Playmobil recently sent me a set from their “Future Planet” line, and it’s fantastic. There are all sorts of nifty features like the solar-powered fan and some “crystal-powered” gizmos. Apparently if you have other sets from the line there are things (like the laser) which will interact with them. Here’s a closer look at Set #5149, the E-Rangers’ Headquarters.
There are 181 pieces included — I didn’t count them, but that ranges from the large pieces used to assemble the station down to the tiny wrist-mounted gear for the people. Up until now I’d seen Playmobil sets featuring farms, cities, animals, and fairies. This is my first experience with this sci-fi line, and it reminds me of my old space Lego sets somewhat, with all the futuristic gear, helmets, and so on.
One of the figurines is a little robot, which is shorter than the humans — like the child figurines. There are little rubber “wires” that can plug into various tools, connecting them either to the robot’s back or the headgear on the humans. Outlets for these wires are present around the station, too, so you can plug things in wherever. There are also tiny plastic gloves that clip onto the figure’s hands (see the next photo), wrist-mounted computers, and a host of hand tools and handheld gadgets of uncertain function.
Within the station, there’s a workstation with a swiveling seat. The screen of the computer is a little transparency that slides in the top, and there are five transparencies to choose from. The screen flips down so you can swap them out, and there’s a handy pocket on the workstation to store the spare transparencies.
The center of the station is a clear plastic tube housing a tree (presumably for oxygen?) with a solar-powered fan on top. Sadly, the fan only works under sunlight or incandescent light bulbs, both of which are in short supply in my house in Portland. (I did hold it up to our dining room light, and it worked.) There’s a sliding door into the tube, and also an elevator that ratchets up and down from the ground to the base. Two doors on the side swivel open, and there’s a detachable ramp that can be placed at either doorway.
Of course, I did have to point out to my kids that a single tree (and a few small plants) was probably not sufficient to provide enough oxygen on this planet, and a big fan on top (and a half-open roof) probably didn’t help matters. Maybe it’s a breathable atmosphere. We can only hope.
By far the coolest feature is the battery-powered stuff. There’s a long rectangular light, a flashing laser, and two glowing cylinders. To activate them, you have to put a crystal into the little “battery” and then slide the battery up into its base. The crystal lights up and the red and blue tubes above it start pulsing. Once that’s in place, you can turn the light on and off and power the laser. Push the blue crash bar, and the battery drops out and everything shuts off.
Of course, it’s not really powered by a small plastic crystal — you need 3 AAA batteries (not included). And the panel for these is located on the underside of the base, where it’s too cramped to get a screwdriver once you’ve assembled the thing — that’s my biggest complaint about the whole thing. But when you’ve got the batteries in there, it’s a pretty cool effect. Sliding an empty battery into the slot doesn’t do anything — nothing lights up. I discovered that the crystal presses against a tab at the base of the battery, closing the circuit, allowing everything to power on. It’s pretty ingenious.
Along with the two batteries, there’s also a small clear plastic case (with warning stickers) for the people to transport the crystals in.
There are vehicles available in the Future Planet line, but this station just comes with one mini-vehicle: the three-in-one racer, which can either have two wheels like a Segway, wings, or turbines. The unused pieces can be stored on a handy wall unit inside the station.
Assembly of the station wasn’t too difficult except for getting the curved windows put together and firmly attached. That took me several attempts, particularly because I’d snap it on and then discover I forgot something and have to take it off again. One odd thing is that the instructions don’t really spell out where things go or how they should be used — but it seems pretty clear that things do have specific places and functions. My kids have been using the included poster to piece together where things go, like whether the little clear bowl is for all the tiny gizmos or for crystals.
My daughters have never been much for dollhouses, but they’ve taken to Playmobil and especially like role-playing with the figurines. This set, though, is the first I’ve seen that has battery-operated stuff, and I love what they did with the crystals. I’m also glad that there’s at least one female in the crew, although it does look like the set is targeted more toward boys. My girls have been loving it, though, and have incorporated their fairy princesses into the mix.
The E-Rangers’ Headquarters retails for $139.99 so it may not be something you’re going to pick up right after the holidays, but if you like the idea of sci-fi Playmobil, maybe you could convince your kids to put this on their birthday list. There are also Dark Rangers (the bad guys, of course) with their own stations and vehicles. I might need to look into those next!
You can check out the whole Future Planet line-up on the Playmobil site.
Wired: Crystal power! Futuristic gizmos and a cute robot figurine.
Tired: Placement of the battery compartment makes changing batteries a pain.
Disclosure: GeekDad received a sample for review.