Sunday, August 24, 2014

The Micromaster Rescue Patrol is here to save the day

I was a little late to get on the Transformers bandwagon. My first exposure to the shape shifting machinations was the Soundwave figure I received one year on Christmas. We lived in an area where I was more likely to see Bigfoot than actually pick up the television station that played most of the cool cartoons, like Transformers and Masters of the Universe. Still, Soundwave was like nothing I had ever seen before. He may seem simple and archaic to the toy buying youth of today, but my 5 year old mind was blown by this cassette player that turned into a bad ass robot.

Over the years, the Transformers would occasionally catch my eye during our almost weekly shopping trips. Even the smaller figures were hard to ignore, with the large G.I. Joe style paintings of the figures on the cardbacks. Every now and then, one of them would would interest me enough to cause me to spend my hard earned allowance money. That was the main problem with Transformers those days, they were damn expensive if you were the one buying them. A boxed figure would run anywhere from $10 on up, depending on how big it was. I certainly wasn't rich in those days, so I would usually gravitate toward the smaller, more value priced figures.

Supposedly influenced by Galoob's success with Micro Machines, the Micromasters were perfect for the more shallow pocketed youth such as myself. These cost between $4 and $5, and you got four, that's right FOUR, different figures. Sure, they were a lot simpler than larger Transformers, but in my mind, quantity won over complexity. There were half a dozen different Micromaster Patrols to choose from, ranging from one entirely made up of jets, to one group composed of sports cars. I wish I could tell you why I chose this group over all the others, but it's hard to remember my reasoning. In my mind, I just picture seeing these guys hanging on the peg, and immediately being drawn to them.

As good as they look in their alternate modes, the Rescue Patrol looks even better transformed. In most cases, changing the Micromasters from one form to another was simply a matter of folding down the legs, flipping up a hood, and standing the figure up. Like I said, pretty simple. Articulation was pretty basic, with most of them having moveable arms. They came with no accessories, because they were pretty much accessories themselves. If you had one of the giant Transformers that could turn into a small city, like Metroplex or Scorponok, you could populate them with your Micromasters. They also had the advantage of being able to fit in your pockets, something I'd be reluctant to do with the slightly larger toys. Even Bumblebee would have been an uncomfortable lump in my pants.

Fixit was probably my least favorite out of the bunch. No matter how you look at it, a plain white ambulance will never be as cool as a fire truck. His robot mode improved on things a little bit, but it still bothered me that there was so much of the front of the ambulance hanging off his back.  That's not to say that I disliked him, but if I could only choose one out of the group, it wouldn't be him.

Stakeout's alternate mode is an improvement over Fixit's, but just barely. There's nothing particularly exciting about a police car, but he is much, much sleeker when transformed. I like that his goggles and color scheme kinda give him that Highway Patrol vibe. All they needed was a little dab of yellow for a badge, and the image would have been complete.

Seawatch is one of my favorite Transformers, period. I know his alternate form is a boat, but he's a damn cool boat. Besides, who knows what being a boat means on Cybertron. For all we know, Cybertronian boats can fly just as easily as their jets. Seawatch also has one of the better looking robot modes. The helmet and face mask he's wearing give him the appearance of a cyber samurai. As you know, you can't spell awesome without "cyber ninja that turns into a hydrofoil".

Redhot is easily my favorite out of the whole bunch. His alternate mode is that of a heavy duty firetruck. He looks like another vehicle that would be more at home on Cybertron. The robot form is easily the best of them all. Redhot has the most heroic appearance, and if I had to guess, I'd say he was the leader of the Rescue Patrol. He is the tallest of the group, just barely edging out Stakeout. Redhot kinda comes with an accessory if you count his often missing ladder. I consider it more of a decoration, since all it can really do is twist around and fold up. That would be the only thing that would keep me from carting Redhot around in my pocket all the time. I would be too worried I would snap off his ladder. He frequently stood in for Optimus Prime during my mini adventures, since he had the big and beefy leader look to him.

Besides,a fire truck will always be more heroic vehicle than a semi-truck.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Some of you are a positive influence. Imagine that!

I've been following Brian, Mason, and Laura as they take part in the Minimalist Game. You start the first day by getting rid of one item. The next day two items, then three and so on. By the last day, you're giving up 31 things that were originally adding to the clutter in your life. Watching their posts on Instagram sort of inspired me to go through my stuff, and start thinning the herd. Here's what I came up with, 

There's still a lot more to go, but this has made a visible dent in my office, closets and bookshelves. Next up, the dreaded garage!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

It's a Peep-stravaganza!

I'll admit, I'm not a huge marshmallow fan. Actually, I should clarify that. I like marshmallows on my S'mores and in my hot cocoa. I even like peanut butter and Fluff sandwiches. But, when it comes to snacking on marshmallows out of the bag, no thank you. The one exception to that rule is when Easter Sunday rolls around. Then, it's time to eat some Peeps.

I'm not sure when Peeps became a staple of Easter baskets, but it's hard to remember a time when they weren't sitting there in the stringy plastic grass, looking like they were waiting gleefully to be devoured. They started out as little chick shaped marshmallows, sprinkled with yellow sugar. Eventually, Peeps were released in bunny shapes, then more colors were added. Now there's hardly a holiday that doesn't have its own line of Peeps. Christmas, Halloween, even Valentine's Day all have their own varieties. Even the 4th of July has it's own flavor now. They're Patriotic Vanilla Creme if you're curious. 

When I saw these varieties just waiting for me in the snack aisles of WalMart, I couldn't help but toss them in my cart. Let's give them a taste, shall we?

Up first, we have the Bubble Gum flavored Peeps. This flavor almost seems like a no-brainer. It's easy to replicate, and all you have to do is add a little pink dye to the marshmallows, and sprinkle them with pink sugar. They certainly have a gum aroma, not unlike a package of Bazooka Joe. If someone handed me one of these, I would almost expect them to actually be gum, until I took my first bite at least. The comparison to Bazooka Joe can be carried over to the flavor as well, except that it lasts more than 5 seconds in the Peeps.

Next up, we have Blue Raspberry. If we were ranking these based on color alone, BR would have taken first place right out of the gate. With blue sprinkles covering a pleasantly blue marshmallow, it's my favorite color squared. The blue raspberry flavor was pretty strong. There's an initial hit of flavor when the sugar first hits your tongue, then you get blasted once the marshmallow starts to soften. I actually had to rinse my mouth a couple times to get the "blue raspberry" scraps that were hiding in there. I'd start to eat something else, and "BAM!", I'd get another shot of raspberry. It really sticks with you. 

There's a blurb on the back of this package proclaiming that these Peeps are "pink inside". I'll let you interpret that one as you like. I was originally going to say that there was a missed opportunity by not having little "seeds" all over the outside of the sour watermelon Peeps, but then I realized watermelon seeds are on the inside. I guess they can save that little tidbit, just in case they ever release strawberry flavored Peeps. I don't quite understand why candy manufacturers continue to make sour watermelon candies, when watermelons are anything but sour. I'd love to see someone make real watermelon flavored candy, where you stood the chance of getting a piece that just tasted like water. Speaking of taste, these are indeed sour, though no more so than any other melon flavored candy. They actually reminded me of Jolly Ranchers.

Also, these kind of look like caterpillars when viewed from behind. 

Cake batter seems to be gaining popularity as a flavor. It's started popping up in everything from ice cream to M&M's, and now we can add everyone's favorite marshmallows to the list. The marshmallow has a bit of tint to it, giving it the appearance of batter. That's coated by light blue sugar, which has small, sparkly bits of sugar mixed in. It kinda looks like the Peeps fell in a pile of glitter. I found that this flavor was the most subdued, and it didn't really taste all the different from the regular Peeps to me. 

Last we have the Sweet Lemonade Peeps. Since the normal Peeps are already covered in yellow sugar, they opted to coat these in white sugar, with larger yellow flakes. Otherwise, people would think they got ripped off when they tear open their pack of Sweet Lemonade Peeps and see normal looking ones sitting there. The lemon flavor isn't as bitter as I had expected. Most lemon candies are sour enough to nearly turn your face inside out. These could almost be considered, pleasant.

Also, 10% of the price goes toward funding child cancer research, so make sure you buy a bunch of them. 

It's hard to pick a clear winner out of the group, but if I had to go for one, it would be the Blue Raspberry. I can't help but love that shade of blue, and the taste wasn't too bad either. 

They also turn your mouth a deep, dark blue, so there's that as well. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

In need of a little enhancement? Try Nintendo's Game Genie

I've been going through the closets the past couple of weeks, cleaning out the skeletons and the myriad of other random objects that have accumulated in them over the past six or seven years. When I pulled down a box full of computer parts, I discovered a magical golden object.

It was a Galoob Game Genie, my original one, in matter of fact. By the time it was released I had been playing an NES for several years, and I was no stranger to difficult, frustrating games. Most of the Nintendo's library was made up of games so hard they would make a saint cuss. I owned a lot of games where I had only seen the first couple of levels. Looking through Nintendo Power was the only way I got to see what the later levels of some games looked like. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, I'm looking at you. You too Gradius, and your limited continues. Battletoads, you stay in the corner, I'm not talking to you anymore.

If you aren't familiar with the Game Genie, it was a device that hooked onto your games, then got plugged into your NES. When you turned the system on, you would be taken to a screen where you could input codes from the codebook.

You could use the codes provided for you, or if you were feeling particularly lucky, come up with codes of your own. You had to be careful though, because the wrong code or combination of codes could make a game unplayable. The Codebook didn't cover all the games that were out at the time, but it had codes for some of the more popular games of the time. Depending on what kind of player were, the Game Genie could be used to make a game easier, or if you were completely insane, even more difficult. Given the choice between infinite lives and starting with 1 life, I'm pretty sure I know which one I would choose.

Sometimes the writers would taunt players, urging them to try certain codes if they were REAL game players. In the case of Batman, starting with one life and only allowing yourself to pick up half the amount of pellets was akin to jumping out of a plane without a parachute. No matter how hard you tried, it wasn't going to end well.

Applying codes to some of the games completely changed how they played. Friday the 13th for example, became another weekend by the lake when you entered the infinite children and energy codes. Rather than freaking out everytime you came across the large, purple serial killer, you could just enjoy a nice relaxing walk around Crystal Lake. Sure, you'd have to fight the big guy every now and then, but you could take yoursweet time since you didn't have to worry about running out of children. It seems kind of morbid, now that I think about it. Providing Jason with an infinite amount of children to murder may have made the game easier, but it still gave Jason an infinite amount of children to murder..

As much as I love the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, the first game on the NES is one of the most frustrating ever made. And it's all because of that damn seaweed in the Dam levels. I think it was specifically programmed to make children cry. Just the first level is enough to make even the most patient person want to throw the controller. Those Dam levels though, they were just malicious.With the Game Genie, there's no need to worry about it anymore. Just swim right on through it and disarm those bombs. You still had to worry about the time limit, though. Game designers fed on the tears of children, and even the folks at Galoob wouldn't want to deprive them of their main source of sustenance.

Since there were still games coming out for the NES at this point, there was a need for newer, more updated codebooks. But how would you get that info out to people that bought a Game Genie in the pre-internet world? By mail-order, that's how.

For just over $5, you could get four quarterly code updates. These would include updated game lists, and in some cases, older codes were tweaked so they caused fewer glitches during game play. There was nothing more aggravating that putting all your codes in, only to find a jumbled title screen when you started the game. I never actually subscribed to the updates, but thankfully my neighbor did. I would borrow them, and my mom would make photocopies at work. By the time the updates stopped coming, I had already moved on to bigger and more powerful consoles, each with their own versions of the Game Genie.

Sadly, I think the day of the cheat device is long gone. Games have become so complicated, it wouldn't be a good idea to screw around with the coding. Of course, most new games come with plenty of glitches out of the box, who would want to add even more?
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