Taking over the London Olympia for three full days, Toy Fair 2016 is a chance for the toy industry's best and brightest to show off their latest products. And, you know, for us to have a butt-load of fun checking out what we'll be reviewing on this site over the coming year. We take a look at a few new products that really caught our childish (yet manly) eyes.
Although its a construction range that we've never before looked at, we hope that K'NEX will make a splash at Test Pit Towers in 2016. Although mostly known for those huge and impressive models of working Ferris wheels and roller coasters, it seems that they've been branching out quite a lot lately...
First up was the Mighty Makers range; a series aimed at girls that DOESN'T automatically assume that they want to grow up to be princesses. We saw a camping set, a rock band drummer set, and also a huge filming stage which, when combined with a smartphone, lets kids shoot their own films.
We also checked out their education range which, although normally reserved for school kits, is now making a bigger appearance on the retail market. The kits include a programmable computer which in turn connects to small servo motors, allowing kids to both build and then code their own creations. Pretty awesome, we think.
But what really caught our eyes on the K'NEX stand was their new range of blasters. These use either a battery-powered fly-wheel motor, or a hand-cranked air-pump, to shoot Nerf-style darts. The unique thing here is that kids can construct the blasters however they want, from small single-handed shooters, to multi-barrel cannons. We're super excited to possibly check this new system out.
SAM Labs Connected Blocks
These are awesome. Unique tiny blocks are wirelessly connected together to achieve simple tasks. For example, we played with a 'tilt' block which, when tilted, sent a message via Bluetooth to a vibrate block causing it to shake. The great thing here is that the blocks are programmed by way of a simple drag-and-drop app, so kids could code a sequence really easily. There are light sensing blocks, timers, motion-detectors and many more different kinds. We could imagine having serious fun with this.
5th Generation Teksta
You might have heard of this robotic pup in the past, but this time he's super smart. Voice-controlled, the 5th Gen Teksta responds to a variety of vocal commands, and does so pretty well. Sit Teksta, good boy.
No, not a rubbish 80s SciFi TV show about a hawk... from space. This is in fact a pretty nifty playable toy with some smart features. It's a space ship toy that opens up to accommodate your smartphone which, while running the free Space Hawk app, allows kids to play a game in which they actually fly the ship around space, blasting asteroids and landing on alien planets.
The app works like a VR programme, sans helmet, and kids can purchase expansion packs which use the augmented reality capabilities of the apps to use pictures as gateways to other planets, as in the photo above. Basically, its cool.
Although they didn't have a stand at the fair, we were fortunate to arrange a meeting with the creator of Noook, a new and unique building system. Using interlocking circular pieces of plastic, the Noook system allows kids (and us, we hope) to make dens, houses, walls, and pretty much anything they can imagine. In the finishing touches of development, we're excited to get our hands on a set later in the year. It'll be handy in case we finally trash Test Towers to the extent that we have to move out...
The Mecca of all things radio controlled, we managed to catch five minutes on the Flying gadgets stand, a company whose products we've reviewed very happily in the past. On display at the fair was a drone that can both land in, and take off from, water (while still recording with the on-board camera)...
...a drone that, with the push of a button, can invert and keep flying (while also inverting the controls so you don;t crash)...
...and also something that we're really excited about: a new range of racing quadcopters, complete with camera gimbal up front!
Micro Drone 3.0
On the subject of things that fly, we were also happy to catch a glimpse of the Micro Drone 3.0, a project recently funded on Indiegogo. The small quad is unique in that it is modular, allowing you to easily remove and replace the battery, the camera unit, and other crucial parts. It also carries a HD camera (which is pretty impressive considering the size) which can be linked to your smartphone over WiFi. You can then put the phone into a Google Cardboard or any VR headset, and achieve full First-Person-View! We're really looking forward to getting our hands on one of these.
We do love a bit of Playmobil here at The Test Pit, especially now the brand is getting a bit more funkier and weirder. Of all the new 2016 sets we saw, the above really caught our interest. Playmobil have worked in conjunction with Porsche to create a fairly stunning replica model. Seriously, this thing doesn't look like a conventional Playmobil car at all, and is in fact remarkably detailed and scaled. Still, two figures can fit inside, and as well as the car itself the set also comes with a little garage including replaceable wheel rims. Awesome.
Always popular here at Test Pit Towers (and our Twitter followers who love competitions!) Drumond Park had a wealth of new games on show at the fair. Our personal favourite had to be Dig In, possibly the simplest idea for an addictive game we've ever seen. The set includes a big plastic bowl filled with over 100 different shapes, and players have 15 seconds to find the exact shapes in the correct colours or they loose. Seriously, this is great fun and bit like trying to find the right LEGO block in a huge pile. We're looking forward to playing this later in the year.
Speaking of which... It wouldn't be a toy fair without the world's biggest toy company. LEGO had a huge walk-through stand this year, and despite not being allowed to take any photos ourselves, we saw a wealth of new sets.
Obviously the new range of Star Wars sets were of real interest, and it was great to see up-close the Resistance Troop Transport model, a set which JangBricks called his favourite Star Wars LEGO set of all time in terms of build and construction. Ooo.
We also liked the look of the Carbonite Freezing Chamber set, where a Han Solo figure can be lowered into the bowels of the machine and transformed into carbonite! Both sets look like tonnes of fun and we're excited to possibly review them soon.
We also saw some of the new Ninjago sets, which look pretty awesome and packed with features, as well as the new...
..Nexo Knights! Look, its a damn castle... ON WHEELS! Obviously we're hoping to secure all of these to review this year, so LEGO fans stay tuned.
We had a great time at the fair, so thanks to all who spoke to us and let us have a play. Find out more about the annual Toy Fair at http://www.btha.co.uk/toy-fair/