Sunday, September 29, 2013

Kate Likes Hot Wheels...and Gambling

Fig Rig is compatible with minfigures from various brands.
For the past 315 dog years, in the Western world at least, there have been three unavoidable toys for children:  LEGO bricks, Barbie dolls, and Hot Wheels vehicles.  Toy trends and imitating competitors come and go, but these three have staying power, with children playing with them and strange adults hoarding collectibles like a surplus of rawhide in a backyard hole.

I think it is important that a child play with at least two of the three aforementioned toys.  Why?  Because these toys are fun, duh.

LEGO bricks and minifigures were meant to be gender-ambiguous, but a long history of sets and themes tended to skew toward boys.  There was some sort of controversy when LEGO came out with the "Friends" theme, which targeted girls, and is a great source for Brian May minifigure hair.  In any case, LEGO is expensive.  LEGO makes quality toys that last decades -- dog centuries, even -- but the cost of collecting LEGO adds up quickly.

Mattel's Barbie dolls have one main target audience:  Girls.  I'm just a simple dog who likes to play fetch, take naps, and blog, so I won't get into your human issues of gender roles in the 21st century.  Besides, I don't think the Barbie-sized G.I. Joe dolls, I mean, action figures are popular among boys anymore.

Mattel's Hot Wheels die-cast vehicles are usually marketed toward boys, but I'd like to make the case that Hot Wheels have the potential to all kinds of demographics -- boys, girls, dogs, cats, and adult humans who hoard.  (I'm kidding about the hoarding humor.  Adult Hot Wheels collectors are generally cool people.)  Here are two reasons why Hot Wheels can appeal to all kinds of audiences:  (1) Little cars are cool, and (2) each vehicle usually retails for about a buck ($1 USD).  Hot Wheels come in all sorts of colors and shapes, designed after both real vehicles and imaginary ones.  There should be a car or two that appeals to almost anyone.  The low cost of Hot Wheels is reason enough for you to spoil your child, girl or boy, with a dollar toy, and while you're at it, you can spoil your dog with some treats, preferably Milk-Bone or Beggin' Strips.  I'm just sayin'.

This is the part of the article where I try to sell you something.  For the holidays.  Even if it isn't Halloween yet, let alone October.  A singular Hot Wheels vehicle is sufficient to be fun by itself; it can be manually rolled along a carpet, couch, or table during an important board meeting.  You can do so much more with a few die-cast vehicles.  There are Hot Wheels playsets that can make the vehicle do stunts, jump, loop, and crash.  I would advise against these playsets.  Sure, it seems cool to have a car loop-de-loop into a plastic dinosaur's digestive system.  When the laws of physics go awry, and a flying die-cast projectile injures a child's face or an adult's genitalia, no one would be laughing.  Well, except for the adult -- male, probably -- getting Hot Wheels'd in the balls.  That would be hilarious.  That should go on YouTube and go viral.

The kind of Hot Wheels playset you should buy your kids (or yourself) for Christmas, Hanukkah, etc., are the ones that involve racing.  Before the start of the race, you can choose a vehicle, and place bets.  This sort of gambling doesn't have to involve money or be illegal, but it should involve lots of fun.  And possibly some degree of cursing.  You can set up a large bracket tournament, and let the games begin.  I have three recommendations for track playsets that can fit various holiday budgets.

My first recommendation is the Hot Wheels Rooftop Race Garage Playset.  It is a two-car drag race from the top of the garage to the finish line.  This playset is relatively small, but the race is extremely short.  The end of the track can be expanded with Hot Wheels track that you can buy at Walmart or Toys"R"Us.  You can remove the finish line, which determines the winner of the race, by using a flat head screwdriver to bend the plastic and pry the finish line out the set.  This will render the playset less portable.  You can use any material, such as LEGO bricks and plates, to create a stable foundation for the finish line and the extra amount of track.  The Rooftop Race Garage usually retails for around $15 and comes with one car.  You'll have to buy any opponents separately (for about a dollar each).

My second recommendation is the Hot Wheels Downhill Raceway Track Set.  It is a three-car drag race over relatively bumpy terrain.  The finish line for this playset can determine first, second, and third place.  Some Hot Wheels vehicles that are fast one straightaways races might be slow on this hilly racetrack, and vice-versa.  You can add extra track at the end of this set, but the length of this race track is pretty decent, so you might not want to destroy it by removing the finish line.  It folds up easily for storage.  The Downhill Raceway, which includes one car, is currently available at Target for around $20, but if you want to waste extra money on an older version of it at Amazon, be my guest.  You'll be price-gouged at five times the price at Target, so good luck!

My final recommendation is the Hot Wheels Super 6-Lane Raceway.  It is a six-car drag race in a straight line to the finish.  The finish line requires batteries because it contains recorded audio that shouts the winning lane.  There is no volume control for the finish line, and it does not determine the order of the runners up, without some sort of process-of-elimination re-races.  The track can be extended at the end indefinitely, as long as you have the extra track pieces and if the vehicles will be able to roll that far.  The finish line can be removed without damaging the playset.  You'll have to figure out how to create a base for the finish line (LEGO bricks and plates work well).  It folds up less easily than the Downhill Raceway for storage.  The Super 6-Lane Raceway, which includes six vehicles, should retail for around $70.  You should consider it a good deal to get it for less, and a bad deal to buy it for more than $70.

Place your bets, and start your (pretend) engines!

1 comment:

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