Thursday, January 23, 2014

Beware the Wampa

So there you are, on Planet Hoth, enjoying a fun day of skiing behind a Rebel Snowspeeder.

Suddenly, you come across a set of unfamiliar tracks. You don't know what they're from, but you do know whatever left them was really, really big.

That, my friend, is a set of Wampa tracks. The Wampa is the alpha predator of Hoth, and not even the cold climate is a match for his ferocity. They are ill tempered, ravenous, and always on the lookout for an easy meal. That would be you, by the way. Their white fur allows them to blend into the environment perfectly, like so:

I bet you can't see him, can you?

Though they aren't very intelligent, Wampas are very patient.. They are very adept at digging in snow, and are masters of the underground ambush. They will wait like that for days, waiting for the random Tauntan or Rebel soldier to travel by. Did I mention they are indiscriminate killers? There's that too. Wampas don't care if you're a Rebel or an Imperial. They have no alliances, feel no remorse, and cannot be reasoned with.

One way to avoid Wampas is to never explore uncharted caves. Wampas love to live in caves, and there's a pretty good chance there's one hiding right around the corner in that cave you just entered. See that guy up there? He walked into the wrong cavern, and now he's about to become a meal. Don't be that guy.

Always pay attention to your surroundings when you are outside of your base. That's a fine snow droid those two gentlemen have built, but they are completely oblivious to the large, furry death machine that is about to be on top of them in the next few seconds. Yep, that was a fine snow droid indeed. It's a shame it was their last.

The most important thing to remember when you're trying to understand the mentality of the Wampa is that they love meat. You are made from meat, therefore, they love to eat you. By the time a Wampa is finished feeding, there's usually nothing left but a discarded pile of bones and a set of tracks leading off into the distance.

Just remember these simple rules, and you'll have a better chance of avoiding giant, furry death, unlike Mr. Bones up there.

1. Always travel with at least one other person. That way you can watch each other's back. It also gives you time to escape if the Wampa goes for your friend first.

2. Never leave base without a blaster. Clumsy and random they may be, they're definitely more effective than trying to use your teeth and hands. You'll probably still die if you're attacked by a Wampa, but at least people can say you went down fighting.

3. Keep a bottle of hot sauce on you at all times. If you are attacked by a Wampa, pour the contents all over yourself. There's a rumor that Wampas hate spicy food, so if you're going to get eaten, you might as well make him pay for it later.

Follow those simple rules, and maybe, just maybe, you can keep this from being the last thing you see during your tour on Hoth.

Good luck!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Michelangelo is a party dude

I discovered Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles one random day in 1989. I was hanging out in the toy aisles of Ames department store while my parents were on their weekly shopping trip. Other than toys, the electronics section is the only other area of the store I would visit. Mostly I would check out the video games, and mentally mark down which ones I wanted for Christmas. I honestly can't think of a time when I bought an NES or SNES game for myself. Yeah, I was a spoiled little brat. Anyhow, since games were usually out of my price range, barring an all A's report card or a bunch of birthday money, most of my allowances were spent on action figures.

So, I entered the toy aisle, trying to figure out what piece of poseable plastic I was going to buy with my hard earned money. G.I. Joe was my usual target, but this weekend, something else caught my eye. I was scanning the aisles, top to bottom, when my eyes caught a bunch of  figures with crudely drawn art on their cards. I sauntered over to the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle section, and I was immediately enamored with what I saw. I checked each figure out, looking over their weapons, and reading their bio's, and trying to figure out which TMNT figure was going to be my first. As I was trying to make my decision, my parents came through the toy section to let me know they were ready to check out. I only had a few more seconds to make my decision, and in the end, I chose Michelangelo. I'm not sure why I initially settled on Michelangelo, but it must have been the nunchuks. I was always a fan of Bruce Lee and his skill with the nunchuks just fascinated me. I guess I figured any character that used the same weapons as Bruce Lee must be awesome.  By the time I got Michelangelo home and started taking his weapons off the plastic rack, I was hooked. G.I. Joe now had some serious competition when it was allowance time. I'm not sure how many TMNT figures I ended up with, but it had to be in the dozens.

Fast forward to Christmas Day 2013, when I happened to unwrap this little fella:

It seems Chelsea was paying attention when I mentioned Michelangelo was my favorite of the Turtles. I've wanted at least one of the new TMNT figures ever since they appeared in stores. But, I still find it hard to be seen in public buying toys at my age. Nobody bats an eye when you throw a box of flavored condoms on the conveyor, but set a TMNT action figure up there and the eyes start rolling.

Like the Michelangelo of old, the current version comes rather well armed. He's equipped with a pair of throwing stars, what look like a pair of bigger throwing stars, a kusarigama, and two pairs of nunchuks. When you have more weapons than hands, then you're definitely a force to be reckoned with. Mikey's articulation really allows for some great poses, much more so than the original figures. Unlike a lot of newer figures with increased articulation, this figure still feels pretty sturdy. His huge also help keep him standing up, though any poses that change his center of gravity too much will probably result in him falling over

Just as I was looking at this picture, I noticed all the little dings and pockmarks that were molded into Michelangelo's shell. It's a neat little detail, since real turtle shells aren't perfectly smooth either. I love that Mikey's belt can still hold his nunchuks. I never really cared that the Turtles had so many loose weapons, so long as I could keep their main ones on them all the time. I am a little worried about those stress marks that appeared the first time I slid the nunchuks into his belt. I guess I better be careful how many times I pull these things in and out.

Ultimately, I think this is an amazing update to Michelangelo. They've improved everything about the original figure, without compromising its purpose as a toy. Now, if they could just find a way to curb his appetite for pizza..

Friday, January 10, 2014

Dr. Wacko's Mad Lab Silly Sludge

Criminy, but that's a long name. I was originally going to post this under stocking stuffers, but then I realized how bad of an idea that would be.

I know how I used to be a kid, and though I would be as careful as I could be, it would only be a matter of time before the entire barrel of sludge ended up in the carpet. Hence, my hesitation for recommending this as a stocking stuffer. Plus, it's kinda bulky, and would take up a lot of room that could otherwise be used for cooler toys or candy.

According to the back of the card, Dr. Wacko is no run of the mill mad scientist. No, he's all about creating the craziest toys of "extraordinary curiosity", whatever that means. I think Dr. Wacko is just one "wacky" accident away from creating a killer virus, and realizing his true potential as a super villain. Mad scientists, you just can't trust them. That's just my opinion, at least.

I'm kind of curious about the warning to keep this stuff away from heat. You have thing saying "Safe and Non-Toxic", then you have another telling you keep this stuff away from heat and your mouth. Is Silly Sludge flammable? Am I curious enough to leave this stuff near an open flame? Maybe...

There are those warnings again. They're really trying to cover their butts with this stuff. Now I'm a little concerned for the kid playing with the Silly Sludge on the front of the card. Here's a bright young mind, trying to break into the world of toy science, and now he's probably a mutant because he was handling untested toy slime. There's no indication of what color the sludge is supposed to be, and the picture on the front isn't much help either. Is it green, or black, or something in between? I don't know, perhaps it's time we found out.

Honestly, the real reason I bought this stuff, was because I was curious how it compared to the Masters of the Universe slime. I owned no less than two of the MOTU Slime Pits as a kid. I'm not sure how I came to own two of them at the same time, but I can only guess it was a Christmas morning SNAFU. I'm not complaining, not at all. It actually meant I had twice the slime to torture He-Man and his allies. That was the thing about Slime, you never got it all back once you used it. There was always a little residue left in the Pit that would never come out. Another problem with MOTU slime, is that it would eventually dry out, even if you managed to close the lid every time you were finished messing with it. You'd pop the top off the can one day to find a crusty,  yellowish, film clinging to the sides of the can. I'm pretty sure that's what happened to my supply, though I more than likely left the lid off one too many times.

The Silly Sludge definitely has a similar smell to the MOTU Slime, but the consistency isn't quite the same. It seems more solid, and doesn't have the nice flow the older slime had. It actually reminds me of warm Jell-O, and hnoestly, if it not for the smell, I could see it being mistaken for some warm lime gelatin dessert.

I really wanted to see how Silly Sludge would work in a "slime trap" situation. I had all of my figures draw straws, and unfortunately for my vintage Stormtrooper, he drew the short one.

I don't have a Slime Pit anymore, so I just poured the Silly Sludge from its plastic barrel. As you can see, it stays together rather well.

In fact, it stays together too well. I had to redo this a couple of times, because the sludge would just roll out of the barrel once I tipped it past a certain point. It was impossible to keep the Stormtrooper standing through the entire process, so we'll assume he tripped and fell as the sludge  was poured over him.

You know, maybe it's better that this stuff holds its shape so well. It certainly makes for an easier cleanup when you're done messing with it. It also helped when I accidentally poured the Sludge out of its barrel, and had to catch it before it hit the floor. Try that with Masters of the Universe slime and you'll end up with a badly stained, odd smelling spot on the carpet.

So what's the verdict? It's not the same as the old stuff, but that's not necessarily a bad thing. If  you still have a Slime Pit kicking around in your collection, it might be worth your while to make a quick stop at Dollar General and pick up a barrel or two of Silly Sludge.

If you're interested in reading a really great article about the original Slime Pit, then I recommend you head over to Dinosaur Dracula, and see what he has to say about it.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Orguss Orgroid II

Here's a little something I picked up on e-Bay recently.

What you're seeing here is the culmination of at least 10 years of scouring the internet. It's rather sad really, that I spent so much time and energy on trying to find this one thing, but there it is. For those that don't know, this figure is based on a mecha from an anime called Super Dimension Century Orguss. I've never actually seen the show, but the story sounds rather, interesting. I had no idea who this guy was when my parents gave me the toy, and up until a few years ago, I still didn't have a clue. Of course, thanks to the internet, I was able to figure out who that green and brown robot was years after it had been tossed out.

Even though I could never think of the figure's name, I always remembered that blue and yellow box with the green robot on the corner. On the back are directions showing you how to transform the Orgroid into its different forms. My favorite was always the Gerwalk mode, because it reminded me of the mechs from Robotech. That was the only anime I had seen at the time, and I was fascinated by the jets that turned into robot suits. The Orguss Orgroid wasn't quite a Veritech fighter, but it was close enough for me. This was my favorite robot toy out of all the ones I used to own. That's why I was so disappointed when I realized how cheaply these things were made.

Takatoku made several different versions of the mechs from Super Dimension Century Orguss. Some were of much higher quality, with extensive use of diecast metal in their construction. They also produced a line of smaller 1/80 scale plastic figures like the one you see here. The problem with the 1/80 scale figures, is that most of the ones that made it to our shores were actually knockoffs. From what I understand, if the box has English on it, it's a knockoff. Guess what language is written on the box for this Orgroid..I also forgot how wonky the articulation is on these guys. It's pretty much impossible to get this thing into any pose other than standing with its arms at its sides. You can get the arms turned so they're out to the front, but then they're cocked at a weird angle. Basically, the articulation only exists on this figure to facilitate the transformation. Other than that, it's pretty much useless.

Changing the Orguss into different modes is a risky procedure. The areas most likely to break are those pegs for the shoulders. That's what broke on my original figure, and I came close a couple of times when I tried transforming this one. They're just  poorly designed, and are destined to snap eventually.It's odd, but I just feel like my original Orguss figure was a hell of a lot sturdier than this one.  Being a 30 year old toy made out of cheap, fragile plastic doesn't help either.

I had convinced myself that this was one of the best things I'd ever owned, and I think my initial inability to find any information on Orguss just added to the mystique. Unfortunately, I've started to realize that not everything I loved back then was actually good. I think I was starting to get into the trap of thinking that I needed to re-buy my favorite toys in order to enjoy them again.  Now I'm finding that some times it may be best to look back on some things and say, "Yep, I used to enjoy that", and move on. So, thanks for the lesson Orguss Orgroid, but most of all, thanks for the memories.
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