Tuesday, 7 December 2010

Review: MASK

Ebay, various prices. Or possibly 'in the loft somewhere'

video


Some time ago I declared MASK to be the best action figure-type toyline ever. Why? Well, I shall explain...



Boulder Hill, partly transformed, plus...stuff.


MASK is one of the many hundreds of 80s toylines which was advertised to kids in the form of a half hour advert sorry, cartoon. The 1st season of the cartoon was very good.  The plots were a little repetitive, but this didn't really matter. To be honest you became a little disappointed when there wasn't a scene where the most suitable MASK agents for the mission were picked, or where everyone sat round a big table while the helmets were energised.

For some reason the 2nd season moved all the characters into a racing setting and instead of having a terrorist-hero type set up they were just competing racing teams. This never really made any sense.

MASK defeats Switchblade.

But this is getting off the point, this review is about the toys.

And they're awesome.

So, what makes them so great?  I put this down to three things:

  1. Cars that transform. The problem with Transformers is that generally only one of the modes (robot or vehicle) looks any good, the other suffers horribly to make the first one look as good as possible.  The advantage MASK has is that the vehicle doesn't have to turn into anything convincing, it just has to have a lot of weapons! Some are better than others, obviously, but hardly any of them are terrible.
  2. Men sit in them. The men are slightly smaller than the 3 3/4" scale which has now become the most common scale in the toy industry. First introduced by the Star Wars line in the late 70s, having small men allows all the vehicles to be in scale with each other and not so big that the price is ridiculous. The figures are also highly articulated (at least for the time), allowing them to sit properly in the vehicles.
  3. Helmets! If there's one thing a child can't resist it's a removable helmet. It's hard to explain, but there is just something more cool if your man has a helmet he can take on and off.
A collection of MASK vehicles. And the A-Team.

There are a few issues with the toys, however. The first is probably more a problem for parents than children. Each toy comes with a vehicle, man and helmet - all of which have a different name. My sons come up to me all the time asking what the name of each is, and I have to admit I really don't know most of them. I can manage all the vehicles, most of the men, but the helmets... well, thank goodness for the internet where I can look up such things.

Second, despite letting my 2 year old play with these toys, they aren't really designed rough play. Some bits will break off if you're not careful. It doesn't bother me too much as things can be easily glued, but it's something to watch out for.

Finally, there's the cost. These things aren't super cheap.  For some reason almost all of the ones on ebay come with boxes (quite why everyone kept the boxes for these when boxes for every other toy line were thrown in the bin, I don't know), and with boxes come inflated prices.

A minor traffic accident involving Firecracker and Ben 10.

If you are going to start buying these, then here are a few of our favourites...

The following images are from the awesome Albert Kenello MASK site (very useful for checking if all the parts are included on ebay auction photos) until the kids next get the toys out and I can take photos of mine.

Condor


I think everyone had this one as a child in the 80s, probably due to Brad Turner being the coolest character and also it being one of the smallest, and therefore cheapest MASK toy and therefore most likely to be bought by a parent. It's the favourite of my 2 year old who likes it since it turns from a 'brum bike' (motorbike) to a 'dubba-dubba' (helicopter). Since everyone had it, there should be lots of them on evil-bay and therefore reasonably inexpensive. Reproduction stickers are available from Sticker Fixer.

Rhino


What is it with lorries and 80s toys? Optimus Prime and then Rhino? Rhino was the 'main' vehicle and therefore big and expensive. To be honest the transformation is probably one of the poorest, but it does shoot a very big missile. It's the one every child wanted, but were probably turned down by their parents once they saw the price and bought Condor instead. There are issues with the chrome having worn away (doesn't bother me - who's ever actually seen a super clean lorry on the road?), and it's one of the more expensive to get hold of.

Raven


This is my personal pick. It's not the greatest toy as you have to fiddle about a bit to get the man sat low enough in the car for the doors to close, the bits that stick out of the wheels aren't the most convincing guns in the world, and the kids keep managing to pull the doors off, but it looks fantastic.  Cool car, plus I love the spinning round bit at the front when it transforms. It fires brightly coloured discs instead of dull missiles too, which means the odds of finding them again once fired are greatly increased.

Boulder Hill


When I bought this from ebay about five or six years ago there were loads of them and they were all selling for almost nothing. More recently the price appears to have shot up. I'm not altogether sure why. The toy is covered in guns, which is very important to a boy, but none of them actually fire any missiles, which is very important to a dad who would otherwise have to hunt the house looking for them. It's a pretty simple toy, but the transformation gives it a lot of play value and you the kids will spend ages change it back and too.  Most of the cars fit through the garage door (apart from Rhino, annoyingly, who's too big) and can park in the back. The only downside is that the doors to the battle station garage bit (sorry, best I can describe it) don't stay on too well.  If you can find this for a reasonable price, then it's really worth buying.

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