* Prices may differ from that shown
Shortly before my oldest son's eighth birthday, we went to a toy shop where he first discovered a new range of mini remote controlled toys, the Zibits. He was totally fascinated by them so it seemed an obvious choice to buy him something from the Zibits range for his birthday.
When it came to purchasing them, I was surprised to discover just how much they actually cost. Each robot is tiny, at just around 6cm tall, but cost around £9.99 each which I thought (and still think) is a little over-priced. They are part of Argos' long-term 'two for £15' promotion which does seem a slightly better offer. The robots are quite cute and appealing though as each one has a different colour and appearance and glowing eyes which light up when being controlled, making them attractive as little collectable items, although the price tag takes them out of the range of typical pocket money toys. Argos also has a selection of Zibit's accessories and play sets which are a good idea as they add considerably more potential play value to what is essentially a pretty basic novelty toy. Each set can actually be connected to the others which again enhances the overall play value but would mean further expense.
We settled on this Lightning Ball Battle Arena set which cost £17.99 from Argos (catalogue number 388/3437). This was reasonably good value, certainly compared to the individual cost of the toys, as the set included two of the tiny Zibit robots, each with their own independently operated remote control. The set also includes a plastic football pitch set, complete with a ramp, two hexagonal little footballs and two nets to act as goals. The pitch comes supplied in pieces but these are very easy to attach and detach, so my eight year old is able to set this up without any help. The advantage of this set is that it forms a competitive 'football' game so has a focus to the toy, otherwise the novelty of the robots, cute as they may be, wears off very quickly.
The remote control supplied with each Zibit is very basic with a single movable dial, although it is very small, making it easy for young children to hold. The robots make a whirring sound when being controlled, fortunately not too loud or irritating as there is no way of turning the sound off or down. Controlling the robots is a little more difficult, as their movements are circular, meaning that they have a tendency to spin uncontrollably rather than move in the direction that you want them to. Making them spin is actually very entertaining and is something that my three year old enjoys doing. Part of the appeal of this set is that it can be played by two children, helping to avoid some of the inevitable arguments about sharing!
The age recommendation on this set is for ages six and over and, for once, I think that is a fairly accurate estimate. Whilst my three year old loves these Zibits - they are the perfect chunky little model for him to pick up- he cannot control them at all and finds trying to direct them pretty frustrating. It actually took my eight year old quite a while to master controlling the Zibits, as the dial needs to be moved quite gently and then the positioning re-adjusted quite quickly to compensate for the way in which the Zibit moves around.
This difficulty really only adds to the appeal of this set, as it is pretty difficult to manoevre the little robots into the correct position and to co-ordinate them sufficiently to actually hit the little ball, never mind push it into the right goal! Every adult that visited on my son's birthday felt compelled to have a go on this little set and spent ages trying to get a goal. It proved quite a hit although it is certainly a game that has quite a short-lived novelty appeal. All the fun centres around trying to successfully get a goal and once you've actually managed that milestone it isn't necessarily a game that will be played repeatedly. To maximise play value, I find this works best by keeping it out of sight and then re-introducing it every now and again, otherwise the novelty wears off very quickly.
I do feel the set is a little flimsy and could be easily broken or damaged as it is only made from cheap-feeling plastic. We keep ours stored in its original box under the boys' bed between uses as it would not survive the treatment that our toys receive in the toy box! Fortunately, as the set comes apart it doesn't take up too much room.
In terms of ongoing running costs, this set takes a lot of batteries - each remote control takes two AAA batteries (which aren't supplied) and each Zibit also takes three of the little LR44 button cell batteries (which are supplied.) Having said that, we haven't needed to replace any of the batteries yet despite sporadic use since September.
In all, this a fun little novelty set which kids and adults alike will enjoy, albeit for limited periods. If your child is desperate for a Zibit, this set certainly prolongs the fun factor and is comparatively good value, although I think the range overall is a little overpriced.