Thursday, November 30, 2017

Book Review: The 78-Storey Treehouse

Review:  #705
Title:  The 78-Storey Treehouse
Series:  Treehouse - 6th book
Author:  Andy Griffiths
Read Before:  no
Comments:   Andy and Terry returns with more of the exaggerated and at times, nonsense, type of story that’s prevalent in the series.  This time, there is a tighter theme being that they are making a movie, about the book.  Terry ends up becoming the star and Andy becomes jealous and accidentally starts to ruin the movie making process.  There were times where the plot wasn’t too bad but it just seemed like everything is thrown out the window and there is a lack of care in terms of the plot points such as spy cows, repetitive wording and bulking up the space with pointless illustrations.  The ending is predictable and while there were some laughs, they weren’t enough to save the book.
Rating:  5.5/10

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Hello!! Kin-iro Mosaic (2015)

Hello!! Kin-iro Mosaic is the second season based on the 4-panel manga of the same name.  Again, it is comprised of 12 episodes and is in the slice-of-life comedy genre.  It follows Shino and Alice, who live in Japan as high school students.  Alice was originally from England, who travelled to homestay in Japan with Shino.  Three years earlier, Shino had homestayed at England and the pair quickly became friends.  Shino is obsessed with all things Western to the point of creepiness.  This is immediately apparently from her breakfast consisting of Western food such as toast to her classic Western inspired clothing that can be classed as cosplay.

Shino also seems to not be able to leave Alice out of sight, worrying about her when she's gone for even only five minutes, to the point of calling the police.  Alice herself is more innocent and trusting, having the appearance of a primary school girl, which is a sore point for her.  Rounding out the pair are their friends.  First of which is Karen, who is also from England and was Alice's friend.  Karen remains hyperactive and a prankster, which usually leads to funny scenarios such as when she plays a prank on Alice when ordering at a fast food restaurant, leading to Alice embarrassing herself by mimicking Karen.

Yoko is the comedic relief of the group.  While all the characters are funny, Yoko is especially so with her main purpose being her cluelessness and unable to take a hint from Aya.  Aya's somewhat tsundere attitude to Yoko, and Yoko being oblivious to Aya's feelings is still as amusing as ever.  Aya is the more sensible one of the group.  You can't help but cheer for Aya, as she slowly musters up her courage as the season progresses.

The group of friends are now in the second year of high school and are in separate classes.  Shino, Aya and Karen are in the same class with the new teacher, Kuzehashi, while Yoko and Alice are in the other with the teacher from their first year, Karasuma.  The new teacher, Kuzehashi, is the new recurring character, who looks cold from the outside, but inside, she really wants to be friends with her students.  The first few episodes explore this aspect and how Karen defrosts her demeanor, leading to some hilarious results and metaphors.  There are some other minor recurring characters such as fellow classmate, Honoka, and Yoko's twin siblings.

Western culture is once again focused upon for their novelty.  Alice and Karen, due to their Western background (and their blonde hair), are often admired by other students and even their teachers.  There is less English spoken compared to the first season, although still feels very exotic whenever it is spoken.  Ironically, while Alice and Karen are often fought over, the reverse happens when they fight for Shino's attention.  Plot-wise, the anime focuses upon the daily life of Shino, Alice and her friends.  These include Alice wanting to get a dog (as she misses her dog Poppy from England), growing flowers, the summer vacation, trip to the beach and Alice's past in England with Karen.  It's interesting enough and the picturesque animation is stunning once again.

The humor keeps the anime going, and most of it comes from visual gags along with exaggerated dialogue and reactions.  There are two visual styles, the normal cute one and then an even cuter one used during gags.  The ending is somewhat open-ended and doesn't attempt at any sort of closure, so it just kind of ends.  Overall, Hello!!  Kin-iro Mosaic is decent for what it tries to achieve.  The characters are endearing and each has enough unique quirks to be memorable.  The humor is spot on and manages to carry through right to the end.


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

Monday, November 27, 2017

Zero Time Dilemma (Vita)

Zero Time Dilemma is the final part of the trilogy after Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors and Virtue's Last Reward.  You will definitely have needed to play the previous two games to fully appreciate the story as the main characters from both games make appearances.  The game assumes you are already familiar with the concepts and terminology.  At the very least, play Virtue's Last Reward before starting on Zero Time Dilemma.  The presentation now is much improved from the clunky and archaic design of the previous two games.  The menu is slicker, the animation smooth and the general quality seems higher.  It's not without its problems though since selecting items requires multiple button presses, the same goes for investigating a certain section.

One thing to note coming into this is that Zero Time Dilemma is mostly storytelling, with some escape the room puzzles.  The story is told via cutscenes and you will be watching one after another with no break.  The cutscenes are fully voiced, in Japanese or English, and unlike the previous games where you press a button to advance the dialogue, it plays like a movie taking away what limited interactivity it had before.  This makes it kind of boring and hard to pay attention to in the beginning where the story is slow.  All character models are in 3D, with black outlines so it looks like cel-shading.  Whereas the previous two games avoided explicit gore, Zero Time Dilemma embraces it with violent and gory executions, to the point of being hugely exaggerated.

The story has a familiar premise, with nine people stuck in a bomb shelter and they are forced to play the Decision Game, hosted by Zero.  Four characters are already known to the player, being Junpei and Akane from Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors (999) and Sigma and Phi from Virtue's Last Reward (VLR).  The game takes place in the timeline between the two games.  Every 90 minutes, the characters are put to sleep with their memories of the previous 90 minutes being erased.  They are split into three teams and told that for each person who is killed, one password will be revealed.  They will be freed when six passwords are revealed and used.  The premise isn't as brutal and personal as previous games only because the characters lose their memories and your decisions aren't choosing who to kill.

To split the game into bite-sized pieces, you pick a team, then a Fragment to experience that part of the story.  Playing them out of chronological order is intended as the characters also don't remember anything and how the events that are happening now take place in relation to previous events.  This makes the story confusing for the player and takes a while until you can eventually piece it together.  However, to make it easier to handle, there is a Flow Chart that plots the timeline and the splits int he timeline.  You're able to jump immediately to sections where the game forced you to make a decision that split the story into multiple paths.  It makes it much easier to replay and see where you need to go next in order to unlock the next piece of the story that you haven't seen.

There are various points in the story where the outcome of your decision will be based on a randomized event (such as dice rolling certain numbers).  This is an interesting take as every attempt/playthrough could result in a different outcome from the last time you tried it and makes it unpredictable.  However, this also makes it annoying and a waste of time to keep repeating the same section to get to the other branch of the storyline.  Eventually, the teams will find themselves trapped into various locked rooms and this is where the escape the room puzzles come into play.  They are presented in first-person and feel out of place within the game.  While you can use the button control scheme, it is much quicker and more convenient to use the touchscreen.

You can freely control the camera during escape the room sections which is a nice touch.  During these sections, you will find clues in the form of items around the room in order to find the password to get out of the room.  These puzzles can be hard and counter-intuitive, taking a while to get through without a guide.  With the items you pick up, you can combine them to form new ones.  An anti-frustration feature is that the items disappear from your inventory once you use it and it has no further uses.  This helps you in determining whether you need to find more items or not.  A frustrating feature though are when you need to click on specific areas to use an item and even when things are obvious, it does not work the way you want since the game registered that you pressed just a tad bit to the left and not in the exact drawer it wanted you to.  This feels a lot worse than 999 or VLR.

Playing through the game, you need to get through at least 70% of the way into the game before it becomes interesting and things start becoming clear.  There are multiple endings, including a heap of bad endings.  Some of the characters' personalities feels inconsistent from their previous games, the most obvious being Junpei who is more of a bastard now.  It's completely different from his appearance in 999 and makes him unlikable.  The same goes for a few of the newer characters, whose personalities have little redeeming qualities.  Characters also tend to state the obvious multiple times which pads things out.

The final revelation, while still intriguing, does not have the same impact as the previous two games and feels like it made portions of the game pointless.  It hastily finished off some major plot points from the previous games, while adding too many other subplots causing a huge mess in the storytelling.  For the final game in the trilogy, it does not feel like it properly concluded.  If you play the game going via the optimal path using a walkthrough, this will take you a minimum 12 to 14 hours to complete.  Play it blind and your playtime will be pushed to 20 to 40 hours depending on how good your puzzle skills are.  Overall, Zero Time Dilemma promises a lot of things but the poor pacing of the story, switch to cutscenes and oftentimes counter-intuitive puzzles hamper the game.  It's still highly recommended to fans of the series, just not for newcomers.


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

Sunday, November 26, 2017

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

Review:  #419
Name:  Cyclonus
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Robots in Disguise (2015)
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Legion (Wave 12)
Mold Status:  new


Cyclonus transforms into a purple Cybertronian jet with forward swept wings.  It actually somewhat resembles Jet Vehicon from Transformers Prime.

The jet mode is a little bit messy from the rear being the folded up robot legs and the arms over the wings.

Cyclonus shares similar engineering with Starscream but is a completely new mold.

For its size, this is a good jet mode.


Despite sharing engineering with Starscream, a lot of the transformation is unique and different.  The legs forming the cockpit is nice, as is how the arms and wings interact.


Cyclonus' robot mode is good but when viewed from the side, he is very flat.

He wears the jet nose on his back, and the wings are obvious pieces of kibble giving him a wide width.

The headsculpt is extremely cartoony, right down to the cheesy smile which doesn't suit a Decepticon.

He is bigger than Starscream thanks to the longer legs.

Poseability is average with limited shoulder joints, but balljointed elbows and hips, as well as hinged knees and ankles.

Due to the fixed head, there's only so many poses that looks natural.

Despite that, the robot mode is great.


Cyclonus is a good fun little figure.  He has two decent modes and pictures don't do him justice as he is great in hand.  The simple yet interesting transformation is a plus, and he has enough articulation to not be a brick.


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

Saturday, November 25, 2017

Book Review: Re;Zero - Starting Life in Another World Chapter 1: A Day in the Capital Vol. 2

Review:  #704
Title:  Re;Zero - Starting Life in Another World Chapter 1:  A Day in the Capital Vol. 2
Series:  Re;Zero - Starting Life in Another World Chapter 1:  A Day in the Capital - 2nd volume
Author:  Tappei Nagatsuki
Read Before:  no
Comments:   Closing out the first story arc of the series, we glimpse at the true power of Subaru, and how useful that ability is.  Since Subaru is weak with no other power to speak of, and he is facing an overpowered enemy (a beautiful Elsa), it’s intriguing to see how the events will pan out as Subaru attempts again and again to change destiny.  In the end, it’s not as clever as it could be but we are provided a satisfying conclusion to this saga.  The artwork is beautifully drawn and with the cast of characters being quite likeable, and Elsa being the crazy villain that she is, you can’t wait to read more.
Rating:  6.5/10

Friday, November 24, 2017

Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)

Kubo and the Two Strings is a stop motion fantasy film with stunning animation, which is easily one of its impressive aspects.  It begins with Kubo as a baby, having lost his eye, mysteriously washed ashore with his mother.  Fast forward a few years and we see Kubo living his life, telling stories at the village to earn a living but with a dire warning from his mother, never stay out at night.  We find out why this is the case soon enough as Kubo then has to embark on a quest to find the sword, helmet and armor in order to thwart his grandfather who is out for his other eye.  Accompanied by Monkey and Beetle, this feels like classic adventure story with clever humor, and genuine chemistry between the characters.  With that being said, despite the strong story there are scenes where the pacing is slow and it doesn't really engross you all too much.  The fight scenes were fantastic and the ending was neat.  The music enhances what's happening on screen.  Overall, Kubo and the Two Strings is a strong film.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Toy Review: Transformers The Last Knight Crosshairs (Legion)

Review:  #418
Name:  Crosshairs
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Autobot
Line:  The Last Knight
Year of Release:  2017
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 2)
Mold Status:  new


Crosshairs transforms into a green and black sports car.  The figure actually has a lot more paint applications than others in the same size class.

This is a great vehicle mode despite being able to see the balljoints in the rear.  You can see that he has taillights sculpting.

In terms of size, this is a small vehicle as you'd expect.  Above is a comparison against Legion Prime Evac.

A good sports car for its size.


Converting Crosshairs into robot mode is a simple affair.  He is also a massive shellformer just so he can be screen accurate as nearly the whole vehicle mode forms his backpack.  Interestingly is that the robot torso folds out such that you can flip the head up, something that would increase the cost of the figure so you'd expect that the designers would have tried to avoid it as much as possible.


Crosshairs' robot mode is surprisingly good.  The sculpting on his legs evoke the look of his iconic "trench coat" amazingly well.

He wears nearly the whole vehicle on his back as the trench coat.  You can't fault the design for using the kibble like this since the original movie design was rubbish anyway (a fluid cape that flutters just like cloth but made of metal?!).

The headsculpt is nice.  It's very busy since Crosshairs is from the movie.

He is a little bit shorter than some other Legions.

Poseability is severely limited.  The only meaningful articulation are the balljointed shoulders.  As he lacks knees and the joints on his ankles are only useful for transformation, the balljointed hips don't do much.

Once again, there's a lot of extra black paint applications in this mode, coupled with the intricate sculpting and Crosshairs doesn't feel as if he suffered budget cuts.

A strong robot mode in conveying the movie's design especially at this size.


Crosshairs is a great toy.  He has two strong modes and while he is fairly static in both, he looks good though.  The intricate sculpting and the number of paint applications are impressive.  Definitely worth a purchase if you find him cheap or even at RRP.


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

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Book Review: Re;Zero - Starting Life in Another World Chapter 1: A Day in the Capital Vol. 1

Review:  #703
Title:  Re;Zero - Starting Life in Another World Chapter 1:  A Day in the Capital Vol. 1
Series:  Re;Zero - Starting Life in Another World Chapter 1:  A Day in the Capital - 1st volume
Author:  Tappei Nagatsuki
Read Before:  no
Comments:   A manga adaptation of the popular light novel series, Re:Zero sees teenage truat, Subaru, penniless and with no skills whatsoever suddenly finding himself transported to a fantasy world.  He meets the half-elf Satella, falling in love at first sight (primarily due to her looks) and resolves to help her in whatever way possible.  As Subaru has no skills, he isn’t much help and ends up holding Satella back.  It’s filled with situational humor but the most interesting aspect comes around halfway into the volume, where Subaru’s special power comes into effect.  He is able to travel back in time, but only when he dies.  It will be intriguing to see where the plot’s direction will go from here, particularly since it isn’t immediately obvious how you would use this odd skill to your advantage in a lot of scenarios.
Rating:  6.5/10

Monday, November 20, 2017

Senran Kagura: Shinovi Versus (Vita)

Senran Kagura:  Shinovi Versus is a spin-off from the 3DS franchise and exclusive to the PlayStation Vita.  It is a hack and slash game with a huge focus on fan service, so you can expect a large dose of breast physics and the stripping of clothing as you do more damage to your enemy.  The game also boasts an all-female cast.  The game actually has a fun, smooth and fluid battle system.  You chain together strong and weak attacks into combos, which can be combined with aerial attacks, slams and three different "modes" for each character.

The battle system can get repetitive since in a lot of battles, you just need to mash the attack button, even on higher difficulties.  The game never gets that challenging.  Each character has a Normal Mode which has the widest range of attacks.  Then there's a Shinobi Mode where the character changes costumes and can use Ninja Arts.  Ninja Arts are special powerful moves, with characters having three different ones.  This mode comes at the cost of more limited attacks but higher combo chains.

Finally, there is Frantic Mode where the character strips off most of their clothing to boost their speed and attack power but at the cost of decreasing defence.  They can chain unlimited normal attacks and is great to clear out hordes of enemies but can be risky to use against powerful characters.  Once you change form, you can't change back until you finish the mission.  As you fight against characters you will strip off layers of clothing.  You can strip up to two layers leaving them in their underwear.  The final layer is stripped off if you defeat them using an Ultimate Secret Ninja Art which is actually quite satisfying when you pull it off.

Characters also gain experience from hitting enemies and are able to level up, increasing their stats and unlocking more of their combo tree.  The main story focuses on four Shinobi schools, which are set in the present day but the shinobi are now hidden from public view, hiding in plain sight.  Each Shinobi school has a five-chapter story and they all tell the same events from their different perspectives.  Basically, a Battle Royale has been initiated and if a school defeats another during this, they get the right to raze the school they had beaten.

Each school's story branches out to their characters' backstories and other elements in addition to the Battle Royale and it manages to convey sad backstories for each of the characters.  Despite the focus on fan service, the plot is surprisingly dark and interesting.  Each school has five playable characters and you'll be alternating between characters per chapter (there are usually five levels per chapter).  It takes around three to four hours to finish a school's story mode.

Learning about each character's motivations is neat since whereas the player in one story will be fighting another as enemies and thinking that they are pure evil, when they get to the enemies' point of view, they understand where they are coming from and sympathize with them.  You can replay story missions without going through the story cutscenes if you wish, which is a great feature.  Story is told via text and dialogue, voiced completely in Japanese, like a visual novel.

Unfortunately, levels can get tiring when you're forced to fight waves of the same generic enemies before the boss appears.  The same enemy types keep coming back which is fairly boring.  Enemies can crowd around you and especially annoying are the more powerful ones who can stunlock you or have unblockable moves.  In addition to the school's story mode, each character has five missions specific to them, which is more lighthearted and focuses on their unique personalities, traits and insecurities.

The character stories are usually funny, although it's surprising at how much sexual references are within the dialogue.  The still images are also very suggestive.  The graphics are cel-shaded and looks great.  Environments, like the no-name enemies, are fairly generic.  Finally, Shinovi Versus packs in a multiplayer mode that you can either play via wifi or ad-hoc.  There are there modes, Deathmatch (normal fight against others where you gain points), Strip Battle (destroy clothing on enemies for points) and Panty Battle (collecting the most underwear, which falls from the sky and you can beat them out from your opponents).

An appreciated touch in the multiplayer is that you can set AI bots within these modes and even if you only play against these bots, they are a lot of fun.  Overall, Senran Kagura:  Shinovi Versus is a niche game but if you like fan service (or don't mind it), then the game is actually very enjoyable and a lot of fun.  The story is better than expected, combat makes you feel overpowered and the game packs a fair bit of content.


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

Blogger Widget