If you have children aged under 8 then your attention will have been drawn to the little foil packets of Playmobil figures usually displayed near the counter in stores. I figure that these have been put out as pocket money toys, as they're usually priced at around £1.99. Online the cheapest I have found them is £1.99 including delivery at Howleys Toys. Or you can get a 12 pack of each set from Amazon for £23.98 plus delivery. However, you don't get all 12 figures - just 12 foil packs so you could still get doubles or even triples.
My son gets £2 pocket money a week. He can spend that on whatever he wants, or save it. The choice is his. He does have a saving chart up as there's a Playmobil dinosaur set he has wanted. This has been thwarted for the last six weeks by a need to have an ice cream when we go to the park, however.
He has spent his pocket money on these sorts of things before, but we've only seen the Lego figures. We have a series of these lined up on the mantle piece in the lounge. They're a really great little toy to get actually. I like the way that Lego is easy to put together, but stays together fairly well. It teaches them how to read instructions, and how you can build something up even though it might not look at all like the end result to start with.
As he has the Playmobil Dragon Castle set, when Playmobil asked if we'd like to review their Series 1 figures - 5203 for boys and 5204 for girls - I thought it would be a great opportunity to really see how they compare to the Lego figures.
First a little bit more info about the foil packs. There are 12 different figures to collect in each series. They have divided these into boys and girls, with blue and pink packs (something I don't think Lego has done). I can't see why they have done this. Perhaps to save a little boy from getting a (gasp) fairy or princess? I really don't think that would bother my son, he's used to this with MacDonalds and Kinder egg toys, and has never made a fuss.
He knows, you see, how it goes - these are random toys. You simply have no idea which figure you're going to get in the pack. It is possible, for example, to buy three packs and get three of the same figure. You just don't know.
5204 - Figure 6
The first pack we opened was from the girl's 5204 collection. I am not sure if there's a theme here. There are fairies, princesses, and a fairly modern looking lass holding what used to be called a ghettoblaster in my day. There's also a mermaid, and what looks like a prehistoric mother, with baby.
First off, be careful where you open the pack. The pieces go everywhere. If you're letting them open it somewhere like MacDonalds, then let me advise from bitter experience that you get them to open the pack on an empty food tray.
Next, the instructions. This was a disappointment. Unlike the large and clear pictures provided in a Lego pack, most of the instruction leaflet is given over to promoting the range. The instructions are tiny, and the first indication that it is the adult who needs to assemble these not the child.
The pieces are quite stiff to put together, too. The Figure 6 lass is, I think, meant to be some sort of medieval robber, possibly a highway woman. She has a jaunty hat with a red feather, a mean look and a dirty face, and a pistol in one hand while there's a bag of swag in the other.
The fine motor skills required to put the arms in to the body, while attaching the tunic at the same time, will be beyond the abilities of most young children. They were almost beyond mine.
However, once you've got the figure together it really does stay together. Even the hat is on pretty firmly, which is better than some of the knight dudes that come with the Dragon castle. And of course being Playmobil figures, they're much bigger than the Lego ones. All in you do feel like you're getting more for your money.
In case you're wondering where my review is of the second 5204 pack (as I said, we'd got two of each). Well. The second pack had the same Figure 6 in it. That's the way the cookie crumbles with these lucky dip style toys!
The boy's 5203 collection appears to contain quite a few different types of knights, and vocational figures like a chef, and er, a rock star. There's also a rather, odd I thought, Uncle Sam figure. Plus the usual gruesome sorts like a zombie mummy, and a grim reaper.
I had the same issues with the instructions, and the force and co-ordination needed to put the figure together, that I had with the first figure. I think that will be the case throughout the series.
The 5203 Figure 6 is a chef. I really loved the attention to detail like the little clogs he is wearing. I think he's meant to be an Italian chef, or possibly French. Hence the stripy top instead of white with black and white check trousers you'd see in England.
One more thing to point out about the instructions. They are generic to all the figures. Which means they don't show how the accessories are attached. With the Chef, you really do have to put the apron on before the head.
Now this was a pretty cool figure to get, and my son was hopping with excitement. Figure 9 is the skeletal Grim Reaper. By now I was a dab hand at putting the torso and arms together, so this was the first figure that didn't see parts pinging off across the room.
Again, I was impressed with the attention to detail. The scythe has handles so that the figure can hold it pointing upwards, or horizontally.
One other thing I haven't mentioned is that the figures are all designed so that they can be bent in the middle. That means you can have them standing or sitting.
And Finally ...
As much as it annoys me to have these near the counter, in many toy shops and newsagents at least, you do get a fairly good toy for your (pocket) money.
The figures are well made, and sizeable. And of course more robust than Lego figures. Each figure is bendable, and (something to keep in mind when you are putting them together) one arm has a hand that swivels.
If your child is more into play figures than construction, then these are a much better buy than the Lego sets.
One last note. As the body designs are all generic, you can mix and match up the figures. I am sure it won't take many children long before they start to have fun mixing fairies and zombies. You can also do this online, with a really fun online configurator available here.