Sunday, 4 October 2015

Lego Dimensions review

Oh. My. Goodness.

Gandalf has just driven the Batmobile into a Cyberman and I think my imagination just exploded! Lego Dimensions is here and it's just as exciting as I'd hoped. Now I just have to figure out how to pay for it all...

Lego Dimensions video game review | Random Nerdery

Having poured hours and hours into previous Lego games like Lego Star Wars, Lego Batman, Lego City (my favourite, fighting crime on a police segway - love it) and Lego Marvel Superheroes, I felt well prepared for the fill-up-the-completion-percentage collection-fest that was about to ensue. But this time it's crazier than ever, bringing together 14 franchises: Doctor Who (yay!), Portal 2 (double yay!), Back to the Future, Ghostbusters (of course this is a game for children, and not us 80s kids...), Scooby-Doo (see?!), Midway Arcade, DC Comics, The Lord of the Rings, The Lego Movie, The Wizard of Oz, The Simpsons, Lego's Ninjago and Chima, and Jurassic World. How on earth they managed to get the people involved in all of these brands around a table, I have no idea. I'm assuming the answer is cash, but secretly I hope it's just because everyone really loves Lego!

Here's what you get in the box:

Lego Dimensions video game - box contents

There's the game itself, a portal platform thingy called the 'toy pad', a nice big box of Lego to build and a giant poster showing all of the extra kits you can buy (more on this later).

Resist the urge to build everything as soon as you open the box! You're instructed to build the little minifigures for the starting team: Gandalf, Batman and Wyldstyle (from the Lego Movie).

Lego Dimensions starter pack minifigures - Gandalf, Wyldstyle and Batman

The game then guides you through the rest with amazing on-screen Lego build instructions as part of the story.  Here's some work in progress pics:

Lego Dimensions - building the Lego portal

And the finished article, before placing it onto the toy pad:

Lego Dimensions - completed Lego portal

The characters are all normal useable Lego minifigures, but the special RFID tagged bases that you place them on allow them to appear in the game world, along the lines of other toys-to-life games like Skylanders or Disney Infinity.

What makes Lego Dimensions different is how you use the toy pad. More than just a character-select device, during the game you'll need to use it to solve various puzzles that require you to move your team around both in game and on the pad. Sometimes you'll be trying to use elemental forces, jump through the right coloured portal or colour code the pad (it has lovely colour cycling LEDs so looks very pretty). Positioning can also be important during fights, with characters in certain areas being damaged, so you'll be constantly shifting Lego about to avoid destruction! This fun use of the pad really adds to the interactivity of the game, although it can get a bit chaotic if you have the full complement of seven minifigures on board. I do have to play the game on the floor, however - the cable for the toy pad would just about reach the sofa but there's nowhere stable enough to put it.

Lego Dimensions toy pad with minifigures | Random Nerdery

In combination with the toy pad, gameplay is the usual Lego game combination of puzzles, collecting and smashing things up. Story mode takes you on an amazingly absurd and increasingly chaotic tour of the franchise worlds in an effort to stop the evil Lord Vortech (voiced by Gary Oldman) taking control of the Lego Multiverse. You can also access an adventure world for each property once you have a minifigure from the relevant franchise; these are open-world areas with additional puzzles to solve and items to collect. Then there are additional levels to complete in the various 'level packs' available. Which brings me nicely to the grumpier section of this review.

So far, my biggest problem with the game (aside from driving, which is horrendous!) is also one of the things I like most about it. I love that it's expandable, with awesome Lego models to collect and build, but at the same time... I hate that it's expandable. Fickle, I know, but I can't help it! I've spoken a little bit about my feelings on gaming accessories before, in my Pokémon Go post. Having the console, the controllers and the games themselves is a given (at the moment, until physical copies of games disappear altogether). Piling on top of that the toy pad and a heap of minifigures gives me extra (admittedly awesome) things to store, break or lose.

But storage issues pale in comparison to the cost. Technically (only technically, mind!) this is a kids game. Show me a child with £80 of pocket money saved and ready to go - and that's before you buy the extra level packs, team packs and fun packs to access all of the available areas.

The first wave of releases adds three level packs, two team packs and fifteen fun packs. That's almost £400 extra cost, on top of the base game. Oh, and there are five (thankfully smaller) waves announced. I can never own a complete collection! Admittedly, you only need one minifigure from a franchise to access that particular adventure world, which very helpfully means you don't have to buy everything to see all of those worlds.

Lego Dimensions Portal 2 level pack - Chell, turret and companion cube
I can play Portal in Lego... Eeee! And it's really well done. Companion cube and turret get upgraded during play, too.

Lego Dimensions minifigures - Marty McFly, Shaggy and Scooby
Some more random purchases - Marty McFly, Shaggy and Scooby

If you're going for 100% complete, though, you have a bit of a problem. As with its predecessors, Lego Dimensions has collectible items that you can only access by using a character with the correct 'power' (hacking or digging, for example) in the right place. I originally thought that there were a number of characters with each of the powers, which would help lower the cost of completing the game. When I looked it up, however, I found that there were a few examples where there is only one character with a particular ability - Unikitty being able to smash rainbow bricks, for example, or Chell and her portal gun - meaning you have to buy that pack to finish everything. I know that people aren't all as obsessed as me about filling up completion bars, but it seems a little unfair to put a price tag on my crazy!

Financial issues aside, I still love the game. If I hadn't already known I was going to like this from my previous experience of developer TT Games' wit and sense of fun, the Douglas Adams reference in the opening cutscene would have convinced me that this was going to appeal to my sense of humour. The combination of so many familiar characters is played to brilliant effect, the cut scenes are polished and funny, and the puzzles are clever. We'll get many hours of entertainment out of this, and I'll just have to get used to the fact that I can't afford to complete the collection!

Saying that, Unikitty is pre-ordered for November, Doctor Who arrives in January (Lego TARDIS? Sold!) and I can't see my husband *not* purchasing the Joker and Harley Quinn - this may be a dangerous new addiction, especially if they add any more exciting franchises in the future!

Lego Dimensions - Wave 1 to 5 models
There are very few of these that I don't want...

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Making this month - September 2015

When I restarted the blog I promised some crafting-type posts about making 'stuff'.  I've not really covered much of this yet, so I though I'd start posting a regular update on what I've been up to.  I did think about doing something once a week, but I know this will last for about two weeks before I fall behind, so I'll start with aiming at once a month!

For this first entry I'll do a bit of a catch-up, posting some things I've made over the past few months, including some works-in-progress.  Hopefully this will give me the motivation to actually finish things!  Most are baby-related in some way, given our recent arrival, and it's mainly crochet at the moment since the polymer clay and jewelry making boxes are hiding away in the cupboard gathering dust.

Here's a little corner of the granny square crochet blanket I made to match the colours in our baby's room (he has stars to match on his wall):

Granny square crochet blanket

This is (I think!) 96 granny squares in size and took a few months of sporadic work to complete.  I actually did some of this while I was in labour, so it's a very definitely baby-related blanket!

Next I made these for our new little boy to play with:

Crochet Katamari

I love the Katamari video games, where you use a sticky ball to roll up everything from paperclips to planets, so I was very excited to find a Katamari crochet pattern (here) and made one - complete with magnets to pick things up - for a friend's birthday.  The two pictured above use the same pattern but I left out the magnets, packed the bumps with polyester filling instead and added chimes and rattles in the middle.

The same friend also had a baby due, so next I got to work on presents for their cute new little girl.  I made *another* baby-safe chime Katamari and then, knowing that my friend loves Star Wars and her husband loves rainbow unicorns, these:

Princess Leia crochet lovey and rainbow unicorn amigurumi
Princess Leia crochet lovey and rainbow unicorn amigurumi
I love that little unicorn so much, I may have to make another!  (Also that's an action shot of the granny square blanket from earlier.)

Somewhere along the way I made this little amigurumi owl (pattern here) to cheer up another friend:

Amigurumi crochet owl

Then I moved on to a mobile for the baby's room.  It's a combination of bits from four different patterns as I wanted something that went right through the sky into space. This is *still* in pieces, but the individual bits are assembled and I have planned the layout:

Space-rainbow-sunshine mobile!

I need to do some shopping for appropriate hardware and get this put up before our baby is old enough to leave home...

Having lost our NFL fantasy football league in the final, I then had the job of stitching up part of the trophy for my new arch-nemesis!

NFL American football crochet
I'm not bitter.  No sir.

Embroidery is clearly not my forte, but the little football was cute!  And it squeaks.

Then last week I headed to The Handmade Fair where I started work on this rocket, my first ever cross-stitch (more for the baby's room!)

Bobo Stitch cross-stitch rocket pattern

Here's an update on that - although progress is minimal:

Cross-stitch rocket work-in-progress

Still a long way to go there, but I've been told not to start another one until I've finished the first so I'd better get stitching if I want to start anything for Christmas!

The last thing is this little guy, made whilst trying out an amigurumi octopus pattern for Pam to see if it would be a good starting point for her crochet adventures:

Amigurumi crochet octopus
Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagi fhtagn...

The pattern worked out fine after filling in a couple of gaps in the instructions and adding some kawaii cheeks, but my poor colour choice means that mine looks a bit more like Cthulhu than anything else!  I may have also added a squeaker - because everything is better with squeakers.

I mentioned Christmas back there.  Yes, I know it's still September, but these days it takes me so long to do anything that I have to plan ahead!  Hopefully next month I'll have some Christmas works-in-progress to share, and maybe I'll have finished off everything outstanding in this post.  Yay for Christmas-themed making!

Christmas reindeer crochet
Only 88 days to go!

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Cardboard - King of Tokyo

[Salvaged and updated from the old blog, here's a review for King of Tokyo, the kaiju-monster-smashing dice game by Richard Garfield.  Since writing the original review we've added the Power Up! expansion to our collection, so I've updated the post to include this.  Working on this really makes me want to try followup King of New York!]

When it comes down to it, I'm pretty sure that most nerdly-types like nothing better than rolling a hand-full of dice. If possible, two hand-fulls of dice. Even better, giant dice. Especially if those dice happen to roll up some damage and cause chaos for your friends...

If this is true of you, then I'm sure you'd love King of Tokyo.

King of Tokyo box art | Random Nerdery

Each player takes on the role of a giant cardboard kaiju monster stomping around poor Tokyo attempting to eliminate all other players and become the last monster/alien/robo-bunny standing (or first to 20 victory points!)

King of Tokyo - Cyber Bunny | Random Nerdery

You're given six dice with which to cause your destruction. On your turn you have three rolls of the dice. Each time you roll, you can choose to keep or re-roll individual die. This allows you to collect sets of various symbols - 3s, 2s, 1s, hearts, lightning bolts and claws.  Power-up cards can earn you additional dice (shiny green ones!)

King of Tokyo dice | Random Nerdery

You can use your dice rolls to gain the following helpful things:

Victory points: Collecting three or more matching numbers will give you that many victory points and move you closer to a monsterly win.

Energy cubes: Lightning rolls will earn you 'energy cubes' which you can use to buy power-up cards. These cards give you helpful things like extra dice or healing. The cubes look like little green sweets, but should definitely not be eaten...

Damage: Claws (or 'punchy fists', as they should rightly be known) deal damage to your opponents. Monsters can be in two places - 'in' Tokyo, i.e. on the game board, or 'outside' Tokyo on the rest of the table. You end up in Tokyo if you have a claw symbol amongst your final dice roll on your turn and if there isn't already a monster occupying the space. When you roll damage from outside Tokyo, you damage any monster inside Tokyo. When you roll damage from inside Tokyo, you damage everyone else! So Tokyo is a pretty dangerous place to be, but it's great for whittling down everyone else's health points while you're there. You also get extra victory points for braving the centre spot.

Healing: Hearts allow you to heal up your monster, unless you're standing in Tokyo, where you can't heal at all until you leave (very painful!)

Designed by Richard Garfield in a huge departure from his Magic: the Gathering roots, King of Tokyo is great fun as a filler game.  It works well for bigger groups of people (plays up to 6) and does a great job of pulling everyone into the action.

Don't expect much in the way of in-depth gameplay - new players can pick up the straightforward rules really quickly, which also makes it great for younger gamers (the box says age 8+ but I'm sure it could be younger than that, provided they're not scared of the monsters!)

The components are lovely, with chunky dice, handy points/health trackers for each character and cool artwork throughout.

King of Tokyo in play | Random Nerdery

Power Up! Expansion

The Power Up! expansion pack for King of Tokyo adds the cute Pandakai monster:

King of Tokyo Power Up! expansion - Pandakai | Random Nerdery

It also adds a deck of eight evolution cards for each monster which can be bought by using at least three rolled hearts.  As well as getting an evolution card you still get to benefit from the healing power of the hearts, so these are really useful!  The evolutions can be temporary (discarded after playing) or permanent and do all sorts of beneficial things from changing dice rolls to gaining extra energy cubes.

King of Tokyo Power Up! evolution cards | Random Nerdery

Whilst Pandakai himself doesn't really add anything to the game other than a bit more character choice, the evolution cards in Power Up! have added an interesting new dynamic to the game which is great for players who have already played a lot and are looking for something new.  They also add a bit of differentiation to the characters, who are otherwise identical in all but artwork.  Definitely a worthwhile addition to our collection.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

The Handmade Fair - September 2015

The Handmade Fair - Hampton Court Palace September 2015

This week I spent a lovely Saturday with my friend Pam visiting The Handmade Fair at Hampton Court Palace, in the hope that we'd pick up some new craft skills and get inspired to make more shiny things!

The Handmade Fair welcome sign
Here's Pam counting the number of male fair-goers - she'd only managed two at this point in the epic queue!

I've never seen so much bunting in my life!  It was *everywhere* and made the parkland venue look really pretty in the sunshine.

Bunting! - The Handmade Fair

Our day began with an event in the main tent, ambiguously named Mollie Makes Mashup. This turned out to be two crafters (namely Mr X Stitch and Lisa Comfort from Sew Over It) competing to upcycle a canvas tote bag into the best apron in 45 minutes.

Mollie Makes Mashup Mr X Stitch v Lisa Comfort - The Handmade Fair
As nice as the aprons were, I was slightly obsessed with the balloons!

This was my introduction to Mr X Stitch, a guy who runs a 'contemporary needlework and embroidery' website - he was super funny but didn't quite have the sewing machine skills to win the contest. I came to the event with the vague intention of trying out some cross stitch, but having had a quick glance through his website while sat in the crowd I was now determined to find something nerdy to stitch!

After this it was time to head for our first workshop of the day. This was supposed to be about learning to sew with wire, but some sort of trouble with the kit meant that we ended up doing finger knitting, which I've tried before and not really found much use for.  A bit disappointing, as we could have been over in a cross stitch workshop, but never mind - plenty more fun was ahead!

Our next workshop wasn't until much later in the afternoon, so that gave us plenty of time for walking around the shops (which were packed) to check out the kits and materials on sale, as well as all the great things people have been making. Here are a few pics:

Charlotte Amy Design - flamingo crochet - The Handmade Fair
Cute crochet from Charlotte Amy Design
Hannah Bass map tapestry - The Handmade Fair
Clever map tapestry from Hannah Bass - Pam is now the proud owner of one of these kits!
Linladen stall - The Handmade Fair
Pretty colours at the Linladan stall
Little Boo Yarns - The Handmade Fair
Little Boo Yarns - more colours!
Lizzie Chambers - The Handmade Fair
Beautiful glass creations by Lizzie Chambers

After peeling ourselves away from the shops and grabbing some lunch, it was time for some crafting time of our own! Pam was planning to teach me how to cross stitch and I was going to send her down the cupboard-full-of-wool rabbit hole that is crochet in return. I'm a terrible teacher and Pam is left handed, so lots of tangled wool ensued in the crochet section of our afternoon.  We did have a small audience of lovely ladies watching the demonstration who suggested we should have sold tickets!

Crochet temporarily abandoned, we moved on to the cross stitch lesson for me. I picked up the geekiest pattern I could find for my little boy's room (from the Bobo Stitch stall - it uses glow-in-the-dark thread!) and we sat down at one of the lunch tables to have a play. The first three stitches went fine, but left unsupervised I ended up doing everything else backwards! If I keep going consistently backwards it'll be fine, right? Who am I kidding, I'll need to unstitch it all and start again... See if you can spot my deliberate mistakes:

Bobo Stitch rocket cross stitch pattern - The Handmade Fair

A small bit of feedback for The Handmade Fair organisers - more space for people to sit and do their own crafts at the event would be great. We met lots of people who wanted to sit and try out their new stuff, but there wasn't really much room without depriving someone of their seat for lunch or getting bits of food in your thread!

Lessons over, we had another look at the (now a little quieter) shops and then headed to the Deco Bar for a nice (mocktail) Pimms in the sunshine.  This was a cute art deco themed bar-for-hire in a cozy tent, decorated with parasols that reminded me of Kaylee from Firefly.

Deco Bar - The Handmade Fair

This was where I met Kat from the Laydey Katabella blog who helpfully pointed us towards the press tent for some Instagram photography and styling advice (despite me pointing out that no one actually *reads* my blog!)

We headed over and were given some really great tips on lighting our shots from photographer Sarah Hannam. There was also advice on how to make your Instagram feed look prettier with from Louise Beukes of the B.Loved blog.  We were given a pile of things to try and make a nice picture as a demonstration. Having been shown what 'styling' entailed, I very quickly learned that I'm terrible at it; here's the picture I took:

Instagram styling lesson - The Handmade Fair
Stylist, I am not...

So, I wouldn't hold out much hope for more beautiful pictures in future!

This finished just in time for us to run straight into our last workshop.  It was run by Jayne Emerson and focussed on needle felting, which turned out to be quite therapeutic! Basically it involves repeatedly stabbing needles into pieces of coloured fleece to stick it to a felt backing. Our task was to make a flower that could be sewn onto a brooch or hair band:

Needlefelt flowers - The Handmade Fair
Flower results: Me (left), Pam (right)

Flowers complete, it was time to head for home.  It was such a wonderful day, I'm so glad we went. A great chance to make things, get inspired and meet some lovely new people - I'll definitely be planning another trip next year.

(Finishing the post with more colourful balls of wool, because you can never have too much!)

Blacker Yarns - The Handmade Fair