Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Toyology Review: Pumpazing

I'm usually a big fan of Drumond Park games, but this one I'm not so sure about. Each player pumps the arms until a bit zings off. If Ziggy says 'uh-oh' you lose. Simple as.

It's definitely lacking something. It might be that there are only 4 shooty-out bits so the tension doesn't build up quite enough before the 'uh-oh'. Maybe it's because if you're not paying complete attention you can miss what sound Ziggy made. Maybe it's because it shoots on every person's turn. The zinging is too common and therefore not a surprise when it happens, unlike, for example, something like Pop-Up Pirate.

That said, it's a quality toy and while we haven't played it a hundred times over, the children do keep picking it up just to shoot the zingers off (and then have a jolly time hunting round the room trying to find them again). I wouldn't rush out and buy Pumpazing, but I wouldn't start thinking up excuses if I was asked to play. It's just that it could have been a bit better.

Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Toyology Review: WWE Rumblers

It seems a little unfair to review these guys considering the fact that the only thing I know about WWE is that it definitely doesn't have anything to do with pandas (thank goodness that confusion was cleared up!) and Hulk Hogan doesn't wrestle any more. At least I assume he doesn't, since he must be way past retirement age by now.

The figures come in a 2-pack, are a couple of inches tall, with articulation at the arms and waist. Poseability is therefore limited, but more than enough since these figures will likely just be smacked together by children. Their small size means that a child could carry around a whole bunch of these in their pocket. They have a good likeness to their real-life counterparts.

One comes with a scarf. I assume this is important to his character.

We found playing with these two figures is a little limited (hence the lack of exciting video), but then our family is definitely not the target for these. I'm sure most WWE fans, however, will end up with a whole bunch of their favourite wrestlers (and possibly a wrestling ring) which would liven up things no end. As it is, I find them little more than two guys in their pants and my boys had zero interest in them.

Monday, 29 October 2012

Toyology Review: Star Wars Fighter Pods

In my day we had Micro Machines Star Wars. Fighter Pods are along the same lines, I suppose, but slightly larger and infinitely more cute. Since Star Wars vehicles tend to be HUGE having everything small-scale is a big advantage if you want to have space in your house for both an AT-AT and a sofa. Fighter Pods come in a variety of box sizes - from single 'blind bags' to larger sets with little vehicles. They are being released in waves, with - from looking at the booklet that lists them all - enough, but not too many characters to collect before the next wave is released.

The figures are small, rubbery, and cartoony in design. There is a hole underneath which allows them to stick on the plastic 'pods' as stands. What's nice is that some of the characters have multiple figures in the wave, which means that you don't have to collect every figure to get every character (if that makes sense). For example, there are two Chewbaccas so if you only manage to collect one, it's not a complete disaster.

The box proclaims there are multiple ways to play, giving the impression there are games with rules to play with these. There aren't. Fighter Pods are simply like any other action figure and how you play with them is entirely up to the child/adult who never grew up.

As a Star Wars fan and a fan of small toys which come in blind bags, I'd have spent a small fortune on these when I was small. As chance would have it, when these arrived for review the boys and I had just spent the previous week watching Star Wars in its various incarnations so they were very interested in these toys and immediately complained that we were missing key characters.

So it looks like we'll be buying more of these (R2, Luke - I'm looking at you!), which must make them a hit. And Toys R Us very clever for sending us a toy to review that's ending up with us giving them more money!

Monday, 15 October 2012

Toyology Review: Football Game

I was in school the other week when I was approached by an 8 year old and asked if I liked football. 'I don't really follow football,' I replied. I thought this would be enough to turn his attention back to the book review he was supposed to be writing, but no, he was keen to continue with the topic. 'What team to you support?' he asked. 'You know when I said I don't really follow football?' I replied. This didn't dissuade him either and he continued with asking about England games and various other football-related topics that I really couldn't care less about. Probably as little care as he had of finishing his book review.

But this has nothing to do with this Football Game from Orchard toys.

The rules are simple and can be learnt within a minute. If you guessed at the rules, you'd likely get them right. The game is very similar to Snakes and Ladders, but with a couple of added spinners and everyone has their own board. Move your football up or down the board(/pitch), depending on the arrows, and then when you reach the top (aka 'the goal line') spin to see if you score. Score and win. Simple as.

Since my interest in football is limited to knowing when international matches are on so I know that the pub won't have any seats, the children's exposure has been limited and thus their interest as little as mine. They played the game, enjoyed it, but haven't been pleading for additional games since - hence their non-appearance in the video.

Like all Orchard games, the quality is high. The pieces are made of made of thick cardboard and ought to take a battering. Overall, while my children weren't overly keen, his does seem like a great game for young football fans to play when the weather outside is dreadful and there's no chance of playing real football.

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Toyology Review: Transformers Weaponizer Bumblebee

When I first became a Toyologist last year, the Dream was that Toys R Us would send us a Transformer to review. Well, it's taken a while but that day is finally here. The first time I haven't had to pay out for a Transformer since...well, I think I conned my mum into buying me a Dark of the Moon toy last year, but that doesn't really count since Bayverse toys are hideous monstrosities. Besides, I think I told her it was for the children. This toy is all mine. All mine!

Sorry? What do you mean this review is supposed to cover what the children think of it? Really? You're not joking? Oh rats.

So here we are with (mostly) the children's opinion of Weaponiser Bumblebee :'(

I'm reasonably sure I've read somewhere that after things became ridiculously complicated with the film toys, Hasbro have been making an effort to simplify their Transformers recently. Bumblebee's transformation is fairly straightforward and most people should be able to do it within a minute or two without the instructions.

There is a big 'play' advantage of a quick transformation. You can be a robot, change into a car, drive across the living room and turn back into a robot again to fight the Decepticons very quickly without it taking away from the battle that's taking place in your imagination.

The articulation is extensive and Bumblebee can be posed in almost any way you can think of. His feet are large so he has no problem standing up. As a car he rolls nicely along most surfaces.

According to the box the toy has 4 modes, which is a bit of a cheat. There are only really 2, but both robot and car modes have the option of pop-out spinning cannons. While there is a blinking light when they pop out, there's thankfully no sound to annoy parents. I'm not convinced the light actually adds anything to the toy as it's the headlights which (briefly) light up when the cannons are unleashed, not the cannons themselves to represent firing.

While Bumblebee is a nice toy, the children weren't really interested. We already have countless Bumblebees, so they couldn't care a less about having another one, even with the new gimmick. This is a problem Hasbro are well aware of. Toy sales for the last film were down due to children already having all the characters, so a new robotic cast is being assembled for the fourth film.

If your children don't have a Bumblebee then this would be quite a good one to get them, but if they do already own a yellow car I definitely recommend checking whether they want a second before purchasing it as a gift.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Toyology Review: Imaginext Castle

I liked castles when I was small. There's something about hand-to-hand combat that guns and long-range attacks don't have. I remember being in a shop once and seeing a plastic castle for sale. My dad refused to buy it, saying that he would make one for me instead when we got home.

15 years later my dad built a wooden castle. It may take him a while, but he gets round to things eventually.

My children don't have to wait so long...

This would be an excellent centre piece for a Christmas present. You could then convince Granny to buy the dragon to go with it and Uncle to buy the battering ram and... Well, this is all assuming the child likes knights and castles, King Arthur and Prince Valiant.

And if they don't, they really should.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Toyology Review: Duplo Creative Cakes

We don't own any Duplo. We skipped over it and went straight to 'proper' Lego since we've collected bucketloads of the stuff since I was small (besides, they don't do Star Wars Duplo). So Creative Cakes was a completely new (kind of) play experience for us all.

The set comes in a reasonably strong cardboard box, with a plastic lid that doubles as a tray for your baked creations. The briefest mention of the word 'cake' was enough to capture my (note quite) 2 year old's attention and she sat for ages clicking the bricks together to make a variety of vaguely cake-shaped objects.

It's Lego and therefore very hard to fault in any way, however I will nitpick at it being very, very pink. As far as I am aware it is common for both girls and boys to have a play kitchen/shop/similar, which this set would compliment very nicely. Unfortunately since - for no really good reason - the colour scheme is heavily girl-targeted, very few boys are going to want it - or at least not be bought it by an adult. Which is a shame because, as I said, this goes perfectly with a play kitchen.

(If there is indeed a more gender-neutral set available, then I apologise.)

Other than that, this is a great set with just enough pieces to allow a number of different cakes to be made. Included is a booklet with some ideas pictured, but really the cakes are all down to the imagination of the child.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

Toyology Review: Redakai Championship Set

Eons ago I used to play the Star Trek Collectable Card Game made by Decipher. I say 'play' but mostly I just collected the cards because I didn't know anyone else who played. Which makes me wonder why I bothered, but 'reflection' reveals so many things at all too late a stage.

I attempted to teach my family how to play, but the rules were a bit complicated and they quickly gave up. Which was a bit sad. Though not quite as sad as playing a Star Trek Collectable Card Game.

Time moves on and one of the newest collectable card games on the market is Redakai. There are any number of similar card games available at the moment, so a new one has to have a definite hook, something that clearly sets it apart from its competitors.

Spin Master have gone for making the cards look as good as possible. And, well, these cards are pretty darn awesome-looking.

I must have sat for hours now, rocking the cards back and forth in my hand and watching the little animations. They're brilliant creations and, though I will admit I'm no expert in the field, they seem to me to be a step up from everything similar available. You might get some special 'rare' cards having these kinds of lenticular images, but every single card?

Eventually, however, the boys grew impatient and demanded to actually play the game. The rule booklet looks intimidating, but reading through, the rules weren't too complicated. There are two different versions of the game - basic & advanced. With the Championship Set you get more than enough cards for the basic game, though an additional set is required to place the Advanced.

We ended up playing a hybrid of the two, along with a few House Rules. Both 5 year old and 3 year old were easily able to understand the rules and really enjoyed playing. I had one game, but kept being shouted at because I kept tilting the cards back and forth and forgetting to have my go.

They really are very pretty cards.

And since they're made from plastic, not card, they're hard-wearing and drink spillages from younger siblings won't do any damage. Phew.

There are more than enough cards in this set to trial the game and if a child becomes a fan they'll politely ask their pocket-money provider for additional funds for more cards. And with the rules simple, there's no excuse for a parent not to play with their opponent-less child!

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Toyology Review: My First Painting By Numbers

Usually our weekends are filled with clashing Power Rangers, intergalactic Star Wars or any one of a hundred other toys which battle each other in a variety of noisy and violent ways, if not in plastic form then electronically. It was a nice change to have two boys outside in the sunshine, quietly working away on their masterpieces.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Rant: eBay Sellers, part 2

Following on from my previous post, I received a reply from eBay who basically said that he was obliged to send out my toy, just like a buyer is obliged to pay for auctions won.

I contacted the seller again, informing them of this and warning that I would officially report him to eBay. In response, the seller said that he also contacted eBay who apparently told him that he was under no obligation to send the item out if he didn't want to, just like buyers aren't obliged to pay for auctions won.

Hmm, bit of a difference there.

Anyway, I've now reported him to eBay and I see negative feedback in this seller's immediate future. If this does indeed happen I shall be sure to name and shame the seller on every toy forum I can so he has as much trouble as possible selling the toy.

No one messes with me and gets away with it!

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Rant: eBay Sellers

The details in the following post are deliberately vague while I try and resolve the situation.

While not about toys in the strictest sense, this post does result from a toy-related problem and is likely the place where a lot of people purchase vintage toys:


I know a lot of people have issues with eBay, the company, but this rant (sorry, this is going to be a rant!) is about sellers - specifically one particular seller.

Last night I placed my bid for a toy on eBay. The timer ticked down and mine was the highest bid. Fantastic, I thought, since I'd been wanting to buy this particular item for a while.

Shortly afterwards I received a message through eBay from the seller of the toy, along with a cancellation request. Apparently he'd previously listed the item and it had sold for four times the amount I'd bid, however the previous buyer hadn't paid. The seller wasn't happy with my winning bid, and wanted something more along the lines of the previous one.

(You notice how I try to avoid saying I 'won' the item, since you don't really 'win' anything on eBay - you buy it.)

I was a little irked, to say the least.

You can't just cancel an auction because the bidding didn't go as you'd liked. You list your item and you take your chances. If you're not willing to let an item be sold for less than a certain amount then you either start the bidding at a higher price, or you set a reserve. Simple. If you don't do either of those things then tough, you accept what you did get and move on.

A number of years ago I had an eBay purchase cancelled because 'the item was broken'. My immediate thoughts were that the selling price wasn't to the seller's liking, but there's not a lot you can do about something that's allegedly broken. Last night's seller simply came out and refused to sell it. Honest of him, but slightly stupid as I'm now going to kick up a fuss I might not have done if it'd been 'broken'.

Besides the fuss-kicking, I am in a quandary as to what to do about the situation. I've rejected his cancellation request and sent a message to him that a selling price being not to his liking is not a sufficient reason not to sell. Do I now pay for the toy? If I do pay and he does send it, will it arrive in one piece? I've sent an email to eBay and hopefully they can suggest something. This can't, after all, be the first time such a situation has arisen.

Besides me having a little rant, this post is aimed at sellers on eBay: there are ways of not letting things sell for too low a price on eBay - use them!