On Tuesday, I reviewed one of the first Lego sets from the upcoming Toy Story 3. And, as I mentioned then, I wasn’t able to escape with just that one piece of movie merchandise. Lego and Mattel both had TS3 product on the shelf that day. I naively thought I could just look through the characters Mattel was offering. After all, I wasn’t planning on buying any. But that’s how they get you. Minutes later, I was handing over the cash for my new Seek ‘N’ Destroy Sparks.
I have very mixed feelings about this figure. Mattel seems to have accomplished the near impossible. They’ve made a great looking and fun toy filled with infuriating disappointments. Sound confusing? Now you know how I feel.
I was instantly drawn to this character because of his retro look. Plus, the Four Horsemen’s Outer Space Men announcement already had me thinking about Zeroids http://www.zeroidz.com/Zeroids.html before I even found Sparks. I’m not old enough to have had an original, but I did have plenty of similar robots growing up. I imagine most of have had something similar at some point. Maybe it didn’t have any articulation or just made strange “robot” noises with flashing lights when buttons were pressed, but the overall look was there. Sparks is a homage to those old toy robots.
I’m going to start off with the one area of the figure that disappointed me the most: articulation. Sparks’ articulation is very basic. He’s got swivel joints for his head and shoulders and cuts for his wrists. His treads are molded, but with wheels underneath so he can roll around. Also, he has an action feature. Press the button on his back and you can make one or both of his arms shoot forward with telescoping action.
That doesn’t sound bad. At least, not until you compare it to the bio that Pixar gave Sparks:
Sparks will fly – literally – during electrifying playtimes with your new robot friend Sparks! This retro-inspired toy has flashing red LED eyes and a blaster cavity that actually spits out real sparks when he’s rolled along on his sturdy rubber wheels. Sparks also sports telescoping arms with working pincers, and an elevator action that raises his entire body to new heights. Sparking action completely child-safe. Requires two AA batteries (not included).
That bio sounds awesome! If only Mattel had used it as a road map of how to make their version awesome. But they didn’t. It’s almost like Mattel decided to take away all the things that would have made this robot perfect. No sparks. No lights. No moving treads. No extending torso. No working pincers. This Sparks is a shell of his movie self.
I realize this is a movie line, and that movie figures are notoriously cheap. I also realize that if the figure did those things, he probably wouldn’t have been $11. But you know what? I don’t care. I would pay extra for a movie-accurate Sparks. But at $11, this robot should have at least had pincers that could open and close. They’re one molded piece. That’s irritating.
Despite his lack of articulation, Sparks has a great sculpt. Even though they don’t move, the gears and joints are there for accuracy’s sake. Also, the two cylinders on his back have scratches and nicks in them like he’s been played with for years. I love those little details.
Paint wise, Sparks is mostly molded in the colors he needs to be. The only part you need to watch out for is the red on his visor and upper torso. Like most movie toys, the paint varies in sloppiness. The rest of his decorations: shoulders, upper and lower torso, and the lower parts of his sides over the treads are all stickers. I don’t mind this so much. None of these areas would have come out nearly as nice if they were painted. Plus, the stickers help give him that vintage look.
All around, I do really like this guy. I am annoyed about his unarticulated pincers, but that doesn’t take away from his great sculpt with a stylish, retro look. Since Sparks has an action feature, he’s a couple dollars more than the standard TS3 figure. I paid $11 at Toys R Us, but he might be a few dollars cheaper at other retailers.