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February, 2017:

Review – American Truck Simulator (PC)

The Good

  • Strong Developer Support
  • Sprawling environment to explore
  • Straightforward Gameplay

The Bad

  • Free drive could be more flexible
  • No official online multiplayer
  • Repetitive gameplay

There are a lot of Simulation games out there covering a crazy array of subjects from Farming to Forklift driving.  To some extent, some laws regarding video game content in some European countries can be blamed for this trend.  It’s also nice to be able to do even simple things that you can’t normally do.  A lot of these simulation titles are flat out garbage, with mediocre graphics and very little realism in terms of game play, the few that are decent though really tend to be shinning stars to some extend in the gaming world.

Two of the best example of good Simulation titles are the Farming Simulator and the Euro Truck Simulator titles.  What really sets these games apart is the depth they go to simulating not just the basic aspect of doing some job, but also the nuance of running the entire business.  Euro Truck Simulator is particularly popular due to just how much of Europe has been recreated in a virtual environment for players to cruise around in delivering their cargo.  The creators of Euro Truck Simulator have set their sites on recreating a second continent for Truck Driving, with American Truck Simulator.  They have stated that their plan is to do all of the United States in various DLC packs (I’m not sure if they are including Hawaii and Alaska).  The base game includes California, Nevada and New Mexico.  It’s not a 1:1 experience or anything but the basic idea is there, which is great.

This plan has been put on hold a bit however since the developers are currently working to rescale the world they have created to allow for more accurate interchanges and a better feeling of long range driving.  Essentially, they are remaking what they have already put out to make the entire experience better, which just goes to show how dedicated they are to their cause.

There are a ton of little details to help complicate the experience that contribute to the Simulation experience.  A low powered truck won’t be able to effectively pull a super heavy load.  Over time, you will run out of gas unless you stop to refuel your fuel.  You also will grow tired, which causes you to briefly “black out”, unless you stop at a designated rest area to sleep.  You lose points (money) for running into other vehicles and walls, if you speed and get caught by the cops you get a ticket, though it’s often possible to speed and not get caught, especially on “the back roads”.  When you arrive at the destination you get a chance to earn bonus experience by just dropping off the trailer, or executing a perfect back in maneuver.

The real enjoyment of this game comes from it’s laid back gameplay.  There isn’t any real pressure, you aren’t racing against a bunch of other vehicles or having to worry about who will shoot you as you cruise around the world delivering various cargo trailers.  Once you’ve earned enough money to buy your own truck you can even free drive at your own leisure.

The free drive mode is nice, though it kind of feels like it could be better.  While free driving, you don’t carry a trailer, which kind of makes the Truck part of the game a little less fun.  You also still have to worry about the game’s mechanics, such as speeding tickets, refueling, and paying for repairs.  This can all add up pretty quick if you are a poor driver.  It would be nice to be able to turn all of the game off and just goof around in this expansive world.

It also takes a while to “unlock” free drive mode as well, since you’ll have to save up a hefty chunk of change in order to buy even a cheap truck.  Over time though as you earn money you can buy bigger and nicer trucks, as well as trick them out with custom paint and gear.  You can eventually start hiring other drivers to run jobs for your company as well, to earn some passive income.

All of this is a little moot though since there isn’t a built in way to play online.  There are 3rd party methods but it would be nice to have an official way to cruise around the US with your friends, or even see strangers cruising around in their fancy trucks.  I imagine there would be issues with griefing where other players just run around trying to wreck people.

It’s also possible that I’m expecting too much out of this title, it is a Simulation game, it’s not “GTA with Semis”.  Also don’t take too much stake in these complaints, they are issues that could be better, but the basic idea and game is pretty fun and it’s a good low pressure experience.  If the developers stick to their plan to do the entire US, it could definitely turn into something really interesting, as you could virtually cruise from Los Angeles to New York.

 

Review – Marvel Legends – Wal-Mart Falcon (6″)

Poor Falcon, Major player in 2 Captain America Movies with a guest bit in Ant-Man.  He’s even probably getting groomed  up to be the replacement Captain America, if Bucky doesn’t get there first.  Like Scarlet Witch, he’s gone for too long without getting a 6″ figure.  I imagine a lot of this reason is his huge wings.  This sort of accessory really doesn’t work too well with the current model of figure + BAF part.  That’s probably part of why his release was a Wal-Mart exclusive along with a better repaint of The Winter Solider, in their own little wave.

The core piece here is of course, the wings.  The wings are certainly very huge and very nice looking, however there’s no articulation in them.  This is probably both good and bad.  It of course sucks for pose variety.  On the other hand, articulated wings on figures this size tend to amount to a hinge in one point that results in some funky gaps when extended too far in one direction or another.  At the very least, some sort of hinge at the backpack would have been nice so the entire wing could swing up, down or straight out, but alas, it’s not there.

You can sort of fake a forward and backward sweep to the wings.  The way the pegs work, they can peg on the front side or backside of the backpack, which will make them swing forward or backwards, depending on how they are pegged on.  If the top and bottom holes were the same size you could fake an up and down sweep as well, though the coloring would be upside down with them turned upside down.  Alas, you can’t actually do this since the pegs are different, probably done because of the coloration issue.

The base figure is decent, it looks like Falcon, he’s nicely poseable for flying and standing poses.  He doesn’t come with any weapons though I imagine the budget mostly went into the Wings.  He does include his little remote drone which showed up several times in Civil War.

This is the first and only 6″ MCU Falcon figure we’ve gotten so far.  It’s a decent depiction, though the backpack could be better.  I doubt we get a better version in the future though, any future Falcon figures will probably just use a repaint of this same wing pack now that they have the mold.

Review – Transformers – Titans Return – Blurr

Like Combiner Wars previously, Titans Return isn’t a total homage to only Headmasters.  There aren’t a ton of Headmasters to pull from so some character who weren’t originally Headmasters get roped into the mix as well.  I’m not super keen on picking up a lot of the non Headmaster Titan Masters, the way I passed on all of the non combining Combiner Wars characters.  Blurr however is a character seriously in need of an updated toy, and this Blurr is a really good representation of the original Blurr, especially compared to the previous Generations Blurr.  The old Blurr is a good toy, it’s not a particularly great G1 Blurr.

The best part of this updated Blurr is how lithe his design is.  Blurr is known for being fast.  He has a sleek fast car, he talks extremely quickly, he should have a fast robot.  The Generations Blurr was based on the Drift Mold, and it had a ton of chunky car kibble that kind of restricted a lot of his movement.  I mean no, the toy doesn’t move on it’s own, but it helps if the design conveys the idea behind the character.

Also, unlike the Generations Blurr, Titans Return Blurr’s vehicle mode looks much more like the original G1 Blurr’s Cybertronian car.  The core difference is that the little Titan Master can ride in the car’s seat and drive it.  Transformation is pretty simple but it works well and does the job very well.

The Titan Master is pretty much the same as all of the others in this line, aside from the little pop up head crest.  In head mode, there is a little bit that pops up to form Blurr’s head crest.  It’s a small but nice detail.

One last side note, this figure was remolded into Titans Return Brainstorm, and is exclusive to Walgreens stores.  From what I can tell pretty much everything that applies to Blurr, applies to Brainstorm, though there is a bit of remolding.  I don’t intend to pick up TR Brainstorm since I am happy with the Generations Brainstorm, but I wanted to point out that this mostly applies to the other toy as well.

The overall verdict though for Blurr is that it’s an all around really nice Transformer.  He’s definitely one of the better figures in the Titans Return line up.  Despite not originally being a Headmaster, the added gimmick of the little robot pilot adds some nice fun to the design.

S.H. Figuarts – Ranma (Female)

Getting Sailor Moon Figuarts was a surprise.  But not a huge surprise when you consider there was a new redesigned series put out recently.  Getting Ranma 1/2 Figuarts was the real surprise.  For the most part the anime Figuarts I see tend to be based on newer anime and manga that I’ve never heard of.  But here we are, with Ranma 1/2 in glorious highly articulated plastic form.  Sadly it kind of seems like we’ll never actually get Panda Genma who was featured when these were announced.

The first release is the female version of Ranma.  In case you are unfamiliar with the premise, Ranma is a harem comedy anime series and manga, which follows the various romantic relationships surrounding Ranma and his crazy pack of friends and enemies.  The gimmick of the show, is that a lot of the characters carry some sort of curse, generally originating from the Jusenkyo Springs where they change into a different form and back when exposed to hot or cold water.  In the case of the title character, Ranma transforms between a boy and girl due to Ranma falling into the Spring of Drowned Girl.

That’s a pretty gross oversimplification, but that’s the general idea.  Originally shown in the announcement were both male and female Ranma as well as a giant Panda Genma, Ranma’s father.  Ranma here is pretty awesome, probably my favorite Figuarts of all of the ones I own (though Tuxedo Mask is a close second).

A lot of what I like is just how well balanced she is, which is really essential given the martial arts nature of the series.  Part of the plot of Ranma is that everyone has some sort of crazy martial arts fighting style.  Being able to pose Ranma doing martial arts moves really helps sell the figure.

She also has a great selection of alternate faces.  There’s a big smile, a small smile, a frowny serious face and the embarrassed face.  That last one is a lot of fun since as one might imagine, a dude turning into a girl could result in a lot of embarrassing situations.

There is also a good assortment of accessories and alternative hands.  The female version of Ranma also includes a hot kettle, which compliments the cold water bucket included with the male counterpart.

In case you can’t tell, I really like this figure.  Probably the biggest downside is that she’s a little boring without some of the other Ranma Figuarts to go with her.  Also, if you’re not a fan of the source material, there really isn’t a lot of incentive to pick her up.  This is definitely the best Ranma figure available, since it both looks good and is loaded with articulation and parts, in traditional Figuarts style.

Weekly Wednesday Haul – Ms. Marvel Edition

I don’t know what’s going on with toy distribution but it’s been crazy dry all over, even in online outlets.  Wave 3 and I think 4 of Titans Returns is nowhere to be found, the good Voltron is impossible to find, I think I’m behind by like 4 Marvel Legends waves now and Star Wars exploded for Rogue One but nothing new since it seems.

Fortunately I did find Ms. Marvel here at Target, I say Fortunately because they had the whole wave, but she is pretty much the only figure I really care about getting this round.  I’ll probably pick up Green Goblin eventually as well but I’m saving some of my funds back in case I manage to find more of the Volton Lions.  I’ve also ended up with a couple of unexpected pricier things (A Figuarts from someone I know, Nendo Tracer Pre Order) come up lately which has dried up my budgeted spending a bit quicker than normal.