Furby Connect review: The cute kawaii toy has come of age

Furby Connect review: Hasbro’s cute kawaii toy has come of age in this latest version with its increased interactivity, range of sounds, and brightly animated LCD eyes. 

Our daughter has been regularly bugging us for 2 things, for what seems like forever – a baby sister, and a pet. To her great disappointment, we are not planning on having either. She also has a rich entourage of imaginary friends.

She clearly has a great desire to have some kind of pal at home with her,  so when Hasbro sent us one of their new Furby Connect toys to review, I thought it would be a hit with her,

First impressions: Thankfully, despite being listed on their database as a girl, Hasbro sent my daughter a blue Furby – they also come in Pink, Purple (more hot pink), and Teal (greeny blue). So basically, blue and pink.

Batteries are not included. You have to unscrew the Furby from the packaging to get at the battery compartment (it takes 4xAA batteries). Be prepared – as soon as you put the batteries in, the Furby will come to life.

Yes, come to life. Despite the fact know this thing isn’t alive it’s difficult not to feel that it is. The Furby moves and wriggles when you touch it, talks to you in a kind of English-Furby patois, and most alarming of all is its eyes. The technical explanation is that they are animated full colour LCD screens, covered with motorised eye lids. However, the effect is of incredibly expressive eyes – the classic window to the soul.

However, as they are illuminated screens – in low light they can look downright spooky.

furby-connect-evil-eyes
The Furby Connect – imagine these evil eyes staring at you in the dark….

The Furby can start to act like a kid on too much sugar after a while. Like an overactive child needing to be removed from stimuli, the Furby can be put to sleep (not a euphemism) by placing the provided eye mask on. Alternatively, just leave it alone for a while.  We put it to sleep while watching TV, because it just wouldn’t shut up.

It also gave me a surprise when it woke up – delivering an in-joke for Blade Runner fans…

I didn’t make it up btw – it actually said that….!

Be warned, if you’re easily offended by toilet humour you might want to stay out of earshot of this creature. It constantly – and loudly – farts and burps. My daughter and I find it more amusing than my wife.

This is called the Furby Connect because of the smartphone app you can link it too. We found this to be problematic, and continue to have issues with the app. It only works on one of our devices, and constantly crashes. When it is running, it often loses connection even when right next to the Furby.

To be honest, if you can avoid the app for the time being, I would recommend it. It’s a pain, seems full of in-app purchases, and – more than anything – why give the kids another reason to stare at a screen, especially when they have this pretty cool tactile toy to play with in reality.

Despite the fact it comes (so far) in variations of pink and blue, this is essentially presented as a gender neutral toy. My daughter says it’s a girl, but that tends to be her default for anything where the gender is unclear. I like that Hasbro are using both boys and girls to advertise it.

boy and girl playing with furby connect toy and app
A Hasbro promotional photo: Despite only coming in variations of pink and blue, I would say the Furby Connect is still presented as a gender neutral toy.

This toy isn’t cheap, but it is likely to be a hit with any kid.  Our daughter has really taken to it. First thing in the morning she will wake it up. When she comes home from school, she will do the same. She laments that I spend more time with her Furby than she does.

Which is true. 🙂

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Hasbro’s Furby Connect has a UK RRP of £99.99. We were sent this item free of charge for the purposes of this Furby Connect review.

Transformers – Power Surge Optimus Prime and Aero Bolt Figure

The Power Surge Optimus Prime (with  Aero Bolt Figure) is one of the latest incarnations of the famed robot-to-vehicle toy line.

The Transformers emerged in the 1980’s as part of a wave of toys that used cartoons to help sell them to kids (see also My Little Pony, and He-Man). They remain as popular as ever, thanks in part to the Michael Bay movie series, but also endless cartoon shows that continue to support new lines of merchandise. The latest cartoon is Transformers: Robots in Disguise, and features this particular toy version of Autobots leader Optimus Prime.

The figure comes with a couple of accessories – a sword, and most importantly the Mini-Con Aero Bolt Figure. This is what unlocks the various modes: robot mode, vehicle mode, flight mode, and Power Surge mode. Each mode has accompanying sounds and/or different elements unlocked within the figure.

The figure also unlocks features on the standalone app, by scanning the shield (which the Mini-Con figure converts to).

But what about the key aspect of the Transformers – transforming?

While my daughter really liked the idea of the robot turning into a truck, she seemed much more into the robot. I was a little disappointed about the transforming part of this toy. The vehicle seems more like an afterthought, as Optimus the truck is not a very convincing disguise.

transformers-power-surge-optimus-prime-and-aero-bolt-figure-truck

I could be charitable and suggest that perhaps the mere 5 step transformation is easier for younger kids to master.  Even then I don’t think it’s that simple, as it’s hard to tell what it’s supposed to look like. We finished and were like “Is that it?” Also, some bits seem to fall off rather easily – but at least this is better than them breaking.

However, the robot version looks awesome – like the cool Japanese style giant robot he’s supposed to be, with sword, shield and wings. And the sounds are kind of cool.

To be honest, I think at nearly £50, this is priced high for what it is – but the little Transformers fan in your life may disagree.

transformers-power-surge-optimus-prime-and-aero-bolt-figure-packshot

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The Power Surge Optimus Prime, from Transformers: Robots in Disguise, has an RRP of £49.99. Recommended age is 5+,  app 9+. We were provided with this toy free of charge for the purposes of this review.

Family Fever

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Sugarcube Corner toy review

After finally taking the plunge and watching My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic with my daughter, it remains a staple in our household. More often than not, it’s the answer to my question to our daughter “What do you feel like watching?”.

Visually, Pinkie Pie was probably my least favourite Pony. One of the six friends who make up the core group of the show, she is just so… pink!

But the thing is, her character is far from stereotypically girly. While she loves all things party related, she is also something that female characters are rarely allowed to be – funny.

More than that, she’s goofy, silly, whacky… Her character is the source of much physical humour, and she is rightly adored by many children – and not just because she’s pink, but because she makes them laugh.

This set is from the bakery and sweet shop where her character works. As well as Pinkie Pie, this also has another pony called Cheese Sandwich (!) and various accessories such as plastic cakes and balloons.

Included are items specifically for Pinkie Pie to be the loon we love – a ball to balance on, a propeller hat, a fake moustache, and even a rubber chicken. She also has her pet gator Gummy.

MLP Friendship is Magic Sugarcube Corner Sweet Shoppe with Pinkie Pie and Cheese Sandwich
My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Sugarcube Corner Sweet Shoppe toy

As a toy, it doesn’t really do anything. Other than some doors opening, there are no moving parts. Even the figures are just figurines, with no articulation. I can’t imagine someone who hasn’t seen the show thinking much of it.

However, as a tool for imaginative play for children who do know the show, this works fine. I’m glad that the Pinkie Pie figure here is depicted as lovably goofy as her onscreen persona – I have noticed that many MLP toys do not reflect the tone of the vibrant tone of the show.

Pinkie Pie is a character who wants to make people happy, and this set certainly made my daughter happy.

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Sugarcube Corner has an RRP of £19.99.

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Disclosure: We received this product free of charge for the purposes of this review.

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic: Toy Assortment review

My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has become a popular show in our house. My daughter loves watching it, and I was happily surprised at what an empowering show for girls it is.

While in many superficial ways it seem to embody some of the worst aspects of a brand targeted to girls, the TV series is a wonderfully vibrant and feminist show.

The world of Equestria – and especially the characters – offer such a rich resources for Imaginative play, that these toys – despite again appearing stereotypically girly – enable a child to act out themes and scenarios inspired by the show.

We were sent an assortment of toys to review – a blind bag, Twilight Sparkle’s Ice Cream Stand, and a Mrs Dazzle Cake figure and accessories.

My Little Pony Friendship is Magic Toy Assortment review packshots

Twilight Sparkle’s Ice Cream Stand

With her love of books and knowledge, Twilight Sparkle is one of my favourite characters on the show.

However, instead of a library here she is running an Ice Cream stand. Not sure of the relevance to the character, but hey – most of us like a good ice cream. In the set you get a Twilight figure, the ice cream stand, and a couple of what seem to be ice cream cakes.

It’s simple, and the best thing about it is that it’s Twilight Sparkle.

Twilight Sparkle’s Ice Cream Stand has an RRP of £9.99

Mrs Dazzle Cake

I was confused about who Mrs Dazzle Cake was, until I realised she is the character Mrs. Cup Cake. With her husband Mr. Carrot Cake, she runs Ponyville’s Sugarcane Corner bakery and sweet shop.

This set comes with a hint of that shop – a counter, cupcakes in a baking tray, and a fully decorated cake, to accompany Mrs. ‘Dazzle’ Cake. It’s part of a collection related to the pony Pinkie Pie, who works for Mrs. Cake.

There’s not much to this, but it’s a perfectly fine addition to any existing collection.

Mrs. Dazzle Cake has an RRP of £4.99

My Little Pony Blind Bags

Be careful. These blind bags are a potential money pit.

For those who don’t know, the concept is you can buy a series of collectable toys individually. However, instead of being able to choose which toy of the set you buy, your purchase is ‘blind’, in a sealed packet until you open it after purchase.

So while a collector may want just a few of these, you have to keep buying them blind until you get the ones you want. Same if you want the whole set. You may end up spending a lot of cash doing this.

Of course, there are also trades to be made – something that is a lot easier in this digital age than swapping Star Wars cards in the playground as I did when I was a kid.

The figure is compatible with the other figures, so again they make a decent addition to a collection.

My Little Pony blind bags have an RRP of £1.99 each.

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Disclosure: We received all these toys from Hasbro for the purposes of this review.

 

 

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls – Pinkie Pie Slumber Party Bedroom Set and Cartoon Review

We were mistakenly sent this My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Minis Pinkie Pie Slumber Party Bedroom Set.

We have recently discovered the awesomeness of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic (FiM). I was keen to check out some of the toys and we were supposed to be reviewing one with the FiM version of Pinkie Pie – however we received this one instead.

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls - Pinkie Pie Slumber Party Bedroom Set packaging

We hadn’t watched the Equestria Girls spin-off yet – and to be honest, I wasn’t keen to. The concept transforms the familiar FiM pony characters into girls at High School, and seems similar to many other tween properties – including issues surrounding the sexualisation of young girls.

But despite communicating my lack of enthusiasm, they were still keen for us to review the toy. Before we did I thought we should at least check out the tie-in cartoon, which – like My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic – is available on Netflix.

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls review

The My Little Pony: Equestria Girls cartoon is currently a series of feature length TV movies. A direct spin-off from Friendship is Magic, the set-up involves Twilight Sparkle and Spike heading through a mirror portal to another world, to retrieve her stolen crown – or else the elements of harmony that protect Equestria will no longer do so. This will either sound crazy or as expected depending of how much FiM you have watched.

This ‘other world’ is much like ours, with human-like characters and a high school setting. Twilight Sparkle and Spike respectively transform into human and dog versions of themselves and undertake a mission to find the crown. The thief is masquerading as a girl at a local high school, and human Twilight finds it populated with some familiar faces from Equestria – only now they’re human.

This first film (of three) is made and voiced by the same team as Friendship is Magic – and many of the things I love about that show are present: the focus on female friendships; the magic and adventure theme; the individual characters.

But by almost literally humanising the characters, something special has been lost. While fairly true to their pony versions, they now have real-world high school interests. This concept limits the characters, so for instance instead of the colourfully adventurous speed freak Rainbow Dash (our favourite), she becomes simply a sporty type instead.

But most troubling, the look of the characters – while being on the surface coyly cute – seems deliberately sexualised. All the girls have the same combo of short skirts, long bare legs, and tight fitting tops. The relative conformity of their look reminds me of the peer pressure to dress a certain way – which increasingly for young girls can involve a move towards sexualisation and objectification, whether they realise it or not.

As well as what they wear, the plots also include boys, parties, and music. The trappings of modern Tween mass media overwhelm much of what makes Friendship is Magic such a great show for kids. I also can’t help but think that the rise of the Brony – the young males who are enthusiastic MLP fans – has in some way influenced this sexualised schoolgirl look.

It’s fair to say the enthusiasm I had for Friendship is Magic has not been replicated towards Equestria Girls.

So, on to the toy….

My Little Pony: Equestria Girls Minis – Pinkie Pie Slumber Party Bedroom Set

The toys are of course the real reason this spin-off line exists. This set is one of the  Equestria Girls Minis – as their name suggests, they are smaller than the standard sized dolls. The sexualised look is not quite as obvious in these smaller versions.

My Little Pony Equestria Girls Minis figures dolls
My Little Pony Equestria Girls Minis from the packaging artwork.

If your kid (or you) is a fan of the Equestria Girls series, and especially the teenage girl version of Pinkie Pie, then this is a fine set to get.

It features a posable figure of Pinkie Pie, the high school party planner. As befits the slumber party scene, she is dressed in PJ’s with slippers. The playset features numerous essential slumber party accessories such as a bed, a laptop, and smartphone…

Who are My Little Pony: Equestria Girls for?

Other than my suspicion of appealing to the Brony market, perhaps this spin-off does serve another purpose?

Obviously, it’s an attempt to sell more My Little Pony toys, probably to an older market. But I can also see it as a way of continuing engagement with the themes and ideals of Friendship is Magic when children get older, and the focus of their lives changes from childhood fantasy to pre-teen high school reality.

So as the trappings of impending teenage life – such as how they dress, forming intimate relationships, and navigating the school hierarchy & cliques – takes over, it could continue to encourage and reinforce the positive messages of Friendship is Magic.

But for now Equestria Girls is not something I will encourage my pre-school daughter to engage with, whether onscreen or through play. We’ll happily stick to life in Equestria and the residents of Ponyville.

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Disclosure:

We received this toy free of charge (and in error). After watching the cartoon, I decided not to give it to my daughter for the purposes of this review.

I am a member of the Netflix #StreamTeam program. Our household receives free Netflix for a year and I post about how our family uses the service.
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Family Fever