- The Washington Times - Saturday, July 7, 2007

Thanks to the proliferation of film, comic book and cartoon characters, companies are bombarding consumers with an incredible selection of action figures. With tongue in cheek, let’s take a peek at some of the specimens worthy of a place in …

Zad’s Toy Vault

LEADER CLASS MEGATRON

Director Michael Bay’s live-action homage to the Transformers comes to three-dimensional life with help from the company that made the war between the Autobots and Decepticons famous.

Hasbro has been offering a complete lineup of Transformers figures for over two decades, and its latest series ties in perfectly with the big-budget movie.

Besides smaller-scale Movie Legends, deluxe toys and even plush figures ($3.99 to $9.99) that highlight characters such as Bumblebee, Barricade, Scorponok and Wreckage, youngsters will find 10-inch-tall versions of Optimus Prime and the leader of the Decepitcons (Megatron) that offer complicated morphing into secondary designs.

Figure Profile: From the package: “Frozen in Antarctic Ice for hundreds of years, Megatron is finally free, and his might will make the Earth quake, and the stars fall from the sky. As one of the most dangerous Transformers ever to stalk the galaxy, he has no known weaknesses and only one purpose — to capture the AllSpark and rule the Universe. Nothing, neither the Humans’ armies or his ancient enemy Optimus Prime can stand in his way.”

Accessories:Megatron features advanced Automorph technology that translates into cocking a lever in his chest, releasing a button and listening to a creepy shriek as his innards light up and a pair of translucent wings pop out. The big guy also has a rocket claw that turns into a chain whip, arms that (when combined) form a laser cannon and a scary face.

By the way, it takes about 15 steps and a strong cup of coffee to convert Megatron into his alter Cybertron Jet mechanical persona. I still haven’t figured out how to turn him back.

Price: $39.99

Read all about it: IDW Publishing offers the trade paperback The Transformers: The Movie Prequel ($19.99), which compiles a four-issue comic book series, and a sequential-art adaptation of the film, released as a four-issue series ($3.99 each).

Words to buy by: Transformers toys will have a major resurgence in popularity thanks to the movie. However, they have always been one of the better pop-culture-themed, brain-stimulating items a child could own. The latest Leader Class morphing robots are well worth taxing a child’s logic skills and imagination.

Strange but cool

A short look at products associated with the Transformers’ new live-action movie.

Optimus Prime Voice Changer Helmet (Hasbro, requires three AA batteries, $29.99)

Easily the coolest product to come out of the “Transformers” movie, this over-the-head helmet transforms a human’s noggin into the leader of the Autobots with some slick audio tech features. Specifically, the helmet has a speaker and can be set to produce three types of sound sets to offer either half a dozen Optimus phrases, noisy effects of his conversion to a truck or the real payoff the owner can use the onboard microphone to transform his voice into the hero.

ZipZaps Optimus Prime ($19.99, requires four AAA batteries)

Radio Shack extends its brand of pocket-sized RC vehicles into the Transformers universe. Drivers can choose from Optimus as a semicab, Bumblebee as a Camaro, and Barricade as a police cruiser, all with working headlights, and use the included controller to charge and maneuver the very fast vehicles.

Even more impressive is the company’s Micro Transformers Cars ($14.99 each, requires two AAA batteries). The Bumblebee model uses an infrared remote, shaped like a pistol, that doubles as a pen and as a place to mount the vehicle for storage. Bumblebee can go forward and reverse and can change into the more familiar robotic character with a few twists of the chassis. Also available is an Optimus Prime and Barricade version.

zadzooks_transgun.jpgBattle Rig Blaster (Hasbro, $29.99)

Optimus Prime’s ability to convert into a truck is carried a step further by Hasbro in a toy tribute that turns his vehicle form into a hand-held blaster for the younger fan. Owners pull a handle on top of the 10-wheeler (with wheels that spin) and it opens up into a rugged Nerf Dart blaster. Prime’s gloved hand conceals the shooters. The weapon comes with three projectiles; each can be secured inside the vehicle when not in use.

Transformers Monopoly (USAopoly, $35.99)

The famed property-trading game is consumed by the war between Autobots and Decepticons as up to six players try to become tycoons of the science-fiction universe. This Monopoly uses cities, military bases and planets familiar to Transformer fans and, as tokens, pewter mini-representations of Optimus Prime, Megatron, Bumblebee, Starscream, Jazz and Soundwave.

In a clever twist on the traditional board game, Chance and Community Chest cards are devoted to the warring factions and the player must use a decoder to read and reveal his fate when he has to select a card. Additionally, the package, board and money are adorned with colorful illustrations themed to the epic robotic struggle.

Zadzooks! wants to know you exist. Call 202/636-3016, fax 202/269-1853, e-mail jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com, visit Zadzooks at the blog section of The Washington Times’ Web site (http://video1.washingtontimes.com/zadzooks/) or write to Joseph Szadkowski at The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002.

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