Sunday, August 23, 2015

Machine Robo's Magnificent Robot Combiners

I don't collect Transformers merchandise, but I see articles and advertisements about it when I browse through Japanese robot toy sites. From what I can gather, one of the latest product lines for Transformers is called "Combiner Wars", a line that consists of five or six transforming robot toys that combine into one bigger robot.

Combiner robot toys have been around for a long time, and Transformers had quite a few of them even back in the '80s. Yet of the many combiner robot toys I've seen over the years, the ones that have consistently impressed me were the ones released by Bandai under the Machine Robo line. Whereas other robot toy lines are stuck in the novelty of combining smaller toys into a bigger toy, Machine Robo has used the concept of combination to promote creative play. Read on for a review of how Machine Robo has built upon its combiner toys throughout the years.

Thursday, August 20, 2015

IDW's The Fly: Outbreak Lacks Buzz

Sometimes it's nice to see a movie franchise find a second life in another medium, like novels and comic books. Other times, the second life turns out to be a turn for the worse. In the later category is The Fly: Outbreak, a comic book miniseries published by IDW Publishing. This miniseries recently concluded its fifth and final issue and after reading the entire series, I feel that this is one insect monster story that needs to be sent back to the telepods. Read on for my complete review.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Scaling a Popular Space Opera with Star Wars Micro Machines

As we move closer to December, more and more details about the long-awaited Star Wars, Episode VII: The Force Awakens have found their way on to the Internet. Some of have arrived in the form of production stills and preview footage, while others came through teaser photos of tie-in toys. Among those toys is a name that hasn't appeared much since the '90s: Micro Machines. According to recent news, one of the first Force Awakens toys will be a Micro Machines play set that features miniatures of characters, vehicles and locations from the upcoming sequel, a play set that folds into a replica of the Millennium Falcon.

This post will look at the Micro Machines line of Star Wars toys during the '90s. Even though this line made its debut long after Kenner stopped making Star Wars toys, Micro Machines produced some of the most detailed and affordable replicas of the saga's numerous vehicles. Read on ...

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Funko's Movie Monster Figures Get Their Own Haunted House

For such low-detail action figures, Funko's set of classic Universal movie monster figures (Dracula, The Mummy, etc.) sure do have some nice real estate.

As part of the exclusives that it produced for this year's San Diego Comic-Con (SDCC), Funko produced a multi-story haunted house play set that's scaled to its line of 3 and 3/4 inch ReAction figures. While the ReAction Universal monster figures would be the most logical choice to go with this play set, it can be used for any of the 3 and 3/4 inch figures Funko has produced for its multi-licensed ReAction line. Thus, if you want Ellen Ripley, Sarah Connor and Snake Plissken fighting Pinhead in a haunted house, or have the cast of Goonies form their own monster squad to fight Michael Meyers, Jason Vorhees and the Predator in a haunted house, you can do it.

Despite the fact that Funko designed its ReAction figures to emulate the kind of action figures that were made in the '70s and '80s, their prices are vastly different. For example, Remco made its own series of action figures based on classic Universal movie monsters (a.k.a. "Mini Monsters") back in theearly '80s. That line included a "Play Case", a combination haunted house play set and an action figure carrying case, and a "Monsterizer", a sort of experiment table for the figures that any mad scientist would love. The Remco figures cost around $3 each, with the Play Case and Monsterizer costing around $8 each.

Above: Toy catalog photos of Remco's Mini Monster Play Case (left) and Monsterizer.
(Photos courtesy of Plaid Stallions.)

In contrast, the ReAction monster figures cost $10 each, while the haunted house costs $75. For that kind of price, one would hope that the play set would include a trap door in one of the floors, a dungeon with a lockable cage, and at least one coffin or sarcophagus. None of those features are included, although it does have a balcony from which monsters can use to throw hapless victims to their demise.

Then again, if the haunted house isn't too pricey for you, then you might also want to consider buying another Funko SDCC exclusive: "Spirit Glow" versions of four ReAction Universal monster figures. Those figures cost $65 each at SDCC.

Spirit Glow ain't cheap, even for classic monsters.

Friday, August 7, 2015

Remembering Erector Sets

A 725 Erector set.

Between the number of licenses it has acquired over the years and its expansion into other mediums such as video games, TV shows and movies, Lego is frequently identified as the go-to construction toy for building things both simple and complex. Because of Lego's dominance, it's easy to forget the many, many other construction toys that have appeared throughout the last few decades. These toys, such as Lincoln Logs and Tinkertoys, took different approaches to the concept of creative play, proving that interlocking plastic bricks aren't the only way for kids to make something fun.

This post is about my experience (and lack of experience) with one of the more sophisticated construction toys, the Erector sets. Erector sets were originally produced by the A.C. Gilbert Company and designed to emulate the tools and materials used in mechanical construction. While they may lack the name recognition of Lego, Erector sets have been providing hours of sturdy, nuts-and-bolts play for many decades. Read on ...

Monday, August 3, 2015

Puzzle Video Games, Cubed: Breezeblox, Rush and Edge

Being a fan of video games for as long as I can remember, I'm somewhat surprised over how my gaming preferences have changed over time. I've previously gravitated towards more complex and graphically sophisticated games in order to experience the latest advancements in gaming technology. Yet as my real life becomes more stressful and personal funds get smaller, I find myself going back to the basics: simple yet intriguing visuals matched with simple yet addictive game play. This post will look at three indie puzzle games that caught my attention--Breezeblox by Brennan Maddox, and Rush and Edge by Two Tribes--and why they're the go-to games for unwinding when reality causes your brain to overheat.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bouncing Back with Mondo's Madballs

As with previous Comic-Cons, I frequently find myself looking around the Web after the event is over to see what kinds of products that toy and collectibles companies are planning to release for geek-a-holics like me in the weeks and months to come. While I was surfing through one Comic-Con '15 photo set, I saw a product on display that I haven't seen in years: Madballs.

Mondo's Madballs on display at Comic-Con 2015.

A collectibles company named Mondo is planning to release new versions of the original Madballs toys that were first released in 1985 by AmToy, a subsidiary company of American Greetings. Madballs were intended to capitalize on the "gross out" humor that was popular in the mid-80s with trading cards such as Garbage Pail Kids, toys such as the Mad Scientist Monster Lab, and movies such as Gremlins. As such, Madballs were a hit, with the line expanding to offer action figures, comic books, animated home videos, and a video game.

Even though Madballs are often associated with the '80s, their emphasis on the grotesque and malformed places them in the long tradition of monstrous merchandise aimed at kids, a tradition that includes the horror comics of the '50s, the Mars Attacks! trading cards of the '60s, and Aurora Movie Monster model kits of the '70s. It should also be noted that this isn't the first time that Madballs have been revived for new generations of fans. Basic Fun, Inc. released a selection of Madballs back in 2007, and American Greetings still runs an official Madballs website that features video games and downloads.

I'm not sure how the previous revival of Madballs went, although I suspect that the first one went well enough that American Greetings is trying again. Perhaps this time the revival will expand to include new versions of the "head popping" Madballs action figures, figures with heads that popped off when a trigger is pulled on their backs. Looking back, these figures bore a strong similarity to the more deranged Sofubi figures that have been released in Japan. With the right glossy metallic paint job, the Madball figures would be virtually indistinguishable from their Sofubi counterparts.

A selection of Madballs action figures (photo courtesy of Weirdo Toys).