Thursday, 8 March 2012

Review: MOTU Fright Zone

A few years ago, when I was having my 3 year paid holiday doing my PhD, I, for no reason other than 'I wanted to' bought up a number of vintage toys. Some may say that this isn't exactly true - or not the complete truth, at least, because technically I've been buying vintage toys since the time when they weren't vintage but brand new. But this is beside the point. What is the point is that while I was doing my PhD one of the things that appeared on ebay was a Masters of the Universe Fright Zone playset. A boxed Fright Zone playet, no less. In fact it was a cheap, boxed Fright Zone playset.

So I bought it.

Ordinarily I don't go for boxed things since they are usually extremely expensive, but as I mentioned: it was cheap.

What I didn't realise at the time, but did when I started to read about it later, was that not only was this a cheap, boxed Fright Zone but that it also came with its little glove puppet in near-perfect condition (a rarity, I am told). It also came with its original rubber band, but I doubt that's of much interest.

For a few years the set was proudly on display in my flat, covered in He-Man figures (and an increasing thick layer of dust). For the past few years, however, it's been back in its boxed in a cupboard at my parents. For there is only so much room at my house and I figured I could store it there without anyone noticing.

Until one day when two little boys noticed the box...

The Fright Zone is supposed to be the headquaters of the Evil Horde, the baddies from the She-Ra cartoon but which were released as 'He-Man' toys since it was extremely doubtful the girls who bought She-Ra dolls to comb their hair would also be interested in the blood-squirty-ness of someone like Mosquitor. Or so the Mattel execs thought.

The other thing the eagle-eyed She-Ra cartoon fans will notice is that it looks absolutely nothing like the Fright Zone as seen in the Filmation series. But then few of the She-Ra dolls look like their counterparts in the cartoon so there's at least a warped kind of consistency here.

There weren't any vintage Horde figures at my parents house but, due to reasons long-winded and not very interesting, there were a couple of the new Masters of the Universe Classics figures. So we made do with those.

They fit pretty well really.

Owning all the vintage playsets (to varying degrees of 'completeness') I have to say that the Fright Zone is by far the worst. Compared to Castle Grayskull, Snake Mountain or even the Crystal Castle it's definitely lacking. The major problem is that it's not a headquarters, as such, for the Horde. It's more like a bit of scenery. There's no where for Hordak to sit and command his troops, or a wall (or similar) for He-Man to overcome to rescue his captured friends. It's hard enough finding somewhere level enough to get the figures to stand up.

This wouldn't be so bad if the 'action features' were great. The prison cell is there - a necessity for all playsets - and looks great. The sculpt on the inside on the cell is fantastic.

The dust really helps bring out the detail :/

Next up is the tree. This is supposed to grab people. Hmm...

The tree looks great, but as a playset-selling feature it's lacking a little. It doesn't help that you have to constantly hold down the levers on the back to have a person captured.

There's a rubber band-powered foot-trapping thing in the base. I couldn't get this to work properly. Even upping the band-power didn't help.

Finally there's the monster who dwells in the cave. This is the best thing about the set and my kids had loads of fun getting it to 'eat' things. It's just a shame that the rubber hasn't survived the years too well with most of the Fright Zones.

The set comes in a HUGE box and I think a lot of kids would have been disappointed when they'd opened it up and put it together. It pales in comparison to Grayskull and Snake Mountain. Maybe if it'd looked a little more like the cartoon version, or been more base-like, but as it is the only really fun thing about the Fright Zone is the puppet.

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