30 June 2014

FEATURE: Summer toy round-up

 Play time

The sun is shining, the kids will soon be off from school, and the old familiar dread returns to the stomachs of parents across the land. If you're worried how you're going to keep the wee tykes entertained this summer, then read on. We've gathered together a few newly released toys that will keep the kiddies amused until September.

Transformers: Age of Extinction action figures

One of the big summer blockbuster releases will surely be the latest in the Transformers franchise. It is no surprise then that Hasbro, purveyors of all things playable, have got a fresh batch of goodies ready to go. The range sees a new versions of all your old favourite robotic characters, with some new (or, if you're a Transformers purist, old) faces being introduced to the line.

We were lucky enough to be sent the new Optimus Prime and Bumblebee action figures, which are unique when compared to their many previous incarnations as they take just seconds to transform. Dear Optimus will change from his robotic form to that of a truck by simply being smashed down on the surface of the floor or a table, with spring-loaded joints doing all the work for you.

Bumblebee features a similar transforming process, with the added benefit of having a 'Power Attacker' arm that lunges out toward enemies while he's in robot mode. This way of creating a Transformers line of toys is a pretty unique thing for Hasbro to do. Although the spring-loaded joints mean the toys transform quicker and with impressive force, the final articulation of the figures does suffer. For example, once in robot mode Bumblebee's legs are pretty useless for anything other than standing there, reducing play scope.

Still the new line is extremely robust and we can see the sprogs getting a lot of play time out of these.

Optimus Prime Flip and Change £23
Bumblebee Power Attacker £13

Transformers Hexbugs

We were mightily impressed with the Hexbug Habitats last Christmas when we had the chance to test drive a could before the big day. Now it seems that the little jittering robotic bugs are playing in the big leagues thanks to a partnership with Transformers.

Unlike the actual transforming action figures reviewed above, the Hexbugs are stylised versions of the characters and can only promise to transform your boredom into excitement. They still look very much like Hexbugs, with sleek plastic bodies and soft-feel legs below, but thanks to vicious looking additions that clip onto the front of each robot, a miniature duel can take place.

Although the new Transformers Hexbugs are fully compatible with existing Hexbug Habitats, each pack of two robots thankfully comes complete with a small battle arena. This means the bots can battle each other straight out of the packet and makes the set a great introduction to the hobby.

£18.99 for the duel set (£8.99 each).

Syma S5 3-Channel Infrared Helicopter

If the kids are looking for a summer activity to lift their attention away from the floor - the usual domain of the action figure - and onto higher pursuits, this could be for them. Similar to the Mini Helicopter RC 3 Channel with Gyro AlloyFrame that we review in the New Year, the S5 is a cheaper, lighter alternative that is tonnes of fun.

Controlling this sort of gyro-copter really is as simple as RC aircraft get. Unlike the often complicated controls of a quadcopter (like this one or this one) mastering the S5 takes just a couple of minutes. Once you've balanced that throttle and attained a level altitude, you're away.

The S5 (and it's included controller) is similar in shape and size to the aforementioned Mini Helicopter RC, but because it is made entirely out of plastic, we did tend to notice a slight rattle as it flew around. It also wasn't quite as responsive as many of the RC helicopters we've tested previously, but that was made up for by an impressive battery life of eight minutes. Another plus was that the chopper itself, normally charged via the included USB cable, can also get its juice from the controller's four AA batteries via a pop-out cable. So no running off to find an available USB port.


Water Slingshot

Put away the hi-tech toys and ground that damn helicopter, because this is a toy that is as simple as it is fun. We all love it when our friends throw a water balloon full pelt into our faces (don't we?) so this toy is perfect for adding aim to even the most useless of throwers.

The Water Slingshot is a catapult for water bombs, launching the water-filled balloons up to 30 feet. There isn't much we can say about that, except to say that this review is being written while wearing a very wet t-shirt. Included in the pack are 50 water bombs that are a perfect fit for the Water Slingshot's catapult, and also a very handy nozzle that screws onto your hosepipe or tap and can be used to quickly fill those bombs.

In application this thing is jolly effective, being far more accurate than just lobbing the bombs. The included balloons aren't the biggest we've ever had launched at us, but can certainly contain enough water to give a thorough drenching to your chums. And isn't that what Summer is all about?


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