Friday, 30 November 2012

Toyology Review: Paint with Water

Melissa & Doug is a brand I'd never head of before starting doing Toyology reviews, but I've come to learn that they produce a lot of high quality products. This Paint with Water set is no exception. There's a strip of dry paint at the top of each picture which, when moistened, can be used to colour the image. Simple as. The paper is a good thickness and takes a lot of water without falling to bits.

The only real downside is that, being watercolour, the final picture will never be especially brightly coloured.

The set would be a good stocking filler and very good for taking to entertain children while visiting relatives over the holidays since the only 'extra' needed is a pot of water (which tends to be available in the houses of most relatives) and mess is (mostly) minimal.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Toyology Review: Bakugan Mechtavious Destroyer

I really like Bakugan. Whereas electronic toys get all the press for being clever and inventive, I am much more impressed by the engineering that went into getting a bunch of little spheres to spring out into a huge variety of creatures via a magnet/metal card.

Mechtavious Destroyer, the internet tells me, is one of the main villains from the cartoon. He consists of 4 little biomechanical guys and is definitely not a sphere. The design is a bit...weird. I'm not exactly sure what the guys are supposed to be. Obviously there are restrictions on how things will look when it has to hold into a ball, but these guys don't fold up so the designers could make them look however they liked. And of all the limitless designs they could have chosen, they went with Weird.

Articulation is limited and you can't pose these guys very well. Each of the little chaps retains the 'place a bit of metal on a certain place and something pops out' element from the Bakugan spheres, however what springs out isn't especially clever, which made me a bit sad.

Stand the little 'uns on top of each other and they form Mechtavious Destroyer. The instructions aren't the easiest of things to follow and it's far, far easier to just look at the picture on the box to see how they're supposed to combine. Basically, they stand on top of each other. The faces of the little guys are still visible, MD retains all the little legs of the individual robots, and there's nothing that really meshes the four together into one large creature.

If you asked my boys about Bakugan they wouldn't have a clue what you were talking about. Mention 'Transformer Balls' instead and they'd be covering the radiator in the things from their toy box to show you how they worked. It was only when they saw the metal card in the box that they realised that MD was from 'Transformer Balls', but since MD doesn't really transform they had little interest in it.

If your child watches the cartoon or plays the card game then I'm sure MD will go down well, but as a toy on its own MD isn't that great and doesn't fit particularly well with the spheres/pyramids/cubes etc that have already been released.

Wednesday, 28 November 2012

Toyology Review: Tatty Teddy Baking Set

When my mum first saw this she thought it was a cuddly teddy. It was a split second after she prodded it and it's head fell off that she realised that it wasn't, but it does show how good Tatty looks. No, Tatty isn't cuddly, he's a teddy inside which is hiding a number of cookery-related tools.

In a slightly gruesome way, when you think about it, Tatty's head comes apart to become two bowls (one of which is laughingly referred to as 'large' on the box). The hat becomes a sieve (or, for some 2 year olds, remains a hat). One hand holds a rolling pin and the other fails to hold a spoon (the recess isn't deep enough and the spoons tend to simply fall out). Being rotocast, the interior of Tatty is hollow and is where can be found numerous spoons etc can be found.

It all looks very good, but there's not really that much to it - especially for the price. You can get a lot more for a lot less money if you went for a non-branded set. But then it wouldn't look like a cute teddy. My 2 year old daughter has played with him a fair amount, and the addition of some plastic fruit has added a lot to the experience.

She still hasn't worked out the sieve thing, however.

I wouldn't buy this for my own child, however I might consider if buying a present for someone else's since it does look very good.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

Toyologist Review: Transformers Bot Shots Battleset

Bot Shots are 'cute' (or as cute as robots can get) robots with simple transformations from robot to vehicle. Every one of them, in fact, shares exactly the same simple method of transformation - push the arms in, fold the legs up and the front section down. They have a rotating symbol on their chests and the idea is to play a kind of rock-scissors-stone game with them. As you launch them in vehicle mode (via the trailers, or simply rolling them) they smack into each other, spring into robots and reveal their symbols.

Since the transformation is so simple they ought to appeal to even the youngest of Transformer fans, however there are two problems.

1. The 'catch' which holds the robot in vehicle mode doesn't hold especially well. The Decepticons were the biggest culprits of this in this particular set and you had to tug at the front section to get them to stay as vehicles.

2. The transformation is activated via a very large button on the front of the vehicle. It's large because it's supposed to be easily struck by an opposing robot, but it also means that it's very easy to accidentally knock it when you don't want to.

The trailer-launchers are a great idea and I'm only a little sad that there isn't a Roller Bot Shot to put inside the Optimus Prime trailer. The Bot Shots shoot out with quite a lot of force (not really seen in the video since I was firing them on a towel!) and you can get a good distance out of them. There is a design flaw, however. You need to hold the trailer while you press the button that opens it up and the bit most people will hold is the bit that it can't open because you're holding it shut.

The 'game' aspect is a little limited as it's so simple and repetitive and after a couple of goes the boys lost interest in this aspect. As general Transformers the spring-action is quite fun, however the large and easily-knocked buttons on the front mean that the vehicles are springing open all the time. Which gets a bit annoying.

Overall these are so-so. Fun, but flawed.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Construction: Stark Tower

Pretty much exactly a week ago, I made a Batcave as a backdrop for my sons' birthday party. At the end I began to ponder whether I could make Stark Tower from the Toyology box which was due to arrive. Well, that box has been delayed until next week, but I did make another trip to Homebase, so...

I know, I know, it's missing a lot of detail and it's really bugging me that stuff like the vertical lines aren't present. However, the party is tomorrow at 10am and I really don't have time to start cutting out long strips of cardboard, sticking them on and painting them. I'm also ashamed of the inside of the tower, which looks a bit of a mess since I rushed it. Some window frames would probably cover it up, but again, time.

So it'll do. If there's ever another superhero party, or some other thing it can be used for, then I promise to finish it properly, but for now it'll serve its purpose - along with the Batcave & giant web - of adding some ambiance to the hall tomorrow.

Now to figure out how to get them there. Because as clever as I was making the cave fold into a box, I didn't think to check whether the box would fit in a car...

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Toyology Review: Transformers Prime Cyberverse Knock Out & Energon Driller

There are two parts to this toy: the Transformer and the Giant Drill. One I like and the other I'm not really a fan of. The children agree, which is a surprise as we disagree about so many things.

My boys both love the smaller Transformers. I was chatting to a man in Toys R Us once about it and he thought it was due to them being pocket-sized. Not true. They prefer them due to the time it takes to turn them from robot to car taking about 2 seconds.

The car looks exactly how a car should look. The robot, well, it's not a fantastic-looking robot but it serves its purpose. It's great that the little weapons can clip onto the car, lessening the odds of them being lost. All in all, it's a nice little toy.

The drill, on the other hand, is not such a nice toy. There's a lever on it which 'transforms' the drill to a sort of more weapon-heavy drill with missile launchers. The problem is that the cogs easily slip as you transform it, meaning that the launchers don't sit quite right. While it's easy for them to slip out of place, it's more difficult to slip them back into place. It took some violent jabbing at the transformation lever on my part to correct.

As to the missile launchers, one of them doesn't lock the missile in place properly so it simply shoots off when you load it. You have to press down on the catch to make it hold, which is very annoying. The other launcher works fine, however.

The drill has a light-up feature, which is simple and effective. This can either be a gun for the small robot to hold, or it can plug into the large drill which then lights that up. There is a silver-painted Decepticon logo on the button, however this has already begun to rub off, even with the limited about of button-pressing we've done.

As I said at the start, we like the little robot but the drill vehicle isn't as sturdy as it should be. It's not terrible, but it struggles to get above average.

Saturday, 3 November 2012

Construction: The Batcave

My sons birthdays are a week apart, so to make my life easier they're going to be stuck with joint birthday parties until such time as they decide Dad doesn't have to arrange them anymore. Their 4th and 6th birthdays are in the next week or so, and thus next weekend is their party.

Not long ago I was at Destination Star Trek London and one of the things I, and numerous other people, ranted about was the complete lack of decoration for the evening parties. While next week's birthday party isn't on anywhere near a scale, nor in such a large hall as the Klingon and TNG parties of Trek London, I'm going to make damn sure that the venue is properly decorated to give the place a bit of atmosphere and reflect the chosen theme. In this case, it's superheroes.

There'll be a giant cobweb with the inflatable Spider-Man I bought many, many years ago (and annoyed my housemate by sticking to the ceiling of the living room) climbing up it. Since that won't be constructed until the day, I can't provide you with photos ahead of time, however, I can show you this -


For once remembering that I'll have to transport the thing to the venue, the Batcave folds in half to form an exact replica of the Christmas decoration box I lugged home from Homebase yesterday. It's not perfect, but what can you do when you're in a hurry and running out of paint? Besides it's only going to be on display for 2 hours.

Since a giant box is due to arrive at our house sometime this week with our third (and final) Toyology stuff, I'm beginning to wonder if I should quickly construct a Stark Tower. Might need another trip out for more paint tester pots though.