Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Review: Star Wars toy lightsabres by Hasbro

We are up to our eyeballs in the new line of Hasbro lightsabres, which are tied in with the Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith movie, soon to be released in theatres. About two weeks ago we purchased one for each of our children. We (children and parents alike) assumed the best ones were the battery-operated versions that light up and make sound (but we were wrong).

The journey began with a trip to Toys R Us, which did not have all of the lightsabres that Hasbro makes in stock. We purchased the green blade model, which is Yoda’s, (chosen because green is a favorite color plus the store's in-stock selction was small). When placed in Jedi training mode (with a switch) the voice of Yoda giving encouraging remarks is heard. There is a humming sound the whole time it is on, and it makes a crashing sound when the blade is struck against something. It also makes an interesting sound when turned on and off, similar to the sound the lightsabres make in the movie. My children are disappointed in the design and frankly I am surprised that Hasbro produced a toy with these faults:
a. The blade does not retract fully inside of the handle. My children would prefer that, like in the movies, the blade be completely hidden when shut off and not in use.
b. The blade does not lock into a closed or semi-closed position.
c. There is a built-in clip to attach to your belt or pants but when in this position, due to not having a lock, any time you tip it downward or actually use the clip, all the blades fall out. This is not realistic to the movie.
d. The unit is quite heavy and the handle is thick and bulky to hold onto.
e. Within the first hour of play, my son accidentally dropped his unit and the electronic functions stopped working. We were able to exchange it, but that entailed yet another errand we had to complete. This also had me wondering how many accidental drops or hard clashes (during play) would it take to break the light bulb?
f. The price we paid is $19.99, which is steep compared to the non-electronic unit. Due to the cost of $19.99 I began to be worried about the unit breaking during play, so we ended up buying some non-electronic lightsabres (more on that later).
g. These don’t flick open easily, we have to use two hands to make it extend.
h. These don’t close easily, it takes two hands to hold the toy and close it, doing a twisting motion, which is not easy. They don’t close up by pushing it against something (like the ground).
i. The Yoda blade length has 3 segments (instead of 4 like all the other models). I felt this was dangerous when fighting with other children who had different Hasbro models because all the other models have 4 segments and they are quite longer. In order to play and hit lightsabres with each other, the child with the Yoda version must stand closer to the other child and therefore is more at risk of injury when the other child’s longer unit can hit his body accidentally. Perhaps they were trying to be very realistic and have a shorter unit since Yoda is shorter but in the end this makes the play more dangerous for the child using this model.

Also at Toys R Us, we purchased another other battery-operated version we purchased is the Obi Wan Kenobi light saber, for $19.99, which has a blue blade.

This unit also makes a special sound when turned on and off, similar to the sound in the movie. The entire time it is turned on it makes a humming sound. It also vibrates when it clashes against another lightsabre (or an object). My son and I both thought the vibration was a little too much, and we wonder why they couldn’t have toned it down a bit. The vibration is especially annoying to me as a parent (it is loud!) and as a result I make the boys use it outdoors so I don’t have to hear it as loudly as it sounds when inside. This lightsabre suffers from the same design flaws as the Yoda lightsabre:

a. The blade does not retract fully inside of the handle. My children would prefer that, like in the movies, the blade be completely hidden when shut off and not in use.
b. The blade does not lock into a closed or semi-closed position.
c. There is a built-in clip to attach to your belt or pants but when in this position, due to not having a lock, any time you tip it downward or actually use the clip, all the blades fall out. This is not realistic to the movie.
d. The unit is quite heavy and the handle is thick and bulky to hold onto.
e. The price we paid is $19.99, which is steep compared to the non-electronic unit. Due to the cost of $19.99 I began to be worried about the unit breaking during play, so we ended up buying some non-electronic lightsabres (more on that later).
f. These don’t flick open easily, we have to use two hands to make it extend.
g. These don’t close easily, it takes two hands to hold the toy and close it, doing a twisting motion, which is not easy. They don’t close up by pushing it against something (like the ground).

My sons then realized that their friends had lightsabres, which fully retracted and could actually be worn on their person. When they took the lightsabre to the playground they were unable to clip it to their belts and it was not convenient to carry in their hands all afternoon. The combination of annoying sounds and fear of breakage due to replacement costs of $19.99 led us to decide to buy some non-electronic lightsabres.

I see that Hasbro has an approximate cost of $7.99 on the non-electronic lightsabres. These come in many blade colors and some of the handles have different designs and colors. We bought four of them, with different colored blades. Here are the ones we bought:

1. red blade

2. green blade

3. blue blade

4. purple blade

A local K-B Toys is selling them for $8.99, so note that some stores are charging higher than the "suggested retail price" that Hasbro recommends. We are very happy with this line of Hasbro lightsabres. I decided to not only buy one for each child but to buy two extra. The reason is so when other children are visiting, the guests can play with them along with my children. It only makes sense! Here is the reason why my children and I love these lightsabres:

a. They are more lightweight than the electronic models and therefore are easier to carry.
b. The blades fully retract into the handle and LOCK closed.
c. The lock is easy to operate; you hold it down and flick the blade to open it.
d. When flicking it open, it takes just one quick flick to extend the blade completely open.
e. It closes very easily. My children prefer to push it (gently) into the ground or floor to close it.
f. The built in clip works well to clip the closed unit onto the waistband of the pants, a pants pocket or a belt. Due to good design the unit stays closed while worn in this manner.
g. The lack of electronic components and light bulbs allows for rougher play and not worrying about breakage while using it in lightsabre to lightsabre clashing together play.
h. There is nothing to break if it accidentally gets wet or left outside and is rained on.
i. At this low price we can afford to buy a couple of extra’s for guests to play with.
j. All of the blade lengths are of equal length allowing for safer play.


In the end, both my children, spouse, and I feel the electronic models have some poor design components and are expensive to buy or replace if the first one you buy breaks. Prices for electronic models vary by design, some are $19.99 and others are $24.99. It is fun and special to have a lightsabre that lights up, especially when they use it in the dark, but my children feel the non-electronic lighsabres are superior and are using them much more frequently.

By the way this is the first weapon toy that my children have owned as I used to have a strict non-violent toy policy in our family (and maintained this for almost eight years), but that is a story for another day. We used to also have a family policy of not watching movies or television shows that contain any use of weapons or include killing, but that changed when I allowed them to watch Star Wars Episode IV, last month. We are focusing on “the good guys” and rooting for “the good guys” in the Star Wars movies. I see that a bunch of toys in the Hasbro line are Darth Vader centered, due to the obvious plot of Episode III being about Anakin Skywalker’s transformation into Darth Vader. However since I don’t want to focus on “the dark side” characters, I won’t be buying merchandise and toys whose emphasis is Darth Vader. I did contemplate buying the electronic talking Dearth Vader mask but after hearing from another parent that one of the recorded phrases it speaks is “come over to the dark side”, I won’t be buying that for my children. As an adult I clearly see how that is a neat phrase to say and applicable and realistic to the movie but as a parent I don’t want my children encouraging each other to “go to the dark side”—we want to stay on the “good side”.

I am presently faced with a dilemma as all of our Star Wars-watching children-friends were planning to see Star Wars Episode III in the movie theatre and they have been talking about it with my children. I was almost about to say that this is peer pressure but there is no pressure, just talk with each other about being excited that a new movie is coming out. Now that I know is it a PG-13 rated movie (unlike the others which were PG) and that this movie has the most violent content of all and some very scary parts including execution/murder of a group of children, I am faced with a dilemma. We are full tilt into watching the other movies and they know, due to advertising all over the place and from talking to their friends, that the next prequel is coming out this month. We had planned to take our children to see this movie on the big screen but now I am rethinking that plan. I am also very frustrated that toys and the movie are being marketed to children under the age of 13 but I’d better stop writing now or I’ll be deep into a rant about that. I will leave that for another day’s blog entry.

May the Force Be With You!

P.S. You can see by my detailed thoughts on something like these lightsabres why I consider myself a thinking mother, although at times like this I wonder if I am an overthinking mother!

1 comment:

A Servant of the King said...

First, I wanted to tell you that I enjoy your blog and check it daily.

Second, I think not letting your children see Star Wars on the big screen is a good idea. My youngest (10) wanted to see the Lord of the Rings movies but has only seen them at home. The big screen is much scarier to watch than our 19" TV!