The Spinmaster RC Air Hog Switchblade — has gotten a lot of buzz lately. It was featured on Letterman–where happily for the company and our friend Shannon…it worked on air–much to the delight of the audience (and Dave).
So we were eager to give this one a try. The results were decidedly mixed. If the Switchblade is fully charged, there is no wind–and you’re relatively skilled with these types of toys–it goes up and will fly–and it is extremely cool. Now here’s the down side–we could only get it to do what it’s supposed to do two or three times in the course of a full afternoon of testing. This is not a load it up, charge it, take out and fly it kind of toy — it requires much more finesse.
After having several teens try it with limited success — (they all really wanted it to work)…in come my two adult engineering friends (one designs drone helicopters and the other has a degree in nuclear engineering). Nothing like watching grown men get very excited about these types of toys. I shared the reports of the day—and they both were not satisfied. They were sure that they could get it to work. After about a half-hour of consulting –they both gave in and concurred with their younger counterparts. “Great idea, poor execution.” They then offered a much more detailed report about why it wasn’t working. (I love these guys. I remember when we first started toyportfolio.com, one dad (he worked for Dupont) sent back a ten page review of an Erector set with design modifications!)
One of my go to teen testers told me that he often reinforces the very lightweight material with some duck tape–so that crashes are less likely to do permanent damage to the toys. I thought that info was worth passing on–of course, he warned that if you don’t put it on the right way you can blow the whole aerodynamics of the toy. Of course!
So even though this toy can be fantastic…in the end, it can not sustain the wow factor.
I’m sorry to report that the promising new Star Trek Enterprise and Klingon Bird-of-Prey from Tyco RC really don’t fly very well. Since we are such Trekkies around here–we gave these multiple tries to see if by some chance we did something wrong…but they just didn’t work. Our younger testers were also disappointed with the actual material – on the box it looks like you’re getting a solid plastic model. The toys are made of thin styrofoam (the kind they use for toy gliders) and one kit broke when our tween tester inserted the propellers into his model. The directions were not particularly clear. Very sad–we were really excited about this line–the first to feature a flying Enterprise.
I really feel like I need to gush about these really cool flying butterflies. Finding toys that fly without a huge scary propeller can be challenging. There’s also the whole class of flying toys that require a lot of space and finesse. Having neither a lot of space or finesse (when it comes to flying things)…I really liked these easy to use FlyTech insects (there are moths and mosquitoes in the line) when they came in last spring. So I took them to the Today Show. They were intended as the last “wow wee” toy of the segment. At set up the night before the entire crew also really liked them. We all took turns flying them around the studio. The segment was outside the next day–so everything got a little damp when it started to rain. I’m not sure exactly which factor played a bigger role but when I went to show Al Roker how cool they were–none of them would fly, not a one. It was really disappointing since such a poor performance made the toy look bad. (Not to mention that I also looked a bit silly protesting that they really do fly!) You can fly these butterflies inside–the wings aren’t hard–so it’s not like flying a plane in the house. For a full review check out our award listing. They are from WowWee and retail for just under $25–making them a good value for the holidays.
I’m always on the look out for toys that fly–that don’t hurt. As a professional toy tester, I do feel a responsibility to stick my fingers near the propellers (as I think most 8 year olds would) to see if it hurts. Most really do! For the past few years I’ve been a huge fan of the Kid Galaxy planes–they work, easy to launch and very satisfying. I still like those a lot. This week we received Wow Wee’s new Fly Tech Butterfly ($24.99). While I’m not big on gender specific toys, this pink and purple butterfly really works. Much like the Kid Galaxy launcher, you hold down the button until the wings really start to flutter–aim and there it goes! It’s really easy to use (the age label is 6 & up). The launcher takes 3 AAA batteries.
Interestingly all the boys loved playing with it but said they wouldn’t because it was sooo pink. There is also a yellow and orange butterfly (is that less gender specific or is it the butterfly itself that makes it gender specific?) We didn’t have one the day we tested this product with kids. I wonder if a blue butterfly would have sparked the same reaction from our boy testers. Would girls play with a blue butterfly? This would make an interesting research project.
In either case, the company also makes a mosquito! My suggestion, have a fly off–which flies further.