Playmates Toys have been looking for other
opportunities for their Intellitronic technology. You know what that
is - they made it famous with the World of Springfield line, but also used
it with the smaller Lord of the Rings playsets. Plug the figure into a
spot in the playset, push a button and you get some sort of sound, be it
Homer Simpson or Frodo Baggins.
This year they extended this to their new
ProZone line of baseball figures. There are two playsets currently - a
batters box at home plate, and a pitcher's mound. Each of the first
series of characters can be plugged into one of these two sets, and Stuart
Scott announces various facts and stats about that player.
This review is of one of those figures,
Sammy Sosa. One of the greatest hitters in the history of baseball,
it's no wonder he was one of the choices for the first series.
During the review I'll also be comparing to
the McFarlane line of Sports Picks baseball figures. It's inevitable,
and I may eventually do a head to head comparison as well. For now,
I'll simply point out pros and cons of each as I discuss Sammy.
Packaging - **
There's nothing particularly stunning, unique or even eye catching
about the card art for this series so far. There is a nice picture of
the real person (rather than the Sports Picks, where you only see photos of
the toy itself), and the ProZone logo is nice and obvious. Both the
rest of the color scheme and style are fairly forgetful.
Sculpting - ***1/2
Obviously, Playmates has to compete with McFarlane for the sports collector
dollar, and the thing McToys does best is sculpting. Still, Playmates
is giving them a run for their money.
The sculpting on the body and
uniform shows the same type of attention to detail and care that the Sports
Pick version of Sammy did. There's all the wrinkles in all the places
you'd expect, and the detail work on areas like the gloves and shoes shows
that Playmates is looking to take their game to the next level.
The head sculpt is also good,
although Sammy doesn't have any particular attributes that you can really
exploit to make it obvious that it's him. The head sculpt has a
slightly rough look to it though, as though it didn't get that final clean
up before the mold was made.
Overall the sculpting is quite
a bit above the normal Playmates figure. I think McToys still edges
them out slightly, but it's getting pretty close to call.
Paint - ***1/2
Another crucial area for a figure like this is the paint ops.
While these are all very neat, there are a couple minor issues holding it
back from a perfect score.
First, and most important, is that the skin tone seems too
dark for Sosa. Maybe it's just my eyes, but had the tone been slightly
lighter, I think the sculpting on the face would have been enhanced.
While the blue strips of his uniform are all well done,
there is a little slop around the arm bands and gloves. And rather
than go with heavily detailed shoes, as McToys tends to do, they've gone
with the very basic black.
They have also included the now expected dirt and grass
stains. It must be late in the game, since it looks like Sammy has
slid into home more than once.
Articulation - **
Unfortunately, they have followed McToys lead on articulation. There's
only three points - neck, and cut joints on both biceps. Still,
there's little posing you can do anyway with a figure like this. These
are intended as statues, and if you go in with a complete understanding of
that, the lack of articulation will have less effect on your overall
Accessories - **
Yes Virginia, there is an accessory. Only one though, and that's
the bat. Just like McToys, the knob comes off the handle, and the bat
can be removed from his hands. It's not much, although I'm not sure
what else would really work well. Perhaps sunglasses or a water
Talking Feature - ***
When you place Sammy on the playset base, Stuart Scott rattles off various
phrases about his career, his stats, and other facts. Each batter or
pitcher gets at least 6 or so lines. It's a nice touch, and you have
to give them credit for being imaginative. When I first heard that
they were looking to use voice technology with the players, I couldn't
figure out what they were going to say - swearing at the ump for that bad
call perhaps? But the Scott phrases make sense, work well, and sound
great from what I've been able to tell playing around with the set of a
They'll need to produce some more of the field though, so that we can get
all those great outfielders, infielders, and maybe even a dugout to get some
info on coaches and managers.
Value - **1/2
At around $9 at Target, higher at some other stores, these are in the same
ball park as the McToys figures. The playsets each cost $20 at Target
(again, higher at some retailers), but considering that there are only two
playsets out so far, and those should cover the planned hitters and
pitchers, it's not a terrible deal.
Of course, the big problem comes in if they have additional hitters or
pitchers come out in the future that were unplanned - how to update the
playsets? I'm hoping that in actuality the technology with the
specific lines is in the bases for each figure, rather than in the playset.
That's the only way they can avoid what could be an otherwise major problem
in the future.
Overall - ***
This is going to be a tough one for the average buyer. While these
are very nice, they have a little way to go yet to reach McToys level
detail. Still, they provide some pretty spiffy voice technology that
McToys don't, and if enough playsets are developed, you could have a very
cool complete baseball diamond set up in your display.
Something that would have been a nice addition, and may have
added play value to kids as well, would have been sound effects, rather than
just Scott's voice. The crack of the bat, the roar of the crowd, the
call of the vendor - these would have made the sets interesting to kids as
well, and would have been a cheap addition.
Where to Buy:
The best bricks and mortar location is Target right now, although Toys R
Us and Wal-mart should also have them. On-line:
- Amazon.com has the
figures for $11 and the playsets for $25.
Figure from the collection of Michael Crawford.