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Last October my son was given some cash by my parents for his 6th birthday. He chose a number of choice items from the toy store, Smyths. At the time he had just seen the Star Wars films as they were being showed on TV over a few weekends. Enjoying the concept, he selected a few Star Wars items, one of which was this set of fighter pods which cost him £25.
Firstly, if this set is something you are interested in buying, I really recommend looking around for it, as on amazon, it is usually between £40 and £50, and if we had paid as much as this for it, I would have been a bit upset. The box is quite big, but the contents are very small, and it seems a bit flimsy for the higher price.
I had not come across fighter pods, but these are basically small spherical balls made from a clear plastic, that you can unscrew into two halves to put a small star wars miniature figure inside. These pods can then fit in vehicles, or you can just roll them around to play some sort of game - to be honest, I am not quite clear what the game is as it never said on the box, but my boys play a game where they stand the mini figures up then roll the balls along to knock figures down. The small figures can also be fixed to nodules on the outer surface of the pods, which is more useful when in some of the vehicles, but when you are rolling the balls along, this is a pretty pointless option.
These pods are mostly easy to open - we have a couple from our ten that are a bit stiff to unscrew, and my sons will have to get me to open them to get their characters out again.
There are many smaller sets which only contain a few of the pods and characters. This bumper super battle set has 30 different figures, 10 of the fighter pods, and 4 different vehicles to transport the pods, so as my children tend to play games together mostly, it made sense to get more for our money so they could have a game. I am not a Star Wars expert, but the vehicles you get are recognisable to me from the films.
There is an AT-AT vehicle, which is like a camel type shape with a hole in where its tummy would be to carry two of the pods. There is then two snow speeders which are fighter jet shaped and can fit one pod in. The third type of vehicle is a Jedi starfighter, a more pointy nosed jet which can also carry one pod. The balls make these smaller vehicles move nicely as the ball sits on points in the vehicle so it can rotate round 180 degrees on this axis and move smoothly along on this rolling motion.
The characters are about 1cm in height, which is absolutely minute. Our biggest problem with this is that the pieces are so small they are easily lost. We don't have 30 left 6 months after purchase as the dog has pinched a couple and chewed them, and my youngest son also took some to school where he then lost them.
The figures are made from a rubbery material, and they are a moulded shape with no moveable parts. At the bottom is a little circular indentation which allows you to stand them on the pegs in the pods. Each figure stands well on its own on an even surface like a table or wooden floor. While very small, the amazing thing is that you can identify characters quite strongly. They don't look indistinguishable, and there has been a lot of effort put into making these look like characters from the movie. My sons were thrilled by some of these like Yoda, Darth Vader, Jabba the Hutt and Luke Skywalker. There are also plenty of stormtroopers and more minor characters within this set. For a full list of all the characters available to buy, and to see the attention to detail, you can see here: http://www.fighterpods.com/en-GB/collection.html
When my son initially picked this, although I could see he really liked it, I hoped he wouldn't pick it as it was so small and my sons are not known for keeping all their toys of one type together. However, they have been really good on the whole with this. I gave them an old sweetie tin and all the bits fit in that nicely, and they know it needs to all go back in there. I do have to double check they have done this at the end of play, but it is not as unmanageable as I feared. We could have gone for storing it back in the original packaging, but this was a large moulded plastic sheet within a cardboard box, and would have been quite bulky to store.
We tend to play with this downstairs on the wooden floor rather than upstairs on carpet as the pods move more freely and the people stand up better. There is also more space for uninterupted play. We need to make sure the dog is not near when they play as the balls rolling around get him quite giddy and wanting to join in with play. This is when he tends to pinch the people while the kids are not looking at him.
I think my eldest son was a good age to get this as a toy. My younger son is only just getting old enough to appreciate it as he approaches his 5th birthday.
My only complaint is that I can see that there is some sort of game that the makers intend you to play, and it would help if there was some sort of explanation. There is also a website with some sort of game related to the toy, but again, this was not mentioned on the packaging.
Its not a big thing as my sons have made their own games and stories with the pieces, but it might give a bit more direction.
This is an enjoyable set for people who like playing with little figures, and I can see it would be fun for someone to collect the whole set of vehicles and figures. I think it is more fun to play with this with a friend in a battle type scenario from how I've seen my children play.
On the whole this is well constructed, and there are no breakable parts to come off. I think this is great for children at least 6 years and older who can play with this without losing the bits and have the dexterity to open and close the pods and insert the pods into the vehicles.