Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Holy Batcave...huge new toy

"Holy Imaginext Batcave, Robin!"


Sophie Brown
July 17th, 2012


Now my son is almost three, I want to begin gradually increasing his knowledge of comic book characters. Whilst the big Hollywood blockbuster versions like The Dark Knight Rises and the new Spider-Man reboot are still many years away from his viewing, the more cartoonish kid versions of these characters are well within his grasp. Earlier this week I wrote about the My First Superheroes book series. Today I’m here to talk about the Imaginext Batcave from Fisher Price.

The Batcave is the centerpiece toy from the DC Super Friends range at Fisher Price. That makes it the most expensive of the range as well, but you certainly get value for money as this toy is big. Really big. It stands chest high against my toddler and is filled with different rooms for Batman and Robin to explore. It is very well designed from a practical point of view, as it uses the skyscraper technique of building upwards instead of outwards, meaning that the massive set takes up very little floor space — little more than an standard shoebox, in fact. If you do order this toy I highly suggest you open the box and get it out before your children see it. The packaging was some of the hardest I have ever come across to undo; after fighting through the actual box I had to cut through dozens of plastic ties, many of which were so short I struggled to get scissors inside to cut them. If I’d had an impatient child beside me desperate to play then it could have become a very trying moment for both of us. There are also no instructions packaged with the set so the bag of plastic bits that came with it threw me at first; I had to look at the pictures on the box to figure out where they went.

The Batcave comes with batteries already installed and also includes a good number of small accessories. Along with the Batman and Robin figures, which are both more poseable than many figures at a similar scale, the set includes the Batcycle, a pair of wings, and a grappling hook. My personal favorite part of the Batcave is the telescope which pops out onto the roof. It sits loosely on its base so it can be lifted off to play with separately, and the real lenses inside allow you to point it at an object and see it appear as an image on the little screen (this works best in a well-lit room).

Here’s where it let me down:

    The knob to open the launcher window is on the opposite side of the building to where you have to be in order to actually fire the blaster through it. It’s clumsy and annoying.

    The Batcycle doesn’t click onto the turnstile in any way, it just sits on it freely. This means it has an unfortunate habit of falling off any time the turnstile moves.

    Talking of the Batcycle, Batman’s oddly splayed legs mean he can’t actually fit into it so only Robin can ride.

    The red action points are designed to be turned by placing a figure’s feet in them; however, the foot-wells are quite shallow, making it tricky to get leverage. Everyone I’ve watched play with the set has resorted to turning them by hand after a few goes as it’s far easier.

    The lift is very small. You have to position the figures just so to get the door to close  – not so easy for a three-year-old (and only one figure could ever ride at a time).

    The light-up Bat Signal switches off very quickly; while I understand it switching off to preserve battery life, the speed with which it turned off had my toddler frustrated.

    The box clearly shows a Joker figure in several pictures of the Batcave in play. However, you have to purchase him separately.

All that being said, this is an awesome playset and my toddler loves it, as does my friend who ended up sitting on the floor playing with it for a solid 20 minutes one night before we got around to watching a DVD together. The day we received the set my toddler walked in and stared at it. I asked if he knew who the little action figure by the door was and he replied “that Batman,” completely throwing me as neither I nor my husband had ever taught him who Batman was or what he looked like. There is a lot you can do with the Batcave, but what I really love is that the ways in which you can play are not prescribed as with so many toys, allowing for completely free imaginative play. The other day I found my son driving his tractor through the garage area at the bottom, and just last night Mack (the truck from Cars) was in there chilling with the Batcycle.

The recommended age for the Batcave is from three to eight (although every adult who’s seen it so far has ended up playing with it too, so I think that upper age limit needs pushing back a bit). That means my toddler hasn’t even reached the beginning of the suggested window and gives us years and years of prospective play yet to come. I’ll be interested to see how his play changes as he begins using his imagination to create his own stories. For now, he’s happy sending people up and down the lift and pushing vehicles through the doors. To the Batcave!

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