Friday, June 29, 2007

LucasArts and LEGO Return To A Galaxy Far Far Away

LucasArts, the video game publisher and developer founded by George Lucas, recently announced a third installment in the hugely successful LEGO Star Wars series. The third game, LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga, will allow gamers to play through all six Star Wars movies.

Earlier this week, I was invited by LucasArts to preview this new game, which won't be available until the fall. In essence, the third game is a collection of the first two but rather than just re-releasing those two games in one, the developers have revamped the originals, added new levels and characters, and created new elements that utilize the technology of the latest generation of game systems. Both the PS3 and Xbox 360 versions of The Complete Saga will feature high-definition graphics, while the most obvious differences will appear on the Wii, where the Wii-Remote opens up a whole new play experience. Just imagine a lightsaber duel with the Wii.

The one new level I was shown was enough to convince me that this game will be a must have for fans of the previous two. This level recreates one of the most memorable scenes from Episode II, Attack of the Clones - the pursuit of bounty hunter Zam Wessell. In the game, players will get to hop into a speeder and chase Zam through the congested skies of Coruscant as Obbie Wan and Anakin did in the movie.

Check back with us for more information on LEGO Star Wars: The Complete Saga as it becomes available.

-J. McKinney

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Disney Interactive Utilizes Full Potential of Popular Properties

This Fall, Disney Interactive Studios will introduce a bevy of games based on some of Disney's most popular properties. Rather than just churn out games that allow you to play through familiar settings as the main characters, Disney is introducing games that immerse the player in the world of the property through actions and play-patterns created specifically around each property.

Two titles based on Hannah Montana spotlight this new direction. In Hannah Montana: Music Jam for the Nintendo DS, players will use the DS touch screen to play such instruments as bass, guitar, and drums in a musical competition. In Hannah Montana: Spotlight World Tour for the Wii, Disney has created a dance game that utilizes the Wii-Remote similar to how other games use a dance pad to track the player's movement. Both of these titles, which will be in stores this October, play off of the musical theme and fun of the TV show, Hannah Montana, with game play that makes sense for the property.

Check back with us in October for full reviews as the games hit shelves.

- J. McKinney

Monday, June 25, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

We've got three movie-based game titles in stores this week as Harry Potter, Ratatouille, and Transformers all gear up for theatrical releases. In EA's Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, the company has departed from the staid formula of the past games that retold the events of the movies in favor of a game that accompanies the books. While Order of the Phoenix will be available on all platforms, the Wii edition really lets gamers experience the world of Potter and friends in a whole new way as you cast spells using the Wii-remote.

The Adventures of Darwin/PS2
The BIGS/Xbox360, Wii, PS3, PS2, PSP
Cosmic Family/Wii
The Darkness/Xbox 360, PS3
Driver: Parallel Lines/PC, Wii
Flipper Critters/DS
Final Fantasy Anniversary Edition/PSP
Grim Grimoire/PS2
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix/All
Hitman Trilogy/PS2, PC
Hour of Victory/Xbox 360
Lost Planet: Extreme Condition/PC
Mercury Meltdown Revolution/Wii
Nervous Brickdown/DS
Overlord/PC, Xbox 360
Pokemon Battle Revolution/Wii
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas/PS3
Transformers: The Game/Xbox 360, PS3, PS2, Wii

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Meeting Vanessa Hudgens

Vanessa Hudgens is one of the stars of High School Musical, and about as nice and charming a young actress as you could meet anywhere. For those of you who don't know--WHERE have you been?????-- Ms. Hudgens plays Gabriella Montez, a shy student who excels in math and science and who, through the redeeming power of Show BIZ not only comes out of her shell, she helps her team win the inter-school academic competition, scores the lead in the musical and gets the guy, Troy Bolton, played by junior heartthrob Zac Efron. Whew! Who could possibly compete with these kids?

Well, that's not the point. High School Musical since it first debuted January 20, 2006, has reached more than 100 million viewers all around the world. It is an entertainment phenomenon that's rarely been equaled, and in all our conversations with kits besotted with the show, what we've seen is a sense of empowerment, and a real ability to relate to these characters. So, for those of you who think that the musical is dead, think again! The power of music to enhance emotion and capture the sheer exuberance of these kids has resonated around the world. And, what's even better, these are all essentially very good kids. Even the "villains" of the piece aren't so bad, they just get their little ego bubbles popped and emerge much nicer for it.

And, you have to admit that Disney has done a masterful job with all of this. What's most impressive is that they've done it from the kids' perspective, and that's why kids everywhere relate to it so strongly. They see heightened version of themselves. That's one of the reasons that a version of the show that can be done in real-live high schools has been so popular, and why, heaven help us, High School Musical on Ice is likely to be a major hit as well. Chances are that for the next decade or so, HSM will supplant Bye Bye Birdie or Grease as the classic high school spring shows. That's actually a good thing. Those shows, charming and popular as they are (The new Grease on Broadway has a nearly $10 million pre-sale, thanks to its being featured in a reality show earlier this year.), are really written from an adult perspective. The kind of "aren't those kids kooky and crazy" subtext of those shows is absent from HSM, and that's why it really touches kids.

So, it should come as no surprise that when Ms. Hudgens appeared at Toys "R" Us Times Square last Saturday, our friend Faith D'Isa jumped at the chance to interview her for Ms. Hudgens was at the store to unveil a new toy Rubik's Revolution, and after all, who better than the reigning math and science role model for the entire world?

Ms. Hudgens signed photos for legions of fans and had lines around the block, so Faith was delighted to sit down with her and answer a couple of questions--a dream come true for the St. Stephen's School drama club member. Check back for a link to Faith's interview when it's posted.

Here's the best part of it, though, Ms. Hudgens couldn't have been nicer, more attentive and just plain cool with all the kids she met. She's exactly the kind of celebrity we should all want our kids looking up to.

- C. Byrne

More on the Geyser Tube

Seems like a lot of folks really enjoyed watching me get drenched in Diet Coke live on national TV. As always, Regis & Kelly was a total blast. They seemed to enjoy cutting loose a little bit, and I've finally gotten all of that stuff off me! And, we have to give a shout out to the amazing crew on that show. They worked so hard to make sure all the toys performed to their best, and it seemed like they had a good time as well.

Here's what I learned: There's a reason there are no spa treatments done with Diet Coke. Wow, does that stuff dry your skin out! Oh, and it stings your eyes pretty badly, too.

As my eighth grade science teacher, Mr. Tappan, said when he lit all the gas jets in the science lab for us goggle-eyed, rambunctious kids, "There. Now I've done it so you don't have to."

But for pure fun, this experiment is amazing. People have been calling and writing, trying to get more information. Check out Steve Spangler's site. He's the science teacher--and all-around good guy-- who invented it.

Hope a Geyser Tube is in your future. One tip: Stand Back!

-C. Byrne

Thursday, June 21, 2007

Chris Byrne on Live With Regis & Kelly Tomorrow

If you ever wanted to see Chris Byrne, a.k.a. the Toy Guy, get completely drenched by fountains of soda, then tune into Live With Regis and Kelly tomorrow (Friday) on ABC.

The segment, which was taped today, will feature some of this summer's hottest toys, including Steve Spangler's Geyser Tube from Be Amazing Toys. Spangler is the mad scientist behind the Mentos & Diet Coke experiment, originally popularized online.

Chris doesn't just get soda soaked, Regis and Kelly also have a blast attacking Chris with a couple of Banzai Color Stream Blasters from ToyQuest. These water blasters feature a unique color infusion system that creates colorful water blasts.

There will also be plenty of indoor toys featured including several of Hasbro's Transformers toys, Mattel's Ratatouille Little Chef Remy and Polly Wheels Race To The Mall Playset, Technosource's Rubik's Revenge, and Uncle Milton's R/C Tarantula.

See these and more toys featured tomorrow morning on Live With Regis and Kelly and check out the for a full list of items with prices.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

RC2 Recalls Various Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway Toys

RC2 Corp., of Oak Brook, Ill, announced recalls of various Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway toys. The recall involves wooden vehicles, buildings and other train set components for young children, whose packaging has the logo “Thomas & Friends Wooden Railway” on the upper left-hand corner. A manufacturing code may be located on the bottom of the product or inside the battery cover. Toys marked with codes containing “WJ” or “AZ” are not included in this recall.

The recalled toys were sold at toy stores and various retailers nationwide from January 2005 through June 2007 for between $10 and $70.

Consumers should take the recalled toys away from young children immediately and contact RC2 Corp. for a replacement toy. For additional information, including a full list of recalled toys, contact RC2 Corp. toll-free at (866) 725-4407 between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. CT Monday through Thursday and between 8 a.m. and 11 a.m. CT Friday, or visit the firm’s Web site at

Monday, June 18, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

As we first mentioned last week, the Transformers games continue to roll out this week with additional titles on additional platforms. Transformers: Decepticons arrives for the DS, while Transformers: The Game debuts on PC and PSP. War games appear very popular this week with Attack on Pearl Harbor, Brothers In Arms, and Call for Heroes: Pompolic War battling for your gaming dollar.

Attack on Pearl Harbor/PC
Brothers In Arms/DS
Call for Heroes: Pompolic Wars/PC
DiRT/PC, Xbox360
Dungeon Maker: Hunting Ground/PSP
Escape from Bug Island/Wii
Hot Brain/PSP
Hot Wheels Ultimate Racing/PSP
Marvel Trading Card Game/PC
PQ2: Practical Intelligence Quotient/PSP
Pro Cycling Manager/Tour de France 2007/PC, PSP
Resident Evil 4 Wii Edition/Wii
SimCity DS/DS
Time Ace/DS
Transformers: The Game/PC, PSP
Transformers: Decepticons/DS

-J. McKinney

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Cannondale Recalls Mountain Bicycles

Cannondale Bicycle Corp., of Bethel, Conn, has announced a voluntary recall of Mountain Bicycles with Lefty Speed SL and Lefty Speed DLR Forks.

The recalled bikes were sold at authorized Cannondale dealers from June 2006 through May 2007 for between $1,600 and $6,500.

Consumers should stop using these bicycles immediately. Cannondale dealers will repair these forks at no charge. For additional information, including a list of bikes with the defective forks, contact Cannondale’s toll free number: 800- BIKEUSA (245-3872) between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or visit the firm’s Web site at

Monday, June 11, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

The classic 1989 Prince of Persia game gets an extreme makeover for Xbox's Live Arcade. Look for new designs and enhancements to the original's stunning action. The popular Nintendo DS game, Big Brain Academy, gets a Wii-over in the new Wii Degree. This sequel includes three multiplayer modes for up to eight players of all ages. Also premiering this week is the first of two unique Transformers games for the DS, Transformers: Autobots. Look for Transformers: Decepticons as well as Transformers: The Game next week.

Big Brain Academy: Wii Degree/Wii
Call of Juarez/PC
Chicken Shoot/Wii
Crash Bandicoot Action Pack/PS2
Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer/Xbox360, PS3, PS2, Wii, DS
Frisbee, Frisbee Golf/GBA
Monster Madness: Battle for Suburbia/PC, Xbox360
Nancy Drew: The White Wolf of Icicle Creek/PC
Naruto: Ultimate Ninja 2/PS2
Prince of Persia Classic/Xbox360
Raw Danger/PS2
The Sims 2: Pets/Wii
Scarface: The World Is Yours/Wii
Tenchu Z/Xbox360
Tom Clancy's Rainbow Six Vegas/PSP
Transformers: Autobots/DS
Zendoku/DS, PSP

-J. McKinney

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Hot Off The Presses!

Warner Bros. Studios will let the Thundercats loose on the big screen!

The studio announced it has optioned a script by Paul Sopocy to turn the popular 1980s animated series and toy line into a CGI animated film. The script deals with the background storey of the Thundercats, with a focus on team leader, Lion-O's coming of age.

The Thundercats was originally developed and produced by Rankin/Bass Productions, and debuted in 1983 and told the story of the Thunderians, who were forced to flee their dying home world of Thundera. The Thundercats franchise went on to spawn several animated series, including the most recent airing on Cartoon Network in 1997.

Production and release dates have yet to be announced for the new CGI movie. Stay tuned to theToyGuy blog for more information as it becomes available.

-J. McKinney

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

New Video Games Due This Week

No offense to the games coming out this week but the big news in gaming is the Wii's recent sales performance in Japan. According to Bloomberg, reporting on data from Japanese gaming magazine Famitsu, the Wii outsold the PS3 5 to 1 in May. That breaks down to Nintendo selling 251,794 Wii consoles while Sony sold 50,000 PS3s.

As for this week's games, Tomb Raider: Anniversary is receiving a lot of positive buzz around the web. This remake of the original Tomb Raider, released in 1996 for the PS1, applies today's technology to everything that made the original the classic it is today.

Biker Mice From Mars/DS, PS2
Call of Juarez/Xbox360, PC
Chicken Shoot/DS
Circus Empire/PC
Deal or No Deal /DS
Dragon Ball Z: Harukanaru Densetsu/DS
Dream Day Wedding/PC
Hospital Tycoon/PC
Planet Puzzle League/DS
Puzzle Scape PSP
Shrek the Third/PSP
The Sims 2: H&M Stuff/PC
Space Force: Rogue Universe/PC
Tomb Raider: Anniversary/PC, PS2, PSP
UFO: Afterlight PC

Monday, June 04, 2007

Transformers Toys Roll Out

One day last week, I arrived at theToyGuy HQ to find a giant cube full of Transformers goodies waiting for me on my desk. Thank you, Hasbro and my new best friends at Hunter PR! The box was filled with all sorts of Transformers toys and goodies from the upcoming film due in theaters July 4.

Sure this box included, among other items, the Mr. Potato Head Optimus, Robot Fighters Game, Arm Blaster, a comic book, and cool T-shirt that I donned over the weekend, but what I dove into instantly were the figures! As a nearly life-long fan of these robots in disguise I was eager to put the new toys to the test and I can say without doubt they pass.

I took a crack at Optimus Prime, and have to be honest, it took me nearly 30 minutes to transform him from vehicle to robot and back (I must be getting rusty at this). The Optimus figure features lights and sounds and many of the new figures, including Optimus, come with "Automorph Technology", a simple automatic movement during the transformation. Personally, I find the Automorph feature to be a bit unnecessary as the figures are impressive enough on their own. After Optimus, with a level 4 conversion rating, I checked out two of the smaller level 3s, Barricade and Bonecrusher. Both were much easier and quicker to transform but no less rewarding. One thing I've noticed with these three figures is that they have been given extra stability in their feet, which makes them much easier to stand and display - a touch that collectors will appreciate.

All of the Transformers toys, games and products arrived in stores over the weekend. Look for the video game due closer to the film's release.

-J. McKinney