Monday, 26 March 2012

Review: Voltron Red Lion & Lance

Some of you have been asking when I'm going to do a review of the toys my children actually play with, instead of the expensive 'collector' toys I've been doing a lot of recently. Well, the thing is I have been reviewing the toys my children play with. This is how I decide what to review next: it's whatever they've left lying about on the floor that I've nearly stepped on and broken.

Take the Voltron Red Lion, for example. Since it arrived last week from MattyCollector my 3 year old hasn't put it down. It's by far his favourite toy.

And that's not just been true for the past week. No, despite him only having it for a mere 7 days my 3yo - and his 5yo brother, for that matter - have been ranting about this toy since last summer. Last fracking summer. You see, this was when I signed up for the Club Lion Force subscription on MattyCollector. The subscription includes five robotic lions, their pilots, plus Keith and was due to begin in January of this year.

At the same time I ordered the 6" Voltron figure, which I mentioned before in my SDCC Haul entry. The boys were a little disappointed when they received it since it doesn't split into the individual lions that comprise Voltron. To cheer them up, I told them that they'd soon be receiving a GIANT Voltron which did combine/come apart.

They were pleased. They were excited. And they haven't shut up about it since.

I'm not kidding here. Almost every single day from last July until Jan I was asked 'when're the big lions coming?' It didn't stop in January since the release of the lion was delayed until Feb. When it finally was shipped, the question just mutated into 'has the Red Lion arrived yet? Why not?' Since it took a month to arrive, I was soon sick of this variation too.

And then, finally, when it did arrive, I was instantly asked 'when's the Blue Lion coming?'

It's going to be a long, long year...

But enough of me justifying the existence of this review and venting my frustrations, on with the review...

I'm not sure if Voltron was ever shown here in the UK. I certainly didn't watch it, and no one I've spoken to has either (well, there was one person but she grew up in Saudi Arabia so I don't think she counts). There are a number of toys on ebay by UK sellers so I assume it was shown somehow, but the DVD release of the series in this country stopped after the first volume so again I assume it wasn't that popular. Or at least popular here.

Things are a little different in the US. There they got the entire series released over 15 DVDs in 5 sets. It's a definite cult classic and big enough to warrant not only a new cartoon series, Voltron Force, but Mattel have started making toys based on the old show.

I was first made aware of Voltron thanks to a DVD given out to those who attended Memorabilia one year, after which my children have been hooked. The basic premise is a bit like Power Rangers - five individual lions combine to form a giant robot which fights other giant robots - except it's a cartoon and, well, I guess apart from the giant robot thing and the fact it originates from Japan, it's completely different.

Over the course of 2012 Mattel are releasing all the lions, which will ultimately combine to form a huge (and it really will be huge) Voltron by the end of the year.

Overall, Red Lion is a good, but flawed, start to the line. He's solidly built, brightly coloured and his pilot Lance fits nicely inside the cockpit. The legs are positionable, to a degree.

In 'arm' mode, the legs click into place nicely, all all the joints are very strong and there are very loud and definite clicks as you move the hand and bend the elbow. There should be no problem at all with Voltron holding its position when it's fully assembled.

It will also be HUGE. I mean, really HUGE. Based on the size of this arm, Voltron will be roughly...very...tall. It should be breathtaking when fully assembled.

But there are flaws. A number of them as it happens.

To get the picky one out of the way first, the 'controls' sticker has been badly placed inside the cockpit. It's irritating as I can't pull it off and replace it in fear of it ripping.

I find it strange that Red Lion's head is painted white, but the legs etc are all a light grey. These should all match and I can't understand why they don't.

Finally, the biggest problem are the springy legs. There are two (large) buttons on Red Lion which, when pressed in arm mode, cause the legs to spring out to transform him back to lion. There are a few issues with this. First, the buttons are very large and easily knocked. Quite how easily will only be fully revealed when Voltron is fully assembled, but I can see them shooting open as you try to position his arm.

Second, the springy nature of the legs limits the positions you can put the legs in. It's not quite as bad as I'd feared when the feature was announced, but it's not great. I'm not even sure why Mattel bothered to include this action feature in a 'collector' toy. Collectors would be perfectly happy simply pulling the legs down by hand - after all you still have to manually transform the other bits.

Finally - and this could just be mine - one of the pins on my lion's leg catches on the bodywork as it moves, thus scratching the plastic.

Originally to be sold separately, each lion now comes with his corresponding pilot. In the case of Red Lion, this is Lance. Logic would dictate that each pilot's uniform match his lion, but this isn't the case, causing problems more for adults than children.

Mattel isn't really famous for 4" figures, but this is pretty good. Lance has all the standard articulation you'd hope for, along with an interchangeable head (helmet on/off). The gun isn't removable from his waist so you can't put it in his hand. If it were, however, the gun would be tiny and I'm sure even careful collectors would end up losing it.

My 3yo has insisted on taking Lance to bed with him, which has caused no end of troubles every morning as I have to root through the covers to try and find him.

Lance comes with a stand, shaped as a key, which can be used to open up the cockpit of Red Lion. In addition he comes with a piece of Voltron's sword, which will be pretty much useless until the fifth pilot (and final piece) is released.

Red Lion isn't bad by any means and the boys love playing with him. The springy legs are annoying and we're now stuck with them for the remainder of the set. You never know, maybe come December I'll have come to love them.


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