The third day of TrekMovie’ review of all the Playmates Toys for the new Star Trek movie brings us to the roleplay toys. We have detailed reviews with pictures and video for the new phaser, tricorder, and communicator.
PLAYMATES ROLE PLAY TOYS
As expected the first wave of Playmates roleplay toys are the core landing party kit of a phaser, a tricorder, and a communicator, all based on the props from the new Star Trek movie. All the Playmates toys feature electronic lights and sounds and retail for around $17 each.
Note: This review (and ranking) is solely based on these new items as toys, and not an analysis of the new movie props and their differences with the TOS props.
Phaser (4.5 out of 5 stars)
Toy guns are always a bit disconcerting because they often have to be styled in a way that differentiates them from the real and dangerous varieties. Therefore, the Playmates Toys phaser may be a little shinny for some fans who like exacting details, but it must be remembered that these items are meant for playability and imaginative fun and not as replicas. And, as especially the instance with the phaser, there are considerations a toy company always has when producing what could be mistaken for a real weapon.
With these caveats in mind, the phaser is a good toy. Besides being a very good replica (other than the colorization) in size and shape, it includes sound effects from the film. Also, the pivoting feature of the movie phaser is included here in the toy switching from "stun" to "vaporize" settings (see VIDEO below for demonstration). The older fans who get this item to either play with or display might experience a strange mixture of nostalgia (in the that the shape is basically the same as the original 1960s design) and newness (because of the obvious changes).
One of the neat details about the film that is learned from the phaser toy is that the delta insignia shape has been included in the design. Look below the pivoting buttons and you could see the obvious and cool reference.
Tricorder (5 Stars)
The tricorder toy has many cool features. The way the top of the tricorder opens quickly with sound and lighting effects is almost thrilling and certainly fun. The tricorder includes six sounds when pressing the buttons which also engage coordinated lighting effects. (see VIDEO below for demonstration). For fans used to the TOS tricorder toys, and because of the sleeker design, this tricorder toy is kind of like going from records to CDs.
For fun, I brought the tricorder to the college where I teach to show my students before classes started. Most of the students are not Star Trek fans, and some thought the tricorder looked like a MP3 player when I asked if they knew what this was. Interesting, because they are tech savvy, many students had an intuitive sense of how the tricorder would work as a scanner despite not having ever seen the show or the new movie.
All in all the new Playmates Tricorder toy is a fun item because of its colorful display and play features.
Communicator (4.75 stars)
Communicators in general are a personal favorite of mine because they are about being social (and for a sociologist, there is nothing more important). The Playmates Toys communicator features a sound effect when flipping open that is infectious to play with. When I shared this item with the college, people couldn’t stop opening the communicator (one person put it to their ear like a cell phone being unfamiliar with how a communicator works yet had fun with the toy anyway).
The communicator also includes a holder for the communicator that could be worn on any belt. Playmates Toys is planning to include a role playing utility belt in a future wave of toys, but the inclusion of the holder is nice because it allows a role playing fan to have a phaser in one hand, the tricorder in the other, and the communicator clipped to them. Add the clip-on delta insignia that is available with every 3.75" action figure and you are totally ready for ST09 adventures.
The communicator has two lines of dialog from the film. [SPOILER] When pressing the left button, Kirk says "Kirk to Enterprise! We are falling without a chute, beam us up!" while the right button has Spock saying "Spock to Enterprise, get us out now." Pressing buttons also engages the cool lighting effects. (see VIDEO below for demonstration) While it is a bit strange to hear someone else’s voice as Kirk and Spock other than Misters Shatner and Nimoy, this is a fun feature to include on the communicator and it makes sense that out of the three role playing toys, the communicator would have the voices of the actors because you could pretend to be talking to them. It might have been good to include more sound effects, though, for added play value.
VIDEO: Role Play Toys
Here is a video showing all three in action.
CONCLUSION + Sociology Lesson of the Day
Interactionist Sociologist George Herbert Mead’s "Game Theory" argues for the importance of play in learning and socialization. The "Play Stage" often involves role playing that not only activates the imagination, but also teaches us to consider the feelings and experiences of others. This could be why role playing toys have always been a venerable brand of fun. In the 1930s, Superman fans could purchase a Superman belt to add their fun. Dressing as cowboys or fairies is a form of role playing. During the 1960s, Batman fans could mimic the Caped Crusader through cowls and Batbelts and 1970s Star Trek fans had their MEGO communicator themed walkie-talkies. The 2000s have everything from Star Wars to Pirates of the Caribbean role playing items. For the new film, Playmates Toys has the trifecta of required Star Trek items: the phaser, tricorder, and communicator. Each item is a very good toy replica of the film’s designs, with a sturdiness and durability needed for role play items. For those looking for inexpensive replicas or costuming items, these are also very nice. Play or display, it is your choice. However, my family would tend to agree with George Herbert Mead: play with these toys. You get to be Kirk or Uhura and that is something George Herbert Mead would have loved.
AVAILABILITY & PRE-ORDER
Playmates Roleplay Toys officially go on sale this Sunday, although some stores are selling Star Trek Playmates items already. They will be available at Toys R Us, Wal-mart and Target as well as other retailer. You can order them now at Entertainment Earth:
NOTE: Some Toys R Us stores have broken the embargo release and started to sell some Star Trek Playmates toys early.
Next up: 6" & 12" figures
Tomorrow we will have an article on all the big action figures from Playmates Star Trek line, and on Friday we will take a look at the new USS Enterprise.