Thursday, April 30, 2015

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem

Continuing straight after the first AVP film, a hybrid alien combining both the elements of Alien and Predator invade upon an Earthen city.  Unlike the first movie in which it was truly a face off between the two alien species, this one, not so much.  For most of the film, we end up following four perspectives (three humans and one Predator).  While they do end up converging and combining into one party at the end of the film, the multiple perspectives felt unnecessary.  The story also contained a lot of scenes where it does not add to the story and makes the film seem bloated.  The movie is more gory and violent, which isn't a good thing since they're so pointless.  There's no horror or tension at all, just mindless deaths.  The climax takes place at night with rain (your typical setting) and this causes fights with the aliens to be hard to make out.  The camera also sometimes moves too fast to know what is happening, all of this causes you to lose interest.  Lacking originality or any great action sequences, Aliens vs. Predator:  Requiem can be a chore to finish and is fairly mediocre.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

Book Review: Neon Genesis Evangelion: The Shinji Ikari Raising Project 14

Review:  #483
Title:  Neon Genesis Evangelion:  The Shinji Ikari Raising Project 14
Series:  Neon Genesis Evangelion:  The Shinji Ikari Raising Project - 14th volume
Author:  Osamu Takahashi
Read Before:  no
Comments:  The plot element in each chapter is not as tedious or repetitive as some previous chapters although it’s still very much more of the same.  It chronicles the daily life of Shinji, the mysteriousness of the lab is sidelined here, and actually, there are not chapters that further the training the protagonists do.  For some reason, a lot of the chapters are about Shinji and company cooking and managing a random restaurant.  Surprisingly, it isn’t boring at all and manages to keep it quite entertaining.
Rating:  6/10

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Toy Review: Transformers Generations Combiner Wars Drag Strip

Review:  #232
Name:  Drag Strip
Brand:  Transformers
Allegiance:  Decepticon
Line:  Generations - Combiner Wars
Year of Release:  2015
Size Class:  Deluxe (Wave 1)
Variations:  none as of this date


Drag Strip transforms into a Formula race car with an open driver's seat like the original toy, he only has four wheels though.

He is very blocky in this mode, closer to a square than the more dynamic curves of the Universe version.

He sits very low on the ground but has enough clearance to roll freely on the table.

Drag Strip trades height for length in this mode.  It's a bit unfortunately that his spoiler seems to be truncated though.

As part of Wave 1, Drag Strip doesn't come with a comic (although in subsequent waves' revisions, he does), instead, he comes with a collector's card.

The combiner piece can attach on top.

While he sword can plug into the back.  I can't find a better place to put it, you can peg it onto the side but it sticks out and the secondary handle is on an angle, so you're not even able to plug it in that way.

A great vehicle mode.


Drag Strip has a very simple transformation, one that is quite unoriginal.  The rear extends to become his feet, the sides unfold for his arms and the front folds into his back.  That said, the easiness of it makes him fun and quick to convert between modes.


Drag Strip's robot mode bears a good resemblance to his G1 toy, right down to the combiner ports forming his chest.  While accurate, I do wish that it wasn't so obvious since it looks lazy.

He wears the front of the vehicle as a backpack, but it sits flush against his back causing no issues whatsoever.

The head sculpt is nice although he has the weird "bleeding" from his visor.

He's a tiny bit smaller than the Deluxes of old but still pretty sizable.

Poseability is pretty good, he even has a waist joint.

The visible screws are a bit unsightly and his forearms make him seem like he's wearing a long sleeve shirt with giant sleeves.

He comes with two weapons, a sword and a combiner piece that doubles up as a gun.

His sword looks quite nice and contains some great sculpting.

There's also a second handle that lets it be held like a gun (but it lacks a barrel).  The handle is at an odd angle and I can't fathom why it was molded that way.

The head is on a balljoint and there are elbow swivels too.  He feet are large enough for him to be stable in a wide variety of poses.

The combiner piece can be used as a gun but the barrels look weird and overall, the piece is too big to look good.

A good robot mode overall, the head sculpt and aesthetics nail him as Drag Strip better than the Universe version did (although truth be told,that figure was a repaint).


Drag Strip is a fun toy.  The simplicity is the compromise of being part of a combiner, although this isn't really a compromise anyway.  He looks good in both modes and feels solid in your hands.  Even if you weren't intending to form Menasor, Drag Strip is worth a look, and a purchase.


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


Let's have a quick look at Drag Strip's combiner features.

The combiner piece is able to form both a hand and a foot.  The hand is actually quite ingenious.

While the foot is pretty much the weapon mode with the heel folded out.

Drag Strip's arm mode uses the knees and hips as elbows, and uses the waist swivel to great effect.

For leg mode, you need to fold the spoiler up otherwise it'll be too long.

The fists have a 5mm peg hole to place any of the other bot's weapons.

He looks good in either mode to be honest.  Well, thanks for reading!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Skylanders: Giants (PS3)

Skylanders:  Giants is a sequel to Skylanders:  Spyro's Adventure which is based upon the same concept, that is, it utilizes physical figures which interact with the game through the use of NFC and a "Portal of Power".


Skylanders:  Giants uses the exact same technology as Spyro's Adventure, therefore, if you have the original game, you can opt to purchase the "Portal Owner's Pack" which is slightly cheaper but only comes with the game and one figure.

Although I got the Portal's Owner's Pack, it is highly recommended you obtain the Starter Pack instead as it provides more value for money.  Not only do you get two extra figures, the Portal of Power is wired as well, which means no more pesky batteries.  Plus, you need the two extra figures in order to get the Platinum Trophy if you didn't purchase any additional ones.

The figure that it provided is the Giant Tree Rex.  He is in a grabbing pose and he looks amazing.  The attention to detail to these figures remain outstanding, with a lot of paint applications and sculpted details.

I love the way the figure has elements of trees in its design, it really sells the concept of the figure (and the name is appropriate).

In the game, giants are larger than normal Skylanders and the same holds true for the toys, they are roughly twice the size of normal Skylanders.

Lastly, Tree Rex is also a "Lightcore" figure, the spike on his right arm and his eyes light up when you place him on the Portal, this creates a really cool effect.

In terms of additional items you get, there is a collector's card and some stickers.

Lastly, you get a fold out poster showing all the available toys in the Skylanders:  Giants line.


Skylanders:  Giants is the sequel to the smash hit Skylanders:  Spyro's Adventure.  Released just one year later in 2012, it retains the same concept of a computer game merged with physical toys.  Skylanders:  Giants retain the same action platform play which is still a blast.  What's even better is that you are able to use all the Series 1 characters from Spyro's Adventure.  Yes, all those original toy figures you bought are forward compatible with this new game.  The same goes for the Portal of Power.  Plus, there are "Series 2" toys which are reposed characters from the original game.  As an incentive to buy these new toys, they contain an additional power.  As a bonus, you can use these new Series 2 figures on Spyro's Adventure too.  Furthermore, all your original toys retain their upgrades, levels and money; you do not need to level them up from the beginning.  Another incentive of using your old figures is the fact that the level cap has increased from 10 to 15.  That said, it takes a long time to level up to 15.  If you just use on character throughout the game, you will reach level 15 near the end of the game, which actually discourages the swapping of characters.  Unfortunately, characters still cannot jump, which feels weird.  Instead, characters have two main types of attacks, which can be upgrade and modified as the game goes on.  Some characters have additional powers.

Swapping of characters is as simple as taking the off the Portal and placing another on.  However, it now takes longer as the game searches for the right code to figure out which character you just placed on the Portal.  Of course, new game also equal new characters.  These include eight "Giants" and eight new "Skylanders".  These are also eight additional "Lightcore" versions of existing characters who have various parts light up when you place them on the Portal.  The Starter Pack contains the giant Tree Rex and two Skylanders:  Jet-Vac and Cinder.  While the Portal Owner's Pack only provides Tree Rex.  Roughly, there are 48 new toys to collect, excluding recolors, exclusives and adventure packs.  Giants are larger than your typical Skylanders, they are slow but also much more powerful, both in terms of damage and health.  The game's story doesn't dive too deeply into the lore of the Giants; they're introduced and then never really mentioned again.  In terms of gameplay, it is basically more of the same.  The core gameplay remains the same in that you traverse around areas, fighting bad guys and collecting stuff.  The level designs however are a step up from the first game, providing more variety such as using switches to swap between dimensions.  There are also some noticeable changes such as more lock puzzles, more combat and the difficulty being pushed up a notch.  This could be a good or bad thing but it does get overbearing with the amount of enemies the game chucks at you.

During the more intense combat sections, you will be sealed off in an area, which requires you to defeat a huge amount of enemies before allowing you to continue on.  It just seems to happen way too much.  The game is still fairly easy but it has four difficulty levels:  your standard Easy, Normal and Hard, with an additional unlockable difficulty of Nightmare, where enemies can kill you within one to two hits.  The game only has 16 chapters, which, while it is less than the 22 chapters of the original, these levels take longer, easily 20 minutes the first time around, and that it is without obtaining everything.  This means the story takes around 10 hours to finish but most likely, it'll take you less.  The longevity of the game comes from all the collectibles:  legendary treasures, story scrolls, soul gems, hats, winged sapphires and luck-o-tron wheels.  You also would want to replay levels to earn three stars, which require obtaining all collectibles, defeating a certain number of enemies, exploring all areas and finishing within a time limit.  Levels are less linear than before and encourage exploration.  There are a lot of well hidden areas.  The level designs are good with puzzles that aren't too hard but not too easy either.  The graphics are a step up from the first game but still very average.

There is a minigame called Skystones in which it is played on a 3 by 3 grid.  The aim is to capture as many as of the enemy's pieces as possible.  You can collect more skystones within the game to build u your deck and it is a nice side distraction.  If you've ever played Final Fantasy VIII, Skystones is basically Triple Triad.  Finally, there are 21 arena challenges, which are a set of challenges such as defeating all enemies, knocking enemies off the edge or stopping enemies from entering a certain area.  They are fun and are the perfect difficulty, not easy to the point of being boring but very achievable.  The Hub is now a flying ship, it is not as big as the Ruins in Spyro's Adventure but there are still a decent amount of rooms to explore.  In addition, there are shops where you can purchase additional items such as hats, power-ups and skystones.  The game continues to encourage purchasing more Skylanders to enjoy all the game has to offer.  There are locked areas which require a specific element to enter (all Skylanders are one of eight elements, plus whether they are Giants or not).  These areas are more elaborate than the first game, often including some intricate puzzle and general rewards.  As well as that, certain elements are more powerful in certain areas.  However, due to the slow leveling and difficulty in later levels where you're swarmed with enemies, it actually discourages swapping Skylanders as you need the stat boost from higher levels to survive.

Once a Skylander loses all their health, you can either restart the chapter or place another Skylander onto the Portal to use.  To easily complete the game though, you really need to stick with one or two Skylanders for the duration of the game.  Enemies are more diverse and harder to kill.  They require more running around to dodge attacks as a lot of them have shields.  You need to wait until tey finish their attacks before you can defeat them.  The story picks up where the first one left off; Kaos manages to find a way to return to Skylands and finds a giant robot in the process.  He is searchign for a powerful ultimate weapon which is located in a lost city.  In the process, the ancient Arkeyans are awakened and the Skylanders must stop them all.  The story is basic but effective.  It is told through pre-rendered cutscenes which looks great while in-game cutscenes will have textboxes.  The game is entertaining with the humor, both in terms of dialogue and character actions.  Boss battles aren't as numerous but they are much more fun and less repetitive compared to the first game.  My personal favorite is the drill robot who sings while fighting, it was hilarious.  Overall, Skylanders:  Giants is every bit as fun as the original game.  It improves on a lot of aspects and doesn't have many flaws.  The bright colorful visuals along with the fun make this a fantastic game.


Skylanders:  Giants provides even more value in its package than Spyro's Adventure.  Even if you don't purchase any additional characters, the game contains a huge amount of content and provides hours of fun.  The combat is simple yet fun, and the puzzles do not ever degrade to being boring filler material.  Skylanders:  Giants is highly recommended, especially if you enjoyed the first game.


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

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Alien vs. Predator

Despite seeming like a cash grab by combining two franchises together, the story idea is pretty unique.  Human explorers discover a buried pyramid which turns out to be a hunting ground for Predators for their coming-of-age type challenge, with the prey being the Aliens.  We were promised epic fights between the two alien species and while it doesn't fully deliver in that front, the film itself was okay.  It takes a short while (roughly 30 minutes) to set the story up and in particular, the first fifteen minutes felt painstakingly slow.  The aliens themselves seems overpowered with most of the Predators quickly dropping off, there's no real hunting and stalking involved, which was the biggest letdown.  The climax wasn't that great either and once the Predator teamed up with the human, it felt as if it never lived up to its potential as it immediately moved onto the ending.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Book Review: The Screaming Staircase

Review:  #482
Title:  The Screaming Staircase
Series:  Lockwood & Co. - 1st book
Author:  Jonathan Stroud
Read Before:  no
Comments:  It has been a long time since a book was this fantastic.  From the very first chapter it sucks you in completely into its world.  Like the Bartimaeus Sequence, The Screaming Staircase is based in an alternate world London.  The twist here is that there is a ghost epidemic and our heroes and heroine are agents who are employed by common folk to release these ghosts.  The way the author blends in some well-known ghost fighting tactics and creating a whole field of work with great attention to detail is mind blowing.  The novel is part horror (due to the supernatural theme and with some chilling events that occasionally occur) and part mystery.  It is an amazing combination and even though you’re already hooked early on, once you hit the middle and then the climax you cannot put this book down.  The writing style is addictive and you’re eagerness at wanting to know what’s going to happen next does not diminish.  The only weak point in the whole book is the ending where it doesn’t feel as satisfying as the rest of the novel.  There was a good resolution but it seemed to have been lacking something.  A bit more backstory on how the epidemic came up would also be good.  There is a lot of teasing, a bit of bait here and there to satisfy your curiosity but never your hunger.  The characters are likeable and I think the one thing that stands out is the atmosphere.  This is a highly recommended book with a brilliant story; I am looking forward to the sequel.
Rating: 8.5/10

Friday, April 24, 2015

Toy Review: figma #241 Sinon (Sword Art Online II)

Review:  #231
Name:  Sinon
Brand:  figma (Sword Art Online II)
Year of Release:  2015 (#241)
Variations:  none as of this date


Sinon comes in a neon green and black box with her product number (241) in prominent view.  Above it is "figma" and the anime it was based off:  Sword Art Online II.  Through the window, you can see the figure as well as some accessories.

In the back, there are many stock photos which show the potential dynamic poses you can get from her.  The sides are also put into good use with enlarged photos.  I don't many figma's and this was the first time I've encountered this change in packaging, and I like the design of the older figma's more.

Once you've unpacked Sinon, she comes in two trays.  The second bottom tray holds a bit more accessories but only about a third of the space is used.

As part of the packaging, there's also a piece of cardboard which you can rip out to form a cardboard stand.

Sinon comes with a decent amount of accessories, first off are her two additional faces, a smiling one and an angry shouting one in additional to her default stern face.

She comes with an additional four pairs of hands, which is pretty cool.  There are two open palms, one pointing right hand, two trigger hands, a relaxed hand and two curled hands.  This is in additional to a pair of fists already attached to the figure.

This was really odd at first, she comes with a second head and I was actually scratching my head on what was different about this one.  I compared it side on side and still couldn't figure out the different.  Turns out that this one has shorter hair so that she can tilt her head way back for a sniping pose.

She comes with her small pistol seen in the anime, with an additional effect part.

Of course, Sinon has her PGM Ultima Ratio Hecate II (otherwise known as Hecate), an anti-materiel rifle, which also functions as a sniper.

There are two additional sniper parts, both of which are used to prop up the rifle when posing Sinon in a sniping position.

Then there are your standard figma accessories, including the stand.

The plastic bag to hold all your accessories when not in use.

There is a stand extender and also this additional jointed piece which I actually have no clue what it is for since it isn't in the instructions.

Finally there are the instructions.  One side is in Japanese and the other is in English, which is really handy for those who can't read Japanese.


Okay, now let's get onto Sinon herself.  This is the Gun Gale Online avatar in which she spent most of her screen-time in.

Her scarf wraps around her neck and the ends fall down onto her back.  Her feet are large enough for Sinon to be able to easily stand by herself without support.

Max Factory got her headsculpting perfect, from the coloring to the proportions, she is instantly recognizable as Sinon.  She comes packaged with her stern face.

The hair is well detailed and looks good from most angles.  There is a seam across the middle of her head which is required since it is detached to change her face.

The aim of figma's are to recreate the characters as they were portrayed and Sinon is no exception.  The detailing is amazing, it looks sharp and pops out.

Not only does the front look good, the detailing continues onto the back of the figure.

There is a peghole in the back of her waist which allows you to plug in the figma stand.  This stabilizes her a lot more.

According to the Good Smile product page, she is approximately 13.5cm tall.  In practical terms, she's about the same height as other figma's.

In Transformers terms, she's approximately the height of a Deluxe, but obviously lacking in the bulk.

In order to change faces, you have to remove the front half of her hair and then pull the face out, it's an easy process.

The smiling face is cute but her eyes are looking to the right, so you have to take that into account when posing her using this face.

The third face is an angry open mouthed one.  I am not sure if all Sinon's are like this but the outline of her mouth is incomplete, it's the same with the other two faces but it's more prominent here.  A bit disappointing if this is a quality control issue.

This angry face is what you'll be mostly using for the dynamic shots as it gives that extra oomph and aggressiveness required.

Switching hands is an easy process.  Just pull out and slot in the one you want.  Unlike earlier figma's, the wrist joint is fixed into the forearm, you are literally only removing the hand.

Let's go onto Sinon's pistol.  It's got an extender.  You have to use the trigger finger hand in order to clasp the weapon.

Thankfully, getting her hand to wrap around the hand is not hard at all.  You are not going to feel like you're going to break the fingers.

When not in use, you can place it into a spot at the back of her waist, ready to be pulled out at a moment's notice.

There is an effects part to attach to the front of the pistol.  This makes it seem as if it has just been fired.  The instructions emphasized a correct orientation to attach it too, as a FYI.

Lastly, we have Hecate II, the sniper rifle.  It comes with a strap made of a vinyl-ish material which is soft and stretches, but still maintains its shape relatively well.  This allows Sinon to hang it from her shoulders.

There is a curled fist which is designed to hold the rifle upright.  I highly recommend softening the hand with a hairdryer otherwise you're going to have a tough time slotting in the rifle muzzle into her hand.  There is also a high risk of breakage or at the very least, stress-marking the hand if you don't heat it up first.

Obviously, Sinon can carry the rifle with both hands, this takes a bit of fiddling around but her arms are very poseable which makes this an easy task.

The strap can also act as a third support to make it more secure in some poses.

To put Sinon into a full sniping pose, you need to swap out some parts for Hecate II first.  You swap the stock into one with a stand, and swap out the front piece to form a tripod.

Laying Sinon down is easy.  Aligning her head such that she is viewing down the scope is another matter entirely.  It takes a decent amount of fiddling and most of the time, you will use the viewing angle to your advantage to give the illusion that she is viewing down down the scope.  You will need to use the alternate head piece to be able to tilt her head this far back.

The scope is in a fixed open position.  Care should be taken when detaching the tripod piece because it pegs on tightly.  The actual piece of plastic is thin and can be snapped if you're using too much pressure in the wrong area.

The rifle strap attaches on via two spots.  The instructions just show it coming off.  This means the actual strap and not the peg it's wrapped around, that piece is not supposed to come off.  Once again, I recommend a hairdryer to soften the strap which makes pulling out and pushing it back in much easier and makes it less likely to stretch the hole.

Sinon is able to hold a weapon in either hand, although it's somewhat impractical since she would not be able to figure both at the same time (the recoil from Hecate II would be too much to handle).

Of course, Sinon is extremely poseable.  She has an upper torso joint, shoulders, elbows, wrists, head, hips, knees and ankles.  She also ports a secondary hip swivel.

Furthermore, the ends of her scarf are jointed as well, which allows you to move them in a huge range of motion, this allows you to give the illusion of movement (or wind) in various poses.

What's really cool is that the green pieces on the outside of her thighs are made of a softer material, which bends and crumples.  It allows a wider range of movement for her hips without sacrificing screen accuracy.

On the whole, Sinon is made of a sturdy but flexible plastic, she feels durable and not at all fragile in your hands.

More likely than not, you will make use of the stand to help support her in poses.

The range of her articulation is impressive.  The only flaw would be that the hips cannot move outward too much.

It can be hard to rotate her wrists to make use of the swivel joint.  You can still rotate the wrist, but it takes a bit of effort to make it bend inwards the way you want it.

The different faces really gives each pose a distinctive feel.

It is recommended to pull the folded up stand in the stock off for Sinon to hold the rifle properly. It seems like a design flaw that when you leave that small rod in, Sinon cannot place her finger in the trigger.

Her scarf is a separate piece.  It'll probably fall out when you swap her heads.  It's worth a mention as I found it quite interesting.

A fantastic super-poseable figure that perfectly represents Sinon from Sword Art Online II.


figma Sinon is amazing.  There are effectively no flaws here, she has a huge range of articulation, looks like she just stepped out of the anime and has enough accessories to make her very versatile.  Sinon doesn't feel fragile at all and swapping out the parts are easy.  The amount of detailing is impressive.  If you're a fan of the character or the anime, give figma Sinon a shot, you will not be disappointed!


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


The remaining photos of Sinon that I took but didn't use in the review:

Thanks for looking!

Blogger Widget