Monday, 31 October 2011

Toyologist Review: Secret Agent Torpedo diver

As we learned from previous sets (here and here), there's always a 'gadget' in the Playmobil Agent sets. So, what is it with this one? Well, it'll be the little big propeller at the back of the boat-thing which spins and powers the boat-thing along in water.

News: Ghostbusters sale ends today!

The Matty Collector Ghostbusters Halloween Sale (aka 'end of line clearance sale') ends today. Buy now for what is probably your last chance to get hold of these figures before they're gone for good.

Update: Ghostbusters are now 60% off!

Is this the end of the line? Undoubtedly. I'm extremely doubtful there'll be anything released now in 2012.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Toyologist Review: Snazaroo Face Painting Sticks

Marmite. Jedward. Let's Rock Elmo.

There are no in-between opinions on any of these. You either love them or hate them with a fiery vengeance. There's another thing that can be added to the list: face painting.

Some kids love face painting. They form large queues at fairs to be transformed into tigers or butterflies. Others, however, run in fear when someone approaches them with a paintbrush in a way someone might from a man wearing a William Shatner mask.

My children, well, they never like to make my life easy and thus have decided that face-painting is one step above 'having hair washed' on the Hate Scale. This made reviewing these face painting sticks potentially a little difficult.

Maybe it's my fault. Maybe I shouldn't have scribbled a little Tony Stark goatee on my youngest son's face when he was tiny. How was I supposed to know permanent ink would be so difficult to remove?

So, in the end, it was down to me and me alone to test. Applying paint to my own face in front of a mirror proved a little problematic, but the results...  Well, they weren't too bad.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Toyologist Review: Follow Me Thomas

Currently £39.99 from Toys R Us

"What can be dreamed can be achieved," Scully once said on the X-Files. I think (it's been a while since I saw it) she was referring to the moon landings, but it applies equally to the imaginations of toy designers.

There's nothing more annoying (apart from those things that are) about a toy being advertised as doing something clever and then, when you get it home from the shop - or even worse, unwrap it on Christmas day - only to discover that it's not all it seemed to be on the advert. At least on a regular day there's the option of taking it straight back to the shop, but on Christmas day? When you've pinned all your hopes on it entertaining you through to at least Boxing day? You're stuffed.

Thankfully, there are times when this isn't the case. When a toy claims to do something clever and, well, it does.

So which category does Follow Me Thomas fall into? Success or failure? Was Granddad awestruck as he watched the demonstration or not?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

News: Sainsburys 1/2 Price Toy Sale

From tomorrow morning (/midnight for 24 hr stores) Sainsburys will once again be selling all toys at half price.

Expect CHAOS as 000s of slightly greedy people cram their trolleys with anything they can get their hands on. How much will end up in Christmas stockings and how much sold on ebay for a profit? I really wouldn't like to say.

News: The full length TRU advert for 2011

In response, I assume to the 'uproar' by (crazy) people on the Facebook page, TRU have unveiled the full-length Christmas advert on FB.

I know there are a couple of hundred people on Facebook who might lynch me for this (compared to the 30,000 other people in the FB group who don't seem to care either way), but I kind of like it. The visuals are a vast improvement (time had taken its toll on the old cartoon), despite what people are claiming Geoffrey is definitely still in the ad, and neither new nor old song is really very Christmassy.

The real question is, is there anyone who's really bothered about the change? Since these days commercial breaks between shows are easily skipable, how many people are actually going to watch it? Kids, maybe? Well, I think they're all going to fall 100% in favour of the new ad.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

News: ThunderCats toys online

A quick random browse on the Internet has revealed that the toys for the new ThunderCats toys are online (if out of stock) at The Entertainer. Not officially released in the UK until December (and Bandai have gone to great lengths to ensure importing them from the USA is near-impossible), it's the first indication (as far as I know) of what a large toy shop will be stocking in the line and what the prices are going to be.

Most interesting is that the two 'classics' figures (Lion-O and Tygra) are listed, despite the rumours that this particular series has been cancelled in favour of making them in a smaller scale.

If the TV series is as popular as the press releases make out, expect much panic-buying just before Christmas (who on earth thought is sensible to release them that late in the year?)

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Review: Power & Honor Foundation Catalog Vol. 1

I had an absolute blast growing up in the 80s. As anyone who's ever seen my house (or seen some of the photos on this blog, for that matter) will know, I have desperately tried to cling on to these days by collecting as much of it as possible in the form of small plastic figures.

ThunderCats, Transformers, Centurions, Visionaries - the list goes on and on. I loved every single one of these toylines and the universes the characters lived in. And it wasn't because they all had cartoons (aka 'half hour adverts') - despite what adults may think, children aren't stupid and want anything they see on TV. A lot of work went into some of those shows, but that's a story for another time.

The one that kicked off this toy/cartoon revolution was Masters of the Universe, created as a competitor to the Star Wars toy line. It wasn't the cartoon or even the comics that attracted me. It wasn't even the amazing artwork that adorned the toy boxes. What I really liked best were the figures themselves - just like the boys in the child focus group who attempted to steal the prototypes. As a child, I simply thought they looked fantastic.

When the 200x (as it is referred to due to its non-exact year of arrival) Masters of the Universe line arrived, I started lurking on the forums. It was from there that I began to learn the rich history of the toyline. The dispute over who exactly created created He-Man. The early mini-comic stories I'd completely forgotten about due to them being hugely overshadowed by the Filmation cartoon. When the Classics line began, characters such as Gygor appeared, who'd been designed for the 80s line but never gotten past the prototype stage.

And now a load of this information has been put into a book - The Power and Honor Foundation Catalog Vol. 1

Saturday, 22 October 2011

News: Shock! Horror! TRU changes their ads!

There's currently uproar on the TRU Facebook page. Why? Because Toys R Us have dared to change their Christmas advert from the usual 'magical place, we're on our way there...' to something new!

Lots of people are complaining that it's not as good as the old one (fair enough). Lots of people are complaining that their 8 month old children are upset about it (what the?!).

It's all great publicity for TRU. Lots of people are talking about it and, if/when the 'classic' advert returns, it's another great burst of publicity for them.

Toyologist Review: Batcave

Boots are big at the moment. Wellingtons, UGGs, Waders, and Reboots.

No, not the fantastic 90s animated series, but taking a franchise and starting it over fresh.

Bond's had a go. Star Trek sort of did it...while also not (it's technically still in continuity with the previous things). Spider-Man. Planet of the Apes. Superman...

It all began (more or less) with Batman Begins, which (almost) made up for the travesty that was Batman & Robin.


And last month the entire DC Comics universe has rebooted.

(Batman is part of the DC universe, for you poor non-comic fans out there).

While I read a lot of comics ('how much did you spent on comics this week, Mr Johnson?!' 'Um, not too much, Mrs Johnson. Quick, must hide the receipt...'), I don't read a lot of DC ones. Obviously I've read all of Sandman and (most of) Preacher, but they're probably not a great basis for a child's toyline (but then there was an Aliens line). Alan Moore's Swamp Thing run was a favourite, but that's the closest I've gotten to mainstream DC Universe.

The idea of rebooting is to refresh something old and bring in a new audience(/readers). DC's reboot has kinda worked, as I'm now buying Swamp Thing and Animal Man.

And so we come, via a semi-relevant route, to the rebooted Batcave.


Okay, so it's not a 'reboot' in the technical sense, it's simply a new version of the Imaginex Batcave.

Friday, 21 October 2011

News: Free Kreon in Doctor Who Adventures #240

Quick heads up that there's a free little Transformers Kreon figure (aka 'Transformers Lego man') in this week's issue of Doctor Who Adventures, #240 (released yesterday). It's Optimus Prime with his chest open (just a picture, not really open) showing the matrix 'inside' him. It's been given away as a promo figure at various places in the US and is not available in any of the Kre-O sets in shops.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

News: Power Rangers hit London!

Seems the Power Rangers have set their attention on protecting London. Check out the details below.

- TV heroes celebrate smash new TV show by taking on the capital –
London commuters were stunned last week when the Power Rangers hit the city to mark their 18th year and the return of the kids’ favourite TV show on Nickeloden. The five super heroes took to the streets of London to cement their status as cultural icons with a series spanning nearly two decades on our TV screens. 
The red, pink, blue, green and yellow stars were spotted around the capital with sightings at the Tower of London, the London Eye, Oxford Circus, the Millennium Bridge, Abbey Road and even on the tube. The Power Rangers were on hand to protect the capital and to celebrate the success of the 18th series, Power Rangers Samurai. The series is now one of Nickelodeon's most successful live action shows. 
In 1993 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers took the world by storm creating a global phenomenon. The show, following five teenagers who must battle to save the planet, quickly became the most watched children’s television programme in the US and following its debut went on to be sold to over 150 markets worldwide. Ranked as the number one boys brand in the world from 1993 until 1997, the Power Rangers spawned a film, comic books, and a hugely successful merchandise line including videogames and toys. Since its launch in 1994 Power Rangers has become the number one kid’s action toy selling over 24 million action figures world-wide through global toy partner, Bandai. 
Currently in its 18th year and with series including Power Rangers Turbo, Power Rangers in Space and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy, and a total of more than 700 episodes, the Power Rangers are back with a new hit show, Power Rangers Samurai made by the original creator Haim Saban and other original show producers.
Tina McCann, Nickelodeon UK Managing Director says, “The new series of Power Rangers Samurai has been very successful for Nickelodeon and it’s great to be able to re-energise the love for the characters, which we saw back in the early 90’s. We are thrilled to be celebrating the triumphant return of Power Rangers Samurai to the channel by bringing the characters themselves to London.” 
Watch Power Rangers Samurai on Nickelodeon & Nicktoons

Toyologist Review: Playmobil Secret Agent Detection Jet

£17.99 from Toys R Us.

One of the great things about Toyology is that you're sent toys to test that you would never have thought of buying. A couple of months ago I was introduced to the world of Playmobil, something in my trio of decades on the planet I'd never really played with before. Back then I had a Baddy Top Agents set. This time it's a face off between the forces of good and evil, Secret Agents and Robo Gangsters, and an attempt to stop a robot-smuggling ring.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Review: Star Wars Micro Machines

You know that moment at the start of Star Wars? (or 'Episode IV: A New Hope', if you prefer) After the yellow text has flown up from the bottom, a little Rebel ships flies across the screen, following by a much larger ship that keeps going and going and going and... You think it's going to stop. How big can this thing be? Yet it continues on...

It's HUGE.

Which is a problem if you want to sell a toy of it. The Star Destroyers, AT-ATs, heck even the Millennium Falcon or an X-Wing - all of them are BIG.

Big = kids unable to play with them properly = few sales.
Big = storage problems = few sales.
Big = expensive = few sales.

This is why Hasbro (or Kenner at the time, before Hasbro bought them) started making the figures in a 4" (ish) scale. Before that time action figures were generally big doll-like things, but at 4" it's possible to make a Falcon that Han can actually sit in and fit into the average living room.

But even at 4", there's still a problem. The Falcon is still very big. How does a child lift the thing and fly it round the room? How does a fleet of TIE Fighters fly after it?

To achieve this you have to drop the size of things much further. Luckily, Galoob (before Hasbro bought them. Hmm, bit of a trend here) already had a very successful small-scale toy line and was looking to expand.

And thus we had Star Wars Micro Machines!

Monday, 10 October 2011

Toyologist Review: 'Poppin Park' Elefun Busy Ball Popper

Whenever I see something that requires D batteries, I begin to get scared. Most toys that need D batteries have some kind of motorised component which lead them to be very, very noisy.

You can imagine my reaction when I saw that Elefun needed four D batteries.

After hyperventilating for a while, I my wife tried to reassure me.  Maybe it wouldn't be too bad. With technology these days there was a good chance someone had developed a quiet motor. I wasn't entirely convinced by her argument, but decided to risk putting the batteries and find out for sure.

Needless to say, I was right.

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Review: Masterpiece Optimus Prime comparison, part 2

Following on from this.

The transformation from robot to vehicle is vaguely the same for both MP01 & MP10. But then the same could be said of all Primes. It's a bit nicer to do, a bit of polish after nearly a decade's more experience.

The cab for MP10 is more seamless, although there are more seams. As you can see from the photo, in order to achieve the improved robot-shape the cab breaks into more pieces than MP01. MP10 comes with little fold-out wing-mirrors which adds more to it then you'd initially think.

Quite why MP01 ever had that nasty 'hole' at the shoulder joint, I'll never know - there was absolutely no need for it. Thankfully it's now gone and this is, for me, the major improvement with MP10. 

I don't think I've liked this section on any Prime. It's always just looked like Prime's legs folded up. The trailer connection is a little different between them. MP01 has a hole, which is pretty much what you'd expect. MP10 has two slots instead, which the trailer inserts securely into.

I haven't included photos of the trailer since, owning the first release of MP01, I don't have the trailer for it. Possibly needless to say, MP10 comes with one.

His yellow & grey 'waist' is still clearly visible on both. Again, I don't really like the look of it as it looks too much like Prime's waist. MP10's gun can still be stored in his back in lorry-mode, despite it sticking out slightly due to a notch in his waist section.

As well as a trailer, MP10 comes with a little Spike figure. Neither model has a particularly good cab-interior, but you can see how he sits. Spike can't sit in MP01 as his legs stick out too far.

And that's about it really. Both are really good Transformers, with MP10 being slightly better-looking overall. Is it worth the upgrade? I'm not sure - MP10 is very expensive. He is pretty, but is he really that pretty?

You definitely shouldn't leave these things lying about...

Monday, 3 October 2011

Review: Masterpiece Optimus Prime comparison, part 1

8(ish - yes, I'm too lazy to actually look it up) years ago the first Masterpiece Optimus Prime (well, actually it was 'Convoy' - the Japanese name) was released. MP-01 was his name. I think everyone was of the opinion that it was AWESOME. It was certainly by far the best Prime figure ever made and a contender for the Best Toy Ever. It weighed a ton too, due to all that metal, the likes of which hadn't been seen since the 80s.

Well, there's a new kid on the block, a new Masterpiece: the MP10. There are reviews all over the internet saying that he's fantastic and if you don't own MP01 (or one of the later rereleases using the same mould) you should definitely pick up one.

But what if you do own MP01? Is MP10 worth paying out for? He's far from cheap. I'm not going to give you a definitive answer, but I will run through a comparison of the two and leave it up to you to decide. After all, ultimately, it is your money.

MP10 is smaller than his predecessor, by quite a way. Only Megatron & MP01 were released in the larger scale, so MP10 nicely fits in with Starscream, Grimlock, etc etc.

As you could probably guess, there's a hell of a lot less metal with MP10. MP01 had giant chunks of metal but MP10...well, there are odd bits but you really won't be able to spot it in the photos. He's still a very solid figure, however (unlike the Rodimus release which was incredibly flimsy) which originates from him being basically a box with legs. A box that's more nicely shaped than MP01, as you can see from the photos.

A lot of the 'extras' found on MP01 are now gone. There are no pistons at the elbows or knees. The little flaps on his lower legs are now fixed in place. There's no button to move his mouth up and down. There are no wrist communicators.

Will you miss these? Probably not.

MP10s much better to post in a standing position. The joints at the top of the legs allow him to stand more naturally than MP01, who either had to have his legs completely vertical, or at 45 degree angles (well, not quite but you get the idea).

The knee joints are interesting. As with the previous model, MP10s upper leg slot down into the lower for transformation. People had issues with MP01s, and my Ultra Magnus (who uses the same MP01 mould) left leg refuses to stay up. I've never had a problem with MP01, however. MP10 is supposed to be improved, with a button-release to get it to drop. It works fine on one leg, but the other is a right pain on the other. The button presses, but then you have to really shove the leg to get it to move.

A new addition are the wheel-covers on the legs. I'm not convinced about these. I liked having the wheels on show and think the covers make his legs look a bit chubby. You can, however, just fold these back out of the way if you wish.

The back of MP01 was a bit messy. MP10 is slightly neater, although still not great (when has it ever been on a Transformer?). The centre back portion flips open and can be used for weapon storage - Prime's rifle folds up to fit inside.

Every Prime these days has to come with a chest compartment with the matrix inside. MP10s chest is definitely a bit nicer-looking.

The matrix itself, is also better with MP10. It doesnt 'open' like the old one, but it is a better sculpt and is now made from die-cast metal.

This final robot-mode problem is the biggest bug for me. MP10 is smaller to make him 'fit' with the majority of the other MPs. If you compare him to Hot Rod (not in Rodimus mode, so he's slightly shorter) you'll find that he's actually shorter. I don't really like this. I think as the leader and greatest of all Transformers, Optimus should be the bigger. Instead he kind of looks a bit short and chubby in comparison. I actually think MP01 fits better.

I know, I know, this is all personal opinion and others will disagree but I'd have liked Prime to have had just that little bit extra on his height to place him above Hot Rod.

Overall, this is figure is a mighty improvement on Hot Rod. Hot Rod was a disaster and apart from my slight leg issue, there're absolutely no quality control problems with him whatsoever.

Is robot mode better than MP01? The body shape is better, for certain. The missing 'extras' don't bother me, but the slight under-achievement in height does.

Next: vehicle mode.