Tuesday, December 18, 2007

The Toy Guy on Live With Regis & Kelly

Did you catch Chris Byrne, the Toy Guy on Live With Regis & Kelly today? Chris stopped by the show with a bag full of great toys and games. All of the featured items, listed below, should still be available in stores.

Dancing Homer
$27.95 by Russ Berrie

Planet Heroes Figures & Planet Heroes Turbo Shuttle
Figures $9.99, Turbo Shuttle $29.99 by Fisher-Price

Power Rangers Mega Mission Helmet
$49.99 by Bandai

ClickStart My First Computer
$59.99 by LeapFrog

Crayola B.U.V. (Beginnings Utility Vehicle) & Crayola Beginnings Markers and Paints
B.U.V. $14.99, Markers & Paints $5.99 per set of 3

Smart Easel
$39.99 by MEGA Brands

Transformers Autobot and Decepticon Robot Keychains Games Carabiners
$5.99 each by Basic Fun

Express Games-Monopoly, Scrabble, Sorry!
$12.99 each by Hasbro Games

Whac-A-Mole Tower
$39.99 by Hasbro Games

Madballs Sick Series I-Skull Face, Slobulus
$6.99 by Basic Fun

Flippin Frogs
$24.99 by Mattel Games

No Brainer
$19.99 by Milton Bradley

Barbie Girls
Basic Unit $59.99, add-ons $14.99 by Mattel

Color Explosion Glow Board
$19.99 by Crayola

$79.99 by MEGA Brands

Mio Pup
$49.99 by Hasbro

High School Musical Mystery Date
$19.99 by Milton Bradley

High School Musical Sing-Along Microphone
$19.99 by Zizzle

Monday, December 17, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

Well, this is it - our last full week to Christmas shop before the mad last-minute dash. This week also brings us one of the most visually stimulating and entertaining games I've seen all year - NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams (Wii). This is a follow-up to the classic Sega Saturn game with some impressive updates to utilize the Wii-remote's unique motion-control system.

Here is a look at more of our picks for the best titles due this week

Nintendo DS
Garfield Gets Real
Indianapolis 500 Legends
Luxor 2
MX vs. ATV Untamed
Warhammer 40,000: Squad Command

Nintendo Wii
NiGHTS: Journey of Dreams

Draft Day Sports: College Basketball
Legends of Norrath: Forsworn

Dai Senryaku VII: Exceed
MX vs. ATV Untamed
NeoGeo Battle Coliseum
Rock Band (PS2)

MX vs. ATV Untamed

Atari Classics Evolved
Luxor: Pharaoh's Challenge
MX vs. ATV Untamed

Xbox 360
MX vs. ATV Untamed
Sensible World of Soccer

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Helpful Web Sites - DealNews.com

I don't know about you but for the past few years, I have done most of my holiday shopping online. I also do most of my non-holiday shopping online but that's neither here nor there. If you also like to shop the Internet then you might be interested in a site I just found out about today, which really would have been useful to know about last month.

The site is called DealNews.com and basically it lists hundreds of incredible deals to be found online. I'm not talking about junk that you would never want but good stuff like Mac's for under $800 and Kensington iPod speakers for $54. I even saw a JVC Digital Camcorder for $200 with free shipping! They also have all sorts of stuff for your home and car and anything else you might be shopping for.

Have you heard of or used this site before? If so, what did you think?

- J. McKinney

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Stokke Announces Recall of Xplory Strollers

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Stokke LLC, of Kennesaw, Ga., announced a voluntary recall of Xplory Baby Strollers.

Only Xplory baby strollers with serial numbers between 1 and 28,097 and with grey handles are included in the recall. The serial number is located under the foot plate. Strollers with white handles are not included in this recall.

The recalled strollers were sold nationwide from September 2003 through December 2006 for about $770.

Consumers should stop using the recalled strollers immediately and contact Stokke to arrange for a free replacement of the front wheels. Stokke will contact all known purchasers by e-mail or regular mail. Stokke notified its retailers and posted a recall notice on its Web site in May 2007. Some consumers have already received a repair to their stroller or are in the process of receiving replacement wheels. These consumers do not need to contact Stokke again.

For more information, contact Stokke toll-free at (877) 978-6553 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s Web site at www.stokkeusa.com

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Idiocracy's Fictitious Drink Becomes A Reality, What's Next?

In what will undoubtedly play out in some sort of self-fulfilling prophecy of doom, Mike Judge (the guy who brought us Office Space and Idiocracy) has given the licensing rights to a company to produce BRAWNDO (the drink from the movie, Idiocracy) The Thirst Mutilator energy drink!

In addition to all the electrolytes, BRAWNDO is loaded with 200mg of caffeine per can plus Taurine, Inositol, Guarana, Potassium, and Vitamins B6, B12, and C.

Available by the case (24 - 16oz cans) from ThinkGeek for $39.99.

Monday, December 10, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

We are finally seeing a slow down in new game releases as we approach the end of the year. However, I don't remember the last time there were four new games released for the PS3 in one week. Most gamers are geared up for this week's release of Blacksite: Area 51 (PS3), a bloody, first-person shooter set in the infamous Area 51 crash site. While this is a an awesome game for older gamers, it's definitely not for the little gamers or squeamish.

Here is a look at more of our picks for the best titles due this week

Nintendo DS
Clue / Mouse Trap / Perfection / Aggravation
Luxor: Pharaoh's Challenge

Nintendo Wii
Indianapolis 500 Legends
Kawasaki 4X4 Quad Bikes
Kidz Sports Basketball
Showtime Championship Boxing
Super Swing Golf Season 2
Winter Sports: The Ultimate Challenge

Galactic Civilizations II: Twilight of the Arnor
The Golden Compass
The Lost Crown: A Ghost-hunting Adventure
Universe at War: Earth Assault

Dai Senryaku VII: Exceed
NCAA March Madness '08

Blacksite: Area 51
NCAA March Madness '08
The Orange Box
Unreal Tournament 3

Warriors of The Lost Empire

Xbox 360
NCAA March Madness '08

- J McKinney

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Electronic Bubble Wrap Keychain

Manufacturers can pack all sorts of techo-wizardry, educational benefits, and rewarding play-patterns into their toys and games but that never guarantees that people will want to play with them. One item that everyone, young and old alike, will always agree is fun is bubble wrap, or more specifically, popping bubble wrap. So it was just a matter of time until someone packed some techo-wizardry into the ubiquitous packing material and found a way to package it for our consumption. The end result is the Electronic Bubble Wrap Keychain!
The keychain features eight rubbery buttons that are close in feel to actual bubble wrap and produce a pleasing pop sound when pushed. As an added bonus, every 100th press produces a goofy sound, like a boing, bark, rude noise, etc. The Electronic Bubble Wrap Keychain is available through ThinkGeek for $9.99.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Star Wars Mimobot Flash Drives

I don't know about you but I always have a couple of flash drives handy for storing, backing up, or carrying digital data. While extremely practical, I can't say that any of my flash drives are stylish or fun. Which is why I'm so excited about these Series 2 Star Wars Mimobots from Mimoco.

The Star Wars Mimobot Series 2 Designer USB Flash Drives will be available in 1GB, 2GB, & 4GB capacities and come preloaded with bonus removable Star Wars content like soundBytes, applications, icons, avatars, screensavers, and wallpapers. The series 2 collection will include Princess Leia, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, and Boba Fett with each Mimobot ranging in price from $50 to $110.

You can preorder a series 2 Mimobot here, which should arrive by February of 2008. If you can't wait that long, then check out one of the Series 1 Star Wars Mimobots that are currently available here.

-J. McKinney

Monday, December 03, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

If you are doing some holiday shopping this week, girl gamers will probably love American Girl: Julie Finds a Way (DS), Pocket Pets (DS), Farm Vet (PC) and Strawberry Shortcake: The Four Seasons Cake (DS). Boys will be thrilled to receive Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship 2008 (DS), Dragon Ball Z: Budokai (Wii), and Godzilla Unleashed (Wii). Fans of the book and upcoming movie, The Golden Compass, will love the game (all platforms), which recreates some of the book and movie's most memorable scenes and I can think of anyone who wouldn't want Dance Dance Revolution Universe 2 (Xbox 360), except maybe my grandmother.

Here is a look at more of our picks for the best titles due this week

Nintendo DS
American Girl: Julie Finds a Way
Alvin and the Chipmunks
The Golden Compass
Left Brain Right Brain
Pocket Pets
Strawberry Shortcake: The Four Seasons Cake
Yu-Gi-Oh! World Championship 2008

Nintendo Wii
Alvin and the Chipmunks
Dragon Ball Z: Budokai
Godzilla Unleashed
The Golden Compass
Indoor Sports
Jenga World Tour
Myth Makers: Super Kart GP

Alvin and the Chipmunks
Band of Bugs
Farm Vet
Manga Fighter

Alvin and the Chipmunks
Chaos Wars
The Golden Compass

The Elder Scrolls lV: Shivering Isles
The Golden Compass

Atari Classics Evolved
Beowulf: The Game
Warriors of the Lost Empire

Xbox 360
Dance Dance Revolution Universe 2
The Golden Compass

- J. McKinney

Friday, November 30, 2007

Happy Anniversary Lucy & Ricky

67 years ago today, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz were married.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Reeves International Inc. Recalls Holiday Ornaments

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Reeves International Inc., of Pequannock, N.J., announced a voluntary recall of the 2006 Snow Princess Stirrup Ornaments, 2007 Holiday Stirrup Ornaments, 2007 Photo Frame Horse Shoe Ornaments due to violation of lead paint standard.

The 2006 Snow Princess Stirrup Ornament is a stirrup-shaped ornament with a white prancing horse and blue ribbons. “2006” is stamped on the rim of the ornament. The 2007 Wintersong Stirrup Ornament is a stirrup-shaped ornament with a grey horse with saddle bags with a horn and a violin. “2007” is stamped on the rim of the ornament. The 2007 Photo Frame Horse Shoe Ornament is a horse shoe shaped ornament with a brown horse with rider jumping over a gate. “Happy Holiday 2007” is printed on the back of the ornament. The recalled ornaments were sold at various retailers nationwide, including JC Penney catalog and Web site, from July 2006 through October 2007 for between $15 and $18.

Consumers should immediately stop using these ornaments and return them to the store where purchased for a full refund or contact Reeves International Inc. for a refund or exchange. For additional information, contact Reeves International Inc. at (800) 444-4775 between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit their Web site at www.breyerhorses.com to receive instructions for returning the ornaments.

Monday, November 26, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

Remember when you left your house and went to an arcade to play video games? I know, so last millennium. One of my favorite arcade games from yesteryear makes it's Wii debut this week with Cruis'n (Wii) racing into stores tomorrow. At the other end of the gaming galaxy is a new title for the DS, which is as hypnotic to watch as it is fun to play - Geometry Wars: Galaxies (DS), from Sierra, is a fast-paced, spacey, shooter reminiscent of older arcade titles.

Here is a look at more of our picks for the best titles due this week.

Nintendo DS
Chicken Hunter
Geometry Wars: Galaxies
Impossible Mission
Master of Illusion

Nintendo GBA
The Bee Game
Enchanted: Once Upon Andalasia

Nintendo Wii
Cranium Kabookii
Game Party
History Channel: Battle for the Pacific
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords

Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey
History Channel: Battle for the Pacific
Shadowgrounds Survivor
Speedball 2 - Tournament
The Tuttles Madcap Misadventures: Starlight Starbright Charity Challenge
Deal Or No Deal: Secret Vault Games


Xbox 360
History Channel: Battle for the Pacific
Omega Five

J. McKinney

Happy Cyber Monday

For many of us, today is the day we return to work after the Thanksgiving holiday weekend. Even those that don't work are usually returning to their regular schedules today. So we want to say, "Welcome back"! We hope you had a great Thanksgiving.

For the past few years, the Monday following Thanksgiving has been called Cyber Monday as many people return to work and schedules that place them back on the Internet where they do a lot of shopping. If you prefer to go Online rather than stand in line for your holiday gift purchases you will be happy to hear that this year, many online retailers are offering free shipping regardless of how much you spend.

With many consumers keeping a more careful watch on their holiday spending we were wondering how this year's busiest day of shopping, Black Friday, performed. Apparently, most retail stores saw larger than expected sales figures for the day but had to provide deeper than usual discounts to achieve those numbers. There is a great article written by Michael Barbaro, in today's Business section of The New York Times with all the facts and figures for this past Friday. You can read it now by clicking here.

So did you head to the stores last Friday or will you be shopping Online today?

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Time to Shop...We Hope

It's two days before Thanksgiving, and, to put it mildly, there's a bit of concern in toyland. The season is late getting started, for one. Blame warm weather. Blame the fact that where I am in San Diego this morning, regular gas is averaging about $3.52 a gallon. Blame the mortgage crisis, or the fact that despite the happy noises TV money guys are making about 2 percent inflation as being not so bad, where it really hits the family in gas and groceries, prices are skyrocketing.

But don't blame the recalls. Last week a highly publicized poll from Harris Interactive indicated that consumers won't buy Chinese toys, but that's an unrealistic poll. Did they talk to parents? Of the 2,500-plus adults, how many of them are engaged in complex negotiations with the North Pole? We don't know. This is the kind of polling that is driven by PR rather than a real need to find information.

Now, in store checks around the nation over the past couple of weeks, we find that people are buying, but not in holiday quantities yet. They are aware of recalls, but the majority of our, admittedly unscientific, interview subjects said that the desire to support Santa's mission trumps country of origin concerns.

But for all the polls, projections and prognostications, the fact of the matter is: nobody really knows.

One thing we do know is that the season has been slow to start. And that may signal a trend. Costco had its Christmas decorations up just after the back to school season, and parents were not pleased. According to many whom we interviewed, they felt that pushing the season so early shortchanged kids by not allowing the sequence of the year to unfold in a way that made sense for kids. Several shoppers used the word "desensitized" when referring to killing the holiday buzz. Ironically, that's the same word many psychologists use describing kids' relationship to violence in video games. Good or bad, it seems, over-exposure inures us to response.

So, having deadened the desired holiday response, retailers are scrambling to throw change-ups and make consumers think that the season is really starting. Our favorite so far: Wal-Mart wants two Fridays in the week. According to Marketing Daily, the retailer has petitioned to create a second "official" Friday on the Saturday after Thanksgiving. Well, they're getting publicity, even from our little blog, but you've got to be kidding me.

Can't blame them for trying, I suppose.

But at the end of the day, we think that the pendulum is starting to swing back. We'd love to pretend it's that people are starting to get control of their spending and thinking long and hard about consumerism and the holidays. But that's not very likely. Instead, as the first Clinton campaign so aptly said, "It's the economy, stupid."

You may be buying less, and from all indications from retailers we've spoken to, that's the fear. There are products people put a lot of faith in and money behind, and they're being left on the shelf in droves, despite all kinds of marketing. Still, remember it's your holiday to do with as you want. Take the time to make your family and the experiences of the holidays your central motivation, not the products. No matter what you do, do what you can support and what feels right to you. Remember, you're in control, not the marketing folks.

Monday, November 19, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

I'm still trying to catch up on all the titles released over the past few weeks so I'm not too disappointed to see that this week is a little quiet on the new game front. That doesn't mean there aren't a lot of great titles debuting this week and with a long weekend coming up, the more video games the better.

I'm looking forward to spending some time with Mario Party and Godzilla: Unleashed Double Smashed, both for the DS. Also worth pointing out, Link's Crossbow Training is a free minigame that comes with the Wii Zapper. Sports fans of all ages will love College Hoops 2K8 (multiple platforms) and Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Burning Earth is out for the 360 this week.

Here is a look at more of our picks for the best titles due this week.

Nintendo DS
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Dark Motives
Final Fantasy XII: Revenant Wings
Godzilla: Unleashed Double Smashed
Mario Party DS

Nintendo Wii
Ghost Squad
Link's Crossbow Training
Monster Jam
Soul Calibur Legends

Cabela's Monster Bass
College Hoops 2K8
Fire Pro Wrestling Returns
Godzilla: Unleashed
History Channel: Battle For the Pacific

College Hoops 2K8
Medal of Honor: Airborne
Rock Band
Soldier of Fortune: Payback
Time Crisis 4

Xbox 360
Avatar: The Last Airbender: The Burning Earth
College Hoops 2K8
Mass Effect
Rock Band

Kane & Lynch: Dead Men

-J. McKinney

Thursday, November 15, 2007

For That Hard to Shop For Person on Your List

With the holidays approaching you might find yourself wondering what to get the Star Wars fan on your list who already has everything. Well look no further than the Chewbacca Backpack!

This plush and totally awesome backpack is approx 30" from foot to top of head and has enough room in the pouch to carry books, a small laptop, or even the entire DVD collection of the Star Wars saga. The Chewbacca Backpack is available at Think Geek for $39.99.

- J. McKinney

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

Over the past few weeks I've mentioned the deluge of games arriving every week in time for the holidays. This week really takes the cake as there are more than 60 games scheduled to arrive in stores over the next few days.

I've been trying to meet with as many game publishers and developers as possible for previews and have combed through this week's list to bring you the following list of our picks for the best titles due this week. To make things a little easier for you, I've separated the list by platform.


Nintendo DS
Baby Pals
Cooking Mama 2: Dinner With Friends
Ultimate Mortal Kombat
WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008
Word Jong

Nintendo Wii
Rayman Raving Rabbids 2
Resident Evil: Umbrella Chronicles
SpongeBob's Atlantis SquarePantis
Super Mario Galaxy
Tomb Raider: Anniversary

Xbox 360
Assassin's Creed
BlackSite: Area 51
Need for Speed ProStreet
Popcap Arcade Volume 1

Dragon Ball Z: Budokai Tenkaichi 3
Monster Jam
Puzzle Quest: Challenge of the Warlords
WWE Smackdown! vs. RAW 2008

Assassin's Creed
Kane & Lynch: Dead Men
Need for Speed ProStreet
WWE SmackDown! vs. RAW 2008

Aliens vs. Predator: Requiem
Metal Gear Solid: Portable Ops Plus
Sonic Rivals 2

Everquest II: Rise of Kunark
Ghost in the Sheet
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock
SimCity Societies

-J. McKinney

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Curious George Plush Dolls Recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Marvel Toys, of New York, N.Y., announced a voluntary recall of Curious George Plush Dolls.

This recall involves Curious George 12-inch plush dolls with a plastic face sold at toy and discount department stores nationwide from December 2005 through August 2007 for about $15. The dolls are dressed to represent five various themes: birthday, fireman, sweet dreams, tool time and tool time with a soft face. The plush dolls were sold with a Curious George storybook or activity book. The following product and SKU numbers are printed on the packaging.

Birthday 90253/ 8-83199-90253-5
Fireman 90246/ 8-83199-90246-7
Sweet Dreams 90247/ 8-83199-90247-4
Tool Time 90251/ 8-83199-90251-1
Tool Time (soft face) 90251/ 8-83199-90251-1

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and contact Marvel Toys to receive a full refund. For additional information, contact Marvel Toys at (800) 352-2064 between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m. CT Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.regcen.com/curiousgeorge

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Spin Master Recalls Aqua Dots

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Spin Master, of Toronto, Canada, announced a voluntary recall of Aqua Dots. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

The recalled toy is a craft kit which allows children to create various multi-dimensional designs using small colored beads. The beads fuse together when sprayed with water. The recall applies to all models of Aqua Dots, sold at mass merchandisers nationwide from April 2007 through November 2007 for between $17 and $30. The product is available in various different kits with accessories such as a drying fan, applicator pen, design templates for the beads, and spray bottle. The product is labeled for ages 4+.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toy away from children and contact Spin Master for refund information. For additional information, contact Spin Master at (800) 622-8339 between 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.aquadotsrecall.com

Monday, November 05, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

It's getting difficult to keep up with all the fantastic games arriving in stores every week. I had a great jam session over the weekend with Guitar Hero 3 (look for a full review on theToyGuy.com soon) and am gearing up for a marathon session this week with Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games (Wii). I also need to keep some time open for Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga (Xbox360, PS3, Wii, DS).

This week, there are several great titles for young gamers, including Dora the Explorer: Dora Saves The Mermaids (DS), Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue (DS), Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour (Wii), Horse Life (DS), and Power Rangers: Super Legends (PS2, PC, GC).

Following is our list of picks for the best games due this week:

Aqua Teen Hunger Force Zombie Ninja Pro-Am/PS2
Bee Movie Game/Wii
Bladestorm: The Hundred Years' War/Xbox360, PS3
Bratz 4 Real/DS
Build-A-Bear Workshop/DS
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare/Xbox360, PS3, PC, DS
Dora the Explorer: Dora Saves The Mermaids/DS
Fire Embelm: Radiant Dawn/Wii
Gears of War/PC
Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue/DS
Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour/Wii
Horse Life/DS
Hot Wheels: Beat That!/DS
Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga/Xbox360, PS3, Wii, DS
Mario & Sonic at the Olympic Games/Wii
Power Rangers: Super Legends/PS2, PC, GC
Silent Hill: Origins/PSP
The Simpsons Game/PSP
Yu-Gi-Oh! The Beginning of Destiny/PS2

- J. McKinney

Friday, November 02, 2007

Galaxy Warriors Toy Figures Recalled

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Henry Gordy International Inc., of Plainfield, N.J., announced a voluntary recall of Galaxy Warriors Toy Figures.

The posable spaceman figures are about 4½-inches tall and come with two accessories. They were sold in various colors including yellow, grey, silver, blue, green, gold, black, and red at Family Dollar Stores nationwide from January 2006 through October 2007 for about $1.

Consumers should take the recalled toys away from children immediately and return the toy to the firm for a full refund plus postage. For additional information, contact Henry Gordy International toll-free at (888) 790-2700 between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. CT Monday through Friday.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

As I mentioned last week, the next few weeks are going to see a lot of high profile games entering the market and this week is no exception. For the young gamers, we have a slew of new titles featuring such popular characters as Barbie (Barbie as The Island Princess/GBA, DS, PS2, Wii), Cars (Cars Mater-National/GBA), and Ben 10 (Ben 10: Protector of Earth/DS, PS2, PSP, Wii). Older kids will be excited about the latest Naruto release (Naruto: Rise of a Ninja/Xbox360) and of course, High School Musical (High School Musical: Sing It!/Wii). Probably the game that everyone will be talking about and wanting to play is Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock (Xbox360, Wii, PS3, PS2). I expect this to be one of the biggest hits of the season and likely to sell out quickly.

Barbie as The Island Princess/GBA, DS, PS2, Wii
Battalion Wars 2/Wii
Bee Movie Game/DS, PC, PS2, Xbox360, Wii
Ben 10: Protector of Earth/DS, PS2, PSP, Wii
Cars Mater-National/GBA
Dementium: The Ward /DS
Disgaea: Afternoon of Darkness/PSP
Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock/Xbox360, Wii, PS3, PS2
Hellgate: London/PC
High School Musical: Sing It!/Wii
Manhunt 2/Wii, PS2, PSP
Naruto: Rise of a Ninja/Xbox360
NBA Live 08/PC
Shrek: Ogres and Dronkeys/DS
The Simpsons Game/Xbox360, PS2, DS, Wii, PS3
Virtua Fighter 5/Xbox360
The Witcher/PC

- J. McKinney

Friday, October 26, 2007

Family Dollar Stores Recalls Halloween Pails

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Family Dollar Stores, of Charlotte, N.C., announced a voluntary recall of the Purple Halloween Pails with Witch Decorations. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

This recall involves purple Halloween pails with a picture of a witch figure silhouetted against a green moon. The pail measures about 6 1/2 inches high. “Distributed by Family Dollar, Inc,” SKU number 1033953, and UPC number 017845000591 are printed on a label on the pail. Orange Halloween pails with black jack-o-lantern decorations are not included in this recall. The recalled items were sold at Family Dollar stores nationwide from August 2007 through October 2007 for about $1.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled Halloween pail away from children and return it to any Family Dollar store for a full refund. For additional information, contact Family Dollar at (800) 547-0359 between 8:30 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.familydollar.com

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Get With The Program

By now you are probably already aware that on February 18, 2009, TV broadcasters will stop transmitting analog signals and switch exclusively to digital. So just what does this mean for non-digital television sets? It means that any TV, which is not attached to a digital cable or satellite service nor equipped with a special converter box will no longer work after this switch. Chances are good that this will prove to be a sticky situation as currently, more than 60 million U.S. households rely on antennas or analog cable, and cable operators are required to guarantee their customers will receive broadcast channels until February 2012.

Last week, Best Buy, one of the nation's top electronics retailers, announced that its stores would stop selling analog televisions entirely and pull all remaining stock from their shelves. Best Buy is the first retailer to go exclusively digital but expect more to follow soon.

Have you made the switch to digital yet?

-J. McKinney

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

As we head into the holiday shopping season, we can expect every week to have tons of great new games getting released. Just take a look at this week's list below and how many popular franchises and entertainment properties have games coming out. Also, over the coming weeks, you can expect more kid-friendly titles in stores, which should help if you have a youngster you have to shop for this season.

Here is a look at most of the games expected to arrive in stores this week:

Ace Combat 6: Fires of Liberation/Xbox360
Age of Empires III: The Asian Dynasties/PC
Barbie as The Island Princess/PC
Battlestar Galactica/Xbox360, PC
Cars Mater-National/PC
Castlevania: Dracula X Chronicles/PSP
Clive Barker's Jericho/PC, Xbox360, PS3
Conan/Xbox360, PS3
Dancing With the Stars/Wii, PS2
Dawn of Magic/PC
Ed, Edd 'n Eddy: Scam of the Century/DS
Eye of Judgement/PS3
Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour/Wii
High School Musical: Sing It!/PS2
Hot Wheels: Beat That!/PC
Mega Man ZX Advent/DS
Namco Museum Remix/Wii
Naruto: Path of the Ninja/DS
Naruto: Clash of Ninja Revolution/Wii
Painkiller Overdose/PC
Ratchet and Clank: Tools of Destruction/PS3
Warriors of the Lost Empire/PSP
Zack & Wikki/Wii

-J. McKinney

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Sony Confirms $400, 40GB PS3

SCEA President, Jack Tretton, announced today that Sony will release a new 40GB version of the PS3 at a suggested retail price of $400. The new model will feature some slight hardware tweaks including a reduction to two USB ports instead of four and no ports for the different memory card types. But these changes are minor compared to the bombshell that this new 40GB PS3 will not be backwards compatibility with PS2 games, making this the first PS3 to completely ignore PS2 titles.

Look for the new 40GB PS3 as well as a price reduction for the 80GB units, which will go down to $500, on November 2.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Huffy Recalls Bicycles

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Huffy Corp., of Miamisburg, Ohio, announced a voluntary recall of 2007 Huffy “Howler” and “Highland” Bicycles. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

The recall includes 2007 model year, multi-speed bicycles with 26-inch, 24-inch or 20-inch wheels. The “Howler” was sold in black (model K3587, boy’s model), blue (model K4587, men’s model), and red (model K6587, men’s model). The “Highland” was sold in white (model K4597, women’s model) and blue (model K6597, women’s model). The name "Howler" or "Highland" is printed on the frame of the bicycle, and the name "Huffy" is on the front of the frame. Model numbers are located on a label on the bottom of the frame where the crank is attached to the bicycle.

Recalled Bikes were sold at Kmart stores nationwide from May 2007 through July 2007 for between $80 and $100.

For more information, contact Huffy Corp. toll-free at (888) 366-3828 between 8 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm's Web site at www.huffybikes.com

Monday, October 15, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

Overall, its another great week for game releases. One of my favorite DS picks makes the jump to the Wii this week with Backyard Football 2008 from Humongous and Atari. Disney princess fans have two new magical games to choose from this week as Enchanted Journey arrives for the PS2 and Magical Jewels sparkles onto the DS. That crazy Katamari gang is back with Beautiful Katamari. This latest game will undoubtedly please existing fans while rolling up a whole new group of gamers into its ball of fun. Two great games that I have blogged about in the past, Crash of the Titans and the Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night are now available on the PSP and Wii (respectively).

Here is a look at what else should be on shelves this week:

Avatar: The Last Airbender -- The Burning Earth/Xbox360, PS2, Wii
Backyard Football 2008/PS2, Wii
Beautiful Katamari/Xbox360
The Bee Game/DS
Crash of the Titans/PSP
Disney Princess: Enchanted Journey/PS2
Disney Princess: Magical Jewels/DS
Guilty Gear XX Accent Core/Wii
Hannah Montana: Music Jam/DS
Heroes of Might and Magic V: Tribes of the East/PC
The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night/Wii
Mercury Meltdown Revolution/Wii
Petz Wild Animals: Dolphinz/DS
Rockstar Games Presents Table Tennis/Wii
Spider-Man 3/PSP
Sega Rally Revo/PC
Speedball 2: Brutal Deluxe/Xbox360
SWAT: Target Liberty/PSP
Tony Hawk's Proving Ground/Xbox360, PS2, Wii, PS3, DS
Victorious Boxers: Revolution/Wii
Zoo Tycoon 2: Extinct Animals/PC

Friday, October 12, 2007

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth Extended Battery Life

Most of us would be lost without all of our electronic gadgets. From mobile phones to MP3s, we are living in a Lithium-ion world. Unfortunately, many of our most beloved gadgets and devices have a limited life span - its true, they just don't make them like they used to.

The helpful folks over at Real Simple have assembled a list of tips to help prolong the life of some of these gadgets including iPods, flat-screen TVs, cell phones and more. Here is an example:

"Because parts can fail (read: melt) if a TV overheats, keep the vents clear so they can "pull in air to cool the unit," says Dan Wiersma, senior vice president of service for Sony Electronics. Dust with a soft, dry cloth, and skip the cleaning spray, which can cloud the screen."

You can read the full list here. For more tips and suggestions, check out RealSimple.com

-J. McKinney

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Starbucks Recalls Children's Plastic Cups

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Starbucks Coffee Co., of Seattle, WA, announced a voluntary recall of Starbucks Children’s Plastic Cups. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

The recall includes four styles of Starbucks children’s plastic 10-ounce cups. Styles include “Dot” Red Ladybug; “Dash” Green Turtle; Bunny Pink; and Chick Yellow cups (pictured below). The cups were sold exclusively at Starbucks stores nationwide from May 2006 through August 2007 for about $6.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled cups away from young children and contact Starbucks for instructions on returning the cups for a refund. Starbucks is also offering a complimentary beverage as an incentive to return the recalled cups. For additional information, contact Starbucks at (888) 288-4008 anytime or visit the firm’s Web site at www.starbucks.com.

Monday, October 08, 2007

New Video Games due This Week!

One of the coolest fighter games I have played in a long time, Bleach: Shattered Blade (rated T), arrives this week for the Nintendo Wii. Based on the Cartoon Network program Bleach, Shattered Blade features visually stunning graphics, fast-paced action and intuitive controls that reduce the learning curve and will have you battling immediately.

If you are looking for a video game for the little gamers in your life, check out Flipper Critters for the Nintendo DS (Rated E). This pinball-style game utilizes both screens on the DS for a full view of the scrolling pinball area. Flipper Critters also packs in a plethora of mini-games that will have players using all of the DS' inputs, including the control pad, touch screen and even the microphone.

Other games due in stores this week include:

Balls of Fury/Wii
Bleach: The Blade of Fate/PC
Bleach: Shattered Blade/Wii
Cheetah Girls: Pop Star Sensations/DS
Donkey Kong Barrel Blast/Wii
FIFA Soccer 08/PC, Xbox360, PS3, PS2, Wii
Final Fantasy Tactics: The War of the Lions/PSP
Flipper Critters/DS
Half-Life: Episode Two/PC
Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights/PS3, PSP
Looney Tunes: Acme Arsenal/PS2, Xbox360, Wii
Looney Tunes: Duck Amuck/DS
Nancy Drew: Legend of the Crystal Skull/PC
Neverwinter Nights 2: Mask of the Betrayer/PC
Sega Rally Revo/PC, Xbox360, PS3, PSP
Star Wars Battlefront: Renegade Squadron/PSP
Team Fortress 2/PC
The Orange Box/Xbox360, PC

-J. McKinney

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

The Toy Wishes Hot Dozen Revealed

Yesterday at an event in New York City, Toy Wishes Magazine and our very own Toy Guy, Chris Byrne, announced this year's Toy Wishes Hot Dozen.

Each year, the editors of Toy Wishes pick 12 items that they predict will be among the hottest selling toys of the upcoming holiday season. This year's list includes The American Idol Talent Challenge, Barbie Girls, Eye-Clops, Guitar Hero III, and Transformers figures and role-play.

Check out the full list with details and images now by clicking here.

- J. McKinney

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

The Results Are In!

Last month we asked you how the highly publicized toy recalls would affect your toy purchases. Here is how you responded.

When asked "Will the recent Toy Recalls stop you from buying toys?"

  • You answered:
    39% No
    34% I won't buy toys made in China
    14% I won't buy toys from manufacturers who have had recalls
    13% Yes

Thanks for answering. please take a minute to answer October's poll question, in the right-hand column, now.

Monday, October 01, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

It looks like another great week for game franchises with a new Zelda, new Crash Bandicoot, new Spyro, and new Project Gotham to name a few. I've had the opportunity to play three of these games -- The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass, Crash of the Titans, and The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night -- and was thoroughly impressed with them all. In addition, one of the most realistic racing games I have ever seen, Race 07-The WTCC Game makes it 's PC debut this week. Start your PC engine and prepare to be blown away by this one.

Sports game fans are also in for a treat this week with several new titles on shelves. Check out NBA 2K8 for a great basketball experience and Backyard Football 2008 designed for the younger gaming fans is also a blast.

Arctic Tale/DS
Backyard Football 2008/DS
Balls of Fury/Wii
Blades & Magic/Cell
Chibi Robo: Park Patrol/DS
The Chosen - Well of Souls/PC
Crash of the Titans/Xbox360, PS2, Wii, DS
Dave Mirra BMX Challenge/Wii
Enemy Territory: Quake Wars/PC
FlatOut: Ultimate Carnage/Xbox360
Holly Hobbie & Friends/DS
Hour of Victory/PC
The Legend of Spyro: The Eternal Night/PS2, DS
The Legend of Zelda: Phantom Hourglass/DS
Loki: Heroes of Mythology/PC
MLB Power Pros/Wii, PS2
NBA 2K8/Xbox360, PS3, PS2
NBA Live 08/Xbox360, PS3, PS2, Wii, PSP
Ninjabread Man/Wii
Project Gotham Racing 4/Xbox360
Race 07-The WTCC Game/PC
Siphon Filter: Logan's Shadow/PSP
Spider-Man: Friend or Foe/Xbox360, PC, PS2, Wii, PSP

- J. McKinney

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Simplicity Recalls Cribs

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) is announcing today a voluntary recall with Simplicity Inc., of Reading, Pa., of about 1 million cribs. The drop-side can detach from the crib, which can create a dangerous gap and lead to the entrapment and suffocation of infants.

The recalled Simplicity crib models include: Aspen 3 in 1, Aspen 4 in 1, Nursery-in-a-Box, Crib N Changer Combo, Chelsea and Pooh 4 in 1. The recall also involves the following Simplicity cribs that used the Graco logo: Aspen 3 in 1, Ultra 3 in 1, Ultra 4 in1, Ultra 5 in 1, Whitney and the Trio.

The recalled cribs have one of the following model numbers, which can be found on the envelope attached to the mattress support and on the label attached to the headboard: 4600, 4605, 4705, 5000, 8000, 8324, 8800, 8740, 8910, 8994, 8050, 8750, 8760, and 8996.

The cribs, which were made in China, were sold in department stores, children’s stores and mass merchandisers nationwide from January 1998 through May 2007 for between $100 and $300.

Consumers who have a crib with older style hardware can receive a free repair by immediately contacting Simplicity toll-free at (888) 593-9274 between 8:30 a.m. and 10 p.m. ET Monday through Thursday, between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET on Friday, and between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET on Saturday, or by visiting the firm’s Web site at www.simplicityforchildren.com

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

You have probably already heard about a little game called Halo 3, which is in stores today. If you are thinking of buying one you might want to do that soon because odds are good, they won't be on shelves for long before selling out. If Microsoft's estimates are accurate, sales of Halo 3 will pass the opening 24 hour gross of Spider-Man 3 this past summer. Don't worry if you can't get a copy of Halo 3 for yourself, there are plenty of other games coming out this week. Among those games, there are several new titles for the kids in your life. Check out Animal Genius, Backyard Basketball, Crayola Treasure Adventures, Dora the Explorer: Candyland, and Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue. All of these titles are perfect for young gamers.

Animal Genius/DS
Backyard Basketball 2007/DS
Balls of Fury/Wii. DS
Brain Spa/PC
Company of Heroes: Opposing Fronts/PC
Crayola Treasure Adventures/DS
CSI: Crime Scene Investigation: Hard Evidence/Xbox360, PC
Dance Dance Revolution SuperNOVA 2/PS2
Dance Dance Revolution: Hottest Party/Wii
Dave Mirra BMX Challenge/Wii
Dewy's Adventure/Wii
Dragon Blade: Wrath of Fire/Wii
Dora the Explorer: Candyland/PC
Ducati World Championship/PC
Go, Diego, Go! Safari Rescue/PC
Halo 3/Xbox 360
Hot Wheels: Beat That PS2, Xbox360, Wii
Hour of Victory/PC
Jackass the Game/PS2
Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights/PS3, PSP
Loki: Heroes of Mythology/PC
NBA 08/PS3, PS2, PSP
Ninjabread Man/Wii
The Settlers: Rise of an Empire/PC
Soul Nomad & the World Eaters/PS2

Friday, September 21, 2007

Transformers Movie IMAX Experience

This week, the Transformers Movie opens on IMAX screens across the country. This is a great opportunity to see one of the summer's best action flicks on a ginormous screen if you missed it when it was first released in July. However, if you already saw the movie and are planning to check out the IMAX release because of the addition of some deleted scenes, you might be a bit disappointed.

From what we are hearing, the additional scenes are simply superfluous extensions that add nothing to the film's story and most of the deleted footage is human-based, which means no extra robot action. With that said, the IMAX does provide the perfect setting for a movie of this magnitude and is sure to satisfy anyone looking for big action on the big screen.

-J. McKinney

Thursday, September 20, 2007

The DXG-711 Digital Camera Big on Features, Low on Price

Looking for a new digital camera with all the bells and whistles but just a whisper of the price? Then check out the DXG-711 from DXG. The DXG-711's compact and lightweight design make it the perfect fit for anyone who wants a camera small enough to throw in a pocket and take everywhere. At the same time, the large 2.5" High Res LCD screen, 7 Megapixel sensor, and 3X optical zoom delivers a device that will capture crisp, close and stunning photographs. Additional features such as video and voice recording round out the package, all of which comes with a suggested retail price of just $150.

-J. McKinney

REI Recalls Children’s Trailer Bicycles

The CPSC, in cooperation with Recreational Equipment Inc.(REI), of Kent, WA., has announced a recall of Novara Afterburner Trailer Bicycles. Consumers should stop using the product immediately unless otherwise instructed.

This recall involves the Novara Afterburner trailer bicycle, a single-wheel children’s bicycle that attaches to, and cannot be operated independently of, an adult bicycle. The reason for the recall is that the children’s trailer bicycle can detach from the adult bicycle, posing a fall hazard to children.

The recalled items were sold at REI stores nationwide from February 2007 through June 2007 for about $160.Consumers should immediately stop using the bicycle trailer, visit the nearest REI store or contact REI for a free replacement part, a full refund or credit. For additional information, contact REI at (800) 426-4840 between 4 a.m. and 11 p.m. PT seven days a week, visit the company’s Web site at www.rei.com or contact your local REI store.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

Xbox owners everywhere are eagerly awaiting the release of Halo 3 next week but this week is no slouch in the new releases section. Stranglehold makes it's PS3 and PC debut, while MySims is now available for the Wii and DS. If you are shopping for a youngster in your life, check out Interactive Storybook DS: Series 1 for the DS. This Educational Adventure game brings together classic stories and adds an interactive element allowing children to expand their minds and imaginations as the stories come to life in a whole new way.

7 Wonders of the Ancient World/DS
Blazing Angels 2: Secret Missions of WWII/Xbox360, PC
Coded Arms: Contagion/PSP
Cosmic Family/Wii
Dewy's Adventure /Wii
Death to Spies/PC
Digimon World: Data Squad/PS2
Digimon World: Dawn/DS
Eternal Sonata/Xbox360
Fantasy Wars/PC
Fishing Master/Wii
Growlancer: Heritage of War/PS2
Interactive Storybook DS: Series 1/DS
Juiced 2: Hot Import Nights/Xbox360, PS2, DS
Mercury Meltdown Revolution/Wii
MySims/Wii, DS
Stranglehold/PC, PS3
Sonic Rush Adventure/DS
Wariors Orochi/Xbox360, PS2
World in Conflict/PC

Friday, September 14, 2007

Toys "R" Us Recalls Wooden Coloring Cases

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Toys "R" Us Inc., of Wayne, N.J., recently announced a voluntary recall of Imaginarium Wooden Coloring Cases. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

The recall involves the Imaginarium brand 213 Piece Wooden Coloring Case which includes crayons, pastels, colored pencils, fiber pens, paintbrush, pencil, water colors, palette, white paint, ruler and pencil sharpener in a light tan wooden carrying case. The case measures about 14 inches high by 19 inches wide. The recalled items were sold at Toys "R" Us stores nationwide and toysrus.com from October 2006 through August 2007 for about $20.

Consumers should immediately take the products away from children and return the item to the nearest Toys "R" Us store for store credit. For more information, contact Toys "R" Us at (800) TOYSRUS/869-7787 between 9 a.m. and 9 p.m. ET Monday through Saturday, and between 10 a.m. and 7 p.m. on Sunday, or visit the company’s Web site at www.toysrus.com

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

New Study Reveals Most Polar Bears Will be Gone by 2050

The results of a recent U.S. Geological Survey study have been published and the findings are frightening. According to the study, More than two thirds of the world's polar bears will be wiped out by 2050 as a result of global warming. By that time, 42 per cent of the Arctic sea ice which the bears need to hunt and breed will have melted . The study warns that by 2100, their will only be a handful of polar bears in existence.

The study was conducted to provide the U.S. government with critical data supporting the need to add the bears to the list of endangered species. The team of American and Canadian scientists spent six months studying three groups of bears, through a combination or research and observation on the ground, by air and in the lab.

For more information on this story, please visit National Geographic

-J. McKinney

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Nintendo Giving Away Free Remote Straps

Nintendo has just released the fourth version of its Wii-Remote strap and they are giving them away free. All you have to do is fill out the form here and Nintendo will send you up to four replacement straps. Make sure you have your Wii-Remote with you when you fill out the form because you will be required to enter the serial number.

-J. McKinney

New Video Games Due This Week

There are quite a few great titles for kids this week starting off with Konami Kids Playground, which is actually four different games that are each part of a series designed for the pre-K market. The titles are Alphabet Circus, Dinosaur Shapes and Colors, Frogger Hop, Skip & Jumpin' Fun, and Toy Pals Fun with Numbers. Additional kid-friendly games include Drawn To Life for the DS, Neopets: Codestone Quest for PC, Puppy Luv: Spa and Resort for DS and GBA, and Zoey 101: Field Trip Fiasco for DS.

The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion - Gamer of the Year Edition/Xbox360, PC
Drawn to Life/DS
Fatal Inertial/Xbox360
Galactic Assault: Prisoner of Power/PC
Guilty Gear XX Accent Core/Wii, PS2
.hack//G.U. vol. 3 Redemption/PS2
Heavenly Sword/PS3
Jam Sessions/DS
Jewel Quest Expedition/DS
Kengo: Legend of the 9/Xbox360
Konami Kids Playground/PS2
Neopets: Codestone Quest /PC
NHL 08/Xbox360, PS3, PC, PS2
NHL 2K8/PS3, X360, PS2
Plant Tycoon/Mac
Puppy Luv: Spa and Resort/DS, GBA
Seven Kingdoms: Conquest/PC
Zoey 101: Field Trip Fiasco/DS

Friday, September 07, 2007

Are My Toys Safe??? The Facts & What You Should Do

Nothing scares parents quite as much as the phrase “lead paint in toys.” And over the past months, the media has had a field day with reports of recalls. What is particularly repellent in all of this is the wilful ignorance that much of the mainstream media is taking to this.

I've got to say I'm pretty sick of "investigative" TV reporters shoving microphone in people's faces and asking, "How do you fell about toy companies poisoning your children?" This flawed bit of journalism is called the "reaction" story, or "reax," and it is used to find a local angle to any story (print or broadcast) and boost viewership. It's not responsible journalism. It scares people, and while it makes for sensationalism and an emotional respone to something, it obscures facts and frightens people unnecessarily.

Oh, and did you hear about that woman from Colorado who put all her Mattel toys in her car and drove them to Mattel headquarters to be tested? Oh, and she happened to alert the local media that she was doing it. Seems that even our children's safety isn't as important as getting one's 15 minutes of fame.

Now, since 1978, lead paint in toys has been illegal.

So, there’s no excuse for it to show up…ever. There simply is no excuse for it, and toymakers have, very responsibly, been recalling toys that have been found to have lead in them. In fact, the Consumer Product Safety Commission posts recalls to its Web site every week. Most people give them a passing notice, if at all. The problem, of course, came when the world’s largest toy company, Mattel, was involved in a recall. The media had a field day with it. Parents got scared, and there was a big move to avoid any toys made in China.

It’s certainly understandable that people would be scared and nervous about lead exposure, and while the dangers of exposure to toxic levels of lead are well established, the reality is somewhat different. Again, this is not to excuse the presence of lead in paint; it’s illegal. But aside from responding to any recall and making sure that toys are played with appropriately, prudence, not panic should be the watchword.

What’s Lead Poisoning, Anyway?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, lead must be ingested either in solid form, or sometimes inhaled in powdered form, where paint dust has been allowed to form. By far, children’s most likely exposure to lead comes from old house paint, applied before 1978. Simply touching something with lead paint will not transfer the lead. (When a child is repeatedly going from hand to mouth, there would be a slight chance of transference, if the paint were loosened.)

The CDC defines lead poisoning as a level above 10 micrograms per milliliter of lead in blood. (Incidentally in 1990, that was only a “level of concern.”) Today, children have an average of only 2.3 mcg/ml, so it’s not likely that casual exposure can have any real risk—though, as we keep repeating, no lead is allowed, which is why the recalls have happened.

If you had children before 1978, they were undoubtedly exposed to much greater quantities of lead. And before 1980, lead was allowed in gasoline, so many of us breathed the fumes. My father, who was born in 1923, has wonderful memories of his toy soldier making kit…which required him to melt and pour lead.

Well, we know more know, and that’s a good thing, so the best is to err on the side of caution.

Moreover, the problem with lead is from ingesting it. That means, you would have to eat it in signficant amount or inhale dust. Quite frankly, while they acknowledge that it's illegal, the doctors we've spoken to are more concerned with marbles and balloons than lead.

Your children are going to be more exposed to lead through their iPods and cellphones that don't have the same standards than anything else.

And What About Magnets?

Magnets, the other major concern in toy recalls right now, are a danger—when two or more are ingested. The magnets can attract and close off vital parts, leading to illness. Toys have been recalled due to design flaws that allowed magnets to be removed from the toy. Those have been rectified, and there is now what’s called “redundancy” in the manufacturing, which allows magnets to be doubly locked into place on the toys.

What’s a Parent to Do?

Here are some tips that can help ensure that the toys you buy for your kids are safe.

1. Assume they’re safe. The problems with China have been systemic with the manufacturing, not a result of their being made in China—no matter what anyone says. Toys undergo extensive testing because toymakers, quite naturally, depend on the safety of their customers as part of their brands’ perception.
2. Check toys. If a toy is old or worn or has paint chipping off it, or has loose parts, take it away. Whether the paint has lead or not, the last thing we want is kids ingesting it. We all know that kids can be hard on their toys, so checking them regularly for signs of wear is a good idea.
3. Choose age appropriate toys. Virtually all of the toy related injuries that have been reported happen when children who are too young for a specific toy play with it. For instance, if you have older children in the house, their younger siblings may be attracted to their toys. What is perfectly appropriate for a child over 4 may pose a small parts hazard for a child up to 3.
4. Pick up your toys. Or, get kids to pick them up. The top toy-related injury is the result of people tripping over them. We don’t want to be glib, but it can be a real problem.
5. Focus on real dangers, like small parts. Over the past 15 years or so, toymakers have conscientiously focused on such things as small parts and age appropriateness. Be aware of such toys as marbles and balloons. These are the toys that young children are most likely to put in their mouths.
6. Supervise play. Particularly for the youngest kids, this is important. An accident can happen in a second, and kids can be quick and do unexpected things. If you don’t want to be in charge of the youngest kids, it’s perfectly okay to say no.

Of course, toy safety is a huge concern, and you want to be sure that your kids and grandkids are safe. But it’s also a good idea to temper your concern with common sense.

Toys sold in the U.S. are subject to the highest safety standards, and this new concern will only mean that as standards get even more strict, and enforcement is monitored even more closely that toys will only get safer in the future. And, if there is a bright spot in the recent concern, that’s probably it.


Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Mattel Announces Additional Voluntary Recalls

After the voluntary recalls announced by Mattel last month, the company has continued to perform additional testing on products before leaving the factory. As a result, this morning, Mattel announced an additional recall in cooperation with the CPSC.

The latest recall includes the following toys:

Various Barbie Accessory Toys that were manufactured between September 30, 2006 and August 20, 2007 and sold at retail stores nationwide from October 2006 through August 2007 for about $10. Click here for a full list of the recalled Barbie Accessory Toys.

Big Big World 6-in-1 Bongo Band toys that feature two bongos, including one with a yellow and green plastic drum base with a blue drum surface. The other bongo is yellow and green plastic drum base with an orange drum surface with “It’s a Big, Big World” printed on it. The toys were sold with animal shaped accessories including a monkey, bird, tambourine and drum stick. The toys have product number K9343 inside the orange drum. A date code between 139-7SH and 232-7SH is printed on the drum’s orange ring surface. Bongo Band toys included in this recall must have both the product number and date code. The recalled toys were sold at retail stores nationwide from July 2007 through August 2007 for about $20.

Geo Trax Freightway Transport and Geo Trax Special Track Pack locomotive toys. These toys are red with yellow paint on the ladder and horn details. The recalled models were manufactured between July 31, 2006 and August 20, 2007 and have a date code between 212-6CK through 325-6CK or 001-7CK through 232-7CK marked on the bottom of the product. The packaging on the Freightway Transport model is marked H5705 and the packaging on the Special Track Pack model is marked K3013. The recalled toys were sold at retail stores nationwide from September 2006 through August 2007 for between $3 and $16.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and contact Mattel for instructions on how to receive a free replacement toy of equal value. For additional information, contact Mattel’s Fisher-Price hotline at (888) 496-8330 anytime, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.mattel.com/safety

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

The gaming industry has been buzzing about John Woo Presents Stranglehold since its e3 introduction last year. The wait is finally over with the game in stores for the Xbox 360 on September 5 and the PC and PlayStation 3 versions expected to follow on September 18 and September 25, respectively. A collaboration with world-renowned action film director John Woo's Tiger Hill Entertainment, Stranglehold allows players to take on the role of Inspector Tequila created by John Woo for his action film, Hard Boiled starring Chow Yun-Fat.

Babar/PS2, DS
Crazy Frog Arcade Racer/PS2
Cyberball 2072/Xbox360
Fatal Fury Special/Xbox360
Hour of Victory/PC
Legends of Norrath: Oathbound/PC
John Woo Presents Stranglehold/Xbox360
Medal of Honor: Airborne/Xbox360, PC
Naruto: Uzumaki Chronicles 2/PS2
Pool Party/Wii
Resident Evil: The Essentials/PS2
Save the Dinos/PC
Sherlock Holmes: The Awakened/PC
Sims 2: Bon Voyage/PC
Worms: Open Warfare 2/DS, PSP

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Halo 3 Goes Gold...

and it isn't even in stores yet. The third game in the Halo trilogy, which has already set records as the fastest preordered game in history, has exceeded one million presales in North America alone. We can expect more record breaking stats when the game is released worldwide beginning Tuesday, Sept. 25.

Rubik's Cube Table

No self-respecting retro 80's theme room could possibly be complete without a Rubik's Cube Table. This 16-inch cube, acrylic table is available for $600 at Jellio. Unfortunately, it doesn't actually function like the original toy, which would be really cool but I guess, also a bit frustrating.

-J. McKinney

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Schylling Associates Recalls Spinning Tops and Tin Pails

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with Schylling Associates Inc., of Rowley, Mass., announced a voluntary recall of Thomas and Friends, Curious George and Other Spinning Tops and Tin Pails.

The recalled tops and pails are primarily metal and have wooden handles. The tops are painted with Thomas and Friends, Curious George, or a circus scene. The pails are painted with Thomas and Friends, Curious George, or in a solid red or yellow color. Tops with plastic handles are not included in this recall.

The recalled items were sold at specialty toy stores and gift shops nationwide from July 2001 through July 2002. The tops were sold for about $13. The pails were sold for about $6.

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and contact Schylling to receive a refund or free replacement toy. For additional information, contact Schylling at (800) 767-8697 between 9 am and 5 pm ET Monday through Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at www.schylling.com

Monday, August 27, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

We've got several hotly anticipated games due in stores this week. Both Stranglehold and Metroid Prime 3: Corruption, have been making headlines around the gaming community for months now so they are sure to be snatched up rather quickly at retail. Additionally, Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 is bound for a sales boogie and two beloved Japanese franchises, Gundam and Naruto, are back with new games. Finally, don't forget Carnival Games for the Wii, which I had a chance to test out and thoroughly enjoyed last week.

Are You Smarter Than a 5th Grader?/PC
Blue Dragon/Xbox360
Brunswick Pro Bowling/Wii, PS2, PSP
Carnival Games/Wii
Dynasty Warriors: Gundam/Xbox360, PS3
Garfield's Nightmare/DS
Guild Wars: Eye of the North/PC
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja Heroes/PSP
Medieval II: Total War Kingdoms/PC
Metroid Prime 3: Corruption/Wii
Metropolismania 2/PS2
Monster Hunter Freedom 2/PSP
MotoGP 07/Xbox360
NHRA: Countdown to the Championship/PSP
Stuntman Ignition/Xbox360, PS2
Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08/Xbox360, Wii, PS3, PS2, PSP, DS
Wild ARMs 5/PS2

Friday, August 24, 2007

Bring the Carnival Home

Carnival Games for the Nintendo Wii allows you to bring all the fun and excitement of the carnival into your living room without the crowds and scary carnival folk.

Carnival Games is packed with more than 25 classic carnival, fair and amusement park games including Clown Splash, Ring Toss, Frog Leap, Shooting Gallery, Day at the Races, Hoops, and even a fortune telling Great Swami that is right out of the movie Big.

Thanks to the game's advanced engine and mechanics, all the physical action required of the player and in-game responses are incredibly life-like and true to the carnival experience. For example, in the Alley Ball (Skee-Ball) game, if you release the ball too lightly, it will gradually roll back down the alley to you and allow you to try again without loosing a ball. Players will even receive tickets and prizes as they play, which can be turned in for wearable rewards used to customize their in-game characters.

Look for this Wii exclusive in stores on Tuesday (August 28). If you are in the New York City area this Saturday (August 25), stop by Nintendo World in Rockefeller Center for the Carnival Games launch event.

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

One in Four Americans Read no Books Last Year

An Associated Press-Ipsos poll released on Tuesday revealed that one in four adults say they read no books at all in the past year. Among this group of non-readers, nearly a third are men and a quarter women, they tend to be older, less educated, lower income, minorities, from rural areas and less religious. Women and seniors were found to be the most avid readers with religious works and popular fiction the top choices.

Among the respondents who said they had read books, the median figure was nine books for women and five for men. The figures also indicated that those with college degrees read the most, and people aged 50 and up read more than those who are younger.

The AP-Ipsos poll was conducted from August 6 to 8 and involved telephone interviews with 1,003 adults. It had a margin of sampling error of plus or minus 3 percentage points.

Click here to read the full story.

Monday, August 20, 2007

This Week's Video Game Releases

Get ready for more exercises and skill tests designed to train your brain with Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day for the Nintendo DS. This follow-up to the brain-training series, is oriented for adults who want to improve their thinking skills and keep their brains active. Mac fans feeling left out of the Harry Potter fun finally get to join the club when Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is released for Mac computers tomorrow. And finally, three classic 3D games receive a 2D makeover in the Battleship, Trouble, Perfection Collection for the PC.

Avencast: Rise of the Mage/PC
Battleship, Trouble, Perfection Collection/PC
Bioshock/PC, Xbox 360
Brain Age 2: More Training in Minutes a Day/DS
Brunswick Pro Bowling/ Wii, PS2, PSP
Dave Mirra BMX Challenge/Wi
Destination: Treasure Island/PC
Dragoneer's Aria/PSP
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix/Mac
I SPY Fun House/DS
Jeanne D'Arc/PSP
MetropolisMania 2/PC
Panzer Killer/PC
Pet Luv Spa & Resort Tycoon/PC
The Settlers/DS
Tom Clancy's Ghost REcon Advanced Warfighter 2/PS3, PSP
Turn it Around/DS
Two Worlds/PC

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Focus on Common Sense

Good heavens, the mainstream media couldn't wait to jump all over the Mattel recall and scaring people with the notion that their children were at terrible risk from toys. It's not fear we need right now. It's common sense.

Dire predictions about the impact on the Holiday season and plastic saber rattling from outraged congressman Dick Durbin (R-Illinois) have created a lot of noise, but what's the substance here? Durbin's outrage stems from apparent ignorance. "We import toys from countries with different safety standards," he writes. Wrong. Wherever toys are produced, if they are to be sold in the U.S., they must meet U.S. safety standards. Furthermore, while Durbin is foaming at the mouth over the problems with China and the call for the CPSC to have the resources to do its job, he oversees the committee that has cut the agency's budgets for the past several years.

Much more believable is that the pro-business, anti-big-government stance of the Bush Administration has contributed to the reduction in government regulation. But, oops, when something happens the reaction is not to say, we've erred in under-funding the CPSC but that there is something wrong with China. Sorry, but that won't fly. You don't get to slash budgets and then divert blame. It makes soundbites that are good for a news cycle or two, but it's dishonest.

There are two recalls at issue.

The first involves lead paint. Lead paint has been banned since 1978, but according to Federal regulations, there are still acceptable levels of lead that can appear in paints and in other products. When that level is exceeded, it triggers a recall. That's a U.S. standard.

According to Mattel, and other sources, the non-conforming paint that was used applied to the toy in question by a sub-contractor's sub-contractor. The error was that the paint was not tested prior to being applied to the toys. However, the paint was found in the process of testing. The toys were recalled, and about 50% of them were contained before they made it to market. Could we not argue that, instead of failing, the system worked? Yes, it's a horrible and inexcusable thing that toys with lead paint made it into the market, but Mattel, which is said to have some of the best systems in the world for monitoring this kind of things did have a system failure. But the back-up systems found the non-conforming paint, and Mattel took action. Sure, there's damage done, but ultimately as bad as this is, consumers were protected.

Now, in and among all the lists of the dangers of lead paint, the reality is that exposure to lead is at an all-time low. While no level of lead paint is acceptable, understanding how lead can get into a child's system should quell some fears. First of all, lead cannot be transmitted into a system through touching it. Some would say even licking or mouthing it would not be sufficient. The paint needs to be ingested and metabolized for any toxic effect. Lead paint is not good, but the risk is lessened.

So what should parents do? Well, exert common sense first and foremost. There is no paint that children should be ingesting. If your toys are worn or broken, take them away. If the toys are on the CPSC Recall list, take them away and follow the directions.

We have heard from many parents that the RC2 Thomas the Tank recall has been handled very well. They are praising the company for being responsive.

Now, about magnets.

The CPSC has issued warnings about the dangers of magnets. They are to be taken seriously. However, it's important to note that with 9.5 million Polly Pocket dolls that have been recalled in the U.S., there have been no injuries. What's more, the injuries that do occur have been with kids who are too young to play with them, and with children who have been using magnets to simulate tongue piercings.

Mattel has addressed the design flaw, and any toy with a magnet manufactured from January 2007 forward will be much more secure.

But for parents, what can you do? First and foremost, monitor play. Do not allow kids who are 3 or younger to have toys that are not graded for them. It takes a second for an accident to happen, but it's important to be vigilant. We all know that kids can get into things so quickly it would make your head spin.

Ultimately, logic and rational thought dictate that Mattel and all toy companies are doing everything in their power to ensure toy safety. This is a bump in the road--and a serious one at that--but the result of increased control and oversight should yield even safer toys in the future. While it's hard to take the longer view where your kids and their safety are concerned, consider this: One of my father's favorite toys in the 1920s was a soldier making kit. It included a bunsen burner and a little pot in which he melted, yes, lead, and poured it into molds. No one knew it was a problem at the time.

Today, toys are safer than at any time in history. And companies are trying to make them safer. Let's not get carried away with the emotionalism and fear that something like the Mattel recall creates. Let's not be quick to blame China, but instead, let's look to our business practices and see how they can be improved. That is realistic progress that acknowledges the global market for toys.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Mattel Recalls “Sarge” Die Cast Car And Expands Earlier Recall

Mattel Inc., of El Segundo, CA., in cooperation with The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, announced the voluntary recall of about 253,000 Cars “Sarge” die cast toy cars.

The recall involves die cast “Sarge” 2 ½ inch toy cars. The toy looks like a military jeep and measures about 2 ½ inches long by 1 inch high by 1 inch wide. The recalled toy has the markings “7EA” and “China” on the bottom. The “Sarge” toy car is sold alone or in a package of two, and may have the product number M1253 (for single cars) and K5925 (for cars sold as a set) printed on the packaging. The cars marked “Thailand” are not included in this recall.

The toy was sold at retail stores nationwide from May 2007 through August 2007 for between $7 and $20 (depending on whether they were sold individually or in sets).

In addition, Mattel has voluntarily expanded an early recall from November of 2006 to include the following:

Various Polly Pocket dolls and accessories with magnets
Doggie Day Care™ play sets
Barbie and Tanner™ play sets
Batman™ and One Piece™ magnetic action figure sets

Consumers should immediately take the recalled toys away from children and contact Mattel.

For additional information, including a full list of recalled items, contact Mattel at (800) 916-4997 anytime or visit the firm’s Web site at www.service.mattel.com

Monday, August 13, 2007

This Week's Video Game Releases

This is an exciting week for gamers everywhere! The latest installment in one of the most popular and successful video game franchises of all times, Madden NFL, arrives in stores this week for just about every game system out there. Another game making waves this week is High School Musical: Makin' the Cut for the DS. This karaoke game will have fans of the movie dancing and playing along with the movie’s songs while they create their own dance videos in order to win.

1914 Shells of Fury/PC
ATV/Monter Truck Mayhem/DS
Billy the Wizard: Rocket Broomstick Racing/Wii
Dungeons & Dragons Tactics/PSP
Fatal Fury: Battle Archives Volume 1/PS2
High School Musical: Makin' the Cut/DS
Heroes of Mana /DS
Luminous Arc/DS
Madden NFL 08/Xbox360, PSP, PS3, Wii, PS2, Mac, GC, PC, Xbox, DS
MetropolisMania 2/PS2
Operation: Vietnam/DS
Rune Factory: A Fantasy Harvest Moon/DS
Shin Megami Tensei: Persona 3/PS2

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The Orvis Company Recalls Children’s Toys Sold with Sleeping Bags

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, in cooperation with The Orvis Company, of Manchester, Vt., announced a voluntary recall of the Stuffed Plush Horse/Pillows and Fairy Dolls. Consumers should stop using recalled products immediately unless otherwise instructed.

The Stuffed Horse is described as a plush brown horse/pillow was sold as an accessory with the purchase of a Horse Animal Sleeping Bag. The horse pillow has outstretched fore and back legs, a bushy black mane and tail and attaches to the sleeping bag with a hook/loop attachment on the belly of the horse. Stuffed horses with eyes directly embroidered on the plush fabric are not included in the recall.

The Fairy Doll toy was sold as an accessory with the purchase of a Unicorn Animal Sleeping Bag. The stuffed fairy doll has a sewn-on pompom nose, a pink satin dress with glitter netting as a ruffled collar, sleeves and dress apron. The doll attaches to the sleeping bag with a hook/loop attachment on the bag and between the doll’s wings. The fairy doll is one of three toys that attach to the sleeping bag. Also included are a large unicorn pillow and small flat unicorn. The unicorn attachments are not included in the recall.

Both items were sold through The Orvis Company mail-order catalogue and the firm’s Web site from September 2006 through December 2006 for about $70.

Consumers should take these toys away from young children immediately and contact the firm to obtain a refund or replacement horse and fairy doll. Consumers can continue to use the sleeping bags while waiting to receive replacement toys. For additional information, contact The Orvis Company toll-free at (866) 531-6199 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s Web site at www.orvis.com/recall

Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Shiny And New - Apple iMac

Steve Jobs unvelied the newly designed line of iMacs yesterday to oohs and ahhs from Mac-heads everywhere.

Visually the new iMacs are beautifull machines and continue the all-in-one design established by the original. The plastic casing and display of the old model have been replaced with an anodized aluminum frame and glass cover. The 17" model has been dropped from the line, which will now feature two 20" sizes and one 24" model, all of which have been slimmed down in width from their predecsors. Each iMac will support Firewire 800 and 400, three USB ports, Gigabit ethernet, audio in and out jacks and a DVI out.

Not to be outdone, the included keyboard has also undergone an extreeme makeover with the resulting super-slim model proving to be a worthy counterpart to the iMac itself. The keyboard, also in aluminum, features low-profile keys that provide a crisp, responsive feel plus special function keys for one-touch control of Mac features and two USB 2.0 ports.

Under the hood, these new iMacs will posses up to 2.4GHz Core 2 Extreme processor, 2.8 GHz on the 24 inch, up to 4GB memory, Radeon HD graphics, up to 1 TB HDD, 802.11n and Bluetooth 2.0

The three new iMacs, which range in price from $1200 to $1800, are available now.

J. McKinney

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

2K Games Releases Sid Meier's Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword

The latest and largest expansion pack for the popular game, Sid Meier's Civilization IV, is now in stores. Developed for the PC by Firaxis Games, Civilization IV: Beyond the Sword, features the largest amount of expansion content in the history of the Civilization franchise.

Civilization IV, which was originally released in 2005, has sold over 1.5 million units making it a commercial hit and developing a huge following. Beyond the Sword, the second expansion pack focuses on the later time periods of the game - after the invention of gunpowder - and delivers 11 new scenarios to the core game. In addition, ten new civilizations, 16 new leaders, five new wonders, and a variety of new units will allow gamers to expand their civilizations and attempt to conquer the world.

This Just In - Lower Prices For Xbox 360 Announced

Microsoft confirmed the rumors that have been rumbling through the gaming community when they officially announced a $50 price drop for the Xbox 360.

The new reduced suggested retail price, which goes into effect tomorrow (August 8), will affect all versions of the 360. That drops the price of the standard 360 to $349.99. For those looking for the ultimate value and the freedom to customize their console as they see fit, Xbox 360 Core System now has an ERP of $279.99. The Xbox 360 Elite, equipped with a 120GB hard drive, will be priced at $449.99.

In making the announcement, Mitch Koch, corporate vice president, Global Retail Sales and Marketing Group, Entertainment and Devices Division at Microsoft said "The fact that we have been able to keep our launch price longer than any other console while retaining our leadership position demonstrates that consumers believe in the value of Xbox 360". While that may be the case, there is no denying that the new price could also be viewed as a response to Sony's July move, which reduced the price of its PS3 with a 60GB hard-disk drive to $499, and launched a new model with an 80GB hard-disk drive, for $599.

-J. McKinney