Saturday, April 30, 2016

Toy Review: Transformers HFTD/AA Brimstone

Review:  #312
Name:  Brimstone
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Hunt for the Decepticons / Autobot Alliance
Year of Release:  2010
Size Class:  Scout (Wave 1)
Mold Status:  new


Brimstone transforms into a chopper motorcycle and as far as motorcycle Transformers go, Brimstone is fantastic.  This motorcycle is pretty much spot on with no robot kibble, it's pretty amazing.

He sits low to the ground but has enough clearance to roll on his two wheels.  He stands easily on a table.  The main paint applications in this mode are the green flames.

The sculpting is good.  What lets this mode down are the unpainted grey, which is too bland to look good.

In terms of size, Brimstone is Scout class, and being a motorcycle, suffers from feeling slightly smaller than others in its size.  However, you don't feel ripped of by Brimstone.

A fantastic motorcycle and very impressive in how well it executes this mode.


Brimstone's tranformation is clever and works really well.  The bit that impresses you is how the torso is formed which incorporates the rear wheel and everything wraps around it.  Going from both modes is a pleasant surprise, and he is easy enough to go between the modes quickly.


Brimstone's robot mode is unique...  The "blades" for his hands is Brimstone's distinguishing feature.  He has little flip out fingers but you can't really rotate them to a natural looking position.

Brimstone barely has any kibble, although a lot of the bike is wrapped around his torso.  He pulls this off quite well however.

The headsculpt is one of the best things about the figure.  It is demon-like, and looks so evil that Brimstone is perfect as a Decepticon.  This headsculpt gives the figure so much individual character.

Due to transformation, Brimstone is spindly in this mode.

Articulation is excellent.  His arms have a lot of poseability, although it feels as though the thin arms break easily.  As a matter of fact, my Brimstone had his right shoulder piece already snapped into two right out of the packaging, only superglue saved him.  Something to look out for and be careful about.

He has huge feet which keeps him super stable.  His leg articulation is the weaker aspect of the figure since it's more limited than you would like.

The blades for hands works better than expected but what hurts this figure is the abundance of unpainted grey since the blue and green looks so vibrant in comparison.

From looking at his robot mode, you can't tell how he transforms and that is what makes the robot mode impressive.  It turns from a realistic motorcycle into a complex looking robot, without cheating like being a shellformer.

Brimstone has a great robot mode that's oozing with personality.  You can't really get more evil looking robots than him.


With each motorcycle Transformer released, they get better and better.  Gone are the days where the robot mode is a brick and awkward looking.  Brimstone is a fantastic figure with a realistic motorcycle and an evil looking robot mode.  He may seem a bit fragile but Brimstone is a great toy and highly recommended.


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

Friday, April 29, 2016

The Lost World: Jurassic Park

How can you top the classic that was Jurassic Park?  The answer is that you cannot, however, The Lost World makes a good attempt.  The movie takes place on Isla Sorna, where the dinosaurs were bred and engineered before transported to the island where Jurassic Park took place.  This new island was abandoned and the dinosaurs thrived when left alone.  The nephew of John Hammond decides it would be a good idea to take the dinosaurs and put it in a park in San Diego and thus sends a group of hunters.  On the other side, John Hammond does not want that to happen and sends four people, including the returning Ian Malcolm, as they end up exploring the island and running away from the dinosaurs.  The first 1.5 hours was good, and the film focuses upon the Tyrannosaurus a lot more.  There were some stupid decisions made by characters but the chase sequences were great.  The film's weakest point is the ending where the dinosaur gets to the city, it felt out of place and didn't really make for a good climax.  Overall, The Lost World is a better sequel than you would have expected.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Book Review: W.A.R.P. The Forever Man

Review:  #570
Title:  W.A.R.P. The Forever Man
Series:  W.A.R.P. - 3rd book
Author:  Eoin Colfer
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The Forever Man prevents closure to the persistent antagonist since the first book, no prizes for guessing who.  Surprisingly, the plot doesn't take place in London (so no more Malarkey and his warrior wife from the future) but Chevron and Riley time warp back a few hundred years to days where people still believed in witches.  Unfortunately, Chevron takes a backseat from the action to become a princess in distress and Riley is the one who has to step up and save her.  It ends up being an engaging and intense battle between Riley and his old master.  While the wormhole mutations aspect was a bit of a stretch and felt far more fictional than the author's previous dabbling in time travel, it seemed that he was losing his grip on the concept.  The ending and epilogue was the best scene of the book, and it was a bittersweet moment, and hard to say whether it was truly a happy ending or not.  Seemingly the final book in this series, it is a nice send off.
Rating:  7/10

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Toy Review: Transformers HFTD/AA Battle Blade Bumblebee

Review:  #311
Name:  Bumblebee
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  Hunt for the Decepticons / Autobot Alliance
Year of Release:  2010
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 1)
Mold Status:  new


Battle Blade Bumblebee transforms into a yellow Chevrolet Camaro with racing stripes.  Despite looks, this is a brand new mold with no reused parts.

This is a good vehicle mode with heaps of detail and barely any visible robot kibble, the only robot bit that sticks out are the robot feet from the back.

Bumblebee has the distinctive Camaro grill, and there's a lot of paint, including the silver rims, headlights and rear lights.  His only play value is the ability to roll.

Bumblebee is a Deluxe figure, back when they were still a decent size.  Above is him compared to ROTF Brawn.

A fantastic vehicle mode but considering that there were so many Bumblebee toys before this one, getting it right in this mode is no surprise.


Battle Blade Bumblebee has the most complex transformation of a Deluxe Bumblebee toy ever.  In the designer's strive for extreme accuracy, there are a lot of moving parts.  Once you get the general idea, it's not too hard.  The legs are heavily based upon the original Movie Bumblebee toy, including the Automorphing feature.  The head loves to pop off during transformation, there is barely enough clearance, if any.  An impressive transformation but can easily frustrate.


Bumblebee's robot mode... can be ugly or amazingly accurate, depending on your preferences.

Bumblebee can be almost called a shellforming considering that most of the car are compressed into panels onto his back.  That said, there is barely any kibble here.

The headsculpt is accurate to how he looked in the movies, and he has a blue lightpipe.

He features a flip-down battle mask which is really cool.  A tip in pulling it down is to lift it up first before pushing it forward to cover his face.

The vehicle grill is split into various parts to mimic the CG character model but it is still a bit off.  If the two side pieces to angle down a bit then it would be perfect.

Bumblebee is super poseable but he suffers from the inward facing elbow joints, which limits the number of poses he looks natural in.

The thumbs are for some reason separately jointed.  His knees are also double jointed and overall, can look skinny or stretched.  He feels a bit more substantial in hand than how photos show, especially with the semi-hollow torso.

Battle Blade Bumblebee is one of the tallest Deluxes you'll ever encounter, taller than even the original.

Bumblebee packs a lot of gimmicks in this mode.  In addition to the battle mask, on his left arm is a spring-loaded flip out axe.

The axe is transparent blue but the blade faces upwards which sucks.

His other gimmick is on the right arm, where you can open the arm gauntlet and flip down a cannon barrel, to recreate his arm gun.

Since the barrel is orange and clashes with the black of his obvious folded up hands, the integrated cannon doesn't work as well as you'd hope but still very impressive.

To make the cannon less bulky you can leave the halves of the gauntlet open on either side, so it looks more like a morphed hand.

Bumblebee has large feet with ankles that can tilt, allowing him to balance well.

When posing him, you just have to be careful not to dislodge the grill pieces on his torso as it's very easy to do so.

A fantastic robot mode with nice integrated unobtrusive gimmicks, and an accurate looking robot mode.


Battle Blade Bumblebee was designed to be the definitive ultimate Bumblebee figure and the designer has succeeded.  It's impressive in the amount of engineering, number of parts and number of paint applications, that have went into this figure.  This figure is amazingly accurate to the character model of the movie and with three neat gimmicks, Battle Blade Bumblebee is worth purchasing as to this day, there is no other Bumblebee figure that surpasses this one (maybe with the exception of the original Deluxe Bumblebee from 2007... but that might just be because it was the first one).


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

Monday, April 25, 2016

Jurassic Park

A fantastic film involving dinosaurs, one of the best films of its time, it still holds up well over twenty years later, thanks to limited use of CGI and a preference for animatronics.  Science has finally broken through the barriers and managed to extract dinosaur DNA from prehistoric mosquitoes fossilized in amber.  Through this process, they are able to clone dinosaurs, intending to build a theme park.  Things go wrong when a storm hits and through a series of events, all power is lost leaving the dinosaurs, including the carnivores, run rampant.  The writing and sequencing of events are fantastic.  The classic scenes from the tyrannosaurus chasing the jeep to the velociraptors hunting the humans are such intense sequences, causing you to jump in your seats.  The ending felt abrupt though since it would have been nice to see the aftereffects of what had happened.  Sure, it might take around forty minutes before you actually get to see the first dinosaur, but the final hour was so worth it.

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Book Review: Barnaby Grimes: Phantom of Blood Alley

Review:  #569
Title:  Barnaby Grimes:  Phantom of Blood Alley
Series:  Barnaby Grimes - 4th book
Author:  Paul Stewart / Chris Riddell
Read Before:  no
Comments:  Phantom of Blood Alley fails to capture the mysteriousness that the previous three books in the series did.  It doesn't fully capture your imagination and attention as the titular Phantom doesn't present too much of a threat until near the end of the book.  While Barnaby Grimes' signature wit is still here, it seems dulled down so that it isn't as funny or clever as it could have been.  The plot was simple and predictable, the mystery being easy to crack a long while before it is revealed.  The writing was decent though and there were some interesting elements to the story.  Phantom of Blood Alley is about Barnaby tasked with investigating a crime whereby the brother of a Lady died, suspecting something strange was afoot.  The author throws in a few nice references to modern technology such as skateboards and photographs, which adds a small sense of connection to the reader.
Rating:  6/10

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Terra Formars (2014)

Terra Formars is based upon the manga of the same name.  Spanning 13 episodes long, Terra Formars is set in the future where scientists have begun the terraforming of Mars, in order to prepare it for the eventual migration of humans.  The method that the scientists have chosen is to place a special type of algae on Mars which will purify the atmosphere, and also cockroaches.  Cockroaches were chosen due to their resilience and ability to survive.  These cockroaches would feed on the algae, and when they died, their corpses will provide food for the algae and thus the cycle continues.  Fast forward to 500 years later and Mars have been transformed, having oxygen in the atmosphere, and becoming warmer as to hold liquid water.  It is still far from being suitable for human inhabitation but it is ready for the reclamation to begin.

Before the events of the first episode, two missions have already been to Mars, however, they have been met with resistance and total annihilation.  The cockroaches, over 500 years, have somehow managed to evolve into humanoid creatures with extraordinary strength, speed, flying capabilities, basic intelligence and who knows what else.  They are the cause of an incurable virus on Earth and it is now more vital than ever to go to Mars and get samples of these "aliens".  The anime has a seemingly slow start with a slightly confusing first episode as it launches the viewers immediately onto the spaceship carrying the team that is supposed to bring back samples of the roaches.  To combat the advanced physical capabilities of the roaches, humans have managed to develop something that allows them to combine traits of bugs, insects and animals into themselves.

The human's ace is the ability to physically transform, adding in animal parts such as a hornet's stingers at the end of the arms.  This puts them on more even ground against the roaches, since conventional weaponry doesn't seem to work well.  From the second half of the second episode, things get a lot more intense as they finally reach Mars and the mutated cockroaches appear.  It ends in a bloodbath, with the anime sporting a lot of visual gore and blood, with frequent dismembering of limbs, tearing off of heads, and guts and internals spraying everywhere.  You can get censored or uncensored episodes but the censoring is a bit too much in-your-face, often covering half of the frame so you don't even know what's happening.  The roaches and the reason why they're there is the biggest motivation of watching Terra Formars, it's too bad that the anime fails completely on this point.

A heap of explanation is needed to explain why the mutated cockroaches are there, and how they managed to evolve the way they are now.  They are even smart enough to use technology that is supposedly so much more advanced than their club-wielding behavior.  Yet, the anime does nothing to explain this.  This is much more infuriating when different types of roaches appear in later episodes, themselves sporting combinations of various other animals' traits.  No explanations are given, nothing is revealed.  You're waiting for one to be eventually provided, it presents so many questions but there are no answers.  It you're lucky, maybe some questions will be answered in the second season.  There are a lot of characters to follow and depict within thirteen episodes.  With some of the characters, they have ulterior motives but again, we don't know why they have these motives.

Then there are the random narrations, which introduces facts about insects and animals (the ones that the humans obtained the traits of); while they are interesting, it feels out of place.  For many, you're watching Terra Formars for the awesome battles between the roaches and the genetically modified humans.  Sorry, while there are a lot of horrifying deaths, the battles are at such a slow pace and keeps being broken up that somehow, these sequences feel boring.  These events on Mars move at a slow pace as they are punctuated by a lot of staring between the two forces, and even when they attack, the scenes are suddenly switched to flashbacks!  Oh, the flashbacks.  There are a lot of flashbacks for all the characters' backstories.  It's not an exaggeration to say that 80% of the anime is flashbacks.

Flashbacks in general are fine, but not when there are as many as the ones in Terra Formars, especially not when you put five flashbacks in the middle of each episode or battle!  Sure, we need to understand the characters, what drives them and what they're going back to, but the way they are inserted ruin the action sequences which are already slow paced enough as it is.  Overall, for those expecting some amazing action scenes with cool killing moves, Terra Formars is not for you.  It shows promise but without reading the manga and by just watching this first season alone, you don't learn much about the evolved roaches on Mars, and it teases just a bit too much that it crosses the line to being frustrating.


For commentary on other anime, have a look at this page.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Animal Crossing: New Leaf (3DS)

Animal Crossing:  New Leaf is a simulation game released exclusively for the Nintendo 3DS, and forms part of the Animal Crossing series of games.  As New Leaf lacks a proper story, there is no requirement to have played previous games, and new players can jump right in to enjoy it.  Upon booting up the game, you find yourself on a train and meet up with a stranger, who asks for your name and the name of the town you are heading to.  You get to pick those two names and customizability is highlighted here.  As you progress through the game, you will be able to pick and choose your own clothing:  shirts, pants and shoes.

As you arrive to your city, you can choose the layout of your village, and you'll find yourself the major if said village.  You are introduced to the residents, and also your helpful assistant, who will slowly introduce the game's mechanics to you.  Then begins New Leaf proper and you'll find out one thing:  the game forces you to wait to unlock items.  In this aspect, it is like a mobile game in that things are unlocked slowly, and unfortunately, not really a way to speed things up without changing the 3DS's internal clock.  Want to build a project?  Wait a day before completion.  Just finished the qualifications to start being a mayor?  Wait a day before you can officially start.

That being said, New Leaf unlocks or promises to unlock, just enough items each day to keep you hooked and coming back.  It is best to play this game in short sessions though, perhaps an hour or two each time.  New Leaf relies heavily upon the 3DS's internal clock as it runs the game in real time.  Haven't played the game in a week?  You'll find weeds overgrown around the village and villagers potentially angry at you.  It expects you to put in some time every day.  Perhaps the most annoying feature is that if you don't have much time to play except late at night or early in the morning, you'll find that shops will be closed when you play.

The issue of the game's clock can be solved easily later on with the introduction of ordinances to force shops to open earlier or later, or you can change the 3DS's clock to be a few hours ahead or later.  That means there is also a day/night cycle, and depending on the day, you'll have different seasons too, which affects not only the landscape but the type of things you can obtain.  The main objective of New Leaf boils down to one thing:  bells, which is the currency of the world.  Everything you do has the sole purpose of earning bells, in order to do other things.

As the mayor, you can enact ordinances to force villagers to operate a certain way, such as making everything more expensive (including higher sell prices when you sell your items) or all shops close three hours later.  You also decide which new building projects to pursue, from building a fountain to signs and parks.  However, these all cost bells, and they do not come cheap.  You get donations from villagers which usually amount to around 10% of the total cost but the player has to fund most of it.  With a bit of pre-planning, you'll be able to create your own stunning unique town.  It's cool that no two players will have the same style of town as each other.

To earn more bells, there are a few things that the player can do.  You can grab a fishing rod and start fishing on the beach or in the river.  There are a huge variety of fish to catch, and you can start filling up your encyclopedia which records which fish and the record size of your catch.  Fish changes with the season so expect to catch something different if you play the game long enough.  You can dig for items, which usually brings up fossils.  After playing the game long enough, you can perform some gardening activities such as planting trees and breeding flowers.  You can pick fruit to eat, give away or sell.

You will eventually get a wetsuit which allows you to dive in deep water, finding sea creatures such as abalone and sea cucumbers.  Lastly, you buy a net to catch insects around your village, including centipedes, beetles and bugs.  All these are season and time dependent.  There are a bunch of shops in the game, you can either buy items or sell your items to earn bells.  They can be upgraded with enough purchases.  You can also donate any fish, insects and fossils to the museum for display, including pieces of artwork that can be purchased once per week.  Play long enough and you'll unlock the ability to travel to an island where it is always summer.

On the island, you will find more insects, fishes, fruit and sea creatures than the variety found in your village.  There are a bunch of "tours", which are effectively minigames/challenges.  They use the same game mechanics though, so it's nothing new.  They are usually sessions where it gives you a time limit to catch as many fish or insects as you can, which gives you medals to purchase exclusive items.  The other big feature of New Leaf is the customizability of your own house.  You initially live in a tent, which eventually turns into a house and can further expand.  Of course, this all costs bells.

Within the house, you can organize furniture, which you can purchase or obtain from NPCs.  Throughout your job as a mayor, you will encounter fellow villagers who require your help such as delivering letters, or finding a specific item.  Keep them happy and they'll stay in your village, allowing it to grow its population.  On paper, New Leaf sounds like it has a lot to do and you will find that it is easy to lose track of time.  Play long enough and you'll realize that you're only repeating the same activities day after day and it'll start to lose its appeal.  There isn't a really sense of progression apart from seeing your village grow and change.

New Leaf isn't a game for everyone since the progression is slow and staggered, and is very passive.  It is a relaxing game.  New Leaf surprisingly has a number of online features, the most significant of which is the ability to visit other people's towns or upload your own for people to check out (but unable to wreck havoc upon it).  All the other villagers are animals who speak gibberish, you'll be doing mostly reading here.  The graphics are nice, and the design of characters are super cute.  Overall, Animal Crossing:  New Leaf is a nice game but depending on the sort of player you are, it may lose its appeal very quickly.  The game is slow paced, and takes a long while to unlock things to do.  Give it a shot though, you might just find yourself addicted and before you know it, you've spent 90 hours on this game.


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

Blogger Widget