Saturday, February 28, 2015

Book Review: Day of Doom

Review:  #471
Title:  Day of Doom
Series:  Cahills vs. Vespers - 6th and final book
Author:  David Baldacci
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Something seems to be lacking in this novel… and that is realism and believability.  Ignoring the previous achieves of the main characters in which they effortlessly and with 100% success rate, steal objects from heavily guarded areas, they step it up here.  From somehow managing to discover a hidden secret that NO ONE has ever solved (and the solution is something as simple as longitude and latitude?) to breaking into a train compartment and disabling the electricity and hacking into the PA system, it all seems a bit too preposterous, presumptuous and too in your face.  After all the buildup over six books, the finale sure is disappointing.  How did they defeat Vesper One?  By a Deux ex machina.  Some significant deaths happen and it is supposed to be sad, however, the potential was lost when the author ended up brushing over the sad part in order to get right back into the action.  You never truly feel the sense of sadness that you should.  All in all, it appears that the ending was rushed in order to keep it within the length limit and that severely destroyed any suspense or momentum the plot had going for it.
Rating:  6/10

Friday, February 27, 2015

Toy Review: Transformers Robots in Disguise (RiD) Grimlock (2001)

Review:  #220
Name:  Grimlock
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Robots in Disguise
Year of Release:  2001
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 3)
Variations:  repainted into Universe Scavenger


Grimlock transforms into a two-shade green backhoe which looks pretty good at first glance.

The treads are molded plastic with some small wheels underneath to allow him to roll.

Unfortunately, the back is complete hollow so if you rotate the cabin too far, there's an unsightly gap.

The shovel arm has one joint (so it's perpetually bent) and the bucket can tilt slightly.  Grimlock doesn't hold together very well, the cabin can dislodge easily and the legs can unpeg from handling.

Due to the hollowness, Grimlock feels insubstantial.

A passable alternate mode, it just feels as if he is poorly designed and can quickly turn into a mess with the loose joints and instability of this mode.


Grimlock is easy to transform but his most annoying feature is the multitude of joints required for combined mode ruining it.  Especially his lower torso is a mess of jointed pieces that does not peg together in place at all.  The way the arms form are also counter-intuitive and weird.


Grimlock's robot mode is unique... and has a ton of problems.

The first issue is his feet which does not have heelspurs, this means he can fall backwards very easily.  Add to the fact that his feet can't both fact directly forward as they get in the way of each other.

At least his head sculpt is decent, with an orange visor and silver painted face.  It can turn from side to side.

One thing that works in Grimlock's favor is the fact that he is quite tall in this mode, thanks to the long legs.

Articulation is horrible.  While he has your standard hips and knee joints, the lack of heelspurs means dynamic poses are out of the question.

His arms are weird jointed, you can't get meaningful poses out of them and they look weird if they're not at their default arms to the side position.  The shovel arms sits behind his head and while it is detachment, there is not other meaningful place to situate it since his hands are claws.

A disappointing and flawed robot mode.  The lower torso likes to deform since it's not pegged together, the limited arm possibility and poor stability kills any of the robot mode fun.


Easily the weakest figure of the Build Team.  Grimlock is a figure that you will get purely because he forms the fourth member of an excellent combiner.  Grimlock has issues in both modes but his robot mode really suffers from instability and odd design decisions.


For other Transformers reviews, check out this page.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Tokyo Ghoul

Tokyo Ghoul is a wildly popular and well received anime from 2014.  Tokyo Ghoul is based upon the manga series of the same name.  The first season is only 12 episodes long with a second 12 episode season currently airing.  As the name implies, the story takes place and revolves around Tokyo, which is inhabited by ghouls, blending in with the humans.  Ghouls are different in the fact that they cannot eat anything apart from human flesh.  Therefore, in order to sustain themselves, they kill and devour people.  Furthermore, they are stronger than any normal human, have blood red eyes and has something called a "kagune", which is a sort of weapon that grows out of the ghoul's body.

The protagonist is a university student called Kaneki, who was living a normal life before he was pulled in the ghoul's world.  Even though ghouls kill and devour humans, it seems they are not numerous enough to cause a massive panic amongst the population.  The general population know that they exist and fear them but it is more like you have the same probability of encountering them as you would contract a terminal illness.  A task force is already established by the authorities and throughout the season, we see them at work, targeting and killing ghouls, trying to gain information for some mysterious object.

The biggest weakness of Tokyo Ghoul is that the plot isn't too clear sometimes.  Sure, Kaneki is pulled into their world, we see some antagonistic ghouls who cause pain and grief, while we also see antagonist humans who seem obsessively cruel but it doesn't give you the big picture from the get go.  Therefore, you can watch up to the seventh episode and still be thinking, what is the thing that drives everyone?  While ghouls were depicted as the evil monsters in the beginning, slowly this view may change.  Toka is one of the ghouls introduced who are peaceful and doesn't provoke humans unless necessary (although we do see her monstrous side frequently towards the end).

On the other hand, human characters are introduced who unnecessarily killing ghouls after questioning.  Sure, ghouls may be monsters but some do not deserve to die, they live in secret and out of view, but the human inspectors still terminate them.  A big chunk of the anime has Kaneki being weak while he is learning and strengthening his power.  This can get frustrating, especially when you know that he has huge potential and probably could be one of the most powerful ghouls around.  As different factions are introduced, some of the characters can be very... weird.  They have unusual personalities and tend to be melodramatic.

One thing that Tokyo Ghoul could do better is to elaborate one the backstory a bit more.  It feels as though you're thrust right in the middle of the whole affair with very little of the ghoul's anatomy and the history being explained.  Why are they in hiding?  How did they first appear?  Are they just the same as humans in that they have families too, the only difference being that they devour human flesh?  These questions are left unanswered for the most part and feels lacking.  The pacing increases in the final three episodes with the content being more twisted and gruesome than what came before.

A huge portion of the final episodes is spent on Kaneki reflecting on his ghoul self and you can feel that the anime is building up to something.  While the climax satisfies to some degree, the ending felt abrupt and unresolved when clearly there is more left.  Even though there is a second season, it doesn't feel as if that huge intense event was finished off properly.  Overall, Tokyo Ghoul is an intriguing anime but it doesn't feel as if it has fulfilled its full potential.  It felt like this first season was just the introduction, setting up the character to be stronger later on.  It can be a bit over the top with the blood by otherwise, it is entertaining to watch.


For other animation reviews, have a look at this page.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

X-Men Origins: Wolverine

For a film that got such bad word of mouth and negative critical reception, I expected X-Men Origins:  Wolverine to be worse.  That's not to say that it was good but at least the plot wasn't as horrendous as some would lead you to believe.  The biggest thing dragging down the movie is the over reliance on special effects.  Right from the very beginning when we have characters doing awkward looking jumps (not to mention hard to believe that they kind of float when jumping) tot he end with buildings crashing down, it all looked fake and processed.  The beginning scenes were supposed to make the cast of characters look badass but what it only showed was the ludicrousness of the action scenes, enough to make you embarrassed.  The climax fight was a dud, for a antagonist who was so powerful, he sure got defeated easily.  As this is a prequel, you know how it is going to end, with Wolverine somehow losing his memory and leading onto the first X-Men movie.  There were some redundant characters where you don't know what the point of them was.  Overall, the plot is passable but the action fights are not.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Book Review: The 13-Storey Treehouse

Review:  #470
Title:  The 13-Storey Treehouse
Series:  Treehouse- 1st book
Author:  Andy Griffiths
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The plot is nonsensical and while there are some highlights, it never becomes engrossing or clever.  It adds to the experience through the inclusion of illustrations which are funny and convey the humour better than the writing.  The humour actually falls flat in a few places and feels uninspired.  It tries too hard and while you are not supposed to take the book seriously, it works against it when it strays too far and is just a chain of unrelated events one after another.  It falls into the trap of including a lot of filler material which adds nothing to the plot.
Rating:  5.5/10

Monday, February 23, 2015

Toy Review: Transformers Robots in Disguise (RiD) Heavy Load

Review:  #219
Name:  Heavy Load
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Robots in Disguise
Year of Release:  2001
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 3)
Variations:  repainted into Universe Long Haul


Heavy Load transforms into a dump truck.  He is very boxy and square, looking slightly super deformed than having realistic proportions.

The only disappointment here is that the robot feet are painfully obvious at the rear.

He is a little bit shorter than most Deluxes but his height makes up for it.  Heavy Load also feels very hefty in your hands.

Heavy Load is also a working dump truck, the dump-bed can tilt back.

A good truck mode.  The cabin at the center is a little bit weird but otherwise he looks fantastic.


Heavy Load shares an extremely similar transformation with Hightower, the main difference being that Heavy Load doesn't partsform.  You can leave the truck bed on if you'd like or detach it.  Otherwise, the arms fold out, the legs extend and the cabin hides the head.  It's simple but effective.


There are some distinctive elements to Heavy Load's robot mode, most notably are the gigantic shoulders (complete with the truck's wheels) and long thin forearms.

Depending on what you prefer, you can leave the truck bed on his back which helps makes him look more substantial from that angle at the expense of having a giant backpack.

The head sculpt is good and features a smirk, which matches the one he shows during the transformation sequence in the cartoon.

The articulation is there but the range can be limited, especially his shoulders.  It's not as awful as you would have expected from just looking at it since it still folds and swings forwards, but swinging out is another story.

Nevertheless, he can still pull some sweet poses, his feet are also big enough for him to not fall over.

His height is standard and depending on how you fold his feet, he can be a bit taller (I have his feet like this because it reduces the ridiculous length of them).

Detaching the truck bed off his back makes him look a lot cleaner.

The bed itself can be held as a weapon, there are two shades of yellow on it and a gigantic Autobot symbol.

The gimmick here is the it can fold open to show serrated edges, but the thing itself is spring loaded so it closes immediately once you let go.

It's a bit big and unwieldy for Heavy Load, he can hold it in his hand just fine but it can become too heavy for him to keep it there in some angles due to the weakness of the balljoint.

Alternatively, you can have him hold it in such a way that it looks like a giant shield, which is honestly not a bad option.

A good robot mode that's big and bulky but the weapon is a bit weak.


Heavy Load is a solid Transformer.  The truck mode is good if a little bit boxy while the robot mode has distinctive elements bursting with character.  The weapon is the weakest point of the figure and I guess the truck bed has to go somewhere.  A worthwhile figure, especially if you intend to form Landfill.


For other Transformers review, have a look here!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Tomb Raider (2013) (PS3)

Tomb Raider is a reboot of the series, which was released in 2013.  It gives a fresh perspective on Lara Croft's origin story and we get to see how she transforms from an everyday archaeologist to a gun wielding, nimble adventurer.  When it was released, there was a lot of comparisons with the Uncharted series.  While the comparisons are justified and you can feel that they are similar in a lot of ways, Tomb Raider plays very differently too and personally, I like Tomb Raider over any of the Uncharted games.  Tomb Raider is a third person action adventure game with a sizable portion being a third person shooter.  In combat, Lara first starts off with a bow and arrows, before obtaining more weapons such as a rifle, shotgun and pistol.  Using the bow and arrows is fantastic and they are your main weapon for most of the game.  The reason for this is that the bow allows silent stealth kills, perfect for picking off enemies from afar.

What's more, in the early beginnings, there was a focus on survival aspects, such as using the bow to hunt animals.  You would be slowly shuffling through the forest, you eye on a deer, you would aim for a headshot and once the kill was completed, you went to the body to obtain meat.  However, the survival aspect dials way down afterwards as the story takes precedence.  Combat mostly involves shooting, you will need to take cover (Lara automatically crouches when enemies are nearby).  Lara isn't very good at melee combat, this is probably the most awkward part of the system so it's best if you don't let your enemies get close.  The number of enemies that attack you at once never gets overwhelming.  At the start, you'll be facing off against two or three enemies but near the end of the game, you'll be in these big firefights involving 10+ enemies shooting at you.

The best aspects of Tomb Raider would have to be the exploration.  Each area is huge in size, with a lot of hidden nooks and crannies to find goodies.  Tomb Raider has a lot of collectibles, just a bit over 170.  You will need to scour the maps to find them all and it is heaps of fun.  Each area is not only big horizontally but also vertically as well.  You will leap, climb and shimmy up ledgers, cliffs and boxes in order to get to where you want.  The climbing system is easy to pick up; Lara automatically grabs anything that can be grabbed once she is near it.  While exploring, you'll also be able to find something called "salvage".  These act as currency for you to upgrade your weapons.  Instead of just giving you the weapons and be done with it, Tomb Raider constantly introduces new weapon upgrades such as increased damage, silencers and increased firing rate.  This encourages you to keep searching the areas for more salvage and keep on upgrading.

There is also a leveling system, every time you do something whether it be reach a story point, break open some boxes or killing an enemy, you earn XP.  Once you level up you get a skill point which allows you to learn a new skill.  These skills range from melee counters, showing all collectibles on the map or get more items from enemies.  Once again, this keeps you going, wanting to get to the next part, explore, attack enemies, for more XP to get more skills.  The game takes place on an island but this still allows a wide range of environments.  You'll go through forests, climb up cliffs, trek inside mountains and explore a sinking ship.  Each area allows plenty of distractions in addition to the main path such that you never feel that Tomb Raider is a linear game.  You're able to fast travel to previous areas to find the rest of the collectibles during the game, which is appreciated.

One element which I felt the game could do better was the Quick Time Events (QTE).  For the first few times you needed to press a button for the QTE, you end up mistiming and die.  The timing of these QTEs was weird but thankfully, the checkpoints are generous and you don't lose much time whenever you die.  On the whole, the game is manageable and difficulty is just right in Normal mode.  Of note is that there is no aim assist in Tomb Raider but you'll soon get used to it. There are your standard scripted events such as Lara running from collapsing buildings or sliding down a river in which you have to dodge obstacles.  Some may feel contrives but some of them are fantastic in giving you a sense of urgency and adrenaline rush.  In addition to the story there are "Secret Tombs" which are optional puzzles.  These puzzles are fun and take a little thinking to solve.  They never get too hard but isn't so simple as to be immediately clear on the solution.  They provide a nice distraction and are satisfying once solved.

The story involves Lara on her way with a team to find the lost civilization of Yamatai.  Her ship sinks and they are scattered across the island.  In trying to escape, they discover the background of the island and it is one heck of an adventure.  After the first two hours, you will be totally engrossed in the story and wanting to know what happens next.  It does take on some supernatural elements near the end.  The story also takes a good amount of time to finish, around ten hours or so, and every single second of those hours is enjoyable.  The graphics are amazing and the game is very pretty.  Each area looks fantastic and there is heaps of detailing which you can't help but appreciate.  This is one of the best looking games for the PS3.  Music is good but they're mostly regulated to the background, it's rare to find a track that stands out as super awesome to the point that you want to track it down.  There are some minor flaws in Tomb Raider but all the good stuff outweighs them.  Tomb Raider is one of the best games I have played with an engrossing story, fantastic game play and is pure fun.


For other game reviews, have a look at this page.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Bad Boys II

Obviously, the sequel to Bad Boys and the thing with sequels is that they have to be bigger, badder and better, right?  Bad Boys II got the first two right but it fails to be better than the first movie, which already wasn't a masterpiece.  Bad Boys II seemed to have gotten overboard and just threw sense out the window.  While the beginning wasn't too horrible it then quickly degraded into a film with a horrible storyline, crude humor, random explosions and actions that does not make sense.  Marcus and Mike are constantly arguing in this movie, the problem being that it feels pointless and does not lead anywhere.  Marcus is showing intention to transfer out and it seems like it will play a big role but in the end, just gets shoved somewhere in the back.  Mike does not listen to anyone anymore and spontaneously does stupid things which seems out of character and irrational.  Then movie is also at least thirty minutes too long with the climax seeming forced and one of the biggest pieces of rubbish I have ever seen.  It was one of the weakest excuse ever for a gunfight and the amount of impossible things that happen was just too much.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Book Review: 07-Ghost Vol. 2

Review:  #469
Title:  07-Ghost Vol. 2
Series:  07-Ghost - 2nd volume
Author:  Yuki Amemiya / Yukino Ichihara
Read Before:  no
Comments:  While the story becomes a little more interesting as it opens up the background of the world, it still doesn’t capture your attention.  Characters feel cliché and while the author pushed hard to create some touching scenes, it can feel lacking as you haven’t have had time to warm up to them yet.  The characters are wooden and one dimensional.  Fight scenes (and in general, any important scene) are hard to make out.  Things happen and you have to study the frame in detail to make out who’s holding what and what they’re actually doing.  The illustrator really needs to somehow make their drawings more clearly.  It also falls into the trap of everyone look so pretty and handsome… with similar features.
Rating:  5.5/10

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Toy Review: Transformers Age of Extinction One-Step Changers Lockdown

Review:  #218
Name:  Lockdown
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Age of Extinction
Year of Release:  2014
Size Class:  One-Step Changers (Wave 1.5)
Variations:  while no redecoes or retools, the transformation is shared by various other One-Step Changers


Lockdown transforms into a Lamborghini Aventador, however, this toy is not licensed and so is only an approximation.

Despite that, Lockdown has a fantastic vehicle mode, including a nicely sculpted rear, only let down by the "wounded down" side windows.

Flipping him over, you can guess how he transforms, you can see the whole robot there...

He is nearly Deluxe sized, just being a little bit smaller than his Deluxe self.  Considering these are priced just a bit below Deluxe but contain much simpler engineering, they don't feel that they're worth the money.

A decent vehicle mode with some good paint applications and nice sculpting.


This is a one-step figure, Lockdown takes the approach of a spring-loaded transformation.  Pressing the button on the windshield splits him apart into this robot mode, it's not a drastic change and the engineering isn't impressive.


Lockdown's robot mode turned out to be quite decent, especially compared to other one-steps.  He has good proportions and is faithful to the character model seen in the film.

Thanks to the simple transformation, Lockdown carries huge amount of kibble around him, most notable, the car shells sit all around him.

Lockdown's headsculpt takes on his visor helmet.  It is fixed though so he can only look ahead.

In terms of size, he is also smaller than a Deluxe.  Poseability is limited, he can only swing his arms forward (and only forty-five degrees at that).  That's it.

Lockdown does what he needs to in this mode and it turns out to be better than expected.


You must take into account the target market when assessing this figure, Lockdown's play value is his simplicity and speed at which you can convert him.  In that aspect, Lockdown has succeeded.  He has two fantastic modes and while his poseability is non-existent, I can't help but keep converting him from mode to mode because it's so quick and easy, not to mention more fun than expected.


Check out other Transformers reviews here.

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