Today’s toys are more versatile and full featured than at any other time in toy history. Join me today as I examine 3 of the most versatile toys on the market today in some depth. We’re more than just scratching the surface with this one, so keep on reading if any of the toys featured in the above image appeal to you.
The first item I want to discuss today is the Propel Star Wars TIE Fighter Advanced Battling Quadcopter Drone. I reviewed 2 of the drones from the Propel Star Wars series here on the blog previously (see photo below), so I feel like I’ve got a pretty good handle on what these things can do. In addition to being able to fly at speeds of up to 35 mph and do fun flips and tricks, the Propel Star Wars drones have numerous other features. Each of the 3 drones in the series (a 4th, the Millennium Falcon, is supposed to eventually be coming as well) have the same capabilities, including the ability to take off and land automatically, which makes them much easier to control than many of the other hobby grade drones currently on the market.
There’s even a built-in barometer system (or “altitude stabilization mode”) that allows you to set an artificial height ceiling of about 2 metres (or 6 feet) that all but assures you of no tree climbing missions to recover your drone. The same system also keeps your drone from hitting the ground when you don’t want it to, so all you really have to do is control your drone within the horizontal plane, making it an absolute breeze to pilot. This system can, of course, be turned off, so pilots with a need for greater freedom and control need not worry, you can still take these things to greater heights and top speeds.
Among the Propel drone series’ best play features is a very cool mid-air laser tag game that you can play with up to a dozen total players. Each pilot can fly his or her drone around and try to shoot down other drones with built-in invisible infrared lasers. Three hits and your drone will automatically drift to the ground in auto landing mode. Although I never got to try this game out myself as I only had one drone on hand at a time, I thought it was a really cool idea. I also heard about a future upgrade kit that will allow users to see the lasers as they’re fired, so definitely something cool to look forward to there.
Other useful features of the Propel Star Wars Battling Drones include 3 different speed modes from which to choose (thus allowing pilots across a wide range of experience levels to enjoy these drones), display packaging that can only be described as supreme (it even features a light-up pedestal that plays cool Star Wars sounds), a very nicely done hobby grade controller that features its own independent lights and sounds as well, and each drone comes with not one but 2 lithium ion batteries (so you’ll get twice the flying time on every battery charge). Possibly best of all though is the Propel Battling Drones App, which allows you to fly a “virtual” drone on up to 34 different training missions without ever taking your actual drone out of its box. Simply connect the hobby grade controller to your smart phone via Bluetooth and get ready to fly. These Propel drones are truly an amazing value, particularly for the super serious Star Wars fan!
And speaking of Star Wars fans, another toy with great versatility is the very new Lenovo Star Wars: Jedi Challenges AR Headset with Saber & Beacon. Matt reviewed this set recently and seemed to have a lot of fun with it. You can find a link to that review at the bottom of this article. I too will be getting a crack at this system fairly soon, but for now I can only imagine how cool it is. Let’s explore some of it’s most interesting sounding features anyway!
The Lenovo Jedi Challenges set is an augmented reality system that allows you to play the role of a Jedi in training as you go on your own amazing Star Wars adventure. Along the way you’ll unlock the knowledge of the Jedi Order, learn to master the art of the lightsaber, and you can even try your hand at a challenging game of Holochess (just don’t be foolish enough to play against a Wookiee!!).
One thing that Matt noted about Jedi Challenges in his review was the need for a good amount of space when engaging in some of the more active games. This bodes well for the activity level that the set brings out in users, particularly with the lightsaber play. He also mentioned that the headset itself is large enough to fit over prescription eyeglasses, which is great news for glasses wearing users.
Included in the set are three key components: the AR headset itself (which works with your existing smart phone running the Jedi Challenges App), a lightsaber hilt that you can swing around, and a special tracking beacon that helps to orient the various AR elements you’ll interact with. With these components you can engage in an all-out ground assault, leading a large group of Rebel forces against the evil Empire, or go one on one in a fierce lightsaber duel with the likes Darth Vader or Kylo Ren. I don’t know about you, but this lightsaber duelling aspect of the Lenovo Jedi Challenges set is what most appeals to me!
Of course, you will need a fairly powerful smart phone to make the system work, so you may want to check which phones and operating systems are compatible before picking this set up. A snippet from the current list of compatible devices includes the iPhone X, iPhone 8 Plus, iPhone 8, iPhone 7 Plus, iPhone 7, iPhone 6s Plus, iPhone 6s, iPhone 6 Plus, iPhone 6, Samsung Galaxy S8, Galaxy S7 edge, Galaxy S7, and the LG G6. However, this list is both incomplete and expected to keep on growing, so it’s highly advisable for you to check that your device meets the set’s minimum system requirements before you pick one up.
I personally can’t wait to give this set a try for myself. It’s difficult to discuss a product like this in the proper depth and detail without having any first hand experience, but Matt’s review and the additional research I’ve done certainly have me excited.
Finally we’ll take a look at the Sphero Cars Ultimate Lightning McQueen, a toy I reviewed myself just a few weeks ago and was seriously impressed with. It turns out that Lightening here has an incredible amount going on. In addition to being app controlled via your smart phone (through Bluetooth Smart) and cruising around at a modest 6 mph, Lightening also features 6 different motors that allow him to raise, lower, and tilt from side to side (called an emotive suspension), as well as move his animatronic mouth (located on Lightening’s front bumper). There are also motors for driving his two front tires and steering him. This array of technology alone makes Lightening McQueen one of the most sophisticated toys to come along in the past several months, as well as Sphero’s most ambitious toy release to date.
But we’ve only just scratched the surface with Lightening McQueen. He also has 5 capacitive touch panels that allow him to feel things like when you pick him up. For instance, when I was reviewing Lightening in the lead up to Christmas, there were times when I would pick him up and he would demand, verbally, to be put back down. On other occasions when I held him upside down he would ask “Who turned your garage upside down?” It was really quite impressive that Lightening not only knew when he was being touched, but also what orientation he was in, and even moreso that he always seemed to have an appropriate (and often sarcastic) comment for the occasion.
Possibly the most impressive aspect of Lightening, however, is the trapezoidal shaped LCD screen that serves as his windshield and eyes. With it Lightening can render live animations depicting a variety of emotions, so the look on his “face” always matches wherever he’s feeling or saying. Add to that front and rear working LED lights (with ambient light sensors that allow them to adjust based on the amount of available ambient light in the room), a built in speaker for Lightening’s voice and driving sound effects, a ton of cool features like built-in racing games (in the app) and the ability to watch the Cars movie with you and react to scenes taking place on screen, and a mouth that actually moves when Lightening speaks, and you’ve got one amazing little toy!
I really enjoyed my time testing Lightening McQueen. He did everything he was supposed to do, and even though his top speed isn’t all that fast, it never really felt slow. Sphero’s Lightening McQueen is definitely among the toys that I’d recommend to virtually anyone, whether they’re a serious Cars fan or not.
So, which of the above toys do you think is best? Let us know what your favourite versatile toy is in the comments section below. Alternatively, if you’d like to learn even more about any of the above items first, you can always check out their complete written reviews right here on the blog. Just click the link for the Propel TIE Fighter Drone (or either of its Speeder Bike or X-Wing brethren), the Lenovo Jedi Challenges AR Set, or Sphero’s Lightening McQueen. Until next time, thanks for stopping by and have an excellent day!