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My son loves anything to do with cars especially anything to do with designing them. We came across a range of toys from Cars 2 called gear up and go and purchased both the Lightning McQueen and Mater version for my son. This toy is modelled on the second film all of the accessories relate to the second movie, but as it is Mater it would also be the perfect gift for any Cars fan. The idea is you get a simple tow truck base that looks just like the character Mater. By using the different accessories you can build Mater up however you like. Included with the accessories are spy guns, shields and the bomb that is attached to mater at the end of the second film.
Using these accessories you can build spy Mater. The next design is pit crew Mater which includes headphones and special race team body designs. Finally by removing the accessories you have your usual Mater, so actually there are three different Mater designs available from one toy and all of the accessories are relatable to the movies. In the set you receive a fair sized Mater vehicle and 16 accessories to dress him up however your child would like. The tow truck is much larger than the die cast vehicles and even bigger than the shake and go versions available. There are 3 different Mater designs you can build with each set, by removing certain parts of the tow truck and replacing them with the spy parts he will need to complete his mission. It works with a simple push and click system that is very easy to do. There are holes in the body work of Mater, and the accessories click into place extremely easily.
My son was delighted with his cars and began using them straight away. There are instructions but to be honest my son had a good idea what to do anyway. He began removing all the pieces and building it back up into different styles. I did worry a little that once the novelty had worn off he would become bored with it having the same three designs. In fact 6 months later he plays with this toy as much as he did when he first received it. As it can be transformed it is perfect for feeding the imagination and my son loves building stories around Spy Mater.
The pieces can all be mixed up so you are not limited to spy Mater or pit crew Mater. You can mix between the different accessories which my son thinks is absolutely hilarious. When Mater is built as a mix between the two different versions he giggles. The pieces cannot be used with other gear up and go vehicles which my son was disappointed about at first as he wanted to use some of Lightning's pieces on Mater. There is plenty to do on this toy alone to make it interesting. The pieces are very easy for small hands to swap and change about. My children are able to do this mostly independently, but there are a few things like the bomb bonnet and parachute that can require an adults help. They all click into place easily and after a few design changes my son knew what had to go where.
Of course Mater can be used as a regular tow truck. His wheels are free moving and by pushing him across the floor he moves a fair distance. This is essential for the normal mater before scenes in my sons story's and even with all the accessories attached to him he can be used as a regular push along truck. Age recommendation is four years plus which I think is fair. The pieces are not small enough to cause any danger to younger children, but changing the parts can be difficult for them. My three year old son likes to play with his brother's car, but he does find changing the bonnets particularly challenging. He still adores this set and always plays with it whenever his big brother leaves it in sight. It holds my eldest sons attention most and he will sit for hours playing with it, but I think that is because he is more interested in changing the appearance rather than playing with it as a car.
It is very well made. I was worried about the pieces being removable, but it has lasted well from rough play from my boys. Of course as he is a spy tow truck he often comes into bumps and bangs, but there is no visible damage after 6 months of use. Storage can be a pain as there are so many different pieces. I often find myself having to shift through the toy boxes as the pieces tend to fall to the bottom. The truck is also the exact copy of the one from the films so that it is instantly recognisable to fans.
I would highly recommend this toy to any cars fan. While it is modelled on the second movie any fan of Mater will find it enjoyable. My son adores this toy and really has spent hours playing with it. He also has the Lightning McQueen version which definitely helps enhance play, but there is no need to have the other versions to make this toy enjoyable. At £19.99 retail I think this is a fair price for a well made toy to last. We purchased ours from Amazon but it is widely available at other toy stores. There are three different characters available and we own two which have been loved by my sons. We have actually purchased the Finn McMissile version for my son's birthday in a few weeks, and if it is as much as a hit as Mater it will be money well spent.