Punk’s Picks: The Idea Owl

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Life has gotten fairly hectic recently, so in an attempt to organise myself I purchased a cheeky wee ban.do agenda planner. While waiting for it to arrive I was alerted to an adorable little online stationery shop; The Idea Owl. Now a girl can’t organise her life without the appropriate stationery, right?

Unfortunately the store has made the decision only to offer subscription boxes from now on, just as I have discovered the bounty of kawaii. Typical. However, since there is plenty of cute stock to get moving there’s a 30% discount at the moment. Meaning I’m inevitably going to end up ordering more.

I’m getting ahead of myself though because ta-da, I already got my first batch of goodies!

The Idea Owl 1First off, I love the fact that the items are all individually wrapped in colourful bags. They’re even sealed with cherry blossom washi tape. They really brightened up my morning when they arrived. Even more so when I opened them up.

The Idea Owl 2LOOK AT ALL THE KAWAII.

Seriously though, those stickers right? I have a love for Japanese themed stationery and I’m a little sad that I didn’t pick anything up while I was over earlier in the year. Great excuse to go back. All this wonderfulness only set me back £12.91 including P&P. Awesome right?

So for all you stationery lovers, head over to The Idea Owl and get in on this while their stocks last.

All I need is for my planner to arrive and I will be the most organised princess in the castle.

What’s Cooking In The Weeb Kitchen?: Canned Mackerel Burger

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oogsskmarjygic82divpLast night I decided it was time for another round of weeb kitchen goodness and I readied myself to make some delicious mackerel burgers. My ingredients however had other ideas and I had my first minor anime cooking disaster.

This recipe makes it debut in the show when our young chef is put on the spot with a dormitory entrance exam and no ingredients. A raid of the cupboards and a quick survey of the leftovers and kitchen staples available produces a delicious looking burger made entirely of fish and as a mackerel lover I had to try it. foodwars29-mackerelburgerEasy right? Apparently though making burgers with anything but mince is a bit of a struggle for me. I gathered my necessary ingredients with a few minor changes. Namely, canned mackerel in brine and no ponzu sauce. Tesco had no mackerel in water left and I hadn’t found ponzu sauce. I didn’t use that entire onion either, honest!IMG_3107

Following the simple manga recipe I bunged everything in a bowl ready to be mixed together. I tend to use my hands a lot with fish, just to be sure there are no bones. I also just really like mixing things by hand, it’s fun!

IMG_3108Mistake number one is probably the onion, it’s fairly chunky. I personally like large pieces of onion so I do tend to chop on the chunkier side. On this occasion though I was actually crying so badly I gave up. This onion was an assault on my delicate peepers. Undeterred I went for it, fat onions and all.IMG_3109Mistake number two became evident after the shaping and frying came into play. My mixture was just too dry. I managed to make patties but as soon as they hit the frying pan they cracked and crumbled. Unfortunately I had run out of eggs and honestly, I was hungry. I didn’t want to faff about trying to find a substitute so I did what any good chef would do, I improvised.

In lieu of making patties I just fired the entire mixture into a pan and fried until crispy. Shoyu soy sauce, mirin and red wine finished the dish off. From disaster to delicious in one swift move, the mackerel donburi was born!IMG_3110Not exactly what I had planned to be eating for dinner but tasty nonetheless.

I will try the canned mackerel burger recipe again and when I succeed I will triumphantly share it with the world!

 

What’s Cooking In The Weeb Kitchen?: “Gotcha” Roast Pork

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GotchaThis weeks weeb kitchen experiment was “Gotcha” Roast Pork. It’s the first successful visual metaphor inducing dish you see in Shokugeki No Soma and it looked mighty tasty.

The secret of this dish is the fact it’s not really strictly speaking roast pork. In the show Sōma is challenged to make a meat dish by an incredibly unpleasant woman looking to forcibly take over his family diner. The catch is she’s already had her goons destroy all the meat they could find on the premises. Undeterred our valiant food hero sets to work making this dish with goods he picked up for breakfast. Needless to say a fabulous visual metaphor followed and the diner was saved. Hooray!

Gotcha Roast porkI know what you’re thinking, ‘If it’s not really roast pork then what is it?’. Mostly it’s potato. Mashed potato, onions and mushrooms wrapped in thick cut bacon to be precise. Slow roasted and finished with a red wine based sauce and it tastes good. A lot better than I necessarily thought it would.

Unable to find this particular recipe in the manga I pretty much just chucked things into pots and pans and hoped for the best. In more precise terms these ‘things’ were:

  • four potatoes
  • a sizeable onion
  • a handful of chestnut mushrooms
  • a large pack of thick cut bacon
  • some rosemary for the roast itself
  • a small bottle of red wine
  • mirin
  • soy sauce and…
  • butter for the finishing touch

IMG_3022In terms of cooking skills this is an easy one, there’s really not too much to it. Peel and roughly chop the potatoes for boiling/steaming, whichever you prefer, and dice the onions and mushrooms to sauté those bad boys in some butter. Personally I’m a steam kinda gal, I find the potatoes mash a lot better because they haven’t retained excess moisture like they would from boiling but as long as their soft that’s all that matters.

IMG_3023After your potatoes are soft and lightly mashed, you’ll need some texture to shape the log, it’s time to mix in your cooked onions and mushrooms. For the love of God please DO NOT try to shape the mixture until a good 15-20 minutes have passed. Otherwise your hands will lose the motivation to work. Trust me on this, it’s bloody hot. After a suitable time period has passed you just shape it into an unappealing looking log like shape. Simples.

IMG_3024Next comes the bacon. Everybody loooves bacon, it’s delicious. When you wrap up the log just to be sure to try to have it all covered in the meaty goodness then get it all nice and snug in a lightly oiled tray. In hindsight I would also advise potentially wrapping this bad boy with string. I didn’t think it would matter too much but mine kind of exploded on one side in the oven. Still delicious, just a little messy. As you can see I also haphazardly stabbed mine with rosemary sprigs as per the vague instructions from the show.

IMG_3026My little meaty baby was fired in the oven at around 190 degrees Celsius/374 Fahrenheit/Gas Mark 5 for around 40-45 minutes and then it spent a few minutes under the grill for extra crisping. Now for the sauce! It’s super easy; pour that whole small bottle of red wine into a pan, I think it was roughly 180ml of wine I can’t really remember, and let it boil for around 5-10 minutes to reduce it. Bung in a knob of butter and a splash of mirin and soy then pour over your fake roast. Voilà, the finished product.

IMG_3030They say looks can be deceiving and that is certainly the case here. I know it doesn’t look all that fantastic but it tastes great. Not quite the meaty wonder it’s made out to be in the show, the filling certainly soaks in some of the meaty flavour but the star for me was the sauce. The accidental splits in mine gave it room to soak into the filling which really spruced the whole thing up.

IMG_3031(1)I served my “Gotcha” Roast Pork with steamed sugar snap peas and asparagus but really any veg will do.

Get your butt in that kitchen and see for yourself!

What’s Cooking In The Weeb Kitchen?: Chaliapin Steak Donburi

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Sōma_vs_Ikumi_(anime)For as long as I can remember I’ve loved cooking and as such I’ve also loved cooking shows. My partner however not so much. Meaning I usually find time when he’s not home to get my fix. Recently I found a way around this, in the glorious form of cooking anime!

Food Wars!: Shokugeki no Soma is my saviour. Having just started its second season Crunchyroll has it front and center as part of their simulcasts, which is actually how it came to my attention in the first place. How no one thought to tell me this show existed is beyond me but no harm done, I’ve found it now. For anyone who hasn’t watched it, do it. Seriously, it’s amazing. It’s the perfect combination of food, bewbs and lewd visual imagery. What’s not to love?

1424538355427_imageAnime tropes aside, the food in this show looks spectacular. So much so that I decided it was about time I dived into the world of anime recipes; thus a kitchen weeb was born.

The first recipe choice has been heavily influenced by the fact I just purchased a multi-cooker. Cooking perfect rice is a pain, so this was my solution. I was yet to test it though so as a result, I picked a donburi. Chaliapin Steak donburi to be precise. Chaliapin was a Russian opera singer who suffered from a toothache while touring Japan in 1936 and as such requested an extra tender steak. A hotel chef devised a way to make this happen and the dish is known in Japan as a Chaliapin Steak to this day.

Onions are supposedly the key to this extra tender steak. Red onions were my weapon of choice and boy did I use a lot. You will cry making this don.

image2I’ll be honest, I did deviate from the anime recipe but I think Soma would have approved of my improvisations.

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Chaliapin Steak Don recipe from the Shokugeki no Soma manga.

Rather than use sirloin steak I actually opted to use rump. There were two reasons for this; flavour preference and the fact that as a cut it actually requires tenderisation. Void of red wine, because I forgot to buy any, my sauce was just an onion shoyu sauce but it was delicious nonetheless. My last deviation was the umeboshi in the rice. Pickled plum, that’s what umeboshi is. I absolute hated it when I had it in Japan and I didn’t really fancy putting it in my mouth again. Ever. Shichimi sprinkled rice for me thanks. I love spicy food and I wanted a kick in my don.

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Ita daki mas!

This recipe was a simple one to start me off and it was genuinely fun to make and tasty to boot! The steak was wonderfully tender although I suspect it had slightly more to do with the beating it took than the onions. Why not experiment for yourself?

 

Replay Events : PLAY Expo Glasgow

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Play ExpoLast weekend saw the introduction of Replay Events first Scottish venture; PLAY Expo Glasgow and by all accounts it was a great success.

Over the course of the weekend Braehead arena transformed itself into a haven for all things gaming and welcomed thousands through the doors eager to immerse themselves in the experience. Gamers old and young had a variety of titles to choose from, from old favourites to brand new discoveries.

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Gaming requires a warm up too. Pokemon TCG was mine en route to PLAY Expo Glasgow.

After walking through the doors the first thing that struck me was the huge selection of games on offer and the sheer number of people. Row upon row of screens, arcades and pinball machines covered the hall all occupied by happy attendees. They had everything from the hugely popular Street Fighter V to Mario Kart for the N64. For me, the best part of the majority of game events is the ability to try out new Indie titles that are in development and get the chance to chat to the developers themselves. PLAY Expo had the added bonus of pinball machines which are just freaking awesome, but the Indie guys still get the biggest thumbs up.

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Everybody loved the VR. Added bonus, watching people use it is almost as fun as actually using it.

The boys from We Throw Switches(@WeThrowSwitches), the people who run the great Games Are For Everyone events, were helping out showcasing the local talent. Among them were a few games that really stood out, well for me anyway. First up we had the Competitive Cuddling Simulator; the newest addition to Vaida Plankyte’s(@underskinnyhrt) One Game A Month mission. A fun little competitive or co-op game that two can play using one keyboard. Each player has four keys which randomly control the four limbs of the character in front of you. The object, at least in the competitive mode, is to match your characters limbs to the drawing shown before your opponent. I had a go with my partner and obviously came out as Queen of the Cuddles.


Up next was a game I’ve had a lot of love for since Dare 2015; Observatorium. For those of you who don’t follow me on Twitter or haven’t heard of it Observatorium is a gorgeous atmospheric puzzle adventure game from the Glasgow collective Capsule Three(@CapsuleThree).

Stunning, right? If you get the chance to see these guys showcasing their game before it’s PC release then I can’t recommend donning a pair of headphones and giving it a go more. The game has been incredibly polished since my first attempt last year and it only continues to get to better. Plus, they’re a super nice group of guys with good chat.

Last but not least the final game that really caught my eye was a little Indie number called Blue Revolver(@BlueRevolverSTG), which the team describe as ‘A manic shooter about a bunny-eared technical genius, a fancy weapon and a few million bullets’. It was actually their banner that initially drew me in with it’s gorgeous Japanese anime style artwork. That being said, who doesn’t love beautiful bunny eared Anime girls? Playing the game itself was a pleasure. It’s fast paced, it’s fun and as you can see below, it’s adorable.

Aside from video games, PLAY Expo also had a card game area as well as a healthy selection of merchandise stalls. Unfortunately I didn’t get a chance to go play anything in the card game area, something I made up for by heading to Settlers Hamilton(@SettlersShop) afterwards, who coincidentally happened to have a stall at the event. I managed to pick up a Tentacle Bento set for a great price from the ever lovely Shazz, the owner of Settlers. Tentacle Bento is the anime loving waifu collectors dream. You take on the role of a cleverly disguised alien hell bent on capturing your fellow students. Spoiler alert, they’re all total cuties.


As well as vendors selling a variety of board and card games there were also plushies, figures, art and of course, video games. The selection of retro video games was frankly astonishing and the prices even more so. I have never been to an event where the sellers didn’t have an absolutely horrifying mark up on their products, until now. My favourite of the bunch was Retro Plushy Games(@RetroPlushyGame). My partner and I had a good time raking through the vast selection on offer and while I only ended up buying one GameBoy game from them they’ll be my first port of call from now on for any of my retro gaming needs.

For it’s first venture north of the border, PLAY Expo got so much right and so very little wrong in my opinion. I for one am looking forward to next time.

Deliveroo Turns One!

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IMG_2651Deliveroo Edinburgh is celebrating it’s first birthday! Many of you will have used their services to order top quality restaurant food straight to your door, be it for a quiet Friday night in or to cure that hangover come Sunday. A few days ago I was lucky enough to bag myself two invites to their VIP invite only birthday party in partnership with i-on magazine(@ionedinburgh) and let me tell you, it was quite the bash.

Being an invite only party there was very little information about the event floating around, all I had was a start time and a venue, meaning I knew next to nothing about what was actually going to happen. It was held at The Biscuit Factory in Leith(@FactoryBiscuit), a gorgeous warehouse event space for those of you who haven’t heard of it, and Deliveroo[1]Top quality restaurant food delivered straight to your door courtesy of Deliveroo had taken the time to decorate the place with an abundance of fairy lights wrapped around the original metal beams and of course their signature kangaroo logo anywhere they could fit it. The whole decor set me in mind of a 1960’s Warhol party, it was fantastic!

IMG_2655Now I have to say these guys really know how to throw a cracking party. As you would expect their was food from some of the companies they currently work with, Harajuku Kitchen(@Harajukukitchen) and Barnacles and Bones(@eatbnb) were set up to provide fresh, hot food as well as various platters, both sweet and savoury, from places such as Bibi’s Bakery(@bibisbakery), Soderberg[2]Soderberg bakery and Hanam’s(@hanams). Drinks were provided by the wonderful Edinburgh Beer Factory(@edbeerfactory) and Edinburgh Gin(@Edinburgh_Gin), with other delights such as prosecco, good ol’ jägerbombs and of course some non-alcoholic options. The best of which as far as I’m concerned were the Canny milkshakes(@wearecanny). I don’t even like chocolate milkshake but there’s was delicious! As if all that food and drink wasn’t enough a variety of local businesses and entertainment had also been invited along for guests to enjoy. Felt you were in need of a little haircut but had no time to get one? Not to worry, Ruffian’s(@ruffians) barbers were on hand to give you that trim. Tired after a long day at work? Urban Massage(@UrbanMassageEDI) where there to give you a relaxing rub down. No time to paint your nails? Don’t sweat it! NAF! Salon(@nafsalon) would have your fingertips ready to party in no time. Couldn’t decide what to do with your hair? Charlie Miller(@cmhairdressing) had you covered with their braid bar. Felt your makeup needed that extra oomph? Fantoosh Face Art(@MrsFantoosh) were on hand to turn you into a glittering masterpiece. On top of all that LOOKLOOK Photobooths(@LookLookbooths) had a GIFGIF booth set up for you to record the memories and a couple of lovely DJs on hand to keep the party on track.

IMG_2680IMG_2674IMG_2685Having heard the experiences of other people at some ‘VIP’ parties I was somewhat dubious about what to expect but needless to say Deliveroo absolutely blew me away. They celebrated their birthday with the utmost style and put on a superb night for all involved.

Long may their deliveries of Japanese food to my door continue!

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1. Top quality restaurant food delivered straight to your door courtesy of Deliveroo
2. Soderberg bakery

Punk’s Picks : Vans x Nintendo

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BlogThe new Vans x Nintendo range launched yesterday and since it’s my birthday this month I used that as an excuse to treat myself to a pair. Now normally I’m loathe to pay more than about £25 for shoes. I used to work for Schuh you see and that 40% staff discount really makes it hard to ever pay full price for anything from them. That being said the range is so lovely that I caved and parted with the £52 to walk away with a pair of my very own, with a nifty tote bag from Schuh as a free gift.

IMG_2565(1)The range itself is pretty wide; there are numerous different shoe designs for both adults and kids as well as bags, caps, socks and even some tees and vest tops. Depending on the design and style of shoe you’re looking at between £52-£60 for adults and around £35 for kids which isn’t too far off standard pricing for a pair of Vans. If you get yourself a pair from Vans directly they’ll give you a free sticker which is probably nice but I personally prefer the tote. Schuh also have a few exclusive designs so it’s worth having a look at both sites before you purchase anything.

The packaging for the shoes is awesome. As you can see from the photo above the box is designed to look like a NES and they’ve put a lot of genuine work into it. They’ve taken the time to add the correct button and port details which I love. Upon opening the box I was greeted with a lovely colourful pair of retro Super Mario arcade design Vans. All the shoe designs are good but these bad boys were my personal favourite.IMG_2566The effort that was put into the packaging carries through to the shoe design itself. I’ve been buying Vans for years now so I already know to expect a quality pair of shoes, I find them to be an incredibly comfortable and durable brand, but they’ve really outdone themselves with this pair. The colours are bright and crisp and they’ve got the 8-bit characters down. Even the tongue and soles haven’t been left out!IMG_2567IMG_2569IMG_2570If you’ve been toying with the idea of grabbing yourself a pair of Nintendo Vans then all I can say is go for it. They’re worth the money. Just don’t go to Schuh to pick them up unprepared for the fact Dr.Martens has just released a TMNT range like I did. The pain of leaving behind my boy Donnie was real.

 

Infinity isn’t as long as it used to be.

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Disney InfinityOn the 10th of May Disney announced that it would be shutting down Avalanche Software[1]Disney ending Infinity video game line, their internal game studio, and bringing an end to the Infinity video game line. The news bring an unfortunate end to a promising video game line. The sad truth is that Disney lacked the expertise of their competitors in the current toys-to-life market and as a result it’s lights out for a studio of incredibly talented people that my thoughts go out to. 

I have always loved everything Disney, ever since I was a little girl. It’s a love that like many I’ve just never grown out of, there’s magic in everything they do. In fact I love Disney so much that I have Ariel tattooed on my leg and an adaptation of Alice In Wonderland forms my half sleeve, so it’s a pretty deep permanent attachment. When Disney Infinity first hit the shelves in 2013 I was massively intrigued by the collectible figures but the game itself failed to draw me in. Convinced that it was aimed so solely at children that it wouldn’t hold my interest for long enough (anyone who personally knows me and knows how big a child I still am is reading this thinking ‘Is she kidding?’) I opted not to buy it and since I was still living at home and hadn’t yet fully embraced my love of collecting figures I didn’t buy those either.

Fast forward two years; it’s 2015, I’ve moved out and Disney Infinity 3.0 is released. It’s theme? Star Wars. Now I’m a pretty huge Star Wars nerd so my ears immediately prick up at the mention of anything to do with it and as soon as it was released there was a whole lot of mentioning going on, especially on Twitter. If I had to attribute my purchases and subsequent love of the series to anyone it would have to be Gail Simone.[2]Gail Simone(@GailSimone) bio That woman put out so much love and posted so many photos of the 3.0 series that I caved and I bought it.

Disney Infinity 3.0Quite frankly, it was a great gaming purchase so thank you Gail Simone! The game itself has so much variety. For anyone who doesn’t know much about it there are three generations; 1.0, 2.0 and 3.0 funnily enough. Each generation has a main theme and then usually at least one off-theme playset as well as an abundance of extras and mini-games. If you haven’t played it and aren’t interested in doing so then you’ll just have to take my word for it when I say it’s super fun regardless of how old you are. The combat system was influenced by things like Kingdom Hearts and DMC so while it is still primarily a game targeted at children it’s become complex enough to keep adults entertained as well.

Disney Infinity 3.0 Inside OutClearly the other big draw of this game for me was the inclusion of the toys-to-life element. I defy anyone to tell me they’ve never secretly hoped that Toy Story was real and this is the closest I’m ever going to get. The best part of the toys-to-life element is the quality of the figures themselves. I know some people will look at these styles of game and genuinely wonder why anyone would part with £10+ each for an extra figure. In terms of some games I can totally understand that logic, the build quality of the product you get just simply isn’t worth the money. But in an age where everyone is parting with insane amounts of money for pieces of generic badly made vinyl figures *cough*FunkoPopVinyls*cough* the Infinity figures were a breath of fresh air. The quality and attention to detail on them make them more than worth the price. Especially when they’re compared to figures of similar price currently on the market for franchises such as Star Wars, Inside Out, Marvel etc. They don’t look like cheap hunks of plastic the sole purpose of which is to bring a character into your game, they’re worthy collectibles in their own right. Something which I have no doubt they’ve already become for many people, myself included.

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I take my hat off to the people of Avalanche for putting a little more magic into the world. The attention to detail and ability to make you smile as you watch your favourite Disney characters come to life made Infinity not just a game but an experience every Disney fan will cherish.

 

 

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Punk’s Picks : Ray Gigant (PS Vita)

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Ray Gigant 1Ray Gigant is the latest Japanese RPG to come from developers Experience Inc. While once a relatively obscure indie developer, they gained world wide coverage after their first Vita title, Demon Gaze was an unexpected hit. These days with the backing and funding of Bandai Namco they’ve stepped out of the shadows with this newest release being their biggest to date.

For anyone unfamiliar with Experience Inc. their claim to fame lies in their ability to make hardcore dungeon crawlers that appeal to both old and new audiences alike. Ray Gigant seems to follow this trend with a relatively ‘old school’ feel to the game overall despite having an undeniably modern take on battle systems and graphics.

The game opens in a world that has been torn apart by unknown life forms given the codename of Gigants. Most major cities across the world have been destroyed but Tokyo remains, saved thanks to a boy wielding the ancient and mysterious power of the Yorigami,

Ray Gigant 2Awakening in hospital with no idea of the extremity of the attacks or knowledge of what is happening to him Ichiya Amakaze, the aforementioned boy, accepts an invitation to visit a facility designed to train people on how to use “Kurogamis”, a man-made Yorigami replica. Unfortunately these copies lack the power displayed by the originals meaning the unwitting saviour of Tokyo is forced to become involved in the defence from the ongoing attacks.

The plot has a lot going on. There are plenty of secrets and hidden motivations to uncover as well as the constant feeling of unknown dangers lurking in the shadows and pulling the strings. All of this leads to an incredibly engaging narrative split between the three main characters: Ichiya, Kyle Griffin and Nil Phineas, all of whom are affectionately nicknamed as “naturals” because they and only they can use the Yorigami.

The game itself is split into 4 arcs, the first 3 are used for the introduction and development of the main characters while the final arc is the grand finale. In terms of the first 3 arcs each follows a different character and therefore a different theme. Each character has their own support cast, who quite frankly are generally more interesting than the main characters themselves. Ichiya is, I think, supposed to be written as a charming jerk but quite frankly he’s just a bit of an ass. Kyle is just openly unpleasant to virtually everyone and Nil, well Nil talks about almost nothing but food. The plus side to that is she’s forever passing the Bechdel test but it does get a little old. As far as development goes the characters do experience some growth throughout the game but none of it is outstanding. If becoming heavily invested in the characters is something you enjoy I’d go out on a limb and say that Ray Gigant may not be for you.

Ray Gigant 5Where Ray Gigant really shines is in it’s animated battles and cutscenes. While the sheer variety in game style is overwhelming, think Danganronpa meets Project Diva with a little dating sim thrown in for good measure, it is just plain gorgeous. The art direction is outstanding, if a little crazy. Interestingly it’s not just the characters that have seen a lot of well thought out work, the Gigants are another area where the animators have really outdone themselves. Fans of dungeon crawlers have come to expect a standard still portrait for enemies but that isn’t the case here, the enemies in this game feel almost, well, real. Another choice that sets this game apart is the fact that the Gigants don’t follow a central theme. There’s a large variety in size, style and design that keeps the battle aspect fresh for the duration.

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Sadly the time and effort put into the character design and art direction of the battles and cutscenes seems to have really eaten into the dungeon design. Quite frankly they vary from boring to just downright awful. The layouts are just as uninspired with a linear path that takes you to a door before looping back to reveal the Gigant you’ve been looking for. Occasionally they throw in a trap or ‘puzzle’ but none of them are challenging or really called for.

Your team always has the same generic RPG set up; tank, magic user and ranged fighter. The first slight difference in the battle system comes in the shape of Action Points. Rather than each player getting one move all three players are required to use AP from a shared pool of a 100 allowing them to perform a maximum of five moves per round. The strategy part comes from your limited choice of action types. Unlike RPGs like Final Fantasy where you have almost unlimited space for action types and rotations Ray Gigant only offers a total of six action slots, of which four can be used for attacks. The remaining two are reserved for non-attack types; healing, defending etc.

The battle system itself is quite frankly a little bizarre. There are two additional modes of battle on top of the standard type described above; Parasite Mode and Slash Beat Mode. Parasite Mode is enacted every 10 rounds you fail to defeat your opponent and cruelly the count doesn’t stop when your battle ends; it carries over. Once you enter Parasite Mode, you’ll no longer use AP to act but instead you’ll just slowly kill yourself with each move you make by draining away your HP. The only way to stop this madness is to win or activate Slash Beat Mode. Slash Beat Mode is a super charged attack you activate by playing a rhythm mini-game. The better you are, the more damage you do. Each protagonists song and pattern differs but the concept remains the same. The battle aspect certainly makes for an entertaining game experience.

Ray Gigant 3Phew. You still with me? Still awake?

Some people feel that Ray Gigant has simplified the RPG experience. No shops, no currency, no EXP, no overwhelming choice of items. Personally though I think that they’ve perhaps streamlined the play by doing away with all of the above in favour of a system based on food and a three-pronged skill tree but they’ve also made the process a little too convoluted to be truly considered simple. The food side of things is easy enough; the more you eat, the slower but stronger you get. The hungrier you are the faster but weaker you are. Both can have their advantages. The convoluted part comes from the three-pronged skill tree. Rather than just earning points, each battle (or treasure chest) will see you receive one of six different types of gems: Force, Seed, Breed, Materia, Alter & Reverse. Seeds and Force Gems level up characters and unlock new abilities on their respective skill trees while Alter and Reverse gems allow you to respec your character if you don’t like how you’ve spent your points.

Materia and Breed gems are where things get a little unnecessary for me. Materia is used to raise the level of a character’s attack, defence, speciality and cooking skills. Breed gems are used to essentially mutate your equipment. The results of Breed gems are completely random and entirely unpredictable. You could end up with a new weapon or you could simply add an upgrade to a weapon you already own. While I can see where they’re coming from with the idea I think that your character’s attack, defence etc. should just level as your character does and I do miss finding new weapons and augmentations as opposed to just gambling gems on it.

As far as RPGs go Ray Gigant is definitely the easiest one I’ve played. Random encounters have been completely done away with and they’ve even gone to the trouble of colour coding the battles so you can judge just how difficult they’ll be. The answer generally being not at all. Seriously, the game is a cakewalk. A gloriously beautiful well designed cakewalk but a cakewalk nonetheless.

Ray Gigant does a hell of a lot of things not just well but brilliantly. The battles are engaging, the art direction is stunning and the story is enjoyable. If you’re looking for a fun and gorgeous JRPG to pass some time playing without the possibility of running into console destroying frustration then it’s a game you definitely want to pick up. If you’re a hardened DRPG fan or interested in getting into dungeon crawlers then it’s probably not the best choice for you. The dungeons are too bland and just too darn easy to be a fair representation of virtually any other DRPG you’d be likely to pick up, which given the developer could be a disappointment for some. As for me, I give it an incredibly respectable 8/10.

Ray Gigant was published for Western audiences by acttil and is available to buy on the PSN store now.

Johnny Storm : Flame On!

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3692831-human-torch-lalala-peqAfter my last post I think it’s time to heat things up. Enter Johnny Storm AKA The Human Torch[1]Human Torch bio courtesy of Marvel. Brash and impetuous it was no shock that after the exposure to cosmic radiation, that gave birth to the Fantastic Four, Johnny developed a power in keeping with his personality. That boy got fiery.

Now to be frank, I’m not entirely sure I see a way to explain the mass amount of flames and excessive temperatures he endures without burning his skin off his bones. Don’t get me wrong, there are animals out there that can tolerate some pretty crazy temperatures; the Sahara Desert Ant being the first one to spring to mind. These little babies can survive heats of up to about 70 degrees Cesius, which is quite frankly impressive. My Scottish skin can’t cope with 20+ degrees Celsius without sun cream. A recent breakthrough has identified how those little guys do it; it’s hair! To cut a lengthy but interesting explanation short, the Saharan has a body covered in uniquely shaped silver hairs, which reflect sunlight and shed heat.[2]Further reading on Saharan Desert Ants Pretty cool huh? Sadly, Storm wasn’t covered in silver hair last I checked and even if he was I still don’t think it would stop him turning to ash.

Given that we’re in the land of comic books, I can only assume that there has been some alteration to his physiology courtesy of the radiation that’s allowed him to become essentially fireproof. I’m going to run with that theory because I honestly don’t have a better one.

FireTWith that cleared up, let’s talk about fire. What is fire? From a chemical point of view, fire is simply rapid oxidation. Oxidation, as you may have guessed from the name, is the addition of oxygen to another element or molecule to form a compound. If this reaction happens rapidly then boom; flame on! The fast reaction means the release of heat energy is large, thus creating fire. Oxidation is a pretty common occurrence in life, it’s also the cause of rust for example but in the case of rust it happens over such a long period of time that nothing bursts into flames. Sadly.

In the case of the Human Torch he starts the fire without any initial source of heat. How he achieves this is where it gets interesting. Storm’s sister Sue, or if you prefer The Invisible Woman, also developed powers as a result of the cosmic radiation. Her nervous system generates a field that allows her to manipulate the electrostatic fields around her; I’ll talk about the details behind this in another post. I believe that similarly, Johnny’s nervous system generates a field that causes combustion. It performs the first part of the chain reaction, breaking the bonds of a combustible material and combining them with oxygen. After that there’s already enough heat generating to maintain combustion.

This doesn’t really explain why the Human Torch is always on fire, but if I had to hazard a guess I’d assume he’s using his own sweat to fuel the fire. Pretty gross, but effective nonetheless. Sweat is basically water, take that and break it into hydrogen and oxygen, and voilà we have hydrogen to burn. This once again forms water and the cycle continues on. The flaw here is that the law of conservation of energy[3]Further reading on the conservation of energy would eventually force this loop to collapse somewhere down the line. There’s only so much one person can sweat!

Theoretically with all the mutagenic effects from the cosmic radiation there is also the possibility that the Human Torch actually exudes his own unique fuel. This bit is going to get a bit hazy because I don’t really have a fully constructed theory behind it but this fuel would have to be in some way related to phosphorous; given that phosphorous ignites on contact with air. If we assume that the oxide that forms upon burning breaks down again at a given temperature then we can effectively set up a combustion loop. As far as ‘recharging’ his fuel goes if his body modified itself to create it then presumably his body could also have modified itself to reabsorb the unoxidated fuel. This would mean he would always be fully charged and ready to ‘flame on’ for as long as the oxygen held out.

Sadly for us mere mortals the old idiom still stands; ‘If you play with fire, you’re gonna get burned’.

 

References   [ + ]

1. Human Torch bio courtesy of Marvel
2. Further reading on Saharan Desert Ants
3. Further reading on the conservation of energy