19 November 2014

FEATURE: Christmas Stocking Fillers - Toys

You're gonna need a bigger stocking.

Our previous foray into the world of Christmas gifts for young 'uns yielded some pretty pint-sized delights. But although lots of little gifts can help bolster the underside of your tree, what kids really crave are those massive boxy presents which are referred to in hushed tones at school as 'the big one' or 'my main pressie'. And so we rolled up our sleeves and got playing with some bigger and entirely more awesome toys.

Star Wars Command Toys

Remember those little plastic toy soldiers you used to play with as a kid (or maybe your dad did, if you're young)? Well they're back, and this time they've come straight from the Star Wars universe. The Star Wars Command range of toys from Hasbro features non-articulated figures of storm troopers, rebel fighters, Sith and Jedi, as well as larger vehicles like the Millennium Falcon and AT-AT walkers.

Seeing Star Wars toys this plain and simplistic is actually quite refreshing, letting kids rely more on their imaginations than on flashing lights and pre-programmed sounds. We were also sent one of the larger sets, the Star Destroyer, which as well as including a host of plastic figures (Luke Skywalker is in there - score!) has a large Star Destroyer vehicle. This is controlled remotely by way of an awesome hand-remote, which lets you move your hand up and down to make the Destroyer move. And, when lined up for a perfect shot against those rebel scum, you flip your hand over and the Star Destroyer splits open and launches one of four death balls!

We love the idea of rejuvenating an old toy staple with a 21st century feel, and the gyro-enabled hand controller is pretty inspired.

£39.99 for Star Destroyer set, figure sets from £8

Nerf Mega Thunderbow

One of the main new toy weapons being pushed about this Christmas is surely Nerf's most weirdest looking to date. The Mega Thunderbow is the latest in Nerf's Mega range, from which we have happily reviewed the Mega Centurion and the Mega Magnus previously. Once again you get a chunky red and orange shooter that fires the larger Mega darts which, when shot at point blank range at your bum, hurt like a bugger (trust us).

As you can see from the pictures this is not a conventional Nerf blaster, taking as it does the form of a bow. But unlike, say, the Nerf Zombie Strike Crossfire Bow which mealy uses the bow arms for aesthetic purposes, the Mega Thunderbow actually shoots when you pull back on the string. A clever mechanism triggers the launch of the darts (of which there are five included) and a good solid yank back on that string sends the darts dashing off with all the force and speed we've come to expect from the Mega blaster range.

Reloading is a doddle as each dart has its own firing chamber, and we were massively impressed by the range the bow can achieve considering there is no barrel. Also, the darts make a great whistling noise which we've never before noticed on other Mega blasters. So go on, get them this on Christmas Day. Any pets you have will quickly hate you.


LEGO Mixels Series 3

You may remember our previous video review of the first series of Mixels, the LEGO monsters that come in individual 'pocket money' bags. Just in time for Christmas Series 3 has hit the shelves, serving up nine new monstrous pals to accompany the Cartoon Network TV show. This time round we get three new characters from each of the Glorp Corp, Spikels and Wiztastics clans.

We said this during our Series 1 review (which we urge you to watch) but the LEGO Mixels are tremendous good value. Each bag will set you back just £3 (or less in some places) which is equivalent to buying an individual minifigure, and considering each bag contains around 50-60 small pieces, that's an amazing price-per-part ratio - probably the best LEGO have offered in a long time.

So the entire series will set you back no more than £27, and as each bag is clearly marked with which character you're getting (unlike the minifigure foil bags) you won't have to spend more to complete the collection. Furthermore, once all three from each clan has been bought you can combine the pieces to make an uber-Mixel; a larger character which requires parts from all three to build.

Highlights of Series 3 have to be Scorpi from the Spikels, a cute scorpion with eight spiky legs, and Glurt from the Glorp Corps, a sort of terrifying green dog-cum-dinosaur. Delightful.

£3 each

Propel Hovermaxx LED Remote Control UFO

We do love our remote controlled helicopters here at The Test Pit, and many an early morn has been spent terrorising the neighbours as we wrestle with the latest quadcopter, ever threatening to tip the damn thing straight through their greenhouse (seriously, a greenhouse? Just buy your vegetables, losers). And we've often lamented just how tricky many helicopters are to control, what with pitch and yaw and all those other flying terms we don't quite understand. If only RC choppers were simpler...

Now they are, baby! Especially if you get the Hovermaxx from new-kids-on-the-block Propel. This is a simple up-or-down flying toy designed exclusively for use indoors. No complicated piloting system, no camera, no GPS... just good fun and crazy flashing LED lights.

The Hovermaxx is controlled by a simple thumb-operated slider switch which, like the throttle stick on other RC helicopters, controls how fast the rotors spin. Once you have that mastered that it is easy as pie to fly, well... rather, make hover, as you have no other control over the direction the Hovermaxx goes. Which is why its indoors only, kids.

Great as an extra bit of fun for Christmas morning, the Propel Hovermaxx LED Remote Control UFO makes a good basis from which to build an interest in RC helicopters. And, as with the Nerf bow, to terrorise the dog.


Playmobil Advent Calendar -Santa's Workshop

It is a tradition that must surely go as far back as cave people, but opening your advent calendar door each morning and feasting on the chocolaty treat inside is the highlight of December for us. But these days many toy companies have cottoned onto that and are now offering kids an alternative to a daily sliver of cheap choc, in the form of play goodies.

The Playmobil Advent Calendar makes every day a bit like Christmas Day, containing as it does a small toy or figure behind each of the 24 doors. You get a real mix of things from Playmobil with this particular set (for Playmobil produce other themed calendars), from random assortments of tiny toys, to reindeer, a sleigh, happy elves and (and we only know this because we cheated and opened it for this review. Shhh, don't tell mum!) a certain jolly chap in red on Christmas Eve.  

All of these small parts add up to create a truly festive scene which kids can build slowly during December and place onto the included cardboard backdrop. The toys themselves are also compatible with other Plymobil figures and sets, so if your kids already have a tonne of the stuff, they'll appreciate a bolstering of accessories. The included figures are also pretty neat (especially the final one, wink wink) and are great to collect and play with in their own right.

So for a healthier alternative to the traditional cheap chocolate advent calendars, Playmobil have created a great way to make the build up to Christmas even more exciting.


Visit www.playmobil.co.uk

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