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2008 Holiday Gift Guide - Best toys for boys

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The holidays are a time filled with warmth, good cheer and blah, blah, blah. Let's get down to the serious portion of the show - gifts for those good little girls and boys. No, not socks, not that annoying light-up sweater vest or sacks of roasted chestnuts. Let's talk toys.

* King Arthur Battle Action Castle (ages 6 and older, $42.88) brings the legend of Arthur to life with this 553-piece buildable castle. Junior knights will appreciate a crank-operated drawbridge, secret battle compartments, armaments and castle wall defense that drops rocks onto attacking hordes. An enhanced micromotion feature brings horses to galloping life, enabling knights to have sword battles, and brings a griffin swooping down. The set includes an exclusive King Arthur figure, two good knights and two dark knights, a battle-action horse, flying griffin and three micromotion sticks. Other play accessories include plates, goblets and food for the king's feast, treasury items, a hunting dog and other lifestyle details.

* A challenge to build, the Lego Bionicle Axalara T9 (ages 10 to 16, $69.99) features more than one lesson in engineering. This building set has 693 pieces that, once combined, create a 20-inch-long battle craft for a Bionicle hero to ride. The craft has operating landing gear, side compartments that open to reveal dual Midak Skyblasters that really fire, and the ominous tri-arms that work when a gear is turned on the side of the ship. The set includes a special-edition Lewa Nuva figure.

Also from Lego and the "Star Wars" universe comes the AT-TE Walker (ages 9 to 14, $89.99). Once complete, this 799-piece vehicle features many moving parts, including armored hatches and a cockpit that open to reveal the cabin and troops inside, legs that can be positioned, cannons and firing missiles. Minifigures packaged with the set include two Clone troopers, a battle droid, Anakin's Padawan, Ahsoka and Rotta the Hutt to create a galaxy of fun.

* Handy Manny's 2-in-1 Transforming Tool Truckby Manny at the wheel, it occasionally breaks down. There are five engine parts to repair and get Manny back on the road again.

* Filled with hours of imaginative play are Mega Blok's Magnext, a construction system that uses the powers of magnets to build. The 360 Magnacase (ages 6 and older, $49.99) is an easy-to-tote storage case that also is a construction base. The kit contains 100 pieces of brightly colored square and triangular pieces that can be connected using the metal balls to create construction projects or random shapes. Magnext has no small parts containing magnets, increasing the toy's safe play level.

* Wild Planet's Spy Gear Spy Wire Circuits Game (ages 7 and older, $19.99) is a race-against-the-clock puzzle game that has two players strategically sliding tiles, attempting to connect their circuits and defuse an opponent's bomb. As a player slides tiles, pieces of his opponent's bomb are revealed. One false move, and the bomb will detonate, ending the game.

* Also from the minds at Wild Planet is the "find-the-enemy" strategy game, Spy Trackdown (ages 8 and older, two to four players, $39.99). Taking on the persona of a secret agent, players take off on a worldwide search to find and capture the evil mastermind and, of course, save the world. Making this an ultracool game, players have "spy communicators" that send secret transmissions to help, or possibly hinder, their goal.

* The Nerf N-Strike Vulcan EBF-25 Blaster (ages 8 and older, $40) takes those little foam missiles to a whole new level. This Nerf, like others, has a pneumatic pump that fires a single round. Add six D batteries, however, and the result is a foam-shooting machine gun that fires more than two dozen missiles - fed via a 25-dart belt - at the rate of more than two per second.

* It's all in the packaging with Hasbro's 25th Anniversary Megatron's Decepticon warriors. The package also includes an Autobot Shield that can be clipped onto a belt for the young fan or set on the desk for the older Transformer fan.

* Playskool Helmet Heroes (ages 3 and older, $30.99) provide little role-players with an adjustable police-officer or race-car-driver helmet that features a wide visor for increased vision, lights and sounds and a voice-amplifying microphone. Adding to the imaginative fun are motorcycle handlebars or a racing-car steering wheel with control buttons to activate flashing lights, sirens, horns and revving sounds. The helmet also features more than 30 mission sequences, such as "Robbery in progress."

* Wild Planet's Skeleflex Dino Powerflex Lab T-Rex(ages 7 and older, $29.99) is a mix-and-match ball-and-socket creature-crafting system. Kits feature bones and flexible joints to assemble the most powerful dinosaur or alien being. Owners then mount their creature on the Powerflex Lab base, flip the switch and watch it move. Build the T-Rex, and his jaws snap and attack while his long tail sways. This Skeleflex can be integrated for use with other models, such as the Alien Bones Skeleflex Octoattack Alien (ages 7 and older, $22.95). This set comes in a cool alien skull storage case. Its interchangeable pieces will create the eight-legged, attack-clawed alien.

* How fast is your little one on the draw? Jasman USA Inc.'s Pistol Pete Quick Draw Challenge (ages 5 and older, $35.99) pits little gunslingers against the toughest hombre in the West. When Pete says "Ready, draw," players pull out their guns, aim for Pete's infrared belt buckle and shoot. Three stages of play, each with six levels, offer 18 rounds of sharpshooting fun.

Jasman's S.P.A.R.C.: Scorpion (age 6 and older, $24.99) offers lifelike movement in a remote-control toy. The 12-inch-long scorpion walks on its own legs, moving forward, backward, left or right. Eerie light-up eyes complete the effect. Boys also will appreciate the tarantula model.

* Hasbro's Star Wars Clone Trooper Voice Changing Helmet (ages 5 and older, $34.99) puts a Republic warrior in the middle of battles against the Separatists with three play modes that include trooper commands, static voice changer and Clone trooper phrases. This helmet completely encases the head and offers limited visibility.

* One of the more popular universes for young boys, Bandai Co. Ltd. offer the Alien Force Alien Creation Chamber (ages 4 and older, $32.99). It includes the arms, legs, head and torso of four alien heroes. Put them into the chamber and spin, creating a whole new alien race. When not in use, pieces are kept safe in an attached storage tray.

* Matchbox's Power Scouts Skull Mountain Playset (ages 3 and older, $29.99) is a vehicle adventure play set for the younger vehicle fan. It uses kid-friendly connectors to build the track. Battery-powered, motorized vehicles travel along guides to climb a mountain with swaying bridges, avoid targeted missiles and drive through a volcanic skull with eyes that glow and shoot volcanic rocks. Skull's Challenge can be used with other Ready for Action Power Scout Adventure Systems.

* A remote-controlled vehicle for the toddler set, Playskool's Tonka Bounce Back Racer (age 3 and older, $24.99) is two cars in one. The easy-to-use controller designed for little hands sends the racer through an obstacle course until its soft body and rubber tires crash, flipping the car. When the car flips, it changes its color and style from blue racer to red sports car.

* Bandai's Power Rangers Jungle Fury Mega Mission Helmet (ages 4 and older, $43.99) brings the popular show to interactive life. This helmet has more than 50 role-playing mission adventures enhanced with sound commands, lights and sound effects. Owners visit the Mega Mission Web site to download new commands and missions with the included USB cable.