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My son received the Hasbro Martian Matter Alien Maker as a gift for his 5th birthday from one of his school friends and I have to admit I had no idea what it was when I first saw the box. I had not seen it advertised or in any shops so it was a product that was completely new to me.
The set is basically a creative play set in which you make aliens using a special gel which eventually hardens into a rubbery type product.
When you open up the box you have a little bit of setting up to do. The main part of the set is the actual alien space ship which you need to add various little drawers to and things. It is simple to do and the instructions are comprehensive. It is mainly just clipping and attaching things. Also inside the box are around 14 "half alien" moulds, 3 small tubs of Martian Matter (which is basically play doh under a different name!) and three tubes of squeezy Martian Matter in yellow, green and red. You also receive a cutter and tweezers with the set. The alien moulds are cute little things and children will enjoy making their own individual looking alien forms!
Basically what you need to do with the set is add some of the dough to the centre of the alien space ship. You can then choose two of the half aliens and add them to the lid of the centre. When you close the lid and press down you make an imprint of your alien form into the dough. You can then fill the alien impression with the Martian Matter gel either opting to use one colour or a few. You then leave the gel to harden and can then remove it from the dough and you are left with a tiny little alien form! They are squishy and bendy and I don't really like the feel of them but my son has no issues with this at all! The little aliens that you are left with are cute and can be played with afterwards though this is not something my son has done really. I do however seem to keep finding little aliens in random places such as in the snakes and ladders box etc!
I have found that although it says that the aliens only take a few minutes to set it seems to take longer. Perhaps we are doing something wrong with the set but here we find that the middle of the aliens can take quite a bit longer to dry out. This isn't really something that worries my son though so I guess it isn't a major issue.
The set does warn that the Martian Matter can stain but as yet we haven't had any problems with it. I would recommend covering your floor though just in case!
At five my son is more than capable of setting this up and playing on his own as I recently found out one day when I was in the bath and came downstairs to find this set out on the carpet! Eeeek...luckily nothing had been spilled and if anything it is a good thing that my son can do this independently.
In terms of playing time my son has played with this for probably around twenty minutes at a time and whilst it is not a huge amount of time, I feel for the product it is decent.
I have noticed that this set is on sale at Toys R Us for £6.99 at the moment and it states that the retail price is normally £19.99! I think £6.99 is a fair price to pay for the toy but I would definitely say don't pay more that this. It is a good creative toy and I would think it would have a child's interest for a couple of years on and off.
I think Aliens might be taking over my house. I've had my suspicions for a while that something was afoot, a missing sock here, a malfunctioning fridge there - yes, little squidgy aliens have been multiplying at a surprising rate with the aid of my offspring.
The Aliens' invasion was cunning, they established their foothold through one of those strange rituals we humans call "The Birthday Party", they arrived in an innocuous looking box bearing the name "Hasbro". Their human helper, aka Mum of "child bearing gift" said that she was sorry to come bearing more plastic, (I think she knows I think we are probably at toy saturation point), but that her kids loved the Martian Matter Alien Maker and played with it together all the time. And it was thus our own alien adventure began. The Mum was right, the kids loved this ship from the off and it has been a huge success in this house.
On the face of it I couldn't quite see what the appeal of this item could be; it's a kit to make little aliens of about the size and indeed the appearance of jelly sweets. Aimed at age 5+ but, in my experience easily used by slightly younger children who can be trusted not to eat their creations (they are non-toxic in case), the little plastic UFO you can see in the picture doubles as storage and an alien making mould.
When you get everything out of the box set up is pretty straight forward, the instructions are simple enough to follow; once you have put the two pieces of the ship together and installed the storage drawer you are ready to get going. The process of making the aliens is easier to do than explain. Basically you get two compounds Martian Matter "Compound" - in three tubs as per the picture, which is essentially like play dough, and Martian Matter gel, in three bottles of pleasingly neon appearance. The gel makes the aliens and the compound is just there to enable the process.
To make an alien you select a head and body mould from the selection provided, they are the little bits you can see above, and come in a good range of alien incarnations and are all interchangeable, you can select alien feet or flippers and choose from alien faces with googly eyes - they are all pretty cute looking. The moulds fit very easily into the hatch of the UFO, my children have had no problem doing this at all and enjoy varying the pieces they choose. There's a little void below the hatch into which you put the compound (aka play dough), you press down the mould which makes an impression which is then filled by gel. I've found my children able to do this too, once they got the idea that the gel has to be used to fill the impression in the dough just to the top. You can use one or many colours to do this, the bottles are easily squeezed by little hands.
That done you put a circle of the compound on top of the gel so that the alien is encased (a cutter and roller are included to do this part) and wait 5 minutes as directed, we used a timer we own for this part. The alien is then complete and can be removed with the tweezers that are provided. Generally they have set in that time and if there is excess around the body the alien can be trimmed with the little knife that comes with the kit. I've no idea how the set works, I guess the dough must be some sort of catalyst for the gel which otherwise remains in liquid form.
What is created by the kit to you or me probably seems a bit pointless, as I said at the start it makes a jelly like little alien. To kids, they are fantastic little beings who seem to be cherished and actually played with. I think the fact that you can vary the colours of them and the body parts you choose, with 14 different body parts there is plenty of possible variations. You can buy refill parts for the set, and the aliens, once made do last a reasonable amount of time, the instructions warn you that they will dry out and harden eventually, which they do, but if stored as they suggest in an airtight container they do last long enough to ensure no child trauma.
It's good to know that the "Matter" is non toxic, I've found the whole thing to be pretty mess-free, there is a warning that the gel can stain some items, but it seemed to come off the eldest's white t-shirt with no problems. The dough, like normal play dough, if dropped on the floor does harden and can be removed fairly easily - generally I have a pretty laissez-faire attitude to this sort of thing as long as it is confined to the kids' room, if you are more house-proud than me you might find this an issue, however thus far not too much mess has been made with this kit which has been played with extensively.
As my friend said it is a great toy for co-operative play, and I like the fact that very little adult input is required in the process. My eldest daughter informs me, having played around with the timer, that the optimum setting time for aliens is 5 minutes 30 seconds, in any case she has had great fun finding this out, and the Aliens have had a house made for them and been welcomed into the Toy Fold with enthusiasm.
Overall this item has been designed pretty well. My one criticism would be that the ship doesn't fit back into the box unless you disassemble it, the ship is a bit of a gimmick really, it's just a nice idea but could be smaller, it has a few pods to store your manufactured aliens in and a few slots to put the various other bits of the kits in, but mainly it's decorative.
Price wise I think at the £8 or so this is currently on sale for it is pretty fair value, especially as you can buy refill kits of the matter once all yours is used up. I wouldn't pay much more than this for the kit however. We have had this for a while and it is definitely not a one-off "enjoyed once and put away forever" toy at all. I've just bought some more of these for my own stock of party gifts, The Entertainer have them on offer for £5 which is, quite frankly, a bargain, they have the refills for £1 and £2 too, which I have purchased for our own use, though the original 177ml bottles seem to go a long way.
I would think that you will like this item if your children enjoy making things, it has certainly kept my kids amused and got their imaginations working overtime, which, to me, is the sign of a good toy. Highly recommended.
Martian Matter Alien Maker was one of those products that my oldest son had seen advertised on TV and commented on, so I kept it mind as one of his presents for his seventh birthday a few months ago. I managed to pick this up for around a tenner at Toys R Us which seemed like a good price at the time, only to then discover it for sale in our local Home Bargains for only £5. Just my luck!
The alien maker is actually a craft-based playset which consists of a plastic dome which comes in two halves and is supposed to be a spaceship! There are also lots of plastic disks which again come in halves. These become the moulds that form the alien shapes when fitted together in any combination and feature various shapes and images, including frogs, jellyfish shapes and many other, more random 'alien' shapes. The aliens themselves have to be formed out of something called 'Lunar Lava' which is a flourescent gooey liquid contained in a squirty container (similar to that used for child's acrylic paints.) The kit contains three different bottles of different colours and we still have plenty left after regular use over the past three months. Without making the process sound far more complicated than it actually is, the runny lava sets into little alien shapes when it is squeezed into a hole formed in the 'Meteor Mud' and left to dry. Now, I might be wrong but, as a bystander, Meteor Mud is pretty much identical to Playdough. This looks like Playdough, smells like Playdough and responds like Playdough. Basically, these are little pots of Playdough rebranded as 'Meteor Mud!' Not that such a small point has limited my son's enjoyment of the product in any way. In fact, he has never commented on the resemblance to Playdough, he's just happily sitting there creating tiny little aliens!
As an adult, the aliens that are the end result of all this moulding, squeezing and setting are particularly unimpressive. They are really tiny, slightly squidgy little shapes which are only a couple of centimetres big! They don't serve any purpose as such and can't really be used for any imaginative play or decorative purpose. They are quite cute though and my son loves the fact that each tiny little alien can be made into a completely individual unique character by changing around the moulds used and mixing and matching the colours each time. He gets so much pleasure out of creating such an intricate little creation that there is no need for a purpose as such. The 'spaceship' itself doesn't really fulfill any useful purpose either. It does have six lidded pods on the top which can be used to store some of the completed aliens but takes up quite a lot of room. The aliens do need to be stored in some sort of air-tight container as otherwise they just dry out and shrivel up into what can only be described as a dried-up bogie! At least, I hope that was a dried up alien that I've just picked off the carpet...
The minimum age recommendation on the packaging suggests that this toy is suitable for ages 5 plus so I was initially wondering whether this might be a little bit too 'young' for my seven year old. I had no need to worry as he has loved playing with this toy and it seems entirely appropriate for his age group, based on the amount of enjoyment he has gained from it. In fact, I think a five year old might struggle a little to set this up independently without a little adult help. You do need to read the instructions carefully to understand how the 'aliens' are made, at least the first time of use, as there are quite a few steps to work through. It might also be a little messy for children of five or younger. In our house, I try to keep this as a kitchen table activity as the stuff in the tubs has the potential to go over the carpets and clothing. Having worked out how this works, my son is more than happy to play with this independently and it keeps him occupied for a surprising amount of time. The only drawback, particularly for younger children or those with a very short attention span, is that you do need to wait quite a few minutes for the aliens to set in place which is another reason why this works well with slightly older children.
There is plenty of the lava and mud to last for several months use. The mud is reusable (providing it is put back in its lidded pots each time!) and only a small amount of lava is needed for each alien. In any case, separate refill packs are also available which contain extra packs of both the lava and mud. I have also seem some additional kits which come with a few extra plastic moulds. Handy if your children have got bored of the alleged '90+ combinations' of aliens to be made with the original set or have managed to mislay some of the pieces. These refills are around the £3-£5 mark per set.
Despite this being one of those craft toys that doesn't produce a usable end product, it does entertain and occupy my son for a long time. With that in mind, I've gone out and stocked up on some of the £5 sets that I discovered in Home Bargains. At that price, these fall comfortably within the 'friend's birthday party' price range but, based on their standard RRP of around £10, make me appear pretty generous too! They are also a gift that I'm fairly confident would be enjoyed by boys (or girls) in this age group although I hope their parents don't mind the potential for the mess factor!