthetics and only lacking a tiny bit in the posing department.


Swerve is a must have figure.  He is close to 100% perfection.  The aesthetics are good and Swerve shows off that a Transformer doesn't need clever gimmicks when he has two great modes linked by a simple yet classic transformation scheme.  Flanker is just a bonus and makes for a decent weapon mode.  It's a good thing that Hasbro decided to release him in larger quantities.


Check out other Transformers reviews here.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

The Little Mermaid

While the love story here isn't as powerful as some other Disney movies like Aladdin and Beauty and the Beast, the storytelling is still top-notch.  That said, the beauty of the relationship shines through from the middle to the end of the film.  Some of the songs weren't instant hits, there are two that's really catchy though.  The first half of the film deals with Ariel's fascination with humans and life in the undersea world, which can be a bit "normal" as you await the more interesting events that's surely to come.  The way that Ariel's love with Prince Eric begins (basically a "love at first sight") can feel weak and feeble, especially Ariel acts as if she is in really deep love.  Other than that, the story was enjoyable, the way the protagonist was defeated was a little surprising (well, they did get impaled...).  The character and world designs are fascinating and creative.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Transformers: Prime (Season 3 Beast Hunters: Episodes 10, 11, 12, 13)

Minus One

Soundwave once again has considerable screen time but we get a surprise when for the first time in the whole series, we get to hear his voice!  Other than that, this episode isn’t too remarkable.  The Autobots capture Soundwave and we get the usual scenes of an Autobot team investigating an area, a gunfight ensues, Predaking arrives to overpower Optimus and ending in a cliffhanger.


An unremarkable episode, it feels as if Ratchet has been persuaded to help the Decepticons before, so it isn’t terribly interesting.  The fact that Starscream was so easily fooled by a paintjob and ONLY destroying on hangar was hard to believe.  By this point, it is evident that the Beast Hunters title doesn’t play throughout this season as we haven’t seen any hunting of beasts (and probably never will).  Anyway, there is a lot of monologue and characters explaining the obvious.


Not a bad episode at all, as the season nears its finale, the events speed up and becomes more exciting.  Predaking finds out Megatron’s treachery from a few episodes back in which the Predacon protoforms were terminated and we get to witness a fairly epic fight.  It does feel as if Predaking is overpowered, any Transformer that goes one on one with him effectively will always lose.  Knockout retains his humorous charm; he stands out a lot (in a good way) throughout this season.


The final episode in the season (excluding the TV movie) and it is suitably epic.  It presents a conclusion to the whole Prime universe and was one of the more interesting and better finales out of the other continuities.  At least it presents more of a closure.  You would go into this episode thinking that there will be a grand final fight between Optimus and Megatron but prepare for disappointment.  While it wasn’t a bad thing, it just felt like a missed opportunity.  The writers did try to present some twists but straight after it, you can guess at what is about to happen.  With that said, the writers of the series did have the courage to kill off major characters.


Check out other Prime episodes review here.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Toy Review: Transformers Age of Extinction Generations Drift (Deluxe)

Review:  #179
Name:  Drift
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Age of Extinction Generations
Year of Release:  2014
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 2)
Variations:  none as of this date


Drift transforms into a blue 2013 Bugatti Veyron Grand Sport Vitesse.  Yes, Drift is a licensed vehicle.

This is a very nice vehicle with a lot of good details.  The transformation joints aren't too bad and doesn't ruin the car mode.  The plastic color looks good and there are enough paint details to highlight the good sculpting.  A bit unfortunate in that the engine on the back isn't painted silver.

One of the best things about Drift is that there are no concessions made in the rear of the car.  It replicates the real life vehicle instead of taking the lazy route of many other Transformers figures and leaving gaps there.

Apart from the hinge on the side of the car, Hasbro did a great job at matching the blue paint on the transparent pieces with the blue plastic used.  Drift's only play value in this mode is rolling him along a table.

Size-wise, Drift feels a little bit small for a Deluxe sized car.  Specifically, he is shorter than you would expect.  Probably another reason why he is packaged in robot mode.

All of Drift's weapons (which we will get into in the next section) store here, with the two swords pegging onto the underside.

A brilliant vehicle mode that doesn't have any flaws at all.  I'm actually very impressed with the sculpting and amount of detail this figure packs in this mode.


As a side effect of the character model having barely any visible vehicle kibble, the designer was forced to make Drift a shellformer.  Sure, while the chest piece is formed by part of the hood, it cheats and most of that piece is robot exclusive.  Yet, Drift is cleverly designed in such a way that the shellforming aspect doesn't weigh him down.  While folding in the shell of the car can be a little bit tricky in terms of the clearance, everything else is simple.  Going back into car mode can be annoying when you try to figure out which parts goes in first for the shoulders and hood.  In general, this is a decent transformation that isn't too hard but not too easy either to the point of boredom.


Like Bludgeon, Drift's robot mode takes on aspect of a samurai, right down to the thigh and shoulder guards, helmet and torso armor.  This means that Drift is very organic looking and not very robotic like, he reminds me of a Pretender shell.

Drift wears most of the vehicle on his back: the hood, roof and rear.  The folding of the car's side into the shoulder armor was a good implementation.

The kibble largely stays out of the way.  The backpack doesn't jut out too far and the pieces that situate behind his shins can be rotated to your preference.

Drift's head sculpt is not his strongest point.  Even the concept art is horrible, being too organic and similar to a human face.  It doesn't translate well into this toy form with the lips looking especially bad.  There's a lightpipe but it doesn't work very well.

It seems to be a theme with some of the AOE figures in that the robots carry more weapons than they can utilize at once.  In Drift's case, he has two swords and two knives.  They're made from this ugly gold color.  Silver/grey would have been a much better choice.

Drift can store all four swords at once on his back.  The knives actually store in a different area compared to the vehicle mode (since the original location is inaccessible being right behind his back).

It looks pretty nice in storage but the swords can occasionally fall out as you have to peg one on top of the other as they're attached at an angle.

Drift feels much better in robot mode, the blocky and solid look helps a lot.

Poseability is good, he's lacking a waist swivel which kinda sucks because it would be nice for sword poses.

Surprisingly, Drift has various ratchet joints:  his elbows, shoulders and hips.  This means posing can take a little bit more effort.  The shoulder armor can also fold up but looks weird like that.

The range of motion is decent and you can pull off some good poses.

The sword's plastic feel flimsy and easy to warp.  They're bendy to the point where you think they would snap easily if you're not careful.

For some odd reason, the weapon's hilt are rectangular in shape yet his hands molded perfectly to that shape.  Drift ends up holding the swords at a slight angle and doesn't grip it tight enough, it'll be a little bit lose and jiggly.  Seems like a design oversight.

Instead of wrist swivels (which would be much more useful and appreciated), Drift gets hinges.  His wrists can hinge inward which is weird as they're not needed for transformation.

Drift's legs can also look awkward like they're forced to bend forwards.  Anyway, the feet are also large enough to not need heelspurs.  The transformation hinges for the ankles are extremely useful for action poses.

As mentioned earlier, most of the sculpting is robot exclusive.  There's not much car pieces incorporated here.  I feel like that they could have done more for the legs to make it function and look better.

Drift also needs more color to break up the solid blue in the arms and lower legs.  A good thing is that the backpack actually pegs in so it doesn't rely on friction, which is a good thing.

The head is on a balljoint with a free range of motion.  You can get Drift to hold his swords backhanded which is always cool.

A decent robot mode.  The designer managed to make an unappealing organic looking character model into a passable figure that keeps the robotic aesthetic and personality.  The multiple combinations of swords adds play value.


A figure that turned out much better than I expected.  I picked Drift up on a whim and I do not regret it.  While he isn't a spectacular toy, he is a solid one.  There aren't any decision-breaking flaws but there also isn't any unique things going for him.  Either way, he has a fantastic vehicle mode and he's a samurai inspired swordbot, which is more than enough to be worth purchasing the figure.  An extra bonus if he is in the film too.


Check out some other Age of Extinction reviews on this page.

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