Friday, June 12, 2009

Let's Talk About Toys, Baby

I've been spending a fair amount of time with the new Transformers for the upcoming movie and the underlying theme can be summed up in one word: complicated. I don't know if they toy designers felt that the original movie toys didn't have enough going on, or they just want to punish parents by putting "ages 5+" on a toy that requires an engineering degree to transform, but whatever the case, these toys have a lot going on. Now, the plus side of this is that the robot modes all end up being a lot more detailed and varied than the toys from the first movie but the flip side is that some of the transformations are damn near impossible. Part of this has to do with the fact that the transformation instructions haven't gotten any better yet the toys are even more complicated leading you to a situation much like getting an air conditioner installation manual consisting of one step that reads "Step 1: Install air conditioner."

I mean, there is no way in hell that a five year old could transform these things and I'm not talking about a lazy-ass five year old like my kid, although I should be honest in pointing out that my kid is a lazy-ass six year old. I'm talking about a kid who is willing to spend time with a toy trying to figure it out. Most likely the damn thing will come apart before it gets transformed and either Timmy will just throw it out or Timmy's dad will then have to spend time figuring out how to put the blasted thing back together and then how to transform it. I'm lucky in that my kid doesn't like Transformers, no doubt because he won't take the time to learn how to transform them, even the easy ones, and I'm not one to repeat myself a dozen times, however I like Transformers and these things are starting to irritate me.

Granted, this didn't stop me from dragging my family out on the Friday before they came out so that I could buy a bunch of toys at a Walmart in Florida, many of which I have since returned because Toys R Us had them on sale and Walmart wouldn't price match them. Luckily my family is used to following me around looking for toys and at that point in the vacation, the impending afternoon rainstorm was putting a damper on most plans, so it's not like it was all that big of a deal. Well, the credit card company denying my charge because they thought someone had stolen my card and driven to Florida was a big deal, as were my misbehaving children, but those aren't my fault. I'm just the one that brought us all there. Ok, shutting up now.

Now, don't get me wrong, I really like these new toys, I just may need to hire someone with smaller, more nimble fingers to transform them. The other big difference between these toys and the last go around is the penchant for more strange robot modes. Someone at Hasbro, or someone who worked on the new movie, really has a fetish for unicycles as several of the new toys have a robot mode that involve balancing on one wheel while another one sticks up in the air. For example, take Chromia and Demolisher:



Now, in Demolisher's defense, he can stand on his own, as long as he balances on his hands, like a gorilla. Chromia has no defense. If she's not standing on the weapon rack thingy, she falls right over. Also, Chromia, despite her seemingly simple design, was impossible to transform using the supplied instructions. I ended up putting them aside and using the picture of her robot mode on the card to transform her. Maybe I got it wrong and when transformed correctly she balance on one wheel perfectly but I sort of doubt it. The upcoming Arcee figure, also a motorcycle, also has a unicycle robot mode as does some unnamed upcoming female robot. The fan community thinks that all three robots will be able to combine in some fashion no doubt into some huge robot that also can't stand on it's own. Perhaps all three will just stack one on top of the other into some giant collapsing tower of Cyberton.

Now, I can't say that were I to visit another planet and be given the ability to take a shape that I wouldn't choose to roll around on wheels, but at the same time, I can't think of any real practical purpose to it, especially given that they can't stand up by themselves. And come on, if it's such a good idea, woudln't our ever-present intelligent designer have designed us with one giant wheel instead of legs while it was also making complicated bacteria motors? Come on people. Legs are good enough for us and good enough for your loving G-O-D so they should also be good enough for sentient, transformable robots. Plus, they make posing so much easier. At this rate, the next movie is going to feature robots that balance on a giant pin when in robot mode necessitating me to pose them in a display I'll call "Please Don't Disturb the Sleeping Transformers".

I still don't have all of the toys yet, nor have I transformed the Leader class ones, which, in the past were hella complicated, so it's possible that this first wave was just overly complicated and that the engineers layed off of the crystal and designed the later toys to be something a child could actually play with. More likely they realized that their target audience is grown men so they said "fuck it" and decided to give us value in the form of a toy that takes the better part of a half hour to transform, not counting the fifteen minutes needed to liberate it from its plastic coffin. Who the hell am I kidding? I'll buy 'em either way. Such is life when you're a slave to the plastic.

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