* Prices may differ from that shown
As you may already know from my previous review my two oldest daughters are mad about these sets so this is another we have acquired whilst collecting them over the last two years.
With this set you basicaly get everything you see in the picture. You get the circular garden area in pink, two semi circle runs to attach to it either as shown in the picture or these can be used to attach it to other parts of the world you may already own. The pink twin pram and one baby.
My daughter specifically asked for this set, as she loved the look of jilly the hamster and the pram. It was easy enough to assemble as are all the items in this set although after looking at the picture above I think I may have put the hood on the pram on the wrong way as our babies are facing jilly when she is pushing the pram. All hamsters not just jilly fit into the area to push the pram so you are not restricted to using just this hamster, which is great, only one baby hamster is provided but these are cheap enough to buy at around £4 each if like us you wish to have the two hamsters.
I think this is a great set as a starter set as it is quite a big set but I also think it is just as good if you already have a different starter set as an add on to what you already have, my daughters love sending the hamsters around the garden and making them push the babies around so have had hours of fun out of this set alone let alone the others they own. Finally the last plus to this is that it does work out around ten pounds cheaper to buy this set than to buy the items separately.
Where Zhu Zhu pets are concerned though the basic idea is always the same - small motorised hamster, over priced plastic accessories, loved (in my experience) by kids - there's a big variety in what you can expect to pay for identical items. Case in point this starter set, which you can currently pick up for £19.99 at Toysrus, as you could when the five year old bought it just after Christmas, which contains items that individually would cost you a lot more - ie a hamster (£5-10), buggy (typically £8), baby hamster (£4) and a room and run (£10+). At the £20 we paid it's just about OK value for money, what it lacks in terms of quality of construction it more than makes up for in play value, and it has been much used in this house and formed the base for a much bigger run, mainly made up of second hand rooms and tunnels picked up cheaply on ebay.
What you get:
This set comes in a satisfyingly big box. The hamster, as the product name suggests, that comes with it is Jilly who is pink. The play house is about 27cm across and comes ready assembled, though you have to attach the garden bit, the loop you can see in the photo above. The baby hamster you get may vary the box informs us, we got a green nappy wearing one who fits nicely into the buggy and can be pushed along by Jilly. The buggy itself is pretty tricky to put together - you have to put the hood on and initially it didn't seem to fit. Once we had worked out how to attach it we then had to add the connectors to two of the doors and the run to fix together. This too is a job for an adult and not easy to do at all. The whole thing is pretty shoddily made and doesn't seem robust really, there are stickers on the floor and the plastics are just thin and poor.
So is it any good?
I think I've probably been clear that when buying this, and indeed in my experience any zhu zhu accessory as a parent you have to set your expectations to low. The makers could look to Lego for ease of putting something together, to Playmobil or Fisher Price for how to make something out of plastic that lasts, but they haven't. None of this really matters though really as actually as far as the main target audience goes - a child - this is actually pretty good and my daughter loved this item as soon as she got it and plays with it often.
The best part is the hamster who can be stroked and interacted with - there are two buttons on her head one for making her go (I'm saying "her" as she is pink) and one you can press with which she makes little noises. She also has a button on her nose so that she will change direction if she hits something and some "triggers" on the bottom which will make her make different sounds. There are no triggers on this play house - for that you will need to buy another set, but with, for example, the fashion run or wheel, this particular hamster makes a range of sounds including music and is one of my daughter's favourites. As with all these hamsters the weak point in their construction is the wheels which can get clogged with hair if used on carpet - we tend to avoid this but it's inevitable if you play with her a lot, we've found using tweezers to remove any hair clogging up the wheels will keep her running around. The hamster moves around strangely authentically and is really characterful. She also gets through batteries alarmingly quickly despite going in to stand by mode eventually if you don't touch any of her buttons. The buttons are changed in the base and were not provided with the set.
The hamster can easily be removed from the room as there is a good gap in the ceiling and she wanders around the run quite convincingly. There's a removable "plug" for the third exit on the room which you can take out if you have another tunnel or room to connect, doing so increases the fun to be had from this set quite a lot, but it could be used as a stand alone item as well. The play house is what it is - the sticker on the floor has worn pretty badly but it does contain the hamster and see her whirling around and, if used with other tunnels and rooms is pretty good play value wise, though again I don't know why they didn't make these easy for a child to put together (even the eight year old can't manage), but it is what it is. So far none of the plastic has cracked but it really doesn't seem to have been made with durability in mind.
As far as the rest of the set is concerned, the buggy itself, which I already mentioned as being a nightmare to construct is pretty poor all round really, but Jilly does fit into it and she can push the baby around fairly convincingly. We don't have any other sets for the baby but there are many add ons available and you can buy individual babies - it might have been nice had they included two here as the buggy has two spaces. The baby has a furry finish and is quite tactile, you can push her around - she has a ball bearing in her base, but I suspect her play value would be better were we to have any of the other baby items in what is quite a big range available. The buggy and baby quite often feature in races with the other vehicle we have on the kitchen floor, they are no better or worse than other zhu zhu wheeled items.
As a starter set this is not a bad set on the scale of Zhu Zhu. I, personally wouldn't pay more than £20 for it, but it wasn't my £20 that was spent in the first place; the five year old wanted it badly, has played with it lots and to be honest she has had toys that have been far less loved than this. On that basis I will give it a grudgingly awarded 4 stars but I do wish it were better made and that Zhu Zhu accessories weren't so overpriced - they are definitely worth shopping around for, but this is probably at the right price going to be one of the better deals you will get if buying new.