Friday, October 26, 2012

REVIEW: Monster Marbles Series 1.1: Roo & Olvey

Produced by WowWee | Released 2012 (Copyrighted 2010)

Monster Marbles
Monster Marbles is a new line of blind-bagged collectible figures from WowWee. I have to admit I wasn't familiar with WowWee, although a quick visit to their site informs me they're the people behind the rather cool Robosapien toys and Paper Jamz electronic instruments. Their latest project, Monster Marbles, appears to be either a re-release or based upon an earlier line of toys judging by the 2010 copyright date on their bases. I initially suspected I'd simply found a 2-year old product on shelves but a quick online search reveals I'm not the only one who's just discovered these toys, so maybe they've only just made it to retail...

Monster Marbles are - as the name suggests - a hybridization of monsters and marbles, with a free-rolling metal marble on the underside of the figure (kind of like the ''pucks'' used in some table-top sporting games) that allows it to roll/slide across smooth surfaces . The idea is that you use each monster to play a marbles-style game, be it knocking your opponent's Monster Marbles out of the ring or seeing who can pitch their Monster Marble over the furthest distance.

The price-point (I paid $3.99 for my pack) is a little higher than other, similar blind-bagged figures, especially when you consider there are only two Monster Marbles in the pack. However, what I will say is that they not only feature solid metal marbles in their bases but each Monster Marble is also very weighty, being cast from a fairly solid chunk of plastic. Although I haven't attempted to play any of the games suggested I have no doubts that the Monster Marbles figures themselves are more than capable of withstanding a good bashing.

Like most blind-bagged/trading toys the Monster Marbles line-up features an assortment of common, rare and even variant colorways. The two I received (Roo and Olvey) were both 100 Point ''common'' figures but there are also slightly rarer 150 point figures (based on alternate colorways of a selection from the common range), plus translucent, glow-in-the-dark, silver and even gold variants in the mix, with over fifty Monster Marbles to collect.

Let's take a closer look at each figure in turn.

Roo is the six-limbed Monster Marble who appears on a number of the pack and promotional shots. Having examined the figure for myself, I can see why he was selected. He's an eye-catching, unique, very cool-looking figure that sums-up the line's aesthetic perfectly.

Sculpt & Design
The sculpt is strong, not only from a creature design point of view but also in its execution, with his skin being puckered and detailed with a scaly/porous effect, along with some nice touches on close-up features such as his lips and the wear on his horns. I also like the semi-sinister grin he's sporting, which is further enhanced by the wicked set of his brows and beady-eyed look. The designers have hit the perfect note with his looks: he's scary enough to clearly be a monster but not so repulsive or terrifying as to lose his cute appeal.

Roo's base paintwork is applied in a slightly slap-dash manner that works well to give a sense of the chaotic/monstrous nature of the character. His base green is enhanced with a darker wash that accentuates the sculpt well and the detailing - such as around his eyes and teeth - is very cleanly done. My only criticism is the excellent app/wash on the first horn isn't applied to the other two spines that run down his back, both of which are instead simply left green/unpainted.

Olvey is a blue, two-limbed little critter covered in spots and sporting some large fangs.

Sculpt & Design
Olvey appears to take his design cues from a snake, with his mottled, scale-like skin, reptilian eyes and  wicked fangs completing this serpentine look. Although there's nothing massively wrong with his design, I have to admit that Roo is the more striking/creative of the two designs. But even so, he's still a pretty neat-looking figure with some nice surface detail (with some very cool scales and wrinkles) and a face that's - again - sinister enough to look monstrous but still cute enough to avoid it being too scary.

Whilst Olvey's paint app is pretty clean overall, he suffers the same problem as Roo, namely that the paint is only applied to the front/top of the figure and the scales/mottled sections of his rear remain unpainted. It's a little disappointing to see that this could be a trend with the Monster Marbles figures but I can almost excuse this cost-cutting, given how weighty and large the figures themselves are.

Still though, what's here is cleanly applied (aside from a minor misapplication on his  fangs) and the palette of bright blue and luminous green/yellow works well.

Extras & Accessories
As well as two Monster Marbles, each bag contains a collector sheet (that also features rules for for different marble-based games) and a small stick of chalk, which can be used to mark boundaries/''rings'' for knock-out games, mark distances and so on. As a collector the latter may be redundant but for kids it's a nice little addition (so long as they don't go writing PENUSLOL on every surface) and it's a cute way to encourage kids to actually play with their Monster Marbles.

It's a nice little touch and adds a sense of value for money to the pack, something a number of other blind-bag figures sometimes seem to lack.

Final Thoughts
As regular readers will probably know, I'm a huge fan of blind-bagged toys and I really dig little monsters and ''gribbly'' creatures like this, so as you'd probably expect there's a lot of stuff for me to like with the Monster Marbles line.

The figure designs - from what I've experienced - range from the pretty good to great and I like that there's some imaginative design work in the mix. I also like the idea of the variant colorways (especially the translucent and glow-in-the-dark versions) and although some of the sculpts/designs are reused in each ''rarity rank'' at least the different paint apps give them some variation. The fifty-plus figure also ensures the odds of getting repeats is fairly slim.

What's really impressive though is just how weighty and robust these toys are. Remember when you got your first Tonka truck and you spent an entire weekend trying to wreck it, just to prove you could? The Monster Marbles toys have that same sense of the almost indestructible, which makes sense given that playing with them requires the toys are not handled but also smashed into each other with some force. And I don't foresee any problems with them doing just that. They're a toy I'd gladly hand over to a young child with no worries whatsoever about them being damaged.

At around $4 for two figures they may seem a little pricey and the fact that the paint app isn't quite as perfect as it should be is a little disheartening but even with these minor drawbacks the Monster Marbles line is a series I'd heartily recommend to fans of blind-bagged monster toys and I personally am very keen to see more of them. As to whether I'll be able to or not, I don't know, as so far the only place I've seen them is in the Walgreens toy aisle, but here's hoping they'll be appearing in larger stores soon.

A fun collectible that's also a great toy that will appeal to collectors of all ages.

Final Score: A-

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  1. Those look pretty cool, I will keep an eye out. I have some really cool "Flip Force" cars from WowWee, found on closeout at Walgreens, Can't find more anywhere, they were a really neat idea too. I will try and post soon.

    1. They are a lot of fun. As I say, I love how robust and chunky they feel and OK, so $4 or so for 2 figures is maybe a little steep but there's a better feeling of value for money with the Monster Marbles than there are with a lot of other blind-bagged figures.

      And I just saw a video of the Flip Force cars. That's a really cool little gimmick!

  2. These actually look pretty nice.


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