Friday, 30 September 2011

Toyologist Review: Harry Potter Battling Wand

My children have never read any Harry Potter books and they've never watched any of the films. I've read a bit of one of the books, but that was only skimming through to find out which character died. I went to the cinema, however, to watch 1-6. 7a &b await me at some point.

Monday, 26 September 2011

Toyologist Review: Twirlin' Tumblin' Fun Park

There are 3 children in our house (four if you count the semi-adopted boy from next door). They're aged 5, almost-5, almost-3, and getting-on-for-1.

Guess who's been playing with this toy the most?

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Toyologist Review: Scribble & Write

My journey through the LeapFrog product catalogue continues, this time time with the Scribble & Write.

A letter is shown in lights on the screen and the child has to write over it with the pen. An extremely happy voice-over person states what the letter is and how to pronounce it. The S&W does both upper and lower case letters & there's a 'game' mode where lights slowly appear on the screen and the child has to guess which letter it's going to be.

It's a bit like an interactive version of this, but now you actually get to write on the screen - 

Ah, the memories...

I was a little unimpressed when I got this out of the box. How much fun can writing letters be? How is this any better than a pen and piece of paper? Turns out I know nothing, and to a 4 year old it's fantastic! Yes, my little monster will happily sit there writing letters on the screen for hours on end a lot longer than I thought he would. At one stage there were 3 children crowding round it trying to guess the letter.

Unlike a similar (in premise) game we have for the LeapPad (the name of which I can't remember), there's no feedback provided for the letter writing. You could scrawl anything and the S&W won't know if you've done it correctly or not. I haven't found this to be too much of a problem. It's easy for a 4yo monster to see for himself if he's doing it right or not, and a 2yo monster can try his best without being put off by lots of 'that isn't quite right!' cries from the S&W (since his motor control isn't spot-on, he got very frustrated playing the LeapPad game). He was very proud when he managed to write three-quarters of an 'H'.

The biggest flaw (/annoyance) with the S&W is the horribly, HORRIBLY annoying music it insists on playing all the time. It's so annoying that every time it starts up I want to get something pointy, shove it down my ears and destroy my eardrums.

No, I'm not exaggerating. It really is that annoying.

The other problem is that you can't use it outside or anywhere brightly lit as you can't see the lights.

At under £20 (currently reduced to £14.97 on the TRU website) it's reasonably priced and perfect for any child who's just starting to write letters.

Just ensure you stick the children in another room while they're playing with it.

Other Toyology reviews can by found in the Toys R Us Toy Box on Facebook.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Toyologist Review: Lets Rock Elmo

What do you buy the person who has everything? The person who has Tickle-Me Elmo, Pogo Stick Elmo, Hokey-Cokey Elmo, TMX Elmo, Elmo Live...

(yes, we have apparently collected a number of Elmos over the years)

Well, you're in luck! There's another Elmo! Let's Rock Elmo!

Even better - this time I didn't have to pay for it!

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Review: Visionaries

It is a time when big hair is BIG.  When plasma balls are exciting and ridiculously expensive. When holograms are taking over the world. It is the time of the Visionaries!

It's the 80s and you're after a new gimmick. Holograms are proving to be a big hit. 3D without glasses! How awesome is that?! It's not long before Hasbro rolls out Visionaries and Tonka has Supernaturals.

Considering the line is based completely on a gimmick (because no other toy line is, obviously), the storyline for Visionaries isn't half bad. Sure, a few of the details in the cartoon are a little...suspect because they have to fit with what accessories, etc, come with the toys, but generally the idea of a society losing all its technology and regressing back to magic is pretty interesting.

The figures themselves are incredibly well articulated for an 80s line. More importantly they come with the most child-demanded accessory for any toy: removable helmets!

There is a bit of a problem with getting these guys to stand up. I know of more than one person who's resorted to blu-tak to get the things to stand up for display. Getting them to hold their staffs is another problem since - oddly - their hands aren't really shaped to grip them.

There were four vehicles released for the line - one small & one large each for the baddies & goodies. These are pretty basic, but they do have a bunch of holograms all over them to make up for it.

One of the problems these days is the state of the holograms. Quite a few of the figures around have either lost the sticker from their chests, or the hologram isn't quite as hologrammy as it once was.

Also worth noting: drop figure on lump of metal & you will break figure's crotch. Ouch.

The toyline only lasted one year - 1987. The initial release of 12 figures was never followed up by the second wave of 18. The comic lasted 6 issues before being cancelled and the cartoon ended after 13 episodes (along with every other cartoon made by Sunbow as it lost its contract).

I was fortunate to buy almost a complete set of Visionaries figures at Memorabilia earlier this year for not very much money. On ebay, individual figures seem to be listed at around ~£20 each which is a bit pricey.

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Toyologist revew: My First Number Flashcards

£5.99 from Toys R Us.

Here we go again...

(Tip: Watch either the words or the pictures. Trying to do both at once will drive you crazy!)

Other Toyology reviews can by found in the Toys R Us Toy Box on Facebook.

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

The SDCC Haul

A couple of months ago I posted here about the San Diego Comic Con exclusive toys that I'd like to own. It's been a while now since the Con, so let's have a look at what I did and didn't manage to get hold of.

Monday, 12 September 2011

Toyologist Review: Seek & Explore Climber

£199.99 from Toys R Us

Special Edition coming soon. Followed by the Slightly-Altered DVD version, the Tweaked Again Blu-Ray and the Any Excuse To Change Things Again 3D release.

Thursday, 8 September 2011

Toyologist Review: Dinosaur Stamp Set

Available instore at Toys R Us.

These stamps are of the same high-quality I've come to expect from Melissa & Doug. If you're after dinosaur stamps, you won't go wrong with these. The only complaint is the lack of a lid for the box. I really don't know why that wasn't included - it seems such an obvious addition.

The only other question is to how often these stamps would be used by a child? Crayons, for example, I can see being used all the time - they are loads of things you can do with them (well, loads of things you can draw & colour). But stamps? I can only seeing them come out to play once in a while before being packed away again.

Other Toyology reviews can by found in the Toys R Us Toy Box on Facebook.

Wednesday, 7 September 2011

Power Rangers Samurai: Empower

I watched Karate Kid when I was small and wanted to take up karate. Then I found out that the Crane Kick (as originally intended) was actually impossible without the use of Magic, and, after a little cry, I gave up on that dream.

(although I did become really good at cleaning cars)

Then I watched Hero Turtles and wanted to take up [censored], even though the BBC had very cleverly managed to replace [censored] from all the cartoons so no one - apart from every single child in the country - knew that it was supposed to be...oh hell, it's ninja! There, I said it! The secret is out! Say it with me: NINJITSU!

Anyway, there are 'issues' with nunchaku in this country so I gave up on that dream too. If the guy who lived across from me at uni is anything to go by, these 'issues' stem from hitting yourself over the head with them.

My sister was a lot better than me. She stuck with karate and is now a black belt. So if anyone messes with me, I'll set my little sister on you!

(I have done a bit of Muay Thai in my time, however. The mention of 'Bob' is enough to frighten anyone with even a little common sense. Some idiots tried to mug him once. Bet they had a bit of a shock. Heh heh heh...)

But this is getting off the point.

I have touched briefly upon the 'uproar' in the media that came with the launch of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers and its 'violence' (presumably they'd forgotten about the horrors that occur in most fairy tales). I'm not at all convinced that violence in children's television makes them any more violent than they would be anyway, but I do think that it encourages children to take up martial arts.

This is good.

As well as the self-defence aspects, there is a huge importance in martial arts on discipline. You will have large muscley people shouting at you if you attempt to do martial arts outside the dojo (/whatever the training place is called for the specific martial art you're doing) - unless you're getting beaten into a bloody pulp. This discipline & training then carries across into other areas, such as other sports and into schoolwork.

So while I was reading through all the promo material for Power Rangers I was interested to learn about the 'Empower' program which promotes the values of the Power Rangers. ThunderCats had truth, honour, justice and loyalty and the Power Rangers have...
Teamwork and Cooperation: Power Rangers always work as a team. By working together and looking out for one another, they overcome challenges, succeed in their missions, and solve important problems.
Confidence: Every Power Ranger succeeds because they believe in themselves and their friends! Confidence gives them the personal strength to face every new difficulty.
Health and Physical Fitness: The physical action in the Power Rangers inspires kids to get up and move around. Imitating Power Ranger poses and moves promotes early patterns of exercise.
Caring and Friendship: They may be a team of fighting superheroes out to promote fairness and save the world, but the Power Rangers also are a close-knit group of teenage pals. Even though they’re all different, they accept each other’s individuality, and are always around to help a Power Ranger in need.
(Yes, I did just c&p that from the press release.)

In these days of scary numbers of obese children, Power Rangers could well be one of the key elements that motivates kids to get out of their armchairs and into the dojo. Are they going to start exercising because their parents tell them that in 20 years time they're going to have health problems? Or are they going to do it because that's what the cool guys on TV do?

The new series,Power Rangers Samurai, is currently on Nickelodeon from Saturdays to Wednesdays at 3pm, with repeats at 4pm.

Tuesday, 6 September 2011

Film Review: Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie

It's 1995.  Power Rangers is a world-wide phenomenon. You've conquered TV, the toy aisles... There's only one place left to go, but ONLY IN THEATRES...

(until the video came out, anyway)

The cynical among you may expect Power Rangers: The Movie to be a hastily written, cheap cash-in that kids would love simply because it had their favourite TV characters in it and their parents would happily scoop their eyes out with a spoon rather than sit through.

Is it really that bad? Does it deserve 42% on Rotten Tomatoes?

Monday, 5 September 2011

Review: Mega Dragon Zord

In one hand I have a Morphin Megazord. In another I have a Dragonzord. What do you say we have a go at combining these two bad boys*?

*Only one has ever actually been a 'bad boy' and then he was more 'misguided' than actually evil.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Review: Mighty Morphin Megazord

So you read the Dragonzord review. You were sad & disappointed when I mentioned that I didn't own an original Megazord for him to combine with. You lives were empty and hollow as a result. Well, grab a hanky and dry those tears. Just for you (and the fact that the auction ended early on a Saturday morning so no one remembered to bid & I got it really cheap) here it is...

The original Mighty Morphin Megazord!

Saturday, 3 September 2011

Review: Power Rangers Dragonzord

You'll remember (of course you will!) a couple of weeks ago I did a review of the new Power Rangers Megazord, in which I mentioned that the original Dragonzord was pretty darn cool.

Well, now  I  the children own one.

And...I was wrong.

Friday, 2 September 2011

Power Rangers Samurai

You know what my favourite thing is about Power Rangers? No, it's not the martial arts. It's not the Godzilla-style man-in-suit giant robot fighting action that's somehow better than any expensive CGI creation could ever be (the major flaw in Power Rangers: The Movie - but more on that another day).

My favourite thing about Power Rangers is the way they talk.

Now I know you'll all collectively going 'huh?' at that. Possibly more so when I point out it has nothing to do with the dialogue or the way the actors read the script. It's specifically when all the Rangers are wearing their suits. Because when they're all suited up with their helmets completely covering their faces, it's impossible to tell who's talking.

The way round this? Every time a Ranger says something he dramatically waves his arms around.

Power Rangers was 'created' in 1993 by Saban (whom I'll refrain from gushing all over like previously). Created got little quotation marks there as Power Rangers uses a lot of footage from various Japanese series, which stretch back to the late 70s. This Japanese footage is mixed with newly filmed bits filmed using American actors to produce Power Rangers as we know it here.

When Mighty Morphin' arrived on the scene they were cries from The Media about its violence. You know, in the same way The Media kicked up a fuss about the violence in Ninja Hero Turtles, ThunderCats, He-Man...

Time passed. The Media decided to complain about other things (violence in computer games, for example). And Power Rangers kept going. And going. And going... While almost every other children's franchise is on the scene for a couple of years and then fades away, Power Rangers is fast approaching its 20th anniversary.

Cleverly, The Powers That Be decided to reboot (more or less) the franchise every year, and thus never alienating anyone new to the series. The only constant characters were Bulk and Skull, the comedy relief from Mighty Morphin who somehow managed to continue appearing long after all all other cast members had departed.

But the time came that even Bulk & Skull were absent. Saban wasn't even involved any more, with Disney having acquired the rights in 2001 when it bought Fox Family Worldwide. In 2009 production of new episodes stopped completely (there was a 're-version' of Mighty Morphin shown instead - I'm not even 100% sure if that was even show here or not).

Had Power Rangers finally reached its end?

Don't be silly!

Thursday, 1 September 2011

Toyologist Review: My Puppy Pal Scout

£19.97 from Toys R Us

A line must be drawn. This far and no further. No more LeapFrog products in our house! It's time to pass some of them on to someone else. How about next door? Yes, their house seems a little lacking in LeapFrog products. Time for them to do some testing.

So they did.