Author - Ripper71

Conan Unconquered Review

Conan Unconquered is a real time strategy survival game that its creators Funcom and Petroglyph compare to games like They are Billions. On the subject of Conan Unconquered’s creators, there are few you would trust more to work on a Conan-inspired RTS than the crew that brought us Command And Conquer and Star Wars: Empire At War. The question still remains though: does it live up to the legacy of the studios behind it?

Conan Unconquered is a real time strategy/city builder that can be played different ways like you would in StarCraft or StarCraft 2 where you can make a bunch of cheap fighters to zerg across the map. Or, you might try building up a strong defense to repel invaders. Or, perhaps you would go the research route for better technology and unit abilities? The choice is yours.

The real way it stands out more than just a “Command and Conquer” on steroids is in the brutality of the attacking enemy waves. You can look up to a UI element and see what is coming and they let you know what kind of critters and troops targeting you next. Did I say critters? Yes I did and, by Crom, they are perfect for Conan Unconquered. They are great in choice of type but also the great visuals that bring them to life. Conan Unconquered displays its carnage in eye-catching form.

Of course, the best graphics won’t do anyone any good if the gameplay suffers. Thankfully, I found the game’s AI opponents to be solid and challenging and the cities that open up as your progress have challenging maps laden with the fog of war. When you start, you have only one hero to choose from (unless you get the Deluxe Edition) but as you progress up through the towns you unlock things like more heroes who have their own play styles. My favorite unlock of the game is the comic book game mode. It’s laid out like a virtual comic book so that with each city you open you also open another chapter of the comic. I’ll admit I got frustrated with one city partly because I wanted to get past it to the comic. It’s well written and I hope the DLC slated for it has more chapters of the comic too.

Though the game is a real time strategy it has a built-in pause feature that allows you to hit the space bar once and set up multiple commands to take effect as soon as the time starts again. This is extremely helpful and makes an easy option between the hardcore player and the more casual, if you want more of a true real time challenge just don’t hit the space bar and it will be true real time. If you want an easier to manage game then use the space bar as well as make sure you choose the easy to hard game setting of your choice.

Conan Unconquered has online co-op play as well so you can get together with a friend and play in a match where you share a town and resources and divide the tasks by your choice. The game is still getting it’s name out there and is still in pretty heavy updates so there aren’t many games hosted by someone else so that you can join in but if you start a match there’s a good chance someone will join in though really your best bet is talking a buddy into playing too.

While playing Conan you can complete feats such as killing a certain number of spear men and most of the them carry over between matches. So let’s say you almost kill the number of spear men you need for the achievement/feat in your first match but you lose. You still get credit for your score and for the number of kills you got. So the next time you play it continues the count from the previous match as well as adding to your overall player score which leads to more unlocks such as Veteran status or if you are playing it through Steam you get Conan Unconquered trading cards. This really helps take away the sting of not surviving a city.

Not surviving the city, unless you are a ranked professional player you will probably find yourself doing this plenty, especially when you are first getting going. Much like They Are Billions, Conan Unconquered is not very forgiving of tactical mistakes. Enemies come in massive swarming waves that pour over your defenses looking for something to exploit and the AI is good at it. There were a few times where I got caught up in building and researching only to have missed that one of the wall sections hadn’t gotten fully repaired and the enemy has breached it or some similar style mistake. You are always tight on funds, the levels never give you the chance to do whatever you really want on them because it’s all about surviving waves not creating well fortified highly developed and researched massive army comprised of the highest ranked units possible. You just do the surviving and a little bit of offense during map clearing, how much of which is also up to you. The game by design also has time limits in it, the waves come at a predetermined time from a predetermined direction(s), when the last wave is stopped the level is over.

If your Hero dies he respawns after a certain amount of time so at least it doesn’t end the level. However the respawn time can be really brutal if your defense hinges on him being around. If I had attacks coming from three directions I might have my defenses built heavily on two sides with a support defense built on the third side with my Hero intercepting the attackers. As you play through a level your Hero levels up as well and when they get to a certain point it unlocks their Hero Talent for the match, it’s usually an AOE to help you take out a section of a wave. This timer on the special attack ends when your hero respawns so if you realize you hero is gonna be a goner then use the attack quickly, as soon as they are back you have it again. Your Hero only levels during the match so don’t be surprised when it starts at level one on the next map.

My biggest concern in the game was the save system and it kept me concerned and paranoid the whole time I played. When I first started playing it seemed forever between saves so the only way to save your game was to “quit and save”. Right before you go into a rough wave the game now autosaves so if you are paying attention you will notice the autosave when it happens which is kinda a nice reminder that the enemy is at the gates, or walls or towers, whatever your play style. The game would be even better with a save function that can be used or not used by player’s choice or for completing challenges. I wouldn’t have minded speed control in the game either but that really effects the “real time” in a Real Time Strategy game so when it comes to that it really feels like developer’s choice. I think it would be interesting to make it so that you can do all the saves you want… up to a certain wave. So when wave 12 of 15 hits make it so that there are only autosaves by the game (or even not that) from that point on.

Conan Unconquered is a great game, one of the best RTS games I’ve played in recent memory. It’s not for everyone, you need to be a bit hardcore (and/or very patient) and fine with restarting levels but it can be quickly addictive. The icing on the cake has to be the well done virtual comic that accompanies it. Plus I can talk barbaric while walking around the house without looking too loony. Maybe I’ll even shed a tear because “He is Conan, The Cimmerian, he won’t cry. So, I cry for him.”

 

SNK 40th Anniversary Collection Review

SNK has released the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection – a 26 game collection of some of their most fun titles. If, like me, you didn’t know what SNK stood for, you could be forgiven since it is “Shin Nihon Kikaku Corporation” and doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue like the three letters. They are best known for the creation of the Neo Geo game series as well as the arcade cabinets that held multiple games for you to choose from on one machine. You might play Chopper I, the next Iron Tank then maybe some Beast Busters, all while not having to leave your spot in the arcade. They also came out with console and hand held versions of the games and unlike many games at the time the arcade version was a bit different both in graphics and gameplay from console ones where they lowered the graphic quality and adjusted play to give you the best experience you could get out of a cartridge. This resulted in people either having a version they liked better and having pretty strong opinions about it or players rejoicing in not having to feed quarters into a console so it was either one purchase cost or a rental price. One of my fondest high school memories is pulling a weekend all night with my good friend playing Guerrilla War while consuming copious quantities of soda and junk food.

Now that I’m done on Memory Lane for the moment let’s get back to the games, the XBox One version of the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection has 26 games on it, some of which are both the Arcade and Console versions so you can compare what they were like back then. The list of games are:

Alpha Mission (Arcade and Console versions)
Athena (Arcade and Console versions)
Baseball Stars (Console version)
Beast Busters (Arcade version)
Bermuda Triangle (Arcade version)
Chopper I (Arcade version)
Crystalis (Console version)
Fantasy (Arcade version)
Guerrilla War (Arcade and Console versions)
Ikari Warriors (Arcade and Console versions)
Ikari Warriors II: Victory Road (Arcade and Console versions)
Ikari III: The Rescue (Arcade and Console versions)
Iron Tank (Arcade and Console versions)
Munch Mobile (Arcade version)
Ozma Wars (Arcade version)
Paddle Mania (Arcade version)
P.O.W. (Arcade and Console versions)
Prehistoric Isle (Arcade version)
Psycho Soldier (Arcade version)
Sasuke vs. Commander (Arcade version)
Time Soldiers (Arcade version)
TNK III (Arcade and Console versions)
S.A.R.: Search and Rescue (Arcade version)
Street Smart (Arcade version)
Vanguard (Arcade Version)
World Wars (Arcade Version)

That is such an amazingly long list of games! My Editor-In-Chief was probably wondering if I would ever get the game review written for this because like me he might have gone in cold not having read the list beforehand of all the titles there is in one collection. If I were to just write one or two sentences about each game and each platform it is one this would become a convoluted list quickly so I’ll just mention a few gameplay styles that run through them.

If you like side scrolling vehicle fighting games in the vein of Defender then games like Chopper I, Prehistoric Isle or Vanguard might be just what you need. If you like FPS then there is a great monster shooting one called Beast Busters which reminded me immediately of how much dough I sank into it in the arcade with how many baddies it had in it. If you like a top down view down scrolling fighter style then games like Ikari Warriors I, II and III (there main character looks just like Rambo) as well as Guerrilla War and Iron Tank are great for that. If you like the top down down scrolling fighting games where you can’t stop the scrolling you just have to keep flying then games like Alpha Mission might be your cup of tea. If your thing is side-scrolling beat ’em ups like in the days of Double Dragon then you have some terrific choices such as P.O.W., and if your thing is Street Fighter style then Street Smart will probably bring back memories. There is even a RPG game called Crystalis which got addictive quick.

The SNK 40th Anniversary set makes the playing these games better than the original system in a few ways. First, and one of the most important, is that the graphics that have been upgraded to 1080p resolution. They’ve also done a great job cleaning up the sound. In addition you can save your games so that if you are playing a game and you get a couple hours in but you didn’t beat it yet you can save and come back to it at your convenience which beats the heck out of leaving your TV and system on so that when you can get back to it it will be waiting for you. They remapped the controller setup too so that you don’t have to worry which controller buttons to hit depending on which game you are playing. For example on the first person shooter Beast Busters the right trigger shoots bullets and the left one throws grenades while the left stick helps you move your sights around the screen, it’s intuitive to console players. Add to it having both Arcade and Console versions for a lot of the games and you have a cleaned up representation of different games from different systems over 40 years.

If you aren’t in the mood to play a game or you just want it going in the background while you do other stuff you can choose to watch the games and that will demonstrate a perfect game playthrough so you can hone your skills or just get a feel for the game without playing it. This is great if you aren’t really sure what to do against a boss or maybe the best power-ups and where to find them. I’m not sure I have seen this option on a game or it is so rare that I don’t recall it.

There are two additional sections to the SNK 40th Anniversary Collection that are definitely worth mentioning they are the Museum and the Options menus. I have been to a couple of arcade museums lately where you get to play the game and it has a list of facts and history on all the machines so not only do you get to play the game you are a more informed player. the SNK Museum section is one of the coolest I have ever seen on a home collection, it not only gives you a history about the games in the collection it gives you a history of ALL games the company put out in order of the year they were released. If it feels like this is a decent collection you definitely see what games will hopefully be in collections in the future. Under the Museum Bonus Feature menus you can find Advertising for some, Behind-The Scenes for a couple, and Guide Books for all of the games in the collection! The collection also includes some Video Game Land newsletters and art and sketches for some games and characters.

At first glance a retail price of $39.99 might seem a little steep but when you consider how many games you are getting and how many version (Arcade and Console) that you get it’s less than $2 a game and when you consider all the extras and how much you probably spent on the games when you played them in arcades or bought them for home use then that is not a bad price at all.

Showing all SNK’s games in the Museum section made me wish that they could have put some other games of theirs in place of the ones they provided but my thought offhand is they might be saving some of their other big games to be in a SNK 40th Anniversary Collection 2, they have some strong games to anchor another collection and if it has as many games and information as they had for this one I’m sure their fans will be happy getting some more.

The SNK 40th Anniversary Collection is a terrific set filled to the brim with great classic video games and just about anything you could want to know about it. It is highly accessible to retro players reliving great times or the newest generation of players who never got to experience their greatness. The game is designed to teach a player as well, not just how to play a perfect game or tips that can be gleamed from guide books but also a museum quality history of the company, their games, their advertising and other behind-the-scenes information that help to all come together to make you a more knowledgeable  retro player. All in 1080p which is so much nicer on today’s televisions and monitors. It even has soundtracks available from the games!

Toast Custom Console Cover Review

Starting as a Kickstarter project, Toast was able to crowdsource their first laser in 2012 and have been running full speed since then, adding more and more items that they were able to custom cut and etch with lasers. Based out of Portland, Oregon they are a family business dedicated to having fun while making cool products. They even have a wooden mascot named Justin Beaver. When my Toast arrived the first thing I did was read all the instructions prior to assembly. That is because until you get the pieces in place the kit is very fragile, thinner than those balsa wood airplanes of my youth by far. As long as you read and try to follow the instructions, the company has a “butterfinger” clause in case you break your kit or make an irreversible mistake when placing the parts. I can have really shaky hands sometimes so I was a little nervous starting the setup but even my wiggly hands managed to pull it off.

Each piece has the show outside and a backing that is completely covered with 3M adhesive, guaranteeing it won’t just fall off over time. 3M is very assuring for such a purpose but it tends to cause the butterfinger moves or close calls. As you lay down the pieces you need to do it in their precise order so the seams match up and you want to double check where you are putting the pieces to make sure they are precisely in place before you push it down solidly. Once you push it down it is only a matter of moments before the sticky side is semi-permanent in its spot, meaning you might get lucky taking the part back off using the recommended tips but odds are the wood piece won’t survive the removal and replace. Surprisingly I didn’t need to contact them about getting a new piece since I managed to place all of them perfectly shakes and all.

Though the pieces aren’t very thick and are practically as light as a feather it is surprising how detailed their laser etching is. I chose the GamingShogun logo since most of the review games I play on a console are played on that one (including three at the time) so I figured it should be the nicest looking system. The etching turned out absolutely beautiful and made me immediately wish I had one for my PS4 next to it so they could have the class of Toast. I’m even considering getting a gaming laptop cover with my Halloween and hockey IIOY? Twitter and FB account that travels with us a couple of months each year as well as getting a lot of use at home. It just adds a level of sophistication.

Care needs to be taken when putting your Toast kit together but as long as you are patient and careful the results are terrific and manages to elevate the class of whatever it is put on. If you have your system out on display or you want your cellphone to look really nice or you want your logo to be display on all sorts of products then the Toast Team are the folks for you, they even have custom wooden stickers. Personally I plan to have my Toast cover stay on my Xbox One for all it’s years that I will keep it, and I hope to Toast more items in the future.

Tropico 6 Review

Just in case you have never heard of the Tropico series (I met someone who thought it was a sunscreen once… I think they were teasing me) it started as a city simulator that took place on an island which has had so many features added that by the 6th installation the game it is no longer a casual strategy for the common player, it has become a beast of the genre. There is so much to learn that even for a seasoned player who has played the whole series find themselves playing all the tutorials that take a few hours to get through otherwise they find themselves tearing through menus trying to figure out how to get something done before the peasants revolt. I think the only things that are missing from the game are the internal works in the building like how many bathrooms on each floor and which one needs stairs and which needs elevators. I’m not complaining about those missing because I am a deep diver of real-time strategy games and think it has plenty of challenges already. Tropico 6 is like a massive combination of a city simulator and a RTS that has so many features that they cancelled their release date and pushed it back to later this month to make sure they got everything in that they wanted, like cable cars.

Previous incarnations of the game took place on one island that had limited locations for building due to landscape and island size. This sometimes got frustrating because you would build things a certain way then realize a particular structure had to go in a certain spot where another was, leaving the player the option of trying to get as close as possible or bulldoze locations and rebuild them according to the new needs. Also due to build limits and landscape locations getting to certain parts of the island would mean docks and the slow travel around the island to get to other locations. In Tropico 6, there are really fun additions to the to travel building that changes things massively. The first is a pretty obvious one and that is bridges. For proper economic rewards you really need to have docks for import and export and when building bridges you need to be aware that they can stop your ship passing quick. I made a habit of trying to make all bridges and roads across the island to be at the top or bottom of the island to make sure that there is an open path to docks and exporting, bridges cut them off cold. I made the mistake of putting my bridge right between two docks the first time so I could have the docks nicely connected to the road. Then I saw a whole boatload of supplies, actually seven boatloads, that couldn’t make it to the dock and were just floating out in the water, you definitely don’t want to give yourself sea blockade when trade between islands is so important.

One of the reasons you want a good ground transportation system is so you can have bus routes and stops, parking garages, housing down the road from locations, construction and teamster shops close to get workers where they need to be. A new favorite addition are tunnels, so there’s no need to try and curve around the sides of a mountain when now you can get to places in a straight line. If you have natural attractions such as cave paintings, waterfalls, Mayan temples or active volcanoes you can put in teleferic stations – like those sky buckets they used to have at Disneyland. These will take you up into the mountains to see nature or man made beauty without having to try and run a road up into the majesty of the islands. You can even put in low cost, scenic gazebos for people to get even more bang for their buck.

There are just so many possible ways to make your fortune or make your people a rich nation. You can do it through raising crops, importing and exporting, and tourism. Tourism plays a far greater role in this game giving you vast and sometimes amusing attractions: ever wanted a Statue of Liberty on one of your islands? Here’s your chance. I want the Ahu Akivi Moai Heads (the Easter Island Heads). And if your people live in shacks so you can have resorts and cruise ships? It depends on what kind of El Presidente you want.

Denying your people the base necessities we like such as housing a three meals a day might sound pretty heartless but you can then win their hearts with Church or entertainment. They don’t mind living in Shanty Town if you provide a 24 hour a day Arcade or a nice circus or my weakness a good cinema. If they feel like they are getting disillusioned just bring in churches, maybe even a world famous cathedral to get people caring less about their current life and more about their spiritual next one. If that doesn’t work you can try to educate your people and decide whether or not you want them to start entertainment such as newspapers and television, it’s been my experience as a dictator in many games that a well educated population helps you make nicer and more technologically advanced things such as a space race but the more your people know the more you have to worry about comparing your empire to the big boys of the world, you may find yourself wanting to set yourself up with the bomb to work in the world theatre while hoping your populace doesn’t realize all the tourists you are fleecing are giving you wheel barrels of money. Or course if a couple of people don’t realize how lucky they are to be living in your island paradise you can send them to the asylum to find out why they can’t be happy. If that doesn’t work? Well you can build nice mausoleums too.

Just a couple of quick things, I often found myself trying to grab and drag the map around like I do in other games so I had to keep reminding myself to move my cursor to the edge of the screen to move the map or use the center on function that allowed me to pick a location and center my map on it. A small thing overall so something after a little time became far less of an issue.

The harder one is when I get a message on a building and it isn’t intuitive or clear on how to fix it. A perfect example of this was when I build a Power Plant and had an Arcade built right next to it. Suddenly it showed what looked like an empty box symbol over the top of the Power Plant and the Arcade wasn’t considered powered like was necessary for the task to be considered completed. Clicking on the Power Plant showed that it’s stock was empty, giving me a WTF moment, not the first (that honor went to the ships stopped next to the bridge like rush hour traffic). I started the game going while I went to get a tasty beverage to quench my parched throat and when I came back it was completed. The only thing I can think is maybe their is an allotment of power that makes it so that if it’s out of juice for the month it’s out, still not quite sure on that.

It comes to a point in a review where you need to just tell players if they are hardcore RTS and city sims players this game is perfect for them. Once a player gets used to everything Tropico 6 does with its menus and problem symbols and how to fix them then this will be the game they will be playing for a long time to come. Tropico 6 is meant to have everything they wanted to add to previous versions while making sure it had a flavor all it’s own and it succeeded at it terrifically. Whether you go through all the tasks and missions or you go dive into sandbox play this game will be the one you compare future game to.

Yakuza Kiwami Remastered Review

When Yakuz Kiwami hit the scene in 2006 for the Playstation 2, it slipped passed some people but the true fans of sandbox games could not get a hold of it fast enough or get enough hours in the day to play. There were some limitations on graphics at the time and rumors abound in recent years that they might remaster it to bring the game forth to a whole generation that hasn’t gotten to experience it but have come to expect a certain level of graphics. Now Sega has unleashed the latest graphics on the classic sandbox game.

Before diving into the storyline it would be remiss not to say exactly what was done to Yakuza Kiwami, graphically. Back in the day the graphics had to be capped, particularly with regards to the frame rates to make sure the system could run it. With this new edition they uncapped the framerates, rebuilt it from the ground up with support for up to 4K resolution, added customizable controls both on the gamepad and the keyboarda and included ultra-widescreen support. When a character gets up in your face if they are a guy you can see all the pores in his skin, if it is a woman you can see how smooth her skin is and tiny nuances to the character’s acting come through in gestures that would have had to be over-exaggerated when it originally came out and now are now the subtly of real life. There is one point when a character talks to an elderly lady and the quality of her appearance was so impressive I watched it a while to see if it looked like it was photo captured instead of rendered. I am pretty sure it is rendered but when it is close took look like the real thing that’s impressive. The visuals aren’t the only great part since the sound was remixed and the entire cast re-recorded their lines and that allowed for them to expand the cinematic storyline.

I mentioned that there wasn’t so much of a need for overacting from the characters but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen, one character in particular overacts so much that he jumps in the air and kicks his heels while walking away after being stopped from murdering someone. The character is meant to be liked in an obnoxious friend kind of way you just need to not look too closely  at his actions since he does help your character. It’s strange because you find yourself laughing at something he says or does then he reminds you he is a cold blooded killer. Some of the other character they have overact wind up looking a little hammy but I have to say they look so good doing it.

Without blowing too much of the story, you are a member of the Yakuza (by the way, Yakuza Kiwami translates to Yakuza Extreme) who is about to be made a boss, stepping into the shoes of a man you truly idolized. You also have a girl you are sweet on and she seems to feel the same towards you. I guess the story wouldn’t be that exciting if things didn’t change in the extreme. It starts off in 1995 but heads toward 2005 pretty quick. It’s a rise and fall story, or a rise and fall and rise, or the other way around? I guess you will have to play the game to find out.

The game gets a bit confusing at times, mostly because a lot of characters are introduced and then some go and new ones show up and the whole thing tries to explain the Yakuza organization as well as tell a story. The problem is the Yakuza is set up like a multinational industrial conglomerate with things like subsidiaries and other titles but also like a gang with territories and protection rackets. The company structure and gang style makes it so that the story can be really hard to follow but the developers nicely made it so you could rewatch the cinematics through the menu so that if you get too confused on what is going on you can go check them out.

When you get the game through Steam you are given the option of a keyboard or gamepad. Normally if a game comes out on the PC I expect to use my keyboard and mouse. There are some exceptions but most have dual options and if I am playing it on my PC I play keyboard. When you start this game the opening video says “Real Yakuza Use A Gamepad”. That doesn’t generally bode well for my keyboard but I said what the heck and gave it the good ole board and mouse try. Sometimes it would give me instructions for a gamepad then a little while later give it to me for the keyboard. I played with it for over an hour, frowned and shutdown my rig for the night. The next day I started a new with the gamepad and I had to push fairly far away from the computer because I wanted to do certain things I have become accustomed to on the keyboard which would then get me hints for the keyboard instead of the gamepad. It’s got to be such a bane of the developer to map out the keys for one peripheral then port it to another system and trying to make the key setup on both be as fair and even as possible. The thing is though they really are two very different experiences, they realized that was the case so told the players “Real Yakuza Use A Gamepad” so you have no illusions of the same experience.

This game has side missions, and though doing them unlock achievements if you just care about beating the game or beating up on virtual gangsters you can take a wild variety of playstyle and finishing it with or without the ending. The story is optional, grinding is optional, side missions are really optional and achievements are optional. These are all the things you look for in a true sandbox game, your play isn’t on wheels it’s what you make of it.

Yakuza Kiwami took me back to the first time I played it so fast but then made my jaw want to drop when I took in all the amazing graphics, sound, voice-acting and cinematics. If you played it back then and hope that you can relive the feeling I think updating the sound and visuals from the ground up will take you back to it without being distracted by old graphics and muddy sound. If you are passing it on to another generation or are the next generation you should give this game a play and if you are into the story it, like Yakuza Kiwami, has only gotten better.

Las Vegas Toy and Comic Convention 2019 Postmortem

Las Vegas Toy and Comic Convention is one of our favorite conventions we attend all year which is kind of interesting when you consider the many conventions of so many sizes we attend every year. I recently attended one that filled almost every hotel room in all of Las Vegas, now I’m looking forward to one that consists almost entirely of locals. I went almost six weeks sick in a row from hitting conventions and shows one right after the next, I was like a float at a cold/flu parade. It’s all worth it though when Vegas ToyCon hits town again.

This year it was held in part of the convention center at the Westgate Hotel And Casino, a place I have attended conventions previous years and they have some great hall rooms with retractable walls so that the room is as big as needed and small enough to not look like there is too much empty space. This show has appeared in a variety of locations and there almost always seem to wind up spread out, sometimes on different floors. When considering the talent they get every year this can really be a problem, especially with the new sub conventions happening at the show. The Garbage Pail Kids got anchored by Joe Simko a few years ago and now there is such a whole slew of GPK artists that they get their own section called Gross Card Con! I spent so much time in there checking out all the amazing art from kids books to Rat Fink designs and one of my personal favorites Sketch Shirts where you buy the shirt and commission an artist to sketch on it. Talk about a shirt you don’t want to see somebody accidentally thrown in the wash…

On both sides of Gross Card Con Alley were artists who designed toy cars, create their own comic books and steampunk photography. These people are all very cool and down to earth, they love talking just about anything geek which pervaded the whole convention. Oh the variety and quality of the toys and art creations for sale, it’s a good thing I don’t take credit cards to the event. This is a good time to say one of the reasons I love this event, people come back every year, both as attendees and exhibitors, and are so genuinely happy to see each other. A couple of us were talking to one of the artists we have known for years and we suddenly got a big hug from behind by a vendor we are close friends with. When stop by his booth next and while we are there I get a pat on the back and one of the comic artists tells me where his booth is. It is such a friendly con that we even notice those who didn’t make it this year and we made plans to try to get in touch with them afterwards. At the far end of the con next to many of the toy cars was the Arizona Outlaws Hot Wheels Racing Club that laid down for racing lanes that let you pit your car against three others. If you don’t have a toy car of your own to race the guys are always nice, friendly and come with a whole bunch of cars just in case you don’t bring your own (I brought 5). They even have some great nightly competitions so if you get a chance to check them out make sure that you do.

Coverage for this con would be highly remiss if I didn’t mention the autograph booths available. That doesn’t mean one or two people… there were dozens of people there for photos and signings. It was mostly split up into two groups: those who they could have in a spot with a qoue and those who were brought into a closed curtain meetup. Most of the former TV and movie stars they were able to have right next to each other with lines stretching out but luckily they knew to have the closed curtain for all the WWE stars that were in the house. The lines for Becky Lynch, Asuka, Seth Rollins and Randy Orton were so long that they had to stretch the line towards the conventions walls and they added signing days to the weekend, it helped a bit but the lines just get crazy with WWE stars I know from previous conventions. That doesn’t mean the other celebrities didn’t get their lines in front of their booths, personally seeing Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox of CHiPs standing side by side was pretty amazing, they were a couple of my heroes growing up.

Last bit of mentioning needs to go to Wild Bill’s Olde Fashion Soda where you could buy a mug for free refills that day and $5 a day after that… at any event they are at! I plan to start having my mug strapped to a backpack.

Las Vegas Toy and Comic Convention seems to just get a bit better every year and being in one ballroom of the Westgate instead of spread all over the place is a huge jump especially since the parking is free during it. If you like anything from original G.I. Joe in the packaging to a handful of dollar comics or beautiful artist work about Tombstone or the different Gross Card Con parodies of Tombstone Pizza you will start to see familiar and friendly faces every year. It’s a lot of fun to geek out with friends.

Gallery

MyCharge Adventure MEGA-C Power Delivery And Quick Charge 3.1 Review

MyCharge is a brand that should look familiar to anyone who travels and hits the news stands and gadget shops. Once a quiet competitor in the mobile power field, MyCharge has come to be one of the most prominent names in the business. Recently at CES 2019 I got to visit with them a couple of times and even got to take a look at the MyCharge Adventure MEGA-C Power Delivery and Quick Charge 3.1 power bank. That is a very long name for a big, hefty USB battery pack that can potentially last you for an entire trip. The Adventure MEGA-C is same size and weight as the iPhone 6+ so if you got used to carrying one of them around then this won’t seem too bulky at all.  It’s about four times thicker than an iPhone 6+ but it would still fit in the average purse, bag or backpack – heck if you don’t have enough room it has a built-in carabiner.

For that size though you can get up to ten times more battery than you are used to (20100mAh of power to be precise) which would be greatly handy if you find yourself somewhere where you there are no outlets.  You can even use this one as a base battery from which you charge your other battery packs on the go.  That way you could keep it in your pack or on a counter since it comes pre-charged and holds a charge for a really long time. The MyCharge Adventure MEGA-C Power Delivery And Quick Charge 3.1 can charge devices up to 4x faster than other batteries or outlets. MyCharge has worked with Qualcomm to make their batteries even faster charging using their “Quick Charge” technology.  This can even be used while the battery is plugged in, if the battery is too low on juice on the outlet then it will use its charge through technology to charge your phone while it charges. The Quick Charge works for the battery too to help it get it’s juice level back up faster.

The Adventure MEGA-C has two outputs, one for USB-C and one for USB-A so you can charge iPhone or Android using either style of cable I have been at events in the past where my wife and I both ran our phones down at the same time and needed the battery pack.  As long as you got the two cables to work with you can plug both into the battery to charge, even if the battery is charging at the time. Thanks to the “Quick Charge” we don’t have to be cabled together for very long but if we need to we can do it up to five times more than the average battery.

If you aren’t sure if your device is compatible with the battery you don’t have to worry it has built-in “Smart Sense” that confirms compatibility so every charge is safe. Add to this the rugged casing on the Adventure series that gives splash resistance, drop resistance and dirt-proof then the battery is that much better for an emergency or active travels such as hiking, kayaking or camping. You can even connect a USB lamp or fan if that helps in case of power loss or just a desire to illuminate or cool and area.

My MyCharge Adventure MEGA-C Power Delivery And Quick Charge 3.1 battery pack is fairly large and a bit heavy but considering all it provides an active lifestyle or an emergency situation it should be the go to battery for most households, I know ours will put it to good use, especially when traveling.

BEST BUY HAS THEM FOR $89.99 AND MYCHARGE CAN BE FOUND IN MOST AIRPORTS.

Mobile Edge Core Gaming Backpack Review

I will never trust my gaming laptop to anything but a quality backpack – it is worth way too much to be trusted to anything but quality. We have been using the same BlizzCon 2010 messenger bag for all of our different laptops over the years, it has always been solid and reliable until recently as it tore. Thankfully, the folks at Mobile Edge contacted me and I found myself looking at their Mobile Edge Core Gaming Backpack sitting on my passenger seat waiting for a test run.

First off you have probably used one of their bags without knowing it because of the other brand dominate on the bag. Everyone from Alienware to Disney and DC Comics have worked with them over the years. If you have a favorite backpack, messenger bag or even purses there’s a good chance to have been done by them. Now that their work has been appreciated by different IPs they have decided to use their name on the bags with their own logo design called Mobile Edge Core Gaming. They had a Kickstarter to see if there was an interest in their own bag and were pretty happy with the results.

The backpack has a bit of heft to it, but every bit of weight is used for a feature. Starting at the top (gotta start somewhere) you have the backpack handle which is generally made of a loop of fabric attached by bag stitching. The Core uses rivets that are through the top reinforced section at the top of the bag. From the rivets runs a thick piece of fabric and thick plastic wrapped around a braided cable. Yes you lift this backpack up by a braided cable reinforced with fabric and a finger-grooved thick plastic handle at the top curve. I’m not sure I have EVER seen a better handle on a backpack or one even close to it, except maybe on one of the brands they provided their bags to, and then it would be crazy uncommon.

Features:

  • External USB 3.0 Quick-Charge compatible port and built-in charging cable.
  • Sized to hold most popular models of Gaming Laptops up to 16″
  • Checkpoint-Friendly design to speed through TSA checkpoints
  • Constructed of durable ballistic nylon with tailored contrast stitching
  • Pre-wired universal power bank pocket for charging items in each section with Velcro Panel
  • Three separate sections for a laptop, tablet, keyboard, files, accessories and your personal items.
  • Padded Air-Mesh shoulder straps, and ventilated back panel and trolley strap.
  • Organizer section provides pockets for pens, phone, business cards, keys, cables, and other accessories.
  • Separate poly-fleece lined iPad/Tablet pocket.
  • High-capacity storage compartment holds all your gaming accessories.
  • Four zippered side accessory pockets for cables, gaming mouse, phone, large water bottles, etc.

Next the bag says it holds most models of gaming laptops up to 16″, and I can say my gaming laptop is pretty sleekly designed but it is still a 17″ and it fit snug but not too tightly in the backpack, it had was still properly padded. I blew out a whistle of relief when I realized it fit. A couple of nice outer features are the four pockets that are rather large and there is a large Velcro fuzz zone so you can stick your Velcro patches to it (there are a couple choices of how much Velcro fuzz you can want). I now have a place to put my Stan Lee patch. Excelsior!

I almost forgot to mention the backpack has lots of reinforced fabric straps and padding which is designed for your comfort as well as having a couple of straps designed as shock absorbers so if the pack gets a bounce coming off a curb or you take a bad step it will stay in place and most of the shock will go to the straps instead of your back. There are even two more straps, one designed to keep the shoulder straps together and prevent them from slipping off your shoulders and another strap which is designed to go around your suitcase extended handle. You can tell they have been making backpacks for a long time and listen to their reviews and making more and more revisions and additions.

There are three zipper secured interior sections, starting at the the one at the back next to the shoulder straps is the airport security section. The zippers undo down to the base of the bag and the back splits open to show a see-thru reinforced pouch with a Velcro lockdown so for security you don’t have to take your electronics out. Across the pocket when it opens is another pouch, padded and using a Velcro lockdown as well so you can fit a keyboard in there, it is pretty much the same size. Skipping to the front pocket there are places to store cables and pens and misc. items in the front pouch with a screened pocket to put your business card or a travel tag in case you leave it in a cab or on a plane or something else that makes me physically ill to imagine doing with a backpack with my laptop and other electronics in. One of the best features of this first section is a stretchy mesh bag with a Velcro lockdown on the top that would easily handle a small battery or even a big one like the MyCharge Adventurer MEGA-C which is one of the bigger batteries on the market. Running down to is is a USB-A cable that can connect to a battery and is wired to go out of the backpack to a female USB plug. You can attach a cord for your cellphone or other electronic you want to charge! This is an awesome feature since I HATE running a cable out of a backpack zipper to charge my phone while I am at a convention taking pictures but my phone is dead. If something happens and the charging cord you are using gets a bad tug out you don’t have to worry about it damaging the battery. Plus the female plug is wrapped in a very solid plastic so if you use the battery in a campsite or while hiking it is fairly well protected from damage. The only part of it that I would mention is it would have been nicer if the cable ran inside a seam or pouch section.

The middle section has a five pouches, one nice and deep that would fit a really large item like your laptop as well as having three mesh ones, two of which have zippers. The final pouch has a nice soft lining to protect a screen such as on an iPad or something similar size nice and cozy.

When putting the backpack to the test I tried loading it to the seams and felt it hold things securely and the backpack felt like it could lift a lot more than I can! There is a cord that holds the shoulders together which is really handy in crowds such as I found at a mall, where people are looking at all the shiny and aren’t watching what they are doing (also Vegas strip and downtown). There were also the extra shocks built into the shoulder pack which helped when the bag gets knocked back or you step off the curb and the pack gets a little bounce. One of the best parts though is the handle, it is so solidly reinforced I don’t feel like I have to go to holding the pack by the shoulder pad for fear of the handle breaking off. Probably one of my favorite parts though it the airport security design to it since we always carry-on our electronics and we have A LOT of them.

The Mobile Edge Core Gaming Backpack has so many features to protect and carry your valuable electronics that you will probably start consolidating your electronic bags to this one. I feel a confidence about this backpack that I have never felt with any other, it will be great for weekend getaways or two week trips always able to protect those valuable electric products we all have become attached to and spend lots of money on. It could also be used for backpacking, hiking, camping, with or without electronics in it this is a great go-to bag. It is time to let my BlizzCon  messenger back a well deserved retirement.

MPowerd Luci Inflatable Smart Solar Light Review

We here at GamingShogun don’t often get to report on charitable organizations, but one we have been covering over the years is MPowerd. In 2012 MPowerd worked with one of its primary inventors Jason Snyder to come up with a solution to something people don’t realize are a huge problem around the world: light.  There are still three billion people in the world without electricity and in many parts of the world the main solution is kerosene lanterns which are expensive and dangerous.  As a result there are still places around the world where when the sun goes down it becomes too dark to study, work or do much of anything that requires a light source.  As a matter of fact, the current President and CEO of the company Seungah Jeong was one such person person and it is this drive that has helped make the company global with the plan to light the world literally.

The original Luci was straight forward, an inflatable waterproof lantern that can be charged during the day to last well into the night. The lights over the years have changed with the times but one thing has always been the same, the business model.  They sell the lanterns in developed countries at retail prices so they can give them to underdeveloped lands at a price that can be afford or for free through donations.  If you buy a lantern as a gift to a dark country you know that the money is going straight to the manufacturer with no middle man to get a cut.  It is only $10 to send one out to the world and I encourage everyone to make the small price gesture that helps light the way for others in need.

HOW IT WORKS:

  1. Buy a light or lights through GIVE Luci program.
  2. Your GIVE light goes directly to non-profit partners.
  3. Non-profit partners working actively on the ground deliver them to where they are needed most.

I have been very proud of bringing the Lucis to the attention of our readers as a company I personally champion.  So without further ado let’s talk about one of the handiest lights for developed, lit countries, the MPowerd Luci Inflatable Smart Solar Light Mobile Charger.  From here on I’ll just call it the Luci Charger to save page and brain space.

The Luci was already a great emergency light source you could leave on a window sill or camping because of it’s ease of use, low profile when the lantern is not inflated (does not have to be inflated to charge) and with it’s flash and SOS functions it could literally be a lifesaver.  Now if you find that your phone has died you can use the built in solar mobile charger. If the rechargeable unit gets a USB charge it takes 2-3 hours, solar it takes up to 14 hours to be fully charged.  This is great especially if it is an emergency since you don’t have to have a phone fully charged to get help.   That may seem like a really long time for a charge but you are literally charging from the sun at that point which can take longer, though the important thing again is you don’t need a fully charged phone to to make an emergency call, just a couple of percents to get it going enough for a text, call or FB post.  And when they come looking for you you can have the lamp flashing SOS.

This little Luci Charger can do more than that though, it can be at the life of the party instead of just for camping or emergencies.  I have gotten a few Luci models over the years and they always get added to our summer pool nights.  I like to take a heavy weight and attach it to the handle and watch it sink partway under the water.  Then I make use of it’s 36 LEDs, 24 white and 12 RGB, that can send out up to 250 Lumens of light.  As a result they light up that section of the pool and I can have my all white Luci floating around with flashing lights and my Lucis with RGB all get set to color changing the whole pool time. It also looks good on the ground around the pool lit up so people can be safer while walking around it.  Even in Las Vegas where the winters are almost to freezing and the summers are desert heat we leave the Lucis out to charge and I have one that has never been taken out of the sun for five years that works just as good as the day I got it, still inflates and is still waterproof, though the plastic of the lantern has begun to lose some of it’s malleability.  If that doesn’t show how tough they are I’m not sure what does, especially since if it gets a hole you could use a standard patch kit to repair it or buy a couple of new ones so that more people around the world benefit from a Luci.

One of the new features on the Luci Charger is that it is now phone compatible, you can adjust the lights how you want through a phone app via Bluetooth! This has made it even more impressive for mood lighting or maybe a lantern can be put somewhere and if you lose power and it is charged you can just use your phone to turn it on and off as you leave rooms or got to sleep.

My big concern was that having a USB port might make it no longer waterproof up to a meter.  It seems my concern was unjustified though since they use a stopper similar to the one used to hold the air in when you inflate a ball, pool toy or mattress just designed to plug a different shaped hole, in this case the one over the USB port. So if you plan to go camping on a river that you are kayaking you don’t have to worry about it getting to splash damaged or submerged to work.

Apparently it is obvious I can’t say enough positive things about the MPowerd Luci Inflatable Smart Solar Light Mobile Charger and every concern that presented itself proved unwarranted, one of the latest additions to the Luci family has definitely earned it’s spot of prominence. The emergency and relief effort uses are staggering as are the humanitarian as since 2012 when the company started they have affected over 3 million lives and counting. Donate $10 to improve the world, and while you are at it you should pick up a couple for yourself which in turn will help more people. There are no cons or downsides, except maybe the fact that you do need it to be charged.

Kingston Nucleum USB Hub Review

A concern for just about everyone who buys an Apple Notebook, two small USB-C connections just won’t cut it for their mobile lifestyle. Thankfully, Kingston has come up with something that takes up one of the ports, a USB-C 7-in-1 hub that allows the owner to do everything from use their favorite monitor and mouse to a favorite keyboard and more.

Kingston’s Nucleum has a built-in USB-C drive connection cord that gives enough room to use the connections but not for the cord to hang off a surface and get caught up in things as the cord is just a few inches long. The device is covered in polished aluminum so it doesn’t look cheap and goes nicely with most computers. The connections, which are really what this is about, consist of two USB-C ports, two USB 3.1 connections, and a 4K HDMI port which can come in really handy when working with a monitor or, in our case, a television.

The last two connections are pretty important: Both microSD and SDHC card reader slots! During September and October we travel A LOT and take tons of pictures and video. All of the adapters that let me plug the microSD or SDHC cards into my computer simply have not worked. As a result, our nice expensive camera and video camera tend to just sit in a bag while we use our phones to take pictures. This unit functioned exactly as promised, however, and the transfer rate was exceptional – offloading memory cards full of images took mere moments.

A couple other cool features of the Kingston Nucleum  is that you can have every device connection used all at the same time! So maybe you have things plugged into all of the connections except one USB 3.1, you can still plug into that and charge your phone or a portable battery bank.

You can probably buy an adapter that does many of the things the Kingston Nucleum can do for cheaper, but odds are you won’t get the high standards of quality we have come to expect with the Kingston name and it will probably look cheaper as well whereas the brushed finish does add a lot to the look. It also means playing roulette with the card readers.