Monday, 12 October 2015

Review: Star Wars Micro Machines (2015 versions)

Force Friday, eh? That was...well, I suppose it was a nice idea having all the new toys be revealed and on toy shop shelves at exactly the same time. It was a nice piece of marketing for Hasbro, getting it international press coverage, but really, when you think about it, Star Wars merchandising sales were always going to be HUGE - they always are!

So despite Hasbro's mandate that no toys were to be revealed before 4th September, this being the 21st Century, images of absolutely everything had turned up online beforehand. Which is a good thing, isn't it? What's the point of turning up to a midnight opening only to discover that you don't really want any of the toys on offer.

No, instead everyone turned up wanting Star Wars Black figures only for them to be as scarce as...something really really scarce. Gold dust. Yeah, that one gets used a lot in simile situations such as these. Or maybe something more Star Wars Universe appropriate...

I, however, was more interested in the return of one of my favourite toylines from the past: Micro Machines, and it was this that I spent my pennies on on Force Friday. I've talked about why Micro Machines are the perfect scale for Star Wars toys in the past and I've always been puzzled as to why they disappeared from shop shelves after the Phantom Menace.

Friday, 9 October 2015

Review: Spartacus A Game of Blood & Treachery

Game of Thrones seems to get all the attention, but there was another definitely-rated-18 TV series a few years ago that was equally as good and tuned the adult themes up to 11 - Spartacus: The Stuff They Never Taught In School!

It was a troubled production, with lead actor Andy Whitfield sadly being diagnosed with cancer, delaying the second season in favour of a flashback mini-series while he underwent treatment. Production on the second season recommenced when Whitfield was declared cancer-free, but the cancer returned and he died on September 11, 2011, with Liam McIntyre stepping into the role.

The series ended in 2013, but for those wanting to immerse themselves in the world of Spartacus, beyond rewatching the episodes, there's a table top game.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Best Weekend Ever!

For really no other reason than it being AWESOME, I'm going to write about my weekend and the nice new stuff that now fills my house. I told a Year 1 class about it all this morning but they got a tad confused and thought I'd won some (live) turtles. Maybe that's why I'm writing this now: to set things straight with a bunch of 5 and 6 year olds who are highly unlikely to ever read these words.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Review: Auto Assembly 2015

In the beginning there were 31. In the end there were over 1000.

This is how Europe's largest Transformers convention has grown over the past 15 years. And now it's all over.

The think that you come away with from Auto Assembly isn't a big bag full of plastic (though that may happen too) it is, strange as it may seem, a renewed faith in humanity. Honestly! I'm not making some bizarre joke. The people at AA are some of the nicest you could hope to encounter. All the attendees, the volunteers, the dealers, the guests... Absolutely everyone is simply a fab human being. Yes, everyone there might be considered a bit odd by a large percentage of the population due to having an interest in a children's toy line, but then aren't we all a bit odd in one way or another? And if being a bit odd means that means that you can start up an interesting conversation to the complete stranger next to you while standing in a queue for a long time (Nick Roche!) then I welcome this Oddity.

Monday, 14 September 2015

Review: Marvel Legends Tiger Shark

If there was an award for the most ridiculous-looking comic book character...well, there'd likely be a lot of competition for that crown. But for the moment we're going to just concentrate on the completely insane Tiger Shark....because that's the figure I've just bought from Toys R Us!

Friday, 11 September 2015

Review: DX9 Cocomone (Not-GoBot's Crasher)

I won't repeat my introduction to Salmoore (aka Cy-Kill), other than to say that I welcome more GoBots being made!

Salmoore was generally ok. There were a few things I wasn't overly keen on, but generally he was a good figure. The great news is Crasher is even better.

Wednesday, 9 September 2015

Review: ICE 2015 - The International Comics Expo

Despite Marvel films taking £billions at the box office, there's lots of talk about children not being as interested in reading comics as in the past. Especially since comics are being increasingly welcomed into school libraries, it seems odd that the comic industry isn't chasing after kids and securing future readership and those all-important sales.

I'm always a bit wary about taking children along to comic events as there's hardly ever anything of substance for them to do. Sure I'm happy wandering around talking to creators, but kids get bored of this type of thing very quickly. Life isn't made any easier when the 'all ages' comics are hidden amongst the plethora of definitely not all ages comics. Even when there are dedicated kids activities advertised, they can often turn out to be, well, a bit rubbish. This is why, in part, that I started organising children's comic cons at my kids' local school.

Under normal circumstances I wouldn't have mentioned to my children about ICE and gone on my own, however it had 2 things going in its favour:

1. FREE ENTRY FOR KIDS was written in really big letters on the posters.

2. There were dedicated children's events and it was listed on online what these were before we got there.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Review: Toyworld (Not) Throttlebots Combiner

A long time ago Toyworld began releasing semi-reimagined versions of the old Transformers Throttlebots, one every few months. Besides the colour of X being not exactly G1-accurate, I really liked these guys. They looked good, were good quality, retained 'hoods' even though their transformation was more complex and were generally fun little figures.

Which is probably why Toyworld gave up releasing them. Because everyone hates me and is out to ruin my fun.

It came as a bit of a surprise then when, earlier this year, Toyworld released the final 3 figures in the line all at once with little notice. Which is why, in part thanks to Auto Assembly, I've only just managed to complete the set.

Long suspected, right from the initial release of Grindrod, was that all six Throttlebots would eventually be able to combine into a Big Figure. Obviously nothing like that has ever been even hinted at in G1 literature for the Throttlebots, and it didn't take anything away from the 'base' ToyWorld robots, so it was always simply going to be a nice bonus if this indeed turned out to be the case.

Which it is.

Monday, 31 August 2015

Review: Power Rangers Legacy Titanus

Titanus is a toy of two halves. One great, one a big stinking pile of poo. Intrigued? Read on!

There's a lot of high-end (i.e. cost) collectible toys on the market at the moment, aimed at now-grown 80s and 90s kids who have a nostalgia-hole to fill, preferably with stuff 'as they remember it', rather than 'as it actually was'. As police will tell you, people's memories aren't very reliable and they tend to look on the past with rose-tinted glasses, not remembering, for example, how inaccurate to their TV screen counterparts a lot of old toys were.

Titanus forms the third and final part of the Super-dooper Megazord (*may not be official name) from the Mighty Morphin Power Rangers. He's kind of like a big brachiosaurus, but with with an even larger body, some teeny tiny legs and, well, thinking about it, Titanus doesn't have too much in common with a brachiosaurs besides the long neck. But never mind.

There were a whole bunch of things 'wrong' with the original toy, but most kids probably didn't care too much. Adults, however, are much more critical and want the increased details that a toy costing over £100 ought to have. And Legacy Titanus has them all in spades.

Friday, 28 August 2015

Review: Star Trek Attack Wing

Firstly, I'll be completely honest and say that, so far, I've only played with the 'quick start' rules for this game. This simplifies absolutely everything down to its absolute minimum: move and shoot. The cards and counters are, essentially, completely ignored. At some point, I'm sure, we'll start adding in more of the full rules, but at the moment the kids are more than happy with the basic rules.

Before getting the starter set I read many recommendations from people to buy X-Wing instead. The game is similar, they say, but the models are far superior. I chose to ignore this mostly because there are far more ships I'm fond of in the Trek universe: Defiant, numerous Enterprises, Excelsior, most of the Dominion ships etc etc. In the Star Wars universe, on the whole, it's more about fleets of the same few ships that lots of different ones.

Wednesday, 26 August 2015

Review: Voltron Battle Miniatures Game

I never watched Voltron as a kid. I'm not sure how it managed to pass me by. It was only within the last five years or so that I went out and bought all the DVDs and sat and watched it all (well, some of it - there are a lot of episodes!). Not having that nostalgic connection, I not a huge fan, however I do enjoy the giant robot combiner on monster action and my kids love it. I've since bought the vintage Castle of Lions and the Mattel lions they put out a couple of years ago.

More recently I found out there was a Voltron miniatures game, which has proven to be a right ****** to get hold of for a reasonable price. The online reviews I looked at weren't that great, but I was undeterred and finally a nice chap in Germany listed one on ebay and I pounced.

Thursday, 20 August 2015

Review: Cavemen Vs Pirates Vs Ninjas Vs Army men

Everyone knows the classic green army men. Big bundle of poorly made army men with plastic flashing down the join, devoid of paint and detail. But they're cheap and you get a big bag of them and when you're small this is more than you need to keep yourself entertained for hours on end.

One of the more bizarre items of merchandise created for the Toy Story films was the 'screen accurate' tub of army men. Charging a premium to get an exact replica of what Pixar had gone to great effort to create an exact replica of a really cheap toy.

But I'm not reviewing those.

Instead, I'm reviewing these packs of toys I found in B&M. They're really the next advance in army men toys. No, there's no added paint or articulation, nothing of that ilk that 'improves' them. Instead additional teams have been added: Ninjas! Cavemen! Pirates! Zombies! (except they'd sold out of the zombies) And of course the army men.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

Review: Small Soldiers Archer

My preference in films is a little bizarre. Fighting it out for the title of Damian's Favourite Film Ever are The Fly and The Thing. Dawn of the Dead and Alien are also near the top of the are (and this is where anyone trying to make predictions might find their guesses way off) Bring It On, Transformers: The Movie, The Last Unicorn and Small Soldiers.

Small Soldiers was made by Joe Dante, the guy who made Gremlins, and they share a common theme of small creatures wrecking havoc on humans. In Small Soldiers a bunch of toys are installed with hi-tech computer chips, achieve sentience (sort of) and start attacking a PG sort of way.

If you haven't seen the film I recommend you stop reading here and go watch it. This review's not going anywhere and it will happily wait until you return.

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Review: Jurassic World Hero Mashers

Companies like to copy each other. It's a big risk launching a new product, one that can lead to huge losses if you get it wrong, so if you see something that's already selling well and you can make something similar, well time to jump aboard that wagon!

At the moment the craze among toy manufacturers seems to be the multi-part mix and match figure. Playmates have their Ninja Turtles versions, Bandai have their Power Rangers ones and Hasbro has Hero Mashers for Transformers, Marvel, not Star Wars for some reason, and, most recently, Jurassic World.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Review: Visionaries Collector's Guide

80s toy collectors are really being spoiled at the moment. Within the last year or so we've had the 30th Anniversary TMNT book, the Voltron 30th Anniversary book, the Transformers Legacy packaging art book and recently the He-Man art book.

Of course these are for some of the bigger lines that emerged from the 80s. There are many, many others (I'm especially aware of this since I've recently sorted out my collection for display at our school comic con). The odds of getting big guides for these is remote.

...unless they're on Kickstarter.

Earlier in the year a campaign was launched to produce a Visionaries guide. Well, the campaign was successful and the guide is now available to everyone for the grand sum of 1p (plus postage). So is it worth it?

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Review: Combiner Wars Legends Powerglide

Generally I'm loving the Combiner Wars toys. Generally. There are one or two, however, which can I put this?...not so great.

Powerglide is one of them.

Monday, 10 August 2015

Review: Combiner Wars Legends Bombshell

I've heaped praise on the Combiner Wars line before and in this review I will, essentially, be doing it all over again. After a few years of being unable to walk the line between good looking robot & vehicle modes and transformations don't take a degree in transforming from Cybertron university, Hasbro have completely nailed it.

Take Bombshell...

Monday, 3 August 2015

Review: Doom Board Game

Best PC game ever? Got to be Doom, right? Running round corridors and blowing apart everything in sight. Both 1 & 2 were gaming classics and 3, well, 3 was a bit different. 3 was more slow and careful rather than running in all guns blazing. I remember the instruction manual for 3 (yes, I actually read it) said to turn off the lights and turn up the sound. So I did. And had a few monster-fighting dreams for weeks afterwards.

It doesn't seem like the most likely subject to turn into a board game. That didn't stop someone from trying.

Friday, 29 May 2015

Review: Transformers Combiner Wars Armada Megatron

There's a remarkably Generation 1-looking Megatron in the shops at the moment. If doesn't turn into a gun, of course, as such a Transformation will never happen again, but robot-Megs looks like he stepped out of the 80s and turning into a tank is a reasonable compromise on his alt-mode. I mean, G2 Megatron was a tank and so was...

Generation 1's case-mate in this wave is Armada Megatron. As people who run small businesses in the toy area are more than well aware, Armada Megatron is sitting, refusing to budge from shop shelves like a Bumblebee.

Guess which one I bought?

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Review: Game of Thrones Legacy series 2

The first set of GoT figures from Funko weren't perfect. They were almost there, but the face sculpts were slightly off on most of them. But there was potential, lots of potential, and the hope was that things would improve with the second set. And things have...but aren't quite there yet.

Monday, 18 May 2015

Review: The Flight of Dragons

Currently I'm attempting to put together a comic convention for my children s' school. Like last year, the plan is to screen a film on Friday night before the 'proper' activities the following day. There was a bit of a problem, however, in that pretty much every comic-based film of recent times is rated 12.

Think about it. Amazing Spider-Man: 12, Iron Man: 12, Guardians of the Galaxy: 12, Ninja Turtles: 12, X-Men: 12...and so on.

Since no one at the school is 12, this poses a problem. There are only a handful of PG films, and most of those had to be ruled out due to length (Spider-Man 2, Superman). Batman & Robin was ruled out for other, obvious reasons.

The headteacher suggested looking at animated films, though many of those are problematic too for the same rating reason. There are a couple, I will admit, but not a lot. Then I remembered Flight of Dragons.

Friday, 15 May 2015

Review: Birmingham Comic Festival 2015

A couple of weeks ago a new convention was held at Edgbaston cricket ground in Birmingham. Seeing as though this is about a 40 minute walk from my house, I had little choice but to go, right?

I'm reviewing the con from more from a child perspective than a hardcore comic-reader perspective. There are a few reasons for this: this is primarily a 'toy' site, having 3 children I'm always in half a mind as to whether to take my kids along to events like these, and finally, the comic convention I'm arranging for my children s' school is now only a few weeks away and I was on the look out for comics/ideas which might work for that.

As always when I arrive at cons/events such as this there was a giant queue (though no where near as giant as something you'd find at the NEC for the MCM events) that you join the back of and hope you're in the right place. There were a few costumed characters hanging about but no giant COMIC FESTIVAL banner or anything like that. Considering it was a nice day and there was a large park packed with people close by, this was a bit of a missed opportunity. (There were a couple of, what appeared to be, American cop cars outside. Didn't quite understand those. I think they played the Police Academy theme at one point, but I'm certain no one wants to be reminded about that franchise.)

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Review: Transformers Legends Jetfire

There are only two Transformers I can remember getting in the 80s. The first is Pretender Jazz. I got him for Christmas from my cousin and was slightly perplexed as I didn't realise they were still making Transformers. Time moves differently as a kid, so it may well have been only a few months since I'd got a Transformer before that, but I'd obviously moved on to something else, toy-wise (if not comic-wise, but that's another story).

Now that I think about it, I do have a vague memory of opening up Optimus Prime. I can remember lifting the pieces out of the box, the feel and slight squeak as the toy popped out of the polystyrene, but that's about it. But Prime wasn't the second robot I was referring to when I began this piece, that was Jetfire, which I remember much more clearly.

It was another Christmas present (it had to be, Jetfire was big and therefore expensive). I remember ripping off the wrapping paper and opening him up, but the most vivid memory is the pain caused every time I pulled the switch to open up the wheels and they flung open at great force and smashed into my fingers.

I was never a huge fan of the Transformers cartoon, much preferring the comic. A lot of this can probably be traced to the fact that ITV insisted on splitting up each episode and spreading it over an entire week. Due to this I very rarely managed to see an entire episode. In what is becoming something of a recurring number, I can remember only two - the very first and the one that introduced Jetfire.

Of course he was called 'Skyfire' in the show, but only having seen it once until the arrival of DVD, he was always Jetfire to me. It was an amazing episode and I can remember being extremely sad when he (spoiler!) crashed into the ice.

The first (proper) update of Jetfire came a number of years ago now and in many ways it was perfect. But, as I say, it was a number of years ago now and Hasbro has released another...

Monday, 30 March 2015

Review: Star Trek Generations Engineering Playset

It's been rather a delightful week for me. First the Garax Swordship arrived on my doorstep, then this, the Star Trek Generations Engineering set from 1994.

The Generations line by Playmates was, well, remember the 'new' Star Trek line Playmates put out a few years ago? Well, it wasn't that bad. But it was pretty bad.

Overall the Playmates 5" figures had been very good. The likenesses were more than acceptable and the articulation, for the time, was extensive.

And then they screwed it all up.

It wasn't all their fault. Due to a last minute change in uniforms for the film (the production team threw out the new uniforms that had been designed and simply stuck to the stuff the cast had been wearing during the time of the Next Generation TV show), Playmates were stuck with making a line of figures which didn't look anything like the people in the film. There was still the main villain, Soran, and the boob-tastic Klingon ladies, but as for the Enterprise-D crew...

And then, presumably because of the uniform problems Playmates could no longer be bothered putting any effort in, articulation was reduced to a sole 5 points. Considering at the same time there were fully poseable Next Gen figures on toy shop shelves, this was bizarre.

But enough of the figures, this review is all about the playset.

Thursday, 26 March 2015

Review: Defenders of the Earth Garax Ship

It's been quite a good week for me, toy collector-wise. I've finally managed to track down two items I've been hunting for for years.

I'm not saying these things are super rare; I've certainly seen them before for sale on ebay, but they've either been stupidly expensive or I've forgotten about the auction ending, or for some other reason I've failed to buy them. On the other hand they're not super common either. They're not toys that are easily available.

So what are they? Well, one you'll have to wait to be revealed at a later date (mostly because it hasn't arrived yet and I'd look stupid if I proudly named it here and it turned out to be broken). The other, if you have even the lowest level of intelligence, you'll have already guessed by looking at the title of this piece: Garax's ship.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Review: Unreal Tournament (Dreamcast)

When I started uni (and you'll be able to age me by this one), at the end of the first year - you know, when you're supposed to be studying hard for exams (except if you did Chemistry and then, due to have a test every week for the entire year, you didn't have any at the end) - we ran (i.e. taped to the ceiling) a whole bunch of network cables along the halls of residence corridor, thus allowing for giant games of Quake and, more usually, Unreal Tournament.

I loved that game! The fact that there was absolutely no plot, just running around and shooting each other, with the occasional smug cry of victory and mocking. The only thing about Unreal Tournament I didn't like was that one person, and I suspect this shows a little something about his character, would simply grab the sniper rifle, go to the highest point on the map, then sit there for the entire game and pick people off. Most annoying.

Of course there were other versions of Unreal, not on PC, but I never played any of those. You could convince your parents you needed a PC for uni to do important work on, but I'm not sure convincing them to buy a Dreamcast would be a similarly easy task.

Fast forward a few years and, using the school comic con as an excuse, I finally got round to buying a Sega Unreal Tournament.

Friday, 27 February 2015

Review: Transformers: Mega Drive Megatron

I love it when companies have a sense of humour. I know Takara have had problems in the past getting car manufacturers to agree to have their models turn into Decepticons (we can't possibly suggest that our cars are in any way 'evil', despite the baddies, more often than not, being cooler characters), so it's nice that to (sort of) celebrate its 25th Anniversary, Sega agreed to turn the Mega drive into Megatron!

Saturday, 21 February 2015

Review: MOTUC: Quarter 3 2014, POP Quarter 2

Better late then never, eh? That's what they say, isn't it? They do still say that, right?

Most people probably already own these toys, and if you don't, well, they've all sold out now. But I'm going to give them a once-over anyway. Since my subs combined, all these figures arrived at once to me so I'm lumping everything into one review.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Palindrome Awards 2014

It's that time again for a look at the best of what's been lining the toy shelves for the past 12 months. As always, all awards are based on what I can remember was released rather than what was actually released. I prefer to think of this as meaning that anything that gets an award has managed to stick around the forefront of my brain and is therefore most deserving of a win, though of course my forgetting more deserving winners is a definite possibility.