Thursday, March 26, 2015

Back this Kickstarter: Lost Protectors

Just wanted to throw this out to the three of you still reading. I've been watching the Kickstarter for a line called The Lost Protectors by a group known as Play With This Too. Essentially modern takes on the classic Pretenders of Transformers, Lost Protectors is a line of six inch scale, fully articulated figures based on Generation One Pretenders (and a whole boatload of new designs) with smaller tech drones that resemble the inner robots. Now, the tech drones don't fit in the larger figures like Pretenders, but they do break down into weapons and armor for the larger figures. On top of that, the six inch figures pop apart at the joints and can be mixed and matched to your heart's content. The whole idea is amazingly cool and the painted prototype of their first figure, Desolataur (a new take on Skullgrin) looks AMAZING.

Unfortunately, the Kickstarter has only three days left and they are still roughly $17,000 below their goal. That's a real bummer as, like I said, the line is amazing. So I'm calling on all of you out there to pledge if you are able, even if it's just a few bucks. Every little bit helps and we're coming down to the wire. If this project goes through, I promise I'll review Desolataur as soon as I have him in hand. If you won't contribute for your own sake, do it for the Zarak! Look at my face, do you want to see it crying when this doesn't go through? Do you want to live with the guilt? CAN you live with it? Pledge the hell out of this Kickstarter.

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Megaforce Strikemaster

Got a first for The Barracks today, the oldest item I have written about to date (not counting reissues of G1 Transformers) from a line I had a special love for as a kid, the Strikemaster Orbital Attack Shuttle of Megaforce!

One of Kenner's lesser remembered but nifty entries, Megaforce was the loosely defined story of the war between the Triax and V-Rocs forces and the giant, ridiculous war machines they loved. Debuting in 1989 and getting cancelled after only one series of vehicles, the line isn't very big but almost everything it offers is gold. Ridiculous, impossibly awesome gold, the Strikemaster being no exception. As I managed to snag one still in box, let's start with a look at that.

The front features some nicely done art of the Strikemaster preparing to launch the shuttle section while blasting at unseen V-Rocs forces in a desert setting. Until recently, I had always assumed Megaforce was somewhat playing on the popularity of the Gulf War at the time (and if you think nobody would attempt such a thing, you are obviously forgetting how big those Desert Storm trading cards were), but seeing as how Megaforce debuted in 1989 and the Gulf War didn't officially begin until 1990, I guess I just associated the two due to military hardware and desert settings. Though it would have been a much different war if any of these machines had taken the field.

The sides, bottom and top of the box show the Strikemaster in action, but since that action consists mainly of "raising gantry" and "lowering gantry", they are a bit repetitive so I'm only going to show you the top panel. You may have already noticed something a bit off about the scale here, that is meant to be a full-sized battle tank the shuttle is hauling.

The back of the box features blueprints of the Strikemaster's design, highlighting various features. It also shows why I was able to score this item in box for only fourteen bucks with shipping, there's a bit of crushing and water damage to the bottom. As the actual toy was perfectly intact and I'm not a mint in box kind of guy, this doesn't bug me.

Out of the box, the Strikemaster is composed of three main sections; the booster rocket, orbital shuttle and gantry. No assembly is required in this case, but there is a small sticker sheet included. Surprisingly, the stickers are still viable and hold like new, though they have developed a few small cracks and bubbles in the printing.

The gantry section is essentially a mix between a weaponized version of the crawler transport used to move shuttles to the launchpad in real world space missions and a ICBM carrier. The gantry lacks any sort of rolling wheels so I would refrain from "driving" it across rough surfaces as you will most likely scuff up the sculpted treads.

As it is both transportation and launch pad, the gantry is jointed at the base and at the "neck" so the command pod can remain level during launch. The swiveling tan cannons on the roof coupled with the four fixed guns on the nose ensure the gantry isn't a sitting duck when bringing the shuttle within launch distance. While the gantry alone isn't all that exciting, the detail level on it is still impressive, with numerous vents, rivets and panels across it's armored skin.

The next section is the booster rocket and here's where the gung ho absurdity really begins to shine. The packaging claims this is merely a three stage booster rocket and lists no armament or crew for it, unlike the others sections, but the sculpt details say otherwise. The middle section clearly sports a cockpit and there are no less than three double-barreled turrets present (one is on the underside of the central section.) You could argue that the weapons are automated, or that the decision to make it an unmanned rocket came late in the design process, but I prefer a different interpretation; the Triax commanders are so committed to winning (or just firing the most guns ever) that they fill even their disposable rockets with soldiers. Steering back towards the topic at hand, the bright yellow-green of the booster makes a nice contrast with the olive, tan and cream of the rest of the Strikemaster. You may also be wondering about the notched strut jutting from the back of the center section, this is because the rocket acts as a giant missile when attached to the shuttle portion of the Strikemaster, as well as serving another purpose when docked that I'll get to in a minute.

Finally, we come to the shuttle itself. Arguably the "actual" Strikemaster, the shuttle is the largest and most involved of the pieces. Displaying some serious Rule of Cool, the shuttle is a mass of guns and awesome, featuring five sculpted turrets scattered along it's body, spring-loaded wings, a hunchbacked secondary command cockpit and cargo space for two vehicles in it's bed. I'm not entirely sure what the Strikemaster's mission profile would be; it has a large booster rocket, implying it is designed for actual space missions, but seems to be mainly intended to deliver vehicles to battle rather than be an active assault vessel itself, but then it is crawling with weapons. Does it launch at an angle and parachute tanks down? Can it land on it's own and let them off? If so, why does it need a launch system initially? I'm thinking about this too much.

The two clips in the bed of the shuttle are designed to hold any of the individual ground units from the line, like the included tank seen here. I forgot to take any pictures of the tank by itself, but it is nicely detailed for an item roughly the size of a postage stamp with several paint applications and a die-cast metal body.

Putting the Strikemaster together is as easy as plugging the booster into the underside of the shuttle and sliding the combined pieces onto a rail on the gantry's neck via a track on the underside of the booster. The combined vehicle is impressively over the top.

The Strikemaster is at it's best in a mid-launch pose, ready to fling the shuttle off into...whatever it is giant gun shuttles do. Though there is no real way to launch the shuttle from the gantry, the booster can be explosively detached by the small trigger under the left fin, activating the spring-loaded mechanism. This also allows the shuttle's wings, normally held in place by the booster's fins, to spring forward.

Altogether, the Strikemaster is an excellent summation of the Megaforce ideal; giant military vehicles powered by their own sheer absurdity. Despite only being produced for a short time, Megaforce doesn't seem to have the same level of following some of it's contemporaries still hold, so most items from the line can be had for reasonable prices if you keep an eye out (as I mentioned earlier, this cost me all of fourteen dollars.) The Strikemaster is one of the smaller and tamer of the designs, which include such things as a land-based aircraft carrier and massive jets that are also massive tanks depending on how you look at them. Megaforce was an inspired and underappreciated line full of zany, fantastic ideas. If you don't mind the glorification of war, it's a pretty neat line to get into.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Magic: The Gathering, Legacy Collection - Garruk Wildspeaker

At this point, I'm sure it will come as no surprise at all when I tell you I have always been a big fan of the card game Magic: The Gathering. Having an older brother who played just when Magic was starting out in 1993 and groups of friends from then up until the current day who enjoy playing, it has been a part of my life for a long time. The game has a reputation of being a more offensive nerdy interest than most but I have never really understood why. It's less time consuming than Dungeons & Dragons, there's a ton of strategies and interactions between cards and it's just plain fun, dammit!

The point I'm eventually getting to here though, is that despite existing for over twenty years now, the Magic universe has not seen much in the way of non-game related merchandise. There were a couple of statues and...T-shirts mainly. Funko, purveyors of Pop! Vinyl figures of every single character you've ever loved, ever (seriously) has changed that. After crushing the world beneath their army of unstoppably adorable super-deformed pop culture icons, Funko decided to branch out in more standard action figures in a seven inch scale. Game of Thrones was their first attempt and while I don't dig on the show myself, I had read very positive reviews of the results.

Then they announced they were working on a line of Magic figures featuring some of the major Planeswalkers from the game lore (Planeswalkers being, for those not in the know, powerful magic users who possess a unique ability to travel between the dimensions of the Magic universe, known as "planes.") The initial list wasn't that interesting, mostly the boring, single-colored versions of the main Planeswalkers Wizards of the Coast use as the "face" of the game a lot. I kind of forgot about them for awhile until actual pictures of the figures surfaced. Then things got interesting and I'll tell you why, but not yet! Read on...

So this is Garruk, one of the original first five Planeswalkers printed way back in Lorwyn that each represented a single color of magic that can be drawn upon in the game world. Linked with green mana, a type based around life and growth, but also the savagery of brutal truths of nature, Garruk primarily embodies strength and savagery. A beast mage, Garruk summons mighty creatures to aid in his hunts and tracks the most powerful prey across the multiverse using his Planeswalking ability.

Right out of the package, you can see Funko nailed the spirit of Garruk's character. In a line of seven inch figures, Garruk clocks in closer to eight, towering over his smaller wave mates. Clad in a mix of furs, bits of armor, tattered cloth and ragged chainmail, the detail on Garruk's clothing alone is insane. This is no real shock though, as Gentle Giant Studios, well known for their super-realistic, highly detailed work, did the sculpting here. The details just keep popping out the more you look him over; spikes emerging from the pelt over his shoulders, a broken sword dangling from his belt, small braids at the end of his beard.

This version of Garruk bears his signature helmet with narrow eye slits and long curved tusks flanking the jaw. Out of the box, one of my sample's tusks was curled up in his collar and thus bent, but it straightened itself out quite a bit once I freed it.

Garruk has about twenty-four points of articulation that I can count; ball jointed neck, hinge and swivel shoulders, bicep swivels, hinge elbows, hinge and swivel wrists, ab crunch, swivel waist, hinge and swivel hips, hip swivels, double hinge knees and hinge and swivel ankles. Whew. A lot of this is well hidden by his costume, but some of it is unfortunately hindered by it as well. Due to his hair and the beast pelt on his shoulders, Garruk's head doesn't move much and his loincloth/skirt bits limit his upper leg movement somewhat.

Another articulation related note that also crosses into quality control is this.

Note the gap in the plastic between the where the lower arm and upper arm sections meet at the elbow. This was not like that out of package; the elbow joint was stuck when I first tried it and a bit of force caused it come free with an ominous crack, and that gap. The peg holding the arm together doesn't appear to have broken and the joint isn't particularly loose, but it still worries me. Of course, this is most assuredly a problem only in my particular sample so no worries.

Garruk's only accessory is his massive axe and is probably all he could ever need. The only other thing I can imagine a Garruk figure coming with is a removable helmet and who knows, this is only series one.

Now the interesting thing about this figure (and a reason I caved to buying it) is the name on the package versus the sculpt. This is clearly Garruk, but the name written on the box is Garruk Wildspeaker, the title of his first card when he was a purely green, fun lovin', beast callin' fellow without a care in the multiverse beyond bigger hunts. This figure though, with a sickly pale greenish tint to the skin, spines poking up through his pelts and a more ragged, menacing appearance overall exactly matches the art of Garruk, Apex Predator. Further backstory is required. After a bit of kicking around, doing what he does, Garruk crossed paths with the black-aligned Planeswalker and necromancer, Liliana Vess. The two clashed and after a prolonged battle, Vess blasted him with a powerful demonic artifact called the Chained Veil and fled. The Veil's power cursed Garruk and warped his powers, driving him mad for a time (creating the green/black "flip" card, Garruk Relentless/Garruk the Veil Cursed) until he found a method of temporarily suppressing it. Emphasis on temporary as the curse soon returned stronger than ever and drove Garruk to begin hunting all planeswalkers instead of just Liliana. Jace Beleren, the first blue-aligned Planeswalker and fan Mary Sue, eventually stopped Garruk from turning into a full on demon, but was unable to defeat him. More disturbingly, when Jace touched Garruk's mind, he discovered that while the Veil's influence had made him into a murderous nightmare, Garruk was aware of this and liked what he had become.

So this figure is that Garruk, the plane-hopping serial killer who revels in his handiwork, not the standard version with the Wildspeaker subtitle. This both makes sense and is a little odd to me. It makes sense to release the first Planeswalker figures in their original and best known forms to attract the most buyers, but the Apex Predator version of Garruk plays heavily into the storyline of the current core set, Magic: 2015, as well as the related tie in materials like the Xbox Live version of M15. It seems Funko erred on the side of caution with this one and in the long run I guess it doesn't matter, but I find Garruk's descent into madness the more interesting part of his story. In fact, I only grabbed this figure after determining the sculpt was based on Apex Predator and not Wildspeaker.

"You call yourself a hunter..."

So my opinion might seem a little biased based on my love of the game, but really Garruk here is the only figure in the initial offering I felt I needed to own. This isn't Funko's fault by any means, just most of the main Planeswalkers aren't that interesting in design. The construction, paintwork and sculpt on Garruk are for the most part excellent and the Magic series is a strong addition to Funko's repertoire. For around sixteen to twenty bucks, the line is on par with other figures in this scale price-wise and if you dig the game or just need some cool fantasy-themed figures to fill out your shelves, these are for you. I hope this line continues on strong, I want to see Ob Nixilis (in any of his forms), Kiora, Sorin, Karn, and dare I say it, a giant-sized Nicol Bolas.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Deforming Foam Bullet Blaster (Adventure Force Robot K-03)

As a Transformers collector, I am no stranger to knock-off/off-brand robots that turn from one thing into another. Most of these are of poor construction and quality; cheap, waxy plastic, crummy decals and questionable transformation schemes. Every once in awhile though, someone out there will surprise you. This is the tale of one such item, the mighty Deforming Foam Bullet Blaster!

A whopper of a name that basically translates to "off-brand Nerf gun that turns into an off-brand Transformer", this is one figure in a series of five offered by the same company responsible for the equally interesting off-brand Devastator set that showed up recently (reviewed here by the fine folks at CollectionDX) with the same charming eccentricities. I don't always focus on the packaging of an item, but this one merits a closer look for a few reasons so let's dive in.

Ol' Blasty here comes packaged in a huge clamshell with a cardboard insert. The card features a lot of nice tech details, tons of Chinese lettering that I can't read and some amusing Engrish, common to items of this nature. Despite the bright colors and flashy graphics, the figure itself is nicely centered and displayed, letting you know exactly what you're in for.

Various call outs on the package include notation of the metal contained within, a shot of the combined form of the five robots in this line and of course, DIE-CAST DEFORMING SOFT BULLET BLASTER!

The back of the card showcases the five individual robots and their combined form once again.

One of the cooler things about these guys is the variation in design. It's kind of hard to make out from the tiny computer renderings on the backing card, but each gun and corresponding robot have their own unique look. The gun modes all have a quasi-futuristic vibe that reminds me of the weapon design in the Dead Space series, number five especially looks like something out of the third game.

Now, with an item like this, you're never sure what to expect. It's not an actual knock-off and the company's past work on their not-Devastator gave me high hopes but I was still blown away once I got this guy open. The gun mode has a nice heft to it thanks to die-cast metal in the handle and underside of the barrel, but the real surprise was the firing mechanism. Due to the sheer amount things this piece does (transform, combine and fire darts), I feared the Nerf-gun aspect of the figure would suffer because I just couldn't imagine a way to incorporate it into this process and still have to function well. Boy, was I wrong! This thing COOKS. Because of American safety laws, even the most formidable Nerf guns tend to fire with a disappointing "puh" due to weakened springs. Not so with this fellow. When I loaded up and fired one of the six gray darts as a test, it easily crossed the room and stuck to the far wall with a satisfying thwack. I haven't tested it, but I imagine it actually hurts to be shot with this thing, truly a rare occurrence these days. (Update: Yes, yes it does. Ow.)

Another benefit of being a non-American design is that the toy is not constrained by the American safety requirement of shockingly bright colors and a blaze orange barrel cap. This is to keep kids (or yourself, if you're not too bright) from being accidentally shot by the police, should they mistake it for a real gun. I'm not planning on any outdoor games of cops and robbers near banks anytime soon, so I think I'm safe. It's Chinese origins mean the toy can have a nice, subtle color mix of bronze, silver and black instead of blinding neons.

There are a lot of tampographed details on the blaster including Adventure Force (the name of the line?), K-03 ROBOT (the number this one is in the series of five), a sort of warning symbol near the butt and, best of all, a modified Generation 2 Autobot symbol of questionable legality. This is a great touch and mirrors the altered Decepticon symbol the not-Devastator members bear, giving the almost-Decepticons a force of almost-Autobots to face.

Beyond the paint detailing, the gun sculpt itself is rich with tech details to catch and hold the eye. I'm no gun expert, so I can't tell you if there is basis in real-world design buried in this, but it looks like it could be a plausible, if advanced, weapon. It reminds me of Deckard's pistol in Blade Runner, though it is clearly not an exact match. In a nice bit of integration, the robot's own weapon attaches to the top of the gun as a small sight.

Transformation is refreshingly simple but well designed; the handle unfolds into arms, the kibble underneath the barrel into legs and the main body slides down to form the torso. Robot mode is solid, with the barrel and firing mechanism of the pistol forming the majority of the body and the metal in the lower legs balancing it out nicely. This mode reveals a bit of turquoise on the shoulders as well as some copper and green for the robot head.

The robot has decent proportions and holds together well, the plastic quality is fairly high and everything feels nice and solid. One of the only real quibbles I have with it design wise is that the hands, which slide out from the forearms, have no locking point along their track so they will sometimes slide back into the arm against your will (robot hands being notoriously defiant.)

The head sculpt is nothing to write home about, but nor is it bad in any particular way. It's vaguely Optimus Prime-ish but is just generic enough to be a little irritating, if only they had gone just a bit further with it. In a nice touch though, the head is flanked by two twin-barreled cannons that can swivel up and down.

Articulation is varied, but a little stiff. Ratchet joints that angle forward and back extend from the body which the arms then attach to via ball joint. Furthermore, there are ratchet joints at the elbow and upper arm. The legs consist of ratchets at the hip that can swing forward, backward and outward, hinge knees and toes that can move if you need them to. Earlier, I mentioned I had a couple of quibbles with this figure's design and here is where the second comes up. Though the hips should have a wide range, their forward motion is severely restricted by the abdominal region of the body; when moved forward, the hip strikes the body which pushes it upward, which in turn pushes the chest out of place. You can somewhat avoid this by moving the hip forward ninety degrees then pulling the body piece back down, but it doesn't sit quite flush. This, like the hand issue, is minor but seems like something that should have been caught early on in design.

So to be completely honest here, I was in love with this thing the moment I found out it existed, having it in hand now does not change my opinion. It is such an amazingly insane and amazingly ambitious idea, I couldn't resist it's charms. I keep running over all the things this toy embodies that makes the super nerd in me squeal with piggish delight. Die-cast metal! Nerf gun to Transformer! Combining robot team! Despite it's flaws, this is an amazing, amazing piece that I cannot recommend enough if it's your kind of thing. These guys are sold directly from China via a distribution company selling through Amazon so the price and the wait can be factors in deciding if you want to purchase one of these, but keep in mind that shipping is free and my particular Deforming Foam Bullet Blaster arrived a whopping fifteen days before it was estimated to. Just please don't buy all of robots one, two, four and five before I can!

The Gun Club

Friday, November 7, 2014

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Krang (Classic Collection)

First off, let's get this out of the way: Yes, The Barracks are back online and yes I hope to be writing reviews again with quite a bit of regularity. Where have I been? None of your beeswax, nosey-parker!

Ahem, anyways...

Today, I'm going to talk about a figure a great deal of you probably have fond memories of (unless you aren't male/didn't grow up in the mid to late 80's), the mighty Krang!

Playmates has been reissuing classic Ninja Turtles figures as Toys 'R' Us exclusives for awhile now, but I am not so big a fan of the series that I felt the need to own any. With Krang, that changed. As a kid, my tastes in Turtles skewed more towards the villains and more outrageous looking characters than the heroes in some percentage of shell themselves. Obviously, a giant talking brain from another dimension with a voice like rubbing your finger on the side of a balloon was right up my alley. Krang fast became a childhood favorite, dethroned only by the later released version of him in his better known "half-naked, progressive-rock front man" android body typically seen on the show.

Though I (and quite a few other collectors out there) would love to see Krang's android body on shelves again, this version of him in his simpler robotic walker was the first form he saw release in and the first one I owned as a little guy, so it holds a bit of nostalgia for me.

I forgot to take any pictures because I'm a savage, but Playmates recreated the look of the original line's packaging pretty faithfully with classic artwork, logos and more to give it the feel of vintage without being a perfect copy. In fact, the only bits that would give it away as not being vintage at first glance are the nickelodeon (it annoys me more than it should that they don't capitalize their own network's name, BTW) logo and a small call out on the front and back of the card informing you that Krang was originally released in 1988.

Krang takes the slightest bit of assembly when taken out of his package; the arms must be popped on to the body of the walker and a hose linking his brain-draining gun attached, but this takes roughly two seconds and everything fits as snugly as it did in 88'. Once his walker is assembled, Krang is ready for action!

I've was always a big fan of toys with "companion" figures (think Target/Head/Powermasters,etc) where a larger figure came with a smaller buddy of some sort and I think this is half of why I liked Krang so much as you get both the main brain himself and his robot walker in the same package. True, his walker isn't really a character on it's own (and should probably be considered the companion in this scenario), but it still feels like you're getting more with this pair than you would with a "normal" figure. Plus being able to actually remove him from the walker adds so much more play value, can you imagine if he was glued or (God-forbid!) molded as part of the walker? Shudder

Both Krang and his walker show the trademark features of the Ninja Turtles line; bright colors and intricate sculpting. The walker is primarily a light grey-green in the main body with lighter gray arms, turquoise hips, and light purple lower legs/feet. A bit of red, yellow and purple is used for detailing and to highlight some of the sculpt, such as tech designs on the back and hips. A clear canopy piece folds down to cover Krang when he's piloting the walker and his brain-drain gun is the same light grey of the walker's arms.

Krang himself is an impressive collection of creases, wrinkles and veins cast in a wonderfully bright bubblegum pink. Touches of blue highlight some of his veins, his eyes are yellow and his sharp teeth are white. One of the things this version of Krang beat the android body version on is the veins; if I remember correctly (and I could very well not), android body Krang skimped on the vein detailing and was slightly more plain because of this.

You get a total of eight points of articulation between machine and brain with the walker having hinged shoulders and both hip and knee joints. The arms are a bit long and stiff to be of much use (an elbow joint would have really helped out here) but until I finish my time machine and go back to warn the Playmates designers of 1988, they'll have to do. The leg joints are ratchets to better support the weigh of the body and only swing back and forth, limiting your posing options.

Krang sans walker has only two points of articulation at the bases of his tentacles, allowing them to rotate but I'm fine with this. Mainly because you can pose him to look like he's doing his best impression of Meatwad dancing. Look at that picture and tell there isn't a little bit'o Krang somewhere in Meatwad's family tree.

Meatwad make the money, see?
Of course, in the show, Krang's walker didn't have arms and he just used his tentacles to manipulate things. This is easy enough to achieve by just popping the arms and gun cable off the body and voila! Show accuracy! Almost.

Overall, Krang is a pretty big hit. I forgot how much I used to love this guy until I had him in hand again and I feel like he is just as strong a figure now as he was then. The Classic Collection is a great way to get old school figures back into the hands of both collectors who miss them and kids who may know the Turtles, but not this exact form of the Turtles. Seeing as most of them are pretty cheap as well (I snagged Krang for nine bucks), I can't recommend the line enough if it is your kind of thing. I will be grabbing Slash as soon as I can find a decently priced one and I am sincerely hoping that Baxter Stockman gets the Classic Collection treatment as well, to complete my favorite Turtles enemies mini-collection.

Bonus points for Krang's hollow body allowing him to act as a boss finger puppet. I always assumed I was the only one to do this when I was kid, but Matt (of Dinosaur Dracula!) showed me I was not alone in his review of old brainface. Also, he remembered to take a picture of him still on card. You know what, just go read Dino Drac. ALL OF IT.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Barracks Special Report: Mr. Zarak goes to PAX

Got a little something different for you today in lieu of the usual reviews. Partially because it was my birthday and partially because it was there, I traveled to Boston last weekend to attend my (shockingly) first ever convention, PAX East! A large convention geared around games both electronic and of the good old fashioned paper variety, PAX is where companies can show off and promote goods both current and upcoming and fans can try out demos, play a multitude of games, get free stuff, buy non-free stuff and dress up like their favorite characters. Though it runs from Friday to Sunday, my group of friends and just attended Sunday's festivities but there was certainly no lack of things to do and see. As I spent 90% of my time annoying people with my camera, this is going to be picture heavy. You've been warned.

Approaching the convention center. That's my good friend Metal Kyle on the lower right. Oddly enough, his face really does that in person.

A view of the lobby. Despite the massive amounts of people in attendance, getting in was quick and easy with no real line.

Really cool statue of a savage wizard generating a glowing orb of energy. I like his floating spell book and the ground beneath him shattered by his power! No idea what he's from, but what I learned this weekend was that if I don't recognize a character, odds are he/she is from League of Legends.

The first cosplayer I encountered and the first of a few Chells from Portal. This girl gets bonus points for making her own gun however, instead of just buying the super expensive (but super cool) NECA replicas. Plus she's pretty cute.

Team Fortress 2 was a popular choice for costumes, but this pint-sized Pyro and Engineer were the only members of their class I saw. Plus they were like ten so it was adorable.

Another lobby statue, this one promoting a game called Firefall. The big machinery piece behind them rose up and down and had some flashing lights on it. A giant, pulsating phallic object behind a half-naked sci-fi chick, Freudian.

No idea what game this icy barbarian is from, but awesome statue.

The first of a few Borderlands Psychos running around. This one had a plasma cutter from Dead Space though. Meaning he either beat up Isaac Clarke or the CEC and Atlas Corporation have shady ties...

The white boards outside of some of the free play rooms had pretty nice illustrations on them.

Or just straight up amusing drawings like poor Link here.

This made me chuckle, especially since it was the next door down from the Smash Brothers one.

This guy had an awesome homemade Vault 53 outfit from Fallout: New Vegas. There were a lot of people who half-assed Fallout costumes by just wearing Vault 101 hoodies, but this guy went all out.

There were some large framed prints of video game art near a bank of escalators. Can't remember what game this is, but I know I've read about it in the past.

This one's not ringing any bells, but it's a cool spaceport type scene.

Pretty sure this is a Halo 4 landscape.

The robed figure crosses the desert, from Journey.

No idea if this guy is from a game or not, I just liked his style. Dig the birdcage staff.

A White Mage from the Final Fantasy series. Nice legs.

This chick was awesome, she was prancing through the hallways clacking her coconut halves together in a pretty damn good impression of Patsy from Monty Python and the Holy Grail. After I asked to take her picture, I found out she worked at the con and her giant backpack was full of free stuff!

This guy gave me a free pin and I admired his moxie enough to snap a picture.

One of many instances where when I didn't know who someone was dressed as, they turned out to be League of Legends characters. Which struck me as odd because before this, I was only vaguely aware of LoL, never realized it was such a force.

Lightning from Final Fantasy XIII. She just had to blink right when I took the picture...

I admire this girl's dedication; she could barely move in this thing and had two people helping her suit up intially, but that's a totally homemade and pretty impressive Swampert costume.

This guy was a perfect Luigi, when I saw him later, he had a tool belt complete with toilet plunger! I think the only reason it's absent here is because I caught him right as he was running for the bathroom. He was a good sport though and totally struck a pose.

These horse head masks crack me up so I had to get a picture of this guy when I saw him. Oddly, he would not be the only horse head mask wearer in attendance.

Ryu! This guy was good, he dropped into a Hadouken stance as soon as I lifted the camera. There were a decent amount of Street Fighter cosplayers around, including another Ryu, Dan, a Chun Li and a smoking hot Cammy I was too embarrassed to ask for a picture.

Auron from final Fantasy X. That sword is custom made and looked really cool.

Giant Chandra art adorning the walls of the Magic booth.

Rebecca and Barry from Resident Evil! Very cool.

Replica of Garrett's armor and bow from Thief.

Bethesda had a huge booth and was promoting The Elder Scrolls Online. This was one of a few giant screens showing teaser trailers. I couldn't garner much story wise since it's hard to watch even a thirty second video with a sea of people flowing around you, but it all looked very cool and slick.

Some folks in line to check out Elder Scrolls Online. This was one booth I had some interest in seeing the inside of, but the line wrapped all the way around and back so I passed.

Even the back of Bethesda's booth had awesome artwork.

I took a lot of pictures of Elder Scrolls Online stuff just because I love Elder Scrolls in general. I liked how these banners were staggered so they lined up at certain angles.

Another Elder Scrolls Online still.

These three characters featured heavily in all of the Elder Scrolls Online art and fought in one of the trailers. I'm not sure if they are unique NPCs you'll encounter or if they are just meant to be general representations of what your character could look like depending on your play style, but they were very nicely done.

I think this awesome giant skeleton dragon was part of the Neverwinter Nights display.

The Behemoth studios booth had this statue of the Blue Knight from Castle Crashers atop it.

Security at The Behemoth's display was tough, but adorable.

The back of The Behemoth's booth. Security was no nonsense about loitering.

I refrained from making a "I found you!" joke when I took this Waldo's picture, I'm sure he thanked me for it deep down inside.

Full sized statue of Sam Fisher from the Splinter Cell series at the Ubisoft booth.

Assassins were a popular costume choice, as seen here. I think there's at least three games worth of protagonists here. And that one guy who looks like he's mad just to be there? His attitude did not improve.

Nerdy though I may be, I don't think I had ever seen so many dice in one place in my life before I hit the vendor tables.

There's just something visually pleasing about that many dice sorted and arranged...

"You attempt to taste the rainbow! Roll for initiative!"

Sazh from Final Fantasy XIII. He didn't have a Chocobo chick in his hair, but he was a real nice guy so I let it slide.

Sazh's girlfriend was dressed as Chun Li. I don't remember that happening in XIII, but it probably would have made the plot more interesting.

This giant-ass mech was perched atop the booth for a game called Hawken. Occasionally, the base it stood on spouted up clouds of fog, shrouding it's feet.

Pop Cap had a whole mini carnival set up, complete with one of those test your strength games where you try to ring a bell by slamming down a hammer and a "Kiss the Zombie" booth for having your picture taken with a guy in a great Plants vs. Zombie Zombie costume. He was always swamped with people though so I failed to get a picture.

A fraction of the Magic cards available at the vendor tables.

Event Decks, Duel Decks, Pre-Cons, Fat Packs and more!

Inflatable Portal Sentry Turrets and unicorns. I think the unicorns are a Team Fortress 2 thing, but I'm not "hip."

A view from the escalator of a section of the PC game area where you could play a whole bunch of games against other folks.

Nintendo's pokemon booth had a guy in a giant Pikachu suit you could have your picture taken with. My apologies to the random woman I captured here; I wanted a picture of Pikachu but didn't want to wait in line, sorry if this picture somehow ends up ruining your life through a series of sitcom-esque hijinks.

The inside of the Pokemon booth, decorated with the newest generation of starters. And Pikachu because his contract calls for it and they don't care that he's fifty now and has a bad hip.

One of the many rooms set up with dozens of monitors and consoles running various games that you could jump in on and play whenever you felt like, this being the Xbox 360 room.

Another White Mage! Better costume design than the first one, but not as hot. That seemed to be a trend; Girls either had super involved, accurate costumes or if they were hot, less intricate versions that accented their hotness instead. No offense to this White Mage though, she was still cute, just the first one was rocking some sexy legs.

This was part of a free play DDR type game where you got up and danced to music. You can't tell from this shot, but this guy was burning up the stage to "Call Me Maybe."

A display case of classic Activision game patches and some prototype game cartridges. There was one called Save the Whales!

This girl was awesome. Not only did she have a perfect Prince costume, but she's a minor internet celebrity thanks to this great picture of her looming over PAX East 2012 with the Katamari, contemplating how many people, tables and booths she can roll up with it. She knew immediately what I was going to ask her before I even finished my sentence and confirmed she was indeed that same Prince.

The Blues Brothers were in attendance, that half tank of gas must have been enough to make it to Boston.

One of my favorite cosplayers, this guy made this insanely intricate Nightingale costume from Skyrim himself!

CHEWIE! Strangely the only Chewbacca present, hanging out with one of a few Links and a girl whose outfit I don't recognize off hand. Sorry lady, it still looked cool.

Aerial view of Microsoft's Xbox display.

The League of Legends booth. This place was hopping, literally as the MC had the crowd jumping and chanting and just generally going wild all day long. Apparently LoL players know how to party.

I think this chick was League of Legends related as well.

There were a few Steves from Minecraft who just had the mask and wore a normal blue T-shirt and jeans alongside it, but this kid gets kudos for going full on block and building his costume in such a way that he has no elbow joints. You got to suffer for your art man.

Princess Daisy and one of the radishes from Super Mario Brothers 2! I had to give that guy credit for originality, no one else is going to show up in that costume.

They were hyping the hell out of this Wildstar game. The gameplay itself just looked like World of Warcraft crossed with Starcraft to me, but what do I know.

A cool mural of various Marvel characters on the back of their booth promoting Marvel Heroes. Had to get it at an angle because too many people were milling around it.

Another Link accompanied by the Frost King from Adventure Time and a guy whose costume I didn't recognize, sorry man.

Another of my favorites, Donkey Kong ala Donkey Conga! It takes guts to run around a convention in just a furry vest and tie, but this guy was a pro. He went nuts on those bongos when I asked if I could get a picture of him.

The only Boba Fett I spotted.

This hallway was where you could play your 3DS with other people and it was packed. Might have had something to do with the giant, comfy bean bag chairs they lined it with.

Sweet D&D mural.

This vendor had a variety of solid metal dice. I almost bought the big bronze D20 to the top left, but twenty bucks was a bit rich for my blood.

Magic was all about putting sexy Chandra on everything they had.


They did shake it up with some sexy Liliana though.

Don't know what game this rhino man belonged to, but he merited a picture.

Even more dice!

These were one of the few things I actually stopped to fiddle with. Wooden half circles with slots carved along the rim called Skallops, they allowed you to build things by linking together playing cards. I tried to build something, but found the cards can get stressed easily and not support the weight of your work.

Ash! I just wanted a picture of this guy because he had a good costume, but I realized at the same moment that I had gone to high school with him.

This was a new (I think) D&D game that used cards and cool little mono colored miniatures like these trolls, elementals, drider and so forth.

Miniatures of Drizzt and Guenhwyvar. I really hate trying to spell that, I think R.A. Salvatore did that on purpose.

A dragon! The bright, singular colors coupled with the small size made me think of Monster in My Pocket, which I loved as a kid.

Relax, zombuddy!

This guy again and he still looks like he hates everyone around him.

I feel kind of bad because this guy really wanted to tell me about the game, whereas I really just wanted pictures of his booth art.

Ghostbusters and a female Han Solo. The Ghostbuster on the right was My Little Pony themed with pink and blue gear adorned with characters from the show. I will never understand Bronies.

Old school Power Rangers team! Under the masks, they're all dudes. Which made me wonder if the Yellow Ranger appreciated the irony.

Blizzard had a booth, but they were pretty low key, focusing mainly on Diablo III and a new Warcraft heroes game of some sort.

Awesome Harley Quinn and Joker couple. There were a couple other Harleys around and one other Joker, but these two looked the best.

A shot of the crowd. I've run into a lot of rude, foul-smelling nerds in my time, so I feared the worst  upon arrival, but everyone was very friendly and polite. Stay classy, PAX crowd.

This arena was set up so you could wallop people American Gladiators style.

The merc with a mouth! There was a green suited Deadpool too, but I apparently didn't get a picture of him.

Nice Helljumper costume from Halo: ODST.

Another Chell accompanied by an Aperture Sciences technician with a Companion Cube.

Gaige, the Mechromancer from Borderlands 2.

One booth was demonstrating a 3D printer, these are some of their wares. I was particularlly impressed by the Tachikoma.

The 3D printer at work. Doesn't look very exciting here, but it was cool it watch.

This game seemed to involve commanding fleets of steam punkish airships in battle. The guys playing it were kind of annoyed by me even though I asked if they minded me taking a picture, so I didn't stay here long.

Another Waldo and Walda!

This girl came running up as I was taking a picture of her friends and wanted in, so I said what the hell.

This chick had a very nice costume of the protagonist of Journey.

While Red Team boasted a Pyro, an Engineer, a Spy, a Medic and at least three Scouts, these guys were the only Blue Team members in attendance. They have their work cut out for them.

He's a little paunchy, but had a perfect Keaton Batman scowl.

I saw these two coming down the escalator from a distance and knew I needed a picture of them right there, but it didn't hurt that Sonic had a fantastic chest.

Doctor Horrible, taking a break from battling Captain Hammer.

Pretty much right around the corner from that Doctor Horrible, I found this one, complete with death ray and Wonderflonium.

Yet another cool, light up statue whose origins I know nothing about.

My sources tell me this is a character called Fiddlesticks from, you guessed it, League of Legends. All I know is he was on stilts and had a giant scythe, I wasn't messing with him.

Finding both Jesus and Waldo in the same day was rewarding.

I forgot to take a picture of their sign, but this is from the booth of a company called Geek Chic who make really fantastic wooden furniture and replica weapons.

Their work was all very impressive and if I had had a few hundred extra bucks on me, I would own this war hammer.

All their pieces were very nice and I think they were my favorite vendor booth. Also, they had wooden mustaches on pocket chains like the upper lip equivalent of  monocles.

They had quite the selection of weapons with very fair prices.

They also make things like this hard wood gaming table, though I was a bit more interested in the dungeon terrain they had set up in it.

Wouldn't be a gaming convention without Steve Jackson!

Another of my favorites were this Elite NCR Ranger and (I think) NCR Sniper complete with New California Republic flag!

Another Ash with a Pikachu that wasn't just a stuffed toy for once! I didn't notice at the time, but I love how he darkened and thickened his eyebrows to look more cartoony.

Another fantastic one, this time the Sith Stalker skin you can unlock in Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. It's a really delightfully evil looking, cyborg failed Sith apprentice with a mask like Boushh's and a ton of lightsabers clipped to the belt and this guy nailed it, he's even holding his primary saber reversed like how your character grips his in game.

Random zombie chick mannequin from the booth for Dead Island: Rip Tide. The rest of which I apparently didn't think was important enough to photograph but included a large fake palm tree.

Snake? Snake?!? SNAAAAKKKEEEEEEE!!! There were a few Snakes of various solidity around, but this was the only one with a box! Also, the others managed to evade me before I could get pictures. Damn, they were taking their cosplay seriously!

I won't even try to lie to you by claiming to know what Solforge is all about, but the art is pretty fancy.

Solforge also had this giant, spinning death sun hanging above the booth. I risked life and limb by standing still in the middle of an aisle during a convention to wait for it to come around for a good picture.

Dragons in futuristic D20 cities? Cyber-Wizards regarding robot skulls? Spinning orbs of fiery, iron ringed death? What's your game, Solforge?

The other side of the booth was devoted to a game called Ascension, which I think is just a card game and not also a video game as I had initially assumed, it was just being promoted in both sections of the convention center. This was Ascension's giant hanging banner and it totally trounces Solforge's banner of the same size. "Cyber-Wizards? Boring! Eat hooded mage guy slicing up demon octopus tentacles, Solforge!"

Alright well maybe the Ascension booth art isn't as exciting as a dragon, but it's still pretty nifty. I like the multiple fine, over-lapping lines style this artist has.

Ubisoft would like you to know they have another Assassin's Creed game coming out. I know repetition is the whole point, but these "Assassin in white in front of a white background with only his weapons differentiating him from any of the other protagonists" covers are just so bland.

I've heard The Last of Us is pretty good. The booth was of course playing video of that fungus that bursts out of ants' heads after zombifying them to remind you both of the game's plot and how horrible it will be when one of those fungi catches wind of this idea and decides it's a good one.

Full sized Iron Man cut out on the front of the Marvel Heroes booth. There was a slick Black Costume Spidey on the other side too, but too many people in the way again.

A banner of Link from the Nintendo booth.

The back of the Nintendo booth had some nice, big art of recent games, including Pikmin the Third.

And Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate. Right next to Pikmin 3! You think they'd break up the threes.

See? They could have dropped The Wonderful 101 here right in the middle and had much better balance.

Solforge isn't the only game in town when it comes to big, aerial spinny-things,

Lego had a Lego City: Undercover booth right next to Nintendo where you could get your picture taken with a guy in big, kind of unnerving Chase McCain costume.

I saw this Johnny Cage early on, but he eluded me at first. When I found him again, he was accompanied by a Tifa so, bonus. Much like Donkey Kong earlier, I admire this guy for having the balls to walk around a convention shirtless all day.

Princess Zelda and yet another character I didn't recognize until a friend informed me she too is from League of Legends, her name is Caitlyn apparently. They also happened to be really hot Asian chicks.

Old Famicom cartridges! Tactics Ogre, Mario Kart, Super Mario 3, some form of Bomberman, a Dragon Warrior, awesome.

I took this for a better shot of the Ultraman game, but I just spotted a Gundam head poking up from the first row as well.

This replica of a Zed's Meds machine was dispensing free baseball caps with the Borderlands logo on them when we first arrived, but was long depleted by the time I took this. I don't look good in caps anyways.

This bull sculpture is probably just always on display, but it was new to me.

The lone Batgirl I encountered in my travels. She had a pretty good costume though.

No idea who this girl was dressed as, but everyone else seemed to know and were complimenting her on it, so taking a wild guess I'm going to say someone from League of Legends. She had real metal wrenches and socket wrench bits accenting her tool belts and pouches and looked very much like a steam punk mechanic.

This dude was on a Poke Safari. I actually started talking to him because he and his friend were trying to give away a box of Yu Gi Oh cards they purchased during a last day of the convention sales frenzy from a vendor who had mislabeled them as Magic cards. They couldn't convince me to take them, but not fifteen seconds after leaving them on the bench with a free sign did a couple of guys come along and start praising their good fortune in finding the box.

Wreck-It Ralph had been giving me the slip all day, but I caught him and Vanellope at the end of the day and finally got a picture. I actually didn't realize his girlfriend was in costume at first since she's as tall as he is and not up to his knee with a giant head.

I had given the event schedule a single glance before shoving it in my bag never to be opened again and contenting myself with taking pictures of every little thing that amused me, but there was one thing that had caught my attention; Kris Straub was there somewhere. I wasn't about to miss gushing like an idiot fan boy to the man behind chainsawsuit and Starslip Crisis. I wasn't a complete idiot, but I still forgot to ask him to make out the copy of Starslip Volume 2 I bought to me personally instead of just jotting a generic signature. Oh well, he drew me a sketch of Mr. Jinx so really it's still a win.

This is the Adventure Time side of the giant swag bag WeLoveFine was handing out when you made a purchase at their booth. They had some really awesome and amusing shirt designs and this bag was a godsend; My usual messenger bag filled up almost immediately after we arrived and until I bought the shirts that earned me this bag, I was juggling freebies and my camera like a fool. A fool!

The other side of the bag features Hello Kitty as all of KISS. Sure, why not? It was real convenient having this bag hanging off your shoulder as you could fit literally anything in it and the opening was at the perfect angle to just dump whatever you picked up or were handed right into it. At one point, I was carrying the shirts I bought, Starslip Volume 2, all my free stuff, my winter coat and my messenger bag and it still wasn't even close to full! It's so damn big, I kept seeing it out the corner of my eye and thinking it was a person when I had it sitting in the passenger seat of my car on the drive home.

All the freebies and promotional materials I managed to gather throughout the course of the day, including my entry badge and a cool little necklace that fastens magnetically and I think is supposed to cause the pendant on the end to light up when you complete the connection, but mine doesn't. I actually found a whole lot more free stuff in another bag after taking this picture, but even so, I know I didn't even scratch the surface on the amount of things that were available for grabs.

We arrived not long after dawn and we left as the sun descended once more. My feet were blistered, my legs ached, my eyes were dry, my head hurt and I was coated in a glaze of dried sweat, but what an amazing day. Many thanks to my friends who invited me along and to all of the people who were kind enough to let me get pictures of them, I can't wait to go again next year!