McFarlane Toys Fortnite Skull Trooper Review

It’s no surprise that Fortnite has been given the action figure treatment. I’ve said from day one of Fortnite’s Battle Royale mode that these characters would make good figures. And so that day has come. It was a smart move to include Skull Trooper in the initial line up as he is by far one of the most sought after skins in the game, in fact, he was my first skin which I then used for a year straight (because I couldn’t afford anyone else and missed the first few battle passes). When I saw Skull Trooper being added to the lineup, I was quite excited but having never bought a McFarlane toy before so I had no idea what to expect. Apparently, McFarlane Toys isn’t known for much articulation so people that knew more than I did were sceptical...until they got their hands on one.

 

The Packaging

The box is quite big but its simplistic design and the broad window display is done nicely. Skull Trooper and all of his accessories are nicely displayed and the box is good enough to go on a shelf if someone wanted it to. It has Skull Trooper’s in-game portrait on the side and a preview of the other figures in the wave is found on the back. No background in the box other than a plain yellow backdrop. It would have been a cherry on top of the cake to have a printed lobby screen though. The box looks good and eye-catching enough but it’s what’s inside that matters.

 

The Figure

Skull Trooper looks amazing. Essentially he is a guy in tactical gear that drew a skeleton layout on himself which the figure captures perfectly. There’s patch work on his pants and his one shin guard is strapped to his leg with visible straps. His face captures that cartoony style that Fortnite is known for which some people might not like but that’s just the style of the game translating to figure. The figure might not stand out as much due to his dull colours but he does look menacing enough on the shelf which is what most people are after.

Skull Trooper stands at 7 inches tall (about 18cm) so he’s more in scale with NECA figures.

 

The Accessories

Skull Trooper comes with:

A Base

A Bolt Action Sniper Rifle

A Backpack

And his Death Valley Pickaxe.

The base is a nice addition. It’s a simple round black disk with little stilts that fit into the peg holes in the soles of his feet. It has Fortnite engraved on it too. There’s not much to it and it really is just there to help him stand up right on the shelf.

The Bolt Action Sniper Rifle is a splitting image of it's game’s counterpart which leaves it looking very simplistic, unfortunately. It has no elaborate detail and is just a cream coloured gun with a bit of black here and there. I suppose it can’t be faulted too much due to this being the design in the game but with the addition of gun wraps added to the game at the end of last year, hopefully, McFarlane picks out some fan favourite wrap designs to apply to future weapons with their upcoming figures.

The backpack is just a black bag with some little detail here and there on the zipper and the bag itself. It’s keeping to the dark colours that Skull Trooper sports. It fits his design, which is a very simple design, to begin with. It just clips into his back with a peg hole. The backpacks can be worn by any figure though just like in the game so it’ll be interesting to mix and match them.

And then there’s the Death Valley Pickaxe which is by far the best thing to come with him. It’s a bull skull strapped and nailed to a pickaxe but it looks so good! The brown straps add some colour to not only the pickaxe but to Skull Trooper when he holds it. The Bull Skull is nicely sculpted and I like the wash they applied to its hollowed out eyes, it looks like its staring into your soul. It looks like something a psychotic serial killer would wield (and who are we to say Fortnite characters aren’t just that?)

As with both the gun and the pickaxe, there’s a problem of Skull Trooper’s black paint rubbing off from his hands onto the lighter coloured accessories. It’s not that much of a big deal as it can be wiped off and it does give the gun and pickaxe a dirtier and more weathered look but I can see how some people would be annoyed at this. It’s just something one has to take into consideration when making him hold his weapons.

The Articulation

There is a ton of movement Skull Trooper can get into. His head can spin in a full 360-degree turn. It can look up quite well but the bandanna around his neck seems to block him from looking down, and no the bandanna is not removable. His arms can stretch out and can rotate with a swivel at the bicep. The shoulders can also move up and down with some fiddling. Double jointed elbows make for some really good pose ability as well as hands that can hinge up and down and swivel. He has a ball joint in the bit torso and a ball joint at the bottom by his waist so he can crunch, arch back and tilt. His hips are something I’ve never seen before. The joints are so well hidden one would think they’re not there but they are you just have to work them. There’s a swivel that allows them to point out and they can bend out although that can cause the white on his upper leg to rub off on the edge of his waist, again, some paint rubbing. He can kick forward decently and at least there’s some back motion. He has double knee joints which are just amazing as well as a hinge at the ankle which goes forward, back and sides to side and a toe joint.

Final Thoughts

I’d say for fans of Fortnite this is a must buy. It looks good, it has good articulation and it has game accurate weapons. For people who don’t play the game but like collecting good figures, I’d recommend it too as Skull Trooper can easily be henchman fodder for your other figures. The only real gripe is the paint rubbing which is a minor thing. He can get into some really nice poses and he can look good on a shelf. Or he can be some good luck charm to sit next to you while you play Fortnite.

Pros

Good Paint and Sculpt

Fantastic Articulation

Decent amount of accessories

  Cons

Paint Rubbing

*I bought Skull Trooper from AWX, link below*

https://nexushub.co.za/product/fortnite-skull-trooper-figure-pid246312.html

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No, Problemgon, New World is not “problematic”. You are.

[caption id="attachment_4238" align="aligncenter" width="300"] New World @ Amazon Game Studios[/caption]

Where do I even begin? This has been coming for a while now and I think I’ve finally snapped. I’ve reached the point where I can’t just brush it off anymore as it is having a blatant effect on the gaming culture and painting it in a bad light. For the last few months I’ve been seeing a lot of “controversies” (or “nontroversies” rather?) over video games as well as pandering to people pushing agendas within our gaming communities and I think it’s about time we as gamers start taking the blinkers off and taking note of this venom that’s seeping into our culture, because let’s face it, gaming is a culture.

 Take Amazon’s new game, for example, New World, which they are dubbing as a Survival MMORPG set in a 17th Centaury style fictional land about these explorers arriving and braving the ‘new world’ full of magic and danger. Many are comparing the game to Ark but I think it looks more like Conan Exiles had a love child with The Elder Scrolls Online or older MMOs from back before I knew what the internet was. There are the typical gameplay tropes you’d expect, surviving, crafting, building and exploring but mixed with hubs and character progression akin to traditional MMOs. I don’t want to go too much into the game as this article isn’t really about the game itself. It’s about the fact that upon reading two articles from two very different websites about the game, the one site has a brain when talking about the game and asking questions about the game with the intent to inform while the other site has an agenda.

  [caption id="attachment_4239" align="aligncenter" width="300"] New World @ Amazon Game Studios[/caption]

The two sites in question are Red Bull Gaming and Polygon. I’ll provide links to both sites so that readers can read them both and come to a well-informed opinion but I will be including screenshots of certain things I’d like to comment on. So, in the same vein agenda driven ‘journalists’ like to say, this is my hot take.

Polygon Article: https://www.polygon.com/2019/2/8/18216053/new-world-game-mmo-impressions-preview-colonization-controversy

Red Bull Gaming Article: https://www.redbull.com/za-en/new-world-amazon-games-mmo-interview

An attack on an 'island resident' the caption says, pretty sure that's a zombie...but okay.

 

New World is a Problematic game according to Polygon. Why? It’s set in a new world where players are colonialists who have arrived on the shores of this new world and have to survive. It is also the time of tailcoats and Tricorne Hats which appears to be a big no-no in world building these days.

[caption id="attachment_4242" align="aligncenter" width="229"] @Polygon[/caption]

The writer of the article even states that this setting, although draws from history is set in a fictitious region. So he's upset about a game set in a make belief world that just happens to pull inspiration from the time period. I may be going on a limb here but maybe some of these journalists may be writing down words and trying to make a fuss about something without realising what the words they are jotting down actually mean? It's good to know what words mean before writing something, just a thought.

   

I'm not downplaying history here. History is full of people killing each other for land or money or just for the sake of killing each other. Greed is at the root of all evil, that we can all agree on. Throughout history, all kinds of people have been inflicting harm upon each other. This world has and always will be a bleak place. But by this 'safe space logic', certain parts of history are taboo or at least drawing from them is problematic? These ideas infringe upon creative freedom though. Imagine if all storytellers were scared or banned from touching upon certain things because it may or may not step on toes. But alas, this is exactly what these people want. They want everything to be their way, to conform to their ideas because dare it triggers someone, oh no we can't have that.

The main thing here, or at least what the writer is trying to make the main thing, is the theme of the game. But let's just point out that there are no indigenous people in this game. This is a fantasy game where players have to explore a land untamed with danger. A world where magic is real and the corruption it brings is real too. Any reasonable person would agree that there were no zombies in America during the 1600's...

[caption id="attachment_4244" align="alignleft" width="171"] @ Polygon[/caption]

Oh geez, did Polygon just compare indigenous people to zombies? Isn't that a little counterintuitive to their whole rant here? Looking at the image to the side, the writer just compared Native American Indians to shuffling zombies to suit his reasoning to take a stab at the game. Maybe he has it in for Amazon or something? Maybe he didn't get a refund for a game that offended him? I am absolutely shocked that someone who is educated enough to string words into sentences and build paragraphs would make such a twisted and unfounded connection between zombies and indigenous people. By trying to find offence the writer ended up being offensive himself. The irony is as dense as the reasoning behind all of these nitpicks.

The lore of the game is similar to things we've seen in other games, like Path of Exile. The land is cursed or corrupt hence foul creatures emerge. But the writer of this article clearly wants to paint the picture that these withered creatures are an analogy for something. If you look for fault, you'll find it. That's how the world works. Are these people really progressive? I have to ask because looking at what was written there feels very regressive to me. Is he is going out of his way, beyond all reason just to try to look for something that isn't there?

This entire article is basically one big nitpick at the game but just wait, the pulling at straws gets worse!

Now there is some fact behind this writer, as soon as he starts to make sense he tosses it right out of the window though, as expected.

[caption id="attachment_4246" align="aligncenter" width="234"] @ Polygon[/caption]

Yes, the European Settlers had been exposed to some nasty germs which buffed their immune system, this is due to plague being ripe among overpopulation and/or lack of hygiene. Everyone knows that. And yes, when exposed to the germs that the Europeans carried it wreaked havoc on the population of the indigenous people.

The society at the time was very religious and they did write this off as a justification for everything that was going on at the time and for what they were doing. It was wrong, any decent human being will say it was wrong. But again, this game has no indigenous people. The zombies that do wander are former settlers who had come before and have turned into the wandering husks that they are now. There are no villages of indigenous people that players can expose to Cholera.

[caption id="attachment_4247" align="alignleft" width="271"] @ Polygon[/caption]

The game focuses on PVP between guilds. The game even allows players to create their own Settler determining their race and gender (whether these races are fantasy races like Drawves or Elves or just the colour of the player character's skin remains to be seen) that alone throws out the writer's earlier attempt of bringing race into the game. There's this trend where these game journalists try to nitpick a thing in a game and spin it as something political and when the developer they are talking to says it clearly isn't, the journalist rebukes them and goes on about how it clearly is because, well, you know, "I want it to be and also I need to make it so for the purpose of my article". That's the mentality behind this writer. I've seen this so many times and yet again, without fail, it happened again. Have to give them points for being persistent. I warn you, dear reader, the next image is so stupidly absurd that it may cause the death of some brain cells. I at least have the common decency to give a heads up before showing such utterances.

[caption id="attachment_4248" align="alignright" width="179"] @ Polygon[/caption]

Polygon, word of advice, if a developer says a game isn't what you are trying to make it out to be then it really isn't what you are trying to make it out to be. Now you're really just grasping at straws. They say that the devs are at fault for making these analogies (which is utterly absurd mind you) and the community are a bunch of bigots for enjoying the game but isn't it funny how the only people who are complaining about this and reaching far and wide to pull at these straws are the writers at Polygon and sites like them? It's like they really want it to be the case so that they can have something to rant about. Some could argue it's all about getting clicks on their site but looking at that article I pick up signs of delusion, maybe at first these articles were designed to generate clicks but I think the clickbait game has played the players who play it. They try to depict that the gaming community is so intolerant but when one looks at the community as a whole we clearly aren't. We don't care about who loves who, who believes what or what someone looks like, we just want someone to chase that sweet Victory Royale/ChickenDinner/Apex Champion Status with.

Gaming is a diverse community and a South African Clan,  named F2O, is a testimony to that. They have brought together so many people from different backgrounds and have formed a bond like family. So no, there isn't an intolerance for diversity in gaming, there's an intolerance for bullsh*t.

The only ones who are divided are people like this who write articles like the one shown above with intent to divide. The players who got into the alpha joined looking for fun and not a sensationalized political agenda and low and behold, they are a lot happier about it.

  [caption id="attachment_4249" align="aligncenter" width="281"] F2O Gaming @ Facebook[/caption]  

Talking to a fellow writer on this site about this made me realize something, after reading this article and the article by RedBull Gaming he said how reading the Polygon one was actually draining. The article was about 95% of the writer wanting to be offended but not being able to articulate a rational argument while the last bit briefly informed him on how the game is. Whereas the one by RedBull Gaming was actually informative and a joy to read that created hype for the game.

[caption id="attachment_4250" align="alignleft" width="246"] @ Redbull Gaming[/caption] Here is an example of how different the writing is compared to the agenda driven one that was shown previously. As I said and I'll say it again, the one writer had a brain. The other had an agenda. Are we going to let agendas taint games? Must all developers walk on eggshells for these apparent gamer sites that try to find social injustices in everything? Here's a grand philosophy, I don't think the folks over at these major game news sites can truly grasp this so it may be a mind boggler, but maybe...just maybe video games are a form of escapism from the harshes of reality and we play games to enjoy them rather than be fed a political agenda/message or look for things to nitpick at? Oh wow, mind blown. The crowd goes "ah" as this groundbreaking realization is revealed to them.  If I ever get to interview the devs of this game I hope I get to talk to Patrick Gilmore who was interviewed by both parties and ask him what actually went through his head when he was asked that ridiculous question by the Polygon journalist. Because I'd really like to know. And if anyone at Polygon saw this, I'd undoubtedly be labelled as all sorts of nasty things because well, firstly I don't share their opinion and secondly, as a fellow writer of all things video games, I'm calling them out on their misguided and agenda-driven 'journalism'. (if we can even call it that..)        

Well to them, I'm sorry if my abundance of common sense offends you.

New World is expected to have a beta in the coming months but no official announcement has been made as of the current time of writing.

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Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem Review

 

Whether you like it or not mobile games have been on the rise for years. With our smartphones getting more and more advanced with each new version so too are the games that we find on our app stores.

One such game is Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem. A turn-based strategic RPG that includes the familiar characters from the timelessly classic Looney Tunes franchise and right off the bat, it brings a certain nostalgia seeing these characters whack each other over the head with hammers. That slapstick humour is probably one of the reasons why so many enjoyed watching Looney Tunes as a child and this game honours that in every way, from the graphics and art style to the sound and even the materials needed to tune up characters, it’s Looney Tunes through and through. The gameplay is standard turn-based RPG stuff that we have seen on the app store before. Players level up their toons and build the ideal squad then face off against the AI or teams put together by other players (more on that later) by taking turns utilizing their squads. The formula may be a bit overused for mobile games but it is a formula that is fun and has the depth that causes one to carefully plan their next move. This genre of game is similar to chess. One needs to know how their characters fit in the squad and their strengths and weaknesses. Support characters that buff and heal, Tank characters that taunt and put out heavy damage. Attackers that aren’t so good with taking damage but dish a lot of it out with Area of Effect abilities. The game feels balanced and it’s fun to see a new foe and study their abilities as you try to figure out how to deal with them quickly and effectively.   There is a campaign that that involves Marvin the Martian who has captured all the Toons and has made clones which is a clever excuse for so many different variants of the same character. (Bugs Bunny does different things to his clone, Barber Bugs and so on). To collect a character one has to acquire a certain amount of pieces that they get from a currency called “Reatomizers”. The more you get, the higher star rating the character. The depth of the game comes in the levelling up system. By gaining pieces players can evolve the character’s star level. Which levels up their base stats, then there are the XP potions that level them up according to the player’s own level and finally the tune-up levels which add passive skills as well as a boost in ability stats. These require materials like anvils and dynamite which can be gained by completing missions or telling Toons to complete time-based tasks in the game's cute town building mode. Luckily, completed campaign missions that have been cleared on a three-star rating can be “auto-won” which skips the fight and gives the rewards at the cost of the energy needed to enter the duel. Each region has specific Toons that are required to complete the missions within that region. So Desert characters are needed for the desert region although there are two separate regions, namely the WB Studios and "Avalooney" regions that don’t have their own campaigns but rather lend their characters to other regions which is a nice balancing technique if a player wants to do a desert mission but lacks any desert characters but has a few good WB Studio characters. The PVE is fun and with a quick pan of the map, one can see possible future regions in the works, like a Blueprint of a town layout in the corner of the map. It’s no surprise as characters like Taz and Tweety are featured in the loading screen but are not in the game at the time this review was written yet a quick glance at the game’s social media pages shows them in the games art style which is a clear indication they are quickly on their way and judging from the community’s response to the beloved characters, the anticipation sits heavy in the air like an anvil over Daffy Duck’s head. The PVP is where a lot of fun is to be had. Even more so with the Alliance feature. My friends and I have formed an alliance and partake in PVP events whenever they appear which is at least twice a week. These events are cleverly planned out. For every PVP fight a player does, they get a rating. To earn three stars which is the best rating one can get they need to take out each enemy on the screen. These stars contribute to the clan’s chest which levels up every X amount of stars and with each level up the chest becomes more lucrative. Best of all, once the event is over the chest opens instantly which is a good thing because the PVP isn’t only about taking stars and increasing your league points. It wouldn’t be Looney Toons without some mischief. Each region has a bank, these banks are used to open crates with good ol’ loot inside. But it takes time to open these crates. Players are then required to lay down a squad to defend that crate while the clock ticks because, you guessed it, the PVP is raid based. Your squad defends while a player tries to attack and steal. It’s all about numbers, the stronger the squad, the better the defence. The AI is quite formable so the system works well. The game's animation and characters work well. Who knew Looney Tunes would translate into a turn-based game so well? Characters behave just as you’d expect. Granny, the nurturing old lady is a healer. Houston the Bulldog is a Tank. It makes sense in this Looney world. Some of the animations are similar. Bugs Bunny’s basic attack is pulling a lever and dropping an anvil on a character while Wile E. Coyote pulls on a lever and drops a safe on a character but I suppose in a game such as this, too many different animations may be a bit too much. A nifty little feature comes in the form of a fast forward button which speeds up the animations which are perfect for sneaking in a quick few rounds while on lunch break. There is a ton of things to do in this game besides the campaign, from daily objectives to daily challenges as well as timed events and the PVP and that’s not mentioning the town mode where players have to build dwellings and send their Toons on timed tasks to farm resources. This game keeps one busy. As for microtransactions, the game feels balanced enough to make those feel like a choice and never forced on a player in order to progress which is a thing a lot of freemium and even some Triple-A games have forgotten these days. I have not spent a cent in the game and not once have I felt like I had to in order to enjoy it. The grind is there but it isn’t a ridiculous grind.  

The part of the game that does feel lacking is the Town aspect. It’d be nice to see more content there in the form of decorations and more customisable options for our little towns. Seeing the Toons march around in the streets just makes me want to make their world a nicer place to live in. Also, rotating buildings would be a nice touch.

   

Overall, Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem is as fun as it is chaotic and I'm still surprised how this game has hooked me as it has.  With the copious amount of things to do and earn and making enemies by stealing chests, this game has a lot to offer and it’s even more fun in a clan with friends. Playing this game will make you feel a tad Looney and to be honest, there’s nothing wrong with that.  It's nice to see these classic characters doing what they do best on a modern platform.  Though I really wish there were more to do with the towns.

Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem gets 9/10 carrots from me. That’s what’s up, Doc.

Looney Tunes: World of Mayhem is free on the Play and App Store

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Interview with Toy Photographer Eric Ruiz

Toy Photography has a huge community on Instagram and the work of famous Toy Photographer Mark Hogancamp has been featured in art galleries and his inspirational story is even being adapted into a movie coming later this month starring Steve Carell.

Anyone that knows me knows that I love action figures and I like snapping photos of them even more. So I decided to do a little interview with the guy whose photography inspired me to take my toys off the shelf and tell the stories that I wanted to tell through photography.

 

This is Eric Ruiz.

   

Q: Can you please introduce yourself and tell our readers a bit about you?

A:  My name is Eric Ruiz, I'm 34 years old, I was born and raised in Los Angeles CA, I'm currently living in Xalapa Mexico. I'm a US Marine Veteran. I like Martial arts and I teach Brazilian Jiu-jitsu in my dojo down here in Mexico. I'm a fan of Marvel, DC, DragonBall, Wrestling and of course video games Ps4.

 Q: How did you get into toy photography and for how long have you been doing it?

A: I was really looking for another way to keep my mind busy, after been in the Marines, sometimes it's hard to keep your inside beast under control, so I discovered that there was a marine taking pictures of his Stormtroopers and making some war scenes with them, I started following him on Instagram (@galacticwarfighters) and I got in love with his work and I said I have to start playing again, I purchased my 1st camera (Sony DSC-300) and since I have always been a fan of action figures I started taking pictures of them, at first it was just for fun but then I started getting more and more into it, so I enrolled my self into a photography degree online, I finished a few months ago and I was very pleased with the results. 

Q: How did you discover the toy photography community and what are your thoughts on it?

A: I discovered the community when I started using the tag #toyphotography. A lot of Toy Photographers came and likee and commented [on] my photos, so I started following them and I think it's one of the greatest communities out there. 

   

Q:  Do you consider toy photography as an art form?

A: No doubt, I think the work that you put behind the scenes on a photo, the pose, the practical effects, the set up to get to the final product it's an art no doubt. 

 

Q: Tell us about the process of how you take a picture. From finding a spot to idea conception to the setup and finally taking the picture.

A: First I get the idea of what I want to do, what's going to be the figure or figures I'm going to use, then I decide if it's going to be indoors or outdoors if I'm going to use practical effects or digital effects etc. If it's going to be an outdoor shot, I make sure the spot it's suitable for the location, I like taking most of my photos outside due to the natural lighting but I also take a bunch of shots inside, if it's going to be inside I make sure the area it's clear of house items, you don't want to make a scene of Kratos fighting Thanos and there is a bottle of soda in the background, I make sure that the scenario fits or simulates the dopeness that is needed for a fight like that. 

 

Q: What is your camera setup? Do you have multiple cameras?

A: The set up depends on the environment, I always tried to keep the ISO to the lowest to avoid the graininess in the pictures, I have 2 cameras both are Sony. I have a Sony A9 and the camera I started with [a] Sony DSC-300.

   

Q: Are all your photos planned beforehand or do you have spur of the moment pictures?

A: I will say is a little bit of both, sometimes I try to recreate scenes from movies and sometimes they just flash into my head and sometimes from those pictures comes the next idea and so on and so forth.

Q: Tell us more about the practical effects that you add in some of your pictures.

A:  They are my favourite, the practical effects that I have been using are fireworks, and my best friend the compressed air, it also depends on the photo that I will be taking but the compressed air works for mostly every photo. I use it to create a bit of atmosphere. I also use flour to recreate snow, water and dirt also work really good for practical effects. 

   

Q: What is your favourite figure in your collection?

A: I would have to say Kratos from Neca

Q: What is your advise to collectors who may want to dabble in toy photography?

A: The main thing is to have fun doing it. Doesn't matter what your goal in Toy Photography is. Try to learn as much as possible about photography, maybe you can't get into a photography school but, there are a bunch of tutorials that you can use on YouTube, don't get discouraged if other Toy Photographers have a better camera of better figures, each of us have different styles and different goals and lots people have the money to invest in gear, figures etc. But that's is not the most important of all, you can have the best camera ever, but still, your photo can suck, so it's better to study and learn about photography and then if there is a chance, you get a good camera. But no matter what just have fun!

 

 

You can follow Eric on Instagram @erbigtoys as well as finding him on Facebook via the link below. Because where else will you see Thanos pushing Deadpool in a trolly?

https://web.facebook.com/ErbigToyPhoto/?

 

All images provided and owned by Eric Ruiz.

     
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Spyro Reignited Trilogy Review

Image result for spyro   I have many fond memories of a certain little purple dragon named Spyro and playing the Reignited Trilogy was a welcome walk down memory lane with a beautiful new flare. The graphics, colours and cartoony art style are all just amazing to look at. From Spyro’s cute animations to the scenery of the levels, the modern technological advancements have really breathed a new flame into these games. The game is gorgeous, there are no two ways about it.   Image result for spyro   Also, the audio has been done over. The voice work is so much better. I remember the odd breathing between words in the older Spyro I played way back when, as if the mic was too close to the speaker but this time around the voice acting is done so much better even though a lot of it can be awkward when characters say things like “press the action button to do this!” But overall, the voices are so much clearer now. The music has also been remastered too which makes the catchy tunes more dynamic although there is an option to switch to the unedited music which is a nice feature.   Image result for spyro   Other than the graphics, voice acting and some altered controls from the original, not much else has changed. The game still plays like the old one. The controls have been altered to the better though. In the original, the bumper buttons panned the camera which was just awkward, this time the analogue sticks control the camera which does make it game feel easier than what memory serves but it is a much welcome change. Other than that, it’s still that action-packed quick thinking platformer that was adored all those years ago. With a drive to get 100% completion on all levels, players will find secret areas where they can experience mini-games or collectibles. In the first game, I managed to get 100% completion on one play through and get the secret level completed to leading me to 120% completion. But Spyro 2 is where the harder work began. That’s where the replayability starts as you only acquire certain skills to get to secret areas later on in the game.   Image result for spyro This remaster comes with the original three games, for those who didn’t know. All made dolled up for this generation of consoles. One can clearly see the amount of love and passion that the dev team, Toys for Bob, has for Spyro just by looking at the game. It’s nice to see these fantastic games made for a newer generation and for us old-timers who hold onto better days.   Image result for spyro   Although the gameplay may be considered dated compared modern games, Spyro in its remastered form still holds its own, although not an open world sandbox, the early stepping stones to that genre can be seen here with hub worlds that have portals to levels which can be done in any order the player chooses. It feels unfair to rate Spyro according to the modern-day mechanics which do promote more openness and customization. So I’ll be rating Spyro: Reignited Trilogy as a remaster and as far as remasters go, it gets a 10/10 from me.   Written by Mr Groovy B   Image result for 10 out of 10 stars
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The Hunt For Plastic

This past weekend I attended a wedding at a really nice farm out in Mpumalanga’s countryside. Before I left home I made sure to pack my backpack with a handful of action figures in case there were photo opportunities. The results were amazing and I’m still in the process of periodically uploading them to my Instagram feed, but looking back, this got me thinking. The action figures are only part of the joy in collecting and I think any collector would agree that the hunt is just as exciting.

  When it comes to collecting action figures there’s more to it than just picking one that looks cool. We are drawn to the characters that resonate with us and owning a physical version of those characters is like a symbol of the fond memories we have of watching them in our movies, series or video games. We get to embody our enjoyment of the character. Some collectors prefer to keep them in their boxes on their shelf, others display them in poses in their room but people like me enjoy bringing them to life in pictures. To tell a story that only I can tell with them. I would never see Boba Fett hunting down Rick and Morty anywhere else but in the scenarios that I create with my figures. Sharing these pictures I take with a much wider community gives me a sense of accomplishment and seeing others post their shots on Instagram inspires me. This is all just part of it, though. What excites me the most is the hunt. There aren’t many local shops that sell these things around here so I’m forced to look on the internet and spot action figures that catch my eye. For example, a Mezco Judge Dredd: Cursed Earth figure that comes with a jumpsuit, weapons with removable magazines as well as a nifty poncho. After spotting my prey I do some research which normally includes seeing how popular the figure is on Instagram and seeing what other people are doing with it. Then I move onto watching reviews to hear about the pros and cons of the figure which normally ends up making me want it more. Finally, I move onto looking at my other figures to see what kind of stories I can craft. Judge Dredd would fit in nicely with my classic Robocop figure as both are 80’s icons of dystopian law enforcement. Then comes walking around my house and yard, taking in all the information I have about the figure’s pose-ability and planning pictures around that before actually thinking about getting the figure. A lot of times I go through this process and end up not getting the figure in question. One thing a collector must accept from the beginning is that you can’t get them all. But for the ones you can get, the hunt is part of the fun. Whether it’s stumbling across it in a shop or seeing it online, the idea of having it stirs as soon as one’s eyes fall upon it. With the lack of stores that specialise in these things does seem to hinder the South African geek culture. In my area, we don’t have these things besides a Toys R Us but that isn’t a comic book store that specialises in catering for us geeks. There are a few in the bigger cities but not many people know about these things. Does South African Geek Culture need a larger soapbox to shout from? Do we need to show retailers that there is a market for these things? Wouldn’t it be nice if we had more stores across the country that catered for our need to collect and admire our collectibles? I personally think we need to be more vocal and support what little market there is in this country. South Africa was a tad late to the party on the concept of collecting action figures as only recently have I seen Funko Pops appear in stores local to me. The bigger cities are getting them first, no doubt. But I remember a few years ago not many people here knew what a Funko was while my family in New Zealand was raving about them.  

Either way, whether the market for it is strong or not, the hunt for plastic never dulls.

What do you think? Do we need more comic book shops in South Africa?

Do you collect anything?

Let us know in the comments.

   
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A Retrograde look into video games

10

Toejam & Earl

  Toejam & Earl was a funky little game. An isometric adventure game with various colourful levels that required the two heroic aliens to navigate around the strange and obnoxious human stereotypes while picking up crates that rewarded gadgets that could hinder or facilitate the players’ quest to find all the pieces of their broken funky ship. The soundtrack was catchy, graphics vibrant and the level design was superb. Each level had an elevator that took players to the next level. Fall off the map? And you end up on the level you were just on or end up on the first level. The game took ‘levels’ literally. It made the game a dangerous maze and out of all the games on this list, it is by far the most unique. With Toejam & Earl: Back in the Groove in development which retains the gameplay and style of the original but with four player co-op, fans of this classic have something to look forward to.  

 

9

Aladdin

Ah, the days when movie games didn’t suck. Aladdin was a little gem on the Sega Genesis which captured the flare of the classic movie as well as adding some of its own video game tropes to the original story. The animated look and nods to other Disney films was a nice touch and the levels were challenging. Would it be too far to say that maybe Aladdin’s video game adaptation took cues from the original Prince of Persia? The similarities are there. You can see it in the gameplay. The platforming elements were crazy and the combat, although simpler than Prince of Persia, it wasn’t a walk in the park. The dungeon levels felt like a Prince of Persia game and the soundtrack could only be good being a Disney movie. I put a lot of hours in this game, not as much as another little Disney movie game that struts its luscious mane later on in my list, but Aladdin: The Video Game is worthy of its spot on my top ten list.  

 

8

Tom & Jerry in Housetrap

I grew up watching Tom and Jerry trying to kill each other every night. Something about Jerry outsmarting Tom fascinated me and looking back on how dark this cartoon really was, it explains a lot of my taste in games and series/movies. Tom & Jerry in Housetrap was a little game that borrowed heavily from the classic Spy vs Spy gameplay but it was better! Why? Because you could play as either Tom or Jerry! It had a fun story mode that referenced classic episodes like the fantastic ‘Push Button Kitty’ episode where a slacking Tom was kicked out of the house in favour of Mechano, the robot cat. Spike the bulldog and the Duckling make an appearance too in capture the flag styled levels where Jerry had to rescue the ducklings while Tom had to catch them and throw them in the oven. As the story progressed so did the house. New rooms added new environmental traps and weapons, thrown or otherwise, to use against the other player or AI. The game sported cartoon graphics and watching Tom and Jerry’s fur pull off from the vacuum cleaner just like it did in the cartoons never got old. The game was the most fun to play with a friend although I imagine it caused a lot of squabbles among younger players. As far as a Tom & Jerry game goes, Housetrap captured everything the classic cartoon was loved for. Looking back, this game is just one of the examples of why Playstation 1 had some of the best games in history. That’s how much I loved this game.  

7

Syphon Filter Trilogy

I remember spending many weekends in these three games on the Playstation 1. The story was really good and still sticks with me. It was my first foray into the third person shooter genre. The level design promoted stealth and tactical thinking but when things didn’t go to plan, shooting everyone was still a valid option. The cutscenes were well done for the era and the characters had more depth than most characters in games these days. Gabriel Logan, Teresa Lipan, Lian Xing. I remember all of them. The one character, Lawrence “Larry” Mujari was a South African character and there was even a level set in South Africa. Syphon Filter had a similar yet more grounded theme to the Metal Gear Solid series. These games set me on the third person shooter path and for that, I’ll always remember them and how much of a challenge they were. If these games get a remaster I’ll be over the moon!  

 

6

Bugs Bunny and Taz: Time Busters

Another game I’d like to see a remaster of would be Bugs Bunny and Taz: Time Busters. This game was a real gem on the Playstation 1. There were a series of Bugs Bunny games on the PS1 but out of all of them, this one stood out the most. Players could swap at any time between Bugs and Taz to complete puzzles using each characters unique skills. The AI companion was always following you and switching was as easy as pressing a button. In fact, it felt an awful lot like the Lego games just minus the lego blocks. The puzzles required thought and the action required quick reflexes. The game had runner levels and racing levels and the sceneries were vibrant. From Aztec to Viking, there was a lot to see and do in this third-person adventure game with everyone’s favourite wise-cracking Bunny and snarling Tasmanian Devil. The game captured the Loony Toons humour perfectly and with such a wide of variety of levels and interacting with so many familiar characters, it’s no wonder it was such a joy to play, especially when with a friend. We need more split-screen games these days...    

5

Toy Story 2: The Video Game

I played this on the PC, my old Windows 98’, and as far as movie games go, this was really well done. Toy Story was my favourite movie out the series and although Woody wasn’t a playable character, the game had such a good level design that I still remember most of it while the song from the first level still plays in my head when I think back to it. From the puzzles to platforming and using Buzz’s laser in combat, it all just went together in perfect harmony. The bosses on each level were a challenge and the game had a lot of replayability as each new level required X amount of Pizza Planet tokens which players had to get by winning races, defeating bosses, solving puzzles or generally helping the various characters scattered around each level and some characters gave Buzz a power up to use in that level. The bosses had a clever design too, most of them required the player to climb up to the top of the level (no easy feat) and then duel with them on top of the highest point in the level. The second level, Andy’s Neighbourhood had a Zurg Kite on top of a tree that was such a mission to get to and defeat and the boss could knock players right off forcing them to climb all the way back up to finish the job. Those boss battles stuck with me and are probably the reason why I really like fighting enemies on rooftops of elevated areas in modern video games. The game has aged badly though as the graphics weren’t very good, to begin with. But if you don’t mind ugly and just want to experience a good third person game with a touch of everything then try to look around for it.    

4

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Manhattan Project

The side-scrolling beat em’ up games were always more fun with a co-op buddy and this TMNT game was no different. I used to play this with my cousin every time he came to visit. We must have finished it a dozen times over and each time we enjoyed every second of it. The game had cool levels and tough bosses that made it a challenge no matter how many times we finished it. The four turtles had similar move sets but the way they used their weapons were different. Don and Leo had more range than Ralph and Mickey, or at least it felt that way if memory serves. This has gone down in my memory for being one of the best, if not the best co-op beat em’ up I’ve played.      

3

Lion King

This game was and still is the definition of a movie game done right. From the early levels playing as little Simba, jumping on bugs and pesky hyenas to the endgame where adult Simba’s mighty slap sent enemies to oblivion. The levels were well designed and had a good balance between platforming and combat. The soundtrack mimicked the movie’s score and the whole game captured the essence of the movie perfectly. I watched that movie religiously as a child and I played the game just the same. I remember the cheer I gave when I finished it for the first time, only to reboot it and start again. I spent so many afternoons on it when I was younger. The memories made in this game are going to be with me till the day I die. And for that, I will roar its praises from the highest peak of Pride Rock.      

2

Spyro 2: Ripto’s Rage

I never played the first Spyro game. I received Spyro 2 with the Playstaion 1. I had no idea what to expect when I loaded it in for the first time. From an array of colourful levels and hub worlds to tricky boss fights and puzzles, this game had a lot of variety to it. It never once felt repetitive with charming characters and a good storyline with funny characters. I pretended to be sick so I could skip out of school to play this game...hence why I’m so smart today. If you missed out on this jewel then fear not as the stunning remaster is right around the corner.      

1

Star Wars: Knights of The Old Republic

This game is a fond memory for a lot of gamers that I’ve spoken to over the years. But for me, it was my first RPG and it was set in the Star Wars universe which I’ve been a fan of since I was five. The story was brilliant, the semi-open world was beautiful at the time and the combat opted for a more strategic approach than a button basher. The moral choices and character builds promoted replayability more than other games I was playing at the time. I replayed this game so many times that I lost count. It is of the opinion of many that this is the best Star Wars game ever made. And thinking back, I have fond memories that remind me why that is not just a mere opinion but a well-grounded fact. We need more Star Wars games like this.            

Do you agree with my list?

Which games do you have fond memories of?

Let us know in the comments!

       
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