Review – OHTO Sharp Pencil APS-350ES

I like tiny, pocket-sized things. Especially writing utensils, like the Fisher Space Pen Stowaway, the cheap touch screen styluses, and now the subject of this review, the OHTO mini Sharp Pencil. All of these happen to be the same size. So the OHTO is cool both in that it matches many other small items you can buy, but it also might be the smallest mechanical pencil I have ever seen, being a little over 4 inches long and less than 3/16ths of an inch in diameter. But at that size will it still work well? Let’s take a look.


The design is meant to mimic a wooden pencil. The outside of the pencil is actually made of wood and has a hexagonal design. Mine is in green, with silver printed information on one facet. The tip is sharpened like a wood pencil until about halfway when it is replaced by a metal cone that leads to a very short lead pipe. On the back there is a clip that is a separate piece of metal bent around and friction fit. Beyond that is the click mechanism that is really only usable when the eraser holder is installed. The eraser holder is quite a simple piece of metal that keeps the lead in the feeder, depresses the click mechanism, and holds a very small eraser. The wire-thin piece of metal attaching this piece to the body seems rather flimsy and easy to remove, but I have had no problems with it shaking loose: it simply doesn’t have enough mass. Likewise I have encountered no problems with the quality of any of the components.


The lead seems to be HB. I don’t have the package (which is rather understated and nice by the way) with me so I don’t know what it is exactly, but I have no complaints. It writes well, and can be sufficiently dark. The eraser also works surprisingly well for its size, with very little being used to rub away quite a bit, but I wouldn’t say it’s a great eraser. The click mechanism is satisfying and the lead is held very securely in place when one is using the pencil. The clip is also very good for the size, easily holding it in place while not damaging anything.

In the end, for on-the-go sketching or writing I would certainly recommend this product. I also wouldn’t recommend it at all for stationary or desk-related activities. It is very small, and while that makes it portable, it isn’t the most comfortable of writing implements. It will hold up very well in a bag or a pocket, and it looks quite neat in my opinion. I’d just say be careful of the back end being knocked loose and stock up on some extra erasers and lead (it only comes with one of each) as one will likely run through them pretty quickly.

Game Review – Civilization Revolution (iOS, Windows Phone)

(Note: the NDS version of the game is similar to the mobile phone versions, but I have not played it and thus don’t know the differences. The console version is from what I can tell, completely different. This is also not a review of the more recent Civilization Revolution 2)

Civilization Revolution is a video game by Firaxis Games, made for consoles and mobile devices as opposed to the PC, where the game series usually resides. I have the iOS version of the game, so that’s what I’ll be discussing. The game uses touch controls, and is more similar to Civ IV and predecessors than Civ V and successors, though a bit toned down.
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The gameplay is understandable to any who have played a Civ game. It isn’t as complex, but it gets the job done. The game is played on a randomly-generated map divided into squares (not hexes like Civ V). The squares are either land or water, and contain various resources. Players play as various civilizations (Romans, Zulu, Chinese, etc…) or more technically (an all-seeing, all-people-commanding, forever living god in the form of) a famous leader from that civilization (Napoleon, Cleopatra, Montezuma, Etc…) and compete against other civilizations to either: be the first to conquer all other capital cities; make the most gold and build the world bank; have a lot of culture and build the United Nations; or develop all of the technologies and reach Alpha Centauri. They can build cities and then buildings in those cities to give them bonuses, or use the cites to build units to make other cities, trade with other cities, explore the world (there are artifacts that can give one bonuses), or wage war on other civilizations or barbarians.
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Cities themselves are only one square on the map for the purposes of combat, but can grow and influence an area around them, using resources to increase the food or production of a city. All of the various units have their own abilities, movement, and strength that can be upgraded after winning battles. Getting more technology allows one to build more advanced and stronger units. Land units can’t cross water in this version, but they can get in ships and be transported to various other places. Air units can’t land on ships, but can fly over mountains (among other things). There are various terrain benefits and deficits on the land, but they are relatively simple.
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Unlike other versions of Civ, units do stack, meaning in theory an infinite amount of units can share the same square. The tech tree, also, while still there, has much less nuance than in the PC versions of the game. After meeting other civilizations, the player can also interact with the other leaders. This almost always leads to nothing, as they never have any knowledge. It looks like there was a much more ambitious inter-civilization interaction ability planned, but unfinished. At least in my version, the only way the player and other Civs interact is by going to war or stealing cities with culture. And nothing really seems to influence when others will go to war with you more than you just being in their way or the strongest player. Combat is also simplified: it is unit vs. unit (or army vs. army if units combine {3units of the same type to one army. They can’t be split after joining and die as one unit}), and one unit will be destroyed. The victor can be injured, but has a maximum of three hit-points and this decreases as tech becomes more advanced. A warrior has three hit points, a horseman two, but a tank or an infantry only has one. And a final, glaring difference between this and the PC versions is the nukes. One can only build one nuclear weapon, but it will destroy an entire city (except a capital) and all of the units in it, and in the 8 squares around it. I think that maybe being able to build two would be more fun, but I can see why they made the choice as it simplifies the nuclear aspect of the game, and being able to build multiple city-crushers might break the game.
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The overall control is nice and intuitive. Some of it does need explanation, and getting into very specific city controls can require some menu navigating, but this is handled very well on default, and even on the hardest difficulty level I have completed the game many times without even thinking about messing with the default city settings. Units move easily, selectable options on what to build or what technology to research are large and easy to click or scroll through. Scrolling through stacked units can be a pain if there are quite a few (10 or more) but that rarely comes up, since units can be combined into more powerful armies. Looking around the map and plotting future courses for ships is also easy. The only real navigation problem comes with nuclear weapons, which can technically fire all over the world (I believe), but are difficult to launch past the screen they are created on (zooming out only helps a little).
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Even with all of the simplifications, though, it’s still quite a complex and long game for phone play, and a full game will generally take several hours and most of your battery. It is possible to save multiple games (though I have yet to get mine to work: that’s my problem and not at all related to the game) and I would recommend that. Though if one can’t save, like me, or only wants to complete one game at a time, the game does a very good job of always loading up right where it left off. The game seems fairly processor-intensive and my phone does get hot while playing, and the game has at several points crashed on me. I’m running an older phone and the game brought me right back to where I was, so the problem was understandable and I couldn’t really get mad. The graphics and animation are generally nice and smooth and well defined. I’m not the biggest fan of the cartoon-y look, but it gets the job done and I’ve never really like Civ’s graphics anyway, nor have I played it for the graphics.
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In the end this game does a great job of being “Civ on the go”. The empire building, invasion, and growth aspects are still there while trimming some of the things that would make some people more frustrated or confused with the larger game. I find that while I wish there was more depth at times, I’ve definitely kept coming back for more and I can certainly see how adding much more would make it an mobile-unfriendly game. It works well as a game, runs well on the platform, and is a great introduction into the Civilization series. If the games seem interesting I would certainly recommend this one both as a starting point or one to look out for.