Thursday, October 30, 2014

Book Review: Pandora Hearts Volume 2

Review:  #444
Title:  Pandora Hearts Volume 2
Series:  Pandora Hearts - 2nd volume
Author:  Jun Mochizuki
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  The story feels more coherent than the first volume but is still confusing and all over the place.  The fact that it changes from treating itself very seriously in one frame to putting forth a stupid gag in the next frame is jarring and doesn’t flow properly.  It introduces some new concepts and presents a huge revelation about Raven which has a big impact.  It makes sense and feels elegant.  Once again, there are some neat ideas but they feel awkwardly strung together such that it’s not that fun to read.
Rating:  5.5/10

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Toy Review: Transformer Arms Micron (Prime) AM-24 Silas Breakdown

Review: #191
Name:  Silas Breakdown
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Arms Micron (Japanese equivalent of Prime)
Year of Release:  2012
Size Class:  Voyager (AM-24)
Variations:  a retool of the Voyager Breakdown, which was also retooled into Swerve


Silas Breakdown (henceforth only referred to as "Breakdown") transformers into an armored truck.  The most noticeable addition here is the huge chromed bumper, which, while it looks cool, isn't show-accurate.

This is a fantastic truck mode and looks really nice.  There are a lot of sculpted details.  The only detraction here is that the robot knees stick out from underneath the rear bumper.

Breakdown forms part of the Arms Micron line, which the Japanese equivalent of Prime.  One of the major changes in this line compared to the Hasbro version is that ports were added to the figures in order to plug in the Microns that came with the figures (more of Breakdown's Micron later).  Luckily, the added ports for Breakdown isn't too ridiculous or distracting.

As mentioned, the huge chromed bumper is a feature exclusive to this version of the mold.  It looks fantastic although I'm not sure why there are ports in it.

Another feature of the Arms Micron line is the lack of paint on the toys, instead, they rely on stickers for details.  Thankfully, Breakdown doesn't rely as heavily on these stickers and they aren't too hard to put on.

He has stickers for the side windows, headlights and Decepticon insignia.  I don't like how some of the stickers hide the sculpted details but you can always leave it off.  He also comes with bonus battle damage stickers to reflect the bruised and cracked body in the show.

Breakdown is a Voyager classed figure but most of his bulk comes in the height of the vehicle, not it's length or width.  Hasbro has commented that they did not release this mold in their line because it was apparently too costly for its price point and I can see that here (even though he feels lighter than you would like).

You can plug in Breakdown's Micron partner, Magi, in various ports around the vehicle.  Most of time, it looks really stupid and like an ugly growth.

The only somewhat better place is the port on the hood.

This is a very nice vehicle mode.  Sure, it might be lacking some color but black suits the mold and the character well.


The transformation is a highlight of the mold, it's fun, intuitive and interesting.  The ways the arms form is is clever, as well as how his legs unfold.  You also get a nice little surprise if you have dealt with the mold before (which we will cover later).  Unfortunately, the huge bumper means that it can no longer fold into his torso even though the joint is still there.


Breakdown's Micron partner is called Magi, and it transforms into a praying mantis.

You have to construct this little guy yourself but cutting out the pieces from its sprues, assembling it and then placing stickers for detailing.

It has a singular red optic.

It has a spark crystal of sorts which shows the Decepticon insignia.

The various stickers show mechanical details and looks good.

Poseability is extremely limited, Magi can only swing it's blades a bit.

It's actually not as small as you would big, approximately Legion size.

It's weapon mode is some sort of dual bladed weapon, I really don't know what the proper name is.  Overall, it's not the worse Micron mold but there are also better ones.  At least the praying mantis is a unique form to take.


Now, getting back to Breakdown itself, the robot mode is a stunner.  He looks big, bulking and menacing.

It is extremely show accurate down to the very last details such as the three tires on his back.

The next retool that we see is the head.  While still the familiar face of Breakdown, it's got a chip off the left crest and his right eye is an exposed optic (to represent how it was taken out in the show).

A few extra minor paint applications come out in robot mode, such as the silver on his knees (in the original mode, it was covered by stickers and a massive pain to keep them on).  Stickers provide details on his feet and side of his legs.  Yup, Breakdown doesn't actually have a lot of extra color other than the base plastic colors.

I mentioned it in the transformation section but I really enjoy how the arms fold up.  It's simple too in that the windshield halves fold into the forearm and the hands flip out, but it gives Breakdown character and a unique look.

And now the little bonus when transforming him.  This is another retool and we see in the torso portion is... Silas, who is controlling Breakdown here.  This is something that TakaraTomy didn't have to do but it is a very nice Easter egg.  You have to start transforming Breakdown in order to see this sculpted piece though.

There is some kibble floating around but it isn't anything that affects Breakdown's stability or range of articulation.  The major piece behind the rear of the truck compressed into his back.

You can also see that the pieces are as hollow as they can be in order to save on plastic and weight.  Hence, Breakdown feels somewhat light in your hands.

He trades height for width and bulkiness, similar to Bulkhead.  Therefore, he doesn't tower much over most Deluxes.

Now, only poseability, he has the works, excluding wrist and waist swivels.

The large feet allows him to be stable in a variety of poses.  The feet are slightly adjustable too, able to tilt up and down as a byproduct of transformation.

Size-wise, when compared to Magi, Breakdown towers over him (as you would expect).

In terms of weapons, Breakdown only had Magi's dual blade mode.  Unfortunately, it feels as if the blades are not long enough to look effective during combat.

You can also mistransform Magi in such a way to look like some sort of truncated pistol so that Breakdown can at least have a weapon.

It's a shame that Breakdown couldn't keep his hammer here but then again, I'd rather a brand new Micron mold than a recolor of the rhino-hammer Micron the original toy got (just for some differentiation).

The giant chrome bumper makes for a nice centerpiece to the robot mode.  It's striking and immediately captures your attention, in a good way.

You can also flip Breakdown's in such a way that his hands fold away and in it's place is the windshield with the port.  You can attach Magi's weapon mode to make it seem as if his hand morphed into the weapon.  This is a carry-over from the original mold.  It's doesn't look fantastic since there is a huge empty gap but the option is there.

Despite his bulk, Breakdown is actually quite versatile and offers a huge range of articulation.  His joints aren't obstructed and you can get a lot of decent poses out of him.

This figure captures the spirit and aesthetics of the show model so well that it's uncanny.

A fantastic robot mode that looks great and is fun to play with to boot.


This is an amazing mold and is truly one of the best in the Prime/Arms Micron line.  It gives the First Edition molds a run for their money, it is just that well designed.  Breakdown doesn't feel lazy or uninspired, there are some clever design choices in it's transformation.  The little additions to make this version of the mold differentiate itself from the others makes Silas Breakdown worthwhile.  Definitely recommended that all fans try and obtain at least one of this mold, sure, the original Breakdown still has the best coloring but Silas Breakdown is cheaper and isn't too big of a compromise.


For other Transformers reviews, have a look at this page here.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters

From trailers, it looks as if Sea of Monsters was going to be more faithful to the source material compared to Lightning Thief, but also heavy reliance on special effects.  Sad to say that the first assumption was wrong and the second assumption was correct.  The story had been dramatically changed and only broadly following the book.  However, they have included some reference to the book as passing remarks or incorporated it in a different way.  It originally seemed really great when they told the Great Prophecy (with a questionable adjustment) thinking that it was setting up the subplot that would run over the next three potential movies.  Instead, it is a great disappointment when it is 'fulfilled' at the climax.  The dramatic inclusion and departure of the climax will ruin it for fans of the book.  Not only has the movie already lost the ingenuity of the clever prophecy fulfillment but if they ever decide to carry on, Kronos' rebirth will not have the same impact.  As mentioned, special effects are everywhere and the problem is that the movie probably didn't have a big enough budget to make it look realistic.  What we get feels dodgy and extremely fake and plastic looking.  It's hard to take some of the characters seriously because you're not sure whether they are just horrible at acting or it's on purpose.  A mediocre movie that's doesn't provide the enjoyment or excitement that it aims to.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Metrico (Vita)

A game that kinda flew under the radar and I think something a lot of players would not know about (and actually purchase) were it not for the fact that it was part of the PS+ subscription when it was released.  Metrico is a side scrolling puzzle platformer without any sort of narrative.  You will be playing through puzzle after puzzle (around 60-ish).  That may sound like a lot but each puzzle isn't that long.  The ones that appear early on in the game can be breezed through in seconds and it's only when the difficulty increases towards the end will you be spending time through trial and error on how to solve it.

The graphics are minimalistic, as is the trend these days.  One of the focuses of the game is mathematics, in the sense that there are a lot of straight lines and angles that evokes that subject.  You can see protractor angles, pie charts and graphs and it looks and feels very promising as a unique experience.  This somewhat drops off later on in the game where this theme blends into the background and never does more than presenting a theme.  The art direction is great and I like the constant change from black and white line shapes to coloured blocks while still keeping coherent aesthetics.  The puzzles themselves are clever but the game just thrust you into the deep end.

You learn the controls through images and sometimes it isn't clear on the extent of the controls.  It can feel vague.  The twist in the game play here is that your actions affect the environment.  Jumping may cause platforms to rise; running forward may make the platform go backwards.  This actually makes the puzzles much more interesting but can also be slightly annoying when you're trying to figure out the correct timing and steps towards solving the puzzle and continuing on your merry way.  To be honest, I got bored by the game at around the third section.  It didn't capture my attention and felt lacking in some way.  The music is tranquil and calming, suiting the game's tone.

It shakes things up by introducing a new control input at the start of each chapter/section/world (whatever you want to call it).  You eventually gain the ability to shoot projectiles, warp back to specific points and reset the whole puzzle.  This makes it less stale but some of the control schemes are questionable.  It tries too hard to use up the Vita's gimmicks and it gets to the point of intrusiveness.  For example, you might have to tilt the Vita to move platforms towards you but it requires you to gradually tilt the Vita to 180 degrees while pushing the analogue stick to make your character run and also time your jumps to make it to the next platform.  It can get awkward and stupid.

The other often criticized gimmick is the need to find specific colours to aim the camera to in order to move platforms.  Sounds good and actually is fairly cool... if you've got the colours handy (you only need blue, green and red).  It's not a problem if you have access to a computer and you can pull images up easily enough but if you're playing somewhere else (train, park etc) then it gets annoying and grating.  Each puzzle is short, you can spend as little as 30 minutes to as much as minutes depending on your analytical problem solving skills.  Some of the tougher ones can take a short while to understand.  One annoying thing is that sometimes it's hard to tell what input influences what element and you end up trying to fluke it.

In particular regarding the motion control sections, it's hard to tell how much tilt you need (and tilting in which direction too) to move the platforms to where you want it to be.  The later puzzles also takes precision, you will need to perform specific actions in the exact order and with the exact number of times in order to get past, which can be annoying when you have to repeatedly reset a level.  There is no attempt at a narrative.  You are simple playing this game for the enjoyment of puzzle solving.  There's no true motivation to keep going, such as maybe discovering the answer to a mystery or the hero saving a princess.  It's pure puzzle solving.

There are some noticeable technical issues with the game.  It stutters... a lot.  You will be travelling to the next puzzle and the frame rate drops so badly it feels jarring when it should have been a seamless transition.  What's more, loading times from the puzzle select screen to the actual level feels way too long, to the point where you will press a few buttons to see whether it might have loaded already because you didn't expect it to take this long.  Considering that neither the graphics nor the gameplay feels like something that would tax the Vita's hardware, it feels weird and was a big letdown.  In the end, Metrico feels like an obscure game which while it wasn't a bad game, there isn't too much going for it to be recommended as a must-buy either (especially considering the high price and short campaign).


For other Vita game reviews, please check out this page.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Book Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion Volume 2

Review:  #443
Title:  Neon Genesis Evangelion Volume 2
Series:  Neon Genesis Evangelion - 2nd volume
Author:  Yoshiyuki Sadamoto
Read Before:  no
My Comments:  I found this volume to be very interesting, even more so than the first book.  It combines some decent robot fight scenes (although nothing too epic) and also dives deep into Shinji’s feelings and his attitude.  Suzuhara is portrayed initially as a jerk but you can see that he’s warming up to Shinji.  It’s surprising actually but none of these chapters feel like they’re fillers, each one feels significant in their own way.
Rating:  6/10

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Toy Review: Transformers Prime Beast Hunters Predaking (Voyager - 2nd mold)

Review:  #190
Name:  Predaking
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Predacon
Line:  Prime - Beast Hunters
Year of Release:  2014
Size Class:  Voyager (Wave 5)
Variations:  none as of this date


This is the second Voyager classed mold for Predaking in the Prime Beast Hunters line.  This is a brand new mold, much different to the previous toy.

Despite what it might initially seem, this is NOT a simple upscaling of the Commander classed figure (unlike the 2014 Deluxes which were upscales of Legions figures).

Anyway, Predaking transforms into a dragon, with a huge and disproportionate orange sword.

A big chunk of the body is made from smoky transparent plastic but it looks quick nice here.  Unfortunately, and I think it is a bid to save some plastic but the torso is quite thing (made from the legs).  It would be nice if it was "thicker".

The head sculpt is fantastic, the beast heads looks amazing.  I love crest although the transparent plastic means that some of the details are lost.

There isn't much poseability in the head though, it can tilt up and down.  Unfortunately that it can't open its mouth to roar.

Perhaps the biggest benefit of losing some complexity is that it allows Predaking to be MASSIVE.  He is much much bigger than your average Voyager classed figure, even so far as being near Ultra sized in the olden glory days.

Then when you add in wingspan, Predaking becomes even more impressive and is almost as big as the Ultimate Predaking figure.

The wings are transparent orange plastic and looks great.  They are just one piece so but are adjustable to a certain degree.

The robot hands are fully exposed but it actually blends in well with the rest of the beast feet, I found it impressive that it manages to hide so well in plain side and an elegant solution.

Don't expect much poseability here.  The rear legs are one piece and only jointed at the hips while the front legs have quite a big of articulation due to them doubling up as robot arms.  The neck is fixed which is a shame.

An extremely impressive beast mode that looks great (without seeming too kiddie from the simplification process) thanks to the sculpting and of course, the sheer size.


While the transformation is simple, it is also very satisfying and elegant.  As mentioned, this is not just a straight up copy of the Commander toy, the transformation is actually fairly different (but still heavily inspired).  While the way the robot arms form is nothing special (it's just the beast legs), the robot feet unfold from the body and the beast legs fold and cover up the massive gap that appears behind his shins.  The dragon head folds onto his back revealing the robot mode.  It's quick, easy and effective, if only all figures were this fun when they underwent the simplification process (but alas, most toys just ends up being bad from being too simple).


Predaking is one big hulking bot and contains heaps of sculpted details.  The transparent smoky plastic coupled with the orange highlights brings out a menacing stature.

The wings act as a sort of cape on his back but are really just kibble (albeit nice looking kibble).  The dragon head and neck rounds out his backpack.

The head sculpt is good, while not as impressive as the dragon head, at least it's well defined.  The head can only turn from side to side thanks to a neck swivel.

Just like in dragon mode, Predaking's biggest positive here is the sheer size of the guy.  He towers most other figures that isn't a Ultra or above.  That said, there are some cheats involved such as the hollow limbs (his shins are the biggest offender).  Nevertheless, Predaking still feels heavy and substantial in your hands.

Another great thing is that the simplification process did not cause any aesthetic casualties.  Heck, if anything, this mold looks ten times better than the first Voyager mold!!

In terms of weapons, Predacon comes with a massive Infernum sword, which was basically his tail.

The weapon is oversized even for Predaking.

As his hands are just the beast mode flipped up, I find that the sword is heavy enough to start folding the hand back down.  It's not an issue on my figure but I can see that as the joints get weaker over time, Predaking might one day not be able to support his own sword.

The other weapon is a gun, which doubles up as a pressure launch missile launcher.

Contrary to the gigantic sword, the gun feels too small.

I find that the missile is also made of a softer bendier plastic, such that it feels like you will snap the missile shaft in half.

The wings are on his back are adjustable so you can give him a bigger silhouette if you wish.

The beast feet also acts as excellent heelspurs, Predaking is very stable and won't be falling over any time soon.

Another benefit of the simplistic design and big pieces is the strengthening of joints through the use of ratchet joints.  Predaking has ratchets for his shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.

The size of him coupled with the clickity click of the ratchets gives you a sense of satisfaction.  Fiddling with this toy is fun.

As mentioned, the sculpted details are amazing, then again, a few more paint applications wouldn't have gone astray as the transparent plastic really hides a lot of the details.

The range of articulation is fantastic, Predaking can pull off a lot of wicked poses!

I do find that the wrists are too long, making the hands jut out a bit too far to look natural.

Predaking is also missing waist and wrist swivels, both of which would have benefited this sword-bot.

There are some sculpted Cybertronian lettering on his sword although I have no idea what it says (nor do I really care).

Apparently, all the transparent plastic means he is prone to stress marks, although I haven't noticed any on mine yet but it makes sense since transparent plastic is weaker and more fragile.

With that said, the plastic used here feels strong and solid.  There was a period of time where the Transformers toys had dubious plastic quality.

There are no other gimmicks present.

A brilliant robot mode.  It's hard to find many faults with this robot mode.


Predaking is the perfect example of an "upscaling" done right.  The simplified transformation works in his favor creating two knockout modes.  The addition of more robust joints and articulation is much welcomes.  Now, if only all the new figures were this good (since Hasbro is renewing their focus on simpler toys but they haven't been as great as they were in the glory days).  It's too bad that Predaking was released in the tail end of the line and saw limited release (although I suspect this was why the whole final wave were upscaled toys, in order to reduce the design/production phase and save on money).  Anyway, GET THIS TOY.


For other Transformers reviews, check out this page.

Blogger Widget