Friday, 20 July 2012

Review: Roaring Raa Raa the Noisy Lion

Thanks to Tomy for supplying the following item for review.

Ah, the best laid plans...

So I bought a new tripod. Actually, I bought two new tripods because the first one I bought wasn't what I wanted so I sent it back. The second was what I wanted. It was fantastic! I'd take a picture of it to show you all, but...

And the 'but' answers the question of why I'm writing about my new tripod instead of the Roaring Raa Raa of the review title. It's because less than 24 hours after receiving my shiny new tripod my 5 year old son decided to have a go at using it to take some photos. Except he had a little accident, the tripod went tumbling over and the camera... Well, it won't be taking photos of any roaring lions any time soon.

So I'm left with my old camera, which is equally broken (though the breaking was my fault in this case), but can at least take photos. But not with a flash.

I can only apologise for the slightly dark fuzzy photos, and the standard definition 4:3 video. I did the best I could with what I had.

Roaring Raa Raa is a big soft & cuddly lion (well, his head is - his body is solid to hold the electronics).  A soft & cuddly lion with a secret. Well, it's not really much of a secret since he's called 'roaring' Raa Raa, but I thought making it out to be so would make it more exciting and make up for the photographic disappointment.

Press down on Raa Raa's head and he'll roar. Press it down for longer and he'll ROAR! He'll also shake about as he does so.

There's nothing more annoying than buying toys which use 'fake' voices for toys and it often ruins them (kids aren't stupid, they know when such things are wrong). Thankfully Raa Raa has the exact same voice has he has in the TV show.

Of all the toys Tomy sent for us to try out, this one is by far my daughter's favourite. BY FAR. The roaring action is easy for her to operate since all she has to do is place all her weight on it. The large feet mean that it's unlikely that Raa Raa will fall over while he's being pushed down.

Personally I think the expression on Raa Raa's face makes it look like he's about to sneeze rather than roar, but after questioning small people it seems I'm alone in this opinion. I wonder if eventually Raa Raa's head is going to become a little deformed from all the pushing down on it, but this is me being overly nit-picky.

Unless Raa Raa costs a hundred billion pounds (which it might - I haven't checked) it's definitely worth considering for anyone who's ever hummed the theme tune.

Tuesday, 17 July 2012

Review: Pikachu

Thanks to Tomy for supplying the following item for review.

Remember the 90s? Were you one of those children in the playground fighting over Pokemon cards? I know I wasn't - I was heading off to university by the time Pokemon made it big in the UK. I did have a flatmate who emerged from his room from time to time and declared he'd captured suchandsuch a character. Everyone else acted very impressed and he went back into his room, a happy little bunny. And I did go to see The First Movie at the cinema, for reasons I cannot imagine. From what I recall, the main film wasn't too bad - it was never going to win any Oscars, but it passed the time fine.

But I did almost walk out after suffering through the pre-film Pikachu special.

Imagine your worst nightmare. Imagine Forces of Nature, but worse. That was the horror that was Pikachu's Vacation.

Which brings me nicely to this little Pikachu that was kindly sent to me. At first I was going to take out my revenge for the 21 torturous minutes of his vacation...

But ultimately decided this was too cruel a fate for someone so darn cute (although, according to his label, he is machine washable). Instead I handed him over to the children. They were confused, at first, for while Pokemon is very much still around (the 15th(!) film was released a few days ago in Japan), my children have yet to really encounter it. They have watched a couple of episodes of the cartoon on TV, but didn't link that with the toy I handed to them.

Reviewing soft toys is a little difficult. It's not like they really do anything. I guess there's commenting on the quality of the manufacture (which is very high) and how cuddly it is (very - it's 100% soft and suitable for the tiniest person to chew on), how close a likeness it is to the character (very) and the machine washability (a very useful feature for a child's toy).

Hmm, guess there is a reasonable amount to say about soft toys after all.

Pikachu is now something of a cultural icon and definitely the most (in)famous of all the Pokemon. With such an extensive history, Pikachu is going to be bought by a wide range of people. Adults who remember the original games & associated merchandise, children who are playing the new games today, and everyone in between. I cannot fault this toy and if you like Pokemon it's definitely worth picking up.

Monday, 16 July 2012

Review: Pic 'n' Pop

Thanks to Tomy for supplying the following item for review.

The Pic 'n' Pop is, I suppose, a bit like a vacuum cleaner. A really weird vacuum cleaner, granted. There are lots of 'toy' vacuum cleaners on the market, but few of them are strong enough to actually suck up anything of worth, much to the disappointment of the child. This, however, easily manages to pick up large balls through it's 'flipper' action. Then it shoots them back out again with the press of the button on the handle. A bit like this...

It's a simple concept but it keeps the little 'uns entertained as they chase after the balls to pick them up again. It's interesting that this is easier for a child to push along than an adult. Something to do with the angle the Pic 'n' Pop is held at, I'd imagine, although I will admit to not having fully researched the matter.

It's worth nothing that, despite looking good in videos, the Pic 'n' Pop is a bit useless on grass. There's almost zero ground clearance so it's hard to push along on bumpy ground. But then my guess is that's it's designed more as an indoor toy anyway.

Speaking of which, you need a reasonable amount of room to use it. It takes about 50cm from initial Pic 'n' Pop contact with the ball until it's taken up inside. It doesn't sound like much, but when you add in a drive up and multiple balls, the distance soon increases. In our tiny living room the balls have to be lined up down the centre to suck them up properly.

There is an 18 month age on the box. This is about right. The child has to have a pretty good grip to pull the trigger to release the balls. My daughter is bang-on 18 months old and isn't quite strong enough to work this yet. She can do the 'picking up' bit fine, but not the firing. Yet.

And, once the child grows up a little, there's always the alternate use for it...

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

My Collection: Transformers

A few days ago I saw a picture online of someone's 'extensive' Transformers collection. My first reaction was one of horror at the fact that they were all mint-in-box (which I leave for a later rant). After a closer look at what, initially, seemed to be a large pile of robots I was less convinced there was actually a lot of stuff there. Sure, there was Fort Max, the biggest & priciest Transformer of all, but it looked more than there was due to the boxed nature of everything.

99% of my toys are boxed, but a slightly different type of 'box' than the one in the photo I saw. All mine are loose and stored in giant tubs because there's no way I have (or will ever have, come to that) enough space to have it all out on display. Not that I want it all out on display as that makes it harder to play with.

This brings me to the subject of today's post: my Transformers collection. Or at least most of it. There is another box which is kept at my parent's house, because it's important to have an emergency supply of toys whenever you visit.

Anyway, on with the photo -

Optimus Primes
This box contains pretty much every version of Optimus Prime released up until the first Bayverse film, both transforming and not. I gave up Prime-collecting when Michael Bay's movie came out as then a ridiculous amount of Primes were released, in a huge amount of sizes and I simply gave up.

Binaltech/Alternators were Transformers which transformed into 'real' cars, licensed from 'real' car companies such as Honda, Ford etc. Alternators were the all-plastic Hasbro versions, whereas Binaltech were made primarily in metal by Takara in Japan and, in my opinion, were ten times better.

Classics (overflow)
I really need a bigger Classics box.

This contains all the characters which appeared on-screen in the original Bay film, plus bits and bobs from the later ones, plus random Animated and various other Transformers which won't fit anywhere else.

Complete set of the first wave. Kre-O has it's problems, but I like sitting & watching TV in the evening and putting together (not) Lego models. Fond memories of Christmas day as a child come flooding back.

The Boys's stuff
Some bought especially for them, others stolen from 'my' collection. There is a varied assortment from 30 years of Transformers in the children's boxes.

Honoured stuff
There is nothing especially special about these, but they have somehow managed to get shelf-space where all other Transformers failed.

Beast Wars
Every character that appeared in the show is in this box, minus the original Blackarachnia since they've never made a proper screen-accurate one. Maybe one day...

Stuff that needs sorting
Yes, that is a 100% complete Bludgeon just thrown in this box of random stuff. I'll get round to sorting it out eventually.

All the Classics/Universe/United/Henkei and associated robots are in here. Aside from random G1 I take a fancy to, this is really the only box that is added to.

Robot Heroes
Ah, the cute little non-transforming Transformers. I have all the 'old' characters and a handful of the movie ones.

These have been out, fiddled with and displayed, but are now back in their boxes as it's the safest way to store them.

The original (and the best?).

And there you have it! I think it's mostly Armada, Robots in Disguise & Animated bits at my parents. G1 Jetfire is probably there too (it's not here, anyway).

Monday, 9 July 2012

Review: Mr Colour Maker

Thanks to Tomy for supplying the following item for review.


aka Chaos or Mess.

Entropy is a thermodynamic property, and has it's own associated law: entropy must increase unless work is done on the system. All parents will be know this law intimately. Take a child and a tidy room and within seconds the room will be in a state of complete devastation. Making a complete tip of a room is easy. Tidying it up again is a nightmare.

But no matter how much we want to yell at the child and make him tidy up, it's not the child's fault. They're forced to do so by the laws of the universe.

There are certain items which exacerbate (what does that mean?) entropy. Paint is a good one. Paint + child = levels of chaos previously unknown to man. Paint is best encountered only in a carefully controlled environment. E.g. a school or someone else's house.

But then how to learn about the mixing of colours? How will a child learn that blue + yellow = green? Artistic careers are doomed instantly. Well, this is the 21st Century and in the 21st Century with have Technology to deal with such problems. We have Mr Colour Maker!

With Mr Colour Maker you take a couple of cute little paint pots -

And 'pour' (ie pretend to pour) them into the big pot, Mr Colour Maker himself -

Mr Colour Maker recognises which colours have been poured and with a 'mix' (doesn't really mix since there's not really any paint in the pot) tells you which new colour has been made.

It's really rather clever.

I'd like to tell you how it works, how the big pot recognises which of the smaller pots have been poured in, but without taking it apart - which would result in some children being reduced to tears - I can't. For the moment we'll just have to put it down to Magic.

There are a couple of other functions. There's a 'told by Mr Colour Maker what to put in' mode and a singing mode. Mr Colour Maker has quite a nice, non-irritating voice. He has a British accent, although, having only just remembered but not tested yet, I did read in his instructions that there is also a button to change the language.

From the toys we've tested from Tomy it seems that they're pretty darn good at putting the right age recommendation on the packaging. Mr Colour Maker is recommended from 2 years and I'd agree with this. The beautiful little girl in the pictures is a tad too young to play with this and mostly just throws it round the room (her older brother refused to pose for photos). Saying that, since Mr Colour Maker arrived she has learnt to recognise & say 'yellow'. Coincidence?

Children (and many parents) will love the magical pot-recognition that Mr Colour Maker has. Did I mention that it's really rather clever?

One of the advantages of Mr Colour Maker not containing real paint.

Friday, 6 July 2012

What I want from SDCC 2012

While the weather continues its course on the terrible-side preventing me from taking half-decent pictures for reviews, I thought I'd quickly run through the offerings that will be available in a week's time at San Diego Comic Con.

Or at least those offerings which interest me.

Last summer there were a number of things which seemed exciting, however the list for 2012 is a lot more limited.

Ghostbusters Dana as Zuul

To be completely honest Dana is a bit of a rubbish figure. She's not even an action figure really, merely an unarticulated statue with a barely passable resemblance to Sigourney Weaver. But it was one of, if not the final Ghostbusters figures to be made by Mattel and an essential character from the films so I'll pick her up.

Masters of the Universe Classics Vykron

Like Dana, Vykron is a bit of a disappointing figure - more so after seeing video reviews of him. Character-wise he was quite a good choice as a 30th anniversary year figure but poorly executed.

Marvel Legends Uncanny X-Force

Marvel Legends is back! Kind of. Well, it is back but there have been constant issues getting hold of the figures in the UK unless you have £gazillion available. But that's another rant. For SDCC Hasbro are releasing this 3 pack of figures from the currently running Uncanny X-Force comic (though how much longer that comic is running is currently in question) and these will go very nicely with the Fantomex figure that they've already released (you know, assuming you've managed to get hold of one).

Hasbro SDCC items are always a nightmare to get hold of, despite them being on their website after the show. Near-immediate sell-outs and refusal to ship abroad being the main culprits for this. I'll be putting this on the 'would be nice' list and really don't expect to be able to get hold of it for less than the price of a kidney.

14" Glow in the Dark Mumm-Ra

I was online about to order the regular version of this when I found out about the SDCC version. Ordering halted immediately. While I'm really not convinced about the 14" Lion-O Mezo released, I think they've nailed Mumm-Ra perfectly and he will be mine. If I can get the glow in the dark & mummified SDCC version then I would be super dooper happy.

And that's it. The Mattel toys are easily purchasable from their website after the show and the other two... Well, who knows if I'll be able to get those. I suppose you'll find out if I've been successful if reviews appear here.

Wednesday, 4 July 2012

Review: Galaxy Rangers Doc Hartford

Continuing my series of unpopular toys from the 80s, I move onto the Galaxy Rangers. My childhood memories of Galaxy Rangers are extremely hazy. I can remember watching it and I can remember it had robot horses in it. That's about it.

That's likely more than most people.

Galaxy Rangers was not very successful with children. It basically bombed. The reasons for it become clear very quickly if you watch the show - the storylines are very mature. Listening to the commentary tracks on the DVDs, the creators are very proud of their show. They're especially proud of not having any gimmicky catchphrases such as 'ThunderCats-Hoooo!' being shouted all the time. It seems, even 20-odd years on, not to have occurred to them that ThunderCats (and it's catchphrases) was incredibly popular with children, whereas Galaxy Rangers, well, wasn't. It was, however, very popular with late teens/early 20s but this doesn't really help a children's show. Galaxy Rangers was cancelled and no toys were released.

At least this was the case in America. In Europe Galaxy Rangers was more successful with children and a limited amount of toys were released. As is the case with European-only releases, the toys now command a very high price.

As a result, I have - and only ever expect to have - one figure: Doc Hartford. In the show Hartford was a computer genius who had a special implant that allowed him to control all computers. This being a little hard a feature to build into a toy, the action figure simply has a quick-draw action.

Or at least it's supposed to. One of the reasons I was able to buy Doc for a reasonably low price is because he's broken. While he does have his gun, the holster has broken at some point in his past and reglued (not completely straight) on his leg. The arm is spring-loaded and won't stay down without being held manually. There are screws in his back, so there is a chance (a small one, I'll admit) that I'll be able to take him apart and attempt a repair.

This will have to wait until a day when I'm feeling very brave.

In addition, as can be seen from the photos, Doc's chest is suffering that common ailment of white toys - yellowing.

Articulation is basic - 5 points at the head, arms & legs - as was standard at the time so I wasn't expecting anything more. The likeness is, in my opinion, very good.

There are few people who remember Galaxy Rangers, but those who do remember it fondly. If you ever happen to stumble across some of the toys going for anything under £50 it would be well worth considering opening your wallet. There may be a profit to be made.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

News: Toy Masters

I suppose most will think that toy companies are nice places, where everyone sits around nicely and thinks solely about how best to entertain children. In the case of He-Man and the Masters of the Universe this was far from the case, especially after the toy line began to sell $squillions and the question over who actually created He-Man arose...

"Toy Masters is the first ever feature-length documentary about the worldwide billion-dollar phenomenon that inspired an entire generation of children: Masters ofthe Universe (MOTU). Filmmakers Roger Lay Jr. and Corey Landis havetracked down all the key players in search for the answer to the question: “Who actually created He-Man?” The filmmakers will bescreening exclusive material from the documentary and participating in a Q&A at this year’s San Diego Comic Con, being held at theSan Diego Convention Center on Friday, July 13th, 2012, from8:30pm-9:30pm in room 26AB. 
Legions of MOTU fans are alreadybuzzing with anticipation. It is likely the film will reach an even wider audience once released, (a la King of Kong), for the controversial rivalry between former Preliminary Designer for Mattel, Roger Sweet, and former Visual Designer for Mattel, Mark Taylor, (both of whom are claiming bragging rites for the initial concept behind He-Man), makes for a compelling, and highly entertaining film. 
During this special one-hour panel fans will get to see exclusive never before seen footage from the epic toy industry smack-down that is TOY MASTERS. Moderator Robert Meyer Burnett (Director, Free Enterprise, Femme Fatales) will be joined onstage by Toy Masters director / producer Roger Lay, Jr andco-producer Corey Landis. Joining them on the panel will be many ofthe key players from the franchise's 30-year history including writer J. Michael Straczynski and designer Mark Taylor. 
The film, which is already being hailed as the next KING OF KONG and the SOCIAL NETWORK of the toy industry,features interviews with the key creative personnel behind everyversion of the best selling toy line and all incarnations of "Mastersof the Universe" on television, film, stage, and print, tracingthe inception and ups and downs of the fantasy juggernaut. Everyone involved in the 30 year history of this beloved franchise makes appearances in the film including such genre luminaries as J. MichaelStraczynski (Babylon 5, Marvel’s Thor), Richard Edlund (Star Wars,Raiders of the Lost Ark), William Stout (Conan The Barbarian, Pan'sLabyrinth), Lou Scheimer (Filmation co-founder), Michael Westmore (Star Trek Franchise), Don Glut (Empire Strikes Back, Transformers Animated), and Gary Goddard (Terminator 2-3D, Captain Power). 
Follow TOY MASTERS on the Facebook group for updates, including exclusive details on how you can be oneof the first to see the film. Or go to the film’s official site for a first look at the trailer. 
Also, during the Comic Con panel, the filmmakers will reveal details on the world premiere of the film,which will be hosted by one of the most prestigious film festivals in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genre."