Thursday, 30 June 2011

Toyologist Review: Picnic Table/Sandpit

RRP £169.99, currently £129.99 at Toys R Us.

Some people accuse me of being overly negative. I disagree. I thought Rise of Cobra was AWESOME! I sat through all the Friday the 13th films and thought that underneath all the terribleness there were some vaguely good ideas in most of them. I watched Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and thought it was merely average instead of the complete disaster others declared. I watched Dark of the Moon and thought... No, I can't deny it: that was terrible.

Which only goes to prove that there are some things where even happy little me becomes a little bit sad.

Picnic benches are supposed to be fun. They bring up images of Yogi stealing pic-a-nic baskets (although I guess having your lunch stolen isn't so much fun). Teddy bear's picnics out in the sunshine. Peaceful summer days...

I don't want to say this picnic bench from TP is evil. I don't want to say it's the Megatron of picnic benches, the Mumm-Ra of picnic benches, the Grotbags of picnic benches, the Darth Vader of picnic benches.


Actually, Vader might not be too bad a comparison...

Okay, so Vader doesn't quite fit the bill. What does, however, are the infamous Star Wars prequels.

I've assembled more than my share of flat-pack equipment in my time, so I think I'm qualified to say that putting this table together was a complete nightmare. I wanted nothing more than to cause it some serious damage.

A bit like how I felt every time Anakin Skywalker appeared on-screen in Star Wars Episodes I-III.

Very few of the holes lined up to put the screws in. Some of the holes hadn't even been drilled all the way through the wood and I had to get my drill out to finish them. The brackets didn't quite fit properly for the legs (due to the pre-drilled holes being off-centre). The wood for the sandpit lid was warped (and again the holes were in the wrong places).

Like sitting through A Phantom Menace, I wanted to give up and walk away half way through. I can honestly say I've never sworn so much since I first heard the phrase 'Ooh mooey mooey I love you'.

But I stuck with it. Maybe, once this part was over, it'd be worth it; worth losing an afternoon of my life. Maybe afterwards I'd look back on the experience and think maybe it wasn't so bad after all...

I almost cried when, once construction was completed, I found that the picnic table wasn't anything fantastic.

I came up with a list of flaws. My Dad came up with more. Then my elderly next door neighbour came up with even more.

It was just like discussing the prequels with people!

The sandpit cover lets water in when it rains, meaning you'd need to buy a raincover for it. The legs don't look entirely safe due to the badly-drilled holes throwing everything off (sure, I could have fixed this but for what this costs I shouldn't have to!). There are nuts sticking down where children will put their legs when sitting. The finish on the wood is rough & needs sanding down. The table top/sandpit cover is warped & wobbly.

It's not what I'd expect from a table costing as much as this does. Just as 'Annie' wasn't what I expected when I saw the amazing teaser poster for A Phantom Menace. Both promised so much and delivered so little.

The kids like it fine. But to them it's just a bench. Just a film. They simply don't understand....

The RRP... Jar Jar Binks...

Gathering together for a meeting: Vader, a clone trooper and... Bruce Willis?

Which brings me back to Vader...

Like Darth Vader, there is still good in this table. It's very well hidden, beneath it's Force lightning and chokes, but it is there. The main frame is very solid. The wood on this part is big and chunky (and weighs as much as Jabba). The table top is very large and perfect for sitting four children around. If the lid had screwed down on the main frame the wobbliness problem would be quickly solved (though it'd then be goodbye sandpit).

If only they'd changed a little bit here and a little there. If only they'd taken a bit more care making it. If only they'd stopped trying to make it an 'okay' couple of things and concentrated on making one thing awesome.

There are so many little annoyances with the table that don't justify the price. Like the prequels, the final product doesn't justify either the money you spent on the table/cinema ticket or the time it stole from your life making/watching it. There are too many, better, alternatives out there.

Maybe if they'd dropped the 'sandpit' angle. Maybe if they'd dropped midi-chlorians.

Maybe if they'd just put the holes in the right places!

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