Thursday, 16 December 2010

(Almost a) Toyologist Review: Kung Zhu Pets

RRP £9.99, currently £8.97 from Toys R Us.

"Right then," says someone High Up at Cepia LLC, creator of the Zhu Zhu Pets, "We have created the most popular toyline of 2009. There are shortages everywhere, shops are able to charge up to four times the RRP for these little hamsters they're that popular. It's now 2010.  The question is, where do we go from here? How can we sell more?  Remember, we've got to sell as many as possible before these little critters go the way of the Furby."

There is a mumble about the room. "What's a Furby?"

An employee, from somewhere near the front, raises a hand.  "Sir, I've been looking at the sales figures and it seems that Zhu Zhu Pets are only bought by 50% of children."

"50%? What's wrong with the other kids? Can't they recognise an awesome toy when they see one?"

"It appears only girls are buying them."

"No boys?  Why not?"

"Well, sir, they're hamsters. Boys tend to like toys with guns and explosions and, well, generally kicking ass."

"Hmm...  So what are we going to do? We can hardly strap a couple of gatling guns to the back of a hamster, can we?"  The High Up looks across the room of underlings. "Can we?" he asks in wonderment.

And that - maybe - is how the Kung Zhu Pets line was born.  They're not just hamsters - they're ninja hamsters. And when something is a ninja, it's perfectly acceptable for a boy to buy one...even if exactly the same thing in a slightly different colour is classed as 'girly'.

The complete set of Kung Zhu Pets

One of the ways I judge a children's toy is by the instructions. Instructions for a toy should be minimal, and best of all non-existent.  Since my boys can't read they began playing with the hamsters without looking at the instructions at all. It was only later I had a glance through to find out that really there was pretty much no point in them at all (the instructions - not the kids).

You press the back or head of the hamster and it starts to move. That's about it.

There aren't 50 million different modes that will never get used. No 'interactive' games that fail to live up to the exciting slogans that are written on the box. They move and make noises. That's it.

I think those labels will shortly be cut off to make them look a bit less silly
Put two of them in a box, and it's classed as 'fighting' when they bump into each other (thankfully TRU sent us 2 hamsters, otherwise it would have been 2 small boys fighting). To make things more interesting you can buy bits of armour for the hamsters to wear. It's more amusing than you might think. Obviously it all gets a bit boring after a few minutes, but the animals are sure to come out again the next day for a few minutes. And the next day and the next day...

A word of warning, which kind of elaborates on the large sticker on the back of the Pet: not recommended for play on carpet.  The wheels love to wrap hair and bits of fluff around their wheels (hence the 'do not put hamster on a person's head' sticker - or words to that effect) which is then a pain to pick off again. If you don't want to pay out for the special arena, do what I did and stick them in a cardboard box, or use them on a laminate floor or something.

Armour up!

I've read from wikipedia that these were designed for boys ages 8-12. I'm not entirely convinced a 12 year old boy would be interested in these, but then I don't know any 12 year old boys to ask. So I could be wrong, but I'd push the age on these a little lower.

In conclusion, the animals themselves are great, but (and I only base this from looking at the leaflet the Pets came with) the bits of playsets/cage you can buy don't really seem fantastic and you'd need a lot of pieces to set up a decent-sized run. Just get a large box and some pens to decorate it with instead.

On the other hand, I'll be off to TRU shortly to pick up some armour...

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