Wild Planet's Skeleflex Alien, Triceratops, and motorized T-Rex
by Mr. Stinkhead
I recently got a batch of Skeleflex sets from Wild Planet (makers of the Spy Gear sets for kids). They have a reputation of creating science based toys that seamlessly incorporate a dash of imagination. These inter-connecting plastic bones can make realistic looking dinosaur skeletons, or can be rearranged into any combination you can think of. Not only are there a handful of popular dinos, but there are some completely made up alien bone sets as well. This allows for wings, humanoid bones, crazy claws and all kinds of heads, that are all interchangeable of course.
It is completely impossible to discuss these toys without also bringing up Xevoz, one of my most beloved toy lines, that died a premature death. You can tell that the brains behind Skeleflex avoided some of the major pitfalls that helped "off" the Xevoz line. I'll discuss these through out. Question number one is No, they're not compatible with Xevoz pieces. The ball joints aren't the same diameter.
Triceratops The first dinosaur set I looked at was the Triceratops. The first thing you notice is that the packaging is a reusable carrying case. It's a nice hard plastic case shaped like a bone that snaps closed, and keeps the unassembled dino's pieces all together. I think, especially with all the loose pieces you don't necessarily use, that Xevoz could have benefited from packaging like this. Notice there is also no "game" component to cloud the concept to the consumer. If there is one thing I could stress to the buyer, is that you can rearrange the bones any way you want, mixing and matching. You don't have to create only the realistic looking dino. I do wish that they had included a few extra bones, as right now you use every piece in the included instructions. I would welcome some of those "wild card" pieces that Xevoz would pack in (giant anvil hand, or boxing gloves).
Another innovation is the flexible joiner. It's a piece of plastic rubber that connects two halves of a ball joint. It adds a bit more flexibility (I suppose for more "action figure-based play", as its not as necessary for display. They do display pretty nicely. There is a lot more texture and detail to each piece, and I found the joints to hold pretty well. There's the occasional loose joint, but I found swapping out like pieces (like in the spine or tail) actually helped most situations.
I'll also point out that the spine pieces have posts on them that don't seem to connect to any included pieces. But looking at the line, there is a stegosaurus skeleton, and you can grab the fins from that set and plug them in on this one. Nice! My favorite aspect of this set is that from first glance, it looks like a build-a-dino kit you'd get at the Natural History Museum, however, unlike those museum kits, you can build and rebuild any way you wish. The bones by themselves also look good as remains from a big battle or hearty meal. Sweet!
Akafly Alien Here's the cool part. I think it was totally necessary to kick off the line with historically accurate skeletons, I think it's essential to the longevity of the line to include imaginative alien skeletons. It's great you can mix and match the bones from these kits with the dino bones. To mix historic with imaginative, I'd love to see a set of Cryptozoology skeletons (Jersey Devil, Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot, etc).
I love the deep-sea angler inspired head on this alien, and the wings are great. There's a flexible piece of rubber that you can press on to make the wings flap. There is a lot more play value with these sets (over the Xevoz) which should help resonate with the kids. With Xevoz, you had more fun building, with Skeleflex, I see you having as much fun playing with them after they're built. This alien is my favorite of the line, and would look great on your desk at work (even solo), or on your shelf with other figures. You know you have a great action figure when it looks great by itself or in a crowd. This one pulls it off. If you want to buy only one set as an introduction, I recommend this guy.
There are also subtle color differences to the bones, per set, so if you mix and match the skeletons, you could get them back to their original sets. Here I did a quick and easy mash up of all of the spine and tail pieces, removing the appendages. The bones do go together and come apart fairly easy. The only issue I had was getting the last two vertebrae separated, because there is less to hold on to.
Here's another point that Xevoz never got into, scale. This
T-Rex skeleton is considerably larger than the Triceratops,
and he towers above him "appropriately" (after all those
textbook dioramas, didn't they prove that T-Rex and Triceratops
never co-existed, much less fought?) Anyway, aside from
a larger scale set, they also included a motorized component.
The number one thing going for this set is that you can
play with it, either plugged into the motorized base, or
I love the base, it's highly detailed and has an art deco meets Frankenstein look to it. Clamp the brackets to the T-Rex's feet, plug in the power supply, and start pushing the bright red lever. The power starts twisting the spine in one direction, causing the entire body to twitch. A neat aspect is that it makes the jaws open and close in a snapping/biting motion. Pull the lever towards you and it reverses direction. Honestly, this one was a little anti-climactic. I know, I'm 30 years old, I'm not the target demographic. I'm sure your standard 10 year old will find it pretty cool. I like the T-Rex skeleton. It's beefy, and the mechanical parts aren't so dominant that you can't get creative. The spine between pelvis and neck are permanently linked, but you can still go nuts with the other pieces. I wish there were knee joints, however I think that might have hurt the motorized action. There will be a demo of this action in the upcoming video podcast.
As a collector, I think you can get some cool sets for display. I think the motorized dinos are going to be fun for the kids, so as a Dad, I see a lot of potential for a shared interest. Overall, it's a cool line. It may have problems surviving in this licensed property heavy market place. I'm glad they picked up the ball that the Xevoz line dropped, yet still presented something original. There are similarities to Xevoz, but these are not Xevoz reborn, it's a new monster all together.
I've poked around and have not seen these in stores near me, however reports are surfacing that these have hit Wal*Mart. You can purchase any of them online at the official Wild Planet online toy store.