BB-8 by Sphero - The top toy of Christmas 2015!

Going back to Christmas with today's post, what is it now 4 or 5 weeks ago? Disney were looking to capitalise on the release of their holiday blockbuster by flooding the Christmas market with as much merchandise as they could come up with. At the top of pretty much every Star Wars Christmas list was a small orange and white droid going by the name BB-8. I think he won many hearts and minds during the film and I can only imagine the number of people, and children in particular, who walked away from the movie wishing that they had their own BB-8.

Enter the Sphero company and their device controlled BB-8. All of a sudden the droid from the movies was brought to life in the palm of your hand. You could drive BB-8 anywhere, you could talk to BB-8 and give him commands, you could send him on patrol. He could even display holographic videos for you!

The promotional video leading up to his release made sure to show just how slick and cool this toy could be, and believe me it is cool. But unfortunately he is also somewhat limited with the firmware at release date. That isn't to say this isn't a good investment, nor am I saying it isn't a lot of fun, just that the marketing team did a really good job of selling him to the public.

Taking a look at the first, and probably most used, mode that comes with BB-8 "Drive" this basically hands you the steering wheel and you are able to take BB-8 for a spin around your living room. Admittedly the picture to the right doesn't really show the drive mode that well, I think a video would probably do it more justice, but it is a lot of fun. The mode is comparable to any RC toy in that you are just driving it around but let's face it, there aren't many, if any, other RC products out there on the market that are a Star Wars droid!

It's also a case of the technology in this particular RC toy that sets it apart from the crowd. There are
no wheels, BB-8 is a moving ball with a head on top just like in the movies. This is achieved with the clever use of magnets to keep the head in place, and gyroscopes for the movement and balance of the main body. All of a sudden this is a fun piece of tech to get your head around as well as a toy. But a word of warning if you have pets, the hair can get stuck in the small wheels inside the head. These wheels are their to help the head glide seamlessly in place on top of the moving body but if you have a dog, say a Labrador or Golden Retriever like me, then those wheels can get clogged up quite quickly if you don't take care of your BB-8.

So let's move onto the next BB-8 mode, Patrol. In this mode BB-8 takes control of the driving for you and provides you with feedback as he investigates his surroundings. These are usually the result of a collision with whatever he has detected but it is cool to see him realise he cannot continue on his current path and has to change direction. A nice little upgrade for this would be for BB-8 to remember what he has collided with so that he can map out the area he is in and avoid further collisions. This may well be possible in larger open areas but within the confines of my living room I saw BB-8 make enough collisions with the same objects to come to the conclusion that this currently isn't the case. The data that BB-8 feeds back to you is pretty cool in itself, and hopefully future firmware upgrades will add to this and continue to make BB-8 even cooler.

Earlier I mentioned that BB-8 can also display holographic messages for you, I forgot to mention that he can also record them, so let's take a look at what I meant. For £129 you will not get actual holographic display technology coming out of a toy, which is obviously a disappointment a who doesn't want to recreate the "help me Obi-Wan Kenobi" scene? Instead your "holographic" video is displayed on your device screen, although still in the form of a hologram being projected by BB-8... If you can line him up with it.

I've found it a bit tricky to get the videos lined up with BB-8 perfectly and as you can see sometimes it ends up looking like BB-8 is just emitting a glow that takes the form of a video. A further upgrade to this mode that I would like to see would be the ability to send the videos to your friends so that you really are transmitting a message. Right now, I have only been able to record and view my videos on my phone but as my dad also has his own BB-8 toy I would love to be able to send the videos to him as well and I think this would increase BB-8's appeal. What is the point of being able to record messages if you cannot send them to anyone else?

I think it is only fair to point out that BB-8 is also a tad on the small side. He's not life-size folks, instead he is about the size of a baseball I'd say. So make sure you take care not to lose him! As the old saying goes, size isn't important it's what you do with it that matters and there is an awful lot built into this small package. If Sphero continue to develop the firmware that you download to go with BB-8 so that new fun modes are added to the already impressive package that comes with BB-8 then I expect that there is a lot of life left in BB-8. But if they decide that the Christmas rush has passed and that they no longer want to add to what is a decent foundation for a really cool toy... Well then I think that would be a massive opportunity missed. Hopefully the guys and girls over at Disney can keep the pressure up on the Sphero team to keep delivering and BB-8 will continue to impress audiences worldwide!

Fallout 4 - The Wasteland Wacko Episode 2

I met Elvis once. He gave me some power armour, but he didn't autograph it. Maybe I went too fan girl... - The Wasteland Wacko

So there I was, back in the real world. Apparently those shiny new cars don't survive a nuclear apocalypse too well, but postboxes are a different story. Indiana Jones might have survived a nuclear blast in a fridge but if he had his in a postbox he wouldn't have been thrown about nearly as much. 

Also 200 years seems to change storage conventions somewhat. Back in my day you'd never store a grenade in a rubbish bin but some idiot had stored TWO in the one out on the edge of town! I couldn't just leave them lying around, some kid might walk by and pick them up!

Talking about some crazy new ideas in this world, since when did mole rats get this big? And why are they carrying around things such as shot glasses? It's a sad day for the world when your average mole rat is so down and out that they develop a drinking problem.

I made my way over to Concord and found a living legend. ELVIS! Well he claims that he isn't Elvis but I know he knows who he is so we will just play it coy, one day he will sign an autograph for me. I think some raiders had figured out his identity as well. They had him holed up in the local museum and they were shooting it up, I guess he refused to sing Jailhouse Rock for them.

Elvis was hanging out with this guy called Preston who called himself a "Minuteman", maybe it's because he would have been dead within a minute if I hadn't turned up. Not to blow my own horn but I went in there and saved everybody's ass. Apparently they were trying to make their way to my hometown because Grandma Druggy had a vision that it would be their sanctuary. I don't know about that, it looked pretty desolate to me but to each their own.

Before we could head out we were beset by another set of raider, no biggie, but then some crazy beast decided to show up and start tearing up the town. Apparently, it's called a Deathclaw, I don't know what it is but after I started shooting it it burst into flames. IT FRIGGING CAUGHT FIRE!!!!

I went back the next day and I swear the thing was still alive as it was farting into a puddle. I beat it with my security baton a bit more just to make sure it was dead.

Back at Sanctuary Hills I had to abandon my power armour after the fusion core Elvis told me about gave up the ghost. It's a shame as the green dress was getting a little breezy between the legs and Preston was starting to give me some funny looks. I decided that it was probably a good time for me to put on some proper armour, so I put together a decent set of mismatched armour that I stripped off all the raiders after I handed them a beatdown. If I make a proper name for myself out in the Wastelands then this look will be all the fashion!

Before I left Elvis asked me to make some beds for the group that had followed me back to Sanctuary Hills, I'm sorry Elvis, do I look like a carpenter to you? Maybe if you had autographed my power armour then the story would be different, but he just wouldn't shut up so I agreed to make some beds for them eventually. First I wanted to head out into the wastes and see what else was about.

First off I found this guy, a dog salesman who hates selling off his dogs. Sorry mate but I think you are in the wrong career. Maybe you should just be a dog walker, or try selling something else. There's enough junk out here you could probably find a buyer for anything!

Next up was some lady called Doc Brown. Now I've seen Back to the Future, and I am pretty sure that Christopher Lloyd is not a lady, not unless something changed over the last 200 years. Considering everything else that has happened I guess that anything is possible.

A little bit further down the road I found a Drive-in Movie Theatre, although I doubt that it has shown anything for a long time. But it was far from empty. There were ROUSs (if you don't get this reference go watch the Princess Bride now. GO. NOW.) and someone had a radio playing and set up some sort of bottlecap mine! The cheeky blighter. But they weren't expecting the Wasteland Wacko and his amazing ability for time travel!

Finally, I decided to head back to Concord and discovered a whole series of tunnels underneath the town. I'm not sure what was meant to be down here but I found some mutant crabs and yet more ROUSs and roaches.

As there was nothing happening here I decided to go back to the drive-in just in case our minelaying friend returned so that I could force feed him some ROUSs. But he wasn't there, so I wandered towards the big city on the horizon...

Football Manager 2016 - Charlton - Season 2 - Second Half Review

I can't lie, the first half of the season did not start exactly as planned. I'm used to being very successful on Football Manager in recent years so an 8 game streak without a win is something I really wasn't used to and part of me expected to get the sack before we picked up that first win. I decided that a lack of experienced players in the team had probably lead to some of the younger players knowing how to turn around the series of bad results and made a plan to sign an experienced player or two.

To raise the funds for these signings I ended up selling Igor Vetokele to League One Fulham who had managed to raise a large sum of money with all of the players that decided to leave them after their relegation in my first season, surprisingly Ross McCormack was still there and firing them back into the Championship. Unfortunately that is where the plan ended. While taking a look through Fulham's squad I noticed a young player by the name of Emerson Hyndman, an American Attacking Midfielder. After consulting my scouts I found out that he was available for only £2m (roughly the same amount I received for Vetokele) and that he was also someone that they rated very highly with regards to his potential.

Experienced signings flew out the window, and Emerson Hyndman became my main transfer target in the January Transfer Window. The process was surprisingly painless, considering all the trouble Fulham gave me over Dembele, and I had my man with the minimum amount of negotiations taking place.

Please accept my apologies over the player screenshots here, I seem to have forgotten to take them at the time and so now you can see them in their current form at the end of my third season.

I made two other signings in January, one of which met my criteria of an experienced player to help out the younger members of the squad, Foued Kadir. I hoped that the Algerian international would feel right at home with us as we already had his compatriot Ahmed Kashi playing for us. Foued was a useful signing available on a free transfer which worked out well for me seeing as I had spent all of my budget on Hyndman.

The second signing was a loanee in from Borussia Monchengladbach called Nico Elvedi. I hoped that he would add further depth to my centre back options, with only Borja, Bauer and Sarr as the main options there, and possibly even push for a starting line up place. Unfortunately it wasn't to be and Nico faded into obscurity as the season progressed.

On that note I think now would be a good time to look at the fixtures for the rest of the season. The first game of 2017 was a disappointing affair and saw my Charlton team fall 1-0 victims of Watford, but in true Football Manager style I was drawn against them in the FA Cup five days later, and we exacted our revenge with a 4-0 at Vicarage Road. (they still play there right?)

This result was followed by 3 straight wins in the Premier League and I was feeling very happy about our prospects and staying in the Premier League for another year. A quick lesson for everyone here, never get too comfortable as that is usually the point that the wheels come flying off the Football Manager bus. For me, a draw against Bournemouth in the next round of the FA Cup lead to another winless run for my Charlton team stretching all the way from 31 January to 19 March! (9 games in total, 7 in the league and 2 in the cup)

There were some tough games in there and a 6-2 defeat to Chelsea that I would rather forget, but there were also some performances that deserved a better result, in particular the 4-4 draw with West Ham just before we ended the winless run. The West Ham result actually saw us go on a run of 3 strong victories starting with a 4-1 win at home to our "rivals" Crystal Palace. a 1-1 draw away to Southampton bookended the winning run.

We lost 5-2 at Old Trafford but managed to win 3-1 at home against Liverpool, so not all of the bigger clubs were using us for target practice. After that result we were left needing a result against West Brom, or Arsenal, to secure our final position in the league. Thankfully we picked up the result away at West Brom as Arsenal once again got the better of me on the final day of the season.

At the start of the season everyone expected us to be relegated, so to finish midtable really shut up the haters. Crystal Palace who had been hanging around the relegation zone managed to get a big run going and pushed their way up to 13th while Southampton survived by the skin of their teeth, at the expense of Leicester City. Ipswich and Villa made up the rest of the relegation zone, with Villa a particular surprise as they had some decent players. At least I won't have to face Clayton Donaldson again!

Here's a nice quote from "Football 365" stating just how much everyone underrated us!

JBG impressed again and made it into the Premier League Team of the Season, as well as picking up the Fans Player of the Year award at Charlton. Emerson Hyndman was voted as the signing of the season, which seems a bit harsh considering he was only there half a year and there were other players who were equally important for us. Jordan Cousins picked up the Young Player of the Year award to round out the results.

Finally, despite my nerves over job security, it would appear that I am still in a very safe place with the board at Charlton Athletic. I'm considered Very Secure in my job and although I don't have perfect results across the board I think I have done a decent enough job for our first year in the Premier League.

The play that goes right!

Saturday night I had one of the most enjoyable nights out in quite some time. I'm not really someone you would call a theatre aficionado, I've never been a big fan of musicals with all that singing and dancing, but the current show at the Duchess Theatre has made me reconsider how often I visit the theatre. The premise of the show is simple; an Am-Dram group have managed to wangle their way onto a West End stage at which point everything that can go wrong does. But if the premise is simple then the execution is carried out expertly. 

You could easily ruin an idea such as this with a basic slapstick routine and clowning about. Instead the team at the Mischief Theatre Company bring the good old British farce back to life with a bang, and they have thought of everything. From the comedic take on a theatre programme (only £4) to the atmospheric music as everyone takes their seat anything and everything has been taken into account. 

Before the play begins the "backstage" team are interacting with the audience, their hunt for Winston getting everyone in the mood for the show ahead. But the highlight of the pre-show entertainment for me was the "director's" meet and greet. Like a headmaster at a school play "Chris Bean" is out there talking to the audience, setting them at ease and introducing himself. You can almost imagine him walking up to someone and saying "ah Mr and Mrs Smith, so good to see you. Bully has been doing very well this year and I expect he will pass his exams with flying colours."

I could easily go through the entire play listing every joke but it simply wouldn't do them justice. I think that the highest praise I can pay the jokes is that for days after my family and I have been repeating them to each other and fitting them into every day situations as much as possible. Ledgers and notebooks are particular highlights that stick in my mind, items that you would consider mundane are turned into great sources of hilarity. 

But the ultimate set piece of the first act is quite possibly the most entertaining sword fight ever seen on a west end stage. Swish, clash and totally implausible special effects bring the house down and everyone is left needing a stiff drink, although I think I'll avoid the whiskey!

When the curtain comes down on the first act you are left wondering just how they will manage to top it in the second half. Don't worry, the second half doesn't disappoint. I just said that the first half brings the house down but perhaps I should have saved that metaphor for this half of the show as everything comes tumbling down around our loveable cast of actors who seem so out of their depth. 

"Trevor" and "Annie" are forced out onto stage, where one takes to it much more enthusiastically than the other, to fill in for members of the cast caught up in accidents. The cast have to improvise and cover for the missing Winston in a series of imaginative scenes before "Sandra" and "Annie" start a rolling fight that would have the WWE proud. These two actresses put on really strong performances as the show draws to a close and everything unravels to a very satisfying conclusion. 

In all honesty I have not said enough about the cast of this fine performance in my review. Without them this show would fall flat on it's face, and that wouldn't be as funny as the number of times we see the actors do this. Each and every one of them deserves all of the plaudits they receive and the warm round of applause they receive at the end of the show. 

With the show coming to an end next month I can only hope that Mischief have something planned for this cast as they really are brilliant and it would be a travesty if they just disappeared. And this brings me nicely on to The Comedy About a Bank Robbery, the next production for the team behind The Play That Goes Wrong. Set to open in the Criterion Theatre in March with the original cast of The Play That Goes Wrong the first 25 shows have all tickets available for £25 and I hope to be able to see this sooner rather than later. 

If you haven't seen The Play That Goes Wrong then I wholeheartedly recommend that you get over to The Duchess Theatre before the final curtain comes down on this show. Maybe I'll even join you for another trip to Haversham Manor. 

Fallout 4 - The Wasteland Wacko Episode One

"Because being put on ice for 200 years and seeing some bald b@£$%*d kill your wife is enough to drive anyone a little crazy" - The Wasteland Wacko

It was a Tuesday, or maybe a Saturday, it was a day. I'm pretty sure it was like every other day but things get a little hazy after some time in the freezer. Why am I telling you this? Why are you listening? Maybe you offered me a pint anyway I'm getting sidetracked.

Look it's me! And my wife. I didn't look like that back then, the scars came later, that's another story, maybe one day I'll tell you.

Everything was pretty normal and then there was a knock at the door. Some salesman offering me and my family access into Vault 111, quite fortuitous considering what happened just seconds after I signed my paperwork. Almost like it was scripted... Is this all some big conspiracy? Where's my tinfoil hat!

Looking back I'm pretty sure that salesman was going to kill me. Just look at him. So shifty, if my father ever taught me anything it was that you could never trust a ginger. And this one is extra shifty, just look at him trying to hide that hair under the hat. I'm watching you buddy!

And like I said, no sooner had I signed the paperwork than some idiot decided to let off a nuclear bomb. Of course they did, no idea why myself if it had been me I would have just left everyone to go on about their business. My wife grabbed Shaun and we ran to the vault. As you do when you sign your life away to the crazy people who own these giant holes in the ground.

Stay away from the light! Just look at us all standing in a line, queuing up like a bunch of lemmings. At least the vault was meant to be top of the line, but you know what? We all had to wear these stupid jumpsuits, no sense of fashion down in the vault and completely unflattering to my figure. I would have worn some skinny jeans back in my day... Now, I just don't know any more. I found my wife's green dress when I got out. I still wear it, it makes me feel close to her. At least I think it is hers, I don't really remember which house is which any more.

Then they locked us in these pods. They told us it was for decontamination but I didn't believe them. Unfortunately nothing seemed to happen in the world while I wandered around looking for a way out. But as soon as I stepped into that pod, boom! Now you may laugh at me and my conspiracy theories but I'm telling you there is something going on, someone is controlling my destiny and everything that happens to me! Keep laughing at the tinfoil hat, but I'll have the last laugh when the aliens come down and fry your brains!

While I was in the pod some bald guy came in and killed my wife. Shocking I know. There was nothing I could do, but I remember his face. I don't know who you are buddy, I don't know what you want. But I do have a particular set of skills and a slightly crazy robot gardener. We will find you, and we will kill you.

Oh Codsworth, you strange robot squid flying thing how I love you. My only link back to the real world, never leave me Coddy, never leave me... because I'll fiiiiiiiiiiiiind yooooooooooooooou.

Once I finally thawed out I came to realise that I was was the only survivor of the vault. Even the scientists had killed themselves, one of them even had a revolver! Seriously why didn't I get one of those, they weren't standard issue when I arrived. What about the Second Amendment and all that?!?! I blame Obama.

Apparently the whole pest control market went downhill while I was in the fridge because the roaches are huge now, and they just run around doing whatever they like. It's not like it's a hard job either, I mean I picked up an old security baton and beat the living daylights out of them on my way back to the surface.

Eventually I made it back to the surface, and nothing had really changed. Well except for the fact that there was no giant nuclear fireball, no people at the gates, no military grade security, no... No one else. So I guess what I am trying to say is that yes, everything had changed, and things were only about to get weirder...

Star Wars Battlefront - Did the training pay off?

So... It occurred to me that after all the time I spent playing Battlefield 4 in preparation for the release of Star Wars Battlefront I never actually confirmed if the "training" paid off. Was I able to hold my own against all the gamers who can spend hours and hours playing while I toil away in some dingy office somewhere in London? Did I end up shooting first like Han Solo or end up on the crispy side like Greedo?

Well things didn't start off great. For those of you who were keeping track you will remember that I played a lot of Team Deathmatch on Battlefield as it gave me the chance to keep track of the K:D ratio etc without the interference of chasing secondary goals such as capture points. Unfortunately the style of play that I had built up in this mode did not necessarily transfer over to the game mode that I spent most of my time playing on Battlefront. Walker Assault. I love this mode as it incorporates all of the elements of Battlefront, heroes, masses of troops fighters swooping in overhead and the mammoth Imperial AT-ATs.

There were some more nuanced tactics required than my usual run and gun which had served me well on Battlefield, Walker Assault rewards you for clever play, holding key choke points as the rebel forces or attacking as a team if you're playing as the Imperials. As you advance up the levels you gain access to weapons that benefit particular strategies, the pulse rifle for example is brilliant for sitting back and picking off your targets from cover and you can combine this with a long range primary blaster if you want to be a sniper. Similarly, you can use Thermal Detonators and barrage for explosive support in close combat, with a limit of two slots for these "power up" weapons you have to pick carefully and build your strategy around these.

As my game developed I managed to adapt to Walker Assault and start to work my way up the leaderboards. Alongside this development though I started to work my way through some of the other modes where my "training" was more useful. Three modes in particular have proven to be a lot of fun with my run and gun style:

Droid Run;
Cargo; and
Drop Pod.

Each of these modes focus on small teams working together to capture a particular objective and usually involve a lot of close quarters fighting. With each of these modes I found myself filling particular roles in the team depending on how the rest of my team was playing. If everyone was rushing off after our opponents objective then I would sit back and play "goalkeeper", in particular this role would occur in the Cargo game mode as there is a particular area each team needs to defend and attack, whereas the other two modes sees an amalgamation of these areas that both teams converge on. Alternatively I could go out in a more attacking role attempting to take our opponents objective, this role would usually work better in groups of two or more as there is nothing worse than getting caught in the open with all of your enemies bearing down on you.

With my head now well and truly in the game everything started to click into place in every game mode. That's not to say that I don't still have bad results from time to time but there are more good days than bad.

Most importantly I have been able to enjoy my time playing Battlefront. I was, honestly, worried that with so many good gamers out there playing FPS games I would struggle to get into the game and make a successful stab at it, and that would have been terrible as I was really looking forward to getting my game on in the Star Wars universe.

And by enjoying the game I am also able to take in some of the breathtaking scenery that DICE and EA have recreated from the Star Wars universe. Sure miles of desert may not look particularly impressive but take a look at the crashed Star Destroyer and the mass space battle going on overhead. On Jakku in particular there is a moment early on in the larger game modes where you can see a Super Star Destroyer come crashing down onto the planet's surface. (I have failed to capture it here)

Of course there is still the odd glitch... like this turbolaser bolt frozen in time...

In conclusion my time on Battlefield 4 paid off. I really enjoy playing Star Wars Battlefront and could well be tempted to by the extortionate season pass if they do offer something that could really add to the game. Battlefront has taken me back to a time when I was much younger, collecting the action figures from the movies and creating my own battles to play out on my bedroom floor. It may not be the greatest FPS that has ever been created but it is a game that I can really appreciate and appeals to something deep in my soul that most other games don't come close to. By working on my FPS skills I have made myself a better player and been able to get even more enjoyment out of the game, and hey! I've already reached level 50! (ages ago... I really should have written this article a long time ago but I was lost in a galaxy far, far away...)

Only available at level 50, coming to a planet near you soon

Star Wars The Force Awakens - Thoughts after two viewings

Well I guess that it is safe to talk about spoilers now, seeing as the movie has been out for over 3 weeks, but if you want to avoid these then it is probably best to stop reading now. Just in case I go over something that you don't want to know!

I guess first things first, the storyline is very similar to A New Hope. If there is a bright point to the centre of the universe then our lead character is on the planet that it is furthest from. To make a change our hero is in fact a heroine which seemed to drive a number of keyboard warriors crazy, although I don't know if they were angrier about this or a black stormtrooper. On the topic of stormtroopers it seems that someone has finally taught them how to shoot, that is until it comes to shooting at the heroes.

Anyway back to our heroine, Daisy Ridley does a fine job as Rey and for all the craziness before the release of the movie (Spoiler) it doesn't appear that she is Rey Solo. If she is descended from any Star Wars family of note then I would suggest that it is likely to be that of Luke Skywalker. There are a few reasons for this, firstly each trilogy so far has focused on a Skywalker as the main character (Anakin in the trilogy that must not be named, Luke in the Original Trilogy) so it only makes sense that JJ Abrams would keep this going with the first of the new trilogy.

Secondly, Rey seems to have some sort of link with Luke's original, and Anakin's 234th? (honestly I lost count), lightsaber. In fact when our wannabe villain Kylo Ren tries to take the lightsaber it seems to favour Rey, that or she is more powerful in the force than he is which again would suggest that she is descended from the last Jedi.

Finally, there is the music. When you listen to the music in the background this usually suggests something of the storyline. Leia has her own theme, Luke has his own theme and Rey does as well. Early on the music surrounding Rey is that of her own theme, nothing unusual there. Where it gets interesting is on Starkiller base (seriously that was the best name you could come up with guys?) as there are some key scenes that sees Luke's theme come through. The first point that I can recall this coming up is when Rey takes up the lightsaber in combat. Battling Kylo Ren among the trees of Starkiller base Luke's theme flows through, similarly re-appearing when Rey lets the Force flow through her. It also reappears in the final scenes where Rey finds the galaxy's most popular space hermit, Luke Skywalker himself, as her theme seamlessly flows into his with a lingering focus on her before it switches to Luke.

Of course this could all just be the hopeful thoughts of a Star Wars fan but with all the information available to us at this moment in time it would seem to make sense that she is linked to Luke in some way that is yet to be revealed to us. In fact, there was a deleted scene that sought to explain Luke exiling himself to a forgotten speck in the galaxy because he realised that everyone of Skywalker lineage was susceptible to both the Light and Dark sides of the Force.

This is important as you may notice that when Rey lets the Force flow through her she seems to be powered, somewhat, by her anger towards Kylo Ren. Then, once the fight is finished, she quickly switches back to the caring, Light side as she runs to Finn. Such a powerful Force user walking the tightrope between Light and Dark certainly sounds like the figure Luke feared he himself could become and could lead him to leaving his "daughter" as far from all other force users in the galaxy for fear of what she could become.

The next big newcomer is John Boyega's FN-2187 (Finn). Conditioned since early childhood to become a stormtrooper, this new way of recruiting stormtroopers may explain why the First Order's men in white are somewhat more ruthlessly efficient than their Empire counterparts. But don't fear, our controversial (I honestly don't know what all the fuss is about) black stormtrooper quickly realises that the army he is serving is probably not something he wants to be involved in and makes a break for it, taking my favourite character of the film with him.

John Boyega was brilliant casting for this role, providing the much needed Original Trilogy comedic relief that was so lacking in the prequels (I feel queasy just mentioning them). While Jar Jar Binks was your over the top slapstick comedy, John brought a more human element to the role and I think this just oozes through from his natural personality. Much like the Original Trilogy we are viewing the story from the third person perspective of two characters who are there to relay the story. In The Force Awakens those characters are Finn and BB-8, in the Original Trilogy it is C-3PO and R2-D2. The prequels missed this trick for me as we were left following the main characters around, rather than having that additional perspective and it was these nostalgic touches that I feel will make The Force Awakens, and the two films to follow in this trilogy, more successful than the prequels. At least in the view of the fans.

Also, like the original trilogy, you have the understated comic relief that I previously mentioned. R2 and Goldenrod provided it before and in The Force Awakens you have Finn and BB-8, or Finn and Han or Finn and Poe. It is the sort of human comedy that works so well in the "used" Star Wars universe. You can imagine a young stormtrooper who has found a girl who "looked at him differently" and decides he has to show her, and everyone else, that he is Mr Big Deal. Though when faced with a tough situation he's more than willing to tell people that "hell no" he isn't up to this but he gives it his best shot and somehow comes out on top. Much like R2 and 3PO trying to switch off a trash compactor or blag their way past guards on the Death Star John's character muddles his way through and brings the human element to proceedings.

My favourite character though is Oscar Isaac's Poe Dameron. The best pilot in the resistance, he carries himself in a way that would remind Han Solo of a younger version of himself. He enters proceedings with a bang but is far too quickly forgotten into the realms of "background character" after the first act. Early on in proceedings (5 minutes in?) you know that this is a proper Star Wars film, and that is down to Poe.

"Do I talk first or you talk first? I talk first?" he taunts the villain of the piece who he has just seen cut down the old man he was sent to meet, the sort of cocky line you would expect from Han Solo but was so evidently missing, or forced, in the prequels. JJ Abrams and Oscar Isaac bring a level of humanity to the character that is so key to the feeling of Star Wars. It's not a used universe that you can feel part of if all of the characters are walking around like NPCs in a Star Wars RPG which is what the prequels felt like.

But after his daring escape with Finn in a TIE Fighter that crashes back on Jakku Poe disappears, and I was so disappointed. I guess that it was required, Finn and Rey need to build their relationship, but I would have loved more Poe on screen. My major hope for the next film is that we will see Poe make major strides as a character, possibly re-igniting his bromance with Finn as both remain at the Resistance base at the end of The Force Awakens.

If we switch over to The Dark Side now, the first thing to say is that Andy Serkis' Supreme Leader Snoke is barely seen in this movie, in fact he is not seen at all in person. Snoke takes a page out of The Empire Strikes Back Palpatine manual and has a larger than life hologram version of himself projected into Starkiller base to give orders to our two main villains, the "I'll throw a tantrum any minute now" Kylo Ren and the uptight General Hux who I don't think has had a day of fun in his life. In all honestly I was expecting Toto to turn up and pull back a curtain revealing some Yoda sized character controlling Snoke as he just seemed too Wizard of Oz, "Ren go fetch me that droid and then I will send you back to Kansas", "Hux, kill the Wicked Witch of Alderaan and I will give you a sense of humour".

And General Hux really does need a sense of humour. First off, I think his use of ventral cannons early on may be him compensating for something.

"Sir, they've taken out our turbolasers," oh no Hux thinks to himself, they've emasculated me, what can I do to take my manhood back.

"Fire the ventral cannons," well done Hux, no one here will think you're filled with self doubt after such a commanding line, he thinks to himself, as not a single strand of slicked back ginger hair falls out of place.

The truly great Imperial Officers of the Original Trilogy could be marked out for the understated nature of their performances. Tarkin is a favourite of mine although I don't think there is any actor out there now who could pull off sinister officer in quite the way that Peter Cushing did in A New Hope. Maybe Charles Dance.

Instead we are treated to a character whose life seems to be, to quote Monty Python, a near fanatical devotion to the Pope, sorry Supreme Leader Snoke. But Hux could easily be lifted from the Spanish Inquisition sketch in Monty Python's Flying Circus. Even in his Nuremberg-esque speech I couldn't help but feel he was squeezing his balls extra tight just to get every last drop of intensity into that monologue coming across as more crazy than in control, and would you really have someone crazy in control of a weapon like that if you were this Supreme Leader?

Alongside Hux we have the angsty, no one understands me Kylo Ren. Major spoiler here, he is the son of Han and Leia. Early on he is intimidating, he keeps the mask on, he holds a blaster bolt steady in the air, freezes the shooter in position and casually continues his conversation. This guy looks like the real deal, oozing power and making sure everyone knows who is in charge. But he loses this after we find out about his parentage. Suddenly the movie wants you to feel sorry for him, he's conflicted stuck between the Light and Dark Side, they want you to feel that he has the chance of redemption right up until he drives the lightsaber through your heart.

Instead you get to see him revert back to those awful teenage years that we all go through. Rebelling against his parents, just leave him alone, but he wants to wear the black eyeliner! Then he starts to get all rapey while interrogating Rey, "you know I can take what I want", no we really didn't need to go there. Bad JJ, bad Adam Driver, did no one look back and think "yeah... maybe we can cut that bit out"??

Big, Major Spoiler upcoming! At first I was bothered by Han's death had the hands of his son. It's not how I wanted to see my favourite hero from the Original Trilogy go. I didn't want to see him go at all, but the more I thought about it he went out on a high. Throughout the original trilogy, well the first half of it, you are left thinking Han is only out for himself, but this brings closure to his storyline as he goes out trying to save his son and his... wife? I'm not sure that was ever confirmed, but it is nice to know that Han and Leia continued on for some part of the 30 years following Return of the Jedi.

It also means that the baton can clearly be passed on to the new generation, and I think Harrison Ford himself will be happy about that. This isn't the end of the Han Solo stories for all of the fans out there, we can still find out just what he has been up to for 30 years, we just know where he will ultimately end up.

One thing that did seem out of place with this film, and more in line with the prequels than the Original Trilogy, was the Rathtars. They felt like some sort of homage to the slapstick humour of Jar Jar Binks and left me cringing for the whole time that they were on screen. They served no purpose whatsoever and there must have been a better way to reintroduce Han, Chewie and the Falcon to The Force Awakens. Watching Han try and talk his way out of trouble was great but we didn't need a flailing octopus, Dungeons and Dragons type creature trying to kill everyone on the grimy old freighter.

All in all, The Force Awakens is the return to the Star Wars universe that I believe every Star Wars fan was hoping for. It wasn't perfect but it was such an improvement on the prequels that I think every fan can accept the imperfections. Additionally, it has successfully brought onboard a whole group of new fans who did not have the same connection with the Original Trilogy. There were enough adventure elements to draw in the young fans who have learned to love Star Wars through the Clone Wars and Rebels TV series and it is a film that they can grow up with as much as I grew up with the Original Trilogy.

There was also the excitement and action of the Marvel films to bring in new fans who may have never really been into Star Wars before, and really this is what Disney would have been hoping for. The Force Awakens was a homage to the films that the original fans love, but it had enough new elements to it that it will bring in the new fans that Disney will be after to make back that $4 billion, and then some, they paid George Lucas for the rights to Star Wars.

I really enjoyed the film, putting it up there with A New Hope and Return of the Jedi, if not quite on the level of Empire Strikes Back. I hope you did too!