I am a little ashamed to admit that I'm rather addicted to the Ben 10 series. There's three shows. Ben 10, Ben 10: Alien Force, and the latest, Ben 10: Ultimate Alien. In each Ben and his cousin Gwen fight off aliens wearing the same clothes every day.
However, I'm not as into the show as my son, and our house is littered with Ben 10 toys. So I jumped at the chance to review some of the latest toys, to see if they'd made any improvements in quality.
The three toys received for review were Ben's Mark 10 Ultimate Car, and two figurines - Ultimate Alien Cannonbolt and Ultimate Alien Terraspin.
If you're considering buying one of these as a present for someone else's child, such as a godson or a nephew, you may want to acquaint yourself a little with the show. I know from experience that some of my son's friends love the Ben 10 series, but never took to the other two, and vice versa.
In Ben 10, Ben and his cousin Gwen are 10 year olds who are spending the summer vacation in a campervan with their grandpa. This is where Ben finds the Omnitrix, a sort of watch device that can change his DNA into the DNA of one of 10 aliens.
Ben 10: Alien Force fast forwards five years, but apart from being 15 years old and a third team member - Kevin Levin - who is old enough to drive his own car it is much the same. Gwen does now gain powers of her own inherited from an alien grandmother.
Ben 10: Ultimate Alien sees them a little older, with Ben now able to drive too. Plus the Omnitrix has been replaced by a souped up version. Hence the Ultimate in the series name.
The two figurines I looked at were Ultimate Alien Cannonbolt (£6) and Ultimate Alien Terraspin (£6). In terms of appeal, my son immediately played with Terraspin and has ignored Cannonbolt to this day. That's just personal preference I expect. He's not been as into the new show as he was the older ones though, perhaps because this show is clearly pitched at an older audience with story arcs and developing relationships between the characters.
These figurines are the same in terms of build quality as previous Ben 10 figures. Which, as the paying parent, I find to be pretty good. They've all stood up to a lot of abuse. With the Ultimate Alien figures you get a clear mini disc that can be used with the Disc Alien Ultimatrix to unlock alien sounds. We don't have one of these Ultimatrix watches. My son loved his old Omnitrix, but the new one is a bit too big and bulky I think. He's certainly never asked for one.
There's not really a lot to say about action figures that tie in with a show, they're all much of a muchness. The only thing that marks one range of merchandising out from another is just how robust the bits of plastic are. So all in, the Ben 10 figures stand up to a lot of abuse in our house and weather it well. That gets full marks from me, as the person who foots the bills.
I wasn't that happy about getting Ben's Mark 10 Ultimate Car (£30) to be honest. I had a bad experience with an earlier toy, Kevin's car from the Alien Force range. It was flimsy, prone to falling apart, and didn't work as it was supposed to. My son quickly got bored with it and has barely played with it. A huge waste of money.
Ben's Mark 10 Ultimate Car is nothing like this, thank goodness! First, it is properly, solidly built. Although there are attachments, some of which come off a bit too easily, overall it stays shape as a car. The firing mechanisms on the rocket launchers work much better, and actually do what they're supposed to. The car changes shapes quite easily - it has three modes.
The Mark 10 transforms from drive mode, to hover mode and transforms further into a plane and submarine. It comes with a Ben 10 figure, and will work with any other 10 cm Ben 10 figures too.
I'd also like to commend the manufacturer for the packaging. There's no ties or anything fiddly. The components pop out of the plastic. And the box is made of really sturdy, tough cardboard so you can keep the car in there for storage. As the parent who has to keep all these things together, I'd like to give my heartfelt thanks for that!
And Finally ...
It is good to see an improvement in the quality and usability of the larger Ben 10 toys. Be aware that as well as Ben's car, there are two other vehicles in this range. One for Gwen and one for Kevin, and that these are displayed prominantly on the packaging!