The Island of Misfit Toys: ThunderCats Tower of Omens playset

MisfitToys

Marooned this week on the Island of Misfit Toys, let’s look at The Tower of Omens playset from Bandai‘s recent ThunderCats line of action figures. Retail price on this playset was $39.95 but as you can see from the tag, I got it for a little over $10 bucks on major closeout.

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Over the past year, my sons and I have become fans of these ThunderCats toys, based on the 2011 reboot of the beloved animated series from the 1980’s. Bandai seemed poised to overtake toy aisles with their ThunderCats… but I guess it just wasn’t to be. The new cartoon was little-seen (I’m a fan of these toys and I have never seen one episode) and just about everything ended up in closeout and clearance.

The Tower of Omens seems to be Bandai’s answer to the ThunderCats previous playset – The Cat’s Lair. The Cat’s Lair was a truly impressive edifice of playsettery and a pretty hard act to follow. I can’t say The Tower of Omens does that, but lets take a look.

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The playset comes with two free-standing pieces of the titular tower, a small vehicle, a piece of weaponry, and an action figure. I’m going to treat the tower as one piece and everything else included as “accessories.”

PACKAGING

As you can see from the photo at the top of this post, it’s a standard oversized box with images of both the playset itself and several of the action features involved. It’s sturdy and serviceable.

SCULPTING

“Playset” is perhaps not the right word for The Tower of Omens; this is more of a “play environment.” Let’s talk about the tower itself and then I’ll mention some of the other pieces.

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The first part of the tower is the entrance. It has echoes of The Cat’s Lair in design. The main piece is molded from blue plastic, mostly and has a little detailing on the top; someone sculpted some vines on top of the gate. Two pieces of fencing can be lightly snapped on to the sides of the gate.

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The tower itself is made up of several working parts, including a base, four columns, and the main turret. All of these have nice if minimal detailing that services the action features.

PAINT

Very little paint detailing on this playset. Most of the color comes from the plastic with which this thing was cast, so you’ve got a lot of brown/bronze, with highlights of blue. The tower itself has some details on the uppermost section and there’s a little grey and red paint used on the gateway. I wasn’t expecting extreme detailing here and I did not get it. Even sculpted details like the vines on top of the gateway aren’t painted. I get Bandai’s reasoning for this. Playsets are designed primarily for play, not aesthetic pleasure.

ARTICULATION/PLAY FEATURES

There are a lot of play features included in the Tower. Like all of the modern ThunderCats vehicles and accessories, the Tower sports ThunderLynx technology which at its’ most basic is a series of interactive magnets which operate electronic features. Each action figure comes with a magnet which corresponds to a piece in the accessory. There are two major ThunderLynx aspects of the tower. The first is in the Tower’s gateway; wave a ThunderCat figure in front of the face and the doors open.

The tower has a similar ThunderLynx feature. An elevator is hidden behind a panel in the tower’s base. When a figure rides the elevator to the top of the tower, the magnet activates and opens the top of the tower. The top of the tower then lights up and a sound effect of “ThunderCats Ho!” plays. Both of these play features work well and are quite fun.

The panel which hides the elevator can be attached to the side of the tower and acts as a slide. This seems like a bit of an afterthought insofar as play features and could not be more lame.

ACCESSORIES

The Tower of Omens playset comes with the following accessories:

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A small catapult (GET IT?) with two rocks that can be used to defend the tower. This is a nicely scuplted accessory with a lot of articulation both in the catapulting mechanism and in the teeth of the cat-shaped top. Very cool.

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A small ThunderCat vehicle which very closely resembles the Cat’s Lair. This vehicle also has ThunderLynx systems embedded in it – sit a character at the controls and the feline head pops up from behind the driver’s seat. You’ll notice I pulled our Lion-O out of the toy box for this picture. When you see the action figure this playset came with, you’ll understand why I took that step.

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It’s Tygra, cast in clear plastic. I don’t care if this is some reference to the animated series… this is an incredibly lame pack-in figure to go with this playset, with almost no play value. In general, I think this is one of the problems the entire line suffered from – Bandai heavily loaded their first series of ThunderCats figures with Lion-O and Tygra… to the detriment of pretty much every other character on the series. Fan favorites like Panthro and Cheetara were almost non-existent in toy aisles.

I guess what I’m saying is this is an awful figure and a really dumb choice to be included in this set.

FUN FACTOR/OVERALL

I’ve been pretty complimentary this is NOT a well-designed playset and I can easily see why I picked it up on such a steep discount.  The gateway looks pretty cool but the tower’s a big ol’ disappointment. The accessories that come with the set are fun for the most part but Invisible Tygra is incredibly dumb.

The biggest problem my boys and I encountered was how utterly non-durable the Tower of Omens is. The three pieces of the gateway fall apart if you breathe on them. Ditto all four podiums attached to the tower. I honestly don’t think Bandai meant for this to be such a collapsable mess… but it is.

I was pleasantly surprised with the action figures in this line when I scooped them on discount, to the point where I’d have been happy to pay retail for ’em. This Tower of Omens though… yeesh. Even at $10.25, it’s a bit overpriced.

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(A picture of all our clearance purchased ThunderCats toys. I think I’ve paid like $35 dollars for all this stuff.)

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