Porgs Galore...

Well, it's happened: the first porgs have been added to our collection. It all started when my fiancée and I received an adorable plush porg for Christmas from her parents. But of course, like anything good, we couldn't stop at just one - and a few days later we found ourselves also picking up a 'porg-on-board' for our car.

With his soft flocked body and adorable round eyes, the plush Porg captures all the cuteness of the real thing. Best of all, his flexible wings allow him to be posed in all kinds of amusing ways (as pictured above). The porg-on-board is a little smaller, but features suction cups on his wingtips (allowing you to stick him to your car's window à la a particular avian's event-filled ride aboard the Falcon). Best of all, he comes packed with an accompanying 'porg on board' sticker to alert other drivers to your precious cargo!

Star Wars Official 2018 Calendar - Collectors Edition

The new year is almost upon us, and in 2018 I'll be keeping track of the days with this fantastic 40th anniversary calendar I received from my parents for Christmas.

Each month features an image of a main character from A New Hope, framed by gorgeous screen shots from the film. Best of all, the calendar continues the tradition of including a two-page centrefold that allows the calendar to still be displayed long after 2018 is up. This time around, it's a unique 40th anniversary version of the original Star Wars theatrical poster.

BB-8 8GB USB Flash Drive

Wrapping up the Christmas presents from my parents this year (see what I did there?) is this delightful BB-8 8GB USB flash drive. I've been in dire need of a new flash drive, so this little guy'll fit the bill perfectly.

Made of a durable rubberised plastic, BB's head pops off to reveal the USB socket. He's ever so slightly stylised - his head just a little more squat than usual. In fact, he's perfectly in keeping with the Stormtrooper flash drive I received a few years back.

Star Wars Christmas Stocking and Santa Hat

I love holiday-specific Star Wars paraphernalia, and this Christmas my parents surprised me with a very cool stocking and Santa hat set featuring Darth Vader and a cadre of stormtroopers.

The hat went great with the stormtrooper Christmas t-shirt I got for my birthday, while the stocking joined the rest of the family's over the fireplace on Christmas Eve.

Sphero BB-9E App-Enabled Droid and Force Band

My fiancée has always been one to spoil me, but this Christmas she went above and beyond - surprising me with the Sphero BB-9E App-Enabled Droid and a Force Band. Last year, I received the Sphero BB-8 from my parents for my 30th birthday, and was immediately blown away by just how much he could do. The same is true of 9E. Despite the superficial similarities in appearance, this is no mere repaint. Featuring glowing lights in her head (yes, my fiancée and I have decided this BB will be female), 9E also possesses a new personality, negotiating her surroundings in a completely different way to her older brother.

A few new pieces of internal tech also allow her to do things her sibling can't. For one, internal vibration sensors allow her to be programmed to 'react' to passing humans while she's charging on her base. That particular feature hasn't worked too well for me yet - but that may be due to me placing her in a sub-optimal charging location. Alternatively, you can program her to spontaneously initiate conversations with other Sphero droids when she's not being operated by a user. This feature is particularly fun, as the droids carry out their interactions completely in character. Place 9E next to her arch-nemesis BB-8, and you'll find the two droids begin squabbling on awakening - with BB-8 usually running for cover somewhere in the corner of the room.

While Sphero began with an app that was exclusively for the operation of BB-8, they've now released a generic 'Droids' app that allows you to run all of your app-enabled droids from the same program. This app is also packed with new features - including an option to have your droids watch (and react to) the Star Wars movies alongside you. There's also now the ability to engage more than one droid in patrol mode simultaneously.

In addition to the usual charging base, 9E also comes with the new 'Droid Trainer' - unlocking even more options within the app. This collapsible base doesn't feature any electronics, but is probably better thought of as a something like a 'treadmill' for your droids. Featuring a low-friction concave hollow, the Force Trainer allows the BBs to spin and move on the spot. Sphero have hinted that they have a lot of upcoming features that will utilise this device, but for now it's main use is in the 'augmented reality' (AR) section of the Droids app. Entering this mode allows you to use your touchscreen device to 'drive' around ships from the Star Wars universe, collecting items as you go. At the same time, your droid will move accordingly. Turn left, and your BB will roll left in its Droid Trainer cradle. Come to a stop, and your BB will come to an abrupt halt too. It's a fun little gimic, but not much more than that. It's also questionable whether it can be counted as genuine 'AR' as your BB doesn't actually appear on screen when you point your device at her. That being said, the base is covered in AR arma patterns, building in the functionality for the base to - at some point in the future - be used for a genuine AR experience. This might be a tantalising hint at what Sphero have in mind for future updates.

Gimmicks aside, the Droid Trainer is most useful in its simplest configuration - the aforementioned 'treadmill'. The Trainer finally gives us the opportunity to have an operational and interactive droid setting next to us on our desk without fear of it running off the table and (quite literally) losing its head. It's also a great way to practice emotes and movements when you're limited for space.

As an added bonus, my fiancée also gave me the Sphero Force Band. This has been out for a while now - originally created to work as a sort of 'remote control' for BB-8, but now compatible with all Sphero droids. I'd been somewhat dubious of this item, questioning how functional it'd truly be. It turns out my concerns were for nothing, however. I've had some bad experiences with kinetic-based devices (see my recent write-up on the truly awful Force Link bracelet), but the Sphero Force Band works beautifully. Once the Force Band is on and synced, a simple 'force push' will send your droid rolling away from you, and a 'force pull' will bring her back. Raising and lowering your arm modifies her speed, and moving your arm to the left or right will roll her in that direction. Heck, she'll even look where you point! It's all incredibly intuitive, and after a couple of laps around the room you'll find yourself driving your droid without a second thought. Best of all, the Force Band runs completely independently of the Droids app, so there's no need to keep your portable device on when using this function.

Surprisingly, this isn't all the Force Band has to offer. As well as operating your droid, the Force Band also comes with a standalone app that contains a raft of other features. For one, there's a virtual reality 'training' mission during which you use your Force Band to assist a (digital) BB-8 in a number of tasks. Most fun, however, is the 'Force Awareness' mode. Once entered, this mode will quietly tick away in the background until - at some point - it detects a holocron in your vicinity. The band will then vibrate in a sort of 'hot and cold' fashion as you move around the room attempting to find the holocron. Once found, your holocrons will appear in the app - containing data on some character, weapon, or other element from the sequel trilogy (very much like a set of digital trading cards). You can keep track of how many holocrons you've collected, and how many you have left to find. The holocrons also vary in rarity, adding some excitement to the hunt.

A select number of the weapons and vehicle holocrons can be added to your 'Armory' - another feature of the Force Band app. Once this mode is entered, your Force Band essentially becomes a kinetic soundboard, making different noises depending on what you have 'equipped'. Equip a pistol and make a point-and-shoot motion with your hand, and you'll be rewarded with a blaster sound. Equip a vehicle and swoop your hand as though it's flying, and you'll hear realistic engine noises. The playability options are endless - especially for kids (and, ahem, some adults) who still love to run around the house with a starfighter in their hand.

Technological wizardry aside, the physical construction of the Force Band is also superb. There's real quality here - from the fine in-universe detailing, to the authentic weathering, to the enormously satisfying 'click' of the magnetic clasp. Heck, it looks nice enough to even double as a straight-up costuming accessory.

I'm absolutely rapt with BB-9E - and the additions of the Droid Trainer and Force Band also open up a whole battery of new play features for both her and BB-8. I've no doubt Sphero will continue to add new features for this duo too, and I'll be sure to report on them here when they do!

Stormtrooper Christmas T-Shirt

With Christmas only a couple of weeks away, it was rather apt that my parents also got me this excellent Stormtrooper t-shirt for my birthday!

I'll be rocking this all Christmas Day (and eve too, most likely). It's a nice match for the Stormtrooper Peekbuster ornament I also received for my birthday!

Hallmark Keepsake Stormtrooper Peekbuster Christmas Tree Ornament

Over the last decade, I've been slowly building a collection of Hallmark's exquisite Keepsake Star Wars Christmas ornaments. As time has passed, the ornaments have become more and more complex: featuring lights, sounds, and now even motion-sensing capabilities. This year, the Stormtrooper Peekbuster ornament takes advantage of this latest feature to create an incredibly effective present-peeking deterrent. Thanks to a birthday present from my parents, one of these peekbusters is now standing vigil over our tree.

With a Christmas-themed sculpt and a forward-facing motion sensor, the Stormtrooper Peekbuster is a wonderfully unique addition to the Keepsake line. Programmed with six custom-recorded phrases, the trooper sounds off whenever motion is detected in the vicinity. The detailing and paint app is - as always with these decorations - top-notch. Best of all, he's almost perfectly in-scale with figures from the 3 3/4" line, leaving open some tantalising diorama-building possibilities.

Star Wars Super Graphic

For my birthday this year, my wonderful fiancée performed an incredibly impressive feat - surprising me with a Star Wars book that I had never even heard of. Written by Entertainment Weekly's Tim Leong, Star Wars Super Graphic is a veritable feast of factoids, statistics, and minutiae about that galaxy far, far away. With a dry wit and a formidable knowledge of the saga, Leong presents trivia from throughout the canonical Star Wars universe up until the release of Rogue One (and yes, that includes the animated series, novels, and comics too). Always wanted to know the precise placings of the pods in the Boonta Eve classic? This book has you covered. Need details on the relative speeds of starships from the Rebel, Imperial, Resistance, and First Order fleets? Leong has the answers. And, as the title suggests, every spread of information is presented in gorgeous and creative graphic visualisations.

I'm an enormous fan of encyclopedic works that chronicle the Star Wars universe (the visual dictionaries and incredible cross-sections volumes that accompany each film are, for me, always necessary purchases). Given this, I'm shocked that I almost missed this phenomenal publication. Many Star Wars trivia publications can be stuffed with information that is commonplace and - well - rather trivial. Not so here, however. Super Graphic had me realising just how much I still have to learn about the Star Wars universe. While Leong includes some great moments of levity (the visual breakdown of the divisive 'Yub Nub' celebration song is a particularly wonderful high point), a large portion of the content in this volume - like a complete chronological viewing order for the Clone Wars animated series - will be a vital resource for every fan of the saga. If you haven't yet, go out and pick up a copy of this book. I cannot recommend it highly enough!

The Hunt is On - Force Link 3 3/4" Imperial Probe Droid and Darth Vader Found

Force Friday II saw a smattering of 3 3/4" figure releases from films other than The Last Jedi - the most exciting of which was the Force Link Imperial Probe Droid and Darth Vader set. It was on my Force Friday II huntlist, but it took me until a couple of weeks ago to finally pick one up from Walmart for $19.99US ($28.72NZ).

The Vader is an admirably good sculpt for only five points of articulation, and comes with a lightsaber, removable cape, and the now-obligatory embedded Force Link chip. Despite all of this, the ubiquity of Vader figures over the years means that he'll remain rather uninteresting for most collectors. But let's be honest. No-one is buying this set for Vader. The real attraction here is the Imperial Probe Droid, and it certainly doesn't disappoint.

It's been twenty years since we last saw a 3 3/4" Imperial Probe Droid - and by all accounts, it's been well worth the wait. In complete contrast to the rest of the 3 3/4" line, the Probe Droid comes with more articulation than you can shake a stick at. Each limb features at least two points of articulation, along with a rotating head and telescoping antenna (the latter of which took me an embarrassingly long time to discover). The exquisite attention to detail doesn't stop there, however. The sculpt and paint app is top-notch, and is honestly closer to the kind of thing you'd expect to see on higher-end collectibles. With a beautiful satin metallic finish, glossy black photoreceptors, and tiny wear-and-tear marks all over it's body, this model is about as close to screen-accurate as you can expect from something that - at the end of the day - is a kid's toy.

The Probe Droid adds some playability with a single spring-loaded missile. Like the Force Link A-Wing, however, this feature is well-hidden and doesn't detract from the aesthetics of the model. In fact, it's almost impossible to spot (it's that little round speaker-like greebly just above the legs). It is, however, awfully sensitive, and - on my Probe Droid, at least - prone to firing without warning.

To finish off the whole package, Hasbro have added a transparent display stand emblazoned with the Imperial cog on the base - again something we'd expect to see only on a much more expensive item.

Hasbro have really hit it out of the park with this set, which bodes really well for the impending Wampa and Luke Skywalker pack!