Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Book Review: D.Gray-Man Vol. 18

Review:  #563
Title:  D.Gray-Man Vol. 18
Series:  D.Gray-Man - 18th volume
Author:  Katsura Hoshino
Read Before:  yes
Comments:  A thief called Phantom G steals rare artifacts, however, the unusual thing happening is that there seemed to be numerous Phantom Gs.  Every time he is caught red handed another one pops up, and the one who is caught screams innocence.  Naturally, this causes the Black Order to investigate.  It takes a turn to the more exciting side once Akumas show up and what better than a Level 4 Akuma.  It is not as overly powerful as the first Level 4 but is still more than a match against Allen, Kanda and Marie.  A few new exorcists turns out with their unique powers and while the action sequences are intense, it can also be hard to tell what is happening in that frame.  It ends on a cliffhanger which is somewhat annoying.  The author also managed to sneak in quite a bit of humor which is welcomed.
Rating:  6/10

Monday, March 28, 2016

Fast & Furious 7

The latest in the Fast & Furious franchise and the last one to star Paul Walker, it brings the plot back to where Tokyo Drift finished off, with Han dead and Jason Statham's character out for revenge against the team.  It is a very nice revenge setup between Dom's team and Deckard Shaw.  However, this chase is diluted through the introduction of more generic villains so the overall atmosphere isn't as personal.  The films started to get more improbably as it went along and Fast & Furious 7 takes the cake.  In order to be bigger and better, as well as exceeding your expectations, there's stunts like cars parachuting out of a plane, cars running through skyscrapers and cars gunning straight down a mountain cliff.  All these happen without the characters getting majorly hurt.  After the first few you start to suspend your disbelief and go along with it, that's just the nature of Fast & Furious.  The tribute to Paul Walker at the end of the film was really well done and did not feel out of place at all.  While not achieving the high that was Fast & Furious 5, this seventh film is filled with visual spectaculars and action.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Book Review: Diary of a Wimpy Kid: The Long Haul

Review:  #562
Title:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid:  The Long Haul
Series:  Diary of a Wimpy Kid - 9th book
Author:  Jeff Kinney
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The Long Haul is the best book in the series by far.  It was hilarious and there are no signs that it is getting stale.  Greg and his family go on a car trip but of course, things do not go their way.  They end up getting lost, losing their items and all other sorts of misadventures.  The best part is that while a lot of things are improbable in real life, they are exceedingly funny and fits within the tone of the book perfectly.  The frequent illustrations on serve to make it even funnier.  While you tend to feel sorry for Greg for most of the book, this is forgotten at the ending.  Speaking of which, the only negative here is that the ending is abrupt.
Rating:  7/10

Thursday, March 24, 2016

Mortdecai (2015)

Johnny Depp stars as the titular Mortdecai and tries to bring his own unique brand of quirks and mannerisms into the character, however, thanks to the poor script, fails spectacularly.  Mortdecai is supposed to be a comedy but it lacks any sort of humor, it has attempts but it fails 100% of the time with its tired cliches or lame gags.  Even the plot isn't too interesting to begin with, a painting is stolen and Mortdecai, an art dealer, travels the world to find it.  It is supposed to be a plot of deception, with twists and turns but it comes up short and feels very boring.  Mortdecai is portrayed as a clumsy fool, with a dedicated manservant who does all the work.  Mortdecai is supposed to be the endearing character as you laugh as the accidents he causes but it all fails, he ends up being an annoying weird idiot.  At 100 minutes long, it is still way too long, with a bad script and bad characters, this is one of the worst movies and not worth watching.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Combiner Wars Bruticus

Review:  #306
Name:  Bruticus
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations - Combiner Wars
Year of Release:  2016
Size Class:  N/A
Mold Status:  remold of Generations Combiner Wars Defensor


First up are the Combaticons, who are comprised of their leader, Onslaught, with Blast Off, Brawl, Swindle and Vortex forming the rest.

Of course, Shockwave is supposedly part of the team now, and it's nice that he can fit on top of Onslaught.

The other cool thing about this team is the military theme, which works well as a Decepticon combiner.

The distinctly different vehicle modes gives the team variety while still staying in theme.

In robot mode, they all still look great, the common theme of duller colors work well together.

A fantastic set and probably the Combiner team in the line.


Onslaught forms the torso and while Onslaught is a remold of Hot Spot, the difference in transformation is not only the chestplate, but also how Onslaught's arms are situated.  They are situated up higher on either side of the head now, giving Bruticus a bulkier look.  Unfortunately, it makes the dual cannons behind the head less prominent.

Blast Off usually forms the right arm.  While he is now a jet, it still manages to mimic enough of the G1 version to look good.  As a foot, he has a kneecap which is always good, unfortunately, the robot arms stick out the sides like an ugly growth.

Brawl forms the left leg and he provides a knee cap too thanks to the turret and cannon.  As an arm, he is a lot more bulky which can work well if you pair it up with another bulky arm.

Swindle forms the right leg.  It is a nice blocky leg but unfortunately makes the feet look very small.  His arm mode has a bulky forearm.

Vortex forms the left arm.  As a leg, Vortex looks fantastic, especially with the combiner foot piece feeling like a natural extension rather than something stuck on.


Onto the main show, once combined, the Combaticons form the mighty Bruticus, one of the most well known combiners (behind Devastator) from Transformers.  Being the first real G1 update to the character, this Combiner Wars iteration does not disappoint.

There is not much kibble in this mode.  While Onslaught's arms on either side of Bruticus' head gives him a different silhouette compared to Defensor, it doesn't look as great and makes the torso slightly more hollow.  On the plus side the chest plate pegs in much more securely than Defensor.

The head sculpt is fantastic.  It nails the character perfectly.  It is on a swivel joint and can turn from side to side.

In terms of size, Bruticus is comprised of a Voyager and four Deluxes, so naturally, he towers over Voyager classed figures.  He is taller than most Leader classed figures too.

A quick comparison with Defensor, whom the torso is a remold of.  It's surprising at how different the two figures look.

A quick comparison to the previous Bruticus toy, which was from the Fall of Cybertron toyline.  The Combiner Wars version is hands down, no arguments, a vast improvement.

Granted, Bruticus is not all positives, since like the rest of the Combiner Wars line, his has longer arms than what would be deemed natural.

Furthermore, he has giant hands and small feet.  Nevertheless, if these are the only complaints of the figure, then the designers have done a brilliant job.

Once you have Shockwave, you can have Bruticus hold him as a gun.  Works much better than Powerglide and Superion since Shockwave actually looks like a gun.

Thankfully, Bruticus's arms have tight enough joints to keep his arm up even while holding Shockwave, but probably as the joints loosen with age, his arms will sag and Bruticus will be perpetually pointing him to the ground.

If you don't want Shockwave to be held as a gun, but still want to make him feel as if he is part of the team, Shockwave can store on Bruticus' back.

Bruticus is a very heavy figure but he stays relatively stable.  He leans forward a bit though which is annoying because if you click the hip ratchets back one notch, leans backwards too much.

Swapping the limbs around, you get a much stockier version of Bruticus.

Having Brawl and Swindle as arms makes Bruticus looks a lot more powerful and beefier.

Theoretically, Bruticus has all the standards joints such as shoulders, elbows, hips and knees.  However, due to his heaviness and small feet, it's hard to pose him dynamically as he'll probably slide and fall over.

One thing that Bruticus trumps over Defensor is the fact the chest plate also has a waist plate which covers the actual hips.  Therefore, Bruticus doesn't have those tiny hips that Defensor has.

The color scheme is drab looking since the grey chest plate is the main feature.  It would be nicer if the chest plate was in a shinier and more eye-catching color, preferably metallic.

The figure holds together very well, the combiner joints are well designed so that they stay in place even when fiddling around with the figure.

A fantastic combined mode, Bruticus is amazing looking.


Bruticus is a fantastic figure.  It's hard to decide which is the best combiner in the line because they're all so strong (well, Menasor is clearly the weakest one though), but Bruticus is a strong contender.  He is a representation of how a remold should work, and is a unique figure in his own right.  Bruticus is highly recommended and the fact that his limbs provide quite a wide variety is an added bonus.


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

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Book Review: W.A.R.P. The Hangman's Revolution

Review:  #561
Title:  W.A.R.P. The Hangman's Revoluation
Series:  W.A.R.P. - 2nd book
Author:  Eoin Colfer
Read Before:  no
Comments:  While The Hangman's Revolution tells a good yarn, it lacks the hook that keeps you addicted.  As a sequel to The Reluctant Assassin, once again we following Riley, the magician, Chevron the future FBI soldier and Otto, the king of the underworld mob.  Time travel is one of the author's best abilities, Eoin Colfer can wrap his hands around time travel and making it work so well that it's unbelievable.  While this effect is not as pronounced here, the plot plays with some nuances of time travel that makes it interesting and coherent, simply put, it just makes sense.  The plot itself takes a while to get up and running though, but eventually spins out a somewhat complex plot where future soldiers go into the past to change history and create their own empire.  What is needed though is a better motivation for the characters as it is fairly weak as it is.  Overall, the writing is good and the humor is decent, The Hangman's Revolution is a good read.
Rating:  6.5/10

Monday, March 21, 2016

Drawn to Life: The Next Chapter (DS)

Drawn to Life:  The Next Chapter is a sequel to the original Drawn to Life game.  Interestingly, two sequels with this name were made, one for the Nintendo DS and one for the Wii, both of which actually had different plot, graphics and gameplay.  In The Next Chapter for the DS, the player takes on the role as the Creator, a god to the people of the game world, able to materialize your drawings into the world.  The population knows that you exist and will often call upon you to help them out.  There is a robust story and starts off with a pretty pre-rendered sequence showing the antagonist Wilbre kidnapping Heather (a returning character from the previous game).  Wilbre then proceeds to drain the village of color, leaving only the ink outlines.  The villagers use the Book of Life and call upon the Creator for help, to which a hero is drawn and created to save the day.  The hero travels to various villages to help restore color, solve that village's problems and in the end, save Heather.  There are four villages in total and each one has a subplot where they have encountered some sort of issue.  You'll end up helping a person get their lost voice back, discover a village with ridiculous laws and help overthrow a tyrant.  While the story is quite deep for a game of this genre, it is also its weakness, which shows right from the beginning.

You see, the game starts off with a super long cutscene to set up the story which felt like a hindrance.  You're sitting there waiting and waiting until you can actually control your character but it takes a while.  There are constant cutscenes playing which breaks the flow of the game at times due to their length.  In the end, it is a simple story which yet takes a long time to tell its tale.  The Next Chapter is a platform adventure game presented as a 2D sidescroller.  As the hero, you will have access to a sword, springing punch and a projectile weapon, all of which are drawn by the player.  These weapons can be upgraded with extra moves through coins collected throughout the levels.  Expect to jump from platform to platform, swim underwater, slash at enemies and swing on vines.  It's a classic platformer with heaps of fun.  The core mechanics of Drawn to Life is the ability to draw at specific points in the story which it then brings to life into the game.  What you draw will influence how certain objects look like in the world such as the platforms, balls, birds and transport vehicles.  Of course, the hero, i.e. the character you control, is one that you have drawn yourself, which makes no two games alike and unique to each player.  It is something special when you see your own creation move, jump and interact in the game world.

However, it is hard to draw something in detail though so you will often opt for simplicity.  Plus, for your character, there is no point in having a lot of detail as it will get shrunken down for gameplay, which means it ends up losing all of that detail anyway.  The game plays on the bottom of the touchscreen, with a map and collectibles screen above.  There is an overworld where the cutscenes and level select happens.  Each level has a Pirate Coin which is hidden and sometimes there will also be a hidden person for you to find and save.  There are normal coins scattered throughout the levels to purchase items, and paint pellets to help recolor the world.  From time to time, there will be simple puzzles in which you draw platforms to traverse across big gaps.  The constant engagement of the player to draw items into the game keeps your attention and makes the game fun.  The mechanics are simple to master and makes it a blast to go through the levels, you pretty much only have a jump button and an attack button, although you are able to switch weapons at any time.  Later on in the game, you are able to change forms:  either a blob or a spider.  The blob can shrink to move into tight spaces while the spider can walk on walls and ceilings, both come with the downside of reduced attack ability.

Later levels are naturally harder, needing to dodge stronger enemies who fire projectiles, dropping platforms, acid etc.  However, the last few levels stray into the territory of being annoying with the sudden deaths, requirement to constantly change forms wasting time, time limits in the form of a wall of lava chasing you which end up being trial and error gameplay and random doors that you must choose to get to the end of the level.  The Next Chapter has a great art direction, being a cartoony 2D.  The graphics are great and shines through, with different environments such as castles, space, forests and underground caverns.  The level design is towards the simpler side which makes it easy to traverse and no frustrations.  The ending is hard to understand at first and requires some deep thought, be sure to keep watching through the credits.  There are two emotional scenes in the game, the first one being when the mother sings for the son, and the second scene is the ending when you realize what the Drawn to Life games were about.  The music is actually a highlight of the game, being catchy when required and sad when needed.  The Next Chapter takes around 8-9 hours to finish, plus probably another hour or so for backtracking for the remaining collectibles, this is not a hard game.  Overall, Drawn to Life:  The Next Chapter is a hidden gem, with a charming world and excellent game play, bound by a unique concept that works well, it is definitely a great game.


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

Sunday, March 20, 2016

The Pink Panther 2

Sequel to the 2006 The Pink Panther, Steve Martin returns as the clumsy bumbling Inspector Clouseau as the Pink Panther has once again been stolen.  The stakes are higher as The Tornado, a thief who has stolen high profile artifacts from other countries in addition to the Pink Panther.  Clouseau leads a team of detectives to find out the identity of this famous thief.  Like the first film, the mystery and plot takes a backseat in favor of the humor involving Clouseau.  These usually involve some sort of accident by an unknowing Clouseau.  Unfortunately, this starts out outstay its welcome as your patience is tested from the stubborn near-stupid actions of Clouseau.  Furthermore, there are a few sections where it strays towards the objectification and racist humor, but luckily it does not cross that line.  The predictable resolution of the case by Clouseau was expected, as well as the identity of The Tornado, so The Pink Panther 2, while still enjoyable, is a somewhat cliched and tired film.

Saturday, March 19, 2016

Toy Review: Transformers Robots in Disguise (2015) Drift (Legion)

Review:  #305
Name:  Drift
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Robots in Disguise (2015)
Year of Release:  2016
Size Class:  Legion (Wave 6)
Mold Status:  new


Drift transforms into an orange and black sports car.  Not sure why he is now orange when the original character was white and red.  Anyway, there is an insignia that can be scanned to temporary unlock the character in the mobile game.

Surprisingly, the back is sculpted and filled out, just that it's a differently colored plastic which hides the detail somewhat.

Drift is fairly small, as you'd expect of a toy this size.  His only play value is the rolling wheels.  Annoyingly, he lacks paint on his side windows (they've only partially painted it...) and the back windows.

Overall, a nice figure but needs more paint for the windows.


Very simple but love the way the legs fold up to form the rear of the car.  Other than that, it's a generic transformation and it's really hard to innovate on something this size.


Drift's robot mode is quite good.  Sure, he is still quite orange but there is a bit more black to break it apart.

Due to transformation, his shins are effectively panels and doesn't look that great from any angle except the front.

The headsculpt is okay.  He has his beard but if they couldn't paint the Warrior classed figure properly, they wouldn't do it for the Legion class.  Thus, his beard is silver along with the rest of his face.  Still, they painted the black outline on the helmet, the crest red and the eyes blue.

He is decently sized but feels distinctly hollow.  He has plenty of sculpted details and does enough to make it recognizable as the character.

Poseability is good, he has knee joints thanks to transformation but you need to be careful not to bend it too much as it'll create gaps.

His feet has up/down ankle joints which can help with the balance.  He only has shoulder joints so arm poseability will be limited.

A nice robot mode Drift has his flaws but in some ways, better proportioned than his bigger Warrior classed self.


Drift is a solid toy.  He doesn't stand out but just is.  Thanks to his small size and a cheap price, Drift is worth purchasing.


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

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