Wednesday, February 4, 2015

REVIEW: Imaginext Pirate Skeleton Diver

The Imaginext Pirate Line
If you've been paying attention to the Imaginext Pirate toys you may have noticed that it's evolved from simple buccaneers and galleons to incorporate a few more fantastical elements. The excellent Shark Boat, for example, has a great Steampunk aesthetic. Similarly, the soon-to-be-mine-if-I-can-find-it Pirate Sub wouldn't look out of place in War-Gods of the Deep. And, no doubt inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, there are characters wearing armor that looks like they just jumped ship from Davy Jones' Flying Dutchman, along with a series of skeleton pirates... which neatly brings us to the subject of today's Review, the Skeleton Diver.

Skeleton Diver Set
The Skeleton Diver set is priced at around $8, which - given Imaginext's usual pricing - may appear a little high, considering there's only one figure in the set, but there's actually a pretty good amount of stuff included in the bundle. Let's begin with the star of the pack, the Diver himself.

The Skeleton Diver
I mentioned in the introduction that the Pirates of the Caribbean was probably the reason behind the inclusion of skeleton pirates in the Imaginext line-up and whilst Curse of the Black Pearl was no doubt an influence, what many people may not know is that in the 1970s - when Monster Mania was at its height - a company called MPC released a line of skeletal pirate models inspired by the Pirates of the Caribbean ride. Although I was never fortunate enough to own any of them myself, the impression they made on my young mind - or more specifically, the ads featured in the comics I read as a kid - was a lasting one and the moment I set eyes upon this set, I was immediately reminded of those vintage model kits.
But there are a few other nostalgia triggers here. The ghostly diver - although not an exact likeness - will, I'm sure, put many readers in mind of the Scooby Doo villain of a similar design. And although it's not an exact color match, it's interesting that they chose to cast the figure in this color. Because, you know, it's not like there's another famous Mattel skeletal figure who wears blue...
Remove the helmet and air tank and we can see the Skeleton Diver in all his glory. And what a glorious thing he is!
There's a ton of close-up detail here, from the bony body parts to the chain/padlock motif (which we'll come back to in a moment), all of which really sells the idea of him being a skeleton. And then there's that grinning skull head, augmented brilliantly with a paint app to give him gold teeth. Yeah, it's a pimp skeleton.
Speaking of the paint app, on the whole it's good, with tight, clean lines and no splatter. I only wish they'd taken it a little further and highlighted more of the detail. As you can see in the above image, for example, his knee plates are painted gold but the strap holding them in place has no paint. Ditto for the elbow/wrist chains.
Articulation is the standard Imaginext figure set-up, with a swivel neck joint, double-jointed shoulders, swivel wrists and joined, swivel hips. As you can imagine, the helmet - when worn - does affect the pose-ability of the figure to a degree. Yes, you can still move the head but (obviously) you have to remove the helmet to do so and when the helmet is on, it can be difficult to see  that the head has even been posed.

Weapons & Accessories
The Skeleton Diver comes equipped with a pretty neat array of weapons and accessories. 
I mentioned the helmet in passing but it's worth taking a moment to point out just how cool this accessory is. The sculpt captures the Old Timey Diver helmet look perfectly, with its grid ''window'', chest detailing and air supply pack on the rear (although I'm guessing the Skeleton Pirate no longer needs that particular feature...!) and it's a great fit on the figure, being tight enough not to drop off but mobile enough to remove with ease when you choose to do so. It's a great piece that looks awesome on the figure.

As for offensive gear, the Skeleton Diver comes with a huge hatchet and a very cool ''Anchor Staff.'' The former has some great detail in the sculpt, featuring some nice dents and a very weather-worn (sea-worn?) look but the Anchor Staff is the real Hero Weapon here. Not only does it look great (being a staff with a broken, anchor-shaped blade at the top) but, unlike the hatchet, it also has a paint app, which really makes the weapon pop.
There's also a really cool old-school hand drill, which, like the Anchor Staff, has a nominal paint app that manages to work way better than such a tiny amount of work should. The sculpting is also great but it can be a little awkward to get the Diver to hold it in both hands. I also wonder if the kids this set is aimed at would know what a hand drill is, much less how it works...

And finally there's the ball and chain shackle. As I mentioned above, the Skeleton Diver has a very ''chained-up'' aesthetic going on. Is he a treasure hunter or a guardian, shackled to the ocean bed? Of course that's entirely up to you but I like the idea that he's a cursed diver whose role is now to eternally defend the treasure chest from would-be thieves.

Wait, treasure chest?

The Treasure Chest
In the introduction I commented on the fact that the Skeleton Diver was a single figure, retailing at the price-point Fisher-Price usually reserves for their two-figure packs. The reason for this pricing is simple: the figure comes with a rather large and very impressive accessory in the shape of the Treasure Chest.

As you can see in the above images, it's a pretty decent slab of plastic, standing almost as tall as the Skeleton Diver. And the design is great, with the chest's angles having a warped, cartoon-like geometry and some great close-up detail (I love the ''sea rot'' on the corners and the planking effect.) But that's not all, because when you open the chest up, you're greeted with this...
And what is ''this'' you ask?
It's a spring-loaded Death's-Head Octopus! 

No, I don't know if that's a real thing but that's what I'm calling it from now on. 

You see, as the chest is opened fully, the octopus is launched to attack unwary treasure-seekers! It's a little gimmicky and getting the octopus to ''click'' back into the right position again can be a little fidgety but it's still a really fun little play feature. And just look at all that treasure. I love that the coins actually have sculpt detail and aren't simply blank discs.

Minor issues aside though, it's a great accessory piece that compliments the Diver well.

Final Thoughts
The Skeleton Diver is another strong addition to the Imaginext Pirates line-up. But before I can fully recommend it, I just want to briefly touch on the pricing of this set.

If you're used to the single-figure with mount/accessory sets (such as the jousting Castle Knights or DC Super Friends sets) then you'll know what to expect here and you should just go buy this immediately. But if your only previous experience of purchases at this price-point has been the two-figure packs, this set may give the impression that you're being short-changed.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Skeleton Diver is a superb-looking figure. Not only is he the best-looking of all the Pirate figures but he's also probably one of the best figures in the Imaginext line. The sculpt is great, the paint detail is neat and his accessories are not only a lot of fun but also offer a host of play scenarios and display potential. He's also equipped with a bunch of weapons and tools, all of which look great and fit neatly into his hands. In fact, the only way he could have been perfect is if he glowed in the dark...

And then there's the fantastic treasure chest. And any ideas you may have about the value for money this set represents should be dispelled immediately with this piece, as it more than compensates for the lack of a second figure. It's an impressive-sized accessory that looks great, has a neat paint app and will fit in with a variety of Imaginext play scenarios or displays, serving as everything from Aquaman's royal cache to the Castle Dragon's horde. Sure, the launching octopus is very gimmicky and isn't useful as anything but a missile but it's still a neat little feature and one I'm sure kids will enjoy surprising their friends with.

Beyond all that, this is a figure that hits so many perfect notes that it comes as no surprise to see collectors snapping it up. It's an undead diver that looks like the mutant offspring of Skeletor and a horror movie monster that comes with a giant treasure chest featuring a spring-loaded Cthulhu-esque octopus missile. What's not to like there?

A great figure with an equally fun accessory that kids and collectors will love.

Image Gallery


  1. Why can't all toy lines be this creative?

    1. I know. I'm sure a lot of collectors are put off because they're, ''you know, for kids'' (like other toys aren't...!) but they're such great, fun pieces. And I know I keep on about the retro vibe but they really are superb vintage-style toys in a completely non-ironic ''hey look, retro!'' way.

  2. FUN! I haven't ventured much out of the DC or blind bag themes (or random pick-ups at garage sales/flea markets) so I have only admired the pirates skeletons from the store shelves thus far. I might have to grab a set sometime, they are very tempting.

    1. The Pirate line is great. There's a really cool steampunk-meets-Jules Verne vibe to a lot of them. The Crab Walker, Pirate Sub and Pirate Dive Suit Armor are all great sets (although they're now quite difficult to come by.)


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