If you're a parent, then you're probably familiar with the name Bandai. The company makes toys for most of the top kids shows. Well, most of the American ones anyway. And there definitely seems to be a bias towards action shows that appeal to boys.
One thing they do know though, at Bandai, is their target audience. I think we've got quite a few of their various ranges in our house!
This time around we got three Bandai toys to try out. These were from the shows Ben 10: Ultimate Alien, Power Rangers Samurai, and Thundercats. Here's how my young 7 year old tester got on.
I vaguely remember Thundercats when the show aired in the early 80s. I wasn't really watching much TV by then having discovered things like music, being cool, and going to the pub. But the show is back on again, and it is actually not bad to watch.
Which is good as my son loves watching Thundercats. The premise of the show is your usual thing. A kingdom made up of cat people is destroyed by the neighbouring lizard people. The heir to the kingdom of Thundera is Lion-O (yeah I was surprised when I read that too, I've been thinking it was Lionel all these years) who goes off in search of the Book of Omens and some magic stones.
With him are his brother Tygra, the cleric Cheetara, and Lion-O's father's right-hand military man, Panthro. With me so far?
This particular action figure is for Panthro. The 10cm Thunder Lynx Panthro #84003 to be exact (£8). He comes with an assortment of weapons (I keep old coleslaw containers so I can put all these little bits in them. Saves on tears of frustration, and also on wear and tear on my hoover), and is well jointed so you can move the arms, legs, and head around.
We've already got Lion-O and Tygra, and I've been pretty pleased with how robust these toys are. The detail on them is good too, and they are well made.
Thunder Lynx is the system used here by Bandai to tie in the range of toys. The actions figures incorporate the magnet powered Thunder Lynx system. You can then use these figures in the vehicles and playsets (all sold separately, naturally) to activate more features.
In the show Panthro drives a rather wicked looking tank, and the little child in my wonders just what cool features this might unlock ...
Pros: well made, looks like the character from the show, nicely detailed
Cons: encourages you to buy the entire set!
Overall verdict: 7/10
Ben 10 is a boy, who at the age of 10, ends up wearing this watch like device on his wrist that turns him into various aliens. It is a hugely successful show that has spawned two spin offs. This toy, the 10cm Ben 10 Ultimate Humunogousaur #97770 (£7) ties in to the latest show, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. Ben is now 17, and has upgraded his wrist device, the omnitrix, to the ultimatrix.
This in turn upgrades his aliens to the next step up in their evolutionary path. Is it sad that I'm writing this entirely from memory? And that I haven't had to look up a single website?
To be fair though, this is one show I actually look forward to watching. And will put on even when son isn't around! On the flip side, that might be because the show is more for grown ups than kids. He hasn't really got into it, and doesn't like the upgraded aliens as much.
So before getting these toys check - does the intended recipient like Ben 10, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien or Ben 10: Alien Force?
We've got quite a few of the toys from this range. So I can tell you that they last well, and that they take a few stompings. Again, there's the tie-in - you get a little figure to put in the Ultimatrix, which is of course sold seperately. This is clearly shown on the packaging.
I do have one complaint here for Bandai. My son just wants a Humungousaur. The ordinary one. You can still get most of the other aliens in their non-evolved shapes. But not this one. Why?
Pros: as always with these toys, it is built to take a kicking
Cons: always with the tie-ins!
Overall verdict: 7/10
Here's the really strange thing. All my son's friends love the Power Ranger toys, and they all recognise Power Rangers. But, like my son, none of them actually seem to watch the show. In fact they all seem to find it rather uninteresting.
I wonder if that's because it uses real people? I don't know why this is, but I expect that as long as they keep wanting the toys, Bandai won't care too much!
Personally, I find that these faceless figures (they all wear masks) are rather unnerving. The 10cm Power Rangers Samurai Blue Mega Ranger #31502 (£7) has fully moveable limbs, and it comes with it's own weapons. I've given this toy an extra rating over all the others because as far as I can tell, it comes with NO tie-ins!
Pros: nicely made, looks like it will wear well, isn't tied in to a set of toys!
Cons: nothing really other than from my perspective as a parent, these are all over priced. There's nothing I can do about that though!
Overall verdict: 8/10