My job just keeps getting harder and harder. Not only was I forced to attend the Hasbro Toy Fair, but I was just subjected to the mother of all toy expos, The New York Toy Fair. I know, I know… it’s impossible to know exactly how I’m able to get through each day without running full speed into a wall of knives, but somehow I manage.
Actually, it was one of the greatest afternoons of my entire life. I saw some of the most fun, and unexpected toys and gadgets that will be hitting store shelves between now and the fall.
When I wrote about the Hasbro Fair, I focused mostly on your meat-and-potato variety of toys. Your action figures. Your video and MMO games. Your Lazer Tag sets. The New York Toy Fair is a whole other ball ‘o wax. This place has EVERYTHING. From the biggest, monstro-toy-makingest companies, to the itty-bitty startups that are run out of some kid’s dorm room. And I noticed as I was looking around at all of the shiny plastic goodness that almost everything there really fell into one of three distinct phylum: lo-fi, hi-fi, or weird. And boring, but who wants to talk about boring toys?
So let me tell you about what heaven looks like:
Lo-Fi: This was my favorite group of toys. There was some pretty sweet and incredibly inventive stuff that made me want to run to an ATM and empty my account. One of the first toys I saw was something called a Kikbo. Essentially, it’s a hacky-sack meets a badminton shuttlecock. It has a kickable surface that you can kick and pass to your compadres, but with feathers on the back to slow down its fall. The contraption looks deceptively simple and even a tad flimsy, but once you start kicking it around, you realize how insanely addictive it is.
My prediction: this will be on EVERY college campus in two years.
Also on the deceptively simple end of the toy fair was The Blitz Ball. This looks like a normal yellow whiffle ball, until you look up close and… surprise! No holes. Instead, it is shaped like a complex geometric structure. Why not just make it round? I have no idea, but what I do know is that I am NOT an athlete, and I threw a perfect curveball with this thing that would have made Wayne Gretzky cry.
What’s that? He’s a hockey player? Yeah… see, that’s how much I know about sports, and if The Blitz Ball made me look good, it’ll make you a baseball god.
I also really loved The Loog, which is a build-it-yourself three string guitar. Even though it only has three strings, it still gets a great ukulele-esque sound, and you can play a simplified version of almost any chord. Also, you get to build it yourself, so you can trick it out however you like then go serenade that special someone in the middle of the night. Unless there’s a restraining order out against you.
And if procrastination’s your thing, you won’t find anything in the world that you’ll be able to zone-out on like Nano-Dots. They are… well… they’re a bunch of magnetized metal dots. They come in big and small. Boring, right? Oh, how wrong you are! You can mold them into practically any shape or size. Add more, take some away, stack them, string them… you’ll start playing with these and look up at the clock to realize four hours have passed. Nono-dots are toy crack.
And if you feel like shooting someone, you really, really, really need to get the Air Storm Z-Curve Bow. It looks like a cross bow, which is awesome, and it shoots foam arrows that look like they’ll really hurt, but actually don’t at all. The boys at Nerf better watch their backs, ‘cause there’s a new foam weapon in town!
Hi-Fi: I have banned myself from buying another RC helicopter because I have broken every single one I have ever owned. And that number is higher than I’m willing to admit. But I’m seriously considering lifting the ban so I can buy one of Regal Elite’s Force Flyers. This is not your regular RC Heli-schlopter. The control for this is your hand.
That’s right, it’s motion controlled from YOUR HAND. You put on the magic glove and move your hand around and the copter mimics your hand’s motion. And yes, I wept a little bit when I got to play with it.
If sneaking around is your thing, Spy Gear is coming out with a really amazing (and affordable) Night Vision Goggles set. It has the same technology that the military issue night vision goggles have, but it’s only around fifty bucks. Can you really put a price on being able to sneak into the girl’s dorms in the middle of the night, though?
And, if you have skrillions just sitting around in your bank account, the must have this fall is going to be The Solo Wheel. It’s a Segway with no handles. Which sounds dangerous. And actually kind of looked dangerous, too. But the woman demonstrating it swore that once you tried it, you’d get the hang of it.
I don’t know, but in my hands I think it would just be an $1800 trip to the emergency room.
Weird: There was plenty of strange at this place, and most of it was in human form. But there were also some odd toys. The Hand Runner by Fantasma, a remote controlled severed hand, was definitely one of the strangest things there. Oh, and it can also climb walls and go across the ceiling. So, weird AND awesome.
I found strange odds and ends like the Washboard Tie (which can actually be played for those serious washboard musicians out there), and The Walking Dead Action Figures, complete with all the main characters and several “Walkers,” so you can reenact your favorite episodes from both seasons.
My favorite oddball products, however, came from a company called Omni Consumer Products, who make actual food products out of brands that exist only in movies and TV. They have a Tru Blood drink, which looks just like the drink from the show (but is a blood orange soda), a Duff Energy Drink which looks just like Homer’s favorite bevy of choice, a Soilant Green Snack Chip, and…. Wait for it…
Stay-Puft Marshmallows. And they’re caffeinated. And I took home the last box at the fair.
So, I say to all of you toy fans out there, dreams really can come true. Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus, and he needs to get his tuchus to the Toy Fair so he knows what to get me this year.
Will you be buying any of these?